Thanks for that random reddit thread, my in game experience doesn't agree. If there is reduced loot it is obscenely minimal. The Crew exp on the other hand is much much higher if you sink. Like twice the exp. Also once you have a real ship with a real crew, it is actually faster to sink.
If you shoot out their sails, then board you get decent xp and more loot. You definitely get more loot boarding though
Also, a Dhow with full speed upgrades will be in boarding range after 2-4 full sails. That's my goto at this point, ship combat does nothing for more me after the first playthrough.
If you want proof, my first playthrough I sank Bounty - Biakara and missed out on this item, which did not drop: https://pillarsofete...he_Midwood_Stag
In a subsequent playthrough I boarded that bounty and looted the unique pike.
I have that Pike and have done ship-to-ship combat for all ships so far except one early game, so must have got that from loot while sinking the ship.
Can see you would get more weapons and armour loot from boarding, but maybe less food and such items? At some point I'm sure people will do a side-by-side comparison. But you do get more XP and levels from sinking them, which is quite handy too.
The loot is really a non-factor though, so people should do what they prefer. I happen to prefer the ship-to-ship combat, and I see others prefer boarding. It's great that both options are viable.
I haven't boarded a merchant ship so not sure what loot you get then, but I've sunk quite a few, and you get heaps upon heaps of cannonballs, medical supplies and the like. 40-50 cannonballs is not rare. Doesn't cost a lot either ofc, but it's nice to get them for 'free'. Just wish they didn't overflow, causing me to lose so many.
I can confirm that it's possible to get the pike through ship to ship combat as I did so last night! I haven't done any boarding fights yet as until last night my party was only level 5 and there were 3 of us (mindstalker, xoti, serafen) plus random Port Maje crew versus 13 enemies at a time! I guess they don't warn against the 'did everything wrong' background for nothing Now that we've hit level 6 and have Tekehu and Maia I may try testing boarding versus ship combat and comparing the loot.