Published by: Eagle-Gryphon Games
# of Players: 3 to 5 (Expansion adds 2 to 6 players)
Francis Drake the board game immerses us in that time period to experience the life as a Captain under Sir Francis Drake. You and the other players will be preparing for your expeditions and competing with each other to come back with the most loot. After 3 voyages, the game will end and the player with the most victory points from their loot is the winner and will be rewarded by the Queen. Can you make quick preparations and execute a strategy to raid the Caribbean of all it's treasure? If so, then Francis Drake may be the game for you. Before you start planning your voyages, I invite you to tag along as I give you my take on Francis Drake.
Eagle-Gryphon Games has provided top notch components to help immerse us in the Francis Drake theme. Each player will have 2 ships (galleon and frigate) in their color along with colored wooden discs and cubes. The game comes in a huge box with a great insert that fits everything nicely. Supplies that you need for your journey are represented by plastic brown barrels. Other resources like crew and and guns are represented by wooden cubes. The game also comes with Gold, Silver and Red beads that represent various treasure you can loot from the islands. Each player has their own player board that will have the name of their ship on it. There are various cardboard tokens for Commodities, troop and frigate counters and other tiles. Each player also gets a cardboard 3D treasure chest to hide the treasure gems you earn from the voyages. Everyone loved the treasure chests. There is a wooden die in the game for the occasional dice roll. I found the die to be poor quality compared to other dice and had weird rounded corners that made it roll differently than usual dice. The game board is huge and the art is designed in accordance with that time period. I found it to work very well with the gameplay and theme. The rule book is designed to explain everything and helps you understand the game in detail. There are colorful illustrations that explain everything in great detail. Component-wise I would say Francis Drake gives you your monies worth to help give you an interesting experience.
Francis Drake sends you and the other players on 3 voyages, each separated into 2 phases. The first phase is the Preparation Phase. During this phase, players will take turns in order of their ships at home port. Starting with the first player, they will place a small disc on location space that will provide some type of good or upgrade. There is a limit to how many can be on each location and the locations are set in a row that ends with you getting on your ship. Once you place a disc on a location, you can not travel back to previous locations. You can only continue forward onto other locations. Locations range from shipyards to upgrade to your Galleon or getting guns and crew for your ship. The Tavern will have you roll and you will get something based on what your roll is. There are also special spots that will give one player bonuses for the next phase like the Admiral and Governor. You can also use the Golden Hind (the ship Drake used to go around the globe) to get an extra turn that is taken first during the next phase. Once you have run out of locations or want to get ahead in turn order for the next phase, you will phase and move your ship to Dock. Dock order is important next round because it determines turn order and priority.
There are several types of locations and each resolves differently and some have a limit of successes. A disc by a Galleon means you are attacking that ship. You must have your own Galleon to do so and discard a number of cannon cubes equal to the combined strength of the ship and frigate token on the space. If successful, you will receive a red gem if you were the first to defeat that Galleon this voyage, and you will also earn victory points that are listed for the ship and place one of your player cubes on the Conquest chart. Any other player who defeats that Galleon will get the victory points and place a cube on the Conquest chart. Town locations will have 1 troop that you must neutralize. You will spend one crew cube to meet that requirement and then place your disc in one of the spots for that town. You will earn Victory points and a place a cube in the town icon in the Conquest chart. If you were the first to raid the town, you will claim whatever gem was there. Each town has a limited amount of spaces and if those are filled then no one else may raid that town. Fort locations are like towns except they have a troop token at the location and will have more troops in the location to begin with. You will reveal the token and total up it's value with the listed value on the fort, you will have to discard that many crew to successfully conquer the fort. You will receive victory points, a cube in the fort part of the Conquest chart and also a gem if you are the first conquer the fort. The last location is trading. Trade ports have commodities that you want for end game points. You will trade 1 purple trade good cube that you got at a location during the prep phase for a commodity tile that is available. This area is first come, first serve and there is a limit to how many commodities and types are in each location.
Francis Drake looks like an epic game and the gameplay matches that look. The game is actually easy to learn, it just involves lots of strategy and depth that may take players a few games to really get a full grasp on playing well. Each phase felt like it's own game and lead to some real risky decisions that didn't always pay off. The bluffing element of placing discs face down and trying to figure out who is going where and with what priority is huge. I have lost games because my opponents predicted my placements and prevented me from getting some locations. The components are outstanding minus the die. The insert works great and you get a lot of game for your money. The game actually can play fairly quickly once everyone knows what they are doing. Each game I have played has been very close in scoring. The game feels like it takes place in Francis Drake's lifetime. This is a euro game that I can see even wargamers enjoying. If you are looking for an epic euro game that easy to learn but hard to master, you will love Francis Drake. The bluffing elements and risk taking puts Francis Drake a step over a lot of your good euro style games. I would recommend this Euro style gamers and also their opposite counterparts. The balance of the take that mechanic will please both sides of the fence with this game. This is staying in my collection and looks awesome next to some of my other bigger games on my shelves.
+Components and insert are excellent
+Bluffing and take that mechanics in euro game that work well
+Lots of strategy and depth
+Lots of Risk/Reward decisions
- The dice provided are poor quality
- People who want lots of combat will be dissappointed
-A voyage can feel completed wasted if players out think you on each spot