Designer: Peter Hawes
Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
3-5p | 90-120m | 14+
Who doesn't love a good pirate game? Swashbuckling crews, plundering ports, sea battles, and lots of action are what make pirates so enthralling. But how about a great privateer game? It doesn't sound quite as exciting, but one right, a game about managing resources, trading goods, and sailing the high seas could be quite interesting. Well, just like Sir Francis Drake blurred the line between honest privateer and opportunistic pirate, the game Francis Drake a!so straddles the same line. Does it work out as well for the game as it did for the famous captain? Read on to find out.
Components & Packaging:
There's only one thing I can say about the components and packaging for Francis Drake. Wow! When I received the game I was impressed by the size and weight of the box. When I took off the shrink wrap and opened the box I was impressed again. The components are all top notch.
|All the printed components are double sided, so you can play in English or German. |
Even the huge main game board has an English side and a German side.
|No more bending boxes to get at the game board, or dumping it unceremoniously onto the table with all the components. |
Francis Drake has this nice little detail for easily removing the boards!
Rules & Setup:
Setting up Francis Drake takes a few minutes, simply because of the number of components. However, setup is pretty simple and straightforward. Each type of component has its very own spot on the boards. Crew, guns, supplies, and trade goods all have designated areas on the resource board. So do silver, gold, and jewels. Each character also has a spot, along with the other cardboard tokens used in the game. All that needs to be done for setup is to place everything in its spot and then give the players their pieces.
|If you attack multiple types of locations each round you can gain bonus points. |
You also gain points from all the gold, silver, and jewels you've stashed in your treasure chest by the end of the game.
I had a blast playing Francis Drake and so did everyone I played with. Despite the generally simple rules, there is a real depth to the game. The decisions are meaningful and at times difficult. The game is full of player interaction, but without any direct conflict.
As I said above, there really does seem to be a dominant strategy, but there is just enough randomization in the game that your approach to that strategy will change every time. The people you are playing against will also be going for the same, or a very similar strategy, so the game becomes a combination of puzzle and outmaneuvering your opponents as you try to figure the best way to complete that strategy.
|An outstanding second round left me with a whopping 119 points at the end of the game!|
Francis Drake is quite fun to play if you want something a bit puzzly and thinky. I really like the two distinct phases and how the second phase really depends on what you manage to get in the first phase. It takes an interesting combination of both planning for the future as well as reacting to the changes in the current game state. There's also quite a bit of player interaction for such a Euroey (yes, that's a word now, at least in this blog) feeling game about privateers.
|The most piratey you'll feel is when trying to snag that ideal location from an opponent.|
The MSRP for Francis Drake is a hefty $80. The components are definitely top notch and the gameplay is solid and fun, especially if you like Euro style resource management with a healthy dose of non-combat player interaction, but I'm not sure I'd recommended the game for $80. There's good news though! Since the game is a bit older, it's readily available for $50 to $60. That's a much more reasonable price, and even a bargain for what you get in the box. At $60 or less, this is a pretty good value for the money.
Well, the real Sir Francis Drake skirted the line between privateer and pirate, becoming legendary and a British hero. I'm not sure Francis Drake the game manages to walk the same line. It's much more of a privateer's game than a pirate's game. If you're looking for swashbuckling excitement then you must look elsewhere. However, if you love a good cube pusher, but want more interaction with your fellow gamers, then Francis Drake is an excellent choice.
|If you like worker placement, resource management, and player interaction then definitely set sail with Francis Drake.|
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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun. Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple. Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.