Spiel 2013 Preview: Francis Drake

Posted by James (admin) on October 16th, 2013

Francis Drake gameFrancis Drake is a game of sailing, looting and plundering.  So, already, I’m thinking, what’s not to like?  From reading the rules, the game appears to have some very promising gameplay within it too.

Before setting out on to the high seas, players prepare for their journey in the streets of Plymouth by buying/gaining guns, crew, supplies, goods for trading, etc.  The 18 locations that can be used for these preparations are laid out in a long line (street) and the players take turns using a location by placing one of their 10 action discs on the location.  However, players can select an action further down the street from their last action (never backwards).  Also, some locations have limited uses and some of the actions on a location are better than others – so players will want to progress slowly so they can use lots of different locations, but move quickly so they are first to use a location and get the most from it.  This is very similar to Egizia (one of my favourite games) which is a very engaging game mechanic.

Once the players have all finished their preparations, they each set sail.  On the board are various destinations which are comprised of islands (with towns and forts) and galleons which can be attacked, as well as trade ports where players can exchange goods they have brought with them.  Players take turns placing numbered mission discs of their colour next to the destinations they wish to attack (or trade with).  The mission discs are placed face-down so players do not know the numbers that other players have placed, and are revealed when all discs have been placed.

Francis Drake cover

Players now take turns resolving their discs in order (all the number 1 discs, then all the number 2 discs) and may attack/trade at the the relevant discs location.  When trading, players simple exchange the required amount of goods for exotic goods.  However, whilst the players know some details about the destinations they can attack when they place their action discs, the full details are not revealed until now.  So, a player may choose not to attack if they discover it is too well defended, they have used their resources already, etc.  Only 2 attacks can be carried out on each destination each round so making an attack may deprive another player from doing so (and placing a high number disc means it may be less likely you will get a chance to attack if other players place discs there too).

Players need crew to attack towns, crew and guns to attack forts, and guns to attack galleons.  Successful attacks earn the player victory points, and the first attack on a destination can earn gold, silver, or gems.  A player can choose to return to Plymouth rather than resolving any more discs and the first ships back get bonus victory points.  Other bonus victory points are earned based on the variety of actions each player carried out during the round too.

The game ends after 3 rounds (preparations and missions) and there are extra victory points to be earned at game end for having exotic commodities, gold, silver and jewels.

It sounds like Francis Drake has a very interesting mix of game mechanics with the action-claiming play of Egizia in the preparation and then worker-placement with ordered resolution and trying to predict other players’ intentions too.  It sounds very tense and with lots of tricky decisions and elements to balance, so I’m definitely looking forwards to this one.

You can read the rules and see the details of the game on Eagle Game’s web site using this link: bga.me/drake


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