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Review of Reviews: Francis Drake

Posted Thursday, 27-Aug-2015

Become an explorer in 16th Century England in search of vast riches in the worker placement and auctioneer game: Francis Drake.  Careful though, as captain of this voyage you’ll need to plan carefully or else the gold will go to another captain instead.


Contributed by Troy Pitschman


With Peter Hawes (Heads of State, Royals, Colonial Diplomacy) as its lead designer, this 2013 game brought to you by Kayal Games (Triassic Terror), received great reviews all around. David Lowry of Club Fantasci called it “a perfect game that will fit anyone’s gaming style that I have ever come across. The balance is so good it screams best game of the year!”


How do you play Francis Drake?

Francis Drake is a worker placement game with a great deal of player interaction. David Lowry from Club Fantasci summarized the game in his review:

“each player takes on the Captaining of a Spanish galleon to travel to the New World and either get resources, combat other ships or attack forts to gather treasure.


Francis Drake is recommended for play with 5 players.
Francis Drake is recommended for play with 5 players.


The game is divided into two phases of two rounds. The first phase, “The Provisioning Phase” has players traveling through a town gathering supplies, crew members, and allegiances.

Dale Yu from Opinionated Gamers explains:

“In order, each player places a marker down on an empty space. The catch is that Plymouth is essentially a one way street. You can only place your marker in the dock-side direction. There are benefits for being the first player in any space, so you may want to jump ahead, but if you do, you definitely leave stuff behind.”

After the “Provisioning Phase” the “Sailing Phase” takes place, which has players sailing the ocean in search of riches.

Jason Grantz from Pixelated Sausage explained the “Sailing Phase” in his article about the title. He summarized, “In the sailing phase, players use discs to chart their course on the board… The various aforementioned actions a player can take during the sailing phase are: attacking a town, attacking a fort, attacking a galleon, or trading goods for commodities.”

These two processes repeat three times to represent a total of three voyages. Once the third voyage is taken players tally up their victory-points from commodity sets, silver, gold and rubies they have in their treasure chests and the player with the most is declared the winner.


Francis Drake appeals to gamers from all walks of life.
Francis Drake appeals to gamers from all walks of life.


According to some reviewers Francis Drake is best described as a great mixture of different game mechanics with lots of player interaction and very little downtime. James from MetaGames shares this opinion stating:

Francis Drake has a very interesting mix of game mechanics with the action-claiming play of Egizia in the preparation and then the sailing is a form of worker-placement (but whilst trying to predict other players’ intentions and create the right ordered resolution of            your actions). It delivers a lot of elements to consider and balance but all in a very dense/rich experience.


Is Francis Drake the right game for you?

Francis Drake is an ideal choice for fans of worker placement, and resource management games. This game will also appeal to fans of strategy games, especially if they don’t like a lot of down time in their games and they’d prefer not to play “solitaire” style.

David Lowry from Club Fantasci confirms the game’s broad audience; “It is great for worker placement lovers, thematic game lovers, strategy game lovers, and first time game players even. While it may look hard at first glance, after one round, it become pretty evident what needs to be done and the flow really picks up.”


Francis Drake is a race to reach Spanish mainland first.
Francis Drake is a race to see who can reach Spanish mainland first.


Reviewers such as Dale Yu of Opinionated Gamers praised the game’s tempo and player interaction, “There are a lot of little turns in the game and the action quickly comes back around to you in this game. Additionally, I found that I was always watching the decisions of other players as their placements would affect mine.”

However, with an average run time of roughly 90-120 minutes and a rather lengthy rulebook this may not be the best choice for players looking for a quick, light game.

Dale Yu from Opinionated Gamers commented, “The game length is admittedly a bit outside of my comfort zone, but to be honest, once we started the game, I was so engaged in the game that I didn’t notice it at all!”

Perhaps it was Paste Magazine’s Andy Nealen that gave the best case for the game in his “Top Ten Best Board Games of 2013” article in which he stated: “My view of this game is heavily influenced by the fact that my game-loathing dad enjoyed playing this with me on Christmas Day”

While this may appear to only be a gamer’s game most reviewers agree that once people get past the initially daunting rule set the game becomes more enjoyable. So if you’re looking for a great strategy game without too much depth, lots of player interaction, little down time and are a fan of Eurocentric historical themes then you really can’t go wrong with Francis Drake.


See what others are saying about Francis Drake

Francis Drake has received fantastic reviews from most critics.

Jason Grantz of Pixelated Sausage loved the game’s mechanics; “The mechanics just click extremely well together and the choices are tough, but not so much that I get brain-burn; I was always engaged and interested in the turns of my fellow players as they made their moves around the board.”

Paste Magazine’s Andy Nealen commented, “The game is rich with theme and a slew of perfectly combined game mechanics, all wrapped inside the best production values I’ve seen this year. Just get it.”


Francis Drake was nominated for the 2014 Origins Awards for best Historical Board Game.
Francis Drake was nominated for the 2014 Origins Awards for best Historical Board Game.


David Lowry of Club Fantasci called it “a perfect game that will fit anyone’s gaming style that I have ever come across. The balance is so good it screams best game of the year!”

James from MetaGames agreed saying, “Overall, Francis Drake is an excellent (yet simple), tense and relatively meaty eurogame which contains lots of tricky decisions whilst looking great doing it.”

You really can’t go wrong with picking up Francis Drake if you enjoy resource management, or worker placement strategy games with lots of player interaction and little down time.


Ready to buy?  Find the best prices for Francis Drake on BoardGamePrices.com.

Published by BoardGamePrices.com

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