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Jason Grantz
United States
Bel Aire
Kansas
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Back in August, I had the opportunity to sit down and play Francis Drake at Gen Con, before its general release. Last week, I received my copy of the game and have been very impressed with the overall final component quality and gameplay.

When you first look at the game fully set up, the mass amounts of beautiful components may make the game seem overwhelming. Don't be fooled, while there is a lot of deep strategy and interesting choices to be made here, the gameplay is very straight forward.

In Francis Drake, players take turns advancing down the street of Plymouth collecting various resources (crew, guns, trade goods, etc) that you'll need to have in order to go on your Voyage. However, once a player advances down the road, he may not backtrack to a location that he skipped over. I really enjoy this aspect of the game, If I desperately need to upgrade my ship from a frigate to a Galleon and the Queen space is the only spot left to do so, I'll have a tough choice to make if she's a few locations down. Do I skip over acquiring other resources I might need, or wait and hope the other players don't take the Queen before it gets back to my turn?

The other interesting part of this phase, is that on the second and third Voyage the location tiles get shuffled and randomly redistributed on the board (for your first few games, the rulebook recommends leaving them in the same order from Voyage to Voyage.)



After everyone finishes and goes to the outbound harbor, the second phase of the Voyage begins! In the Sailing phase, players use disks to chart their course on the board. Players receive four disks, numbered 1-4 and secretly place them, in sailing order, around the board. Some players may have the use of the Golden Hind disk, or Ghost Ship disk if they used that location space in the first phase. The Golden Hind allows the player who has that ship, to resolve the action space it occupies first, before any other players act. The Ghost Ship is a bluffing token that disappears after it's revealed.

There are some other actions that can happen before or after placing disks in the sailing phase, depending on if players used the Admiral, Governor, or Informer spaces. After all players have placed all their available disks, they are flipped over and each action space is resolved starting with the player's disk 1 location. This continues until all players return to Plymouth Harbor.

The various actions a player can take in the sailing phase are: attacking a Town, attacking a Fort, attacking a Galleon, or trading goods for commodities. Towns are guarded by Soldiers and players must spend crew in order to neutralize the Soldiers on a one for one basis. In other words, if a town is guarded by 2 Soldiers, you'll need to spend 2 crew in order to successfully defeat them. Galleons are fought the same way, but instead of crew, you'll need guns to defeat the ships cannons. Forts, will require the use of both crew and guns as they are heavily guarded.
Oh and those Admiral and Governor spaces I mentioned earlier, they allow the players that used them to potentially add more crew and cannons to various Spanish Forts and Galleons, secretly of course!



If you are the first player to win a battle, you will received a bonus of a silver, gold, or ruby piece to put in your treasure chest (these will be scored at the end of the game.) Also, if you defeat at least one Fort, Town, and/or Galleon in the same Voyage, you'll receive bonus VP for that Voyage.

Trading requires that you have a trade good (received through various locations on Plymouth Street) to trade for one of the commodities available. Players will score victory points at the end of the game for the number of sets of commodities they have.

Once players have used all actions and/or returned to Plymouth Harbor, they lose any unused crew, guns, trade goods, and supplies left over. The board gets reset for the next Voyage, and turn order is set with the player in last place going first. After three Voyages, final scores are tallied (trade commodity sets, silver, gold, and rubies in your treasure chest) and a winner is declared!

This game is incredibly fun, I feel like the mechanics just click very well together and that 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. Having played this game four times now, with 3-5 players of varying gaming experience, all players have commented on the great time they had playing Francis Drake. The best part is that even with 5 players, I've yet to have a game last longer than 100 minutes!

I know this game will be a treasure in my collection and I look forward to all the Voyages yet to come!




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Joseph A Nardi
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Great review! Thanks. I own a copy of this game too, and I heard talk that the kickstarter copies of the game sent out has issues with incorrect printing of the the three sets of the Plymouth tiles! Was this an issue when you've played? I have yet to play this game! And have you played the game with the two expansions?
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Nate Walker
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Joseph A Nardi wrote:
I heard talk that the kickstarter copies of the game sent out has issues with incorrect printing of the the three sets of the Plymouth tiles!


Where did you hear this?
 
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Matt Smith
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Troy
Michigan
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Joseph A Nardi wrote:
Great review! Thanks. I own a copy of this game too, and I heard talk that the kickstarter copies of the game sent out has issues with incorrect printing of the the three sets of the Plymouth tiles! Was this an issue when you've played? I have yet to play this game! And have you played the game with the two expansions?

I don't see an issue with the tiles in my Kickstarter copy. Some people complained that the 3- and 5-player tiles were printed on opposite sides of the same tiles, but they're easy to tell apart. The 3-player tiles have a light blue banner, while the 5-player tiles have a dark blue banner.

The 4-player tiles have a medium blue banner which is very close to the light blue banner on the 3-player tiles, but they are easy to identify because they have German on the back side.

Finally, there is a set of tiles with German 3- and 5-player sides that you won't use (unless you are in a German-speaking country). The game is a full English/German version, which is why these tiles were included.
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Ralph H. Anderson
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Prospect
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Jason, great review. Thanks!

Matt is correct about the tiles.

To date I have only heard of one customer who was missing a tile and a replacement tile was promptly sent out.

If you do have a problem with any Eagle or Gryphon game, please refer your issue to customer-service@eagle-gryphon.com.

There has been some issues with wooden pieces sticking together. However, in almost every case, a slight sideways pressure with your fingers will release them.

In the unlikely event you have a wooden disc damaged such that it would affect game play, please contact customer service for a replacement.

Ralph Anderson
VP Marketing and Public Relations Eagle-Gryphon Games
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Jesse Carrasco
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Thanks for this review. The more I read/hear about it, the more I want to get a copy.
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Joseph A Nardi
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I heard this from the organizer of our local game club two weeks ago. He said his copy seemed to be misprinted! My copy seemed to be fine.
 
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this game is just getting great reviews all over the place

thanks for this one
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David Janik-Jones
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Agreed. Nice review. Added to my "buy" list.
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David Lowry
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Nice review Jason!
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Jason Grantz
United States
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Kotzen wrote:
Nice review Jason!


Thank you David!
 
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David Baskeyfield
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Great Review! Have you also played The Voyages of Marco Polo? I'm trying to decide which of the two to buy.
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