Game: Francis Drake
Designer: Peter Hawes
Number of Players: 4 (2-6 available)
Playing Time: 150 minutes (90 - 120 minutes typical)
Mechanisms: Worker Placement, Secret Unit Deployment, Press Your Luck
Date of Demo: April 06, 2016
Location: Game Swap - Mason, OH
At one of my weekly gaming meetups this week I had an opportunity to show Francis Drake to some interested new players. There were four of us playing, two of which hadn’t played before. I was Orange; Ron, who had played before, was Green; Joe was Yellow; Sam was Red. I went over the rules and scoring, then we got to playing.
For our first supply run through Plymouth, Green went to as many locations as possible, often grabbing the weakest reward level at each, but still managed to grab plenty for his voyage. Red played quite the opposite, skipping three locations to take the Queen on his first stop, then another three to grab several Crew for his next… he realized he’d better slow down at this point and ended up using the Investor for this first voyage. Yellow and I (Orange) played a bit more conservatively, only skipping a location or two when it seemed critical. I claimed the Admiral but never got around to upgrading my ship, so I decided to get a little trading in along with some towns and forts.
Red used his Golden Hind to collect Indigo for his first action. Then he went on to attempt a fort, a town, and two Galleons. He ended up passing on the second Galleon, instead taking 2VP from returning to port, but he still managed to rack up 10VP through his other victories.
Yellow went after and accomplished getting two trade goods, as well as a fort and a town.
Green was attempting to go after one of everything: 1 trade good, 1 fort, 1 town, 1 galleon. However, he didn’t have enough crew to take on the town at his last action marker, so he too chose to return to port early.
I (Orange) went after one trade good and as much of the low value land battles (and Silver) I could get.
The next year I thought we might see some changes in how the players moved through the locations. Most of us occasionally skipped a location or two in order to grab what we really needed, but Green stuck to his strategy of just staying back and cleaning up whatever was left. He eventually got down to his last two tokens and had to decide to jump ahead in order to use the investor and dockside. Red secured the Golden Hind again this round, worrying us all that he may for some reason take yet another indigo. Yellow went after crew at the Tavern and managed to get 3 of them. He then went on to focus mostly on crew and trade goods until he finally visited Drake to get some additional guns. I (Orange) went after the Queen, the Admiral, and the Pinnace, in the hopes that I might be able to pull off a trade along with all the different military victories.
This time, Red used the Golden Hind to ensure he’d get tobacco, which was a relief to the table. Red took two battle victories as well.
Yellow, Gained the Indigo this round, along with two battle victories. Green racked up all three types of battle victories and a good deal of Gold and Jewels along with them. I (Orange) took another trade good and finally managed to score all three types of battle victories as well.
At the end of the second voyage the score was:
34-Yellow; 35-Green; 38-Orange and Red
This round Green paced himself a bit more but still largely followed his pattern of lagging behind in Plymouth. He did take the Admiral as well as some crew from the Tavern. Yellow jumped way ahead to start collecting supplies and then focused on the Queen and Drake thereafter. Red took the informant, along with loads of guns, crew, and supplies. I (Orange) took two Trade Goods for my first stop, then jumped way down the track to the Golden Hind in the hopes this would let me actually use them how I wanted.
In the final Voyage, I (Orange) used the Golden Hind to finally grab the Indigo I had been missing, along with the Sugar I needed to round out my set of 4 commodities. I had hoped to visit the cheaper land locations and at least pick up some Silver or Gold along the way but I was the highest marker at every single location losing out on any hope of collecting shiny objects.
Green focused on battle victories and using the Admiral allowed himself an easy victory of the Galleon he could reach. He managed to again rack up a decent amount of Silver and Jewels this time often being either the first or only marker in a map location.
Red claimed the final commodity he needed and managed to take on a couple battle victories as well as a single piece of Silver. Yellow went exclusively for battle victories, having already collect the commodities he wanted, and managed to rack up a bunch of Gold, Silver, and Jewels along with his 10VP for defeating one of each type. He did have to abandon his attempt at defeating a second Galleon, but he was by no means in bad shape. We revealed our hidden Gold, Silver, and Jewels from our treasure chests and tallied up the score.
Orange - 91; Yellow - 99; Red - 100; Green - 103
I have to admit, I was very skeptical that Green’s tactics of mostly lagging behind in Plymouth would allow him to pull off staying with the pack, much less taking the win. Even without Indigo he managed to successfully collect enough points through battle victories and tons of shiny Gold, Silver, and Jewels, that completing the commodities set didn’t even matter. On the other hand, my obsession with completing the commodities became my undoing. If I hadn’t placed my best two priorities on commodities in the final voyage, I would have nabbed enough shiny bits to at least be a contender.
Seeing how differently we were all playing and how we still managed to score in a fairly close grouping just makes me love this game even more than I already did. As we were packing up Sam (Red player) said to me, “I have to have this game… Give me this game!” I’m sure this will hit the table again at game night soon.