Imagine you can control the forces of a noble family, guild, or religious order on a barren planet which is the only source for the most valuable substance in the known universe.
Imagine you can rewrite the script for one of the most famous science fiction books of all time. Welcome to the acclaimed 40-year-old board game which allows you to recreate the incredible world of Frank Herbert’s DUNE.
In DUNE you will become the leader of one of six great factions. Each wishes to control the most valuable resource in the universe – melange, the mysterious spice only found at great cost on the planet DUNE. As Duke Leto Atreides says “All fades before melange. A handful of spice will buy a home on Tupile. It cannot be manufactured, it must be mined on Arrakis. It is unique and it has true geriatric properties.” And without melange space travel would be impossible. Only by ingesting the addictive drug can the Guild Steersman continue to experience visions of the future, enabling them to plot a safe path through hyperspace.
Who will control DUNE? Become one of the characters and their forces from the book and . . . You decide!
I’ve played Dune twice always playing as the Spacing Guild because I don’t like paying for things, and won both times in very different ways. This variety makes it very fun. The first time I was able to win by holding just above the average number of cities, and then every nexus phase single out whoever was best suited to potentially win ASAP. This took me to alliances with the Empire, Harkonen, and then eventually winning with Atreides. The second game I allied with the Empire ASAP, and we threw money (and my dispensible forces) at things until it all crumbled. This victory took longer, and had some misplays on both sides and last second, all or nothing treachery. It’s a very satisfying feeling, being able to tell your partner not to worry as you can only afford to finance a couple of your forces and no meaningful equipment in what is the pivotal battle of “we win this turn or they take it all away from us next time” and then somehow having the right treachery card to throw a giant middle finger at your enemy. In the first game I had the needed treachery card (which is part of why I never sided with those rotten fremen WHO DON’T EVEN PAY ME MY MONEY) and in the second game my ally had what we needed. Next time I’ll probably want to play Harkonen…
I appreciate Dune. I acknowledge what Frank Herbert and Dune have done for literature, film, and science fiction in general. But I’ve never LOVED Dune. So when the opportunity came up to play Gale Force Nine’s reprint of the 1979 game, I was more intrigued than I was excited. However, since the Pawn and Pixel team normally plays a different style of game than most of my normal player base enjoys, I of course said yes.
Watching the series of official how to play videos worried me, and I think YouTube navigated me away before I had watched them all, but once we got playing things started to click for me and when you can focus mostly on your own faction the game isn’t that hard to play. Strategic, yes. Difficult to play, no. I would 100% play it again, and I’ll likely give the whole franchise another look as well.
Dune is a game that shows its age in good and bad ways at the same time. It’s incredibly thematic and if you know anything about the Dune universe and the fight for Arrakis it is surprisingly faithful for a game where most of the actions are abstracted away. It’s also interesting in how the game can make you both feel like you are on top of everything yet always one misstep away from disaster. It keeps you engaged at all times as you must watch everyone and do your best to read their intentions. A lot more fun than I expected, I’ve tried the Fremen and House Atreides both had wildly differing gameplay; almost as if playing different games and it was awesome.
I love Dune! There is just so much to chew on and absorb and layers of fun with the lore to not have be engaged. Having said this, and the game does a good job, I feel it falls under age and weight of expectations and mechanics.
Do I enjoy the game, yes. Asymetric player powers are great, the alliance execution is really well done, and combat his meaty. It has some of the highest highs you can get in a game (when a well timed Treachery occurs and the whole table erupts I would hold up as a “Reason for why you should play Board Games”). The game is brisk, with combat and Atreides being the only real time consuming elements (only a few minutes) and it has a health play time BBBUUUTTT for the EPIC source material it never seems to feel EPIC.
I can’t help but think that Twilight Imperium has learned so much from Dune and been tumbled over 4 editions to have better serve you for an Epic Game Day™ experience.
Do I want to play Dune more? Yes. Does it have to be right away? No.
Dune: The ‘Meh’ heard ‘round the galaxy……
I don’t even know what to say about Dune. I don’t hate it, it’s not bad enough for me to hate. I enjoyed the time playing it but I can attribute that to the players around the table. Take away the game and have us sit there with a pint in our hands talking and I honestly don’t feel like my enjoyment would have changed. The game is a typical “Dudes on a Map” game with A LOT of exceptions to remember. Entire factions are born out of an extreme gameplay altering exception unique to them. From a fluff standpoint it’s quite interesting but from a gameplay standpoint it’s a bit obtuse. As a first time player using the Advanced Rules there were so many exceptions that I just didn’t care to delve into the game’s systems. By the end of the game they didn’t seem that bad but they also weren’t that interesting. And that really is the problem with Dune, it doesn’t do much bad but it also doesn’t do much good. It has your typical Ameritrash game swinging randomness (Seriously, entire games will be won and lost on the tiny chance someone holds a particular traitor card) but I’ve stopped worrying about those kind of things and just accepted them in this style of game. People who love the theme will enjoy the experience of being immersed in a faithful representation of the Dune Universe, but I don’t think the mechanics are there to enjoy anything beyond the theme.
I’d previously written that Tempus is like a potato that has been cooked very effectively. Not the most exciting thing to have for a meal, but nutritious enough and still tasty. Dune feels like a decent piece of meat that was slightly overcooked and served without seasoning. Not something you’re going to say is terrible, but also not something that’ll impress you while you’re consuming it. You’ll eat it and think “It wasn’t terrible, but I also didn’t really have much good to say about it”.