Dune: Imperium first impressions

Premium User

I finally got to play it! Okay, it hadn't been sitting on my shelf that long (3ish weeks), but I was dying to get it played! On Sunday I got to play it with 2 friends for a 3 player game. Here are my thoughts from that first game.

This was pretty smooth. The rulebook, in my opinion, is very good. I had no issues when I read through it a couple of times before teaching, and the handful of times during the game when we had questions, we were able to find answers. There is also a separate sheet that details what every single worker placement space does, which is very handy. Teaching it was easy, as well. For being what I would describe as a mid-weight game (maybe just on the lighter side), everything is very easy to grasp, and as far as I know, my friends didn't have any trouble picking it up.

The components are all of good quality. Nothing too amazing or over the top, but the resources and workers are decent wooden pieces that are easy to tell apart and easy to manipulate. The card quality seems to be fine, but I sleeved anyway (I have a problem). The board quality is also good. The player boards are simple cardstock, not thick chipboard or anything. That is fine, especially considering that you don't actually do anything with them during the game, just reference them for your abilities. The neat thing about them is that the back side has a player guide showing every step of a round. There are 8 player boards, and the game only goes to 4 players, so there are enough for each player to use one as a player guide. Awesome!

This is just about the only complaint I've seen for this game online, and it's almost entirely directed at the board. There's nothing wrong with it, but people think the board looks bland. It doesn't bother me, but I can see why people want a little more there. The art on the cards is great. Some of it is artist renderings of the actors in the new movies, but as it's not screencaps, I have no problem with this.

Very good. Everything is very easy to see and read, and there is a handy symbols guide on the back of the rulebook, so this first game, whenever a new symbol came up, we could just look at that and knew exactly what it was. Symbols have different colors, but I'm pretty sure that everything is color independent, so people with color difficulties shouldn't have any issues with this game.

Random thoughts on gameplay:

  • It seems like there are many valid paths to victory. Do you focus on building purchase value, and buying several "Spice Must Flow" cards, which give you a point just for purchasing them? Do you try to win as many combats as possible to acquire points? Do you try to work your way up several of the faction influence tracks to gain those points and other benefits? Do you focus on card draw? Or on gaining Intrigue cards, to maybe get a few extra surprise endgame points? Or on culling your deck to maximize your turns? None of these things are easy to do, and every turn feels important.
  • The deck building is slow. This is not a problem - it's not a pure deck building game - but it's worth mentioning. You're acquiring 1 or 2 cards per round (max of 10 rounds), with maybe a few chances here and there to add cards. There are not a ton of chances to remove cards from your deck. My initial impression is that on the "worker placement/deck-building hybrid" scale, this game leans slightly toward worker placement. Don't get me wrong, though, the deck building is crucial, and I could see myself changing my mind on this.
  • The game is tight! And I don't mean "cool," though it is that as well. The final scores for this were 11-10-10. It is not easy to get points. I think that for the first half of the game, we were all below 3 points.
  • The deck building and worker placement hybrid implementation is really cool. It makes the decisions of what cards you're using for your "agent turns" (worker placement) vs your "reveal turn" tough and interesting.
  • The combat really elevates this game. It adds so much good tension and second guessing - "oo I really want to win this battle, and I know I'll be able to reveal 3 combat strength on my reveal turn, so I need to move some troops in...but how much is my opponent going to send into battle? Does he even want to win this? Does he have the resources to go that space that adds 5 tropps (that's a lot)? Will he reveal 8 combat strength on his reveal turn and swoop in for a last second victory? [This happened in our game.] Or will I send in 6 troops only to find that my opponents don't care to win this one, meaning I'll be losing more troops than necessary.

Fun factor:
I want to play this again NOW. Does that tell you anything?

Pictured below: the final game state.

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Owner5 months ago

Awesome :)

This gives me an impression of a compact game that I'd really appreciate. One where it doesn't fall in an awkward spot of being too simple, short, or pared down to a point that it's too abstract or leave me wanting a fuller experience. I'll have to tackle the solo mode soon!

Premium User5 months ago

Yep, it feels very well rounded and satisfying to me. Can't wait to play again!

Premium User5 months ago

Cool.  This game is bumping up in my list of games to get. :)

5 months ago

Dude!! I'm so happy it hit well with you and your group!! It's for sure high on my wishlist. How does it feel thematically?

Premium User5 months ago

The theme works well! Obviously no Dune game is going to touch #Dune in terms of theme, but this one does a good job. The cards and worker spaces all make sense, and strategically it makes sense as well (e.g. building an alliance with a faction to get certain benefits). The combat and the tension there pushes it a bit farther, and the unknowns and opportunities for surprise moves created by the Intrigue cards makes it all well-rounded. Also, water is very scarce, which makes sense, and you have to spend more of it the deeper into the desert you want to travel (to get spice), which is a nice touch.

5 months ago

I like everything you are saying. It seems like there is a different tension than most worker placement games but you still have that resource scarcity and thematic immersion that I was hoping for!!

3 months ago

Great review, love this game!

Premium User3 months ago

Wow old post lol. Thanks! I haven't played this game in a month or so and I would love to get it to the table again soon.

5 months ago

I've played solo several times.  But I am not theDL.

Setup - Quick easy maybe 3 minutes setup or tear down time if you pack it right and depending on how much you want to shuffle.

The AI - Plays quick easy to understand fast to play, you have to play against 2 (effectively minimum 3 player count) if you play with 2 people you are supposed to add an AI as well.

Randomness - AI blocks spots you may want to go, and can play cards to "boost" his conflict score thus emulating intrigue cards.   The AI also earns victory points for an abundance of Solari(7), Spice(7), Water(3) or Intrigue cards(3).  

Deck building in the game is definitely 'light'.  You may see those cards you purchased once or twice, lucky to see them three times.  There are things you can do to draw more cards if you really need them but they come at a cost.  (Agent + resources).  

Having played multiplayer now, the AI does a fairly decent job of emulating a player and keeping people on track to earn victory points(VP) by kind of giving you a pace that you should be trying to exceed.

Although I am a fan of Dune, if it tells you anything I've set aside Spirit Island and Nemo's War to play this solo for awhile.  Its faster to setup imo than the other two and quicker to get a game in at times.

Premium User5 months ago

Wow, beating out #Nemo's War (Second Edition) and #Spirit Island for solo play is high praise indeed!

I haven't gotten a solo play in yet, but you should check out this comment!

5 months ago

I'm not sure it'll hold its standing as higher than #Nemo's War (Second Edition) and #Spirit Island over time.  But I do appreciate the quick setup and tear down of a solo game that feels 'epic'.  

But for now, I enjoy it immensely.  

5 months ago

How did you feel it captured the kind of interwoven betrayal, politic-ing and conflict tone of the books?

Was there any negotiation in the game or is it all competitive?

Premium User5 months ago

Nah there's no negotiation or anything like that. There's definitely conflict, though. There's not really betrayal, but there are the alliance tracks, and if you pass someone in their influence with a faction, you can steal their alliance token which gives them a point, so that's kinda like the NPC faction betraying you, haha. But really, if you want all of that, you should just play #Dune.

5 months ago

Gotcha, yeah, I really do want to play #Dune, it looks amazing and seems to capture the theme so well. 

But I do like the slightly less direct manoeuvring that this kind of a game offers too. Do you feel the hybrid model they've chosen is 'best of both world's' or does it suffer from not focusing on one aspect?

Premium User5 months ago

Sorry, just saw this. ( this is an example where I didn't get a notification)

I think they did a pretty good job with this hybrid model. It's much closer to a "regular" board game than the ultra-thematic #Dune is, if that makes any sense. As far as that goes, it's one of the most thematic games with more Euro mechanisms (worker placement, deck building), in large part because it does add in some direct conflict and some randomness and opportunities for surprising your opponents, especially with the Intrigue cards.

I'm not totally sure I answered your question, but feel free to ask a clarifying question, haha

5 months ago

Haha, not quite but the answer you did give was pretty informative so I'll take it 😄

Premium User5 months ago

Lol cool

5 months ago

Played this last night two player. It's very luck driven and has aggressive confrontation in battles. I can't remember the last time I swore at a game while playing but this one riled me like no other. I lost at least 3 battles after heavy commitment, losing to either AI's lucky draw or opponent's lucky draw. This is not fun. After this happens a few times you start to over commit in battles, and they are not cheap. 

It's disappointing to see this game use the extremely tired dominion deck building mechanics from the last century without adding anything new. At least ruins of arnak (played a day before) does something slightly different. The card art and theme did nothing for us in this game as we couldn't care less about dune. I did like how you can almost come back from 10 point game end by making that person lose a point by stealing their allegiance token, forcing the game to go another round, but you have to be ready for a lot of card draw luck and surprise intrigue cards.  I also didn't like the 'these two cards work together' mechanic. I bought two of these early in the game, second round, and did not see them appear once together so I would never buy them again. 

Our verdict: It's okay but in no way beats ruins of arnak or beyond the sun which is my game of the year. 

Can someone explain the point of the mentat? Why rent it when you trade a worker for a worker? You gain nothing amd actually lose 2 solari. Some cards let you take the mentat for free but I see no point in taking it any other way, 

Premium User5 months ago

Dang, I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy it as much as we did. After our play, I can't comment on the randomness, but I can see how that would be frustrating. I didn't mind getting beaten in combat, though, either in the reveal phase or with intrigue cards. I felt it was thematic, but yeah if you're not into the theme, then obviously that holds no weight for you.

On the Mentat space, it does allow you to draw a card, and since you have another worker now, that could allow you to do something big with that card that you didn't have in your initial hand for the round. Paired with Paul Atreides' ability to always know what card is on top, that could be pretty powerful. Alternately, the card you drew could give you a big bonus on your reveal turn. Basically I think it should be thought of as an free (2 solarii) card draw, rather than all extra worker, because as you say, it does cost a worker to get it.

5 months ago

We played it again and it went a bit better. Started to enjoy it more. However, the battles are definitely a point of contention if you don't like confrontation. My wife said it best: "They make me nervous." If you like this kind of nervous, fine, but she still prefers the low aggression in games like Arnak. I noticed that with dune, one game to the next can swing wildly as far as card draws. One game I never saw my alliance symbol cards, while my wife is climbing up all four allegiance tracks. The next game I had too many in hand and could not get rid of them. Be prepared for completely different games that can either go your way or completely the opposite. The app for the ai is fun to use. Thanks for mentat clues, I finally did figure out what the mentat was also good for: going last in the turn to see what opponents commit to in battle. Well, she still likes dune better than Brass, which we played last night. We made so many major mistakes in that first game, it was a total write off. 

Premium User5 months ago

Nice! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it a bit more. I can definitely understand not enjoying it if you don't like confrontation. I'm pretty sure my wife wouldn't like it too much for this reason as well.

And yeah that's a good point about the Mentat! I hadn't considered that possibility, but if you're vying for the conflict card and not sure what your opponents will do, delaying your final action would be valuable.

Think you'll bring it out a third time?

5 months ago

I'm sorry to hear it wasn't a hit for you. Is this the kind of game you would normally enjoy but this one was a bit of a dud or are games with card draw (luck) and unknowns from other players often things you bounce off?

Supporter5 months ago

Thanks for the writeup, glad it hit so well for you.

What are the two larg white cards in the lower left hand corner of the picture? are they player aids or something?

I am with , I am looking forward to solo impressions.

Premium User5 months ago

Oh yes, those are the back side of the player boards which have player aids on them

Supporter5 months ago

Oh, Gotcha, that makes sense.

Supporter5 months ago

I'm mixed on this one. Can you play it solo so I can find out more about that mode?

5 months ago

Yes, it has a solo mode. I have played yet, but it looks pretty well thought out. 

Supporter5 months ago

I was hoping Mr. could play it for us. I trust his opinion 

Premium User5 months ago

lol, well there are plenty of people who have actually reviewed the solo mode. But I'm sure I'll play a solo game eventually!

Supporter5 months ago

I don't think that plenty of people are THE dl.