Dune - post-game reportGameplay
This will be long. tl;dr at the bottom, pics in the comments.
On Friday night we got to play Dune again. I was really looking forward to this. It was only my 2nd time actually playing. My group has played 3 times, but I sat out the first game since we had too many players. Anyway, I got to play this time.
Unfortunately our 6th player had to drop out at the last minute, which meant we played below the recommended full player count, but what else could we do? The rulebook suggests leaving Bene Gesserit out for a 5 player game. We had two first time players, and both had no interest in choosing a faction, so I assigned them randomly. I drew the Fremen, which was probably the faction I most wanted to try, so that was great.
The game started relatively slowly, though we did have at least one battle in every round. The first 2 rounds saw skirmishes between Harkonnen and Atreides over a spice blow and over Arrakeen (a stronghold). For me, the first few rounds were spent traversing the left side of the board, scooping up every spice blow that was there. I quickly built up a tidy sum of money. There Fremen do not have to pay for shipment OR for battle, so all of their money can be left for acquiring treachery cards, bribing other players, and reviving their fallen troops.
It was not until the third round that a "Nexus" occurred (a sandworm/Shai-Hulud card appeared in the spice blow phase). Only at Nexuses can alliances be made OR broken. By this time, the Atreides player was in a fairly weak position after losing a couple of battles. The Emperor and Harkonnen players allied, and the Spacing Guild player and I allied. At this point, I believe every player held one stronghold (there are 5). By the way, the main winning condition is by holding 3 strongholds at the end of a round, or 4 if you are in alliance.
As the game progressed, the Atreides gained the Lasgun treachery card. This card is the most powerful weapon in the game, but also the most dangerous. If used in a battle with a shield present, it causes a nuclear explosion, and everyone in the territory is wiped out. He possessed both the Lasgun AND a shield, which essentially meant that he was a walking nuke, if he wanted to be, and everyone at the table knew it. As I wrote above, he was in a weakened position, having lost a few battles, so he took this opportunity to get himself back into the game. He moved into one of my strongholds with a couple of troops, and made me an offer I couldn't refuse - he wouldn't nuke the stronghold and my ~8 troops in it...for 10 spice. I took the deal.
He tried this again the next round. He came to me and my ally - "For 15 spice, I won't nuke ANY of your 3 strongholds." This was too high a price to pay. We couldn't let him hold this over us indefinitely. We risked not paying it, knowing that if he detonated it, the other alliance wouldn't be able to swoop in and win right away, and then he wouldn't have the Lasgun anymore.
That risk paid off, as he moved in on a Harkonnen stronghold. On the previous round, the Harkonnen player had moved ALL of his troops into Carthag, which is a stronghold within spitting distance of Arrakeen, one of the strongholds I was holed up in. So when the Atreides player shipped one troop into the Harkonnen stronghold of Carthag with it's 20 troops, the Harkonnen player jumped right into Arrakeen with 17 of them. So there would be battles in both Arrakeen and Carthag.
I had something like 11 troops in Arrakeen to his 17, but I had the advantage of being the Fremen player, who does not have to pay spice to have their troops fight at full strength. The Fremen also have 3 Fedaykin soldiers, which count for double the fighting strength of all other soldiers. We dialed up our battle wheels, revealed our battle plans and... TREACHERY! The leader he played was Feyd-Rautha, the strongest of the Harkonnen leaders, and the leader I had drawn as my traitor at the beginning of the game. I won the battle, and he lost EVERYTHING.
This was a huge turning point in the game, because before this, the Emperor and Harkonnen alliance had a lot of troops on the board, and were poised to make some strong moves against myself and my ally. After this battle, I and my ally still held strong positions, and the Harkonnen player had zero troops on the board, after also losing his battle to Atreides. The game was not decided in this round, but this was certainly a major turning point. At the next Nexus, the Emperor broke his alliance with Harkonnen and allied with Atreides, who had clawed himself back into the game with his mercenary activities and selling of information.
That big battle took place at around the midpoint of the game, which ended up going for 9 rounds. For reference, the maximum is 10 rounds, at which point the special victory conditions for Spacing Guild and Fremen are in play. Most of the rest of the game went on without too much excitement, with skirmishes here and there that didn't swing the game too much one way or another.
One exciting thing that happened was that I got to direct a sandworm to a sand territory of my choosing, and I chose a territory where the Emperor had about 10 troops ready to collect some spice, so I killed all of those troops and destroyed the spice. That was another nail in the coffin for the Emperor and his alliance.
By round 9, most forces had dwindled to the point that there were only a handful of troops in each stronghold, but my ally and I held 3 of the 4 we needed to win. He shipped into a fourth and took it without any problem, and the Emperor player shipped into one of mine to try to stop us from winning the game that round.
I had 4 troops to his 3 in the stronghold, so I had the slight numbers advantage, but there were still leaders and treachery cards (weapons) to account for. Until this time I had been hesitant to use my strongest leader, Stilgar, who also happens to be the best leader in the game. See, when cards traitor cards get dealt out at the beginning of the game, it's highly likely that any one leader was dealt, and considering that Stilgar is the most powerful leader in the game, you can bet that anyone who was dealt Stilgar chose him as their traitor. As you can see, the risk/reward for using your strongest leader is high. Unfortunately for me, I had only two options - my strongest leader and my weakest leader. The rest had been killed. I had a hunch, however, that the Emperor player had Stilgar as his traitor. Luckily, I had won a truthtrance card in the bidding phase a couple of rounds earlier. Before the battle:
Me: "I'm using my truthtrance card - do you have Stilgar as your traitor?"
Emperor: closes eyes and tilts head back in defeat - "YES"
I used my weaker leader and was able to win the battle anyway - game over - we had control of 4 strongholds. If I had used Stilgar in the battle, I would have lost.
So that's the long story of this long game. All in all, it took 9 rounds, 5 1/2 hours, and many, many troops were lost along the way, but I think everyone had a good time, including the two first-timers, which is a big win in my book.
tl;dr - played Dune at 5p. I played as Fremen - a clutch traitor and a clutch Truthtrance card gave me and my ally (Spacing Guild) the victory in round 9. It was really fun and I'm excited to play again.
I'll post some pics in the comments.