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!
—description from the publisher
MSRP: $50.00Lowest: $34.97
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Now, my head is telling me the choice is pretty easy, keep #Architects of the West Kingdom, but my heart is screaming at me, keep #Dune. The only problem is I'm worried it will only get played 1 - 2 (on a good year) times a year. While Architects will get played more like 5 - 6 times a year (maybe more).
What would you do? I need your advice.
So I pre-ordered the expansion for #Dune pretty much as soon as it was available, and I've had it for months now, but we finally got to play it. One guy had to drop out last minute, which kind of sucked, but there's not much you can do about it, so we played with 5. The game works decently well at 5, so not too big of a deal.
Now we haven't played Dune too many times yet, but this was by far the weirdest play we've had. First of all, because there were expansion factions to choose from, no one ended up playing as either Atreides or Harkonnen. If you're familiar with the book, you know how weird this is from a thematic sense.
The second weird thing was that one player almost won in the first round. This was the guy playing as the Ixians, one of the new factions. One special thing about them is that they have a "hidden mobile stronghold." They control this at the beginning of the game. Anyone can move in and out of this stronghold, but only the Ixians are actually allowed to ship forces into it, so anyone else would need to ship into the territory it's occupying and use their move action to enter it.
Anyway, 3 players had their turns before him in the first round. Players 1 and 2 (Tleilaxu and Bene Gesserit) chose not to ship any forces onto the planet that round. I (Fremen), went next and used my ship action to reinforce my position in the Sietch Tabr stronghold, and my move action to move toward a spice blow (since the Fremen have no other reliable income). The Ixian player was next, with only one other player going after him. He had initially placed his mobile stronghold on the Habbanya Sietch stronghold, so he used his move action to move some of his forces into it, giving him 2 of the 3 required strongholds. He used his ship action to ship into Arrakeen, giving him the 3rd. This forced the guy playing the Emperor, who was last in the turn order for the round, to fight him in one of the strongholds, otherwise the Ixians would have won. He shipped into Arrakeen, and they fought.
The Ixians actually won the battle, but the guy playing forgot that you lose all the forces you dial, and he dialed everything, so no one was left. Even if he didn't forget that, he would have lost, as the Tleilaxu player had the Ixian's leader as a traitor, and played him as a Face Dancer. It was an exciting couple of minutes.
Rounds 2 and 3 were not as exciting. In turn 2, I (Fremen) moved from the spice blow I collected in the previous round into Tuek's Sietch, giving myself 2 strongholds. I also moved to another spice blow that was right in front of the storm, just so I could collect the spice, since Fremen only take half troop loss in a storm. There were minor battles here and there in these rounds, but nothing decisive or particularly exciting. Tleilaxu and Bene Gesserit were biding their time, not making any strong moves, really. The Ixians have some cool abilities that were pretty fun in this game having to do with the auction phase and the treachery cards. They were a good replacement for Atreides in that regard.
Round 4 started off like the previous 2 - with a pretty standard auction and revival phase. One thing that I was watching, though - I was last in the turn order this round. That's important, because it means that no one can make any movements after you make yours. I still had my 2 strongholds (Tuek's Sietch and Sietch Tabr). The Emperor had 2 strongholds - Carthag and Arrakeen - but was weak in both. The Tleilaxu player shipped into the one closer to me (Carthag) for a fight. Dangit. That means I can't ship in there (max of 2 allowed in a territory). But wait, I have a special treachery card I won in the auction phase - Hajr - Special Movement. With this card I was able to take my normal movement action (2 territories for Fremen), then surprise everyone and take a second one and end up in Arrakeen. "Oh crap!" said my friend next me playing the Bene Gesserit. If I win the battle, I win the game.
As I already mentioned, the Emperor was weakened - he had 3 troops in the territory. I moved in with 6, one of them being a Fedaykin commando (counts double in battle). The battle was a foregone conclusion. I played Stilgar, my strongest leader, with no fear of treachery on his part (I had kept him as my selected traitor card ad the beginning of the game). I had a poison weapon to kill the Emperor's leader. The only way I could possibly have lost was if he managed to kill my leader and I was unable to kill his, but that didn't happen. I won the battle, and therefore the game. The other guys played the rest of the battles for kicks and giggles, but they didn't matter. I had 3 strongholds.
This was the shortest game of Dune we've played by a longshot, both in time and in number of rounds. In actual time playing, after setup, explanation of new expansion stuff, and a dinner break, it was probably 90 minutes of game time. Earlier games have been at least 4 hours. I also really enjoyed what the expansion added. The 2 new factions are cool, and having more options is nice. I can't wait to play again! Something tells me it won't be too much longer before people are asking for this one again...
So I have a few games that I would love to play (and I think they'd be staples) but for a variety of reasons I don't think I'll ever get to play them. Mostly it is due to time constraints, but also due in large part to not having the right group that would like either the weight or the time.
#Dune - So much of what I've heard about this game makes me want to play it. Based on one of my favorite books of all time. Great at higher player counts. Lot of negative player interaction. The chance to backstab. I haven't done too much research because I don't think I'd ever play it, but what I know sounds awesome.
#Twilight Imperium 4th Edition - I still don't have a 4x SciFi game in my collection and I'd love to get one. This falls into the category of just not enough time. Seems like I'd love it though.
#Star Wars: Rebellion - Another game in a Universe I love (for the most part), but just seems like it'd be way to long.
#War of the Ring (Second Edition) - I could almost say the same thing as I did above. Middle Earth is the most fascinating literary world I've ever experienced. I just need, time, time and more time...
#Pax Pamir (Second Edition) - I think so much of this game looks awesome to me, and I think I'd really enjoy it. But I don't know if my gaming group(s) would. I also have no idea about time on this one. Maybe the solo mode by itself is worth it (@philryuh), but it's hard for me to consider picking up a game to basically solely (pun intended) play solo.
Well I've had my copy of Dune (2019) for a couple of months now, and I finally was able to get it to the table with a group of friends. I was really looking forward to this, as I am a huge fan of the book series (and am anxiously awaiting the 2020 movie), and the game is VERY true to the source material. Not to mention the fact that it is apparently a legend among hobby board gamers, and has been for 40 YEARS.
For this first play, I actually sat out and play GM and ran the game, since I had 6 friends who all wanted to play, and the game only goes up to 6 (currently). So we had a full game, which was one thing I wanted to make sure we had, as all reviews say that is far and away the best way to play.
In the days before we played, I had the players watch some of the videos put out by the publisher that explain the game, so that we weren't starting from zero when it came time to play, and the rule explanation could be more of a reminder and time for questions. I HIGHLY recommend doing this if you organize a game of Dune with new players. We were able to keep the pre-game explanation, questions, and setup to about 45 minutes, without anyone getting overwhelmed by rules, since they already mostly knew how to play.
The game was a lot of fun, even for me as the GM (or DM for DuneMaster, as my friend called me once). We played the basic rules for the first game, which was a good call. Some people (who did more research than some of the other players) complained that a lot of the cooler stuff is present only in the "advanced" rules, which is true, but for the first game, basic rules was definitely the way to go.
There was at least one battle every round, which kept things interesting. There was a nexus in round 2. At this point, the Guild and Emperor allied, Atreides and Bene Gesserit allied, and Fremen and Harkonnen allied. The Bene Gesserit/Atreides alliance ended up winning in round 5 by fighting 2 battles - one of them being decided by a traitor! This was the only appearance of a traitor in the game, unfortunately. I wanted to see more, as I love that mechanism!
All in all, I think people had fun, and I think for the most part they will want to play again. There were mistakes made, a few rules ambiguities, and a few people not quite understanding a few of the rules at first, but at the end it seemed that everyone wanted to play again, which is great for me! Next time we play, we will definitely use the advanced rules, and I will actually play this time, haha!
Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take photos, but I will try to remember for next time!
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.
[Dune, Dune: Ixians & Tleilaxu House Expansion]
[Twilight Imperium 4th Edition, Star Wars: Rebellion, War of the Ring (Second Edition), Dune, Pax Pamir (Second Edition)]