Just got a copy of the game off eBay, and tried a game with 3 players this past weekend. Overall impression was 'we need to try this again with 6 players, maybe it won't be so broken.'
Not knowing what we were doing, it seems we chose a very poor mix of factions for a 3 player game. The Atreides abilities were much to powerful, and being the only faction to start in a stronghold was too great an advantage.
12 Spice appears in Cielago South.
- House Corino ships to Cartheg to grab the second major stronghold.
- Bene Gesserit ship to Sietch Tabr (and 2 to Polar Sink during other players turns), and start moving two tokens south towards the spice stash.
- Atreides ship to Habbanya Ridge Sietch, flies 3 tokens right to Cielago South, and grabs 9 spice the first turn.
8 Spice appears in Habbanya Erg.
- Bene Gesserit continue moving south towards spice, and drop off a few more free tokens in the Polar Sink.
- Atreides ship to Tuek's Sietch (uh oh!) and moves their tokens from Cielago South back to the Habbanya Ridge Sietch for defense.
- House Corino ships more tokens to Cartheg and move a stack from Cartheg to Arrakeen to try and stop the madness.
The first and only battle of the game started between the Atreides and House Corino. Atreides uses their ability to see what leader House Corino has chosen, finds that it is their traitor, and so the battle is already decided. Atreides wins the battle, holds onto 3 strongholds, and wins the game.
Don't know if we'll ever play this again with 3. We will definitely try with 5 or 6 and hopefully the game will have more substance. For what I read here, 5 may not even be a good option as that has ended in 2 turns for some as well. Seems like a good game, but only for the right sized group.
It has certainly been a loooong time since I played my version Dune , still intact , but if a game ended so fast I would definitely have opted for another . I have not had many 3 man games but definitely 4 and 5 player games . They have ended many different ways but never in round 2 . It just seems very fortunate for the Atreides player to have his traitor show up first battle . Just luck in my opinion but like I said , if it was that fast I would have had another game..
I cant remember a game Ive had where Atreides was in the game without there being a Harkonnen player .. and the Bene Gesserit is one House that has not been involved in many games at all , just a few from what i recall. We have played usually where everyone randomly draws a leader tile just to determine who you play . Personally I liked the Harkonnen . Something about haveing up to 8 treachery cards and a few more traitors (possibly) just seemed to have an edge in battle . Plus there was an albeit small but atleast a better chance you could win the Family Atomics card and hold on to it (hang on to the walls of Carthag that protect you ) .
Just my 2-cents.
Traitors are a huge X-factor and if your enemy uses one, it can be a game winner. Corino made a mistake shipping to Carthage rather than Tuek's Steich.
Play the game again with three. Four works well, and five is just fine, six is ideal. You just have to be very, very aggressive as the Harkonnen, Atredies and Emperor to defend what you have (keeping the ornithopters). The rest of the factions have to drop in when someone is going for the win and build up other times. The Bene have a tough time without a good alliance, but their special ability can be brutal because IIRC even if they ally with the person they picked THEY STILL WIN if they chose the turn and the player.
One thing to remember is that only 2 factions tokens can occupy a space, so you can attack a person that has only a few tokens in a stronghold to prevent a player closer to the win from putting his in there, forstalling the victory so you can regroup.
The key thing about the Harkonnen is that they start the game very powerful, but if they get ousted from a city or two, especially if they get totally whipped off the planet, it's almost impossible for them to come back at all. Atreides have the same danger, if they get pushed off the planet, there's usually no coming back. Fremen can take catastrophic casualties and come right back to win.
We had a very similar 3 player game when we played one time. It was over in 2 or 3 turns. Dune is a game best played with 5 or 6 players.
You can get away with playing Dune with fewer than 6, but it's important to keep in mind the factions you're playing because of their starting positions. For example, in a 4 player game, playing with the Atreides, Fremen, Harkonnen and Guild will mean that all strongholds start the game occupied. Starting the game with the Emperor, Bene Gesserit, Harkonnen and Atreides will mean that only 2 of 5 strongholds are occupied at the beginning of the game, which introduces an entirely new dynamic to the game. The latter scenario will probably lead to quicker games, since strongholds will be much easier to take over initially. I've played a 4 player game with the Fremen, Atreides, Harkonnen and Guild and found it to be quite satisfying.
By the way, my few experiences with 5 player games did not leave the best impression ever since the players can form imbalanced alliances.