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Subject: Dune's Strongest players rss

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Charles Reinert
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Here is my take on the strongest players in Dune. Let me clarify that the following is based on a 6 player game with advanced rules. Character strengths weaken or strengthen depending on how many players there are. The advanced rules really have an impact on this assessment. I don't do alliances but the following rankings hold true with one exception.

1) Guild-the ability to take their turn last makes Guild the strongest character in Dune. They are always a threat to sneak an easy victory, but if they have to battle they can use the other players payments for shipping to put down double the armies of their opponents. If you are into alliances, everyone but Fremen would love to be there ally.

2)Emperor-Money and power is an awfully nice combination. Five Sardaukar and money from bidding is usually enough to guarantee victory. Emperor is also the character of choice for new people learning to play the game. It is pretty straight forward. Collect money and go kick butt. Certainly great for anyone to be in an alliance with, since they will lend you the money to buy the cards you need so in essence you get the card for free.

3) Bene Gesserit- some people think Harkonen is stronger, but the voice is far and away the most powerful battle advantage. Plus they can always predict the winner and steal the win if they get it right. But they only need one weapon and one defense, whereas Atreides need two of each. BG can always be sure that they will either keep their leader or kill their opponents leader. Getting two spice whether you need it or not is nice too, and BG is not dependent on spice as much as other factions.

4)Harkonen- few characters instill fear of battle like the Harkonen. If you make a mistake or miscalculate he will take one of your leaders. Having four possible traitors is a big help in trying to win the game, but there is always a chance that he will draw 1-4 of his own. Plus he has to forage for spice if he is unable to get money from killing other people's leaders. He may not be the strongest character to play, but he might be the most fun.

5) Fremen-Great leaders, great mobility, and three starred tokens. Not bad, and if he didn't have to waste so much time following spice blows he would be a real threat to win the game early. As it is he has to collect spice, buy some decent cards and then go for the win. Sadly this means the game may be over by the time he is ready to make his move. Many people can relate to Fremen being just one turn away from the win, only to watch someone else sweep in and beat hem to the punch. Still with a little luck with the worms he is a threat. As far as alliances go, the Fremen doesn't bring much to the table except for fighting ability. So he is stronger than Atreides for single win ability, but Atreides is the better character to ally with.

6) Atreides- the makers of Dune read the book and saw how Atreides had the deck stacked against them, and incorporated it into the game. Atreides has lots of cool abilities, that more or less amount to "wow I can see the future and I am going to get my butt kicked". Not impossible to win a 6 player game with Atreides but close to it. They make a decent ally and can certainly win in an alliance with most anyone. But if you win with Atreides by yourself, in a 6 player game, then congratulations, you are God Emperor of Dune!

Some people will play a game with 7 or 8 people by including the Ix and Tleilaxu factions. Ix is pretty neat since he doesn't need to back up his men with spice and can see the number dialed of his opponent, but he has a real difficult time getting spice, and it always seems he is making the choice of buying cards or shipping down, with neither being enough to help him win. Tleilaxu is fun, but if the game doesn't go long there is little chance for him to win. Again spice is the problem. Only two players usually buy men out of the tanks, and later in the game they might not be able to afford to do so.
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Shawn Garbett
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WBC 2016 tournament data (results) showed that in competition play, with advanced rules, the ordering is as follows:

* Bene Gesserit.
* Atreides, Emperor, Guild, Harkonnen are all approximately equal
* Fremen. That with the new rules went from way behind to almost in the main pack.
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Brad Johnson
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I think faction preferences are very much a matter of personal style and group meta, but I can put some quantitative value to each faction:

Bene Gesserit - 47.5% win ratio
Harkonnen - 39.2%
Emperor - 38.8%
Atreides - 37.0%
Guild - 36.6%
Fremen - 20.8%

This is over 172 recorded tournament games and 130 different unique players spanning 16 years. We play all advanced and optional rules plus some house rules that have evolved over the years. We have always played with alliances (which may be the biggest difference between your group and many others).

These win ratios include all forms of wins: solo (very rare), alliance (very common), Guild (somewhat common) and Fremen (very rare) default, and BG prediction (somewhat rare).

So you can see these quantitative measures of "faction strength" vary quite a bit from your subjective measure, but I'd take it with a grain of salt -- as I'm fond of saying, "No two groups on earth play Dune exactly the same way."

For what it's worth, here's my "explanation" for the rankings above, given what I know about WBC players' general opinions and my own feelings:

1) BG - The Voice is hands down the most impactful repeat-use power in the game. (The most impactful single-use power is definitely Harkonnen's hand swap.) BG's very high win rate is due to the fact that they are the most-common go-to alliance partner for a strong faction. Everyone thinking of going for the win wants the Voice on their side, which frequently is enough to tip the scales alone. BG usually doesn't have many tokens on the board, though, because they tend to operate on a low budget. Obviously, allying with a wealthy Emperor or Guild can change that significantly. So in an alliance game, BG "wins" a lot, but they are frequently the secondary partner in the alliance, carried along just for the Voice, so they rarely can win on their own. Prediction victories do increase the BG's win ratio a bit, but they rarely really come into play, especially with experienced players frequently using a spare Truthtrance to make sure their prospective win hasn't been predicted.

2) Harkonnen do inspire fear in the early turns of the game. Frequently holding a 2x or 3x card advantage over any other player in turn 1, with tokens on the board and great mobility, plus some traitor help to boot, they definitely have the best potential for an early solo win. The fear of losing 2 leaders in one battle does mean that players don't attack Harkonnen unless they really, really mean it. By mid-game, Harkonnen can frequently be "spent" if he's tried for an early win; I think Harkonnen might be the most "fragile" faction in terms of being the last able to recover from catastrophic attrition. However, I do agree many players think Harkonnen is great fun to play. The hand-swap ability is the Harkonnen's ultimate ace-in-the-hole. I've seen it be the single winning factor in many games. There is no other power that drives the tenor of the game as much -- Atreides goes to great effort to keep Karamas out of Harkonnen hands; some players go to great effort to make sure to flush out any possible Harkonnen Karama before going for the win, etc. (Some say we play it wrong to make it more powerful than it should be - maybe, maybe not, but this and the Voice are the only things in the game I've considered nerfing.) Before we buffed the Fremen, it was more or less a given that Harkonnen would spend the game punching the Fremen in the face every time he showed it somewhere in reach. We'll see how that changes now.

3) Emperor is possibly the "easiest" faction to play, in my opinion. You can make some mistakes and still do ok with a reliable source of effortless income. I also agree that Emperor is a very popular ally, particularly early in the game, as everyone wants to get their hand filled for "free". Emperor needs to not fall into the trap of gifting everyone cards and thereby not getting his income for several turns in a row. There's nothing sadder than an Emperor calling CHOAM charity (rare, but I've seen it happen.)

4) Atreides is tough to evaluate. On one hand, I think Atreides is the most difficult faction to play: very fragile like Harkonnen, and to track card knowledge well, it takes constant attention to the acquisition and play of cards in the game. (I've seen many, many inexperienced players just give up tracking cards by mid-game.) On the other hand, Atreides card knowledge plus Prescience is very, very powerful, I would say only slightly less powerful than the Voice. (Whereas the Voice is effective with or without card knowledge, card knowledge can inform the best Prescience questions, yet you still might not be able to respond if you don't hold the right card.) Atreides is a very popular choice with very experienced players who know that card knowledge is the ultimate currency in the game, but Atreides win rate is only average. They are clearly not the least powerful faction, though.

5) Guild - This is where I probably diverge from your opinions the most. Guild is pretty weak all the way around. Yes, they usually have a decent stash of spice by mid-game, maybe even more than the Emperor (depending on how profligate Corrino is). Yes, they can choose when they move. However, too many times these abilities only amount to one thing: Guild is frequently forced to be "Policemen of Dune". Hey, you have a big stack of tokens (either in space, or somewhere on the planet) that can ship for cheap, you have the money to ship and support them, and you can wait to see who's about to win and then ship to respond. Great, you get to spend all your spice and tokens to prevent someone from winning. Once per game. And then you're spent. Guild has to play a strong diplomatic game to avoid getting put into this position. They're terrible in battle anyway - very weak leaders and no special abilities at all. Even just fighting for what they want usually takes all their tokens and spice, and recovery is slow. The only up-side is that with very experienced players, a solo win is a near impossibility and alliances wins (with the 4 stronghold house rule) are not really all that much easier. So it's very possible for the Guild to fight for a stalemate and get their default win. Unfortunately for everyone, this makes for a dreadfully boring game. My first time in the WBC tournament, I drew Guild in the final and everyone said, "Sorry about that", because they knew I had no chance to win. But I essentially introduced the stalemate strategy to that group and won the Guild default victory. Since then, Guild stalemates became the standard strategy, and half of the house rules we've introduced since then were conceived to try to make the game less stalemate-y. So yes, with the out-of-the-box rules, Guild have a great chance of winning, but not by being powerful. If Guild is given an actual reasonable chance to "sneak" an easy victory at any point in the game, then your players just aren't paying enough attention. (I do readily admit that Guild 1st-turn "sneak" wins were a very real thing ~35 years ago when my original group first started playing. But that is unlikely to happen in a WBC game unless there's been some heavy drinking going on.)

6) Fremen - They don't have a win rate about half of everyone else for no reason. All of their abilities are largely inconsequential, and they essentially have zero to offer an ally. The only thing they really had going for them was they could operate reasonably effectively on a small budget and they are fairly resilient. So they were always last choice at nexus time and the biggest disappointment to all players when drawn at faction assignment time. It was only the last few years we started trying to buff the Fremen. It may not show from the number of house rules I use in the tournament, but I am very conservative about changing the rules to the point where we're not really playing Dune any more. We consider rule changes carefully and playtest them fairly thoroughly before adding them to the tournament rules. I think we've finally (maybe?) moved the Fremen up to the adults' table with the change to allow them to dial free everywhere *and* allow their allies to do the same. It seems very powerful because everyone is so used to the Fremen being so weak, but we had great results with it this year - at least players were finally excited to get the Fremen! (Note - It's entirely possible that players who use basic rules are right that the advanced combat rules severely weaken the Fremen, which could explain why essentially returning Fremen to basic rules is what it took to make them as powerful as they should be. But I've *only* ever played advanced rules for 35 years, and most players I know want to play that way too, so we had to work our way back to that, I guess.)

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Shawn Garbett
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tempus42 wrote:

Bene Gesserit - 47.5% win ratio
Harkonnen - 39.2%
Emperor - 38.8%
Atreides - 37.0%
Guild - 36.6%
Fremen - 20.8%


Statistically, with this many plays the difference between the Bene to and the Guild could be random noise. The Fremen show a definitive difference.


> prop.test(x*n, rep(n, 6)
+ )

6-sample test for equality of proportions without continuity correction

data: x * n out of rep(n, 6)
X-squared = 28.165, df = 5, p-value = 3.379e-05
alternative hypothesis: two.sided
sample estimates:
prop 1 prop 2 prop 3 prop 4 prop 5 prop 6
0.475 0.392 0.388 0.370 0.366 0.208

> pairwise.prop.test(x*n, rep(n, 6))

Pairwise comparisons using Pairwise comparison of proportions

data: x * n out of rep(n, 6)

1 2 3 4 5
2 1.0000 - - - -
3 1.0000 1.0000 - - -
4 0.5633 1.0000 1.0000 - -
5 0.5257 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 -
6 4.9e-06 0.0044 0.0054 0.0168 0.0199
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Charles Reinert
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Your results include alliances. My ranking is for solo wins. An interesting thing about Benet is that they can ally with whoever they predicted to win to win solo, and that probably accounts for them being at the top. Of course I have them in my top three for solo wins.
 
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sam newman

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In the games i have played a solo win either occurs within the first 4 rounds or not at all.
 
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Charles Reinert
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Generally that has been the case n my experience too, but we have had a few games won in later rounds. That is why if I am BG I always make my prediction for round 2 or 3. By the 4th round I should be able to win on my own.
 
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Shawn Garbett
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TheDuneDude wrote:
Your results include alliances. My ranking is for solo wins.


In a game that includes alliances, the 2016 WBC data, the numbers on solo wins are scant.


> table(d$Prediction,d$Faction)

Atreides Bene Gesserit Emperor Fremen Guild Harkonnen
FALSE 170 144 163 165 161 169
TRUE 0 9 0 0 0 0
> table(d$Solo,d$Faction)

Atreides Bene Gesserit Emperor Fremen Guild Harkonnen
FALSE 168 153 162 165 154 166
TRUE 2 0 1 0 7 3


In this setting, the solo ranking (not significant) is as follows:

* Bene (by Prediction)
* Guild (Turns: 2, 5, 10, 10, 10, 10, 15)
* Harkonnen (Turns: 1, 1, 3)
* Atreides (Turns: 6, 10)
* Emperor (Turn 8)
* Fremen
 
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Raithyn
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The backstabbing and shifting politics of alliances are half the game to me. I can understand your statements in light of not playing with them, but I feel you're missing a lot of the game's depth, especially in the mid to late turns.
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Charles Reinert
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Well it isn't like we have a rule against them, just more of an understanding that everyone wants to win on their own. We play every month and the winner gets to keep the trophy for that month. Some of us have held it for several months. Since only one person can take home the trophy, there is little call for alliances even though technically they could. On at least one occasion one member inquired since he was doing poorly and could use some help, but no one took him up on it. I will bring it up when we play this Friday. It might be nice for a change of pace, or as you say to end a game that is gong overly long. But the last few times we have played we have had some real god games, where almost everyone had a chance to win and attempted to win.
 
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Brad Johnson
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gorkel wrote:
In the games i have played a solo win either occurs within the first 4 rounds or not at all.


In the games I play, a solo win in any turn means at least 1 player, probably 2, at the table were not paying attention and made significant errors. Even without alliances, if the players are constantly talking to each other and coordinating defensive actions when needed, solo wins are almost impossible. In fact, no alliances means it should be even that much easier for factions to coordinate blocking of strongholds. Of course, I'm sure it's possible the stars could align just so - you're Harkonnen, you're the only one with weapons, you're moving first, etc... But I still say even in those cases someone else chose to not do what they could/should have done to stop the win.

If we required solo wins, I think every game would end in a default Guild win, and those 10 long turns of everyone being unable to make a decisive move would be painful!

As I say, it's really all a matter of group play styles. I would guess if one player used to WBC styles faced 5 players from Charles' group, that WBC player would be shocked at how the strategies he's accustomed to don't work. And vice versa.
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Charles Reinert
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tempus42 wrote:
gorkel wrote:
In the games i have played a solo win either occurs within the first 4 rounds or not at all.


In the games I play, a solo win in any turn means at least 1 player, probably 2, at the table were not paying attention and made significant errors. Even without alliances, if the players are constantly talking to each other and coordinating defensive actions when needed, solo wins are almost impossible. In fact, no alliances means it should be even that much easier for factions to coordinate blocking of strongholds. Of course, I'm sure it's possible the stars could align just so - you're Harkonnen, you're the only one with weapons, you're moving first, etc... But I still say even in those cases someone else chose to not do what they could/should have done to stop the win.

If we required solo wins, I think every game would end in a default Guild win, and those 10 long turns of everyone being unable to make a decisive move would be painful!

As I say, it's really all a matter of group play styles. I would guess if one player used to WBC styles faced 5 players from Charles' group, that WBC player would be shocked at how the strategies he's accustomed to don't work. And vice versa.


Interesting. Two months ago my friend played Harkonen, and won in the first turn. I was Fremen and was dealt a weapon but he had the defense for it. Atreides had the same situation, and he had Guild for traitor. It just worked out for him, but he had the guts to go for it too. Sometimes that's all it takes. We are usually a hyper vigilant group, but there are lapses. Mostly though, it comes down to spice and cards. A player who is going second to last, who has spice and cards can usually make a stab at victory with a high percentage of success. Guild can be limited in spice depending on shipping, and he may have spread his armies out to the point he can't simply overpower someone going for the win. since we play you have to back armies with spice, a player paying attention can have a general sense of how rich his opponents are and act accordingly. I guess I am going to have to look at the WBC rules.
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TheDuneDude wrote:
A player who is going second to last, who has spice and cards can usually make a stab at victory with a high percentage of success.

I believe you - it could happen. I had a 2nd-turn Atreides solo win in the tournament myself (years ago, back before I took over as GM). I was moving last and luck really went my way. But even still, if the player who was playing Fremen in that game had been paying attention, he easily could have stopped me by shipping into Tabr, but he went for spice instead.

Here's a key question: How often do non-allied players in your group make agreements to block each others' strongholds? (What I mean is: I agree to ship/move 1 token to your stronghold and throw the battle, and you do the same for me. Or maybe I just block yours for you in exchange for spice or some other consideration.) Stronghold blocking has become the main reason no one, especially someone moving late in the turn, can easily win. Everything gets blocked up before they can even try to fight for it. Heck, with a coexisting BG token usually in almost every stronghold, the BG alone can decide if someone is allowed to try for the win or not, most turns. (Another reason why BG is in high demand as an ally by someone going for the win.) I continue to debate the idea of eliminating or reducing stronghold blocking, a la Rex, but this would be a pretty dramatic rule change, I think.

In turns 1-3, say, when blocking most of the strongholds may not really be so feasible, attentive players will still make sure that there are no lightly-defended 3-stronghold plays available for late-movers.
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tempus42 wrote:
TheDuneDude wrote:
A player who is going second to last, who has spice and cards can usually make a stab at victory with a high percentage of success.

I believe you - it could happen. I had a 2nd-turn Atreides solo win in the tournament myself (years ago, back before I took over as GM). I was moving last and luck really went my way. But even still, if the player who was playing Fremen in that game had been paying attention, he easily could have stopped me by shipping into Tabr, but he went for spice instead.

Here's a key question: How often do non-allied players in your group make agreements to block each others' strongholds? (What I mean is: I agree to ship/move 1 token to your stronghold and throw the battle, and you do the same for me. Or maybe I just block yours for you in exchange for spice or some other consideration.) Stronghold blocking has become the main reason no one, especially someone moving late in the turn, can easily win. Everything gets blocked up before they can even try to fight for it. Heck, with a coexisting BG token usually in almost every stronghold, the BG alone can decide if someone is allowed to try for the win or not, most turns. (Another reason why BG is in high demand as an ally by someone going for the win.) I continue to debate the idea of eliminating or reducing stronghold blocking, a la Rex, but this would be a pretty dramatic rule change, I think.

In turns 1-3, say, when blocking most of the strongholds may not really webe so feasible, attentive players will still make sure that there are no lightly-defended 3-stronghold plays available for late-movers.


Good question. We don't do alliances, but people will often gang up to stop someone, especially if they have held the cup for a few months in a row. And that's because winners like that usually become obnoxious. We do agree to block a territory to prevent a win, but not for money, just the common good. But you might be surprised at how some of my friends will selfishly go after spice as your Fremen opponent did, or refuse to block a territory. Sometimes they feel they will still lose to much, even if it is only one token, and sometimes they want someone to win so they can play a second game with a possibly better character. Then of course you have clashes of personalities, where some people go after someone they are irritated with even if it is not in their best interests to win.
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tempus42 wrote:
Heck, with a coexisting BG token usually in almost every stronghold, the BG alone can decide if someone is allowed to try for the win or not, most turns. (Another reason why BG is in high demand as an ally by someone going for the win.) I continue to debate the idea of eliminating or reducing stronghold blocking, a la Rex, but this would be a pretty dramatic rule change, I think.

Removing this restriction, together with using Rex's shipping and moving rules (order is opposite to Dune, extra cost is for landing on occupied spaces), worked nicely in the hybrid Rex-Dune game Glenn ran on the Rex forum. The move-ship order and penalty to shipping directly into enemy positions gives an incentive for positional play, so that allowing 3+ players in strongholds doesn't automatically mean everyone always piles in.

I don't think stronghold blocking is that interesting, so it's nice not to have it. However, that's probably more changes than I imagine serious Dune tournament players would be comfortable with. Or maybe I'm wrong about that? Could freshen up the play?

It won't magically get rid of stalemates though, that's still down to player attention. And depending on the turn order (which decides the battle order), you can help stop a faction by contributing troops to the battle; but at least that takes more effort than simply blocking.
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Sounds like you have a very interesting group meta going on. Reminds me a bit of my steady group in high school back in the 80s when we played just about every weekend. Interpersonal dynamics can certainly sometimes overwhelm "pure strategic" considerations, even in a tournament environment. I know players who just do not like to feel railroaded into a course of action, and when presented with an ironclad argument that says "if you don't do X then someone else wins", they are quite likely to say, "well, I just don't want to do X". In the tournament where every game result counts toward advancement to the final, you can see how this is not always well appreciated. But part of success at any multi-player game is "playing the table", and taking other players' likely "stress responses" into consideration.
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Charles Reinert
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[q="tempus42"]I think faction preferences are very much a matter of personal style and group meta, but I can put some quantitative value to each faction:

Bene Gesserit - 47.5% win ratio
Harkonnen - 39.2%
Emperor - 38.8%
Atreides - 37.0%
Guild - 36.6%
Fremen - 20.8%

This is over 172 recorded tournament games and 130 different unique players spanning 16 years. We play all advanced and optional rules plus some house rules that have evolved over the years. We have always played with alliances (which may be the biggest difference between your group and many others).

These win ratios include all forms of wins: solo (very rare), alliance (very common), Guild (somewhat common) and Fremen (very rare) default, and BG prediction (somewhat rare).

So you can see these quantitative measures of "faction strength" vary quite a bit from your subjective measure, but I'd take it with a grain of salt -- as I'm fond of saying, "No two groups on earth play Dune exactly the same way."

For what it's worth, here's my "explanation" for the rankings above, given what I know about WBC players' general opinions and my own feelings:

1) BG - The Voice is hands down the most impactful repeat-use power in the game. (The most impactful single-use power is definitely Harkonnen's hand swap.) BG's very high win rate is due to the fact that they are the most-common go-to alliance partner for a strong faction. Everyone thinking of going for the win wants the Voice on their side, which frequently is enough to tip the scales alone. BG usually doesn't have many tokens on the board, though, because they tend to operate on a low budget. Obviously, allying with a wealthy Emperor or Guild can change that significantly. So in an alliance game, BG "wins" a lot, but they are frequently the secondary partner in the alliance, carried along just for the Voice, so they rarely can win on their own. Prediction victories do increase the BG's win ratio a bit, but they rarely really come into play, especially with experienced players frequently using a spare Truthtrance to make sure their prospective win hasn't been predicted.

2) Harkonnen do inspire fear in the early turns of the game. Frequently holding a 2x or 3x card advantage over any other player in turn 1, with tokens on the board and great mobility, plus some traitor help to boot, they definitely have the best potential for an early solo win. The fear of losing 2 leaders in one battle does mean that players don't attack Harkonnen unless they really, really mean it. By mid-game, Harkonnen can frequently be "spent" if he's tried for an early win; I think Harkonnen might be the most "fragile" faction in terms of being the last able to recover from catastrophic attrition. However, I do agree many players think Harkonnen is great fun to play. The hand-swap ability is the Harkonnen's ultimate ace-in-the-hole. I've seen it be the single winning factor in many games. There is no other power that drives the tenor of the game as much -- Atreides goes to great effort to keep Karamas out of Harkonnen hands; some players go to great effort to make sure to flush out any possible Harkonnen Karama before going for the win, etc. (Some say we play it wrong to make it more powerful than it should be - maybe, maybe not, but this and the Voice are the only things in the game I've considered nerfing.) Before we buffed the Fremen, it was more or less a given that Harkonnen would spend the game punching the Fremen in the face every time he showed it somewhere in reach. We'll see how that changes now.

3) Emperor is possibly the "easiest" faction to play, in my opinion. You can make some mistakes and still do ok with a reliable source of effortless income. I also agree that Emperor is a very popular ally, particularly early in the game, as everyone wants to get their hand filled for "free". Emperor needs to not fall into the trap of gifting everyone cards and thereby not getting his income for several turns in a row. There's nothing sadder than an Emperor calling CHOAM charity (rare, but I've seen it happen.)

4) Atreides is tough to evaluate. On one hand, I think Atreides is the most difficult faction to play: very fragile like Harkonnen, and to track card knowledge well, it takes constant attention to the acquisition and play of cards in the game. (I've seen many, many inexperienced players just give up tracking cards by mid-game.) On the other hand, Atreides card knowledge plus Prescience is very, very powerful, I would say only slightly less powerful than the Voice. (Whereas the Voice is effective with or without card knowledge, card knowledge can inform the best Prescience questions, yet you still might not be able to respond if you don't hold the right card.) Atreides is a very popular choice with very experienced players who know that card knowledge is the ultimate currency in the game, but Atreides win rate is only average. They are clearly not the least powerful faction, though.

5) Guild - This is where I probably diverge from your opinions the most. Guild is pretty weak all the way around. Yes, they usually have a decent stash of spice by mid-game, maybe even more than the Emperor (depending on how profligate Corrino is). Yes, they can choose when they move. However, too many times these abilities only amount to one thing: Guild is frequently forced to be "Policemen of Dune". Hey, you have a big stack of tokens (either in space, or somewhere on the planet) that can ship for cheap, you have the money to ship and support them, and you can wait to see who's about to win and then ship to respond. Great, you get to spend all your spice and tokens to prevent someone from winning. Once per game. And then you're spent. Guild has to play a strong diplomatic game to avoid getting put into this position. They're terrible in battle anyway - very weak leaders and no special abilities at all. Even just fighting for what they want usually takes all their tokens and spice, and recovery is slow. The only up-side is that with very experienced players, a solo win is a near impossibility and alliances wins (with the 4 stronghold house rule) are not really all that much easier. So it's very possible for the Guild to fight for a stalemate and get their default win. Unfortunately for everyone, this makes for a dreadfully boring game. My first time in the WBC tournament, I drew Guild in the final and everyone said, "Sorry about that", because they knew I had no chance to win. But I essentially introduced the stalemate strategy to that group and won the Guild default victory. Since then, Guild stalemates became the standard strategy, and half of the house rules we've introduced since then were conceived to try to make the game less stalemate-y. So yes, with the out-of-the-box rules, Guild have a great chance of winning, but not by being powerful. If Guild is given an actual reasonable chance to "sneak" an easy victory at any point in the game, then your players just aren't paying enough attention. (I do readily admit that Guild 1st-turn "sneak" wins were a very real thing ~35 years ago when my original group first started playing. But that is unlikely to happen in a WBC game unless there's been some heavy drinking going on.)

6) Fremen - They don't have a win rate about half of everyone else for no reason. All of their abilities are largely inconsequential, and they essentially have zero to offer an ally. The only thing they really had going for them was they could operate reasonably effectively on a small budget and they are fairly resilient. So they were always last choice at nexus time and the biggest disappointment to all players when drawn at faction assignment time. It was only the last few years we started trying to buff the Fremen. It may not show from the number of house rules I use in the tournament, but I am very conservative about changing the rules to the point where we're not really playing Dune any more. We consider rule changes carefully and playtest them fairly thoroughly before adding them to the tournament rules. I think we've finally (maybe?) moved the Fremen up to the adults' table with the change to allow them to dial free everywhere *and* allow their allies to do the same. It seems very powerful because everyone is so used to the Fremen being so weak, but we had great results with it this year - at least players were finally excited to get the Fremen! (Note - It's entirely possible that players who use basic rules are right that the advanced combat rules severely weaken the Fremen, which could explain why essentially returning Fremen to basic rules is what it took to make them as powerful as they should be. But I've *only* ever played advanced rules for 35 years, and most players I know want to play that way too, so we had to work our way back to that, I guess.)

Hmmm. Major food for thought here. I've been reading over your rules, and we play largely the same way, with a few exceptions. Everyone has different strategies, but I find if you are playing Guild and on your first turn you ship all of your armies from your box (15 to be exact) down to the Pasty Mesa, you have a very good chance of winning in the second turn. At the very least you switch the role of policeman from yourself to your opponents as they now have to worry about you shipping across planet. If they forget or ignore, an easy early victory is likely. I misunderstood what some people said about Fremen not having to back up their armies with spice. If I read your rules correctly, this is only in the dessert territories correct? I like that, and will share it with my friends. They may nix it, but you never know. Like you, they are very conservative with rule changes. But that makes sense, because you expect the Fremen to have an advantage in the desert. Atreides in my opinion should never make it out of the first turn. If emperor takes them out in Arakeen like I think he should, they are a non-factor the rest of the game. But if Emperor chooses a different strategy, both Harkonen and Fremen can knock him out of Arrakeen depending on how much spice he expends on cards and shipping. We have only recently allowed Atreides to take notes on bidding and some people still don't do it. This greatly reduces their chances, but even with great memory and note taking they are mediocre at best unless as an alliance.
I wonder about the weather control rule. We always played that if the storm went zero, then that section is still in storm. It seemed from your take on it, that a section can only be in storm one turn, which would really change things. Keeping a section in storm is one of the nice uses of te weather control, whether it be for keeping your tokens in that section safe or not allowing another player to move in or out of it.
Here's a question for you. As I have stated, I always felt the Atreides to be the weakest (by design) character in the game. The truth trance if allowed can be used to neutralize the Atreides prescience if a player asks him if he will play such and such weapon or defense before Atreides uses his prescience. The truth trance can be used at any time, but in this case it acts more like a Karama card that only affects Atreides negatively in this way. I argue that Atreides has a hard enough time as is, without allowing this to happen. What do you think?
 
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tempus42 wrote:
Sounds like you have a very interesting group meta going on. Reminds me a bit of my steady group in high school back in the 80s when we played just about every weekend. Interpersonal dynamics can certainly sometimes overwhelm "pure strategic" considerations, even in a tournament environment. I know players who just do not like to feel railroaded into a course of action, and when presented with an ironclad argument that says "if you don't do X then someone else wins", they are quite likely to say, "well, I just don't want to do X". In the tournament where every game result counts toward advancement to the final, you can see how this is not always well appreciated. But part of success at any multi-player game is "playing the table", and taking other players' likely "stress responses" into consideration.


Exactly. It can be really be frustrating, but afterwards upon reflection it does make for an interesting experience and causes you to be part psychologist as well as gamesman.
 
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TheDuneDude wrote:
Hmmm. Major food for thought here. I've been reading over your rules, and we play largely the same way, with a few exceptions. Everyone has different strategies, but I find if you are playing Guild and on your first turn you ship all of your armies from your box (15 to be exact) down to the Pasty Mesa, you have a very good chance of winning in the second turn. At the very least you switch the role of policeman from yourself to your opponents as they now have to worry about you shipping across planet. If they forget or ignore, an easy early victory is likely. I misunderstood what some people said about Fremen not having to back up their armies with spice. If I read your rules correctly, this is only in the dessert territories correct? I like that, and will share it with my friends. They may nix it, but you never know. Like you, they are very conservative with rule changes. But that makes sense, because you expect the Fremen to have an advantage in the desert. Atreides in my opinion should never make it out of the first turn. If emperor takes them out in Arakeen like I think he should, they are a non-factor the rest of the game. But if Emperor chooses a different strategy, both Harkonen and Fremen can knock him out of Arrakeen depending on how much spice he expends on cards and shipping. We have only recently allowed Atreides to take notes on bidding and some people still don't do it. This greatly reduces their chances, but even with great memory and note taking they are mediocre at best unless as an alliance.
I wonder about the weather control rule. We always played that if the storm went zero, then that section is still in storm. It seemed from your take on it, that a section can only be in storm one turn, which would really change things. Keeping a section in storm is one of the nice uses of te weather control, whether it be for keeping your tokens in that section safe or not allowing another player to move in or out of it.
Here's a question for you. As I have stated, I always felt the Atreides to be the weakest (by design) character in the game. The truth trance if allowed can be used to neutralize the Atreides prescience if a player asks him if he will play such and such weapon or defense before Atreides uses his prescience. The truth trance can be used at any time, but in this case it acts more like a Karama card that only affects Atreides negatively in this way. I argue that Atreides has a hard enough time as is, without allowing this to happen. What do you think?

Lots of great Dune talk! I hope I'm not boring anyone with my ridiculously long responses!

Answering your questions, not necessarily in the order asked:

1) Fremen buff - We played with Fremen dialing for free in sand territories only for a few years, and it still wasn't enough. (Like you, I thought it was a nice thematic rule, though.) This year was the first year we upped it to dialing free in EVERYWHERE, and also allowing the Fremen ally to dial free everywhere as well. This really made them a force to be reckoned with. And it definitely made Fremen a major factor in alliance negotiations, which was really nice to see. Will it be *too* strong? Maybe, but so far it looks good.

2) Truthtrance - We do play that Truthtrance can be played at any time, and yes, that does mean it's possible to pin down the Atreides, perhaps nullifying a key question he wanted to ask. It doesn't happen all the time, and we don't have the issue with Atreides being perceived as weak that you do, so we've never really considered trying to change that. Atreides does hate to have their Prescience messed with, though!

Changing the subject: The one thing I'm worried about having an undue negative impact on Atreides is the ruling that a Karama blocks the Atreides' ability to see cards up for bid *for the remainder of the turn*. (I think this ruling also came direct from the rules, or else an answer from a designer.) Played at the start of the bidding round, that means 6 unknown cards go into circulation, which can *really* screw the Atreides, depending on how much he already knows. The problem comes in with the BG being able to use worthless cards as Karamas - it's becoming somewhat common for the BG to hose the Atreides this way multiple times per game, which I worry is too much. I've considered nerfing this a bit.

3) Storm - Yes, if Weather Control is played so that the storm moves zero, that sector is still under storm (i.e. no one can ship or move into, out of, or through it.) The only distinction is that the space is only "destroyed" when the storm first moves onto it. So there's an edge case where the storm moves onto, say, Arrakeen, the tokens in it are not destroyed, and THEN the Family Atomics is used to destroy the Shield Wall and Weather Control is played to move the storm zero. I would rule in that case that the tokens in Arrakeen are not destroyed. I don't think I've ever seen this case come up, though. I'm pretty sure this clarification came from a careful reading of the printed rules, or else maybe an answer from one of the designers way back when, but I can't remember for sure. Pretty sure I didn't make it up, though.

4) Guild in Pasty Mesa - I see how this lets you walk into Tabr and have your shipment available to shift the rest elsewhere. Assuming you've kept Tuek's, you can go for 3 and the win. However, I'm not sure what you consider to be a "very good chance" of winning. First, a "typical" game I've seen would have the 5 strongholds reasonably well-garrisoned by 5 different factions at the end of turn one. There should be no easy fight for you in Tabr. If Fremen haven't taken it (and believe me, Guild won't beat them with the new Fremen buff, unless they put the whole 15 in there), probably Harkonnen have. For that matter, with the stronger Fremen, the title of Harkonnen Punching Bag has mostly transferred to the Guild in our games. If you leave 5 tokens in Tuek's, you're probably going to have a Harkonnen visitor, and then you either have to reinforce heavily or else abdicate to avoid losing 2 leaders. The problem for *all* solo win attempts is that you probably have to split your tokens 6/7/7, but each stronghold *should* be easily defended by a stack of 10+. For Guild, the problem is compounded by *all* other factions having better leaders and better battle powers than you, even assuming you have that much spice to ship and support that much *and* buy the cards you need by turn 2. I just have a hard time agreeing this Guild strategy gives them a "very good" chance of winning in turn 2.

5) Atreides punching bag - I will agree with you that Atreides is very fragile. I will agree that Emperor or Harkonnen and even Fremen have a decent chance of chasing them out of Arrakeen in turn 1 if they put their minds to it. However, it's pretty uncommon that I see this kind of takeover attempted, I think because people are too afraid to risk losing a bunch of tokens, spice, and cards in a failed attempt. I started doing a detailed analysis, but it's way too long, and it basically will just say something like: Attacker has a >50% of winning, but they minimally lose some tokens and possibly a leader, and potentially lose much more than that. So is a weakened position holding 2 strongholds better than a stronger position holding 1 stronghold in turn 1 when you're not going for a win? Why would you do it if you're just softening up Atreides and yourself for someone else? I will say that if anyone should try it, I agree with you that Emperor is the best candidate. He starts with nothing on the board, and can bide his time recovering a little bit if something goes wrong. Over time, I've seen it become "standard" for Emperor to just take HRS, since they want to get on the board somewhere, and HRS needs to be covered anyway. The trap here is those Emperor tokens are now kind of locked there for the rest of the game, barring a Guild alliance, so it's admittedly not really an ideal move. Anyway, I'm off track -- all I can say is, I usually don't see the Atreides targeted this way in turn 1, but it does happen, and is sometimes successful (and sometimes not.) If it does happen, at least Atreides recovers reasonably quickly, comes back with the KH, and will still be an attractive ally for the Prescience when they're ready.
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5) Atreides punching bag - I will agree with you that Atreides is very fragile. I will agree that Emperor or Harkonnen and even Fremen have a decent chance of chasing them out of Arrakeen in turn 1 if they put their minds to it. However, it's pretty uncommon that I see this kind of takeover attempted, I think because people are too afraid to risk losing a bunch of tokens, spice, and cards in a failed attempt. I started doing a detailed analysis, but it's way too long, and it basically will just say something like: Attacker has a >50% of winning, but they minimally lose some tokens and possibly a leader, and potentially lose much more than that. So is a weakened position holding 2 strongholds better than a stronger position holding 1 stronghold in turn 1 when you're not going for a win? Why would you do it if you're just softening up Atreides and yourself for someone else? I will say that if anyone should try it, I agree with you that Emperor is the best candidate. He starts with nothing on the board, and can bide his time recovering a little bit if something goes wrong. Over time, I've seen it become "standard" for Emperor to just take HRS, since they want to get on the board somewhere, and HRS needs to be covered anyway. The trap here is those Emperor tokens are now kind of locked there for the rest of the game, barring a Guild alliance, so it's admittedly not really an ideal move. Anyway, I'm off track -- all I can say is, I usually don't see the Atreides targeted this way in turn 1, but it does happen, and is sometimes successful (and sometimes not.) If it does happen, at least Atreides recovers reasonably quickly, comes back with the KH, and will still be an attractive ally for the Prescience when they're ready.[/q]

A quick clarification. Guild should put those tokens in the Plastic basin, not the pasty mesa. Since they already have Tuek's, then they can ship as many as needed into HRS and move the rest into Sietch Tabr. Fremen are usually stil to weak, HRS may be unoccupied or not ready to deal with that large of a Guild force.
Now to Atreides. If they spend 3-4 spice on more than one card, then that leaves them with only 2-3 spice to back up armies. Emperoro can beat them with armies alone, not using any cards. Harkonen could possibly have him for traitor. Fremen would have to think about it, but if he was dealt a weapon he could put 10 armies in their including two starred tokens and overwhelm Atreides. It may not be worth it to Harkonen unless he is likely to call traitor because as you say he would lose a lot. Emperor and Fremen though get much needed mobility, and then Emperor can put tokens in HRS without worry of locking them in there, although they are still a good ways away. I don't want to imply that Atreides is a push over. Given a chance to survive the first round and if he is able to get card tight he is quite the tough opponent. But it usually takes a while for him to get there and like Fremen he is just a turn away when someone else wins.
Glad you clarified the storm/weather control rule rule. That works better. I don't know about others, but I like the long posts. Nice to hear other people experiences, strategies, and rule variations.
 
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In a six player game with experienced players who always ally, I'd want to be Emp or Bene. In a six player game with experienced players who never ally (my group), I'd want to be Atreides.
 
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Ok, you are going to have to explain that. I prefer to be Bene all the time because I like it and feel I have an affinity for it. But if I couldn't be Bene I would rather be Harkonen (fun), Guild or Emperor (tie), Fremen and then Atreides. So what is it about Atreides that you like so much, and what kind of success have you had with it?
 
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tempus42 wrote:
gorkel wrote:
In the games i have played a solo win either occurs within the first 4 rounds or not at all.


In the games I play, a solo win in any turn means at least 1 player, probably 2, at the table were not paying attention and made significant errors. Even without alliances, if the players are constantly talking to each other and coordinating defensive actions when needed, solo wins are almost impossible. In fact, no alliances means it should be even that much easier for factions to coordinate blocking of strongholds. Of course, I'm sure it's possible the stars could align just so - you're Harkonnen, you're the only one with weapons, you're moving first, etc... But I still say even in those cases someone else chose to not do what they could/should have done to stop the win.

If we required solo wins, I think every game would end in a default Guild win, and those 10 long turns of everyone being unable to make a decisive move would be painful!

As I say, it's really all a matter of group play styles. I would guess if one player used to WBC styles faced 5 players from Charles' group, that WBC player would be shocked at how the strategies he's accustomed to don't work. And vice versa.


tbf i have never seen a solo win in a 6 player game, the less players the easier it becomes especially for harkonnens
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Brad Johnson There's nothing sadder than an Emperor calling CHOAM charity (rare, but I've seen it happen.)


And for every Emperor that called CHOAM so I can personally attest that there were some more that could have but didn’t…

Quote:
But that is unlikely to happen in a WBC game unless there's been some heavy drinking going on.)


Amended to,

“That could happened at the WBC in about 1 game in 3”

Quote:
Atreides punching bag - I will agree with you that Atreides is very fragile.


My favorite is that Atreides even got lasegun-shielded in the Avalon Hill General's example of play. Poor Paul can’t catch a break.
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4) Guild in Pasty Mesa - I see how this lets you walk into Tabr and have your shipment available to shift the rest elsewhere. Assuming you've kept Tuek's, you can go for 3 and the win. However, I'm not sure what you consider to be a "very good chance" of winning. First, a "typical" game I've seen would have the 5 strongholds reasonably well-garrisoned by 5 different factions at the end of turn one. There should be no easy fight for you in Tabr. If Fremen haven't taken it (and believe me, Guild won't beat them with the new Fremen buff, unless they put the whole 15 in there), probably Harkonnen have. For that matter, with the stronger Fremen, the title of Harkonnen Punching Bag has mostly transferred to the Guild in our games. If you leave 5 tokens in Tuek's, you're probably going to have a Harkonnen visitor, and then you either have to reinforce heavily or else abdicate to avoid losing 2 leaders. The problem for *all* solo win attempts is that you probably have to split your tokens 6/7/7, but each stronghold *should* be easily defended by a stack of 10+. For Guild, the problem is compounded by *all* other factions having better leaders and better battle powers than you, even assuming you have that much spice to ship and support that much *and* buy the cards you need by turn 2. I just have a hard time agreeing this Guild strategy gives them a "very good" chance of winning in turn 2 OR 3.

Hey Brad, I wanted to revisit this once more. I had played a five player game where I put 15 guys into Sietch Tabr (instead of the Plastic Basin) and had my usual five in Tuek's. Whether people were asleep at the switch, or they thought I was just really trying to hold Sietch Tabr, they didn't make the moves necessary to keep me from winning. Of course any strategy like these work best the first time and may be harder to replicate, but with those 15 armies there in Tuek's, the opponents have to make a decision. Do they attack there, or put a bunch of armies in HRS, or work with others to block all possible strongholds? Depending on what they do, and if they are even vigilant enough to do something, the Guild has options. Any serious threat to Tueks will take at least four armies if not more, and only Emperor is likely to have enough to challenge Guild in HRS or Sietch Tabr. If things look bad, Guild simply ships or moves out. But if no one goes after Tueks, or doesn't go after it strongly enough, then Guild may put as many as 14 armies into HRS, Arrakeen, or Carthag depending on where he has the best odds of winning. So I say a good chance because that early in the game people are looking for spice, or setting themselves up for a future win, and even if they see the danger from Guild they may not be willing or able to stop them. Going last, the Guild always gets to decide where, when or even if to attack.
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