Publisher: Five Rings/Last Unicorn
Starter Price: £5.99
Booster Price: £2.20
A CCG based on the award winning Dune novel. The game tries to include all the intrigue, assassination and open warfare inherent in the book. Each player takes the role of a minor house. They then choose a sponsor from one of the major houses (Atredies, Corrino, Bene Gessirit, Harkonnen, Fremen, or Navigators), each with their own specific playing style.
The object of the game is to get 10 favour and 10 spice. Favour can be bought or earned in combat. Spice on the other hand can be bought, but a finite amount resides in the pool to begin with. Additional spice must be mined from the harsh surface of Dune.
The turn begins with the petitioning phase, where players bid for control of personalities, charters or territories in their Assembly. All blue backed assembly cards are unique, so a lot of brinkmanship must be used to stop your opponents denying you your characters, or trying to get them out first. If this happens, then the only way you can deploy your unique card is by taking out your opposition’s.
After the petitioning phase comes the main phase. Here you can recruit armies and buy equipment, to fuel your war machine. During the main phase you can take part in two combats, one Landsraad, the other CHOAM. CHOAM combats consist of Arbitration and Intrigue, as opponents try to assassinate or slander their enemies and challenge charters, causing them to be flipped over and rendered inoperative. Landsraad combats involve duelling and open warfare as players attempt to conquer territory and defeat nobles. Instead of defeated cards being discarded, they are flipped over into the subdued position, this allows players to eventually bring them back into play, as they accrue deferment tokens each turn (which can also be boosted with cash), once they have deferment tokens equal to their value they can be flipped, so your opponent has a limited time to replace them with his own cards.
The planet Dune can be controlled by any player, doing so will gives a boost to spice production, cash and ultimately favour (he who controls the spice controls the universe).
Turns are well structured but get slowed down by complex rules. Multiplayer interaction is one of the best I’ve seen, with players forging alliances and teams to combat the winning player (just like the book itself). The tablecloth factor is quite high as very few cards actually get discarded, plus you need counters for spice, favour, Solaris and deferment.
Card art is generally quite high though there are a few suspect paintings (Sardaukar, House Atomics. Standouts include Shai’halud, Weather Control and Baron Harkonnen. Complex cards mean lots of text and most look a bit crowded. Grey and orange aren’t the best backgrounds to have. Usually unremarkable, card backs in Dune are a work of art themselves.
There are a ton of terms to learn, most of which regard timing of card plays. This is further aggravated by text heavy cards. The rulebook isn’t the most accessible and you may find yourself having to refer to it constantly, though you’ll need a bit of luck to find what your looking for.
Two basic sets exist. The original sets had fixed cards in the starters, unfortunately, not all the fixed cards were in a single starter. So you had to buy two of each, just to get some of the fixed cards (still haven’t got a lady Jessica yet).The original set contained artwork based on the Dune film, whilst the second edition contained errated cards and eliminated all film based artwork (presumably so they didn’t have to pay the license). On the plus side, the Judge of the Change expansion and Thunder at Twilight, were both victims of the Rolling Thunder syndrome. Each arriving in three 50 card parts, so they are pretty easy to collect 15 packs of each should do it!
The game is as complex as the Dune novel, unfortunately it’s as easy to comprehend as the David Lynch film.