I had several friends over to celebrate my 30th birthday, which is technically on the 24th, but I think the whole month counts as my b-day, so there! Anyway, we decided to play Dune and possibly A Game of Thrones afterwards. We never got there.
Of the 5 of us, only Glenn and I had tried the game before. Dan, Thel, and Bill had never played it. Most of us were fans of the films, so we had a positive view of the context to begin with. I decided that we would play with only basic rules except that an alliance needed 4 strongholds to win, and using all optional character rules. We omitted the Bene Gesserit as that seems to be the common wisdom for less than 6 player games.
We chose factions randomly, Brian got the Guild, Glenn got the Emperor, Dan the Harkonnen, Bill the Atreides, and Thel the Fremen.
At the start of the game, no one really knew what they were doing. Several players rushed after spice, failing to heed my warnings about worms. Some paid the price.
At the first nexus, the Emperor and the Harkonnnens joined together, while Atreides and Guild struck a deal. The Fremen hung back, as Thel was disoriented and a bit grumpy and anti-social as a result. The ensuing turns saw some colossal battles for Carthag and Arrakeen. The Harkonnen/Emperor alliance racked up tons of treachery cards as the Harkonnen got his money back from the Emperor. The Atreides shipped in tons of troops using the Guild rate, and the Guild used Atreides prescience to foretell victory. The Harkonnens pushed the Atreides out of Arrakeen, while the Emperor's Sardaukar landed in Carthag to destroy the Atreides there. The Atreides won a heroic victory against the Emperor's shock troops, by using a laze-gun and the Kwisatz Haderach. Massive casualties ensued in the continued fighting, and soon the tanks were full of a rainbow of tokens and leaders.
One faction had not been a party to the bloodletting, however: the Fremen. Thel awoke from his reverie to begin a bid for the liberation of Arrakis. Scorning his traditional enemies the Harkonnens and the Guild, the Fremen joined with the Atreides to attempt total domination. These two powers held four strongholds at the time of their alliance. In response, a triple alliance developed between the Guild, Harkonnens, and the Emperor, against the Atreides and the Fremen. In a massive assault on Arrakis, the forces of the triple alliance all arrived at reduced rates thanks to the guild, and loaded with treachery cards due to the Emperor and Harkonnens. The Harkonnens took Arrakeen, and the Guild Habbaniya ridge. The Sardaukar captured Tuek's Sietch. During the bloodshed, around turn 9 of the possible 15, the Guild saw a chance to make things more interesting. Landing a single token on the Shield Wall, the Guild detonated atomics. The storm moved through 5 spaces, wiping the planet clean of many Harkonnen, Atreides, and Fremen alike. The Harkonnen player stood in stunned disbelief. Three strongholds were now held, on each for the Guild, Fremen, and Emperor.
A nexus arrived and the winds of allegiance shifted. The Fremen allied with the Emperor, as they saw a chance to seize 4 strongholds. The Atreides returned to the Guild fold, sensing perhaps the possibility of victory with their ally. The Harkonnens, used and abused by all, were left to their own devices. The Fremen held Sietch Tabr and seized Habbaniya ridge. The Emperor had Tuek's Sietch. The Atreides had Arrakeen and Carthag. In the following turns, the Harkonnens seized Arrakeen again, and the Guild seized Habbaniya Ridge. Desperate fighting between Guild and Fremen lead to the emptying of Habbaniya Ridge. A suicide attack by crack Atreides troops depopulated all of Tuek's Sietch by firing a lazegun at the Imperial's shields and creating an atomic reaction. The last turn rolled around, and the Guild unveiled a dastardly karama card preventing the Emperor from shipping that turn. Left alone, the Fremen could only assault one stronghold, and the guild moved last to occupy Habbaniya Ridge. No single player had one as the turn ended. Thus, the Guild and their Atreides allies won the game, ensuring that the spice would flow!