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Subject: Tactical significance of strongholds in Dune rss

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Klaude Thomas
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Dune is won by holding strongholds, so what are their features?

Carthag
Carthag is the most significant stronghold in Dune, due to ornithoptors. A player holding Carthag threatens to ship into any one other stronghold and then fly to either Arrakeen or Tabr. That in part is why Harkonnen so frequently takes an early win. If you're not Harkonnen or allied to Harkonnen, displacing him from Carthag should be high on your list. Carthag is one of the four sietches Fremen can reach from reserves in one move. When using the Additional Character Advantages BG should always start deployed here, unless you are also using the WBC alteration to the rules for ornithoptors. Carthag turn one is a bold move for an Emperor with no plans to ally with the Baron; a key deterrent being loss of a random leader if the battle isn't won.

Arrakeen
Arrakeen is probably the second most significant stronghold, again due to ornithoptors. From Arrakeen one threatens to land in any one other stronghold and then fly to Carthag. Should the Atomics be played, Arrakeen has what Carthag lacks which is a sanctuary adjacent to it. Still, Carthag remains the more important sietch. Arrakeen is one of the four sietches Fremen can reach from reserves in one move. BG can consider setting up here, as an alternative to Carthag, with a view to selling Atreides protection plus tokens toward the Kwisatz Haderach (by decoexisting).

Tabr
Tabr is significant due to the Fremen player's ability to deploy from reserves directly into it. That means Fremen or an alliance containing Fremen exerts special influence over Tabr and can frequently disrupt play there. It is also important to note Tabr's role in moves that work nicely for the holder of Carthag or Arrakeen. In principle Fremen may aim for a turn 3 victory with a dealt weapon or karama by starting here: but considering his card is known only after setting up tokens this is a gambit. More often forces pre-deployed in Tabr will end up waiting to be kicked and/or not available if the action is elsewhere.

Tuek's Sietch
Tueks exemplifies the skill of the designers. It's significance is that Fremen cannot deploy and reach it in a single move, and it is not within 'thoptor reach of Carthag or Arrakeen. It is therefore frequently used as a hold-out, which is both thematic and contributes interest to the game, albeit more commonly by Emperor than Guild. Fremen maximise their reach by opening with 10 tokens on False Wall South (sector 5) and that also supplies them an option over Tueks. Even where Fremen open with tokens in Tabr they should place a strong force adjacent to Tueks. Displacing Guild as early as turn one is a decent move for Emperor depending on how Fremen are disposed.

Habbanya Ridge Sietch
HRS is the least valuable stronghold, which paradoxically makes it quite interesting. Being surrounded by Habbanya Ridge Flat, which borders little of interest, gives HRS a special degree of isolation. Tokens there are stuck rather far away from things, thus the sietch often ends up only lightly defended. It may seem unimportant, but a player holding ornithoptors and Hajr can reach it from Tueks: leading to an occasional opportunistic early win for Guild. With that and similar moves a lightly defended HRS becomes the linchpin in a pounce for victory. HRS is one of the four sietches Fremen can reach from reserves in one move. When using the Additional Character Advantages along with the WBC rewrite of the rules for ornithoptors, BG should consider putting their starting token here as an alternative to Carthag. One often sees Emperor drop a sizeable force here as early as turn one. Like Harkonnen, Emperor is typically more powerful than other characters in the early game: so this move may be faulted for lack of elan.

Which other territories most relate to strongholds?

Wind Pass North
This is the only territory in the game within ornithoptor range of every stronghold, and for that reason is of special interest to Atreides if they see it in the spice draw in an early turn. Similarly worth keeping in mind for anyone holding ornithoptors. However, it is exposed to both the Storm and Sandworms unlike every other territory that I'll be listing here.

False Wall South
Threatens Tueks and borders three good spice blows. For Fremen, gives access to six blows, including the largest (Cielago South). As noted, a solid Fremen opening is to start with 10 here. If you gain the Atomics it's a short step to Pasty Mesa.

Pasty Mesa
Pasty Mesa is in ornithoptor range of Carthag and Arrakeen, adjoins three spice blows (five for Fremen) and the Shield Wall for Atomics. It frequently sees small forces thinking about blowing the Wall and mildly threatening Tueks. For Guild it has special significance, because they start adjacent and if they get Atomics it is usually in their interests to use them. (Fremen are the other power that most foreseeably benefits from Atomics, but they have more choices over where to play them from.)

Imperial Basin
Borders both Carthag and Arrakeen, and Polar Sink; and offers safety from the Storm. So there are many situations in which a move into Imperial Basin is favoured for players lacking ornithoptors.

Rim Wall West
Borders Arrakeen and acts as the Duke's private sanctuary from the Storm, following Atomics. Or the same for his replacement.

Plastic Basin
Borders Tabr and five spice blows (seven for Fremen, who even so should rarely be seen here except in retreat) so often presents a good staging territory, especially for players lacking ornithoptors.

False Wall West
Tokens end up here surprisingly often, either on their way to HRS or having just been expelled from it. In a parallel gambit to Tabr, Fremen could set up here with the goal of taking Habbanya Ridge Sietch. They should not however start in both Tabr and False Wall West; and Tabr is superior as it can be more readily reinforced, affords better tempo, and helps resist early Harkonnen victories. Either is really a roll of the dice.

Polar Sink
Fremen tokens in the sink threaten Carthag and Arrakeen, but don't let that draw you into pre-deploying forces there. Forces in reserve are more valuable (something I'll write a post about sometime, because many players appear to not fully realise the impact of this). Other players will need to walk through Imperial Basin unless they have ornithoptors. Without overlooking the Pole's value as a safe-haven, it's generally not the sign of tactical ascendency to have a lot of tokens there. An infrequent exception is where Fremen wish to 'fork' a player with strong forces in Carthag or Arrakeen and Tabr, in order to lasegun-shield them.

Which cards most relate to strongholds?

Hajr, Family Atomics, and Guild and Fremen Karama, have a special interaction with strongholds; but I'll detail that in another post focussed on the Dune power cards.
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Glenn McMaster
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Good summary.

With the BG initial token placement, Carthag is theoretically best, but the ability to arrange a block in a stronghold should always be investigated by the BG, since Harkonnen cares less about a block on Turn 1. Set up in Arrakeen to block for the Atreides for card information on a weapon purchase, go to Tuek's for spice in the collection round if the Guild is game, etc.
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Klaude Thomas
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GLENN239 wrote:
Good summary.

With the BG initial token placement, Carthag is theoretically best, but the ability to arrange a block in a stronghold should always be investigated by the BG, since Harkonnen cares less about a block on Turn 1. Set up in Arrakeen to block for the Atreides for card information on a weapon purchase, go to Tuek's for spice in the collection round if the Guild is game, etc.

That's a nice play. As Atreides I've a few times been on the other end of it, i.e. negotiated with a BG in Arrakeen for turn one protection plus tokens toward the KH (in the arranged battle that follows). The move is highly favourable to the guys in green and so the witches should demand stiff terms for it IMO.

I will edit it in above, with acknowledgement here
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Glenn McMaster
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Don't worry about acknowledgements, just keep it up with the great threads...
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Charles Reinert
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Interesting summation. However, Emperor attacking Guild in Tueks doesn't make a lot of sense since whatever they pay to ship the Guild can use to match or surpass armies. And Emperor doesn't gain much. Of course Guild may just move or ship tokens across planet. A better first turn for Emperor is to collect as much money as possible from bidding round. Buy a card if Atreides seemscreallyvhigh on one, but otherwise not worry about Cards. Then use that money to ship all sardaukar and five or six regular armies into Arrakeen. Depending on what Atreides has spent on cards the Emperor can easily out dial whatever combination of leader and armies Atreides can muster to win no matter what cards Atreides plays. Atreides is now left without a stronghold unless he thought ahead to take Carthag, he has no ornithopters and is gone for th game. Meanwhile, Emperor now has the mobility he needs to win whenever he chooses.
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