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DUNE from GF9GAMES SAND, SPICE, STORMS - with a just dash of treachery. There's nothing to beat old recipes.  At long last, th...





SAND, SPICE, STORMS - with a just dash of treachery. There's nothing to beat old recipes.  At long last, the translation of Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi novel into board game form has achieved its resurrection or should that be its return from the Tleilaxu Tanks*. 
[*These are where your dead troops go and from where you can revive some in the course of the game.]

I first played the original Dune in 1980 when I ran a board game club in the school I taught at and one of the students brought back a copy from his holiday in the US.  I never achieved my own copy, though have toyed with the idea of buying Rex, a transmogrification of Dune into a Twilight Imperium setting.

However, thanks to Gale Force Nine, we can return to those glory days with a few additional optional extras.  Inevitably with the passage of time and the advances in production quality, the current game is state of the art standard.  Though if you look through the files on BGG you'll see many print and play [pnp] versions that match this professional treatment and show its source of inspiration.  

I have to say I hanker for the box art of the original that can be seen below.  There is just something more menacing about its gigantic sandworm, against which  the current art seems a little too clean and sanitised.  Still that's a very minor personal taste.

High Quality Scan of Original Box Front

I've no doubt that many will debate the art work that has been chosen for virtually all the components, perhaps none more than for the board itself.  Certainly there have been some exceptional and outstandingly colourful pnp versions running an amazing spectrum of tastes, but I love the more monochromatic effect here.

The essential simplicity is even more fundamental than in the original and makes identification of areas abundantly plain and simple.  Whether it will suit all tastes is unlikely, considering the imaginative pimping and blinging that has taken place in the past.  Ultimately, the same may be said of all the components and no doubt those who delight in creating 3D sandworms will want to supplement and refashion yet again.

So, here's a range of visuals starting with the lovely thick counters for the troops and individual heroes.

Next up are the battle wheels - with the inset position for potential placing of one of your named heroes.  Note the little additional touches, such as the marker for the Storm and the overlay for the Destroyed Shield Wall.  By and large, the direction of style has been to clarity and simplicity.

This can be seen again in the player shields that are presented in functional, bold outlines and colour fields.

Finally, you have six decks of cards, all maintaining the same clarity of purpose and use that characterises the whole product.  The two largest decks, the Treachery and Traitor Decks, signal a strong feature of Dune - this is a highly competitive game and definitely not for those who mainly like cooperation.  That said, there is one form of cooperation and that is Alliances, where you can link up with another player to try to secure a joint victory. But, be warned, there is every chance that such an Alliance may only be temporary.

All these excellent components are matched by the clearest of rule books that takes you, in succinct detail, step by step through each stage of the turn and if that were not enough you also have one of the best Quick Guides I've read.  Once familiar with the game, the latter should be all you need for future play.  Above all, it is really helpful for new players, both in sorting out what they need for the faction that they will be playing and for easy learning and reference prior to and during play.
  A glimpse of the excellent set of rules
A first look at the Sequence of Play gives the impression of a fairly detailed process with nine Phases.  However, this is very misleading, as all but three Phases take but a few moments to carry out, especially the final Mentat Phase which sounds wonderfully thoughtful.   The words "Declare a winner or take some time to evaluate their positions" -particularly those I've underlined - can only really apply to those afflicted with an extreme case of AP [Analysis Paralysis].  As Mentats are human computers in the novel, there is more than a touch of tongue-in-cheek at work in naming this Phase!  In reality, the Mentat Phase more or less means you check for a winner[s] and if not move on to the next turn.
Most of the game time is taken up by Phases 6 & 7 Movement and Combat.  Bidding can add a little to this, as does the making of Alliances, but the latter does not occur every turn.  
The game follows this sequence.
Storm Phase
Each turn begins with the movement of the Storm marker which destroys all players' troops in sand areas that the Storm marker passes over  along with any spice tokens in any territory passed over.   
Spice Blow and Nexus Phase
Card draw shows which region will have new spice tokens placed or the destruction of spice tokens, if the card reveals the dreaded monster sandworm, Shai-Hulud.  The latter card also heralds the Nexus action, which is the opportunity to break and form Alliances.
Choam Charity Phase
If you need this you're in dire straits, as you gain a little spice because you either have none or only one spice marker!
This auction phase is to buy treachery cards that range from a variety of weapons including poison and defence protection to rare special cards and a series of worthless cards.  This is a real gamble, as the cards are auctioned unseen, so you might buy a totally worthless card or hit one of the rare ones!
This is when you gain back a small number [up to three] of your troops from the Tleilaxu Tanks and one Hero if all of your Heroes have been eliminated.
Shipment and Movement
Off-map forces may land and limited movement may take place on the planet
This kind of speaks for itself and brings into use your Battle Wheel and Heroes.  Though imitated in various forms in more recent games, such as Scythe, as far as I'm aware this was the first appearance of such a system.  It's also the Phase when your Treachery cards can be played, as well as Traitor cards.  The latter cards are very powerful, as they immediately win you the battle, nullify any losses you might otherwise have incurred and bring spice token rewards too. 
Spice Collection
Again a very straightforward  action, as each player collects  available spice tokens from territories they occupy
Mentat Phase
As already mentioned very simple. Check for a winner/s and, if no winner, move on to the next turn.
A typical extract from the extremely helpful Quick Guide
All in all, the rules are very straightforward and their explanation couldn't be clearer or better presented.  Much of the game is swift. Combat is always a high point and can be brutal and often brings drama to the action, particularly from the play of Treachery and Traitor cards.  Alliances are made and unmade.  Spice tokens are vitally important as the "money" of the game, but a solo victory ultimately lies in conquering three of the planet's strongholds [or four for an Alliance victory].

This new updated iteration of such a great game adds in a few Advanced elements both in rules and components, along with Strategy and Faction tips, a Question & Answer section, Optional Alliance rules to cope with different player numbers and for shortening or lengthening the game as well as a brief synopsis of the novel [If you haven't read Dune, I'd strongly avoid this, buy the book and get reading]. 

A close-up of two of the Strongholds crucial to victory
For me, all that I've mentioned mark Dune as a great game to play. The visuals, the systems and the player interaction all work to create an atmospheric rendering that does great justice to a classic S.F. novel's story.  Nowhere more so than in the element that I've saved to highlight here at the end: namely, the asymmetric player powers and advantages.  Again, to the best of my knowledge, this was another first for the original game of Dune.

Playing as one of up to six factions drawn from the novel leads you to adopt distinctly different styles of play suited to your strengths and weaknesses.  Inevitably some are easier to play than others, especially if you are new to the game - none more so than the Bene Gesserit faction, which is the faction most frequently left out when you do not have a full table of six players. 

Getting those six players together is the one difficulty and play with a full complement can be a lengthy undertaking, but one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.  Four and five players too make for an excellent experience and this new outing for an old favourite comes with a number of simple alliance options to create shorter or longer plays.  I love the description for the last choice of option which comes with the caution "a more exotic game" under Possible Side Effect!  

If Dune, the novel, and Dune, the game, are unfamiliar to you, I suggest you start right now to find out the value of a stillsuit, the deadly danger of a gom jabber and the awesome power and menace of Shai-Hulud.

Many thanks to GF9 for realising my dream of once more revelling in this game and to Asmodee UK for kindly supplying a review copy.