Dune Boardgames


I owned both versions of the board game.
(Yeah, I'm a geezer and long time dune fan - I was alive when the first novel hit print ;-)

The earlier Avalon Hill version is a vastly superior game.
It provides a platform for an incredibly complex and intricate game that held true to many of the facts from the original book.
The rules (which have several levels & optional sets of rules that can be added to make things more Byzantine) are as intricate as the plot of the novel.
Up to 6 players can play (you need at least 4 for a "good" game).
Players are free to form and break alliances, including "public & secret alliances).

We played it so much we wore out cards and battle wheels.
If you are looking for a general synopsis of the Avalon Hill version here goes (from memory - the actual game is somewhere at my parents house - and I haven't played it in more that 15 years):

The game is a turn based game set on Arrakis on a round planet shaped board with many differently sized and shaped territories on it and small black lines similar to longitudinal lines on a map.
Some territories are rock, most are sand, and there are several cities (Carthag & Arakeen) and Fremen seitches and a polar sink that is an ice cap and is neutral territory that can't have battles.
Having troops in a city gives you access to ornithopters and greater mobility during you turn to move troops.

A sandstorm moves counter clockwise around the board each turn, up to 3 longitudinal sections, killing all troops on sand territories it passes over (except Fremen who only loose 1/2 their number). The storm also can play a great factor because you can play the "family atomics" agains the Shield Wall as the storm passes by to wipe out any troops in the previously protected city. The city is then treated as "sand" the rest of the game.
You harvest spice to spend buying treachery cards at auction and buy troops and revive your dead from the Tlielaxu flesh tanks.

Players choose their houses - Harkonnen, Atriedes, Guild, Fremen, Bene Gesserit, Emperor. Each house has special rules that apply to it only. For example, a few of them are:

Fremen - can ride worms on sand and survive if a worm appears in their territory

Bene Gesserit - Have the power of the Voice during battle and command their enemy to play a particular weapon or defense card in battle.
(This is a great way to kill large numbers of enemy troops via a shield/lasgun explosion with little loss of live)

Atriedes - Due to Paul's prescience, they get to look at one of the 4 elements of an opponents battle plan and then adjust their plan accordingly. They also get to look at each treachery card before it is bid on in an otherwise blind process.

Emperor - Wealth - the emperor gets wealth via play as players bid for the "treachery cards" (weapons and defenses).

Harkonnen - Excell in treachery - they get to take 2 weapon/defense cards when everyone else only gets 1. This leads to more options during battle.
They also get to secretly name one of their opponent's heros as a traitor (ala Dr. Yueh)

Guild - get to make money from people shipping troops onto the planet.
They are weak fighters and work best in alliance with others.
They have the ability of unlimited movement due to their control of the space travel. In optional rules, they control the storm due to weather control sattelites.

Players move around the board fighting for territory and harvesting spice (that appears via a spin or die roll - I can't remember) from sand territories. If you have troops in the territory at the end of a round where spice exists, you can harvest 2 spice for each trooper, 3 if you have ornithopters.

Battles take place as you fight over spice or territory.
One of the more interesting aspects are the alternate ways to win.
Some of them are:

Anyone: occupy 3 (or 4 depending on # of players) strongholds at the end of a turn.

Alliances: if your alliance wins, you win.

Guild: prevent anyone from winning for a set # of rounds

Bene Gesserit: Predict the winner and which round of play (by writing it down before the game) If correct - you win instead of them! So like the Bene Gesserit of the novels in their breeding and control programs...

There are others I don't remember without looking.

A battle is fought at the end of a round in which 2 different players have troops in the same territory and are not in a formal alliance together.

A battle plan consists of 4 elements:
1) The # of troops that will die in the battle (can be upto the # you have in the territory)

2) A hero to lead the troops - each house has 5 heros who have a point # on their card.
(Stilgar is the highest at 7, Paul is a 6, all the Bene Gesserits are 5. Other heros range from 6 through 1. Guild is very weak - A 3 is their highest) These heros are characters from the book including some of the lesser knowns such as Count Fenrig, Soo Soo Sook, etc.
If you battle in more than one territory in a round, you must use a different hero in each battle.

If the hero lives throught he battle, their point value is added to the # of troops sacrificed to get your result. Highest # wins.
All the enemys troops are sent to "the tanks" to be revived as gholas via payment of spice. Dead heros go to the tanks too.

3) A weapon card - this is used in an attempt to kill your opponents hero.
There are basically 2 types of weapons - projectile & poison.
There is a one lasgun for which there is no defense - unless you consider using a shield that causes a thermonuclear explosion killing everything in the territory as a defense. It is great for taking out alot of troops cheaply, however.

4) A defense card - These are poison snoopers and shields and protect your hero against that type of weapon only.

You prepare your plan on a "combat wheel" (the the Atriedes gets to look at one piece and the Bene Gesserit get to "voice" one of the cards of an opponent)
Other "treachery cards" may come into play at this point such as a Truth Sayer card that forces your opponent to answer any yes/no question you ask truthfully. (This is a great way to find out if you significant is cheating on you... Or ask your opponents another embarrassing question. If they are true Dune fans you get the real answer.)
There is also a Kwisatz Haderach card to prevent the Bene Gesserits from using the voice during the battle. A weather control card allows you to control the storm an move it 0 - 20 longitude groups. There are a few more that I don't remember specifically. The variety & mix of these cards add further to the intricacies in the game.

They then simultaneously reveal the battel plan and add the points to determine the winner. The dead are consigned to the Tleilaxu flesh vats.
And the next battle is fought.

After all the battle are done, spice is collected (with 2 units of CHOAM charity going to those who have no money), the storm moves and another round starts with a treachery card auction.

All in all, a fantastic strategy game with so many things that hold true to the novel. There were many 24 hour sessions played since it is as addictive as you can get based on all the options you may have depending on the houses being played.

I hope this helps give a feel for what I consider 1 of the 3 best board games ever (Dune, Risk, Chess).

(See, Old Farts are good for something....)

Site created January 15, 1998.
© Jesse Reid, All Rights Reserved, 2023.