Sunday, May 22nd, 2022

Dune: Imperium Review-IGN

For decades, fans of James Herbert’s ingenious science fiction novel Dune could only get a desktop kick from one game, also known as Dune. But it was some games. Released in 1979, many years ahead of that era, it encouraged players to recreate the novel’s Machiavellian plans. However, it took six players to shine, and the play time fluctuated significantly.

Now there is a new disguiser to the throne of the dunes: Empire. It’s a very different beast, avoiding the classic territorial conquest setup of old games due to the mish mash of modern strategic design ideas. But with the new movie adaptation, which has Dune’s name on the box and is highly regarded in the cinema, it’s ready for success.

What’s in the box

For all that the novel has influenced some great art over the years, Dune: Imperium chooses function over shape. As you can imagine, the boards and boxes are full of soothing desert tones. Below that, there are lots of cards with lots of useful art to explain them. The best bit is the portrait of the leader card that players use to show their loyalty.

There are also wooden pieces, cubes used to represent score tracks and troops, and humanoid shapes of agents. The player colors are bold and impressive, but they are all fairly standard fares.

Rules and how to play

At the core of Dune: Imperium is a deck-building concept. In these games, players start with a small deck of cards. Often, every player has the same deck as here. As the game progresses, they can buy new, more powerful cards for their decks and, with luck, get rid of some of the weaker original cards. This game adds a novel twist to this popular formula called “River Turn”.

Each card has two effects. The first is when you use it to add agent pieces to the board. This also gives the effect of the space played. This draws in another worn-out game mechanics, worker placement. However, the pool of agents is limited, usually two. Then you “reveal” the remaining cards and get a second effect.

Most deck-building games revolve around building hands that you can draw and play with more cards, providing more powerful turns and cycling your deck faster. Liber Turn frees Dune: Imperium from the need to follow this pattern, allowing you to do much more interesting things with card effects and strategic options.

Players play the role of a noble house on the stage of Dune, such as the first novels Atreides and Harkonnen. Each of them has a choice of two leader cards with special flavorful powers. Other major players such as the emperor and the indigenous people of the planet, Flehmen, are represented by board space. Committing an agent here will increase your influence within these factions, which are the main source of victory points. The other space is a geographical summary of the location on the planetary dunes.

Cards are keyed to one or more of these board areas and can only be played there. Also, many spaces require you to use one of the game’s three resources (water, spices, and solari) to send agents to it. Others reward you with those resources and some of the army.

In essence, what this does is build a hitch deck to the dilemma of a typical resource pyramid that is very much loved by modern strategy games. You need a resource to get it. The only solution to this chicken or the egg problem is to use the cards in your hand better than your opponent. Deck building is a great adjunct to this setup, providing another strategic way to work and ensuring that there is no “best” way to solve the core puzzle.

The game adds a novel twist to the popular deck-building formula called “River Turn”.


Of course, for every plan in the book, it’s also a story about martial arts and dunes: the empire hasn’t forgotten that aspect. There is a very abstract “conflict” mechanism, with different rewards drawn each turn to win a military victory. Agents played in geospatial space allow you to push troops into this general conflict from your reserves. When everyone has finished their rebirth turn, players will use bonuses from the rebirth effect to strengthen their committed army and split their rewards according to rank.

Despite the nasty abstraction, this is an important element of the design. As with most worker placement games, agents sent to a space will block the space from other players during the turn. But Dune: Imperium has a lot more space than most games of its kind. That is, blocking is often a small inconvenience. It reduces it as a source of tension and interaction, and it is more than the conflict makes up for. Dribbling soldiers into combat every turn is a one-up manship slow-burn battle, and the results are uncertain until revealed.

There are lots of spinning plates between resources, cards, and conflict players, and there are only two actions to do that. And it is calculated without the victory points you need to win. And it comes from various sources. As well as faction influences, they can win conflicts or get from cards. The game ends when someone breaks 10 victory points or 10 turn passes, whichever comes first. The top player does not always win, as the last gust of card play can secure one or two bonus points.

However, by focusing on providing the player with a soup rich in tactical decisions, Dune: Imperium keeps away from its source material. The Kurisuku knife may be a sacred weapon for Flehmen, but here we are pushing the cube into the influence track. The bones of the story are in place. Flehmen want water, dune space spices you up, and the Spacing Guild helps you land a large army on the planet.But it’s a weak simulakura phenomenon, unconvincing Gora, There are few malicious plans at the heart of the novel.

It also requires 3 or 4 players to shine. The solo game offers a solid challenge and is easy to play, but at higher difficulty you will face two AI players who are hard to hit. Even with two players, you still need to add one AI player, which is an annoying distraction that players have to manage during their turn.

Where to buy