Geeking Out – The Spice Must Flow (Plus Geeky Giveaway Winner Announcement)

Be honest, you’re only here to find out who won our mahoosive Xmas giveaway, aren’t you?

Well, calm yourselves, all will be revealed in due course. But first, we’re going to go on as little trip to a world called Arrakis – or as some call it, the Spice world Dune.

That’s right, today we’re looking at the re-release of DUNE, the 1979 Avalon Hill classic, one of the “holy-grail” board games for collectors and fans alike. With Gale Force 9 (Firefly, Star Trek Ascendancy) now holding the license, you can be pretty confident it’s good hands.

It’s had some minor tweaks (the gf9 team reckon between 3-5% of the rules) such as it’s now ten turns, not 15, with cleaner, clearer rules and more cards to track things (e.g. Bene Gessirit Predictions) and can be played with 2-6 players, though is optimal at 4+ (3 can quickly lead to a 2 vs 1 situation). The art is mostly that of the 1979 version (no dodgy 1984 Sting box art here) with a few extras in the same style.

Now there are, as is often the way these days, playthru videos on YouTube, and I strongly recommend you watch these.  Also, the game comes with a quick setup guide, which is very good indeed (available for download HERE)

Regardless, here’s a brief overview. For a game that is entirely about scheming, faction screens are a given. The fact that they contain detailed strategy guides is brilliant and complemented by the accompanying faction cheat sheets.

It can seem a bit overwhelming but, fortunately, the quick reference cards are very well organised. Although some things seem a little cumbersome – the battle wheels speak of a time when 20-sided dice were not freely available – and the terminology is so deep in the Dune mythos that it can seem inaccessible to newcomers, it’s actually more straightforward than it initially seems, with each faction feeling entirely unique and true to Herbert’s universe.

For example, the CHOAM phase is the Charity phase – free Spice! – which is an excellent mechanic as it ensures no-one is ever unable to buy their way back into the game. On the other hand, the distinction of between Treachery cards and Traitor cards threw me initially, especially given that when you use a Traitor you declare “Treachery!” which makes no sense to me.

One thing that can’t be understated is the sheer quality of the product. Tokens are sturdy and plentiful (without being excessive), the cards and stock feel high quality (very reminiscent of the Firefly decks) and board itself is a thing of utter beauty.

Gameplay itself is designed to emphasise ongoing negotiation and discussion. The fact that it’s geared towards cooperation (well, before you stab them in the back) means that for inexperienced players an alliance can help your understanding as much as your chances of victory. You win the game by holding 3 strongholds (or 4 if in an alliance). The game is essentially a reskin of Cosmic Encounter, but with only 6 factions each one is much in-depth and flavourful. I’ve listed them below, broadly, by complexity.


In many ways the most straightforward, very power in the early game, Harkonnen start with 4 traitor cards and double the number of Treachery (battle? cards. Great for new players to learn with.


Also relatively straightforward, their Limited Precognition allows them to peak at unrevealed Treachery cards, meaning you’re less at risk of wasting precious Spice.


What the Emperor has is money. When you buy cards, if there’s an Emperor player, they get the Spice you pay. It’s fair to say they’re never short of a bob. As a result they’re relatively easy for the novice, and always a good partner to ally with.


The Guild have a similar mechanic to the Emperor, but instead it’s whenever a player transfers Reserve forces to the planet’s surface (which they do a lot, as this is a brutal game) that they gain the Spice spent. Guild also have an interesting variant Victory condition which is that, if no-one wins by the end of the game, THEY automatically win as it’s in the guild’s interest for no one faction to have control of the planet.


Unsurprisingly, the Fremen don’t play like the other factions. They never have to pay to transfer troops from off-world, can travel twice as far, and if they reveal a Sandworm they can ride it to any other territory on the board (rather than being eaten). They also have a variant victory condition that allows them to win at the end if they control the Sietches. Personally, I love that they feel very different yet still fit the gameplay.


By far the most complex are the Sisterhood. Their ability, the Voice, allows you to compel people to play specific card types in battle, which requires a lot of educated deduction. Their variant victory condition is to predict which player will win the game, and on which turn – and if you’re right, all other players lose, and you alone are victorious (even if in an alliance). Hard to pull off, and can make other players wary of allying with you at all.

DUNE really is a stunningly good game, a fitting tribute to both Herbert and the Avalon Hill original. This is a board game gamer’s game, through and through, though will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the universe primarily. I would stress not to be put off if you’re not familiar with the setting, however, as you’d be missing out on an absolute treat.

After all, the spice must flow…


Right now that’s all over and done with, it’s time to announce the winner of Graven’s Geeky Giveaway, snagging themselves a bumper pack of pre-Xmas goodies including a copy of the Harry Potter Miniature Adventure Game (Revised Edition) (REVIEWED HERE), a Transformers TCG Blaster Vs Soundwave 35th Anniversary SDCC Limited Edition (REVIEWED HERE), a copy of Knight Models DC Universe Miniatures Game 2nd Edition Rulebook (Hardback) (REVIEWED HERE), and a Maelstrom’s Edge Terrain Sprue #2 (set of 2) (REVIEWED HERE)

Our winner is… Jack Baker!

Remember to get in touch by email (CLICK HERE) within 30 days to claim your prize!

SAMDAVThe Writer of this piece was: Sam Graven
Article Archive: Geeking Out
You can follow Sam on Twitter

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