Dune: the boardgame

When I was a kid, at some point my father bought the 1979 Avalon Hill boardgame Dune.

I think that my father and my brother and I played it pretty often. (In rotation with other boardgames, like Quest of the Magic Ring and Mountaineering.)

I’ve had our family’s copy of the game for a long time, but I haven’t played it in, oh, probably forty years? I’ve been figuring for years that sooner or later, I would try it out, recognize that it was no longer something I wanted to play, and then give it away.

So today I finally sat down and re-learned the rules and tried a practice game, playing as two different players. And I was surprised to find that it worked pretty well.

Unlike some of the old Avalon Hill games, it doesn’t have big tables of numbers, or super-complicated rules. The core of the rules takes up just two pages (admittedly of pretty small print). The combat system is interesting, there are lots of strategic decisions to be made, and the luck is managed by cards rather than dice. (In this practice game, the faction that I thought would have an easy win ended up getting bad luck—never received a weapon card—and losing relatively quickly.)

There’s also a whole major part of the game that I didn’t look at at all in this practice session: the part about alliances between players. I don’t remember whether we did much with alliances when we played when I was a kid, but I suspect not. I imagine that for a lot of people, that aspect is one of the main points of the game, but I feel like it could be a pretty good game even if no alliances are made.

I see that people on Boardgame Geek seem to feel that playing with six players is far better than lower player counts, and that even then it only works well after all six players have played several times so they have a good understanding of it. I imagine that playing with six experienced players would result in a really interesting game, but I’ve never played with six players, and I don’t think it’s really necessary. (But then again, I haven’t played at all as an adult, except for this one practice game.)

There was a re-release of the game in 2019, which I think had slightly streamlined rules, and then another re-release in 2021, which had significant changes—no more than four players, and a limit of five rounds instead of fifteen. The 2021 version used artwork based on the Villeneuve movie and its characters. I haven’t played either of those re-released versions.

But I’m now gonna keep the 1979 game, and might even try to convince people to try playing it with me sometime.

(But maybe not until after we try the half-dozen other games that I have that I haven’t played yet.)

PS: Nearly all of the thirty or so human characters who are portrayed in the game, except for Dr. Yueh and maybe one or two others, appear to be white, sigh.

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