Control the spice. Control the universe.
Now that the estate of Frank Herbert has opened the gates, we’re seeing a flood of games set in the author’s universe of DUNE. And of course it’s the perfect setting for games, full of conflict, intrigue, and political shenanigans. Dune: Imperium gives us the currently popular mix of deck building and worker placement and, while out doesn’t do anything shockingly new, still provides an enjoyable experience with just enough DUNE flavour to make it thematically engaging.
I resisted getting this game originally as the mechanics didn’t really excite me, but after playing it a few times I enjoyed it enough to make me grab a copy. It has that smooth, slightly bland feel that I identify with many euro games, but there’s no denying it’s fun to have so many choices: building a deck of cards you can play to assign agents on the different board spaces, thus building up your resources and reaping the victory point rewards. The ever-present temptation of military conflict spices up the experience, and while the intrigue cards seem a little over powered, they certainly introduce a bit of fun randomness and some ‘take that’ surprises to the proceedings.
Overall, Dune: Imperium isn’t a great leap forward in game design, and personally I find the graphic design and illustration somewhat bland; my own imagination and familiarity with DUNE is filling in the thematic gaps here. But it’s a game I find myself continuing to return to and enjoy for an hour or two of resource management, card play, and light conflict, and it’s definitely worth adding to your collection. The expansion Rise of Ix makes it even better by expanding the range of choices and strategies.