The Board Game of the Year 2021 is Dune: Imperium by Dire Wolf Digital, published in Germany via Asmodee. The decision was not crystal clear, the competition was fierce. Nevertheless, Paul Dennen's mixture of deck builder and worker placement prevailed in the end.

An eventful year 2021 is behind us and in the meantime we have let it sink a bit in a playful way or have been able to try out latecomers. The board game of the year 2021 has also emerged - the winning title is not particularly surprising: Paul Dennen's strategic title based on the film license for Dune was the most convincing. In this country, Asmodee has launched a German-language localized version.

Exciting until the end

Dune: Imperium has become a phenomenon over the past year. The strategic board game was also on everyone's lips, but not only because of the excellent remake of Frank Herbert's Dune. There was no escaping the title. Yes, Dune: Empire is a hype - rightly so.

If authors not only mix well-known mechanisms into a game idea for a board game that not only feels new, but also works in the end, then a lot has already been achieved. Paul Dennen's clever mixture of worker placement and deck-building card game is not unique in this combination, but it is so well balanced that the fun is maintained for almost the entire game. Dune: Imperium, on the other hand, is not the perfect board game, and the question of game balance arises again and again, especially with regard to the intrigue cards.

Nevertheless, Dune: Imperium manages to captivate its up to four players again and again. The main reason for this is the tension factor, which remains at the same level over the games, which usually last around 90 minutes. It is not uncommon for there to be a kind of showdown, especially in the final round, which can turn the point ratios upside down. This suggests one thing above all: a player is seldom certain of victory, with the right tactics you can turn the game in your favor.

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

The board game of the year 2021 is also one of the board games with a noticeable learning curve. If you make mistakes in Dune: Imperium, most of the time you won't make them again. This also works the other way around: if you have played the board game often enough and know the cards, you can usually avoid mistakes from the outset. The deck building element isn't just a gimmick, it's essential and the key to victory. From this it can be deduced that you should like deck building board games in order to be able to have maximum fun with the licensed title. If you don't know what to do with the tactical concept that is gradually being built up, you will only smile wearily in the face of the hype surrounding Dune: Imperium.

What is then fascinating is the realization that the worker placement part of the board game is at least as relevant. Dune: Imperium could also be described as a game of missed opportunities. You always try to use your agents as efficiently as possible and according to the tactics you have been pursuing so far, but with every move it becomes clear that there would often have been more than one meaningful game action. Would the alternative have been the better choice? Sometimes you find out later, get angry, but are motivated to do it better next time, or at least do it differently.

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lack of water!

Much is scarce on Dune, the desert planet. You can also feel that in the board game adaptation: you run after resources, you wish for a handful of troops more in almost every turn, the card display is plentiful and yet too small, and water is a rare commodity in the barren landscape anyway. What author Paul Dennen and Dire Worlf Digital have already managed to do with the game concept alone is to force Dune: Imperium into the right corset of the license specification. That was also sorely needed with this board game, because purely optically you don't lure a Spice Baron out from behind the oven with the wooden man-pushing on a graphically dreary, albeit clear, game board. The illustrations of the cards already provide a much more “Dune” feeling.

The board game of the year 2021 is not the most beautiful title at the same time. However, this also shows that material battles with kilos of plastic do not necessarily stand for quality. Speaking of which: If you want, you can upgrade your Dune: Imperium with an official miniature set, for extra currency, of course. What sounds like a waste of money turns out to be a pretty fair move at second glance. The acquisition costs of the base game remain moderate. Players don't have to accept losses, Dennen's Dune board game is also a guarantee of fun in the standard version. Fans, on the other hand, have the option of adding a little more visual appeal to their gaming experience with the Dune: Imperium Deluxe Upgrade Pack, which is selling out insanely fast.

The Mentat (black meeple) grants an additional move. Photo: Volkmann

The Mentat (black meeple) grants an additional move. Photo: Volkmann

It's almost an anecdote that this upgrade package only polishes the base game, miniatures for the long-announced Rise of Ix expansion are not included. This raises the question of the future: either there will be a mix of miniatures and small wooden spaceships as well as sniffer tiles, or there will be another small upgrade package. Otherwise, the creative shops on the Internet have to do it again, because Dune: Imperium has long since arrived there too.

Ultimately, what makes Dune: Imperium interesting is its unpredictable predictability: it's a race to the tenth point, which decides victory - it's no secret, as players know both their goal and the limited number of laps. Leading your house to success is anything but easy. In Dune: Imperium, evaluation includes a grand finale, during which you may be able to launch long-planned tactics. That's also a trick that creates tension, because it's not over until the game is actually over.

Dune: Imperiums is not the board game of the year 2021 because it would be flawless, but because what is offered is entertaining at an enormously high level in the time allotted for it. Other board games from the past year are also guaranteed fun, but rarely offer such a narrow focus on fun-enhancing measures. Dune: Empire power its thing as a whole package good.

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Last updated on 4.02.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API