A successful novel, a successful film - the licensed board game for Frank Herbert's Dune can really only be a failure. In any case, reservations about licensed board games are usually great. Dune Imperium by Paul Dennen and Dire Wolf Digital or, in this country, Asmodee teaches skeptics better. As? Because the title simply convinces them in a playful way.

It is rare for a modern re-edition to dominate a film with a nostalgic bonus. In the highly stylized work on Frank Herbert's classic novel from the sixties, this has succeeded. The popular license calls creative people on the scene: Comics, graphic novels, new book editions and games ride the wave of success at Dune. Usually this is a warning signal, because fast license evaluation and good quality do not automatically go hand in hand.

Dune Imperium: The Spice Must Flow

In this country, via Asmodee, the board game Dune Imperium by Dire Wolf Digital has been published in cooperation with Legendary Pictures. Game designer Paul Dennen (including: Klong! Im All or Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne) relies on a clever combination of deck building and worker placement for his idea. And it works - so well that Dune Imperium quickly played its way into the hearts of connoisseurs.

The agents trigger the actions on the game board. Photo: Volkmann

The agents trigger the actions on the game board. Photo: Volkmann

The basic idea of ​​the board game Dune Imperium can be summed up in a few sentences: Players send out a limited number of agents based on their cards in hand in order to collect resources, forge alliances and initiate conflicts. Your primary goal: collect victory points, or at least pave the way to later use subsequent strategies to achieve victory points. The short instructions send a clear signal to Dune Imperium: The game is not particularly complicated. That’s why it’s not easy either. This is due to the fact that the basically coarse mechanisms on the micro level are meaningfully and functionally interlocked with one another. Dune Imperium is fun because it works.

Players always struggle with a lack of resources, and water is particularly scarce on a desert planet. The spice, on the other hand, has to flow, the fan knows - at Dune Imperium, however, it doesn't just want to be collected, but rather strategically invested. As are all three basic resources, by the way: water, Solari coins and spice - each represented by wooden tokens. Players trigger their actions with their hand cards in combination with the group of agents. Two “workers” are available for worker placement at the beginning, a temporary train can be bought, and another permanent train can be activated at a high cost over the course of the game.

The spice (orange token) must flow. Photo: Volkmann

The spice (orange token) must flow. Photo: Volkmann

The following applies to Dune Imperium: Strong actions eat up a lot of supplies. It can be deduced directly from this that planning of the moves is necessary. This is where one of the great strengths of Dune Imperium can be seen: You have to tact, think ahead, design chains of strategies, but also discard them again if the opponent might thwart them. Agents used block the fields they are on, with a few exceptions. This automatically reduces the options for the active players.

At Dune Imperium, there is a shortage on several levels: in terms of resources, maps, agents, and options for action. This clever basic premise ensures excitement, which is reflected in large parts of the game on the scoring bar. That a player pulls away after a few rounds, which are already limited in number, does not happen. The players deliver a close race, which is often only decided in the last lap.

Intrigue Cards: Not to Everyone's Taste

A mechanism is also responsible for this: With intrigue cards, players can change events and turn them in their favor. This applies to the fights as well as to collecting victory points in the final round, the final. Special cards trigger victory points by fulfilling specified conditions. Those who rely on appropriate strategies at an early stage can cause surprising twists and turns. This secrecy is definitely a matter of taste and not everyone will like it, but it goes well with the subject of Dune and the intrigue of the mansions. And the intrigue cards also have an advantage in purely playful terms: You must never feel too secure with your chosen strategy, which is often visible to everyone. The famous ace up your sleeve is one of the basic tools you need at Dune Imperium.

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

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

The highlight of the game is the mix of countless interwoven details. Playing the right cards at the right time is an art that needs to be learned beforehand. Dune Imperium motivates because the game clearly shows the mistakes that have been made. Again and again you catch yourself thinking like "I'd rather have ... instead".

A lot can be done right, but just as much can be done wrong. The options are varied, despite their limitation imposed by the game mechanics. This is not least due to the finely balanced deck system. There are strong cards, but none are overwhelming. Depending on the situation, its value increases or decreases - it is always important to consider whether you “sacrifice” a card for an agent move or use it in the reveal phase for advantages in the conflict to be dealt with or to optimize your personal deck. The latter is essential to Dune Imperium. Being able to draw strong cards more often is an invaluable advantage in a game that can be foreseen from the start. A game is over when a player has ten victory points and the final has been dealt with or when all conflict cards in the fixed ten pile have been used up.

Slow start? Nothing!

So it's about efficiency, not a slow strategy build-up. It is important to avoid mistakes, because in the worst case they can cost you victory when the decision is tight again. Round after round it is important to maneuver wisely and to use your resources and deck optimally. The luck factor is low. Yes, you have to draw cards, but you can partly influence how often you get cards with a relevant value in your hand.
Dune Imperium works with different setups: in a full round with four players, in threes - in pairs with an additional card deck and also alone. The extra portion of story is also available on request, in conjunction with an app that also controls the solo and two-player game. Alternatively, a deck of cards is available for this. 

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

The board game table presence is solid. Yes, Dune Imperium looks on the one hand like Dune - a bit of desert, the names of the cities, regions and factions, recognizable symbols. On the other hand, you could have gotten more out of the board game from a purely visual point of view. The excellent illustrations on the cards show what would have been possible for the game board. The central playground in the middle of the table is rather simple, but functional. Hints are attached everywhere, explanations directly on the board leave hardly any questions unanswered, the design supports the flow of the game.

The cards are much prettier, you like to look twice. The tokens don't look quite as filigree, but at least they have the right shape. Nevertheless: Visually impressive is different today. One is spoiled in the face of numerous board games, which cost extra for deluxe components. Overall, the price for the material on offer is okay. And should the gameplay wear out after a while, the already announced first expansion Rise of Ix could refresh the fun of the game: Rulers can then, among other things, acquire permanent bonuses for their houses through technologies or compete in a new "epic" game mode . The extension will probably be available in stores in the spring. 


Number of players: 1 to 4
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 120 to 150 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high
Genre: Licensed board game
Sub-genre: Strategic board game
Core mechanisms: worker placement, deck building

Authors: Paul Dennen
Illustrations: Clay Brooks, Raul Ramos, Nate Sturm
Published by Dire Wolf Digital / Asmodee
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2021
Language: German
Cost: 60 Euro 


Dune Imperium is one of those board games that are rightly celebrated. The mix of mechanics works and the game runs smoothly. Despite the need for constant decision-making, the downtime is surprisingly low, which is not least due to the constant limitation of options. Just do everything, that's not how Dune Imperium works. It is much more about pursuing your own strategy and reacting again and again to the actions of your opponents. Speaking of opponents: it's best to sit down two at the table. Dune Imperium is really fun with at least three players. Duels or solo games then work well on the automated additional deck (or the app), but cannot replace the sometimes surprising twists and turns of human tactics.

In the end, however, it is all about points on the player account. Ultimately, this may not be enough for one or the other frequent player in terms of "outcome", but with Dune Imperium the journey is the goal. The result at the end of a game, including the final, in which the last - long-term planned - game goals can be fulfilled and converted into points is a bit fake, but can still turn games around. Because you know that by the second game at the latest, you are more attentive. What your opponents do is just as important in Dune Imperium as your own moves. The idea of ​​having to give up victory points turns the board game into a kind of points race, i.e. purely winning points – that’s a good thing. 

The clever trick, in contrast to conventional deck building games, is in principle the expansion of the options for action through the worker placement element, which is also a limiting factor at the same time. With all the exciting processes on the board: the core of the game revolves around putting together a player deck that works as well as possible. The gameplay is tight, partly reduced to the essentials. The point is to act as effectively as possible with as few actions as possible. On the one hand, this reduces the overall playing time, but on the other hand it increases the tension curve. 

The conflicts in between are just as exciting: the system of recruiting and deployment or both in one combined move is clever and always creates small challenges. Supposedly already decided battles can be turned up to the counting of the combat strength, which is an incentive - at least if winning conflicts as a source of victory points is part of the strategy. In any case, the fights are worthwhile in several ways.

Decisions with consequences are constantly required: Which resource should I collect? What do I do with it? Do I need an additional agent assignment? Which cards should I buy for my deck? Which political group should I target, if at all? Do I rely on a short-term strategy or do I only work out victory points later? Dune Imperium poses many questions to players. And because you can only answer a few of them depending on the phase of the game, there is room and motivation for strategic adjustments. It is not uncommon for you to readjust, sometimes even to notice that you have lost your way. That costs victory, but you learn for the next game. That comes in view of the quality of the board game Dune Imperium. 

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Last updated on 3.02.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API