The Spice Must Flow! A Preview of ‘Dune: Imperium’

Tabletop Games

The delay until October 2021 of the new Denis Villeneuve-directed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune was a real letdown in a year filled with letdowns.

But here’s some good news: even though the movie’s release date got moved, the licensed game Dune: Imperium from Dire Wolf Digital will be coming out this December.

Setup for a single-player game. Image by Paul Benson.

What Is Dune: Imperium?

Dune: Imperium is a deck building and worker placement game for 1-4 players, ages 14+. It’s designed by Paul Dennen, creator of the popular Clank! series of deck building games. It’s currently available for preorder on the Dire Wolf Digital webstore, and retails for $50. You can also purchase a separate Deluxe Upgrade Pack to bling out your game, for an additional $50.

Deluxe upgrade pack. Image by Dire Wolf Digital.

Dune: Imperium First Impressions

I’m a big fan of both Dune and Paul Dennen’s Clank! series, so was very excited when Dire Wolf Digital sent me out a copy of Dune: Imperium to check out. And in the brief amount of time I’ve played so far, I’ve been having a great time.

Dune: Imperium definitely shares some DNA with Clank! Every player starts off with an identical deck of 10 starter cards, from which you will draw 5 for your hand. There are a few common cards that are always available to purchase, and many others that will be drawn from a deck to form a marketplace.

Ultimately, you are trying to gain victory points via a few different pathways: You can gain influence with four different factions: The Emperor, the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Fremen. You can win conflicts with other players each round, which may award victory points as well as other rewards. Or you may purchase The Spice Must Flow, which are the most expensive cards in the game, but which award a victory point.

Midgame. Image by Paul Benson.

This isn’t a straight deck building game, however. You begin the game with 2 agents (your workers), and can unlock a third during play. The cards in your hand have symbols on them matching what areas on the board you can place your workers. What makes the game more strategically challenging (in a good way) is that the cards in your player deck can alternately be saved for the “Reveal turn,” where they can instead be used to purchase additional cards, and/or add strength to combats.

There’s also very robust single-player and 2-player modes included in the rules, which use dummy players via a deck of cards to control the A.I. And, for those that don’t mind mixing a bit of technology with their analog board games, Dire Wolf will have an app available to assist with those modes, which leads you through setup and also replaces the A.I. deck of cards.

The Dune: Imperium app. Image by Paul Benson.

I’ve been playing with the app, and it’s been working flawlessly. While it will never (for me) replace having 2-3 other actual people around the table, it’s still been very satisfying for learning and playing the game.

I’ll be coming out with my review closer to the release date of the game, but I’ve been enjoying my time with Dune: Imperium quite a bit. It’s early, but I’m starting to feel like Dire Wolf Digital may have captured lightning in a bottle with this one. You can read more about Dune: Imperium, including several designer diaries, at the Dire Wolf Digital website.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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