At the end of 2020, Dire Wolf and designer Paul Dennen took the board gaming world by storm with Dune: Imperium, a hybrid worker placement and deck building game set in the world of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune. If you read my review, you know that I loved the game, and was one of my favorites of 2021. I wasn’t alone in this enjoyment of Dune: Imperium, as the game went on to win our 2021 GeekDad Game of the Year Award as well as several awards from other critics. So how do you follow up that success?
With Dune: Imperium’s first expansion, Rise of Ix.
What Is Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix?
Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix is an expansion to Dune: Imperium, and does require a copy of the original game to play. The expansion is for 1-4 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 30 minutes per player to play. The expansion retails for $40, and is currently available to purchase on Amazon or at games stores.
Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix was designed by Paul Dennen and published by Dire Wolf, with illustrations by Clay Brooks, Raul Ramos, and Nate Storm.
Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix Components
Here’s what you’ll find inside the box:
- CHOAM board overlay
- Ix board
- 4 Conflict cards
- 4 Snooper tokens
- 17 Intrigue cards
- 35 Imperium Deck cards
- 18 Tech tiles
- 6 Leaders
- 4 Freighter tokens(1 of each player color)
- 8 Dreadnoughts(2 of each player color)
- 4 Control the Spice cards (for Epic play)
- 9 House Hagal cards
- 2 Rival reference cards
The components for Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix are designed to fit seamlessly with the original Dune: Imperium. All of the cards for the expansion have two small dots at the bottom right corner to indicate they’re part of this expansion. This makes it easy to separate them from the base game, in case you want to play a session without Rise of Ix.
The expansion adds two boards, which replace some of the worker placement spaces found in Dune: Imperium.
This first board is placed directly over the top of the Dune: Imperium game board, replacing the Landraad and CHOAM spaces it covers. The overlay board notably adds a new “Shipping” track. This track allows you to receive various rewards.
The Ix board sits alongside the main game board, and is the main source for acquiring two new features in the expansion: Tech tiles, and dreadnoughts.
Tech tiles are purchased using Spice, and many of them provide immediate rewards on acquisition. As opposed to the one-use Intrigue cards, most Tech tiles provide an ongoing benefit.
The wooden dreadnoughts are purchased for 3 Solari, and each player can own a maximum of 2. When purchasing a dreadnought, the player at that space can also purchase a Tech tile if they have enough spice to afford one.
The Snooper tokens are used by one of the new Leaders, Tessia Vernius. The are 6 new Leaders; 2 each from 3 different Houses. In the novels, Vernius is the ruling House on the technologically-superior planet of Ix.
How to Play Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
In the following, I will assume some knowledge of how to play Dune: Imperium and only be discussing the changes/additions to the gameplay when adding the Rise of Ix expansion. If you don’t know how to play Dune: Imperium, you can either download that game’s rulebook, or refer back to my original review.
The goal of Rise of Ix is unchanged from the original Dune: Imperium: to end the game with the most victory points.
These are the steps that modify the setup from Dune: Imperium:
Place the CHOAM board overlay on top of the game board, covering the original Landraad and CHOAM spaces. Place the Ix board next to the game board.
Shuffle the Tech tiles face down, and divide them into 3 stacks of 6 tiles each. Place the stacks on the 3 spaces on the Ix board, turning the top tile of each stack face up.
Add the new Conflict cards to the originals, but still draw Conflict cards as before. Add the Intrigue and Imperium cards to the existing decks. Players may choose from both new or existing Leaders.
Each player adds the 2 dreadnoughts of their player color to their personal supply, and places their Freighter token at the bottom of the Shipping track.
Basic gameplay in Rise of Ix remains the same as in Dune: Imperium, but with the following additions/changes:
A board space or card with an Acquire Tech icon allows you to purchase one Tech tile. You may acquire a face-up tile from any of the 3 stacks, as long as you can pay the spice cost shown on the tile. The tile goes into your supply, and you immediately gain any rewards that are shown on the tile. This Tech tile remains in play through the end of the game, and you may have any number of Tech tiles.
There is also a Tech Negotiation icon. This allows you to place a troop from your supply on the Tech Negotiation space, and it becomes a Negotiator. This action basically has you banking a future Acquire Tech discount. When you do Acquire Tech, you can remove your Negotiators to discount your purchase at a 1 Negotiator to 1 Spice basis.
The Shipping Track
Each time you trigger a Freighter icon on a card or on a board space, you can either Advance your Freighter disc one space up the Shipping track, or Recall it. When you Recall, you drop the Freighter disc all the way to the bottom from whatever space you’re currently at, collecting all the rewards from that space down in any order.
In the picture above, the blue player has 2 Freighter icons on their space. That means they could move their disc up to the top of the track with the first icon, and then Recall with the second icon, claiming the rewards. The rewards are as follows:
- Acquire a Tech tile at a 2-Spice discount.
- Gain 2 troops to your garrison, and go up one influence in any faction.
- Either gain 5 Solari, with each other player gaining 1 Solari, or gain 2 Spice.
You commission a dreadnought when you trigger the Dreadnought icon on the board or a card. You take one dreadnought from your supply and place it into your garrison. You may only have a maximum of 2 dreadnoughts.
Dreadnoughts are worth 3 strength in combat. If you win a Conflict, you take control of one of the board spaces where a Control marker can be placed. The space can have someone else’s Control marker on it; you control the space until the end of the next combat. If you lose the Conflict, instead of being returned to your supply, the Dreadnought is returned to your garrison.
Other New Icons
There are several additional icons in Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix. This section will reference the Imperium cards in the photo above.
- Treachery shows an Unload icon in the Reveal box. You may take the shown action as normal if played during the Reveal phase. However, the Unload icon means that you would also gain 2 troops and deploy them to the Conflict should you either discard or trash Treachery.
- Ixian Engineer has an Acquire Tech icon in the Agent box.
- Embedded Agent shows 2 Freighter icons in the Agent box. Additionally, the half a white Agent next to the green Agent icon is an Infiltration icon. This would allow the player of the card to go to and use any location on the board with the green icon, even if an enemy Agent is already at that location.
- Guild Chief Administrator has a Discard symbol(the downward arrow inside of a card). The Agent box of the card would read as, “you may discard a card from your hand to trash a card from your hand, discard pile, or in play.”
Epic Game Mode
This is a new mode for players looking for a longer and more intense game. It is played to 12 Victory Points instead of 10. In addition, these other changes are made during setup:
- Instead of using any Conflict I cards, 5 randomly selected Conflict II cards are placed on top of 5 Conflict III cards.
- Each player removes one copy of Dune, the Desert Planet from their starting decks and replace it with one copy of Control the Spice.
- Each player draws an Intrigue card.
- Each player begins with 5 troops in their garrison instead of 3.
Solo and Two-Player Games
There are a few adjustments made for playing solo and 2-player games when incorporating the new game elements in Rise of Ix. You can find these changes detailed in the rulebook.
Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix
There are essentially three types of expansions for board games:
- Adds content but doesn’t improve or expand on (and sometimes even worsens) gameplay.
- Adds content that improves and/or expands on gameplay.
- Fixes gameplay issues, improving the game.
As you probably saw that big “GeekDad Approved” label, it’s a pretty sure bet that Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix doesn’t fall into that #1 category. Nor were there any gameplay issues with Dune: Imperium that needed fixing; as a standalone game, it’s a fantastic experience. So that leaves us with the second type of expansion: one that improves and/or expands on gameplay.
First, let’s talk about theme. This expansion adds the planet Ix, as well as three additional Houses to the game. Even if you’ve watched the movie Dune, you’re probably unfamiliar with them. Ix, and its ruling House Vernius, largely appear in the prequel novels written by Frank Herbert’s son Brian and co-author Kevin J. Anderson.
The expansion continues with the same feat that the original game pulls off: presenting the factions and planets in a way that is enriching for fans of the expanded Dune universe, while remaining completely accessible for anyone not familiar with the source material. All you need to know is right there on the table. If you sat down to play and didn’t know that Ix was the most technologically advanced planet in the Imperium, a cursory glance at the Ix game board will make it obvious that if you want the new Tech tiles, you go to Ix.
With the Tech tiles, Shipping track, and Dreadnoughts, Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix provides additional players with additional paths to victory. The CHOAM board overlay does replace some of the original worker placement spaces you could send your agents to, but in ways that have you thinking about your moves more strategically. When looking over the new board setup, one of my fellow veteran players immediately bemoaned the disappearance of the board space where you could sell Spice in exchange for Solari. Over the course of the game, we discovered that there were many more interesting locations to visit on the game board which could still ultimately get us the resources we needed. While useful, that original board space was somewhat pedestrian compared to our new options.
When I was playing a game on Tabletop Simulator with fellow GeekDads Jonathan Liu and Aaron Spurlock, I found myself falling behind in the arms race. While I had yet to get one of those new dreadnoughts, Aaron had one, and Jonathan had two. Rather than committing troops to Conflicts I was sure to lose, I focused on other objectives, at the same time building up regular troops in my garrison.
But then, as we were nearing the endgame, a Conflict card was revealed that had a reward too good to pass up. However, all three of us were fairly close on the victory track, and knew that this could be the decisive battle in the game. I just needed a way to be able to get enough troops committed to the combat to win. We knew that Aaron wasn’t going to be able to compete for the 1st place prize, and that it would come down to myself and Jonathan. Jonathan, after his reveal phase, had 18 combat strength, which at that point I couldn’t beat. I would be revealing next… except I had a couple of intrigue cards that would shake things up.
Thankfully, I still had a Spice left, and used it to grab the Mentat using Calculated Hire. Suddenly, I had an extra agent to take one more Agent turn. However, there were no combat spaces open that I could go to. But thankfully, I also had Infiltrate, which then allowed me to place my Mentat on Arrakeen, where Jonathan’s Agent already was. This allowed me to place the troop I earned from that space, as well as two additional troops from my garrison, into combat. I then immediately moved to my Reveal phase, and when the dust settled, I had 20 combat strength to Jonathan’s 18, securing 1st place and 2 victory points, and (along with one of my Tech tiles) winning me the game.
Much like I was able to win without ever getting one of the powerful dreadnoughts, in another game, one of my opponents won without ever acquiring their 3rd Agent. One of the delights of playing Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix is that there isn’t one set strategy that will win you the game. You must play both strategically and tactically, adapting to the cards in your hand and the other players’ moves.
Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix expands on the gameplay of Dune: Imperium in a way that is satisfying without being overwhelming. In a couple of the games that I played, I had players that had never played the base game before, yet they didn’t have any problems learning Dune: Imperium along with the expansion added in. It provides new and meaningful choices, making you think a little bit harder as you play, but in a good way. I’d hesitate to call Rise of Ix an essential expansion. However, I don’t personally see playing Dune: Imperium at any point in the future without it. Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix accomplishes that sublime task of making what was already a really great game just a bit greater.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes. As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission on qualified purchases.