Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 14:37:46 +0100
From: Mark Bassett (
Organization: Investment Intelligence
Subject: Avalon Hill's Dune

Baron H.

Dear Ken,

in your review of GAMA 97 you have this to say about previous attempts to base a game on Frank Herbert's Dune novels:

The board game published by Avalon Hill in decades past suffered from poorly written rules riddled with ambiguity and rivaled in obscurity only by the first edition Magic rules set.

Incredible! I cannot believe you are talking about the same game I have played: a fast-moving, simple to learn yet absorbing recreation of the politics that dominate life on the desert planet Arrakis. And it manages to recreate the feel of the books that inspire it, without limiting gameplay.

I regard Dune as one of the best games ever made, and I think a poll among the readers of rated it in the top ten; I urge you to get hold of a copy of this game and try it again.


Mark Bassett

After Mark's incredulous response I started asking around.

Paul A.

I talked to the folks that used to maintain the errata for Dune and found out that they had given up when the errata were several times longer than the original rules. So much for my initial claim.

I talked to Siggins about it and found out that they had recently had Dune out for a spin. They found that it had not held up well and seemed very under-developed compared to modern games.

Mark's missive on drew damning responses. One fellow reported games that stretched to eleven hours (clearly a local phenomenon). Another reported that it was a fine game - with their house rules thrown in, of course, to fix up all the problems with alliances. Several chimed in that it was a great game - so long as everyone playing thoroughly understood the powers of all of the factions.

I think it was a great and innovative game for the 1970's. If I had been hanging out with a sufficient number of game geeks who would stomach a convoluted game system like that I probably would have learned it back then and have fond memories of it. I didn't, though, and can find little profit in taking it up now.

Mike Schloth and I gave the new Dune CCG a try at the Gathering. We both came away feeling like there was a lot there: a nice economic system centering around the supply and demand of spice, a complex but workable combat system which uses four different attack skills to take down four different kinds of targets, a new tension building technique whereby cards are tabled face down and become cheaper to deploy the longer they stay that way, cards defeated in combat are returned to the tabled face down state and not discarded (a nice mechanism!), lots of great atmosphere with economics, politics, and spice flying left and right, and several goals to shoot for to win.

We also felt like the preview decks were not quite up to scratch. The balance wasn't quite right and both decks felt resource poor. I also think the game will be best in multiplayer mode and we only had enough cards for two. Its one to watch, for sure.


Artwork copyright Mark Zug and courtesy of Five Rings Publishing Group.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell