Hi! My name is Michele Garbuggio, and I am a game developer who has been collaborating for some years now with Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello on several games of their design. For CMON, I have provided additional content and development for games such as Zombicide: Chronicles RPG and Trudvang Legends. I’m especially fond of roleplaying games and a long-time fan of the Dune franchise. My contributions to Dune: War for Arrakis include additional development, tireless playtesting, and special care that the game is true to our beloved literary sources in all its aspects.
In this Design Diary entry, I will delve into the rules that govern Dune: War for Arrakis. In the game, the various stages of the Desert War between the Atreides and the Harkonnens are enacted using a mechanic that is already familiar to long-standing fans of War of the Ring: the Action Dice system.
At the beginning of each game round, each player rolls a certain number of Action Dice, the results of which dictate the actions they will have at their disposal during that round. Players will take turns spending a die of their choice to perform the corresponding action: Strategy (directing legions to move or attack), Leadership (using leaders to command armies or perform special actions), Deploy (to recruit troops), Mentat (to gain and/or play more Planning cards – see below!), and House (which has special effects depending on the faction using it).
Planning cards are powerful assets drawn at the start of the round from faction-specific decks which allow players to reenact the crucial phases of the fictional confrontation between the Atreides and the Harkonnens, potentially changing the fate of the game… if played at the right time.
On the fringes of these core dynamics, there are other important phases of the game which are specific to each Faction. For the Harkonnens, first and foremost, we have Spice Harvesting, by which they maintain strong relations with the Imperium powers (the CHOAM, the Landsraad, and the Spacing Guild) to draw support and resources from them. If they keep the flow of spice plentiful by using their harvesters and defending them from Fremen raids, players will have seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal to finally crush any resistance left on Arrakis once and for all. But collect too little, and the powers of the Imperium will gradually withdraw their support, weakening the side and exposing their forces to fierce retaliation!
On the Atreides side are the Prescience, representing the path of spiritual enlightenment of Paul Atreides and his allies. Be successful in fulfilling the prophecies by raiding enemy harvesters, unearthing ecological stations buried in the sand, and collecting as many Prescience cards as possible, and ultimately, players will lead the Fremen to victory. But stray too far from the set destiny, and it will doom them to defeat.
In the meantime, ever-present in the background, we have the merciless desert of Arrakis and its mortal dangers, such as the huge Sandworms lurking beneath the sand and the devastating Coriolis storms. The ecology of Arrakis represents the Fremen’s unlikely but most powerful ally, allowing them to fight a seemingly unbeatable adversary by moving swiftly across the desert with their Sandriders, and use Wormsigns to their advantage to unleash the mighty Sandworms against the Harkonnen legions.
Finally, in Dune: War for Arrakis, open battle will be inevitable, sooner or later. Combat takes place in a series of bloody, fast-paced rounds in which players roll dice proportional to the combat strength of their legion, scoring Hits, deflecting them with energy Shields, and activating special results based on the different command and tactical skills of any Leaders present.
The battlefield will see Regular and Elite units confront each other, plus the fearsome Imperial Sardaukar sided with the Harkonnens, and the fanatical Fedaykin, the Fremen’s death commandos loyal to Paul Atreides.
In the next Chapter of the Design Diary, we will delve more specifically into the differences between the Atreides and the Harkonnens, in terms of gameplay, advantages/drawbacks, and available resources!