My previous article on Dune Express can be found by following this link. The boardgamegeek entry can be found here. I finally had a chance to play a quick three player game of Dune Express on Memorial Day. The following is a session report and my initial review of the game.
This game only cost me whatever it costs to print out four pages of paper. I used glass beads for the three forces used in this game. In play order, the three factions/colors are: House Corrino/Clear, Spicing Guild/Green and House Atreides/Blue.
During the first round, House Corrino took quick control over Carthag, the Spicing Guild decided to keep the Polar Sink roll and place its forces in the Polar Sink (a move which later allowed it to use extra spce to move forces from the Polar Sink to another region), and House Atreides placed its claim on Sietch Tabr. The Spicing Guild poisoned one of House Corrino's members in Carthag while House Atreides used a Crysknife to remove a Spicing Guild unit in the Polar Sink.
Round two started off with House Corrino expanding its claim into Habbanya Sietch and killing one of the two remaining Spicing Guild units in the Polar Sink. The Spicing Guild responded with a devastating strike into Carthag, destroying the remaining House Corrino unit and leaving the Polar Sink open for House Atreides to strategically place three of its units in the Polar Sink, waiting to strike from multiple directions. House Atreides was able to claim the Shield token as protection against Crysknife attacks from the other two factions. Round two ended with each faction controlling a scoring zone and House Atreides also controlling the Polar Sink.
House Atreides seemed posed as a military power and threat after the second round, but its power would be fleeting. House Corrino quickly moved to control Arrakeen with a strong force while poisoning one of House Atreides units in the Polar Sink. The Spicing guild fell on hard times when it failed to obtain any reinforcements this round, but it did manage to steal the shield from House Atreides. House atreides looked strong with 4 spice and three new units available, but could only deploy its new units in the Polar Sink while taking the shield right back from the Spicing Guild, leaving House Corrino in control of two scoring areas and acting first in the next round.
The fourth round ended only one turn in when House Corrino was able to take control of Tuek's Sietch and control of planet for the Empire. The Spice continued to flow.
I really enjoy the game as a possible filler game. The four rounds, including rule review took only 20-25 minutes. Turns run quickly and negotiation/discussion can play an interesting role in the game. At first I was uncertain whether I would prefer changing the victory from controlling three territories at the end of a player's turn to the end of a round, but realized that it only changed the advantage from the first player to the last player. Since it is a short game, the play order can easily be shifted in the next game. The feel of the game was close to a Dune-themed game, which surprised me considering there were no worms. I have read of some additional options such as adding thumpers and house specific powers to the game. I can definitely see adding these elements for another layer of complexity to the game. Since playing Dune Express, I have decided to take the leap and create a better version of the game with nicer/sturdier pieces once I find the parts necessary for my ideal version.