Dune Imperium is a worker placement / deck building game inspired by the universe of Frank Herbert. Its game mechanics will be familiar to those who have played other board games, though it’s quite quick to learn if you are new to games as well.
I have played Dune Imperium numerous times and it has become one of my favourite games. Throughout many hours of gameplay, I have found myself repeatedly utilising a few key strategies to try and get the edge over my opponents. This blog will provide my own rating of how easy each strategy is to pull off in the game, though note that this is only a rough guide as the many combinations of cards and variable availability of resources can result in widely different games.
I split the game up into 3 main phases; the opening (first two rounds), mid-game (all subsequent rounds up to the Conflict III rounds), and the endgame (the Conflict III rounds). This is largely due to the acceleration of victory points after the first few rounds, once you start to consistently draw the new cards you have bought, and the 2VP rewards in most of the Conflict III cards.
This is usually where you want to focus on one strategy and carefully manage your cards and hand to ensure you have the highest chance of it working.
Tip 1 (Easy) – Picking A Strategy Based On Cards In Your Starting Hand
I will usually pick one of the strategies below, based on the cards in my starting hand. If my cards don’t match any of the strategies, then I have a couple options available. Either I can use my first agent to draw cards at Arrakeen (requiring Reconnaissance) and pick a strategy based on the cards I didn’t draw (as now I only have one agent left), or I can choose a strategy and make a filler move which doesn’t draw cards with my second agent (making it certain that I will be able to complete the strategy in the following round unless it is taken by another player).
Tip 2 (Medium/Hard) – Memorise The Starting Cards & Their Movement Options
This has huge value in the early game as it means you know for certain your options for movement in the second round, and you have a good idea of your movement options in the third round too, as you cycle round your pack for a second time. Consequently you can plan your moves in advance and react to any unexpected moves opponents may make. Moreover, you will be able to predict to some extent your opponents’ moves in the second round, as their drawing of all of one movement type (for example green) in their first move will make it impossible for them to move there next round, unless they choose an action allowing the drawing of cards. This is still possible in later stages of the game, but it becomes increasingly unreliable as players’ decks develop.
To get you started, here is the movement of the Dune Imperium starting cards: 2xNone, 2xYellow, 2xGreen, 1xBlue, 1xYellow/Green/Blue, and 2xFremen/Bene Gesserit/Space Guild/Emperor
Tip 3 (Medium) – The Third Agent
The acquisition of your third agent is a hugely important strategy, as it not only means you get more actions on the board but also allows you to play more cards, gaining more resources and cycling through your deck faster. Note that, by drawing cards in Round 1, you make it potentially impossible to get your third agent on the second round as you may draw all your green movement cards and there is a relatively small chance of drawing the relevant movement actions once the pack has been reshuffled.
The fastest combination of moves to get the third agent is the placement of an agent on the Hagga Basin (requiring either Signet Ring or Dune: The Desert Planet), then the placement of the second agent on the Sell Melange (requiring either Signet Ring or Dune: The Desert Planet), and finally the placement of your first agent in the following round onto the Swordmaster (requiring either Signet Ring or Dagger)
Tip 4 (Easy) – Research Station Utilisation
Another great way to cycle quickly through your deck and generate more Persuasion in Dune Imperium is through the utilisation of the Research Station. This also generates more options of where to play your remaining agents and so makes your plans easier to enact. This tactic works throughout the game, though its high water cost may make it less appealing.
The fastest way to use this action is through the placement of your first agent on Stillsuits (requires Diplomacy or Seek Allies), then your second agent on Research Station (requires Signet Ring or Reconnaissance)
This is where you need to build up your deck and start developing some form of engine or symbiosis between your cards to set you up for the later rounds. By the end of this phase most players are probably sitting at around 5/6 VPs.
Tip 5 (Medium/Hard) - Unlocking Sietch Tabr
Sietch Tabr is a very useful action space as it allows the generation of water without the requirement of a Fremen movement option. This makes it a much more accessible space, and consequently more worthwhile to unlock first. With this unlocked, you will be able to get someone into the conflict and so (almost) guarantee a reward, whilst building up large amounts of spice faster than the other players through your superior water supplies.
The fastest way to use this action space is by placing your first round agents on Stillsuits and Hardy Warriors. Order doesn’t matter here, though if you want to build up spice then prioritise Stillsuits (requires both Diplomacy and Seek Allies).
Tip 6 (Easy) – Hand Optimisation
I prioritise Hand Optimisation in many games and, in Dune Imperium, it’s very helpful as a secondary strategy. It enables you to maximise the use of any cards you have bought as you cycle through the deck quickly while also meaning you can discard the starting cards which, as you near the end of the game, will probably slow you down. However, be careful to balance the range of movement options your new cards have, as a deficit in any area could result in the failure of your plans if you need to change tactic suddenly.
You can optimise your hand by sending an agent to Selective Breeding or with Fedaykin Death Commando, Gene Manipulation, Guild Administrator, Seitch Reverend Mother
Tip 7 (Easy) – Acquiring Your High Council Seat
A great way to boost your Persuasion at the end of the Dune Imperium round is through the High Council seat. This action is worth taking early in the game as the extra two Persuasion makes a lot of difference to the quality of cards you will be able to purchase.
Tip 8 (Hard) – Setting Up Bene Gesserit Symbiosis
If played successfully, the interdependencies of Bene Gesserit cards such as Missionaria Protectiva and Reverend Mother Mohiam can make them incredibly powerful. However they don’t always appear regularly in games. Consequently, they are only worth the investment if you are able to acquire lots of Bene Gesserit cards to increase the likelihood of drawing multiples in one hand.
Tip 9 (Moderate) – Utilising Fremen Bond
Some Fremen cards are vastly improved through the use of the Fremen Bond (Fedaykin Death Commando and Worm Riders). This is easier to use than the Bene Gesserit symbiosis due to the constant availability of Arrakis Liaison which is a Fremen faction card. However, as with the Bene Gesserit symbiosis, this works best if you have an optimised deck and multiple Fremen cards to maximise your chances of the bond working. Moreover, Fremen Bond is easier to use because it counts cards played in your Reveal phase as well as in your Play Area, unlike the Bene Gesserit symbiosis.
Three of the four Combat III cards in this section of the game give 2VPs, and the other gives you two moves on a faction track, so most of the strategies for this phase revolve around winning the combat. By this point hopefully your deck is optimised, and you are playing your new, stronger cards semi-regularly. You have also hopefully claimed at least one faction alliance and are well-placed on the other tracks, so here are my final tips to cement your winning position.
Tip 10 (Easy/Moderate) – Keeping Your Garrison Stocked
Dune Imperium has conflict cards. The Conflict cards in this phase are so strong that there will certainly be competition every round. Consequently, it is essential to have troops in your garrison (at least 2 but ideally 4), as many actions that you may take in this phase will allow you to add troops from your garrison into the fight. The main action to stock your garrison is Rally Troops, although cards such as Gurney Halleck, Fremen Camp, Sardauker Legion, and Gunthopter will either reduce the military strength of your opponents or increase your own strength.
Tip 11 (Moderate) – Saving Spice For The Heighliner
Costing 6 spice, this is the most expensive action space on the board but it is almost always worth it as it immediately allows you to place five troops into the combat, establishing you as a major contender for that round, and you can also add two from your garrison. The space also gives you two water, which will come in very useful in gathering more spice to take the action again as soon as possible. Alongside this, the Carryall is a very powerful card, as it can provide you with up to six spice, allowing you to do the action again as soon as it is free. The Kwizatz Haderach is also a very useful card to have in this situation, as it enables you to gain access to the Heighliner even if another player has taken the action.
Tip 12 (Medium) – Use Of Intrigue Cards In Conflict
Certain intrigue cards such as Ambush, or Private Army are very good at turning the tide of a battle as they are played in the combat phase, so your opponents can do very little to stop their effects. I normally wouldn’t bother keeping back Master Tactician unless it looks like I’m going to lose a round by a long way and I’m not interested in second place, as its three swords are quite easy to counter in the main phase of the round through cards like Double Cross or Reinforcements.
Tip 13 (Hard) – Streamlining The Spice Must Flow
If you are not interested in trying to win the Conflict III cards then you can try and optimise your hand to get enough Persuasion each round to purchase a Spice Must Flow. To achieve this you should secure a High Council Seat and obtain cards such as Firm Grip, Sietch Reverend Mother, and Liet Kynes.
Tip 14 (Moderate) – Cementing Control Of Faction Alliances
You should also focus on getting at least two spaces ahead or to the top of any factions you have an alliance with, as this VP can be vital in securing victory.
Tip 15 (Moderate/Hard) – Acquiring The Right Cards For Your Strategy
My final tip is about efficiency. Buying too many cards will pad out your deck too much and you will draw your better cards more infrequently. It is also important to buy cards which work with your strategy, as many cards won’t contribute usefully to your deck. However, there are some cards which it is usually a good idea to acquire. These include the Carryall (very useful for gathering spice, giving you the upper hand in a race for the heighliner), Stilgar (water generation without an action space designated to it), Chani (saving troops if you are losing the round, or making another player over-deploy their troops to win), Shifting Allegiances (sudden moves on a faction track to secure an alliance or gain VPs), and Guild Bankers (useful for purchasing SMF).
There are many different strategies in Dune Imperium, I have only scratched the surface here, and the balance of deck building and worker placement means that it’s a very accessible game, with strong replayability.