|This is not the game you're playing. Ish.|
One of those holy grails of boardgames, the old Dune game has a towering reputation. It's been 20 years out of print, though, so not really any chance of playing it.
Enter Fantasy Flight Games, who got the rights to the game system but - due to the usual intransigence of the Herbert Estate - not the Dune setting. The result is Rex; an updated Dune, reskinned with the trappings of FFG's Twlight Imperium universe.
I've wanted it for a couple of years and finally got it for my Birthday back in January. This last week was the first time I've managed to get a game of it together. As a game involving lots of diplomacy and backstabbing it works well with more players. It takes up to 6 but I had 4.
First things first, as you come to expect with FFG, the components are every high quality and the game is gorgeous to look at.
It's just a real pleasure to have this thing on the table.
Gameplay is very simple; you move your units around the city trying to avoid the moving bombardment; the winner is the person who holds 3 key strongholds at the end of a game turn - or the most at the end of Turn 8.
The complexity comes in the asymmetry; every player race has a different, game-breaking advantage. So one player has a lot of traitors tucked away; another gets all the money bid by other players for equipment; another wins automatically if no-one else has three strongholds at the end of turn 8 and so and so forth. The game comprises blind bidding, movement, resource management and wargaming in equal measure.
You also have the opportunity to create binding alliances with other players - and break those alliances at the moment of maximum convenience.
Moving your units into an area of this sci-fi Stalingrad that's occupied by enemy forces triggers a barney. Combat is done blind, with troops and resources committed on cunning hidden dials (the grandfathers of X-Wing's movement dials) with leaders plugged in. This is where the strongest hint of Spice lingers - there is a chance that your leader is, in fact, a traitor owned by the enemy; and if he is, then you lose automatically - no ifs, no buts. Just like Doctor Yueh.
Our game went very well; it all came down to a fight over one sector at the end of Turn 8. It was a real nailbiter that went down the very wire. A clever conceit of the rules system is that each race can achieve victory in different phases of the turn, so right up until the last moment, anyone could snatch victory.
This was a great evening's play which everyone thoroughly enjoyed - even She Who Must Obeyed, who cordially hates science-fiction. Basically - get it and play it. You won't regret it.