Grand DUNE

by Alan Arvold

(from The General vol.32 no.1)

As one of the nine players who joined Mr. Arvold several years ago at GenCon to play this appealing variant, I can attest to its superiority over playing with the various expansions and variant article rules as they were written. Although many "purists" will defend the elegance and balance of a six-player game, the politicking in a nine-player game is truly enriching and, in my opinion, more representative of the turbulent and dangerous galaxy portrayed in Herbert's novels. As in that construct, nobody can win the nine-player game without allies. Efforts to get DUNE reprinted (perhaps the new collectible card game will spark consumer interest in this elegant boardgame) are not likely to produce an all-in-one package, so the expansion modules and this variant will remain vital accessories to our cult. If you do not have the modules, snap them up.-SKT

One of the longest-surviving cult games (remaining popular despite the fact that it has been out of print for some years) is the game DUNE. Based on the science fiction novel by the late Frank Herbert, this game can still be seen in tournaments at various wargame conventions around the country every year. At the height of its popularity in the mid-1980s, the game spawned two expansions, SPICE HARVEST and THE DUEL. These expansions greatly enriched the main game but for various reasons did not catch the interest of players who like the parent game. One reason was that they increased the playing time of the average game (making tournament use difficult). Another reason is that the variant powers which were introduced in magazine articles (the Lansraad, the Bene Tleilaxu and the Ixians -- see The GENERAL, volume 26, number 1, and volume 18, number 5, and Heroes, volume 1, number 1) were not integrated into these expansions. Finally, THE DUEL has rules that effectively inhibit its use, causing players to discard the expansion from the game. Often, however, you will find players adding to their game the new treachery cards that were included in the expansion modules.

This article brings into one grand system the three variant powers and the two expansions in a more playable format.


Extra cards and leaders are provided on the insert of this magazine. However, when a War of Assassins is declared in a game with more than six players, you will need to add a second deck of Dueling cards from THE DUEL. Alternatively, you must limit each player to holding no more than three Dueling cards.


In Section VII of THE DUEL, it states that if the main leader of the owning players faction is killed in battle whether on Dune, in a Kanly Duel, or in a War of Assassins, the owning player and his faction are out of the game. Such a rule leads a player to keep from using his main leader in anything but a last ditch battle at which point he is probably losing the game anyway. Also, this rule is not literarily accurate, as far as the Dune novels are concerned, where factions carried on despite the death of their main leaders. Liet Kynes, the leader of the Fremen, was left to die in the desert by the Harkonnens halfway through the first novel. His death did not cause the Fremen to break up or dissolve. On the contrary, the Fremen went on to do bigger things under the leadership of Paul Muad'Dib. When the Baron Harkonnen was killed in the battle of Arrakeen towards the end of the first novel, his nephew Feyd-Rautha assumed leadership of what was left of the Harkonnen faction. (He lost it to Muad'Dib in a Kanly Duel a few pages later.) When the Reverend Mother Mohiam was executed at the end of the second novel, the Bene Gesserit order did not dissolve or lose their influence. When the Emperor Shaddam IV died in exile on the planet Salusa Secundus, his daughter Wensicia Corrino carried on the fight throughout the third novel using espionage, occasional Sardaukar uprisings and an assassination attempt on the children of Muad'Dib (which failed), in hopes of getting her son Farad'n on the throne to restore the Corrino dynasty. The point of the matter is that when the main leader dies, the faction continues on.

Alter Section VII of the rules for THE DUEL. If your Main Character Leader is killed in battle on Dune, in a Kanly Duel, or in a War of Assassins, your faction is not out of the game. You still maintain your holdings and all spice in your possession. However, your faction will lose certain advantages and/or have certain limitations laid upon it (see below). These advantages will be restored and the limitations will be removed only when the Main Character Leader is revived from the "tanks." A player may revive (for the usual cost) his Main Character Leader on any turn in which he has at least one Leader alive. If a player has only his Main Character Leader left alive, then he may start reviving his other Leaders at the rate of one per turn.

When all of the Leaders, including the Main Character Leader, of a faction are in the tanks at the same time, that faction is out of the game. All of that faction's tokens are removed from the board and all treachery cards are discarded. The Harkonnen retain captured Leaders.

Organizations such as the Bene Gesserit, the Lansraad and the House Corrino each have many contenders for the top leadership position when it becomes vacant. Thus each faction will have an internal succession war to fill the seat. In DUNE, this means that the player's faction has many smaller factions within the main one which are not acting as a unified whole. This in turn brings on restrictions and causes advantages to be lost. Edric is a third stage Guild Navigator who is the manager of Guild operations on Dune and in the surrounding space. In the event of his death, local Guild operations suffer disruption but not at a catastrophic level. The smugglers and lower level navigators take more than their share of the spice, using the disruption as a cover for their embezzlements. Baron Harkonnen holds all secrets to himself. While some of his lieutenants, such as Feyd-Rautha and Piter De Vries, may know some of those secrets, they are usually the same few secrets that the Baron will share. When the Baron dies, knowledge of traitors in his pay and of how to get extra weapons (treachery cards) is lost and can not be regained until the Baron is brought back to life. Paul Muad'Dib is the gifted individual who gives the Atreides faction its advantages. When he dies, all of those powers go with him and will not come back until he is brought back to life. Liet Kynes is a leader who brought all of the Fremen sietches together as a united whole. When he dies, various Fremen groups go back to their sietches. Only when Liet Kynes is brought back to life will the Fremen again have a fanatical leader to whip them up into a religious frenzy and transform the war into a Jihad. The Ixian Inquisitor coordinates the operations of all Ixian military forces. When she dies, the various military units act in an uncoordinated fashion and various Ixian functionaries embezzle spice into their own private fortunes.

Each faction's advantages are reduced whenever lacking its Main Character Leader in the following ways.

Fremen. If Liet Kynes is dead:
  • Token revival isn't free, but instead costs two spice per token (to the spice bank).
  • Fedaykin counters on the board are treated as regular troops. Fedaykin in reserve are placed in the tanks.
Atreides. If Paul Muad'Dib is dead:
  • The Kwisatz Haderach may not be used. Note: Paul Muad'Dib is also killed when the Kwisatz Haderach is blown up in a lasegun-shield explosion.
  • Treachery cards can not be previewed.
  • The top card of the Spice deck cannot be previewed.
  • You may not force your opponent to show you any element of his battle plan nor allow your allies the same privilege.
Harkonnen. If Baron Harkonnen is dead:
  • Only one of the four traitors picked at the beginning of the game may be used. The Harkonnen player must record which traitor is the active one at the time the Baron is killed. That active traitor must be a revealed one if any have been revealed. The others are inactive.
  • You may not pick up the extra treachery card when you buy one.
  • You may not randomly select one leader from a loser of a battle for any purpose.
Guild. If Edric is dead:
  • You must take your move when it occurs in sequence.
  • Your allies must pay one spice for each token shipped to a stronghold and two for shipment to a non-stronghold.
  • All spice paid for shipment of tokens of your allies are paid to the spice bank.
Emperor. If Emperor Shaddam IV is dead:
  • All spice paid for treachery cards goes to the spice bank.
  • Sardaukar counters on the board are treated as regular troops. Sardaukar in reserve are placed in the tanks.
Bene Gesserit. If Reverend Mother Mohiam is dead:
  • Your faction loses the power to coexist with other factions in the same territory. All tokens on the board are treated as normal tokens.
  • You may not ship one token free with another faction's shipments.
  • You may not "voice" an ally's opponent.
Lansraad. If the Speaker of the Lansraad (see insert) is dead:
  • You lose the power to influence the other major powers during the revival/movement and battle rounds.
  • You lose the power to restrict non-sietch territories to other major powers.
Ixians. If the Inquisitor of the Ixian Confederacy (see insert) is dead:
  • Your tokens may only move one territory per turn.
  • You may not receive your automatic ten spice per turn. They are considered to be lost.
  • The Inquisitor cannot be revived for free.
Bene Tleilaxu. This power does not get a Main Character Leader. The only change to the Bene Tleilaxu rules is that they may not make traitors of Main Character Leaders who are revived from the tanks. Having no leaders, the Bene Tleilaxu may not participate in Kanly duels and Wars of Assassins nor may they threaten any player with Kanly. They do not get dueling cards.

When using the Bene Tleilaxu variant, only the Fremen, Harkonnen, and the Atreides players have to pay the Bene Tleilaxu to bring their Main Character Leader back from the tanks. The other factions pay their spice to the spice bank to bring their Main Character Leaders back from the tanks.


The following rules apply THE SPICE HARVEST expansion rules to the Ixians, the Lansraad and the Bene Tleilaxu.

Ixians. If the Ixians are the Manager, all Harvest card values that the Ixians draw are increased by 50 per cent (fractions rounded down). For the record, the home planet for the Ixians is the planet Komos, better known as Ix.

Lansraad. If a Dune Manager is relieved of his duties, the Lansraad may block the appointment of the new Manager. In this case, then it is the second player to the right of the old Manager who becomes the new Manager. The Lansraad may not block the automatic appointment of the Fremen to the Dune Manager position brought on by the appearance of a Worm in the Harvest Deck. For the record, the Lansraad has no home planet, but their main headquarters is on the planet Kaitan which is also the seat of the Imperial Court.

Bene Tleilaxu. The Bene Tleilaxu may get their ten spice like everybody else does in the module. They may give spice to one or more other players before the players determine who will be the first Manager in return for future considerations during the normal game. Any spice left over at the end of the Spice Harvest "section" of the game does not have to be turned in; instead, it is the spice with which the Bene Tleilaxu start the normal game. The Bene Tleilaxu do not receive any spice during harvest distribution nor do they bid for any Access cards. For the record, the home planet for the Bene Tleilaxu is the planet Tleilax.


Semuta Drug - used as a poison weapon. This weapon is played in a battle normally and can be blocked by a snooper. If not blocked, it does not immediately kill the opposing leader. Instead, it reduces the fighting strength of the leader by one. The Semuta card remains with the leader after the battle, unless the leader is killed. At the beginning of each following game turn, that leader's fighting strength is further reduced by one until the turn reaches zero, in which case the leader is sent to the tanks and the Semuta card is discarded. Such a leader is revived normally and at full strength. Leaders who have a Semuta card on them lead battle and duel at their reduced strength. When the drugged leader is killed, the winner of the battle collects only the amount of spice equal to their current reduced strength at the time of death.

Semuta is a powerful narcotic derived from the Ellaca Drug. One dose causes permanent addiction. The drug causes the addict to slowly lose his or her abilities as the addict spends more and more time in drug-induced euphoria. Addicts do not die from the drug itself but from deprivation of food, sleep and other necessities that the addict denies himself.

Stone Burner - used as a special weapon. This weapon, played normally in battle, automatically kills an opponent's leader and all of his tokens in the territory, plus the friendly leader. Both players may use shields to protect their leaders against a stone burner, but all of the opponent's tokens are still removed to the tanks. A player who uses a stone burner in battle still loses the number of tokens he dials for the battle. If a lasegun/shield explosion occurs in the same battle, the lasegun/ shield explosion takes precedence, destroying all leaders, tokens and spice in the territory. Optional rule: Unless a Karama card has been used in the same battle to prevent Atreides prescience, Paul Muad'Dib is not affected by the blast of the stone burner.

A stone burner is a small nuclear device which is used to bore through solid rock. While not a very powerful explosive device, it emits a particular radiation over a wide radius, which permanently blinds any unshielded person, thus neutralizing any force in the vicinity of the blast. In Dune Messiah, Paul was so blinded, but used prescience and the eyes of his children to function.


All but the Ixians, Guild and Tleilaxu are assigned dots. These three take permanent seats at the table to fix the treachery card bidding order. The Guild fights in the same order in which it moved. The Guild can not move before the Ixians, who always move and fight first.

When the Atreides are in the game, the Atreides player may either use the Kwisatz Haderach counter or the Main Character Leader disc once during the battle round of each game turn. He may not use both during the same battle round. The Kwisatz Haderach counter may not be used in a Kanly Duel. Exception: The Main Character Leader and the Kwisatz Haderach counter could be used in multiple battles in the same territory during a battle round, but only one or the other could be used in a particular battle.

In the situation in which both the Bene Tleilaxu and another player declare the same leader a traitor at the same moment, the Bene Tleilaxu claim takes precedence. Leaders can not be declared as traitors when they are in a Kanly Duel or a War of Assassins as fighters or supporters.

s precedence. Leaders can not be declared as traitors when they are in a Kanly Duel or a War of Assassins as fighters or supporters.