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The best Dune games to play on the tabletop after you watch Part Two

Add some spice to your next game night.

Dune movie board game photo
Image credit: Sarah Jarvis

After Star Wars and Star Trek, Dune may be the next great science-fiction universe. Since Frank Herbert first described the political machinations, religious destiny and far-flung technology found in the deserts of Arrakis in his epic 1965 novel, Dune has become a legend of pop-culture, recently revived by Denis Villeneuve’s latest blockbuster movies - including this year’s Dune: Part Two.

Dune’s legacy looms just as large on the tabletop. Its first board game adaptation, 1979’s Dune, is considered by many to be not just one of the best Dune games but one of the greatest board games of all time, influencing decades of future games with complex player diplomacy, asymmetric factions and a fluid shift between cooperation and competition.

Best Dune games

Dune’s tabletop influence endured despite many decades where the board game was unavailable following its re-release alongside David Lynch’s box-office bomb in 1984, falling prey to legal tangles and licensing troubles for over 30 years.

Fortunately for Dune fans, the return of Dune to the big screen also heralded the resurrection of its place on gaming tables, with a revamped edition of the seventies game in 2019 paving the way for a number of Dune games in the years since.

House Dicebreaker fight over spice on Arrakis in the Dune board gameWatch on YouTube

With Herbert’s universe as wide as it is deep, Dune games have delved into every aspect of the rich sci-fi setting, from the intense warfare between the Fremen, Harkonnens and Paul Atreides - often involving the presence of Arrakis’ monstrous sandworms - to the political manoeuvring and ruthless betrayal between the galaxy’s opposed houses.

Whether you’re looking to ride into battle atop a fearsome Shai-Hulud, seize power by controlling valuable Melange or eliminate your rivals with a poisoned gom jabbar, the best Dune games on the tabletop are packed with both strategy and spice.


1. Dune

A timeless classic

Dune (2019) board game layout
The Dune board game was first released in 1979 - before any of the movie adaptations - but vanished for over 30 years before seeing a re-release in 2019. | Image credit: Gale Force Nine

Released in 1979, slap bang in the middle of Herbert’s original run of Dune novels, the first Dune board game set a very high bar for all that would follow. Designed by Peter Olotka, Jack Kittredge and Bill Eberle, who had revolutionised board gaming with Cosmic Encounter two years earlier, the Dune board game put players in control of the various factions warring over control of Arrakis, from the Fremen and House Atreides to House Harkonnen, the Padishah Emperor and the Bene Gesserit.

With a central set of rules for moving units around Arrakis and resolving combat tied gameplay together, each of the factions was made distinct with an asymmetric set of abilities that would influence the ways in which they achieved victory - and added to the engrossingly thematic feel of the board game as Fremen rode sandworms in battle and the Haronnens excelled in using treachery cards. Most infamously, the mysterious and mystical Bene Gesserit could secretly predict which player would win at the start of the game - and steal the victory if they guessed correctly.

Disappearing for over three decades as the result of licensing difficulties in the wake of David Lynch’s eighties Dune film, and kept alive in part by dedicated fans’ homemade replicas, the Dune board game reappeared in 2019 ahead of the latest attempt to adapt Dune into a blockbuster movie. Retaining the influential gameplay of the original, albeit with streamlined rules and refreshed artwork, the new Dune board game feels just as timeless and essential as it did more than 40 years ago.

Buy the Dune board game on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


2. Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy

A shorter, simpler and slightly softer dip into the world of Dune

A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is based on the original Dune board game, stripping back its rules and playtime for a more beginner-friendly experience. | Image credit: Gale Force Nine

Not to be confused with the re-release of the 1979 Dune, which is sometimes given the subtitle “A Game of Conquest, Diplomacy & Betrayal”, Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is a similar, but notably different, game to its predecessor.

A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is built on the bones of the original Dune game, but aims to offer an experience that moves at a faster pace - taking under an hour to play, rather than multiple hours - and is generally more beginner-friendly than the older board game.

As in the normal Dune, players lead the opposed factions in Arrakis as they fight over valuable spice, take control of strongholds across the board and engage in both direct conflict and more underhanded tactics to crush their foes and seize the planet.

As well as dialling back some of the original Dune’s more unforgiving elements, A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy introduces a new market for players to buy helpful cards from and allows it to be played with as few as two players due to the shift in how players interact.

While the original Dune board game still reigns as an epic and immersive retelling of Herbert’s first novel, A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is a worthy Dune game in its own right - ideal for getting in a quick hit of spice when you don’t quite have the players or time for the full experience.

Buy Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


3. Dune: Imperium

Dune meets Dominion

dune-imperium-board-game-cards.jpg
Dune: Imperium focuses more on trading resources than direct combat. Recent standalone spin-off Dune: Imperium - Uprising introduces some changes and additions that make it the best version to pick up if you're new. | Image credit: George Barker

For those who prefer to avoid the sting of the gom jabbar found in more ruthlessly competitive games, Dune: Imperium offers up a Dune game focused more on the acquisition and trading of spice than the spilling of blood in the desert sands.

Dune: Imperium combines the bountiful lore of Herbert’s universe with the card-driven gameplay of deckbuilding games like Dominion. Over the course of the game, players acquire cards to add to their starting deck, gradually making their options unique to those of their opponents as they employ different strategies.

Cards are used to command agents belonging to the Great Houses of the Landsraad led by the players, assigning them to spaces on the central board to gain resources, bolster their military units or try and sway major political factions such as the Emperor or Fremen with their influence. At the end of each round, the players’ houses clash in battle for rewards, using a combination of brute strength and persuasion.

Dune: Imperium has since been followed by a standalone spin-off in Dune: Imperium - Uprising, which expands its player count up to six in a new team-based mode, introduces spies for more subterfuge and introduces sandworms as more powerful units in battle.

While Uprising can be combined with the original Dune: Imperium and its expansions, it can be played by itself - if you’re picking up Imperium for the first time, Uprising’s improvements and expansions to the original game make it the best place to start.

Buy Dune: Imperium - Uprising on Amazon US and Amazon UK.


4. Dune: War for Arrakis

An epic head-to-head clash over the planet of spice

Created by the designers of Lord of the Rings board game War of the Ring, War for Arrakis is a similarly strategic showdown between its two opposing sides driven by dice. | Image credit: CMON

While Dune’s setting is sci-fi, with futuristic technology and mysterious intergalactic beings, much of Herbert’s knotty political drama and religious imagery brings to mind a mixture of traditional fantasy and centuries past in our own real-world history.

For that reason, getting two of the designers behind acclaimed Lord of the Rings board game War of the Ring to make a Dune game makes perfect sense. With both universes steeped in deep world-building, rich lore and a mix of complex characters and intriguing fantastical aspects, the two hugely influential creations stand shoulder-to-shoulder when it comes to the potential for tabletop creators and players to explore their vast settings.

Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello’s Dune: War for Arrakis throws House Atreides against House Harkonnen in a head-to-head fight for control of the spice-laden planet. Two players - though up to four can play, splitting the factions into their supporters including the Fremen and House Corrino - take command of either side of the conflict, using their unique strengths to fend off their opponent and advance along their individual path to victory.

Each player spends their pool of rolled dice to perform move troops around - making use of sandworms and ornithopters to spring surprise attacks on their enemies - and call in powerful leaders, seizing ecological testing stations or destroying Fremen sietches as the Harkonnens pursue supremacy and Paul Atreides increases his messianic prescience.

Capturing the intense conflict and epic scope of Dune in less time than it will take to rewatch Dune: Part One, Dune: War for Arrakis is a strong latest addition to the pantheon of Dune games on the tabletop.

Pre-order Dune: War for Arrakis Asmodee (US) and Zatu (UK).


5. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Forge your own Kwisatz Haderach in the latest Dune RPG

Tabletop RPG Adventures in the Imperium lets players explore the Dune-iverse as agents of its major houses. | Image credit: Modiphius

While the rest of the Dune games on this list are board games, Herbert’s universe has also extended into the world of tabletop RPGs. The most recent Dune roleplaying game is Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, which zooms in from the planet-wide scope adopted by many of the best-known Dune games to focus on its complex characters, their pursuits and motivations.

Adventures in the Imperium casts players as agents working for one of the major Landsraad houses - such as the Atreides or Harkonnen - or even allows them to establish their own house within the universe and bring it to glory through manipulation, intimidation and deception. Along the way, players will encounter the likes of the Fremen, Bene Gesserit and mentats who they can attempt to bring into allegiance with their house - or remove as an obstacle, as necessary.

The Dune RPG is powered by the 2d20 system previously used in fellow sci-fi RPG Star Trek Adventures, with some changes to cater the gameplay to Dune’s unique mix of political intrigue, close-quarters combat in duels, underhanded espionage and intricate relationships between people, houses and beliefs. The game offers an alternate way of playing that puts players in control of the houses themselves, directing agents under their control to work towards their faction’s supremacy.

Set around the same period as Herbert’s first Dune book, Adventures in the Imperium provides a wealth of background and lore on the setting, offering up no shortage of inspiration for Dune fans looking to explore the sprawling universe beyond what we see in the novels and films.

Mining plentiful storytelling potential from the depths of the sci-fi epic, Adventures in the Imperium is the essential Dune RPG for those who wish to keep the spice flowing freely around their table. Even better, this year’s campaign book Fall of the Imperium will let you replay the events of Dune: Part Two, making it the perfect way to indulge in Melange until Part Three arrives.

Buy Dune: Adventures in the Imperium on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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Dune

Tabletop Game

Dune (2019)

Tabletop Game

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Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Tabletop Game

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Dune: Imperium

Tabletop Game

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Dune: Imperium Uprising

Tabletop Game

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Dune: War for Arrakis

Tabletop Game

About the Author
Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.
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