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TOPIC: Let's Talk: Dune (or Rex)

Let's Talk: Dune (or Rex) 18 Oct 2016 02:03 #236373

Michael Barnes wrote:
DO NOT combine complex card play with dice. It sucks and it only adds an illusion of depth.

It's hard to beat the Dune concept- bid what you are willing to lose, you pay/lose that amount whether you win or not.

The "miracle win" is ESSENTIAL no matter what. The one dude holding a territory turn after turn in Risk, for example, or the lasgun/shield thing in Dune.

I’m late for the party, but can’t resist. I agree with Michael that the best battle resolution is in Dune. But, in my opinion, the beauty here is not so much in committing the troops, but in the treachery cards.

In a nutshell: there are basically two types of attack cards, and two types of counters. There are not so many of them (9 weapons and 8 defenses for a deck of about 30 cards), all come from the same deck in a blind auction phase. And each faction has slots for only 4 cards (with one exception, because Dune is all about exceptions).

You can play one offense and one defense in a battle, your opponent does the same. The cards are played simultaneously and facedown, you usually don’t know what is played against you. The result of the battle is not completely decided by the treachery cards (you can still win if you commit enough troops), but it is a big deal.
Since there are only two types of attack and defense, you have a 50/50 chance of guessing it, which leads to a mistaken assumption on behalf of some players that this is simply a simplified variant of rock-paper-scissors.

However, there is no luck in Dune, only lack of available information. One of the factions is privy to what cards are being dealt at the auction. So you can get the intel from them. Or you can deduce what cards your opponents are holding by observing their previous battles, even engaging them in smaller skirmishes with the only objective of making them reveal their cards. You need to gauge whether it is worth committing your cards in a particular encounter or save them for a really important one later. I remember holding dearly to a Crysknife for many turns, losing battles that could have been won, with the sole purpose of convincing the rest of the players I did not have a projectile weapon, and eventually plunging it into the unsuspecting Feyd Rautha (so smugly protected by a useless snooper) in the battle that decided the fate of Arrakis (or at least, that’s how I remember my most glorious moment of Dune).
You can also bluff your way through battles, and reach agreements with your opponents (similar to Cosmic Encounter). It is amazing how much strategy, deceit and diplomacy comes from such an uncomplicated mechanic.

What’s really crazy is that (unless I'm missing some obscure kickstarter) it has been implemented only in Dune and Rex.
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Let's Talk: Dune 18 Oct 2016 09:10 #236378

Another vote for Dune. Not just for bidding with casualties, but also the treachery cards and the hidden traitors. Last time I played Dune, I won on the second turn with Harkonnen after winning four quick and dirty battles.
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Let's Talk: Dune 18 Oct 2016 10:04 #236381

Clicking in I thought this might have been a ninja attempt to throw out that, "Rex is better" article, but still a good read without those fireworks.

I have to echo the astonishment that we don't see more similar or slightly tweaked implementation of the combat system. The only thing I can imagine is that it is too high stakes or cutthroat for today's coddled gaming crowd. There are plenty of games of Dune where a single misplay of the system results in half the game trying to recover and be more than just a doormat. I love that, but could see where some would not.
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Let's Talk: Dune 18 Oct 2016 12:34 #236399

Da Bid Dabid wrote:
There are plenty of games of Dune where a single misplay of the system results in half the game trying to recover and be more than just a doormat. I love that, but could see where some would not.

Sums up my two-game experience with Dune. I need to play it more.

As for Combat mechanics I love old school CRTs. I see why they are out of vogue and don't really fit the AT ethos, but for a contextually rich gaming period or world, combined with card driven modifiers, leader bonuses and abilities, and even nested tables to allow for certain events it's the bees f'ing knees.
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Let's Talk: Dune 18 Oct 2016 18:11 #236425

Da Bid Dabid wrote:
Clicking in I thought this might have been a ninja attempt to throw out that, "Rex is better" article, but still a good read without those fireworks.

I have to echo the astonishment that we don't see more similar or slightly tweaked implementation of the combat system. The only thing I can imagine is that it is too high stakes or cutthroat for today's coddled gaming crowd. There are plenty of games of Dune where a single misplay of the system results in half the game trying to recover and be more than just a doormat. I love that, but could see where some would not.


Thanks for giving me this opening for my first jab at Dune (vs Rex, because Dune is still superior to any other game) :)

The consequences of losing a battle can be still devastating in Rex (as they should), but the recovery time – in my experience – isn’t even close to Dune. That’s because the recovery rate of troops is faster, there are more cards that allow additional recruitment (the Ghola cards, whatever their stupid Rex equivalent) and more weapons/defenses in the deck than Dune (so the loss of a weapon/defense in battle is not as dramatic). In Dune, I have seen players all but eliminated on turn one for the rest of the game, not so much in Rex.

Having said that, you can still screw up big time in Rex and suffer the consequences. But, you know what? It’s harsh but fair. Dune/Rex for me is kind of like Dark Souls (DS is WAY less punishing) – 90% of the times that I fail, I know why, and I can actually pinpoint the exact wrong decision. For example, a major source of frustration for a new player is losing most of their resources after committing them to a relatively unimportant battle early in the game. And I know that’s devastating and boring because that had happened to me. But then I realized, I had so many options of NOT getting into a battle I was not sure to win on the first place, or to minimize my losses, or even strike a deal with my opponent to avoid the unnecessary waste of body’s moisture.

Which leads me to my second jab at Dune – unlike Dune, Rex is perfectly playable with four, which seriously cuts down both the hassle of organizing a game and the playing time – and as such is way more newbie-friendly.
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Let's Talk: Dune 18 Oct 2016 22:42 #236442

Both those jabs are strong-points not negatives for me and I believe that is echoed by both my group of veteran gamers and the new players I've introduced the game to. They want it to be an event with six and they want their decisions to have the utmost of consequences. The peaks of the game should be highly dramatic, not watered down. If you eliminate yourself on turn one for the rest of the game in Dune, its likely because you made a gambit that did not play out or you stuck your neck out where you didn't need to, and almost everyone learns from those errors quickly. I watched a player hand a game to Harkonnens almost battleless because he hated that the other 4 people relied on him to "do what's best for the game" and wouldn't be pushed around. Very meta game decision, but it had lasting impact and the drama of those results play into these types of game moments. I guess if you want to play Dune for children, then Rex sounds like it might fit the bill.
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Let's Talk: Dune 19 Oct 2016 01:15 #236447

I like your definition of Rex as "Dune for kids". Rex is definitely a younger, slightly gentler sister to the harsh mistress Dune.
Thing is, I don't find this comparison demeaning.
If you have a group of dedicated players, enough time to play, and get to break out Dune on regular basis, it makes zero sense to switch to Rex. And if you have no trouble bringing in new acolytes players, so much better.

I brought Rex to a group that usually played Cosmic after I realized that I didn't play Dune nearly enough and that I couldn't bring new players in. I was reluctant, too, not only because Space Turtles instead of Bene Gesserit, but also because I found the rules to be a dumbed down Dun,, with a lot of cool stuff missing. However, the general impression with those players was very positive - they saw Rex as a more complicated, weighty, dramatic and ultimately more satisfying version of CE. And I realized that Dune doesn't need to be "a very special event game", and could be actually played on regular basis instead of admired from a distance.
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Let's Talk: Dune 19 Oct 2016 05:52 #236450

Da Bid Dabid wrote:
Both those jabs are strong-points not negatives for me and I believe that is echoed by both my group of veteran gamers and the new players I've introduced the game to. They want it to be an event with six and they want their decisions to have the utmost of consequences. The peaks of the game should be highly dramatic, not watered down. If you eliminate yourself on turn one for the rest of the game in Dune, its likely because you made a gambit that did not play out or you stuck your neck out where you didn't need to, and almost everyone learns from those errors quickly. I watched a player hand a game to Harkonnens almost battleless because he hated that the other 4 people relied on him to "do what's best for the game" and wouldn't be pushed around. Very meta game decision, but it had lasting impact and the drama of those results play into these types of game moments. I guess if you want to play Dune for children, then Rex sounds like it might fit the bill.

This is fantastic. Unfortunately I am unlikely to be able to gather a Group of 6 to commit to such an experience. I envy you a great deal, and appreciate you sharing your experiences. I agree completely that this kind of gaming experience is very special - if you can find it, or make it happen. Investing the time to understand the game, to go through the Learning curve together, to understand the meta as you call it, thats wonderful, the incident you described about the guy who refused to do his in game meta duty which then influenced how later games played out. Thats gold. Also if you don't get to that Point, you can never understand that the threat of utter annihilation early in the game actually matters
That's kind of the whole Point. In that regard, the description of Rex as Dune for kids makes it sound more like Dune for eurogamers.

I've Heard various complaints about Dune, one day I might try to post them so you can give your feedback on them, but without having played either, I can say that in my mind, Dune is a game I would absolutely love to play and experience - in the way you describe it. Rex can suck my balls because here's the thing, this is a game where the setting is absolutely an important factor in its appeal. Sure it may be a cool combat system but I am not interested in a talking fucking lion or that ugly as crap board they came up with. Dune. The Desert Planet. The Fremen. It's a bit of a shame we've not been able to drag more games out of that Amazing universe.
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Let's Talk: Dune 19 Oct 2016 18:54 #236522

Split the Dune discussion into its own thread by request.
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Let's Talk: Dune 19 Oct 2016 21:38 #236524

Firstly, welcome aboard Bojack. I would love to hear the mentioned complaints and respond. I believe Dune is the finest designed game I've ever played, its not my favorite (behind BB and TI), but I never have left a session not being impressed how it plays. It helps that I'm a whore to asymmetric player powers and this is the grand daddy king-shit of that style. Also no game I've played can even come close to claiming how well it integrates the feel of the source material, it really is astonishing, it doesn't hurt that Dune is my all time favorite novel in that regard. It matters 100% when you lose Chani vs whoever lion dude and I am actually a huge fan of TI and think its setting is fine for games despite the blandness.

You may be interested in seeing how I got a group of players, none who had played before, dug in deep to the game in a series of posts I reported on this site:
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 8

Damn I miss playing games with those guys...
Vlad wrote:
And I realized that Dune doesn't need to be "a very special event game", and could be actually played on regular basis instead of admired from a distance.

The problem is that being "a very special event game" is exactly what makes it so great. By sacrificing that for playablity in your case, you are also sacrificing what your experience could and perhaps should be. That may be great for your group, I play a horrible version of Bingo with my daughter because she couldn't handle playing something else. Playing a game with her is great and fun, but I'm not gonna dare tell anyone that Family Bingo is a better choice to play or a better made game than Settlers just cause I get it to the table more. I drink a lot more Labatt Blue than Two Hearted Ale, but I sure as hell know that two hearted is a better beer. But Labatt is cheap... just like Rex ;)
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Let's Talk: Dune 19 Oct 2016 23:38 #236532

Dabid, I read and enjoyed those session reports long before this debate, but did not realize you were the author until now :)

And Dune is my favorite game by far, for the same reasons you've stated in your post. It's a wonderful blend of mechanics and theme.
Rex's theme is cheap and visual presentation a sore (I have no words to express how much I hate that board).
However, from pure mechanics standpoint, it is basically the same game as Dune, except dumbed down or streamlined (depending on how elitist you wanna get)
I think it's undisputed that it is more accessible and takes less time to play (by the way, just remembered that Matt Thrower here did a review that echoes my impressions pretty well: www.nohighscores.com/2012/07/13/rex-review/).

I personally think that the designers at FFG did a great job on this one, and who knows whether Rex's legacy would have been different had they retained the original IP.

For my part, I played Rex for about a year before making a PnP copy of Rex re-themed back to Dune, and I haven't missed Dune ever since. Rex/Dune hits the table on a regular basis, with different types of players, and is usually chosen over CE, Spartacus, Cosmic or Chaos in the Old World (even with four players). Everybody just loves it (which makes me very happy). In fact, we're going to have a 4-player game this week-end, which I was very excited about before you pointed out that such pass-time is cheap and inappropriate :)
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Let's Talk: Dune 20 Oct 2016 04:54 #236534

Interesting thread.

I've only played Dune a few times, but I think I'm in a minority of naysayers here. Not that it's a bad game: it's very good. I just don't think it's entirely worth the adoration heaped on it and one of the key reasons why is that combat system.

See, Dune's combat, especially early on, is a mess of hidden information. In reality, unknown information in a game is no different to a dice roll. If you have no idea at all what number your opponent has dialed or what cards he's holding, you are effectively guessing, gambling. You might as well use a CRT or battle cards or a fistful of dice instead.

However, because there's no actual randomness, it feels like you somehow "ought" to have done better. Even if you win, you "ought" to have dialled less troops or "should" have saved that card you didn't need to play. These factors are under your control, the decisions yours and stressful even though the reality is that you were gambling just as much as Risk or Nexus Ops. Whatever the outcome, it tastes sour. That's not fun, in my book.

Later on it changes, of course, because you have more opportunities to understand what your opponents are holding, what they have in mind. But there's still a much greater element of chance than it appears.

The comparison between Dune and CE is insightful and it's not one I've made myself. The combat resolution is similar in many ways, except everyone can see what you've "dialed". But the cards and the fickle nature of alliances make it clear that the outcome has a hefty dose of randomness and that the skill is in social engineering. It's much less grueling, much more entertaining.
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Let's Talk: Dune 20 Oct 2016 06:54 #236535

MattDP wrote:
See, Dune's combat, especially early on, is a mess of hidden information. In reality, unknown information in a game is no different to a dice roll. If you have no idea at all what number your opponent has dialed or what cards he's holding, you are effectively guessing, gambling. You might as well use a CRT or battle cards or a fistful of dice instead.
I understand what you mean Matt, but I don't quite agree. I think there are several strategic considerations that make hidden information much, much different from dice rolls or other sources of randomness.

1) Dice do not consider take strategy into account: There are reasons in Dune to bid high and reasons to bid low. For example, if a player needs to hold a certain territory he won't suicide the troops needed to hold it. Similarly more important objectives justify a higher level of attrition than objectives of lower importance and that also dictates the bids.

A die doesn't care about any of that, it's completely irrational and would happily spend all your resources on killing a single dude sitting in the most useless corner of the map. Efficiency matters.

2) If you know, I know. If your bids are dictated by strategic considerations, and I know those strategic considerations, I can guess your bids.

3) Players have philosophies, a die doesn't:: Different players face the same problem in different ways. Some are more conservative, some are more likely to try to wheel and deal out of a situation and others focus more on pure efficiency. In games with hidden information you can and even must understand that in order to win. You should not play the same way against all opponents because, unlike dice, they don't play the same way.

4) Well-designed games are fairly precise:
I haven't played Dune, so I don't know how precise it is, but many games can reach incredible levels of precision despite the hidden information. Automobile is the best example.

In Automobile the total demand for cars each turn is not fully known to the players. "Demand tiles" ranging from 2 to 5 is drawn by each player but you can only check yours so you only have an approximation of what the full demand will be. So there's a dilemma because any cars produced in excess will result in losses and any cars not produced will result in a loss of potential income.

Except it doesn't happen that often. Even with newbies, the numbers of cars produced is 85% of the time the exact demand. Players unknowingly adjust to the moves made by other players resulting in equilibrium being reached despite the hidden information.


Now, I do symphatize with you when it comes to this feeling of "sourness" that sometimes sips into games. Making mistakes in Blood Rage makes me feel bad because the game snowballs immediately and you need to keep too much stuff in mind.
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Let's Talk: Dune 20 Oct 2016 08:21 #236538

MattDP wrote:
See, Dune's combat, especially early on, is a mess of hidden information. In reality, unknown information in a game is no different to a dice roll. If you have no idea at all what number your opponent has dialed or what cards he's holding, you are effectively guessing, gambling. You might as well use a CRT or battle cards or a fistful of dice instead.

Except that almost everything that is hidden usually can be bought for a price or modified by some above the table play. If you really have no idea what is coming you likely will lose the battle or perhaps you shouldn't have been involved in it in the first place. Not that you can always avoid that fate, but players that pay attention and seek out that hidden information will always be rolling loaded "dice".
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Let's Talk: Dune (or Rex) 20 Oct 2016 09:10 #236540

I really don't understand the FFG decision to make an ugly flowchart instead of a planetary map for Rex.
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