- For the board game, see Rex: Final Days of an Empire, the reissue name.
Dune is the best selling science fiction/fantasy novel of all time. Written by Frank Herbert in 1965, it won several prestigious awards, including the very first Nebula Award for Best Novel, and went on to become an incredibly influential classic of the genre. Since then, it's been adapted to all sorts of media, including board games, video games, two mini-series, and a movie. Surprisingly, we are not all that obsessed with it, but we do respect Dune for all it's done for sci-fi.
Dune is weird. Really, really weird. You might think a fantasy series is weird because the elves are grown in tree pods or something, but that's nothing compared to Dune. Think about, for example, Alf: a by the books formulaic 1980s sitcom in which a suburban American family has a goofy alien living in their home, cue zany hi-jinks and canned laughter. A stock mundane set up with one moderately fantastic element. That's not Dune. That's about as far from Dune as you could get and still be called sci-fi. It comes from an era of experimentation in Sci-Fi and it's weird even by it's standard. Dune is a drug-filled trip following strange characters in a world highly removed from our own, navigating a foreign political landscape in which we get to see their strange motivations marching to its own rules and internal logic. Some people love it for its weirdness, others hate it for its weirdness. Regardless, weirdness is the name of the game going into Dune.
In the distant future, human civilization relies on "spice", a drug that expands its user's perceptions and triples the lifespan. Because electronic computers are taboo, even over ten thousand years after the Butlerian Jihad against thinking machines, interstellar travel relies on spice-using Navigators to plot safe paths through space and Mentats use spice to increase their cognitive abilities, becoming human computers able to process vast amounts of data. You could buy a mansion on a core Imperial world for a deciliter of spice. Its most unpleasant withdrawal symptom is inevitable death. Naturally, "the spice must flow" is a common sentiment. Basically spice acts as plot device to explain the politic struggle in the books and to explain all sorts of magic-like stuff in the dune universe, without quite leaving the field of sci-fi.
Spice cannot be synthesized and is found on only one planet: Arrakis, a bone-dry dustball where enormous sandworms produce it as part of their life cycle. Imperial citizens only live there to extract, process, and export spice, living in fear of their overseers, the sandworms, and the human natives called the Fremen. Whoever controls Arrakis has a stranglehold on the whole of human civilization, and so when a conspiracy to hide this fact breaks down multiple factions fight each other for control of it or to use it against their enemies.
The six books of the original series (Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God-Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse Dune) principally follow the scions of House Atreides as their futures become inextricably tied to Arrakis, the spice, and the future of humanity.
Dune is probably one of the most in-depth science fiction books ever written, considering the utter detail that goes into sociological, ecological, political, and economic elements that are added so neatly. It's like a textbook, only far cooler. Opinion on the later books in the series is split, with some feeling it's a continuous decline in quality through to the end, an increase in crap until you're four books in when you notice you're reading a doorstop chiefly composed of Leto whining that turning into a sandworm is haaaard, while others feel the next three books are crucial to understanding the themes Herbert started to explore in the original Dune (especially the damaging effects of hero worship on society). Still, everyone agrees that the prequels and sequels written after his death by his son are irredeemably bad, so avoid those unless you're a sensate trying to experience the whole spectrum of human emotion and the next thing on your list is mind-numbing disappointment and boredom.
With a new movie coming out, it's worth breaking down the politics of the first book. Here are the major factions and their motivations:
- House Atreides: Duke Leto rules the planet Caladan and the Emperor has named him the next ruler of Arrakis. The Bene Gesserit had meanwhile foisted a concubine on him, Jessica, and ordered her to give him a daughter; but the couple ended up in love with each other so Jessica gave him a son - Paul - instead of a daughter whom the Bene Gesserit could have actual use for. Leto then legitimated his fitz as his heir thus pushing useful marriage alliances to that next generation. Leto has amassed a formidable council of advisors: Gurney Halleck, an escaped Harkonnen slave who rose through the ranks to become warmaster (played by Picard himself, Patrick Stewart); Thufir Hawat, Mentat and his master of assassins; Duncan Idaho, also an escaped slave and now a swordmaster of the Ginaz school and the Atreides House champion; and Wellington Yueh, a medical doctor of the Suk school conditioned to be unable to kill. Paul is a prime candidate to marry the Emperor's daughter Irulan, but Leto's motivations are simply to keep his house safe. Or are they? In an opera all about grey morality, the Atreides are the heroes and good guys. And good guys they are: they struggle to govern fairly and treat people well and even save the whole human race. But scratch heavily under that - which is exactly what the books are trying to make you do: scratch and make the scratching difficult - and you start to question it. A lot - and I mean billions of people really hate the Atreides. And for good reason. Behind that "saviour complex" attitude, there's a frightening power hungry. That's why Shaddam IV - which was not a tyrant, in contrast to Paul, and was not an evil man, sided with the Harkonnens - who he despised - to fuck up the Atreides. Because he feared their rise to power. Was he wrong? I mean, after defeating him, Paul not only became Emperor, but he ruled with an iron fist and a body count in the millions. Did he have good reasons to do that? Yeah, so he says.
- House Harkonnen: For the last century, the Harkonnen have held fief over Arrakis, and their term is ending. The Harkonnen have had a family feud with the Atreides for millennia. The Siridar Baron, Vladimir Harkonnen (one of the most evil men this side of the universe), has no children (as far as we know at the beginning), but rather two nephews, Rabban (the Beast) and Feyd-Rautha (the pretty one, played by Sting). He and his advisor, a Twisted Mentat named Piter de Vries, want to settle all accounts: wipe out the Atreides, reclaim Arrakis, marry Feyd to Princess Irulan, and take control of the Empire.
- House Corrino: The house of the Padishah Emperor. Claims to rule all of space. The incumbent Emperor, Shaddam Corrino IV, has several daughters but no sons through his Bene Gesserit wife. He sees the potential end of his line and what could happen to his house. He knows that Leto is immensely popular and has amassed a formidable army, trained almost to the level of his own elite Sardaukar, and that represents a threat to his power that he cannot ignore. Shaddam conspires with the Harkonnens to lure Leto and his house into a trap on Arrakis and wipe them out.
- The Bene Gesserit: A religious order of battle nuns and courtesans with psychometabolic powers. The sisterhood is nearing the culmination of thousands of years of selective breeding to produce a superman, but their plans were thrown into disorder when Jessica gave birth to a son instead of a daughter. To salvage their project they need either Paul or Feyd to survive and have a child, preferably through Irulan (although losing either one will be a setback).
- The Bene Tleilax: Also known as "Tleilaxu" (the first L is silent), this patriarchal, isolationist group contains the universe's premier genetic engineers. Their clients view them as both useful and borderline heretics for how closely they skirt the letter of the Butlerian taboos. We don't actually meet any Tleilaxu agents until the events of Dune Messiah.
- The Spacing Guild: An order of mutants who control all interstellar travel, as their Navigators are the only safe way to travel between stars without forbidden computers. The Guild is the real power behind the Emperor: they want stability on Arrakis and will work with whoever can promise that... and against anyone who threatens their supply of spice. The spice must flow.
- The Fremen: The "natives" of Arrakis, the Fremen are the descendants of the Zensunni Wanderers (a fusion religion of Buddhism and Sunni Islam) who ended their pilgrimage on Arrakis. The Fremen know the desert and how to survive it better than any off-worlder, so a Great House that rules the planet must deal with them in one fashion or another. The Harkonnen tried to kill them to no avail, but Duke Leto believes he can win their allegiance through cunning and diplomacy. The Bene Gesserit - through the Missionaria Protectiva - have conditioned them to believe in a coming messiah; while the Emperor's rogue planetologist, Liet Kynes, has enthralled them with a vision of terraforming Arrakis into a paradise.
Into all this, add partial precognition (among other psychic talents) on the part of the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild, both with self-acknowledged serious blind spots, and that Leto's son Paul is far more important than anybody realizes at the start of the first book, and you have yourself a recipe for a grade-A nuclear clusterfuck of politics.
Being amongst the most popular science fiction books ever, the Dune saga has been massively influential in future works. But Frank Herbert work is notoriously complex, deep, full of philosophical themes that are explored in full. Multiple readings are required to start to grasp some of the most interesting ideas. The average science fiction writer would or could not go that far into complexity. This means that often some of the themes in Dune, are then simplified and "dumbed down" in other works. Some of these other works being extremely popular themselves, they codified these tropes in a way that makes sometimes difficult to appreciate how well thought were the original.
The Butlerian Jihad, which is the revolt against the machines that make that there are no computers in the Dune universe, is the forefather of all Terminator/BSG/40k revolts of the AIs. But in the Jihad, apparently, the AIs didn't revolt against the humans. Instead, it was the humans that decided that the thinking machines, and the way that they were used, was bad for humanity. Details are not explored, but it's strongly hinted that machines were used by humans to oppress other humans and also hindered the development of human potential by taking away the necessity - and therefore the ability - of human beings to learn how to do things and do them better.
What's clear is that the Butlerian Jihad is not a catastrophe that falls upon humanity and takes away technology and progress from them, it's instead a powerful revolution that frees humanity from shackles they themselves built and enables them to move into the next stage of their evolution. Isn't that more interesting than "Evil robo toasters kill humans because bad"?
Similarly, the apparent lack of technical progress in Dune, which clearly inspired 40k, is definitely not stagnation of progress. Dune's people simply stopped identifying "progress" with the act of creating a better machine and started to focus on how to make and be a better human. As the Butlerian Jihad destroyed computers, they created Mentats. Human beings trained to think in a way that would be able to substitute computers for data analysis and, ultimately, much more powerful than any thinking machine ever existed. Not only that but it's stated by a Mentat in the first book, that even a "normal" human would be able at that point to outthink the AIs of old, hinting that human evolution and mental training has surpassed anything technological. This is again, very clever if you stop thinking about it. Nowadays there are 7 billion human brains on earth, each one of that hundred times more powerful than the more powerful supercomputer, yet we invest enormous resources to research and build these advanced computers. Wouldn't be more sensible to learn how to use our own brains to do these tasks? What if we could "simply" learn to run advanced simulations and protein folding in our brain?
This difference in the definition of "progress" for people in Dune, resembles a lack of innovation and science. But reading more carefully is clearly not the case. Science is clearly present in the universe and used to understand and learn. In one of the books, we have an example of a physicist describing Paul's prescience from the point of view of quantum mechanics. Also, the whole story of the Dune planet is arguably set in motion before the events of the first book by the "Imperial Planetologist" Leit Kynes, a scientist sent to understand the ecology of Arrakis and the mystery of Spice. Kynes will ultimately turn the nomadic Fremen into a tribe of top-notch biologists who would run a planet-wide network of research laboratories and start a huge process of terraforming.
These examples demonstrate that science and research are still very relevant in the Dune universe. Only progress would no be to create a new generation of better machines but instead to improve the human being. And improve them they did. The most glaring examples are the Bene Gesserit, who, through controlled evolution and training, would develop literal superpowers like the ability to detect lies, foresee the future, access ancestra memories, control their internal chemistry to the point of stop ageing and neutralize poisons. At one point a Bene Gesserit is described while neutralizing a poison to use her senses of smell and taste as a chemical lab to identify the substance that was poisoning her. As you can see, this is still very much science, just very different science.
Influence on Warhammer 40k
Being a highly successful series with an unique and interesting universe it is obvious that Games Workshop
stole took inspiration from Dune more than an Blood Raven in an unlocked reliquary. While this topic is up for debate the following were most likely borrowed from the Dune universe:
- Close combat / Melee: The Dune universe is close-combat-heavy because the Holtzman effect changed the face of warfare. The effect can be utilized to generate a man-sized field that can deflect matter that travels beyond a certain speed. This means that bullets are useless against people equipped with shields; this also means that air molecules can't pass through the shield, so you'd better get your fighting over with before you collapse from heatstroke and/or suffocate on your own CO2. "But there's lasguns in Dune!" Yes, Timmy, there are, but when a laser beam hits a shield, the shooter, the target, and the surrounding landscape are deleted in a massive explosion, so nobody tries it (although "accidents" do happen). Swordsmanship has come back into style due to the high risk of using laser weapons leading to a reliance on melee combat. This story element was due to author appeal, as Herbert wanted close combat in the story.
- As a side note, one of the reasons why House Atrides is so dangerous is that they discovered a workaround; based on the “Weirding Way” of the Bene Gesserit, soldiers can use “Killing words” to shoot sonic blasts into enemies, strong enough to crush stone with a single word. In the films it’s aided with the help of a handheld device, but in the novels it’s more of a kung-fu technique. Now as for the former; a sound-based weapon that ignores armor and delivers bone-crushing injuries, where have we heard that one?
- Navigators: The Dune universe has Navigators which are slightly similar to their 40k counterparts. Only source of ship travel? Check. Highly mutated? Check. Mutation worsens over time? Check. Some sort of magical powers, but somehow different from everyone else's? Check. Living outside of all political powers? Check. Having their own political agendas? Check. Secretive? Double fucking check. Basically they are the exact same thing with the small exceptions that they need spice to live. Also, Herbert may have cribbed them from the 1950 Cordwainer Smith story "Scanners Live in Vain".
- No AI allowed: Basically the same story, AI goes bad, tries to conquer humanity, gets its virtual arse kicked, and is subsequently forbidden. While the backstory is a little different, the outcome is still the same. However, Dune is a little bit more restrictive when it comes to Cogitators or Servitors and uses humans hyper-trained from birth (and fucked up on drugs) known as "Mentats" as supercomputers instead.
- Actually, the backstory is quite more than a little different and the outcome is very much not the same. It's not clear what really happened during the Butlerian Jihad, but it's strongly hinted that the human revolted against the machines because what the usage of machines meant for society and not because the evil machines turned against humanity. This is way more interesting than the common "evil terminator" trope. The outcome is also very different in that the Butlerian Jihad unchains the true development of the human mind and body, ultimately far surpassing any AI capability.
- Death Worlds: Dune has two of them, Arrakis and the Emperor's nuked-out hellhole Salusa Secundus. Like in 40K, death worlds are places where virtually everything, from the life to the landscape, is out to kill you, and anyone who manages to grow up there is operating on an entire different level from the rest of humanity and are also generally out to kill you. The Emperor uses Salusa to train his elite army and his advisor Count Fenring fears that someone will make an army out of the Fremen.
- The mother-fucking God-Emprah: While the idea of a galactic Emperor is nothing new, Dune was debatably the first setting which implemented a de facto immortal god-emperor. Decades of worshiping the 40k Empra is likely to make those fans think Dune's Leto II is some pathetic false-Emperor (just look how they treat Palpatine) but make no mistake: while he might not crush tanks with his brain, God-Emperor Leto II earned his worship after turning himself into an immortal giant worm with precognitive powers. And not wishy-washy Jedi vision precog, no, this is full on Doctor Strange sees all possible futures precognition. And unlike Palpatine's narcissist attitude, Leto is secretly altruistic to his subjects like his 40k counterpart despite some... questionable ethical choices regarding tyranny, free will, and bloodshed.
- Feudalism IN SPACE!: Under the "faufreluche" system, the Houses were de facto autonomous states, with the Landsraad functioning as a space UN for the Houses to conduct business and address grievances with each other. The rules of the Great Convention prevented the Padishah Emperor from taking sides in any case of House-to-House warfare and defined the rules of "kanly," how two Houses may go to war with each other without endangering innocent bystanders. The Imperium of Man's organization is similar to this system, where a central authority figure is distant and difficult to contact, which means that the various jurisdictions that ostensibly answer to it are generally left to fend for themselves unless a major threat appears.
- Super-soldiers: Before the Space Marines, there were the Sardaukar. Taken to a death world at a tender age and subjected to absurdly-harsh training that kills roughly half of the initiates, the Sardaukar are superior to the forces that the Great Houses could raise against them. The only other warriors in the Imperium said to be on the same level are the top-level Ginaz Swordmasters, but the Ginaz are duelists and bodyguards, not grunt soldiers.
- Lasgun: As explained above, the term "Lasgun" came from Dune. Although a notable difference is that they're not your usual flashlights, but can rip a person in half, and if it enters in contact with a personal shield it explodes in the yield of a nuke.
- Ornithopter/Archaeopter: In Dune, the most common form of flying vehicles inside atmospheres are Ornithopters (commonly called "thopters"), which are vehicles that move by rapidly moving their wings. In 40K, the Adeptus Mechanicus got their hands on their own Ornithopters in the form of the Archaeopter.
- Tleilaxu Axolotl Tanks: SPOILERS FOR DUNE AHEAD one of the factions in Dune's universe, the Tleilaxu (who are masters of biotechnology), are very, very secretive when it comes to their women. In fact, throughout almost three books we have only met their men, and heard vague stories about all their women being kept on their home planet. At the same time it is widely known that the Tleilaxu can breed gholas (living men made out of dead flesh) in their axolotl tanks... Three books in some Bene Gesserit witch adds two and two together, asks the right person all the wrong (from his POV) questions and confirms that the tanks are actually what's left of the Tleilaxu females. Basically, once a Tleilaxu female reaches the age of puberty they destroy her brain, cyber her up and use her to pump out gholas and whatever else they need.
- Dune - The original novel.
The Lord of the Rings of sci-fi.Very influential? Yes! Defining the Genre the way Tolkien did? No. Don't forget that sci-fi helped shape modern Fantasy where pre-modern Fantasy helped shape sci-fi (eg; fairies and elves = aliens, alchemy = chemistry). The first book serves as a stand-alone story in the style of a traditional epic and a follows typical dramatic structure (the sequels... eh). It reads well, and each chapter centers around a particular character or topic without feeling disjointed. You know the plot. Paul controls the spice and controls the universe.
- Dune Messiah - Detailing Paul's jihad and rule of the Imperium. While Dune is a story on its own, this sequel was hacked off of the first book when it became too long and turned into a sequel. If you at least agree that the first book was good, then problems start to show here but not by much.
- Children of Dune - Detailing the rise of Paul's children. The third book and the end of the first trilogy, except Messiah is under half the length of Dune and God Emperor making this one feel like the second book of a trilogy. Paul is gone and the story switches to his son Leto II as he struggles with the prescience powers he inherited from his father on the inside and everyone and their sister trying to get his place and/or influence him on the outside. This book reads like the main character is high and does not know where he is for most of the story (which is actually fine, considering he's an 8 year old kid struggling with becoming almost omniscient, people trying to kill him, and he is both high and kidnapped), and it is disjointed enough that the reader feels the same (which is not, because a constant "WTF am I reading?" feeling as one wrestles through the book makes for a poor reading experience).
- God Emperor of Dune - Leto II of the House of Atreides has fused with the last sandworm and become immortal in what is probably the most iconic thing outside of the first book. Disappointed in the mildness of his father's jihad, he creates the most oppressive regime that he can to tap into humanity's basest and darkest instincts so that a eugenics program can strengthen humanity to the point where it can never go extinct, followed by them scattering away from his empire and becoming completely decentralized throughout the universe. That is the 'Golden Path' thing. The entire book started off as a continuous monologue by the main character with the rest written in later and it shows. What were the characters actually doing again? Killing one another?
- Heretics of Dune - Humanity has scattered away from known space after being oppressed for so long, and no one thing can kill them now... maybe. God Emperor was actually the start of a trilogy centered around a girl named Sheeana and the clones (or gholas, because the cells started off dead) of Duncan Idaho. The Bene Gesserit take center stage and they and the reader must deal with their inability to be anything but clandestine antagonists.
- Chapterhouse: Dune - The Bene Gesserit make one of their primary planets into a new Dune because they need the spice to use their abilities. The Honored Matres, worse Bene Gesserit returned from the Scattering, have conquered pretty much everything with mind-control sex and regular violence. Can our heroes thwart them? No one knows, as Duncan calculates/foresees something that neither he or the readers know about and flies a ship off to who-knows-where, followed by Frank Herbert's death.
- Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune - Based on the rough draft for the unfinished Dune 7, these two works function as a direct sequel to Chapterhouse: Dune. If you really want the series to have an ending... this is what you get. Requires reading Legends of Dune.
- Prelude to Dune series: A prequel series set right before the events of the first novel when all the adults from that book were the age that buys young adult novels. Not that bad, but all the villains are evil sadists and all the heroes are good people.
- Legends of Dune series: A prequel series that shows the Butlerian Jihad not as a conflict where religious Luddites win, but as a war where wargame-loving hacker teens take over mankind's servant robots and cause a robot war that overthrows the Old Empire on Earth and enslaves humanity. The League of Nobles (note that unlike the pages of justification for original Imperium, feudalism just seems to naturally happen at this point in human history) rallies around manufactured religious zealotry to eventually win at great cost (like losing 1% of our fleet every jump cost).
- Heroes of Dune series: A series of interquels about this and that.
Alejandro Jodorowsky, a French-Chilean director that made balls-to-the-walls experimental movies, was slated to direct a film adaptation with set design from H.R. Giger, effects by Dan O'Bannon, conceptual art by comic book artist Moebius, music from Pink Floyd and Magma, and starring Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, David Carradine, and Mick Jagger, though sadly it ran out of money in pre-production. Even if it has never been realized, it has a cult following for just the possibilities of "what could've been", even though it would take the already psychedelic book and rump the weirdness up to eleven and it would have been at least 14 to 20 hours long. The failed production would also be very influential in later science fiction films; Giger and O'Bannon would go on to contribute to the production of Alien, and many of its sets were recycled by George Lucas in Star Wars.
The David Lynch movie absolutely sucked in that it managed to make an already very weird book into an even weirder movie (
saying this out loud is a good way to troll hipsters Not really. Even Lynch knew it sucked, as evidenced by the fact he had his name removed from the television cut). If you want a good laugh I'd suggest you watch it -- it's not often that you'll see a fetal manatee shit/barf lasers. It's a classic case of Hollywood taking an amazing work of art and deciding "the audience" won't like it, so they got rid of the parts they didn't understand. If you've read the book, the butchery is even more hilarious cringe-worthy full of lulz, though I suggest you don't watch the movie first. Who, after all, would want to read The Odyssey after seeing the movie? I'd suggest you see the movie as well, as it is also that bad awesome. Good soundtrack though. The film is still a worthwhile experience just for the setting, but absolutely fails at making the narrative compelling.
The Syfy Channel produced two six-hour mini-series based on the first three books. Though low-budget (it has the Babylon 5 problem of painfully crude CGI), they do manage to touch on each of the important plot points from those books and there's no skimping on the action to make "weirding module" toys to be sold as merchandise. Worth watching for what it is, and not ironically like the abortion above. If you watch both you can imagine how much better it would have been with the budget and actors Lynch had at his disposal. Also the soundtrack for the second installment is dope; same guy who did Thor: The Dark World.
Denis Villeneuve, of Arrival and Sicario fame, is now slated to helm a new adaptation. As of fall 2020, the trailer is up and it's... ehhhhhhhhhhh. At first glance it looks like the mini-series done with a respectable effects budget and better actors, but we won't know if this is the one until it hits the screens. Using a grimdark mix of Dark Side of the Moon was a nice nod to the Jodorowsky project, but it means we don't know much about the actual score, and Dune movies kinda rely on the music to be up to the epicness of the footage. In addition, the race/gender swaps are unnecessary as usual.
As an RPG Setting
Frank Herbert went into SO MUCH DETAIL in his novels, you've got plenty of material to use as a campaign setting. You've got politics, fightan, more politics, space travel, enough politics to give Machiavelli a headache, and room for quasi-magic shit. Go nuts.
There was an official Dune RPG, "Chronicles of the Imperium," but it got mired in legal bullshit, Wizards bought it out, did a 'Limited Edition' run of 3000 books, and then the high masters at Hasbro said "no more licensed property" and eighty-sixed the game so nobody would see it ever again. Assholes.
- The only adventure module, unpublished even for an unpublished game.
There is also a Modiphius RPG out.
Like a lot of Modiph's stuff, it uses a modified spin on their 2d20 system, meaning you usually roll 2d20's under a (generous if highly skilled) target number, with extraneous successes going towards a Momentum pool that can be used to give the player's advantage later. This spin on 2d20 is more narrativistic, with "Drives" in place of attributes and the same conflict resolution system used for different scales of conflict, from duels, to wars to courtly intrigue, but utilizing different "Assets" to aid each. As for the lore, it is quite faithful to the books according to multiple sources. While the default era is presumed to be before the first Dune book, it can be set in any of the Frank-written time periods.
Art direction-wise, it draws heavily from the new Villaneuve movie.
The first video game adaptation of Dune was what can best be described as a Visual Novel mixed with a little Risk Boardgame. You play as Paul Atreides and it roughly follows the events of the original book. The goal is to recruit Fremen and eventually kick the Harkonnen from the planet.
The videogame many oldfags remember fondly, however, is Dune 2, hailed as the first "true" RTS game that got it right and paved the way for all the others. It's widely-accredited as putting Westwood on the map. While it was set in the universe, it did not actually take place during the time of the books, instead much earlier. It was remade in 1998 as part of a renovation attempt, and the resulting game, Dune 2000, was a fun if somewhat off-centered RTS boasting fairly decent balance and was great fun to play in multiplayer LAN games, but it was hindered by the fact that the bulk of its gameplay had been lifted from Command and Conquer - Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert, creating a sort of hybrid that (justifiably in some cases) pissed off fans of both franchises. Then again, it had fucking Gimli as an Atreides Mentat, a kickass robo-Mentat that gets progressively more drugged out for the Ordos, and a good atmosphere and set design readily conscious of the curious, or least unique aspects of the Lynch film's asthetics, so even then it has some good qualities. It was quite clearly produced with love of the universe, and emphasized the game was taking place in an earlier time, so as not to fuck with the books' canon.
Westwood later did one of the first 3D RTS's not soon after, Emperor - Battle for Dune. Though the game ditched a standard campaign progression with the now familiar Risk-style campaign, it still had unique missions and a unique campaign for all three sides. The story took off right after the events of the last game (namely, Padishah-Emperor Corrino is dead with no one to succeed him) and thus the Spacing Guild and the Sisters avert a civil war by holding that whichever House can win a limited War of Assassins on Arrakis will be crowned Padishah-Emperor of the Known Universe. Contains all sorts of surprising twists and turns (like everyone gloriously violating galactic law, and IT'S A T-gmphmmhmhhhhhhh!!!!), and the cinematics and cast were quite nicely done as well. Especially since it's live action. This, sadly, would not be the last Dune video game.
You see, there's also Frank Herbert's Dune, action-adventure game based on the mini-series. How good was it? Well, just think for a brief moment about why didn't you hear about it before you read this article.
There are three boardgames worth mentioning that were based on Dune. The first and best remembered is the 1979 Avalon Hill game made by the same guys that made Cosmic Encounter; it's one of the crown jewels of the Avalon Hill body of work. The game property was bought by Final Flight Games, but the owners of the Dune trademarks said "no," so FFG published the game using their Twilight Imperium setting as a prequel to that wargame. See more about both games at Rex: Final Days of an Empire. A reprint of the Avalon Hill game is now available from Gale Force Nine, as is 2 faction expansion pack with the Ixians & Tleilaxu. Get your crysknifes ready, because it's gonna be a slaughterfest.
- BoardgameGeek link to the Avalon Hill game
- BoardgameGeek link to the FFG remake
- BoardgameGeek Link to the reprint
There was a trashy tie-in merchandise boardgame based on the David Lynch movie. Paper pasted on cardboard, roll-and-move race game, typical Ameritrash. The less said about that, the better.
There is a free print-and-play game "Dune Express." You can use simple coloured dice, Skittles for your armies, and draw the map on the back of a pizza box, and yet it will still feel like great houses fighting over Arrakis. A decent beer-and-preztels game without being hurr durr dumb.
Dire Wolf has now managed to get their claws onto a license to do Dune game as well, Dune: Imperium. From the initial reviews it looks like a German style resource race meeple game.