Rex: Final Days of an Empire
Dune was 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 Fantasy 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.
Since we already have a Dune article covering the setting, and need to cover the game itself, and Dune is
Out Of Print now available from Gale Force Nine, but Rex is not, we'll cover both games here. Anyway, begin the description:
Dune print of the game is set on the desert planet, Arrakis, with all factions vying for control of the planet & the spice while avoiding sand-worms. Rex printout has the setting on the capital planet of Mecatol Rex when the humans kill off the Lazax Emperor vía bombardment before all races start struggling to control the planet while avoiding the bombardment fleet.
A brutal mindfuck of a backstabbing, horribly evil game, Rex/Dune is fascinating for a few mechanics. Basic game has 8 rounds with sub-phases for scenario set up, ability purchase, troop/commander recruitment, unit deployment, combat, currency collection, and then environmental destruction before repeating. Besides that, there’s other unique mechanics. Let's go over one, the victory conditions, just to give some flavor:
A player wins if he holds three (of five) strongholds; it's also possible to win in a (publicly declared after scenario card permits it) alliance, at the cost of the stronghold required increasing to four and then five depending on the alliance’s size. There are three exceptions:
- The Fremen (or Federation of Sol in Rex) Player wins if nobody else has won by the end of round 8 and either they or nobody controls two specific locations, one of which is on top of their special spawning point.
- The Guild (or Emirates of Hacan in Rex) Player wins if Round 8 passes without the Sol/Fremen capping their two locations or any other faction winning.
- The Bene Gesserit (or Xxcha Kingdom in Rex) Player, before the game starts, predicts which player will win, and on what turn. If both of these predictions come true, they win. Note that this overrides factors like other victories, alliances, and the BG/Xxcha player getting eliminated - so along as the prediction comes true, they and only they win.
Every faction has a few bonuses, it's just that those three are the ones that involve victory.
- The Harkonnen (or Barony of Letnev) play like Germany in Axis & Allies. They begin with an advantage in numbers of treachery cards, strategy cards, good forces and wealth but it's all downhill if they don't use it to knock some others down because everyone else's strengths scale better as the game progresses.
- The Spacing Guild (or Emirates of Hacan) starts off pretty weak but accrues wealth as others bring more forces in since all other factions need to pay a tax to them if they revive/recruit soldiers & leaders (latter only if the Thleilaxu aren’t played); their ability to bring in reserves cheaply and move about the board freely favors "hit them where they're weak" strategies.
- The Emperor's (or Lazax Empire) superpower is money, and specifically getting a lot of it and being able to spend it to boost his allies. (This is because you pay him when you buy a treachery card.) Alongside a couple of super-units with twice the stats of regular soldiers, they tend to be heavyweights early on but run out of steam once everyone buys up all the cards they’re permitted to hold. If the Emperor is gonna win it's typically gonna be by an alliance with someone.
- The Atreides (or Universities of Jol-Nar) get to fucking cheat ("Because he IS the kwisatz haderach!"). Normally factions bid on treachery cards blind. The Atreides get to scry and take notes; like, this is in the rules, they're allowed to take written notes about cards and who gained them and nobody else is.
- The Fremen (or Federation of Sol) start out poor and divided up. Can ride the sandworms or get out of their way in advance, where every other faction gets nommed by them. They also get a special spawning point on top of a stronghold.
- The Bene Gesserit (or Xxcha Kingdom) as previously mentioned set their own win prediction and if its true they win alone. They also get to mess with other people's battles by telling them which cards to use or not use (one per battle); it doesn't take much imagination to see how this is really fucking broken if they're in an alliance with the Atreides (such an alliance is by no means invincible but it does put the ball in everyone else's court to crush them with numbers). Easily the weakest faction in both forces and wealth to compensate for that (although they also don't have to fight if they don't want to by disguising their warriors as diplomats and get free units on the universal neutral space, so getting rid of them is hard).
Outside of the base games, the Dune versions of the game also come with an expansion that adds the Ixians and Thleilaxu but they’re an optional add-on. Unless you’re bored and with extra cash, they’re something that you can live without. If you're curious:
- The Ixians have two kinds of army units that count as 1/2 or 2 units of every other player's army, respectively, and start out with a special movable Stronghold that counts for victory.
- The Thleilaxu take over the "leader revival/recruitment" part of the game like the Guild takes over the "reinforcements revival/recruitment" part.
Additionally, a new expansion featuring CHOAM and House Richese has been announced for Spring 2022.
- House Richese are sneaky bastards whose main gimmick is that they can manipulate the bidding phase, potentially undercutting the Emprah, and can hide how many forces they have in one place with a "NO-Field". Like the Empreror, they start will all their guys off-world.
- CHOAM are the rich one percenters who pay to win with spice laundering during the Charity phase and can even tank the economy just to stick it to everyone else. They also start will all their forces off-world.
For those filthy casuals who want a more streamlined version, GF9 also offers Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy. Conquest & Diplomacy reduces the factions to 4 (Atredies, Harkonnen, Fremen, Imperium) and gets rid of some of the jankiest rules. The card auction is gone, replaced by simply drawing new hands. The old alliance system is also absent and the Imperium has been beefed up a bit compared to the old Emperor. Combat however remains basically unchanged and the visuals have been updated to reflect the new movie. The resulting game plays somewhat like classic Dune but faster and with more emphasis on the spice economy and ground game, at the expense of depth. Baby's First Dune, so to speak.
|Classics:||Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe|
|Ameritrash:||Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars |
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Mousetrap - Snakes and Ladders - Risk
Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
|Eurogames:||Agricola - Carcassonne - The Duke - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride|
|Pure Evil:||Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly - The Duke|
|Others:||Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium - Wingspan|