Design Diary #1: The Desert War

Hello everyone! I’m Francesco Nepitello, and this is the first installment of a series of design diaries about a game I’ve been working on for a long time, together with designer Marco Maggi and developer Michele Garbuggio. I’m talking about Dune: War for Arrakis, the next big project that CMON will bring to Kickstarter!

This a special endeavour for us… the novel by Frank Herbert occupies a prominent place in the heart of all Science Fiction fans, and we at CMON are no exception. Me and Marco found ourselves in a similar spot before – when we designed War of the Ring, the strategy game based on The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

With Dune we had to capture once again what made the novel not just an enjoyable book like many others, but a true milestone of the genre! With this article and the ones that will follow we will illustrate the process that we adopted to preserve the epic feel of the story and pass it on to the tabletop

In the distant future, the Emperor sends House Atreides to serve as fief ruler of the planet Arrakis, a responsibility long held by House Harkonnen. The planet is an inhospitable desert, but it’s the only source of Spice, a unique substance that allows for interstellar travel. This assignment is an honor for House Atreides… except for the fact that it is a trap.  

In a surprise attack, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen snatches back control of Arrakis. The Harkonnens succeed in utterly destroying the military strength of House Atreides. Duke Leto Atreides falls, but all is not lost. Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica escaped to find refuge among the Fremen rebels of the desert.

Dune: War For Arrakis is a game is about the climax in the long-standing feud between two major Houses of the Imperium: House Atreides and House Harkonnen. The game recreates the Desert War, the conflict that initially saw the Harkonnens try to squash what seemed to be a weak force of desert rebels, but then escalated into a full-fledged military confrontation that ended in the battle of Arrakeen.

In the story, Paul Muad’Dib and the Fremen outsmarted the Baron and his secret ally, the Emperor Shaddam. But every time the game is played, the fate of Dune hangs in the balance and each move can determine a different future among all the possible ones.

Players have control of the full military assets of the two factions: House Harkonnen and their allies, House Corrino; and House Atreides and their allies, the Fremen. They will deploy regular units, elite troops, the fearsome Sardaukar and the fanatic Fedaykin, futuristic vehicles like ornithopters, spice harvesters and carryalls. Battles are fought on the plateaus surrounding the north pole of the planet, but especially on the vast desert expanses of Arrakis, where the giant Sandworms rule.

The main characters of the story are featured as military leaders and advisors. Their influence is vital to the strategies of both factions and their clever use is fundamental to win the war. The Harkonnens start the game in control of the main populated areas of Arrakis and must launch seek and destroy missions against the shelters of the Fremen rebels (their Sietches), while devoting resources to harvest as much precious spice as possible. The quantity of spice produced determines the quality of the relations with the great powers of the Imperium (the Spacing Guild, the Landsraad, and CHOAM). Emperor Shaddam (from House Corrino) secretly supports the Harkonnens, providing additional military options and battalions of his soldier-fanatics, the Sardaukar.

To win the game, the Harkonnen player must accumulate 10 Supremacy Points (SP). SPs are gained mainly by destroying the Fremen Sietches.

The Atreides oppose the Harkonnens with a ruthless guerrilla warfare in a tight alliance with the local population of Fremen. By achieving specific objectives and using their knowledge of Arrakis and its devastating natural forces to their advantage, House Atreides and the Fremen may succeed in fulfilling ancient prophecies. At that point, there will be no enemy capable of resisting them.

To win the game, the Atreides player must achieve a Prescience Points (PP) rating, as stated by a secret Objective card drawn at the beginning of the game.

Now you know what the setting of the game and an overview of what each faction needs to do. That is all we will be covering today, but there is still a lot to discover beneath the sands of the desert… Stay tuned!

You can sign up to be notified when Dune – War for Arrakis hits Kickstarter by clicking here!

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