Design Diary #3: Atreides and Harkonnens

To attempt an understanding of Muad’dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing the Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.

– From “Manual of Muad’dib” by the Princess Irulan

In our last Design Diary, we covered the main mechanics featured in Dune: War for Arrakis (you can read it here). In today’s Design Diary, we will explore the main differences, in terms of gameplay and available resources, between the two opposing factions: the Atreides and the Harkonnens.

Let us begin with Dune’s quintessential villains (a definition they would certainly not agree with), the alliance formed by House Harkonnen and the Imperial rulers of House Corrino. Recently returned to full control of the planet thanks to the support of the Imperial Sardaukar, having killed Duke Leto, captured his Mentat Thufir Hawat, and seemingly exterminated all remaining Atreides, the Harkonnens apparently have no rivals left. Only a few Fremen tribes remain to oppose them.

The Fremen are proud, fierce rebels gathered in various hidden communities scattered across the desert (called Sietches), whose true military strength remains unknown. Now that the locations of the last eight rebel Sietches have finally been discovered, the Harkonnen’s objective is to conquer them one by one and crush any remaining opposition, while ensuring that the flow of Spice to the major powers of the Imperium, the CHOAM, the Landsraad, and the Spacing Guild, remains plentiful and steady.

The Harkonnen player scores points by conquering as many Sietches as possible, moving their legions through a hostile environment. They don’t know the true extent of the enemy’s forces but rely on a strong initial superiority of assets and troops. The Harkonnens’ style of play is ruthless, having at their disposal more legions at the beginning of the game, more Action Dice, and Ornithopters for fast movement of their troops.

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