Dev Diary #2: House Harkonnen

In the second segment of the design diaries, we will take a closer look at the new options specifically available to the Harkonnen player in the Desert War expansion.


First, the Harkonnen can now field a new type of vehicle: the Escort Ornithopter. When using the Desert War expansion, each time the Harkonnen player places Ornithopters (whether in the Vehicle Placement phase, or the Action Resolution phase) they always have the option of placing 1 (and only 1) Escort Ornithopter in place of a standard one.

Although the heavily armed Escort Ornithopters cannot be used for Scouting, they possess an enhanced version of Troop-Transport: Escort Troops. It works exactly like Troop-Transport, except that instead of being discarded, the Escort Ornithopter is added to the moving Legion as a Generic Leader capable of absorbing more Hits. A full Harkonnen Legion escorted by an armored Ornithopter is definitely a terrifying display of military power…

The remaining new features available to the Harkonnen player in this expansion are provided by Desert War Actions. At the end of the Vehicle Placement phase, the Harkonnen player obtains a number of Desert War tokens to be placed on each empty slot of the first column of the Spice Must Flow board, which will dictate the number of Desert War Actions available to them in that round. That’s right: the less Spice you get, the fewer Desert War Actions you will have at your disposal, so keep those Harvesters running!

During the Action Resolution phase, each time the Harkonnen player spends an Action die, they may additionally discard a Desert War token from the Spice Must Flow board to perform a Desert War Action. They can do so either before or after resolving the Action provided by the die, so plan your strategy carefully! A Harkonnen Desert War Action can be used to deploy and move the levitating Suspensor Troopers.

It is useful at this point to spend a few words on the new type of figures featured in this expansion: the Desert Troopers. Both Harkonnen and Atreides Desert Troopers possess a number of special benefits and drawbacks: they are neither Units nor Leaders, they do not form Legions or become part of them (even if they may find themselves in the same Area as a friendly Legion), and cannot be deployed, moved, or used to attack in the usual ways. Lightly armed and ill-equipped for open field combat, they are automatically removed as casualties when an opposing Legion (or Sandworm) moves into their Area. However, they do have an innate advantage: they cannot be inflicted Hits from any source, which makes them immune to Coriolis Storms and other special attacks.

Suspensor Troopers possess all these features, plus additional ones. They can be deployed directly in Desert Areas, as long as they have aerial support (i.e. a Vehicle in a connected Air Zone). Trained to scour the desert to find and neutralize Fremen thumpers, Suspensor Troopers who end their movement in an Area containing a Wormsign token also force their opponent to discard it without revealing it, and even prevent them from placing one in their Area, cutting off Sandriding connection routes and isolating Sietches from each other. And again: they can move 2 Areas instead of 1 ignoring impassable borders, and they can even be moved to kill opponent Desert Troopers, if necessary (like those pesky Rocket Launchers…).

But perhaps their most important ability is that they can be used for Scouting, saving valuable Ornithopters for Troop-Transport. The Harkonnen player can use a Desert War Action and remove a Suspensor Trooper to reveal a Sietch and all Deployment tokens in an adjacent Area, providing precious intel to set their strategy for the round (and sometimes, even neutralize the claiming of certain Prescience cards…).

It will take more than just one game to discover all the new strategic possibilities offered by Suspensor Troopers and the new Harkonnen Desert War Actions, but we’re confident that you will appreciate the greater tactical depth this expansion will give to your Dune: War for Arrakis games. Next time, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Atreides side of the Desert War, examining more in detail their new figures and game options. Will they be enough to beat the Harkonnen’s devious new strategies?

Available for pre-order alongside the core game and some exclusive add-ons! Check it out at

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