This was just the second year the relatively new Gale Force 9 edition of the game was played in this tournament (with a few house rules added). Due to lack of interest in using the expansions last year and to preserve simplicity, the option to use expansions was not offered this year. This edition is 95% the same as the old Avalon Hill edition, and so while there were almost no significant issues for players, there are still a few pitfalls for long-time players learning some of the more subtle differences in the new ruleset. I’m grateful for players’ patience as we internalize these changes together.
There was an uptick in attendance, yielding 15 qualifying games played for the first time ever. We saw a number of players new to the game and/or to the tournament this year, and that is really great. Of special note, we were graced with the presence of Jack Reda, designer of the GF9 Dune expansions and other games, and the general public face of Dune for Future Pastimes. It was awesome to get to meet and speak with him – he played in two of the heats and shared some hints about what’s coming next from GF9 for the Dune game. And a big thanks to everyone else who joined us this year as well!
Game duration this year was roughly on par with the overall average, at 6.9 turns in 4.2 hours. Still very steady at about 35 minutes per game turn on average. (The fastest game played 10 turns in just 3.5 hours.) However, 3 games still could not finish in the allotted 5-hour time limit, and thus required adjudication. We’re still playing with recommended (but not enforced) time guidelines for player turns, but I’m really considering moving toward enforced player turn clocks to keep games within the time limit. I’m interested in hearing all opinions on that from players or even other GMs who may use enforced clocks.
First round games included just one default (solo) win this year, with Tegan Powers playing the Guild in that one. The rest of the games resulted in 2-way alliance wins. Overall, Guild and BG were the winningest factions, followed closely by Atreides, with Emperor, Harkonnen, and Fremen trailing by a noticeable margin (although all factions did enjoy multiple victories.) Guild-BG and Guild-Atreides alliances were very popular choices for wins this year.
This is the second year running with Guild at the top of the standings, even excluding default victories. This is interesting because for many years the Guild was considered to be a weaker faction. It seems coincidental with the advent of the GF9 edition of the game, but there really were no rules added that directly benefit the Guild, so it’s just something to pay attention to for now. On the other hand, the Fremen’s ranking has plummeted from top to bottom (again!) over the last 4 years, and several players noted that the dropping of our house rule to allow Fremen to grant his ally the ability to dial for free has made them extremely unattractive in alliances again. (By WBC player general opinion, official rules offer no really compelling alliance ability for the Fremen, unfortunately.) With this in mind, I am strongly considering re-introducing a modified house rule to help the Fremen in this area. Net balance among all 6 factions was quantitatively much better with a Fremen alliance buff.
And so, while a pickup game of 9-player Dune played on the most amazing wooden board you’ve ever seen raged in the background, the factions for the final game were chosen in order of qualification:
- Lee Proctor (appearing in his 10th consecutive final), chose the Bene Gesserit after seeing success for more aggressive BG strategies in recent play,
- Quinn Dyer selected Atreides
- Aidan Powers took Harkonnen
- Glenn McMaster (last year’s champion) picked Guild
- Joshua Coyle (newcomer to the tournament) chose Emperor
- Wray Ferrell got the Fremen (last picked again)
In the early game, Atreides allied with Harkonnen and BG allied with the Emperor, leaving Fremen and Guild together. Unsurprisingly, the BG/Emperor alliance controlled most of the bidding during this period, using Karamas to blind Atreides to key card information.
In turn 4, BG/Emperor were technically looking at the possibility of a win with battles in all 5 strongholds, but as 4 of those battles were with single BG tokens, this was shut down rather easily.
By turn 7, alliances were shaken up after both Harkonnen and Emperor had been significantly weakened and put out of position. BG allied with Atreides, and Fremen/Guild remained strong, leaving Harkonnen and Emperor together. The BG/Atreides alliance looked extremely powerful, but after Emperor surrendered a battle to the Fremen, Guild and Fremen were suddenly in a very strong position moving into turn 8 when they would be moving last.
Nonetheless, Guild and Fremen were successfully blocked, while the BG/Atreides alliance this time made another win attempt that was not strong enough to succeed (partly involving the Guild offering the Emperor a huge bribe to fight the BG.)
To close out the game, the Guild allied with the BG after assurances that the prediction was no longer in play – the Guild felt that use of the Voice was integral to having a chance to win, and the BG was on the market after Atreides switched to a Harkonnen alliance. Emperor and Fremen were left to ally.
For a moment, there appeared to be a slight chance of pulling off a default Fremen victory in turn 10, if the Emperor could battle for both Sietch Tabr and Habbanya Sietch, win both, and dial all his tokens away, but this was noticed by the others after some loose talk at the table (who knows what might have been?) and shut down quickly. Instead, the final turn was no holds barred. The outcome was uncertain until nearly all battles were resolved; multiple possible wins were on the table. Yet in the end, The Guild/BG alliance was able to defend, resulting in a Guild alliance default victory.
Congratulations to Glenn McMaster as Guild for achieving his 2nd victory in row, and his 4th overall.
|Bene Gesserit trying to manipulate the future.
||Youth movement occurring in Dune.
|Pondering his next move.
||Finalists with GM Brad Johnson.