The Board Game of the Year 2021 is Dune: Imperium by Dire Wolf Digital, published in Germany via Asmodee. The decision was not crystal clear, the competition was fierce. Nevertheless, Paul Dennen's mixture of deck builder and worker placement prevailed in the end.

An eventful year 2021 is behind us and in the meantime we have let it sink a bit in a playful way or have been able to try out latecomers. The board game of the year 2021 has also emerged - the winning title is not particularly surprising: Paul Dennen's strategic title based on the film license for Dune was the most convincing. In this country, Asmodee has launched a German-language localized version.

Exciting until the end

Dune: Imperium has become a phenomenon over the past year. The strategic board game was also on everyone's lips, but not only because of the excellent remake of Frank Herbert's Dune. There was no escaping the title. Yes, Dune: Empire is a hype - rightly so.

If authors not only mix well-known mechanisms into a game idea for a board game that not only feels new, but also works in the end, then a lot has already been achieved. Paul Dennen's clever mixture of worker placement and deck-building card game is not unique in this combination, but it is so well balanced that the fun is maintained for almost the entire game. Dune: Imperium, on the other hand, is not the perfect board game, and the question of game balance arises again and again, especially with regard to the intrigue cards.

Nevertheless, Dune: Imperium manages to captivate its up to four players again and again. The main reason for this is the tension factor, which remains at the same level over the games, which usually last around 90 minutes. It is not uncommon for there to be a kind of showdown, especially in the final round, which can turn the point ratios upside down. This suggests one thing above all: a player is seldom certain of victory, with the right tactics you can turn the game in your favor.

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

A game scene at Dune Imperium. Photo: Volkmann

The board game of the year 2021 is also one of the board games with a noticeable learning curve. If you make mistakes in Dune: Imperium, most of the time you won't make them again. This also works the other way around: if you have played the board game often enough and know the cards, you can usually avoid mistakes from the outset. The deck building element isn't just a gimmick, it's essential and the key to victory. From this it can be deduced that you should like deck building board games in order to be able to have maximum fun with the licensed title. If you don't know what to do with the tactical concept that is gradually being built up, you will only smile wearily in the face of the hype surrounding Dune: Imperium.

What is then fascinating is the realization that the worker placement part of the board game is at least as relevant. Dune: Imperium could also be described as a game of missed opportunities. You always try to use your agents as efficiently as possible and according to the tactics you have been pursuing so far, but with every move it becomes clear that there would often have been more than one meaningful game action. Would the alternative have been the better choice? Sometimes you find out later, get angry, but are motivated to do it better next time, or at least do it differently.

[WPSM_COLORBOX id=65399]

lack of water!

Auf Dune, dem Wüstenplaneten, ist vieles knapp. Auch in der Brettspieladaption spürt man das: den Ressourcen läuft man hinterher, eine Handvoll Truppen mehr wünscht man sich in fast jedem Zug, die Kartenauslage ist üppig und doch zu gering, und Wasser ist in der kargen Landschaft ohnehin ein rares Gut. Was Autor Paul Dennen und Dire Worlf Digital schon allein durch das Spielkonzept geschafft haben, ist, Dune: Imperium in das passende Korsett der Lizenzvorgabe zu zwängen. Das ist bei diesem Brettspiel auch bitter nötig gewesen, denn rein optisch lockt man mit der Holzmännchen-Schieberei auf grafisch tristem, wenn auch übersichtlichem, Spielbrett keinen Spice-Baron hinter dem Ofen hervor. Für deutlich mehr „Dune“-Feeling sorgen da schon die Illustrationen der Karten.

Das Brettspiel des Jahres 2021 ist damit nicht gleichzeitig auch der schönste Titel. Das zeigt allerdings auch, dass Materialschlachten mit kiloweise Plastik nicht unbedingt für Qualität stehen. Apropos: Wer möchte kann sein Dune: Imperium mit einem offiziellen Miniaturen-Set aufbessern, natürlich gegen extra Währung. Was klingt, wie Geldschneiderei, entpuppt sich auf den zweiten Blick als ziemlich fairer Schachzug. Die Anschaffungskosten des Basisspiels bleiben damit moderat. Einbußen müssen Spieler nicht hinnehmen, auch in der Standard-Version ist Dennens Dune-Brettspiel ein Spaßgarant. Fans hingegen haben die Wahl, ob sie mit dem „Deluxe Upgrade Pack“ für Dune: Imperium – das wahnwitzig schnell vergriffen ist –  ihr Spielerlebnis optisch etwas ansprechender gestalten wollen.

The Mentat (black meeple) grants an additional move. Photo: Volkmann

The Mentat (black meeple) grants an additional move. Photo: Volkmann

It's almost an anecdote that this upgrade package only polishes the base game, miniatures for the long-announced Rise of Ix expansion are not included. This raises the question of the future: either there will be a mix of miniatures and small wooden spaceships as well as sniffer tiles, or there will be another small upgrade package. Otherwise, the creative shops on the Internet have to do it again, because Dune: Imperium has long since arrived there too.

Ultimately, what makes Dune: Imperium interesting is its unpredictable predictability: it's a race to the tenth point, which decides victory - it's no secret, as players know both their goal and the limited number of laps. Leading your house to success is anything but easy. In Dune: Imperium, evaluation includes a grand finale, during which you may be able to launch long-planned tactics. That's also a trick that creates tension, because it's not over until the game is actually over.

Dune: Imperiums is not the board game of the year 2021 because it would be flawless, but because what is offered is entertaining at an enormously high level in the time allotted for it. Other board games from the past year are also guaranteed fun, but rarely offer such a narrow focus on fun-enhancing measures. Dune: Empire power its thing as a whole package good.


Last updated on 7.12.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API