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Dune Imperium Two Player Review

Important Note:

All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Even if you’re not into the wonderful fantastical world of Frank Herbert and have no idea what all the fuss is about regarding “spice”, Dune Imperium is likely still a very worthy addition to your collection.  

It might possibly be one of the best modern board games of all time, and while two players might not be optimal it has one of the most well implemented artificial players we’ve come across that ensure the game is still quite great at this lower player count.

Dune Imperium Review

8.5 out of 10
Dune Imperium Two Player Review Block A Pair of Meeples

Is it Good For Two Players? : Great for two players, and while it maintains the feel of playing with more players it’s not the best player count. Playing with just two will likely be sacrificing a bit of fun, tension, and surprises, for a more orderly battle of wits since both players have more freedom and control with fewer variables to keep track of. 

Dune Imperium is one of the best modern board games we have ever played…period.  The blend of mechanics, the perfect player balance, the right amount of player interaction, and the cool and interesting theme all come together into a “must have” game in our opinion. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of the theme or not, the gameplay is so good it grabs you and pulls you in even if you don’t know what spice or sandworms are.  It’s a game you can’t stop thinking about and want to play again and again.  

Theme: 8/10
Replayability: 9/10
Components: 8/10
Conflict: 8/10
Fun: 7/10

Husband’s Rating
9 out of 10
Wife’s Rating
8 out of 10

Pros

Artificial Player works great, allowing the game to feel as intended.

A good amount of interaction between players.

A great blend of multiple game mechanics that work extremely well together.

Incorporates conflict in a way that doesn’t feel too aggressive, fiddly, or frustrating.

Theme that is interesting and appealing and very well incorporated.

Very well balanced

Every single action matters and feels like it has an impact on the game’s outcome

Cons

A little difficult to learn at first, but a bit easier if you're familiar with the different mechanics in the game.

Might be a little too luck dependent or chaotic for some players due to the intrigue cards and the dramatic impact they can have on the game.

Some players might struggle to decide what actions to take (analysis paralysis) due to the wide array of strategies and options available.

Gameplay Experience:

It was quite some time before we even considered playing Dune Imperium with just two players, mainly because we were having such a good time playing with three.  We chose to play other two player games instead and keep this amazing game feeling fresh for what we and many others considered the optimal player count.  

Dune Imperium Two Player Review

With three players Dune Imperium is near perfect in terms of gameplay.  Every decision is meaningful, competition is extremely tight and one mistake can make a world of difference.  So much so that on one occasion I had missed a winning move, causing the game to go another full two rounds actually resulting in a loss, even though the victory could have been had if I just would have made that one missed critical play.

There are very few other games that have this perfect blend of worker placement, deck building, and conflict that tie together so well all while being perfectly balanced.  While 3 players is the sweet spot for this one playing with two players is much much better than most give it credit for and something we wish we would have added to our game nights earlier.

Once we finally got around to playing the game with just two we wasted no time getting down to business.  We downloaded the app to manage the artificial player referred to as the House of Hagal to make the two player experience as seamless as possible, which is a must as we’re not very big fans of having to manage a fake player.

It wasn’t long before we were swearing at the House of Hagal as they took our choice spaces, won conflicts, wiped out huge spice caches, and ruined our efforts a surprising amount of times.  It may not be as natural as playing with a real third player who is optimally making moves, but it was better and more impactful than any other artificial player we have ever used.  

Dune Imperium with two players had already greatly exceeded our expectations and we weren’t even halfway through our first game.  With this well designed and relatively easy to implement artificial player the game kept the same feel of playing with more players.  The extremely tight battle was still there with just a little bit more room for both players and a little less chaos, surprises, and twists.

We have played numerous times just the two of us and while it still isn’t as great as with three it has quickly become one of our all-time favorite games and we don’t see that changing any time soon.  What makes this even more impressive is that we had no prior interest in the theme whatsoever.

Sure we had seen the film, but I could probably put it on the TV right now and my wife would not remember any of it, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t either.  We’re definitely interested more now, but the fact that this game grabbed us the way it did with such an ingrained theme that we really could have cared less about really says a lot about how well Dune Imperium actually “plays” and how good it is.

Dune Imperium Two Player Rules Summary:

In Dune Imperium players will take the role of leaders of one of the Great Houses.  Each character starts with the same starting deck and has a unique ability they can use when playing their Signet Ring card and one special characteristic that can also help with their strategy.

Dune Imperium Characters
Dune Imperium Leaders

Dune Imperium consists of deckbuilding, worker placement, influence tracks, and combat which all integrate very well together.

Deck Building

All players start with the same 10 cards initially but can purchase cards once per round.  Cards are played to send their agents to particular spaces on the board and certain cards grant players additional benefits when played.  This means players can only play as many cards as they have agents to send.  

Character and Starting Deck

After a player can no longer play cards they take their reveal turn which grants them the revealed card benefits on the bottom half of the card.  This can be money to purchase new cards, resources, or other various effects.  Figuring out which cards to use to send agents and which cards to reveal is a very big component of Dune Imperium.

Dune Imperium Card Market

Worker Placement

Players start with two agents that they can send to spaces on the board.  They will have to play cards with the matching symbols to send agents to a (typically) unoccupied space.  These spaces grant players various benefits such as additional troops, intrigue cards, water, spice, or even a third agent that they can then use for the rest of the game.

Dune Imperium Worker Placement

Spaces with a conflict symbol allow players to deploy troops to the current conflict.  There are very few other ways to do this so if players are looking to have a chance at conflict rewards they need to be careful about where they send their agents.

Faction Influence Tracks

This goes hand in hand with worker placement.  There are 8 spaces that correspond to four different factions that players can rise or fall in influence with.  Any time they place an agent on one of these spaces their influence will go up for that particular faction, granting them victory points at various levels.  

Dune Imperium Factions

If they reach a certain level a player is said to have an alliance with that particular faction and gets a token and victory point, but if another player rises above them before they fully secure the alliance they will lose that faction’s token and victory point.  

Combat

Throughout the game players can recruit troops to their garrison and deploy them by sending agents to conflict spaces or through various cards.  Each round will have a different conflict reward consisting of resources, intrigue cards, or even victory points.  The player who has the highest combat strenght wins the conflict but there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rewards.

Dune Imperium Conflict Cards

Players revealed cards may add to their total combat strength or they may have intrigue cards that also do so that are hidden until they wish to use them.

Dune Imperium Combat Strength

Those four components are what make the core gameplay of Dune Imperium but the interactions between each and the players can be very intricate and impossible to grasp until you’ve played a few rounds.

One thing that deserves a bit more detail are the intrigue cards.  These really “spice” up the game and there are three types of them.

Dune Imperium Intrigue Cards
  • Plot: This can be played by a player at any time during their turn and grants them unique actions or certain benefits and allow players to make some big plays and advance their position in the game quickly.
  • Combat: As we said these cards can be played during the combat phase of a round and allow a player to adjust their current combat strength, sometimes by a very dramatic amount which can result in unexpected winners.  Some of these cards also allow players to retreat troops and save them for a future battle.
  • Endgame/Tie Breaker: These cards are not revealed until the end of the game obviously but allow players to have hidden victory points or win ties if they meet certain conditions as specified on the cards.

A game of Dune Imperium ends after a player has reached 10 victory points or if the conflict deck runs out.  The player who reaches 10 points first may not necessarily be the winner though due to the rest of the round playing out, or their opponent’s intrigue cards.

That’s a very broad overview of the game but should be enough to give you a pretty good idea of how it works.  Now for the differences in a two player game of Dune Imperium

House of Hagal: Two Player Rules

In a two player game, there is a third artificial player that will be used which is referred to as the House of Hagal.  This player can’t win rewards or gain victory points but will occupy spaces on the board blocking them from the real players.  

The House of Hagal will place as many agents as the starting player does, which means it scales with players as they get their third additional agents.  The House of Hagal will also gain influence with the four factions and can ultimately take and secure alliances, keeping them from the real players.

While the House of Hagal doesn’t get rewards or victory points, they do recruit and deploy troops dependent upon the space they go to.  This gives them a very active presence in the conflict making the combat phase much more dynamic and interesting for two player games than it would be without it.  

If House Hagal has deployed troops they will also have an additional reveal action that could potentially add to their combat strength adding a little bit of unknown and variability to the conflict.

There are a few other actions that the House of Hagal may occasionally take.  One of these is Harvesting Spice, where it will send an agent to the space with the highest spice reserve and take them all from the game.  The other is where it will remove a few cards from the market to help it refresh a bit more often than it would in a two player game without it (This action is actually only within the app and not the physical cards).

Now, all of these House Hagal actions are decided by the automa cards included in the game.  If the card drawn shows an occupied space another is drawn and either the agent placement or combat instructions are followed depending upon which phase of the turn the card is drawn for.  There is a card that has players reshuffle the deck so they will never run into the problem of running out of cards.

Dune Imperium Two Player House of Hagal

This may sound tedious to use but it isn’t too bad and there is a digital app that makes it so you don’t even have to mess with the automa deck at all and the app will allow you to draw cards and guide you on exactly what to do, it even keeps track of the actions that have been taken.  

This House of Hagal is the only difference in a two player game versus higher player counts and while it may seem like a big one it works well and maintains the intended feel of the overall game.  Maybe someday in the future a two player only version of Dune Imperium may get made but for now this variant works pretty darn good in our opinion.

Conclusion:

Dune Imperium is one of the best modern board games we have ever played…period.  The blend of mechanics, the perfect player balance, the right amount of player interaction, and the cool and interesting theme all come together into a “must have” game in our opinion.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of the theme or not, the gameplay is so good it grabs you and pulls you in even if you don’t know what spice or sandworms are.  It’s a game you can’t stop thinking about and want to play again and again.  

While it might not have the best deck building, the best worker placement, or the best conflict, it has combined all these things better than any other game and it is the interaction between all of these things and the players that make this such a gripping game to play.

Is Dune Imperium Good For 2 Players?

Now to really get into the details and why you are probably here right now.  First, Dune Imperium is great for two players, and while it maintains the feel of playing with more players it’s not the best player count.  

Three players provides just the right amount of real competition, interaction, and excitement as players vie for spaces and influence while pushing troops into the battle and flipping over game changing intrigue cards.  All of this is still there in a two player game, but just to a slightly lesser extent.  

As we said earlier Dune Imperium requires an artificial player to work at this player count which is usually a fairly big red flag for us, as we aren’t fans of having to put in extra work for a typically mediocre experience compared to playing with more players.  In actuality though this artificial player works surprisingly well, especially with the app, and is one of the best we have seen in modern board games.

This artificial player works pretty well at increasing the competition for spaces, putting a wrench in players’ plans, and making the conflict a bit more interesting as it recruits and deploys more and more troops.  All of this does fill that void that is missing from a third real player and greatly improves the game, but there are still some things this card flipping automa can’t replace.

Even though the House of Hagal greatly affects the game, since it doesn’t get victory points or rewards it can sometimes feel a bit empty.  Sure, it just screwed up the plan you’ve been working on for the past 2 rounds, but it didn’t get closer to winning.  It’s hard to explain until you’ve played a game, but it just feels a little odd how important and impactful this artificial player is yet it still can’t win the game.

This emptiness is compounded by the fact that the House of Hagal can’t play intrigue cards or any cards that affect other players, for that matter. When you have three players in the game, that represents an entire additional player’s worth of game-changing cards that can alter the outcome of conflicts or lead to unexpected tiebreakers or end-game point conditions

While this difference is fairly obvious I don’t know if we would say it makes the game worse, it more so just makes it a little different.  With fewer unknowns and opponents to pay attention to it is a bit easier for players to execute their plans and more closely observe and counter their opponents. This is actually one of the reasons my wife prefers two player games of Dune Imperium.

With just two players you can focus on your opponent’s current positions and more easily see their plan and what actions could get them a victory and ultimately try and block those paths from them.  So while some of the excitement and chaos from higher player counts is missing, you could argue two player games of Dune Imperium are ultimately more strategic and can be a much tighter head to head battle between players, especially if they are fairly equally matched.

So to sum it all up, playing with two players as opposed to more will likely be sacrificing a bit of fun, tension, and surprises, for a more orderly battle of wits since both players have more freedom and control with fewer variables to keep track of.

Pros:

  • Artificial Player works great, allowing the game to feel as intended.  The digital companion app makes it super easy to implement.
  • A good amount of interaction between players.  In two player games, it’s much easier to focus on your single opponent allowing for opportunity for more impactful strategy.
  • A great blend of multiple game mechanics that work extremely well together.  A little something for everyone.
  • Incorporates conflict in a way that doesn’t feel too aggressive, fiddly, or frustrating.
  • Theme that is interesting and appealing and very well incorporated. 
  • Very well balanced
  • Every single action matters and feels like it has an impact on the game’s outcome

Cons:

  • A little difficult to learn at first, but a bit easier if you’re familiar with the different mechanics in the game.
  • Might be a little too luck dependent or chaotic for some players due to the intrigue cards and the dramatic impact they can have on the game.
  • Some players might struggle to decide what actions to take (analysis paralysis) due to the wide array of strategies and options available.

Dune: Imperium
Dune: Imperium
Dune: Imperium

We hope this Dune Imperium two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


Dune Imperium App

As we said if you are playing Dune Imperium with two, you will likely want to get your hands on the digital companion app as soon as possible to make the experience at this player count as good as it can be. There are actually two apps though and one is maintained better than the other and works well while having all the current features and updates.

The app you want to download is this Dire Wolf Game Room: Game Room App – Dire Wolf Digital, and not the Dune Imperium Companion App. This game room app has the market refresh actions and the ability to incorporate expansions. The link above will take you to the Dire Wolf Game Room official page where you can download the android or ios app.


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