Review – Dune: Imperium – Uprising

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Designer Paul Dennen

Artist Clay Brooks, Derek Herring, Raul Ramos, Nate Storm

Publisher Dire Wolf

Category Worker Placement, Deck-Building, Strategy Game

Length 60-120 minutes

Release Date November 2023

Player Count 1-4, 6

Price $60

While I haven’t gotten around to writing an official review, Dune: Imperium has become one of my absolute favorite games over the past few years. The Rise of Ix expansion makes it even better, while Immortality was a decent “sometimes” expansion. But then, in late 2023, we got…. An expansion? A new game? A lot of complaints? Let’s dig into what Dune: Imperium – Uprising is, and whether it’s worth an extra $60. Here we go!

First off, Uprising is not nearly as strange a product as fans initially made it out to be. Standalone “sequel” games have a long history: Ticket to Ride: Europe, Dominion: Intrigue, Catan: Starfarers, and countless others. And the first two released within a year of their predecessor; Uprising arrived three years after Dune: Imperium. In some ways, I think the initial reception may have been worse because of the well-intended attempts at compatibility between Uprising and past content. I have plenty of thoughts about this, but we’ll start with what’s better or worse between the two basic games, Dune: Imperium and Dune: Imperium – Uprising. 

The best thing about Uprising, and probably the thing most likely to give owners of the original Dune: Imperium FOMO (fear of missing out), is the clear balance upgrades made on the central board. While a lot of spaces have been rearranged and “rejiggered” simply to incorporate other new rules or to keep players on their toes, there are some spots that are obviously intended to be “balance patches”. In particular, I am talking about the three Landsraad (green) spaces on the top left. The Swordmaster (which gives you another Agent) is now 8 Solari for the first player, but 6 Solari for others. The High Council now has a separate, quite strong benefit if you return to the space a second time. Lastly, the Mentat space has been replaced with the better “Imperial Privilege” space, which requires 2 influence with the Emperor faction. In addition, there is a clear card upgrade: the always-available card costing 2 Persuasion has moved from Fremen to Bene Gesserit, but more importantly, will draw a card if you have 2 influence with the Bene Gesserit faction. 

There’s now a mechanical reason to have 2 influence with each faction rather than just the Fremen, and these spaces are just, well, better. What’s frustrating is that despite including extra boards for a 6-player game (which I don’t think I’ll ever do), there was nothing included to “backport” these changes to Dune: Imperium. One, of course, is easy: the new Bene Gesserit card can just replace the Fremen card when playing the original game. But the other is harder; more to say in a minute.

The question to ask is: why do I want to “backport” these tweaks? Why not just play Uprising and enjoy it? Well, I have played Uprising! And let me be clear: it’s an excellent game, with a lot of fun ways to confuse and upset the strategies players may have locked themselves into without realizing it. But, I find that it’s too much. It’s definitely not for beginner Dune: Imperium players; start with the first one. But even for experienced players, I find all the new mechanisms: spies, battle icons, contracts, sandworms, probably something I’m forgetting… It’s overkill. I really don’t like when a game has so much going on that someone loses not because of a strategic maneuver but because someone just didn’t realize there was an option available on the board and they could not process all the information present at once. This is how I felt about Imperium + Rise of Ix + Immortality, and it’s how I feel about Uprising just by itself.  

On the flip side, Uprising kindly provides instructions for using it with Rise of Ix, Immortality, and/or some cards from Dune: Imperium. This felt a little half-baked; if they were serious about this, there should have been a new Ix overlay showing spy spaces (and perhaps a double-sided board, so that the Uprising improved Landsraad spaces could be used with Ix and the original game). But this is a moot complaint: as I said, I already find Uprising overwhelming; I certainly don’t want to add expansions to it. 

This is where I circle back and remind the reader that Uprising is a great game. It has so much shared DNA with its predecessor that it can’t possibly be a bad one. But when Dune: Imperium set the stakes so very high, Uprising had completely impossible shoes to fill. It’s not like I’ll get rid of it; I’ll happily play it when the mood strikes, but most of the time I will still be playing the original. 

The Bottom Line

Uprising is a great game, but not as great as its predecessor.

 

8

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.