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"Does the Dune Universe lend itself to big battle gaming?" Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 4:41 p.m. PST

Does the Frank Herbert Universe lend itself to large scale wargaming in 10-28mm ?

John Leahy Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 10:17 p.m. PST

`Jim Webster has a Dune scenario written for use at his website for his Hellfire rule set. Not a BIG battle but a decent sized one that looks pretty interesting.
Found here link
Scroll down to wargamers of Dune as a PDF.



Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 10:18 p.m. PST

Thanks Bill!

cloudcaptain20 Aug 2021 11:15 p.m. PST

The old Dune 2 RTS videogame (sort of the forerunner to Command and Conquer) had quite a few big skirmishes as part of its campaign. It featured AFVs,

McWong7321 Aug 2021 4:39 a.m. PST

There are plenty of large battles in the books iirc.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 5:02 a.m. PST

In the Frank Herbert novels (don't know about those not by him, haven't read them), there are large battles but they tend to be described only in close-up, with no staff-level details described. It's interesting to speculate on what a battle between tens of thousands of melee fighters, without polearms or cavalry but with radios, groundcars and grav-sleds and ornithopters, would look like. I imagine that it would be spread out over a large frontage, but a good force would also have a well-practiced battle drill for switching out front-rank fighters as they became exhausted, the air inside their shields got stale, etc. If only the slow blade penetrates the shield, melees between brigade-sized units could take hours of hand-to-hand fighting to resolve. Anyway, that's my take – tracking endurance would be almost as important as melee skill and morale.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 7:20 a.m. PST

Since bullets and bombs and lasers are ruled out by the shields, combat in Dune is a medieval scrum, but with flying vehicles, satellites, and instant communication. So, you'd have a battle where the commanders would indeed have the "God's eye view" of everything, which has been the biggest unrealistic element of tabletop gaming from the beginning!

Come to think of it, toss out any range units, cavalry and magic (other than flying), and the typical fantasy tabletop game is a fairly good stand-in for Dune's implied style of war! Just change the terms and the figs.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 7:28 a.m. PST

I never took it seriously. Herbert was trying to set up a system where numbers, training, generalship and equipment didn't matter--only the quality of the infantry, and that was determined solely by the harshness of the environment.

The closer you get to Herbert's concept, the less you have to game. I could see it as an RPG campaign, but not on a tabletop.

Stryderg21 Aug 2021 8:04 a.m. PST

As with most universes, they are big. So why limit your battles to Arrakis or only the Emperor's, Harkonnen's and Atreides' troops?
And I don't remember a specification on how small the "family atomics" could be. So tac-nukes may be an option (probably used at the strategic level and affecting the availability of reinforcements on the tabletop).

City fighting could be an option as a minor house seeks to expand it's power base or damage a rival.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 9:51 a.m. PST

Since bullets and bombs and lasers are ruled out by the shields

-Lasers (called "lasguns", weren't they?)

If I recall correctly, shields don't just block lasers, but actually destroy both the shield and the laser. We know that very small antigravity drones exist because one was used in an assassination attempt against Paul soon after the Atriedes family moved into the palace on Arrakis.

Those two data points lead to the invention of disposable flying laser drones to destroy shielded targets.

And of course to drone vs. drone air battles.

-Bombs and Other Explosives

While shrapnel is moving too fast to penetrate shields, the atmospheric shock waves may be able to knock shielded personnel over, which could be of value before melee. Artillery was used to good effect in the first book to take down stone walls.

Air bursts might be used effectively against flying laser drones.


Bullets likewise move too fast to penetrate shields, but may be able to push people out of position. It might need a lot of bullets.

If lasers can destroy shields, higher energy weapons like atomics will do the same. The effectiveness of lasers as point defense weapons makes getting the weapon to the target via missile or artillery problematic. Disguised drone ground vehicles are a possible solution.

Ran The Cid21 Aug 2021 11:13 a.m. PST

"Those two data points lead to the invention of disposable flying laser drones to destroy shielded targets." In the later books, in the future, these tactics were used. Which lead to shields going out of favor. Not sure why this same tactic was not used in Paul's time – but it was not done.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 1:38 p.m. PST

Interesting -- I haven't read the later books.

I also just like writing "disposable flying laser drones". It makes me think of these expendable fliers from the Wizard of Oz:


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2021 8:04 a.m. PST

If I recall correctly, shields don't just block lasers, but actually destroy both the shield and the laser.

Yep. An idea which makes absolutely no sense, but that's what Herbert wrote.

Now if "lasgun" means something other than laser, there's a thin possibility of coming up with why Herbert's "dual destruction" thing works— like maybe it's really a sort of "lightning" gun that produces a charge differential between the gun and the target and sends a "strike" along that charge. But a shield causes the strike to go both ways "because techy gobbledygook", thus imparting the energy of both to both target and gun: (Lasgun Energy + Shield Energy)/2 = BOOMBOOM
Or something like that.
But then you're left with actual lasers being able to strike, so…

It's like a bad GM's ruling: "Uh. Okay, smarty pants, they BOTH blow up. Satisfied?"
"And you're dead, too."

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2021 9:05 a.m. PST

As multiple threads in TMP have noted, looking for sense or science in "Dune" is a loosing game. The laser+shield interaction – and the fact that no one in "thousands" of years thought to exploit it – makes no more sense than the vulnerability of vampires to running water or unicorns to virgins. It's just what it is – and that doesn't mean we can't have fun miniatures games featuring vampires and unicorns. So to answer the OPs question, Frank Herbert's "Dune" universe could be a fine setting for games. The chief problem has always been that NO ONE, not one single manufacturer in sixty years, has ever released any figures that really match the book's described costumes and technology.

HMS Exeter22 Aug 2021 9:46 a.m. PST

Rebel Minis do a 15mm SciFi line that do a pretty good approximation of the Dune opposing forces, tho I think they're influenced more by the 2000 miniseries than the book. They're pretty thin on bladed weapons.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2021 1:46 p.m. PST

@Eumelus— Didn't say it couldn't be fun. Just said it didn't make sense. grin

In many ways, Dune combat actually kind of falls in line with a barebones version of 40K— über-armored sci-fi troops who charge each other with swords, axes, and fists (!). Absurd beyond belief, but still clearly a fun concept.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2021 1:47 p.m. PST

Oh, and sandworms as cavalry/troop transports. Mustn't forget the sandworms!

Gotta love it…

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2021 7:42 p.m. PST

"Absurd beyond belief, but still clearly a fun concept"

and usually fun to game in 40k's case (which "borrowed" ridiculously from Herbert).

Mad Mecha Guy25 Aug 2021 1:18 p.m. PST

in the dune book, it is stated they never used a laser against shields because the quasi-nuclear explosions (shield and lasgun) that would happen would be indistinguible from a atomic warhead being set off and all houses would be duty bound to destroy the house that used the nuke. Houses kept hidden stock piles of nuclear missiles and bombs (M.A.D.)

there didn't seem to be many personal shields in books as expensive to produce. from memory the fremen used rocket launchers and the harkonnen did have artillery when they assaulted Dune.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2021 2:04 p.m. PST

The Fremen used rocket launchers because shields weren't used in the deep desert, as they acted as a super-attractant to the sandworms. The Harkonnen used artillery not to cause casualties but to collapse cliff walls above the cave entrances where Atreides soldiers had taken refuge. There is nothing that indicates that shields were prohibitively expensive or that each individual soldier would not be so equipped.

As for the laser-shield explosion drawing nuclear retribution, that is put forth as an explanation of non-use but it isn't a very satisfactory one. It would only work if everybody knew who used the laser, but in a universe where war by assassins, secret agents, and suicidal fanatics was the norm, fixing the blame correctly would seem to be nearly impossible.

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