Tired of these constant heat waves? Me too. I say we pack it up and head out. I heard about this new planet called Arrakis. I bet it’s nice.

Dune: War for Arrakis – Kickstarter (2022)

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Dune, Arrakis, desert planet. Lately it seems like you can’t throw a spice clod in an FLGS without hitting a Dune game. Honestly? I couldn’t be happier.

Dune is without a doubt one of the crown jewels of science-fiction, and thanks to director Denis Villeneuve recent film adaptations, there are a lot of people being introduced to it for the first time. Game publishers like Gale Force Nine and Dire Wolf Digital have been capitalizing on this new wave of Dune mania and releasing some really great tabletop content, allowing fans to really dive into conflicts and politics of Arrakis.

Now, like a Fremen ambusher, a new game has burst on the scene from CMON – Dune: War for Arrakis.

While military conflict has always been a part of every Dune game, it is often just one of several means to an end. In War for Arrakis, conflict seems to be the only solution. That likely stems from the game’s designers, Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi. They were the designers behind War of the Ring, and it seems like they are bringing some the same mechanics to Dune. Like its predecessor, War for Arrakis will be an asymmetrical war game featuring action dice and event cards. Gameplay will be modular, so no two games play the same. And the designers have promised that the gameplay will “provide an epic experience, while still putting a spotlight on the many individual characters found in the Dune universe.”

Can this new Dune entry separate itself from the pack? Personally, I’m willing to find out.

Atlas Lost: Rise of the New Sovereigns – Kickstarter

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The civilizations of Earth have finally collapsed. Viable land is scarce. But, there is still hope! Because buried in the ruins of the old world, there are still technological marvels from humanity’s past. With them, the world can be rebuilt anew.

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This is the scenario players of this cheery 2 – 4 player game from designer Totsuka Chuo (Perfumery) find themselves in from the start. Each player must utilize a worker placement system to locate and utilize lost technology. Once found, players will have to choose how to expand their technological prowess in a tech tree system. Choose carefully because the efficiency of your tech tree will affect how quickly and how far you will be able to expand your burgeoning civilization. But don’t get comfortable with one strategy because the game’s modular nature will force you to rethink the game each time.

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Lead artist Kazuma Koda (Fire Emblem) has done a fantastic job capturing the scope of Earth’s fall and the scale of these new technologies. Many of the images eschew the usual explosions and conflict found in most post-apocalyptic games, and instead focus on the quiet devastation that remains. “Haunting” is the best adjective to describe it.

Astronavigators – Gamefound

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Given the recent launch of the James Webb space telescope, this game seemed like a must-have for this list. Astronavigators is a 1 – 4 worker placement game in which players engage in an epic space race.

Don’t let the cute anthropomorphic characters fool you, this game is dense in the same vein as Twilight Struggle and Through the Ages. Astronavigators faithfully recreates the steps of space exploration from early observations of the sky with sextants and telescopes all the way to setting up permanent lunar modules. The game utilizes 4 different boards and real star charts which players must familiarize themselves with. Thankfully, designer Vincent Verhoeven recognized that not all heavy game players are also astronomy experts, so the game features 3 scalable levels of complexity.

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Regardless of what difficulty level you play, Astronavigators consists of two stages: the “Astronomer” stage and the “Astronaut” stage. During the first stage, players will send their astronomers across the globe to observe celestial bodies and, consequently, “Navigational Knowledge” (NK). Just like real planetary bodies, though, the points your astronomers are trying to observe will move and change, requiring careful planning and lots of forethought. Players can also score extra NK by observing celestial objects that belong to greater celestial bodies, such as constellations or The Milky Way.

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Once you feel you have gathered enough NK, it’s time for Phase II: The Astronaut Phase. Players attempt to blast their astronaut to the moon. But in case you hadn’t heard, space travel is a little tricky. When sending an astronaut to the moon, the player must calibrate a lunar trajectory so that their astronaut actually has something to land on. This is where that NK comes in, as the more NK you have, the less likely you’ll have to hit the “Abort” button. Land your astronaut safely on the moon before any other player, and you win!

Did I mention this game was dense? If you feel like you’ve got the right stuff, check out the full game on Tabletop Simulator. In this game, it never hurts to have a leg up on the competition.

by Zane Messina

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