Friday, 24 March 2017

Dune - Laying the Foundation

Written by Reiko

Paul Atreides Journal #1: "My task is clear. Defeat the Harkonnens. I was born for this and only I can do this. They’ll never expect that I can make a fighting force out of the Fremen. They underestimate them and they underestimate me. I will become as one born here and the Fremen will have no choice but to accept me."

The ornithopter map at the beginning of the game has three Fremen sietches marked.

I have to do a lot of flying around by ornithopter. Paul's first task is to go meet Gurney Halleck, one of the Duke's advisors, at a particular Fremen sietch. (Incidentally, I have no idea where the word "sietch" came from; it's just the word used in the book for the cave communities where each Fremen tribe lives. In their language, it supposedly means something like "sanctuary.")

I need to also admit that I wrote something incorrect in the introduction due to my familiarity with the book. It's helpful to have the background, but it can also trip me up when the game is different. While the Atreides family rules from the fortress of Arrakeen in the book, in the game the Harkonnens have control of Arrakeen, and Paul directs his operations from a place called Carthag, which I don't remember from the book.

Flying through the desert of Dune. Not much to see.

I go to the first sietch and talk to Gurney, who doesn't tell me much, but I can ask him to join me. If I talk to him again, then he says he wants to visit each of the three known sietches together and meet the Fremen. The Fremen chief at the first one joins me immediately when I ask him to work for me. The second one refuses, saying I need to learn more first. He'll probably join later when I'm more powerful. The third one also readily joins.

Dune map with two troops recruited and set to spice mining, and one potential troop remaining.

Each time I gain a tribe, or troop, the game takes me to the Dune map, and I can give the troop orders. At the moment, my focus needs to be on spice production, so I tell both troops to specialize in that for now. I could also ask them to specialize in "army" (military skill) or ecology. In the book, there's a whole subplot about how the Fremen have been hoarding water and using some of it to test new ecosystems that will eventually transform the planet into something habitable for normal people. It looks like ecological transformation of the surface will be a factor in the game later.

Is it just me, or does the hair make Idaho look a lot like...

...a fatter version of Londo Mollari from Babylon 5. Right?

When I get back to headquarters with Gurney, the day is ending. Paul doesn't seem to need to sleep or anything, though. I check back with Jessica, who just talks a little more about the spice. Now in the same room we also have Duncan Idaho, who reports on the status of spice production.

The Duke mentions how useful stillsuits are for surviving in the desert, and suggests I should go find a Fremen stillsuit maker. I consult Gurney, who suggests that the Fremen chief at the first sietch I visited should know something about this. Off I go in the ornithopter. The chief points me east toward another sietch where I can find a stillsuit maker.

Gurney spots a new sietch when I fly close to it.

The new sietch isn't marked on the map, though. I actually have to direct the ornithopter to a point far enough east of the sietch and just watch the desert go by until I get close enough. As long as I have someone with me (I still have Gurney at this point), that person will spot the sietch and then I can approach it. Now it appears on my map and I can select it as a destination normally.

I go in and find the Fremen representative for this one. He willingly provides stillsuits for us and will send more to the palace. He also marks the locations of two more sietches. I can also recruit his troop. When I ask them to start spice mining, they mention that there's a spice harvester just sitting around. I select "Modify Equipment" and click the harvester to "equip" it to that troop for their use. They say they'll be more efficient that way.

I visit the new sietches and recruit their troops, so now I have five total. But both of them say the area must be prospected for spice first. Puzzled, I return to headquarters. I find the stillsuits there, and the Duke is pleased, but says nothing about the prospecting. But Gurney says that someone at the sietches that are already mining should know about prospecting. Hmm.

Four areas are already prospected, with two to go.

I go back to the second sietch from the beginning, where the Fremen wouldn't join me initially. This time they say they specialize in spice prospecting and willingly join me and also provide a map that indicates spice density in all prospected areas. I send them off to prospect the two new areas so that I can get the latest troops harvesting there.

Jessica's skills are still better than Paul's.

When I return to the fortress again, the Duke suggests I should take Jessica around the building to see if she can find anything secret. So I add her to the group and move around with her. On the balcony she talks about missing Caladan, their home planet, but doesn't find anything there or in the main rooms. Then in the hallway she finds a hidden door leading to a communication room. Apparently the Emperor will contact me there when he wants a shipment of spice.

Gurney micromanages me and I micromanage the Fremen.

Duncan Idaho suggests I should get more spice harvesters by asking where the troop that already has one got theirs. They direct me to another new sietch northeastwards that has no troop but does have two harvesters, which I need the nearby troops to pick up. So since Paul has to be at the same sietch with a troop in order to direct them, I have to go to each one, direct them to the new one, meet them there, tell them to pick a harvester and then go back to their respective sietches.

Once the prospecting troop is done with the first two areas, I send him over to the newest area to survey that one too, even though I don't currently have a troop to work the area. I had to wait all night and into the morning for the prospecting to finish first. Flying around seems to be the easiest way to pass time; unless I'm going somewhere, there's very little to do in any given location. Maybe I should have gone back to headquarters again first.

A treasure trove of equipment just sitting around.

Before the prospectors go, they also point me to another sietch not too far from that one. I check it out; there's no troop, but there are two more ornithopters, another harvester, and what looks like some weapons. On my way back to the fortress, I check in on two troops. One is doing extremely well, but one is in a spice-poor area and isn't getting much. I send that one over to get the new harvester. I'll eventually mine in whichever of the two empty sietches has better spice density. I arrive back at the fortress at the end of day 4.

What do you make of this? Creepy...

The Duke is out on the balcony watching the dunes. He says something creepy about "The sleeper must awaken" and then informs me that there's a message in the communication room. The emperor has sent an initial message reminding me that I'm there to produce spice for him.

I haven't found any more leads, so I tour the sietches again, checking on the troops and shifting them around a little to improve spice production, until one of them mentions that there are substantial spice fields to the south and points me to the next sietch to the southeast. There I find Harah, a Fremen girl who insists on coming with me and also reveals the locations of three more sietches.

First I go back and give the prospector troop orders to start prospecting the new areas, and then I visit the three new sietches. Two of them provide new troops, which I instruct to mine spice and shift them back an area so that they can start mining sooner once the new areas are prospected. The third one contains a troop that doesn't want to join me yet. Harah says I'll have to come back later.

Harah's a firecracker.

I take her to the fortress and drop her off. She isn't happy about being left there, but I don't have a use for her right now, and Jessica says I should go out into the desert by myself for a bit. I drop off Gurney too, who's been with me this entire time so far. On my way out, Idaho warns me about the sandworms, how they are a threat to spice mining. He says I might want to group the troops in the higher-density areas, but I'm not quite understanding how that will help. I think I'm going to have to do a lot of running around and micromanaging if I want production to stay high.

Next time we’ll get our first vision and continue gathering the Fremen.

Results of Paul's efforts.

Day: 6
Allied troops: 8
Known sietches: 12
Spice production: 1020 (about a quarter of the Harkonnen production)
Charisma: 4

Session Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points
: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. I have no idea where the word "sietch" came from

    Herbert was no Tolkien, so while he dabbled in other languages, what Dune ends up with is a dog's breakfast. "Sietch" is described in the books as deriving from Chakobsa, which it turns out was a real language at one time spoken in Circassia. Some commentators (armchair etymologists have apparently been hard at work on Dune since the early days of the newsgroups) have observed a similar word being used in Russia from soldiers who served in that area. Others observe that most of what Herbert attributed to Chakobsa is actually from Romani languages, but I do not know if this word is found in any dialect of that language.

    If you care for further details, you can find the matter discussed at some greater length at

  2. "Carthag, which I don't remember from the book."

    There is much in the book that is not memorable. Fortunately for you, there are obsessives with wikis:

    1. So the game has it exactly backwards. The wiki article says Arrakeen is southwest of Carthag, but in the game, the Atreides are in Carthag and the Harkonnen are northeast of them in Arrakeen. No wonder I was confused.

  3. Results of Paul's efforts.

    It really is extraordinary for a game to depict the protagonist's territory in red and the opponent's in blue! Indeed, even by Dune II, I'm pretty sure the Harkonnen are shown as red and the Atreides as blue.

    1. It's meaningful though because the emblem of House Atreides is the red hawk that you see on Gurney's outfit and on the map indicating Paul's location. And the emblem of House Harkonnen is a blue griffin. So the colors here make sense, and the Dune II colors are just confusing.

  4. damn I used to love Dune... spent ziollion hours playing it.. I don't have much time to play modern games anymore, but I do sometimes play classics and some browser games that don't take much time, like Run 3 - absolutely amazing, engaging browser game that drives me nuts...