It was a project that swept Scott Martins and Paul Dennen back to childhood: creating a board game based on the new “Dune” film.
Martins remembers reading the novel that inspired it, Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic science fiction novel; it’s said to be the most popular book of its genre published, selling millions of copies.
“It’s a really unique world-building setting: the worms, the hostility of the desert, the rich themes and politics about family, and all sorts of stuff that gets heavy,” said Martins, president and founder of Denver-based Dire Wolf Digital, a game studio that creates digital and physical strategy card and board games. “As a young reader, it was a world that came to life in my imagination.”
Dire Wolf’s new game, Dune: Imperium, comes more than four decades after the original Dune board game was released in 1979, preceding the first “Dune” film in 1984. The new offering blends two board game genres — deck-building and worker-placement strategy — as players vie for melange, a spice prized above all else in the Known Universe. It’s made for one to four players; the solo-mode option was added when the pandemic started.
“We wanted to make sure we had a good experience people could enjoy if they couldn’t get together with their friends just yet,” Martins said.
Launched in December, the game was set to accompany the original release date of the new “Dune” film. However, the movie, starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Javier Bardem, was pushed back because of COVID-19 and now will open Friday in theaters and also will be available on HBO Max’s ad-free plan for 31 days. The game is $55 and available for purchase online at gamesandstuffonline.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other retail outlets.
“Our first versions were card-based,” said Dennen, Dire Wolf’s creative director. “But I wanted more of a feeling of what’s going to happen in the movie, with combat, politics, troops fighting. The board allowed us to do that.”
The two “Dune” enthusiasts happened upon their opportunity at Gen Con, the largest tabletop game convention in North America, where they met the people who had acquired the licensing rights for the tabletop game of Dune. As fans of Dire Wolf’s deck-building game “Clank!,” they made the men an offer their inner little boys couldn’t refuse.
“People love getting together and playing and having that face time and socializing in that unique social experience,” Martins said about board games, a rapidly growing industry. “It’s good for families. As my kids have grown up, I’ve introduced them to different levels of games and watched how they engage with that and what they learn about strategy and socialization and sportsmanship.”
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