Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dune - Rendezvous with Fremen (Won!)

Written by Reiko

Paul Atreides Journal #4: "No force in the galaxy can stand against me now. Dune with its precious spice is mine. The Harkonnens are no more and even the Emperor will never be a threat again. And I will make at least part of Dune green, for my mother, and for the family I will have with Chani."

Last time, I left off with one sietch struck by a plague that was deliberately spread by the Harkonnens. Fortunately, Chani offered to cure it, but she asked Paul to leave her there by herself to reduce distractions. I would have thought she'd be more of a distraction to him, but nevermind.

The troops that were already at the sietch when the plague hit are out of commission, but other troops can move through the sietch without trouble. Since Gurney is still there too, I continue training a few of the other nearby troops. I also spend some time visiting troops in other areas and readjusting the locations of the spice harvesters.


Bastard!

But when I return to that sietch after I get the message from Chani that the plague is cured, I find her missing! Now I know why the plot needed me to be elsewhere... Soon after that, Thufir informs me that a message has arrived at the palace. I rush back to find another taunting message from Feyd-Rautha, the Harkonnen heir. He has stolen Chani away!
Thufir suggests I needed to send spies out to determine which fortress Chani was being held at. I check the fortresses nearest to my current advance on Harkonnen territory, but she isn't there. I talk to Stilgar, but he only says that Chani's capture would not be good for the men's morale.


They won’t be prisoners for much longer...

In the process of conquering fortresses, I discover several interesting features of the battle system. Troops can actually be captured if they fail to win the battle. At one fortress, I send several troops, but I fail to realize that I'd only sent the troops that don't yet have laser guns, so they are outgunned by the Harkonnens. They aren't all killed, fortunately, just captured and held as prisoners. That means I can send a second wave of troops, this time with laser guns, who easily take the fortress and release the rest of my troops.


The haze of battle darkens the sky.

I can travel to a battle in progress to strengthen the morale of the troops. My usual plan is to stay at a nearby sietch, send the troops first, and see how they are doing before traveling there myself and rallying them for a final onslaught. The menu at a battle gives options for a "massive attack," which I'm guessing tells the troops to fight harder for a time, and "fight for a whole day," which probably just allows me to kill time while I'm waiting for the battle to finish. I don't really know why I would use the second option since I generally just want the battle to be over as quickly as possible. But I suspect the first option could be risky if I'm not already sure I'm winning.


The inside of a captured fortress.

Once I capture a fortress, the troops that had been fighting start working to convert it to a sietch. Before it's converted, I can still go inside it and see the Fremen chiefs the same way I can at a sietch. But the ones working on the conversion won't do anything else until it's done. At most fortresses, I also can free a captured troop of Fremen, strengthening my numbers. I often find more equipment for the new troops too, probably whatever the Harkonnens were using before their defeat.

One fortress even has a set of "weirding modules" which seem to be an even better weapon than laser guns. That doesn't actually make any sense as a weapon, though. I think the movie has the modules too, but in the book, Jessica knows a Bene Gesserit way of fighting that the Fremen call the "weirding way." She taught it to Paul as part of his training, and he in turn taught it to the Fremen, making them even more formidable fighters. But there's no device; it's merely knowledge and practice, like a martial art.


Battle status on the map.

I can also see the state of a battle by watching the map. The battle icon isn't terribly clear, but if you look closely, you can see that it actually depicts arm wrestling, and it will tilt one way or the other if one side has a clear advantage. I've got reinforcements on the way, but so far, one large troop with the weirding modules is holding its own against three Harkonnen troops.


The balance of power is shifting.

Meanwhile, while I manage the progress of conquering new fortresses and whittling away at Harkonnen strength, I also have to continue sending spice shipments to the Emperor. The amount has been increasing more slowly, from around 9000 to 10000 for the last two shipments. By taking over fortresses and then prospecting the areas, I've actually been able to maintain spice production well, as long as I continue to move harvesters around as previous areas become depleted. So the current shipments are around 10% or less of current stock, and my spice production is more than triple the Harkonnen production now even though it's been going down a bit.


Liet-Kynes eagerly reveals his new bulbs.

I check back with the troops working on ecology and discover that their work with the original bulbs is finished, and now the sietch contains several sets of bulbs as equipment. I equip the two troops with the bulbs and order them to start working on tree management, which makes them start planting the bulbs in the area. Green marks start appearing on the map around the sietch, and trees are visible in the area when I walk around. This also destroys any further spice potential in the region. That's okay, as it had already been fairly low, so I'm not harvesting there anyway.


Trees being planted around a sietch.

After a couple of days, I send one of the troops off to a second sietch in an already-depleted region in the original area east of my home base. I send him to the only sietch in the area that already has a water-trap. I suspect that they can only plant trees near a sietch with a water-trap and sufficient water gathered. They also have the option to build a water-trap at a sietch, but I don't see a need to do that at the moment.

Later the ecology troop warns me that vegetation always extends northward. I believe that means that regions north of where the trees were originally planted will eventually also become devoid of spice as the trees spread. I'm not harvesting anywhere directly north of where I planted, so this shouldn't affect my own production any time soon, although it may well affect the Harkonnen production, given enough time.

I finally realize I should try giving the prospector team some equipment, and of course they tell me then that they travel and prospect faster with an orni. Of course they do. Actually, my speed of advance has generally been keeping them busy continuously, but now with the orni, they finish prospecting so fast that they don't have much to do. I also buy some more laser guns, as crys-knives are plentiful, but not all my troops have guns still.


The state of the front lines.

I eventually discover Chani's location in a fortress not too far north of my main base, guarded well with three well-armed Harkonnen troops. Only one more similarly-guarded fortress remains between my front line and the fortress holding Chani. In the screenshot above, the small blue icons are the fortresses and the gray icons are my sietches. I've just captured the blue fortress directly above the red icon indicating my location, and the prospectors have already finished prospecting the area. The fortress to the northeast of there is moderately well-guarded and should probably be my next target. Chani is in the fortress south of there, directly north of my home base in red.


Baron Harkonnen gloats over Paul's defeat.

Then I make a mistake. I leave the previously-captured fortress too lightly guarded, and it's attacked again. I send reinforcements right away, but the lone troop that's already there starts taking losses before the reinforcements arrive. I go there myself to improve their morale, but it isn't enough. Their defeat means that Paul himself is captured and left for dead in the desert.

I reload and do the sequence a little differently. I move on completely once I'm done with a fortress. I have so many troops now that they can't all stay at the same sietch, so I keep Gurney behind the front lines training the new recruits, while the experienced and best-armed troops advance the front line, obliterating any resistance and then converting the new fortresses to sietches. Along the way I pick up a couple more weirding modules and more laser guns. Now I have three troops fully armed, and all the new recruits have laser guns, with some to spare. Time to rescue Chani!


Chani is very grateful to be rescued.

The actual rescue is rather anticlimactic, really, as the battle is no different than the previous one. I find Chani locked up in the dungeon with the local Fremen troop and free both. With Chani's return, the morale of the Fremen soars again, and the balance of power on Dune has tipped heavily in my favor. I now have more men and far more controlled areas and spice production.

The next fortress has Harkonnen troops that are "armed to the teeth" according to the spy, but I attack carefully with weirding modules and prevail. This time I loot an even better weapon: atomics! I'm a little surprised that the Harkonnens were using atomics as weapons. In the book, any use of atomics draws sandworms. The Fremen can ride and control the worms, so my troops can use them, but I don't think the Harkonnens would really be willing to risk it.

I continue leapfrogging forward, collecting more atomics and slowly strengthening my army. It's slow going because I have to wait for the winning troops to convert the fortress before I can use them again, but I now have enough fully-armed troops that I can split my attacks and launch two battles at once.


This captain is really creepy.

Another fortress contains a captured Harkonnen captain that I can interrogate. He gives me the location of another fortress and tells me it's guarded by only one troop. Well okay then, that will be my next target. Meeting the captain is an interesting diversion, but kind of pointless because my spies have been doing an excellent job of telling me how many troops are at a fortress and how heavily they're armed, so I don't really need the captain's intel. Making him the source of Chani's location in an otherwise unfindable fortress would have been more interesting.

I've slowly been working on the ecology in parallel, but even after at least twenty days, the trees hadn't really spread all that much farther beyond the sietches where I originally planted them, so it would be quite the long game to play that way. I suspect it would be interesting roleplay but a much more difficult game to rely on ecology rather than military strength to rout the Harkonnens, especially when abandoned fortresses couldn't be used for fresh spice production to cover the Emperor's increasingly large spice demands. On the other hand, if I'd devoted most of my non-harvesting troops to ecology rather than military, the process would surely have gone much faster, so maybe it's still a viable strategy.


Nearly finished wiping out the Harkonnens...

The rest is just mopping up the last few fortresses with my overwhelming force. The last two aren't even heavily guarded. I split my forces again and attack them both at once. Finally I've conquered all the Harkonnen fortresses. Some areas of the planet are still not covered by known sietches, but it doesn't matter; we're ready for the final assault. I was going to just go in, guns blazing, but it doesn't work like that. I talk to Stilgar and he suggests bringing Thufir in. Then Thufir says I need to gather all the major players (meaning himself, Stilgar, Chani, Jessica, and Gurney) in one of the closest sietches to the palace to discuss the assault.

I notice that the Emperor hasn't made a demand in awhile even though there should have come another one by now. I check with Duncan Idaho, who says, "The next demand from the Emperor will be in 255 days." Okay then, plenty of time! I guess the interval is set to max once the plot no longer requires shipments.


The requirement for the final assault.

Once I've gathered everyone, which requires ferrying them from the home fortress two at a time, Thufir announces that the palace is protected by a powerful shield that requires atomics to break through. (Again I'm surprised the Harkonnens would use such technology due to the tendency to attract unwanted sandworm attention.)


Everyone's assembled.

He specifies that I have to gather at least ten thousand men in the three closest sietches, every troop with atomics. Fortunately, that's not a problem. I've already amassed at least ten troops with atomics, each one with 1200-1800 men. I order them to assemble in the proper places and wait two days while they travel the distance.

Once they assemble, the assault can begin. Again it's rather anticlimactic. I check with Thufir, who confirms that I've done what he said. Then Stilgar simply asks if I want to launch the attack. I agree, and the palace is shortly mine.


Thufir accuses the Emperor.

The ending scene takes place in the throne room of Arrakeen. It's not really a big surprise that the Emperor himself is there in the throne room, having been trying to destroy the Atreides family all along by sending them to Dune to fight the Harkonnens. Thufir kept hinting that the Emperor wanted more than just spice. But Paul has prevailed and the Emperor's plan will not succeed. In fact, the Emperor himself is overthrown and Paul and Chani will rule instead.


Long live Emperor Paul Atreides.



In the book, Paul does end up as Emperor, but this isn't quite how it happens. And Chani doesn't become empress because Paul has to make a political union with the Emperor's daughter to legitimize the coup. But this is a tidy ending to a game that's only loosely based on the book anyway. Next time I'll examine how well this game worked as an adventure game.


Status on day 66 (before the final assault).

Day: 66 (plus two days to move the troops for the final assault)
Allied troops: 38
Known sietches: 51
Spice production: 5150
Spice stocks: 185950
Charisma: 100

Session Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 14.5 hours

Classic Sci-fi Awareness Contest: Each Dune gameplay post has a title evoking a classic of science fiction. 5 CAPs for the first one to name the book with its author.

16 comments:

  1. "Rendezvous with Rama" by Arthur C. Clarke?

    The game is an interesting mix indeed. The final battle almost seems to be more in the adventure realm than the strategy realm.

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    1. That's correct.

      Yes, I didn't have to manage a battle for the final assault; I just had to gather the troops as directed and then press the button, so to speak. But it was more resource management than adventure. In theory, I could have lost too many troops to be able to gather 10,000 men. But as long as I still had some troops on spice duty, I could have converted those to army troops. I think the important part is just to have enough large troops left so that every troop has atomics, since there are only so many atomics available in the fortresses, and I never got the villages to offer to sell me any.

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  2. Gah! Finished already? I just started last week.

    I BTW also begun the second volume of the book today. I already forgot who half of the characters were, so the game is helping me in that a little.

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    1. Aaand I just finished today. The plot twist with the emperor of the universe was lame.

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  3. Is the Weirding Way the thing in the movie where they mention that Paul's name (Muad'dib) is a "word of power?" Don't they have some sort of special headset while they're doing that? I think that is about the point that I checked out while watching the movie on TV as a young lad.

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  4. The quiz with the titles is actually pretty easy. I'm gonna go ahead and name them all! :)
    Isaac Asimov - Foundation
    Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man
    Arthur C. Clarke - Rendezvous with Rama (Already mentioned above)

    I have no idea what CAPS are eventhough I'm been a lurker on this site for years... I probably don't need them so they can go to anybody else... Heh :D

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    1. Just realized that most or all of them have already been answered in their respective posts.. duh! I didn't really notice the quiz until today! :D

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    2. You're correct about all of them even if you weren't the first, and actually I think you're the only one to mention the book for the first post, so you'll get the CAPS for that one. CAPS are just a fun way to encourage participation and discussion. See the "Rookie Companion" page for more info (https://advgamer.blogspot.com/p/rookie-companion.html).

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  5. Nice one. I seem to recall going all out on ecology once, turning a third of the planet green. But I don't think the game acknowledged it. A military victory may be the only way to win, which makes sense considering the Emperor's scheme.

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    1. If it isn't possible to win through ecology, then that mode is extra pointless. I thought it was possible to get the Harkonnens to abandon fortresses if the trees spread and destroy the spice in their areas, but I guess it would make sense that you'd still need to build up enough troops for the final assault even if you didn't fight before that.

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    2. Just did a quick playthrough to check. The old ecologist had nothing to say about my planting efforts. If the Harkonnen conquered a sietch that had plants, then upon liberation a fresh Fremen would be spawned, exclaiming that the Harkonnen withdrew because the spice was gone; but I didn't see any of their soldiers retreating, and they were happy to re-conquer the same sietch again later. I would guess the plants give a morale boost to the fremen, but if they have any real effect at all on the Harkonnen, it's not communicated to the player.

      Still, it feels nice to do something ecological instead of just waging war.

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    3. Oh yes, there was a morale boost from the ecology, that's right. I'd occasionally get comments from the Fremen that they'd heard about my planting efforts and were happy about that. So that's a good reason to do at least some ecology, but most of the time I didn't bother to have more than two troops doing ecology, and that was enough. At the very end, when I had more troops than I knew what to do with, I told a few more to do ecology, but by then it didn't matter what they did.

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  6. "You had a machiavellian plan"

    Why is Thurfir referencing a 15th century Earth philosopher?

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  7. It has admittedly been a while since I read the books, but I'm pretty sure it was shields that attracted the worms rather than atomics. Atomics were forbidden by the Great Convention instead.

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    1. Good point, but either way, nobody should have been using atomics.

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  8. It's also fun to do the alternative ending, let the fremen transform the Palace to a sietch and if you return from the desert after a few days and they transformed it the Harkonnen en Emperor will be standing in the sietch and the end scene won't trgiger.

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