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Rise of Ix Review

Dune Imperium: Rise of Ix Review

Rise of Ix Overview

Dune Imperium quickly took its spot among my favorite games due to its strategic depth, clever use of deck building, and strong solo mode. A common theme of board game expansions is to “fix” issues that the original game had. In my opinion, however, there wasn’t a lot to fix in Dune Imperium.

You can find a video version of this review on my YouTube Channel.

Rise of Ix does actually address a few issues that I did have with the original, but it’s by and large an actual expansion. Something that expands upon the original rather than filling in holes.

The core of the game remains intact. Every carefully crafted aspect of its tight deck building and worker placement is as strong as ever. But Rise of Ix throws a few new considerations in the form of Tech Tiles, and Dreadnaughts.

Rise of ix and Dune Imperium set up on a table

Rise of Ix replaces part of the existing board. Which changes up the dynamic of the original extensively, and will require you to relearn your core strategies.

Of course, Rise of Ix also greatly expands on Dune Imperium’s existing content with new leaders, imperium cards, intrigue cards, and conflict cards.

Gideon’s BiasRise of Ix Information
Review Copy Used: NoPublisher: Dire Wolf
Number of Plays: 20+Designer: Paul Dennen
Player Counts Played: AllPlayer Count: 1-4
Fan of Genre: YesGenre: Deck Building, Worker Placement
Fan of Weight: YesWeight: Medium
Gaming Groups Thoughts: Loved ItPrice: $40.00

Presentation

Rise of Ix Boxed contents

Rise of Ix follows the same design philosophy as the base game, which is one of simple beauty. The simplistic design keeps the expansion’s price reasonable but maintains a pleasing look anyway. The board additions match the same quality as the base games board, with a visual design that looks nice and is easy to understand.

The artwork on the new cards looks great. The Dreadnaught meeples are simple but identifiable, and the new tech tiles are made of sturdy cardboard. They suffer from a lack of art the same way that intrigue cards do, but having three stacks of them on the board does enhance the game’s table presence.

One thing I do want to point out is that Rise of Ix comes with reference cards that are separate from the leaders. I particularly love the solo reference as it includes the rules for both versions of the game, and it is much less unwieldy than the giant solo page from the original game

Rise of Ix reference cards

One underrated aspect of the game is just how clean these little pages are. They pack in a ton of text but are divided by categories listed with bullet points that make them easy to read. It’s concise enough not to bog you down but has enough information to be useful.

Board Additions

Rise of Ix has two board additions. One that is laid on top of the original and one that’s placed beside it. In addition to introducing new gameplay mechanisms, they also straight-up replace some of the old aspects of the board.

Rise of Ix board additions

Rally no longer exists, for example, and you can no longer sell spice to CHOAM. Hall of Oratory has been replaced by Tech Negotiator, and no longer grants a troop. This directly changes many of the ways you would go about gathering Solari and Troops, but the replacements serve similar purposes with slightly more depth.

The new CHOAM board uses a new freighter mechanism. It allows you to move your freighter up its track, or recall it, gaining all the bonuses your freighter had reached along the way. The bottom grants your choice of 5 Solari or two spice, taking the former also grants all other players one Solari. The second space grants two troops and one influence while the third allows you to buy a tech tile at a discount.

Rise of Ix council and CHOAM board

Something I particularly like is that the Interstellar Shipping space requires two influence with the Spacing Guild, which adds further value to that faction.

The new Ix board allows you to purchase Dreadnaughts with Solari and Tech Tiles with Spice. Tech Negotiation also gives you the option of placing troops on Ix to reduce the cost of a future purchase.

Rise of Ix side board

Between the board additions and new cards, one thing is certainly true. Both Spice and Solari have far more uses than before. Plus, the gathering and usage of either require you to plan multiple turns in advance. This is a wide economical change for the game, but it’s for the better. Granting players more options and adding value to strategies outside of rushing the Swordmaster.

New Cards

Rise of Ix adds a bunch of new cards to the existing decks. Imperium, Intrigue, and the solo House Hagel cards all receive new toys that slide seamlessly into the existing game.

Ix Guild Compact, Weirding Way and CHOAM Delegate card

Some of the new cards introduce easy-to-use new mechanisms. Take CHOAM Delegate, for example. You will notice that its location icon looks different, it’s an infiltrate icon, and all factions have a version of it. It simply allows you to place an agent on a faction space even if another player’s agent is already there.

The unload icon in its reveal box gives you three options to trigger its effect. Revealing it like normal, discarding it via another effect, or trashing it via another effect. Having that kind of wiggle room really opens up a variety of combos and makes building your deck to fit your agenda that much more important.

Web of Power, Imperial Bashar, and Ixian Engineer cards

Some cards such as Ixian Engineer and Freighter Fleet bank off of new mechanics by allowing you to purchase a Tech Tile or move your Freighter respectively.

The new additions further break open Dune’s already deep gameplay allowing you to take your strategy in even more directions. A lot of sentiments, even from other reviewers seem to indicate that Dune Imperium shouldn’t be thought of as a deck builder. I highly disagree.

Imperial Shock Trooper, Jamis and Freighter Fleet cards

Deckbuilding is central to every aspect of the game. How you build your deck drastically influences the outcome as much as where you choose to place your Agents. The threefold design of the cards, between location icons, effects, and the reveal phase gives each card several uses on any given turn and really breathes life into the game. Rise of Ix improves upon and adds more variety to the deck building aspect. It makes the entire game better overall by doing so.

Rise of Ix Leaders

The expansion introduces six new unique leaders. Each one features its own strengths for you to take advantage of and they feel balanced compared to the base game’s leaders. My only disappointment is that only two of them are able to be played against in solo mode.

Rise of Ix leader cards

I particularly like the mix of complexities. Leaders such as Hundro Mortani are simple, he allows you to start with an intrigue card and pay 1 spice to move your Freighter using your Signet Ring. Prince Rhombur simply makes Dreadnaughts more effective, and then on the other end of complexity, you have Tessa. Her Snoop tokens can pay off very well but require you to plan ahead of time to get the most of out them.

My personal favorite, Archduke Armand is all about deckbuilding, giving you more options to add to and cull your deck. No leader has an inherent advantage over the other, complex or not. It’s all about how you use them and that’s awesome.

Tech Tiles & Dreadnaughts

Ix Tech Tiles

Two of the largest additions come in the form of Dreadnaughts and Tech Tiles. Dreadnaughts are battleships that count as three strength each. You can only have two of them, but they aren’t destroyed after a battle. If you win a battle, they control an area for a turn. You can even temporarily control a space another player already occupies.

Tech Tiles are powerful assets that have a variety of abilities, only three are available at a time, with a new one replacing any that are purchased. These tiles are bought with Spice, and you can find ways to gain a discount on them.

Tech Tiles have the ability to influence entire strategies. Restricted Ordinance grants four swords every turn if you have a high council seat for example. While Shuttle Fleet grants two Solari a turn, that’s incredibly powerful if you can grab it early. Other tech tiles have once per round abilities, such as Flagship. Which allows you to pay four Solari for three troops.

Rise of Ix Tech Tiles

Many Tech Tiles offer victory points, either at the end or during the game. Even the ones that don’t grant victory points have such a colossal impact, alongside the other additions in Rise of Ix, that it largely takes the weight off of the end-game Intrigue cards. That’s something that vexed me in the base game.

One of the reasons why they were an issue is there was a very limited number of ways to gain victory points. An end-game intrigue card essentially flipped the table at the last second. You have many more options in Rise of Ix and that makes them less impactful.

Dreadnaughts shake up the combat, and Tech Tiles affect the entire game. They are also just plain fun to use. Tech Tiles are these big sweeping effects that you get to add to your engine, and that’s fun. They can also incentivize actions you might not normally take.

Dreadnaught Meeples

For example, buying a council seat is a heavy cost that you have to count on paying off later. Having four swords every single round simply for having the seat, thanks to Restricted Ordinance, makes the seat much more appealing.

If you manage to grab Space Port, it allows you to place cards you acquire on top of your deck instead of the discard pile, suddenly half of the imperium row takes on a very different meaning for you.

Finally, they give players another piece of the puzzle to compete for. Knowing which Tech Tiles you want, versus the ones the other players might want, can heavily influence when or what you’re willing to do to acquire them

Solo & Epic Mode

Ix House Hagel Cards

All of the new mechanisms slot into solo mode nicely, complete with new House Hagel cards. The solo mode retains the same feeling of completeness that the original had and is every bit as easy to run, with very little overhead. It’s a bummer that the House Hagel AI can only play as two of the new leaders, but that’s my only complaint.

There is also a new Epic variant, that extends the game to 12 victory points and alters the beginning of the game. You start with a bigger garrison for example and replace a Dune The Desert Planet Card with a new Control the Spice Card.

Epic Mode is a bit misleading. It doesn’t actually make the game any longer, as there are still only 10 rounds. That’s unfortunate because my only other complaint is it sometimes feels like Dune Imperium ends too early. However, if you have a group that routinely ends the game a couple of rounds early, Epic mode is the perfect solution.

My Perspective

A side view of Dune Imperium and the Rise of Ix expansion

Dune Imperium was already one of my favorite games, and Rise of Ix elevated it further. I prefer complex games, and Rise of Ix does add some that I enjoy even more. But it does so in an easy-to-learn and approachable way, assuming that you already knew how to play Dune Imperium in the first place.

Sure it does technically fix many of the issues I had with the first game. End game intrigue cards have less of an impact, and the renewed importance on Spice and Solari passively dials down the perceived strength of the Sword Master and Mentat. From the time you start playing Rise of Ix, those two spaces finally resemble what they always were, an option instead of a must-have.

The real reason I love Rise of Ix has nothing to do with fixing any problems I had, but with what it improves. I said it in my review of the original, and I’ll say it again. Dune is not a complicated game, but it gives me everything I seek to extract from more complex games. Variety, variability, multiple paths to victory, and intense, meaningful strategy. Rise of Ix expands on all of that, in every way.

A slanted view of Rise of IX and Dune Imperium

The new cards, tech tiles, freighters, dreadnaughts, and every other addition all serve the same purpose, to add additional nuance and player choice to how you play the game. That choice is always changing as a game of Dune Imperium is fluid in nature.

You can sit, in intense thought, sweating because each decision you make is crucial. The intensity isn’t because it’s complicated, however, at least in the mechanical sense. But because of the thread that every action weaves, culminating in a woven web of paths. The ripples of which you feel all game.

Verdict

Rise of Ix is an improvement on Dune Imperium in nearly every way. I know there are a lot of concerns that it makes the game swinger and that games won’t be as close. I’ll let you in on a secret, Games are neither more or less close in Rise of Ix, because that was an illusion in the first place.

The reason games felt close in the original is because of how limited victory points were. A more skilled player would win every time, but a less skilled one would still look as if they came close because it’s fairly easy to meet a certain threshold of victory points, even if you play badly.

Ix Intrigue cards

That illusion is shattered in Rise of Ix, nothing actually changed in that regard, the game isn’t less tight. It’s just the skill gap will be more obvious due to the expanded nature of the game.

Hot take, but that’s a good thing. If you got close by playing poorly, you don’t actually know that you played poorly and can’t improve at the game. You have less reason to re-examine how or why you lost. So I’d put any fears aside about the expansion making the experience less tight.

A perspective view of Dune and Rise of Ix

Either way, Dune Imperium was already a stellar game, and Rise of Ix is a fantastic expansion. One that takes something great and elevates it by adding targeted content to its strong points and expands on everything that made the core game great in the first place.

It’s a must-have, but in the most definitive fashion that an expansion should be. Not because it fixed leaky holes in Dune Imperium’s boat, but because it straps rockets on the back instead, and sends the game sailing with a dash of Spice. I give it my Golden Shield Award.

Golden Shield Awards
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Pros

  • Retains Dune Imperium’s simplistic, but high-quality beauty
  • 6 excellent new leaders to play
  • Tech Tiles and Dreadnaughts blow open the possibility and are a lot of fun
  • Strong content additions between intrigue, imperium, and conflict cards
  • New mechanisms slide nicely into solo play
  • Solari and Spice have more uses that alter the game for the better
  • Improves the base game across the board by elevating its core strengths

Cons

  • The game still feels like it ends too early sometimes
  • Only two of the six new leaders can be used by the House Hagel AI
  • The Epic mode isn’t actually longer