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Dune: House Secrets Review

Dune: House Secrets Review

Dune: House Secrets Review

Welcome to our Review of Portal GamesDune: House Secrets. This game is one of many Dune-based games out there, and we were excited to try this one out. It’s in the style of Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, so if you have played that and loved it, you’ll love this game. Let’s check out this game!

Game Overview – Dune House Secrets

Set after the event of Denis Villeneuve’s film Dune. This adventure plays out over three chapters and one prologue. We won’t point out the story here, but it is full of mystery and intrigue, and the decisions you make as a team affect how the game turns out. Dune: House Secrets is a cooperative game for 1-4 players aged 14 and up (due to the subject matter). Each chapter takes between an hour and 2 hours to complete. This speed depends on how quickly your group plays.

The game comes with a board that acts as a “Time Track,” Each chapter has you start with a set number of encounters you can complete. The board also has a House Harkonnen Consequences Track, which tracks how much attention you are drawing to yourself as a team.

This game is primarily a Narrative Choice game similar to Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. Each chapter starts with its Chapter deck of cards and a communal Asset Deck. The chapter also begins with a double-sided sheet with the intro to this chapter’s story. At the end of the Introduction, you find out your Chapter Objectives, and you must keep these in mind as you investigate. This initial sheet will also contain Encounters you can follow. For instance, you may see a lead that says, “Follow the informant to their hideout #115” If, as a group, you decide that you want to explore this further, one person will go to the chapter deck and retrieve card 115. Then you advance the Time track down by 1. Once you reach 0, you must submit your report. Each chapter has more lead cards than you have time to read before submitting this report, so you have to choose wisely.

Some encounters require you to spend a resource (or gain a resource). Each player takes on the role of a character. The roles grant you a unique ability and one or more of a specific resource token. If you are playing with less than four players, the unselected characters get flipped to their advocate side, and your group receives the resource benefit listed there. As a group, you get a mix of resources (Spice, Weapons, Water, Subterfuge, and Wild) to spend to follow encounters or, in some cases, flip the current encounter card.

The game also uses a website where you can view videos such as “Filmbooks” or “History,” which enhance the story and provide further clues to follow. The website also features the end-of-chapter status report, a multiple-choice quiz.

So that’s the game in a nutshell. It’s very heavy on story and decision-making, which are games we love.

Game Components

The game components for Dune: House Secrets are pretty basic. The board and character cards are highly designed with thicker card stock, keeping to the theme. It has two wooden markers for the Time and Consequences track. We have the preorder version of the game— with wooden Consequences tokens and a small black bag for you to select them blindly.

Finally, the chapter deck of cards was excellent. Portal has started to include an official “cover card” that is nicely themed and designed to prevent players from wandering eyes and to read ahead.

Overall the components were well designed, and we particularly liked the graphical style on the board and player cards. We love that it all keeps the theme. The cover art for the box was very cool, too, with Timothy Chamelet as Paul Atreides. 

Game Setup

The setup couldn’t be much easier to start playing the game Dune: House Secrets. You open the website and choose which chapter you are working on next. Then take the chapter deck. As these are all one big interrelated story, you choose a character to play throughout the campaign, and then as a group, you pool all your resources. 

Finally, you read the Introduction and choose the first encounter to follow. That’s it!

Game Play

The gameplay is pretty straightforward. Every encounter card gives you additional encounters to follow. You are limited by the total number of encounters for this chapter, which hovers between 12 and 14, which means out of the 20-25 card chapter encounter deck, you’ll only see half or 2/3 of the encounters. You do have to rely on your instinct as well as the cards don’t directly spell out the answer, but you can infer a lot.

Some cards will either show a book icon or a feather next to the same number as the current encounter. This icon is a direction to use the Film books or History section of the website. You enter the number, and a video appears. We were impressed with the videos created for this game and loved the art style of both the Film book intro and History. The Filmbooks are a 3d rendered book/projector slid across the table. Then it projects what you need to see on a gray wall. 

The game is great also at making you follow red herrings. Something you think is significant turns out not to be. Conversely, following a small clue can help change your fortunes immensely. — Always follow the small clues

We had one difficulty due to our unfamiliarity with Dune the book. We have seen the most recent movie. The names of people and places are difficult to remember for us. At one point, I asked, “Who is Tel Gezer?” I just had a “brain moment” but was told Tel Gezer is the place we are in and not a person. This “issue” is a minor personal issue we had, and it didn’t take away from the game. It’s just a note that there are many names to remember in this game, and keeping everything straight is critical. It might be nice to have a glossary of places and people’s names for those of us who are not as familiar with Dune.

Overall Impressions

Overall we enjoyed Dune: House Secrets. So far, we’ve played the prologue and Chapter 1. We are going to finish the following two chapters! These are our types of games to play. This game is a wholly original story set in the Dune Universe. Part Two is being created now by the Portal Games team with an Anticipated release later in the year.

We are looking forward to that arrival. 

Suppose you love games that involve stories and decision-making as a group. Then this might be the game for you. We’ve reviewed several other Portal Games, such as Vienna Connection, Dig Deeper, and Detective – A Modern Crime Board Game. All of those play out. Similarly, the subject matter is just a bit different. Check out our reviews of those if you get the chance.

If you enjoyed this review and want to pick up your copy, check it out in our store!