clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dune: Spice Wars beginner’s guide

The spice must flow

The leader of House Atreides looks over a map table depicting Arrakis in this Dune: Spice Wars screen shot. Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Dune: Spice Wars is a new 4X (an abbreviation meaning Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) real-time strategy game from Shiro Games. It might not bring much new to the table, but it’s still a detailed and, frankly, complicated game. It’s also not particularly interested in hand-holding, tutorials, or explanations.

In this Dune: Spice Wars beginner’s guide, we’ll help you get started with 11 tips we wish we knew when starting out on Arrakis.

Start small

We’ve got a lot of tips below that are going to help you through the various political, economic, and statecraft intricacies of Dune: Spice Wars, but our first tip, before we get into the details, is to start small.

A settings screen from Dune: Spice Wars that lets you choose various options for your map, enemies, difficulty, and more.
Adjust the game settings before starting out.
Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon

We mean this literally. Once you select your faction and advisors, look for the settings option next to the “Start Game” button. This lets you choose things like map size, AI difficulty, and how many AI players there are (along with a bunch of other options). There’s so much to learn and manage in Dune: Spice Wars that it’s worth treating your first game(s) as a tutorial. Pick a small map, easy AI, and only one enemy faction to keep things (relatively) simple.

Speaking of simplifying …

Set what you can to automatic

With so much going on, it’s nice to make anything you can as hands-off as possible. There are (only) two mechanics you can set to automatic — recalling harvesters when sandworms are detected and exploration by ornithopters.

Your ornithopter acts as both a scout and an explorer. When you click on your thopter (or select it from your units list on the right side of the screen), you’ll be able to tell it where to go and what to investigate. Alternately, you can just click on auto-recon. This means it’ll wander on its own and investigate whatever it finds. It’s a little directionless, but having one fewer thing to manage is definitely worth it.

A Dune: Spice Wars spice harvester getting deployed onto a spice field.
Deploying a spice harvester.
Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon

Each time you build a refinery in a village where spice is also present (more on this below), you’ll get a harvester (each refinery only gets one). While harvesting spice, the harvester runs the risk of drawing a sandworm and, potentially, getting eaten. Clicking on a harvester gives you a similar auto-recall button. This will pull them back to safety if (when) a sandworm shows up. They do suffer a 5% penalty to the amount of spice they harvest, though, and you’ll have to manually re-deploy them when it’s safe.

Control the spice (to pay your taxes)

Every 25 in-game days, you’ll owe the Spacing Guild some spice, and the amount you owe increases each month. That means the spice tax (or bribe, if you play as a non-House faction) is a ticking clock — you won’t be able to cover the tax unless you expand and build up your reserves.

Finding spice and setting up a way to gather it is the first thing to do in any game of Dune: Spice Wars. Getting spice means finding a spice field (one will be marked automatically when you start the game and your ornithopters will help you find more), capturing the village in the same region as the spice (probably with military units), building a refinery at that village, and keeping your harvester out of the jaws of any wandering sandworms. And you’ll also be paying for the upkeep on the village, your military units, refinery, and harvester at the same time. You can (and should) think of this as a microcosm of how Dune: Spice Wars works.

All of those things require you to manage the flow of resources, and there are a lot of different resources.

It’s resources all the way down

By our count, there are 12 resources or currencies that you’re managing while playing Dune: Spice Wars. Some are (arguably) more important than others, but they’re all necessary and, more vitally, running out of any of them is disastrous.

  • Spice. If you know anything about Dune, you know about spice. For the purposes of Dune: Spice Wars, spice has two uses: to pay your monthly tax and for trading with other factions. You gain spice by building refineries in villages near spice fields.
  • Solari is (are?) your cash. You need solari to train military units, build expansions onto your base (but not to add buildings to villages), and to pay for the upkeep of basically everything. You gain solari by converting some of your incoming spice to cash (more on this below), building processing plants near rare element deposits, or controlling villages containing merchants.
  • Plascrete is your building material. Every building costs plascrete and requires plascrete for upkeep. You gain plascrete by building plascrete factories.
  • Manpower is a measure of how many people you have working for you. You’ll need manpower for training in-village militias and military units and for adding crews to spice harvesters to increase production. You gain manpower by building recruitment offices.
  • Fuel Cells are what run your vehicles. You’ll need them to power your spice harvesters (both to build them and as upkeep) and to build new ornithopters. You gain fuel cells by building, unsurprisingly, fuel cell factories.
  • Water is obviously incredibly important on a desert world like Arrakis. You’ll need it to capture and upkeep villages and to train military units. You gain water by building windtraps in villages — a windtrap will produce three water for each level of wind strength at that village.
  • Authority is a measure of leadership and, for lack of a better word, clout. You need authority to take control of villages. You gain authority by assigning agents (spies) to Arrakis.
  • Hegemony is kind of like XP. Hegemony unlocks new buildings to expand your base as you reach certain tiers. You’ll earn hegemony for doing basically anything — from voting on resolutions in the Landsraad Council to paying your taxes to defeating enemy military units — or by building crafts workshops.
  • Knowledge is a resource that determines how fast you research new Developments — you can think of Developments like a skill tree. You gain knowledge by building research hubs.
  • Influence is a resource that can be used in addition to your votes in the Landsraad council — it’s kind of like extra votes to put more weight behind resolutions. You gain influence by building listening posts or by assigning agents to the Landsraad.
  • Intel is a measure of your spy network’s output. You’ll spend intel to create operations — one-time-use events to help you or hurt your enemies. You gain intel by building data centers and by assigning agents to enemy (or neutral) factions.
  • Command Points determine how many military units you can have. Each unit takes up a number of command points — troopers require three and support drones take four, for example. If a unit is destroyed (or you disband them), you get those command points back. You gain more command points by researching developments like ground command and high command.

It’s tough to call any of the resources more important than others, but we will say there are a few that we tended to run out of more often, specifically spice, solari, plascrete, and water.

The spice vs. solari slider

In the top left corner of the screen, next to your faction’s and advisors’ portraits, there’s a readout of your spice production, a vertical purple and yellow slider, and then two tiles showing information about your CHOAM Contract and Spice Stockpile.

A Dune: Spice Wars screenshot showing focused on the main base. In the upper left, an arrow points to the slider that controls how much spice is turned into solari as it’s harvested
Adjust this slider to change how much of your spice is immediately converted into solari.
Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon

The slider is what’s important here. You have control over how much spice is immediately converted into solari, and how much stays as spice and goes into your stockpile — the slider represents that percentage. This only applies to spice as it’s being harvested, though. You cannot convert spice to solari after it’s been gathered.

Keeping the balance between having enough spice to pay your monthly taxes and converting spice into cash to pay for expansion is a big deal in Dune: Spice Wars. Keeping it somewhere around 40% CHOAM and 60% Spice Stockpile seems to be about right, but you can adjust it as needed.

Prioritize maintenance over expansion

To control new regions and exploit their resources, you’ll need a few military units to capture that region’s village. Every military unit has an up-front cost and an upkeep cost, capturing villages has a cost (in water and authority), and running a village has an upkeep cost (on top of the upkeep cost of any buildings in that village).

What we’re trying to say is that expansion is expensive, so you’ll need to make sure the villages you’ve already captured cover the new costs. Expanding too quickly is a sure way to run out of resources, and when that happens, your villages will rebel and everything will fall apart.

Clicking on an independent or enemy faction’s village will show you information about it, including how much it will cost to take control of it (once the village’s militia is defeated).

Special regions produce more

A screenshot of Dune: Spice Wars showing a region of desert containing rare elements, indicated by a yellow stone marker
Special regions contain resources that increase production.
Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon

Some regions of Arrakis have special resources. Spice is the most obvious of these, but there are also rare elements, minerals, and energy sources. Each of these gives a bonus to the production of certain resources in that region (which you produce with buildings at that region’s village.

  • Rare elements (yellow-orange stone) allow you build a processing plant that produces solari.
  • Minerals (gray stone) increase that region’s plascrete factory output by 50%.
  • Energy sources (three vertical red waves) increase fuel cell factory output by 50%.

Keep an eye on what the region has to offer when you’re thinking about what to build there.

Non-special regions can still be useful

Not every region is special, but even normal regions can be useful. You can build just about anything in any village — the only exceptions being a refinery and a processing plant. You are limited to five buildings max per village, though, so sometimes you just need another village to expand your production.

Just as importantly, traveling across regions you don’t control costs your military units supplies — and when they run out of supplies, they start taking hits to their health. In regions you control, however, your units don’t lose supplies (or health). That means it makes sense to control regions as you move your military around — to make sure they’re supplied so they’re ready to fight when they arrive at the next village.

Rock the vote

Everything we’ve covered so far is about the day-to-day and military operations of Arrakis. But Dune: Spice Wars isn’t just about desert power. There’s also spying and politics (more on spying below).

A Dune: Spice Wars screenshot showing the Landsraad Council voting screen with three proposed resolutions.
A Landsraad Council vote.
Image: Shiro Games/Funcom via Polygon

Every 25 days, there’s a vote in the Landsraad. Each cycle, three resolutions come up for vote. Most of these are just support or decline votes on what things cost — a 30% increase in water upkeep costs or a 100% increase in recruitment costs, for example. Others elect a faction to a role that might be either beneficial or harmful.

Each cycle, you’re able to spend your votes (you start off with 100, but that can be modified by your Landsraad standing) as well as your influence on each of these resolutions. Your opposing factions each have their own votes and influence, and there are 400 minor house votes floating around.

Voting on resolutions is a good way to get yourself a price break or to punish your opponents with diplomacy instead of military might.

Agents, espionage, missions, operations, and infiltration

In the background of everything else, you’re also in charge of a spy network of agents. These agents get assigned to enemy factions and the various players in the Dune universe, like the Spacing Guild or Landsraad Council.

These agents produce intel and grant various buffs and boons depending on where they’re assigned. Your agents also slowly infiltrate that group. More importantly, though, you can spend that intel on missions. Missions create operations to support your efforts or frustrate your enemies.

As your infiltration level increases, you’ll unlock more and more powerful operations — all the way up to an assassination attempt on your enemies.

Which brings us to …

Three ways to win

There are three win conditions in Dune: Spice Wars. These aren’t going to change much of how you play early on in your conquest of Arrakis, but it’s good to know what you’re working toward.

  • Domination. Domination means you’ve destroyed the bases of the enemy factions with military units or you’ve successfully assassinated their leaders with espionage operations.
  • Governorship. One of the charters (a special kind of resolution) that will come up for Landsraad Council vote is the Dune Governorship. If you can vote your own faction into that charter and hold onto it for 60 in-game days, you’ll win a political victory.
  • Hegemony. Winning by gaining enough hegemony — 50,000 hegemony, to be precise — is basically just winning through patience. You’ll gain hegemony as you do basically anything in Dune: Spice Wars from defeating enemy military units to gathering spice, but gaining 50,000 is playing the long game.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.