Tom vs Bruce: Dune Wars

, | Tom vs Bruce

Intro: A Beginning Is a Delicate Time
Tom 1-50: Atreides Established
Bruce 51-100: The Geryk Manifesto
Tom 101-150: Chick’s State of the House Address
Bruce 151-200: The Space Bahrain Era
Tom 201-250: The Harkonnen War
Bruce 251-300: The House on Totilo Hill
Tom 300-end: The Fall of House Atreides

A Beginning is a Delicate Time

Bruce: When Tom Chick asked me in 2008 to take a few years off from Tom vs. Bruce, he said he wasn’t questioning my commitment. But the fact is that I had gotten soft. Since the early years when we had fought each other to a .500 record, my performance had slowly tailed off to the point where it was hurting Tom’s competitive edge to even play me. While Tom was being invited to major gaming championships across the globe, I was languishing as a utility player for a video game team in Toledo, and my career was in serious jeopardy. When Tom told me we needed to take a break so I could have some time to re-focus, we both knew what he meant, even though neither one of us would say it.

But the world of video gaming is a funny place, and just when you think that there’s no way to compete with the electron-quick kids anymore, life throws you a bone. With his current roster devastated by injuries, Tom pulls a few strings, makes a few calls, and all of a sudden, my agent is on the phone, asking if I’m interested in doing a serious piece on a very short deadline: something called Dune Wars. Heavy on the thinky-thinky. I’ve always been good at sims, and the world of Dune is one of those things that unless you have a lot of insider knowledge, it’s almost impossible to make sense of all the details. Given that Dune creator Frank Herbert died in 1986, two years before Tom was born, and took most of the secrets of the Dune world with him, I’m pretty sure I’ve got an insurmountable advantage in this one. I tell my agent to make a deal.

Tom: Dune Wars is a mod for Civilization IV, featuring all your favorite races, such as the Fremen, the Harkonnen, the Atreides; some of your least favorite races, such as the Bene Gesserit and the Emperor; and some races you’ve never heard of, such as Ordos and Ix, both of which are actual things.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer doesn’t work when Bruce and I begin our game. We fumble around with incompatible files, sync issues, and gom jabbar fatal errors. So we trick Dune Wars by taking turns playing the same game. The idea is that I’ll play the first 50 turns and then hand the saved game over to Bruce. Then he’ll play the next 50 turns and hand the saved game back to me. And so on until we hit a victory condition. The kids call this a succession game. I call it the same two-party political system I’ve known all my life.

So how do we figure out who wins? The same way we always figure out who wins. By checking the score. Civilization IV keeps a running tally of your civilization’s worth based on population, techs researched, wonders, and so forth. It’s complicated math that accounts for Civ IV’s high system requirements. But the point is the better you do, the more points are added to your score. Each term, Bruce and I will track our contribution to the score. At the end of the game, whoever accumulates the most points wins.