Written by Eric Poolman
Dune Economics and Control Arrakis Decks
First, a refresher on the Control Arrakis victory condition. You must have at least 1 favor and engage simultaneously Dune; Arrakeen and Carthag; and the Open Bled, Minor Erg, and Imperial Basin. While Control Arrakis was introduced as "optional" in the first rulebook, I heavily advocate it being a normal part of play.
Spice, while key to winning the game, is a useless resource as far as producing more spice. That is, having 9 spice doesn't make it any easier to get the 10th. So any solaris spent on spice are solaris not spent improving your board position (i.e. the cards you have available on the board, plus your favor and solari counts). Which is also part of why decks -- often Guild -- which jump to victory by getting a bunch of spice in the last turn do so well; rather than build up spice slowly and tie up their solaris in useless spice, they pulled out a ton of cards, often charters, early on and are riding high on the interest off their solari investment.
My guesstimates are that 10 spice cost somewhere between 20 and 40 solaris, depending on deck strategy. Spice Mining decks pay these through the one-time costs of petitioning a desert and deploying either a spice harvester or deploying Dune, plus often Policy of Oppressions (roughly -- and all the difference lies in that "roughly" -- a two solari cost) to doubly engage deserts or Dune. Spice Buying decks pay more directly to the Guild Hoard, but also sometimes for Guild Navigators or deserts. Spice Program decks pay for their spice by deploying rite-effective personas and personnel, plus the opportunity cost (engaging the homeworld) of deploying the program. Smuggler Bribes, used in so many decks, costs at least 4 solaris for the first spice, with the cost per spice dropping if you can hold it.
Note that, most notably in the cases of Smuggler Bribes, deserts, and Dune, this doesn't include the costs associated with defending your board position in order to keep the cards long enough to pay off.
Spice events should be looked at during the analysis of time. Spice can certainly be produced cheaper, but that means waiting -- either for next turn when your deserts disengage, or when enough deferment tokens mount on the Spice Blow. Decks that bring in spice for smaller solari outlays, in the neighborhood of 20 or so, rely on waiting for the right events to come up. So while cheaper in terms of solaris spent, certain decks may be expensive in terms of time.
Enter the Control Arrakis deck.
The total deployment costs of the six required fiefs is 26 solaris. Of which one fief -- the Siridar Fief -- is garnering deferment tokens from turn one. Of which two fiefs produce three or four solaris per turn, jumping to five when you pull out Dune.
Compared to purchasing spice, which is an inert product once you've bought it, the six fiefs are paying you interest. The cities obviously do this, and Dune because it boosts the cities, but the deserts can as well: Dune pulls in the spice which you then sell to finance more petitionsor a favor push.
Control Arrakis decks have two additional virtues. First, you don't need to engage your homeworld or an ally to win. Second, you only have to have 1 favor, so you can burn the rest of it as you like, and play with considerably less regard for Favor Destruction decks (in fact, you'd be happy if someone else was playing one -- all the better for you if your opponents are investing in a second asset about which youdon't care.)
I'm suggesting, if your playgroup currently does not, to include the Control Arrakis condition as a standard rule. It allows for new strategies and counter strategies (the "plans within plans") to evolve, bringing more cards into the realm of usefulness. And by not leaving it simply optional, where people would have to ask for its inclusion at the beginning of the game, you make it so the Control Arrakis deck doesn't have to tip its hand from the start.