Dune Is The Mind-Killer
The hunt is always better than the kill. And the hunt for a sensibly priced copy of Avalon Hill's Dune was about the longest of my collecting career. The quarry I tracked down proved to have a very battered box but pristine contents. To these I added a set of the redrafted rules and then five other friends, ready to fight for the Spice on Arrakis.
And yeah, I've explained to my buddies that reading the book really enhances the game for the reason you mentioned above. The factions are really well painted in the book, so it adds a level of emotion to the game that you don't get with others. "You can't let the Harkonen win" has probably been said 10,000 times since this game came out.
I'm rereading it for the first time since '85 because I'm pretty sure someone in my group will buy one of the fresh new copies of the game.
If one keeps that in mind, the game is punishing but it's hard to be out of contention.
Matt has mentioned Fremen, which actually subverts this somewhat. Their troops are free, unlike those of other factions, and they regenerate 3 of them for free each turn so losing 10 of them on the first couple turns is fine.
Fremen now awards his ally 3 free revivals.
Emperor can now pay to make his ally revive 3 extra troops.
It has less luck than you might think for a game of this nature, but it does have its share: the traitor draw, the auction cards, and the spice cards* .
san il defanso wrote: It has no luck...
Noteworthy is the fact that all three are what I refer to as "German-style" luck: they randomize the situation rather than the outcome (i.e., "American-style" luck).
(* and the storm movement in some versions.)