Desolate Review

Desolate Feature
Released 2018
Designer Jason Glover
Publisher Grey Gnome Games (Website)
The Game Crafter (Website)
Players 1
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Push Your Luck
Dice Rolling
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

In space, no one can hear you reshuffle the deck…

While I tend to play Video Games when I am playing myself, there have been quite a few solo board games recently.  A new one that I heard a lot of buzz about was a game called Desolate.

The premise of the game is simple.  You are the sole survivor of a space station.  There is an escape pod, but you need to find power cells while searching for basic resources in order to escape.  Oh, and you should probably try and avoid the alien invaders as well.

Setup is simply shuffling the Conflict and Exploration Cards and putting them near each other on the table.

Setup your Health, Ammo and Oxygen marker cards off to the right.  Now, shuffle the Item deck and draw three cards.  Choose two, and put them below your summary cards.

Finally, place the Red, Purple and Blue cube on the trackers (including extras from items if available), and you are ready to start!

You really don't need very much room at to play Desolate. Not in shot I usually use the lid as a dice tray if I am tight on space.

The goal of the game is to get five power supplies (green cubes).  This is done by finding the Engineering rooms while exploring.  The ‘base’ consists of a deck of 15 cards, so finding the 2 Engineering cards doesn’t sound to hard, but Desolate is a game that is meaner than it first appears.

Exploration is simply drawing 2 Exploration cards and placing them face down before you.  From here, select one card (you choose, I normally pick the first one drawn) and flip it.

If you like the card, do what it lets you do and discard both cards face down.  If you don’t like it (say, you drew a Conflict card and don’t want to fight), you can flip the second card face up but you must do that card.

In the example in the photo, I drew a Conflict.  I didn’t want to fight straight away so I flip the next card, and I get to fight anyway!

As soon as I stick my head out, an alien spots me! So I duck blindly through the next door to find... another alien 🙁

Combat is flip over the top Conflict card, and instantly do the damage shown below the dice squares.  This is because the aliens always hit first.

Now put a black die on the top square of the alien (showing the same number of pips), and a second die with the number of pips on the Exploration card that started the fight.

How lucky do you feel?  You can choose how many rounds of ammo to spend.  Each round of ammo lets you roll one white die, up to a maximum of four.

Roll the die, and as long as you roll the same total as the alien or higher, you win!

Combat is interesting in Desolate. Spend your resources to roll more die, or try and conserve ammo and potentially take a beating,

On the Exploration card, you will see a crate on the card with a S (small) or L (large).  To collect your spoils, flip up the next Exploration card, and turn it 180 degrees.  You will see 2 items with an ‘or’ between them.  If your reward was a small crate, pick one of the rewards.  If you had a large crate available to you, you get both rewards!

Play continues this way until you go through the Exploration deck.  Once you draw the last card, you instantly lose 2 oxygen.  Assuming you haven’t run out of air, reshuffle the Exploration deck and continue searching the base.

From this second round on, you will need to concentrate on finding Oxygen just as much as the Power Cells that will allow you to escape.  If you go through the deck without finding any more air, you will suffocate and die – honestly my most common failure condition.

Those aliens are mean so the Health is nice, but I also need to breath!

Really this is the bulk of the game.  There are a couple of other fine points to play, but this is the bulk of the game.

Desolate is a fun and very tense game that captures the unforgiving nature of trying to escape and survive in space well.

The story is light, but it’s a simple card-based exploration game so honestly if Jason Glover tried to expand on this it would probably work against Desolate.

Now I got my copy through Game Crafter.  That does mean I spent a relatively pretty penny on such a simple card game, but I really don’t mind.  Most of the cost was shipping from the US, and that is unfortunately just the way it is.

If you are interested in Desolate and want to play it for free though, you can download the card files as a Print and Play from the Grey Gnome website.  All you really need is a couple of markers and some dice, which even if you don’t have already lying around will only cost $2 from any games shop to stock up on.

There is a big thing working against Desolate for me personally though.  That big thing is Escape the Dark Castle.  Both games have you exploring through a deck of cards and rolling dice, and both are good solo games with similar positives.

The only thing that really pips Escape the Dark Castle for me is if I take it out and about and someone sees me playing, I can add them to a party and play with them straight away.

That said, Desolate is definitely a worthy game for anyone’s collection – especially as you can get it for free!

Until next time,

Desolate - The Print and Play push your luck sci fi pearl.

Final Thoughts

Desolate is a fun little sci-fi adventure and a worthwhile solo adventure.  It’s small and easy to travel with, and really easy to teach.  Plus you can grab a copy for free as a Print and Play!

The only thing working against it is I played Escape the Dark Castle first, which I am enjoying more overall and can play with others.



  •  Straightforward Gameplay, Easy to Learn
  •  Can change difficulty with items
  •  Easy to take with you as a time killer
  •  Available as a free Print and Play


  • Until next time,
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