All communication had been lost with a station on a distant moon. You went to investigate, but your ship crashed. The moonbase looks deserted, but what's that sound? Better find some power cells for the escape shuttle and leave. Now. Desolate was my most played Print and Play game in 2019. It packs a lot of fun in ten minutes.
In Desolate you search the base by means of going through a deck of cards. Your oxygen is running out, so time is limited. You open doors in every turn, searching through crates. Except behind every door there may be an alien. An unfriendly one. So you will also run out of health and ammo. You need those crates!
As with most card games, it pays to have an idea of what's in the deck. You cannot simply count and wait for the goods to come though, it is a push-your-luck game. Every turn you take two exploration cards, and if you choose to resolve the first one, you put away the second one unseen. That may be the one with oxygen that you need so very bad to add another round to the game, or even the power cells you are looking for. It may also be that very powerful alien that would have killed you with one hit.
Combat is done by rolling dice. Every dice roll costs one ammo, but you're allowed to spend more than one ammo to try to hit harder. Or you can save some ammo, but you'll risk losing more health.
I really like the black and white illustrations. To be honest, after my first few rounds through the deck I'd forgotten all about the story and was playing the game rather mechanically. But what really became a problem after a while, is that most of the item cards you start with give you a permanent boost in the game and make it almost certain you'll win. If you play without them, chances you lose are 50/50 I guess? So the game is a bit too easy.
Fortunately, there are expansions: Dark Matters 1 & 2. And with them the real fun begins.
As now there are afflictions, that really handicap you while going through the base. You may go mad. And also new, you can set the difficulty by playing as a specific character - as they will bring their own items. No overpowered starting items anymore on the harder levels. Plus of course more exploration, combat and item cards. Some of them are real cool or tough, and all bring more variety to the game.
Now that I play on harder difficulty, the excitement is back. I need to find the power cells. But I don't dare open this door.
The Print and Play-version of Desolate and its expansions can be found at PnP Arcade. If you're in the USA you can also buy a fancy production copy at The Game Crafter or look into the further developed successor Iron Helm.