Game: One Deck Galaxy

Release Year: 2022

Publisher: Asmadi Games

Designer: Chris Cieslik

Player Count: 1 to 2 players

Play Time: About 90 to 120 minutes while learning; about 45 to 60 minutes after you're familiar

Rules Complexity: Advanced

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In 2016, Asmadi Games helped pioneer and establish the solo board gaming movement with the success of One Deck Dungeon. (See my thoughts on why solo board gaming is so great!)

Through Asmadi Games' generosity, I was able to try the game for myself to see what all the fuss was about—and in my review of One Deck Dungeon, I concluded that it was an entertaining but ultimately insubstantial experience that was dragged down by too much luck and not enough luck mitigation.

So, in 2022, designer Chris Cieslik and Asmadi Games came out with a meatier successor in One Deck Galaxy, which shifted to a sci-fi theme of galactic conquest plus beefed-up mechanisms to help address the predecessor's flaws.

Here's everything you need to know about One Deck Galaxy, how it plays, my experiences with it, and whether it's worth adding to your collection.

This review is based on a review copy of One Deck Galaxy provided by Asmadi Games, but my thoughts and opinions are honest and personal.


One Deck Galaxy is a sci-fi card game about expanding your space civilization, conquering planets, overcoming encounters, and defeating various adversaries that stand in the way of progress and threaten to obliterate you.

On the surface, One Deck Galaxy looks a lot like One Deck Dungeon: you place dice on encounter cards to complete them, which earns you resources and/or rewards that help you progress and deal with subsequent encounters. But One Deck Galaxy layers on a lot more, resulting in a more complex experience.

You start with a Homeworld and a Society Type. There are five of each, and your combination determines "who you are" for the game: your starting dice and resources, your initial Tech abilities, and your Milestones to complete for victory.

You also start with an Adversary. There are five of these as well—of varying difficulties—and your choice of Adversary will affect gameplay in unique ways as each Adversary has unique abilities and game flows.

If you can complete your Milestones and defeat the Adversary before you're Overwhelmed, you'll win. Otherwise, you lose.

To understand how One Deck Galaxy plays, there are a few core concepts that you'll need to grasp.

The first concept is your dice pool. Your Homeworld starts with a certain number of dice in three colors: Yellow ("Energy"), Pink ("Materials"), and Blue ("Diplomacy"). In each round, you'll roll the total number of dice available to you, then assign the dice to various tasks and opportunities for various reasons.

As you conquer the galaxy and expand your colonies, you'll add more cards to your Homeworld that grant more dice to be rolled every round.

The second concept is Locations and Encounters. This is how your dice are used. Locations and Encounters are cards with "dice challenges" on them, where you must place qualifying dice (based on color and value) to complete them.

Completing Locations and Encounters is how you expand your civilization. Completed cards can be tucked under your Homeworld to increase your dice pool or unlock new Tech abilities, or they can be tucked under your Starbase as Science. (More on that below.) Regardless, the general idea is this: you have to complete Locations and Encounters to build up your civilization and progress toward victory.

In a similar way, every Adversary has a Confrontation card with "dice challenges" on it as well. Your dice must also be used to complete the Confrontation card in order to progress toward victory.

The third concept is your Starbase. The Starbase is basically where you can dump any dice that aren't helpful for resolving Locations, Encounters, and Confrontations. Depending on how you assign your leftover dice to the Starbase, they can be converted into Fleets or Science.

Fleets allow you to adjust rolled dice values while Science allows you to acquire Black Dice, which are essentially wild values that can be used as any color. Science can also be spent to upgrade the Starbase itself, making it more efficient and useful.

The fourth concept is influence. Influence can accumulate on Locations, Encounters, and Adversaries. On Locations, you need to reach a certain amount of Influence to conquer it and add it to your civilization. On Encounters and Adversaries, Influence is a countdown to bad things and a way to pressure you to act fast.

There are other fringe concepts that also come into play during One Deck Galaxy, but these are the primary ideas that inform the core gameplay. If you understand the above, you understand the crux of what makes One Deck Galaxy tick.

Every round of One Deck Galaxy goes through four phases:

  • The Adversary Phase: General upkeep where the Adversary and Encounters gain Influence, plus resolution of any Adversary Events or Encounter Escalations (which happen when a certain amount of Influence accumulates).
  • The Discovery Phase: The Discovery Zone is a 2x2 grid of Galaxy Cards (i.e., Locations and Encounters). Replenish the Discovery Zone if there isn't a full 2x2 grid, which usually means the start of the game or after you've completed Locations and/or Encounters the previous round.
  • The Action Phase: Perform all of your actions for the round, which means gathering and rolling your dice pool, then assigning your dice to the various tasks and opportunities you have available.
  • The Results Phase: Resolve all completed Locations, Encounters, and Confrontations. Then, all dice in play are returned to the supply.

These phases repeatedly cycle until you can completely resolve the Adversary's Confrontation card OR you're Overwhelmed by the Adversary.

Setup and Table Footprint

Even though One Deck Galaxy packs a lot of content and gameplay, it comes in a small box and sets up relatively quickly.

All you really have to do is choose a combination of Homeworld and Society Type, then choose an Adversary and its Confrontation. From there, you place a few tokens on your Homeworld and the Adversary, set up the Starbase (which is always the same every game), then shuffle the Galaxy Deck. Set all the dice and tokens to the side as a general supply and you're ready to go!

All in all, One Deck Galaxy can be ready to play in 3 to 6 minutes.

One thing I've come to hate is when a game takes up a bunch of table space but delivers a lightweight experience. But One Deck Galaxy is the opposite of that, and I really appreciate this aspect of it.

You really don't need that much space to play. The initial setup is compact, and it doesn't really grow or sprawl over the course of play. The most that happens is cards get tucked under other cards, but the tucking is space-efficient.

On a standard 3-ft-by-3-ft card table, One Deck Galaxy is extremely comfortable. You might even be able to play on a smaller laptop desk, but of course it won't be as comfortable. (I recommend using a dice tray to help with clutter.)

Learning Curve

One Deck Galaxy has a beast of a learning curve.

The weird thing is, the game's high-level premise is actually rather straightforward and reasonable. The game flow makes sense and none of the various mechanisms in isolation are overly complex. In fact, on paper alone, One Deck Galaxy isn't that much more complicated than One Deck Dungeon.

But the overall experience of playing One Deck Galaxy is dramatically more advanced than One Deck Dungeon. Whereas the original One Deck Dungeon was a breezy, lighthearted affair, One Deck Galaxy is a mind melter.

A lot of this can be attributed to the subpar rulebook. It bombards you with keywords and concepts before explaining how the game actually works and what the game flow looks like. It's hard to see how the different game parts fit together, and you'll be constantly flipping back and forth. It's overwhelming, to say the least.

I have the v1.1 rulebook, which is supposedly an improvement over the v1.0 rulebook, but even the v1.1 rulebook falls short. I can't imagine how difficult the original one must've been!

Indeed, the rulebook feels more like a reference than a guide. Once you're familiar with the game, everything makes sense and it's easy to look up something when you have a question. But as a teaching tool? It's woefully deficient.

On top of that, One Deck Galaxy is a game with lots of mental bookkeeping and layered decisions. The individual mechanisms might be simple, but the ways in which they interact are elaborate and tangled. There are no simple decisions, and you're always making several decisions at once.

One Deck Galaxy is hard to learn, thinky, stressful, and difficult to win. Don't be deceived by the small box. If you aren't an advanced board gamer and if you don't like mentally demanding experiences, you should stay away.

Game Experience

Decision Space

One Deck Galaxy stands out for its complex decisions. No decision exists in isolation. Every decision is influenced by multiple factors, and there's rarely a clear answer as to which path forward is the best one. But that also makes it mentally demanding.

Here are the various thoughts going through my head during any given round of One Deck Galaxy, regardless of my Homeworld/Society Type/Adversary setup:

  • Are there any Encounters that need to be taken care of? Encounters are ticking time bombs that will Escalate and wreak havoc if you don't take care of them within a few rounds. You can defer them for a bit, but not forever.
  • If not, are there any Locations I want to work on? This depends on my dice rolls and what I'm able to do with them, but most Locations need a few rounds of interaction before you can resolve them so it's important to get started.
  • Which Encounters or Locations should I prioritize? Several factors to consider here because each resolved Encounter/Location can be used to increase my dice pool, unlock a new Tech ability, acquire Resources that might be needed for fulfilling certain Milestones, or gain Science for my Starbase. Weighing the various options can be a thinky process.
  • Or maybe I should focus my efforts on the Adversary? After all, completing the entire Confrontation card is how you win One Deck Galaxy, so you can't neglect the Adversary forever. But assigning dice to the Confrontation card means losing the opportunity to work on Locations and Encounters. Knowing when to shift gears back and forth between Confrontation and Locations/Encounters is part of the challenge, and there's no clear answer.
  • Or maybe I should assign my dice to the Starbase? If you have otherwise "useless" dice that can't be assigned anywhere, you can dispose of them on the Starbase and use them to earn Fleets and Science.
  • Or maybe I should combine my dice to make Black Dice? You can combine any two dice of any color to create a Black Die, but the value of the Black Die is the lower value of the two dice you combined. This is another way to make use of otherwise "useless" dice that can't be assigned anywhere.
  • Should I use any of my Tech abilities? Most Tech abilities provide ways to temporarily increase or alter your dice pool, or ways to alter the dice values that you've rolled for the round. Each Tech ability can only be used once per round and requires that you spend a Tech Disc.
  • Should I use the Fleets or Science on my Starbase? Fleets lets you adjust dice values while Science lets you acquire Black Dice, but both Fleets and Science are also necessary to resolve certain Locations and Encounters. Are you going to save them for later? Or use them now? Not an easy choice.

Honestly, this isn't even the entirety of the game. I'm far from an expert and I'm under no delusion that I'm any good at One Deck Galaxy—there are likely many other, more in-depth decisions in play that I'm just not aware of.

But I hope I've painted a helpful, broad-strokes picture of what it feels like to play a game of One Deck Galaxy and why it's so much more mentally taxing than a game of One Deck Dungeon. You have a ton of options to weigh and consider, and you can easily get locked into analysis paralysis because of it.

Luck Factor

One of my biggest complaints against the original One Deck Dungeon was the lack of meaningful ways to mitigate luck, and I was far from the only one to feel that way.

One Deck Galaxy feels like a direct response to that. The drastic increase in gameplay complexity is due to all the extra ways you can use dice, and it certainly does help with the luck mitigation aspect.

As far as which mechanisms provide mitigation:

  • Tech abilities: You start with one Tech ability, but you can unlock more by conquering Locations and Encounters. Many Tech abilities provide ways for you to manipulate your dice pool for a given round.
  • Starbase: As you accumulate Fleets in the Starbase, you can spend them to directly alter the values of dice in your pool for a given round. Granted, this "Calibration" action only allows you to increase or decrease a die value by 1 per Fleet spent, but even that could be huge at a crucial moment.
  • Dice combination: You can combine any two dice of any colors to create a single Black Die with a value equal to the lower of the two combined dice. (Black Dice are essentially wild and can be used as any color.) On its own, this mitigation tactic kind of sucks—but if you combine it with the "Calibration" provided by Fleets, you can make some clutch plays.

At the end of the day, One Deck Galaxy is still a game that hinges on the luck of the roll. However, compared to One Deck Dungeon, you start with a bigger pool of dice and you have more mitigation tactics, resulting in a game that's significantly less lucky and more within your control.

Fun Factor

One Deck Galaxy is a crisis management simulator, and that's not usually my cup of tea. However, if you like the intense pressure of juggling multiple needs, being forced into tough decisions, and constantly battling against towering odds, then One Deck Galaxy might just be incredibly fun for you.

There aren't any stand-up moments or fist-pumping thrills. You might feel clever after executing a sequence of actions to pull off a near-loss win on an Encounter that was about to Escalate, but then it's right back to managing more crises. The whole process of rolling dice amounts to little more than methodical assignments.

All in all, One Deck Galaxy is a stressful game that wears down on you, testing how well you can endure as you constantly do what you can with what little you have and hopefully come out the other side still intact.


One Deck Galaxy is a slow escalation that starts off tough and only gets tougher.

Over the course of the game, you'll be conquering Locations and Encounters to expand your civilization, which unlocks more abilities and more dice and more opportunities for success going forward. You'll also be upgrading your Starbase, which provides more efficient ways to mitigate luck.

At the same time, the Adversary also gets stronger over time—not just becoming harder to defeat with every stage of its Confrontation, but also piling on with Adversary Events that can throw serious wrenches into your plans.

And it all leads to a climactic round where you either win or lose. There are no points to tally. You're teetering on the edge of peril from the start, and a single decisive round is all it takes to crash down into failure.

It's a neck-and-neck race where tension is constant. If you want to feel like you're progressing and getting more powerful over time, this isn't that game.


If you thought One Deck Dungeon was too fiddly with its dice, tokens, and card tucking, then One Deck Galaxy is an even greater step up.

You have more dice and more places to assign dice, so there's definitely more physical juggling to do. Same with the Tech Discs and Starbase Discs, which actually aren't too bad because you won't be doing too much of either every round.

But the most fiddly part of One Deck Galaxy by far is the insane amount of card tucking that happens all the time.

Influence is tracked using the backside of Location/Encounter cards, and each card can be rotated to show either 1 Influence or 2 Influence.

Cards tucked as Colonies increase your dice pool.
Cards tucked as Tech provide special abilities for dice mitigation.
Cards tucked as Fleets provide another action for dice mitigation.
Cards tucked as Science allow you to upgrade your Starbase or buy wild Black Dice.
Cards tucked as Influence on Adversaries act as a countdown towards bad stuff.

So, whenever Influence is added anywhere—which happens every round for the Adversary and Encounters, plus whenever you complete challenges on Locations and accrue Fleets on the Starbase—you have to either tuck a new card under or rotate one of the tucked cards from 1 Influence to 2 Influence.

That's on top of the other tucking behaviors: Colonies are tucked under the left edge of your Homeworld, Tech abilities are tucked under the bottom edge of your Homeworld, and Science is tucked under your Starbase.

It's a tad too much for me.


If you like One Deck Galaxy, then it has a lot of replayability.

For starters, you choose a combination of Homeworld and Society Type. There are five of each, so that right there is 25 potential starting setups with varying degrees of starting dice, initial Tech ability, and Milestones.

And then you have a choice between five Adversaries, with each Adversary having an "easier" side and a "harder" side. So, basically, ten potential Adversaries. Combined with Homeworlds and Society Types, that's 250 unique setups.

What's most impressive to me about One Deck Galaxy is that each Adversary is a completely different experience.

You aren't just changing the types of dice that you need to prioritize. You aren't just making slight tweaks to strategy to accommodate different strengths and weaknesses. They're truly different. Each Adversary brings its own unique gameplay rules with it, which substantially shake up the gameplay.

In other words, the variable setups aren't just nominal changes. You can actually look at One Deck Galaxy as five different games within a broader gameplay system.

It might take you several games to beat the "easier" version of a given Adversary, at which point you might need several more games to beat the "harder" version of that same Adversary, plus several more games to feel like you've mastered it. Then you switch to a different Adversary, which makes you approach the game differently.

There's a ton of strategic depth to One Deck Galaxy, and the Adversary designs capitalize on that. If you like this game, you can play it many times and it'll feel fresh every time. The decision space is quite large.

But that's a pretty big qualifier: If you like the game...

Truth is, One Deck Galaxy isn't going to appeal to many. It's a far more niche experience than One Deck Dungeon, and it's best suited for deep thinkers who like to work through complex logical challenges that are both strategic and tactical. For me, it's too heavy to be enjoyable. One Deck Galaxy is a gamer's game for people who like crunching possibilities.

It's also mentally taxing in that you need to remember nuanced rules at every step of the process, plus all the unique rules that come with each Adversary. There's a lot of overhead here, and I find it tough to get through a cycle of game phases without forgetting a particular step or making a mistake somewhere.

To me, One Deck Galaxy feels like work.

I really appreciate the extra mechanisms that help mitigate luck, but I'm not sure the additional complexity is worth the squeeze. It's not a forgiving game. Because of that, I don't think I'm going to be revisiting this one.

Production Quality

The production of One Deck Galaxy is on par with the quality of One Deck Dungeon: compact, practical, and adequate. It won't blow you away and it has some flaws here and there, but it's perfectly playable and not bad at all.

The cards are thin but with a flat, glossy finish. Since One Deck Galaxy is more of a dice placement game than a full-blown card game, the thinness isn't a huge issue. However, the larger cards—namely the Homeworlds, Society Types, Starbase, and Adversaries—have some warping that minorly impacts dice placement.

The graphic design isn't exactly intuitive, but it makes sense once you're familiar. Unless you're a heavy gamer, the cards in One Deck Galaxy will probably overwhelm you at first—there's a lot of information packed into every card. There's a good reason for all of it, of course, but there's room for improvement I think.

The dice are small, rounded, and translucent. These are basically the same dice from One Deck Dungeon and my thoughts are the same here: translucent dice are sometimes hard to read (especially the yellow ones), and the small, rounded dice are prone to accidental knocking.

I play on a table with a soft neoprene surface, so that definitely exaggerates the chance of rounded dice being accidentally bumped to other values. If you play on a hard and flat surface, it's probably less of an issue.

The cardboard tokens feel nice, even if they're essentially just markers. The Starbase Discs and Tech Discs are small but not thin. I'm glad the production didn't skimp here, otherwise they would've been frustrating to manipulate. As is, they get the job done without getting in the way, and that's all I can really ask for.

The box is a little bigger than One Deck Dungeon, but still small enough to be portable. Can you carry this game around in your pocket? No, unless you're wearing cargo shorts. But it will fit easily into any bag or backpack, making it a viable option as a travel game. You'd be hard-pressed to find a solo board game that's as complex and involved as One Deck Galaxy in a box as small as this one.

The Bottom Line

One Deck Galaxy

Approved Score Guide
  1. Strategic and tactical dice placement game of crisis management
  2. Big gameplay space with challenging decisions
  3. Smart mechanisms with ways to mitigate luck
  4. Portable box and small table footprint make it good for travel
  1. Steep learning curve with lots of rules overhead
  2. Excessively fiddly with way too much card tucking
  3. Constant stressful tension, no big highs or lows
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