The Wretched is a game about human resilience in the face of overwhelming odds and almost certain death. It is a game about isolation, fear, and perseverance.
You’re the last survivor on a spaceship, with a dead crew and a creature crawling around trying to get in and finish you off. What could go wrong? Everything.
In 2020, I tried playing solo tabletop games late at night to have a bit less screen time. I came across Wretched, got the PDF, then didn’t play it because I never got round to printing it off. And then happily Chris Bissette did another printing so that was an easy win. It’s a nice quality print, too. Very soft.
So, you need:
- a Jenga tower
- a deck of cards
- d6, preferably space-themed
- some music to get you in the mood. I’d forgotten to prep the Wretched soundtrack, so instead I used John Carpenter’s film title music album.
Technically this is supposed to be an audio journal and not a written one but I wasn’t quite brave enough for that.
Some highlights from the journal
with comments in quotes
As a sign of how bad I am at Jenga, the tower fell over during prep. I made it a portent instead. But seriously, this dude is fucked.
Flight Engineer McGovern’s log. The remaining crew are dead, the engines are fucked. I had a nightmare we’d totally exploded already.
I thought I’d killed the beast yesterday, but no, it’s Outside. It’s hunting me, relentlessly. I’m praying to any gods I can think of and trying to fix the disress beacon.
Now each day, draw d6 cards and use the writing prompts, drawing from the tower if required. You’re nearly always drawing from the tower.
Spent today just trying to fix the ship to be survivable, nowhere near actually trying to move or send a message. I’ve… tidied up… the remains of my crew. I took the Captain’s multi-tool to remember him by - plus it’s already proving to be pretty useful. It’s also a better memory than finding the XO, clutching his teddybear in death.
On the, er, bright side, the scanners are hopefully broken too, as they say we’re going to collide with something, but the data is erratic and probably wrong.
Less tasks today on the d6
The creature tried to get in a gain, clawing away at the blast door. When I tried to sleep I just dreamed it doing it again and again. Shit.
Moved the rest of the corpses. I can’t bear to look at them, but if I jettison them, the creature will probably eat them.
First the sewage pump, then the gravity broke. Everything’s fucked. Thought I’d try to get some happier memories by reading the doc’s journal, but no. Turns out he was miserable here, his marriage was on the rocks because he was away so much.
Fire. Not lethal, but clearing up and fixing the burnt bits took all day. Not that this feels like days any more.
I drew the “fixed the beacon” card and the “giving up” card, coupling those together required some thought.
I fixed the distress beacon! Now what, but wait? Just sitting here missing people and watching the creature on the cameras. The ones that still work, anyhow.
Once the beacon is fixed, you merely need to roll 10off 6s on the d6. You get to roll one per day.
The creature coughed something corrosive onto the observation deck screen. It’s heavily pitted now, so I fortified that with some sheet metal. Then I tried fixing the engines, but they are nowhere near my expertise.
This creature hates me. It is death incarnate.
So this is where I realised I’d misread the cards and the beacon is a Ace and not a King (the Kings are all bad events). Rather than retcon I decided to put this in-game.
I never fixed the beacon! It was just some nav computer with similar options! DAYS WASTED! Meanwhile, everything is shutting down. I got trapped in the bridge today due to an electrical fault. The rifle I’ve got was the only thing heavy enough to club my way out. It’s probably a better club for me than a gun, anyway.
Went round today just singing the Sesame Street song, way past the point I was annoying myself. It’s what I get for using Captain Sessanolly’s ID to check the low-level diagnostics.
And the less said about those, the better.
Great, no backup generator now, but the life-support is still working, now I’ve cannabilised the former. Also that leaves a decent defensible nook where the generator sat. Better than the quarantine bay I was in when the creature first attacked.
The tower fell when I was resolving my 38th card. This means the ship blew up, or maybe McConnelly didn’t fix the life-support as well as he thought.
Strong, strong Alien vibes though. Maybe I should have tried harder to make my creature to be less of a Xenomorph, but that can be for another playthrough. This game does communicate hopelessness well. The chance of surviving is close-to-nil.
I don’t know how long this game took exactly but I got to Porkchop Express on the anthology.
- I played this on the floor as my wife was asleep. I think I’d have been a better Jenga player on the table.
- Worth trying it without the Jenga tower, as I did focus more on the tower, and less on the role-play. That also has the advantage of being able to play slower and over several sessions.
- I might have to scribble the deck suits on the book. It refers to Creature, Crew, Systems, and Structures, with a separate page at the beginning explaining which is ♥️ ♦️ ♣️ ♠️ - I thought I’d learn this quickly but somehow not.
- You’re supposed to do your tasks, then write a log. But when I get six tasks in a day, I can’t remember them all by the time I write a log. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, I’m writing down the day’s mood rather than anything else.