Aliens will often land in the blistering deserts. From the geoscape, these deserts will look like a sandy yellow.
There is very little cover in the open desert. The chief terrain features are sand dunes, which will sometimes reach above head height. Alien and trooper alike will have difficulty finding a place to hide. Aside from the dunes, there is almost nothing to hamper movement or line of sight. Enemies can be sighted from long distances, and sharpshooters can often place a shot clear across the battlefield.
- Because it is so open, many commanders prefer to desert terrain for 'training' missions. It is relatively easy to shoot down a UFO over the broad expanse of the Sahara in North Africa, and then let the rookies hunt aliens out in the open.
- The shortage of cover means that a "two step forwards, one step back" strategy can be very effective. This means that scouts should move forward until they sight the enemy, then let second-line shooters take those enemies down. Once the enemy is taken out, the scouts should fall back a short distance, forcing any other enemies to move forward on their own turn, burning up the enemy's time units and reducing their opportunities to fire.
- The open space will allow long-distance grenade tosses.
- Because they are both so wide open, desert and Arctic Terrain are tactically very similar.