As some of you may or may not know, there is a Fallout board game! Created by Fantasy Flight Games, this heavy box has been my source of Fallouty fun for a month now, and I just feel like talking about it in some way or another – So, I was thinking that I could make a small review to explain to you guys why I enjoy it, and whether or not it may in your interest as Fallout-fans to get it or at least try it!
I'm going to go through the game and its aspects by describing Gameplay, Flavour, Competition and House Rules ideas (the cool thing about board games being that, if you don't like a rule or have a cool new idea, you can just add it to the game :D)
Of course this is just my opinions as both a board gamer and a Fallout fan; if you disagree with any assumptions I make, that's fine with me.
Gameplay – 3,5/5
Without going into too much detail, the gameplay of Fallout is a 1-4 player game where players explore, fight and gain levels to win, by gaining Agency cards that give more points as they follow the requirements on the cards – some may be "1 Point + 1 Point for having three Drugs in your Equipment + 1 Point for being Well-Rested". When you have enough points to win you simply say so and you win the game – more on this in the Competition section.
The game also features four Scenarios all games are played in (The Commonwealth; Capital Wasteland, Far Harbor and The Pitt – a bit for both 3 and 4 fans. There's also an expansion I haven't tried that adds New California Scenarios, but yeah). This decides the layout of the gameboard, the unique tiles (The Commonwealth will have Diamond City, a Lvl 4 Settlement, while Capital Wasteland will have Megaton instead, a Lvl 3 Settlement – and so on). It also decides the game's Main Quest, which supports the two factions in that Scenario. If a player is Allied with either Faction and that Faction ends up winning, that Player(s) win – or not if no one is allied with them and the Faction wins!
Each turn, the player do two Actions, which can be all sorts of things such as just Moving, Exploring new Tiles, Fighting, but also more advanced things like Camping in the Wastes or Encountering, which allows you do a Fallout-like random encounter in Ruins or Settlements. Encounters sort of drive the game; it's how you Shop at settlements, but also how you go adventuring in Ruins to get new loot for your character! All Encounters are multiple choice, some requiring Skill Tests, others just being down to your personal choices. More important, as the game goes on, Quests will add cards to the Encounter decks, meaning you can go out in the Wasteland to find the things you need for the Quest. It feels organic and true to the games, if a little random.
Talking Skill Tests, instead of having SPECIAL stat numbers, you either have a Stat or not. It's simple, but fits the game fine.
Tests and combats are made with three dice; and without getting into the technicality of it, it works well enough, though it isn't too Fallouty. Combat is risky without equipment, but with some good stuff you'll easily reduce risk of fighting even tough enemies like Deathclaws or Sentry Bots. Almost all tests and combats are run on re-rolls, which you gain through weapons and SPECIAL stats. This means that getting equipment makes combat and tests less random, but still not auto-beatable. I'm fine with it, but it can get to a point where you just can't fu*king roll what you need even though it's just a fu*king Bloatfly.
Overall, the Gameplay serves the game alright without being overly fancy. If you're looking for entirely unique mechanics this isn't the game; the Quests and Encounter mechanics are great, but moving and fighting is very standard-fare. Not that that's a bad thing at all – better have something that works alright instead of overdoing it – it's like the old argument that what makes a Fallout game is the flavour and setting, not the gameplay.
Flavour – 100/5
Move over Guy Fieri, there's a new mayor of Flavor Town.
This is the meat of the game; it is fu*king fantastic as a representative of the Fallout setting and world in gameplay form. The design of the game is great, looks delightfully Fallout and interprets well on the settings in the game.
The game allows you to be a Ghoul, Super Mutants, even a Synth of you're lucky! In addition, Ethics get into it, you can become Idolized or Vilified and all sorts of other things – and many Encounters and Quests react to these things by changing your options. For example, a Settlement Encounter reveals that it runs on enslaved Super Mutant workforces, which you can take advantage of or liberate… Unless you're a Super Mutant, at which point you'll be driven out by slavers wanting to catch you! It feels very alive and dynamic.
Talking about the Encounters and Quests from before, this is where the game really shines. Each Encounter and Quest has flavor text that describes what's going on in it, as well as a description for each choice on the card that can be read after choosing. The choices themselves allow for ample roleplay – Some of the choices will seem somewhat "good/evil", but may surprise you. Some may give you a boon for doing what may seem like the bad thing, and otherwise. In one of my games I decided that I was the "Hero of the Story" (as I said some hundred times) and always went for the good-guy choices, and yep, it fu*ked me over more than once. I knew I could just kill that scavenger and take her stuff, but… I'm a good boy. Sure ma'am, I'll fight that Radscorpion for you…
This expands to the Quests – the Main Quest of course allows you to support one side over the other, but all other Quests have at least two option each. For example, after doing some Quests for the Brotherhood, their Airship arrived on the board… I got a Quest to find and kill a Sentry Bot to be invited into the Brotherhood and get the unique 60e Power Armor… Or just go to the Airship and steal it through a difficult Stat check. It's deliciously Fallout, and I love it.
Playing a game of Fallout is like playing one of the video games in 2-3 Hours – which is one of the weaknesses of the game. With a surplus of Quests, Encounters and gear to get, having the game end feels bitter-sweet. Of course you won or feel tired after three hours of gaming but… There was so much left to see. It says something when the greatest negative thing I have to say for the game is that you don't get enough of it during a playthrough.
Competition – 2/5
Okay, to be fair this is not a point a care much for; I'm not a competitive player at all, but the competitive players I've played this with told me they felt the game felt "aimless" and difficult to get a grasp off. It's not a game with a set end goal, and to some extend a co-operative game, so I get that.
On the other side, from a roleplayer's perspective, as I mentioned it feels strange when a game suddenly ends because a Faction was moved to the winning space by someone else, without you having any input. In addition, if you plan your actions after Quests that other people complete before you, it does feel a little weird and disheartening if you were going for winning rather than just hanging out, adventuring and, you know, playing Fallout.
If this matters a lot to you, I'd recommend to look at the House Rules section; there's a popular house rule mod that adds a point system that takes everything into account which I'll highly recommend.
I mostly add this because I love writing rule systems so the moment I played through Fallout once I had ideas for improvements and changes! So, here's a few.
- Variables: You can easily change all sorts of variables if you wish to – How much equipment you can carry, how much damage you deal/the enemy deals, how much Rad you take, if you heal over time and many, many more. It's up to you.
- Easier Shopping/Rad or Addicted Cure: Shopping depends on Settlement Encounters which may even not allow you to trade exactly what you want. If you want more Shopping in the game, you could allow players to sell a single Item if you Camp twice in a Settlement, which should allow you to get more Shopping done. In addition, some players may find it too difficult to get rid of Rads and the Addicted Token, so you could allow players to pay a set amount of Caps when doing a Settlement Encounter to cure Rads (say, 3 Caps per Rad) or you Addiction (8 Caps e.g). There's only a single Addictol in the game, so maybe this may be necessary unless you want to be Addicted for the entire game.
- You can also have a larger Shop – it's normally only four items a time, but it could easily be six, or (Level of Settlement x 2), so the Shop will be from 2 to 8 items a time.
- The Hitotsumami Point System: This adds a general point system that allows all players to compete for winning, with a tally-up by the end of the game, so it's not always clear who wins. You can find it here: https://boardgamegeek.com/image/3915573/hitotsumami
- In addition, you could count Unique Asset cards as +1 Point as well, Addicted as -1 Points and so on.
- Another idea would be that the game starts the endgame when one Faction wins – then the Factions don't gain power anymore. You could agree on how many turns you will then take before the game ends so you have some time to gather points.
- Tougher Death: Death is a slap over the wrist; you only lose your Equipment and get placed back at the starting point. You could reduce the player's Caps by half (rounding up) and force the player to remove one equipped Item, down to one, if you want death to be more of an obstacle.
- Less Enemy Movement: At the end of each turn, enemies on the board are activated and move towards the closest player, leading to trains of mobs getting at your heels each turn. You could choose that it's only the very closest enemies of each type that moves towards you rather than all of them, or two if you're playing alone. This will leave enemies more or less where they are until you get close (sort of like the games I might add).
Overall, Fallout is fantastic to me; I regularly play it solo as a little Fallout adventure without all the installing nonsense. The game isn't too long (though it's definitely a whole-night game), not too expensive and high quality craft (except for the fact that some tokens on the board are a bit too big, so they spill over the edges of the spaces). If you like board games and Fallout, you can do much, much worse – but maybe try it first if you have the option to.
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