Fallout – The Board Game

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Fallout is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Based on the hit video game series by Bethesda Softworks, each Fallout scenario is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them in this unfamiliar world. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginnin…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Excellent theme and storytelling mechanics.
  • Great quality components.
  • Fun and thematic level up system.

Might Not Like

  • End game scoring is problematic and lacks variety.
  • Some players may be put off by luck-based elements.
  • Needs more emphasis on exploration.
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Description

Fallout is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Based on the hit video game series by Bethesda Softworks, each Fallout scenario is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them in this unfamiliar world. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight ferocious enemies, and build the skills of their survivor as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game.

As they advance their survivors' stories, players will come across new quests and individual targets, leading them to gain influence. Who comes out ahead will depend on how keenly and aggressively each player ventures through the game, however if a single faction is pushed to power too quickly, the wasteland will be taken for their own, and the survivors conquered along with it. To win the game, players must collect influence, thereby securing their spot in a society struggling to thrive in a world forever changed.

A sprawling wasteland lies before you, wiped out by the centuries-old atomic blasts of The Great War. Beyond a smattering of hills, you can see the charred remains of a society you remember shiny and new. Through the bare foundations creep a collection of mutated critter’s whose origins you can only guess, attaching whoever and whatever crosses their paths. Beneath the overgrown soil, vault-dwelling communities fight to survive on limited resources. It is across these abandoned spaces you must now travel, building a new life atop the fallout of a destroyed world.

Welcome to the Wasteland.

  • Ages 14+
  • 1-4 players
  • 120-180 minutes playing time

 

A Call to Adventure

I’m always on the lookout for a new adventure game. Despite the wealth of options available to us gamers, sometimes the intense strategic Euros, light fillers, or even epic miniatures games fail to satiate that occasional thirst for discovery and exploration.

Fantasy Flight Games have always been reliable for providing tabletop experiences which whisk us away to detailed universes, putting us in the shoes of an eager adventurer. Their expertise in art design, component quality, and impressive writing have provided hours of entertainment in the worlds of Arkham, Runebound, and Star Wars. But, somehow I’m still left thirsting for that next call to adventure.

Fortunately, Fantasy Flight Games’ latest licensed acquisition has taken Bethesda’s beloved roleplaying video-game franchise, Fallout, and brought its irradiated wastelands to your tabletop. Boasting detailed miniatures, custom dice, and a gorgeous modular board, could this be the adventure i’ve been waiting for?

Welcome to the Wasteland!

Described as a post-nuclear board game for 1-4 players, Fallout: The Board Game promises an evolving adventure through the choices you make, as you traverse your way through one of the four included scenarios. Players will fight, loot, explore, and quest across the modular board, scoring game-winning influence as they further the goals of one of two opposing factions. Each game will see players reacting to events from the Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 video games, with each play through taking between two to three hours.

How Does it Play?

Your first steps in the Capital Wasteland thrust you unforgivingly into Fallout's post-nuclear world. The first card of the game's expansive quest deck is staged, setting the scene and tasking players with pursuing the branching narrative however they choose. This is largely determined by a player's agenda cards, the game's point scoring mechanism, with most granting points to one of two groups on the faction track. For the first scenario, will you side with The Institute, a shady organisation intent on hiding evidence of their advanced synths' infiltration of society? Or will you stand with The Railroad and protect these sentient constructions?

With the game's story underway, it won't be long until you're fighting your first Raider Scum, looting him for all he's worth, and gaining valuable XP. This decision to drop players in at the deep end creates a great sense of momentum, drawing your characters quickly into the narrative, and having players promptly get to grips with the game's key mechanisms.

So What Can I Do?

Players can perform two actions on their turn. These include exploring an adjacent tile, encountering a settlement or wasteland, camping to restore health, questing to complete objectives, moving, and fighting. Once all players have acted, an agenda card is drawn dictating which enemies will move or attack. If a player ever gains the required amount of influence through their agenda cards (11 in a one-player game, eight with four players), the game ends, with that player declared the winner. Alternatively, if any of the factions reach the end of the track, they win and all players lose.

Fallout: The Board Game's levelling up mechanic is one of the best I have encountered, feeling right at home on the tabletop whilst maintaining a video-game aesthetic. Every experience point will move your grey peg up to the next S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token (Fallout's take on classic RPG skill trees), granting you a new one as you pass the last space. Your peg then resets, with the new total of S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats increasing your chances of passing skill checks, but forcing you to work that little bit harder to reach the next level.

Combat revolves around the use of the game’s three custom VATS dice. These dice, similar to the VATS system in the video-game, represent the likelihood of hitting various body parts, with each success dependent on your enemy’s weak points. A Raider Psycho for example requires at least two hits on either the legs or torso. Each die only counts for one body part, but fortunately, weapons will grant valuable re-rolls if you possess the relevant S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens.

A number of pips are also apparent on some sides of the dice, with each one dealing damage to you equal to the enemy’s level. In this case, our run in with the Raider Psycho would cost us six health points from rolling three pips.

These pips serve a dual purpose, counting as successes in the various skill checks you will resolve, with relevant letters on your player board again granting re-rolls. It is a neat system but can lead to some frustration for players missing the items needed to mitigate the luck of the roll. Unfortunately, such equipment can be hard to come by, with loot drops from enemies again being down to luck, and shopping dependant on particular encounter cards.

Why Should I Play It?

In typical Fantasy Flight fashion, Fallout: The Board Game looks stunning. The sturdy modular map tiles and detailed miniatures are complimented by linen finish cards with clear but evocative graphic design, and thick cardboard tokens. The player boards are outstanding, evoking the feel of the video games and housing the game's various tokens with ease. Longtime fans of the Fallout franchise will delight in looting or buying cards depicting items and companions from the game, such as Brahmin Steaks, Nick Valentine, and Dogmeat.

But the most stand-out aspect of the game is its handling of the wealth of stories the Fallout universe has to tell. Each quest card and encounter is a celebration of both Bethesda's and Fantasy Flight's history of storytelling. The decision to place how these stories develop into the hands of the players, through branching quest lines, is genius, and works elegantly. Upon fulfilling a quest's requirement, players will be instructed to stage further cards face-up, presenting more decisions and directions for the story.

Cards will often be added to the two piles of settlement and wasteland encounter decks, making the encounter action that much more enticing for players wanting to further flesh out the story, or simply hunt for alternative ways of gaining influence.

As in the video games, side-quests provide illuminating context for this hostile world, helping elaborate the drama and conflict of the main quest’s competing factions, and give the tabletop experience a great sense of place and narrative depth. One play through saw my Wastelander challenge some kids to a game of Synth: Netrumor. A clever nod to both Fantasy Flight's back catalogue and Fallout's layering of humour over its, often dark, themes. For the record, I ended up losing three caps.

But Things Don't Always Run Smoothly In the Capital Wasteland...

Unfortunately, things don't always go to plan in this post-nuclear landscape. Several elements of the game are dependant on luck, which whilst not wholly unfamiliar in the adventure game genre, are nonetheless frustrating in some situations. Whilst the VATS dice combat is fun and nicely thematic, any strategic sense of control during battles is hampered through the difficulty of acquiring decent loot.

Similarly, those all important agenda cards are lacking in variety. This sometimes leads to runaway leaders ending the game solely down to their drawing of multiple cards scoring for the leading faction. Some agenda cards reward exploring the map or maxing out your character stats, but they are few and far between. As it stands, the wonky and often abrupt end game mechanism renders the impressive storytelling as largely anticlimactic.

Furthermore, the occasional thrill of exploration is not exploited to its full potential, and frustratingly feels only just out of reach. I can't help but wonder whether any future expansions will better reward players for delving just a bit deeper into the game’s impressive stack of branching quests.

Final Thoughts on Fallout: The Board Game

The move from polygons to cardboard has become increasingly popular, with Doom and Dark Souls being notable examples. Fallout is a welcome addition to this trend, offering one of the most immersive video game adaptations tabletop gaming has to offer.

If you’re looking for a faithful recreation of the video-game, with excellent theme and attention to detail then Fallout should certainly impress. Likewise, serious gamers can delight in the game’s fascinating approach to storytelling and a genuinely solid level up system.

Fallout teeters on the edge of adventure game perfection, but its faults, while few, may leave a sour taste for some. Of course, Fantasy Flight are not a company to shy away from expansions, which could address these issues. Until then, Fallout still represents an inventive, evocative, and fun romp through one the most enthralling video game franchises.

Fallout is a narrative-driven RPG from Fantasy Flight Games where you and up to three friends try to survive the post-nuclear Wasteland. Each player, however, has a secret agenda which influences how the game is played and won.

As with any Fantasy Flight game, Fallout comes with a whole heap of rules and cardboard. Below we teach you everything you need to know to for your first game!

Fallout Game Contents

  • Characters: Five unique figures with corresponding character cards and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens.
  • Cards: 282 different cards, divided into 75 Encounter Cards (34 Wasteland Encounters, 21 Settlement Encounters, and 20 Vault Encounters), 100 Quest Cards, 14 Perk Cards, 34 Loot Cards, 25 Asset Cards, 11 Unique Asset Cards, and 23 Agenda Cards.
  • Tokens: 145 different tokens, divided into two Power Tokens, 27 Enemy Tokens, 35 S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens, 54 Caps Tokens, 12 Trait Tokens, 10 Faction Tokens, and eight Quest Markers.
  • Tiles: 31 unique Map Tiles divided into red (severe) and green (mild) threat levels.
  • Dice: Three unique V.A.T.S. dice.
  • Player Boards: Four Survivor Boards and 12 pegs.
  • Scenarios: Four unique Scenario Sheets.

Fallout Set-Up

Select which scenario to play, taking the corresponding scenario sheet and placing it within view of all players. Shuffle the two groups of map tiles into separate stacks and build the board, following the guide on the back of the scenario sheet. Most tiles will be placed face-down, with scenario-specific landmarks and the starting ‘Crossroads Camp’ tile placed face-up.

Divide all tokens into stacks depending on their type (and sub-type in the case of monster tokens). Then, create and shuffle the encounter decks by finding any encounter cards with a star in the upper-left corner and dividing them by card back. All remaining encounter cards form the card library, regardless of card back.

Remove any agenda cards where the number in the bottom-left corner is greater than the number of players. Shuffle the remaining cards and place them face-down: this is the agenda deck. Then, shuffle loot and asset cards into separate stacks. Ensure that all perk cards, unique asset cards and V.A.T.S. dice are in reach of all players.

Create the shop by dealing four asset cards face-up in a line next to the asset deck. Then, randomly select a player. Starting with that player and proceeding clockwise, choose a character from one of the five archetypes and take its corresponding figure, character and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token (identifiable by the character being on the back). Each player then places their figure in an unoccupied space on the ‘Crossroads Camp’ tile.

Players then set up their individual boards, placing a green peg at ‘0’ to indicate their radiation and a red peg at ‘16’ (‘12’ if playing the ghoul) for their base HP. Then, place the character-specific S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens in their corresponding slot and draw another random token from the stack. If the token is a duplicate, draw again.

Finally, each player draws one agenda card, keeping it a secret, and takes three Caps. Resolve any starting effects on the back of the scenario sheet (such as revealing the starting quest), spawn a random face-up monster on any revealed spaces with the corresponding symbol, and place each power token at the start of the scenario sheet’s track.

You are now ready to begin!

Important Concepts

Tests

Players will often be required to complete tests in Fallout. These tests will be represented by one or more S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens followed by a number: for example, C.L.2. Players roll the three V.A.T.S. dice and count the number of hit icons (stars) revealed. If the number equals or exceeds the number on the test, the player succeeds. If a player has any S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens which match those required for the test, players can re-roll any number of dice before resolving the test. Players can re-roll for each matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token.

Death

When a player takes damage during a fight (see below), or for any other reason, that player moves the red peg on their player board by that amount. If a player takes radiation damage, meanwhile, by traversing irradiated spaces, they move the green peg. If the red peg is ever in the same hole or lower than the green peg, that player has been killed. But don’t worry! Players then re-spawn at any space on the ‘Crossroads Camp’ tile, discarding all cards in their inventory but keeping any equipped cards. Players then reset their HP to its max value but their radiation remains the same. If, however, after a player resets their HP it is still lower than their radiation, they lose the game and are eliminated.

Levelling Up

As the game progresses players will often receive XP. When a player first receives XP they place the grey peg in the hole beneath their farthest-left S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token. For each subsequent point of XP gained, players move this peg to their next token. If the XP gained forces a player to move the peg beyond their farthest-right token, they have levelled up!

Reset the grey peg back to the farthest-left S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token and then draw two random tokens from the stack. Choose one of these to keep. If it is a token which that player does not already possess, they place it in their board. If they already have that token, they gain a perk! Choose one of the two corresponding perk cards to keep and return the other to the stack.

Weapons

Weapons have one or more S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens shown on their card, as well as unique abilities. For each of the weapon’s tokens which match one of that player’s tokens, they may re-roll any number of dice before resolving a fight action. Any weapons with the ranged (gun) icon allow players to fight enemies in adjacent spaces. If they do not also have the ranged ability, players automatically inflict one additional hit.

Apparel

Apparel can provide players with armour, shown by a number and a shield icon. When resolving a fight, players ignore a number of enemy hits equal to the value of the armour equipped.

Companions

Companions provide unique benefits such as healing. To do so, they must be exhausted (turned 90 degrees). Exhausted cards unexhaust when a player performs a camp action. Each companion, however, specifies a condition. If that condition is not met when the card unexhausts, the companion leaves that player and is discarded.

Inventory and Equipment 

Players may have up to three assets in their inventory at any given time. If they would acquire any assets beyond this limit, they must choose and discard cards back to three. Players may also equip one apparel, one weapon, and one companion card at any time. These do not count toward that player’s inventory.

Enemies 

Enemy tokens convey several pieces of key information: the enemy’s name, type (robot, super mutant, etc.), level, V.A.T.S. vulnerability and abilities. Enemy abilities range from dropping loot to inflicting radiation damage on their attacks.

Your Goal

It is now time to explore the Wasteland!

The initial quest cards revealed by your scenario sheet will detail the game’s narrative and provide guidance on your goal. In each scenario two factions fight for control. It is up to the players, and their individual agenda, to decide which faction to support.

Quest cards will offer multiple, conflicting goals with differing objectives. Depending on which objective is completed, the influence of one particular faction will often increase, moving their corresponding power token along the track. Quest resolutions also reveal new quest cards, continuing the game’s story.

The game ends when one player achieves a certain amount of influence. This amount decreases depending on the amount of players. Influence is earned based off the requirements of each player’s agenda cards, with most offering influence depending on how far ahead one faction’s power token is over the other. As a result, players will often compete to accomplish the goals for their respective factions. If, however, a particular faction’s power token advances to the end of the scenario track, the game automatically ends and the survivors fail.

Player Turns

To complete quests and fight for dominance, players must have a range of actions at their disposal. During each player’s turn they may perform up to two actions. They may also perform the same action multiple times. When a player has completed their actions, their turn ends and the next player clockwise starts theirs.

Player actions include:

Explore

If a player is on a space adjoining an unexplored (face-down) map tile, they may spend one action to reveal that tile. If any enemy symbols are on the revealed tile, draw a random token of the corresponding type and place it face-up on that space. Players may now travel to this tile on subsequent move actions.

Move

For each move action, a player may move up to two spaces on regular terrain. If a player wishes to traverse difficult terrain, indicated by red lines, each space costs an entire move action.

Quest Action

Quest card objectives will often require players to perform a quest action, indicated by a cog symbol. These quest actions are dependent on certain requirements, such as being in the right location or killing a specific enemy. Players may spend one action when any requirements have been met to complete that quest. If an objective has no quest icon, the quest is automatically completed upon achieving its requirements.

Encounter

If a player is on a space marked with a Wasteland Encounter (ruins), Settlement Encounter (caravan), or Vault Encounter icon, they may perform an encounter action. The player to their right draws the top card of the corresponding encounter deck and reads the short, narrative text at the top. They then inform the player of their possible choices, including any tests or requirements. The player then chooses an option, with the encounter card informing players what happens should they succeed or fail.

Encounter (Shop)

Often, settlement encounter cards will include the option to shop. If this option is chosen, players have the chance to sell items, buy items, or recruit companions. When a player shops, draw the top card of the asset deck and add it to the left side of the shop. The encounter card will specify how many items a player may buy or sell on that action. To buy an asset, players spend the number of Caps equal to the cost in the upper-right corner of the asset card.

If a card has no number, but instead a token or a trait, players can only buy that card if they have the indicated token or trait themselves. To sell an item, players discard it from their inventory and gain Caps equal to one less than the item’s cost.

Camp

If a player performs the camp action they recover three HP and unexhaust any exhausted cards. They then gain the ‘Well Rested’ trait, which they can spend to re-roll any number of dice once during a test.

Camp (Trade)

If a player performs a camp action they may also trade with any other survivors within one space of them. Survivors can trade assets, loot, agendas and Caps. Both players must agree to the trade.

Fight

If a player performs a fight action, they may engage one enemy on their space. Players roll all three V.A.T.S. dice and aim to get a number of hits equal to or higher than that enemy’s level. The V.A.T.S. dice will indicate which part of the enemy’s body that roll hits. Only if these match that enemy’s vulnerability will they count as damage. If there are any star icons on the V.A.T.S. dice after the roll is resolved, for each icon the fighting player suffers damage equal to that enemy’s level.

If players succeed in killing an enemy, they gain XP equal to its level and loot if indicated on the token. Discard that enemy and return it to the stack. Then take a random enemy of the same type and spawn it face-down on the closest matching icon which does not already have an enemy of that type on it. Facedown enemies are inactive and players may move freely past them.

If a player does not successfully kill an enemy during a fight action, it remains on their space. Damage does not transfer between attempts, so players must achieve their target in one action.

End of Player Turns

Once all players have completed their actions, there is a brief end-of-turn phase before the next round. The player who acted first reveals the top card of the agenda deck. In the bottom-right corner of each agenda card are various faction or monster icons. From left to right, resolve these activations.

If a monster icon is revealed, any face-up monsters move one space towards the nearest survivor. If they are within range to attack, they then perform a fight action. Treat this fight action as if the player has attacked the enemy: this means that the enemy may be killed. Any face-down enemies flip face-up and are now active.

If an agenda card reveals either of the faction symbols, consult the scenario sheet for information of what effects this triggers.

If a player draws the last agenda card in the deck, shuffle all discarded agenda cards to create a new agenda deck. Then, the first players passes the deck to the player to their right. That player is now the first player and reveals the agenda cards. Turn order does not change. Both faction’s power tokens also advance one space down the track as their strength grows.

You are now ready to play Fallout! Below are some tips to success:

Tips for Fallout

  • Ensure the Card Library is arranged in numerical order. This will make it as easy as possible when drawing new encounter cards.
  • Each survivor has unique advantages and disadvantages. Experiment to find which playstyle suits you.
  • Certain survivors will be better suited to different scenarios. For example, the Ghoul completely changes the ‘Far Harbor’ scenario.
  • Use re-rolls wisely. If you are aiming to roll four hits, and roll two blank dice and one dice with two hits, save the two hits and only re-roll the blank dice.
  • Do not be afraid of weak enemies attacking you. You are probably more likely to kill them and gain XP.
  • By revealing an agenda card you possess, you may declare loyalty to one faction. This will prevent any enemies of that faction from attacking you.
  • Certain companions are only available if a player is ‘Vilified’ or ‘Idolised’. However, certain encounter cards force players into a choice if this is the case
  • If you would rather play co-operatively, treat the game as if you and all players have the same agenda.

Read our review for this board game!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Excellent theme and storytelling mechanics.
  • Great quality components.
  • Fun and thematic level up system.

Might not like

  • End game scoring is problematic and lacks variety.
  • Some players may be put off by luck-based elements.
  • Needs more emphasis on exploration.