There is probably some debate as to which Bethesda video game series is more popular: Fallout or The Elder Scrolls. For me, it’s always been Fallout. I love not only the stories of being a nameless wanderer in post-apocalyptic America, but the visuals of seeing famous landmarks from a world gone by.
Just like I need to get my hands on ever new Fallout release, I immediately picked up a copy of Fallout: The Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games once it was available. After a number of plays, I’m finally ready to talk about if this board game adaption does this great franchise justice.
Fallout is an adventure board game for 1-4 players that takes about 120-180 minutes to play. Fallout plays best with 2 players.
In Fallout, each player controls a wanderer from one of five classic factions: Vault Dweller, Wastelander, Super Mutant, Ghoul, and Brotherhood Outcast. Armed only with a starting item and a skill, they must venture out into the wasteland to try and score agenda points (victory points).
A game of Fallout is played in a series of rounds, with each player getting two actions on a turn. Different actions include: moving, exploring new tiles, fighting enemies, questing and encountering, and resting. After all players have had a turn, the round ends with a random group(s) of monsters activating and looking for wanderers to attack.
Combat is handled via 3 custom dice. Every monster has vulnerable areas (video game players will recognize the VATS icons here) that players must roll hit it. Having a weapon and matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats will grant rerolls. Defeated monsters grant XP and sometimes loot.
Experience is handled through an excellent leveling system. Each point of experience will move a peg along a player’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. track, skipping over any empty spaces. Once it completes a circlet, a player gets to draw a new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token to add to their stats. Duplicate tokens will instead grant a perk and one time use ability.
Questing is handled via a large, 150 deck of numbered cards. When a player has an encounter, another player will read the card and options to them, but not the results. The player must then decide which option to choose without knowing the outcome. Many quests will branch off into multiple cards after granting XP or loot. Some will also grant agenda points.
The game is won by collecting a number of points from agenda cards. About half of these are faction specific and will require you to advance that factions agenda to score the most points. As soon a one player reaches the required number of agenda points, they win!
Many licensed board games will simply use the IP to sell copies of the game, having the theme be skin deep only. Thankfully, Fallout is about as far from that end of the spectrum as you can get. Designers Andrew Fischer and Nathan Hajek have minimal titles under their belt, but they created a faithful adaptation of the video game that will have fans of the series giddy with delight.
Playing the game, you can see that they clearly drew from the source material when designing the game. Drawing from Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 (and expansions), the game presents a ton of encounters and quests ripped right out of the video games. However, even if you’ve never picked up a controller before, you can still immerse yourself in the world of Fallout. The encounters are engaging, and I love that you don’t know the possible outcomes before you make a choice. It helps keep the tensions high and the decisions hard.
The character progression system in Fallout was also a stroke of genius. It’s simple, easy to understand, and keeps the game humming along smoothly. It also acts as a self-balancing mechanic as early levels will come quickly, but later ones will take much more time to achieve. This should help ensure that players usually can stay on equal footing.
However not all is perfect with Fallout, as I wasn’t a huge fan of the Agenda Point system. As it’s totally random which cards you draw, you could find yourself having a hard time scoring agenda points while your opponents all work on the same one, leaving you in their dust. The biggest reason is that half of the cards are faction agendas, with only 2 factions in a game. If multiple players focus on one faction, those cards are going to skyrocket in points. I much preferred the more unique agenda cards over the faction ones.
This brings me to a common criticism of Fantasy Flight core games. Fallout could really use an expansion. I’d love to see more agenda cards, not tied to factions, as those easily the most fun to work on. The starting encounter decks could also be beefed up. There are about 5-10 cards in each starting deck, meaning you’ll be seeing the same cards over and over after a few plays. An expansion for Fallout could mean more quests, encounters, wanderers, agendas, and scenarios, all of which would be a welcome addition.
Finally, I think this game plays best with 2 players. As a solo game, it still works great, but you lose that other person to read you encounter cards and you’ll need some self-discipline to not peak at the results. With 3+ players, the game just gets WAY too long, especially with new players. And as there is not much in the way of player interaction, you are mostly just waiting for your turn.
Despite a few criticisms, I really loved Fallout. I have high expectations for any licensed board game and have no time for a game with a pasted on theme. Yet Fallout absolutely delivers on a game that provides a sense of exploration with an engaging quests line. As a 1 to 2 player game, Fallout: The Board Game really shines and I can’t wait to get it back to the table again. While you definitely don’t need to be a fan of the series to enjoy this one, if you are, it’s a must own. See you in the wasteland.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – An engaging romp throughout the wasteland with some really unique mechanics. However an expansion could easily fix my gripes.
• Agenda system for winning isn’t great
• Needs an expansion already