Board Game Review: Fallout

There are a lot of things that make Fallout such a brilliant video game series. There’s the exploration, wandering around trying to map out your surrounding area while avoiding the various bad things that scour the wasteland. There’s the missions, things that pull you around and keep your attention bouncing between various objectives as you try to figure out what you’re capable of and what will give you the best reward. Combat, loot collecting, decision making, it all adds up to a game which is truly unique to everyone who plays, and while everyone is walking around the exact same map, each player takes their own routes and chooses to level up their characters in different ways which lead to their experiences being different to anyone else who’s played.

So if you were to play a Fallout board game, what would you expect to see? Mutants, exploration, missions and a levelling system which lets you play the game your way, all while spending your bottle caps wisely and looting whenever the chance presents itself? Yeah. Me too. And that’s exactly what the Fallout board game gives you, and it’s absolutely brilliant as a result.

Setting the game up brings around the first mystery, as tiles are placed face down in a pattern determined by whichever quest you’re taking on and set up a game whereby you’ve no idea if you’re about to stumble into a raider camp or a potentially helpful settlement. There are various things you can do when it’s your turn, such as exploring the next tile, move elsewhere, fight an enemy or various other actions. As you explore you’ll flip the random tiles bit by bit, slowly opening up the map and allowing you to start trying to achieve your main objectives, all while staying safe, carrying out settlement challenges and completing quests that will help you beef up and win the game. Being attacked is pretty inevitable so getting kitted up with decent armour and weaponry is important, but also means you need to manage your bottle caps wisely to make sure you can get yourself tooled up for the task ahead.

Not much is known when the game kicks off…

There’s a decent backstory too, setting you up as a dweller from Vault 84 in the year 2077 heading out into the wasteland. The main idea is to gain as much influence as you can, up to hitting a certain amount to win the game, while also trying to balance the influence from two opposing factions. These factions, which depend on the mission you’ve taken on, will vary from game to game but to give as example your first mission – The Commonwealth – has the Railroad pitched against the Institute, and depending on who you side with will potentially mean getting attacked by different people later on in the game. The other danger is these factions gaining too much power which will end your game and result in failure, so it’s key to keep an eye on how these are doign and making sure you hit your own goals before they do.

When combat occurs it’s a pretty simple system, but works very well. Dice rolls determine how many hit points are dealt out, and can be helped out by weapons or equipment you’re carrying. Exceed the defensive capabilities of the enemy and you win, disabling them but, importantly, not totally removing them from the game. If they get chance to fight back then it’s up to you to defend the attack, otherwise you’ll be losing health points instead of gaining XP. Either way your XP, health points and radiation are monitored on a really cool player board which not only shows this key information, but also where you are in terms of your SPECIAL track. Different successes such as looting, settlement successes or fights gain your XP, and filling the meter levels you up and lets you add to your SPECIAL track, helping out with skill rolls later. It’s a very straightforward system, but incredibly effective and gives you plenty of chances to choose your own progression route depending on how you want your game to play out.

… but soon becomes clear.

As is to be expected from a Fallout game the games can last quite a while, we’re looking at a couple of hours upwards depending on the number of players you’ve got, but the time will fly by. For that extra dose of authentic Fallout action, having the soundtrack to Fallout 3 or 4 playing in the background does some great things to the atmosphere. And if you’re worried about the idea of multiple players moving away from the traditional Fallout experience don’t be; you’re not fighting against them as such but instead choosing when to help them, when to snatch a mission objectives off them or when, if you’re feeling nice, to actually support them against a bunch of raiders who have managed to sneak up on them. It’s neither co-op nor competitive play, sitting in a nice area in between that lets you choose how to interact with your fellow wastelanders.

And above anything else, that’s what makes the Fallout board game so great: choice. You can choose which missions to do, choose where to explore, choose how to improve your character, and so on. Each time you play something different will come up – you’ll find different loot, get different quests, have different interactions with settlements and different opportunities to earn XP and level up. It’s such a great adaptation of the video games that anyone who’s ever spent hours wandering aimlessly, soaking up the atmosphere and looking for a random hut that might have some cool weapon hanging around inside, will probably love this as well.

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