First Impressions – Fallout

This is our first article on Tabletop Timesinks that isn’t about Star Wars Destiny; believe it or not, we do actually play other games as well!  In this article, Tim takes a quick look at the Fallout board game by Fantasy Flight Games.

I don’t particularly like or dislike the Fallout franchise; I played some Fallout 3 and enjoyed it for the most part.  So going into this I wasn’t particularly invested in the theme.  My biggest bias is probably for Fantasy Flight Games, as they constantly make games that I want to play!

One of my friends had already purchased the game, as well as played it several times, so they would be teaching me the rules.  We were also playing it three-player.

What Do You Do?

Fallout is a semi-cooperative exploration/adventure game.  I say semi-cooperative, because while you can trade items with each other and certain situations may arise where it’s best to work together, ultimately only one of you is going to win the game.

Each of you takes on the role of a different wasteland dweller with their own unique ability/equipment.  During the game you can improve your character’s range of skills and gain extra equipment.

Each game uses one of several different scenarios, complete with different board layouts, objectives, and storyline.  The quests are how the game is progressed/won, and once completed often give the player rewards and advance the storyline.  Sometimes these quests reference specific places that have not yet been revealed, forcing the players to explore the wasteland.

Combat involves you rolling the dice aiming to get certain results (which vary from enemy to enemy).  Once you have rolled the dice, having relevant skills allows you to reroll any number of those dice, doing so once for each matching skill.

Players are aiming to reach a preset target of victory points in order to win.  Victory points are awarded in card form, with each card being worth at least one point, but often more depending on their hidden (from other players) text.

What Did I Like About It?

First off, I really liked the character progression.  The character boards with the different skills (S.P.E.C.I.A.L.) were a really simple and thematic way of representing a wide range of abilities that characters could have.  Tied into character progression is the experience system, which again was a simple way to simulate levelling up.  The more skills you have, the more experience it takes to level up.

The skills were another system that I liked.  You could use a weapon more effectively if you had more of the skills associated with that weapon.  The skills also came into play when you were resolving encounter cards.  In the game we played, because my character was a charismatic champion of the people (charisma skill and idolised status token) he was able to easily defuse a volatile situation in the settlement, earning him yet more adoration from the common folk.

The encounter and quest cards did a good job of presenting a story that develops as the game went on.  Not as deep as something like the Arkham Horror card game, but just enough to keep you interested.

The deck of victory points cards that you flip over each round to determine where the enemies move was another nice little system, as it also served as a timer for the game, as each time you cycled through the deck, the factions progressed.

The production values are good; the cardboard pieces were a decent thickness and the miniatures that represented our characters were nice.

The dice that are used for combat and to determine the success of tests were a highlight of the game for me.  They managed to convey the theme of the V.A.T.S. system from the games into a simple dice-rolling mechanic, with the dice having the different hit locations available.

What Didn’t I Like About It?

My main gripe is the victory points system.  To me, it felt far too random.  Obviously, you score one point for each card you have, but it was the bonus abilities on the hidden side that made it seem too random for my liking.

For example, in the game we played I got a card saying get bonus points for each step ahead that Faction A is, then my next two cards were ones for helping out Faction B, directly contradicting my first one which I had started working towards.  I think that if you were able to choose one card from the top three cards instead, you could have a bit more control over your objectives for the game.

I could have just been unlucky in getting both types of faction-specific ones, but the game ended before I could grab my fourth card and hope to get something different.  Luckily though, this is something that could easily be altered if needed (it may not be needed, as I’ve only played this game once so I’m hardly an expert on it).

The only other thing that I didn’t like was how static the market row was.  If you had a display of items that no one wanted, it would take a long time to get rid of them (you only add one item to the display each time you go).  At several points in our game I had a massive stack of caps and really needed a weapon (literally anything would have done), but the market was consistently clear of weapons (plenty of drugs though!).  Again, this could just have been my bad luck, but I think that it should have been a bit easier to get a weapon (even a crap one).

Final Verdict

I enjoyed my first game of Fallout and I want to play it again.  If that playthrough reinforces my positive opinion of the game, I’ll probably add it to my wishlist.

I like the overall system and it’s very open to expansions.  If you’re a fan of the Fallout series and enjoy games with character progression and a bit of story, I think you’d love this game straight away.



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