Archive for April, 2018

Fallout: The Board Game

A spontaneous trip to Finchley, an impulse buy, another £50 I’m not going to see again… that’s the brief story as to how I ended up with a copy of Fallout: The Board Game. I’d heard Stefano mention it a while back and although I didn’t really think about it at the time, there much have been something in my subconscious which resonated and made me paw the game three times before plucking it off of the shelf. Well, that and Munchkin Undead booster pack. Kinda timely – that very morning, overcome by a little nostalgia, I put in Fallout 4 into the Xbone to start a new game (with the goal of finishing as aligned to the Minutemen).

Anyway, the vagaries of my neuroses aside, the game.

Broadly speaking, the Fallout board game, which is for one to four players, consists of elements from Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. For those who haven’t read my blog or who’ve never played a game (or cannot be bothered to do a cursory search on Wikipedia): the world of Fallout is set in a different timeline to ours. The transistor circuit was not invented in the 1940s; its discovery won’t be for another 100 years and as such, the electronics revolution does not happen. Because vacuum tubes are the vanguard of the digital revolution – such as it is – power consumption is massively up and the world embraces nuclear energy. Design and architecture is largely stuck in the 1950s, possibly as a deliberate attempt to show American Capitalistic power against Chinese Communism. By 2040 or so, most of the world’s fossil fuels are depleted leading to various wars. China invades Alaska in an attempt to seize control of the last major oil resource and ultimately, this leads to a nuclear exchange in 2077. 200 years later (events of Fallout 3 & 4), survivors are struggling with every day existence in a post-atomic landscape full of mutants, hostile bands of people and persistent levels of radiation.

The way that the board game of Fallout works is that there are four principal missions which pitch two factions striving for control of the Wasteland and players will interact with the two factions as well as get swept up in various side-quests that emerge. The player characters are a Vault-Dweller, a Brotherhood of Steel outcast, a Ghoul, a Super Mutant and a Wastelander. Each character starts off with a character card giving them something unique as a way of differentiating between the five. Each mission requires the board pieces (there’s no main board, just hexagons à la Settlers of Catan) arranged a certain way and will have other set-up requirements. The way the game progresses and the story unfolds is at the discretion of the players.

For the player(s) to win, they need a certain amount of influence with the inhabitants of the Wasteland which is scored through “Agenda cards”. Each player has an Agenda card at the start of the game which is not disclosed unless a player is choosing to align with one of the main factions. Each card is worth one influence point and can be worth more if the criteria on the card is met. A player may only hold four agenda cards at any one time and these are typically awarded when main or side quests are completed. Players are up against the clock however, as the two factions vying for dominance will also be progressing towards their final goal of control of the Wasteland. If they manage to complete their goals (by reaching the final space on the mission sheet), that faction will automatically “win” and all players lose.

How is the game played then? It’s a bit reminiscent of Eldritch Horror. Players take it in turns to make their moves and receive two actions per turn: they can explore the map, move their character, explore ruins or settlements, set up camp to heal & trade, fight enemies or complete quests. Unlike Eldritch, players can choose the same action twice. Once all players have had their turn, enemies on the map get to move around and attack players if in range. If killed, enemies will immediately respawn (where appropriate) – just like the video game!

Each story card (deck of 160 cards) will result in a number of choices and progress is determined by a player fulfilling a particular success criteria. An simple example would be say: Choice 1, kill a robot enemy. Choice 2, reach a landmark on the map. Other missions may have more complicated criteria to be fulfilled. There are also encounter cards which do not count as story cards but can be drawn when a player is on a ruin space or a settlement space. Ruins typically (but not exclusively) allow players to draw loot from the abandoned rubble. Settlements typically allow players to buy and sell items at shops.

So that’s a description of the game in a nutshell, now for my thoughts.

Physical Bits – the game is made by Fantasy Flight games (Eldritch Horror, Talisman et al) and like their products, the board/board pieces are made from a pretty solid cardboard, the character figures are wonderfully detailed and the other playing pieces are not too fiddly. Each player’s pip boy (or personal playing area) has slots for their tokens and stats like health and rads are marked by peg rather than by counter which is a nice change. There are three dice with symbols that will need a bit of getting used to but they are a good contrast of black and green (like King of Tokyo). Game cards are a standard size and a micro-size (so they fit with FF/Generic card sleeves if so desired) but are perfectly readable and all together the game fit on my table without needing to pull out the extending bits (think 1m by 1m).

Artwork – the board doesn’t have much artwork, it’s pretty crude but icons and space segments are clear. Enemy tokens and item cards are the of the same sort of feel though it’s vaguely reminiscent of hand-drawn posters from the 50s keeping with the theme.

Box – Medium sized, just about fits all the bits and pieces in but you’re going to need a few zip lock bags for tokens once punched out. You can live with the cardboard insert but I suspect if/when expansion packs come out, you might want to chuck it away. Nice art on the box and the back gives you a good flavour of what to expect.

Complexity – Like many games, I feel that the rules could have been clearer in places as I had to refer to BBG message boards twice because neither the “learn to play” rules, nor the glossary book could adequately answer the questions. The back of the glossary features a summary of the turn order though chances are that’ll be passed around inexperienced players. It took a while to get used to the nuances of the rules but once comprehended, I was able to fly through my turns. I think a board game n00b could probably get through a game of Fallout as the game concepts are simple, the player actions are clear with few rule “exceptions” and players don’t have to keep a running tally of other game concepts issues in their head.

Gameplay – I think that the linear dynamic worked pretty well. There’s a definite flow of stages in a player’s turn and also in the turns of the enemies. The only time this is interrupted is when a quest is completed with immediate effect and the rewards and subsequent game effects must be resolved before continuing. As a solo player, I almost forgot to finish my turn but with more players, the chance of skipping out a move is unlikely. Fighting enemies and tests will be a large part of the game and that’s simple enough to resolve once a player gets the hang of how combat works. An interesting feature of the game is how it’s not quite co-operative, not quite competitive, more than one player can win simultaneously and everyone can lose. I can’t think of [m]any other games which play with this style so there’s something new as well as familiar, given the subject matter.

Favourite bits – For me, what I liked particularly was the XP system; being quick to level up in the early game but taking longer as it progressed (just like the VGs). Being an addict of the video games, I liked how the board game managed to cram in lots of references and make them an integral part of the board game. I also liked the fact that pegs were used to track game progress rather than a million counters and tokens although after a few plays, will the cardboard be irreparably damaged by inserting and removing the pegs? I thought the glossary was very helpful in looking up rules, better written than Eldritch Horror.

Who will the game appeal to? Regular gamers, fans of RPGs because that element is there, co-operative gamers, competitive gamers, a real broad appeal. And don’t forget to download the Fallout OST or look up the radio stations on YouTube to accompany the game!


Restaurant rant

If I had a twatter account [sic], I’d post this there but…

At what date did restaurants become obnoxious selfie central? Show some dignity, instawhores.

Fallout: board game review coming soon…