It seems like everybody wants a piece of the board game boom, though it’s safe to say that not every licensed release really does justice to its subject matter. The path of least resistance is to simply reskin an existing title, as evidenced by the millions of versions of Monopoly based on popular franchises out there, although there are pretty much only a handful of properties for which a fundamentally broken capitalism experiment is actually a good fit. The best examples – things like XCOM and The Witcher – instead cleverly adapt game mechanics into tabletop ones, and Fallout is right up there with those top flight board games in terms of creating an experience that genuinely feels like Fallout.
The complex narrative webs and freedom of player choice of the videogames would perhaps lend themselves best to a more open D&d-like tabletop experience, but trust Fantasy Flight to be able to distil the essence of the open-world adventures into something a little more structured and accessible. Modular tile-based maps offer free exploration, dynamic event decks offer engrossing branching narratives and random encounters, and the player progress system is beautifully on-point, using an adapted version of the videogames’ SPECIAL traits system to allow for specialisation in various disciplines.
Worldbuilding is fantastic, then, but combat was always going to be that much more difficult to emulate. The
This month we look at Fantasy Flight Games’ adaptation of Fallout, go on a quest with eight adventurers in Octopath Traveler and find out if Tempest 4000 was worth the wait (it was)
“MODULAR TILE-BASED MAPS OFFER FREE EXPLORATION”
dice-based system here is interesting enough, with each enemy requiring a certain number of hits to designated weak points to defeat them. The three custom dice have various permutations of said body parts (head, torso, arms, and legs) along with pips which, in combat, indicate damage done by the enemy, and equipment and skills allow for a certain number of rerolls as you chase the necessary hits or try to mitigate incoming damage. It can be quite tricky as enemies hit hard and you start out pretty weak, so scavenging for a few bits of gear before getting into combat usually tends to be the smart play.
The base game comes with four different scenarios, each of which has its own map layout, unique warring factions and special conditions that modify the flow of the game slightly. The common theme is that each has tracks for charting the progress of each faction towards its goals and ultimate victory, with player choice in story missions typically bumping one of the two up the ladder a little at the expense of the other. Having the game automatically end if either side reaches the final space of the track frequently leads to anticlimactic finishes just as things seem to be getting interesting, and this coupled with the points-based win condition for players makes the endgame easily the weakest part of Fallout. Alliances are formed via randomly drawn Agenda cards (which also make up the scoring component, with varying amounts of Influence afforded based on completing certain tasks), so there’s not really a lot of skill involved in actually ‘winning’ – top-deck a good Agenda card and you might double your Influence and even end the game, while other times you just end up milling through low-scoring cards or ones that conflict with your existing ones. It’s even messier with more players as each will be following different agendas and there’s no direct player interaction, so it’s not like you
can even do anything to stop someone else from completing something that might interfere with your own plans.
It’s a shame that something so fundamental as scoring is so weak, especially when everything else about Fallout is absolutely fantastic. Adopting house rules to prevent damp squib endings and reward players more fairly for progress goes a long way towards remedying the issue, and even something as simple as extending the faction track to lengthen the game can lead to more satisfying final acts. Hopefully the inevitable expansions will do something more official to remedy this one black mark against an otherwise great game but in any case, this is a wonderfully authentic Fallout experience for the most part and one that can really shine if you’re willing to deviate from the rulebook a little in order to get the most out of it.