Fallout: The Board Game – Playing Solo – First Impressions
There is no doubt about it – the world of Fallout is a masterpiece. A video game series dating back to 1997, Fallout has built upon its world for the past 22 years, to create something truly magnificent. It is the definitive view on what a post-apocalyptic wasteland would look like, and is beloved all over the world.
So, when they released a board game in 2017, board game fans who also love Fallout became ecstatic. Here is a game in which you can explore the wasteland with your friends and collectively enjoy all that Fallout has to offer.
At the UK Games Expo in 2019, I managed to pick up a copy of the Fallout board game, and have since been playing it non-stop for the past week. It has been laid sprawled across our dining table from Monday to Thursday as I have been working my way through two of the scenarios. Fallout is a game for 1-4 players, so I have been playing solo whilst my partner has been out and about, and thought it was about time to share a few basic thoughts as to what the game is like.
The Fallout Board Game – Solo Mode
As a fan of the series, Fallout offers everything you hope it would from the outset. The box is filled with thematic goodies, from incredible miniatures to a whole deck of themed encounters designed to give the game its own RPG feel. Fallout is about exploring the wasteland in order to complete goals, and this is where the majority of the gameplay comes in.
The wasteland is, in most cases, a map generated by putting a load of tiles together face down. These have two difficulties – red backed and green backed, with green being the easier of the two. The tiles are shuffled into their two unique piles, and then placed down to create the board in set configurations. There will also be two or three set piece tiles placed for good measure.
Throughout the course of playing Fallout, you, as the player, will mainly be doing two things – firstly, you do a lot of exploring during the game – this is to uncover new tiles or new quests to try and gain the coveted influence needed to win the game. In a single player game you need 11 influence , although with more players that does reduce. With four players it is 8 influence that is needed to win the game.
Influence comes from completing certain quests.
Secondly, you spend a lot of time fighting the beasts of the wasteland. Some are raiders, some are radroaches. There are even glowing ones and deathclaws. From super mutants to sentinels, everything you could want to face within the world of Fallout is represented in the game.
Combat is done using three VATs dice. When you roll, it shows (much like with VATs in the video game) the areas hit on the enemy you are fighting. Enemies only take damage from certain areas. Meanwhile, there are pips on the dice as well, and that (multiplied by the enemy’s level) determines how much damage they do in response. The same system is used when passing tests, only the pips represent passes.
As the game progresses, and I just want to cover this quickly, you progress, in much the same way you do in the video game. You gain stats, filling in your own S.P.E.C.I.A.L board (for those who aren’t fans – Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck). Certain tests taken allow you to, if you have the attributed skill, have rerolls associated with that skill. You gain XP and can even gain perks from the video game. These take the form of one-shot abilities.
All in all, the game plays in much the same way as a board game RPG. You explore, you level up, and you fight off bad guys – all with a Fallout twist. What isn’t there to like?
What are the first impressions of Fallout: The Board Game?
You have no idea, dear reader, how much I want to adore this game. Having sunk hundreds upon hundreds of hours into the video game, the Fallout Board Game seemed like a fantastic way to transcend the digital screen and onto the tabletop. Instead, I have sunk around 12 hours into the board game at time of writing, and am actually finding this article really difficult to write. I think it comes down to a few things.
The Fallout game, the board game, has a lot of perks going for it. As a fan of the series, and as someone who has played a lot of board games, I look at this game and I think to myself:
“Okay, you know what? I’m happy to go along with the story on this.”
The story telling aspect, through the various different quests, is brilliant and there is a superb quest tree that unfolds as you play the game. It unfolds, and it feels satisfying when you draw a quest to a close.
That being said, and I say this with reservation, really wanting to freaking love the game, that is about all the satisfaction that comes from it.
You see, Fallout: The Board Game, is as much a test of patience as it is of strategy and skill. The board game mirrors the video game in a lot of ways, and Fallout: The Board Game feels a part of the same world; however, it has a lot of flaws. It has so many flaws in fact, that sometimes it can feel more like watching a game play out in front of you rather than like you are playing a game yourself.
Now, keep in mind that this is just representative of the first impressions of the game, and as a Fallout fan, and a fan of complex board games, I kind of adore Fallout and the weird random mess that it is. That being said, if I were either one of those types of fans, without being an avid fan of the other, I could imagine Fallout falling on its face.
Within the board game version of Fallout, dear reader, there is a lot of randomness, and that can play against you as the player. Not only does it have a series of randomly shuffled decks, but all combat is generated by the dice. What is more, at the end of every turn, some of the bad guys (as determined by an agenda deck) move about the board towards their nearest player, and they can start combat with them. In a single player game – you are the only player so everything moves towards you. It can be brutal and you have to keep fighting just to stay on top of the waves of enemies.
A prime example of this is that, in one of my games, I was wiped out by death claw who took me out, by chance, literally in one turn. It just happened to roll well – I was dead – four hours of game play for an incredibly unsatisfactory ending.
In another game, however, I was able to survive until the very end. I completed the main story, and that felt really good.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is the game length. Due to randomness, the game can take ages. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a game that takes all evening to play – in fact, we have a few. Fallout, however, takes a ridiculous amount of time for each mission to play out. I have had it sprawled across our table for almost 4 days, just to play through a couple of games.
On the game length, I think the verdict is that it is fine if you want to be invested in the experience and the story. Otherwise, it can feel like a drag.
In case you hadn’t guessed, dear reader, I am somewhat stumped about Fallout. When buying it, I knew there had been mixed reviews about Fallout. Playing the game now, I think I can draw my own conclusions and say, very definitively, that they too are mixed.
From playing Fallout solo, and from the experience I have had so far, I would not recommend it for players who are not a fan of the series of video games. Nor would I recommend it if you are not already a fan of fairly heavy board games. If you are only one of those two things, Fallout may not hold you and could instead infuriate you.
If you are both of those things, then yes, Fallout can be good fun to play. If you invest in it from a story perspective then it’s coming across as a pretty good board game RPG. It is just that though – it is a story – it is an experience. It is not a game that requires a lot of strategising, and randomness can make it hard to think a few turns ahead; however, as a story and as a Fallout experience, it can be fun.
What I want to do is revisit the game once I have played every single mission once. It deserves to be played more before giving a full review; however, the current solo experience can be summed up in the following way:
I enjoy the game from a solo perspective because I am a fan of relatively heavy board games and the Fallout series. When embracing the board game as an experience, it can be fun to go along for the ride.
This article has become a bit more opinionated than usual; however, I hope it reflects how torn I am about Fallout at the moment. I want to love it and I want to give it every chance in the world. As such, I will play through all the mission set-ups and then write a full review. It will be interesting to see how opinions change (if they do) between now and then.
Anyway, what are your thoughts? Have you played Fallout? What is your take? Let me know in the comments below.