09th Mar2020

‘Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Starter Box’ Board Game Review

by Chris Thomas


Fallout is typically an RPG videogame but, now, as a “franchise” (cringe) it is brought to us as box of lovely, preassembled miniatures in a table top miniatures game. The miniatures are all glorious and come on coloured plastic / resin, so if you want to treat this as a board game you need to fudge slightly you can, although this touches on the inherent issue that will impact a lot of people with this game. This is a game I am very impressed with, it feels like Fallout.

It is an excellent (and flexible) ruleset that offers a lot of interesting depth and long-term appeal BUT I want you to understand what it is you are getting into, if you fall down the rabbit hole of miniatures table top gaming. You can’t just invite your friend over, crack the box open and expect everything to fall into place.

Fallout is a very good choice of table top game (especially) if you like the IP (and the IP is superb and well implemented). The classic, black sense of humour is here in spades. It is a setting that takes as much from Regan era politics as it does futuristic Sci Fi – weirdo, nerd glasses, dark humour but somehow anarchy punk and biting satire.

If you are unfamiliar with it, Fallout is traditionally a PC RPG set in a post-apocalyptic 1950s nostalgia diverged -retro futuristic setting. Think what would have happened if the style of 1950s Americana (e.g. Cadillac cars) had continued into the space, computing and robot age.

This golden age of seemingly idyllic consumerist optimism is abruptly ended by a conventional war that turns nuclear war between the US and China / Russia through Alaska. Some citizens had booked spaces in “Vaults” – giant nuclear bunkers constructed by nefarious corporations and some of these “vault dwellers” have started striking out to explore what has become of Americana since the bombs dropped and the environment collapsed.

We are a few years on from the nuclear war and society is struggling to get back off its knees, in a world strewn with the wreckage and tech of a utopian past and the irradiated hellscape of the present.


The world is ripe for exploration – the horrors of the nuclear war have naturally created radiation and devastation but also gribbly beasts and mutants, ghouls and giant scorpions. In among this are wonders of technology, computers, weapons, drugs and treasures ready to be found and used. There are many heroes and villains spread into this environment and an endless number of stories that can be found by those searching the wastes for them.

Life in the wasteland is typically short, irradiated and violent. It is a world where bad stuff regularly happens. In a table top game, this spells fun.

This is a “narrative based table top skirmish game” – players will have a handful of miniatures in their “army” rather than the hundreds that might be required for a rank and flank table top game. The starter box comes with preassembled miniatures, which is a huge boost. The measurement system is also clear and intuitive (using coloured cardboard sticks rather than assuming players know how to use a tape measure). The game is, in some respects, doing a good job of making it easy for people new to table top games to make the leap. One thing that is missing from the starter box and would have made a huge difference is some 2D cardboard terrain thrown in. I would recommend, to anyone playing a table top game for the first time to think about getting some 2D card terrain, as, without it these games don’t really work as they are designed. Terrain blocks line of sight, blocks shooting but also allows players to create a beautiful and engaging little map to murder each other on. The game is also generous with scenarios (much more interesting and thematic than simply trying to kill the other side).#

The game designer actually came from the video game world, and this shows in the design of the game. “AI” characters have a very simple bit of programming which dictate their behaviours, but like everything in the game, the designers encourage you to do what feels right or cool in that moment. The game designers have made a really solid and fun game here but, as players we are partly responsible for creating our own fun, and that might mean we might alter the people we experience this game with. Some people might not like that.

The rules here are solid, revolving around stat and equipment cards and bespoke dice that work in a similar fashion to another excellent game I reviewed, Aristeia!. The rules themselves are very granular, so if you want to play a “lite” version of the rules it would be possible to do so without adding a lot of the game play rules, let alone the campaign rules. I have not tried it yet, but the campaign allows multiple players to build their own little town, they get stuff based on scavenging and fighting each other and to build new locations and facilities between levels that give perks and benefits.

It is worth stating that this is a toolbox for telling stories in the wasteland, you are free to play this game how you want to play it. The game is not striving for perfect balance, it is a game where you and your friend should be looking to have fun together and not be looking to be as efficient as possible (if that is your cup of tea I recommend Guildball… or chess).

Out of the box the game includes 3 different booklets, a starter guide, the main rules and a campaign guide. The rules are seemingly well set out and they include lots of examples and diagrams but, as someone reading them that does not know how to play the game, they do a bad job of clearly explaining what we need to do in a natural way. The rules about activating models struck me as being particularly unclear (usually something that is crystal clear in most skirmish games).

The game includes a good deal of items (in card form) that can be scavenged or paid for with bottle caps (the currency) to attach to characters prior to a game. For example, you can give an assault rifle and some body armour to your settler, making them much more formidable. Or you can hope to get lucky and find a free pistol in the wastes. The base set also includes (far too many) card tokens and 2 flimsy paper mats that slightly awkwardly sit together to play your games on.


The two factions in the starter box are the “Brotherhood of Steel” / human settlers (good guys) and the “Super mutants” (orcs, basically). I paid 65 euros at my local friendly gaming store for my box set and for me, this represents “good value”. Board gamers might be put off by this, especially as this box does not represent the “full experience” but I might get a board game out and play it a handful of times, then it sits on a shelf. For a tabletop game I spend countless hours pouring love into painting my little models and terrain, “value” is different for different people, and for me, the base set represents “good” value.

If we look at the cost of the many different expansion boxes available, I feel they vary in their value for money and relative value. The faction starter sets run at between 40 to 50 euros per box and this is fairly decent value but some of the smaller boxes seem pricey (3 small models with a few cards for over 30 euros in my local friendly gaming store) and also require a small amount of assembly (no problem for me, but suddenly you need some nail clippers and super glue). I guess the makers (Modiphius) are paying significant money to the licence holder for the rights to the game, but if you are going to get involved in this game 65€ is really the cost to get in, not the complete cost.

I also got a big “Deathclaw” monster and an alien included in my starter box, which was a nice touch:


The sheer breadth of this toy box might also be intimidating to some players (player vs. player, player vs. AI, coop modes are all huge selling points to me, as someone that owns an airbrush I am already well into the “hobby” aspect of these games, but to board gamers this might all be a bit intimidating).

If you are new to tabletop games but are interested in a narrative experience, then Fallout is a good choice. The rules are strong, the models are lovely and there are loads of fun and varied ways to experience the radiated wastes of the future.

I am lucky enough to have a load of suitable, painted terrain and a dedicated space for playing tabletop games. I am going to set up a 4×4 foot table to play missions on with a friend (and also play vs. the AI making up little stories of my settlers setting out into the wasteland looking for friendly people and loot). I am then going to set up a 2×2 space so I can set up my little settlement. As it grows, I will add buildings, computer terminals and the like to the physical village. Occasionally my village is going to get attacked by raiders and super mutants (but again, I need to buy, build and paint a selection of suitable raiders). I am also thinking of throwing in some bonkers missions involving my Judge Dredd minis, a nuke being hidden in the village due to one of my idiot radiated dirt farmers getting confused.

Is this game for you? It likely depends on how much work you are willing and able to put in, in terms of taking responsibility for your own stories, your own fun and if you find the “hobby” aspects engaging and satisfying. As I said, there is a generous number of scenarios and stuff to do in the box, but without you making this game your own you can’t get the most out of it. Also worth mentioning, I have talked in this review a lot about the “wasteland” but actually, the world of Fallout is very diverse and, with a little bit of work pretty much any scenario or table you can think about could be incorporated into this setting (we had the Roman Empire in Fallout – New Vegas, something I might chuck my Warlord games legionnaires into in a story arc).

A good tip is to find the Fallout 3 soundtrack and put that on in the background while you play or do some hobby stuff and planning.

Last night I was modelling little computer terminals and a server from milliput for the simple reason they will look nicer than cardboard tokens on the table. If that sounds like a weird thing to do (it is) then perhaps a board game makes more sense for you (if you are not afraid to stick some minis together Blackstone fortress or Underworlds are good bets). For me, this game is fantastic and I can’t wait to get back out into the wasteland to squash some more radroaches and get chased down by my painted up deathclaw.


Comments are closed.