Fallout Wasteland Warfare Impressions : Brought to You By Liberty Prime Insurance – “Be a Patriot…or be vaporized!”
Welcome wastelanders! Sorry about the lack of posts. Life is busy, games go unplayed, minis unpainted. (Well...a few. I've been fairly happy about my hobby progress this summer, but most of it is more on the rpg side. ;))
One of my goals this summer was to finally try out one of the big-IP games I've been amassing figures for: Modiphius' Fallout Wasteland Warfare.
Now, I've been a big Fallout fan since I was a wide-eyed young teen wandering through my own angst filled ruinopolis. One day I stumbled upon a high tech shelter known as, "Best Buy." Inside there were shelves lined with musical discs and personal computing entertainment games. Clearly, this was a more physical era.
Perusing their wares, an elongated, rather large box caught my eye. Adorning this box was some radical embossery and a crazy looking armored helmet. "Fallout", it said in the corner. I picked up the box, looked at the screenshots and art and just *knew* this was something I needed. It was a total blind buy that stabbed deeply in to my interests at that age. An anachronism, filled with dark humor, tugging at my inner fantastical survivalist daydreams.
When I got it home, I opened the box and saw a brilliant, rather large spiral bound "Survival guide." Was this the instruction manual? A preconceived strategy guide? "Who does that? Oh man. What did I get myself in to?"
My jaw dropped. It was so over the top. An extraordinarily well produced universe offering laughs, tactical mastery, experimentation, branching story lines.
Once installed, that iconic phrase first rang through my speakers.
"War. War never changes."
I had so many fond memories of experimenting with that game, and many of it's sequels. "Can I sneak my way through? Can I talk my way through? Maybe this rocket launcher will work?" It truly became part of my lifetime culture, and I wouldn't doubt it has done the same for many others.
So, when Modiphius announced news for the Wasteland Warfare miniatures game, I should have been at the frontline with dollar bills waving in front of their face...but I wasn't. There was something about the company that I was unsure of. They're known for having loads of expansions they try to make you buy, and making IPs very piecemeal. The prices were also high. So I waited.
Eventually, some Black Friday sales hit and I scored a core box really cheap, but like many of a hobbyist's purchases, it sat while other projects were being worked on. Hah! This didn't keep me from gawking at and obtaining more figures for it though.
Darn you Fallout. You've got me once again!
Once I had a little more time, the desire to play the game really dug in and I felt a burst of inspiration to get a few post apocalyptic terrain projects back in the priority queue.
I needed to revisit this universe!
Last weekend I got the chance. I spent time during the week reading up on the rules. Inside the core box there are a few manuals to read. A quickstart manual, the general rules, and a campaign book. Online there are also further supplements: card point values, AI handbook, errata, etc.
Ugh. Where the younger me would have been enthralled by the sheer amount of material, the older version is exceptionally cautious because my dwindling time on this earth is becoming obviously rarer and more precious.
I pressed on through, however.
First off, it's a colorful game. There are tons of tokens, range rulers, icons, colored backgrounds on icons, and so on. Judging from a distance, there are times when everything is sorted and laid out for play, that it looks like you beat a candy filled clown like a pinata. Or is that, a candy filled pinata like a clown? *Shrugs* Who knows? The tokens are mostly super tiny. This can be a good thing because they don't occupy much table space actually on the table, but trying to pull them out of small plano bins can be absolutely infuriating!
The rules are strewn about in a strange manner. The core rule book is a bit of a long read, and there are lots of micro rules and dice adjustments, but the examples help and there are a few play examples to get you the right visualization. Technically, you could just read the rule book and get playing, ignoring the campaign book altogether.
Of course, you would be missing out on some ~very~ neat things. Campaign play truly opens up a lot of interesting avenues to spice up your game. It has rules for card-based AI, building settlements, quests, events, etc.
I would almost go so far as to say, the rules by themselves would leave you with an interesting enough battle game, but turning the game in to an event driven, coop mission game puts everything on a new level.
To put it simply, the more I think about my experience with the game, the more it mirrors my love for the pc series back in my teens. It feels ~a lot~ like the old Fallout tactical games. (Granted, there is no talking your way out; this is a Warfare game after all.)
The iconography, while often looking like a chaotic mess, also becomes second nature and intuitive rather quickly. It reminded me of the card game, Race for the Galaxy. This is a difficult game for new players to learn because of its reliance on abstract icons for actions, sequencing and rewards, but once you're familiar it clicks and becomes very quick playing. Fallout WW grew on me similarly; I wasn't so concerned with what things said, but what symbols to look for. It's fairly fast paced once you play a few turns.
Another thing that impressed me is the modularity of it all in terms of story. It's super easy to just make up your own scenario or add to one of the existing ones and have a good time. Screw balance, just make up something cool you'd like to experience and go ahead and play it out to see what happens.
I didn't get the vibe that this game was meant for tournament play. In fact, while the book mentions every character card and item has caps (points) values, none of that is actually on the card or in the book. You have to download all of that and cross reference your cards when building a team. This could be a dealbreaker to the more organized play gamer, but in a way it subtly tells me, the narrative (lazy?) player that I am, to just ignore all of that and have fun with this sandbox instead.
Every type of character also comes with a unique AI card. I find this to be an intriguing system, but also a little confusing. The AI card itself is set up on a grid. Depending on the characters health, and a special die roll, it will perform certain actions based on an attitude of sorts. So, whereas some games have very specific AI actions, this one feels like its more about interpeting the attitude and then running through the algorithm for what should happen. I have mixed opinions on this, as some interpretations we had during out game might have been more on the side of us doing what we feel the enemies should be doing, rather than what the rules intended.
Speaking of our game, I chose to play a scenario from the AI handbook download that seemed like an interesting way to throw as many rules at us as possible to understand how the many systems work together. In fact, on the fly we even modded the scenario for an added sense of danger, threw down some search and exploration tokens, and to threw in an extra character.
Our goal was to reach the water valve connecting to the settlement locked away inside an abandoned ruined facility. The problem: the facility was patrolled by supermutants and their minions. Several groups had patrol routes, but once within awareness of intruders would break off to eliminate those pesky do-gooders.
We had to sneak inside, and hack the terminal to open the door to the room containing the water valve. To make this more difficult, we added some secret tokens that could be Supermutant Suiciders hiding inside the facility, like living mines...that chase you!
Since patrol routes were known, our players figured there was plenty of time to dash and grab search tokens outside of the facility avoiding patrols. We also played with event cards however, so each round possiby presented us with a new challenge or disability.
Clearly we overestimated our speed and luck. Which enemy AI actually moves is a random draw, and player activation is an interesting beast of its own. For instance, when it's your turn you can ready a character who has not yet been readied. Then, you can either pass and let the opponent go, OR you can then activate ALL of your readied characters. This is actually a sweet way of keeping groups together or tag team attacking vital targets, but can also leave you as sitting ducks. I played that gamble and ran in to several patrols, getting kind of stuck in one area. The supermutants quickly spotted me on their route and engaged.
On my partner's side, he also had a bit of an unlucky streak. Once one of his characters broke in to the main structure, EVERY hidden token revealed within range was a Suicider! Haha. This made me laugh because it was randomized. Within a few turns he was turned in to a fine radioactive paste on the walls as the Suiciders blew themselves up.
While initially we were rolling fairly poorly, we picked up our tactical mistakes and felt the shining light of the dice deities and did manage to kill all of the remaining enemies bottenecked in doorways and corners, thus giving us free access to the inner sanctum and allowing us to restore the water supply to our poor settlement.
So, how do I feel about this game so far?
Let's get the mixed bag opinions out of the way first. For instance, the AI, as a literal thing, can be kind of confusing to interpret. There is an algorithm of sorts, but it was difficult to follow for certain situations. This might have been more due to the scenario in which we played. But at the same time, it's awesome having AI for every unit type in a wargame! Solo gamers absolutely need to give this a consideration.
The game is filled with teeny tiny tokens! I know some in our group hate this. I'm ok with it as long as they're functional and easy to distinguish. I didn't have much trouble with understanding what's available here, and those tiny tokens aren't overly distracting. They are an absolute atrocity to manipulate with my fumbling fingers. And don't let that gentle breeze from a robin swooping by hit the table, or chaos will ensue!
Depending on how you wish to play, the rules can be all over the place. We jumped right in to using the full rules, coop, events, AI, etc...so there was a lot of bumbling through different rulebooks and pdfs to check on things. A purely tournament or battle driven group shouldn't even need to use the campaign or ai books...but I also feel that's not really how Modiphius wants this game to be played.
Which brings me to a final point. This game is kind of a mess ~ in the same way that the originl Fallout game was a mess. A glorious, captivating mess filled with intriguing mechanisms in a fantastically rich universe. I keep thinking of how neat it would be to create narrative event scenarios for Adepticon or other wargaming expos to drag other hobbyists in to this world. I keep thinking about trying all of the other various coop scenarios myself, in my own solo campaign to see how the AI plays out. What do I have a chance against? How can I tweak the scenarios for more surprises and challenges? What would it be like with 4 players in a huge battle against the Enclave?
Back to my aforementioned recent rpg experience. This game drives my brain a lot like DMing does for me. It gives me ideas and stories, but with added tactical rules, and that's what's really important for a gamer like me.
While it could be cleaner, so could Jimmy Page's guitar playing...but that didn't stop him from creating some timeless classics. Great job with this one Modiphius. I look forward to exploring this Wasteland more.
(*note: I didn't get to try the settlement rules, so I still have to factor that in to the game at some point. Also, character creation would be a neat add-on. I hear an actual RPG system incorporating this very ruleset is in the works though. Consider me super interested in that.)