In a shocking turn of events, I have a surprise battle report for you. I had some time last weekend and wanted to try out the AI in Fallout Wasteland Warfare so I thought why not do that and have an epilogue to the starter campaign while I’m at it? As you may recall, Jeff’s band of Survivors lost a difficult battle to the Super Mutants while a storm and Deathclaw raged. As it turns out, that was not the end of Jeff…
One other thing to note is that this may be my last long-form battle report for a while. I know I have said it before but these things are long and take a while to read, let alone write. While I know regular readers generously take the time to read them, I’ve never gotten the sense that casual visitors get much out of them. So in the future, I will experiment with less wordy battle reports to try and capture the events that occur in a way that can be read in a reasonable amount of time.
Initial Thoughts on AI – To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t as excited to use the AI as I wanted to be. The reason for this is reading through the AI rules left me feeling a bit overwhelmed. It felt like I had to learn an extra set of rules on top of what is a fairly complicated ruleset. Thankfully, I took a peek at the Fallout Wasteland Warfare app and saw that it will randomly give you an AI action for any unit in your game which meant I wouldn’t need to roll a die, interpret symbols on the AI card and could hopefully avoid being overwhelmed by the seemingly separate AI rules. Since I know that people are curious about the AI system, I will try to describe how it works a bit in the battle report and will go into more detail about that, then I normally would. I have post-game thoughts on the AI for you as well too.
Story Recap – Weeks or months passed since the defeat near the cave to Super Mutants. After barely getting by in the wasteland, Jeff ran into a band of Survivors who were willing to help him, Dogmeat, and Daria. Teaming up with Sturges and Codsworth, Jeff started to gain his confidence back. His leadership and combat skills would be tested though. While on a routine scavenging mission, Jeff’s group saw a large band of Super Mutants headed their way. The area looked like a promising place to find loot so it would be a race against time to see who could get the most of it.
Scenario Setup – As the scenario title suggests, grabbing more valuable loot than your opponent is the name of the game here. I randomly selected searchable markers so that it would be a total surprise as to how much loot was available for both sides to grab. There is a six round limit for this scenario and at the end of the final round, the points value of the loot for each side is totaled up and a winner is declared. I tried to pick items that I thought would be of fairly similar value so that neither side could get an item worth 50 points and the rest of the items were only 10 points or less, for example. The scenario rules didn’t state this explicitly but if a side is wiped out, they obviously lose the scenario since they have no loot at that point.
The Survivors – Something that was exciting about this game is that it was my first time ever in wargaming building my own list. My goal for the Survivors was to do what the Tutorial Campaign wouldn’t allow. I wanted to take at least some Survivors who could hold their own in melee combat so that I wouldn’t have to try and shoot the Super Mutants off the board or take heavy casualties and a loss potentially. I also figured that would make the Survivors more mobile and able to grab loot instead of fleeing Super Mutants. The one thing I accidentally omitted was making Jeff heroic. I like those rules quite a bit and just completely forgot to do take that upgrade for either side in this game. Here is a look at the Survivors list:
Jeff, Sole Survivor – 128 points – Hunting Rifle and Machete
Codsworth – 90 points – Mr. Handy Buzzsaw and Mr. Handy Flamer
Dogmeat (Original) – 120 points – Dog Bite
Sturges – 104 points – .44 Revolver and Pipe Wrench
Daria – 56 points – Combat Rifle
Super Mutants – For the Super Mutants, I tried to optimize them a bit using my fairly limited collection. This meant no ranged weapons because Super Mutants generally aren’t great with them. A Master and two Brutes would be the muscle and the threat to the Survivors in close combat. An Enslaved Tech was a must have considering there could be searchable markers that required hacking or lockpicking which Super Mutants are not good at. I also threw in a couple of Super Mutant Hounds as they’re pretty versatile and cheap. A hound could grab some loot with their higher movement rate in a pinch and even if they only tie up the Survivors a bit, they will have done their jobs. Here’s a look at the Super Mutant units with their appropriately earned names:
Da Boss (Master) – 125 points – 10mm Pistol and Sledgehammer
Smack (Brute) – 103 points – Board
Krush (Brute) – 107 points – Sledgehammer
Open (Enslaved Tech) – 35 points – No weapons
Super Mutant Hound 1 – 65 points – Hound Bite
Super Mutant Hound 2 – 65 points – Hound Bite
Battle Report –
Before the action started, I randomly drew two weapon mods from my limited card collection for one of Sturge’s abilities. I drew Dissipating (which boosts energy weapon defense) and Stun Pack (which gives a chance for a melee weapon to stun when used). Jeff would take Dissipating even though it was highly unlikely to be useful. Sturges took the Stun Pack which might get some use since he has a pipe wrench and is a better in close combat than ranged.
The round started with fairly standard moves by Sturges, Open, Codsworth, and Dogmeat. I made an early rules mistake here for the Survivors who could have looked at and potentially taken items from the searchable markers they were near but I did not because I thought it cost an action for some reason.
Thanks to the AI command to attack recklessly, the Super Mutant Hound 2 charged across to the middle of the battlefield. It was completely out in the open and vulnerable to ranged fire.
Seeing an easy target in the middle of the battlefield, Daria lined Super Mutant Hound 2 in her sights and fired two shots. The first hit for two damage and the second hit the ground harmlessly.
Smack’s AI and Super Mutant instincts led him to find something to hit so he ran forward into the open on Dogmeat and Codsworth’s side.
Following Daria’s lead, Jeff took aim at Super Mutant Hound 2 and with an automatic success and an extra point of damage die result, the hound was dead before it hit the ground.
The AI commanded Super Mutant Hound 1 to also be reckless which led it to almost the exact same spot as where its packmate died. It was early in the game but I was starting to wonder if the AI worked better with some units more than others.
At the end of the round the score was tied, 0-0 since neither side had found any loot yet.
Another thing that I had forgotten to try in the past and wanted to try out in this game is the event deck, which is a random effect that can happen each round after the first. The event for this round was Unbearable Heat which causes each side to select one model to take one action instead of two. Daria was slowed by the intense heat of the wasteland and Super Mutant Hound 2 was also affected from charging across the battlefield into a vulnerable position.
The Super Mutants went first since the model count was now tied. Smack was given a cautious charge by the AI and after moving for his first action, it charged Codsworth. While this earned Smack a charge bonus, it would only come into play if Codsworth tried to move away.
Hoping to cause some damage to Smack, Codsworth fired up his buzzsaw and tried to hit the Super Mutant twice. The end result was a single point of damage.
Da Boss activated next and made a Reckless charge into Codsworth. Similar to Smack, Da Boss earned a charge bonus but was not going to be able to benefit from it.
Seeing that his loyal robot companion was in trouble, Jeff fired into the melee. The first shot missed in the chaos but the second hit Smack for two wounds. The Super Mutant Brute had five left.
Krush got the careful attack AI and since there were no targets it could reach, the Brute found cover behind the red shipping crate.
Daria, who was suffering from the heat, could only manage a single shot which hit Da Boss for a single wound.
Surprisingly, the remaining Super Mutant Hound was not only still alive and undamaged but it got the Objective AI command and instead of charging into a combat somewhere, it checked out the nearby dead synth. There was nothing to loot at the searchable marker however.
Dogmeat activated next and sensed a great opportunity to attack Smack who had its back turned. Earning a charge and outnumber bonus dice certainly wouldn’t hurt either! Unfortunately, Dogmeat rolled an auto-fail result which was about the only way Smack could have emerged unscathed from that attack.
The AI threw another surprise my way when Open got the command to attack. The Enslaved Tech’s only real use is opening stuff and it is a fragile unit. In hindsight, this might have been a situation where I should have thrown out that command and gotten another one since it made little tactical sense. I was curious to see how it would turn out so Open followed his AI programming. If Open died, it would be costly for the the Super Mutants since they couldn’t hack or lockpick searchable markers without him.
Sturges was up last and was in pistol range of Open. His ability to shoot is poor though (around 40% chance of success) so any damage would be a surprise. The first attack missed. The second was a critical success and took two of Open’s three wounds. The Enslaved Tech was looking extremely vulnerable as the round ended.
At the end of the round the score was tied, 0-0 since neither side had discovered any loot yet.
The event for this round was Bloatfly Swarm which meant nobody could move more than yellow at a time.
With a lot of melee threats in the center, the Survivors tried to attack the most damaged one, Smack, with Codsworth. Only one damage made it through as Smack’s armor annoyingly prevented three points.
Super Mutant Hound 1 got the command to charge and was able to get in close combat with Codsworth. Rolling a boatload of dice ended up netting three damage which was half of the robot’s health. Things were now looking very bad for Jeff’s robot companion.
Dogmeat attacked Smack twice and the end result was an arm injury which causes a penalty for skill checks. The remaining damage was prevented by Smack’s incredibly lucky armor rolls.
Smack activated next and the AI targeted Dogmeat instead of Codsworth since Dogmeat was healthier. It was a strange decision and not something a human player would do. Smack ended up inflicting a single point of damage thanks to Dogmeat’s armor and Survivor’s faction armor bonus.
Daria edged away from the center of the table to get a line of sight on Open. Her shot killed the enslaved human.
Krush moved back to the nearest loot marker and took a look at it. It was a Cryo Grenade which is worth 6 points. Not a lot but the Super Mutants were on the board!
Sturges went next and finally checked the loot marker near him after I realized it was a free action. It was empty. He then charged the Super Mutant Hound but inflicted no damage other than stunning it. At least the hound would lose an action next turn.
Da Boss activated last for the Super Mutants and it attacked Codsworth since the robot was right in front of him. It took two hits with a sledgehammer before the robot was damaged beyond repair. The Super Mutants finally got some revenge on the Survivors after suffering a couple early casualties.
With Da Boss now no longer in combat since Codsworth was destroyed, Jeff had a chance to shoot at him a couple of times at close range, which could help him punch through the Super Mutant’s formidable armor. Both of Jeff’s shots hit and did a total of three damage. Da Boss had five wounds left.
Super Mutants lead 6 points to 0 thanks to the Cryo Grenade.
The event for this round is Diamond City Radio which has no effect on the game. With the unit count tied again, the Super Mutants would go first. Krush got the order to attack and so he bounded across the battlefield and charged Sturges with his second action.
With Da Boss still open to attack, Daria activated and fired two shots at him. The first hit for three damage and brought it down to a single wound left. Unfortunately, the second missed and so Da Boss would stick around the battle a bit longer.
The Super Mutant Hound went next and after spending an action to remove the stunned status, it attacked Sturges. Biting into his arm, the hound caused a single point of damage.
Jeff went next with the hopes of finishing off Da Boss who was by far the most dangerous Super Mutant even with only a wound left. His first shot hit and Da Boss slumped to the ground. The Survivors looked to have the edge now with Da Boss’s demise. Jeff used his final action to charge Smash to try and help Dogmeat finish off the Brute.
Smash activated next and attacked Jeff due to the AI’s command. Smash’s injured arm helped Jeff narrowly dodge both attacks with the board. Smash could do nothing but yell out in frustration as he’d large been ineffective in this battle.
Dogmeat snarled at the enraged Super Mutant and launched into an attack. The first attack missed and generated an action point but the second caused two damage. Smash was down to 2 wounds.
In an impressive display, Sturges attacked the Super Mutant Hound because it was going to attack him back using its Prepare quick action regardless and inflicted four damage with a modest lead pipe. The Hound had a single wound left. The hound tried to get revenge and inflicted a single point of damage which was impressive considering it needed a 4 or less to hit Sturges.
The Super Mutants still lead 6 points to 0.
The earlier Unbearable Heat event card must have been a precursor to rain because the next event was Downpour. It had no real effect on the round since there isn’t much to climb on the battlefield.
The Super Mutants went first this time since their numbers were dwindling. Krush started things off and absolutely lived up to his name by smashing Sturges into the ground. Now the Survivors weren’t quite as confident with the game tightening!
Dogmeat went next and went for the jugular against Smash. Jeff’s canine companion killed the Super Mutant on the first attack! With his second action, Dogmeat checked a searchable marker nearby which was surprisingly empty. The Survivors surely must have been wondering why they were even fighting at this point as there seemed to be no valuable loot to be found.
The wounded Super Mutant Hound charged towards Jeff despite its grave injuries and nearly landed a heavy blow on the Sole Survivor. Jeff’s armor saved most of the damage and he ended up taking a single wound. It could have easily been three or four though.
Sensing it was time to get rid of the hound, Jeff went next. Brandishing his machete, Jeff delivered a fatal blow to the hound which ended another threat to the Survivors. Quickly grabbing his rifle, Jeff also fired a shot at Krush and landed a wound. At this point, only Krush was the only one left so the Survivors turned their focus on trying to kill him or grab enough loot to eke out a late win.
Daria concluded the round by taking two shots at Krush and only one of them connecting. It was partially saved by Krush’s armor who now had six wounds left. Even with the Survivors being in control, it was definitely possible that Krush could survive another round and the Survivors lose in heartbreaking fashion…
Super Mutants still lead 6 points to 0.
The Downpour from the previous round escalated into a Lightning Storm! At the end of the round, two random models would suffer damage with this event.
Krush went first since he was the final Super Mutant left alive. The AI gave an interesting command. Krush was supposed to move towards the objective. While that could mean finding more loot, after some thought, I decided the smart thing to do was try and retreat behind cover to gain protection against Daria and Jeff’s weapons. To charge into combat wouldn’t likely impact the game and getting more loot would leave Krush completely open to the Survivors’ guns so this seemed like the right move to make even if it was a bit cowardly and savvy for a Super Mutant!
Dogmeat went next and unfortunately, Jeff’s hound could not reach the Super Mutant so instead, it went towards the furthest searchable marker and after searching… it was empty! An unbelievable result and a cruel twist of fate for the Survivors who only had one other marker within their grasp.
Daria was just able to get to the last loot marker and this one contained… an item! Finally!
Which item was it? A lead pipe. Not a valuable item but worth 9 points! That was just enough to edge out the Super Mutants in this game.
The Survivors win 9 points to 6!
Closing Thoughts – That was a see-saw affair that really went down to the wire. While it was a bit disappointing that more items weren’t found, I would say this is an excellent example of why I enjoy Fallout so much. It is well-balanced and the games tell an interesting story each time. I try not to root for either side or let that affect my play but it was nice to see Jeff get some redemption after the bleak ending of the campaign. While this was meant to be a one off game, I have to admit that I feel tempted to continue Jeff’s adventures in the wasteland further with at least some of his current crew. I can certainly see how campaign based games tend to take on a life of their own and become addictive too. For a narrative wargamer, it might be the ultimate way to play a game in fact.
It was interesting using some new minis including Codsworth and Sturges. Truthfully, I wasn’t super impressed with Codsworth as he isn’t that strong in melee and is better at launching flame attacks which are hard to get off because his range is limited. Codsworth wasn’t especially durable in this game either. He soaked up a little damage but I felt wasn’t worth his weight in points this time around. Sturges affected the game much more with his heroics and while I wouldn’t say he is strong in combat, he was fun to use. I’d definitely use the Elvis impersonator in the future!
I butchered several rules that favored one side or the other in this game but I think it all worked out in the end. I like to think that speaks to the quality of the rules of this game. I really enjoyed building the squads for each side and equipping them however I wanted too. It was frustrating in the campaign how the Survivors had almost nobody who was good in melee and I think I addressed that pretty well in this game even if it was their firepower that won the day. I really look forward to trying out more of the minis I’ve painted in future games and experimenting with equipment and skills too as that is a fun part of our wargaming hobby.
I may talk about this more in a future update but I think I will take a break from playing Fallout for a little while so that I can build up my terrain collection a bit more. As I say every report, I feel like my terrain collection is good but every time I play, it kind of looks the same no matter what I use. I have some ideas on how to address this and I think they’ll really increase the visual appeal of my games which is what I want.
Post-Game Thoughts on the AI – Of course, this is probably what you’re most curious about if you’ve read this far. How is the AI? I felt like it was better than I expected and it led to a really close game but I can’t quite decide how much I like it. There were several blunders the AI made like the Super Mutant Hound that was basically given away and the Enslaved Tech which made a suicide advance too. I could have intervened for either of these AI commands though I feel like at a certain point, shouldn’t I just play the entire side if I’m making executive decisions like that? Honestly, if the Super Mutants kept the Enslaved Tech and it grabbed another piece of loot, they would have won the game most likely. So there’s no doubt that the AI is not as sharp as a human player.
At the same time, I felt like it was pretty thematic in how it governed the Super Mutants. In many ways, I felt like I was playing the video game where most enemies just attack you until you’re dead or you kill them. And that is certainly not a bad thing depending on how you’re playing the game. In the narrative mode where you’re playing a campaign, I think this kind of AI is great because you should generally have a fighting chance to make it through most battles with at least some of your force intact and with a solid chance of winning. A points match oriented game would not be served as well by using the AI because you should be able to punish the tactical blunders enough to get a win pretty often. In a lot of ways, playing against the AI feels like playing against the AI in a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) video game like Warcraft, Starcraft, or Command and Conquer. If you play in a tactically sound and somewhat defensive manner, the AI usually gives you chances over time to punish mistakes and grab a win. I like that about playing the AI in those video games but I don’t know that I want that kind of certainty when I play a wargame like Fallout.
The other thing I would say is that the Wasteland Warfare app is pretty indispensable for using the AI. It quickly and easily generates the AI actions without you having to roll a dice like you do with the cards. You also need twice the amount of cards on your table to track the AI. I don’t think I would play with the AI in this fashion. The app just makes it way easier to govern the units in a quick way and I feel like the AI rules without it, are cumbersome. The primary advantage of the AI is it lets you rest your brain while your opponent takes their turn. That is really nice in the typical 2-4 hour Fallout games I play but at the same time, it is a little painful seeing the AI make a bad decision in a way that I wouldn’t. It will be interesting to see if I use the AI going forward to save some brain power. Many people who use the AI suggest giving the AI side a slight points advantage and that would be a good way to offset any blunders it makes. I did not do that in this game and I could see where an extra 50 points for another Super Mutant would have changed this game and made it even more tense. You could also just overrule any bad tactical decisions but I wonder if that isn’t a slippery slope that would make you just want to ditch the AI and play the side as well as you can. I think I’m going to have to play some more to decide which way I prefer playing but I’m glad to have both options either way.
If you made it this far, thank you for giving it a read. I hope it was interesting and that you enjoyed it!