Whether you’re a fan of Fallout and have never played a miniatures game or you’re an experienced wargamer who is considering jumping into this game, its natural to have some questions before you decide to spend money and time on a new game. My aim is to give you an overview of Fallout Wasteland Warfare and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the game so you can decide if it is right for you. Obviously, I am a fan of the game and the opinions expressed below are mine alone but I hope that you will find them helpful in your gaming journey.
If you like Fallout, particularly Fallout 4 or to a lesser extent, New Vegas, this game is probably already of interest. I say that because if you’ve seen the miniatures then you recognize some of your favorite characters and factions from the video games. At the time of writing, Modiphius, the makers of Fallout Wasteland Warfare, have said that they plan on expanding their line to cover Fallout 3 and it seems like Fallout 76 may also get miniature releases eventually too. While I don’t think every single Fallout game is going to get miniatures, if you like any of the previously mentioned Fallout games, there is going to be something you like in the game either now or in the future.
Much like Bethesda’s creations, Fallout Wasteland Warfare is probably best understood as a sandbox. This means that you have a lot of flexibility to play the game in the way you want and you can create your own characters and stories along the way. Unlike some game systems where you may need to buy most of the releases for an army or faction, it is easy to focus your collection around whatever you like most in Fallout. Additionally, there is a Fallout RPG that is compatible with the miniature wargame. I do not play tabletop RPGs and am not very knowledgeable about them so I just wanted to mention that. If this piques your interest, I would encourage you to research it further outside the scope of this article. While I can’t cover all of the different ways to play in great detail in this article, I’ll touch upon at least some of them to give you some idea of what you can do with the game.
Another strength of Fallout Wasteland Warfare is narrative play. Narrative wargaming focuses on the story that emerges from combat between two or more sides in Fallout. For example, certain characters emerge as heroes and others as humorously ineffectual as the battle rages and you roll dice to resolve combat. No matter how many times I play a game like Fallout, I keep coming back for the stories and surprises that occur along the way. Narrative wargaming often revolves around a story or concept taken straight from a Fallout game too. You can play a one-off battle where the Sole Survivor is trying to protect Sanctuary Hills or an extended campaign where the Minutemen try to fend off Super Mutants. There is also a settlement mode where your squad grows and evolves with each battle. You can even build buildings in the settlement to improve life in the wasteland for your faction. No matter which way you play, you will find that an interesting story tends to occur organically and the game does a fantastic job of immersing you in the Fallout world.
At the same time, if you’re more interested in creating a powerful squad of miniatures and entering in a tournament, this game is not the best for that. Its true that Fallout has Battle Mode which is a competitive way to play. Truthfully, I haven’t played this mode at all and I haven’t entered in any tournaments but my impression from following the online scene for Fallout is that Battle Mode and having Fallout tournaments is uncommon. In many games, from Magic: The Gathering to Warhammer, tournaments are a key component to the game’s success and many people prefer to play this way. If you prefer to play competitively, I would recommend checking to see if any of your local stores host tournaments. If they do not, I would be cautious about buying Fallout in the hopes of playing competitively because it doesn’t seem like Modiphius is as focused on Battle Mode as it is with the narrative side of gaming.
To give Modiphius some well-deserved credit, they do an amazing job supporting Fallout Wasteland Warfare. Since the game started, there has been a steady flow of releases for miniatures. Modiphius does not create limited edition boxes or stuff that goes out of print so generally, if you see something that got released in Fallout Wasteland Warfare, you can buy it sooner or later. Best of all, for Fallout 4 and New Vegas most of the factions and characters you liked and hated have miniatures. Fallout 4 is so well-represented that I think in a couple more years, Modiphius may struggle to find more characters to release miniatures of which means Fallout fans are truly spoiled for choice with this game.
Going beyond that, Modiphius has released rules expansions that include Caught in the Crossfire, which includes a series of scenarios where two sides battle in escalating warfare, Into the Wasteland, which fleshes out settlement mode and helps you randomly generate battles in the wasteland, and Into the Vault, which lets you explore vaults and see what secrets they contain. These supplements give you further options for how to play the game and a single rules expansion provides hours of hobby and gaming fun.
This is more of a helpful tip than a real issue with Fallout Wasteland Warfare but it is worth mentioning that I think there are so many different miniatures, terrain, and ways to play the game that you will probably want to think about what parts of the game appeal to you most and focusing on them for the first couple years. In my case, I want to be able to play games that represent the various locations in Fallout 4 but I also would love to be able to search and fight in a vault one day. Realistically, focusing on either one of these ideas likely will take me a few years of hobby work to accomplish. That is why I say it is good to have a focus when you start or else you could find yourself jumping between different goals without completing any of them.
If you know much about miniature wargames, than you’re probably already aware that solo-friendly games are not common. This seems to be changing slowly as the years go by and solo gaming becomes more popular but at the time of writing, the options are somewhat limited. That is why it is refreshing that Fallout Wasteland Warfare comes with solo and co-op play. The game achieves this with an AI system where any unit in the game has a set of commands that dictate how they should act in different situations. I am a solo gamer myself and I can confirm that Fallout is lots of fun to play solo and this is a big reason why I switched from a different game system to Fallout. So if solo wargaming is something you’re seeking or even just open to, Fallout is an excellent option.
Another noteworthy part of Fallout Wasteland Warfare is that it is a skirmish-level wargame. This means that players generally field less than ten models when they play a game. For those who don’t know, miniature wargames can come in many different shapes and sizes. Skirmish games require the least amount of miniatures whereas mid-level games require 20-30 miniatures for each side and there are even games that take a hundred or two hundred miniatures for each player. What this means is that you don’t have to paint a ton of miniatures to play a game of Fallout which is great for anybody starting out. In addition, it tends to be easier to collect and paint the miniatures for an entire faction since there are not hundreds of minis to paint. You can also easily branch out and collect multiple factions, if you choose. In my opinion, skirmish-level wargaming is the easiest type of game for new players to start from a modeling standpoint. There’s no doubt that painting up five miniatures is easier than one hundred no matter how much painting experience you have.
The only potential downside to Fallout being a skirmish game is that it requires more terrain to make a realistic and fun battlefield. Terrain is important in any wargame because it can block the sight of units and prevent them from shooting at their foes. It also helps create the world that your miniatures inhabit including the iconic Fallout environments. The reality is that terrain takes time to make, just like painting miniatures. So while it is true that you don’t have to paint as many miniatures to play, you will need plenty of terrain to have a nice looking game. Fallout is played on a 3 foot by 3 foot area which is fairly small for wargames but it still takes quite a bit of terrain. The good news is that Modiphius has not only released a fair bit of terrain but they also regularly create STL files for terrain which you can print at home if you have a 3D printer. If you’re like me and do not have a 3D printer, have no fear, it won’t limit your ability to create terrain much. There are tons of companies out there that make things suitable for Fallout, you just have to be willing to put the time in to make the terrain to bring Fallout to life in your games. Of course, if you happen to already own post-apocalypse-friendly terrain then it will be even easier for you to start playing this game as well.
One of the other strengths of Fallout Wasteland Warfare is that the rules are both thematic and strategic. One of the main appeals of all miniature wargames is using strategy to try and win, whether it is against the AI or a human opponent. Fallout gives lots of ways to be strategic which is a big part of the fun. The rules were also designed to capture the feel of the video games really well. Each weapon in the game has its own range and effectiveness level depending on how far away the target is. Weapons can do different types of damage as well. Even little things like radiation damage work similarly to the video games. The factions are translated well to the tabletop as well. Super Mutants can’t shoot well but they’re dangerous when they charge you. The Survivors (including the Minuteman) are great shots but not as strong up close generally. If you’re looking for a game that brings the fun of Fallout to life on your tabletop, Fallout Wasteland Warfare does not disappoint.
It is worth mentioning that the rules for Fallout are Medium to Heavy in their complexity. There are definitely simpler wargames on the market if that is what you’re looking for but at the same time, I think the complexity in the rules give the game the thematic and strategic feel so it is a worthwhile tradeoff. The developers wisely included a Tutorial system where you play through six different scenarios and each one adds more rules until you get to the final one where all of the rules in the game are being used. This is is a clever way to teach the rules and the campaign is pretty fun as well. You can read my battle reports here, if you’d like to learn more about how they went. In addition, I think you can control the complexity of the game to some degree by picking units that are less complex and avoiding weapons and rules that are more complicated if you don’t want to deal with them. As I already mentioned, Fallout Wasteland Warfare is a gigantic sandbox and you can make what you want out of it.
Having said that, the rules are not perfect by any means. The card system uses a lot of symbols which not everyone likes. There is a quick reference guide to the symbols that comes with the Starter Set which is helpful but even with it, the symbols can certainly be a bit overwhelming. Certain weapons have unique rules that can be very hard to decipher (see the picture below for examples of this) and I say this after playing Fallout a number of times. If Fallout ever gets a new edition, I think this is certainly an area where the game can improve. Fortunately, there is a great online community to help answer questions you may have and as I mentioned before, you don’t have to use any weapons you don’t want to or can’t figure out too, especially when you first get started with the game.
Another strength of Fallout is the app support. There is an app you can download on your phone or tablet that lets you create army lists, track damage and other effects on characters while playing a game, and even generate AI actions all without needing to reference any cards. While I know some gamers do not like having to use their phone or tablet in a tabletop game and that is totally fair, I think the app offers some strong advantages. For one, its pretty affordably priced, especially compared to packs of cards which I will discuss next. It also doesn’t take up physical space which is nice for anyone who doesn’t want to store a collection of cards. The app is regularly updated with any errata changes that occur so unlike the cards, the information is never really out of date. And finally, not having to roll and interpret the AI cards save time and energy which I really enjoyed when I tried out the AI in a solo game recently.
With that said, you certainly do not have to use the app. Modiphius has released physical cards in a few different ways, which can be confusing to new players, but the option to stay physical is certainly available. One of the downsides is that the cards cannot be patched like an app so if there is errata, you will have to print out a new version of the card yourself. Most cards have not received errata but there are enough that its worth double-checking before you play to make sure you’re using the up-to-date version. Truthfully, buying and collecting the cards is a bit of a pain since its hard to know what to buy to get every card. Modiphius has discontinued a card release or two and they’ve changed the way they release cards several times too. At first, the cards were distributed in the boxes of miniatures which was pretty nice. Modiphius stopped doing that because it was slowing down production and instead, you could buy all of the cards from a wave of releases at once. In more recent releases, the cards come out with each new rules supplement but they’re punch out cards which are not as nice as the cards that were released in the past. All of this is to say, the card system for Fallout has been messy and is not one of the strengths of the game. You can absolutely use physical cards if you want but it is definitely more expensive, requires more storage and table space, and is not as easy as using the app. Depending on how you choose to play the game and what faction you choose, this may not impact you until you get further into the game but its worth being aware of how complicated it can be and deciding for yourself whether you want to commit to the app or physical cards.
I hope this detailed look at the Fallout Wasteland Warfare system has been helpful in determining whether this is a game for you or not. I tried to cover as many of the strengths and weaknesses of the game as I could and tried to mention any challenges or requirements to playing the game that you should know before jumping in as well. If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments and I will be happy to try and answer as best I can.