For years, fans of the beloved post-apocalyptic PC/console franchise Fallout have been clamoring for a traditional tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG). The Fallout video game series has always followed many of the traditional norms for pen and paper RPGs.
Any cursory play through of the old CRPG Fallout games from Interplay or the newer first person shooter Fallout games from Bethesda shows the games deep tabletop roots. Yet, puzzlingly, fans haven’t been able to officially bring their love of Fallout to the tabletop RPG arena until now.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare Roleplaying Game is a crunchy RPG expansion for the miniatures game of the same name from Modiphius Entertainment. Originally released in March 2018, the tabletop wargame Wasteland Warfare always had a roleplaying component with its Campaign Handbook, encouraging an episodic approach to the game. The RPG expansion takes it a step further by giving specific rules to make the game feel more like a player driven RPG rather than a strict wargaming scenario fighting game.
The stated goal of the expansion is to bring “tabletop storytelling in the Wasteland.” And Modiphius certainly brings it, if a bit imperfectly. Is it good enough to have successful quest completion or is it a mission failure? Read on to see what I think about the first RPG foray into the Fallout Wastelands!
Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG
The first thing that stands out to the reader is the layout. Simply put, the book looks absolutely fantastic. Role players appreciate well designed books, and Modiphius deserves plaudits for the crisp and easy to read pages. The black text on gray background may not seem exciting, but it does make for great readability. The pages are not cluttered, with asides placed in blue colored boxes. The outside margins of each page provide essential information about skill icons and dice.
The book absolutely nails the sardonic outlook of the Fallout universe. The book is peppered with hilarious notes from Vault-Tec, alternating between warning readers about the various experiments they are conducting in the vaults, to the realities players will face in their new irradiated world. It’s a great way to cover lore without getting into a textbook recitation of information.
Along with a twisted sense of humor, Modiphius also gets the flavor of Fallout correct. All the things longtime fans love about Fallout are present. Characters main stats are of course based on the classic “What makes you S.P.E.C.I.A.L.?” model.
The perks players can choose from are lifted right out of the game and make sense given the video game to tabletop translation. There’s even an emphasis on settlement creation, taken directly from Fallout 4. I’m personally most excited to see how my players approach that particular aspect.
As far as gameplay is concerned, there should be many familiar elements of tabletop roleplaying games. Like many games today, Wasteland Warfare RPG tries to strike a balance between fighting, skill checks, and narrative gameplay options.
It’s true that this expansion is heavily based on the miniatures game, but there’s a lot of leeway in approaching this game that don’t necessarily lean on your fighting everything in sight. As any Fallout player can attest to, doing that is generally suicidal anyway.
The Modiphius team also go to great lengths to make sure that this game is accessible to those with disabilities, especially those who are color blind. The book does an excellent job of pointing out various accommodations that they have made to ensure that this game is open to everyone. It’s a worthy effort to make sure everyone can play your game and use your dice. Credit to Modiphius for taking the time to do this.
What Needs More Work
While there’s much to love about this game, my biggest complaint is that this game doesn’t truly feel like a stand-alone game. “If you own Fallout: Wasteland Warfare…” is a phrase readers will find with regularity in this book. Yes, Wasteland Warfare RPG is advertised as being a separate game that can be used in conjunction with the miniatures game. Yet it doesn’t feel like a complete game.
Time and time again, readers are reminded that they could do some particular action in the book without the miniatures game, but the clear indication is that owning the base game at minimum comes with certain advantages. Granted, Modiphius provides absolutely everything except for the miniatures for free online (including every single miniatures card, item, and rulebook), it was clear to me on my first blush reading that the miniatures game provided numerous things that would make playing this game easier.
Outside of the somewhat necessity of owning the miniatures game starter set, there are several different parts of the game that feel incomplete or half baked. As mentioned above, I am very excited to jump into the settlement building portion of the game. It sounds really cool, but the rules presented in the book are frustratingly vague. A scant three pages are devoted to this, with absolutely zero information about the costs of building the settlements, or what even a minimum starting settlements. Going back to the miniatures game gives a little better guidance, but not by much.
Character creation also feels a bit lacking because it’s dependent on choosing an archetype (I.e., miniature) card from the original miniatures game. There’s no way to fully create a new character. A player must first choose one of the archetypes provided and then they can add their own flavor by choosing perks, specialties, gifts, and scars. With no clear rules on how to create a character from scratch, players are forced to choose one of the archetypes provided.
The only thing any perspective RPG player would need to purchase outside of this book is the Wasteland Warfare dice. These are also included in the miniatures starter box. These dice are different colors, representing the different effects with each roll. Cool, right? Meh. Not really.
There were multiple times as I was reading this where I thought, “Why do you need special die from that?” The easy answer is, well, money. If you tie a game to a special set of dice, that’s more money in your pocket. However, there wasn’t a time where I didn’t think the same or a similar result couldn’t be accomplished with a roll of your basic polyhedral die set sold at any Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) for a fraction of the cost.
Some of the rules for adjudicating rolls were just weird with these special dice. One can’t necessarily blame Modiphius for trying to make a little more cash on forcing players buy special dice. That doesn’t mean the mechanical decisions will make any more sense for it, though.
The Wasteland Warfare RPG might be an independent enough game from the miniatures game for a skilled GM/overseer to overcome, but it feels awfully dependent on your owning the base miniatures game. While it is billed as a separate game, the Wasteland Warfare RPG should be viewed as more of an expansion for the miniatures game than a standalone game.
However, there is enough here for players and overseers to dig into for a decent roleplaying experience. The book presents a very nice kernel of a roleplaying game. It’s not as dynamic as say D&D, Pathfinder, or Star Wars, but it is a faithful adaptation of the game series that fans will love.
But temper your expectations. I don’t think large swaths of the gaming population are going to permanently convert to this roleplaying game over the numerous, and easier to learn, systems available out in the tabletop gaming wastelands.
Especially given that Modiphius is putting out yet another Fallout RPG in 2020 based on their 2d20 system, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare just doesn’t feel like the roleplaying experience many of us were waiting for all these years.
All images from the Modiphius’s Wasteland Warfare rulebook.