Fallout: Wasteland Warefare RPG - Review
By Tom Mannering
The last review I wrote for a Modiphius RPG was John Carter of Mars - a universe I know very little about. The Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG is a different animal entirely because I have loved the Fallout setting since 1998, when my mum surprised me with a copy of Fallout 2 at the tender age of fourteen. Little did she realise she was giving her impressionable son a game rife with post-nuclear horror, cannibalism and prostitution. Or maybe she did? My mum can be weird that way.
The cover art of this book is stunning, with a scavenging Vault Dweller and his faithful hound stood amidst the ruins of society and framed by rusted ruins. It’s an image that immediately sets the tone and gives you a good idea what you’re in for. Sadly, with the exception of the Vault Boy appearing sporadically throughout the book, this is the only artwork we have in this book. All the other images are photographs from Modiphius’ Fallout miniatures game. Whilst these are good photos of well-painted miniatures which relate to the game that this is an expansion for, I still would have liked a little more artwork to evoke the setting. The layout of the book is sharp, clear and easy enough to navigate, with regular side bars providing hints and clarity throughout, which I always appreciate. Equally the fonts and colours used feel appropriate for the most part, and actually like a textbook you might find in a Vault Tech facility.
Any fan of Fallout will tell you that it has a certain flavour of a post-nuclear apocalypse experience to it; a blending of the idealised 1950’s American dream with the horrors of the realities of a world ravaged by nuclear warfare and its aftermath (and a substantial amount of sci-fi seasoning). Equally, Fallout has proved able to blend almost every tone and theme in their games, touching on issues that have affected and continue to influence us. That is a tall order for an RPG Expansion Book that only weighs in at 128 pages.
Nevertheless, Modiphius have made a solid effort, focusing primarily on familiar aspects such as using the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute system, featuring most of the organisations from Fallout 4 and including races such as deathclaws, ghouls and super mutants. Equally, character creation allows you to make a good range of archetypes true to the setting, from bandits and thugs, to fixers and researchers, and plenty of combat options, too. There is further Fallout-flavoured customisation using perks and flaws called ‘Gifts’ and ‘Scars’. These additions to your character such as 'Lungs Like a Brahmin' (which increases your endurance) and 'Hit Every Branch on the Way Down' (which reduces your charisma) feel appropriate in both name and function.
Sadly the 'World of the Wasteland' chapter is a little short. Whilst the overview of the organisations, wasteland and settlements is welcome, I would have liked a bit more expansion here both as someone with an interest in the setting, but also for gamers less confident in the world. Thankfully, there is a campaign included called 'Parzival and the Wastland Knights', which does serve to offer a launching point for new players and introduce both elements of the gameplay and setting well.
When reviewing the gameplay for this, I had to keep in mind that this is an expansion for an existing miniatures game, rather than a stand alone RPG. This isn't hard as the book is peppered with images of the models and unit cards from Wasteland Warfare. However, I am coming to this as someone unfamiliar with the miniatures game, and as such I found this tough to digest. Firstly, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare uses its own dice to resolve situations, such as the Special Effect dice and the Accuracy dice, with specific symbols. This wasn't a great start for me as I like to use my own dice and I couldn't find any sort of conversion table in the book to do so.
Secondly, while the game claims miniatures aren't needed to play, I did feel that the rules as written didn't support this as well as I would like, especially as you would need to use the unit cards printed or from the miniatures game for enemies and NPCs for the most part, and these weren't always the easiest to decipher. I often had to reference symbols present on various tables.
Beyond these gripes, the gameplay rules work. They lean more into action and combat than other elements of gameplay, but there are rules for investigation, scavenging, and covert approaches. The positive of the focus on action means the combat rules are pretty robust, covering most likely outcomes that could result from the heat of battle. If you are familiar with the miniatures game, you will likely pick up the rules of the RPG expansion pretty quickly, but if you're new to both, you're going to spend some time having to flick back and forth to make sense of the different icons and dice results.
In all honesty, this is a tricky one for me as I love the Fallout license and I wanted to like Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG. But, I think its attachments to the miniatures game actually hold it back as an RPG for a newcomer. It’s never easy to convert a miniatures game into an RPG (just look at GW’s ‘Inquisitor’ game from 2001) and personally I use miniatures to enhance an RPG, not vice versa. That said, if you’re already a fan of Wasteland Warfare and are itching to get more bang for your buck, this RPG will likely deliver for you. Not only does it allow you to expand on the narrative you are creating, but it lets you use your cards and minatures in another way.
This book does show that Modiphius do have a solid understanding of the Fallout universe and they have a track record of producing a high standard of RPG content. I suspect that when they release their dedicated Fallout RPG using the 2d20 system next year, I will be first in line to give that a shot.
A digital copy of the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare Roleplaying Game was provided for this review.