Conquer the Wasteland in Fallout: The Board Game

They called it the American Dream. A fancy name that made us not even question the means to our comfort. We opened the doors to our homes to these new technologies and before we could even know it, our lives depended on them. It all started with the development of the Atomic Energy project. Vehicles and factories and even home errands were taken over by self-functioning robots and we were said to have free energy forever. That we could live happily and simply and that our borders would never be in harm’s way.

Sounded too good to be true and indeed, it was. You see, as humans we grew more advanced but never closer. We were divided and at war with our own kind. Almost constantly. The war never slowed down, the war never changed, the war never stopped. Not until it had consumed us all. Nuclear weapons were supposed to be never used but humans never stopped being divided.

All that remains now is nuclear waste and fallout and the very few who have survived. Mostly from the shelters known as Vaults before the great war. Some have even managed to make themselves new homes. New lives. Living in this wasteland however, requires more than just a protective armor. It requires wits, skills, agility and courage. Of course, you also need to know how to get over the unnatural monstrosities that the radiation has given birth to over the years.

Needless to say, what could be salvaged from the remnants of the old world is either very hard, or very expensive to attain. Everyone has found their own shelter somewhere, and everyone has their own story going even after the apocalypse. It’s fascinating how we have adapted to this way of life. Yet, some things remain the same. For instance, humans remain divided. And war? War never changes.

What is Fallout?

We have another Fantasy Flight title today and it’s based on one of my personal favorite video game franchises by Bethesda, the Fallout series. Fallout: The Boardgame was released in 2017 and has ever since been supported by one content-packed expansion. The game itself, is a post-apocalyptic adventure game for 1-4 players. The interesting thing is that the base game, even with the addition of the expansion pack, is semi-competitive; but with the Atomic Bonds addon, both can be played cooperatively.

This game has you, either solo or with up to 3 friends, in the shoes of survivors of the Great War. The great nuclear catastrophe that’s turned the planet into radioactive ash. You must develop your survival skills as well as attend your survival needs and follow your personal quest to gain influence. There are four different scenarios to play in the base game and the modular board appears randomly every time you play; the game is decently replayable and fun, more so for fans of the series.

Despite having received mixed reviews and ratings, Fallout is a very entertaining experience for people who are familiar and into the franchise as well as people who enjoy post-apocalyptic adventures and most of the shortcomings in the base game are compensated for in the upgrade and expansion packs that are available. I was very excited about this game as a long-term fan and I was pleased with the experience. It’s quite familiar and fresh at the same time and is definitely worth a look if you’re seeking a new tabletop adventure this week.

Survival Is Key

The Fallout board game is pretty much a standard adventure RPG and everything you’d expect from one, in terms of mechanics at least. Players get action points which they can spend on moving to new locations and exploring them, or resolving encounters shown by the latest event card. These encounters could be friendly, hostile or even quests which you then will need to complete.

Quests can take you anywhere. You may be required to face a ferocious unnatural beast, find a missing person, or even explore a certain area to earn the quest’s designated rewards. The game’s main currency is Caps, which can be spent on upgrades or items that will help your survival journey a bit more comfortable to overcome. Items can also be found randomly around the wastelands as you explore untraveled paths.

Each player is mostly minding their own business during a session of Fallout. With American mechanics all over the gameplay and personal quests, you won’t find much time for player interaction, but may be forced to face another player at some point. The cool thing is that even though the base game comes with only 4 scenarios, the modular board and the card-driven event system makes for a fresh and unpredictable experience every time.

Combat is solved with, you guessed it, dice rolls. The items, upgrades and perks that you spend time and Caps on come to your aid in combat and balance out your odds. It’s a standard system that unfolds standardly but it’s worth noting that if you find yourself struggling or being frustrated over luck-dependent combat, you won’t have a great time engaging in combat in this game.

Where this title really gets to shine lies within its immersive theme and high-quality components. Any Fallout fan will immediately recognize the components and appreciate their design and execution. The tokens and miniatures feel like they’ve been conjured right out of the video game and they contribute very effectively to conveying that post-apocalyptic feeling of the Fallout universe. Fans of the video game are definitely the group who’ll enjoy this game the most.


Fallout’s base game is a decent experience but many of the issues of the game have been fixed in the addons and the experience is much more polished out played with the expansions. This universe is a vast one and Fantasy Flight knew that they could not possibly capture enough of it in a single product. So, if you want your Fallout playthrough to be as fun as possible, I recommend you check out Atomic Bonds as well as the New California expansion pack.

1. Atomic Bonds

Although it’s not recognized by Fantasy Flight as an expansion pack, the Atomic Bonds upgrade pack for Fallout: The Board Game is definitely more than what it shows on the surface. This upgrade pack comes filled with new content, namely whole new gameplay mechanics, new items and encounters, and new scenarios to play.

In addition to a new rule set that allows the base game and later expansions be played collaboratively rather than competitively, Atomic Bonds also introduces companion characters who will accompany you in your adventure and can be upgraded and equipped just like your own. These characters will prove helpful more than once, assisting you in battle and exploration all throughout the game.

A new mechanic is also added to the game called the Influence system. From now on, every decision you make and the way you carry out each one of your encounters will affect your position on the Influence Tracker and different gangs and groups around the wasteland will react to your actions according to the influence you have had on them. Some of your actions might please some people who will later on help you with your needs, some will do quite the opposite. Interesting little complication to keep an eye on.

All that with the addition of two new scenarios make this upgrade pack an almost necessary part of every Fallout session. It fixes a good number of the problems you may have with the base game and adds considerably to the game’s replay value.

2. New California

New California came out in 2018 and took wasteland survivors on a familiar trip around the remnants of the sunny New California. These grounds are nothing but a chaotic mess among the radiated trees, but where the city used to stand, there’s a lot to salvage. Keep in mind however that new lands, means new threats and new factions are out in these areas that are not very welcoming towards outsiders.

There’s a whole new scenario unfolding right in the center of New California and 5 new characters will be your travel mates as you work your way through the 12 new map tiles representing familiar settings in the Fallout universe. As you wander around the new areas, you’ll come across new events and fresh encounters that await your judgement and execution. Furthermore, new items are available in the form of loot that you must seek and make use of.

New California adds some replayability to your base game and brings a new layer of depth to the gameplay. Not as necessary as Atomic Bonds in that regard, but it’s a lot of fun to roam around new areas with new ways of dealing with new problems. If you ever find yourself sick of the main 4 scenarios, then perhaps it’s time to visit the California shores and feel its radioactive sunshine.

What it’s like

The base game of Fallout is undoubtedly flawed. Given the unnecessary complexity behind some of the game’s mechanics, the rule book might come across as hard to deal with, but the explanations are rarely incomprehensible, mostly confusing due to the fact that most complications don’t contribute at all to making the gameplay more fun.

The expansions, specifically Atomic Bonds, improve the experience by a noticeable much. Most fans would have been able to enjoy the thematic elements of Fallout brought on the table, by tabletop experts, even without the expansion packs but Fantasy Flight went the extra mile and addressed most of the community’s biggest issues. It’s a little overwhelming, but they deserve credit for at least attempting to fix their game and succeeding to an acceptable degree.

As mentioned before, the strongest feature of this game is the theme and serves as a phenomenal alternative to the video game for hardcore fans of the franchise and one reason for that is how well the components have been designed and made. The miniatures are stunning and just begging to be painted, the board and cards all enjoy impressive artwork and the tokens are of FFG level quality.

When it comes down to player interaction, it really depends on how big of a role it plays in your subjective point of view. It’s very clear that social interaction wasn’t meant to be a great deal of this game and for that some have claimed to enjoy it even more playing solo than with friends. Opinions are very mixed regarding that statement but what can be certainly concluded is that Fallout can be fun solo experience. Which is more that can be said about most single player board games.

Overall, the game plays much more smoothly with the upgrade and expansion packs but is scarcely anything more than a standard American adventure game with an immersive theme. Regardless of the flaws, this title is quite enjoyable for an impressive amount of time but does not unveil its full potential to players who are not at all familiar with the source material that’s been adapted.

For Fallout fans, it’s almost a must-have and for anyone else, I strongly suggest that you look up the lore before getting into the game. Provided you go in with realistic expectations, you can have a pretty good time playing Fallout: The Board Game.

Final Thoughts

A name as close and dear to me as Fallout makes up for great anticipation and high expectations going into a board game and that perhaps gave me a so-so impression of the game upon my first playthrough. However, the second and third times managed to really change my opinion and with the addition of the upgrade and expansion packs to a base game that I had spent time mastering, the experience was greatly enhanced and lots of fun.

It’s a very rare occasion that I say this, but Fantasy Flight has managed to adapt a video game into a board game with a pretty impressive level of accuracy while maintaining the tabletop familiarity that brings a group of friends around a table. Perhaps the mixed reviews are due to the fact that it takes a bit to get used to Fallout as a board game, but it’s admittedly one of the better adaptations of the recent years.

What are your thoughts on Fallout: The Board Game? Share them with us down below!

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