Let me start out by saying, this game was and wasn’t for me all at the same time. What made it for me was that it was very story driven, however, I’m not someone who has played a single Fallout game. So, when you read my review, know that I’m coming at it from how the theme feels, but not how it compares to the video games, and how the game plays, not if it plays like the video games.
In Fallout, you take on one of several roles from the video games, you might be a Ghoul or a Super Mutant or someone from a Vault or someone who explores the wasteland for a living. You, and the fellow players are racing to be the best wanderer of the wasteland, completing objectives, fighting monsters, and exploring new locations and ruins. By completing various objectives and fights, you can gain experience points to become better at surviving the wasteland. On your turn, you can move, explore, interact with quests or fight, but when you interact with a quest or search a location, those are where the game really takes off, because you get story read to you. Fallout as a branching story deck that allows you put in or take out cards from the story and advance quests an the main plotline, and depending on what you do, that determines where the story and scenario go. And that’s also how you can get victory points, and the first person to nine points wins.
Let’s start out by talking about theme, the people who I played with talked about how it pulled in quests and side quests from the video game, and that thematically it felt right for that. As someone who wasn’t familiar with the game, I thought that the theme worked well, and I enjoy a good dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme. I’m sure if I was more familiar with the IP (intellectual property) I’d pick up on more of the specific Fallout theme, the theme didn’t differentiate itself a ton from other dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings. That said, it wasn’t completely generic either and even without playing the games, just from being familiar with them in concept, things like Nuka-Cola are nods to the video games that I recognized.
The theme isn’t where the game suffers a bit for me. The game is pretty stingy in handing out points. So getting to nine victory points, which are on quest or objective cards, is slow. And you basically always get them through completing parts of the story quest. You can fight monsters, but unless they are harassing you, it’s not that great a strategy, and while leveling up can be helpful, the randomness of how leveling up works can work out extremely well for some people and very poorly for others. I like the concept of leveling up and how it works, but it felt a bit too random. And leveling up doesn’t give you anymore scoring and isn’t always that helpful for allowing you to get more of the main quest done.
But, to counter some of what I said here, the story parts are the best part of the game. The combat, challenges, exploring, movement, all of those things are pretty standard fair. The story, on the other hand, how it’s created is well done. You can branch out in different directions as to who you help or how you help them. That will then lead you into a new section of the story, depending on which one you did, and it continues to branch and add things to locations that you can explore as well as to the main story. And since that’s the best way to get victory points, it really encourages you to find ways to solve the main quest items as they come up. And that means that there is more story that is read. And sometimes the main story is contingent on the locations that you are searching, so separately you all search at similar locations until you find what you need.
There is one notable other downside for me, this is not a short game. Getting to nine victory points, because it mainly comes through quests that you can then get more points because of completing objectives, the game can last a long time. Our three player game lasted probably near 2.5 to 3 hours, and while the story is good, that means that you’re taking a lot of turns where you are either getting generic story or no story at all. And, if you don’t get lucky on some dice rolls at times, you can find what you need to get more story, but then the story is taken away from you. If this was a fast game with turns taking a few seconds (which they generally don’t take long) and you get points for killing tough monsters or other ways, the game would work better. Instead, the game overstayed it’s welcome. I think I’d find it more interesting if you could try and move forward the story faster every turn, or that the choices were a bit more choose your own adventure style or, in Dungeons and Dragons terms, failing forward, where even when you don’t succeed on the main story, that causes it to move forward somehow, as that would make the game move faster. For what we were doing in the game I think that 1.5 hours would have been a good upper time limit, not nearly twice that long, and the game can be played with four people, which is going to make the game last even longer.
But overall it’s not a bad game. I think that fans of the Fallout video games who like board games are going to enjoy this game way more than I did. And, I think, with the expectation of how long the game takes set from the very beginning that might help better set expectations for the game. I knew, generally, how long it was, but the game still seemed a bit long to me. I do think that the theming is pretty strong and especially that case for fans of the video games.
Overall Grade: C-
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: D
Fan of Fallout Grade & Board Games: B-