Fallout: Wasteland Warfare: A “rad” miniatures game full of Nuka-Cola flavor

Enlarge / Mutants defending their camp.
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After going decades without a proper Fallout tabletop title, we’ve now been graced with two quality releases in the span of a little more than a year. While Fantasy Flight’s offering is a narrative adventure game about roaming the wasteland, Modiphius’ new Wasteland Warfare is a miniatures skirmish design that features grizzled war bands clashing in harrowing environments. (Think Warhammer, but we swap Space Marines for the Brotherhood of Steel and Orks for Super Mutants.) At the risk of making you cringe, I’ll say it: the game is pretty rad.

Because this is a true miniatures game, it requires some work. The two-player starter set comes with pre-assembled plastic miniatures, but expansion figures are multi-part and will require assembly. You will fight with 6-12 of these figures over the stretch of an hour or two, and you will need to supply your own terrain for the brutes to battle over. It’s a commitment, as these games tend to be, but one that promises a deep and immersive experience in return.

A complex beast

Wasteland Warfare is not a simple or streamlined design; the game takes every possible opportunity to add detail and complexity.

Consider the activation system. The game builds on the common approach of alternating activations where players take turns using one model from their squads. Things aren’t quite that simple, however, since players also have the option of delaying actions, instead marking one of your units simply as “ready.” You can repeat this process on each of your turns, later deciding to activate a large swathe of your miniatures all at once for a coordinated strategic assault.

The system is slick. It allows a balance between tactical immediacy and strategic maneuvering, but it comes with a complexity tax and additional rules verbiage. On its own, this is no problem—but it’s merely a single skull in a mass grave of irradiated bones.

Your squad will feature characters with seven stats, keywords, special abilities, and three armor types. You may have multiple perks with additional rules— perhaps a leader ability!—faction rules, and weapon and equipment cards. You can use drugs that affect stats, power armor that provides buffs, and items that offer special abilities. You need to manage several different-color dice when building pools for stat rolls. All of this means that you need to total many modifiers before taking any action—and the process can take a few moments.

The result of this complication is additional clutter. When activated or readied, miniatures need tokens placed next to them on the table. There are chits for overwatch and for wounds, for objectives and for searchable locations, for caps and for a dozen other items you need to track. Handling movement and weapon ranges requires you to flip between multiple colored rulers. (If your figure is running, it will use a different stick than if it’s walking. for instance.) Organization and familiarity are the keys to keeping things moving.

Once you gain comfort with the processes, the game does march along relatively quickly. The system as a whole feels like a more streamlined version of the popular Infinity ruleset from Corvus Belli, and it offers a rich and engrossing experience.

A vibrant apocalypse

The upside of all this detail is the game’s wealth of options. It doesn’t hurt that the campaign mode is also one of the best I’ve seen. You construct a settlement of various building types, waging war to gather supplies and to expand your reach. The campaign adds context to the skirmish battles and emotional weight to their outcomes.

There’s also a fantastic solitaire system where you can take on an “AI-controlled” opponent. Every single model in the game comes with an AI card that contains a simple chart you can use when the unit activates. It’s an easy-going procedure that occasionally requires some interpretation or fudging of the results; however, it strikes a strong balance between making few decisions for the other side and a more complex but thorough solution.

Because the enemy units can be handled this way, you can even play the game as a co-op. This sense of freedom is the defining element of Wasteland Warfare. It’s a design that offers a sandbox as wide as the source material it emulates. You can run a small campaign of several warbands struggling to survive. You can play a linked series of narrative missions that tell an evolving story. You can simply pick up some minis and play a one-off battle to kill an afternoon.

Crammed into each of these play modes is personality. All of the colorful options and characters from the beloved video game series are present. Weirdness rules the day, and the rules of the “real” Fallout world don’t get in your way. Say you want to run a Brotherhood of Steel cell that’s rescued a mutant hound and adopted it into the ranks. Totally fine! The system lets you mix factions while still maintaining setting integrity.

There’s also a strong sense of vision at work. It appears that Modiphius is committed to the health of this release for the long term. For instance, the point values for each character and item are not found on the components themselves but in a free PDF. This means the design can evolve and balance can shift as needed. It also means that expansions should be seamless.

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is complex and sophisticated. Its gameplay is demanding, but the rewards are commensurate with your effort. The greatest challenge with any such game is convincing your group to commit. Those who do venture into the badlands will return with scars and mangled flesh, but they’ll also find a world as rich and wide as the sprawling avenues of Junktown.

Credit: Fallout: Wasteland Warfare: A “rad” miniatures game full of Nuka-Cola flavor