Welcome back to Upping Your Game, the series where I take a basic idea for improving a game and then wallow in the concept until I either go mad or strike gold. In the last article, I started talking about how you could bring the joys of the game Fallout to your gaming table. If you haven’t read the first part you can find it here: Fallout With Friends.
As I mentioned in the first article, a friend gave me the idea for this topic. What I didn’t mention is when he suggested it, I happened to have an idea already brewing in the back of my mind. You see, back in the before times when we traveled freely and conventions were not a half remembered dream, I had picked up this lovely text on a weekend gaming holiday:
I don’t know about you, but I tend to buy games and gaming accessories in binge sessions. I get a big pile of stuff and then slowly consume it before suddenly, months later, binge-ing all over again. I’m not proud to admit it but there is a chance that, if not for this series, this book may never have been read. Because it will be important later, I spent roughly $35 (USD) on the book.
Now, in preparation to discuss this topic, I finally had an excuse to crack the book open. However, when I began reading it, doubt crept into my mind. Had I made a mistake?
Strange dice, pictures with detailed painted miniatures, references to character cards, etc. This isn’t a stand alone RPG – it’s an add on to another game. So I did some research and found this:
So I bought the starter set because I’m a sucker and also because the minis looked very nice (more on that later). It arrived a couple of weeks later and I could finally test this product for what I originally intended. When I opened the box and started working it, I began having doubts again.
It has a lot of pieces, there are measuring sticks of various lengths, lots of proprietary dice (meaning they cannot be used in any other game), tons of little cardboard tokens, multiple books, and the aforementioned minis. It’s a lot to take in and my test players were very skeptical of it.
Just to explain our starting point Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is a skirmish level wargame. That means small groups of miniatures are used in turn based measured combat. Thus the dice, measuring sticks and bits. That was neither what my players signed up for or a good fit for my original goal. It is by definition designed with combat in mind, not collaborative storytelling.
As I have stated on multiple occasions, I don’t do reviews anymore. However, I feel like I should point out that Fallout Wasteland Warfare is, at the very least, a perfectly competent wargame. Our test games were fast, easier to understand, and most importantly fun. Though, it isn’t what I’m looking for when it comes to collaborative storytelling.
The rules are extremely crunchy. Even as an RPG, it is built off of a wargame’s rules. As such the tendency will always be to express the story through combat. This is an issue I have with D&D from time to time, but it is even more prominent here. It is faithful expression of the modern Fallout games, an action game with light RPG mechanics, but that isn’t what we’re looking for.
I do think that a full campaign of this could be a blast though. If you had access to the full game, the RPG book, extra minis for enemies, terrain and a group of players looking for a wargame with light RPG mechanics. But I think you can see the problem there. As a wargame, this is about average price. A small warband to play the game with could cost between $50 and $100. For Warhammer fans, that seems pretty sweet. However, as an RPG, it only works when you use the wargamming sets, each of with costs $50 to $100. Each type of enemy costs as much or more than most RPGs do to play and this price will only increase the longer you play, because you can’t play it without the extra bits. You need the character cards, the item cards, the new minis and accessories.
All of these factors really limit the accessibility of this game as an RPG: compelexity, game-play focus, and price. Worst of all, at least within the narrow focus of this series, none of these factors add to the story telling experience. The debate as to whether minis or theater of the mind makes a game more immersive wages on. I like both, but minis alone are not enough to sell me on this as an RPG I would develop a campaign for.
So we hit a dead end with the licensed games but are there another options? Tune in for part 3 where we’ll explore some alternate gaming systems that might be a better fit. At the very least, I guarantee they will be less expensive…