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With streamlined rules and an all-in-one box set, Fallout: Factions could be a perfect first step into wargaming

Tabletop wargaming is brilliant fun. Building miniatures, painting them, and pushing them around a table—it’s an exciting, multi-layered hobby. But I can’t deny that it’s a deeply intimidating one to get into, and I meet so many people who are interested in it but feel they can’t make that step into doing it themselves, because it seems too expensive, too time-consuming, too complicated, or too difficult.

So I’m sure tabletop publisher Modiphius is onto something with its pitch for Fallout: Factions. Set in the world of the videogame, it aims to be the perfect first wargame for beginners. It combines the beloved setting with streamlined rules, fast play times, clear tutorials, and an all-in-one box set, and promises to offer a much gentler first step into the hobby.

The first releases for the game are based on Fallout 4’s Nuka World DLC—a pre-war theme park fought over by three gangs of Raiders. Picking from one of these factions—the savage Pack, coldly professional Operators, or sinister Disciples—you build your own custom crew from a set of 10 customisable miniatures and fight to become the new top dog. In wargaming parlance, it’s a “skirmish” game, zeroing in on small-scale conflict where you can get attached to your individual soldiers as they level up over a campaign. Think XCOM with toy soldiers.

Modiphius certainly has experience with videogame adaptations. The company has previously created a Dishonored TTRPG, a Skyrim wargame, a Homeworld board game, and more. In fact, it already has a Fallout wargame called Wasteland Warfare—it’s designed for solo and co-op play, whereas Factions is competitive, but the real difference between them is accessibility.

“Wasteland Warfare has got quite a high barrier to entry,” says James Hewitt, lead designer on Factions. “It’s very complex, very granular, with a lot of custom dice, a lot of tokens. When you get past that it’s a really, really rich, rewarding experience… But climbing that first hill is difficult for, for example, someone who is a fan of the video games, thinks the miniatures look cool, and wants to start playing a game on the tabletop.”

By contrast, Factions is “designed to help people cross that bridge and get into it quickly,” and so “the two games kind of stand side by side but separate.” With miniatures, rules, scenery, dice, and even a tape measure, the core box includes everything you need to start playing at a very friendly price point for the hobby, and the already-released quickstart rules let you get started straight away with a clear, step-by-step guide to your first game.

Hewitt has his own bona fides, too. These days he works in-house as Modiphius’ lead designer, with this being his first publicly-released project for the company, but in the past he’s worked at Games Workshop on Warhammer 40,000, Age of Sigmar, Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Warhammer Quest, and more, before pursuing a freelance career that saw him designing board games based on Hellboy, Devil May Cry, and Sea of Thieves, among others. I’ve been a fan of his work myself for years—he’s got a knack for elegant, creative core mechanics, and his adaptations have done a great job of evoking the spirit of the source material.

You can certainly see some of that in Factions’ free quickstart rules. From the clever implementation of the SPECIAL stats, to a versatile action system that lets you set your own pace for how your gang activates, to the quick and decisive damage rules, it’s a game that has a really clear identity without trying to slavishly recreate the mechanics of the videogames. It certainly is quick and simple to learn—just reading the PDF, you end up with a good sense of the rules in just 10 minutes.

What the quickstart doesn’t give us a glimpse of is the campaign rules—but Hewitt promises those fit neatly into this vision of the game as a quick and easy experience. Where in many campaign games each match is followed by a lengthy book-keeping session, in Fallout: Factions “it takes maybe five or ten minutes after you’ve finished the game. and then you move on”.

“All told, including that, a game is about 30 to 40 minutes,” says Hewitt. “So it’s boiled down, it’s condensed gaming. It’s a very small playing area, two foot by three foot. It’s quite short. There’s not a lot of rounds. Everything is about: get the game on the table, get you started quickly, and you jump in at the really exciting bit, and you play a short game, and that’s it. So, yeah, it’s really quick and fun.”

Where normally a wargaming campaign would be played out with a fixed group of people, with much scheduling and organising, Fallout: Factions is “very freeform”, letting you advance your crew through play without being tied to a set structure.

“You’re only ever tracking your own crew’s story,” says Hewitt. “So you’re only worried about you, which means you can play in your group of mates if you want to, or you can go elsewhere, and play a game somewhere else and it still all counts.”

As you complete quests—performing specific actions in play, such as killing certain enemy warrior types or scavenging on the battlefield a certain number of times—you advance through three tiers of power. Progress past tier three—likely to take “about 15 to 20 games”—and you’ve successfully risen to a seat on the Raider council. It’s time to either retire your gang and start over, or pick one of your high-ranked warriors to become your new leader and build their own crew.

“It gives a really clear breakpoint,” says Hewitt. “Which I think is so important for a game like this, because knowing there’s an end point helps you push towards it, and it doesn’t just fizzle out.”

It’s all very promising stuff, clearly informed by a deep well of experience with this kind of game. Though I haven’t gotten to see the miniatures face-to-face myself yet, the photos show off cool sculpts with a very faithful look, and they’re multi-part plastic kits which is ideal for beginners.

But as it stands, the range is limited to just the three Raider gangs from Nuka World, and that’s where I do have some concern about the game. This corner of the Fallout universe is far from the most exciting or recognisable, and for a game called Fallout: Factions, it feels like it’s leading with three of its least distinctive groups. When Wasteland Warfare offers many of the classic, iconic factions and creatures, a scrap over a theme park can’t help but feel limited by comparison.

But that name, Fallout: Factions, is intentionally broad, and Hewitt is quick to confirm this is only the beginning. Already there are free WIP rules for bringing the Brotherhood of Steel, Super Mutants, and more to Factions as playable gangs using Wasteland Warfare miniatures, “and we’ve got plans to keep on going.”

“Even though this box set is all about Nuka World and the Raiders, there are big plans afoot, and we’ve got years of releases planned for this game.”

Fallout: Factions is planned to launch in mid-April this year.

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