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Fallout: Factions is a new miniatures skirmish game from the designer of Necromunda

Exploding dice bring competitive two-player battles to your tabletop wasteland

Two combatants, one with a spiked baseball bat another with a flaming sword, duke it out in cover art for Nuka World, the two-player starter set for Modiphius’ Fallout Factions. The wasteland behind them is, unsurprisingly, all busted up and yellow. Image: Modiphius
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Fallout: Factions is the newest entry in the crowded miniatures skirmish game marketplace, and it comes with some serious design clout behind it. Modiphius’ latest expansion of its popular line of Fallout tabletop games was designed by none other than James Hewitt, whose whirlwind of productivity with Games Workshop helped bring to life modern incarnations of Warhammer 40,000 classic Necromunda and the epic-scaled mech battler Adeptus Titanicus. The game’s two-player starter set, Fallout: Factions - Battle for Nuka-World, goes up for pre-order Monday. Polygon sat down with the designer to learn more.

Factions was designed in part to appeal to non-tabletop gamers, players who might be curious about miniatures skirmish gaming, love the Fallout universe, and want to give assembling and painting miniatures a try. As such, the quickstart guide (available from today as a free download) is easy to read and understand, even for newbies.

The Pack and The Operators battle over a stockpile, weapons raised on both side of the fight. Photo: Modiphius

But Factions is also meant to meet the needs of devotees of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, a more collaborative Fallout-inspired ruleset announced in 2017. Players have been bending it into a more competitive game for years now, so the British company decided to give players a system built with head-to-head battles in mind. Hewitt told Polygon that he stripped virtually all of the old rules away, replacing them with mechanics he designed in his studio, Needy Cat Games, over more than two years. That’s a far cry from the three months he says he was given to make the modern version of Necromunda.

“[Necromunda] was a really fun experience getting to work on it,” Hewitt said with a laugh. “It was a bit more stressful than I would have liked, and that was kind of one of the things that led to me leaving [Games Workshop], really, was I wanted to have the chance to work on things with a decent time frame.” Those follow-on projects included contract work with Steamforged games, where Hewitt worked with the Devil May Cry and Sea of Thieves licenses, among others.

“I think a lot about how you adapt a licensed product from one medium to another,” Hewitt said. “I think the biggest mistake you can make is to try to replicate the same experience in the same way. [...] When I play a board game based on a video game, when I [watch] a movie based on a book, when I listen to a musical based on a movie, wherever it might be, I want to kind of feel the spirit of that thing. I don’t want to worry about the exact details. It doesn’t necessarily matter to me, as long as that feel comes across.”

Two even larger groups of miniatures goes at it in the wasteland. There’s a large red-and-white tile courtyard underfoot, and loads of scrubgrass in the distance. Photo: Modiphius

The feel he was going for here has to do with Fallout’s Luck stat, part of the SPECIAL system, which has stood for the stats of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck ever since the original video game was released in 1997. Luck in Fallout often means that seemingly impossible things can happen at any time, and Luck is expressed in this game with special “exploding” dice.

In practice, this means that players create a pool of dice based on the weapons and terrain involved in a particular fight. Then they add in additional dice based on their character’s Luck score. When rolled, only Luck dice have the chance to explode, meaning that when they hit a certain number, even more dice get tossed into the pool and rolled as well. That means even the lowliest trooper on the battlefield should have a chance, however slim, of going toe-to-toe with the game’s biggest baddies.

“We wanted to make a game which is more suitable for [small communities of friends],” Hewitt said. “I worked in games retail for a decade, and I worked with a lot of gaming clubs, and the idea of just pick-up-and-play games. You’re gonna turn up, bring a case of miniatures, and see who’s around. You can’t do that very easily with Wasteland Warfare. We wanted to make sure you can do that with Factions.”

Fallout: Factions - Battle for Nuka-World is available for pre-order starting Feb. 5 for $100. It comes with two sets of multipart plastic miniatures depicting The Pack and The Operators — two of the factions featured in the Nuka World DLC for Fallout 4. It also includes a 24-by-36-inch playmat, 86 tokens, a real tape measure (not a “whippy stick” in sight), punch-out terrain, and some fancy dice. But don’t worry about needing custom dice down the road, since the game uses standard d10s to make the action work. Additional factions will set you back about $41.

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