My Fallout Factions hands-on preview proves that it's a wild ride in Nuka-World

Two warbands in Fallout Factions face off against one another
(Image credit: Rob Burman)

It was all going to plan in Fallout Factions until a rocket was launched straight into the middle of my small Disciples gang. One took a direct hit to the chest, sending body parts flying and causing his nearby comrades to understandably panic. After all, getting covered in the blood and guts of your former pal is likely to shake you up a bit! A couple of Disciples went from sharpening their knives and loading their guns to immediately hitting the deck, while the rival Operators closed in for the kill. Welcome to Nuka-World kid, where life is cheap and the bullets come thick and fast.

Nuka-World – an abandoned theme park seen in the DLC for Fallout 4 back in 2016 – is the setting for the new miniatures skirmish game published by Modiphius Entertainment and designed by James M. Hewitt. Due for release on April 12th, I had the chance to go hands-on with the Fallout Factions quickstart rules at an event hosted by Modiphius.

Two characters wielding weapons hide in a bombed-out building overlooking the Nuka World theme park

(Image credit: Rob Burman)

Fallout Factions sees you take control of one of three gangs: the Operators (a money-hungry crime syndicate led by Mags and William Black), the Pack (brutal and animalistic Raiders that dress like beasts), and the Disciples (a group that thrives on violence and chaos). Each of the gangs has different playstyles to match their background. The Operators tend to have the best long-range guns, like rocket launchers, while the Pack are armed with vicious close combat weapons, like massive hammers and lethal blades.

If you’re a fan of Fallout 4, it’s fantastic to see these factions brought to life in such vivid detail, thanks to the hard plastic miniatures. The Pack, in particular, are really striking due to the beastly masks a number of the members are wearing. In my demo, I took control of the sneaky Disciples, while my opponent had the Operators.

You’re so S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

We started off by learning a little more about the stats of each character. If you’ve played Fallout before, then you’ll be familiar with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system, which tells you how much Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck each individual has. In Fallout Factions, these are typically used to determine the target number you’ll need to roll in order to pass something like a Strength test when fighting in melee, or a Perception test when shooting.

A band of Fallout Factions raiders line up along a ruined riverbank

(Image credit: Rob Burman)

Interestingly, unlike many other wargames, Fallout Factions sees you trying to roll the target number and under, rather than the more common approach of target number and over. So, if your character has a Perception of only four, rolls of one, two, three, and four count as successes. It takes a little bit of getting used to if you're coming from another wargaming system, but I’m sure that newcomers or fans of the best board games will find it perfectly intuitive.

One of the most interesting stats is Luck because it grants you special dice during a test. Say, for example, you want to shoot your rifle. First off, you take a look at your weapon’s stats and in this case, it’s 4P. This means you roll four dice and you need to pass a Perception test. However, before you start wildly chucking dice across the table, you need to check your character’s Luck.

Fallout Factions miniatures huddled together, surrounded by tokens

(Image credit: Rob Burman)

Most characters have a Luck stat of two, which means swapping out two ‘normal’ yellow dice from your pool and replacing them with two ‘lucky’ blue dice. The lucky dice are important because if you roll a success on them, they ‘explode’ and you get to roll another standard dice. It’s a cool mechanic that ensures you can never really predict a result because the lucky dice have the possibility of spiking and creating some cinematic moments and powerful attacks. Admittedly, in my initial game, I did have to keep checking the Luck stat, which added another step to combat, but after a few turns I was swapping those blue dice like it was second nature.

See it, shoot it!

While we’re talking about dice rolls, it’s worth looking at how combat works, particularly shooting. In a clever move to make sure Fallout Factions is as newcomer friendly as possible, designer James has done away with complicated line of sight and cover rules. Instead, it uses ‘true line of sight’, so if your model can see an opponent, they can shoot. Meanwhile for cover, the only time you have to worry about that is when a model is standing in the open (which means you can see every part of the miniature). If that’s the case, you get a bonus dice on your roll. It’s wonderfully simple and ensures combat is lightning fast.

A sniper looks out across the battlefield from their vantage point on top of a building

(Image credit: Rob Burman)

Once you’ve opened fire, it’s time to start doing some damage. First up, you compare your successes against your opponent’s Endurance stat. If you’ve equalled or rolled higher than their Endurance then they take a wound and, because a lot of the grunts only have one wound, they’ll quickly be removed from play. If you don’t beat their Endurance, then you place a Harm token beside the enemy and in future combats, you get a bonus die when targeting an enemy with a Harm token. Think of it like a rival getting nicked by a bullet or shanked by a knife. It’s not enough to kill them, but it’s enough to make them less effective at dodging attacks.

What’s more, you can add up to three Harm tokens to a character and, if they would be given a fourth token, they suffer a wound instead. This is a neat way for characters that are potentially less effective in combat to slowly chip away at an enemy. During the demo I really liked putting a couple of Harm tokens on a key rival (like the Operator armed with the rocket launcher) with a grunt before closing in with a stronger fighter. Combos like this make you think about each action and plan your activations, instead of just charging in with the nearest miniature.

Two characters from Fallout Factions face off against one another in the ruined Nuka World

(Image credit: Rob Burman)

Of course, this was just the tip of the iceberg for Fallout Factions. When the full game is released in April, it’ll come with more scenarios that see you battling it out to secure key objectives and rules for running your own campaign. The latter sounds like it will become a significant part of Fallout Factions because your gang will slowly improve as they explore Nuka-World and uncover stashes of equipment.

The end of the world is almost here and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

For recommendations on what to play before Fallout Factions arrives, you can take a look these must-have board games for adults or the best tabletop RPGs.

Rob Burman

Rob is the former editor and creator of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He likes goblins a little too much.