We had the pleasure to sit down with Chris Burch, founder and developer at Modiphius Games. Last week, we published the first part of our interview, where he discussed the history of his company and some of his favorite elements of being a game designer. Today, we break down the elements of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, their upcoming miniatures game set in the Fallout universe.
This interview was been edited for clarity and brevity. Our questions are in bold.
Let’s get more specific about the game we all want to talk about – what are the factions we’ll see in Fallout: Wasteland Warfare?
At launch, you’re going to get the Super Mutant faction, the Brotherhood of Steel, and the Wasteland Survivors. The Survivors are the people that you bump into in the game, you know, within the first couple hours. You stumble into Preston Garvey, Wally, and Sturges. So you get a bunch of different Survivors with them. You’ve also got this two player starter set, which basically has everything you need to get playing the game: the rules, the dice, the scenarios, the cards, the counters.
And which units come in the starter set?
In that, you get a bunch of Super Mutants: a brute, who has got this massive hammer and some armor. There’s a couple of normal Super Mutants: one with a pipe rifle that’s been pumped up, and one we call “Aviator Head,” because he’s got on an aviator hat [laughter]. He’s got a couple pipe pistols. And there’s a couple Super Mutant hounds. And then, versus them, you’ve got Norah, the female Survivor, and Dogmeat. You’ve got a low level wandering Brotherhood of Steel dude, who you rescue at one point and you’ve got to help him find his armor. So then you get a T-60 with a laser rifle. And then you stumble across some other Survivors, so you’ve got three Survivors in the box as well.
So are there story missions as well?
So you’ve got this series of stories, and in the first introductory mission, Norah is sort of this day one Survivor. She’s got no armor – she’s straight out of a Vault, so she’s not very powerful yet. If you want the male day one Survivor, you can get a little expansion box that comes with him and “Doggles,” which is Dogmeat wearing goggles, and Cogsworth as well.
Is it more based on scenarios and story based missions or tournament-based play?
Oh, you can play versus games as well. You can literally just play a points game: 300 points, 500 points. In a typical game of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, you can play three or four characters, up to… you’d be pushing it to get thirty figures, and that would be the Institute with a whole shedload of Gen 1 Synths.
So it works equally well with small skirmishes or big armies?
Right, like a Raider force full with a huge number of raunchy, scum Raiders. So that would be about as big as the game gets, but probably, most games, you’re going to play ten to fifteen figures. That starter set is getting you five or six figures per side. So you’ve already got enough to have a small skirmish. And the narrative game actually takes you through both sides. You’ve got the Super Mutants, you’re coming back from a hunt, and you hear a dog barking: sounds like your trap has caught a dog. But what’s that? There’s a human, she’ll be more tasty. And, of course, there’s Norah: straight out of the Vault, and she hears the same dog. So now you’re fighting the Super Mutants to rescue Dogmeat. And if you don’t manage to rescue him, then it wasn’t Dogmeat, and you meet up with Dogmeat before the next scenario begins. The scenarios take you through these fun, story-driven missions that build you up and teach you how to play a battle with all these different figures.
Any other ways to play?
There is basic points play, and there’s also an AI deck that allows you to play some games on your own. There’re some random missions as well, so you can play short, solo missions that are scripted. You can also play cooperatively. I always used to play war games when I was a kid with my brothers, but then my brothers moved away, so I just made up my own solo rules. It was important to me to have as many ways to play as possible so no one would be left out. In the starter set, there is also a taste of the settlement building. So, with that, in the background, you’re building a settlement, which will let you carry some bonuses into each game with you. You’re going to need settlement upgrades to repair your guns and armor. Any of the figures you can also upgrade so that they can use VATS, which gives you an special die to roll. It might give you extra actions, damage, or other special abilities.
There are custom dice in the game?
Yes, there are. We use a d20 for the hit roll, and everything has SPECIAL stats, whether its a Deathclaw or T-60 or Sole Survivor. And everything’s got a number between one and nine with how successful it can be. You’d think: “Why not use a d10?” Well actually, if you’ve got a stat of one and a stat of five, that’s a massive difference; it’s too different. With a d20, you will know your chances very clearly of success or failure. Basically, if you’ve got a one as your stat, you’ve got a 25% chance of success. And it generally goes up by 5% for each number. So, even on a nine, you’ve still got a decent chance for failure. One of the things with Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is you can have these massive creatures, you’ve got dudes in giant Power Armor, and even if you’ve got a crappy pipe pistol, you’re still hitting them. Occasionally, stuff gets through. With a game like this, you’ve got to model that ability for everyone to still get a hit in. That’s balance we have on armor dice as well. If you roll under your armor value, then you block that amount of damage.
Any other type of dice besides VATS, attack, and armor in the game?
There are also four effects dice that basically represent different types of damage. For example, a shotgun uses two black dice, which might give me some extra damage. Then there’s green dice, which are accuracy dice, that might be with a hunting rifle, which can help me aim better.
Sounds like pretty good replications of the different play styles of the game.
Exactly what we were going for. Then you’ve got the armor reduction dice… we’ll probably come up with sexier names than this [laughter]. That gives you a bit of armor penetration. So, that hunting rifle gets two green dice at long range, but it gets one yellow die at close range, modeling the high-powered rifle being fired so close to a target. And then there’s the blue dice, which are VATS dice, the special effect dice. Those dice symbols are a Nuka Cola bottle, an atomic blast, and a star. They can stand for anything, and are unique to each individual weapon. A giant hammer might stun an opponent on hit, whereas a laser rifle might do extra energy damage. We’re just trying to get that different flavor of all the weapons crammed into Fallout: Wasteland Warfare.
Do players need to bring a measuring tape for ranges, or do you include range increment sticks?
We do include range sticks, which are colored, but they also have symbols in case any of our players are colorblind. The range sticks are both for movement and weapon ranges. Once you determine which range you are in, you roll your accuracy dice and damage dice at the same time. This keeps the game moving quickly. We’ve stripped it down and made it very quick and easy, plus we’ve done research into how the human brain reacts to color. It responds very strongly to color, so it is easy to pick up the game’s nuances quickly. And if you want to use your own measuring tape, nothing is stopping you.
Some war gamers will give up their measuring tapes when you pry them from their cold, dead hands. I do think that aspect is important, because war games and miniatures games can look very overwhelming, even if they are pretty simple. Trying to teach my friends X-Wing can be like pulling teeth, and it’s not a very complicated game.
Yes, those new concepts can be intimidating, especially to beginners. I grew up playing those old school war games, referencing rules like “Rule 1.2.11.” Sometimes it can be hard to introduce new ideas. And that’s where I think we’ve succeeded with Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. There’s nothing entirely new here, there’s some cool concepts, nothing that hasn’t been done before, but just combined in some new, clever ways. We wanted to create a game that’s flexible enough to have a decent number of units; I’m already planning my game that’s going to involve taking on 100 Brotherhood of Steel versus 200 deathclaws, or something stupid like that [laughter]. We’re planning to release mass combat rules later on, because something on that scale just can’t work in the current system.
How long are typical games of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare going to last?
That really depends on the size of your forces. It does move very fast, but most war gamers think of a good session lasting several hours. But, with this game, you can play a great little skirmish between small forces in about an hour. It’s also a game where you can play with a massive force, spread across the biggest table in your house, and just lose yourself in the game for several hours. But the quick nature of the game means that time is spent playing, not setting up mats and measuring constantly. We really thought hard about how to recreate the fast paced nature of the video game.
I know you’ve said there are several ways to play; have you all put thought yet into whether this will be a tournament-style, competitive game, like many other miniatures games? Or have you not put much development into that side yet?
We are planning it. The game does have a stronger narrative side than many war games, so we’ve put much of our development there. Once it releases, however, we do plan on opening a community feedback system where we can involve players. We know that as soon as the game comes out, we want to involve the community and have them revise rules and tweak ideas as we go. So yes, there will be tournament support. But we’ll also be launching campaign modules to expand the story. And we’ll be holding events to introduce those, so everyone who goes gets to be the first who tries the new story. Then they get to walk away with that new story.
Sounds like a great way to keep people interested in the narrative. You guys have obviously run several successful Kickstarter campaigns. Is Fallout: Wasteland Warfare going that route, or is it going directly to stores?
It’s going to be preorder from our website soon after Gen Con. That’s going to run through until release, and then stores are going to be involved in the preorder a little bit later. We’re still playing with things for an official launch date because I’d rather get it right and do the game correctly than rush things to meet a date that’s already been set. So we’re still in the stage of finalizing that.
Why did you choose to go with the regular release for this one instead of crowdfunding?
We’ve had lots of Kickstarters on lately, and we also thought that this was such an important game that we had to get support in retail. We wanted to get it out sooner and of course the danger of a Kickstarter is massive. We thought the preorder was the best plan for this one. It also allows to us control the range much better. We’ve got a Kickstarter for our Kung Fu Panda game next month as well and John Carter From Mars not long after that. So… there’s only so much you can do [laughter]. This is probably the safest one to do without a Kickstarter, as we think it’s going to be a huge game regardless.
Agreed. So, we know you don’t have a release date yet, but where all will we be able to pick up copies of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare? Obviously, US and UK, but will it be worldwide?
We ship worldwide, and, of course, wherever there are gaming stores. It will come out in America at the same time it comes out in Europe. We were aiming for November, with December for stores, but it’s better to do stores in January or February. It’s very difficult to launch a new product in December. Our goal is to get the preorders out there before it hits retail. That way the first wave of people getting on the preorder will get it before people can buy it in the shops.
Alright, I think that about does it with my questions about the game. One last thing before I let you go – any advice for people who may be trying to break into game design or game production? It sounds like you’re doing really well for yourself, so what would you suggest for people who want to follow that path?
Don’t give up. I never thought I’d become a professional developer, even though my friends and I used to just sit around with pizza and dream up the craziest game worlds we could think of. I never thought it would turn into something. Kickstarter has given people the ability to get their best ideas out there and get people to buy in on a different level. You’ve got to work hard, give it time, and sacrifice. Sometimes, that means not going out to the bar, not spending time with your buddies; you’ve just got to knuckle down and do it. Just go for it; there’s no excuse now. There are people out there looking to collaborate. Look for a few of your favorite things and combine them – World War 2 is popular on Kickstarter, Cthulhu is popular – that’s where Achtung! Cthulhu came from.
Yeah, it sounds like you hit that wave at just the right time. It seems like there’s almost too much Cthulhu on the market now.
Yeah, but it’s getting a different angle on it. It’s not just “weird” or “zombies.” It’s finding that different angle, that different story, that different way of doing it. With the rise of 3D printing, its easier to do war gaming or miniature gaming. It’s just putting in the time and the effort. Take the risk. You don’t need tons of money, you just need the passion.
Agreed, you’ve got to care about it. That’s about all I’ve got for you; anything else you want to add, or anything extra about Fallout: Wasteland Warfare to plug?
I don’t think we mentioned all the scenery we’ll be doing with Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. We’ve got some very cool scenery planned. We’ve got Nuka Cola machines, wrecked sedans, Red Rocket buildings, gas pumps… There are a lot of buildings we’re going to do, and lots of extras. We plan on doing gaming mats as well.
So if you want to build a true Fallout world, there will be plenty of ways for you to do so?
Right, and there are loads of companies out there that do great post apocalyptic stuff. We’re going to avoid generic stuff and do scenery that looks straight out of Fallout. We really think a game like this will bring a lot of people into war gaming for the first time, so we want it to be accessible and let them customize the world as much as they like. You could also collect the figures, pick up your favorite characters. We’ve got Liberty Prime coming as well, which is just insane.
How big is Liberty Prime?
[laughter] I actually haven’t measured yet, but it’s massive. Maybe 20, 30 centimeters. It’s going to be part of a storyline, you’re going to be trying to activate it or take it out. It looks great: it’s in the middle of throwing a mini-nuke. We’re also going to be bringing plenty of the iconic creatures from Fallout in the months after release. It should make the campaign very deep and help it to be constantly evolving.
You’ve got me excited. The game itself looks really fun, and I think I’d be OK just having and painting some of the minis. Thanks a lot for talking to us today, and have a good evening.
And you as well. Thanks for speaking to me.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare looks like a great combo of tabletop gaming and the Fallout universe. Stay tuned for more info as it becomes available.
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