Fallout Wasteland Warfare Interview with James Sheahan!

War! War never changes!

If you know where this tag line comes from then you must be among the untold multitude of gamers around the world who have played the games in the hit Fallout series of video games!  A post apocalyptic series of games, Fallout is one of the best selling franchise in games history and despite a few problems along the way it still remains as popular as ever, if not more so!

With the computer and console games have legions of loyal players who lap up every single iota of information they can get, the series seems to go from strength to strength despite a few bugs along the way, and with Fallout 76 around the corner it seems that everyone has gone apocalyptic crazy.

But Fallout 76 isn’t the only product to be released this year to carry the brand name that Bethesda have made so popular.  Tucked away in a small series of offices in the capital of England lies Modiphius Entertainment, one of the largest games companies in the tabletop roleplaying industry and featuring some amazingly talented people! Modiphius all but dominates the current roleplaying companies in Europe and is very quickly catching up with its American counterparts and in many senses leading the field!  Although known for its licensed pen and paper roleplaying products, especially those based around popular franchise such as Conan, Star Trek and many more, Modiphius Entertainment also produces board games, a range of miniatures and has just successfully launched its own miniature skirmish game, Fallout Wasteland Warfare, set in the bleak post apocalyptic wastelands of Fallout!

The game has been teased by the company for over a year now, and features not only an amazingly wide plethora of miniatures to play with, but also some pretty tight rules that totally manage to capture and emulate the computer game all but perfectly!

I was lucky enough to get to grab a few moments with Fallout Wasteland Warfare designer and lead on the project James Sheahan and he was kind enough to share some insights with Gamers Web.


GW: Firstly James thanks so very much for taking the time to chat with us here at Games Web.  You must be over the moon with the reception that FWW has garnered and now that people are finally getting copies of the game in their eager hands, you will no doubt feel that warm sense of accomplishment.  So every story has a beginning , how did you get involved with the Fallout Wasteland Warfare project?

I was working at Modiphius on other projects when Fallout: Wasteland Warfare came up.  Prior to that, I had worked in the video games industry for 12 years and was then a game design consultant for 10 years after that (working on games for video games companies, global ad agencies, Google, etc.).  I had some ideas on how a miniatures game could really convey Fallout with a broad appeal, so I suggested my ideas and quickly created a prototype.  It was well-received so I developed it further and that led to what we have today.

GW: Did you have a great love for the Fallout computer games, because that seems to shine through when you read through Fallout Wasteland Warfare? 

Thanks – I’m glad you feel that as the game feeling like Fallout was an essential part of the game design.  Like most of us, I’ve been a gamer since I was young, so I was familiar with the Fallout games, and I had just played 150 hours of Fallout 4 when I started on the design for Fallout: Wasteland Warfare.

I didn’t intend to create a total conversion of the videogames directly, as we already have the videogames for that, but I did want as much of the Fallout world to be woven into the gameplay where it added to the experience whilst retaining simplicity.  The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes were a great starting point for game mechanics and I considered which elements of the videogames could influence the design of other mechanics as I went.  It’s great that so much of the videogames lends itself to tabletop gaming, making it possible to include them in meaningful ways in the game play, such as action points, criticals, V.A.T.S., chems, radiation damage, creatures and traps you may find in the Wasteland, and much more.  The videogames also set some underlying principles which I wanted to reflect too.

GW: There are lots of games out there that use pictorial dice now for their mechanic and it seems to be something that is becoming more popular.  What was the idea behind using pictorial dice?

The custom dice and coloured measuring ranges were two of the first things that I created.  I think imagery on dice and components is a modern, clean and quick way to communicate outcomes – I always like the clear iconographic language used in many board games that simply explain various effects.

My goal was a visual, modern design to make the game as accessible as possible as well as quick to use, and I wanted the dice to be a part of telling the story too.  You always roll the skill dice to determine if a skill test succeeds or not.  I much prefer games where there is some reliability in the outcome, so all weapons have a base level of damage but you sometimes get some ‘effect dice’ too which are a potential bonus on top.  There are four effect dice: black dice primarily add damage, yellow dice primarily reduce a target’s armor, and green dice primarily improve the success of the skill dice.  The blue dice is a bit different as it has three different icons spread over it which can be spent to trigger special effects (if available).  For example, a laser rifle allows two Nuka-cola bottles to be spent set the target on fire (in addition to any damage).  Most weapons give different dice at short and long ranges too.

All of these results are icons which are used throughout the game as a common language so they’re quick to assess.  (Whilst I’ve mentioned weapons, these effect dice also apply to non-combat rolls too.)

GW: The dice conventions do add something unique to the games of Fallout Wasteland Warfare and so far no two games I have played have been the same.  Though the one thing that seems to tie them all together is how cinematic they feel when playing.  Was this a goal from the start?

Being able to tell stories was critical so that Fallout wasn’t just in the background but really made the game feel Fallout.  Just by looking at the colours and amounts of dice a weapon, mod and/or perk add to a roll, you already know more about its characteristics.  The results also tell you the story of what happened – you can see if the green dice from the scope helped make the difference between a hit or a miss; you can see if the yellow dice from the cutting effect of a Mr Handy Buzzsaw was what got past the armor or it did it without it (probably by finding a gap in the armor).

Discovery whilst in the Wasteland was essential too, so lockpicking, hacking and searching to find items needed to be part of the experience – I think that adds to the cinematic feel.

As I mentioned earlier, Fallout has some great underlying principles that are fun to model into a game too.  One is that everything is dangerous, so the damage and armor system needed to be designed to deliver that.  Another is that you need the right tool for the right job too – having a gamma gun when facing a Super Mutant is useless, but rightly so and means one model can not be great at everything.

Scenarios are key to the cinematic feel too.  Combat is an important tool to get the job done but it’s only one tool, and scenarios requiring achieving tasks in a tight timeline are much more fun than pure combat.  You rarely see the heroes of an action film only fighting the bad guys – they’ve usually got a task to perform whilst under fire.  The scenarios really allow the Fallout setting to shine through too.

GW: Making a game that is balanced enough to be playable is one thing, but making a game that allows for multiple styles of game play, including sole play; that must have been a nightmare to come up with, let alone pull off successfully?

I won’t deny it was definitely a challenge as each requires their own flavour/blend of rules.  I had always designed the game as a toolbox of smaller elements that could be combined so the full variety of the Wasteland could be created.  Having modular sections of rules would allow players to choose the parts that suited their style of play too.  It took a while to understand which blocks were needed for which style of play, and which were the fundamentals – it was great when it was clear to see the main story-based, full-Fallout experience, what needed to be added/removed to make the combat-focussed organised play (called Battle Mode), what was needed for on-going games, etc.  One thing that helped is I like designing mechanics aimed at representing situations in an interesting way, and not aimed at any specific game play format/medium.

The Settlement Mode (which adds an on-going aspect to your force between games) was probably one of the most difficult areas.  Taking your force from one game to another can create balance problems, and I wanted it to be possible to played evenly against players who had less-experienced forces, or weren’t using that system at all.  I remember clearly the happy moment when I cracked it.

Solo play was really interesting to develop.  It took time to boil down a player’s actions into just five main responses, and then work out how to give those purpose.  I think my computer programming experience really helped break it into its logic blocks, and I discovered some decision-making aspects I had not appreciated until trying to make the logic work.  I’m very pleased with the result as it can do almost any objective – although I have to admit it plays better than I do!  We’ll soon be releasing a free AI Handbook which will help players use the AI system in their own scenarios plus three AI scenarios that really showcase what it can do.

GW: There are a few factions in Fallout Wasteland Warfare and each seem to have its own unique feel to it.  Do you have a favourite and if so which one is it?

I do like all the factions as each has its own flavour and creating each one to deliver these differences is an interesting design process.  For me, the Survivors are probably the most interesting as their models have many abilities and are mostly single models.  I think of them as a super-hero team that work well when combining and overlapping their capabilities.

GW: The game has some amazing models, they look like they have just come directly from the computer game itself and the attention to detail is awesome.  Do you have any particular favourites?

I agree – the sculptors really have done such a great job creating superb models.  For me, I think the Mutant Hound models really capture their power and brutality.  The loading screens in Fallout 4 sometimes show a stationary Mutant Hound you can spin around and look at in detail (whereas, normally you’re too occupied with trying to stop them kill you).  Having looked at them in detail, it’s amazing how the models match so well.  You have to love the power armor and Deathclaw too as they’re so iconic.

GW: Far Harbour and Nuka Warld were both really popular DLC for the Fallout 4 game, are there any plans to bring those to Fallout Wasteland Warfare?

We’re definitely planning to delve into the DLC.

GW: Finally what are your favourite perks in the game and are there any that you wish you had included?

Like all card types in the game, the 2-player Starter Set includes some Perks but many others come with the model expansions too so there are many still to be released.  I’ve actually created Perks for pretty much every Perk in Fallout 4 (and 3) which are relevant to the gameplay of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare.

I do find Bloody Mess humorous (which is planned for inclusion in Wave 2) – when an enemy model is removed, there is a chance that they’re turned to a bloody mess which may unnerve nearby enemies giving them a penalty to their next skill roll.  Of course, Mysterious Stranger (which is in the 2-player Starter Set) who sometimes pops-up and shoots an enemy just screams Fallout.


GW:Thanks to James for taking the time of his busy schedule to talk with us at Gamers Web!

My pleasure.

Fallout Wasteland Warfare is available now from all good retailers and stockists and directly to order from Modiphius Entertainments online store!

Check out our Gamers Web UNBoxed look at Fallout Wasteland Warfare on our YouTube channel and look out for our full review very soon.  Once again many thanks to James for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with Gamers Web!

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