by Louis Sylvester
In 2015, a mobile app called Fallout Shelter was released for iPads and Android tablets. The computer game is a real-time management simulation in which you play as the overseer of a fallout shelter (called the vault) inhabited by the survivors of a nuclear war. The app was enjoyable but suffered from a few major issues. It required weeks to play and crashed a lot. Worse, it was strictly a solitaire experience. Recently, a tabletop version of Fallout Shelter (2-4 players, age 14+) was released that captures the atmosphere of the app but plays in an hour and allows players to gather to enjoy group management of the vault.
To set up the game, players first build the top level of the Vault. Location cards are lined up along the top representing the top floor of the fallout shelter. These cards represent different rooms where dwellers can spend time working to gather much needed resources. There is also an elevator leading down to levels where the players will build new, more efficient rooms.
Players take turns assigning their two starting dwellers to different locations in the shelter. Depending on where you place your dweller, you might generate energy, purify water or gather food. These resources will allow you to build new rooms on your level which unlock new, powerful actions. You can assign dwellers to your new locations to gain better resources, such as happiness tokens. Other players can send their dwellers to use your rooms, but each time they do, you gain extra resources. Finally, players can increase their dweller population by spending resources, which in turn grants more actions.
To add to the strategic challenge, dangers such as raiders, wasteland monsters and wildfires will assault the vault at the end of each turn. These perils block off key rooms and may cost the players happiness tokens if not handled. Therefore, players need to assign dwellers to face the dangers and run the risk of injuries, but the reward for eliminating the dangers is worth it.
Play continues until a player has built six new rooms on his or her level or all the danger cards have been assigned. The game is won by the player who collected the most happiness tokens and best managed their level of the vault.
Although the Fallout Shelter app is enjoyable, the new tabletop version breaks out of the virtual world and brings the thrill of vault management in the Fallout world to your table.
Sylvester is an associate professor in the creative writing program at Lewis-Clark State College. He is the co-author of “Legends of the Lost Causes” series, a rip-roaring adventure set in the fantasy West. Questions about tabletop games may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.