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Fallout Factions avoided crunch time, unlike some GW games

Ex-GW designer James Hewitt wrote Necromunda 2017 in just four months, but his new Fallout wargame has been cooking at Modiphius for years.

Fallout Factions - an envrionmental storytelling skeleton slumped in a chair next to a map of a theme park and a reel of tickets

Ex-GW designer James Hewitt has spent years designing Fallout: Factions, an upcoming skirmish wargame set in Bethesda’s beloved retro-futuristic apocalypse. In an interview with Wargamer, he explained how luxurious that development cycle seems, after sometimes frantic turnarounds when he worked at Games Workshop.

Fallout: Factions pits teams of wasteland raiders against one another in campaign battles for control of the Nuka World theme park from Fallout 4. While it proudly wears the Fallout license, it also owes a big design debt to Warhammer 40k spinoff Necromunda – not just because Necromunda is the archetypical sci-fi gangfight game, but because its most recent version, Necromunda 2017, was also designed by Hewitt.

Fallout Factions - a Sniper perches on a building overlooking a scuffle in the street

While Hewitt was part of the Games Workshop design team from 2014-2017 he wrote many great Warhammer board games, contributed to the first edition of Age of Sigmar, and developed specialist games. In short succession he worked on two projects to revive classic 40k spinoffs: Adeptus Titanicus, which pits small-scale Warhammer 40k Titans against one another in high impact slugfests; and Necromunda.

The new version of Titanicus was originally scheduled to release first, hitting the big Christmas 2017 release window. Hewitt recalls how “the decision was made at the last minute to turn [the models] from resin to plastic” in the winter of 2016. There was no chance the sculptors and casters could resculpt and retool the kits from resin into plastic in time for a Christmas release the following year, which meant “we had to scrabble to get something out for that release slot in November 2017”.

Fallout Factions - raiders face off across a barricade made from the ruins of a themepark

Necromunda was picked, with the models far enough along in design that they could be released in time. That left rules writing to James. “I started work on it before Christmas, and I handed it over in early April in 2017”. “It was hellish”, he says, even though he “was used to short time frames at Workshop”.

Fans who picked up the launch edition of Necromunda 2017 will remember how confusing the initial release was, with the core rules in the box set incomplete, needing supplements to flesh out several systems.

As well as the rushed development, Hewitt was dealing with competing design goals from management: “There were four or five different people saying It has to be this, it has to be this“, Hewitt says. “I’m very fond of the core of Necromunda, but it’s a very muddled game… I’d like to see a more cohesive second edition”.

Hewitt left Games Workshop while the Necromunda manuscript was still being laid out, in July 2017. He founded independent games design studio Needy Cat Games, working with several studios designing rules for board games and miniature wargames.

Fallout Factions - two slickly dressed operators stand at the entrance to a bridge, one carrying a shotgun, the other a pistola nd baseball bat

That lead to freelance design work with Modiphius on a new gang skirmish game set in the Fallout universe – Fallout: Factions. “We spoke about it in 2021, started working on it in early 2022”, says Hewitt. “The plan was to come in as a freelance contractor, then pass it off to Modiphius to do the last bits of tweaking and balance”.

By coincidence, during that time Modiphius needed a new lead designer, a role that Hewitt landed. “I posted it through the door, then stepped in and did the last bit of the design work in-house with the dev team”.

All told, Hewitt has worked on Fallout: Factions for “two to three years”. Wargamer can’t help but get excited: we enjoy Necromunda 2017, but the prospect of a new game from the same designer given free reign and enough time to do the job properly is tantalising.

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Hewitt says: “It’s quite rare for me, certainly for the last few years, to be involved in the full process for a game of this scale”. This time he’s been there “from start to finish”. It has been a massive focus for the small company: “for the last year we’ve had the Modiphius development team, all of them, on Fallout: Factions as our big project”.

While we’re naming Hewitt as the lead developer, he emphasises that the design has been a “real team effort” with four other developers, plus extra staff from Modiphius all keen to chip in. “I’m a big picture designer, I often struggle with the fine tuning in development”, Hewitt acknowledges. Fortunately for him, “we’ve got people in there who’ve got very good brains for detail, and balance, and breaking things”.

Wargamer got to playtest Fallout: Factions at a press preview last week, and we’re already building and painting miniatures for our own test games. You can pre-order it from Modiphius if you can’t wait for our review. Or if you want a post-apocalyptic scifi skirmish game we’ve already vetted, check out our The Doomed review.