Board Game Review: Operation Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Edition

Hasbro’s classic medical malpractice skill game Operation gets a Wasteland makeover in the officially licensed Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Edition by USAopoly.

The core rules are the same, just twisted to play on themes of the Fallout universe. Assuming the role of Vault-Tec Doctor, participating players take turns attempting to complete operations on the board game patient, in this instance our favorite mascot pal Vault Boy. Like the original game’s red-nosed patient, Vault Boy suffers from various ailments in the form of shaped cavities from which plastic game pieces must be retrieved using the tethered tweezers.

Each player draws a Doctor card on his or her turn, and then attempts to lift the indicated “Funatomy” piece from its hole, within an agreed upon time limit. Each cutout is lined by a metal sensor. Touching the edge with the tweezers triggers a fail sound, the old buzzer replaced by the much cooler and far less jarring RADS sound effect from the Fallout games. The radiation detector in the top-left corner of the operating table also flashes a green LED bulb. A pair of AA batteries (not included) is required to power the sound and lighting effects.

Successfully removing the contracted piece is rewarded with a payout in bottle cap tokens (in denominations of 100 and 500) equal to the monetary value of the fee indicated on the operation’s Doctor card. Failing to correctly extract the piece gives an opposing player with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L.-ist card matching the current ailment the opportunity to try stealing the surgery fee for double the price. Otherwise it’s on to the next player and the next operation.

Once all 12 operations have been completed, the player with the most Caps wins the game. Or for the soloist, the aim is to complete the dozen operations in succession, no goof-ups allowed.

The included Funatomy pieces take after iconic Fallout items, including a can of Pork and Beans, a Nuka Cola bottle cap, the Vault-Tec emblem, a Vault-Tec lunchbox, a Pip-Boy, Mister Handy, a Stimpack, an Atom Bomb, a Power Armor Helmet, Dogmeat the dog, Jangles the Moon Monkey, and Giddyup Buttercup the toy horse. Except for Dogmeat Breath, Bottle “Knee” Cap, “Adam” Bomb, and Charlie Horse, all of the other ailments are lazily named after the associated items rather than having silly names tying the game objects in with the injuries’ locations on Vault Boy’s body, which shows a lack of thought and attention to detail that, unfortunately, spreads throughout the rest of the game’s design.

The item pieces aren’t super intricate, but are cut and molded with enough detail that they will be immediately recognizable to anyone who’s played a Fallout game before. On the other hand, the game’s main drawback is that around half the pieces have bulky shapes that are overly difficult, if not borderline impossible, to grip with the tweezers. The lunch box and Adam Bomb are particularly problematic. I’ve tried to pick those pieces up from every which way to no avail, even ignoring the rules of the game and digging the tweezers into the cavity while rubbing against the side, as well as even trying to pick them up on a flat surface off of the game board. A fundamental rule of any board game is to, you know, actually be able to complete it.

Another alarming flaw, ironically, is with the RADS alarm itself. The sensitivity of the sensors is all over the place. On some cavities you can grind and rub the tweezers up against the edge for a couple seconds without a blip on the detector, yet on others the slightest touch buzzes you out. The lack of consistency makes for an uneven playing field that simply isn’t fair to all players.

USAopoly’s editing and QA departments also screwed the pooch big time with the cards, as the labeling on the Doctor and S.P.E.C.I.A.L.-ist cards is reversed from what it should be. The Doctor cards are printed with the doubled fee values that are supposed to be on the S.P.E.C.I.A.L.-ist cards, while the S.P.E.C.I.A.L.-ist cards show the base fees that should be on the Doctor cards. For example, the Power Armor Helmet Doctor card shows a value of 1200 Caps and the S.P.E.C.I.A.L.-ist card shows 600 Caps. It should be the other way around, as is specifically pictured within the rulebook. Whoopsie!

Operation Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Edition has merit as a novelty collector’s item for the Fallout fan who’s just in it for the purpose of setting out on a table or shelf as a display piece, or to pull out for a quick laugh when a Wastelander buddy comes over. The Vault Boy board artwork is colorfully drawn and faithfully captures the character’s personality, the RADS meter adds the right note of authentic flair, and the game pieces and Caps tokens are of respectable build quality.

Unfortunately, beyond the collectible appeal and the nostalgia of revisiting a vintage board game reskinned after one of modern gaming’s top franchises, the overall product quality doesn’t measure up to the stature of the Fallout series. In terms of functionality as an actual board game, sadly there are too many glaring design flaws to overlook when attempting to sit down for an accurate, reliable play experience. It’s quite shocking that USAopoly let so many blatant playability errors slip by without anyone noticing them, especially in a collector’s edition package that consumers are asked to pay a higher premium for compared to the plain vanilla version of the same exact game.

Buy From: Amazon for MSRP $34.95.

Disclosure: A free sample of the Operation Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Edition board game was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by USAopoly.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!