Review of Twilight: 2000: You’re on Your Own, Good Luck

Imagine surviving another battle in war only to find yourself cut off from command. No medevac, no calling in incoming fire, no reinforcements, no going home. Twilight: 2000 takes the Year Zero system and couples it with brutal combat that leaves it mark on everyone involved who survives. A campaign kicks off with a lost battle and the last communication from headquarters, “Good luck. You’re on your own now.”
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Twilight: 2000 is a boxed set stuffed to the top with two rulebooks, combat maps, poster maps of Poland and Sweden, cardboard tokens, cards, and dice. Everything needed to get started is included. My thanks to Free League for providing me a copy to review.

The system is a variation of the Year Zero Engine. Instead of a dice pool, rolls are made with one attribute die and one skill die that range from a d6 up to a d12. Player characters track radiation points and use coolness under fire (CUF) to remain calm in combat. It even includes hit locations. The Referee Manual has rules to convert 1st and 2nd edition material as well as solo rules.

The PCs are going to endure hardship, experience fear, and feel like they are up against all odds. Some PCs are going to die. What is going to make the campaign work are those fleeting moments of victory and especially those times the PCs really get to make a difference. These wins may be helping people in need, creating a safe haven, and maybe someday even returning home. These emotional wins function as a means of catharsis from fear and anger, and not only will the character feel good but so will the players themselves.

To pull of this range of emotions, the rules have to simulate the stress of combat and the toll it takes to be good at killing people. Coolness under fire (CUF) is a mechanic that allows PCs to function while getting shot at and to bring the violence to the enemy. However, as CUF rises and their skill at killing increases, their Empathy goes down as they find it hard to interact in normal ways. This drop in Empathy also ties in to killing a helpless foe as actually committing this act first requires a failed Empathy roll or a PC can’t go through with it. So a PC with a higher CUF also has an easier time killing outside of combat.

This combination is powerful. In order for the emotional toll to be worth it, the PCs need to get some real wins. This is where the referee comes in. A referee needs a way to be impartial. To allow random events to happen and not come across as the bringer of misery.
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At the same time, the referee also has to set up those moments of difficult choices for the PCs. Present PCs with tough situations with no easy solution and let them figure things out for themselves.

The rules support the referee both by providing dozens of small encounters that can happen completely randomly alongside a handful of full adventures with tough choices. In one adventure, the PCs have to face child soldiers. What happens if they have to fight them? In another, siding with marauders against the locals may help the PCs out more than defending the locals. Are they willing to side with the bad guys to get ahead? And there is enough overall background on and rule support for the various powers in Poland and Sweden for the referee to make their own adventures.

The best part is, a referee can simply pull out the map of Poland and Sweden, point to the hex the PCs are in, and repeat the last message from HQ: “Good luck. You’re on your own now.” Where the PCs go and what they do next is entirely up to them. And the campaign kicks off from there.

Free League has never disappointed me with an RPG before. But this one really resonates with me and the value is outstanding. Months and months of gaming can be found in this one box. And it will be a Twilight: 2000 campaign of hardship, hard choices, death, and every once in a while, hope.
 

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

marroon69

Explorer
I agree, I feel this game is amazing. We have been playing since beta and it really hits the mark for me. The ability to place the players in the undefined grey world makes ever decisions difficult. There are very few black and white decisions everything has a trade off. The use of "Coolness Under Fire" during combat and "Empathy" to kill in cold blood are great mechanics.
 



I agree, I feel this game is amazing. We have been playing since beta and it really hits the mark for me. The ability to place the players in the undefined grey world makes ever decisions difficult. There are very few black and white decisions everything has a trade off. The use of "Coolness Under Fire" during combat and "Empathy" to kill in cold blood are great mechanics.
The way Suppression is tied to autofire, getting hit, having your cover get hit, explosives, etc. is all done so well. Plus I found that combat turns go so quickly that losing your turn to a Coolness Under Fire failure isn't anywhere near as aggravating as in most other systems. And that you take a point of Stress when it happens makes it more like you've been hit, and less like the GM telling you "Hey you're suddenly and temporarily scared." It's like the wind gets knocked out of you. So well done!!
 

Skytheen

Explorer
Do you feel the "A, B, C" is necessary over just simply saying d6, d8 (like Savage Worlds)? Felt very GDW, but not essential.
 



@Charles Dunwoody Curious what you think of the different dice types instead of the more standard use of d6 pools in YZE games? I've read most of the YZE games but only played Twilight 2000, and I haven't run the numbers to see how the probabilities stack up. But in play I wound up really liking the T2K approach--especially with the special dice that come with the boxed set. Have you played enough YZE to compare and contrast that element?
 


Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Not a fan of YZE out of the box so I gave this game a pass, but the setting and the setup as described in the article is making me reconsider this game... I am more interested in playing in it than running it though.
 

MGibster

Legend
I grew up in the 80s and played some 1st edition Twilight 2000 in middle school. I loved the whole vibe. I still own a few of the original adventures. It would be great to pick it up again for a longterm campaign, but I've already got too many games going.
I grew up in the 80s, spent some time in West German actually, and that might be one of the reasons I'm hesitant to purchase Twilight 2000. My father was in the US Army, and I remember on occasion he'd get a call and he'd have to go out on maneuvers as part of preparing for a Soviet invasion that thankfully never came. I remember seeing tanks in small German towns, soldiers going places, and propaganda left in our mail from those unhappy with a US presence. I remember a soldier sleeping next to me while riding the metro. (I hope someone gets that reference.) So the game just conjures up a lot of memories for me despite having never playing it.

I've been impressed with every Free League game I've seen so far. And I'm a bit surprised to find that I'm interested in running it. I'm not so sure it's a game that would interest my players though.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
I grew up in the 80s, spent some time in West German actually, and that might be one of the reasons I'm hesitant to purchase Twilight 2000. My father was in the US Army, and I remember on occasion he'd get a call and he'd have to go out on maneuvers as part of preparing for a Soviet invasion that thankfully never came. I remember seeing tanks in small German towns, soldiers going places, and propaganda left in our mail from those unhappy with a US presence. I remember a soldier sleeping next to me while riding the metro. (I hope someone gets that reference.) So the game just conjures up a lot of memories for me despite having never playing it.

I've been impressed with every Free League game I've seen so far. And I'm a bit surprised to find that I'm interested in running it. I'm not so sure it's a game that would interest my players though.
All right. You've got me listening to Berlin again...
 


@Charles Dunwoody Curious what you think of the different dice types instead of the more standard use of d6 pools in YZE games? I've read most of the YZE games but only played Twilight 2000, and I haven't run the numbers to see how the probabilities stack up. But in play I wound up really liking the T2K approach--especially with the special dice that come with the boxed set. Have you played enough YZE to compare and contrast that element?

I have run Mutant: Year Zero, Forbidden Lands, Alien, and Coriolis. FL introduced bigger dice than the d6 and I really liked the addition. I like the approach in T2 even more I think, since it cuts the dice pool down by several dice. Extremely fast, which is what I want in a game like this.

The game provides the probabilities on page 46 of the Player's Manual:
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I grew up in the 80s, spent some time in West German actually, and that might be one of the reasons I'm hesitant to purchase Twilight 2000. My father was in the US Army, and I remember on occasion he'd get a call and he'd have to go out on maneuvers as part of preparing for a Soviet invasion that thankfully never came. I remember seeing tanks in small German towns, soldiers going places, and propaganda left in our mail from those unhappy with a US presence. I remember a soldier sleeping next to me while riding the metro. (I hope someone gets that reference.) So the game just conjures up a lot of memories for me despite having never playing it.

I've been impressed with every Free League game I've seen so far. And I'm a bit surprised to find that I'm interested in running it. I'm not so sure it's a game that would interest my players though.

Yeah, it can feel really real to those of us who lived during that time. I haven't run a campaign of the new T2 yet, but I think it would actually leave me feeling better after playing it, since things worked out so much better in the real world. Makes all the sacrifices citizen soldiers have made more meaningful and helps me appreciate all the cooperation between countries it took for democracy to win the Cold War. But yes, I would be very mindful of how the game makes other players as well as me feel and just have a frank discussion about it.

You might at some point also end up gaming with someone from former Soviet countries. Again, I think a respectful conversation is the way to go and an appreciation that we can all game together now as friends. Things are still tough today but communication is a much bigger option than ever before.

This can also inform our roleplaying. Enemy combatants in T2 are people too and not all of them may want to continue fighting. And soldiers from Western nations can become the enemy in a situation like T2 because they are people too and people are flawed. War really is hell.

Definitely a game for mature audiences and a table of open discussion!
 

It is still an interesting concept, but like others here, I played the old 1st/2nd editions of the game back in the late 80's/early 90's, and going from playing a possible future of war to playing an alternate past of war, just does not work for me. I would just rather leave the whole Cold War stuff in the past and not relive it.

That makes sense to me. T2 tackles tough themes and conjures images and events that can be stressful. It certainly won't be for everybody. I know I would have to be in a certain frame of mind to run it or play it.
 

I didn't mention in my review, but I received the T2 soundtrack by Andreas Lundströn through the kickstarter. It is really good, even if you aren't running T2. It might have been a kickstarter exclusive, but if Free League ever offers it, it is well worth getting if you want theme music in your RPG campaign. I find A Broken Landscape haunting.
 

Fenhorn

Explorer
I didn't mention in my review, but I received the T2 soundtrack by Andreas Lundströn through the kickstarter. It is really good, even if you aren't running T2. It might have been a kickstarter exclusive, but if Free League ever offers it, it is well worth getting if you want theme music in your RPG campaign. I find A Broken Landscape haunting.
The soundtrack to T2K can be found on spotify (and most likely other music streaming services) now. As well as the soundtracks made for the other FL games.
 

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