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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.”
T2K1.png
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.
T2K2.png

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

lyle.spade

Adventurer
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.
I am not a fan of YZE, either, and didn't back the KS because of that - I wanted to see how the modified version of the system was before spending money on it. I've played Forbidden Lands, Mutant Year Zero, and a good amount of Alien...and really don't like that mechanic, or what trappings they've added around it.

T2K's version is a massive improvement, making the system playable by providing more variability of results and more possibilities for doing things with surplus success. A buddy of mine and I have played it a few times as a skirmish game, to work out the combat rules, and it flows well and provides and, at times, incentivizes, realistic decisions.
 

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eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
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.
I grew up in West Germany as well, in a border town with France and I recall many times our lessons in our little village school would get interrupted by massive American, German, French and British convoys on the way to and from exercises to simulate the inevitable Soviet invasion of the Fulda Gap. Imagine trying to learn your multiplication tables with tanks and self propelled guns on trailers rolling by.
 

lyle.spade

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.
Hmm...I was hoping you would...change my mind.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
This review gives me more hope than earlier snippets I had read about this edition. A fan of the 1e game and we have a campaign on hold that we have been meaning to get back into eventually. I worried that the game would be more action movie than "real war". In 1e getting shot sucked and I worried that this would be more 5e, a night sleep cures a 7.62 though the leg type mechanics.

Going to find an indepth review but I may have to pick this up and go back to Europe to slug it out with commies like its the 80's all over again.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
I remember being in UK army cadets and shooting at 2d-mannequin targets, which had “Ivan” printed across their chests. Unbelievably horrific to think back on now, but didn’t even question it too deeply in the midst of the Cold War, especially in the late 1970s as Detente was running out of steam.
Years later, I was in Moscow in 2015 with a party of 6th formers ( high school seniors in US?) and our guide in the city was same age as me. We talked a lot about how we’d both been brought up to hate.

(Memorably, he also said that the moment McDonalds opened in Moscow was the moment he and his friends knew that the USSR had lost the Cold War. A bit like “McDonalds Peace Theory” it doesn’t stand up to full intellectual scrutiny as an analytical tool, but interesting nonetheless)

Returning to the game, I may well give it a shot. Most of the people I game with are early 40s, so they’re more Huntington’s Thesis kids than Cold War kids. Should be interesting.
 

MGibster

Legend
(Memorably, he also said that the moment McDonalds opened in Moscow was the moment he and his friends knew that the USSR had lost the Cold War. A bit like “McDonalds Peace Theory” it doesn’t stand up to full intellectual scrutiny as an analytical tool, but interesting nonetheless)
The late 80s represented a period of detente between the Soviet Union and the United States, and I think for most Americans, the opening of McDonald's in Red Square was simply a hopeful sign that the relationship would continue to improve. The collapse of the Soviet Union caught us with our pants down in that none of our intelligence agencies saw it coming and our foreign policy decisions were being made with the assumption that the Soviets would be around for a while.
 

Being from the 80's generation, I think it would have been cool if they had advanced the game and called it Twilight: 2020 and used all the real stuff going on between Trump and Putin and Xi and Kim, etc. Just file the serial numbers off/change names and start the war in 2017/2018, instead of 1997/1998. And while other modern day-set games like Vampire 5E use real world stuff, I am not sure the younger generations could handle the concept of a present-day nuclear war as part of a TTRPG. Just the thought of all the cell networks being dead would freak them all out. lol
 

MGibster

Legend
Being from the 80's generation, I think it would have been cool if they had advanced the game and called it Twilight: 2020 and used all the real stuff going on between Trump and Putin and Xi and Kim, etc. Just file the serial numbers off/change names and start the war in 2017/2018, instead of 1997/1998.
I just don't think there's a similar dynamic in 2017 that there was during the Cold War. It would feel off. Like if someone remade Red Dawn and changed the invaders from Cubans and Russians to North Koreans or something. It just wouldn't work as well.
 

This review gives me more hope than earlier snippets I had read about this edition. A fan of the 1e game and we have a campaign on hold that we have been meaning to get back into eventually. I worried that the game would be more action movie than "real war". In 1e getting shot sucked and I worried that this would be more 5e, a night sleep cures a 7.62 though the leg type mechanics.

Going to find an indepth review but I may have to pick this up and go back to Europe to slug it out with commies like its the 80's all over again.

Getting shot in 4e Twilight 2000 sucks very much. Most characters probably can't take more than two rifle rounds before getting incapacitated. What's great, though, is that you don't have to get hyper-specific about the exact nature of the wound unless it's a critical injury, meaning (in most cases) if it does more damage than usual to a given location because you rolled more than one success to hit. In that case you break out the table and roll to see how bad it is, how often you'll have to save against death (could be once per turn, once ever few minutes, or once every handful of hours), whether you can move or be moved without rolling to die again, etc. So it has that ability to get really detailed and gnarly, but you don't have to do it every time you're hit. There are notable exceptions, like with sniper rifles, where hitting anyone in an unarmored location will always do a crit injury. And aiming for the head doesn't do more damage--it means if you do get a crit injury, it's more likely to be lethal.

And, importantly, the rules note that GMs should probably skip most of that stuff for regular NPCs--a crit injury in those cases should just take them out of the fight. You could always ignore that and do crit table rolls whenever they apply. But in my experience having those tables ready for major NPCs, but letting crit injuries just turn others into casualties, works great.

As a fan of realistic gun combat rules, but someone who's also watched hardcore systems grind to a halt at the altar of realism, I can't recommend these rules more highly. Such a smart blend of streamlined mechanics and gritty consequences.
 

I just don't think there's a similar dynamic in 2017 that there was during the Cold War. It would feel off. Like if someone remade Red Dawn and changed the invaders from Cubans and Russians to North Koreans or something. It just wouldn't work as well.

Since there is zero clues in your post about whether you are being sarcastic or just never heard of the movie:

 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
The late 80s represented a period of detente between the Soviet Union and the United States, and I think for most Americans, the opening of McDonald's in Red Square was simply a hopeful sign that the relationship would continue to improve. The collapse of the Soviet Union caught us with our pants down in that none of our intelligence agencies saw it coming and our foreign policy decisions were being made with the assumption that the Soviets would be around for a while.
Detente was more late 70s than 80s, so I guess that's a typo.
The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union (and the whole WP) was certainly a shock at the time, though having lectured in Cold War history, the thing that strikes the most is the actual inevitability of that collapse, certainly from 1979 and probably even earlier. The actual surprise is not that it happened, but that nobody really predicted it.
i remember designing a resource simulation game, splitting the class into two blocs...about 10 mins into the game, one of the Soviet players would look at me and say something like, "but, sir, this is unfair. There's no way we can win this." Yep!
 

Zarithar

Adventurer
It's a beautiful boxed set. My only gripe is that they did not include a starter scenario of some sort to familiarize the GM with the rules. I'd love to see some sort of quick start adventure.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Getting shot in 4e Twilight 2000 sucks very much. Most characters probably can't take more than two rifle rounds before getting incapacitated. What's great, though, is that you don't have to get hyper-specific about the exact nature of the wound unless it's a critical injury, meaning (in most cases) if it does more damage than usual to a given location because you rolled more than one success to hit. In that case you break out the table and roll to see how bad it is, how often you'll have to save against death (could be once per turn, once ever few minutes, or once every handful of hours), whether you can move or be moved without rolling to die again, etc. So it has that ability to get really detailed and gnarly, but you don't have to do it every time you're hit. There are notable exceptions, like with sniper rifles, where hitting anyone in an unarmored location will always do a crit injury. And aiming for the head doesn't do more damage--it means if you do get a crit injury, it's more likely to be lethal.

And, importantly, the rules note that GMs should probably skip most of that stuff for regular NPCs--a crit injury in those cases should just take them out of the fight. You could always ignore that and do crit table rolls whenever they apply. But in my experience having those tables ready for major NPCs, but letting crit injuries just turn others into casualties, works great.

As a fan of realistic gun combat rules, but someone who's also watched hardcore systems grind to a halt at the altar of realism, I can't recommend these rules more highly. Such a smart blend of streamlined mechanics and gritty consequences.
We were playing it a few years ago after not having picked it up in 20 years or more. It took us one gun fight to get back into the mindset of, don't get into random gun fights, don't get into gun fights where you haven't given yourself as much of an "unfair" advantage as you can. Opening session fight had a shot to the head of a PC and that was all she wrote for him. My SGT got a body shot that put him out of action for several weeks a couple sessions later. So we made up backup characters while some healed and some were replaced and kept on trucking.

I think I'll end up grabbing this. The local miniature market location has it for 42.99 and I've got some points to spend.
 



lyle.spade

Adventurer
It's a beautiful boxed set. My only gripe is that they did not include a starter scenario of some sort to familiarize the GM with the rules. I'd love to see some sort of quick start adventure.
Good point - a short intro adventure would have pushed it into the stratosphere for quality. However, given the maps and encounter cards you could easily assemble a series of encounters and just see how the players respond as they run away from their collapsing division.
 

lyle.spade

Adventurer
For the good of the thread: the next episode on my gaming podcast (publishing tomorrow, 5 JAN) is about T2K - initial reaction and an initial commentary on the combat system. I have a guest cohost for this episode (my regular cohost wasn't available to record), and he weighed in with his combat experience in Iraq and work in law enforcement, adding to my experience in the Army. Spoiler: the combat system lines up plausible decisions.

 

Fenhorn

Explorer
It's a beautiful boxed set. My only gripe is that they did not include a starter scenario of some sort to familiarize the GM with the rules. I'd love to see some sort of quick start adventure.
There are four scenarios in the Referees Manual. So just let the players travel a day or two and use some encounters and then play one the scenarios or you can just one of the scenario sites be the first hex they come to.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
For the good of the thread: the next episode on my gaming podcast (publishing tomorrow, 5 JAN) is about T2K - initial reaction and an initial commentary on the combat system. I have a guest cohost for this episode (my regular cohost wasn't available to record), and he weighed in with his combat experience in Iraq and work in law enforcement, adding to my experience in the Army. Spoiler: the combat system lines up plausible decisions.

That's cool. I hate miniature war games that are "gamey", they don't really force you to make sound tactical decisions that represent combat in the period of interest, its more about knowing when to flip the gamer card or activate the special powers. Part of why I love Chain of Command over Bolt Action. So if this falls in that "realism" category I'll dig it.
 

MGibster

Legend
Detente was more late 70s than 80s, so I guess that's a typo.
It wasn't a typo it was me not keeping track of one period of lessening tension from another.

The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union (and the whole WP) was certainly a shock at the time, though having lectured in Cold War history, the thing that strikes the most is the actual inevitability of that collapse, certainly from 1979 and probably even earlier. The actual surprise is not that it happened, but that nobody really predicted it.
And now I'm thinking of the Soviet Union as the TSR of modern nations. The more I've learned the more I can't figure out how those guys stayed in business for so long. On another note, the more I've learned about Poland the more I think it's a great choice for a Twilight 2000 campaign setting. The Poles weren't exactly happy to fall under the Soviet umbrella after WWII and even forty years later were pushing for independence. I can totally see them saying, "Screw it, we're out!"
Since there is zero clues in your post about whether you are being sarcastic or just never heard of the movie:
:) The original was such a product of its time I just didn't see any reason to watch it. When I found out they remake replaced their original Chinese invaders with North Koreans that was just the final nail in the coffin.

I think the biggest problem with Twilight 2000 for my group is that it's just so bleak and the last few years haven't been great. They'll prefer to play games with a lighter heart for a while I think.
 

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