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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

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
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.
The Soviet experience - both during the war when it's economic base and manpower were being shredded and afterwards with its longevity - illustrates how systems can endure on a lot less than we think, particularly with a population inured to varying levels of deprivation compared to our relatively cushy lives. I can't remember the title, but I was reading a text looking into how much mind-boggling destruction the Soviet Union had experienced at the hands of the Germans and yet managed to not just hang on but obliterate most of the Wehrmacht. They shot past most other points the historians expected other states would have collapsed.
 

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Ravenbrook

Explorer
I would think that the situation in such a game would be similar to China in the 1920s: a bunch of warlords vying with each other for power.
Btw, how does the game deal with the fact that the Soviets planned to use tactical nukes if there was a war in Europe? Simply ignore it?
 

lyle.spade

Adventurer
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.
Spot-on perspective - yeah; me, too. A good system does more than resolve tasks when success is not assured: it models a certain vibe. This system does that, without getting nutty like Phoenix Command tried to.
 


lyle.spade

Adventurer
Both the Soviets and the US ended up using tactical nukes in Europe as well as on each other. Your characters might have to watch their radiation levels.
Yep...in fact, some of the random encounter cards address this, one in the form of an irradiated impact crater if I remember it correctly. There are rules for dealing with radiation exposure, too.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I would think that the situation in such a game would be similar to China in the 1920s: a bunch of warlords vying with each other for power.
Btw, how does the game deal with the fact that the Soviets planned to use tactical nukes if there was a war in Europe? Simply ignore it?
In 1e there was a map showing all the nukage in Poland as a LOT of tactical nukes, and some strategic nukes, were used by both sides. I hope this is the same. It just never slid into full "empty the ICBM silos" warfare. But Europe and the USA, along with the Soviet Union, were pretty devastated in the aftermath. The modules for 1e eventually began to focus on the characters who had made it home, and were living in a fractured USA that pretty much existed in name only with multiple groups claiming to be the real government. Looking forward to reading the background for this edition so see how it varies from the original.
 

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.

I'm a listener--started because I've been playing 2d20 for about a year, but I like the non-2d20 discussions too--so I'm excited you're doing an ep on this one!
 



Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
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.
A chance that you might have seen me in a M151, M113, M901, Bradley or sleeping in a train indeed. I did border patrol along the old West/East German and Czech borders from 83' until 92'. I kept reenlisting PDA (Present Duty Assignment) as a recon scout in the U.S. Army. Also was a big gamer and we played a bit of Twilight 2000 1st while there along with many other tabletop rpgs. Palladium Fantasy Rpg, AD&D 1st Edition, BattleTech, GURPS, Traveller, Star Fleet Battles, RuneQuest all saw game play at the time. :)

We found ourselves tweaking the rules at the time as I recall because we knew better on some weapons, armor etc. Though honestly you'd have to be careful with that sort of tweaking since that crossed over into classified information. Where as the Twilight 2000 rpg stuff was based on public information via Janes etc. I miss Germany, it was never boring, the food and beer were great and the company wonderful.

p.s: Nice Terri Nunn/Berlin reference there.
 

MGibster

Legend
A chance that you might have seen me in a M151, M113, M901, Bradley or sleeping in a train indeed. I did border patrol along the old West/East German and Czech borders from 83' until 92'.
My father was working that border in the late 70s!
We found ourselves tweaking the rules at the time as I recall because we knew better on some weapons, armor etc. Though honestly you'd have to be careful with that sort of tweaking since that crossed over into classified information.
I've not read the TW: 2000 rules for any edition. By and large, I've found most games under estimate the range and capabilities of modern firearms and designers seem to lack a full appreciation of the amount of damage heavier weapons are capable of. Though, to be fair, I have no military experience and I suspect I lack a full appreciation myself. I've never been near an artillery strike or witnessed firsthand how destructive a barrage from a battery of them can be.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
@MGibster Actually those are fair points. I'd tend to agree that in my experience with real life and tabletop gaming that pans out. :) Though in order to give everyone a bit more playable survivability I'm not going to take too much umbrage about it, ya know. :)

Neustadt Mountain/Camp Harris/Coburg Castle area for most of the border service, overlooking the Sonneberg plains. :)
 

Teo Twawki

Coffee ruminator
I've not read the TW: 2000 rules for any edition. By and large, I've found most games under estimate the range and capabilities of modern firearms and designers seem to lack a full appreciation of the amount of damage heavier weapons are capable of.
There are some games that get their approximation attempts correct. Delta Green, for example, has a Lethality rating for heavier weapons, where there is a percentage chance (usually decently high) that being in the blast radius outright kills a character. Personally, I think that's a more realistic depiction than rolling for xDxx damage. But I don't disagree that there are ample examples of rpgs (pun intended) where the writers base their information off whatever explosion movie they like best.

Though, to be fair, I have no military experience and I suspect I lack a full appreciation myself. I've never been near an artillery strike or witnessed firsthand how destructive a barrage from a battery of them can be.
For my own part, while not technically active military, I lived in a city under a four-year military siege--and first played T2k while that surreality was going on--and witnessed first hand hundreds of strikes, been "danger close" to a great many, and directly under a few. And while, even at the time, I found myself calculating the percentage chance I had to avoid sniper fire while carrying water, I have never thought to calculate the damage inflicted by a 120mm shell landing in Markale market. Dice rolls in a game are never going to offer an "appreciation" for what weaponry does to a building, area, or human body. Role-playing can create a mimicry of it, such as it is, if such simulation is of interest to the group playing. It doesn't require a security clearance to do so, even if you are attempting to simulation the destruction caused by Trident missiles from an SSBN. Although, to be fair to the writers of a game that includes an exchange of nuclear weapons, there's scant actuality upon which to base damage descriptions. Aside from two horrific notable examples, there's proximity to tests, but dress rehearsals aren't ever the same as a live performance.
 

John R Davis

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.
Mine has arrived. It is chock full of goodness. It could do with an opening scene to play just to get used to the rules BUT it is kind of open and doesn't really want to set up a starter adventure ( as it's technically a very very low prep game).
It is quite tactical when it comes to battles and there are a lot of " rules"
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Mine has arrived. It is chock full of goodness. It could do with an opening scene to play just to get used to the rules BUT it is kind of open and doesn't really want to set up a starter adventure ( as it's technically a very very low prep game).
It is quite tactical when it comes to battles and there are a lot of " rules"
Though, compared to Pathfinder/Starfinder it feels rules light in my opinion.
 

Greysword

Explorer
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.

For what it's worth, I had these same feelings back with T2K 1st Edition. The game seemed so... real. So much like real life that we stopped playing after a couple of months. We were in high school, and two of us ended up in the military.

I had flashback feelings from the game on several occasions; one especially poignant remembrance was the first time I saw a Marine Corp LAV cross a bridge at Camp Pendleton. Another was in Afghanistan when a group of us were walking to the DEFAC (cafeteria) and suddenly realized I was a character from the game (in camouflage in another country carrying an M16 during wartime).

Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to share. For the record, I backed the game on Kickstarter, as I think it's important for young gamers to maybe get the same feelings you have, for themselves, so they might understand. I have the game, and I may not open it for these reasons.

I also want to take a moment to thank Free League for making it!
 

For what it's worth, I had these same feelings back with T2K 1st Edition. The game seemed so... real. So much like real life that we stopped playing after a couple of months. We were in high school, and two of us ended up in the military.
Four of the group of maybe seven that played Twilight: 2000 joined the Army. I often wonder how much the game opened us up to the idea.
 

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.
It actually reduces the variability of results.
A peak character under standard YZE can have from 0 to 10 successes without tools (5 stat, 5 skill) and expects 1 2/3 successes per roll.
A peak character underT2K 4e can get 0 to 4 successes (2 each on 2d).

A typical starting character in field in standard YZE has 4 att and 3 skill, expecting 1 success, with a range of 0-7
In T2K 4, B and C thus an expectation of about 1 success, but a range of 0-3 successes.
 


Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
It actually reduces the variability of results.
A peak character under standard YZE can have from 0 to 10 successes without tools (5 stat, 5 skill) and expects 1 2/3 successes per roll.
A peak character underT2K 4e can get 0 to 4 successes (2 each on 2d).

A typical starting character in field in standard YZE has 4 att and 3 skill, expecting 1 success, with a range of 0-7
In T2K 4, B and C thus an expectation of about 1 success, but a range of 0-3 successes.
Where does The Forbidden Lands fit within those variability results in comparison?
 

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