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Monday, July 2, 2012

Twilight 2000 RPG

Time to review and reflect on another of the games that I played as a teenager but this time, sadly no longer have the books for: Twilight 2000. This offering by Games Designer Workshop is a great, great game with a gritty realism. For some reason out of all the games I had back in the day I sold these… and I can’t really remember why I did either…. ahhh foolish youth.

For those not in the know the game covers the events of World War III starting with the (then) current timeline of the late 80s and the Cold War. From there it branches off to the start of a Sino-Soviet war and then a war breaking out in Europe between the Warsaw Pact forces and NATO. “limited” Nuclear exchanges happen and the war spreads to form a truly world war as industrial capacity breaks down, food becomes scare and command and control of the various armies disintegrates. The conflict grows and eventually engulfs most of North America from invasion from the south. In short the shi* hits the fan everywhere.

The players are cast in the roles (most often) of US Army soldiers trying to survive the falling apart of their unit/division as they are left to fend for themselves. In most cases the main overall theme is to try and make it back to western Europe and get a transport back to the US.

Two main points  stick out in my mind from my time playing Twilight 2000: One, combat is downright deadly as would be imagined. Body armor helps, but not enough if the hit happens in the right location. Because of this we were never that attached to our characters, because death was too common of an occurrence. This is the biggest departure I think that players of Fantasy RPGS struggled with. Armor is there but doesn't save you like in D&D. Plus there aren't any clerics to reattach your severed arm...

Two, we quickly learned the value of two weapons standing out in my mind nearly 20 years late. For close in combat nothing beat the H&K CAW (Combat Assault Weapon), an automatic shotgun. We learned through a few characters to sling the M-16A2s, kick down the CAWs and blast everything whether friend or foe. This was of course after hurling grenades into said location.

Speaking of which we learned that even better then using a CAW at close range was using a M-19 grenade launcher from a distance was even better. We would stand back and fire from our vehicles at a target only venturing after the smoke had cleared.

Another interesting point is the scarcity of gas/diesel. Stills offset this (ours seemed to get shot up regularly) and we learned to leave it camouflaged and go back to it after the firefight.  We have a couple of HMMVs and once had a LAV-25. Problem was the LAV became a burden, as it required so much fuel. Better yet was when we got FAVs (with M-19 grenade launchers ‘natch). Ac much fun as it would have been for the larger vehicles, speed was much better. This represented the setting well as only large installations with a logistical support could field tanks. Which even with a few TOWs or other rocket systems we avoided fighting.

Equipment lists and weaponry was up-to-date as of the early 90s and would need some updates if you played the 1st edition rules. The supplements to the game like the Small Arms guide and Vehicle Guides were excellent. Which brings up a related point, trying to figure out vehicle combat was overly complex and frustrating as it gets in a game.

In terms of characters, none were memorable except one that I played a tournament where the GM ruled that a flash bang grenade had blown off my Welsh gunner’s leg??? Mind you I was on the outer edge of the effect radius. Basically he didn’t understand the rules or what the type of grenade did. That incident along with some neckbeard historical gamers at the same Con turned me off to gaming with the general gamer population, certainly at Cons.

The character creation process was good and flowed well allowing for various nationalities, genders, and AoR of the service branches. Rank is hardly an issue as outside of your own squad NCOs and Officers can’t just boss you around: the army is falling to pieces and command and control is non-existent.

I only had minimal experience with the 2nd Edition rules as we took our characters from first and tried them out. Later on we used the 2nd edition rules in modern day (brush fire wars type of Earth) rather then the World War III angle before GDW did it. We jetted around in our LeerJet for the highest bidder. Not much came of that and college beckoned for all of us shortly thereafter. Not long after college, GDW folded in 1996.

They only other thing that I think did not work well in the game system are the Hesitation rules. Basically everyone had a factor where it governed (more or less) your actions in a firefight and hesitations required pauses reflecting the PCs ability to keep it together in a firefight. While realistic it was also a drag on the game where you had to wait while everyone else is doing something. One lucky role during the character creation process and you were infinitely better in combat then your foes or teammates. If you are like me and roll crappy for your PCs (that’s any system) then this was a source of frustration for you as well.

Summation: The entire line was well done with very good artwork and an abundance of supplements. We never used the modules all that much, but there certainly was a wide range of them.

In short a great game, lots of fun, just don’t play it if you can’t handle the concept of your character dying because the likelihood of it if you go into every combat like it’s D&D is very high.


  1. My group is going through a huuuugge retro gaming itch (actually, all we play are "retro" RPG's), and the 1st edition got pulled out of the file cabinet after nearly 20 years. I have NO idea how we ran it back in the day; the infantry level combat is clunky, and the vehicle fighting is a real bitch. Still in the planning phase, I'm gonna have to streamline this somehow. Fortunately, I'm a gaming veteran...

  2. Our experience back in the day mirrors your own. Combat was certainly "fiddly" and hesitations were a real pain in the ass. The only other system that had a worse, or at least as bad vehicle system was from what I've read of 2nd edition Warhammer 40k. Having played Twilight 2000 I wonder just how bad it has to be to make Twilight's "look good".

  3. From what I can tell, 2.2 is a lot better, and the system was patched here and there after that.

    It's pretty cool for the setting alone.

    1. My bad, forgot to set myself up for notifications.