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Twilight: 2000

Entry updated 28 December 2020. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1984). Game Designers' Workshop (GDW). Designed by Frank Chadwick.

Famously one of the most depressing RPGs ever created, Twilight: 2000 is a Post-Holocaust game set in the immediate aftermath of World War Three. The player characters are the remnants of a military unit, struggling to survive amongst the ruins in a world almost destroyed by the "Twilight War". Typically, players will either try to make their way home or become little kings, protectors of a group of survivors who can provide them with food and new recruits. Regardless, the characters are assumed to have lost all contact with their superiors and any desire to continue the war; they are in an army without commanders, a situation many players find appealing.

The first edition of Twilight: 2000 includes a history of the world from 1984 to 2000, when the game begins with the final unravelling of the war. Following an unexpected reunification of Germany and a Soviet invasion of China, the nations of Europe become involved in a chaotic conflict which develops into a global war of East against West. First tactical and then strategic nuclear weapons are used, as the world drifts into a slow motion apocalypse. By 2000, the war is ending with a whimper, as civilian governments disappear and the remnants of NATO and the Warsaw Pact fight on without resupply or reinforcements in an irradiated, Pandemic-ridden central Europe. There are no victors in the Twilight War; it simply fizzles out as the remaining militaries lose both the will and the means to fight. The much expanded 1990 second edition (also known as Version 2.0) describes a very similar future, in which Poland turns to the Soviet Union for protection against reunified Germany in a pernicious mirror-image of actual European history after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact; history then proceeds much as in the first edition. Version 2.2, however, published in 1993, presents an Alternate History in which the failed 1991 coup in the Soviet Union succeeds, returning Russia to communist rule and setting the world once again on the road to apocalypse. By 1993 history had diverged too much from the timeline laid down in the game, making the Twilight War obsolete. While Twilight: 2000's rules emphasize military realism, it cannot be played as a simple game of martial adventure in an exotic setting. The devastated landscapes and degenerate survivors which shape its world are too familiar; a sense of horror and futility inevitably colours the experience.

Related works: Merc: 2000 (1990 GDW) designed by Loren Wiseman is a sourcebook for Twilight: 2000 set in an alternative Future History in which the world of the year 2000 has avoided nuclear war but is dominated by multipolar tensions and brushfire wars fought by armies of mercenaries, including the player characters. Last Battle (1989 GDW) designed by Tim Ryan is a tactical Wargame set in the final days of the Twilight War. Twilight: 2000 (1991 Paragon Software, DOS) is a Computer Role Playing Game which emphasizes tactical combat, using a combination of three-dimensional and two-dimensional overhead views. The player is given a team of 20 soldiers with which to stop an insane aristocrat taking over what remains of Poland; the game is generally considered to be unusually difficult to win. 2300 AD (1987) is set 300 years in the future of the Twilight: 2000 world, after the reconstruction of civilization. Twilight: 2013 (2008 93 Games Studio) designed by Clayton Oliver, Simon Pratt, Keith Taylor is a new edition of the original RPG created by other hands which recasts the Twilight War as the result of global environmental and social collapse, perhaps the most credible contemporary equivalent of the original game's apocalyptic vision. [NT]

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