Recommend
24 
 Thumb up
 Hide
10 Posts

Last Battle: Twilight – 2000» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Twilight: 2000 - Last Battle: A Short Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Brad Smith
Japan
Miyazaki
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb

By the late 1980s, GDW was elbow-deep in both the roleplaying and wargaming business, pumping out an impressive volume and variety of award-winning titles. The wargaming end of the business around that time saw the release of games like Stand & Die: The Battle for Borodino, Team Yankee, and Test of Arms, which were all part of the company's new (at the time) "First Battle" series. This series was an attempt at producing wargames that were accessible to new wargamers, boasting an easy-to-learn basic rules set that allowed new players to get the game home and start playing right away. This was quite a shift in GDW's previous approach to wargames, which were often quite complex and meant only for hardcore wargamers (see Assault, for example). One game, "Last Battle", was released in 1989 as part of the "First Battle" series and I'm going to talk about how and why I bought this obscure 25 year old game and the circumstances surrounding its recent intersection with my life.


Chicks, Cars, and the Third World War - Twilight: 2000

First off, I need to explain a bit about my own background in relation to GDW as a teenage roleplayer in 1989 who was obsessed with one GDW roleplaying game in particular - Twilight: 2000. In the late 1980s, I was in my mid-teens and my friends and I were firmly a part of the much admired and extremely popular group of high school kids that spent their Friday or Saturday nights playing roleplaying games. After the first adventure, we were hooked - Twilight: 2000 quickly became our "go to" game and we played the hell out of it for years.

To provide some background for the uninitiated, Twilight: 2000 was a roleplaying game about World War III and it was released by GDW in 1984 at the height of the late Cold War, right in the middle of Reagan and just before the arrival of Gorbachev when things were tense and it wasn't at all odd to wake up wondering if today was THE DAY when either side would push the button and the human race would finally have the distinct pleasure of kissing its collective ass goodbye. So this game was really a product of its time and it shows through its basic premise.

In Twilight: 2000, Chadwick drew up a historical timeline that set the stage for a Sino-Soviet conflict in the mid-90s that, through a series of complex but somewhat believable events, sparked a sudden German reunification that quickly spiraled into World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Central Europe. As both sides wore each other down in a conventional conflict that went nowhere, the urge to use nukes became irresistible but instead of having an all-out strategic conflagration, they inched towards armageddon with a series of limited nuclear exchanges.

By July of 2000, much of the world is devastated through conflict, radioactive fallout, disease, and famine but the war drags on and the US is about to launch one last major push into Poland to end the war and bring its troops back home to rebuild. The Warsaw Pact catches the US forces with a well-timed counterattack, however, and pushes them back all the way into Germany.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Twilight: 2000 and Design


The players take on the role of US soldiers who are part of this last failed NATO offensive and the game starts with the group of player characters caught behind enemy lines in Poland (around Kalisz) and they must break their way out of their predicament in order to...well, do whatever the hell they want. Some groups of players tried to get back home while others conducted guerrilla warfare or turned to looting the countryside while others simply tried to survive. The characters are given access to modern weapons, vehicles, and other assorted toys and let loose in a post-apocalyptic warzone to create their own destinies. It was this freedom in particular that appealed to many players and the rules were broad enough to support the players in trying to create their own life paths through the rubble of World War III.

The game tried so hard to be realistic that I think of it as the antithesis of games like Dungeons & Dragons. There were no spells or wizards or dragons to be found within a thousand miles of a Twilight: 2000 rulebook. The contents of the player's guide also made it fairly clear that players would be spending most of their time trying to just survive in a harsh post-nuclear environment with danger around every corner. You had to keep faithful track of ammunition and fuel expenditure, vehicle maintenance and upkeep, food consumption, and healing time for any wounds. So much for setting out to save the fair maiden from the old castle near Helm's Deep. This was "reality" roleplaying at its finest.

The combat rules were complex but not overly so - Chadwick was a Vietnam veteran and it's clear that he tried his best to model combat in a detailed and realistic manner but not so much that it bogged down the system. Things like artillery, anti-tank missiles, armored combat, small arms, and heavy weapons are all handled well by the system and provide for a good play experience. With the Twilight: 2000 roleplaying rulebook in hand, you were basically all set for a fun evening provided that your players didn't get into a huge battle. The system was just wieldy enough to handle combat between small-ish forces (less than 10 guys per each side). When you wanted to run bigger battles, however - and it happened quite a bit in the published adventures - the system would bog down under the strain of it all and the game quickly became unplayable.



I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) - The Arrival of "Last Battle"

To resolve this problem, GDW released a Twilight: 2000 supplement called "Last Battle", which provided roleplayers with a way to resolve larger-scale combat between two forces. GDW released this as part of the "First Battle" series and I suspect that they were hoping that the wargame-y mechanics of "Last Battle" would appeal to the grognards as well as those who had never heard of Twilight: 2000 and would otherwise want nothing to do with a roleplaying game. At the same time, I'm sure GDW was hoping that "Last Battle" would make enough of an impact on roleplayers that it would serve as a gateway game to introduce Twilight: 2000 players to GDW's wargame products line. This notion is certainly supported by the blurb on the back of the box, which claims that "Last Battle" is both a roleplaying supplement and a standalone boardgame.

I'm not sure the gamble paid off. I can remember dismissing "Last Battle" as too much of a wargame (something I was not interested at all in at the time) and I'm sure there were more than a few wargamers who dismissed the product as simply a roleplaying supplement and not a "real wargame". Were people just confused by this product? I always got the impression, perhaps wrongly, that "Last Battle" was an effort by GDW to fuse together their roleplaying and wargaming lines. Although I'm not real clear on the history here, the fact that GDW didn't really attempt anything similar to this afterwards shows that it probably didn't work. I think it says a lot that the game is largely ignored on boardgamegeek and not even listed on rpggeek. Most people today would look at "Last Battle" and think, "What the hell is this thing?" and that's basically what people thought 25 years ago too.

Anyway, you open up "Last Battle" and you get about 15 pages of rules along with a scenario book that has about 10 scenarios in it featuring forces of various size. The scenarios are all based on battles from various Twilight: 2000 published adventures, from classics like "Armies of the Night" and "The Ruins of Warsaw". I couldn't help think about how all of these various scenarios with different forces would probably never make sense to someone with no background knowledge of Twilight: 2000 ("Why are the French fighting the Americans?" Why is a street gang in New York fighting the US Army?") but would be instantly recognizable to anyone who loved the roleplaying game.

The counters aren't anything special but they contain all the essential information and they're easy to read. I greatly appreciated the fact that the counters were numbered according to their colors, which made it easier to distinguish between counters on opposing sides (I'm colorblind and telling brown from green is very tough for me).

There are 6 paper maps included with the game and although they aren't terribly exciting in terms of color or appearance, they work well in terms of providing enough playing space for all your counters in their individual hexes, especially handy since there are no stacking limits for soldiers.


When Doves Cry - My First Impressions of "Last Battle" as a Wargame

Playing through my first game of "Last Battle", the U.S. Army faced off against the Los Diablos gang in New York City. The Diablos had an advantage in numbers but the Army had veteran troops and better weapons so the New York street gang managed to take out one or two soldiers before getting completely wiped out. So far, so good - but it was nothing too exciting.

The second scenario I played through was based around a particular scene in the excellent adventure module, "Going Home". In the adventure module, the players are trying to make their way through war-torn Germany to get back to a ship that will take them back to the States. Unfortunately, the Americans need to get through the French "neutral zone", which has been declared off-limits to all combatants. So in this scenario, the US soldiers fight against the French. This scenario had vehicles in it, an M2 Bradley and 2 Fast Attack Vehicles. The French had some support weapons as well as a tankbreaker anti-tank missile launcher. This is where things got pretty ridiculous.


The M2 Bradley made it to the top of a hill and the French fired their tankbreaker and hit the vehicle. I rolled on the damage table and got...a "radio damaged" result. Wait a second. An anti-tank missile managed a direct hit on the M2 Bradley (on the top of the IFV) and the radio got broken? The French fired again in a subsequent turn and this time, the turret was completely destroyed but the vehicle was still able to drive around no problem with all crew members alive and inside. Something was wrong here.

Another problem soon hit me too. Since your troops have different levels of experience, they all get different modifiers to their "to hit" and save rolls. Keeping track of which of your guys had what experience on a crowded map became an exercise in frustration, especially when their were no counters to show experience and guys kept moving around, getting killed, replaced with other counters, etc. So I really started to dislike this game...and then something wonderful happened.


Don't Worry Be Happy - "Last Battle" as a Roleplaying Supplement

I had a couple of beers.

I'll admit that I'm not a very big drinker. I might enjoy a cold beer once a month at most. But trying to process all of this crazy stuff in a concentrated period of time had driven me straight to the bottle.

I came back to the gaming table, albeit reluctantly, and threw caution to the wind. I guessed at experience levels, I guessed at damage tables, I even guessed whose turn it was. And I had fun! Lots of it. I could suddenly sense that this game, played around a crowded table by a group of teenagers in 1989 with pretzels and bad music in the background and the occasional conversational diversion about how much the latest Miami Vice episode sucked, might work alright provided no one worried too much about following the rules to a tee or fretted over achieving realistic outcomes. After I stopped approaching "Last Battle" as a serious wargame and looked at it as a roleplaying supplement or a beer and pretzels kind of game, it actually became somewhat enjoyable.

As part of the "First Battle" series, "Last Battle" doesn't measure up to the other products in the lineup. As a way of resolving large battles in a roleplaying universe using some quick and easy rules, however, it's a pretty decent effort. As a Twilight: 2000 fan, GDW deserves some praise for offering a product that solved a problem in the game but it's easy to see why it probably didn't get much love from wargamers despite trying to cast itself as such. I don't know how often I'll be putting this game on the table, but I suspect that when I start to get nostalgic for that time and place, "Last Battle" might scratch the itch for a fun evening of mindless gaming - beer in hand, of course.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this review, please feel free to check out my blog at: http://hexsides.blogspot.com
37 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Clay Stuart
United States
Lewisville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
my friends and I were firmly a part of the much admired and extremely popular group of high school kids that spent their Friday or Saturday nights playing roleplaying games.

That deserves an upvote right there, but the review itself is also very good.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
sunday silence
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
could you at least explain a little about how the game played? E.g. if it was a traditional war game did use hexes? Did it use a CRT? a roll to hit? force ratio table? and how did the original battles play out if not in that format? was it e.g paragraph driven? or some die rolling ??
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brad Smith
Japan
Miyazaki
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Hmmm...how best to describe the rules. No, there's no CRT. In combat, you basically try to roll a d6 to get a certain number based on a series of modifiers (cover, range, experience levels, weapon type, etc.). The guys you're shooting at can sometimes make an opposing 6-sided die roll for defense (save rolls), to determine whether or not they take hits. The game is indeed hex-based and played on paper maps. That's about it. It's not really complex stuff. The majority of the rules are covered in about 6 pages.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
sunday silence
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
was it a highly innovative combat system? I am having a hard time imaging how it worked. I take it, it was not a big hit with the players?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brad Smith
Japan
Miyazaki
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Depending on what you wanted out of it, the combat system worked to varying degrees of satisfaction. As a standalone tactical wargame, it didn't really work. The rules set had too many holes in it and sacrificed a lot of realism for playability (see my example of the M2 Bradley driving around after being hit by two anti-tank missiles). As a roleplaying supplement that allowed Twilight: 2000 fans to resolve combat in a quick manner while still retaining the flavor of the game, it worked okay.

As for the combat rules and system, I have the book in front of me now and I'll summarize some of the rules here.

At the start of the game turn, both players roll for initiative. The player who wins initiative gets to decide whether he'll go first or second throughout the turn.

Each game turn has three phases. First off is a movement phase, then a reaction fire phase, and finally an attack phase. One player moves all his guys, gets shot at by reaction fire, and then shoots at the enemy. The other player then runs through all three phases.

During the Movement phase, a player moves all his guys through the hexes, paying movement points as they go depending on terrain. The number of movement points a particular unit gets is determined by a number on their counter referred to as their "movement factor". Infantry units typically have a movement factor of 2 while vehicles will have somewhere between 5 and 7. One interesting thing about the game is that there is no stacking limit in a hex for infantry so you have some pretty liberal options when it comes to moving your guys around the map.

In the Reaction Fire phase, the non-phasing player gets to fire at the phasing player's moving units. This is supposed to be like opportunity fire.

In the Attack Phase, the phasing player gets to (finally) shoot at the enemy units. To make an attack, you first have to calculate a "hit number", which varies depending on range,weapon type, and experience levels of the firing troops, and also modified by the type of terrain in which the defenders occupy. For example, a close range attack (half of the firing unit's attack range - indicated on the counter) will hit on a roll of 4 on a d6.

If the firing unit hits, the enemy makes a saving roll by rolling a die for each of the attacking unit's attack strength points. The save roll can be modified by the target unit's experience level. For each "save" made, one of the attacking unit's hits are cancelled out.

Each infantry counter can represent up to 6 men. When a squad loses men, it's replaced by another counter to reflect the casualties taken by combat. Because you're constantly having to replace counters, it's very easy to lose track of information such as unit quality, etc. During my early plays, I had to constantly write down which counters represented which guys on each team. This gets especially unwieldy in the really big battle scenarios.

For vehicles, the rules are slightly different and stacking rules are actually in effect along with vehicle facing. The game comes with a number of vehicle cards with information about the vehicle's weapons and attack rating, etc. Vehicles are given hit modifiers depending on the crew quality and technical specifications (e.g. rangefinders, etc.). When vehicles get hit, you make a roll for hit location and apply the various effects (for example, the treads get hit and impair or disable mobility). As I mentioned in my initial review, vehicle combat results can vary widely and sometimes verge on the hilarious.

Infantry can make attacks against vehicles with support weapons like tankbreaker missiles and portable weapons, missiles, etc. Vehicles can duke it out with each other using some very simple vehicle combat rules.

There are also some special rules and optional rules that you can incorporate into your play if you're so inclined. There are rules for artillery, mortars, smoke, and minefields. There are even some basic rules for using helicopters (as well as a vehicle card included). Things like command control, limited ammunition, and troop cohesion are also in the rulebook as options to incorporate into any game.

I really wanted to like Last Battle as a wargame but it felt like I was just always figuring modifiers and trying to remember which counter represented which units. If you were playing around a table with a group of people who all knew the rules, this workload would be considerably lightened. But as a standalone wargame, especially played solo, it gets a bit dreary unless you stop taking it seriously and just roll with it.

I hope that gives you a better idea of the meat of the game.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
sunday silence
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
very nice write up. Thanks a lot.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brad Smith
Japan
Miyazaki
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
No problem! Glad you enjoyed it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hansen
United States
Alta Loma
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice write up. Takes me back to my own heady days living the glamorous life of an RPG gamer, though I preceded you by about 8 years or so, and our RPG du jour at that time was GDW's Traveller.

But this Last Battle game was not the first time that GDW had done an integration of a wargame with one of their RPG's; they had done that quite a lot with Traveller. Snapshot, Azhanti High Lightning, Fifth Frontier Wars, Striker, Striker II, Brilliant Lances, and Battle Rider were all tied in to the Traveller RPG universe, though all could also be played as a stand alone board or miniature games.
So to me they always seemed to have that mixing of board games with their RPG, like the Reese's peanut butter cups.

I'm actually kind of surprised that they didn't do the same with T2K rather than just have one tie-in game. Anyway, thanks again for the entertaining review. It told me exactly what I wanted to know about the game and took me back to the days of olde.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Clinton
United States
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
Perhaps a bit late, but I just picked this one up...

I think the reviewer missed the mark a bit. Yep, this old game holes and issues.

But, the purpose of the game was to make a simplier, much faster play system for resolving battles. This was intended for use in the RPG (mainly) as well as a stand-alone "war game" with the hopes of drawing traditional "war gamers" into the RPG game itself.

To do this, all and keep it very simple, and fast play enough to complete a game in 2 hours is a difficult task, and to do all this while maintaining the feel and flavor of T2000 at the same time.

I think the game hits these goals. It is not a 10 by a wide margin, but it was a darn good 1st edition for what it intended.

What it 'really' needed, especially for it to be popular with the RPG crowd, was a 2nd edition to polish the edges, fill a few holes and add another layer of detail that the RPG'ers and grognards really wanted.

My 2 cents.

Scott
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.