Twilight War

The Twilight War

Author: Lutz Pietschker
Version: 1998

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The Twilight War: A 2-4 Player Wargame


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It's 1943. France has been under German occupation for 3 years now, but it is clear that an Anglo-American invasion will be attempted sometime in the near future. Ever since the USA joined the war the scales were beginning to swing in favour of the Allies who had the vast majority of the world's economical and manpower resources behind them.

But behind the lines, in France, some bold Frenchmen and -women had never been content just to wait for the liberation. They "took to the bushes", the maquis, and waged a silent but bitter war. Under cover of everyday occupations they organized a network of informants and undercover forces that gave priceless information to the Allies, helped shot-down allied pilots to escape from France, prepared and carried out demolitions, and built up weapons supplies and units to help the Allies on the day of the invasion. They lived a dangerous life, and many were captured by the German Abwehr (counter-espionage) and the feared Gestapo ("Geheime Staatspolizei", secret police).
Those French, often summarily called the "Resistance", were originally organized in various independent groups and forces, the largest of them being the "Franc-Tireurs et Partisans" (FTP). The latter was created by French communists in March 1942 after Germany had invaded Russia, obviously in disgust about Hitler's breaking of the Non-Agression Pact, and with its weapons and organization may be deemed the beginning of a really effective force. The "French Forces of the Interior" (FFI) united the different Resistance factions (which included Communists, Royalists, left-wing and right-wing patriots) from December 1942 on.
The Resistance fighters built up a complex network of leaders and signal units and were supported by the Allies by means of nightly air-drops of supplies, equipment and Special Services teams. In turn, they helped allied spies and commandos to locate their objectives, and often helped them to get their information -and themselves- back home.

It is your turn now to show that you could have achieved as much as they did, in their "game" of deception, covert moves, and deadly personal risk. On D-Day it will be known if you were able to support the allied invasion forces sufficiently to secure success.

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The Game: Abstract

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Game concepts

The game has a fairly unique design. The map is divided by railroad lines which serve a double purpose as movement lines for German troops between cities and junctions on one hand, and as area boundaries on the other hand. In addition, they are fair game for the resistance fighters for demolition attacks.

At least two players must play, solitaire suitability is low because the game depends on hidden information. The allied side may be sub-divided into up to 3 factions (2 resistance organizations and the Anglo-American allied forces, all called "the allied player" in the text).
The objective for the allied player is to amass a sufficient number of espionage points in a given time, and to invade into an area with weakened German defences to secure the success of the invasion. The invasion location, force, espionage points needed, and game length are determined by an "invasion card" that is selected by the allied player at game start. This information is hidden from the German player. The invasion ends the game.

The allied player has available resistance teams (that may combine into batallions or even brigades later in the game), leaders and Special Service teams that are needed to command the units, and spies that are needed to gain espionage points. Groups of fugitives will appear that must be brought to exit points from where they presumably can get back to Britain on their own. Supplies for all allied units must be provided by the allied player to avoid a decrease in combat strength.
The Allies recruits new resistance teams during the game (how many he gets will depend on how successful the Resistance teams have been, so far), and he gets additional spies, forces and supplies each turn.

The German units are mostly combat troops with a few engineer units to repair damages, some Gestapo units to interrogate prisoners, and some depots that serve only as demolition targets. German HQ officers appear randomly and require some effort to guard them.

All allied units are placed face down on the map, and the German player has to find them before he can attack. The allied player will move his units around to escort spies into towns (only there they can gain information), to prepare demolition attacks to interrupt the railroad system, and to generally create confusion among the Germans.
The German, of course, will do his best to counteract. He will search areas to attack resistance teams, will interrogate captured leaders (thereby gaining information about other units on the board), and will try to be at the right spot in sufficient strength to head off allied action.

The final proof of sound strategy is the invasion itself: If it succeeds in the area selected, with the help of the espionage points gathered, the Allies win the game, else the Germans win.

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Game components

When you lift the bookcase-size box it is suspiciously light. No wonder: The mapboard is made of paper, not cardboard, and the 300-odd counters plus dice do not nearly fill the available space. The game material is definitely not overwhelming, and though it is not below standard as wargames go, some more effort would have been required to make this game really recommendable. This is explained below, in the section on game play. The game designers certainly were of the opinion that it is the idea that counts.

However, the map gives the necessary information and has a clean design. Since it is folded paper, and there is lot of counter placing and shifting in the game, you should consider to mount it yourself.

The counters are the usual 1/2" square cardboard counters, further commented upon later in the text.
The event and invasion cards are 1" by 1.3" tiles made of the same material. A counter tray is provided with the game, and 2 six-sided dice.

The rulebook is concise, has a nice clear layout and gives all the necessary information to play. I always like to have some designer's notes and a bibliography, but this is outside its scope.

The box cover? B-movie style, if you ask me. B minus, rather.

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Game play

As indicated in the section about game components, I encountered some problems to play this game. A good time to make a confession: I never played one single game of "Twilight War" to the end.
Why that, given my interest in the topic and my enthusiasm for the game concepts? It's the material that makes the game all but unplayable: The allied units (14 at game start, considerably more later in the game) are face down most of the time. Can you imagine what it means to play with most of your forces unrecognizable? Twilight indeed!
So, if the allied player does not want to constantly take up his counters and look at the front sides, he has to memorize them. But of course, this detracts greatly from his original tasks as a Resistance leader and SHAEF commander. To make it short, we found this too cumbersome to endure it for more than a few turns.
To add to the misery, some areas on the map, close to large towns, are rather too small to keep even the German forces un-stacked and visible.

On the other hand, the game covers a topic that is greatly ignored in wargaming even if "Resistance" would be one of the first keywords a Frenchman would give you when you asked him about WW II. And the game concept certainly is intriguing! I would like this game to be known even if it vanished from the game stores quite some time ago.

So what am I to do now? So far, I resisted the temptation to put the game back to the shelf and just let it gather dust. I think I will mount the allied counters on small stands or wooden cubes or so and give it another try. Any other ideas? Then please tell me!

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Aftermath: Twilight Heroes

When the BBC transmitted the second part of a poem by Verlaine on June 5th, 1944, the Resistance leaders knew what that meant: The invasion was to come, eventually, and inside the next 24 hours. This was the time to put the well-prepared plans into practice: All over France weapons caches where opened, silent groups of men and women assembled, leaders collected their forces. Shortly after, railroad tracks blew up everywhere, telegraph lines were interrupted, industrial plants were put down by sabotage, even bridges collapsed. In short, infrastructure and communications were hampered severely.

When the Allied Expedition Forces hit the beaches on June 6th they found an enemy that faced some trouble to coordinate his efforts and to assemble his forces, and they found individuals and groups waiting for them to give information and to guide them.

The rest is history: The allied forces were able to gain secure beachheads on D-Day and to expand them on the following days. German forces were in a state of confusion. The fact that they still put up a stiff defence once they got over the first shock gives some impression of what they could have done to the allies if they had been able to move freely and relocate their forces at will. But this they could not do: In addition to internal command structure problems, whenever they moved they found railroad lines blocked, bridges blown up, and passages through villages obstructed. They faced open hostility wherever they came, and those thousands of pinpricks probably delayed and hindered them as much as the allied fighter-bombers did.

Many of the Resistance fighters died in the course of the events, but they put up an example of dedication and unbroken will that has become a legend. In France and elsewhere, they are honoured to this day.

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, last change 2011-03-12