World of Twilight



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Review: World of Twilight: The best game you've been sleeping on

January 17, 2024 by labambaman

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Sometimes you stumble across a game purely by chance, and then go to take a closer look and end up addicted for life. For me, that was World of Twilight. I saw a single model many years ago on a news site, went "hey, cool dinosaur dude!" and got in closer. I ended up discovering what might be one of my favorite games that gets ignored way too frequently.

World of Twilight comes to us from the mind of UK game designer Mike Thorp. It's a fantasy skirmish game, but not like you expect. This isn't just Middle Earth with some names changed and a hastily applied coat of paint, there are no humans, dwarfs, elves and orcs. The entire world, called Anyaral, is inhabited by dinosaur people. Okay, they aren't literal dinosaur people, but they're clearly inspired by the glorious creatures. I've been a massive dinosaur nerd since I was a little kid, so World of Twilight caught my attention pretty easily.

The lore behind World of Twilight is fascinating, without being overly long and feeling full of filler. The violent and predatory Devanu used to rule, keeping the more diminutive and weaker Fubarnii as slaves. Then one day the Fubarnii rose up and overthrew their masters, establishing the Fubarnii Empire. now the Empire must fight against it's own entropy, the Devanu tribes that seek to reclaim what was once theirs and the invading religious fanatics from the north calling themselves the Delgon. There's more than just that, obviously, and other cultures including the forest dwelling Casanii and the Dhogu that roam the frozen plains. The world feels alive and interesting, and I absolutely adore it.

Gameplay wise World of Twilight pulls off some neat ideas, even if some maybe aren't super well explained. Model stats are pretty limited to keep things from getting too cluttered. Movement, combat, support, stamina, command range and tough save are the core stats, with each model also having some special abilities. You build your force to a certain points limit, or use the preconstructed forces given for some scenarios if you so choose, and set about to do what you got to do. World of Twilight really shines when playing as an objective based game, especially since combat isn't always something you can plan for.

World of Twilight uses one of my favorite activation mechanics: random activations. Each player get six activation tokens which are placed into a bag and blind drawn to determine activations. When one of your activation tokens is drawn you choose a model and they take their turn. Some models have abilities that allows them to activate a certain number and type of models within a certain range, so even if you have more than six models on the table you can still activate all your guys with careful positioning. I'm a fan of the blind activation already as it keeps you on your toes, and the inclusion of the command rules adds another layer to it. But the bag doesn't just contain activation tokens, there are also two combat tokens. When these are drawn, any models engaged with each other begin combat. Some models have special abilities that let them initiate a combat during their turn, usually by charging an enemy or doing ranged attacks. This is a bit weird at first, but I think it works. It means both players are constantly having to jockey for position to ensure that if a combat token is drawn they're where they want to be. It's just another element that keeps things feeling fresh and slightly chaotic.

On a model's activation it can move, interact with objectives or use abilities. Abilities can only be used during certain situations and marked as such. Leadership abilities allow models to activate others with them, combat abilities can be used during combats to try and turn things in your favor, activation abilities can be used to do things outside the normal activation such as make attacks and then special abilities which allow models to interrupt their opponent's activations. Having a good mix of abilities in your force will allow you to tackle most situations, and combat abilities can swing the tide of a fight if used at the right time.

When one of those pesky combat tokens is pulled all models currently engaged, usually by being base-to-base with an enemy, get to fight a combat. One aspect where this gets interesting is in the support mechanic. Each player declares who will be fighting in a combat as the primary combatants, and then may declare another model in base contact with an opposing model currently involved in the fight as support. This allows numerous models to get into a fight and by outnumbering the enemy you can try and get some advantages. Once the players have declared all eligible combatants, they build their pool of combat stones using the combat score of a primary models and then adding the support value of any supporting models. Yes, World of Twilight does not use dice for it's combat. Sort of, we'll get to that. It uses what it calls combat stones. There are two types of stone, attack and defend. Players must decide how aggressive they wish to be in a combat, choosing to either try and deal a killing stroke or simply keep their own guys alive. Once you have your combat pool built, you take the stones and shake them up and then "cast" them onto the table.

Full disclosure, when I first read the rules this was not made clear how casting actually worked. I was so confused thinking you just placed the stones on the table not really understanding how it worked. Years later I know how it works, but it wasn't until I saw a video where he put the stones in a cup and shook it up that I realized what he meant. Not a huge oversight, and I'm also not the brightest guy in the world, but just something to be aware of.

Once you've cast you stones you tally up your results, with each stone having a success side and a blank side. Combat abilities will often allow you to recast stones, or in some cases just flat out flip some over to alter the results of combats. If you score more attacks than the opponent does defends, then they have to take a tough roll. This is the only time a die is used in the game, a simple d6 roll needing to score equal to or better than a unit's tough stat. If they pass they're fine, if they fail they die. Every single unit in this game, even the biggest of models, has a single wound. I was sort of torn on this at first as it seemed strange to me having come from games where important models got more wounds to ensure prolonged survival, but I've come to appreciate it. Passing a tough save represents shrugging off a glancing blow, or tanking a stab to the leg or what have you while a failure means the enemy found vital organs or got you in the neck. It also adds a nice level of brutality to the game.

Being a one man operation World of Twilight really shines with the love and care that Mr. Thorp has put into it, and the game is all the better for it. That does also, however, come with some downsides. First is that while the range of models is quite impressive for a one man show, new releases can be rather slow. This isn't a game where you should expect to see new models every month, this is a game where you may see a batch of new models once a year. It also means that there is something of a barrier to entry if you live outside the UK. If you're like me and live in the US the conversion rate plus shipping can be absolutely relentless. The small starter set is $110 US before shipping is even factored in, the large starter set (which not only comes with more stuff but also lets you pick what starter armies you want) is nearly $150 before shipping. I don't blame Mr. Thorp for this, it's simply the nature of currency, but it can sting quite a bit.

But I want to take a moment and really discuss the models for this game. These are some of the most charming models I've ever seen in my life. As I previously mentioned, I'm a dinosaur nerd, so they get bonus points just for that alone. But the visuals have so much character to them and while they might not be as overly detailed as some major companies who keep trying to trick you by adding more greebly nonsense their models in an illusion of detail, they have everything they need and convey it well. And the sculpting is getting better with each release. The Casinii are one of the more recent releases for the game and the models are beautiful and it shows how far along Mr. Thorp has come in his sculpting skill. And each faction, even the ones that are all Fubarnii, have distinct visual flare to them that makes them immediately distinguishable from the tabletop. I adore these models, as you may have guessed, and am always excited to see what comes next.

World of Twilight isn't flashy or over the top. It's a good, solid, game that knows what it wants to do and does it well. Is some stuff a little oddly worded? Sure. Do some of the concepts take a bit to get used to? Yeah, but that's only because we've become so accustomed to the same mechanics being rehashed over and over. This game is made with love, packed with buckets full of charm and heart with a healthy dose of brutal, animalistic, violence and it's fun. It's just plain fun, and it's nothing short of an actual crime that this game doesn't get nearly as much coverage as it should. Yeah it may not have the super steady release schedule to keep easy articles flowing, but this is the essence of gaming: someone making something because they actually want to make it, not because their boss tells them they have to make it. This is easily in my top three fantasy skirmish games, and for good reason.

In conclusion, if you want a unique and fun game that isn't full of BS and want to support true, passionate, game design then stop sleeping on World of Twilight. This is what this hobby is all about.

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