The game setting follows on from that of GDW’s military role-playing game Twilight: 2000, in which a worldwide conventional war with limited nuclear exchanges at the end of the 20th century nearly brought about the end of civilization. In the intervening three centuries, mankind has rebuilt and returned to space. A Space Elevator orbital interface has been constructed, connecting the city of Libreville, Gabon to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Also, practical means of faster-than-light (FTL) travel have been discovered, leading to the exploration and colonization of planets orbiting nearby stars. The post-Westphalian nation-state remains dominant, and most space colonies are considered the territories of various nations back on Earth. This fin de siècle society is analogous to the European colonial era of the 18th and 19th century.

The dominant power, both on Earth and in space, is the Third French Empire, which escaped the nuclear war relatively unscathed by abandoning its NATO allies at the start of the war, giving it a head-start in the technology race. Competing powers include the United Kingdom, Manchuria, Germany, and an alliance of Australia and the reduced United States of America, all of which control certain extrasolar planets themselves. There are three major lanes through known space, called Arms, named after the nations which dominate them (the French Arm, The American Arm and the Chinese Arm). Lesser routes leading off the arms are called “Fingers”.

It is still early in mankind’s expansion into space, and exploration has reached little beyond 40 light years from Earth. As of the time period of the game, each of the three Arms is saddled with a particular difficulty. The French Arm is the route along which the alien Kafer are pushing an aggressive invasion into Human space. The Chinese Arm is beset by an insurgent terrorist faction. The American Arm has reached a dead end, further expansion along it impossible under available technology.

Mankind has met with several alien species, all of which are decidedly strange and non-human, from the genetically-engineered Pentapods to the vicious Kafers (The game writers coined this name based on the German word Käfer, meaning “beetle”, not on the Afrikaans ethnic slur “kaffir”.) The Kafers are the most humanoid of the alien species. In the year 2301, the Kafer start an invasion of human space that will be costly to both attackers and defenders.

The Kafer is coming!