Clash of the Ardennes
Designer: Elwin Klapp
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: 2
Playing Time: 30-90 min
Main mechanic / Theme: Grid Movement, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Tile Placement / World War II
NOTE: I received a review copy of this game. All pieces and rules are subject to change.
From the Designer: During one of the toughest battles fought in World War 2: the Battle of the Bulge, you face the difficult task to conquer important streets in the Belgian city of Bastogne.
In Clash of the Ardennes you have control over the Allied or Axis forces and you have to obtain your goal, which is described on your 'Objective card' (drawn at the beginning of the game).
Use all of your (special) units wisely, because you will run out of units very quickly. Place them strategically and tactically on 1 of the 7 streets, always think ahead and try to reach your objective a little bit sooner than your opponent.
Gameplay and mechanics:
Clash of the Ardennes is a 2-player abstract war game. Players have a set of tiles of different types and lengths and are trying to progress in a line from one side of the battlefield to the other along a Street (the line that you cross the battlefield on.) When you meet an opponent on one of those lines, you can either do nothing and block them or battle. Battle is a basic rock-paper-scissors affair with Infantry beating Anti-tank Mines beating Tanks beating Infantry but there are some nuances in the mechanic that keep the game strategic and fun. When you attack all the same units that are in line must be removed + all (special) units that are weaker. For example, some Infantry (corporals and sergeants) are of higher rank than others (privates) and defeat other Infantry of lower rank that they clash with and also remove all lower ranking infantry from the entire row of their opponent. If two of the same units clash both units and ONLY those units are removed from the game. There are also special units like command tanks and spies whose abilities alter the game in one way or another. You also receive Victory cards with special powers each time you complete a Street. At the beginning of the game, each player receives a secret objective that they must complete in order to win the game such as controlling the outer two Streets and any one other Street of your choice or controlling two Streets using only 5 units or less. Once a player has completed their objective, the game ends.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout
The artwork of Clash of the Ardennes really sets the theme of this game well. The mechanics and game pieces of this game could really have been tailored to any theme so it was very important to have artwork that immerses the player into the field of battle and the designers have certainly accomplished this. Vibrant, colorful and realistic, the tanks and infantry pop on the playing surface. Set up and game layout are quick and easy and the rules are easy to understand. The pieces in my review copy were made of wood and gave the game a very tactile feel that was different than any other tile laying game that I have played. Overall, a great presentation.
Despite its simple mechanics and overall ease to learn, Clash of the Ardennes is really a fairly strategic battle of wits. Not knowing exactly what your opponent is trying to achieve for their victory condition makes every move that you make that much more important as you not only try to stop them but also try to meet your personal objective. The powers from the special units make for some great moments in the game but you have to be really careful when deciding when to use them. It’s also a tense moment when you decide to use 3 of your 4 precious action points to take a piece that you really need back from the front of the line. With a finite number of things that you can do on your turn, each action needs to count or your opponent may get the jump on you.
This is a great game that’s easy to learn and play and seems like it will take some time to master. The artwork and components are great and the short playtime means that it will likely be one of those games that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and gets to the table often. I often am only able to play two-player games so this fits perfectly into my normal play space. I would highly recommend Clash of the Ardennes to people who enjoy other higher conflict two-player games such as Santorini, 7 Wonders Duel or 7 Ronin.
Stefan Yates is a professional in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Kansas State University. Finding ways to work gaming into work, he serves on the university’s Alternate Reality Game Committee and is a co-Faculty Advisor for the Board Game Club. He is also a PhD student whose field of research is Gamification in Student Programming. He enjoys playing (and mostly losing) almost any type of game and likes to work in multiple game sessions per week whenever possible. An avid solo gamer with an additional interest in tabletop miniatures games, the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic were not particularly concerning as there was always painting to do and terrain to build. Stefan is also a book and movie collector and a huge football fan (go CHIEFS!)