I’ve been following the development of Clash of the Ardennes for almost a year and a half now. I discovered it through a sponsored ad while scrolling on Instagram. The WWII themed artwork got me interested to see more. After reading a bit about it, I found out that it was a board game about the Battle of the Bulge that was still under development. and since WWII is something I’m usually interested in, I ended up giving its Instagram page a follow to stay updated. Also, I subscribed to the newsletter for a print and play version of the game that I sadly never tried.
A couple months ago, I received an email telling me that Clash of the Ardennes is coming to Kickstarter. I’m happy to be one of the reviewers who got the chance to try it before launch!
Clash of the Ardennes is a tile-laying board game for two players. It packs more strategy than you would expect at first sight. Players take turns placing units on the battlefield, the city of Bastogne, trying to conquer its streets and achieve their objective. On their turn, they have 4 action points available in order to add units to the streets, advance units from the back to the front line of the battlefield or retreat them if they consider it too dangerous to advance or hold the lines.
Each player represents one of the big alliances of the Second World War: the Axis and the Allies. Both of them have a secret objective that they must fulfill in order to win the game. Objectives require the conquest of certain streets in the city (e.g. the 2 outer streets and a street of choice). Sometimes, a player may fail to complete his objective due to the enemy conquering streets. He can still win by conquering 3 streets of his choice.
As the army commander, you have to act clever and take advantage of any opportunity you have in order to prevent your opponent from completing his objective and work on achieving yours. I love the secret objectives for each player! They add a new level of adrenaline, as you never know how close your enemy is to achieving his goal. They reminded me of the Betrayal series (one of my favorite games series), where the Traitor and the party have hidden winning conditions, although the games in that series have totally different gameplay.
You solve the conflicts in a rock-paper-scissors fashion: soldier destroy mines, mines explode tanks, tanks kill soldiers. There are special rules for conflicts between units of the same type, also. I liked designer’s decision to keep conflicts at this simple state, as there are not many rules to keep in mind and this allows for faster gameplay. However, you still have to plan your actions well if you do not want your army to be crushed.
My thoughts about Clash of the Ardennes
This game satisfied my need for a 2 players war game to the fullest! There’s just enough strategy involved to keep you focused on the game while not being a brain burner. The special units allow for some interesting situations, although you can only have one special unit on the battlefield at any time. My favorite one is the Command Tank, which can wipe out 3 streets at the same time! It’s very helpful if your opponent has his soldiers aligned on the battlefront. The Victory cards gained by conquering streets can also help you a lot, as they can provide you with special abilities for some of your units!
I also liked the option of holding the line and not attacking the enemy even if you’d win the fight. I often decided to do so because it forced my opponent to either retreat some of his units (costing him a lot of action points) or even give up on that street for a while and advance on a different one. This allowed for some mind games on my opponent. What will I do on my next turn? Will I advance on the same street? Will I pivot to a different street to get in an even better position against him? He’ll never know!
My main problems with Clash of the Ardennes are related to the components. I didn’t expect the game to take so much space when playing it. The battlefield is 60x80cm and as much as I’d like to think that my table is big enough to fit most games, this one was just too big for it. Because of these dimensions, it is quite hard to see what units your opponent placed when they invaded a new street. I’m also not a big fan of the glossy finish on the box. I’d rather have linen finish on it, but this is just a matter of preference. However, my copy is just a prototype version, so these may be different in the final game.
I really like the artwork, it is pleasant to look at and it fits the theme really well. The gameplay and the theme tie together greatly. Your actions closely resemble orders given by an army commander on the battlefront. The wooden components have a satisfying tactile feeling, different from what most of us are used with in our games (where most components are made of cardboard).
Clash of the Ardennes is a great tile-laying game for two players that involves strategical thinking, tactical decisions and cut-throat conflicts in a WWII environment! A good game for those that love the war theme and are looking for a game that plays well with only two players.
For the next 30 days, Clash of the Ardennes will be going through a Kickstarter campaign with many stretch goals and Kickstarter exclusives! Go check it out if you are interested to find out more about it and maybe get yourself a copy!
Designer: Elwin Klappe
Publisher: Self published
Time: 45 min
Times played: 6
Full disclosure: A prototype copy of Clash of the Ardennes was provided by the game designer.
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