by Tom Harrod - @buryboardgames
WBG Score: 8/10
Player Count: 2 players
Published by: Elwin Klappe
Designed by: Elwin Klappe
Clash of the Ardennes is the quintessential game of cat and mouse, occurring within a haunting, snow-capped, Belgian forest. You’ll play as a relentless general, staring steely-eyed at your opponent across the table. Can you outwit each other in accomplishing your secret Objective?
This is a two-player abstract strategy game, set on the backdrop of the Battle of the Bulge. One of you plays as the Axis, and the other, the Allies. You both have an army of troops at your disposal of even, identical weight. There’s no board as such, but rather a ‘jigsaw’ frame, depicting the Ardennes region of Belgium. It’s a woodland terrain, and in December 1944 it sat choked under a deluge of snow. Oh, and talking of wood: every tile in Clash of the Ardennes is wooden, not cardboard!
Each payer takes a secret Objective Card. These goals tend to involve capturing and dominating ‘Streets’ within the frame. It could be a specific Street, or a quantity of Streets among the seven available. These are not literal streets; the term means getting your troops to reach your opponent’s side of the frame. But this isn’t a simple stroll through the woods. Your opponent isn’t going to let you rock up to their front door. They’ll place troops of their own to block you. And when your troops square off against each other, nose-to-nose, that’s when a Clash occurs…
The Beating Heart Of Clash
The heartbeat of Clash of the Ardennes is the tile placement of your wooden units. They come in a variety of ranks and types. As a result, some are larger than others. The biggest – the General – is the same length as five of the smallest – an Anti-Tank Mine – lined up one after another.
On your turn you spend four action points to deploy your troops within the seven Streets inside the frame. These include:
• Place any of your units in any street – 1AP (action point)
• Take any rear unit and place it to the front of the street from which you removed it – 2APs
• Retreat a leading unit from a street; return it to your supply – 2APs
• Retreat a leading unit from a street where you’re blocked; return it to your supply – 3APs
When you place a unit, you slot the tile in any Street of your choice. It advances from your side of the frame. From a theme-meeting-mechanisms point of view, it’s advancing/encroaching ever-closer to the enemy. Tiles cannot overlap. This means that they cannot overhang beyond the frame’s boundary, nor can they sit on top of an opponent.
Straight away, this provides something of an abstract puzzle. The quantities of player troops are public knowledge. It costs the same amount of APs to place a unit, regardless of size. You’ve only got a limited supply of them, though. Your smallest troop tile is the aforementioned Anti-Tank Mine. Considering five of these make up the largest troop tile – the General – I’ll refer to this tile as 1/5. (Let’s call The General 5/5, but more about him, later.) Your most common tiles are Infantry, which are 2/5 long. You’ve also got a bunch of tanks, which are 3/5.