Designer Elwin Klappe first introduced a version of Clash of the Ardennes back in 2019. His original design was a compact game with laser cut wooden blocks which used the box as the battlefield. There was also a card version. Clash of the Ardennes has returned: it still uses wooden pieces but it's now played across a larger grid and the wooden pieces are all colour printed, which adds hugely to the game's table appeal.
Set during the Second World War in the Battle of the Bulge, Clash of the Ardennes is essentially an abstract tactical war game owing more, perhaps, to the classic Stratego/L'Attaque (Jumbo Games/Gibsons) than to WWII simulation games. Players each have identical units: tanks, infantry, anti-tank mines, and these follow a rock/paper/scissors hierarchy: tanks beat infantry; infantry dismantle mines; mines beat tanks. In addition tho' there is a hierarchy of infantry ranks (sergeant/corporal/private). There are also special units, including a general and a spy. These have special abilities but each side can only have one special unit on the battlefield at any time; so if my general is in play, I cannot play my spy unless I first retreat my general.
The battleground is made up of seven streets and to win you need to control (ie: get a unit to your opponent's edge) in three streets. Objective cards also give players a secret win condition. When you control a street, all the units you have in that street are locked into position, so you can't retreat any of them: if you've used a special unit to secure the street then you won't be able to play any more special units for the rest of the game. By way of compensation, winning a street earns you a victory card which gives you a rules twist in your favour...
On your turn, you have 4 action points to spend. You can spend them in as many or few streets as you choose. It costs 1 action point to place a unit out from your supply or 2 points to take the rear unit from a street and place it at the front of that street. You can retreat a leading unit (take it back to your supply) but that too costs two action points; it costs three points if that unit is 'blocked' (has a stronger enemy unit immediately in front of it).
It's when opposing units reach each other that the rock/paper/scissors combat is resolved, with identical units mutually eliminating each other. Attacking doesn't cost an action point but it is voluntary - you can choose not to attack a weaker unit in your path. This can make tactical sense if you've exhausted the actions on your turn so won't be able to capitalise on removing the enemy unit.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Clash of the Ardennes ahead of its launch on Kickstarter. Click here to check out the campaign for yourself. We've really enjoyed our head-to-head tussles playing this game so we're eager to see how it develops further over the course of the KS campaign. Aside from the tactical jockeying for position of the gameplay, we love the colourful and satisfyingly tactile wooden pieces; cardboard tiles could have been functionally identical but wouldn't have felt anything like as good.