The Second World War is a global event that has deeply touched the minds and souls. We find this represented many times in board games. Indeed, many games are released each year on this theme. The vast majority of them propose mechanisms close to Wargames, either with figurines or cardboard elements. Sometimes authors choose this period and decide to think outside the box at the level of mechanisms. This is the case of Clash Of The Ardennes.
First of all, I want to say that the game I had the chance to try is still what we can consider to be a prototype, even if it is already well done. Some things can still change after the Kickstarter. Because yes, this is a future Kickstarter scheduled for September 10.
Clash Of The Ardennes is a game by Elwin Klappe. This is a game based on the battle that took place in the Ardennes. It offers two players to compete for control of the territory. The game is scheduled to go out in stores in 2020. The Kickstarter will offer three different formats. The first is to be able to acquire the game as a deck of cards. For the second and third, during the Kickstarter and only for the quickest of clickers, a classic version and another wooden collector edition will be available. The classic version will be limited to 500 copies, while the Collector at 100 copies. The version we played was a wooden prototype, as you will see in the pictures, which seems to be closer to the classic version.
Clash Of The Ardennes is a game that wants to immerse you in the heart of the famous battle that took place in the Ardennes. Each player embodies one of the two camps: one will take the allies (and more specifically the Americans), while the other will take the Germans. Each player will have the same pieces, each corresponding to divisions of the army on the spot.
The game board is divided into seven rows. Each row is 18 slots long. A player wins the game if he takes three rows. For a row to fall into the hands of an army, the player must have his troops cross the battlefield and one of his divisions must touch the opposite side of the board. But it's not as simple as it seems to be. The fight will be fierce between the two camps.
Like any good war movie, before entering the thick of the battle, we must review the available troops.
There is no war without infantrymen. The soldiers of each army are represented by helmets. They occupy two locations once in play. They are themselves divided according to their rank. Indeed, you will have 6 soldiers and 3 officers. The more helmet on your character, the more the soldier is graded. You also find on the bottom their decoration (not always easy to distinguish especially among Germans).
The infantrymen will be supported by armored units (7 in number). These occupy three locations. Tanks are represented by tanks.
There will also be the possibility of installing mines on the battlefield (5). Mines occupy a single location and have a mine symbol is drawn on it.
But your regular troops will be helped by special divisions specifically dispatched for this battle. Each camp has the same. Special units have a color or symbol that distinguishes them from normal ones.
Your army has a general. This is represented by a pawn of five spaces. You can see a cap and helmets as well as his specific decoration.
You also have at your disposal a special tank. The latter, when it comes into play, will be able to shoot, not only in front of itself but also on the sides. This pawn has arrows to remind you. It occupies three locations like a normal tank.
In order to have effective firepower, your army is also equipped with a mortar. It occupies two locations. It’s ability is marked on it.
Finally, each camp has a spy. Stiletto heels for the American, suit for the Germans, both have a pistol. The spy occupies a location.
You will each have 21 standard and 4 special pieces. This is a totally symmetrical game. At the beginning of the game, both players have the same abilities and the same chances. Now, put on your thinking caps ... uh your weapons.
Each camp starts on its own side of the board. The goal is to bring one of your units to touch the opposite edge. For this, players in turn have four action points. The available actions are very simple.
You can call reinforcements. This is like putting a piece into play. It costs you 1 action point. No matter the size of the unit, it's the same price. The troop must be placed in an unconquered row and in the continuity of your own troops. You never go backward, always forwards. If for any reason there is a space in the back, but you still have troops further along that road, you must place them in front of those. Pay attention to the size of your divisions, to join the battlefield, your company should benefit from enough space to be deployed.
To make room, you can call a troop from the front lines for 2 action points. Attention, it must be a unit installed directly at the front, not between two other pieces. This division is returned to your personal reserve and is available again immediately.
To retreat a troop that is directly in contact with the enemy, in a situation of being, will you cost 3 actions. Yes it's expensive. But hey, to return a troop while it fights is not an innocuous action.
Finally, to save time, launch a lightning attack. It will you cost 2 action points. The lightning attack is simply to take the troop located at the back of a row and bring it in front that row. Being limited in units, this action allows you to delay and try to gain ground without spending too much on resources. But be careful, bring a unit from the back necessarily forms holes. And if you lose your available troops in front of you, you will start that row again.
The actions are pretty clear and everything is quite fluid once they are known. But who says war, battles or clashes. It is true that, for the moment, I have not spoken about it yet. I will not correct the shot.
The attack is a very simple thing in this game. No dice, no cards, no specific abilities. In fact, there is a bit of a “rock-paper-scissors” system. It's not as complicated as that. I reassure you right away, there is no room for randomness and we do not use our hands to do it. In fact, the soldier beats the mine but the mine beats the tank that beats the soldier. If two identical pieces are in contact, then both are destroyed. Exception to the same soldiers rule. As I told you in the troop review, the soldiers are not all identical. If two soldiers of the same ranks meet face to face then yes, they both die. On the other hand, if the two are of different ranks, then the hierarchical man survives and the other dies. When a troop dies, it simply returns to the player's pool and is immediately available again. Thematically this explains the fresh troops from the rear who come into battle.
There is also the case of special pieces that must be seen in detail. Indeed, they are a little special hence their names.
The general functions as a soldier in front of the armor but in front of another soldier it is the highest ranking necessarily. He survives, then.
The special tank acts in the same way as a normal one except that it also touches the infantry located to the left and right of the arrows.
The spy is the most powerful piece of the game. Like any good spy, it has not been unmasked. As a result, it is able to kill any other unit. It can only die by the hands of another spy (except a small exception). This makes it the most crucial piece to play at the right time and try not to get stuck without it.
The exception for the spy is the mortar. The mortar is the most strategic piece to play for it to be really effective. The mortar is activated if a soldier is at least two spaces away. I mean soldiers and not rank. If it is, then the mortar shoots. If on the second space it touches a simple soldier then it destroyed. It then carries on, destroying the pieces which were in front (if there was one of his camp) and that could be a mine or a spy. It's a not-so-easy unit to play but that can save you the day.
The fight is automatic, it does not cost actions. It snaps when a piece is placed in contact with another. But only if this piece is of equal or greater value. The piece destroyed then returns to the players reserve. Pay attention to the placement of your units. Indeed, the fights can become really deadly especially in case you have laid several units of the same type one behind the other. If a piece is destroyed by contact with another of the same value, it does not matter. On the other hand, if a division of superior force destroys a weaker troop, then all those of the same category directly behind are also destroyed. This forces you to pay attention and to vary the shots.
If I put an infantryman against an enemy infantryman both pieces are removed no matter what is behind. But if I put a tank in contact with an enemy infantryman then the soldier dies and the other soldiers placed directly behind him are removed too.
Another case, if I put an infantryman in contact with a tank, then the two pieces remain. This is a situation of blockage.
And blockages, there will be some. It is better to prepare because the game plays a lot on it. Blockages force players to change their strategy or change their way of seeing. These situations are very expensive, especially for those who want to unblock. So, the reflection will be more intense to push the other to make a mistake. The heart of the game will finally end up there. Clash of the Ardennes is a blocking game, an abstract game that is reminiscent of games like Chess. You will soon find yourself in contact and everyone will try to immobilize the other to be more free in their movements on other battlefields. Each line then embarks on a sort of trench warfare (which would have finally corresponded very well to the theme of the First World War). What may be interesting for some, may become frustrating for others.
On some games, we found ourselves launching light attacks, which were countered, then re-encountered, then canceled and then renewed and counterattacked ... These situations are especially true from the moment when the players start to have gained points from roads and that their available units decrease. Sorry ? Oh yes, I did not tell you. When a player seizes a road, all their units remain there until the end of the game. Impossible to recover them. So be careful not to lose your spy early, or spend too many troops just for your first point.
Composant level, it is difficult to give a definitive opinion since it is a first printing. We received what will correspond, in view of the photos, to the classic wooden version. It does not hide anything, playing with such material is very nice. The box is beautiful, the illustrations are directly laser inlaid. Light, the box contains all it takes to play. Everything is in it. We open easily and everything is ready to play. Just remove the pieces from the trenches. The pawns are handled well and everything fits easily and easily removed. The box is easily transportable and the fact that everything fits in offers a chance to play everywhere.
We could still criticize some things that may be improved later.
Already, for the more clumsy, to have small notches or locations within the trenches could be a plus, to prevent the units moving about and remove the fun to remembering where they were.
Then, it is sometimes difficult to pay attention to which road is taken or not. A flag or pawn system to be inserted at the beginning of a road to indicate a players point could be a good idea that would facilitate visibility.
Some might blame the readability of the pieces themselves, but after two games, there are no more worries. You will finally recognize who is who. By cons, for the box version, insert a small clasp on the outside could be a plus, especially for those who take their games with them in their transport. This could prevent premature opening of the box and the release of material in an untimely place.
Finally, having to fold the rule in two to put away the box is a shame. Although this is understandable in view of the fact that everything goes to the millimeter.
At the general graphics level, the game is fairly simple in terms of hardware. The rules, on the contrary, offers illustrations a little like the old American manuals for soldiers. It may be a bit confusing at first but it's pretty good and it works well. The rules are rather well written, even if there are some mistakes (or things forgotten) that will certainly be corrected in the final version.
So hard to talk about the card game version as I do not know at all what it will bring or how it will be played, even if I guess it's the same game. By cons, the wood version is very pleasant. Whether aesthetically or practically, this edition will appeal to fans of this style of game.
Clash of the Ardennes is finally a perfect abstract game for those who like to think and find themselves facing situations of blockage where the only way to win it effectively is to take advantage of an opponent's mistake. I advise you to play with people of the same level as you, at the risk of quickly finding yourself in a situation of imbalance. Not due to the game, but to your way of playing. Clash of the Ardennes is a game without chance. Everything is controllable. Suddenly, from one party to another, there can be no novelty or no surprise. All information is visible and known to all. It is a pure strategy game where everything will be based on the global evaluation in real time of the situation, the laying of the pieces but especially the establishment of long-term action plans. Plans that can sometimes be harmed by expensive blocking, but necessary for the slowdown of the enemy advance.
Easy to play, Clash is not less difficult to master. It is typically the game that will require several plays to begin to make those good decisions. I'm not talking about winning or grabbing lines but doing it the best way. Optimize your costs while taking calculated risks. It is a game that in a simple aspect can finally put off the less patient or those looking for a game that tells a story. Because even if sometimes we can imagine the attacks and counter-attacks of the time, the theme is just an accessory. An accessory that participates in the coating but does not allow for full immersion. I enjoyed playing it but it's not necessarily a game where you come out of a game saying "I had fun." Or in a calculating way (if such a fun can be measured), almost neural.
Clash of the Ardennes is a well-thought-out game that deserves special attention if you like the puzzle genre or blocking abstract game. Each part will put your senses and your capacity for anticipation and reflection to the test. The wood version is a big bonus (pay attention to the delivery date) undeniably. I admit that without this version, I'm not sure that I would have enjoyed it as much. But even if it's not necessarily my style of play, I enjoyed playing and replaying it. Easy to play, explain and carry, for those who like the genre go for it! You will find your pleasure.
Barry's First Impressions :
This is an original idea for an abstract game. The theme carries it in part, as technically it is getting from one side to the other, which is reminiscent of the other abstract game Quoridor. Simple in its idea and and elegant in the mechanisms of simply placing pieces in front of pieces but also having your opponent go head-to-head against you . Tie in the visual aspect of each piece being a different size plus each piece being part of a rock scissors paper system and you have some interesting combinations. Added to that are some unique pieces that can change up the game and immensely.
Although it does fall into the same trappings as other games of this ilk. Which is the stalemate scenario. Weather is a lot of to and fro, while competing for that final road. This is unless you're playing against an inexperienced player. This is a perfectly designed two player abstract game, which will please anyone in terms of its mechanisms. And also in terms of aesthetics, this could be a wonderful item to have on your coffee table.