Rifles in the Ardennes is a fast-playing, streamlined solitaire wargame that brings a solid "quick fix" strategy experience to the Battle of the Bulge.
Overall, the quality of the design is good. You choose a scenario and are given points to allot to build your team. You then advance across a series of zones as the AI drives challenges your way until you are either wiped out, the time runs out, or you complete your mission.
The zone-based layout trades positional strategy for a more abstract operational strategy. If you absolutely need hexes in your favorite wargames for your counters to move on, you might be disappointed, but for a solitaire experience, this greatly streamlines the analysis you have to do to run the enemy, and still models interesting map features like terrain, cover, and line of sight.
The game comes with several scenarios, and for each scenario, you can choose which army you run (Americans, Germans, or, oddly, Russians) and which army you face. Each army type has different characteristics, adding replay value along this vector, but it also means that the specific scenarios don't feel quite as tied to history, since they don't attempt to render specific engagements. From a storytelling and quick strategy standpoint, though, the game delivers, and if you're interested in modeling a particular event, you can always just pick the scenario and army loadout that most closely resembles what you have in mind.
One interesting twist is an event chit-pull system that assigns randomized events to the zones that trigger as you enter them. Each scenario defines different scenarios, and since each one will have different events in different orders, it elegantly drives variation into the experience with very little hassle.
For your part, you roll dice to determine how many action points you have in a turn. This can potentially leave you with no actions, with a particularly bad roll of the dice, but more likely, you'll have enough action points to do something interesting each turn. When you roll your dice, 1's and 2's yield no action points, everything else yields one. Sixes yield "bonus" action points which can be used as regular action points, or can be used to trigger special effects for your squad members like performing recon, which sets you up for benefits in later turns. This does make the game fairly luck-based, but it didn't feel too "swingy" since the rolls tend to even out over the span of the game; it just means your action points tend to vary by plus or minus 1 on a turn by turn basis.
Rounding out all this is a campaign mode that allows you to either advance your squad in capability, or suffer attrition over time from failure to complete missions. (I haven't played through the campaign mode, so I can't comment on how it plays out, but the structure of it seemed reasonable.)
Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The abstract zones are not presented as terrain, which seems like a missed opportunity, although the malleable nature of the zones might have precluded doing that effectively. The army loadout cards are a little bland in presentation, but the scenario, rules are presented in a nice format. The unit counters I found to be particularly attractive. I noticed some typos in the rules, but it was clearly and approachably presented for the most part. And the one question I had about the rules was very promptly answered by the publisher within hours, so it appears that the game has strong publisher support from Tiny Battle.
This compact little wargame has a good amount to offer for the modest price tag. With a quick setup and play time, it's an engaging little diversion that's worth a look, especially for new wargame players and people looking for a quicker or more casual wargaming experience.