Stratego is a strategy board game featuring a 10 × 10 square board and two players with 40 pieces each. Pieces represent individual officers and soldiers in an army. The objective of the game is to find and capture the opponent's Flag.
Typically, one player uses red pieces, and the other uses blue pieces. Pieces are colored on both sides, so players can easily distinguish between their own and their opponent's. Ranks are printed on one side only and placed so that players cannot identify specific opponent's pieces. Each player moves one piece per turn. If a piece is moved onto a square occupied by an opposing piece, their identities are revealed, the weaker piece is removed from the board, and the stronger piece is moved into the place formerly occupied by the weaker piece. If the engaging pieces are of equal rank, they are both removed. Pieces may not move onto a square already occupied by another piece without attacking.
Two zones in the middle of the board, each 2 × 2, cannot be entered by either player's pieces at any time. They are shown as lakes on the battlefield and serve as choke points to make frontal assaults less direct.
Players may arrange their 40 pieces in any configuration on a designated 4 ×10 section of the playing board. Such pre-play distinguishes the fundamental strategy of particular players, and influences the outcome of the game.
For most pieces, rank alone determines the outcome, but there are special pieces. The most numerous special piece is the Bomb, which only Miners can defuse and which immediately eliminates any other piece that strikes it, but cannot move. Each team also has one Spy, which only wins when it attacks the highest-ranked piece (the Marshal). The Spy loses if it is attacked by any piece, including the Marshal and except for the opposing Spy, in which case both are removed.
From highest rank to lowest the pieces are:
|Rank #||Piece||Number available||Special Abilities|
|10 or 1||Marshal||1|
|9 or 2||General||1|
|8 or 3||Colonel||2|
|7 or 4||Major||3|
|6 or 5||Captain||4||Can move diagonally|
|5 or 6||Lieutenant||4|
|4 or 7||Sergeant||4|
|3 or 8||Miner||5||Can defuse bombs|
|2 or 9||Scout||8||Can move any distance in a straight line|
|S||Spy||1||Can defeat the Marshal|
|B||Bomb||6||Destroys any piece except Miner, cannot move|
|F||Flag||1||Wins/loses the game when captured, cannot move|
In the new Hasbro version:
|Rank #||Piece||Number available||Special Abilities|
|10||Dragon||1||Can fly in a straight or diagonal line over occupied squares|
|9||Mage||1||Can force a piece up to 2 squares away to reveal|
|8||Knight||3||Can move 2 spaces in a straight line by revealing itself|
|7||Beast Rider||4||Can move 2 spaces in a straight line by revealing itself|
|6||Sorceress||2||Can Hypnotize a piece to join you if its a lower level and it's less then 3 squares away|
|5||Lava beast(red)/Yeti(blue)||4||Can attack all adjacent and diagonal squares|
|4||Elf||4||Can attack something up to three squares away without risk|
|3||Dwarf||5||Can take out traps|
|2||(Wolf)Scout||8||Can move any distance in a straight line|
|S||Slayer||1||Can defeat the Dragon|
|T||Trap||6||Destroys any piece except Dwarf, cannot move|
|F||Flag||1||Wins/loses the game when captured, cannot move|
There is one Flag piece and six Bombs. The Flag and Bombs are the only pieces that cannot attack another piece due to being unable to move. The Bombs remain on the board even when hit unless by a Miner.
All movable pieces, with the exception of the Scout, may move only one step to any adjacent tile vertically or horizontally. The Scout may move any number of steps vertically or horizontally in a straight line (such as the rook in chess). In older versions of the game the Scout could only attack pieces if it began its turn adjacent to them. In more recent versions of the game the Scout can move several squares, ending with attacking an enemy piece. No piece can move diagonally, or back and forth between the same two tiles for more than three consecutive turns.
Some versions (primarily newer versions released since 2000) have higher ranks with higher numbers, while others (versions prior to 2000, as well as the Nostalgia version released in 2002) have higher ranks with lower numbers.
Overall strategy in Stratego involves:
- placing one's pieces initially so as to protect the Flag, while possibly misleading the opponent as to where it is
- making strong pieces available for attack
- identifying patterns in the enemy's movement during game play that give clues as to the distribution of his or her forces
- starting with stronger pieces and/or Bombs farther away from the Flag (although this is risky), so as to trick one's opponent into attacking the wrong side of the board
Placing the Spy too far forward, for example, makes it more likely to be captured early on, but placing it too far back may make it inaccessible when the enemy Marshal is identified. Likewise, Miners are weak, but their ability to defuse Bombs may be needed early (although some players prefer to leave Bombs "unexploded" as long as possible, particularly if they hamper an opponent's movements). The placement of "reserve troops" in the rearmost row and deployment of Scouts, which can move in an unimpeded straight line, is also a strategic point.
During game play, players must identify Bombs without sacrificing too many troops, determine the probable location of the enemy Flag, and form an attack plan that takes into account the likely ranks of the troops and exact location of the Bombs that usually surround the Flag.
Since one of the win criteria is to capture the Flag, its placement is vital. It is commonly placed on the back row surrounded by two or three Bombs for protection. Some players will use this generalisation to their advantage and place the Flag somewhere unprotected, for example the Shoreline Bluff (also called "the Lakeside Bluff"), i.e. placing the Flag directly adjacent to one of the lakes where the opponent may not think to look for it.
Inexperienced players may accidentally alert an opponent to the location of their Flag by calling too much attention to it when they initially position their pieces on the board. This is often done by simply placing their Flag down first and then constructing their defenses around it. One counter measure for this is to place all the pieces on the board randomly and then rearrange them into the desired setup. This tactic became obsolete when some newer versions came supplied with a cardboard privacy screen.
Some common bluffs include:
- A cluster of Bombs set by itself may deceive one's opponent into thinking that the Flag is there when, in fact, it is on the other side of the board.
- Charging with a small unit, e.g. a miner, towards a known medium sized unit, e.g. a major, with the view to get past and attack a bomb.
- If the opponent's Marshal wins its first battle (and is thus revealed), and a player immediately moves a piece near the back row on the other side, the opponent will probably assume that this piece is the Spy when, in fact, the Spy may be on the other side of the board (and already close to the Marshal). This is a common tactic as it may cause the Marshal to move next to the Spy, thereby allowing the spy to attack first.
- One could threaten a known Colonel with an unrevealed Sergeant to convince the opponent to retreat.
- Touching a bomb or the flag as if thinking about moving it, possibly fooling your opponent into thinking that it is a movable piece.
Scouts are very useful towards the end of the game, once the board is more clear. They can be used to identify bombs on the back row, reveal bluffs or even capture the flag. They are most effective when they are moved one space at a time until necessary, as the moment they move multiple spaces, they are identified as a scout. Since they can move along a whole line, they are also effective for catching a spy daring to take a step into one's territory, even when they are standing on the other side of the board.
In most games, it is advisable to have the Spy shadow a General or a Colonel. These pieces are normally vulnerable to attack by the opposing Marshal. Keeping a General or Colonel in the same vicinity as the spy allows an effective retreat to where the opponent's Marshal can be ambushed by the Spy.
Spy bluffs are also effective. For example, using a Sergeant to shadow a Colonel might confuse an opponent, and he may be reluctant to have his Marshal attack the Colonel.
Sophisticated players might identify opposing Bombs, but leave them in place, interfering with the enemy's movement. To do this, it is vital to memorize the location of all the opponent's Bombs as they are identified. By keeping the Miners unmoved in their own territory during the early game, a player can create the Bomb bluff, in which the opposing player may mistake those unmoved Miners for Bombs. Also, miners are better used if they are put in the last 2 rows.
Captain strategies Edit
It is usually wise to place captains diagonally from scouts, so if a piece attacks the scout, but is less powerful than the captain, you can immediately defeat that piece, whereas if the piece that attacks the scout is more powerful than the captain, you can make an easy retreat. Placing captains behind the lakes may also be a wise tactic, as most other pieces placed there would require other pieces to move out of the way first, whereas captains can easily surprise attack opponents from behind them.
One of the most important concepts of Stratego is the incomplete knowledge and misdirection, so the manual recommends taking a piece with one that is not much stronger than it, for example take a Captain with a Major. In the same manner, one strategy is to protect with an "evens and odds" system, where a piece is protected by one two levels stronger than it, an odd piece protecting another odd piece, for example protecting the Captain with a Colonel.
Enforcing an advantageEdit
If a player is lucky enough to have gained an advantage over their opponent, it is worth enforcing that advantage, by trading equal pieces of higher strength. For example, attacking a Major with another Major is much more of a loss for the opponent if he doesn't have any Colonels, Generals or Marshals remaining on the board.
Attacking unknown piecesEdit
A risky strategy, which might be necessary when losing, is to attack unknown, unmoved pieces with a strong piece. This strategy relies on odds, for example if a player attacks an unknown, unmoved piece with a General, it would lose to any of the 6 Bombs, the Marshal or the other General. Mathematically, the odds are 7 in 40, but realistically these can be improved by not attacking pieces likely to be Bombs, or by keeping track of the pieces already identified.
- Official Modern Version
- Redesigned pieces and game art. The pieces now use stickers attached to new "castle-like" plastic pieces. The stickers must be applied by the player after purchase, though the box does not mention any assembly being required. Ranking order is reversed to adopt European play style (higher numbers equals higher rank).
- Nostalgia Game Series Edition
- Traditional stamped plastic pieces, although the metallic paint is dull and less reflective than some older versions, and the pieces are not engraved as some previous editions were. Wooden box, traditional board and game art.
- Library Edition
- Hasbro's Library Series puts what appears to be the classic Stratego of the Nostalgia Edition into a compact, book-like design. The box approximates the size of a book and is made to fit in a bookcase in one's library. In this version, the scout may not move and strike in the same turn.
- Stratego Onyx
- Stratego Onyx is sold exclusively by Barnes & Noble. It includes foil stamped wooden game pieces and a raised gameboard with a decorative wooden frame.
- Franklin Mint Civil War Collector's Edition
- The Franklin Mint created a luxury version of Stratego with a Civil War theme and gold and silver plated pieces. Due to a last-minute licensing problem, the set was never officially released and offered for sale. The only remaining copies are those sent to the company's retail stores for display.
- Ultimate Stratego
- No longer in production, this version can still be found at some online stores and specialty gaming stores. This version is a variant of traditional Stratego and can accommodate up to 4 players simultaneously. The Ultimate Stratego board game contained four different Stratego versions: "Ultimate Lightning", "Alliance Campaign", "Alliance Lightning" and "Ultimate Campaign".
- Stratego CD-ROM
- No longer in production, this version can still be found in many online stores. Produced by Hasbro Interactive this game combined Classic and Ultimate Stratego to give a choice of five different versions.
These variants are produced by the company with pop culture themed pieces.
- The Lord of the Rings
- Star Wars
- Chronicles of Narnia
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Marvel Comics (2007)
- Transformers (2007)
- Sharpe's Assault
- Duel Masters
- Classic Stratego
- Competitions in the original game include the "Classic Stratego World Championships", the "Classic Stratego Olympiad" and several National Championships from various different countries.
- Ultimate Lightning Stratego
- Competitions in this version include the "Ultimate Lightning World Championships" and the "Ultimate Lightning European Championships".
- Duel Stratego
- Competitions in this version now include the "Stratego Duel World Championships," which were held for the first time in August 2009 (Sheffield,England).
- Stratego Barrage:
to force decisions in knock-out stages in tournaments, in 1992 Stratego Barrage was developed by Marc Perriëns and Roel Eefting. In this "Quick-Stratego" a setup can be made in one minute and played in 5 minutes. The eight pieces with which Barrage is played are the Flag, the Marshall, the General, 1 Bomb, 1 Miner, 2 Scouts and the Spy. Since 1992 Dutch Championships and since 2000 World Championships in Barrage have been organised. Dutch Champion 2008 is Roel Eefting, World Champion is Dennis Baas.
The origins of Stratego can be traced back to traditional Chinese board game "Jungle" also known as "Game of the Fighting Animals" (Dou Shou Qi) or "Animal Chess". The game Jungle also has pieces (but of animals rather than soldiers) with different ranks and pieces with higher rank capture the pieces with lower rank. The board, with two lakes in the middle, is also remarkably similar to that in Stratego. The major differences between the two games is that in Jungle, the pieces are not hidden from the opponent, and the initial setup is fixed. The roots of the game are similar to Mdm. Hermance Edan's patented invention of "L Attaque" in 1908 in France and Mr. Mogendorff may have drawn his game from this original, but there are some differences. As to the first American appearance, this came from Milton Bradley, who acquired the rights to distribute the game in America. In 1961 they issued a set with numbers on wooden tiles, but a true First appearance was distinguished by the fact that the wooden tiles had a design on the back that looked like vines covering a castle wall. A modern, more elaborate, Chinese game known as Land Battle Chess (Te Zhi Lu Zhan Qi) or Army Chess (Lu Zhan Jun Qi) is a descendant of Jungle, and a cousin of Stratego – the initial setup is not fixed, one's opponent's pieces are hidden, and the basic gameplay is similar (differences include "missile" pieces and a Chinese Chess style board layout with railroads and defensive "camps"; a third player is also typically used as a neutral referee to decide battles between pieces without revealing their identities). An expanded version of the Land Battle Chess game also exists – this adds naval and aircraft pieces and is known as Sea-Land-Air Battle Chess (Hai Lu Kong Zhan Qi).
In its present form Stratego appeared in Europe before World War I as a game called L'attaque. Thierry Depaulis writes on "Ed's Stratego Site":
"It was in fact designed by a lady, Mademoiselle Hermance Edan, who filed a patent for a 'jeu de bataille avec pièces mobiles sur damier' (a battle game with mobile pieces on a gameboard) on 11-26-1908. The patent was released by the French Patent Office in 1909 (patent #396.795 ). Hermance Edan had given no name to her game but a French manufacturer named "Au Jeu Retrouvé" was selling the game as L'Attaque as early as 1910... "
Depaulis further notes that the 1910 version divided the armies into red and blue colors. The rules of L'attaque were basically the same as the game we know as Stratego. It featured standing cardboard rectangular pieces, color printed with soldiers who wore contemporary (to 1900) uniforms, not Napoleonic uniforms.
The modern game, with its Napoleonic imagery, was originally manufactured in the Netherlands by Jumbo, and was licensed by the Milton Bradley Company for American distribution, and first introduced in the United States in 1961 (although it was trademarked in 1960). The Jumbo Company continues to release European editions, including a three- and four-player version, and a new Cannon piece (which jumps two squares to capture any piece, but loses to any attack against it). It also included some alternate rules such as Barrage (a quicker two-player game with fewer pieces) and Reserves (reinforcements in the three- and four-player games). The four-player version appeared in America in the 1990s.
Other themed variants appeared first in North America: a Star Wars version, a The Lord of the Rings variant, and a "Legends" variant with fantasy pieces arguably inspired by Magic: The Gathering. The Legends variant added more rules and complexity, giving the players choices of pieces with special attributes, collectible "armies" from more than a hundred individual pieces offered in six sets, and varied boards with terrain features.
Pieces were originally made of printed cardboard. After World War II, painted wood pieces became standard, but starting in the late 1960s all versions had plastic pieces. The change from wood to plastic was made for economical reasons, as was the case with many products during that period, but with Stratego the change actually was for the better – the plastic pieces were much less likely to tip over. Unlike the wooden pieces, the plastic pieces were designed with a small base. The wooden pieces had none, often resulting in pieces tipping over. This, of course, was disastrous for that player, since it often immediately revealed the piece's rank. European versions introduced cylindrical castle-shaped pieces that proved to be popular. American variants later introduced new rectangular pieces with a more stable base and colorful stickers, not images directly imprinted on the plastic.
The game is particularly popular in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, where regular national and world championships are organized. The international Stratego scene has, in recent years, been dominated by players from the Netherlands.
European versions of the game show the Marshal rank with the numerically-highest number (10), while American versions give the Marshal the lowest number (1) to show the highest value (i.e. it is the #1 or most powerful tile). Recent American versions of the game that adopted the European system caused considerable complaint among American players who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. This may have been a factor in the release of a Nostalgic edition, in a wooden box, reproducing the Classic edition of the early 1970s.
Electronic Stratego was introduced by Milton Bradley in 1982. It has features that make many aspects of the game strikingly different from those of classic Stratego. Each type of playing piece in Electronic Stratego has a unique series of bumps on its bottom that are read by the game's battery-operated touch-sensitive "board". When attacking another piece a player hits his Strike button, presses his own piece and then the piece he is targeting: the game either rewards a successful attack or punishes a failed strike with an appropriate bit of music. In this way the players never know for certain the rank of the piece that wins the attack, only whether the attack wins, fails, or ties. Instead of choosing to move a piece, a player can opt to "probe" an opposing piece by hitting the Probe button and pressing down on the enemy piece: the game then beeps out a rough approximation of the strength of that piece. There are no bomb pieces: bombs are set using pegs placed on a touch-sensitive "peg board" that is closed from view prior to the start of the game. Hence, it is possible for a player to have his own piece occupying a square with a bomb on it. If an opposing piece lands on the seemingly-empty square, the game plays the sound of an explosion and that piece is removed from play. As in classic Stratego, only a Miner can remove a bomb from play. A player who successfully captures the opposing Flag is rewarded with a triumphant bit of music from the 1812 Overture.