- Game Title: Stratego
- Release Date: 1947
- Number of Players: 2
- Average Game Time: 45 minutes
- Game Publisher: Hasbro
- Website: http://www.stratego.com
- Game Designer: Jacques Johan Mogendorff
- Expansions/Alternates: Yes
- Available in Stores: Uncommon- available online
Stratego is an older game that has been around for multiple iterations throughout the years. Games like Stratego- strategy games based on one-on-one high level strategy- seem to be much more uncommon nowadays. Most games are meant for more than two players and have a larger scale than squaring off directly with your opponent. These types of games, such as Battleship or even Chess, force players to think critically and outwit their opponent. Stratego matches this idea and also expands on it with a “fog of war” element where you can’t see your opponent’s pieces.
The game ultimately acts as a form of capture the flag; similar to chess, where the goal is to get the king with a piece, the goal in Stratego is to have a piece reach the opponent’s flag. The big trick in the game is that each player places all of their pieces, including the flag, wherever they want on their side of the board. Because of this, coupled with the fact that you can’t see your opponent’s pieces, means that you have no idea where the flag is at the start of the game. In addition, you have a number of “troop” pieces, with strengths of 1-10, that can fight each other and search for the flag. Finally, there are “bomb” tiles that, if a troop tries to attack one, blows up and destroys the piece. Bombs can be defused or avoided, but the placement of bombs becomes a huge factor in how the game is played as well.
This game focuses more than any I know on pre-game setup. How you choose where to put your pieces effects the game almost more than your strategy for the game itself. Whether you put your flag as far away from the enemy troops as possible, try some form of misdirection, place the bombs near or far away from the flag, place your high powered players up front or use your weaker troops as shields, all of these ideas and more effect the game experience. Not only your choices, but your opponent’s choices and figuring out their strategy is crucial to success in this game. This doesn’t mean that the strategy stops when the game starts- memorizing your opponent’s pieces, understanding when sacrifices must be made, and adapting to new scenarios all become crucial as the game goes on. Being able to shift strategies and compensate for losses is one of the hardest things to do in a game, and Stratego takes this idea and runs with it.
There isn’t much about this game I can truly criticize, other than that it is complex enough to not be a “casual” game with friends. Similar to chess, you have to be in a very specific mindset in order to want to play the game. It’s not a game I would pull out for a game night, and I don’t see myself playing it a bunch of times in a short period of time. The game pulls you in when you’re playing, but it isn’t the type of game that jumps off the shelf. Overall if you’re in the mood for a fairly intense, but not too complex, strategy game, this is a great one to have available if you have a friend who wants to play a game and compete with you.
Jack’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
I’m glad you featured the larger (original), 40-piece armies. In a number of the modern re-packaging efforts, they’ve really cheapened the game and significantly reduced the armies in size. As a result, I will never get rid of my “retro” edition of this game. I love it. Been playing since I was a kid. Probably was the first game where I wrote strategies down in the form of gridded index cards plotting out initial positions. This was my “playbook,” and I kept it under lock and key, lest my cheating friends find it and figure out what my arrangement was!
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