Stratego Written Board Game Review

Stratego is a two player competitive war simulation game that draws inspiration from Chess. The origins of the game can be traced back to a Chinese game called Jungle. Later it took the form of L’attaque as a pre World War I game that saw a red team taking on a blue team. The Napoleonic version named ‘Stratego’ that we have today was printed in the Netherlands by Jumbo around the time of the second World War. It found its way to the United States in the early 1960’s and was licensed by Milton Bradley.

Stratego board game review by gameapalooza australiaStratego.. a classic. Is it in your collection?

Stratego has been a popular game throughout its history with Germany, Belgium, United States, and Netherlands providing a strong base for the game, as well as hosting thriving competitive play communities. The game has seen multiple revisions and updates with new rules and pieces released regularly, but the traditional format always proving popular.

Modern versions of the game are almost unchanged from the early designs and still utilise a board with a 10 x 10 grid on it. Each player has 40 units to control. These used to be cardboard pieces, then wood post World Ward II, but today they are nicely produced plastic pieces. Units all have different strengths and are capable of attacking units with ranks equal to or lower than their own.

One of the pieces each player has is a flag that does not move. The objective of the game is to capture the flag by attacking it with any piece. Next each player has a number of bombs, these too do not move but when attacked will destroy any piece except the miner, which is the only piece on the board that can remove bombs. The Spy is the lowest ranked character with a ranking of 1 and the only piece she can attack and win is against the rank 10 Marshal, the highest ranked piece on the board. With pieces for each other level up to ten this becomes a large scale rock-paper-scissors mechanic. The best part is that you face the character side towards you meaning the game is played with hidden information where the strength of your character is only revealed when attacked. You then have to remember where your opponent has placed their pieces as you play.

The game is symmetrical which requires you as a player to out strategise your opponent knowing that they have the same capabilities as you and the same weakness. For those doing the maths the game has significantly more move options than chess and far more powers and capabilities. It is most likely the game will finish before you even get the chance to move all your pieces. However, one of the more crucial parts of the game is the set up. While set up may take a little longer than most games this is because you are allowed to choose where pieces go. This hidden information set up offsets the symmetry of the game with an asymmetrical piece placement. This is significant as it means that there is no way of guaranteeing an optimal opening play, or even predicting what the state of play will be like until the game is well under way. This not only adds risk and complexity to the game, but provides meaningful access for new players when taking on experts as both players have no information as to the state of the board when the game begins. Pieces cannot jump each other so placing a Marshal in the back row means having to move 3 rows of pieces out of the way before you can access the Marshall, this may not suit the overall strategy of the game. Set up is vital to a successful campaign.

Stratego board game review full written board game reviewStratego comes with various themes.

What I have described here is purely the basic game rules. There is actually a variety of rules and set ups that create for very different game experiences. We tried a much simpler 10 piece game which actually requires even more thoughtful set up and game play.

Stratego is a classic game that has survived the decades I believe in part because it offers so much more than chess can. Even though there are more possible moves, the asymmetrical set up and hidden information provides advantage to any player. Though more experienced players will still clearly have superior gameplay, there remains the possibility for new players to put-up a good fight. Games are not determined on the opening few moves because opening moves can have an infinite number of possibilities. Stratego is a classic game that I am pleased to have in my collection and will go straight into my top ten two player games. It is fun and challenging with a scale and some that will never see the game become dull and predictable.