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Stratego - Dastardly Review #007

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

Stratego is the classic board game of warfare to capture a flag. We wore out several boards playing Stratego as kids.


Stratego’s roots go clear back to France in 1908 when Mademoiselle Hermance Edan filed a patent for a “battle game with mobile pieces on a gameboard” which eventually was released as L’Attaque in 1910. The rules were the same as modern day Stratego although her board was 9x10 and had 36 player pieces per side instead of Stratego’s 10x10 board and 40 pieces. Stratego was patented by a dutchman in the 1940’s and came to the United States in 1961.


Stratego is often compared to chess. That comparison always irks me! It is only valid because each piece has a defined movement and both play on a grid style board. And that is where the similarities end!


Stratego’s pieces are rectangular standups shaped like a castle wall with crenelated top edges and the piece’s value is indicated by an image and number that is only visible from it’s player’s side of the board. So the value of your pieces aren’t initially known to your opponent. Also the starting position of each piece is chosen by the player instead of being predefined. And two ponds restrict movement in the middle of the board which introduces terrain effects to gamers. Oh...let’s not forget the bombs which blow up any piece except a Miner which is unlucky enough to attack the bomb. Boom!


The varied setup means that no two games are the same. Setup is where the strategy starts. Maybe use a fixed defense with your flag completely protected by bombs. Or a mobile strategy where the bombs are a decoy and your flag is protected by top pieces. Or a blended approach.

Game play is simple. All pieces move one space except the Scout which can move unlimited and the Flag and Bombs which can’t move. Each piece has a value. When in battle the piece with the lower value wins. The losing piece is removed from the board. In the case of a tie both pieces are removed. The Spy loses to any piece except the Marshal. Any piece that attacks a flag wins the game!


A very unique aspect of Stratego is that it is possible to have a draw where neither side can win. Maybe all movable pieces are trapped behind bombs or both flags are behind bombs but all miners have been killed.


Stratego is still in print today by Milton Bradley/Hasbro and has dozens of themes and a couple electronic versions. Very cool that Mme Edan’s mechanics have not changed since 1908...Stratego is a true classic!


And everyone knows that the cool kids always pick the red side!

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