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Game Preview: Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story, or Nostalgia by the Numbers

W. Eric Martin
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Stratego was one of the mainstays of my gaming youth, with my brother and I playing the game on a fairly regular basis. I have no idea what I'd think about the game today as I haven't played in decades, but I know it's been in print consistently since my youth, with many spinoff titles and variations having been released since that time. (Also, you can play the game one-handed, so I'm not sure why that tagline was ever used.)

The newest such title in this game series is Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story from designer Don Eskridge and Dutch publisher Jumbo, with this game embodying the feeling of Stratego, while not playing anything like it.

In brief, you're trying to keep the double agent on the opponent's side of the board. If you can place it on their flag, great — you win instantly — but more likely you'll have to be satisfied with having it closer to them than you at the end of three rounds.




In each round, you lay down four character cards from your hand into four mission fields. The cards are numbered 1-10, and the cards must be played in ascending order from left to right aside from the #4, which can be played anywhere. Once you do this, you'll reveal an intel card that forces you to mark cards that are in certain numerical ranges (again, other than the #4, which you can mark or not as you wish).

Players then take turns guessing which card the opponent played. If you guess correctly, you gain infiltration points and the opponent's card is neutralized; if you're wrong, the power of that card takes effect, and all ten cards have different powers.

The game has a few more details — the powers of the characters, of course, as well as a deception marker that gives you another way to mess with the opponent and win infiltration points — but the heart of the game reflects the Stratego I remember: You're building a secret line of characters and hoping to outthink or outguess the opponent so that you gain the long-term edge in the battle. I've played four times on a review copy from Jumbo, and it's amazing how well this design captures that essence of the original game, while also being something new. For more details, watch this overview video:


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