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Subject: Stratego - A Mini Review rss

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Dr. Dam
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May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
All of my reviews aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them. I feel that other reviews can be sought if detailed game mechanics is what you are after.

Stratego is one of the classic two player games of the 20th Century. The board is a simple affair consisting of 1 large field which is separated by 2 central dams that form 3 fronts to approach the enemy. Each player has an army of 40 units (small plastic towers) and each unit’s rank is depicted by a different icon on the back of the tower. These icons are only visible to the player that controls them, so the enemy is unaware of which units are which until they are revealed in combat.

After both players have set-up their army on their side of the field (making each game totally different) the action can begin. The aim of the game is to capture the enemy’s flag before they capture yours – it’s as simple as that. The action in Stratego is all about the units, much like in chess. Both players command the exact number and type of units and this allows the play to develop as a series of thrusts and counter-attacks. The game comes with a castle cut-out which depicts every unit in the game. Each unit is afforded a rank and these are used to determine the outcome of all combat that takes place.

There are 15 ranks in total and both sides have limited numbers of each unit. Enemy losses can become important to note as the play progresses. Tactical advantages can be gained by eliminating the enemy’s strong units and keeping your own alive. Now for the game mechanics.

On a player’s turn they can move a single unit one square – forward, back, left or right but units can never enter the 2 dams. If a move brings a unit into the square of an enemy unit then combat occurs. Both players turn their piece to reveal the unit and the highest rank wins the engagement (ties result in mutual death). The loser is removed from the field and the winner takes the place of the defeated unit if it was the aggressor. This is also an important rule as it allows players to set traps by sacrificing one unit to bring the enemy within reach of a stronger unit. A good memory can be crucial as revealed enemy units are turned around again after combat is over.

The final element that makes Stratego so enjoyable to re-play is the special abilities of certain units. Bombs and Flags can never move and this can help the enemy make educated guesses as to the location of these units. However shrewd players can use this to their advantage and set deadly traps by not moving certain pieces for long periods. Bombs will destroy all units except the Miner, which is trained to disarm them. This makes the Miner unit a crucial rank that must be protected as it is legal to completely surround a flag with bombs. The Scout is able to move as far as it can in a straight line until it hits an enemy target and this makes them ideal for reconnaissance missions and capturing a weakly defended flag. The Spy is the weakest combat unit but it if attacks the Marshall (the strongest) it will assassinate him. This opens the game up to all sort of trap setting.

The Final Word

Stratego is a fine game indeed. The ability to set-up your army’s starting formation allows a range of tactical plays and the creation of offensive and defensive plays. The level of unit interaction helps the game avoid a ‘war of attrition’ type mentality and the movement of the Scout units certainly keeps each side on their toes. This game appeals to all ages and is a great game to introduce young kids (7-8+) to the world of gaming.
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