Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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Game Summary

Stratego Battle Cards is a fast playing card game based on the popular game, Stratego. Like the original board game, each player has an identical army and a goal of capturing your opponent’s flag. Each card features a military unit, bomb, or flag. The ranks and abilities of the units are also very similar to their board game counterparts (the miner can defuse bombs, the spy can kill the Marshall, etc). But despite these similarities, the game does have some very interesting differences as well.

Game Play

Game set up and ready to play

The game is played by both players dealing out a line of five cards and drawing a hand of three cards. The five cards form your front line from which you can attack your opponent’s line. An attack is made by revealing one of your cards and selecting one of your opponent’s cards. The higher valued card will win and eliminate the other card. (In case of a tie, both cards are eliminated.) While it’s not in the published rules, the designer has written an optional rule in which players can continue attacking for as long as the attacks are successful, which make the game much more interesting. After a player is done attacking, they will use cards from their hand to plug any holes in their front line. The game continues until one of the players finds their opponent’s flag in the front line.

Using the miner to defuse a bomb

Your opponent can never attack the three cards in your hand so the strategy of the game comes from trying to avoid playing your flag into your line for as long as possible. However, if you can attack enough cards to create three holes in their line, you can force them to place their flag (assuming it is in their hand). If you can make your opponent burn through their deck faster than you do, your chances of finding their flag increases. The game also deviates from the board game by allowing you to reveal your flag’s location in the line and then reshuffle your cards and deal a new line. But you can’t do this until your flag has survived at least one of your opponent’s turns so it’s a big risk to take.

Quality of Components

This game comes in several different editions so component quality may vary. The edition I have is from Patch Products and comes with very nice large cards and a hard plastic case to store them. The case is fun and looks very cool, but can be a little awkward to store on a shelf full of boxes. The rulebook was a little taller than the cards and didn’t fit in the plastic case so I trimmed about an 1/8th of an inch off the top of mine and it fits perfectly now. (This cut didn’t hit the text at all.)

The case for the cards.

The rulebook is very short and clear so you can start playing within minutes of opening the box. (Keep in mind though that the optional rule is not included in the rulebook.) The illustrations on the cards are very nice and the numbered values and text are easy to see so there are no obstructions to gameplay from those. The background color on the characters is also different so you’ll never confuse who owns a card.

Illustrations on the cards. Red cards have a yellow background.

Theme

The theme of this game is an army playing capture the flag, so it’s not really going for any realistic combat simulation. While the theme is silly, it has worked for the Stratego franchise for decades and continues to work here. Despite the army theme, the game features no more violence than a game of War and is very suitable for young children.

Final Comments and Rating

For fans of Stratego, this game feels like a no brainer. It captures the fun of the original game and throws in a few interesting twists. Unfortunately, if you don’t like the base game, I don’t think this game will massively improve your opinion of the franchise. The game has very simple and easy to learn rules so I think it’s very appropriate for children or non-gamers. That being said, there is enough strategy in the game (especially with the optional rule) that I think Eurogamers and even wargamers can get some enjoyment out of it, especially as a filler game.

While the game is clearly paying homage to the original board game, it does feel different in some significant ways. Since the line is only five cards, there are fewer unit placements to remember. (Although someone with terribly memory like me can still manage to get blown up by the same bomb two or three times.) These unit placements are also constantly changing through attacks and reshuffles from revealing your flag. So if you have information about where a card is, it is probably best to act on it quickly rather than waiting.

The red flag is discovered and blue wins the game!

The downside of the game is that there is very little motivation to put your flag into the front line until you absolutely have to - usually because it is one of the last cards in your hands. This means that you have to slog through the entire deck. While you might be able to force your opponent to place their flag early, they will almost always reveal it and reshuffle if that happens. However, the attacks are fast and it doesn’t take too long to fight your way through the 23 card decks.

Overall, I liked this game. It’s more of a beer-and-pretzels style game than a brain burner but it’s still a very fun to play. It’s very fast-playing too (typically 15 or 20 minutes) so you can play a few games in a row very easily. If you’re looking for a fast-playing casual two-player or something to play with the kids, this is an excellent choice.
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