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Subject: Good then, good now rss

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Peaceful Gamin'
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Well, I found this game during my time in Australia, some ancient, battered original-release version that made the whole game seem even more "real boardgamey". We played many rounds, but never got really to the point of seeing clear strategy advantages.
After I left, I never saw the game again, and figured its an Australian game - and couldn't have been more wrong.

The Why.
Anyways, now, 20 years later, I recounted my experiences and started googling the game (of which I didn't even know the name). Lo and behold, I got hooked again. It helped that the online versions are versus other humans, and after loosing 20 games in a straight row I started winning some.

Gameplay & mechanics, The How and the What.
As to the gameplay, there are 2 groups of pups, with different strengths, numbered, depending on the continent they are made on, 1-9, where 1 is the strongest, or 10-2, where 10 is the strongest. I will stick to the 1-9 system for the rest of the explanations. The players can not see the numbers of the opponent's pups, and the players have to find out what they are by meeting them on the field. When a meeting takes place, the lower numbers always beat higher numbers (1-9 version). The higher numbered pup gets removed. If two pups of the same strength meet, both get removed.

To mix things up, there are special pieces: one flag, one spy, and 6 bombs. Flag and bombs cannot move. Capturing the opponents flag results in a win, as does capturing the entire army of the opponents, which is what advanced games usually come down to. The spy can kill the highest numbered pup of the opponent (i.e. #1) if it attacks it. It is destroyed by any piece if attacked, and looses against any other piece than the #1.

Some strategy advise - but don't refer to me if you loose
In the beginning, I always unnecessarily lost my higher pieces by lottoing down the opponent's lines and, inevitably, running into bombs. It makes sense to lotto (i.e. running into unknown, not yet moved pups of the opponent) with 7's or 9's. Which brings me to two more extra rules. Every pup except flag and bombs can move one space at a time, in any direction, except diagonally. The nines are scouts and can move as long as there is space. Some rules do not allow them to attack from a distance, but I found that made them next to useless, and so we typically allow that. 8's are miners and are the only pieces that can remove mines.

In order to protect against random lottoers with no strategy, mines have to be place around the flag. Otherwise, a bunch of mines can be used to lure the opponent into thinking that the flag is there, while it is slumbering all by itself somewhere, but this usually leads to an early loss.

Played it 10 thousand times? Want to try something new? Try this:
There are some options that can be used to pep up the game. I already mentioned range meetings, where scouts are allowed to meet with an opponent even from a distance. I recommend always to use this. Here are some more:

- Inverse play. Players don't know their own pups, but can see all your opponents (as suggested by http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/EndersGame): Less strategic, and more random.

- Open play. Both sides can see all pups at all times. This can take much longer, as it is much closer to chess. Additional rules here could be that pups can not move backwards, to prevent lots of pup shuffling.

- Aggressive play. Meetings become easier for the one that moves in. If two pieces of the same rank collide, the piece that moved in wins.

- Secrecy play. To increase the challenge of stratego, only the attacked (met) piece must reveal its idendity. If the meeting (attacking) piece is higher, it does not reveal its identity to the opponent and plows on.

- Bounty hunter play. For each of the opponent's pieces removed, a player received one gold crown. Lost pieces can be purchased back at a cost of, say, 10 gold crowns. Only lost pieces can be bought back (no player can have more than 1x1, 6xbombs, etc), and they are put in the backrow of one's own team. If there is no space in the own backrow, it can't be done.

- Revival / Rescue. Similar to checkers (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2083) where a "queen" is created when reaching the back row of the opponent's field, here a player can revive any of its pups, once one of his/her pups reaches the backrow of the other player. It is put into the reviving player's back row. Should be limited to one or two times per game. If there is no space in the own backrow, it can't be done.

- One time bombs. Any piece can remove bombs, by simply stepping on it. Well, hey still get removed, but together with the bombs.

- Cluster bombs. Increased carnage on the field. Hitting a bomb destroys everything in a 1 square radius around the bomb,
indiscriminately of whose player they are. Other bombs and flags ought to be excluded to prevent chain reactions.

- Ultimate mobility. All pieces move as if they were scouts - as far as they want and can.

- Blitzkrieg. A player who successfully attacks the pup of an opponent piece gets to move again. As long as it wins, it keeps on going.

- SuperSpy. Somewhat borrowed from TeamFortress, this spy wins every meeting with any other opponent except bombs, when it attacks. It remains as weak as normal if it gets attacked.

- There's the goal. The flag is exactly visible from the start. Just how to plow there?

- Movable flag/bombs. Self-explaining. But turns out to be less fun in most cases, unless flag and bombs cannot attack.

After all this, I must say, I still enjoy the traditional version the best (with scout range meetings allowed). Also, I enjoyed it so much, that I designed a game field, pups, and all, by pottery, and now the white porcelain team meets the red iron oxide team, or comes to test its mettle and strategy against the blue cobalt oxide team (here are some pictures of the creative version, fresh out of our kiln: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/565249). A great game for young and old, and much less stringent as chess.

Enjoy it!
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Travis Worthington
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I can't wait till my kids are old enough to play this, I too remember it fondly.

Know that this is your first review, and its well written but you might want to break up the paragraphs so they can be more easily read.
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Peaceful Gamin'
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Hej Travis. Yeah, I'm eaglery waiting to test out the ceramics version I made. I tested it yesterday, in a first test (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/565249), and am looking forward for my kids to play it (rather than stuff the pieces in their mouths). I actually pre-wrote the articel in open office, paragraphs and all, to check for spelling mistakes, but when I pasted it here, it came out all-in-one block.
I'll do some post editing (if that's possible...)
thx again.
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sunday silence
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What is a pup?

YOu did not mention a really clever variant where you draw your pieces from a duplicate set. I.e if you are red you randomly draw 40 pieces from 2 complete red sets.

So the opponent does not know exactly what you have. But you cant have two flags I guess...

You could handicap this to some extent, say I had 2 marshals in my team and you only had one. Perhaps then You would win if I captured your flag in 40 moves, but I win if I capture in 35 moves. I.e to handicap by going back at the end of the game, determining who had the stronger army and handicapping with the number of moves.
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Peaceful Gamin'
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I like it.
Maybe exclude the spy, the marshal, and the flag, and then start drawing. Good idea.
I actually made some extra pieces with non-normal numbers (i.e. 11-14), more by accident, but then I realized they could later serve for further changes in the game (i.e. they can destroy whatever they come across, even if attacked, but die in the attempt or so - I'm still figuring out the details).

I use "A pup" or "pip" as equivalents for boardgamestones (e.g. the pieces in stratego, marshal, spy, etc ar all pups/pips (aka tile / token / gaming piece / counter). Sorry if that was unclear.
In the original games, the numbers were glued onto the transporting stones (i.e. troop carriers), so they were indistiguishable. In my version, the carriers are too distinct, and after several games, one would remeber what is what, thus I separated the carrier from the actual number pieces, and call the number pieces pups.
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Evgeny Reznikov
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You should really try out Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
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I'll give it a go at our local games store next time I'm there (I saw it flying around there somewhere...). thx
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oh yeah, as you mention the flag is excluded. Basically both players get one and drawing commences from there. Not sure about the spy and the marshall etc. This particular variant was mentioned in here somewhere as I found it after making the post.

What I would do is rather have trenches rather than bombs, but as both are stationary they pretty much amount to the same thing.

Another idea is to do this mechanic with cards, ala the card game: war. War is one game I tinker with nearly incessantly and I actually came up with a fairly playable version with stratego type of units. THere is almost no board or geographic positioning other than the left, right center and reserve. So it differs from stratego in that sense.
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Peaceful Gamin'
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never heard of the card game, will look it up - thx for the note.
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Justin Fitzgerald

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salish99 wrote:

- Secrecy play. To increase the challenge of stratego, only the attacked (met) piece must reveal its idendity. If the meeting (attacking) piece is higher, it does not reveal its identity to the opponent and plows on.


This is how I've always played and still prefer to play. This gives the advantage to the attacker which, in turn, promotes aggressive play. Stratego can become a very dull game if your opponent is an "idler"--someone that avoid attacks and constantly repositions their pieces. Blech! Plus, Stratego is a great game of tension--tension that comes from not knowing the identity of the opponent's pieces. Therefore, I'm a fan of the secrecy variation.

Stratego is also a game of psychology. Non-intuitive piece placement and bluffing tactics can play a huge role in your success. At the same time, a sound military setup and stategy can handle most attacks. Overall, I think it's a well balanced and simple game.

Why isn't it ranked more highly? There aren't many posts explaining why they don't like this game. Anyone care to voice their gripes with Stratego?
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mrtoothdecay wrote:

Why isn't it ranked more highly? There aren't many posts explaining why they don't like this game. Anyone care to voice their gripes with Stratego?


I wondered, too...
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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mrtoothdecay wrote:
Why isn't it ranked more highly? There aren't many posts explaining why they don't like this game.


It's essentially a "cult of the new" thing. Many people are bugged by the older commercial games (Monopoly, Clue, Life etc.), and proclaim their preference for newer, better games at every opportunity. It's part of the culture here. Stratego is from that era, and gets lumped in with the others.

I'd agree with the suggestion that you check out Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. It does a remarkable job of transforming the Stratego concept into a themed game that works brilliantly.
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Probably right. Although I must admit I don't like monopoly in any of its incarnations...
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Eric Walkingshaw
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Stratego was one of my favorite games as a kid, and one of the classics that I still admire and enjoy a lot. I wholeheartedly support the recommendation of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, too. It has become one of my very favorite games.

You may have come across this before (it's one of the first links that pops up on Google), but here's a link to a great Stratego site with lots of fun variants to play around with:

http://www.edcollins.com/stratego/

We always play with the "Aggressive Play" and "Super Spy" variants you listed, and also with the "Agile Captain" variant at the link above. Basically, the Captain can move one OR two squares--it's a simple variant, but seems to add a nice little wrinkle, especially since you can bluff a Captain with a Scout.

Always good to see a good old game get some love!
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PNP - Pottery and Play, the Greek version:


 
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