An abstract war game, Stratego is a battlefield with two armies: yours and the enemy’s. The goal is to protect your flag and advance on the enemy to capture theirs, and sometimes it’s easier said than done. Good Stratego strategies encourage players to bluff and mislead their opponents, making it easier to capture the enemy flag. We’ll look at ways to protect your flag, how to place your army units, and movement strategies.
Strategies to Protect Your Flag
Place your bomb in a back corner and surround it with two bombs, or in the back row and surround it with three bombs. Bombs are placed adjacent to, not diagonally from, the flag. With this placement strategy, it’s a good idea to place removing the enemy’s Miners as a high priority, because without their Miners, they only have one way to win the game — by defeating every single one of your moveable pieces — which is very difficult.
The “bomb-surround” strategy also works for unusual placements, such as locating your flag in the middle of the Stratego board, placing bombs on four adjacent sides.
Locate a few higher-level officers, such as the General and a Major, for example, near the flag in order to assist in defense.
Try a “dummy” bomb setup in one or both corners of the board. Place a Sergeant in the corner, and a bomb in front of and behind it. Your opponent will probe the bomb, send a Miner to destroy it, and then be removed by the higher-ranking Sergeant.
Deception and misdirection in Stratego flag placement, as described above, are great ways to keep your opponent guessing and, more importantly, wasting valuable turns on wild goose chases.
Initial Placement Strategies
Place Sergeants and Lieutenants behind bombs. That way, these low-ranking (six and seven) pieces can make themselves useful by quickly eliminating an enemy Miner threat if one happens to accomplish defusing one of your bombs.
Miners are most useful, and least likely to be prematurely killed, when saved for defusing enemy bombs late in the game. For this reason, keep most of them in the rear flanks.
Scouts are also quite useful late in the game. Keep some Scouts in the back rows as well.
Place the Spy near the General. As the second-highest-ranking piece, your enemy’s Marshal will be seeking to destroy your General.
Marshal/General placement #1: place both the Marshal and the General somewhere in the middle of the Stratego board, near the front. This way they can get out destroying the enemy more quickly and efficiently than if they’re on either side.
Marshal/General placement #2: place the Marshal and General on opposite sides of the game board. This way, if one is destroyed, the other isn’t endangered.
Using Your Pieces
Secrecy is key to a successful Stratego strategy. Move lots of different pieces in order to make it harder for your opponent to keep track of what is what. Alternatively, not moving pieces, especially near the from, can make your opponent believe there’s a bomb there, and waste a Miner checking it out.
Try keeping sequential odds and evens together to protect one another. For instance, if you have a Colonel (3) and Lieutenant (5) together, the Colonel can take out an enemy Captain (4) if it threatens or attacks (and wins) against your Lieutenant.
Only attack pieces that move. It’s a waste to lose any piece to a bomb unnecessarily.
If your opponent’s Spy takes out your Marshal and your Spy is too far away to stop an impending Marshal rampage, feint. Aggressively advance towards your opponent’s Marshal with any piece, making them think it’s your Spy. It’s possible to corner their Marhsal and pin it down with such a decoy, thereby neutering their Marshal.
Remember to use deception and misleading tactics combined with thoughtful initial placement in order to protect your flag and uncover theirs. Use Stratego strategies that capitalize on the human mind’s willingness to assume and jump to conclusions, and you’ll be beating the pants off your friends in no time.