Stratego is a board game featuring a 10 × 10 square board and two players with 40 pieces each. Pieces represent individual officers and soldiers in an army. The objective of the game is to either find and capture the opponent's Flag or to capture so many of the opponent's pieces that he/she cannot make any further moves. Players cannot see the ranks of each other's pieces, so disinformation and discovery (and last but not least, memory) are important elements of the game.
When it's your turn, you may move one of your pieces one square in any of the cardinal directions. If an enemy piece is next to one of your pieces, you may "strike" it with your piece, and both pieces have to declare their rank. What happens then depends on your piece's rank and that of the enemy piece. You capture the enemy piece if it ranks lower than your own; the enemy captures your piece if it ranks lower than his. If both pieces have the same rank, both are captured.
Each player's army consists of the following pieces, ranked from high to low:
- 1 Flag (can't move, captured by anything that strikes it)
- 1 Marshal
- 1 General
- 2 Colonels
- 3 Majors
- 4 Captains
- 4 Lieutenants
- 4 Sergeants
- 5 Miners (can defuse Bombs)
- 8 Scouts (can move any number of squares in a straight line as long as there's nothing in the way)
- 1 Spy (can strike and capture the Marshal, but is captured if the Marshal strikes first)
- 6 Bombs (can't move, but capture anything that strikes them except the Miner)
Captured pieces are taken out of play. Capturing pieces move into the square of the piece they just captured; thus the Flag and the Bombs, which can't move, can't strike anything, either.
Both players get 40 squares to place their pieces on, but they may arrange them in any way they sees fit. Smart piece placement is crucial to victory. At the start of the game, a "privacy screen" is put on the board between the two players, so neither can see what the other is doing. When both players have finished their formations, the screen is removed and the game begins.
For special versions based on other works, see Themed Stock Board Game.
This game contains examples of:
- Action Bomb: In some variations of the game, the bombs can be moved like regular pieces.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: You can trick your opponent into believing one of your pieces is much stronger than it actually is - for example, by making it look like it's "going after" one of his stronger pieces. If your opponent is gullible enough, you can block off a significant section of the battlefield with a Scout. A quite literal version of Impersonating an Officer.
- Block Puzzle: Gameplay can sometimes resemble this; especially in the early stages, a piece you want to move may be surrounded by a lot of other (friendly) pieces. You'll have to shuffle them around carefully to get that piece where you want it.
- Cannon Fodder: The Scouts rank so low that almost everyone else can defeat them. Still, especially in the early stages of a game, they're often used to strike enemy pieces just to find out their rank (which is why they're called, y'know, scouts).
- Capture the Flag: The entire point of the game.
- Cartoon Bomb: The Bombs are often depicted as such.
- Copy Protection: The video game adaptation provides the page image; it falls under the "feelies" type.
- Dastardly Whiplash: The usual Spy piece looks like one of these.
- Faceless Goons: You can't see who's who on your opponent's side. There is also an option where the defender does not have to declare their piece, only who wins.
- False Flag Operation: No, not really. That would be impossible in this game. But for the Literal-Minded: The Flag is usually placed on the back row, surrounded by two or three Bombs. When placing the pieces, it's standard procedure to put up a decoy Flag, usually a Sergeant or another low-ranking piece, also surrounded by Bombs. When your opponent strikes one of the Bombs, he may believe your Flag is there and devote considerable effort to getting at it - thus buying you time to search for his Flag.
- Femme Fatale: One version of the Spy piece.
- Frontline General: The Field Marshal and the General are the two most powerful pieces on the board, and are often placed on the front lines for this reason. (Of course, it's dangerous for them to get too aggressive because of the risk of hitting a bomb.)
- Highly Specific Counterplay: The Spy's ability to capture the Marshall.
- I Know You Know I Know: After the initial stages, each player will know the ranks of some of the other's pieces. This, of course, influences strategy.
- Instant-Win Condition: The Flag. Even if you've only got a handful of weak pieces left while your opponent still has most of his army, if you capture the Flag, you win.
- Non-Action Guy: The Sergeants, Lieutenants and, to a lesser degree, Captains are likely to fall victim to this; they are too low in rank to pose a credible threat to your opponent, but contrary to the Miners, Scouts and Spy, they likewise lack any special abilities to make up for it. So they don't have much use on the opponents side of the field and are usually resigned to staying on your side and defend your own bombs against enemy Miners.
- Only Mostly Dead: The optional rescue rule.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: The Spy can capture the Marshal if he strikes first. If the Marshal strikes the Spy, though, the Spy goes down.
- Overt Operative: Picture the scene, the Marshal has surfaced and is destroying everyone around him. Over the next few moves, the opposing player begins to make a "path" on the opposite side to the Marshal, then a single piece makes its way through. No prizes for guessing who that is!
- Rank Scales with Asskicking: In any duel, the higher-ranked piece wins. With equal ranks, either each destroys the other or the aggressor wins, depending on which rule you play by.
- Schmuck Bait: Putting a high-ranking officer next to the enemy Marshal... with your Spy behind it. (Only a real schmuck would take this bait - once your Marshal has been revealed, your opponent will never deliberately put another piece next to it unless the Spy has its back).
- The Smurfette Principle: One version of the game has the Spy as a female.
- Stuff Blowing Up: There are six bombs per side. Only the Miner can defuse them.
- Taking You with Me: Without the optional aggressor advantage rule, this is how equal pieces fight.
- Variant Chess: In a drawn-out endgame, the focus of gameplay can shift so heavily to clever manoeuvering that it almost resembles a game of chess.
- Weak, but Skilled: The three weakest pieces all have a special skill: the Miner defuses Bombs, the Scout can move any distance in a straight line, and the Spy kills the Marshal.
- Where's the Kaboom?: Miners can defuse enemy Bombs.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Spy once the enemy Marshal is gone.