Stratego Strategy

In the old days there were really only a few games that everyone owned. The main ones are still best sellers today. (Monopoly, Risk, Stratego, Battleship, Scrabble). I played these games over and over with my siblings and my dad. Stratego was my favorite.

I remember playing over and over again and beating my dad, but never beating my older brother. As a dad now, I realize that my dad may have let me win. When I was about 11, I decided I wasn’t going to lose anymore and I came up with a strategy that has worked many times since. I have only lost twice since then, and I’ve learned from both losses that I’ll mention below.

This is called the Straight Across Trading Strategy (comment if you have a better name for it.)

  1. Always cover your flag with bombs.
  2. Never block your flow of traffic with bombs
  3. Safely randomize where  you put your flag, but usually towards the back.
  4. Randomize your other pieces, but ensure that you have scouts towards the front
  5. Play conservative in the beginning until you have one piece up on the opponent
  6. Once you have one piece up, kill his 1 with your 1. his 2 with your 2, his 3 with your 3, until you have a piece that cannot be killed.
  7. Only attack pieces that move.
  8. Eliminate the opposition

Most people try going for the flag in Stratego, and most people expect you to be looking for their flag. In the end, you win if all their guys are dead which makes for a much more systematic win. I’ll describe each piece of the strategy below.

Bomb Placement

After developing the Straight Across Trading Strategy, the first time I lost, I was cocky and left my flag open on one side. I was implementing the strategy and was killing all of the other players guys systematically, and he went for broke. He slipped a guy down the side and went straight across the back, killing everyone. If I would have played properly, I would have had a bomb in the way of the flag, but I didn’t. He won that one.

Don’t make the same mistake. Protect your flag.

Secondly on bomb placement. Some people try to be cute and put bombs on the front line, or just behind the lake. Sometimes you get lucky and they will attack with a high guy on your bomb, but if they are playing conservatively, it won’t ever work, and you won’t be able to move your guys where you want them.

Randomize Flag Placement

It doesn’t really matter where you put the flag, as long as it is in the back row, and protected by bombs. If you don’t move it around in subsequent games, they may win on an all our rush, so just randomize.

The rest of your guys just randomize conservatively. It helps to have scouts towards the front to gather intelligence. It helps to have your 1, 2 and 3 accessible, but not on the front line, but once again, you don’t want to be predictable.

Conservative play

Don’t reveal your strongest guys early on. You really want to test around with your scouts until you find someone good to kill. (anyone from 6 and lower can get you going on the trading strategy).

Kill the target with someone strong (consider using your 1 or 2, just don’t let them lure your 1 into a spy kill. That is the worst.)

Trade Across

Once you reveal your high guy, watch their eyes. They will always look at their 1 or spy to see how to kill you, then once you draw out their 1, don’t even worry about using your spy. Use your 1 and go straight for the kill (watching out for their spy).

With your 1 and his 1 dead. Start using your 2. Your 2 basically has  free reign to kill anyone that moves. Eventually, they will have to use their 2 to stop you, but then you bring out your 3s. Keep up the strategy, trading for their 3s if they show up. Eventually, you have a guy that cannot be killed. At this point, it is just about mopping things up.

That’s it!


I said I would explain my second loss.

I always joked with my family that I wouldn’t marry anyone that couldn’t beat me is Stratego. I met a girl and fell in love. She loved playing games, but just couldn’t beat me. We played about 8 games of Stratego and number 4 was pretty close. Game 5 I played to combat what my future wife had done in game 4, but she didn’t do it again.

I didn’t think to much about it, and we played a few more games. We got engaged, but she still hadn’t beat me. About a week before our wedding, we were playing again, and she used her game 4 strategy, but I wasn’t prepared for it. “It’s a trap!” She had been sandbagging games 5-8 so that I would forget about the strategy she used. She ended up taking the win. (We are happily married with 4 great children…and have never played Stratego again.)

Anyone else have a strategy that has worked well for you? Anyone else been defeated by your wife? Comment below.


(Footnote: the new version of Stratego has the strongest guy as a 10 instead of a 1. Flip the numbers in your head. Same strategy.)







2 thoughts on “Stratego Strategy

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