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How to Win Stratego (Part 2)

Mobility Part 2

Before you read this section, if you haven’t already, read part 1.

Although the amateur is using the same number and types of pieces as the advanced Stratego player did in the previous diagram, his position is significantly worse.

There is no coherence to his setup, since his pieces are so immobile that they cannot respond effectively to Blue’s impending assaults.

The bombs he has placed along the fourth row prevent his General from coming to the rescue in the Center, and his Marshall, although placed on d4, cannot even reach his Left Flank.

His Scouts are not placed in a mobile Scout Mill, so it will be difficult for Red to obtain any information about his opponent’s pieces without sacrificing higher-ranked pieces.

Blue could easily win a few pieces here simply by sending in his General or Marshall to b5 and employing probing techniques.

Even if Blue only sent his General, Red would have to sacrifice his Colonel in order to free up his Marshall to come to his Left Flank’s aid. Meanwhile, if Red advances his own General up the board on the Right Flank in order to counterattack, he has no readily-available Scouts with which to probe.

In short, Red would almost surely lose several pieces in short order against a more mobile Blue opponent.

How does one create mobility? Generally speaking, the trick is to simply to keep the fourth row as clear of clutter as possible. This means that in an opening setup, it is best to put expendable minor pieces in the fourth row.

Usually, Sergeants and Lieutenants are the best choices. Scouts should be saved for middlegame use in Scout Mills—they may also be valuable in the endgame, where they are free to move across the entire board quickly, searching out the enemy flag.

Miners, of course, should not be expended early either. So, one possible fourth rank setup would look like this:

Mobility and Protection 1


Red envisions that after the minor pieces get exchanged off early for information or sent out into the channels of traffic in order to create tension (which we will discuss below), the fourth rank will become clear.

After the opening, the situation will look something like this:

Mobility and Protection 2


Red has high mobility here. His Marshall can swing to any sector of the board at a moment’s notice, and his General can come quickly to either the Center or the Right Flank.

Assuming that his major pieces, flag, and Scouts are well-positioned, Red will be in excellent shape for the coming middlegame.


How to Trap Your Opponent’s Pieces

Stratego Trapping Techniques

See the full guide here


Situations allowing the use of trapping techniques generally result from a mistake or a risk taken by one’s opponent. For instance, when one side takes the risk of running a major piece down to the other side’s camp in order to pursue a piece, the latter is often able to employ a trapping technique:


Stratego Diagram 7


In this scenario, both sides know the identities of Blue’s Major on a7 and Red’s Lieutenant on a5, as denoted by the asterisks (*) in the diagram. They do not know the identities of any of their opponents’ other pieces. Blue wrongly decides to use his Major to pursue Red’s Lieutenant. Blue begins by advancing toward Red’s Lieutenant with:
                                    1. . . .                                       Major* a7-a6
Red, guessing Blue’s intention, counters by bringing his General into play from out behind the Left Lake with:
                                    2. General d4-c4
Blue advances towards Red’s Lieutenant with:
                                    2. . . .                                       Major* a6-a5
And Red uses his General to defend his Lieutenant with:
                                    3. General c4-b4
Blue cannot now take Red’s Lieutenant, since this would simply lose his Major. Although Blue does not know for sure the identity of Red’s General, he can infer from Red’s past few moves that Red has brought a piece over to defend the Red Lieutenant on a4. So, instead, Blue chooses to play a different move on a different flank, say:

                                   3. . . .   Lieutenant i7-i6



Red then continues with:


                                                            4. General b4-b5
This move now threatens to take Blue’s Major. Blue should now simply retreat, content to have provoked Red into possibly betraying the identity of a piece higher than a Major (unless he believes Red to have been bluffing). In such a case, Red would still probably have gained some advantage, as Blue’s Major would be sidelined away from the action on the abysmal a6 square. Blue’s progress on the left flank would be stymied. Instead, however, Blue is foolhardy and captures Red’s Lieutenant with the rash:
                                                4. . . .                                       Major a5xa4?
Blue now loses his Major to a classic trapping technique. His Major has no place to go without being captured or running into a bomb, so Red simply plays:
                                                5. Colonel b3-b4
Red will then win Blue’s Major, establishing a material advantage.
There are numerous such trapping techniques in Stratego, and the above is only the most basic. Two traps that every Stratego player should know, however, are the two “Side Squeezes.”



Penetrating Enemy Lines (Part 2)

Part 2

We will begin right where we left off. If you have to revert back to Part 1 to remind yourself where you are at.

Stratego Diagram

From here, Red continued to drive his Captain into the a7 square:

                      2. Captain* b3-b4                  Major* h9-h8
                      3. Captain* b4-b5                  Major* h8-h9
                      4. Captain* b5-b6                  Major* h9-h8
                      5. Captain* b6-a6                  Major* h8-g8

Of course, Blue was limited in his pacing by the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule.

                      6. Captain* a6-a7                  Major* g8-h8

Stratego Diagram

Now, Red has achieved the first stage of his penetration. The second step is to remove the Blue Major from the c-file and push it to the d-file, giving the Red Captain on a7 some breathing room.

                      7. Colonel* e7-e8                   Major* h8-g8



                      8. Colonel* e8-f8!

Of course, trapping the Blue Major on c8 immediately with 8. Colonel* e8-d8?? would be a blunder because of 8. . . . Major* g7-f7, when nothing can stop the Blue Major from marching down the board and attacking Red’s flag. The text move seems most precise to us because of the following reasoning. Now that Red’s Captain controls traffic flow along the Left Flank, the Red General is now free to chase the Blue Major at c8, holding it at bay. Now, Red will be able to trap the Blue Major on g8 with Colonels without having to worry about a march on his own flag.

                      8. . . .  Major* g8-g9

Blue attempts to keep his General towards the Center.

                      9. Miner* d2-d3!


Go to Part 3: Penetrating enemy lines (Part 3)

Stratego Tactics – Penetrating Enemy Lines (Part 1)


Tactic 1: Penetrating Enemy Lines and Capturing the Flag Stratego


Once the stronger side has established board domination, he is free to take as much time as he wants to organize his piece and prepare to penetrate enemy lines. When the material advantage is large, penetration is fairly simple—the stronger side simply marches in with his miner pieces, probes, and then mops up.

However, when the stronger side only has one remaining Miner and there are several possible enemy flag positions, the task of conversion becomes a much harder one. This is particularly true if the stronger side’s flag is exposed, meaning that he must play precisely so as not to allow any stray enemy pieces through.

Often, in such a case, the stronger side must rely on trapping techniques
and zugzwang techniques.

The zugzwang techniques here are not necessarily to win pieces outright, but rather to force the opponent to move an unmoved piece, revealing more information.

Probing in such cases is rarely an option, because the stronger side does not have many pieces left.

To show how it is possible to win a difficult case, we will examine an actual game played between two advanced Stratego players. The position was as follows: (Penetrating enemy lines)


Capturing the Flag 1


In this position, Blue’s highest-ranking pieces are his Majors. All of his other pieces are ranked Lieutenant or below, and he has no Scouts (which, if Blue did have them, could easily get past Red’s board domination and capture his flag on e1).

Blue has three bombs remaining, and all of Blue’s pieces with the exception of his Majors are unmoved. At this point, Red must find a winning strategy that will capture Blue’s flag without allowing Blue any counterplay.

First, Red envisions all of the probable locations of the enemy flag.


Possibility #1:
Capturing the Flag Stratego


Possibility #2:
Stratego board 1


Possibility #3:


Possibility #4:

Of course, there are other possible configurations, but these are the most probable. Here, we see clearly the danger for Red: since there are three remaining bombs to dismantle, he may waste his one remaining Miner on a bomb that doesn’t even cover Blue’s flag. Also, if Red simply marches in with his Captain and begins to capture enemy pieces (as many beginners would be tempted to do), he runs the risk of losing it to a bomb as well.

How, then, should Red go about converting his advantage? The trick is to eliminate the possibilities one by one, but without actually risking any Blue piece. A good first step would be for Red to realize that his Captain, since it is more powerful than any Blue piece except Blue’s Majors, could actually hold the Left Flank just as adequately as his General.

Red thus began with

1. Captain* b2-b3.

Blue will not move any of his unmoved pieces here, for two reasons: first, doing so would likely eliminate one of the four possible bomb formations described above, thus giving Red valuable information; second, any moved piece might be subject to later capture by Blue’s Captain, which could possibly march across the board and capture it with impunity. So, Blue played

1. . . . Major* h8-h9:


Penetrating Enemy Lines  (Part 2)

Don't Forget Your opponents peices

Stratego Tips – Never forget where your opponent’s pieces are ever again

This is a sample post from, The Ultimate Stratego GuideIf you enjoy please consider purchasing to support our site.


What you will learn?

  • How much information can our brain’s store?
  • How Chess Grand-masters are able to store way more information then beginners?
  • What is chunking?
  • How you can use chucking to stop forgetting pieces.



How much information can our brain’s store?

Board memory is the ability to remember all moved and unmoved pieces on the board, as well as the identities of any pieces which have been discovered. Board memory is of the utmost importance to Stratego strategy, as we have seen in the previous chapters.


When playing Stratego, it is of the utmost importance that you remember every piece the opponent has moved, and the identities of your opponent’s pieces. It is also important to remember which pieces you have moved, so that you have an understanding of what your opponent knows.


Each player begins with forty pieces, so that makes for up to potentially eighty pieces of information. How is a player supposed to remember all this?


Grandmaster’s and memory

Adrianus Dingeman de Groot (1914-2006) was a Dutch psychologist and chess master, and his studies on chess players—conducted in the 40s, 50s, and 60s—showed that a master chess player is—

able to reconstruct from memory an entire chess position he has seen for the very first time in just a matter of seconds, whereas an amateur player is entirely incapable of doing so.


However, there was one caveat: the chess positions being committed to memory had to be one from real games (or at least “normal-looking” positions), not random ones.


When the pieces were scrambled in an entirely random fashion, the strong chess players did no better than the weaker ones in reconstructing the positions from memory.


What is chunking?

Thus, de Groot established his theory of “chunking.” His idea was that chess players group pieces they see into “chunks” of information. So instead of remembering where all thirty-two chess pieces were at any one time, the professional chess players only had to remember about five to seven “core” groups of pieces.


This fits with what we believe today about the human working memory, namely, that it is able to hold between five and nine pieces of information at any one time (see “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information,” by George A. Miller).


How can you use chunking to be better at Stratego?

In the same way, it is possible in Stratego to group pieces into different formations and thus to remember which ones have moved. For instance, consider the following position:


The pieces that have moved are marked here. If you simply tried to remember every single piece here and whether or not it had moved, you would be in trouble: there are thirty-six Red pieces on the board and thirty-six Blue pieces, so that would make for a total of seventy-two pieces of information.


This is far beyond the working memory capacity of most humans. Of course, it might be possible to remember only the individual pieces that have moved. This would result in thirteen pieces of information—which is difficult, but not entirely impossible to remember.


However, after a few additional pieces were moved (and the number of moved pieces rose to, say, twenty), someone pursuing this strategy for keeping track of the pieces would have an impossible task.

With chunking, however, it is easily possible to remember which pieces have moved.


View the board again, this time in the following way:





Looking at the board this way, there are only three pieces of information to remember: the cluster on the Left Flank, the cluster in the Center, and the cluster on the Right Flank. Two of these shapes are rectangles (a very easy shape to remember), so only the constellation in the Center is “difficult.”


Even then, however, practically anyone could remember which pieces have moved. It is also helpful for the players to note that they do not have to remember which enemy pieces that have wandered past the fourth or seventh ranks, respectively.


The Blue pieces on a6, b6, a5, and b5 have obviously been moved—otherwise, they would not be where they are.

Thus, the key to having a good board memory is to be good at chunking—the process of grouping the pieces into easy-to-remember shapes.


Obviously, the more games of Stratego you play, the better you will get at remembering various patterns, since you will have seen them before.


However, it would be helpful to immediately build your pattern base by quickly examining three of the most basic shapes.



Red has an untouched flank. In order to remember eight pieces of information here, the only thing necessary is to remember that Red has not moved any pieces on his Left Flank.




Red has advanced in a square formation. All four of his pieces towards the middle have moved, and none in the back has moved. This is another easy way to remember eight pieces of information at once.


Blue should also keep in mind that he doesn’t have to remember which Red pieces have moved above the fourth rank, too: if a Red piece is above the fourth rank, it has obviously been moved.




Red has a flag formation on the Left Flank. Although only Red knows whether or not there is actually a flag on a1, chances are that his pieces on a1, a2, and b1 will be left unmoved for some time in order to avoid revealing further information.


Both sides only need to remember that Red is keeping a flag formation in the bottom corner and that all of his other pieces on the Left Flank have been moved, thus condensing several pieces of information down into one manageable chunk.


With practice, chunking will become natural. Soon, you will be able to keep track of all the moved and unmoved pieces on the board without a tremendous amount of effort.


With this ability, you will be able to conquer weaker foes quickly, and will be able to hold your own with the Stratego masters.

Board Domination Using Major Pieces


How to dominate the Board

Once the position has been moderately simplified, the next phase of conversion for the materially stronger player is board domination. Put simply, board domination occurs when the stronger player has control over the channels of traffic across the board, namely the Left Flank,

the Center, and the Right Flank. As mentioned above, board domination may be either “perfect” (meaning total domination of all three channels) or imperfect (usually meaning domination of just two channels).
The key to mastering board domination is to understand how to approach the channels. Examine the following scenario:

Board Domination Stratego Strategy

In this position, imagine that Blue’s highest pieces are his Majors, and that Red has no Captains or Majors. Red has imperfect board domination.

Although he completely restricts Blue from ever crossing across any of the three channels, he does not “own” the channels in their entirety: Blue still occupies them.

If Red advances with 1. General* b5-b6??, Blue will simply bypass the General by playing 1. . . . Captain* a6-a5. Red could not then stop the Blue Captain from marching down to capture his flag.

Stopping the Blue Captain with the Colonel on f5 would allow the Blue Major to come into play and so on. The result is much the same with Blue’s other tries, for instance 1. Colonel* f5-f6?? would be met by 1. . . . Major* e6-e5.
Meanwhile, Red has no way to push Blue’s forces back. If he plays 1. General* b5-a5, for instance, Blue will simply respond with 1. . . . Captain* a6-b6. After 2. General* a5-b5 Captain* b6-a6 3. General* b5-a5 Captain* a6-b6 4. General* a5-b5 Captain* b6-a6,

Red could not then play 5. General* b5-a5 again because of the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. So, Blue has held his ground, and the game must end in a draw since neither player can break through the other’s hold. Red will move his Miner about aimlessly, and Blue will simply pace back and forth with his Scout.
How, then, can the stronger side avoid this situation? By better understanding the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule, we can often find ways to prevent such an impasse from occurring. Consider the following scenarios:


Board domination Stratego

Here, an impasse has been created. If it is Red’s move, he cannot get past the Blue Colonel without allowing the Blue Colonel to penetrate Red’s own camp. Now, consider the following scenario:

Board Domination 3

Here, if it is Red’s move, he can force his way through into Blue’s camp without allowing the Blue Colonel to penetrate Red’s own camp. He begins with 1. General* b4-b5, hitting the Blue Colonel directly. Play continues:

1. . . . Colonel* b6-a6
2. General* b5-a5 Colonel* a6-b6
3. General* a5-b5 Colonel* b6-a6
4. General* b5-a5 Colonel* a6-b6
5. General* a5-b5

Board Domination 3

Blue is in trouble. Red has moved to the b5 square three times, but he has only moved between the a5 and b5 squares two times; the first time he moved his General to b5, he approached it from the b4 square.

Blue, meanwhile, has now already moved his Colonel between the b6 and a6 squares two times. To play 5. . . . Colonel* b6-a6 again would be to have violated to the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. So, Blue is then forced to play

5. . . . Colonel* b6-b7. Now Red hits the Colonel again with 6. General* b5-b6, with the same situation as before being repeated, just shifted up one square: Blue will still either be forced to retreat or to move to the side. After 6. . . . Colonel* b7-c7, Red will play 7. General* b6-b7:

Board Domination 4

Red has penetrated into Blue’s lines, forcing the Blue Colonel to the inside. Now, Red completely dominates the Left Flank. If he penetrates similarly in the Center and on the Right Flank, he will have achieved perfect board domination.
Consider now another scenario:


Stratego Board Diagram


Here, if it is Red’s move, he can again force his way down the Left Flank without allowing Blue’s Colonel past. After 1. General* c4-b4, approaching Blue’s Colonel from behind the Left Lake, Blue will once again be forced backwards. Blue’s retreat is forced after:

1. . . . Colonel* b5-a5
2. General* b4-a4 Colonel* a5-b5
3. General* a4-b4 Colonel* b5-a5
4. General* b4-a4 Colonel* a5-b5
5. General* a4-b4


Red’s General has moved between b4 and a4 only twice, since the first time he moved to the b4 square, he did it from the c4 square. Blue’s Colonel has moved between a5 and b5 twice, however, and to play 5. . . . Colonel* b5-a5 would violate the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule.

So, Blue is forced to retreat with 5. . . . Colonel* b5-b6, and Red will continue with 6. General* b4-b5 and so on.
Thus, in order to achieve perfect board domination, a solid understanding of the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule is key. Let’s examine one more scenario:


Although the above position is certainly implausible and would probably never happen in a real game (after all, for Blue to block in two of his army’s flanks with bombs is a most disadvantageous opening setup), it is instructive for our purposes here. Red, looking to take control of the Left Flank, might begin with

1. General* c4-b4. This would threaten 2. General* b4-b5, hitting the Blue Colonel directly and forcing it back. Blue avoids the confrontation by playing 1. . . . Colonel* b6-a6!, side-stepping Red’s front assault. If Red proceeds with 2.

General* b4-b5, then Blue responds by pacing with 2. . . . Sergeant* c9-c10 or any other move with his Sergeant. An impasse situation would then occur, with neither side able to break through on the Left Flank. So, Red plays 2. General* b4-a4:


Board game Diagram

After 2. . . . Colonel* a6-b5 3. General* a4-a5 Sergeant* c9-c10, an impasse position has occurred once again. Thus, with precise play, Blue achieves a draw.
In summary, the stronger side should take care to prevent impasses by carefully exploiting the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. Although this is, in practice, not always possible, being aware of the opportunities this rule creates is an important part of becoming an advanced Stratego player. With practice, board domination becomes easier to achieve.

The Ultimate Guide To Stratego Strategy

User “Number 4” aka Nick, from posted this fantastic journal on  his Stratego development and his formulation of advanced Stratego strategies. We are grateful that he gave us permission to post it on our website. For more free Stratego information click here.

Stratego Notes

Journal from my experience during 2001-2014

About me

The art of Stratego is to sense for, and find, the right time …

Born between 1985 and 1990 in the Netherlands, I first came into contact with Stratego in 1995, playing with family members as opponents, and loved the game ever since.

As I hardly got beaten by the people I knew in real life, in 2001 I started to look for online play and found Metaforge. Although I got sick of the bastards in the general chat area always trying to upset everyone, I was addicted to the game and ranking. However, after they forced people to pay, I disbanded my account and its rank, and left the scene for a while.

… the right time to switch to, or alternate between, defensive analysis to offensive behavior.

In 2006, I continued on, quickly becoming one of the stronger players. However, once Jumbo took over all competing sites, including, and launched, I was forced to move and start over. So I did, and quickly rose through the ranks again.

Setups, strategy and play style

… the right time during a ‘trading game’ to switch from preparing your troops on your half for incoming offenses to a (sudden) offensive push on his half; to find the right time to stop trading, infiltrate and get an advantage.

In this journal, I describe my core setup and its evolution, which I have been using since 2001, and I have never even considered changing it drastically ever since; all changes are tweaks.

First of all, I have to mention that there is no such thing as a good setup for everyone. The most important thing above all is that a setup should match its corresponding strategy and play style. Just handing over a setup to someone having a totally different play style, will not help him. Therefore, only with the corresponding play style it can be educative and useful.

That being said, a strong player is adaptive and masters at least multiple play styles, and switches to suit the situation. However, every player, strong or less strong, has a naturally preferred play style.

My play style

… the right time to concentrate and converge, or spread and diverge your attack.

My personal naturally preferred play style is a centralized defensive play style, something rather uncommon among the strongest players, to which I nonetheless belong. It’s a characteristic that is difficult to master, but once mastered will enable you to beat everyone. However, the downside is that, if facing another defensive player, you will be regarded as a passive player and the game may turn stale.

The dilemma you’ll be facing is whether you will stick to the plan, win, and earn some disrespect from your opponent; or show your skills and mastery of fair-play, and switch to a (more) offensive play style. Nearly all games I lost (which are just a few), were the ones where I took the latter approach. Not due to impatience, but due to being respected as a fair player…

Another characteristic of my play style is the essence of timing, as can be seen from several side-notes. I regard timing as crucial to all considerations. Finally, as a control freak, I will always want to be in control, from start to end; and if this behavior gets analyzed soon enough, it may be used against me. I’m prepared for that, and will adjust accordingly.

… the right time to sacrifice and exchange units for information and reconnaissance.

Now you may ask yourself, why stick to a single core setup for over 13 years? Only a few setups suit my centralized play style. A defensive play style relies, more than any other play style, on a good defensive setup. Furthermore, the centralized aspect does not leave much space for major change.

Initial setup and its evolution

… the right time to take some risk.

During 2003 I finally constructed a setup which was in perfect harmony with my play style, and tweaked it until the version I currently have operational. I should note however, that the current version (5) proved to be much better than prior versions: versions 1-4 are only listed for educational purposes on how the final setup was constructed.  Therefore, I will keep strategy descriptions rather short, and will discuss the final setup in much more detail.

N 7 4 4 M 5 4 6 4 2
5 N 2 2 1 6 2 2 8 5
3 3 7 8 N 9 N 7 3 3
2 6 5 N µ N 3 2 6 2

Version 1: August 2003


Strategy for version 1: August 2003

I couldn’t find any strategy notes for this setup, only a hand-written version of this setup and a date on it. Only included for completeness.

N 4 7 2 M 6 6 4 N 3
5 N 2 8 1 5 9 2 8 5
3 3 7 4 N 2 2 7 3 4
2 5 6 N µ N 3 2 6 2

Version 2: August 2006


Strategy for version 2: August 2006

Keep flanks closed and stale, let the opponent explore. Opening: put the central 9 immediately in front of the Marshall, then the 5 next to it, and if the opponent does not move in the central area even in front of it, followed by shooting the scout: create some inner movement space. Then move the 5 back, and position the next scout (the spotter). Now position the 9 behind the 5, next to Marshall, and wait. Stronger opponents will not suspect the central flag, as it is ‘highly unusual / bad practice’ to place it between the lakes: use this to your advantage. Keep the corners closed, and the center open: opponents will focus on corners.

N 4 7 2 M 6 1 4 N 3
5 N 2 8 6 2 9 2 8 5
3 3 7 4 N 5 2 7 3 4
2 5 6 N µ N 3 6 2 2

Version 3: July 2013


Strategy for version 3: July 2013

N 4 7 2 M 6 1 4 N 3
5 N 2 8 6 2 2 9 8 5
3 3 7 6 N 2 5 7 3 4
2 4 5 N µ N 3 6 2 2

Version 4: August 2013


Very similar to version 2, but using a more effective spy location and more rapid opening: immediately move 6 in front of Marshall, shoot scout, then follow the version 2 approach. Attempt to fool you opponent in thinking that the spy is your Marshall or general, and always keep a few scouts close in case your opponent is going to do something stupid.

Strategy for version 4: August 2013

Very similar to version 3, but more suitable for high-level (trading) games due to a better layered setup.

N 4 8 2 M 6 1 5 N 3
4 N 7 2 2 2 9 2 8 5
3 3 7 6 N 2 6 7 3 4
2 4 5 N µ N 3 6 5 2

Version 5: September 2013


Current version 5 of my initial setup

  1. 9 returned to its version 2-3 spot, because it became essential to my strategy, was required to become trade-proof, the 8 can move out faster in this order of 9-2 (rather than 2-9) and the spy can reach the 8 faster. Also, the left-most 5 behind bombs was replaced by a 4, because it often proved to be vulnerable and got me at a slight disadvantage which may be crucial. Furthermore, the setup is now more layered (trade-proof) than before.

Opening. Open by immediately putting the 6 before Marshall to ‘hide’ it, and move a lot of scouts behind it to scout the opponent center: this creates some inner space (required for fast transitions) and also makes the Marshall look like a bomb: do never move it unless absolutely necessary or having been revealed. As always, move as less units as possible (apart from the scout-line).

Core assumption. “Your opponent’s opening side often has the Marshall very close”. This assumption is derived from the fact that initial attacks with a general are rather stupid and slow. If your opponent opens clearly left (apart from a fake distraction opening), then subtly move the real spy behind the left 8, and if your opponent opens clearly right, vice versa. As long as the Marshal is unrevealed, the 8 is either perfectly safe or will deliver a Marshall to your captured-unit collection. For the rest of the game, play with ‘fake’ spies, and trust this core assumption: it is also key to my play style.

This core assumption also contributes to picking a side for sudden offenses with your general.

… the right time to reveal your higher ranked units, as to threaten your opponent, or to obtain a slight advantage.

Marshall play. If your opponent also opens centralized, do not hesitate to reveal the general very early. The Marshall poses as a fake bomb, by obviously taking effort to move everything around it. Always keep a lieutenant or captain in front of it to keep it un-scout-able.

Now as soon as you think a higher rank (7-M) is coming, make a ‘fake mistake’ with a scout that locks your 6 in front of the Marshall, so it is unable to move away. A lot of opponents will take their chance and try to capture the captain, as they think you just made a mistake by preventing it to run away. Count your moves carefully during this execution, and you will obtain a significant advantage by surprising your opponent the supposed bomb (or low-life) was an unmoved Marshall. This element of surprise is key to the strength of this setup/strategy, and will have an impact on the rest of the game (and on your opponents play style).

Meanwhile, use your general as bait to lure another general/Marshall in close. In case of a Marshall, it often proved to be accompanied by a major or colonel to capture your six, as to hide the real Marshall’s identity. Your own Marshall will always prove to be an element of surprise. It is not unlikely that the opponent Marshall will take his chances and attempt to recapture something (your revealed general?) by swiftly moving past: in that case he will fall into the hands of the spy.

The spotter. The central, back-most scout, should be kept unmoved, as he assumes the role of the sudden spotter, but also as a last defender for your spy. It can also be used for capturing opponent spies, but stronger players will hardly ever make such a mistake. In any case, this ‘spotter’ has proven to be essential to put there. Use surrounding scouts if you need them.

Corner scouts. With this setup/strategy, some scouts are spent early on, to create space. Next, you will need to use another scout so now and then (defense, reconnaissance or fake pressure). However, scouts become especially valuable during the endgame when the board is cleared. Most strong opponents choose to have an unprotected flag, making a scout invaluable, even to the point of deciding who wins and who loses. These corner-scouts are especially set up for that purpose. They are extremely good at deciding and ending games, as they can move very swiftly and efficiently from their positions of the board is cleared well enough. Against the strongest players, these scouts have often been essential.

Bomb structure. First of all, the rightmost bomb is pretty effective during mid-game when opponents attempt surprise with a flank attack, especially if the miner next to it was revealed, or units behind it have moved. If it did not provide you with a nice units, it is a significant speed-breaker and slows incoming units down.

Next, (medium)-experienced players do not suspect a flag between the lakes, as it is considered bad practice and therefore highly unusual. During endgame, it hardly ever is the first spot strong opponents attempt to target, as they assume it is the fake spot, giving you plenty of time to attack yourself. During mid-game, the bombs might even surprise an intruder, and provide you with an advantage (they still will hardly ever suspect it is your real flags location).

You only need one miner, and only half the time.

Finally, in its current structure, the bombs provide a lock-in triangle to the right. In a trading game, it is not uncommon for one party to suddenly stop trading and move past into enemy territory to get the advantage; especially if you are at a slight advantage (colonel vs. major for example). In such a case, capture what you can, and then retreat, and draw him into the left triangle: capture or let him commit suicide: we don’t like lotto J

Weaknesses. Having discussed some key strengths, weaknesses should also be pointed out. First of all, attacks with a general are uncommon (due to their slow-speed and the risk involved), but therefore more deadly than ever.

Another thing that ruins a key element of this strategy is a scout revealing your Marshall before you were able to hide it with the captain. In such a case, I swiftly press towards the opponents’ half of the board, either as a real of fake attack, mainly to analyze the opponents’ response.

Next, full flank attacks to the most-left-back followed by a deep side-sweep are hard (not impossible) to defend, due to the lack of maneuverability and stacked majors. A possible solution is to try to become obvious with your real spy as a fake Marshall, covering your majors and colonel. Hopefully the first one to attempt to capture one is the opponents Marshall, as it is the apparent smartest move. Then again, strong players also have experience with this, and will sometime outweigh their chances after careful analysis. This makes Stratego a wonderful game!

Being dependent on a single core setup introduces problems if you face the same opponent multiple times, especially since this strategy contains several surprises and tricks which will be known by then. Therefore, one will need to have some backup setups that are as different as possible, which also forces you to utilize a totally different play style, for example, rather offensive with an open flag. See the final section for the example I personally use.

Journal cases and notes

Every player has strength and weaknesses. While my strengths are strategy, tactics and patience, I lack the memory-skills.

Therefore, I always play with pen and paper: I draw a 10×5 grid representing the opponents’ half of the board, and marking the lakes in the lowest row. Within the grid, I mark the first 8 moved units (for my core assumption described earlier), I mark all spots that at one point have been empty (to identify bombs) and I attempt to reconstruct his initial setup (for in-game analysis and form assumptions in case I need to take risks).

Over the past 13 years these so called ‘Stratego sheets’, containing 12 or 14 games a page, have formed a whole journal of about 120 pages. On the back of those pages, I sometimes made special notes and/or case studies. I will present several of those notes here.

Journal case – 1: 1 over 1 advantages during mid-game

In a situation where you find yourself 1 major and 1 captain versus opponents 2 captains, or similar but always during mid-game when enough pieces are left, always put the upper rank (major) into the center of his half of the board to limit his maneuverability, and to be able to swiftly anticipate. It also produces a (for you safe) signal of courage.

Journal case – 2: Double corner bomb structures

µ N 4 N

Case 2 – a


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? ?

Case 2


Take the following situation, as depicted on the right, where you have high confidence his flag it (by pattern and movement analysis), where you have no real advantage, cannot afford to scout/trade more, and have only 1 miner who is able to make it to this area. Furthermore, you know there are at most 4 bombs, and there are some miners and 1 sergeant alive. Now, if his flag is bombed, there are 4 logical possibilities:

µ N 3 3
N 4

Case 2 – b


4 N µ N

Case 2 – c

3 N µ N
4 N

Case 2 – d


For cases a, b and c: if you have the time, always walk with your miner from to the complete left straight towards the top unit. In case b, the sergeant (or miner) will start to move, as he will lose otherwise. If not, then walk into the gap at the last moment, between the 2 likely bombs, and clear the backmost, 2nd from left bomb, and finish it with trivial play.

If you don’t have the time (due to a potential miner of him being offensive), take out the right bomb: the left potential flag-position is more likely to be a decoy than the right when using such a bomb structure.

Now for case d: it is pretty deadly using this approach. Therefore, if you have the time, execute the described procedure with the (unknown) sergeant first to threaten him. For this to work better, you should have threatened him earlier to let him know you are prepared to take risks: alternating between threatening, faking and real attacking is essential for mid-game play.

Most of all, by careful analysis of his movement patterns and reconstruction of his initial setup, you can often deduce which is the real flag spot, and you would not have to follow the complete approach.

Furthermore, timing is essential. Choose the right moment to start preparing this approach, as you will have to move a part of your own setup, which limits your own logical flag spots.

3 N µ N
N 4

Case 2 – The smart solution

Finally, the corner-scout will once again prove to be invaluable.

However, strong players often use as unexpected twists as they can think of while maintaining a safe zone. Against the stronger players, you should particularly watch out for the following possibility:


Journal case – 3: Single open opponent lane

In case an opponent has 2 out of 3 of his lanes closed off with bombs, you are immediately at a significant advantage: never remove them during initial- or mid-game, as it will only work against him.

For two lanes to be closed off, means just 2 remaining bombs and a likely unprotected hidden flag.

Then, if it seems to be a trading game and you are at a slight (currently indirect) disadvantage (for example, current highest rank is a captain and you are down a sergeant), continue trading until you have seen enough moves pieces (not every setup is fully trade-proof) and both sides have 1 unit of the highest rank left remaining (not the disadvantage rank).

Try to push onto his territory. If successful, it is highly likely you will come out of this better than he does, due to the trade-proof-ness of our setup (limiting the stuff we’ll have to move) and our bomb structure.

Of your opponent does not allow this, the game will essentially be at least stale; as he cannot do anything else. So you can either enforce a draw, or prepare/mount an attack on 1 or 2 of the closed flanks with either fake stuff, or all you’ve got.

Case illustration of the perfect opponent mistake
N V # V N
N V 6 V N

Case 3: the perfect mistake


I once played a, not so strong, opponent, who made the following mistake fitting into this case. Blue spots contain his units, spots marked with a V have been moved. Now my opponent try to lure me in with the # marked unit (probably a scout) and made the big mistake of moving his 6 to the green spot, to lure me in. Now the best thing to do his not capture the bait, but use it as a burden for him: take a left and make a roundtrip around it, capturing every moved unit until you meet his 6, which will either want to get you out of the way or go lotto at you (which we do not fear). You could even take some chances with only 2 bombs left (only if you are desperate).

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? ? ? ?
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? ? ?

Case 4


Journal case 4: Your own biggest fear

If you were to meet a similar opening as our setup/strategy has, you and up with the situation as depicted to the right, and are left with 4 logical possibilities, listed from bad to better:

  1. Take it with a high but not the highest rank (colonel/general). This is the one of the most stupid things to do: check our own setup J
  2. Take it with one rank higher (thus a major). In an opening case like this, this risk is affordable: the worst thing that could happen is your 7 being captured. However, 1 vs 1 higher rank is maintainable if it occurs during the initial stages.
  3. Take it with the max (Marshall) and take your chances with a potential spy (low chance, but check out the final fun section in this journal ;). You will obtain a medium advantage, but at the severe cost of revealing your own Marshall. This is why our own trick works often against stronger players too: unnecessarily revealing the Marshall is a pretty bad thing to do.
  4. Trade it with a captain of your own, and scout the piece behind it. The most common thing stronger players attempt. Hard to deflect if you also pressure the left side of the lane.

More journal cases may be appended…


Fun stuff, but still powerful…

Try swapping the Marshall and the spy against a smart opponent, maintain the same strategy, and suddenly strike on something you expect to be the Marshall:

N 4 8 2 1 6 M 5 N 3
4 N 7 2 2 2 9 2 8 5
3 3 7 6 N 2 6 7 3 4
2 4 5 N µ N 3 6 5 2


Now swapping the 9 and 6 may be another effective thing to do, especially if you fool him into thinking you made the lock-in mistake (as described in our strategy).

My personal alternative to the core setup

4 7 9 6 2 M 3 N 4 4
8 1 8 6 2 2 6 5 N 5
7 7 N 6 2 2 5 4 N 2
3 N µ N 2 2 5 3 3 3

Like I mentioned, being dependent on a single core setup makes you vulnerable for rematches, as your tricks only work once. Therefore, I also mentioned using an alternative setup with a totally different play style. That’s why I personally use the alternative setup above, with a fairly simple strategy: it is pretty damn offensive through the center which an opponent who has played against your core setup is not expecting from you. While the left flank is pretty defended and hard to get through, it is possible but slow: often too slow, since you’re very fast through the center. The right flank is also pretty hard to get through, especially since there is nothing worth really much, and your Marshall (and spy?) can easily retreat to defend. When well played, this setup is very effective, particularly after using the core setup/strategy.