When I was about ten years old, I remember many weekends were spent at my grandma’s house. Although she didn’t have many things for a younger child to play with. There was one closet that was filled with board games.
My cousins would come over and we’d dig out the box Stratego. We had a version that had little plastic pieces with tiny stickers. We played that game so many times a lot of the little pictures had been torn off. (Don’t worry we remade them with our perfect ten year old artistic talents.)
Although we didn’t really know what we were doing back then, I really love a good game of Stratego now. Today, we’ll be going over some of the best general tips to win. There are some fresh ideas for your Miners, Scouts, and Spy. We’ve also included a breakdown of flag and bomb placement.
For these strategies, we used the traditional board setup where the higher number unit is the higher ranking piece. For example, the Spotter is level one, which is out ranked by the Scout which is level two. Some variations use a lower number as the higher level piece. Feel free to reference this article in the piece section if there is any confusion.
1. Red Gets to Go First
Use your first strike to your advantage. Having the first play in any game can sometimes predict the outcome of the entire match. If you’re feeling bold feel free to start taking out the first row with your Scout (2) or Spotter(1). Taking an aggressive stance may lose you more pieces than necessary but it might net you the flag faster than a cautious player.
But if you’re not ready to lose any pieces yet, hang back and see what your opponent will do. Since some people might play in an atypical manner, making a slower first move might give you an edge and your opponent might reveal more to you on their first turn.
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2. Avoid Revealing the Location of Your Flag Too Early
When placing the pieces on the initial setup, avoid placing your flag first and then surrounding it with pieces. If you have one piece and then surround it with other pieces it may become obvious to the other player that it is the location of your flag.
A better way to set up your board is to either go straight across the board one row at a time or to just randomly place pieces in no discernible fashion. Usually, your opponent will be too wrapped up in the placement of their own pieces but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution.
3. Keep Your Ranks Balanced
Take time to think about the long game. Placing pieces all over the place won’t help you much. You should strive to place pieces of various ranks all over the board.
There are several important reasons for this:
- It guarantees you’ll have at least one of each type of piece for the whole game.
- It gives you the flexibility to counter pieces that come your way. For example, a Miner (3) is coming through and destroying all of your Scouts. You would be able to move a higher ranking piece to keep the Miner from taking out more of your pieces.
- If you have an opponent who’s clearing through your units the last thing you want to do is make it easy on them. Having different units around each other makes it easier to surprise your opponent when they think that they’re going to be able to clear your group but suddenly you have a higher ranking official to take them down.
4. Miner and Scout Combo Strategy
Consider using Miners as Scouts. They are useful for taking out an opponent’s front row which is usually full of Scouts and Spotters. And they also clear any bombs your rival may have placed early on. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find their flag fairly quickly too.
Use them to find out the pieces from the front row of your rival. Miners will be able to counter all of the common pieces people put on the front row. The only drawback is the second row will most likely have higher ranking pieces that can take out your Miners easily.
If you use this strategy, make your Scouts and Spotters in the second row so they can quickly search and find the flag for the other team. Be prepared to lose a lot of pieces and keep a tight mental note of what your Scouts discover.
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Although it’s useful to use Miners as Scouts and take out the front row of your opponent’s ranks, it’s also prudent to keep some towards the back of your rows. That way you’re guaranteed to have at least a couple of Miners for the end game.
Similar to the Miner, keep a couple of Scouts towards the front end. But also keep some towards the back. When the board is more clear, you’ll have an easier way to figure out the last few pieces without sacrificing any of your higher ranking pieces.
Note: If you have no Miners left, and the enemy has surrounded their flag with bombs, you will have to take out the rest of their forces to win. Chances are that’s going to be a much harder feat.
5. Utilizing the Spy
Consider saving the Spy towards the end of the game. Since he cannot take out any other pieces besides the Marshal, it’s best to keep him waiting in the wings for the perfect time to strike.
I personally like to keep my Spy (S) and Marshal (10) near each other. Sometimes I even get lucky and my opponent reveals their Marshal’s location early on and in that case, my Spy is ready to go.
Usually, I’ll send it across the board with another high ranking piece to clear the way. Then when the moment is right, take out their Marshal. And if you get lucky you might even stumble upon their Spy. Get both of those pieces out of the way and it’s usually smooth sailing.
If your opponent is very focused on finding your flag, this will give you the opportunity for a possible sneak attack. This works especially well if your opponent is playing in an aggressive way and using their Marshal in the early game.
Sometimes when people lose their Marshal, it disrupts them too much and they become scattered in the way they continue playing. This creates the perfect storm to start closing in on their forces and find the flag before they recover.
Since the Spy can be a valuable piece in taking out a late game Marshal, it’s always recommended to keep some pieces around that can protect the Spy. Usually, I keep a level six or seven nearby because they’re usually high enough to take out most things that come their way and also give my Spy enough time to escape if needed.
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6. Pay Attention to Your Opponent
Every time you play make sure to change your setup. Especially if you play against the same opponent. The last thing you want to do is be predictable. Changing your setup can also help you find what works best and even find a different way to win.
This advice goes both ways. Always pay attention to how your opponent is playing. Some players never learn this lesson and will pay dearly for it if you’ve been paying attention.
Try to keep mental notes of pieces that stay still and haven’t moved. This will be easier as the game goes on. Once you’re confident that you have located bombs or possibly even their flag, use a Miner or Spotter to confirm the piece placement.
Also, pay attention to how your opponent reacts when you reveal more of his pieces. Sometimes their frustration can be a sign that you’re getting too close to the collar for them.
If you notice a trend or pattern with higher ranking pieces clustered in a certain area, more than likely your rival has a flag nearby. Consider moving some of your higher pieces towards that area.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Bluff
Since most of the board is obscured and most pieces will only be revealed and taken in the same turn, it’s useful to learn how to bluff sometimes.
An effective way to do this is to act concerned or frustrated when the other player starts attacking an area that’s a dead end. Or start moving lower level pieces towards a piece that’s moving in too close. Even if you know that your piece will be the casualty, sometimes it can be enough to scare off the other player from their plans. And if they call your bluff, it’s easy enough to have supporting pieces ready to take it out from the other side.
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Also, consider leaving pieces still for most of the game in the hopes that your opponent will wrongly think they are bombs. As they put their effort towards it, you’ll be able to counter that strike.
8. Putting Sergeants near Bombs to throw off Miners.
Another tip is to put Sergeants (4) next to Bombs. As a Miner makes its way through your stronghold, if it happens to attack this piece it will be stopped in its tracks.
You can also take it a step further and use the Bomb/Sergeant combo to create various decoys and keep your opponent stuck guessing.
The best part about this strategy is that you won’t even have to waste a turn moving for it to work. Just stay still and let your opponent do the heavy lifting.
9. Utilizing High Ranking pieces
Usually towards the beginning of the game people will have weeded out the Spotters, Scouts, and Miners. This is when the game gets interesting. As more pieces fall and get countered, you want to be sure that you have the best pieces left. It’s kind of like saving your Queen til the end in Chess.
Using your High ranking pieces at the beginning is just asking for trouble. Many pieces haven’t been revealed yet and you only get so many high ranking pieces. If you squander those pieces early on, then you might not be able to recover late game. If your rival has all of their high ranking pieces left, they will be able to tear through you with little pushback.
Whenever possible use lesser valued pieces to figure out your opponent’s pieces and then bring in a piece that can take them out. You only have so many higher ranking pieces and the last thing you want is your opponent to hold all the cards like Uno deck ready to slap down a Draw Four Wild.
When considering the other high ranking pieces, you should save your Marshal, General, Colonels for the very end game if possible. They should never attack pieces unless they are sure that they are of a lower rank. The only other scenario you should use these pieces is if they are getting too close to your flag.
Saving these pieces to the end as much as possible will ensure you have a strong enough force to at least force a draw with their other high ranking pieces.
Flag Placement Tips
Back Row Corner
There are a few things to consider when placing your flag. The most common flag placement in Stratego is in one of the back row corners. It makes sense because it’s easy to defend and you can surround it with two bombs and a higher ranking character. However, the predictability can make it a weak choice.
If you go this route, make sure to have plenty of support should your opponent start tearing up your ranks towards the corner you picked.
Middle Back Row
This is another common tactic for flag placement. It may make sense to a degree because you can place bombs around the main spaces of the flag and your opponent has to go through three rows of your ranks before they even have a chance to get your flag.
However, similar to the Corner strategy, it’s predictable. If you’re against a particularly aggressive player, they will start their attack from the middle aiming to go straight down through your three rows of ranks. A particularly talented player wouldn’t need much power to get to your flag if it’s placed in the middle back row.
All they would have to use is a Scout or Spotter to weed out the pieces on the first row and then follow it up with a Miner or a Sergeant to take out any other random higher ranking individuals. The path is then clear for any high ranking officials they have handy and then they’ve captured your flag in no time.
Middle of the Board
Putting your flag in the very center of the board is similar to the Back row strategy, it sets you up for a lot of conflicts. Once your opponent notices that you are fighting so hard to keep them out of a certain area, they will know for sure your flag placement. Plus the added strain of having to defend so many points at once.
Behind a Water Spot
Hiding your flag behind one of the water spots sounds great in theory. It’s similar to a corner strategy and can be hidden behind bombs and high level pieces.
The problem lies in the fact that it’s placed on the first row. Some players are completionists and tend to wipe out the front row before moving on to the next rows. In short, this makes your flag cannon fodder way too early on.
You could argue placing it in the last row behind one of these spots as an alternative. In this way, it could net you an advantage. It does block that initial soldier traffic, but it does force you to have to protect it from more sides than the typical corner or side placement.
2nd Wave Strategy
This setup comes from Johnny O’Donnell.
The flag is in a corner of the map. Two bombs are placed on the two corners in front of it. A diagonal row of Sergeants in front of it. It is followed by another diagonal row of bombs. Then there is additional coverage from the Marshal, General, and Colonels on the surrounding rows.
Having all of these higher pieces ensures that that flag is very heavily guarded. Your rival is going to have to lose a lot of pieces before they get to where they need to go. Having the Sergeants directly behind the bombs is also useful for taking out Miners. The additional high ranking pieces can be used to take out any other pieces that might try to disrupt this strategy.
Where Should I Put my Flag?
The best strategy for flag placement in Stratego is picking something that is less predictable. Find a vantage point that you can protect, but that is also not what most players choose or even consider when placing their flag.
Look at the board and consider how your other pieces will be placed. If you can come up with a different strategy than the typical Stratego player, then you’ll have a better chance of winning than someone who sticks to the tried and true most common ways.
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Even placing your flag a little bit off of the corner, or even in the center row off to one side may be enough to confuse your opponent. Especially if you set up some decoys on the opposite side. Usually, when other players discover bombs, they immediately try to take those out in hopes that the flag is not far behind. Use this to your advantage.
Bomb Placement Tips
Long Term Considerations
Bomb placement in the game of Stratego can make or break your overall strategy. There are various different ways to utilize a bomb to counter your opponent.
When placing your bombs, you have to think about the long term. Every bomb is forced to remain static and will only be removed once a Miner comes through. Players typically use bombs to protect their flag. Since only Miners and Spotters can counter the bomb be ready to counter these units.
Around the Flag
It’s useful to place bombs around your flag with a few other higher ranking units that can counter the Miner. Once you have your sights on a Miner take him out to minimize any damage they might do.
Placing bombs all in the same location isn’t ideal. Bombs can hinder your pieces from being able to attack and maneuver as needed. You want to set up your forces to have the best chances of winning.
Consider using a few bombs around your flag but then also creating decoys with the others. An example of a decoy would include picking a corner. Place two bombs on either side of that corner. Then place a piece that outranks a Miner in the corner and a higher level unit right in front of it.
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If your opponent starts blowing up in a certain area, they may think it’s your flag location. They will waste resources and time chasing the wrong lead. Meanwhile, this frees you up to start searching their board and counter strike in their area.
This strategy works best if you have your flag in an atypical location that is not easily accessible to your opponent.
Another idea for your bomb placement is to put a couple on the front row. Consider placing one bomb and a Scout next to each other on your open front rows. Place additional Scouts and Miners on the squares behind the lakes for further backup.
Placing your bomb to one side of your Scout is a great way to destroy many players Scouts. Meanwhile, you’re able to use your Scout to fish out what they might be hiding on their side of the board.
The drawback to this is that until the bomb is diffused, it may fence in your second row pieces prematurely. Flexibility in this game is very important. So consider this when attempting that strategy.
Another similar idea is to put every other square as a bomb in your second row. Putting the bombs here ensures that the bombs have a long term viability before your opponent sends in the Miners. This also allows you to use your Scouts as fodder when trying to figure out your opponent’s first row.
Even if they take out your first row, it might give them a false sense of confidence. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll use a really high level player to start taking out your second row. Players won’t even consider that you might have a bomb right there.
Lightning in a Bottle
If bomb placement really stresses you out and it’s hard to consider so many different vantage points, consider placing them more randomly on the map.
The main upside to this is since there’s no obvious strategy like a cluster of bombs around a flag, it might confuse your opponent more and make them be more cautious in how they attack you.
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Using a strategy like this will help you slow down the game if you’re a player that likes to think more about how you’re going to move next. It’s also a great curb if you know the person you’re playing likes to play aggressively.
Advance your other pieces while your opponent is still trying to figure out whether or not the next square is a bomb. The drawback to this plan is that you haven’t utilized your bombs to protect your most valuable asset of the flag.
Where Should I Put my Bombs?
The best way to set bombs is to scatter them throughout the board. Use a few around your flag to maximize coverage and try to make a decoy bomb location.
Consider mixing and matching these strategies to see what works best. Try different variations of bomb placement for the best possible outcome. Every game is different and you never know what’s going to work best for you until you try it.
What is the Best Way to Win Stratego?
The best way to win Stratego is to pay attention to your opponent and be flexible.
Every piece they place, and every move they make could be a subtle tell into what‘s been placed on their side of the board. Watch how they put their pieces down at the beginning of the game. They may be giving away more than they realize.
When placing your own pieces, make sure you mix the ranks and think about the long term game and not just the beginning. Give proper coverage to your flag through the use of bombs and higher ranking officials. But also be sure to put some bombs towards the front or scattered throughout your board to trip up your opponent.
Consider using your pieces in various different ways than what your opponent expects. Especially if you play against someone who’s very familiar with all of the pieces. Your unique use of a piece may be just enough to mess up their strategy.
Save your high ranking pieces until the end and don’t forget to bluff. There are routines that most people fall into. If you can find a way to subvert that routine or pattern, you’re sure to net a win.
Veronica is a Green Bay-based freelance writer and editor with extensive experience with board games. When not busy scribbling her thoughts, you might find her in her garden, hiking out in the woods, or exploring new food joints.
Veronica is a die-hard board game and chess hobbyist by night. She likes to try out new games and is always on the lookout to recruit new players for her game night (so beware!). When not playing board games or throwing darts, she is usually busy painting miniatures (or doing other nerdy stuff).
She is the CEO & Content Writer of Indoor Games Zone. She shares her expertise from years of playing chess, board games, and darts.