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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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Ups:Accurate PC version of a classic game with new variations to spice things up.
Downs: Animations, though fun, slow the game down a good bit.
System Reqs:
Pentium-166, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM.
stratego1.jpg (9632 bytes)"Men, this battle will be the toughest you have ever fought. Enemy forces are the equal of ours, but intelligence has been unable to distinguish between the different types. Until we actually engage, we will not know the enemy’s strength, but by then it may be too late. But take heart! We fight for our freedom, our territory, and we must unite to defeat the enemy! We hope, by our sacrifice, our deeds will carry our army onward, and our example will shine as a symbol of freedom!"

Stratego is a game in which players command opposing sides in a skirmish between small detachments of larger armies, fighting a duel to capture the opponent’s flag and bring victory to their armies, achieved by capturing the opponent’s flag. Originally developed as a board game, Hasbro has ported it to the PC and, like its siblings (Life and Monopoly), it carries over well to the computer world, though perhaps not quite as well as others in the Hasbro family.

stratego2.jpg (12661 bytes)In the board game, two players control identical opposing armies of 40 units. The game is played on a square-ruled board, and small plastic tiles representing troops stand facing their controller, concealing their type until a entering battle for occupation of a square. Each piece has a strength rating of 1 through 9, with 1 being the strongest and 9 the weakest. During battle, a piece’s strength is revealed, and the strongest piece eliminates the weaker and occupys the square. If a tie occurs, both units are removed. Play continues until one player captures the other’s flag.

To add challenge to the game, several units have special rules. Normally, each piece moves one space in a turn. Scouts (strength rating 9) can move any distance along a straight line rather than just one space. Bombs are stationary but will kill any unit attacking them except a miner (strength rating 8). The spy has a strength of 0 but can kill the marshal (strength rating 1) by attacking him first. Any mobile unit may capture the flag (which cannot move) and bring victory to his army.

stratego1.jpg (9632 bytes)The computer translation adds spice to the game by introducing several new varieties of play. In addition to Stratego Classic, there are four other variants to choose from. The first, Ultimate Lightning, is similar to Stratego Classic but each player receives 20 units to start with, resulting in faster play. Twice per game, a player can rescue a defeated piece by moving one of his units (except a scout) into his opponent’s back row. The rescued unit may be placed back in play anywhere on your half of the board. Captains (strength rating 6) can move two squares, and scouts gain miner ability in addition to their own special move.

There are two campaign games added as well: the Ultimate Campaign and the Alliance Campaign. In the Ultimate Campaign, players control two armies of 20 units each – one is deployed at the start of the game while the other is kept in reserve. During his turn, either at the start or after winning a combat, a player may place one unit into play from his reserve anywhere in the first four rows of his board edge. Victory is achieved by capturing both opponent’s flags.

stratego2.jpg (12661 bytes)The Alliance Campaign and Alliance Lightning games are 4 player variations. In the Alliance Campaign, two teams battle each other on a symmetrical gameboard. Each player begins with 20 units - 13 are placed into play while 7 are kept in reserve. Players place reserves as in the Ultimate Campaign game. A team must capture both enemy flags to attain victory. The biggest change is that bombs are replaced with cannons, which can shoot an enemy unit exactly 3 spaces away, destroying it. After a successful attack, the cannon is removed from play and placed in reserve. The Alliance Lightning game is similar, but there are no reserves. Cannons occupy the space of the defeated enemy unit after winning a combat.

Graphically speaking, the game is very detailed, with good animations of piece movement and amusing combat sequences. The board is rather plain but provides a good backdrop for the animations. The sounds are well done, from sword swings of combat to the sound of the cannon firing. Stratego supports all the standard multiplay options, including modem, hotseat, internet and LAN play.

stratego1.jpg (9632 bytes)However, one of the game’s biggest strengths is also its greatest weakness: the animations. While fun to watch and very pretty, they tend to slow the game down quite a bit, especially the movement animations. Though it is quite satisfying to watch your piece defeat an enemy in combat rather than just "stomp" it out of existence, you can’t turn off just the movement animations. I found this small detail annoying – you can disable either the combat animations or both types, but not the movement ones. Also, the game makes you click a continue button after each turn or wait 10 seconds before continuing automatically. This adds up to a lot of clicking between turns just to get the game to move along at a bearable pace.

Overall, Stratego is a good port of the board game, offering quite a bit of variety and gameplay variations. The interface could use some tweaking for better in-game flow, and the graphic and animation options could be expanded, but overall the game is solid. I recommend it to gamers who loved the original and those who are looking for a simple strategy game that moves quickly. Children will also enjoy this title.

buyit.GIF (2236 bytes)--Derek Meyer