Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Stratego Works

Stratego Setup

Before you can become a Stratego master, you'll need to master the rank and file members of your army. As you unpack the game, you'll notice 40 red army pieces and 40 blue army pieces, as well as a game board and, in modern versions, a fortress screen.

Each army has seven pieces -- six bombs and one flag -- that do not move after their initial placement on the board. In addition, each army has 33 pieces that can move from place to place on the board, and these can be used to attack opposing pieces. Each piece is marked with a number rank; the higher the number, the more powerful the rank (except in older or nostalgia copies, as discussed in the sidebar above) -- though the three lowest-ranked types of pieces have special abilities. There are [source: Hasbro]:

  • 1 marshal, rank of 10
  • 1 general, rank of 9
  • 2 colonels, rank of 8
  • 3 majors, rank of 7
  • 4 captains, rank of 6
  • 4 lieutenants, rank of 5
  • 4 sergeants, rank of 4
  • 5 miners, rank of 3
  • 8 scouts, rank of 2
  • 1 spy, rank of S

Before you and your opponent can set up the game, however, you must decide who will be the mastermind behind which army. To do this, hide a red piece in one hand and a blue piece in the other, and have your opponent choose a hand. The color in the hand he picks will be the color of his army for the game; you'll have the remaining color. (It matters because the red army gets to go first.)

Set the game board between you, with the word Stratego facing each player. You'll want to take turns setting up, or place a solid screen in the middle of the board -- some versions of the game come with the aforementioned fortress screen for that purpose. Only one piece can be on a square at a time and initially, your pieces can only be placed in the four rows of the game board that are closest to you. (We'll explore the strategies of game piece placement in the next section.)

After both armies have been placed on the board, take down any screen you were using and prepare for the red army's first move. Players then take turns, keeping in mind that every turn has to include one of two actions -- moving one of your pieces into an adjacent open space or attacking one of your opponent's pieces that sits in an adjacent space. However, you cannot both move and attack in a single turn (with one exception we'll go into on the next page), and diagonal moves aren't allowed in either case.