Stratego Best Setups – Top 9 Starting Strategies to Win Stratego

When you first start playing Stratego, you probably feel like a house cat trying to catch lightning bugs. That is, you’re pretty sure you know what you want to do but aren’t entirely sure how to do it.

This article will introduce the best Stratego setup strategies that stand out as the most common and useful among expert players.

The best part? Each one of these strategies is simple enough for a greenhorn to master in just a couple of games. Even if you’re already an experienced player or have read through this article before, keep reading! You might learn something new and different this time around.

In this guide, we’re sharing 9 strategies to help you build your best Stratego setup and increase the odds of victory, including:

  • How to balance your board
  • Best locations to set up your troops
  • How to create decoys
  • Which units work best together
  • How to protect key units

Stratego: Best Setup Strategies

Bear in mind that no single “best setup” is guaranteed to win the game from the beginning as the outcome will depend on your and your opponent’s choices throughout the match.

However, a strong starting position will improve your game, let you make better decisions further in the game, allow strategic pieces to be used at their full potential, and better protect your ground to prevent your opponent to catch your flag.

But first, let’s start with some Stratego basics.

The Basics

Stratego is a capture-the-flag strategy board game. The game’s goal is to capture your opponent’s flag or all of your opponent’s moveable pieces before they do.

[Insert photo of the board]

Stratego Board Game

The game is played on a grid-style board and pieces have numeric ranks. Depending on the version you are playing, the higher numbers could represent higher ranks or lower ranks. For explanatory purposes, this guide will assume the higher the number, the higher the rank.

Stratego Pieces

Your units can move one square at a time, except the scout, who can move an unlimited number of spaces either horizontally or vertically across the board.

Scouts can attack at a distance, which makes them helpful in identifying the opponent’s troops.

The opposite applies to the flag and bombs, which are static pieces that may not move later in the game.

Any non-static piece can capture the flag, but only rank 3 miners can defuse bombs. Because of this, bombs are generally placed around the flag.

Additionally, the spy can defeat the highest-ranking marshal if it’s the one initiating the attack, but all other pieces can defeat the spy.

The board can be broken down into three flanks that are determined by the two inaccessible bodies of water in the middle of the board.

Between the flanks are the safe zones, which are the columns behind the bodies of water, and then the remaining columns are referred to as the danger zones.

Stratego Danger Zones

Now that the basics of the game are covered, let’s dive into the best Stratego setup strategies.

Stratego Best Setups

Strategy 1: Avoid tipping your hand

When setting your pieces on the board, avoid doing so in a way that reveals to your opponent where your flag and other strategic pieces, such as bombs, the spy, or the marshal may be on the battlefield.

Although your opponent can only see the back of your pieces, you may be revealing your strategy if you start by placing your flag first and the surrounding pieces protecting it.

The best way to avoid this is to place all the pieces randomly on the board and then proceed to rearrange them according to your chosen strategy.

Strategy 2: Balance your flanks

Mentally divide the board into three flanks. Your pieces should be set up to create a balance among the three so they all have attacking and defensive power.

Avoid clustering low and high-rank units within the same flank to balance the board appropriately. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want the same numeric ranks within the same squad.

Strategy 3: Avoid scouts in the first row

The scout is only a rank 3 unit, making it the weakest attack troop along with the spy. But as it can travel an unlimited distance, it is a popular strategy to place them on the front row to quickly identify enemy units.

However, it is better to have these pieces available later in the game once other pieces have moved and the board is open to exploration as more pieces have been captured.

This increased range of motion is better suited for identifying static pieces or for sniping your opponent’s spy.

Strategy 4: Avoid arranging bombs that may block your movement

Although placing bombs in the front rows may seem a good idea for early capture of your opponent’s troops, it is most likely for this to end up hindering your mobility and obstructing potential good moves.

Besides, it is also likely for your opponent to block this strategy by simply activating the bombs with low-level units.

Instead, bombs should be primarily used to protect your flag and to create one or two decoys to lead your enemy away from its goal.

The best places to set up your bombs are in the second and third rows, especially in the safe zones. This will prevent the bombs to be quickly scouted and will increase your chances to achieve more valued captures.

Strategy 5: Protect the identity of key units as long as possible

Avoid placing high-level pieces in situations where they could quickly be discovered such as the front of the danger zones, risking being scouted by your opponent.

These pieces include the marshal, generals, colonels, the spy, and bombs.

In many situations, you should prefer to sacrifice lower-ranked units than attack with higher-ranking pieces and, consequently, reveal their identity.

Later in the game, you can decide the right moment to reveal your key units based on your opponent’s high-ranked pieces left.

Strategy 6: Spread and protect your miners

You should preserve your miners for as long as possible, as later in the game you should be able to tell where your opponent’s bombs may be placed.

As the most common strategy is to place bombs protecting the flag, losing your miners could make it impossible to reach it later in the game as there will be no way to defuse the enemy’s bombs.

That’s why you should aim to spread your miners across the board and set them up close to pieces with higher ranks.

Avoid sending your miners into the offensive unless a bomb has been identified, especially if you suspect it is guarding the enemy’s flag.

Strategy 7: Be strategic with your sergeant placement

The sergeants have the lowest attack level among the troops without any special ability. This makes them the weakest piece on the board.

You should place some of these on the first rows as they can defeat any early scouts sent by your opponent and can effectively identify your opponent’s offensive pieces.

Another great place to set up your sergeants is close to your bombs, so they can kill any unsuspected miner that may try to defuse them.

Strategy 8: Create decoys with your bombs and sergeants

You should have at least one decoy using bombs and sergeants to lure your opponent’s moves away from your flag.

The best place for you to do this is placing them in the danger zone, where the enemy units are exposed to your attacks while hiding your bomb-protected flag in the safe zone.

Besides, decoys located in danger zones will be identified faster by your enemy, which will make them focus many resources trying to break your lines, while you have the time to plan your counter or attack unprotected flanks.

Strategy 9: Keep your spy out of the danger zone a close to your general

By keeping your spy out of the danger zone, you will prevent enemy late-game scouts to capture your spy across the board.

Placing and maintaining your spy close to your general will give you a higher chance of capturing your opponent’s marshal as he tries to take down your general.

This strategy comes in handy especially if you try to lure the enemy’s marshal towards your general, only to be captured by your spy.

Wrapping it up

As you could see, a big part of your strategy for winning at Stratego comes from the setup.

Although there is no unique best Stratego initial setup, by implementing the tactics described here you will be able to start with a strong position that will give you the upper ground.

Remember, mastering Stratego takes practice, so you must try the different variations of these strategies on each game to see the ones that adapt the most to your playing style.

Want to learn more strategies to beat your friends in more games? Check our guides on how to win at UNO, our Blokus Strategy, or the best Azul strategies you will find online.

Last Updated on 18/09/2022 by ARU

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