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Board Game Challenge: Stratego

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Stratego is a classic board game for two players.

Each player is given 40 pieces representing their army. They are identical except for color. Each piece has a rank on one side. The other side is blank. The player may see all of their own ranks but none of their opponent’s. This is a fundamental aspect of the game. Player’s arrange their army on their side of the 10×10 board grid. Two rows between the armies are blank.

If you’ve never played before or are unfamiliar with the rules or variants, it may be worth taking a look at the wikipedia page:

For your reference:
Spy (1) Can only defeat Marshal.
Bomb (6) Can defeat anything but Miner. Cannot move.
Marshal (1) Can defeat anything below.
General (1) "
Colonel (2) "
Major (3) "
Captain (4) "
Lieutenant (4) "
Sergeant (4) "
Miner (5) Can only defeat bombs and scouts.
Scout (8) Can move any distance in a straight line.
Flag (1) Loses game when attacked. Cannot move.

Each piece (except noted) may move one space vertically or laterally, (no diagonal moves). On the moving player’s turn, they may move one of their pieces onto an adjacent opponent’s piece to “attack” it. The attack is resolved immediately. The losing piece is removed from the game. (A winning attacker moves into the defending piece’s space, like chess.)

Stratego is one of Hasbro’s (Milton Bradley’s) core properties and a usual candidate for brand redressing. For example, there is a version of Stratego for Marvel, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. The essential gameplay doesn’t change… these games are cosmetic interpretations. (Sometimes a small, unique house rule is thrown in for interest.) A four-player version was produced called Ultimate Stratego.

Your challenge is to create a design brief for a cosmetic interpretation of Stratego. The brand partnership is yours to invent… your licensing lawyers are very influential, (in other words, don’t worry about ownership or approvals… you want to do Playboy Mansion Stratego, go for it.)

Introduce a suitable house-rule, board-, or piece-design that reflects the unique nature of your licensed version of Stratego.

Have fun with it… come up with a fun Stratego theme. Supply sketches if you’re inclined.

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Personally, I wasn’t interested in the last two of your design challenges, but this one, I’m inclined to jump on. I think it must be the fact that this challenge seems very interesting with the concept of “your own theme”. I also think I like the sound of the game itself, although I usually hate strategic stuff. The game’s gameplay seems like a cross between chess and battleship, to me. (1. The pieces associated with archetypes and have individual traits. 2. I think it’s just the hidden factor of your opponent that’s like Battleship, pretty much.)

The different archetypes or ranks of the army as it’s put in the original for reference, make me inspired to do full blown-out characters with their own personalities, which I probably got from the character designs of Team Fortress 2, as a huge fan of the game, I play it non-stop. Although, this idea does not fit that much of a board game design, or wouldn’t be very simple for game pieces, is what I was thinking. So I was wondering also, if your board game challenges could be answered by digital representations of the game? – like a flash game that plays just like Stratego, or designs for such a thing. I doubt I’d make the whole game.

The reason I ask, is that the design should be probably be altered as a flash game, it would play differently, you view it on a screen obviously.

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Okay, let’s see your concept for Flash Stratego. Sounds… ummm, like an adult game, if you ask me.

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I’m in the process of a whole design document, but I’ll just give you a few images of my concept sketches:

Picture too big
^Please look at that one, it has my character drawings, they’re pretty random and the theme I think I’m going for, is sort of modern military, with my super-deformed character art style.

I guess it might sound like an adult game? Stratego seems like an adult game from my point of view, even though it doesn’t say the age is adult at all. I think what I would aim to do, is make it appeal to the general videogame player, the teenager – make it quirky with the animations, humorous, the super-deformed usually does that well. (Please note, I don’t plan on doing animations, this is about design… I’m just making a point.)

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Yeah, cool. I get it.

The digital design space is quite a bit different. While the game was originally designed to be a board game, its balance lies in a 10×10 space with 40 pieces per side… but digitally you could ramp it up to a larger field, or break out of the grid. (Maybe a hex board, or different shapes, or terrain factors, and so on.)

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The other cool thing that you could do in a digital version of Stratego is take notes on your enemy’s movements and label pieces that you believe you have identified (or maybe like a sudoku-style system where you can sketch in a few possibilities on each piece and remove possibilities as the game is played out). This would radically change the game as a lot of Stratego is essentially counting ‘cards’ and memorizing which piece did what and it eventually boils down into a guessing game about 80% of your opponent’s pieces while you may have some semblance of an idea of the identity of 20% of them.

As far as variants go, in the Battleship thread I mentioned Confusion, which ends up playing like reverse-Stratego (where the hidden information is what your pieces are, not what are opponent’s pieces are) and I like it 100 times more than Stratego. But that’s neither here nor there as far as this design challenge goes.

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I found this Stratego Online game, and it made me feel better about my ideas because it’s utterly shit, it gets the job done and you can play the game, but it’s not what it could be: Stratego Online
Although they mention it’s in a Beta phase, and they’re changing it all the time.

Some more ideas for thought:
1. I was thinking when one piece beats another piece there would be animations, but what if it was more than that? It’d make it more complicated and change the game dramatically, but there could be a turn-based battle system upon that.

2. Ways to illustrate the strength of pieces to new players. I was talking to one of my friends about this challenge, like you do, and they suggested buildings for the pieces – the height of the buildings represents the strength of the individual types of pieces well to new players at a glance, you understand straight away through visual communication. Well, I thought I could still keep this idea with the army characters, perhaps they stand on tall buildings or just “blocks” and it works the same way.