On the field of battle, there’s a chain of command you have to follow, with generals and marshals at the top and lowly scouts and miners at the bottom. In this port of the board game Stratego, your soldiers are only capable of defeating enemies at their level or below, so there’s no chance of a grunt scoring a lucky hit on the leaders.
The success of this numbers-driven type of war game depends on three important factors: the quality of your opponents, the strategy of your initial setup, and the secrecy of your troop positions. Stratego for iPad does a good job of turning these potential concerns into strong assets, with online play and the ability to save your favorite board setups. As for the secrecy, that’s all in how you play.
You sunk my battleship!
In Stratego, each player takes turns moving their soldiers, who are hidden from view from your opponent until you attack or defend. Bombs can’t move at all, and can destroy all but the second-weakest soldiers, the miners. The marshal is the strongest unit in the game, but he can be defeated by an otherwise-useless spy. And then there’s a flag to find, which is main the goal for each player besides decimating the front lines.
Stratego takes a few minutes to set up, and in a nice addition, you can save your favorite positions for use in multiple games. However, there’s also a lot of guesswork involved, so even a well-planned formation won’t make a difference if you rush headlong into battle.
Stratego also has a memory game component as well, since you only get a brief look at units when they’re in combat. You have to keep track of your opponent’s positions, and since your opponents are mainly human players online, there’s a chance they’ll forget where you keep your strongest (or weakest) units.
Time to consult The Art of War.
The iOS port offers a snappy online setup, with 15-second turns and a five-minute buffer if you go over your time. But you have to provide your Facebook login to play, and this will automatically post updates on your behalf.
Graphically, this Stratego app doesn’t do much to bring the battles to life. Units are represented by profile images of the various soldiers and commanders, and the tiles slide around with military precision. Ports of games like Monopoly often improve the entertainment value with animated pieces and plays, but except for a few small blasts and sword-clashes, Stratego feels surprisingly lifeless for a game all about deadly combat.
If you think you’ll get your money’s worth with just the game’s online mode, Stratego is a bare-bones port that is as serviceable as a stock-issue armament. But it doesn’t go the extra mile with regards to fun new modes or exciting graphics and animation, which we consider a missed opportunity. It’s not a four-star general, or a dispensable scout, but somewhere in-between, like a major or captain.