Stratego Rules and Gameplay Instructions

If you could combine Chess and Risk into one game, Stratego would be it! Read on to learn more about the Stratego rules and why this game of bluffing and deduction is still a classic war game favorite!

Stratego is a war-themed game that gained its popularity in the early 1960’s and has sold over 20 million copies since then! It is a classic game that has players go head to head in order to capture the flag in their opponent’s territory.

You don’t have to be a fan of war games to enjoy playing Stratego. All you need is strategic thinking and a plan of action before you head into battle against your opponent! 

This Stratego rules guide will cover the following:

  • What is Stratego?
  • What you’ll need to play Stratego
  • Stratego rules
  • How to win Stratego
  • Stratego Video Tutorial
  • Similar games to Stratego

Find out how to play Stratego by reading more below!

What is Stratego?

Stratego Board Game Info image

Stratego is a 1 vs 1 game of abstract strategy. Each player must place all of their army pieces in preparation for defense, as well as offense, to successfully move into their opponent’s territory to capture their flag.

Number of players: 2

Ages: 8+

Difficulty: Easy

Length of play: 45min

Category: Board, abstract strategy, deduction, memory

Similar to: Chess, Risk, Battleship

Main Objective: Your goal is to capture your opponent’s flag before they catch yours!

Why We Love It: It’s a classic game that has been around for a long time and each game session is played differently!

What You’ll Need to Play Stratego

Everything you need to play Stratego can be found in the box:

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Jumbo, Stratego - Original, Strategy Board Game, 2 Players, Ages 8 Year Plus
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The following components are found inside each game:

  • 1 Game board
  • 1 Fortress screen
  • 1 Instruction booklet
  • 40 Blue army pieces
  • 40 Red army pieces
Stratego Components image

Stratego Rules

Game Setup

Follow these instructions to set up a game of Stratego:

  1. Sit across from your opponent and place the game board in between the two of you, so that each player has a field directly in front of them.
  2. Flip a coin or randomly choose which player will start with either the red or blue army. The player who gains control of the red army goes first.
  3. Place the fortress screen in the middle of the game board so that you cannot see each other’s field while setting up your armies.
  4. Plan how you will set up your army (and flag position) by either looking in the instructions or by looking at our “Movement” and “Attack” sections below, which provide a description on the army pieces and any special privileges they might have.
  5. Once you have a planned layout for your army, you may place all of your pieces on your side of the board in every square of the first 4 rows closest to you

Be sure to have the labels facing you and not your opponent. You should not be able to see your opponent’s labels, either.

  1. Once each player has finished placing their army pieces, you may lift the fortress screen to reveal each of your armies.

You are now ready to play Stratego!

Stratego In Game 1 image

How to Play Stratego

The goal of Stratego is to be the first player to capture your opponent’s flag. The player with the red army goes first and turns alternate throughout the entire game.

Every player must perform only one of these two actions each turn:

  • Move one of your army pieces into an adjacent space.
  • Attack one of your opponent’s army pieces that is adjacent to one of yours.

IMPORTANT: If you cannot perform either of these moves in a single turn, you automatically lose the game!

Movement Rules

  • Each army piece can only move one adjacent spot per turn with the exception of the Scout pieces (see below for more details).
  • You cannot move diagonally.
  • You can only move one army piece per turn.
  • Army pieces cannot move back and forth between two spaces within 3 consecutive turns.
  • There can only be one army piece per square (unless you are in the middle of attacking).
  • You cannot jump over another army piece.
  • You cannot jump over or move onto the lake spaces on the game board.

NOTE: The 6 Bomb pieces and the 1 Flag piece cannot be moved during the game!

The only army pieces that have a special movement privilege are the Scouts (rank #2). Scouts can move any number of spaces in one direction per turn

However, moving the Scouts will give away their identities to your opponent since they are the only pieces you can move more than one space in a turn. Try not to move them more than 1 space too often to keep their identity hidden!

Stratego Rulebook image

Attack Rules

If you have an army piece that is adjacent (not diagonal) to one of your opponent’s army pieces, you may attack that piece instead of moving.

To attack on your turn, follow these rules in order:

  1. Move your army piece onto the same square that occupies your opponent’s piece which you are attacking.
  2. Each player declares which rank number is on their attacking/attacked piece.
    • The piece with the lowest rank gets “captured” and is removed from the game board. 
    • The piece with the highest rank stays in the spot where the attack took place.
  3. If the attack reveals that both pieces share the same rank, both pieces are “captured” and removed from the game!
  4. If you attack an opponent’s piece and they reveal that it is a bomb, your piece automatically gets removed from the board and the bomb stays in place.

Some army pieces have special attack privileges, as follows:

  • The Scouts (Rank#2): We already went over the Scouts movement privileges above, but another special ability the Scout has is to move and attack in the same turn!
  • The Miners (Rank#3): If a Miner attacks a bomb piece, they have the ability to defuse the bomb and remove it from the game. The Miner then moves into the space that the bomb previously occupied. 
  • The Spy (Rank S): The Spy is the only piece that can attack and capture a Marshal (Rank #10), which is the highest numbered piece. However, if a Marshal attacks a Spy, the Spy loses.

To capture an opponent’s flag and win the game, you must perform an attack action on the flag itself. The flag has no number to defeat, so you can capture this with any of your moveable army pieces no matter their rank number.

Stratego In Game 2 image

How to Win Stratego

To win a game of Stratego, you must be the first player to find and capture your opponent’s flag! However, if you find you are unable to make an attack or movement at any point throughout the game, you automatically lose!

Stratego Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any army pieces that cannot move during gameplay?

Yes, the bomb and flag pieces cannot be moved throughout the entire game, so place them strategically!

Are there any gameplay/rule variants?

Yes, the instructions provide a few variants to play with such as Aggressor Advantage, Silent Defense, and Rescue. 

For example, the Rescue variant allows anyone to rescue one of their pieces (that was previously removed from the game) by moving a piece into their opponent’s last row! That recovered piece gets placed back into your army!

What are the different ranks and how many of each are there?

  • Rank #1/S Spy (1 total)
  • Rank #2 Scout (8 total)
  • Rank #3 Miner (5 total)
  • Rank #4 Sergeants (4 total)
  • Rank #5 Lieutenants (4 total)
  • Rank #6 Captains (4 total)
  • Rank #7 Majors (3 total)
  • Rank #8 Colonels (2 total)
  • Rank #9 General (1 total)
  • Rank #10 Marshal (1 total)

You also get 6 bombs and 1 flag which have no rank on them.

Other Similar Games to Stratego (Our Guides)

If you enjoyed reading this guide on Stratego, check out these similar game guides (if we have covered them):

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Read all the articles (39) written by Heather Contino