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Losermaker's Stratego Tutorials

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#1 Losermaker



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Posted 2 weeks ago

Dear Stratego Community,


Several players have mentioned a lack of instructional learning resources for new players and some who are trying to reach a new higher rank. After receiving several advice requests and seeing how much people enjoy other topics (though far and few between) such as Tilor’s “What I have learned along the way” and various other comments in threads (mostly comments on recorded games), I have decided to make some tutorials to hopefully cover some of the questions that new (and some old ;)) players may have about Stratego.


For those of you who don’t yet know me, I am Losermaker (whistler from metaforge) and I am from Australia. I have been playing online for around 8 years now and have made it to over 1100ELO and participated in quite a lot of online tournaments with my best finishes being:


2nd 2013 Alias Tournament hosted by Metaforge

1st 2015/16 Winter Tournament hosted by stratego.com

3rd 2017/18 Online World Championships hosted by stratego.com


I am by no means the world’s best Stratego player, but I have quite a lot of experience and I look forward to sharing some of it with you all.


My tutorials are aimed mostly at Bronze to low Platinum players, but I think that even some of the more experience players may get some food for thought out of these. I aim to post a new tutorial up every 2 weeks, although this may change depending on my circumstances.


All the best,



Here is a quick reference list if you are looking for a specific tutorial:


1. Setup Strategy

Part1: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry455848

Part2: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry456415

Edited by Losermaker, 3 days ago.

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#2 Losermaker



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Posted 2 weeks ago

Tutorial 1 – Setup Strategy

Part 1 of 3: Balanced and Defensive setups

We all have our favourite setups, and we all like them for different reasons. I believe this is a good topic for the first tutorial as your setup is your solid base from which to build your game; It is amazing how 1 or 2 flaws in your setups can let the rest of your game down. I hope this tutorial helps you realise flaws you may have and also lays down a few fundamentals to help you make good setups on the fly.


The more you improve and gain confidence the more you will try things, often resulting in crazy setups that look like they should never be used. Though these have reasons why they are the way they are, we are going to look first at more standard setups then move to more advanced methods of implementing bluff, attack, defence, and most importantly, surprise into your setups.


Based on my own experiences these are some of the general ways to make a good balanced setup:



Bomb in your flag, either corner or tripod is fine

Keep atleast 3 miners in the back 2 rows (4 is preferable)

Back front row pieces up with ranks 3-4 ranks higher (i.e. back up lieutenant with a major or a colonel)



Put all 3 majors in the front 2 rows, have atleast 1 in the back 2

Bomb off centre

Have more than 2 high bombs

Bomb in pieces higher than a sergeant

Have catch points where an opponent can entirely block off piece movement (mostly applies to endgame)


Based on these principles I have made a setup off the top of my head.




Now this setup is a bit rough, but it does include a good number of the basic elements that make up good setups. As you can see the front row scouts are backed up by sergeants or captains which are backed up by general and colonel. The setup offers good manoeuvrability for endgame and overall is not too bad for defense, or an offensive up the centre or down the right lane.


It’s time to tailor this to suit your own style, I will start with defensive options using a style of setup making (analysing each small part) that I like to use. A few of the previous principles still apply such as bombed in flag and backing up pieces but some tweaks will help a lot if you plan to play defensively.


I think that playing a good defensive game is about having a setup that is easy to move pieces around in, and also about how much information you give away/how much you can hide. Say for example the captain on the right, it’s fine there but if a lieutenant comes down and takes the scout, you take it with captain, your colonel is now exposed for a scout at I7.




A simple fix for this is to move the colonel behind the lake. This makes it harder to use the marshal on your right side, but it is better for keeping info down.




After each adjustment you should do a small analysis on what you have just changed and whether there is more adjustment needed.

Looking at this again there is a small thing I would change, I would swap the captain at I4 for the lieutenant at J2. The reason for this is that front row pieces often don’t survive long, and its better to be a lieutenant down rather than a captain.




However, this means that a captain coming down your right could hit J4, then J5 before you can swap captains. To solve this, you will have to play that lieutenant moves up one and you slot the colonel in behind it. Both methods of captain and lieutenant should work fine, you may want to try both and see what works best for you.


I think that’s enough adjustment on the right for now, let’s move to check the centre.




The centre is quite well set up for defensive play IMO, but it does allow you to quickly bring out the marshal if you see an opportunity to trap a valuable piece. You can either choose to leave the centre to play out, and let captains or lieutenants take the scout or sergeant, and take it from there, or you can move sergeant up and put major behind it, or move scout up and put marsh behind it, all of which are good options.


The only thing I might change is the miner. Having 1 high miner is not bad, but here it is not going to be used as more than a discovery piece, which is something I don’t think miners should be used for at all, leave that to the scouts.




The other benefits of swapping that miner is in the scenario where you use the scout at F4 to identify a piece, you find it’s a sergeant, he manages to swap serges, then captains end up swapping; not only do you have another piece to replace the captain, but you also are able to leave the miner near your flag until the end of the game; maintaining setup shape to keep your opponent guessing.


Let’s move on to the left side.



It is not too bad, but for me I can see that this could lead to some tricky situations that can make it very, very hard for you. Say he brings down a captain, you swap captains and eventually he ends up in some way or another with his marshal at B3.




This is very tricky for you, if you try to bluff the spy (C2-C3?) he traps your gen by B3-B4 or if you actually try to use spy he may or may not call it and just take the spy. If you try to clear out the centre to bring your general across, it leaves the major at B2 very unprotected and also the spy quite vulnerable. If you sit and wait he could diffuse the bomb, and then bring down a lieutenant or captain and take the sergeant, which will (in one way or another) result in the loss of the major.


If you do use a setup similar to this and get in this situation then there is not much really that you can do but maybe just sit tight and hope for the best and if you get an opportunity to get your general into the lane (blue B3-A3 after diffusing bomb) make sure you go for it and keep diagonal.


Of course, the easy way around this is just to change whole side of this setup ;).



For myself I decided the bomb had to go and did a complete re-arrange, just take a little time to think through brand new ideas and don’t hold onto your original plans for your setup, sometimes you just have to go back and redo a whole part or even the entire setup.


Finally take a look at the setup as a whole and see if there is anything that you would change, after all, you don’t have to rearrange with just the pieces close by.




I’m pretty happy with the setup overall, now its time to test it out. IMO you should always test in RANKED games. My reason for this is that I find myself playing different with known opponents/friends and often I will do things that may not help reflect my setups true potential. Some setups are just not suited to your opponent’s playstyle.


Just to wrap this part up, make sure that when testing you try to think what went wrong/right (recording your game for analysis is great), i.e. was the sergeant at B4 ok? Should you swap it to B3 with the scout? Where seems to be the best start for this setup? I4-I5? E/F4-E/F5? A/J4? Try to remember these things when playing and get confident with the setup.


Here are a few more examples to try/get ideas from.


Another standard style defensive setup



A defensive setup with a bit of extra flair.


Please note: all of the setups used in this tutorial have NOT been tested at all and may have flaws (hopefully only small) in them.



If you have any suggestions, comments or questions please feel free to ask them in my other thread found here: http://forum.strateg...-and-questions/


Alternatively, you can send me a PM but if it is a general question I think it is better that it is a public post so that all may learn/benefit from it.


Gl with your games,



Special thanks to Morx for his Setup Editor and Tilor for Editing.

Edited by Losermaker, 2 weeks ago.

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#3 Losermaker



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Posted 3 days ago

Tutorial 1 – Setup Strategy

Part 2 of 3: Aggressive Setups

Making a setup for an attacking style is more of a specialized thing in my experience. Before, we made a balanced setup, then we adjusted it to suit the defensive player better. I find with attacking setups you are not really able to do this as much and when you do, you end up with a half-hearted setup that can lead you to playing defensively with a setup that is giving away too much information.


Attacking is in itself something that quite a number of players struggle with, but if your setup is helping you out it makes it a lot easier. Here are a few hints for a good aggressive setup:

  1. Your setup must be made to allow you to attack very quickly whenever you need to, time is the essence when attacking.
  2. You must have a plan of how you are going to attack (and adjust your setup to suit this), otherwise you will end up shuffling around or making bad attacking decisions or just playing defensively.
  3. You should make your setup to allow your attacking piece(s) a fairly quick path back to a defensive position.
  4. Have some time buying pieces on your non-attacking lanes. These should be either bombs, expendable pieces, or pieces that can quickly trade out.
  5. Don’t go half-hearted into making aggressive setups, if you are going to commit to playing an aggressive game then do it and back yourself. Be confident

Some other things to think about when making the setup:


First off, do you know your opponent? This can largely influence your attacking setup. Let’s say you don’t for this example.

Next decide what piece you want to attack with. The marshal is the most popular choice, but generals and even colonels can be just as effective if used the right way.

Decide how you want to attack, i.e. Left/middle/right lane? How far do you plan to take your attack? 2 rows deep? 3? Even 4 and search for the flag?

What do you plan on coming out of the attack with? Is a captain enough?

Once you have thought through these things a bit you should be ready to start making the setup.


Scenario: I don’t know the opponent, I want to attack with the marshal up the right lane and I want to go 2 rows deep and hopefully get some info and at least capture a major. Attacking is a game of risk vs reward, here you have to hope that your opponent’s setup includes some valuable pieces up that right side.




This setup looks fairly similar to the standard setups, but there are a few key things that make this better for attacking. The first of these is the captain at J4, you can just go charge into the front rows with him and if he gets taken, it gives you your target piece to capture. The next is the scout at G4, you should aim to use this scout as soon as possible; this allows a clear path to the centre should you need to bring your marshal back in a hurry. The next are the 2 diagonal bombs at A1 & B2, they buy you time in case he makes a counterattack down that side. And finally, the general is in a position ready to defend or swap with the opponents general in the left or the centre.


The key to making this attack successful is board position and time. Start with the captain at J4, move him up and lotto around until he is taken or traded. If he gets traded you can use your lieutenant until you find a piece to target.



An example of a situation you could likely end up in.


I will not go on about how to perform the attack but I will explain it in detail later in another tutorial. For now, I just want you to understand what helps make a good attacking setup.


In the next example, suppose that you know your opponent, he is from the Netherlands, play’s a bluff style game, likes to keep his marshal hidden until the endgame, and plays fairly consistent (setups don’t vary crazily). If you want to make an attack on him your best chance of being successful is probably with the general. 


The same thought processes apply. I know my opponent, I want to attack with the general to gain a major or captain(s), or in trying to do so, draw out his marshal and find it for little cost. I am not going to try to go too deep into his setup as his marshal is probably deeper in and will stop me soon. I am going to try attacking up the left (or right, personal choice) because players that keep their marshal hidden like it in a balanced spot (centre) in a lot of cases.


From my own experience a general/captain combo works well, the captain allows you to find a major or higher to target and has a good chance of picking up a front row lieutenant or sergeant. You could use a lieutenant, it’s just a matter of personal preference here.




Here the key points are the captain at A4 and the 3 scouts at B4, C4, and C3. These allow you to make the attack, but also allow you to discover the marshal and help your general stay diagonal if you need to. The rest of the setup can be played how you want really for defense. It can be very solid because you can use both the marshal and spy for defense. Here I went for a bluff style option with the rest of my pieces.


The last aggressive setup I want to cover is a more unbalanced one with greater risk, but one which can also give back some very rewarding outcomes. This setup is what I like to call a ‘combined attack’ which involves the marshal and general together, or at least very close by.




The main benefit of this style of setup is when you find a high piece (say a colonel), he gets diagonal to your marshal or general, but you now can use your marshal/general that is close by to help trap it. The other possibility with this setup is to make a heavy attack and go for your opponent’s flag early. It is quite unlikely to pull off regularly, but if you are up against a player in a tournament and you don’t think you will win, it may be a decent option that they might not be expecting.



A possible situation.



Another combined example.


Please Note: None of these setups have been tested and may contain flaws (especially the combined ones as I was in a bit of a rush) but feel free to make adjustments and try out different things to suit you better.



If you have any suggestions, comments or questions please feel free to ask them in my other thread found here: http://forum.strateg...-and-questions/


Alternatively, you can send me a PM but if it is a general question I think it is better that it is a public post so that all may learn/benefit from it.


Back yourself and play smart,



Special thanks to Morx for his Setup Editor and Tilor for Editing.

Edited by Losermaker, 3 days ago.

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