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Losermaker's Stratego Tutorials

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#1 Losermaker



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Posted 09 June 2018 - 04:55 AM

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

2nd 2018/19 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,



If you are new to Stratego and having a hard time understanding the piece names here is a list of all names and the corresponding numbers. European numberings are in blue and American in red.


Marshal     (10)(1)

General     (9)(2)

Colonel      (8)(3)

Major         (7)(4)

Captain      (6)(5)

Lieutenant (5)(6)

Sergeant   (4)(7)

Miner         (3)(8)

Scout        (2)(9)

Spy           (S)(S)

Bomb        (B, (B

Flag          (F)(F)


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

Part3: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry457193

2. Calculating moves and outcomes: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry458198

3. Dividing the Board: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry458998

4. The 2 Squares Rule: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry459743

5. Organizing Your Base: http://forum.strateg...693#entry466693

6. Opening Strategies and Lane Positions: http://forum.strateg...476#entry490476

Edited by Losermaker, 29 January 2020 - 10:46 AM.

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#2 Losermaker



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Posted 09 June 2018 - 05:07 AM

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 2-3 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.


Sample game using the first defensive setup: 

https://www.dropbox....e game.mp4?dl=0


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, 07 November 2018 - 11:25 PM.

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#3 Losermaker



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Posted 20 June 2018 - 01:35 AM

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 rough 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.



A standard style aggressive setup.


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.



An agressive setup using the General as the attacking piece.


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.



An aggressive setup using a "combined" Marshal and General.


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, 04 February 2019 - 03:27 AM.

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#4 Losermaker



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Posted 02 July 2018 - 11:47 AM

Tutorial 1 – Setup Strategy

Part 3 of 3: Bluff and Surprise

This is the last of the setup strategy tutorials, hopefully you’re not totally bored with setups just yet…


This is what I think is the most important part of making a setup, adding the element of bluff and surprise. It’s what makes the difference between a platinum marshal and most lower gold players.


Consider this scenario: The gold player gets matched with a platinum marshal and puts in his best setup that he has been using lately. This setup of his is fairly normal, marshal and general behind the lakes, basic backing up of pieces; a good setup, but a predictable one. The platinum player will probably pick up on this quickly, that means the gold player is (figuratively) playing with half his base on ‘all viewable’. On the other hand, the platinum marshal will have weird little traps and strange positionings to mess up the gold player, confusing and frustrating him until he makes stupid moves.


This becomes more and more important the higher you go in rank, especially once you have played opponents several times. It can become a battle for who can do something different that will catch the other player off guard because it’s not considered a ‘normal’ strategy.


I advise against trying lots of new things at once, you might want to just try 1 thing (i.e. flag in the 2 row) and keep the rest of the setup normal. Sometimes I find myself trying too hard to be different, when all I really need is just 1 small thing. Having only one bluff/surprise in an otherwise normal setup actually makes the surprise more effective as your opponent just expects a standard setup.


Of course, the most basic bluff element in a setup is the option of an open flag. This can be a great mix up but there are a few things to consider before throwing it out there.


I would not do an open flag if:

1.      I think I can win without it (lower opponents).

2.      I know my opponent likes to lotto or will be forced to lotto easily (after losing only a small number of pieces).

3.      It will make me play the rest of my game nervous, which creates errors.


The cases where I would do an open flag are:

1.      When I think I need to do something different to win (very high opponents).

2.      My opponent is someone who does not like having to lotto unless in really desperate need.

3.      My opponent is a player that really attacks the flag hard, it may buy me time to get up pieces whilst he goes for a decoy.


Even if all of these last 3 things are true, an open flag is still always a risk. Having an open flag means the game is never over until it’s over. Until you can block all three lanes and have all their scouts, then you are always in danger until the end.


There is a catch with open flag though. Since it’s too risky to use vs lower players, you only use it for the higher ones. But these same higher players are better at reading setups, and normally are more strategic with their lottoing. In order for it to work you have to keep calm and make sure you don’t give away any hints by where you are letting your high pieces sit and your reaction to moves when he is around your open flag.


I have found that there are certain players who just seem to always miss my bombs and hit my open flag. If you decide to still play open vs these kinds of players I found a little trick that helped me. Start by placing your bombs and flag in your setup for an open flag. Now swap the flag with the bomb of your choice. Simple logic, but I found these certain opponents finding my flag less.


If you are not going with an open flag, there are still plenty of options to catch your opponent off guard with. It really is just a matter of trial and error and finding what works consistently for you.


Here are a few ideas to try:

Marshal in the back row, marshal behind a bomb, marshal in the front row - but used as a defensive piece (how do you stop him from being discovered early?).

Front row spy, does having the spy in the wings at A3 or J3 make him too vulnerable?

Open flag (if you don’t already), flag in the 3rd row, flag in the 2nd row.

Crazy bomb setups, can you bomb off a side? How many high bombs allows your setup to still be playable during the endgame?

Front row colonels can be very effective, but it takes some practice and you might lose a few initially.

Bombing in pieces?

Put marshal and general together (combined attack or defensive)

And so many more…


All of these things should not necessarily be a standard part of your setups, but you may take 1 (or maybe 2) bits and use them when you think you really need to do something different to win. The point of trying them out is to expand your game in what you think, or afterwards know, is possible.

I have tried all of these, and you can get all of them to work given the right circumstances. I once (in a ranked game) even did a corner flag bluff with the general bombed in… I won with it, but I don’t really recommend it



An example of an unorthodox flag placement



An example of the marshal behind a bomb setup


Patience is required with this one and you normally would have to bluff the sergeant at G4 as your marshal. Make sure you keep that sergeant’s identity as secret as you would your marshal.



Tricky bombs - just have to survive until the endgame…


I cannot stress enough the importance of being willing to lose a few games trying out new crazy things to see if it’s possible to make a strategy work. There are so many things to try (and there is always something new) that it takes time to test them, but you come out of it a better player.


Before wrapping up tutorial 1, I want to explain something that I forgot in part1. I said, “Don't have catch points where an opponent can entirely block off piece movement (mostly applies to endgame).”. I would like to explain this a little more as this is very important and applies to ALL setups. Having a ‘catch point’ is basically a part of your setup that may restrict your movement during the game if your opponent puts a piece in a particular spot. Here is an example:



A "Catch point" example.


If the blue player is willing to keep his colonel there, then half (!) of red’s pieces are trapped down in his base. It is quite rare that an opponent will think to trap you down like this, but if someone does then you will realise just how damaging it can be. You want to avoid this, no matter what style setup you have.


Please Note: The setups used in this part have not been tested and may contain flaws, but feel free to make adjustments and try out whatever crazy idea(s) you get!


Well that wraps up the first tutorial, hopefully my next tutorial will be a bit more interesting when I discuss “Calculating Moves and Outcomes”




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.


Mix it up,



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

Edited by Losermaker, 04 February 2019 - 03:29 AM.

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#5 Losermaker



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Posted 17 July 2018 - 02:52 AM

Tutorial 2 – Calculating Moves and Outcomes


One of the first things everyone will learn in Stratego is calculating how many moves to get from here to there? Will I make it there first? If you are having trouble getting caught out just 1 move too late, that’s ok. It happens to all of us and just takes time and experience. However, there is a simple fix to a lot of people’s problems – Buffer. Your buffer is there for thinking time, and while you should not really be eating into it during normal play, there are some cases where it may take a minute or even two to calculate what the outcome of a situation is going to be.

The most basic calculations should not really take more than the 15 seconds you get for your move.



A simple move count situation where red wants to get to the lieutenant and major:




These situations happen all the time, and you should eventually be able to calculate these while playing in ‘auto pilot’ mode.

Then there are more advanced scenario’s which may take some thought, like this one:





Credit to DeepLimbo for the puzzle found here: http://forum.strateg...-12#entry454783


It is in situations like these, though they are quite rare, that you will need to take a little time to calculate the moves. Even some of the very best players at this site failed the answer to this one (check out the link if you want to see the answer).


Here is an example of a situation that I got into in a real game:






Blue player has 1 other unknown sergeant. Red to move. I lost this game by simply charging my miner at F10 into his base, thinking his flag was probably at I10. However, the perfect play takes just a little extra thought, and I did not stop to think before I did it. Here is the perfect play:


Alternate between red and blue moves.

Red: F10-G10, G10-H10, J7-J8, H10-I10, J8-J9, J9-J10 Game over

Blue: E9-F9, F9-G9, G9-H9, I9-I10, ???.


Here is where I ended up:




Now my miner can not make it to his flag. But even here there is another calculation to be made (I did not make it as I was surprised that my guess was wrong and I blanked). Can you bring back your miner and use your general to get the flag? The answer is YES you can. Even after the mistake earlier, if you play it correct now, then you will make it.



From here it is a certain loss for blue (provided I don’t make another huge mistake ;) )


There are other situations (mostly if you are down) where you will sacrifice a piece to gain an advantage, if you can see what the outcome will be. However, when doing this make sure that you KNOW (after calculating it) that it will 100% work. An example of this happened in one of my Wintertourn2015 final games against Playa1 (Tim Slagboom).






Tim is down a general and a major.

Here he pauses for a long time (1m 42s to be exact) whilst he weighs up the risk of lottoing G3 and then sacrificing his colonel to take the spy. This will result in my spy being gone, but he still gets the colonel back. After he has thought it through he proceeds with it as follows:




This is a great example of thinking through things before making moves that could decide whether you win or lose.

A big part of calculating outcomes is decision making. I find quite a lot of players getting this wrong by simply not thinking about whether they even have a choice. You have to really think, “is there any way to win if I don’t do this?” and “what does my opponent want me to do?”.


Here is an example of a tough decision I had in a game:






For the graveyards I am the orange pieces and my opponents are red. I am up a colonel, lieutenant and miner, but down a general, captain and sergeant. My opponent wants to swap colonels to make it his general vs colonel, his captain vs lieutenant, his sergeant vs miner.


I am thinking here about sacrificing my colonel on the left to get my colonel through to take some of his moved pieces and maybe go for a lotto. If you think about it, the decision that you have to make really becomes quite clear. If you let him swap, you will lose for sure; He has 3 higher ranked vs 3 lower ranked.


Here is where a lot of people think “Oh, he got my colonel, nice move. I might try running a captain up to try to lotto.”. This is unrealistic, your captain has about a 5% chance of making it to the back row, and a smaller chance of doing so and gaining a piece.

So, if swapping out is not an option, the only real one is to sacrifice one of your colonels, in this case the one on the left.


Losing a colonel may seem like it will lead to a certain loss also (excluding possibility of lottoing open flag) but if you can gain a captain and he then swaps colonels, it will become your lieutenant vs his general your miner vs his sergeant, so the situation will not actually change too much. If you pick up more than 1 piece, you have gained a small advantage.




I picked up a sergeant and a miner. Due to my colonel being down near his flag, I was able to force him to sacrifice a captain to take a miner and my sergeant on the left was not taken by his general. So, all up I lost a colonel and miner, but gained a captain, sergeant and miner. When he came to swap colonels again, I was not sure if I should lotto for another piece/flag or swap. I thought I might be able to win without lotto and it was better odds. I don’t know if that was the right decision as I ended up losing the game, but that was due to a smart lotto by my opponent.


One last thing I want to touch on is calculating moves in advance. This simply means that in a situation like example 1 (https://imgur.com/SoHpK8T) you have already calculated the moves, so you know that if you can get 1 extra move on his marshal, you will get his lieutenant. Drawing people 1 move away is easier than you think, it only takes them to forget what they are guarding from as they go after another piece.




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.


Pulled off a great set of moves after some serious calculation? Have other great move puzzles? I would love to hear about them! Please share it under: http://forum.strateg...-and-questions/


Gl with your games,



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

Edited by Losermaker, 24 September 2019 - 10:27 PM.

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#6 Losermaker



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Posted 31 July 2018 - 10:25 PM

Tutorial 3: Dividing the Board

I remember TheProf (then Xerxes) writing something about this at the metaforge forum. It is a very, very simple technique which most (if not all) platinum players know how to do and is easy to learn if you do not yet know how to do it.


TheProf wrote, “Dividing the board is a manoeuvring technique in which you keep your opponent’s highest piece on one side of the board using an equal or higher piece of your own. This assumes your opponent is unwilling to trade this piece”.


He then continued to write about how to do it and gave some pictures, which unfortunately I no longer have (I snipped the definition because I really liked it  :)).

Whilst he sums it up very nicely, I would like to go into some more detail.


How to do it:

This technique is able to be done by any piece- “assuming your opponent is unwilling to trade the piece”.


Example 1:

You have just captured a major of your opponent using your colonel.




You are confident you can win the game on that lead alone. Marshals are gone, all other pieces are even.

Being unsure what to do, blue moves his general across to the right side of the board, you can then bring your general and divide the board as shown, completely paralysing his general unless he is willing to lotto J2 or I1. Once in the position shown, you get 1 free move every 3 moves.




Example 2 (with bombs):

Assume blue’s spy is gone.




In this example it is a similar situation but if blue’s general moves to I3 it is a definite trapping this time.


Now that you know how to do it, I will go into some more minor, but sometimes very crucial details.

It is obviously better (and sometimes necessary) to divide the board on the side where there are less pieces to avoid damage by lotto, but sometimes it is better to lure the piece to the side you want for better defense.


Example 3:

Assume Blue’s spy is gone and you are winning (bombs are unknown).




As you can see here, by moving your lieutenant you are able to divide the board, possibly risking loss of a piece at H1 or I1 but it will ultimately result in a trapped general.


Now this is O.K. but your flag is quite susceptible to an attack from the right if you do this, suppose that his general stays at H7, you may be forced to use your marshal to defend from another piece coming (i.e. J8)

In this situation I would temporarily divide the board (as shown below) to buy me time to rearrange my board.




Of course every game is different but now if blue wishes to bring his general to the left side, (assuming that C2 and A2 are not higher than a lieutenant at most) you can repeat the dividing manoeuvre there and have a much better defense for your flag.


The last thing I want to show is a situation of when to break from dividing the board, either because it is not progressing the game, or because you can gain an advantage from doing so.


Example 4:

In this scenario it is Blue’s turn to move. Both players have 1 colonel left and the game is even, with the exception that Blue traded his marshal for Reds general. The moved piece at H8 is suspected spy as general came from I8. Since you swapped a colonel on the left side next to Blue’s marshal you suspect that the other colonel is either in the centre somewhere, or (most likely) over near the spy and general.




Your marshal is holding back his general, but if you are able to buy some time you can rearrange your base and make an attack on his major. It is Blue’s turn to move. Blue’s general is coming back to try to get his major free.



The 4 most common moves here would be:

  1. Blue moves general to F7
  2. Blue moves general back to H7
  3. Blue moves F8 to F7
  4. Blue moves another random piece.

In the case of #1, your Marshal MUST go to F6 (if it does not there is a possibility of a good player (who makes all the right moves) being able to free the major:

If #2 occurs you are free to make a move to rearrange your base before having to bring marshal back down to H4 (dividing the board)

#3 requires either a scout put at F4 or F3 to be safe (does not ensure major capture) or willingness to take the risk of F8 not being spy and moving marsh up to F6 (also lets general into your base on the right).

#4 allows you to make another free move to rearrange.


Let’s go back to #1 and look at what happens if he moves his general to F7 (Red moves to F6 with Marshal) then E7.


Example 4 (continued):




If Blue moves general to E7 the major is lost (provided his colonel is not in the centre somewhere).


Lastly, if Blue is willing to let you divide the board then you are getting free moves, allowing to rearrange your board to something more like this:




Your most valuable of the moved pieces you have moved to E5 so that the marshal can defend it after you have trapped Blue’s major. A6 is the next safest place to put a captain or major as Blue’s colonel is highly unlikely on that side. Your moved piece at J4 should be no higher than a sergeant, and the piece at H3 you should be able to defend from general and colonel after capturing the major, however it is best that this piece is no higher than a lieutenant in case things go wrong . You are now ready to make your attack the next time you are dividing the board and move your marsh to F6 ready to attack.




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.


Have a good week,



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

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#7 Losermaker



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Posted 13 August 2018 - 11:31 PM

Tutorial 4: The 2 Squares Rule

From section 10.1 of the ISF rules:


It is not allowed to move a piece more than 3 times non-stop between the same two squares, regardless of what the opponent is doing. It does not matter whether a piece is moving and thereby attacking an opponent’s piece, or just moving to an empty square.


Learning to use this rule properly is an essential part of improving your game. No matter where you are ranked, opponents will always be trying to use this against you and there will always be opportunities for you to use it to your advantage.


There are a few tricks that can pull off some really nice outcomes in the lower ranks. Higher players will not fall for these on a regular basis, but there is no harm in trying sometimes.


One of the simplest tricks is to threaten a piece to get aligned with another piece. So many lower players fall for this one:




Here I use my colonel to threaten his captain, hoping that he will forget to keep his major diagonal. He does and I get to take it (marshals were gone and I knew his general). This player was a silver sergeant.


Here is another one, this time against a platinum general:




He forgets to move his major out of the way because he is already thinking that I am trying to go for his piece near my general.


Another simple trick is one that involves 2 of your pieces and 1 of your opponent’s. This one is great because people don’t see it coming as often as other 2 square traps and a lot of gold level players and even some low platinum players will still fall for this one.




As shown, if the blue player does not move his general to stay diagonal then you will get the colonel.


Of course, the reverse is true if you are the one defending the situation. Just remember to always keep your valuable piece diagonal.


Another useful time to use the 2 squares rule is as a bluff, which can be done by simply letting your opponent get in line with you, then pretend that you didn’t mean to let them.




This one works extremely well in the lower ranks, but higher players will not fall for it nearly as often. This is because they know that everyone at the higher level knows the 2 squares rule, and it’s very rare that they will make a mistake that big. When doing this, don’t forget that you will always end on the square beside the one you started on. I have seen some players try to pull this bluff and they accidentally end up on the wrong square and their opponent gets their piece for free.


These are the most common cases where the 2 squares rule plays a big part, but it is often used in smaller ways when trapping and it’s hard to recall all the small scenarios where it comes into play, but knowing the manoeuvres shown should help in a lot of situations.


As you can see, the rule is very simple, but can be used very effectively if the opponent is making mistakes. A good habit to get into is to take a quick check over your pieces (should only take 2 secs) to make sure your opponent has not lined up anything with his last move, then proceed with your next move. If you’re still having trouble, then it may just take time and experience to consistently create or avoid 2 square situations.


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.

I’m running short on ending phrases so I will be forced to use one that is popular in Aus at the moment.


‘Have a good one’  :D 



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

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Posted 15 November 2018 - 06:08 AM

Tutorial 4: Organizing Your Base


This tutorial mostly applies to when you are ahead and want to stay safe, or if the game is fairly even and your opponent is not willing to attack. If you are behind in pieces, you probably won’t have time to rearrange your base much.

Here are some common circumstances of when to check if you need to rearrange your base:

  • You plan to make an attack that will give away info and make another side of the board weak
  • The game is in a stalemate with neither player wanting to attack. If you don’t want to draw you have to do something and your opponent is giving you the chance to completely prepare your attack.
  • Your setup is getting unbalanced/You don’t have enough pieces near your flag. This is especially crucial if your opponent can block the middle and prevent you moving pieces across to the flag side.

I could probably think of more, but these are the main ones that come to mind.

A few examples:


Assume red’s Marshal, General and Spy are all unknown. Before you reveal your marshal, it would be best to get the general in a better position to cover both the centre and right side.


There is no set method for how to re-arrange, that’s something you will have to work out for yourself in most cases. However, “in theory” the things to try to aim for are:

·        Try to have good retreat routes in case things go wrong

·        Easily accessible pieces to help scout ahead

·        Keep as many pieces neatly in the back 2 rows as possible to keep your opponent guessing about your base structure.

·        Not moving more pieces than necessary.

·        In most cases the safest place is close to the most valuable units. If you are going to reveal a piece and make another spot vulnerable, put your valuable pieces behind/close to the high piece you are revealing.


As I said, “in theory” those are the things to try to do, but it can be hard to put into practice sometimes. Nothing beats experience, but if you know what to aim for it can help speed up the learning experience.


So, for example 1 I might try to re-arrange to something like this:


Valuable pieces would be put at B4 or C4 probably.


Here is another example:


Your opponent is not willing to attack you and is playing defensively, you get the chance to completely re-arrange here if you want to.


Following the rough guidelines mentioned above, you might re-arrange to something like this:



There was also another example (#3) in the “Dividing the Board” tutorial where we did some rearranging whilst dividing the board which is a good example use for better defence: http://forum.strateg...ls/#entry458998


Re-arranging to get pieces across the board.


You find your opponents general on your left and your marshal is on your right, it’s a long way to move it, and if you do get it there will you be too late? Will your opponent know it’s your marshal? There is a question to ask yourself before you move that marshal though… Is it worth it?


Do you think you can get it all the way over there without your opponent suspecting its identity? If your opponent guesses correctly, he can use the 2 squares rule to his advantage and you will give away information about your marshal for nothing. That is actually quite a big gamble, one which a lot of players take without thinking enough about.


So, is it worth it? Will you be able to trap that general, or possibly a close by major if you can sneak your marshal over there? Is there a possibility of using the marshal as a bluff front row defensive piece and capturing something very valuable?

If you do decide to go for it then in my own experience against most mid-ranged players, the key to sneaking pieces across the board is to always look like you are just casually re-arranging – just keeping your base ‘neat’ because you are fanatic about it :D. What I mean by this is something like:


1. Setup a marshal bluff


You move the scout up to start the bluff.


2. ‘Duck’ the marshal back into a place where you look like you are putting it away like a lower piece. Play out a few fake moves to remove suspicions.


Play the fake moves after the marshal is at E2.


3.Try to figure out the best place to move the marshal to next. Move pieces if necessary, and repeat a similar process.


Here I would probably wait at E3 for a couple of moves to make it look like I had changed my mind before moving the marshal to C2.


Hopefully by now your marshal should be at C2 without having raised too many suspicions and you can wait to see what happens. If your opponent does nothing you could try to make it look like you need your fake marshal (scout) to defend the centre, he might bring the general in and get a nasty surprise.


Please note that this tactic works very well against most gold players and lower, but it is not exactly an advanced tactic. The top players figure out what you are doing easily and you will probably end up giving the marshal away for nothing if you use this method.

The last thing to remember is that good players are rarely ever going to let you arrange properly. They will scout a piece here, take a small one there and keep you guessing. If your re-arranging plan isn’t working you may have to drop what you are doing completely and try something else. You will get to know when those situations are and what to do through experience.


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.





Special thanks to Morx for his Setup Editor.

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Posted 28 January 2020 - 12:00 PM

Tutorial 6: Opening Strategies and Lane Positions.


While I do not think that the openings define the game, I do think that a good start can really help your game. Knowing how to position pieces in the lanes can give you a much stronger position, regardless of the game strategy you are using.

Firstly, I think one of the most important things in the opening is to go in with a plan. So many games I have not really thought about what I actually want to do with the setup I have made and I end up moving pieces around wondering what to do next. 


A simple plan might be something like the following:


“I will try to use my colonel on the left to gain a major by leaving it uncovered (similar to how you would a lower piece) and using a lieutenant as major bait. Once I have that lead, I will try to find information by applying pressure to other majors or captains or forcing swaps with other colonels (forces higher pieces to show themselves).”.


Second, have a rough idea of how much material or how much information you can give away without having a too strong a negative effect on your game. Thinking more about this will give you an idea of what pieces to put in the front rows. For example, 3 captains in the front row are likely going to result in 1-2 captains down against good players. Similarly, having a major in the front row to try to gain a captain plus another major in another lane backing up a front-row sergeant is likely going to result in 2 exposed majors early on and difficulty in defending. There is no set rule as to what pieces to put in the front rows, but thinking about this can help you understand more how your opening is likely going to play out. When I think about this more, I often find myself down less mid-ranked material coming into the mid/endgame; those pieces can often decide the game’s outcome.

Personally, I like to change whether I use captains, lieutenants, sergeants or throw in a major or colonel depending on how well I know my opponent. For example, for an opponent that likes to lead with lieutenants I might try either an aggressive option with captains backed up by colonels, or I could use a more defensive strategy and back lieutenants with scouts that will find the majors after the lieutenants’ swap, both of which can be effective.


Regardless of the opponent and the pieces you feel comfortable with, there are some very common lane positions which I will go through and try to list the benefits and weaknesses of each. These can help you execute your plan much more effectively if you know what works best with what you are trying to achieve.


Diagonal Lane Block – Lake variation


This is a very simple, but also very effective placement whether it be at the very beginning of the game, or in the later stages.

The benefits of this is that the piece backing up (in this case the marshal) can be a high piece backing up a very low piece (the sergeant in this case) and yet the backing piece can have the identity remain unknown if the sergeant gets swapped. This is strong because it forces the opponent to either take a risk to get the sergeant (normally would be backed by a major/captain) or try to use 2 pieces to take the sergeant, which can often result in extra information for the defender. If the opponent tries either of these 2 options, the worst case is that blue will lose the sergeant here.

Of course, this can be done with any combination of pieces such as a major or sergeant, but the principle is the same, the backing piece can remain hidden and it could be any rank.

A nice variation for a bluffing strategy is to use something (e.g. sergeant) backed by a scout. If the opponent does take the sergeant by force with 2 pieces, you can move the scout back behind the lake and you now have a scout suspected as a higher piece such as a major. This can be very advantageous! Note: make sure to delay a little time before moving the scout back, this will make it seem like you are considering taking the piece that took your sergeant and convince your opponent further.



  • Easy/quick to set (fast multiple-lane development).
  • Hard to crack without some risk.
  • Can be used with any backing piece without giving away information until wanted.
  • Can create a fantastic bluff with a lower-ranked backing piece.
  • Can be done in any lane.
  • Allows for a fast switch to attack.


  • May result in the loss of the front-row piece.
  • Does have a tendency for people to back pieces by their favourites/may become predictable if not careful.
  • Will often result in a player swapping the front row piece; will require a second piece to replace it.

Diagonal Lane Block – Wing variation


This is a less-common lane placement, and perhaps for good reason. It is one of the weaker lane positions due to the opponent being able to place pressure on the backing piece. In this case, a lieutenant could take the sergeant, causing the marshal to retreat. If the lieutenant follows the marshal, the major can take it, however, now your opponent will be suspicious of your marshal and may apply pressure to the major to ‘force’ the marshal to be revealed. I typically only like using this placement if I am using a lower backing piece such as a scout. Additionally, I may use this if I want to try to surprise an opponent that I know would not suspect me to have a higher piece there; but even then, there is a high risk of exposure for little or no gain.



  • Easy/quick to set (fast multiple-lane development).
  • May be good for gaining information with a lower backing piece.
  • Could be used for unpredictability.
  • Allows for a fast switch to attack.


  • Is easier to apply pressure to than other positions, which may result in giving of information when using a higher-ranked backing piece.
  • Typically not a very strong position against the more careful opponents.
  • Cannot defend information when the front piece gets swapped.

4-square Blockade


A more common position that effectively takes out the option of the opponent using 2 pieces to take the front row piece and instead forces the opponent to take a 50/50 guess at which side to attack. This is quite a nice position that can be used to good effect, particularly for blocking a lane if you are planning an attack in one lane but need to buy some time in another. For me, I like using this more toward the early-midgame as it does take more time than other positions to set. Sometimes if I want to use the principles of the Diagonal Lane Block (either variation) with a higher backing piece, I will start with the DLB and convert it to a 4-square Blockade later, which gains me moves in the early game until I can progress the position further. The nice part about this is that it has the 50/50 option as well as the aspects of the DLB that keeps the high (or bluff) piece hidden.



  • Harder for an opponent to attack without some risk.
  • Can keep information hidden to a good extent.
  • Effective as a time-buyer in a lane.
  • Can be used in multiple positions e.g. further toward opponent’s side of the board to apply more pressure.


  • Slower to set than other positions (Slower multiple-lane development).
  • May be harder to quickly switch to attack from the lane as more pieces are moved and possibly in the way.
  • May be harder to defend both backing pieces against a very aggressive player.

Nijmeijer Bluff


This is one of my favourite lane placements of all. I think it is fitting to name this after the 4-time world champion Pim Nijmeijer, who I think is the best and most subtle at using this trap. It is quite simply a diagonal lane block that uses the piece that should be backing as the front piece. This is not necessarily an opening position, but more of a mid-game placement once some pieces have been removed. I personally find that it is most effective when the piece backing up (here a colonel) is already known, but it can also work with an unknown piece.


  • Easy/quick to set.
  • A very effective bluff that will often gain you a high-ranked piece.
  • Is a good variation if you often use diagonal lane blocks.
  • Allows for a very quick switch to aggressive play.
  • Weaknesses:
  • Not as effective in the early game.
  • Greater risk of a high-ranked piece becoming exposed than other positions.
  • Takes quite some practice to know when to set up the bluff without it being obvious.

Of course, these lane placements can all be used for a huge variety of scenarios. Many players will be using these already, but thinking about why you are using each one and whether it is the most effective for how you want to play your game plan can make for smarter setups and use of lane placements; often resulting in a much better opening game.


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.





Special thanks to Morx for his Setup Editor.

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