The setup I present is actually one mentioned by Dobby125 in a post on his blog (Best Winning Percentage Stratego Game Board Setup on Gravon
). He had analyzed all the archived game setups from Gravon and this setup (presumably used by one person) had the best winning percentage: 90.62% (87-9-1).
This setup seemed really unorthodox and I became intrigued. I wanted to learn if this setup really was ingeniously superior, or if the player using it had just been lucky, so I decided to conduct a little experiment to find out. First I downloaded the StraDoS2 game viewer and watched many of the games in which this mystery player used the setup to get a feel for how he played it. Next, I created a new account, Lord Steamroller, which would only use this setup, and gave it a go myself.
The results are mixed. I quickly raced up the leaderboard to Silver Marshal, beating a handful of Gold and Platinum players along the way. It was very effective against Bronze and Silver players. But I've hit a ceiling at about 500 ELO and it’s become difficult to advance further. This might be due to the setup, or my skill (my main account’s ELO is currently 511 and my personal best so far is 541).
In any case, I think this setup and related tactics make for a very interesting Setup of the Week, and I’d be interested to hear what top players think of it.
Here’s the setup (US numbering):
Unorthodox Flag position. The flag is located at J2 and is encased an a “sideways tripod”. Often when an opponent discovers the bomb at J3 they assume the right flank is the weak side and focus their attack elsewhere, which is exactly what you want. The flag’s position actually turns out to be very safe and difficult for opponents to solve. Opponents also often hit I2, expecting it to be a moveable piece defending a corner flag. I actually played one game where an opponent had diffused both J3 and I2 and in the endgame their Marshal had a choice of attacking J2 or J1 and chose the J1 bomb which sealed the win for me. If you are unlucky enough to have an opponent's Miner diffuse J3, try to attack it from I3 with a low-ranking piece. If you have to take it with a Colonel to preserve the win, by all means do what you must, but you’ll arouse suspicion. And if J3 is diffused, make sure to (nonchalantly) place a Major or Captain somewhere in column J to block Scouts.
Marshal, General, Colonel and Spy. These pieces are all clustered around the flag. This is both a strength, initially, and a weakness, eventually, if you don’t fan them out to cover your board. Opponents do not expect this positioning, but you can get pinned down by an opponent’s Marshal if he attacks early down the middle.
Scout mill in the center. Scouts are clustered in the center and are used to probe the center early.
Bomb “pad” behind Left Lake. This is used, along with the Sergeant at D2 and the Miner at C2, to create a fake tripod. The Major at E2, ostensibly guarding this tripod, reinforces this notion.
Miners. Miners are all kept tucked safely away until needed in the endgame.
Majors as “Super Scouts”. The Majors have a crucial role to play in this setup. They have two jobs:
- Sweep up as many of the opponent’s lower-ranking pieces (Captain on down) in the early game to gain a sizable material advantage in the endgame.
- Quickly reveal the opponent’s Marshal and General.
The player who used this strategy on Gravon used the Majors at F4 and A3 very aggressively, almost recklessly to achieve that objective. Almost.
Opening. The player who used this setup on Gravon was very consistent: he’d move the Scout at E4 in front of the adjacent Major and then shoot him to F7. If he found a Captain, he would rush up and kill it with the Major. Because of the 2-Square Rule, there’s no way for the Captain to escape. I do the same.
If the opponent goes first and opens in the center, the Gravon player would immediately shoot the Scout at A4; if a Captain is found there, he’d move the Major at A3 up to kill it, and once again it can’t escape.
Worst-case scenario, your first Major is killed by a Colonel. If so, be a little more cautious with the second Major attacker. Ideally, however, you find a Marshal, which can tell you a lot about an opponent’s setup, because if he had to use the Marshal to attack the Major, the other adjacent piece is lower than a Colonel. You can also usually suspect that the General and Spy are on the other side of the board.
If you do find a Colonel with the Major at F4, bluff the hell out of it and you'll almost certainly find the Marshal.
If your opening Scouts find lower-ranking pieces, you move the next-highest rank up to kill it and find out what’s protecting it.
Remain unmoved on the right flank, no matter what you opponent does, simulating a bombed-in side. Even after I4 and J4 have been scouted, leave them unmoved, as it will be nearly impossible for an opponent to break through.
Captains. If your Majors are finding and killing Captains, keep your Captains unmoved as fake bombs for as long as possible. This turns out to be quite effective. Depending on how the game plays out, however, you may have to press them into service to grab scouting Lieutenants.
Scouts. Use your Scouts as bluffs in the early game to allow your General to release at the right time and to find the Marshal quickly if he comes down the center. You may need to use them as Spy bluffs. Bluffing with Scouts is less then ideal, but they're your best option in the early game with this setup.
Two eyes for an eye. After your initial attack, it’s important to try to grab at least one piece before trading off. For example, if your Major in the center finds the opponent’s General, advance yours, and try to capture at least one other piece and then trade. Keep doing this, especially if your Majors have gained a material advantage initially. Do not, however, trade off Marshals, Generals, and Colonels before you reduce your deficit in Majors to one.
Inherent material advantage. If things work according to plan, you should enter the midgame up both a couple Captains and a couple Lieutenants. An advantage in Lieutenants is inherent in this setup, because yours are kept towards the backfield. This advantage is crucial to winning the game.
- The flag placement is a big advantage. It’s unexpected, and because it looks like a weak side, opponents will usually not bother pushing through in the early game.
- The right flank is impenetrable to a Marshal blitz. Your Colonel can repel an initial incursion by attacking I4. After that, by sliding your Marshal to I3 neither a Marshal nor a General can get past.
- The fake tripod on the left will trip up many opponents. Also, in the endgame, if C2, D2 and E2 are open opponents will sometimes attack the bombs, thinking there can’t be three of them all in a row.
- The most obvious disadvantage is that the left flank is very weak against a Marshal blitz. In that situation, the best you can do is to use a Spy bluff and move your General to the center to defend while you open up the right where you’ll probably have superior ranks.
- Marshals attacking in the center can pin down your whole setup while an opponent’s General goes to work gutting you. Your Marshal is not positioned to defend.
- Miners can sneak down your right flank in the endgame and you’ll be in trouble unless you station a piece to defend, which can dilute the strength of your endgame attack.
- Bluffing is difficult b/c Lieutenants are not readily available and you have to rely mostly on Scouts.
There you have it. It’s actually a fun setup to play, though I'm not sure you'd want to use it to win the world championship. I’d be really interested to hear what comments you might have.
Edited by Lord Invader, 3 weeks ago.