Having time off with my 10 year old daughter over the holidays, I found that she was keen to play some board games with me. Once we exhausted the ones in the house, I happened to mention some of my favourite board games when I was a child, one of which included a game called Stratego. Days later, she returned home from her grandparents (my parents) one day with the said box of Stratego in hand. It had been hiding in their loft all these years.
How little my interests have changed since childhood. Stratego is a battle game which has a distinct 19th century military flavour to it. The aim is to capture the enemy flag by beating the opponents pieces by outranking them in 1-to-1 encounters. One must avoid attacking the bombs which can only be safely defused by sappers. The difficulty lies in the ranks of the enemy’s pieces being unseen and only revealed when nominated to be ‘attacked’.
The army ranks are delightfully depicted in cameos, each featuring a unique style of 19th century European military headdress. These consist of:
- Scout: Hussar busby
- Sapper: Dragoon helmet, (Albert pattern without plume?)
- Sergeant: Field service cap
- Lieutenant: Shako
- Captain: Shako
- Major: Shako
- Colonel: Dragoon helmet with woollen crest and plume
- General: Bicorne hat with plume
- Marshal: Bicorne hat with feathers
Based upon the French game of L’Attaque, the game is a nice combination of chance and strategy, just like in a real battle. The game’s predecessor, L’Attaque initially came with cardboard illustrations on contemporary European soldiers. The V&A museum in London has this 1925 version, below:
Being created by a French lady, Mademoiselle Hermance Edan, the illustrations featured types of the French and British armies with ranks written in the appropriate language. I notice that the British army’s flag is not represented by the union flag but instead by the ‘red ensign’, the flag used by the merchant navy. Sacré bleu!
Back to our game: to add some martial atmosphere to our own Stratego engagement, I had my copy of ‘Regimental Marches of the British Army – Volume 2″ playing over speakers in the background.
Full credit to Eleanor, my daughter, she soon grasped the different ranks and the rules of the game. Unfortunately for her, luck was against her and furthermore she was up against a ‘competitive dad’ who shamefully wasn’t about to lose a battle…
I noticed that there were some pleasing Napoleonic-era illustrations of cavalry on the side of the battlefield board, three hussars and another cavalryman wearing a cuirass engaged in combat.
It was enjoyable to play Stratego again after all these years and it may even become a regular feature. But wait! There was one more military strategy board game that Eleanor had brought home; Campaign – “a compelling game of military and political strategy in the age of Napoleon”.