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Back in the dim and distant past that they're calling the early 1980s, strategy board-games abounded. Most of them involved two players commanding armies which waged war on each other; the winning army was the one whose commander had the greater tactical ability. Now Accolade has ported one of those games - Stratego - across to the Amiga.

Grimmy graphics
The actual concept behind the game is quite simple - which is a good job, since the manual isn't exactly overly detailed on gameplay, while the on-screen help is displayed in such a dreadful font that reading it is a real pain. You could, of course, select the 'demo game' option to see how things work.

You play by moving your pieces around the board, trying to find and capture the other army's flag. If you land on a square occupied by your opponent then the highest-ranking piece wins, and the other is removed. If both pieces are of the same rank then they are both removed. The twist is that you can't see the rank of your opponent's piece until you actually land on the square.

Playing well takes time, real time. At first attacks take the form of a shot in the dark, well lets see what happens if... soon after a few quick defeats it becomes apparent that there's a little more to successful strategy than guesswork. Stratego stresses good memory work, but by you, not the machine. Because each piece only reveals itself when attacking you have to remember what's where. This is particularly important as the more specialised units (your flag and mines) can't move and guessing their location obviously makes life easier.

The game's graphics leave a little to be desired: there is a choice of two different piece designs, but only one of them is really usable - the other has images on the pieces which are totally indecipherable. In the centre of the board is a picture of a lake, with pretty running water. Pretty that is, until you have played the game for ten minutes or so, at which time it stops being pretty and becomes dull. This traditional setup can be traded though for two more modern boards that simplify the layout. The pieces too can be changed to from the twee little pics of soldiers to numbers, if minimalism is your thing.

Irritatingly a spinning disk replaces the cursor while the computer is considering its move, but it's frozen in one place - regardless of how hard you bash the mouse about. When you've accessed a menu the cursor becomes extremely jerky and it becomes rather tricky to select the first item in any menu. Not everything is bad news though, the game offers five levels of computer 'intelligence' and the higher ones even manage to give you a very challenging game.

Cardboard rules, OK
There are a number of standard setups available within the game so that you don't have to place all your pieces individually at the start of each game. These setups are also worth studying for strategy tips - how best to protect flag with mines and so on. And if you get confused halfway through a game you can save it to disk and carry on at some later date.

Overall, Stratego is one for the strategic board games nut. It can't hope to be better than the original, simply because it's better to whip a human army than a computer one. It is though a game of risk, daring and very solid planning. The graphics aren't particularly inspired and the menus can prove tricky to use. The core of the game remains the same and some of the strategic twists it throws are sweet, if costly to your side.



Fahnen(n)eid

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Neben schönen Frauen, schnellen Autos, Nikotin, Kaffee und Alkohol ist dieses Brettspiel eine meiner wenigen Leidenschaften. Seit vor einem knappen Jahr die PC-Version herauskam, warte ich ungeduldig auf eine Amiga-Umsetzung - jetzt hat mir Accolade endlich den Gefallen getan!

Wie es sich für ein gutes Strategical gehört, ist das Spielen leicht, aber das Gewinnen schwierig. Zwei 40 Mann starke Armeen stehen sich gegenüber und versuchen, die jeweils gegnerische Fahne zu erobern. Pro Zug darf nur ein Feld weit marschiert werden, und bis auf wenige Feinheiten wie einem Spion oder Bomben schlagen die höheren Ränge einfach die niedrigen. Simpel, gell? Bloß, daß man die gegnerischen Figuren während des Spiels halt nur von hinten sieht.

Weil das so sein muß, ist Stratego am Computer auch nur für Solisten geeignet. Die finden hier fünf unterschiedlich starke Gegner und diverse Optionen: Demo, Zurücknahme, Betrachten der feindlichen Aufstellung, Regelvarianten und eine Auswahl verschiedener Bretter und Figuren-Sets. Die Spielstärke des Programms geht halbwegs in Ordnung, dank der Maussteuerung macht auch die Bedienung keine Probleme.

Nicht so ganz glücklich war ich mit der Übersichtlichkeit - das Spielfeld ist gegenüber der Ablagefläche für geschlagene Figuren etwas zu klein ausgefallen. Daß die Grafik nur zweckmäßig ist, liegt hingegen in der Natur der Sache, genau wie der spärliche Sound mit seinen paar FX.

Trotz netter Features wie der kleinen On-Screen-Statistik wurde ich das Gefühl nicht los, man hätte es insgesamt doch etwas besser machen können. Na, was soll es: Stratego-Fans auf der Suche nach einem allzeit bereiten Partner haben ohnehin keine Alternative. (ml)



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The classic board game finally makes it into the Amiga, but something's gone wrong...

Stratego is to war what Monopoly is to Capitalism. There's no point having scruples in either, because they're both board games, and their raison d'etre is to encourage you to beat the pants off your opponent(s) in a contest that vaguely resembles some real life scenario, preferably of a deeply unpleasant nature.

Stratego manages this superbly by being based on something very unpleasant indeed - the pieces representing splendidly pompous Captains, Generals, and other murderous players of a war in the Napoleonic era.

Your pieces which are varied in importance (like in chess), have limited movement capabilities (like in chess) and are similarly assembled on one side of the board, while your opponent's (let's call him Bonaparte) are on the other. It's your job to overwhelm Boney's pieces, and capture his flag.

This would be straightforward enough, except that neither of you can see how the other has positioned his most valued pieces, his dispensible pieces, and other nasties such as landmines. Each piece has a number value (the lower the number, the more powerful the piece) that remains undercover until they get into a scrap with an opposing soldier.

If your General (marked an almost unbeatable One) wastes one of Boney's scouts (marked a pathetic Nine), you've destroyed one of his pieces, but hey - now he knows where your most valued player is hanging out. The trick is to sacrifice your wallies (scouts and such-like) while making full use of the big cheeses (Generals and Marshalls).

Thus there are plenty of opportunities for being devious, unscrupulous, calculating, vicious, cunning and generally malicious. I like this game a great deal because it offers all these delightful possibilities without being as drawn out, complicated, intense and plain boring as something like chess. It's just a quick, harmless fix of nastiness toward your fellow man.

Unfortunately, though, there are a couple of problems with this computer game version of it. It's all been programmed perfectly respectably, with loads of little options and trinkets to keep you amused, but the most important option has proved impossible to achieve: you can't play other human beings - only the blasted computer.

There's a reason for this, of course - for two people to play on one machine would demand much closing of eyes and turning of backs whenever the other person has a turn (otherwise you'd be able to see the power of his pieces as the flip up on screen) which plain wouldn't work. I've tried playing like this on a computer version of Battleships, and I can assure you that cheating soon replaces strategy as the core of the game.

That limits it to being a one player game, and unfortunately Stratego just isn't one of those games which really works as a straight puzzler. The computer opponent is ruthless enough, but the whole thing is simply too cold for you to glean much satisfaction out of victory. I can't help feeling that the board game has just been trapped by its own design. But then Accolade should have realised this before they tried transfering it to a computer.



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Classic boardgames rarely translate into good computer games. Both Virgin's Leisure Genius label and Domark have had a good crack at turning some famous name games into computer variants and failed miserably. In the budget bins of your local software emporium lurk copies of Cluedo, Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Mastermind and Solitaire to name but a few.

Now Accolade have entered the fray with Stratego, the popular strategy game which involves two evenly-matched armies slugging it out on a small enclosed battlefield. Each layer is equipped with an army of forty pieces made up of generals, colonels, sergeants, and so on.

These pieces have to be arranged on one half of the board to best protect your own Flag whilst also allowing you to make aggressive forays into enemy territory and ultimately capture their Flag and win the game.

It's not that simple, of course, as the exact nature of enemy pieces are hidden until challenged by one of your pieces. Once challenged, the highest ranking piece wins although there are a few occasions when lower ranking pieces, such as a Spy, can knock out top-ranking generals and other valuable pieces.

Players take it in turn to move pieces across the board. This is done by clicking on the relevant unit with the mouse pointer and repositioning them on adjacent squares.

Stratego has been an enormous success as a board game, but the computer version leaves a lot to be desired. The tiny board and even smaller army pieces leave you squinting at the screen trying to decipher the various symbols. The tactile feel of the boardgame is lost, replaced with the sterile atmosphere of the computer screen.

The only advantage of playing the computer game is the fact you'll always have someone to play against.