This was a surprise present from Santa for my seven-year-old. Co-incidentally, I used to play the original with my dad growing up. What are the chances, eh?
Anyway, I was as keen to play this with my son as I was to play it with my dad thirty years ago and made a point of getting it ready one night after little 'un was tucked up in bed. Actually, that's probably my one criticism - the game doesn't come ready to play. It's no great hardship but you'll need to stick the stickers on to each of the playing pieces - 30 red and 30 blue.
And that in itself is something I've seen other reviewers complain about. The original game included 40 pieces on each side and if memory serves me correctly, a slightly bigger board. Well, for what it's worth, I think the reduction in pieces actually makes for a faster, more enjoyable game. As a big part of the strategy is in the setting-up, having fewer (but still plenty) of pieces makes this task quicker and means you can get to the action faster. On the subject of changes, note also that the theme is different to the original. That had a kind of generic Napoleonic theme with moustachioed gentlemen in tall hats. This has power-armoured space marines and flying bikes. This new theme definitely appeals more to my son - and if I'm totally honest, I find it pretty cool as well!
The gameplay, for those that are not familiar with the original, Is deceptively simple. Each piece has a score, and the higher the better. Your pieces challenge your opponent's much like in chess, except that you can't see the number on their piece and the highest number wins! Your Sergeant will have no problem knocking out the opposing scouts and miners, but challenge the enemy General and it'll be the end for poor ol' Sarge! And watch for bombs too. Miners are weak but invaluable as they are the only pieces that can disarm enemy bombs - something you'll almost certainly need to do.
This mixture of luck and strategy is what makes this game so great. Sure, maybe I'm biased by nostalgia but my son, having never played it before, happily sat through five games on the trot. He didn't even win (not me bragging, just saying) and still wanted to play again. Something about commanding this cool-looking space army really captured his imagination and he's even suggested a Stratego-themed party for his birthday. Honestly, I'm not sure about that one but it hopefully illustrates just what children can get out of a solid game like this.
Once you've applied the stickers, you've got yourself a box full of durable, high-quality components and moreish gameplay that'll keep you coming back again and again. I highly recommend this game.