Ever played the game Stratego?
It’s kind of like chess combined with capture the flag (and maybe some minesweeper as well). I was doing my usual thrift store run on Friday and came across a set for $2.00. Stratego has a lot of pieces (80 in the version I found), and with thrift stores you can never quite be sure if you’ve got everything you need, but it looked close enough so for $2.00 what the hell?
Each player has 40 pieces each of which has a numeric value associated with it, as well as some with special functions (bombs, spies, miners, etc.). Your opponent can’t see what the value of your piece is (they just see a bunch of generic looking pieces), so all of your pieces need to look the same on one side, and to play a good game you need to have all, or at least the same types of units on the other.
Well, after sorting each piece into the slots the game provided I came up five short. Because of the values of the pieces in order to have a fair game I’d need to take the corresponding pieces away from the other side so I’d have a 35X35 match instead of 40×40.
But hey this was from a thrift store so I thought, what if I just find another one and combine the two games into one. Now because the pieces need to look the same I’d need to find the same edition, but I was feeling lucky.
I first went back to the same thrift store and by some chance they had another Stratego set, but this was the one from 50 years ago, and had even less pieces than the set I had (the pieces were radically different in design and much smaller). Some later online research uncovered that there was someone on Amazon selling pieces of this older set for $3.00 a piece. If I’d wanted to I could have picked up the set for $2.00 and sold the 60 or so pieces for $3.00 a pop (or better yet $2.50 cause it’s kinda slimy to sell individual game pieces for $3.00 a pop and I wouldn’t mind annoying whoever’s doing it).
Anyway, no luck on Friday, so I’m running some errands on Saturday and decide to hit up Half Price Books (Lane, Bethel and Graceland) as well as the VOA (Volunteers of America). No joy. And online for the same edition is $100+ since it’s maybe 8 years old and there have been several others. Seems kinda ridiculous to pay that much for something I initially payed $2.00 for. Even $3.00 a piece guy would cost $15.00 and that’s if he had my pieces.
So I’d been pursuing this for a while, and I thought, well, I want to play this game so I ought to just buy it new. Kroger and Target both had it ($17 and $15 respectively , but it was a new retooled edition. Instead of Napoleonic era pieces, it was in space and was now a 30×30 match instead of 40×40. I hate rule changers, be it prices in Monopoly, or things to make it easier or more streamlined. Strategy games are supposed to take a while, and frankly even $15 is a lot of money to spend on something that is less than the thing I paid $2.00 for.
This search for the pieces was followed by an evening of trying to get my Win 95/98 computer version of the game running in a modern system. I tried it on my XP netbook, Win 7, virtual win 98 and virtual win XP before getting it to work in the VM XP. And even that copy will only play once per VM boot. I have to restart it if I want to play again.
So if you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering why go to all this trouble?
Well I’m a sentimental kind of guy, and seeing Stratego in that thrift store reminded me of when my friend Chris first bought me the computer version almost 15 years ago. Also, my wife and I also play a lot of Risk and I thought it might be nice to find something a little shorter to play that still had some of the same kind of thinking. But no small part of this was the fact that something was incomplete, and I needed to finish it. You wouldn’t know it from the clutter I’m sitting in, but I like order, and it bothers me when things are missing, even if I didn’t lose them.
This is something I probably need to loosen up on. I’m sure my wife and I can enjoy this game even with a few pieces missing, and if I had complete sets of everything I just have pieces of I’d be buried.
I do find it interesting how one little discovery can lead to childhood memories, new technological discoveries, and finally the satisfaction of playing something that works. And I am very thankful that I have a wife who understands these compulsions and still wants to play with me.