Official Stratego game debuts for iPad

With a heavy emphasis on online multiplayer, the classic boardgame makes an impressive -- if imperfect -- iPad debut.

Stratego for iPad lets you play against the computer or any number of online opponents, including those on the Web and Facebook.
Stratego for iPad lets you play against the computer or any number of online opponents, including those on the Web and Facebook. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Remember Stratego? It's the classic capture-the-flag boardgame. And it's now available for iPad.

Why just iPad? I'm not entirely sure. Granted, the board would be cramped on an iPhone or iPod Touch screen, but I've seen plenty of other games work around that. (Monopoly, anyone?)

That curiosity aside, Stratego for iPad does a fine job recreating the original while adding some welcome digital touches. For starters, you can create and save multiple board setups (i.e., troop deployments), a huge time-saver and a great way to test how various deployments work against your opponents.

And speaking of opponents, the app lets you play against a virtually unlimited supply of other humans, be they on Facebook, the Web, or another iPad. Yep, the game supports cross-platform play, so you can tackle Facebook friends just as easily as you would your fellow iPad owners.

Of course, Web and Facebook strategists (Stratego-ists?) get to play for free. On the iPad it'll cost you $6.99 for the privilege. That strikes me as a little steep, though it's a good bet it'll be cheaper down the road. (Use an app like Appsfire Deals to track its price.) What's more, you must buy "battle coins" if you want to unlock new avatars, battlefields, and other game content. That would be fine if this were a freemium title, but here it seems a little greedy.

The iPad version requires you to create an account or sign in via Facebook (sorry -- no GameCenter support), even if you want single-player action against the computer. That's insanely annoying, but at least there's a workaround: turn off Wi-Fi (and/or 3G if you have it) before launching the game. If it doesn't detect an Internet connection, it'll let you play offline. Like I said: annoying.

Unfortunately, I saw a lot of this message during testing.
Unfortunately, I saw a lot of this message during testing. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

I also found Stratego to be pretty buggy, alternately crashing, producing error messages, or having trouble signing into Facebook. Plus, the AI is what I'd call overly aggressive, as it never forgets the location of your pieces (once revealed) the way a human would. I won't say beating the AI is impossible, but at the very least the game should offer a choice of skill levels.

The good news is that when you're playing against another person, Stratego is just as much fun as you remember. (If you remember it being aggravating, well, it's just as aggravating as you remember. "Who puts a bomb there?!!") I'd consider waiting for the price to drop a few bucks and the bugs to get cleaned up. But if you can't wait, well, I'll see you on the battlefield.

 

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