Designed to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, Stratego Waterloo is a game not to be missed for avid history fans and strategists alike.
In this comprehensive board game guide, you can find out everything you need to know about Stratego Waterloo, including how it differs from the original, where it comes from, and how to play effectively.
Relive the epic battle by commanding your loyal soldiers as either the Duke of Wellington or Emperor Napoleon, or create an entirely new, fictional battle using the movable terrain. In Stratego Waterloo, the possibilities are endless, making for an exciting board game suitable for beginners and expert gamers.
Stratego Waterloo: An overview
- Players – 2
- Recommended age – 14+
- Playing time – 30-60 minutes
For anyone unfamiliar with the original game on which this edition is based, Stratego is a multi-player battlefield board game driven by strategy. You can read more about the original version in our Stratego pieces explained guide.
Stratego Waterloo follows much the same premise: you command an army and must outmaneuver your opponent to secure victory. However, the game has been designed to emulate the ‘feel’ of the Battle of Waterloo.
Whether you choose to play as Wellington or Napoleon, you have to lead your infantry and cavalry toward a certainly bloody and potentially fatal battle. To emerge victoriously, you will need to set up your artillery in a strategic manner and weaken the position of your opponents.
Despite being based on the grizzly truth of a real historical battle, there’s plenty of space for improvisation in this highly adaptable game. In fact, Stratego Waterloo was designed to allow you to decide the fate of Europe; should you choose to, you can entirely re-write the course of history.
Find out about other war games that are available in our guide to the best war board games.
The origin of Stratego Waterloo
Before we discuss gameplay, it’s important to first understand a little more about the historical battle on which the game is based.
After years of exile in Elba on the Italian coast, Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military general who played a significant part in the French Revolution, grew restless about the situation in his home country, France – Louis XVIII, the King, was an unpopular ruler and the people were deeply unhappy.
As a result, Napoleon decided to return, and the French army happily rallied around their old leader. The Battle of Waterloo was fought in June 1815 in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (now in Belgium).
The last of the Napoleonic Wars saw Napoleon (who had an army of roughly 72,000) defeated by the Duke of Wellington (whose army contained around 68,000 soldiers), marking the end of 23 years of turbulent conflict.
How to play
To begin, set up the game according to the following instructions.
- Place the game board in the middle of the two players so that the player representing France is sitting at the side of the board with the French flag.
- The French player should take 47 pieces; the Allied player takes 45
- Shuffle the 13 Prussian pieces and place them at the side of the board so that their units are visible to neither player
- Shuffle the Line of Retreat cards and place them by the side of the board
- Place the turn counter on the timeline of the board on “11 o’clock.”
- Locate the battle die and place it by the side of the board
- For an easy game, leave the Maneuver cards, Terrain tiles, Ownership flags, and Building counters in the box; for an expert game, take these pieces out of the box
The aim of the game
To win, you must sever the lines of retreat of your opponent before your lines are, in turn, severed. However, if you lose your commander or commander-in-chief, the game is lost.
In Stratego Waterloo, the pieces represent the three armies that were present at the Battle of Waterloo.
The French side is stronger because it has more units and more artillery, but in the advanced versions of the game, the Allied side is able to utilize an excellent defensive position thanks to the Terrain tiles.
- 25x Infantry (5x Light Infantry; 20x Line Infantry)
- 12x Cavalry (6x Light Cavalry; 6x Heavy Cavalry)
- 8x Artillery (Cannons)
- Commander – Marshal Ney
- Commander-in-chief – Emperor Napoleon
- 26x Infantry (5x Light Infantry; 21x Line Infantry)
- 11x Cavalry (6x Light Cavalry; 5x Heavy Cavalry)
- 6x Artillery (Cannons)
- Commander – Lord Uxbridge
- Commander-in-chief – Duke of Wellington
- 7x Infantry (4x Light Infantry; 3x Infantry)
- 4x Cavalry (Light Cavalry)
- 1x Artillery (Cannon)
- Commander – Feldmarschall Von Bulow
Think of Commanders as Light Cavalry units; they don’t lose strength after a charge. Most importantly, they are worth one action during the game – lose them, and you lose action in your next turns.
Napoleon and Wellington have no strength because they can destroy all units (only if they attack). Crucially, however, if they are attacked, then they are eliminated from the game.
As Commanders-in-chief, they are worth two actions during the game.
Lines of retreat
This term comes directly from the Napoleonic Wars when armies were followed by supply trains and mobile field hospitals. If these lines of retreat, also known as lines of communication, were disrupted, then crippling losses would ensue.
As such, Stratego Waterloo places heavy emphasis on the importance of protecting these lines of retreat.
Lines of retreat are located either at your left flank, your center, or your right flank (all marked by the grid on the board).
Prior to the beginning of the game, all players randomly select a Line of Retreat card to find out where their own lines lie.
Your opponents can guess where your lines are to punch a hole through them; it’s of vital importance that you protect them at each stage of the game.
The Allied player begins the battle, and each turn, players can perform three actions, including:
- Attack a unit
- Move one of their units
- Fire an Artillery unit
- Move a unit in reserve
- Play a Maneuver card
A player is only permitted to move three pieces per turn unless he or she uses a Maneuver card, which offers alternative options or if a commander is eliminated.
Only one piece can occupy a square at one time, and pieces can’t jump over other pieces.
You can carry out an attack when you want to move onto a square that is currently occupied by another piece. After this, both pieces are revealed.
The unit with the lowest strength loses the fight and must be taken from the board. If the attacker is victorious, that piece can occupy the desired square; if the attacker loses, the piece that already occupied that square remains.
It’s important to note that the attack of another piece should always come at the end of an action – you cannot attack multiple times in a single action.
If both opposing pieces turn out to have the same strength, the Battle Die comes into play. Rolling it can yield the following results:
- Blue – the blue piece is victorious
- Red – the red/black piece has won
- Red + – the red/black piece wins but also attacks the next adjacent piece
- Blue r – blue is victorious, but red is not withdrawn; instead, it retreats behind the front lines
- Red r – the same as above but red wins and blue retreats
Arrival of the Prussians
There is a timetable at the left flank of the French showing when the Allied force can count on Prussian reinforcements.
Each game turn, the Allied player and the Prussian player, must each perform one action.
Standard vs expert game
If you play the standard version of Stratego Waterloo, you need to be aware of an extra victory condition. If the Wellington or Napoleon piece is captured, the game automatically ends, and victory goes to whichever player still has the commander-in-chief.
In the expert version of the game:
- If Napoleon falls, the game ends, and the Allies are victorious
- If Wellington falls, the game continues, but the Allied player has 2 fewer actions
- Lines of Retreat cards aren’t used
- If the French player puts two units on the Allied left or right flank, this leads to an Allied retreat.
How to win
If you play Stratego Waterloo as per the original, basic rules, you need to sever your opponent’s lines of retreat to win the game.
There are other ways to play the game which have slightly different rules, as explained above.
Who is Stratego Waterloo for?
Stratego Waterloo is recommended for two players aged fourteen and above.
Thanks to its historical theme, the game is particularly appealing to anyone who already has some knowledge of the Battle of Waterloo, as this will make the gameplay much more enjoyable.
In my opinion, it’s also better suited to teenagers and adults thanks to its complexity and the strategy that is required to play well.
Alternatives to Stratego Waterloo
Here are my alternative recommendations – some similar and some totally different.
Big fan of combat-based strategy games but don’t have much knowledge about the Battle of Waterloo? If so, you might enjoy the original version of Stratego! The concept is very similar, but the battleground is more generic, allowing for more imaginative gameplay.
Check out our Stratego pieces explained guide for more information.
- Players – 2
- Recommended age – 12+
- Playing time – 30 minutes – 2 hours
The King’s Dilemma
This legacy game is a must for anyone who enjoys strategizing. The King’s Dilemma incorporates all the tension and gore of Stratego Waterloo with a fleshed-out, interactive storyline.
Read more in our King’s Dilemma game guide.
- Players – 3-5
- Recommended age – 14+
- Playing time – 60 minutes per game
Monopoly: World War II
Nowadays, there’s a version of Monopoly, the much-loved fast trading property board game, for just about everything, including World War II. So if you love the historical accuracy of Stratego Waterloo, Monopoly: World War II is well worth trying.
- Players – 2-6
- Recommended age – 8+
- Playing time – 60 minutes
Frequently asked questions
Question: How long does it take to play Stratego Waterloo?
Answer: The length of play can actually vary quite a lot because there are so many different possible outcomes within a game. Still, generally speaking you can expect Stratego Waterloo to last between 30 minutes and an hour.
Question: Can you play Stratego Waterloo solo?
Answer: Unfortunately, it requires at least two players for the game to work, but we have a guide to the best solo board games.
Question: Are there any other war board games that are similar?
Answer: Monopoly: World War II is one I would highly recommend, but there are loads of other war games out there for you to try. As a starting point, why not read our guide to the best war board games?
Question: Where can I buy Stratego Waterloo?
Answer: The Waterloo edition of Stratego is quite difficult to find online – it is no longer sold by the official website of its manufacturer, Jumbo Games, so the best place to search is on Amazon.