Stratego, the epic 80-piece board game, has arrived on the iPad.
The translation from tabletop war game to self-contained iPad game is, in a word, awesome.
It would've been very easy to turn out a functional but phoned-in app, but there were clearly no corners cut here. This is detailed, thought-out, and beautiful.
If it seems like I'm waxing poetic over a silly board game, it's only because this one has something of a special place in my heart. My family discovered it during a trip to the Netherlands however long ago, and we simply never stopped playing it. When I moved to New York, this obviously put a damper in my ability to play with friends and family.
But this app makes multiplayer Stratego completely possible, along with chat functionality and cross-platform capabilities. You no longer need the board and the pieces to replicate the gaming experience. Just an app.
We got to speak to Keesing Games, the folks responsible for bringing the app to market, to learn more.
The company is most proud of the app's cross-platform functionality. Not only will it run on your iPad, but you can engage in realtime games with friends on Facebook as well. It prides itself on having created a truly "social" game with realtime gameplay and chat functionality. Compare this to Farmville, with no comparable social aspect.
Since its release this week, Stratego won a dedicated fanbase. Even though it takes 20-30 minutes to complete a game, Keesing Games told us that users are engaged inside the app for an average of 70 minutes, playing two to three games per session.
They also introduced a speedier 10-piece minigame if you'd rather play for shorter sessions.
Designing the AI proved a unique challenge. Unlike chess, where the position of every piece is known, Stratego uses "closed pieces" in which a unit's identity is unknown until it's time to do battle. This makes it far more difficult for a computer to calculate moves, but having played several single player matches against the AI, I can tell you that it's a strong opponent.
But not as strong as my dad. That guy's unstoppable.