I first heard about Stratos on Instagram of all places. Drawn in by the artwork of the game’s new expansion, I messaged Board & Tale seeing if they’d be interested in a review. It wasn’t long before I had the base game and expansion in my greedy paws and popped the box to play.
Stratos is described as a Euro-style and strategy battle game, wrapped in a light fantasy theme. Does it live up to that description? Read on, traveler.
There’s a lot going on in Stratos, but it pretty much boils down to movement and actions. There are 5 different character classes that each have their own actions they can take. Mages can cast spells, Soldiers and Archers can attack, Peasants can farm resources, and Explorers can search for treasure. As the game progresses each class can be upgraded to become more powerful.
Players win the game by being the first one to gain 10 Prosperity Points (PP). This can be done 4 ways:
- Hoarding Resources: Players can trade in 1 of each type of resource for a Hoard Token worth 1PP.
- Defeating Enemies: Kill an enemy unit for a 1PP Defeat Token.
- Casting Spells: Each time a player casts a new spell for the first time they earn 1PP.
- Finding Treasure: Find a piece of treasure for a quick 1PP
There’s actually 2 more ways to earn some bonus PP. One is having the promoted version of all 5 classes on the board at once. That’s worth 2PP. The other is to occupy 3 special tiles on the board. This is also worth 2PP.
There’s plenty of different scenarios and map layouts in the main rulebook to play. There’s also several more on Board & Tale’s site. Each scenario provides a different challenge and has multiple ways for players to win. Stratos also has a recently-released expansion, Light in the Darkness, which adds monsters to the game. The cool part? It’s fully stand-alone for 2 players.
For more information on how to play Stratos, I recommend heading hered, reading the rules and watching the videos. I barely scratched the surface in my above description.
OK, Let’s talk pieces. Stratos has a lot of cardboard packed into its box. It’s no lie that it took me a good 20 minutes just to punch everything out. Another 10 to figure out how to store it all. I wish I had known Board & Tale has a setup & storage guide on their site.
All the pieces are thick cardboard and are very sturdy. The wooden bits are pretty standard and are what you’d expect from a modern board game. The cards have a wonderful linen finish and contain some beautiful artwork. The map boards are a nice touch so your map tiles don’t slide all over the place while you’re trying to play the game.
One of the coolest features, however, are the characters. Each cardboard character token has a plastic stand to keep it upright. They also have several notches to attack health & spirit markers, promotion markers, items, etc… It’s always easy to take a look at a character on the board and tell exactly what’s going on with them.
There may be a lot in Stratos, but it’s all well made and has a purpose. It’s probably a good idea to have something to store the pieces in on your table when you sit down to play, otherwise, you’re going to have stuff all over the place.
I first played through the Stratos tutorial scenario with my 6-year-old son. What great about this is that walks you through two full turns for each player before giving you the run of things on your own. In those two turns, you get a good feel for what each character class can do. After we were finished with those turns we were easily able to pick up and play to the conclusion of our game with no issues…except for the fact that I had my butt handed to me by my little guy.
I really enjoy the game. While there’s certainly a bit of randomness, there’s plenty of strategy to the game when it comes to how to use your actions, what units to field, when to activate/upgrade them, what areas of the board to try and control, etc… There’s a lot of game to go along with the multitude of bits inside Stratos’ box.
Stratos may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t feel much like a Euro-style game but is certainly packed full of strategy. For me, it hits a lot of sweet points. Yes, there’s some randomness due to dice but there’s certainly enough ways the game balances that out. You’ll certainly get your $60 worth from the game.
Check out the rules and tutorial videos. If you’re even slightly intrigued then I’d suggest you snag a copy of the expansion, Light in the Darkness, first. It can be played stand-alone with 2 players. Like what you get? Spring for the core game. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
A copy of the Stratos and its expansion, Light in the Darkness, were provided free for review by Board & Tale.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.