"Stratego" is the name of a board game similar to chess. It is a slightly modified version of a late 19th century game, Japanese Military Chess, and an early 20th century French game, L'Attaque ("The Attack").
The title does not appear in the lyrics, and like many Iron Maiden songs, it's difficult to decipher. Our interpretation is that vocalist Bruce Dickinson is trying to put together some type of strategy to overcome his blues. Iron Maiden recorded the track back in 2019 at Guillaume Tell studios in Paris, so we can exclude any pandemic explanations of Dickinson's mental anguish.
Dickinson starts off the song by singing:
How do you read a madman's mind?
Teach me the art of war
For I shall bring more than you bargained for
The lyric links in with the album title Senjutsu, which is a Japanese word with several meanings, including "the art of war."
Maiden bass player Steve Harris, one of the group's founders, wrote this adrenaline-fueled song with their guitarist, Janick Gers. Harris also co-produced it with Kevin Shirley. Senjutsu is Maiden's sixth album produced by Shirley, who has also worked with the likes of Journey, Dream Theater and Led Zeppelin.
Harris wrote or co-wrote eight out of the 10 Senjutsu
tracks. Speaking to Kerrang
about Harris' songwriting process for the album, Dickinson recalled: "Steve would literally lock himself away for two or three days, and we'd all turn up and play pinball. And then he'd say, 'I think I've got one, chaps. Oi! Everybody in the studio!' Boom."
Swedish director Gustaf Holtenäs helmed the animated video. The clip develops Senjutsu's Japanese theme, following its protagonists on a journey through an imagining of Ancient Japan.
When Iron Maiden picked up their Legacy Of The Beast world tour with a show in Zagreb, Croatia on May 22, 2022, they gave a live debut to some Senjutsu tracks, including "Stratego." The band performed the songs backed by a stage production that matches the Japanese theme of the album's cover art.