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On a small island somewhere in Europe, a battle is fought in the middle of World War II. Two armies, blue and red, have strategically positioned their troops against each other.

blue_vs_red

sums

For convenience, the battlefield has been divided into squares. All squares are assigned a number starting from 0 in the top left corner, counting left to right, then top to bottom all the way to 99 in the bottom right.

Imagine yourself being part of the red team where your task is to catch the blue team's flag.

But how?

  • A good first step might be to find the values associated with all ten symbols.
  • Sum the values of both teams. The difference of these sums will give the number of the square where the blue flag can be caught.
  • Catching the blue flag will provide a hint to the method of finding the values of the symbols.

Though these instructions may sound self-referential, they will make sense once you catch the flag. Then you should also be able to answer the final question to this puzzle:

What is the name of the island?

Hint:

Try to create some words by anagramming, then google their connection.

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    $\begingroup$ Oh I see what this is! No idea on how to solve it yet though. $\endgroup$
    – PDT
    Apr 10 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ The game this board comes from and Broadsides are two of my favorite strategy games for two players. $\endgroup$
    – mkinson
    Apr 10 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ Possible spoiler... Rot13(Ner jr rkcrpgrq gb hfr "Pheerag Enax" be gur "Pynffvp Enax"?) $\endgroup$
    – LeppyR64
    Apr 11 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @LeppyR64 Rot13(Gur onggyr vf sbhtug va Rhebcr fb gung fubhyq cebonoyl nafjre lbhe dhrfgvba) $\endgroup$ Apr 11 at 13:30

1 Answer 1

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I'd been wondering for a while why the OP had used the word 'Catch' in the title of this puzzle rather than the more common 'Capture', as is the phrase usually - but now I understand, as the island in question is:

PIANOSA, the Italian island which provides the setting for Joseph Heller's satirical wartime novel Catch-22! The blue flag is to be found on the square numbered 22 (i.e. the third square in the third row down, marked by a completely blank playing piece) - i.e. we catch it in 22.

How to find this? First recognise what we're looking at here...

This is the game board from Stratego. This war-based game involves a set of pieces each representing soldiers of different ranks (and a bomb and a flag, but we shall ignore those for now). Their relative values in the game's scoring system will become important shortly...

Look closely at the pieces in the diagram...

In the top-left corner of each there is a symbol. If we extract the letters relating to specific symbols row by row, we get the following sets of characters (I shall represent empty spaces as underscores):

Red circle: EMCPEK
Red 3 lines: RNKO
Red triangle: ORR
Red cross: EERDELD
Red diamond: R_EDYOC-LEVE_
Red shield: UOSOMD

Blue star: JMRJRARAOO_O_AMJM
Blue moon: TYALNE
Blue teardrop: RFYAA
Blue square: RWNE

Look at the letters associated with the blue star symbols first...

These are an anagram of MAJOR_MAJOR_MAJOR. Now the penny drops! Heller's characters in the novel often have very strange or comical names - this is clearly a reference to Catch-22 and the character of Major Major Major Major! In fact, all of the letters sets above form anagrams of different characters in the book!

Red circle: EMCPEK = General P. P. PECKEM
Red 3 lines: RNKO = Lieutenant Colonel KORN
Red triangle: ORR = Lieutenant ORR
Red cross: EERDELD = General DREEDLE
Red diamond: R_EDYOC-LEVE_ = Major - DE COVERLEY (the 'dash' is part of his name)
Red shield: UOSOMD = Colonel MOODUS

Blue star: JMRJRARAOO_O_AMJM = Major MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR
Blue moon: TYALNE = Lieutenant NATELY
Blue teardrop: RFYAA -= Captain AARFY
Blue square: RWNE = Captain WREN

Now, we can work out the 'values' talked about in the question...

If we consult the standard European (because this puzzle is set in Europe) scoring system for Stratego, a General is worth 9, a Colonel 8 (we shall count the Lieutenant Colonel as a Colonel too), a Major 7, a Captain 6, and a Lieutenant 5. Summing the scores for the red team and blue team separately, we get value of RED 46 and BLUE 24.

The square where we will find the 'flag' (another Stratego playing piece, note) is therefore that numbered 22 - the difference between the two teams' scores. Thus we thematically catch the flag in 22 (i.e. the third square in the third row down, marked by a completely blank playing piece)! Very satisfying...

All that remains is to identify the island...

...which must surely be the island setting for this World War II -based novel: Pianosa. After all, the novel's context entirely fits the set-up given for this puzzle (a small island somewhere in Europe, [on which] a battle is fought in the middle of World War I)!

It's worth noting also that the puzzle's instructions have been written in a way that imply that to find the flag you need to find the hidden values, whilst to find the hidden values it might help you to find the flag. This paradox is very reminiscent of the so-called 'logic' at the heart of the 'Catch-22' in the novel, in which the book's fighter pilots will only be excused from flying dangerous missions if they are found to be insane, but any pilot who expresses a concern that they might be insane is thereby showing themselves to be sane by demonstrating a rational concern for their own safety, and thus cannot be exempted from flying! (Yes, it's a head-scratcher...)

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    $\begingroup$ Nice find! Never would have got this considering the theme, unless I read those novels. $\endgroup$
    – PDT
    Apr 15 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ @PDT Thanks - it was definitely the 'blue stars' that got me on the right track, with a couple of the others serving as further confirmation. Given how much I have been 'exposed' to the knowledge in question (I've worked my way through it several times!) I probably ought to have spotted this sooner, frankly! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Apr 15 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv Nice catch :D Thanks for the excellent writeup! To be very nitpicky (but it doesn't really matter for the answer): The location of the flag is next to the location that you mentioned, according to the numbering system which starts at 0... $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @sarsaparilla - I always get caught out by zero-indexing! :) Now fixed... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Apr 15 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ @sarsaparilla Of course. That's worth including in the answer, so I've edited it in. Like I say above, considering how well I know the source material (or thought I did!) I am surprised I didn't spot these connections sooner! Great puzzle, solid theme :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Apr 15 at 8:55

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