Battleship

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Battleship
Guessing board game published by
Milton Bradley
No. of Players 2
Session Time ~30 Minutes
Authors Clifford Van Wickler?
First Publication 1967 (played with pen and paper since ~1930)

"Oh no! You shanked my Jenga ship!"
"I shanked your Jenga ship? We're playing Connect Four!"
- Homsar to Strong Sad, "Where's the Cheat?," Homestar Runner

A classic guessing game for two players dreamt up at the turn of the last century, originally played with pen and paper. The version most neckbeards now know was a plastic clamshell board game originally released by Milton Bradley as Battleship, remembered mostly due to those deliciously cheesy commercials where the losing player would exclaim "You sunk my battleship!"

The game is fairly simple, and is played on two grids for each player. The grids are typically square, typically 10x10 and the individual squares in the grid are identified by letters on the X-axis and numbers on the Y-axis. On their main grid the player will arrange their ships and track the shots called by the opponent. On their second grid the player will record the results of their own shots. Before play each player will choose where to place their ships on their main grid, their locations unknown to the other player. It is up to the opponent to deduce where the enemy ships are by calling shots blindly and hoping to hit something. On a player's turn they will call out a shot on a square (for example: B6), and the other player will either call a "Miss" if none of his ships were present on that square or a "Hit." When a ship has been hit on every square that it occupies on the grid it sinks, and the ship's owner must announce to the other player which ship was sunk. The objective of the game is to sink all of your opponent's ships before he sinks your entire fleet.

The classic game has five ships of varying different sizes. The larger the ship is the more spaces it will take up on the grid thus the more shots it takes to sink it. Surprisingly, the battleship doesn't get top billing even though its name is on the fucking box. The ships are as follows:

  • Carrier: 5
  • Battleship: 4
  • Cruiser: 3
  • Submarine: 3
  • Destroyer: 2

If you get tired of picking at your opponent's fleet one-by-one, here are a few simple variations that you can play:

  • Players may decline to announce which ship has been hit, so that a few more turns need to be spent to verify that a ship has been well and truly sunk.
  • "Salvo", in which players may fire as many shots as they have ships remaining (or as many shots as their largest ship left standing); again, players may or may not announce which shots specifically were hits, so some more careful tracking is required than the old red and white pegs.
  • Players may move a ship to an uncalled stretch of space every fourth or fifth turn.

As technology has advanced, so has the game of Battleship, with electronic and e-lectronic talking versions. Battleship was an early adoptee into the digital medium, as different vidya game versions were released on PC, handhelds and consoles, which sometimes change the number of ships and the size of the grid to expedite games. Then came Battleship: Advanced Mission, which shook things up to a whole 'notha level by giving each of the ships unique wargear such as missiles which can hit multiple squares or reconnaissance aircraft. But like most things devoured by the Hasbro leviathan Battleship was also periodically revamped to try and tie in with lucrative movie franchises such as Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean. There was also a fucking version released in 2008 where the board was changed from two square grids to one hexagonal one, which was split in half so both players shared opposite sides of it. This did add a new twist on the game where the ships could exist on a new plane versus just two, however the dumb single vertical game board suffers from gravity-related issues. Also new to this edition are five islands which take up valuable real estate on the board, which you MUST place your ships next to (God forbid a ship go to sea, I thought I was playing Battleship not Pearl Harbor) and the addition of a 1-sized piece representing a POW which must be placed on an island and if he gets hit you win the game (why the fuck would you win if you shell your own POW that's a war crime what the fuck?).

There was also a spinoff movie "based" (in the loosest of fucking terms) on Battleship in 2012. It was also called Battleship and it did, indeed, have battleships. And that's about where the similarities end because these battleships have to fight FUCKIN' ALIENS. The movie is widely regarded as fail, though it's certainly not the worst; it's just a mediocre action movie that completely rejects any of the spirit of the game that it professed to be based off of. The closest it came is when one character says "they're not gonna sink this battleship", and even that required fighting the suits to keep it. Oh yeah, and there was that moment in the trailer where four alien missiles (which happened to look like white pegs) embedded themselves in the hull of a battleship and then exploded.

Board Games
Classics: Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe
Ameritrash: Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Snakes and Ladders - Risk - Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
Eurogames: Agricola - Carcassonne - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride
Pure Evil: Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly
Others: Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium