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How to Play the Battleship Board Game? Official Rules

Battleship is one of the most famous board games available today. Likely only rivaled by Monopoly and Chess when it comes to name-recognition. In this guide, we’ll be looking at all the Battleship rules you need to know about. 

Now I know what you might be thinking, Battleship is quite a simple game, isn’t it? While it’s true there are plenty of more difficult board games, Battleship isn’t quite as simple as you might first think. 

There is actually quite a lot of strategy involved in the game. So, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this classic, action-focused board game. 

What is Battleship?

battleship rules

Battleship is a very interesting game because of its unusual history. The game which was first played with paper and pencils was believed to be created sometime during World War 1. The exact origins are unknown but there are some similarities with the French game L’Attaque. 

L’Attaque was played during World War 1 as well. One of the first commercial versions of Battleship was actually called Salvo. Which was published in 1931 by Starex. During this time other companies started to publish their own versions of the game. 

However, all of these games were pen and paper games. In the late 60s, Milton Bradley produced their own version of Battleship. This version used plastic boards and pegs instead of pencils and paper. 

The game was played in much the same way, but this form of the game was much more striking design-wise. 

Now that you know the history, let’s take a more detailed look at the Battleship rules, and look at what you need to play. 

What You’ll Need 

You could play Battleship with just paper and a pen/ pencil. However, this method isn’t going to really excite many people. Plus, it isn’t always easy to set up either. This is why we think using a Battleship game board is the best option. 

Thankfully, these game boards aren’t difficult to find. The product below from Hasbro is a great example of what to look out for. Now once you open the box, Battleship can look quite confusing at first. So, let’s take a look at what you get. 

Hasbro Gaming Battleship

The Game Boards 

Battleship is a 2 player game. Although teams of people can battle each other as well. Each player/ team will have their own board. The board, which is traditionally shaped like a mini-laptop will have two play areas/ grids. 

The grids are normally 10 x 10 and will be separated by letters and numbers in the margins. You use these coordinates to fire at your opponent. On one of these grids, you will place your battleships and record your opponent’s shots. 

On the other grid, you will record the shots you have fired at your opponent. This can seem a little complicated, but in practice getting into the gameplay loop is easy. 

The Battleships 

Well you can’t really play Battleship without battleships, can you? Players have 5 different battleships each taking up a different number of squares on the board. The names of these shapes have changed over time and there are regional variations as well. The list below details the battleships. 

  1. Carrier – 5 squares 
  2. Battleship – 4 squares  
  3. Destroyer – 3 squares 
  4. Submarine – 3 squares 
  5. Patrol Boat – 2 squares 

The Pegs

Pegs are used to mark off squares on the board. Generally, pegs come in 2 colors white for misses and red for hits. While the pegs are very small, most Battleship game boards will have built-in storage space for them. 

Battleship Rules and Gameplay 

battleship rules

The Aim of The Game   

The aim of Battleship is quite simple, be the first player to sink your opponent’s ships. You do this by firing on your turn. Firing is done by giving out coordinates on your turn. For example, if you fire at B3, your opponent will say whether you have hit or missed. 

You then record the turn on your grid. This is done to help you keep track of where you have fired. Once a ship is sunk you need to announce it to the other player. If you are the first to sink all 5 ships you win! 

Setting Up Battleship 

The first thing to do under regular Battleship rules is for players to place their 5 battleships. Think carefully about how you do this. Do you place them all around the borders of the board? Do you place them horizontally or vertically? Or place them far apart or close together? 

There is a lot to think about and consider. Once you have placed your battleships players should choose who goes first. If you can’t decide between yourselves, then flip a coin to decide. Players then take turns shouting out coordinates to each other. 

Once a player sinks all 5 of their opponent’s ships, they have won. Battleship is a very fast and action-packed game. But some players will be very strategic when it comes to firing. While there is no right or wrong way to play if you are struggling to win check out our strategies section below. 

Battleship Strategies 

There are a number of strategies you can employ to increase your chances of success in Battleship. Placing your ships is very important. It’s a common strategy to not place ships symmetrically or bunch them together. 

People will instantly try to find patterns which makes symmetrically placing ships a big risk. Bunching ships together just means your opponent will likely get repeated hits, once one ship has been found. So, in short, try to be unpredictable and we generally find it best to not overthink things. 

The next strategies involve your firing pattern. There are plenty of coordinates in Battleship but what is the best way to fire? One popular strategy is to fire in diagonal lines as this increases your chances of scoring a lucky hit. 

Aiming for the edge of the board is also likely to prove useful as most Battleship players (especially new players) will likely have at least one ship hidden on the edge of the board. Whatever you do, once you score a hit target the adjacent squares to sink the ship as quickly as you can. 

Battleship – The Fast-Paced War Game 

Battleship is a family favorite and can even make a fun date night game! Like Clue it’s one of the few games to have a movie based on it. While the movie didn’t really win audiences over the board game as endured for a long time. It’s simple but has plenty of room for more in-depth strategic gameplay.

So, if you are looking for a fun, fast-paced game give Battleship a try. And now since you know the battleship rules, you can start playing. Enjoy!

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