Home Pop Culture Toys & Games Battleship


“B-11”. “nah!” “A-3”
“D’oh . . . You sunk my battleship!”.

In this “classic naval combat game” the open seas were cluttered with ships of war, five on each side. But unlike real war, these nautical stood perfectly still and took turns firing missiles at each other.

Launched (no pun intended) in 1967 by Milton Bradley, Battleship was a hit and miss game of strategy, combining lucky guesswork with deductive reasoning to sink the enemy fleet and rule as master of the waters.

Two flip-up game boards – one red, one blue – kept your fleet’s location hidden from the enemy and vice versa.

On a 10×10 grid (labelled A-J vertically and 1-10 horizontally), players arranged the five members of their fleet – Aircraft Carrier, Battleship, Submarine, Destroyer and Patrol Boat – on either horizontal or vertical rows (and no, you little cheaters, the pegs wouldn’t let them fit in diagonally).

Once the opposing fleets were arranged, the firing commenced.

Taking turns, players yelled out coordinates like Bingo-callers (“H-7” “C-3”), hoping to score a lucky hit on one of the enemy craft.

To keep track of the misses (and there were usually many), players stuck white pegs in a matching grid on the flipped-up top of the game board (red pegs noted the hits). The lower board was where you placed your ships and kept track of your opponent’s missiles.

But even after that lucky first strike, the guesswork wasn’t over – was that the 5-space carrier or the 2-space patrol boat, and is the rest of that tender hull laying north, south, east or west of here?

Bad guesses meant more misses, and that gave the enemy more time to hunt your own craft down and blow them out of the water.

Vincent Price starred in the classic US TV commercial as a teller in an old-fashioned bank where they are so involved in the game that they ignore all the customers (like that would ever happen).

Battleship caught on quickly in a Cold War world, and the game eventually expanded into several forms. Electronic Battleship took some of the manual labour out of the game, replacing it with nifty sound effects.

Things went a step further in Electronic Talking Battleship, which barked out commands and results to its opposing naval officers. The game even took on outside licenses, resulting in customised versions with Star Wars spaceships and other craft.

The 1990s found Battleship moving into the CD-ROM world with added features and new forms of gameplay.

Back in the physical world, Electronic Battleship: Advanced Mission gave the original board game a few new tweaks of its own (torpedoes, reconnaissance aircraft, voice recognition, etc.), but even with all the advanced versions on the market, the original Battleship remains a favourite of gamers, more than earning its status as a board game classic.

Battleship Islands (2008) uses a grid of hexagonal tiles instead of squares to alter the strategy.