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Battleship (Game): How to Play & Rules – 15 Things to Know (per Hasbro)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Battleship is a classic game that was released by Milton Bradley in 1967. However, this treasured game was played on paper in most households as early as the 1930sBattleship continues to be a treasured game today, and if you want to learn how to play this awesome game, you’re in the right place.  

In this article, we’ll go over the rules of Battleship, some tips and tricks for playing the game, and variations you should consider trying once you understand the basics. So if you would like to learn more about playing Battleship, be sure to read on.

These are 15 things you need to know about playing Battleship:

1. Understand the Goal of the Game

Before diving straight into the game, it’s essential to understand the objective. As with any game, there is an overall goal that you will be working toward. In this case, your goal is to sink all of your opponent’s battleships before they can sink yours. Understanding this goal will help you better set up your board and make strategic battle decisions as you play. 

2. Learn the Rules of the Game

Next, you will need to understand the rules of the game. Battleship is relatively simple to learn, and the rules relatively straightforward. This game can also be played in several different ways; however, I will be addressing the standard rules as of right now. 

  • Keep all your ships on the board. 
  • Take turns guessing. 
  • Let the other player know when they have hit one of your ships. 
  • Call out which ship type has been hit.

As you can see, there aren’t many significant rules for playing this game. The most important thing is to have fun sinking those ships. Once one player has sunk all of the other players’ ships, the game is over. 

3. Set Up Your Board Strategically

Now that you understand the goal of the game and the most important rules, it’s time to set up your board. There are a few essential rules for setting up your battleships. When setting up your ships, the goal is to be as unpredictable in your placement as possible. This will ensure a more difficult time for your opponent, who has to guess your ship’s locations. 

A great way to make guessing more difficult for the other player is to place your ships academically. This ensures it will take longer for your opponent to guess the exact location of your ship. Also, remember NEVER to place your ships touching as this will result in multiple ships sinking much more quickly. 

There are 5 ships for each player, which include:

  • Carrier
  • Battleship
  • Cruiser
  • Submarine
  • Destroyer

Each ship will have a different amount of holes to determine how many hits they can take before being sunk. 

4. Select Which Player Will Go First

Next, you will want to choose which player gets to guess first. The player that goes first has a slight advantage as they may get an extra turn if they can guess correctly. The best way to decide who goes first is by flipping a coin or using a randomizing app to choose who gets to guess first. 

5. Take Your First Shot

Finally, it’s time for you to play. When taking your first shot, you should always take time to consider your move. For example, when guessing where your opponent’s ships are, you will want to place your guesses to eliminate possible locations of ships. 

Many players will place at least one ship along the edge of the map to make it more difficult to find. So you might guess a few spots along the sides of the map and then a few in the center. This will help you to eventually hit your mark and begin to sink the other player’s ship. 

To take your first shot, you will want to look at the grid on the top portion of your game. This grid will have a column of letters running vertically and numbers running horizontally. You will use this grid to guess the location of enemy ships. 

For example, you would call something out along the line of E4 and wait for your opponent’s response. 

6. Respond to Your Enemies’ Attacks

When your opponent attacks, they will give you the coordinates of their guess. If they are correct, you should announce “hit” and place a red peg into your ship where it’s been hit. 

However, if the other player’s guess doesn’t hit one of your battleships, you should say “miss.” 

After your opponent hits or misses your ships, their turn is over, and it will be your turn to guess again. 

7. Track All Shots Fired

It’s imperative that you carefully track all of your guesses. You can do this by placing white pegs into the targeting grid on the upper portion of your map. This will help you not repeat any coordinates and be more strategic in your guessing. 

If you have enough pegs, you can also track your opponent’s guesses in the ocean grid to better understand how close they are to discovering your battle ship’s locations. 

8. Guess Diagonally

When taking your turn in Battleship, the best way to discover the location of the other players’ ships is to guess diagonally. This allows you to spread out your guess and dramatically increases your chances of hitting one of your opponent’s ships. Guessing this way is also a great way to apply the process of elimination as you guess. 

9. Announce All Sunken Ships

As I briefly touched on, you must announce all hits and misses. Additionally, you have to reveal that a ship has been sunk to your opponent. You can do this by declaring that the ship has been sunk and letting them know which ship it was. 

Not alerting your opponent to a sunken ship can mess up their turns and keep them guessing after they should know to move onto somewhere else. So play fairly and be sure to differentiate between a “hit” and a “sunk” ship.

10. Spread Out Your Guesses

Especially when you start the game, it’s essential to spread out your guesses. For example, you should never guess coordinates directly beside one another as this will most likely not yield any ships. The best method is to work diagonally, as I previously stated, and make sure your guesses are all over the board to eliminate possible ship locations. 

11. Start Sinking All Hit Ships Immediately

If you guess correctly, you should continue to guess near that location until the opponent’s ship has been sunk. After that, you will want to sink their ship as quickly as possible so that you can move on and begin guessing the locations of their remaining ships. Remember, the first one to sink all the other players’ ships wins. 

12. Alternate Turns

You should always alternate turns after each player takes their guess. However, some people enjoy playing the version where if you get a hit on a ship, you get to guess until your coordinates miss. This can add a little excitement to the game, but you and your opponent should alternate guessing for the most part. 

13. Make the Game Harder

If you want to make the game a little more complicated, you and your partner can decide not to reveal which ships have been hit or sunk and simply tell the other that a ship has sunk. This adds a little difficulty to the game as each player will have to pay close attention to which ships remain in play.

14. Play on the Go

If you don’t own the plastic version of Battleship, you can always play it on paper. This is because the game originated as a paper game and can easily be played that way. 

You will need:

  • Paper (use graph paper if possible)
  • Pencils
  • Ruler

To play on paper simply:

  1. Fold the paper in half. 
  2. Draw a graph or use graph paper. 
  3. Label the vertical line a-j. 
  4. Label the horizontal line 1-10. 
  5. Color in squares to symbolize where your ships are. 

Then simply play the game as usual. The only difference will be that you are using paper and will have to mark all hits and guesses with your pencil. 

15. Learn a New Variation of the Game

After playing the game a few times, you might want to spice things up. You can do this by allowing cluster guessing on each player’s turn. Each player will be allowed 5 coordinate guesses per turn, but the remainder of the rules stay the same. This is a great way to speed up the game and add excitement. 

If you want to learn more about Battleships and how to play some of the variations of this game, I recommend watching Triple S Games’ video on Battleship. They do a great job of quickly explaining the game and variations. 

Source: YouTube / Triple S Games

Final Thoughts

Battleship is a timeless game and can easily be played by people of most ages. You can make this awesome game as hard or as easy as you would like. One of the most important things to remember when playing is to guess diagonally and spread out your guesses as you go. If you follow this one tip, you should do great.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.