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History of Battleship (Game): 20 Compelling Facts (Origins, Versions,…)

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

Most of us are familiar with the game Battleship, even if we know it by a different name. The guessing game is a staple in most board game nights and a family favorite worldwide. There’s so much history behind this iconic game.

Here are 20 unique facts and events you might not have known about Battleship.

1. Battleship Was Initially Played on Pen and Paper

Despite the version most people are familiar with, the original Battleship game was played on paper, with each player marking their board in pen. Some people still prefer to play it that way, and it’s a great option if you don’t have the board game for family game night! 

2. Salvo Was the First Commercial Version of Battleship

In 1931, the Starex company published a version of Battleship that was conveniently printed and ready to play. They named it Salvo: The Game of Wits, and it’s considerably more advanced than the regular version of Battleship most of us know.

Notably, players get to shoot five shots at a time, as opposed to one. The added shots make the game faster but more difficult to play because players need to recall the location of their previous hits.

3. The French Game L’Attaque Might Have Inspired Battleship

Although L’Attaque is a military game (Battleship is considered a naval-combat game), many believe that the inspiration for Battleship came from the French game. This is one of the more popular theories on the origins of the iconic game.

4. Russian Soldiers Played the Game During the First World War

Despite the popularity of L’Attaque, there is another version much closer to the Battleship game we now know and love. Russian soldiers reportedly played the game during World War I. In fact, as the earliest commercial version was released, The Milwaukee Journal made this claim in an article published in 1931. 

5. Battleship Might Be Derived From the Popular Game Basilinda

Another theory on the origins of Battleship is that it was derived from E.I. Horsman’s board game Basilinda, which was popular during the last decade of the 19th century. Again, this game is not based on naval combat but has a similar concept to Battleship. 

6. Milton Bradley Was the Longest Steady Producer of the Game

The American board games manufacturer operated until 1984, when Hasbro took over the company. Since it first started publishing a pen and paper version of Battleship in the 30s and 40s, the company continuously manufactured other versions of the game. 

The last version that Milton Bradley Co. (as a Hasbro Division) released was the 2008 hexagonal tile version, which remained available in stores for over a decade and a half after renaming the game Battleship Islands. 

7. There Was an Aviation Version Known As Wings

While many similar games played in the 1930s were military-based, one version published by Strategy Games Co. was aviation-based. However, the game was considerably less popular. It doesn’t compare to the long-lasting popularity of Battleship and the multiple editions released over the years.

8. The 1967 Version Was the First To Introduce Plastic Pieces

Most of us are familiar with the classic edition of Battleship with the red and white pegs and gray miniature plastic ships. The Milton Bradley Company was the first to introduce reusable plastic pieces, arguably adding to the game’s everlasting popularity.

9. Battleship Was Among the First Games Computerized

Not long after Pong made its debut, there was a demand for more computerized games. Battleship was among the first board games to have a version of such a generation. In 1977, Electronic Battleship was a version of the game available on home computers. Specifically, it was available on a Compucolor.

10. A Single-Player Derivative of the Game Was Invented in 1982

Most editions of Battleship involve two players, and some may allow for more. However, in 1982, Battleship Puzzles was a sudoku-type Battleship game published for single players. The puzzles are logic-based and were published in Argentina in the 80s.

11. The US Military Used the Atari Version To Train Soldiers

Despite being a guessing game, some tactical skill is involved in playing more complex versions of Battleship. Atari released a variety of Battleship editions in the 80s. Because they involved a lot of skill, the US Military worked with Atari to create The Bradley Trainer— an edition used to train soldiers for combat.

12. Hasbro Made Mini Versions of Battleship Into Video Games

In the late 2000s, Hasbro developed a series of popular board games into video games, which was well received. The toy company included an altered Battleship game for PS 2 and Wii. The game added a variety of missiles and ships not typically found in most other versions.

13. A Battleship Movie Was Released in 2012

Given that the game has become a part of popular culture, Universal Pictures released a movie in 2012 that draws inspiration from the classic Milton Bradley game. The film starred big names such as Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, and Barbadian artist Rihanna. 

14. The Game Depends on a Considerable Amount of Luck

Despite the fierce rivalry between siblings playing the game, winning involves a lot of luck. Some researchers suggest that players can use some skills to win, but the overwhelming majority believe that luck takes higher precedence. 

15. The Indian Version Doesn’t Require Announcing Hits

Most people are familiar with announcing when one of their ships is hit—which allows the opposing player to deduce which cells are empty. However, an Indian version of Battleship takes things further and increases the difficulty by making this announcement optional.

16. RoboCop (the 1987 Movie) Includes an Ad for Battleship

If you’ve ever watched the original 1987 movie RoboCop, you may remember the fake ads that interrupted the movie. Yet, unless you’ve seen the film recently, you may have forgotten that one of the ads was for a Battleship-inspired game called Nuke-Em! 

17. Hasbro Creates Over 150 Million Battleship Pieces Yearly

Believe it or not, Hasbro claims to manufacture upwards of 150 million pieces for Battleship games every year, which is undoubtedly a testament to the game’s popularity. If you lined up all these pieces, they would measure over 930 miles or 1,000 kilometers.

18. Most Games Have Five Ships; Some Have Land and Air Vehicles

The classic ships are:

  • Carrier
  • Battleship
  • Cruiser (Later renamed Destroyer)
  • Submarine
  • Destroyer (Later renamed Patrol Boat).

Ships vary in size, and some editions of Battleship or other inspired games include other military vehicles.

19. Players As Young as the Age of 7 Years Can Enjoy the Game

According to the official Hasbro website, even children as young as seven can play the game and grasp its concepts well. Some families begin the game much earlier as a way to develop logical thinking in children. This certainly makes it a great addition to family game night.

20. Hasbro Released a Battleship Video Game

Around half a century after its conception, Battleship was popular enough to warrant the toy manufacturer to invest in creating a new video game. This game features the same basic concepts that families all over the US have come to love and enjoy.

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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.