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How to Win at Battleship: 15 Tips, Tricks & Strategies (Boost Your Win Rate)

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

Battleship is one of the world’s most popular strategy games and has been around since the first World War. Since the first Battleship game was printed commercially in 1931, it has been a favorite among board game enthusiasts. But although most people know how to play Battleship, few are aware of its winning strategies.

In the rest of this article, I’ll share several effective strategies and how you can use them to increase your win rate. 

Here are some tips and strategies to help you win at Battleship: 

1. Don’t Concentrate All Your Ships in One Segment

The goal in Battleship is to reduce the probability of your ships being hit. The best way to do so is to keep your ships scattered.

Concentrating all your ships in one segment can be occasionally effective—an opponent firing random shots will have less chance of hitting your ships.  

However, this strategy is very risky, and opponents can catch on easily. Once a ship is hit, the opponent will start to target the same segment to sink the ship. If other ships are concentrated in the same segment, it will increase their probability of getting hit.  

While you can use this technique to spice things up, don’t make it your main strategy. 

2. Avoid Placing Your Ship Using the Same Patterns

Another effective defensive strategy in Battleship is to avoid using the same patterns to place your ships. This is especially useful if you play with the same opponents, but it can work with random opponents as well. The crux of this strategy is that it allows you to minimize the probability of an opponent guessing where your ships are placed. 

For example, if you place all your ships diagonally, the opponent may catch on to your ships’ placement once they hit a few targets. The same goes for placing all your ships vertically. 

Another problem with this strategy is that it increases the chance of getting hit if your opponent fires randomly (which most people do!). 

3. Use a Parity Strategy To Improve Your Hit Rate

Instead of firing into all diagonal and vertical squares until you get a shot, use a parity approach to maximize the chances of hitting an opponent’s ship early on.

This strategy is based on mathematical probability and the assumption that an opponent won’t place all their ships in the exact vertical lines that you don’t target. 

For example, if the smallest ship covers two squares, firing at every other square will increase your chances of getting a shot at the beginning of the game. 

4. Don’t Let Two Ships Touch Each Other

It’s always a great idea to keep your ships apart, even if it’s by a single square. The reason for this has to do with how most people will hunt ships. When an opponent hits a ship in Battleship, they will usually target the area next to their hit. 

If you place multiple ships next to each other, there’s a higher chance of your opponent getting more successive hits. Even if you’re using a concentrated strategy, always keep at least a space or two between your ships. 

5. Spread Your Shots Early On

This is the most common strategy of Battleship but also one of the most effective. Use a radar-like approach when targeting the opponent’s ships early on in the game. Since your opponent will rarely concentrate all their ships on one part of the board, this strategy usually pays off. 

Once you hit a ship, you can start using calculations to sink it and calculate the relative position of other ships.

6. Sink One Ship at a Time

Once you get a hit on an opponent’s ship, it’s time to take advantage of your luck. Always focus on sinking a single ship before moving towards other ships. If you hit a ship, focus on the area around the ship until you manage to sink it completely. 

Once you sink a ship, you can start using the same strategy to find other ships. While it may be tempting to find all ships first and then sink them, one by one, this usually makes you confused about whether you’ve hit a new ship or the same ship twice. 

7. Don’t Fire in a Segment if You Miss Twice

If you fire into a single segment twice without getting a hit, switch to another segment. It’s not that the segment is cursed, but rather an effective strategy in hunting down ships later on in the game! 

While you can clear the board one segment at a time, this strategy isn’t effective and will only increase your total shots before sinking all the opponent’s ships. 

8. Fire in the Center of the Board Early On

Battleship is all about getting the maximum number of hits without firing too many wasted shots. Most opponents will place their ships in the center of the board. Some people prefer to place the bigger ships in the center since there’s more space, while others will hide the smallest ones. 

In any case, firing shots in the center early on will increase your likelihood of getting a hit. 

9. Use the Checkerboard Method

This method is very similar to the parity method but much easier to use. Envision the board as a checkerboard with two different color combinations. Even if the opponent places their smallest ship vertically, most ships will take up at least two colors. Instead of targeting both colors, focus on one row, skip the next row and fire your shot into the row after that. 

10. Change the Starting Square for Each Shot

If you want to maximize your hits, change the starting square for each shot. For example, if started by shooting at B3 in the last game, start the next game with C4, and so on. Opponents are bound to do things slightly differently each time, so this will give you better chances of getting hits.

11. Don’t Place Large Ships in the Center

While the center is a great place to hide smaller ships, placing a large ship in the center of the board will almost guarantee that the opponent hits it early on.

Most people will start by targeting the center of the board. By placing your largest ships there, you’re giving your opponent the upper hand early on. 

12. Learn Your Opponent’s Strategies

If you play with the same opponents regularly, you’ll slowly learn their strategies. You can then counter these strategies in your game. For example, if your original strategy is to spread out your shots but your opponent tends to concentrate most of their ships in a single segment, then modify your strategy to better fit your opponent.

13. Fire Shots With a Calculated Approach

While Battleship is based mostly on luck, there are ways to gain an advantage through calculations. For example, you can calculate the probability of a large ship being located in a certain area by calculating the number of ships left and their locations. 

Also, once you get a hit, try to identify patterns around which an opponent may base their formations.

14. Change Your Strategy Often

Unpredictability is crucial to increasing your win rate in any game, especially if you’re playing with the same opponents regularly. If you use a particular strategy that an opponent starts catching on to, you can change your strategy in every other game to confuse them. 

15. Play More Regularly

It’s a well-known saying: “the more I practice, the luckier I get.” This saying isn’t only limited to games based on pure skill and can help you win at Battleship as well. Playing more regularly will help you recognize patterns and strategies commonly used by other players, and you’ll be able to counter them more easily.

Key Takeaways 

While Battleship requires some luck to win, it’s also based on strategy. Here are a few key takeaways to help you win more often: 

  • Spread your ships out more defensively. 
  • Target your shots using a radar pattern. 
  • Be unpredictable to confuse regular opponents. 
  • Play more regularly.

JC Franco

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.