Skip to Content

Playing Battleship (Board Game): 14 Drawbacks & Downsides (Luck, Monotonous,…)

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

The origins of the board game Battleship are pretty unclear. Some claim it was invented by the Russian military to kill time during World War I, while board game fanatics say the game evolved from the board game ‘Basilinda’ developed in the 1800s.

Battleship is a popular board game today, played in households across the world, but it comes with a few significant drawbacks.

While Battleship inspired other, better board games, it isn’t worth the investment (in my humble opinion). Keep reading to learn more about why playing Battleship might not be the best use of your time.

These are 14 drawbacks and downsides of the board game Battleship:

1. Not Strategic 

In Battleship, you must try and figure out the location of your opponent’s ships and try to sink them before your ships are sunk. And while this sounds exciting, there are no strategies to try and figure out the location of your opponent’s ships. As such, little brain power is used during a Battleship match.

2. Game of Luck

Thanks to the nature of the game and the inability to employ different strategies, players need to rely on lucky guesses for a significant part of the game to try and figure out the placement of an opponent’s ships.

And, because it’s a game of luck, there’s little room to apply yourself and your abilities. 

3. Absence of Counter Strategy

One of the most significant drawbacks of Battleship is that players can’t employ a counter-strategy to prevent their opponents from taking the lead. The only way to stop an opponent is to sink all their ships before they sink yours. As such, the game isn’t as dynamic as most other board games out there.

And with the absence of a counter-strategy, you have less control over the direction of the game.

4. Drawn-Out Game

Thanks to the reliance on guesswork and the lack of strategic play, a game of Battleship can feel long and drawn out. Until you or an opponent makes contact with a ship, there’s no way of guessing how your board is set up. And even if one of you manages to score a hit, it can take ages to land a successive shot.

5. Monotonous 

An effective way to judge a board game is to determine its replayability value. Are you excited to set the game up and go at it again after the first round? While some board games are designed to make you want to play again, Battleship can get pretty monotonous after the first round.

In fact, some players will agree that the game feels monotonous even during the first round.

6. Lot of Guesswork

As mentioned, the game of Battleship involves little strategy and considerable luck. To find an opponent’s ship, you need to spend half the game shooting random blanks, inching closer to the exact location of a vessel. 

This approach involves guesswork rather than any strategy or actually applying oneself. And without room to apply yourself fully to the game, the game can feel bland and unanimated. 

It’s like trying to find the right light switch in the dark when you’re in a new room. Not exactly most people’s idea of fun.

7. Skills Can’t Be Scaled

Think of a game like chess or even something simpler, like Monopoly. These games teach you valuable skills over the course of the match that you can learn from and apply during the next round.

Additionally, you can develop your own style of play and find different ways to counter your opponent. Each game allows you to apply skills you previously learned and pick up new ones.

In Battleship, however, once you know the game, there’s little room for improvement. In fact, someone who just learned the game and someone who’s been playing for years are already on pretty even grounds. As such, it’s not like playing Battleship regularly will make you any better at the game.

8. Can’t Play Often

One of the best things about good board games is that you can play them often and even multiple times during a hangout session with friends. For example, a game like Catan offers an almost infinite number of possible scenarios every time you play. And thanks to the variability during the game, players are excited to set up the board often.

On the other hand, Battleship offers limited possibilities, and the strategies can’t be tweaked too much either. As such, the game isn’t as exciting as most other board games out there and can’t be played often.

9. Few Variations 

Battleship has three popular variations to choose from, which include:

  • Sunk in Silence: Players don’t need to announce when their ship has been sunk.
  • Salvo Shooting: Players can take three shots, and the opponent must tell them which of the shots were a hit and the type of ship.
  • Speedy: Players get to take four shots instead of one, and the game progresses as usual.

As you can see, there are a few other ways to play Battleship, and the variations aren’t too exciting. And even with the variations, features like limited strategy and excess guesswork remain.

10. Limited Maneuverability 

When setting up the board, there’s very little you can do to avoid an opponent’s shots. For example, you can decide to place your ships near the center of the board or the periphery. 

Your only other option is to put some near the center and some near the boundary. Either way, there isn’t much room to work with.

To add to these limitations, ships can only be placed horizontally and vertically, but not diagonally, further restricting the game’s dynamism.

11. Maximum of Two Players

Unlike most exciting board games, Battleship restricts the number of players to two. The best you can do is team up with someone and play on their side, but you can’t add a third player. 

As such, Battleship isn’t a party board game or something you play when your friends are over. It’s a game reserved for quieter nights when you and a friend have little else to do.

12. Cheap Material

Board games like Monopoly, Pandemic, and Cluedo have different elements, like cards, pieces, and a large board that make the game exciting. These additional elements make the game dynamic and the material used seems pretty legit.

Battleship uses a plastic box where you place the ships and the pegs representing fired shots. This plastic box is often made from cheap material that bends and breaks easily. Additionally, the setup can seem pretty bland and unattractive due to the materials used.

13. Storage Is an Issue

You’d think a plastic box would be perfect to put back all the pieces when you’re winding up. But then you’d be wrong.

In the Battleship setup, you can’t just put the pegs into the box before stowing away the game. In fact, most players will tell you that the pegs don’t fit inside the box properly and need to be removed and stored separately after each game.

Considering so few pieces are involved, and the game is cumbersome, it’s also annoying that you can’t put the game away quickly.

14. Not Competitive

One of the joys of playing board games is that you can experience healthy competition with your friends and peers. Even if you lose to a friend the first time around, you can improve your skills and come back stronger and defeat them.

Unfortunately, Battleship doesn’t offer that outlet. As mentioned, the game involves minimal strategy and considerable luck. 

As such, there’s little scope for improving your skills over time. Sure, you might get a better hang of the game, but it’s still limited, and you can lose to a new player who gets lucky with the first few shots.

+ posts

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.