Battleship: Rules and Gameplay Instructions

This guide will cover all the Battleship rules and step-by-step gameplay instructions for learning how to play Battleship. 

Battleship, also known as Battleships and Sea Battle, is a two-player board game where each player must guess where the other has put their battleships on a plastic grid. While Battleship originated as a paper and pencil game, it has become very popular as a board game. 

Opinions differ on whether Battleship is a game of luck or a game of skill, but either way, this game will have you thinking on your toes. 

Continue reading to learn how to play Battleship, including step-by-step gameplay instructions. 

What is Battleship

Battleship Board Game Info Image

Battleship is a two-player board game where opponents try to be the first to destroy the other’s fleet. Each player positions their battleships on a grid and hides them from their opponent. 

Each player then takes turns guessing where the other’s battleships are located on the grid and noting whether each shot taken was a hit or a miss. 

Number of Players: 2

Ages: 7 +

Difficulty: Easy – Medium

Length of Play: about 30 minutes

Similar to: Naval Battle; Mission Command; Battleship with Planes

Main Objective: Be the first player to sink all of your opponents ships. 

Why We Love It: The game can be won by either opponent as it is both a game of chance and of skill. 

A Brief History of Battleship

Battleship was originally a paper and pencil game that was played before World War I. The exact origins are uncertain, but it is believed that it started from the French game called L’Attaque. In 1967, Milton Bradley (now Hasbro Gaming) turned it into the plastic board game that is known and loved today. 

An electronic version was created in 1977 and allowed players to plug in the location of their ships instead of using pegs. 

Battleship was one of the first computerized games and can still be found on the computer today.

In 2012 a movie named Battleship was released in theaters. The movie was loosely based on the game.

What You’ll Need to Play Battleship

Everything you need to play Battleship is in the box, which contains the following components:

  • 2 portable battle cases
  • 10 plastic ships
  • 4 runners of white pegs
  • 2 runners of red pegs
  • Label sheet
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If you’re after the electrical version, this one from Hasbro Gaming is a great option.

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Setting Up Battleship

The first time you play, you will need to set up Battleship and the game pieces. 

  • Put the label sheets on the portable battle cases.
  • Separate the plastic ships from the runners.
  • Separate the white and red pegs from the runners. 

Battleship Rules and Gameplay

The battleship rules are very straightforward. Simply follow these 5 steps:

  1. Each player should take a portable battle case and sit facing each other. 
  2. Each player should take 5 of the ships and secretly place them on your game board. 
  3. Player one will call out a shot to try to hit player two’s ships
  4. Player two will tell whether it was a hit or a miss. If it was a hit, they will tell which type of ship was hit. 
  5. Player two will call a shot. Players will alternate turns until all 5 of one of the players’ ships have sunk. 

How to Call a Shot

The player will use the grid to call a shot using the letter and number on the grid. For example, you may call C2. The other player will look at the spot on their grid at C2 and see if their ship is partially there. 

Hit or Miss? 

If there is a ship where the shot was called, then it is a hit. You will call out “hit!” and tell your opponent which type of ship was hit (carrier, Battleship, cruiser, submarine, or destroyer). Both players will place a RED peg in the spot where the shot was called (ex. C2). 

If there is not a ship where the shot was called, then it is a miss. You will call out “miss,” and your opponent will put a WHITE peg where the miss was (this helps to keep track of where the ships are and are not so you can better make decisions later in the game). 

How to Sink a Ship in Battleship

A ship is sunk when all of the holes in a ship have been filled with a red peg. 

How to Win at Battleship

The first player to sink all 5 of their opponent’s ships wins. 

Other Rules

  • Battleships may be placed either horizontally or vertically, not diagonally. 
  • Battleships may not overlap. 
  • Battleships may not cover numbers or letters. 
  • Battleships must be entirely on the grid. 

How to Play Battleship – Video Tutorial

Battleship Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an electronic Battleship game?

Yes, there is an electronic version of the Battleship game. It is similar to the original version of Battleship, but it does include lights and sounds. 

Is Battleship a game of skill? 

Battleship involves both chance and skill. 

Is Battleship a good game for kids? 

Battleship is recommended for ages 7 and up. It is a good game for practicing coordinates and grids. 

How Much Does Battleship Cost? 

You can usually buy Battleship for around $15 from most online retailers. 

Alternative Games to Battleship

Naval Battle is another game where you need to sink all of your opponent’s ships before they sink yours. Unlike Battleship, this game is played on one board and does not have a grid. Like Battleship, it is a game of strategy. 

Battleship with Planes is the classic Battleship game with planes added! Not only do you need to sink your opponent’s ships in this game, but you must also crash their planes. 

If you are looking for more similar games, check out our game guide for Stratego rules.

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Read all the articles (4) written by Sammy Bohannon