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How to Play Battleship Board Game (Rules and Instructions)

How to Play Battleship Board Game (Rules and Instructions)

The classic board game Battleship has been around in various forms for many years. The game originally began as a paper and pencil game around the early 1930s. In 1967 it moved onto the game that most people know today, when the original version of Battleship was released by Milton Bradley. The game tasks each player with controlling a fleet of ships. They will use these ships to try and sink the other player’s ships.


Year: 1931 | Publisher: Milton Bradley, Hasbro | Designer: Clifford Von Wickler | Artist: NA

Genres: Deduction, Family, Wargame

Ages: 8+ | Number of Players: 2 | Length of Game: 20-30 minutes

Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: Moderate

Components: 1967 edition – two gameboards, 10 ships (two sets of five different ship), 168 white pegs, 84 red pegs

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Note: This how to play guide was created with the rules for the 1967 version of Battleship. While most of the rules have stayed the same, there have been some slight tweaks to the rules in some versions of the game.

Objective of Battleship

The objective of Battleship is to sink your opponent’s five ships before they sink your ships.

Setup for Battleship

  • Each player chooses a gameboard and opens it. You should turn your gameboard so your opponent can’t see your grid.
  • Both players will take one set of five different ships.
  • Each player should fill their trays with white and red pegs.
  • The player with the red kit gets to start the game (this will obviously be different for other versions of the game).

Placing Your Ships

Each player is given five different ships that they will get to place on the bottom grid of their gameboard. The five ships they are given are as follows:

  • Two Holes – Destroyer or Patrol Boat (after 2002)
  • Three Holes – Submarine
  • Three Holes – Cruiser or Destroyer (after 2002)
  • Four Holes – Battleship
  • Five Holes – Carrier

Each player will place each of their ships onto their grid without the other player knowing where. When placing ships the following rules must be followed:

Ships must be placed vertically or horizontally. You may never place a ship diagonally.

You may never place a ship where part of the ship extends off one of the edges of the grid.

Incorrectly Placed Ship
This ship was placed where the front of the ship has gone off the grid. This is not allowed.

Finally only one ship may occupy each space on the grid.

When you have placed all five of your ships, you will tell the other player that you are ready. Once both players are ready, players can no longer change the position of any of their boats.

Placing Ships in Battleship
The blue player has placed all five of their ships on their grid.

Calling a Shot

When it is your turn you will choose a spot on the grid. To call out your shot you will tell the player a letter and number.

The other player will then look on their bottom grid to see if they placed a boat on the space that was called.

If the player did not place a boat on that space, they will tell the other player “miss”. The player who called the shot will place a white peg in the corresponding spot on their top grid.

Missed Shot
This player called out D4. The red player did not have a ship in this position. Therefore the blue player will put a white peg in the spot.

If there was a ship on the space that was called out, the player will say “hit”. They must then tell the other player which ship was hit.

** This rule seems to have changed over time. Most versions require the player to say which ship was hit. There are some versions that don’t require the player to say which ship was hit though. **

The player whose ship was hit will put a red peg in the ship’s hole corresponding to the location that was called. The player who called out the location will place a red peg on the corresponding spot on their top grid.

Hit Ship
The other player had a ship that occupied space D4. The blue player places a red peg in the spot to indicate that the shot was a hit.

Whether the current player hit a ship or not, the other player will now get to chose a location.

Sinking A Ship

When all of the holes in a ship have been filled with red pegs, the ship has been sunk. The player will tell their opponent that they sunk the ship. They will then remove the ship from their grid.

Sunk Ship in Battleship
All three spaces of this ship have a red peg in them. This ship has been sunk. The player will remove it from their grid.

Winning Battleship

The first player to sink all five of their opponent’s ships will win the game.

Winning Battleship
The player has successfully sunk all five of their opponent’s ships. They have won the game.

Salvo Game

This advanced version of Battleship is only an official rule for some versions of the game. You could play this advanced game with any version of Battleship though.

You will mostly play the game the same way. Players still call out locations, and ships are sunk when all of their spaces are hit.

The game mostly differs in that you can name multiple locations each turn. The number of locations that you will get to call on your turn is equal to how many ships you still have (not counting ships that have sunk). For example if you still have all five ships, you will get to name five locations.

Variant Rule Ships
As the red player only has four ships left, they will only get to pick four locations for shots.

When you call out shots, you will name all of the locations at the same time. You will place white pegs in each space as placeholders to remember the locations you chose.

Salvo Shot
To begin the game this player has five ships, so they get to take five shots. For their first salvo shot in the game this player chose D4, E5, F6, G7, and H8.

The other player will then announce which shots were hits and which ships were hit. The player calling out the locations can then swap out the white pegs they placed earlier for red pegs. The player whose ship(s) were hit will place red pegs in the ships like normal.

Salvo Shot
Of their five salvo shots, only G7 was a hit.

The game ends the same as the normal game. Whoever sinks all of their opponent’s ships first wins.

Advanced Salvo Game

Like the normal Salvo game, this advanced game is only an official rule for some versions of Battleship.

This version is very similar to the Salvo game with only one change. After a player has called out all of their shots, the other player only has to say how many of them were hits. They do not need to say which shots were hits or which ships were hit.

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