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Battleship Board Game Rules: How Do You Play Battleship?

Battleship Introduction:

“You sunk my battleship.” Chances are, you’ve said those words at least once in your lifetime. (many more, perhaps, if you were a kid before there were video games). If you are ready to teach the next generation of armchair naval combatants the rules of the classic Battleship board game, you’ll find the instructions below.

What You Need:
Some red pegs (to track the hits)
Some white pegs (to track the misses)
A naval fleet of five ships (to wreak havoc on the enemy)
An ocean—or, perhaps more accurately, a partitioned game board representing an ocean

Your Fleet:

Destroyer: The two-holed ship

Submarine: Three-holed vessel

Cruiser: Another three-holed vessel

Battleship: Four-holed vessel

Carrier: Five-holed vessel, the largest in your fleet

Preparing for Battle at Sea:

Place the game board on a table or some other sturdy surface and sit across from your opponent. The bottom half of the folding board is your ocean grid, while the raised half is the target grid. Set your ships up strategically (and secretly) on your ocean grid.

  • Ships can be placed in a horizontal or vertical position anywhere within the grid.
  • No part of the ship can be out of the grid, nor can they overlap in any position with another ship. They can be next to each other, as long as their grid positions do not overlap.
  • You may not place ships diagonally within the grid.
  • Ship placement is permanent and cannot be changed once the game has started.

Choose a player who will go first. That player begins the game by calling out a letter and number position from the grid (i.e. “A9”), and the other player responds by determining if the called shot was a “hit” or a “miss.”
Hits occur when the called shot hits any part of an enemy vessel. A miss occurs when the shot misses all enemy vessels.

  • If a vessel was hit, the defending player must also name the vessel that was hit –“Hit. Submarine.”
  • Track your hits and misses on your target grid, using red pegs for hits and white pegs for misses.
  • If your vessel is hit, track the hit by placing a red peg in the hole corresponding to the shot.
  • A ship has been sunk when all of it’s holes have been filled with red hit pegs. The owener of the ship must announce when a ship has been sunk (“You sunk my Battleship!”).

After a hit or miss has been determined, play passes to the other player who then calls their shot in the same manner.

Winning Battleship:

The first player to sink the entire enemy fleet wins the game.

Salvo Variant:
Once you’ve mastered the standard rules, try the Salvo variant. For Salvo, all rules are the same as the regular game with the exception of shot-calling. Instead of calling only one shot, call five shots at a time, marking them on your target board with white pegs (swap out white pegs for red on your hits). Your opponent responds by stating your hits and misses, including naming the type of vessels which were struck.

Whenever one of your ships is sunk, you lose a shot for each ship that has been sunk, so the game gets progressively more difficult as your fleet shrinks in size.

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