A Guide to a Battleship Strategy That Can Help You Win

Updated September 15, 2021
Blue battleships game played indoors

Milton Bradley's Battleship hit the shelves during the height of the Cold War, when calculated and distant wartime maneuvers were all the rage. While you can absolutely leave everything up to chance, there is some battleship strategy that you can learn to make you a formidable opponent. From offense to defense, and everywhere in between, take a look at the theory behind the beloved compact board game.

Strategize From Two Sides

Battleship, which involves you placing your own multi-sized ships on a gridded board and trying to hit your opponent's ships before they hit yours, requires some serious brain power to play competitively. While most people probably just toss out letter and number combinations to see if they'll get lucky and hit a ship, you can apply real strategy to your approach and, in turn, make yourself a more effective player.

In order to do this, you have to devise a method for both your offense and your defense. Unfortunately, Battleship isn't one of those games where you can rely on having a strong offense or defense; with this one, you truly have to have it all to win.

Best Defensive Strategies for Avoiding Strikes

Defensive Strategies for Avoiding Strikes

As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense, and this couldn't be truer than with Battleship. Laying out your board in a distinct way can lend your ships to being harder to hit, thus giving yourself more time to navigate the opponent's board and parse out where their ships are. Here are some things to consider when placing your own ships across the board:

  • Randomizing is a good idea - Try not to establish a pattern, such as every other row or every corner, for the way that you place your ships on the board. The human brain is drawn to patterns, and once your competitor has figured out your pattern, they'll be able to take you down with ease.
  • Spread your ships out - Spreading out your ships is another guard against your opponent locating your ships too quickly. Putting all of your ships into a big cluster makes your opponent's job easier because the minute they find one of your ships, they'll find all of them.
  • Switch it up every round - Most people don't stop with just one round of Battleship, so it's important that you continue to switch up your ships' positions in every round so that no one picks up on your strategy.

Best Offensive Strategies for Making Hits

Offensive Strategies for Making Hits

Placing your ships around the board is the more passive of the two actions you engage in while playing Battleship, with most people's attraction to Battleship coming in the form of the second one - attacking. Trying to locate your opponent's Battleships through calculations or luck is the best part of playing the game, though it can also feel like the most challenging. However, you needn't be alarmed since even the most non-strategic mind can apply a few simple concepts to their next game of Battleship to sink every ship in the sea.

  • Attack towards the center - Probability is on your side if you choose to attack towards the center of the board. There's far more central space than there are edges, so sticking to the center is a great idea to get you started.
  • Strike in a grid - For more advanced strategists, or at least those that have a good memory, divide the board into small sections and begin working your way diagonally across the board. This style works best if you start in one corner and slowly work your way towards the opposite corner. By following this plan, you don't be in danger of overlooking a section on the board or going over one section too much.
  • Use the checkerboard approach - Take shots at alternating squares across the board to try and maximize your space. For example, there are black and red squares on a checkerboard, so pick what would either be all red or all black on the Battleship grid and fire only at those colors. This works well since there aren't any ships fewer than two squares wide.
  • Don't hesitate to sink a ship - If you make a hit, don't wait to sink the ship. Hesitating to explore around the board for their other ships might seem like a good idea, but it's also giving your opponent ample time to come for your ships as well.

Bring It All to the Table

Battleship isn't the game to be a passive player; you have to bring both your methodical and aggressive sides together to come up with a winning strategy to crush your opponent every time. Of course, everyone adds their own personal flavor to any game strategy, and Battleship is no exception. So, take these ideas, adjust them to fit your style, and get to sinking.

A Guide to a Battleship Strategy That Can Help You Win