- Game Title: Battleship
- Release Date: 1931
- Number of Players: 2
- Average Game Time: 30 minutes
- Game Publisher: Milton Bradley
- Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2425/battleship
- Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
- Expansions/Alternates: Yes
- Available in Stores: Yes (newer versions only)
It’s not that often that I choose to delve into games from the 30’s for a Board Game of the Week, mostly because the assumption is that if a game has been around for over 80 years, it’s not exactly new and so it’s harder to write interesting stories. Battleship would seem to be one of those types of games; pretty much anybody from my childhood, my parents’ childhood, and even my grandparents’ childhood has played the game or at least knows of its existence. One of the games that has withstood the test of time, multiple different versions and reiterations of Battleship have been created to keep the game popular through the decades. I had an anniversary Battleship as well as a Star Wars Battleship when I was a kid, so I’ve known the basic rules for a long time and remember them to this day.
For a while I have felt that Battleship is one of those games that is fun, but there isn’t too much variety to it. Luckily for me, when I pulled out my classic Battleship game and played a few rounds with my sister’s fiancé I was introduced to a whole new way of playing Battleship; the Salvo rules variation.
Salvo is a great example of a rules variation helping make a good game great. Salvo is actually listed as a recommended game type in the Battleship rulebook for advanced players, but the rules are fairly simple so you don’t have to be a master to play. The salvo rules are the same as regular Battleship rules, except that instead of one shot per round a
player gets one shot for every ship they have. This means that at the start of the game you have five shots, and as time goes by and you lose ships you get less and less until you lose all of your ships. If on any of your shots you hit a ship, your opponent must tell you where you hit and what ship it was. This speeds up the game significantly and also provides an added layer of strategy for when you’ve hit someone. Ultimately it’s a simple change, but it provides better results in my opinion compared to the traditional version. There is an element of luck to it because if you lose a ship early and have less shots to work with you are at a big disadvantage, but from the times I have played salvo I found that it stayed pretty even no matter how the first few games started solely due to the volume of opportunities to get a hit on your opponent.
Another version of the Battleship game with an added layer of complexity is the advanced salvo variation, which includes the same rules as salvo except when a player gets a hit the opponent doesn’t say which shot hit or what ship they hit, and only says the number of times they hit in that round. This is a significantly harder style of play and requires paper and a pencil available because you will need to write down as much information as possible each turn to help figure out which of your shots was a hit. For example, if on your first turn you choose A2, B7, H5, G9, and A10 as your five shots and your opponent tells you that you hit twice, that’s not a lot of information to go on. If you don’t keep a record of the hits and do some experimenting to figure out where those hits came from, it will be impossible for you to keep track of everything as the game progresses. This type of game can be a lot of fun if you play it right, but can also be very frustrating if you don’t keep organized and use your shots wisely.
Ultimately Battleship was a fun game by itself, but playing the Salvo or Advanced Salvo version is a good way to try something new with an older game. For those of you who haven’t played the salvo rules, I recommend picking up your old copy or buying a new one and giving it a shot (no pun intended).
Jack’s Rating (salvo): 4/5 stars
Jack’s Rating (advanced salvo): 4.5/5 stars
Fun read, Jack. I appreciate the respect for the classics. I’ve always preferred salvo version myself. Years ago, we created our own variant that we called Submarine Battleship. It forced us to return the game to its paper-and-pencil roots, but it was great fun. Here’s the gist.
Each player has five submarines; all submarines are 5 digits long. Rather than one sea grid, however, the player has 5 sea grids, stacked one on top of the other, representing different depths. Thus, a single attack is made on a 3-coordinate system: A-7-Z, for example. Each sub (can only exist on a single plane; no “tilting” subs).
In order that the game didn’t end up lasting 3 thousand years, we introduced 2 special rules. (1) Zeppelins: each player had 3 Zeppelins (you crossed out the little box when you used one). Zeppelin would force the other player to announce 1 guaranteed “hit” location from his side of the board, or to make it more difficult, we would say just 2 of the 3 coordinates. The other special rule was (2) Depth Charges. Each player had three Depth Charges. A depth charge attacked a 3x3x3 “cube” of spaces centered around a called coordinate. We had a lot of fun with this, which essentially amounted to “three-dimensional Battleship.”
Also, Scout’s Honor: we were playing this variant on paper YEARS before Hasbro released the electronic version that introduced recon planes and ship-specific special weapons. 🙂
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