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Tabletop Game / Battleship

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You sank my... oh, wait, that was only my submarine.

This is originally a board game for two players, though it can be played with pencil-and-paper and has been adapted to computers. The classic Milton Bradley set-up has two identical plastic half-boards, one red, one blue. Each half has two 10-by-10 sections: one flat one with peg holes where you place the ships, and a vertical section with peg holes which has the dual purpose of marking where you fire your shots and hiding where your ships are from the other player. Both grids are labeled with letters in one direction and numbers in the other, A to J and 1 to 10 respectively.

The most common setup gives each player one two-peg destroyer (formerly a patrol boat), one three-peg submarine, one three-peg cruiser (formerly the destroyer), one four-peg battleship, and one five-peg aircraft carrier, which are arranged on the flat board in an arrangement of the player's choosing. Each turn, one player says where he's firing his shot; the other declares whether they miss or hit (you can place pegs in the ships when they hit), whether a ship is sunk, and the type of ship. The last player with at least one ship on the board wins. One game variant allows the player to fire as many shots as they have ships still afloat.

Received a live-action film adaptation in 2012. With aliens and Liam Neeson. There have been a number of video game adaptations as well, from the NES to modern PCs.

This board game has examples of:

  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The aircraft carrier. Being five pegs long, it is the easiest ship to find, and when that happens it is only a matter of time before it is sunk.
    • The Game Boy Radar Mission gives players a reason to specifically hunt out the opponent's aircraft carrier first—if it's not sunk before 15 turns are up, an aircraft gets launched from it. Said aircraft counts as an additional ship (meaning it must be hit to win), is 1×1, is NOT subject to the near miss rule, and is placed randomly in a spot not yet fired upon. It's not that uncommon to lose because the aircraft was in one of the last 5 spaces on the board.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: In Super Battleship for the SNES, you have to manually aim your guns at enemy ships to sink them. This will impair the ship depending on where you hit them: Shooting the guns will prevent them from firing back. Shooting the aft of the ship will knock out the engines (usually the second thing you want to hit after you take out the guns). Hitting the radar will affect weapon accuracy, the conning tower will affect how fast the ship can repair itself in the following turns (mainly useful only for the players), and hitting the armory will affect how many shots you can fire during that engagement session. This can be taken advantage of, allowing for skillful players to take out a massive battleship with a dinky little patrol boat (which will be sunk in one shot from said battleship at full power).
  • Big, Bulky Bomb: The first Game Boy game Navy Blue had special weapons a player could use to cover multiple spots in one attack. Variations include firing off 2, 3, and 5 missiles into 2, 3, and 5 spots of your choice, a missile that attacks in the four corners of a 3×3 grid, the Harpoon missile, which attacks 5 spaces of a 3×3 grid in an X pattern, and the Tomahawk missile, which covers an all 8 spaces surrounding the spot that you fired it at. These weapons were incredibly useful for finding the Submarine (which only took up one spot), and the Carrier (which took up 8 spaces into a 4×2 pattern). Destroying various ships prevented the enemy from using the very same weapons.
  • Boring, but Practical: The simplest way to clear the enemy fleet is Odd-Odd, Even-Even shot pattern (A1, B2, C3, D4, etc.). While this guarantees that most of your shots will miss, the one-tile gap ensures that the two-tile destroyers will be hit at some point.
  • Catchphrase: "You sank my battleship!"
  • Critical Existence Failure:
    • Damage doesn't affect a ship until it is sunk.
    • Averted when playing the game variant that grants each player one shot per turn for each of their surviving ships. This only counts for the player's fleet as a whole; the individual ships still count the same until they get sunk.
    • Averted in Super Battleship. You can disable a ship's various systems, including preventing it from firing back by destroying the guns, depending on where you aim at the ship.
    • Under the default one shot per turn rules, not only does how many hits a given ship has taken not matter until it's actually sunk, but how many and which ships you have remaining don't matter either until such time as all of your ships are sunk, as you still get the same one shot every turn.
  • Cool Boat: Guess.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The game's alternate title, which is also answers in many languages: Sea Battle.
  • Excuse Plot:
    • Assuming they have one at all, Battleship spinoff games tend to have paper-thin plots. Surface Thunder's entire plot fits onto one page of the manual, and is in no way required to play the game. Your mileage may vary as to how paper-thin you consider the plot of the movie.
    • Averted by Battleship Galaxies, a more complex game with miniatures (released by Hasbro subsidiary Avalon Hill) that, admittedly, bears little relation to the classic game. It came with a IDW Publishing-created comic/graphic novel; clocking in at 48 pages, it expands on the story of the ISN Everest and their opponents in the game.
  • Fog of War: Another optional game variant allows the players to keep the identity of their ship a secret when their opponent scores a hit (until something gets sunk of course).
  • Game Mod: Coming up with homebrew rules (like, for example, giving each ship a unique, single-use attack). Technically, any video game adaptation that doesn't just use the basic rules is this.
  • Game Show: Received a minigame as part of the Hasbro-produced Family Game Night on The Hub. There's also a 1974 pilot called Money Words which played a lot like this game, just with words.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Though there are various strategies to root out ships (grid searching, for example) and methods to determine direction once you've scored a hit, the game ultimately comes down to who gets lucky enough to hit all five ships first. Made worse by the fact that, statistically, you'll likely take out your opponent's 3 to 5-peg ships first, making the little 2-peg boat a nightmare to find.
    • Computers are very cruel at Battleship due to this reason alone. Unlike a human, who will usually attempt to keep some consistent strategy for their ship placement, computers will often disregard that methodology and instead place their ships completely at random, with zero thought about cohesion. Naturally, the strategies about learning your opponent won't help you an inch because of this; fight against a computer, and you are quite literally playing a guessing game.
    • Generally, computer versions play similar strategies to humans for fairness - random fire until a hit, then fire adjacent to the first until you score another hit, then fire at either end of the two hits until you sink something (ships are rarely placed next to each other). However it's easy to program an algorithm that looks at what ships are still on the opposing board, what squares haven't been hit and select a firing square where either a ship is likely to be based on the size and shape of the un-hit areas or one that even if a miss will eliminate as large a number of squares as possible as possible locations as ships could not fit into the un-hit gaps. An analysis can be found here.
  • More Dakka: Variations on the standard ship theme include "A shot for every remaining ship" and "A shot until you miss"—particularly lucky players of the latter can potentially strike the enemy's entire fleet in one turn.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The live action adaptation. How does one make an action movie based on a simple tabletop game? Simple, ditch the pegs and add aliens (who attack by firing "pegs").
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: In some versions of the game, submarines have just one hit—and you have several of them. Good luck finding them.
  • One-Man Army: According to the 'plot', the player's nation in Surface Thunder has been completely reduced to a single warship: you.
  • Palette Swap: The cruiser and submarine are essentially the same; only their physical models are different.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Some of the possible ship arrangements.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: First player to sink his opponent's whole fleet wins. Sound simple? Good! It's fun!
    • Battleship is such a fundamentally simple game that you don't even need to buy an official copy to play. If you and your opponent know the basic rules and agree to use any house rules, then all you need is two pencils, two sheets of paper with two 10×10 grids drawn on each, and something tall that you can use as a divider to hide your board. In fact, playing on pen-and-paper allows for even more customization than a dedicated board set, like adding extra ships or changing the size of the grids.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: One computer version of this game (Battleships), when computing shots presents a view from the bridge of a ship into the ocean and the enemy fleet, complete with its guns firing on the enemy vessels and planes taking off from the carrier until it's very damaged (or from above if it's sunk or very damaged), harmlessly strafing the firing ship.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Some versions of the board game even make explosion sounds, which probably helps keep players honest.
  • Subsystem Damage: Super Battleship, as mentioned above, removes functionality based on where a shot lands.
  • Themed Stock Board Game:
    • There's a Star Wars tie-in edition, with a hexagonal space grid, computerized hit/miss notation, sound clips from Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Ackbar, and ships replaced by iconic Star Wars vessels (X-Wings, Star Destroyers, etc.).
    • Other versions have space ships also, or even aircraft instead of warships.
    • There is, perhaps inevitably, a version based on the film based on the game.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: The "one shot for every remaining ship" variant rule. The more ships you lose, the harder it is to fight back.

This board game appears in the following media:

  • In Seinfeld, Jerry and Elaine are shown playing a game over some exposition. Instead of the usual battleship, it's Elaine's submarine that gets sunk, and Jerry prompts her to make an explosion sound before they continue.
  • In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Robin asks Barney to play Battleship, which Barney thinks is an Unusual Euphemism for hooking up. Turns out she really does want to play a game of Battleship—and so they set up the game and start playing (and cheating).
  • In the original Toy Story, Andy gets Battleship for his birthday. Later, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head are seen playing it. Hamm appears to be cheating, with Potato Head failing to call him out on it—Potato Head's entire shot board is covered in white pegs, and his own ships are all side-by-side.
  • FoxTrot: Jason and Marcus are seen playing Battleship, with Jason losing his last ship, then retaliating, missing but still sinking every one of Marcus' ships. We then learn they'd been playing the Nuclear War edition.
  • In the Tintin adventure Flight 714, eccentric aircraft tycoon Lazlo Carreidas plays a game against Captain Haddock on board a plane. He wins by cheating, there's a camera over the Captain's seat linked to a television screen in front of Lazlo that shows him precisely where the Captain's ships are.
  • Batman Forever: Riddler and Two-Face play a "cooperative" version of Battleship, with Riddler taking on the Batwing and Two-Face taking on the Batboat.
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward mentors Skye by playing, and has to deal with losing to someone playing completely randomly.
  • At one point in Evangelion: ReDeath, characters in the NERV command center are shown playing Battleship, including the ubiquitous catchphrase.