According to Whitehill, the game of Battleship, the well-known paper and pencil game was was first produced as a commercial game in the 1930s. "Battleship-style" games were published under the names of Broadsides - The Game of Navel Strategy, Combat - The Battleship Game, and Salvo. He indicates that the game of Salvo "was originated by soldiers in Russia" right after World War I.

Partlett (Oxford History of Board Games, 1999, page360) indicates that earlier origins may be in the WW I French military game L'Attaque. As the game evolved and was published in England, an aviation variety was added. He also states that the game is related to Stratego, another of Whitehill's Classic American Games.

Battleship Sheets

Be that as it may, by the 1970s, (perhaps earlier) if one wanted to play Battleship - but didn't wish to draw a grid on blank paper - they could buy prepared paper sheets for the game. The photograph at the right is of a package of these sheets that were donated to the collection in 1980. Each sheet is 17.5cm long by 12.5cm wide.

The yellow area represents land, and the blue area is water. At the top of each sheet a player is given a place to write in a name. As in a game of Chess, each cell in the matrix is identified by a letter (printed on the outer vertical edges of the sheet) and a number (printed horizontally at the top, middle, and sides of the sheet.) The sheet is divided into two parts. On the lower half, each player secretly deploys various ships from their own "navy", and uses the upper half to record "shots" and "hits". Ships may be place horizontally, or vertically on a sheet by a player, but may not touch one another. In the traditional game, each player has 1 battleship (4 cells), 2 cruisers (3 cells each), 4 destroyers (2 cells each), and 2 submarines (1 cell each) or other smaller vessels. Instructions and rules for playing the game are available in detail in a number of references. A clear presentation complete with illustrations may be found in D. Pritchard, The Family Book of Games, Time-Life Books, 1994, pages 84-85.

Milton Bradley Battleship Game

In 1967 Milton Bradley issued their version of the game of Battleship. Rather than relying on pencil and paper, the box included two plastic trays, pegs, and plastic ships, and printed instructions. As may be seen in the illustration on the box, secret deployment of the ships is accomplished using the plastic models on the horizontal base of the playing surface, while recording of "shots" and "hits" are accomplished with pegs placed into the cells of  the vertical matrix. For the most part, the game is identical to the paper and pencil version, though the instructions and rules varied somewhat. As in earlier versions, as may be viewed from the photograph on the left, one player (the girl) indicates a cell by name (G6) where she wishes a "salvo" directed. The other player is honor bound by the rules to announce if it is a "hit" or a "miss".

Electronic Battleship

In 1983 Milton Bradley International, technologically updated their 1967 version of the game of Battleship by marketing a (4 AA) battery operated version complete with lights and sound. This version of the game was donated to the collection in 1989. Again, the photograph (on the right) of the box, well illustrates how the game is played. It varies little from the manual version except for the lights and sound in each "tactical station". Each of the two stations (playing areas) include moveable switches and a firing button. The plastic pieces, as would be expected were somewhat modified to enable electrical contact to be made with the many wires inside the plastic casing. Included were white pegs for "miss" and red pegs for "hit". In this version the ships include aircraft carriers, battleships, submarines, destroyers, and patrol boats. In all, the game is composed of about 250 pieces. To see more about this game, click on the photograph.

In 1979, the Museum purchased it's first desktop computer. This was before the era of an IBM PC. The computer was a Z80 Compucolor and it was delivered with a number of games on floppy 8 inch cardboard discs. One of these games was Battleship. Unfortunately, there is no longer a way to obtain a photograph of the game that was generated on the screen. The software for the game was written in an early form of BASIC, and the graphics drawn were inherent to the Z80 processor. A computer user played against the computer. The screen display illustrated a matrix of 10 rows by 26 columns. The software asked a series of questions about placement of the player's ships on the matrix and these questions were answered via the keyboard. As the game progressed, the screen display changed with a green asterisk for a "miss", and a pink X on a blue square for a "hit". In a display area below the matrix, shots were recorded in yellow, and misses in purple. A player's score appeared in white above the matrix. A table of random numbers were used by the software in the play of the game. A player pressed a key to fire a shot. This was before desktop computers had sound or a mouse.

Microsoft Minesweeper

When the PC (and the Mac) came along later in the 1980s, desktop computer games were included at first to help people learn how to use their computer, such as the playing card game Klondike (Solitaire).

The photograph at the left is a "screen capture" of Microsoft's Minesweeper - a computerized version of Battleship, which dates from about 1991. This was an  inclusion with Microsoft's operating system "Windows". Because of computer processor upgrade, more RAM, and a mouse, the game could be played somewhat differently than the Compucolor version. In the Microsoft version a player can declare "beginner", "intermediate" or "expert", and this decides the size of the matrix to use for the game. The photograph on the left is of an "intermediate" game. The computer software then "arms" the matrix with mines. The player uses the mouse  to send a salvo to a specific cell in the matrix.  The player's score is shown in a window at the top of the board. A "happy face" indicates the progress of the game - if you loose - it cries. You loose when you find a mine. The game did not change with each new version of Microsoft Windows, but as processor speeds increase - so did the speed of the game. Instructions for play are found in the ever-present "help" menu.

Battling Ships

During the ensuing years, a number of hand-held electronic versions of Battleship appeared, and in 1998, Sierra On-Line, Inc. issued a CDROM title "Hoyle Board Games". One of the games on the disc is Battling Ships - Sierra's version of Battleship. The photograph on the right is a screen capture from this game.

In many ways, the Sierra game is like Milton Bradley's battery operated version, only the Sierra version has many more visual and auditory effects. It provides information about the ships in the game as can be seen on the right in the photograph. When the player clicks on any ship, the information changes to the information about that ship. Also by clicking on a ship, and holding the mouse down, it can be dragged and dropped to any place on the matrix. Highlighting the ship and clicking the rotate button (on the lower left in the photograph) enables horizontal or vertical placement. A 112 page book with the CDROM offers a limited history of each game on the disc along with playing instructions. On-line instructions are available as well.

Battling Ships in Action

The set-up enables the setting of animation, sound effects, backgrounds, and whether the player wants the computerized opponent to talk. The set-up also enables determining just how talkative a player wants the opponent to be. After the set-up, the screen changes to one similar to the screen capture on the left. The chosen opponent is in view. (One may choose from a number of standard opponents - or through an additional program - design their own opponent before the game begins.)

The score is shown on the top. The guns (with animation) move and fire (with sound). The player uses the mouse to activate the "fire" button. When the opponent scores a hit - the player's ships blow up! This version of the  game enables - through the set-up menu - the opportunity for two "live" players to play the game. There is also a version on the disc which enables play with another player at a distant computer, via the Internet.

Last update March 15, 2010