Introduction: How to Win at Battleship!

If you want to:

  • Hide your ships better
  • Guess your opponent's ship locations better
  • Dominate and win the game....

Then read on for tips and tricks. "You sunk my battleship" to my ears ;)

Step 1: Place Your Ships Like a Stealthy Pro

In order to place your ships in the most ideal locations, consider the following tips...

1.Avoid the most-guessed places (part 1). After playing a lot of Battleship, and observing the most routinely guessed locations, I've discovered that columns 1, 5, and 10 are literally the most highly guessed columns EVERY TIME. If you want to hide your ships the stealthiest, always avoid putting them in these columns.

2.Avoid the most-guessed places (part 2). In addition to avoiding columns 1, 5, and 10, also avoid anywhere that you can easily say, or that rolls off the tongue easily. People tend to naturally--second-naturedly--guess the places that they can easily say. I don't know why this is, per se, but it's a fact (just put it to the test). Such places are: B2, J9, E3, I9, etc. Therefore...

3.Put your ships in harder-to-say locations. Things that don't roll off the tongue easily will be your best bet for hiding your ships. This takes way more thought and strategic placement, which in turn, yields better results and more wins for you! Such places to put your ships are: H8, I2, F6, C7, etc.

4.Use more vertical ship locations. If you place your ships mostly vertical, it will help them get hit a lot less. Horizontal ships take up a lot more space over more columns, giving your opponent an advantage to finding them sooner. When someone is scanning their board for your ships, they will tend to look across the board (more then they look up and down the board) for a guess, meaning they will start looking at the horizontal spaces and gaps (naturally) when determining where they think your ships are. My guess is that it's probably natural because (in North America and a lot of other countries) we read left to right horizontally. So, if you place them vertically, you reduce your chances of the ships being found. Now, instead of your opponent seeing the gap on their board and guessing your ship at A1, A2, A3, and A4....your ship is now hidden better at A3, B3, C3, and D3 (for example). Just by reading those two sets of four (A1-A4 and A3-D3), did you notice it was easier to quickly read A1-A4 and that your brain kind of "hiccups" or "stutters" (aka you had to read it a little slower) trying to adjust to reading A3-D3? See the reason why that is next...

4a. Once your ship has been found, the natural guess for your opponent is to guess in numerical order. This is just how our brains are taught to function (for example, when you're taught to count, you say 1, 2, 3, 4). Therefore, when your opponent guesses, they will most likely guess the next number horizontally after the "hit" location on your ship. If your ships are horizontal (A1, A2, A3, A4) they will be sunk in a hurry. If they are vertical, you will buy some time while your opponent tries to figure out which way your ship is facing.

5. Keep your ships in closer-knit groups. As you can see in the second picture, my first two ships are vertically placed in columns 2 and 3 within a shorter distance of each other. You will also note that the other three ships are in a little group near the mid-bottom right of the board. When people are guessing where they think your ships are, they tend to guess sporadically. For instance, if they sink a ship at F6-I6, their next guesses will be somewhere further away from that (as if they gained a big victory in that one location and now it's time to move elsewhere). So keeping your ships closer together will result in being hit (and sunk) less. Just be sure not to put your ships so close together that their squares are touching horizontally or vertically (diagonally is OK). Otherwise, when your opponent hits one ship and starts guessing other squares around it, they might start destroying a second ship in the process.

NOTE: Even after your opponent sinks a vertical ship, it's very rare that they start guessing more vertical spaces. So don't worry, this usually doesn't effect the above tips at all. Most people just stick to habit :)

6. Leave some empty space. This tip is just GREAT! It's funny to watch your opponent guessing all these spots in your gap area--and getting annoyed that they can't find your ships! They do this because "surely" this giant gap on their boards between (or outside of) their white pegs "must" contain a ship! It's our brain's natural desire to give symmetry to things. If there's a bunch of white pegs on the bottom, then there must be a ship to hit and put red pegs at the top. This is the way our brains work. So, to greatly confuse your opponents EVERY TIME, leave some empty space. This is accomplished by arranging your ships as noted in #5 above.

TIP: Keep only one (no more then two) smaller ships horizontal to avoid your opponent catching on to your technique...keeps them guessing every time! If your opponent seems to catch on, suddenly switch it up to mostly horizontal locations and only a couple vertical ones. Then switch back again.

NOTE: Study the second picture above for a better idea of ship placement (which utilizes these tips). This was an actual game I played against someone, and that was the REAL results. Maybe you will perfect your technique to get a "shut out" game (where you've sunk all your opponent's ships before they could sink any of yours)...if so, be sure to comment below (maybe with a picture of the winning ship placement)! :D

Step 2: Strategically Guess Your Opponent's Ship Placement

Here are some tips for more accurately guessing your opponent's ship placement:

1. Reverse the previous step. Guess everywhere that I mentioned you shouldn't put your ships, because they will most likely be the places that your opponent has their ships.

2. And, yes, guess in mostly horizontal patterns with only a couple verticals. As you see in the first picture above (same game from the previous step's picture), my opponent had placed three ships horizontally, and only two vertically.

3. Also guess sporadically. It's common that your opponent will make their board "symmetrical" by placing their ships evenly around it to make nice patterns (like I said, that's natural for our brains to do), so guess all these places. Again, as you see in the picture above, my opponent evenly placed his ships across his board.

4. Look for patterns. Another thing our brains do: make patterns. Maybe your opponent makes a square pattern and layers their ships around the border or in a square around the center? Maybe your opponent makes a letter, like a C or a G? Maybe they make half and half (like my opponent did above) where they put half horizontals and half verticals? Etc. There WILL BE (almost always) some sort of pattern you can see. Practice playing with friends and family so you can pick up on their most commonly used patterns, and so you can start recognizing them ahead of time like a pro. Each family member will usually have their "tried and true" methods and patterns they they tend to go with often.

5. Guess middle locations. I don't mean guessing the middle of the board here. Not that that's wrong to do (lol), it's just not what I mean by this. What I DO mean is if you have a gap on your board that you think one of their ships might be in, guess the middle of wherever their ships could realistically be. (See second picture for better visual of what I mean). So, for example: if you think their carrier (the 5 peg one) could be between B1 and B7...then guess around B4 or B5, because whether you count in five from B1 or you count in five from B7, B4 or B5 will be a hit IF their carrier is there. By guessing middle locations like this (and not the "edge" locations--aka first and last locations--in a gap), you will prevent wasting time guessing in the same area looking for a ship that isn't there at all. Thus, moving you on faster to find their ship and win.

Step 3: Be a Good Sport!

If you do win...BE A GOOD SPORT about it. This is probably the most important step. Likewise, if you lose, be a good sport.

1. Tell your opponent, "Good game."

2. If they're really down about losing, encourage them by reminding them of some good moves they had made during the game, or good attempts they made.

3. Do NOT boast and gloat. No one likes to play with someone who's a poor winner.

4. If they're open to it (and you present it humbly and not in an "I'm better then you and know more then you, so I need to teach you" way), then offer to teach them some of these tips (or show them this instructable) so they, too can learn to better their Battleship experience. Knowledge is a beautiful thing. As the old cliche goes, sharing (in this respect) is caring! :)

5. Smile (in a kind and gentle way) and offer to play another game. If they're WAY younger then you (for instance your 5 or 6 year old child, brother/sister, cousin, niece/nephew, grandchild, etc), then take it easier on them. Maybe let them win a little to encourage their desire to play more, thus practice more, thus get better at it faster. And give them a BIG HUG for doing their absolute best. Encouragement has long been the difference between success and failure.

Don't forget to take these tips and practice, practice, practice. Remember, there's no shame in learning something new at an older age (everyone continues to learn throughout their lifetime). :) Please let me know below if you find these tips and tricks useful. Happy sinking!


DreamyAmber (author)2016-11-19

I lost 2 times before and then I went on this site took notes and won!

Meglymoo87 (author)DreamyAmber2016-11-19

AWESOME!! So glad you took the victory! Congrats :)

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Bio: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)
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