Best Strategies for Winning in Battleship

To sink and not to get sunk.
Image by Hasbro

Since the First World War, one of the most played strategy games worldwide has been Battleship. For board game enthusiasts, Battleship has been a favorite since its first commercial printing in 1931. Though most people are familiar with the rules of Battleship, not many are aware of its winning tactics.

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How to Win at Battleship?

The majority of the Battleship strategies boil down to two main elements: the distribution of your units and guessing your opponent’s unit placement. Now, this guide will present some of the best strategies that will improve your winning rate in Battleship games. Note: these tips are universal, and they work for both tabletop and video games.

Dont Focus Your Ships in One Area

The main point of Battleship is to reduce the probability of your ships being hit. The best method for doing so is to scatter your ships.

If your opponent is firing random shots, concentrating your ships in one area can be beneficial. Nevertheless, this is a dangerous strategy, as your opponent can easily destroy your entire fleet if they catch on.

Avoid Pattern Repetition

Avoiding pattern repetition is an effective defensive strategy, especially if you play multiple games with the same opponent. However, it works with random opponents, too.

The main point of this strategy is that it minimizes the probability that opponents will guess your placement at the start of the match. The downside of this strategy is that it increases the chances your opponent will hit you if firing randomly.

Parity Strategy

The parity strategy increases your chances of hitting an opponent’s ship early on. This strategy is based on the assumption that an opponent won’t place all their ships in the same line.

The smallest ships cover two squares, so firing at every other square will improve your chances of hitting enemy ships early on.

Early Spread Shots

This strategy is the most common but also most widely used. When targeting the opponents’ ships early in the game, use an approach like radar.

This strategy usually works because opponents will not concentrate their ships in the same area. Once you hit your first ship, you can use calculations to find the others.

Don’t Make Your Ships Touch

A good idea when placing the ships is to keep them apart even by a single square. The main reason for that is the method most people use when hunting ships. Namely, if someone hits a ship, they will target the area adjacent to their hit.

Even if you concentrate your ships in one area, it’s a good idea to keep at least one or two squares of space in between them.

One at a Time

The moment you hit your opponent’s ship, I’d advise you to keep your shots around the hit area. You should focus on destroying one ship at a time and move toward other ships only when you have completely obliterated one ship.

We are aware it is tempting to find all the ships and then destroy them. However, this strategy might confuse you because you wouldn’t know if you hit the same ship twice or two ships one time each.

Clear the Center First

The main goal of Battleship is to waste as few shots as possible. The majority of the opponents will place some of their ships in the map’s center.

Some opponents prefer putting big ships in the center because there is more space, while others will put smaller ones there. Nevertheless, clearing the center early on increases your chance of getting a hit.

Change Segment if You Double Missed

If you try shooting the same segment twice without getting a hit, you should go to another segment. This strategy is effective later on in the game.

You can clear one segment at a time, but that kind of approach will only increase the number of shots needed to sink all the opponents’ ships.

Move the Starting Square

If you want to increase your chances of getting a hit, each of your shots should go from a different starting square. For example, if your previous shot was at D4, the next should be at E5.

The opponents will spread their units differently each time, and this strategy will give you a better chance to hit them.

Avoid Big Ships in the Center

The map center is a good place to hide smaller ships, but if you put a big ship at the center, it’s almost guaranteed that you will take some hits early in the game.
Many opponents will start the game by targeting the board’s center. Putting your largest ships within the center area is giving your opponents the opportunity to give you some major trouble early on.

The Battleship game mostly relies on luck, but there are ways to get an advantage through the right strategies. For more related content, check out our articles Best Hearthstone Arena Classes and Strategies Ranked Tier List or Civ VI Rulers of the Sahara Pack Leader Guide – Abilities and Strengths.

About the author

Nenad Grujić

My name is Nenad Grujić and I'm a Staff Writer at GameJournalist. I have decades of gaming and media under my belt, and decades of writing experience. I like to call myself "your favorite ace of all trades", although I specialize in writing, education, voice acting, video editing, and media content creation.

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