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silhouette of battleship   Word Battleship   silhouette of coast guard ship

No. of Players: 2
Type of Game: written
What you need: pen and paper


To find words your opponent has hidden in a grid.

How to play

Before this game begins, both players first draw a six-by-six grid. They label the rows A through F and the columns 1 through 6. In this way each square in the grid can be identified by a letter-number combination. For instance, the top right-hand corner square is A6 and the lower left-hand corner square is F1. Each player then writes a set of words down its columns and/or across its rows. Players should agree beforehand on the number and length of playable words and if words can intersect. On the same sheet of paper, each player also draws another six-by-six grid whose rows and columns are similarly labeled with letters and numbers. But players do not write any letters in this second grid until the game begins.

To begin the game, one player calls out a letter-number and the second player reports what letter he has in that square, if any. The first player then writes down that letter in his blank grid, or marks it as empty. The second player calls out a letter-number and similarly marks down this information. This process continues until enough letters accumulate so that players want to guess at one of their opponent's hidden words instead of calling out a letter-number. If they guess correctly, they write down the entire word in the grid. But if the guess is incorrect, the game continues. The winner is the first player who guesses all the words of his opponent. Alternatively, players call out a letter and the opponent reports all instances of where that letter is in the grid. Grid size can be adjusted as desired.

Other versions of this game include:

Grid Search a game which hides a single word in a grid of random letters; and
Phrase Maze a game which hides a phrase instead of a word


Andy and Bobby agree to hide four words in a six-by-six grid. The words are grouped by a common theme and the four words will have six, five, four and three letters. They also agree that words can intersect and can run in any direction horizontally or vertically. Andy chooses the theme 'colors' and Bobby the theme 'fruits.' Here is how Andy arranges his grid:

alpha-numerically labeled 6 by 6 grid containing 4 words

On his first turn, Bobby calls out D4 to reveal an E, which he writes down in his blank grid. He thinks the word runs vertically, so on his next turn he calls out C4. But it is a miss, so he marks that square as blank. He now believes the word must run horizontally because he cannot think of any three-letter word for a color that ends with E. So he next calls out D3 to find a D and now strongly suspects the word is RED because he cannot think of a word for a color that would have letters to the left of DE. But it makes little difference at this point if he guesses this word outright or calls out D5 on his next turn. He calls out D5 just to be on the safe side and Andy informs him that his three-letter word has been found.

And so on.

Did you know?

Most people know the game of battleship from the plastic board version first issued by Milton Bradley in 1967. (Who could forget those two folding 'laptops' with the five miniature warships and little pegs that always got lost in the carpet...) Or perhaps if you're younger you know battleship from one of the many computer and video game versions released since that time. But the first commercial version of battleship was actually sold by the Starex company way back in 1931. There were also many other versions released by other companies after that year.

two battleship game laptops

However, battleship in its more or less current form was played with pencil and paper well before commercialization. Although its exact origins are up for debate. Some game historians trace it back to the French game L'Attaque (The Attack) played during World War I. Others argue it was Russian officers of that same war who should be acknowledged as the first to have played the game.

owl playing battleship game with word FUN! written on laptop

One thing is certain. Whichever nation or peoples claim title to having originated the game, we can surely all agree that playing battleship at your kitchen table is more fun (and safer) that battling it out on the high seas with big cannons.

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