Before video games existed, families often spent their free time around a table or floor huddled over a variety of different board games. Times have changed and now many of the classic board games families loved have been converted into digital versions of their former selves. One of these classic renditions is the game Battleship. It’s fun for a bit but loses steam rather quickly.
Battleship is built around a very simple concept. Each player has five ships on a ten by ten grid and first one to destroy the other's fleet wins the. Of course, there are some rules to follow. Like many physical board games, players tend to make up rules as they go along. Hasbro’s take on Battleship features many changes that really add to the experience. The way I always played as a kid was straightforward: guess coordinates until you miss and then switch turns. And also, no peeking! I was surprised to see how the mechanics changed with the video game counterpart. In each turn, the player gains three white pieces for scouting and three red pieces for attacking. This is where the big changes are most noticeable. All ships are not created equal, and each has unique special attacks.
The ship's abilities can be used often but you have to save up the colored pieces to launch them. This adds a whole new element of strategy to the game. Instead of using all of your attack pieces as soon as you can, it might make more sense to wait until you’ve done an adequate job of scouting the opposition. Only then can you take full advantage of the stronger attacks to wipe out your opponent. This process helps to make losing smaller ships early less detrimental than before. In a game where every ship is equal, losing your battleship early didn’t really amount to much except being stuck without its ability to use seven attack pieces. It is also worth noting that there are different teams to play, from pirates to futuristic sea vessels. Each set of ships have their own somewhat unique special abilities.
These new rules and mechanics are optional. The campaign, however, requires you to play by the newer set of rules. I’m using the word "campaign" here loosely. Campaign is nothing more than scenarios that have little-to-no connectivity or story behind them whatsoever. A proper term would have been “challenges” or something along those lines. This “campaign” is where my only real complaints come from. The player is placed in situations where they are extremely outmatched and the AI is able to somehow pinpoint ship locations at highly probable rate. It’s almost as if the developers had to counter the simplicity of the game with an absurdly tough AI.
I often found a majority of my ships being located and hit within the first few turns. On some missions, you are given access to less ships, and on others you gain less pieces per turn than the computer. This allows for incredibly frustrating levels that really take away from whatever amount of fun there is to be had. This isn’t me complaining that a game is too hard. I just disagree with the idea that the only way to make a game harder is to place the player at an inherent disadvantage and an uneven playing field. When you combine the new special attacks with being a constant underdog I found that the game was no longer about skill or strategy, but about luck. It didn’t matter where I placed my ships, all that mattered was how quickly I could scout the opposition. If I hadn’t found all their ships within the first few turns, then I might as well start the game over.
Having said that, the campaign really is the center point of my complaints. Aside from that, the updated rules are fun and add a fresh take to an otherwise simple game. Of course these games aren’t meant to be played alone either. Battleship also features online multiplayer, although I can’t speak to how active it is, and local multiplayer. The local multiplayer functions similarly to the board game and its up to the players to stay honest and not peek at the opposing ship's locations. It is because of the multiplayer aspects that I would recommend this game to younger kids, or anyone who partakes in family game nights. However, this game is clearly not for everyone, and its unfair nature leaves it with an extremely low replay value for any lone-wolf-gamers.