Sink ships

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The own fleet is already damaged.

Sinking ships , also known as sinking ships , fleet maneuvers , cruiser warfare or sea ​​battles , is a game with simple means. It has strategic elements , even if the simple version cannot necessarily be described as strategically relevant.

Character and origin

The game Battleship or battle one according to his game thoughts and his game name generically to the war games . Traditionally it is a harmless game of symbols using paper and pen. His origin and age are not documented in literature. With the help of contemporary witnesses, however, the Germanist Warwitz was able to prove that this game goes back at least to the end of the 19th century, i.e. that at least four generations have already been named after sinking ships or playing sea ​​battles . Its basic structure has remained unchanged to this day.

Game requirements

To play you need:


With two players, each draws up two 10 × 10 boxes large plans, which he provides with letters (from A to J / L) on the sides and numbers (from 1 to 10/12) on the upper edges. This even make your own and then the opposing sea or combat zone . In its own sea can now bears without the player sees this, his fleet one. This is done by drawing in shapes of different box lengths. There should be agreement about the number and size of ships and how they are placed before the start of the game.

The following rules of the game must be observed:

  1. The ships are not allowed to collide.
  2. The ships must not be built around corners or have bulges.
  3. The ships may also lie on the edge.
  4. The ships may not be set up diagonally.
  5. Each has a total of ten ships (the size in brackets):

The name and size of the ships can be different - you should come to an agreement with the other player accordingly. Often smaller ships are chosen, which increases the chance of missed shots and makes the game a little longer. The disadvantage here is that the “one-box” ships (mostly “submarines”) let the strategy aspect take a back seat. It can happen that a single undetectable “submarine” alone destroys an entire, previously undiscovered fleet. For this reason, it often comes down to a kind of "submarine" fight, in which only chance decides which player meets his opponent and thus wins the game.

Play time is usually around 15 to 25 minutes.

Course of the game

A draw will be made to see who is allowed to shoot first. The shooter specifies a coordinate at which to fire, for example C3. The victim looks at his plan and answers with water , hits or sunk . A ship is sunk when all of the ship's squares have been hit. The shooter notes this in his second 10 × 10 block, which is empty at the beginning of the game. The victim also marks the hits to see when a ship has been sunk .

The further progress follows different rules. You either shoot alternately or until you hit the water. There are also variants in which everyone is allowed to fire a volley of three shots one after the other or in which each ship that is still present can fire one shot per round. Whoever sunk all of the opponent's ships first is the winner.


In an expanded version, the players also receive three sea ​​mines (each with a field with a circle) and a so-called coastal battery (three fields on the edge, which can also be located at a corner). These rules are tightened and change the entire game.

  • You shoot in volley mode, as many shots as the largest ship still in existence has boxes (so if the battleship is still there, you can fire five shots in a row; if you only have cruisers, then only four).
  • The attacker also says which ship he used to fire. If he hits a mine, his ship will also be blown up.
  • The coastal battery only has one shot. If this hits, the hit ship sinks immediately.
  • The attacked person only states what was sunk or hit, but not where the ship was.


Especially in the numerous variants of the game, some players use tactical elements and various strategies.

A simple strategy for beginners is e.g. B. to enter "missed shots" around sunken ships, insofar as the rules prohibit the ships from touching one another. In general, it is also not advisable to allow ships to come into direct contact with each other at all, since if the enemy tries to sink their own ship after localization, such ships could be affected or also localized.

Some players also avoid putting ships on the edge, as the possible shooting directions are restricted after a possible hit, which makes it easier for the opponent to determine the direction of the ship and to sink it. On the other hand, players who do this tend to "hide" a single, smaller ship in one of the corners to confuse their opponent.

Many players shoot their opponents in certain patterns in order to find the enemy ships. " Checkerboard " patterns are very popular because all ships with two or more squares can be captured, or diagonals because they divide the space in such a way that longer ships can be hit in any case, without spaces as with "straight patterns" to separate. More experienced players in particular combine such patterns by placing the diagonals in such a way that the resulting “net” can be “drawn in” after the large ships have been found. I.e. the remaining rooms are divided into smaller and smaller rooms until a "chessboard" is created. What all of the patterns have in common, however, is that they are becoming ever tighter and serve to reduce unnecessary shots.

In the event that the smallest ships were sunk first, the patterns are again laid out with larger meshes. When finding “one-box” ships, every sample is of course useless.

When sinking ships that have already been hit but not yet located, after the first hit, shooting usually continues in the direction in which most of the free spaces are still. Only a few players shoot in a given pattern at the surrounding fields (e.g. first the field to the right of the hit, then the lower one, etc.). For this, this procedure is common with computer opponents. A very small minority of players perceive the direct sinking of ships as a "waste of time" and leave it at first to locate a ship (after the second hit, the orientation of the ship is already known), after which the primary objective is to locate the next ship . The sinking itself takes place after all ships have been found. The latter strategy is useful for variants where z. B. the number of remaining ships is used as a basis for calculating the size of the volley or in which firing may continue until the first miss, obviously unusable.

There are special strategies for many game variants (especially the computer-based versions with additional game elements such as special weapons).


Since this game can be designed very easily, it was and is popular with school and university students to bridge boredom or free hours .

Over time, versions from publishers have also appeared. There are both the simple variants with ready-made plans as a so-called travel game , but also fully electronic boards with sound and light effects.

Fleet maneuvers , version from the 1970s

Mention should be made here of the game Fleet Maneuver , released in 1972 by the company MB-Spiele . During the fleet maneuver, both players have a plastic box with a 10x10 matrix to protect against the eyes of the enemy, on which their own five plastic ships of different sizes (speedboat, submarine, destroyer, battleship, aircraft carrier) are put (in the instructions "horizontal sea") called), as well as a matrix of the same size in the lid ("vertical sea"), on which hits of the opposing ships are marked. Depending on their size, the ships have two to five holes in the same grid dimension as the plug-in matrices for placing the ships and marking hits. A ship is considered sunk and is handed over to the opponent if every slot on the ship is marked with a red pen (hit). In both matrices hits are marked with red plastic pens and missed shots with white plastic pens. The instructions for the German version provide for the standard variant with alternating single shots "Maneuver game for Janmaaten" three other game variants with volleys of 5 rounds each, some of which also allow ships to be relocated during the game.

Also Talking Computer Flottenmanöver of Hasbro and Naval Battle advertise with multiple difficulty levels and interactive electronic elements. These computer-controlled versions also often contain special game modes in which special weapons (e.g. torpedoes or missiles that hit several fields according to predetermined patterns, e.g. an entire row) or other aids, such as e.g. B. a sonar can be used.

There are also attempts to relocate events into space by means of spaceships and three-dimensional coordinate technology, such as the Galaxis by Ravensburger that appeared in 1980 . Games of this genre are also offered for playing on smartphones , including some that offer online and offline multiplayer modes across platforms.

There are u. A. Realizations for the Game Boy , Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance . There are also browser based implementations for the games on the internet.


In a game with a ship of length 5, two ships of length 4, three ships of length 3 and four ships of length 2 there are exactly 26,509,655,816,984 (about 26.5 trillion ) ways to set up the ships. The number was determined with dynamic programming .

Radio play by Dieter Kühn

In 1969 the author Dieter Kühn wrote his radio play U-Boot-Spiel . Here two older men (Walter and Willi) play sinking ships . The conversation between the two players begins in a relaxed, conversational tone. In the course of the game, however, Walter grows more and more memories of his own experiences on a warship, which seem to take him completely captive. In a joint production by WDR , SR and HR, Martin Held and Günther Lüders spoke the roles of the two opponents in the two-person play. Friedhelm Ortmann directed the film .


  • Eugen Oker (ed.): The most beautiful games with pencil and paper . Illustrations by Boris Kaip, Knaur Taschenbuch 7612, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-426-07612-0 .
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz (Ed.): Games of other times and peoples - discover and experience with children. Karlsruhe 1998
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Sink ships or the sea battle . In: Dies .: The sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5 , pp. 139–140.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ SA Warwitz, A. Rudolf: Sink ships or the sea battle . In: Dies .: The sense of playing. Reflections and game ideas . 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. 139–140
  2. SA Warwitz (ed.): Games of other times and peoples - discover and experience with children. Karlsruhe 1998, p. 25
  3. Play on Luding
  5. Play on Luding
  6. ↑ Sink Ships - game for Android smartphone
  7. Sinking Ships - Fleet Battle - Android
  8. Sinking Ships - Fleet Battle - iTunes
  9. modern HTML5 browser-based game ( memento of the original from March 21, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Browser-based game for two players