You sunk my Battleship! Featured Writer Phillip Jackson touches on how a board game shaped his life.
Growing up, board games were the one thing that my sister and I had that kept us sane. Well, for the most part anyway. We played lots of different games, which we took turns buying after saving our tooth fairy money or any other money we gathered just for being the sweet little buggers that we were. From Chutes and Ladders to Monopoly to the classic Checkers, these games were the one thing we actually had in common with each other. Later in life, my wife has been known to throw down hard on some Othello. I can count on one hand how many times I have beaten her. To be completely honest, she is way better at board games then I am. But I still have a serious soft spot for Battleship.
The first Battleship I had was the non-electronic version. My sister and I played this game over and over. No matter how many times I cheated (which involved lying about the locations of my ships), she still loved playing the game with me. Soon I learned a valuable life lesson: “If you cheat, your opponent will as well”. This simply leads you both down a very frustrating road of despair and the occasional fist fight between siblings. But nonetheless, we played the game and had fun doing it until I lost all of the pieces. (Well, that’s her side of the story and I am pretty sure she is going to stick to it.)
If you don’t remember the game, it was very simple to play. Each person had his or her own game board, usually contained in a plastic box. You and your opponent placed your ships on your lower grid. You would then take turns calling out grid coordinates, such as A5. If the coordinates happened to land where a part of one of your ships was located, it was a hit. At this point, your opponent would place a red marker on your top grid and you would place a red marker into a slot of your ship. If it was a miss, your opponent placed a white marker on their top board and you celebrated wildly! Each ship had a different amount of slots, but once it was full of red pegs you were supposed to say, “You sank my battleship!” But we all know that there were a few more words thrown in here and there. Whoever lost all their ships first was the loser.
As a child, I was always curious about how things worked. I loved looking inside of things at the different components, wondering what they did. What was their purpose? And since we are talking board games this week, it reminded me that it was Electronic Battleship that first inspired me to rip a perfectly working item into a non-working pile of garbage. And no, my parents were not happy with me either.
This version was different from the original in a few ways. You still had the upper and lower grids, but instead of calling out the coordinates, you entered them into the the game by way of special sliders. After making your selection, you pressed a button. It was the coolest thing ever! If I remember correctly, if you got a hit it made an explosion sound, and if you missed, a whistling noise.
After ripping this version apart and gawking at the innards, I later bought the next version. This version allowed for some level of programming by way of inputting up to 100 coordinates, and it also allowed you to play against the computer. This feature alone was a winner for me because of the fact that my sister had grown old enough (or wise enough) to no longer play the game with me. But nonetheless, it’s my all-time favorite early game that started a lifelong passion for how things work, mechanically and electronically.