Multiplayer Battleships

Sink your friends' fleets before they sink yours!


The other evening, my son said "let's play Battleships!". Sure, I said, and googled some grids to print out. By the time the printer was warming up, he'd dragged his elder brother into the game as well - but how do you play Battleships with three players!?

Our first game was very confusing, nobody was able to keep track of who had been hit, or where they'd already aimed. So for the second game, I put together some printable game grids that let you keep track of multiple opponents at once. Download the grids here, and print a whole bunch of copies - one for each player.

The rules we made up were simple enough, and mostly not much different from the normal rules of Battleships:

  • Before the game starts, each player chooses where their battleships go on the grid.
    • Boats must be placed horizontally or vertically, not diagonally.
    • Boats can't overlap each other
    • Each player must place a single boat of length 5, two boats of length 4, three of length 3, and a single boat of length 2.
  • Choose a player to go first. Players take turns to try to bomb each others' battleships, as follows:
  • On their turn, a player calls out a cell location, for example, B9.
  • All the other players announce 'Miss' if they don't have a boat touching that cell, 'Hit' if they do, and 'Hit and Sunk' if all the cells spanned by one of their boats have now been hit. (They don't have to announce which boat was sunk.)
  • If everybody was missed, play passes to the next player. If anybody at all was hit, the player who made the hit gets another turn.

We didn't quite get to decide how exactly to end the game - when we played, I was about to win, when at the last second my 11-year old fired a lucky shot that simultaneously hit and sunk both my last boat and his elder brothers'. It was pretty clear who the winner was!

Here's a couple of ideas:

  • When someone's fleet is fully destroyed, they drop out of the game. The winner is the last one left standing.
  • Or, when someone's fleet is fully destroyed, the game ends, and the winner is the one with the least damage to their fleet.
  • You could also make it that the winner is the player who scored the most hits, with bonus points for sinking a boat - this requires you to keep score as the game goes along.
Of course, you should decide the rule for ending the game before you start playing!

If you want a longer game, with more opportunities for diplomacy, betrayal and revenge, you could try this variation:

  • On each player's turn, they choose another player to target, and announce a grid location.
  • Only the targeted player needs to announce if they've been missed, hit or sunk.
  • If the player scores a hit, they get another turn. If they miss, play passes to the targeted player.

      So, grab some grids and a bunch of friends, and start playing!

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