Why Did I Buy Battleship Express?
Two reasons. One, I was curious about the “Express” line and wanted take a look at what was in the package and what the games were like. I figured Battleship Express was as good a choice as any, and liked the idea of dice with naval ship sides.
Two, as simple and repetitive as it can be at times, I have fond memories of playing Battleship when I was a kid. Could Battleship Express do anything to spark those old memories, or was it simply an attempt at tacking a known property to a new game? There was only one way for me to find out.
Battleship Express, packaged in a black plastic case (referred to as a “game pod” in the rules), is – unsurprisingly – a professionally presented game that includes:
Ship Tiles: 20 double-sided tiles, 4 each of five different ships, each one of which has all of the necessary rules for using it in the game, are packed inside the case. These are heavy chipboard tiles that feel durable – not as nice as the components inside some of the more recent games, but heavy enough to survive for many years – and are cut to fit side-by-side (see Gameplay, below).
Dice: Called “attack dice” in the rules, the eight six-sided dice – all identical – included with the game depict each of the five different ships, one on each of five sides of the die while the last side shows a “burst” icon (see Gameplay, below). These are standard-sized dice and each face comes with the stickers already applied. No setup required! (This is more than I can say for Stratego, including the newest edition of the game, a game I should really review at some point.)
Rulesheet: This short sheet, folded over to fit inside the game’s small case, gives the players rules for both a basic and an advanced game. Either game is simple enough for young players; the advanced game can be picked up very quickly by experienced gamers while young children can grow into the advanced game after playing the basic game several times.
The package includes everything needed to play the game.
Before the game begins, each player takes one of each ship type – Aircraft Carrier, Battleship, Destroyer, Patrol Boat, and Submarine – and chooses a set of rules: Captain’s Game (basic) or Admiral’s Game (advanced). Players line up their ships to form fleets, the ship at the right of each player’s fleet is the front of the fleet, and then one player takes the first turn. The game doesn’t provide starting player rules; I recommend youngest player first, especially if playing with children.
Captain’s Game: On each turn a player selects a ship to attack with, moves the attacking ship to the front of his fleet, and then selects an enemy ship to attack (the first or second ship in any opponent’s fleet). The player then rolls a number of dice depending on which ship he’s attacking with – 7 dice when attacking with the Aircraft Carrier, 5 dice when attacking with the Patrol Boat (information is displayed on each ship tile) – and tries to roll “bursts” (which always count as a hit) or the color of the target ship (which count as hits against the chosen target). If the player rolls enough hits to sink the ship – 4 hits sink the Battleship, 3 hits sink the Patrol Boat (as with attacking, this information is displayed on each ship tile) – then the ship is sunk and he takes the target. If he did not roll enough hits to sink the target, all hits are set aside and any remaining dice are rolled again. If the re-roll results in hits, and the total number of hits rolled at this point is enough to sink the ship, then the attacker takes the sunken ship.
Submarine: The Sub only rolls 2 dice, but any “burst” rolled automatically sinks the target.
And that’s a turn. The first player to sink a set number of ships (total number required depends on the number of players) wins the game.
Admiral’s Game: Similar to the basic game, the advanced game gives each ship a different rule. The Battleship, for example, can roll the dice up to four times, though “bursts” do not count as hits. The Destroyer, on the other hand, can only roll the dice up to two times but each “burst” counts as two hits.
As always, others have already discussed this game online. The only two reviews I could find each make some points that are worth considering before buying or playing Battleship Express.
Larry Welborn, in his review at BoardGameGeek, says:
“Battleship Express is a game that I can highly recommend for parents. The only warning I would give is that it is possible for a player to be eliminated during the game and some young children may get upset if knocked out of the game. The game plays so quickly though, that another game will start up in a minute of two, so hopefully that will mitigate any concern.”
While younger children being upset at being knocked out of the game early could be a concern for most parents, it’s an easy enough game to play that it’s also easy to create variants or handicaps to combat this problem before it pops up. A few ideas include:
No Re-rolls: Parents, and older players, only get one die roll when attacking.
More Re-rolls: The youngest child gets one extra re-roll; in the basic game, roll three times when attacking.
More or Fewer Hits to Sink: Increase or decrease the number of required hits depending on age of the children.
More or Fewer Ships: In a two or three player game, the youngest child could be given two of one ship type (two submarines for example), while older children sacrifice one or more ships.
The number of changes made to the game will depend entirely on play group. In my opinion, the no re-rolls and more re-rolls options are the easiest to use.
For experienced gamers looking at this as a filler game, players need to go into the game expecting a simple filler. In a review at BoardGameGeek, Kane K. sums up the proper attitude when he says:
“There are definitely choices to be made and odds to be weighed, but even for a dice game it’s pretty light. In one way it’s sort of like Knizia’s ‘Double or Nothing’. If you’re just going to pick it up and try one game, you’d probably hate it. Give it a few plays in a row though and pretty soon you’re yelling at the dice and having a good ol’ time.”
Agreed, Kane. In my opinion, this is an excellent dice game that is perfect as a filler during long game sessions or as an introductory game for children. Battleship Express takes the familiar Battleship game and twists it into a simple, fun game that can be played by two to four players in less than 15 minutes.
Was It Worth Buying?
Yes. I won’t play this often, but I’m willing to toss Battleship Express in the same category as Can't Stop. That is, a game that I’ll yank out of the closet a few times a year when we feel like rolling dice.
Anyone who enjoys dice games should buy Battleship Express, as should anyone who has children or needs a gift for a child. The game is inexpensive, and the Admiral’s Game adds just enough complexity to help a child make the move from simple, mass-market games to the less complicated games of the hobby market. I wouldn’t take a child from Battleship Express to Agricola, but I would be willing to take a child from Battleship Express to Heroscape's basic game.
It's a good game and I look forward to grabbing another game in the Express line. Maybe I’ll buy Clue Express, next.