Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The problems with Battleship


If you haven’t heard of this game I’ll explain it in the next 41 words since it really is that simple.
You’ve got a grid, your opposite number has a grid. You position the various ships of your respective navies on the grids and attempt to guess the grid reference of your opponent’s ships. It continues until someone has no more ships.
I’m sorry did I say it was simple? My mistake. Let’s just take a moment to think about this.

  • Who appointed you admiral?
  • As much as I dislike wild speculations or assumptions on this blog this one time I'll assume that you've no military record or indeed proof of any kind to show that you do have the authority to target enemy vessels, if indeed they are the enemy and you haven’t just kicked off World War III by firing upon a previously neutral or even friendly flotilla.
    However, since the naval forces are obeying your orders regardless of any sighted proofs the most likely situation is that you have just initiated a military coup [1]. While this will undoubtedly lead to a stern talking to by the United Nations at some point in the future, at this time we will accept your explanation that “It had to be done!”
  • You, “The Admiral” are in the same room as your opponent, who is presumably an “Admiral” also. Why are you guessing the position of his ships?
  • Any military person would already know that war is won or lost on intelligence of the enemy’s movements and there you are with access to them. Clearly it’s time to disregard the anguished cries of “Don’t look you cheater!” and gain vital intelligence that could help to save the lives of the brave men and women who serve upon your ships.
  • To concentrate on those members of your own flotilla for a moment. Exactly why don’t they move their ships at all?
  • I concede that it’s a pretty difficult thing to do when your vessel has just been broadsided but when the opposing admirals shots are getting closer it is almost certainly time to move to another position or at the very least, send a coded message to HQ, which is you by the way, to let them know what’s going on.But against all logic your navy will simply sit there and soak up the damage until they sink. These ships cost a couple of million to produce and an Iowa Class battleship will hold around 1800 people. You owe it to them and to your country to see them safely through this conflict. At the very least your other ships can fish the survivors out of the water.
    The largest vessels you have at your command are the aircraft carriers only they don’t seem to carry any aircraft. Surely it couldn’t hurt to send out some spotter planes in order to scout the area rather than simply firing randomly into the ocean and hoping that you hit something which will be confirmed by the enemy.
    Speaking of which, you've managed to score a direct hit and you watch as the ship sinks faster than a Titanic sequel. The first thing you do is get on the radio and report "You've sunk my battleship"
    To the enemy.
    Congratulations. You are now in direct violation of military law, no matter how you dress it up you’ve just managed to pass on vital information to the enemy.
    It doesn’t matter if you have instigated a military coup and elected yourself El Grande Supreme Generalissimo for life you’ll still get a lot of flak for this. [2]

The main problems as I see it is that there are two naval forces who are equally matched in size and lack of intelligence. [3] Simply blasting away at each other reduces the battle down to one of luck rather than skill and thus it is clear that a nonlinear approach must be taking in order to achieve victory at sea.

  • Alternative solution A: Operation Tattler
  • While a propaganda campaign is a perfectly acceptable strategy it’s affects are going to be negligible in a battle situation unless it is extremely well orchestrated. Bribing the officers of the enemy flotilla has a chance of inciting mutiny on that particular vessel but this is a chancy affair at best and could easily backfire if there is a sudden surge of loyalty.
  • Alternative solution B: Operation Snakehead
  • As previously pointed out the Admiral of the opposing fleet is in the same room as you and while your spies may have failed [4] it remains perfectly acceptable for the leader of one side to fire upon the leader of another [5]But the ultimate goal of Operation Snakehead is to capture your enemy due to the fact that his naval officers will not willingly carry out your orders even if you have “totally won” [6]
    However, if your enemy were to be captured, interrogated and finally brainwashed until he was little more than your puppet then the size of your navy will be double and your position as El Grande Supreme Generalissimo will be that much more secure.
  1. Which, considering that the ships used in Battleship! are taken from the American Navy is slightly worrying and only throws wieght to the milatary coup theory. One can only hope that your country has managed to acquire some old junkers which were otherwise rusting quietly in the shipyards of Westpoint.
  2. These are the sort of actions that guarantee you a spot in the top ten silliest El Grande Supreme Generalissimos for life lists.
  3. Military intelligence that is. Not the other kind.
  4. Going home in tears after being called cheaters.
  5. Certainly more acceptable than passing on military intelligence.
  6. As an aside I'd like to mention that the official definition of "Total Victory" is one where the enemy has been utterly wiped out. This would leave your naval forces considerably weaker than it could be

1 comment:

  1. Wow...that's puts a whole new persepctive on a kiddie game!

    "Exactly why don't they move their ships at all?"

    I've thought of this, and I agree. And as the admiral, I make sure to move my ships as soon as the enemy fires into the water near my ships. This way, the enemy fires many times before landing a single hit....while the other, less by-the-book admiral....recieves hit after hit because of his lack of care for his crew, and his unwillingness to move to safety.

    Some people would call this cheating. I disagree. I call it patriotism.