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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #57: Electronic Battleship

The game of Battleship has antecedents going back to paper-and-pencil versions played by French and Russian naval officers before World War I. It came to the United States in the 1930s under the name Salvo before Milton Bradley began to publish it as Broadsides in the '40s and 50s, all with pre-printed pads of paper. In 1967, MB first released the tabletop version with plastic pegs and little boats resembling the Battleship we recognize today.

I never really played that version. Too easy to be cheated by an older, wilier brother. What I do remember is that our father had the massive, intimidating 1977 Electronic Battleship edition that we were not permitted to go anywhere near. This, of course, left no one for him to play it with, so eventually it was forgotten and we got our hands on it. This thing was huge, solid, complex, and made a whole bunch of tinny noises. Such glorious fun. You were supposed to program the location of your vessels into it, which limited cheating, and the sound effects were delightfully cheesy. The whoosh of released missiles, the crestfallen splash into the sea of a missed shot, the celebratory violence of a hit. (I believe you still had to provide your own iconic rendition of "You sunk my battleship!" when called for.)

We were an easily entertained bunch in the early 1980s, and Electronic Battleship met us right where we were. I believe that original 1977 version still lurks in our basement, just a couple of years younger than me, dutifully if not lovingly preserved by our mother with Ziploc bags and a taped-up box. I think I'll leave it to the joys of nostalgic memory, where it belongs.

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