Play human battleships

Battleships BLOG

Teach your young people to use grid references with a life-sized version of the classic game.

This activity contributes to the following badges:

Navigator Staged Activity Badge

Beaver Teamwork Challenge Award

Cub Teamwork Challenge Award

Time: 45 minutes


  • chalk
  • a sheet or screen


1) Either inside or outside your meeting place, use the chalk to draw two large grids that mirror each other. They should be five squares by five squares, and each square needs to be big enough for a young person to stand in. Mark the grid by writing 1–5 along the bottom squares and A–E up the left-hand side.

2) Fix the sheet or screen between the two grids so that when the young people stand on them, they are not visible to the other side.

3) Explain the principles of the grid reference to your young people. For example, if they stand on a square that is two across and three up, they will be at ‘2C’.

4) Split the section into two groups and instruct them to position themselves randomly on the grids, with one group on each side of the sheet or screen.

5) Next, the young people should take it in turns to call out a grid reference to the other team and if there is a young person standing on that square, they have to call back: ‘You sunk my battleship!’ That person is then out of the game.

6) The young people must try to remember which co-ordinates have already been called out on each side, to avoid repeating them and wasting a turn. This continues until all the ‘ships’ are sunk. The winning team is the last one with players in the game.

Take it further

Alternatively, use enlarged symbols from an OS map and place randomly in the human battleships grid. Shout out two of the symbols and the Scouts have to shout back the compass direction of where the second is from the first. Or, using an OS map, ask the young people to secretly mark some ‘battleships’, using sticky dots or a pen. In pairs, create a barrier so their partner can’t see their map. As before they need to guess grid references to ‘sink’ their opponents’ battleship. However, this time they need to be more specific on their guessed location, by using six-figure grid references.

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