Review by Null Daemon

Reviewed: 08/15/01 | Updated: 08/15/01

A Fun Game of Battleships Named 'bs' for UNIX

The game bs (short for “battleships”), is a text-mode battleship game which can be found on UNIX. Contrary to what the name might suggest, this game is far from BS. It’s based on the Battleships board game, with a digital twist (and no more little pegs to lose). bs is a simple game, but still entertaining.

Overall, I give bs a 9/10. It’s fairly easy to learn if you’ve played the board game version of Battleships. The visual interface is rather easy to comprehend, and is very self-explanatory. Chances are that a new user of the game would be able to pick up the basics quite easily and quickly. The learning curve is almost non-existent. You play on a 10x10 board, playing against the computer. To play, you first place your ships on the grid. Once all your ships are placed, you move over to the shots grid, where you attempt to find the location of the computers ships (which are not visible to you). By pressing the ‘R’ key, all your ships will be placed randomly for you by the computer. There are a few minor variations to the game that can be set using command line options. For example, there’s ‘blitz’ mode, which allows each player to continue shooting, as long as they score hits.

I’ve found the game play to be fairly easy. The computer doesn’t beat you each time you play, unlike some other games where a human doesn’t have a chance in Hell at winning. It also keeps track of the number of wins each player has, so you could have a best-of-seven series with the computer, if you wanted to. There isn’t really any story-line to this game, as it’s more of a puzzle or strategy game than an RPG. The audio and visual components to this game are rather small, or non-existent. There isn’t any audio, and all the graphics are in text-mode. If your console or terminal supports it, the game does use red and green to help denote hits and misses. I feel that this game is just fine without complex audio or graphics. It’s quite fun just the way it is.

One thing about bs that is rather nice is its price: free. It is part of FreeBSD, and I believe that it is also in the source trees for OpenBSD and NetBSD. bs is legally available for free download over the Internet, in source and binary form. It would most likely work on other modern UNIX variants, such as Linux, with a recompile. It was originally written in 1986 by Bruce Holloway, with additions along the way by Chuck A. DeGaul and Eric. S. Raymond. Since it is available in source form, it can be modified and changed by a C programmer with some UNIX programming experience. At around 1000 lines of code, it is reasonably easy to comprehend. The man page on FreeBSD describes the game somewhat, and can be used if more information about the game is needed.

bs is a nice, compact, easy game to play. If you’ve got some time to kill, a few games of battleships against the computer will be nice use of your time. Combined with its freeness, it’s a game that anyone running a modern UNIX should take some time to try. Game players can be entertained by the game itself, programmers can mess with the source code, and everyone can enjoy themselves when bs is involved.

Rating: 9

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