Posted by: shatteredblog | June 15, 2011

Gems from the Past: Sub Search

The best part about living in the city is being able to frequent the thrift stores, and the best part of the thrift stores is finding those hidden jewels you never knew existed. Today I wanted to cover a recent find, a battered and taped box for a board game called Sub Search, published by Milton Bradley in 1973.

Sub Search is a game for two players that is described on the box as a “3 level strategy game.” The design of the board has that feel of classic Battleship (released as a board game by Milton Bradley in 1967) complete with pegs to mark ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ on a pegboard. The actual gameplay of the game differs quite a bit from Battleship in what looks to me like a fun way.

At the beginning of the game, each player has a three dimensional grid facing them where they place their submarines. The grid is 6X6X3, with each grid space numbered and the depth denoted by 100, 200 and 300(feet). Once placed your subs do not move from their positions, they remain hidden as you search for the hidden locations of your opponent’s subs.

The top of the game structure represents the water’s surface, where your sub hunting patrol boats are. Each player gets three, which have 4 holes, 3 holes and 2 holes respectively; these holes hold white pegs that represent how many depth charges that sub is allowed to use before needing to resupply by moving back to ‘home base’, the blue plastic structure above bordering spaces 18 and 24.

The objective is to win the game in one of two ways; locate and destroy the enemy’s three submarines with depth charges or destroy the opponent’s surface fleet using a combination of torpedoes from your subs and a ‘mine’ you are allowed to hide on the opponent’s surface grid at the beginning of the game.

Torpedoes are fired from your hidden subs and can only be fired in the same column your sub is hidden in. The chance of hitting with a torpedo is quite low, spinning this spinner I was lucky to make a hit in 10 attempts. The manual for the game suggests torpedo firing only when your sub is about to be found because of the information it gives your opponent. Only one torpedo hit is needed to sink a surface ship.

To hunt and destroy submarines you fire depth charges, indicating a depth beneath your sub for it to sink to. A depth charge explodes affecting an area like the pattern shown here (though I screwed it up): the square it explodes on, the four surrounding it and the square directly above and below in depth if applicable. Just imagine I actually put the 100 and 300 pegs on 23 and not 17, heh. A sub on the square it explodes on (number and depth) is destroyed, and replaced with a flag to mark a destroyed sub on your pegboard. A sub in any of the other affected squares is called a near miss, and you are given the information that the hidden sub lies within this area. Other shots are called a miss and you would mark your pegboard with white pegs rather than red ones as shown.

I have not played this yet… convincing people that games like this could be fun is harder than you might expect and our normal gaming group is three meaning two player games are normally out. The grid size and rules seem to make it a pretty quick play, and the strategic aspect of playing battleship on a three dimensional board is a really interesting one. It’s one of my better thrift store finds recently, that’s a certainty. Look forward to a gameplay update when I do find someone willing to play.



  1. I have been playing Sub search since i was little. It was my dad’s and he taught me to play. I love the game and still have it. Although finding some to play with me is close to impossible. i

  2. Played this game when I was a kid with my freinds and my Mom as well. Loved it.

  3. This was one of those game I never asked for but someone bought it for me. I think we played it once. It didn’t add strategy to Battleship. It just added tedium.

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