KS&R Blogs


I love the game Battleship! Originally a pencil-and-paper game created during World War I, it was published by Milton Bradley in 1931 as "Broadsides, the Game of Naval Strategy", and as a board game in 1967. It inspired the 2012 science fiction movie "Battleship" (which "sank" at the box office). Battleship has also been released in multiple video games, and appears as applications on numerous social networking services.

One of the reasons I enjoy Battleship is because it is so straightforward: a classic two-person game (Melody and Matt in this faceoff) played on a simple 10 x 10 grid, where players "hide" ships of various lengths. Players use the grid to formulate the search, then announce a square to fire at. If a ship occupies the space, then it takes a hit. When all of the squares of the ship have been hit, the ship is sunk. When all of a player's ships are sunk, the game ends and other player wins.

The website Datagenetics.com offers a mathematical analysis of the game in 17+ pages. Here are my tips on how to win at Battleship: don't put your ships adjacent to one another; random is good (resist the urge to repeat winning patterns); and place a ship along the edge of the board (a small vessel lurking there is tough to track down).

A simple grid is also employed in the qualitative research game world; it serves as the core of the projective technique known as "Four Square". Four Square enables respondents to put their perceptions / ideas into context in a way that's tangible and dynamic. It is a very effective tool when the goal is to explore the interplay between two key product / brand attributes -- for example, how a specific brand of craft beer is viewed relative to the competition in terms of taste and price.

Here's how to "play":

  • Each respondent receives a sheet of paper preprinted with a simple grid, with one horizontal and one vertical axis (great / terrible taste, and inexpensive / expensive).
  • Have respondents place each brand of beer on their grids according to where they belong on each of the two dimensions. Be sure to emphasize that each dimension is important.
  • Once they have completed their individual grids, ask respondents to transfer the results to a large grid with the same axes (pre-printed on an easel sheet) for everyone to see, using colored dots to represent the different brands of beer.
  • Debrief: Ask respondents to explain about their placements; specifically probe to understand how the target brand was placed and how its placement relates to that of the competition.

Here are my tips on how to "win" with Four Square: Give respondents very clear directions; it will save time and make them feel comfortable because they know what is expected of them. And since Four Square is more complex than the one dimensional "Line Up" projective technique (see my January 2012 blog), it is a good idea to provide respondents with an out-of-category example before they begin.

Play on!