Beyond Battleship: Remembering Milton Bradley’s Sub Search



Milton Bradley’s Sub Search (1973) is another board game blast from my youth in the 1970s. It is a “three level Navy strategy game” intended for ages ten to adult.

The object of the game: “Both surface fleets search out and sink enemy subs.”

One is encouraged to “be the first to sink either the 3 opponent subs or the 3 opponent surface vessels.”

But there are hazards for the surface ships to face too, including “mines and torpedoes from the subs…”




After all these years, I think the thing I love best about Sub Search is the complexity and size of the playing board.

Fully assembled, it’s a giant blue rectangle. On top is the ocean surface, where the ships drop depth charges.  But below that level are three levels of oceans, allowing patrolling subs (and destructive bombs…) to go deep.  Just imagine if Battleship had three levels or surfaces of ocean, instead one.




Each player could see the surface ships, and their own underwater subs, and then had three “grids” by which to keep track of their guesses regarding enemy sub locations.  It’s a complex set-up, and yet game play is fun and easy.

There’s also a torpedo launch spinner, and a bin for storing white pegs (indicating a “miss”), and red peg and red flags to mark hits.

As I wrote in my post about Stratego, my father introduced me to a number of strategy games in the 1980s when I was a young teenager. We played Tank Battle, Dogfight, Broadsides, Stratego, Risk, and Sub Search.  Sub Search was one of the most immersive because of the elaborate, three-dimensional playing board, and a real upgrade from Battleship.

Alas, I could find no TV commercials for Sub Search on YouTube, and it is a game that hasn’t really endured in the 21st century the way that Battleship, Risk, or Stratego has.

Would you like to support Flashbak?

Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.