# Battleship AI Algorithm Using Dynamic Programming

(image via Wikimedia)

My boys and I enjoy playing a mobile version of the classic battleship game when we are waiting our turn at the barbershop. However, the artificial intelligence algorithm this specific game uses is so feeble that even my youngest son can consistently beat the computer player. So, I started thinking about improving the algorithm. I searched the web to see if there was already an established, dominant algorithm. Although I found several clever implementations, including one that used probabilities and another based upon a checkerboard pattern, I did not find one that I particularly enjoyed. After thinking about the problem further I came to the conclusion that this problem would be well suited for a dynamic programming algorithm.

From my perspective, the best approach to take when searching for the opponent’s ship is to target a square that is in the center of the longest line of unmarked squares. It would be even better to find a target which is at the intersection of two long lines of unchecked squares. To me, this is an effective divide and conquer approach similar in spirit to the concept of binary trees, the problem is finding an efficient algorithm. The problem seems to lend itself perfectly to the dynamic programming approach.

The first step is to traverse the dynamic programming matrix, left to right and top to bottom. If a square is open then its left to right horizontal score gets incremented and its top to bottom vertical score gets incremented. With a completely empty grid the top left square will have a score of (1,1) and the bottom right square will have a score of (10,10). Next, the matrix is traversed right to left and bottom to top in a similar fashion. With a completely empty grid the top left square will have a score of (10,10) and the bottom right square will have a score of (1,1).

Now, the scores from the two traversals need to be combined in such a way that the weight of the center of the longest runs hold the maximum values. The second vertical score is subtracted from the first vertical score and the absolute value is taken. The result is subtracted from the sum of the two values. The same process is done for the horizontal scores. Finally, the vertical and horizontal scores are multiplied for each square.

 Annotated dynamic programming matrix for the algorithm.

With an empty grid the center four spaces will always be the highest, with a score of one hundred. So, this algorithm overrides scores greater than eighty. It randomly assigns either sixty-one of sixty-seven. Those are prime numbers, obviously manually created, over and under the next highest possible score (sixty-three). The goal is to disperse the algorithms first couple shots more, otherwise the human opponent could learn that by not placing ships in the center four spaces he could effectively get a two shot head start.

The algorithm keeps track of the highest six scores and randomly picks one to fire upon. When it fires upon a square, that square’s values are set to zero.

 Dynamic programming matrix after one shot fired

Below is JavaScript code which demonstrates the algorithm.

``````/**
* Two-dimensional Coordinates
* @constructor
* @param {Number} [pX = 0] The x coordinate
* @param {Number} [pY = 0] The y coordinate
*/
function coordinates(pX, pY){
this.x = pX || 0;
this.y = pY || 0;
}

/**
* Battleship CPU player algorithm enemy grid coordinates
* @constructor
* @param {Number} [pX = 0] The x location
* @param {Number} [pY = 0] The y location
* @param {Number} [pXval = 0] The x value from down-right traversal
* @param {Number} [pYval = 0] The y value from down-right traversal
*/
function gridCoordinate(pX, pY, pXval, pYval){
this.x = pX || 0;
this.y = pY || 0;
this.xVal = pXval || 0;
this.yVal = pYval || 0;
this.xValRev = 0;
this.yValRev = 0;
this._sumx = 0;
this._sumy = 0;
}
gridCoordinate.prototype={
/**
* Add x and y values from up-left traversal
* @param {Number} pXval The x value
* @param {Number} pYval The y value
*/
this.xValRev = pXval;
this.yValRev = pYval;
this._sumx = this._sum(this.xVal, this.xValRev);
this._sumy = this._sum(this.yVal, this.yValRev);
},
/**
* Get the final score for the grid coordinates
* (addXY should have been run first)
* @returns {Number} The total score
*/
getScore: function(){
//return (this._sumx * this._sumy);
// do below instead of above, otherwise one of the
// center sixteen squares are almost always first
//
// TODO: find a way to improve coverage at the edges
// of the game board, currently this algorithm does
// poorly against an enemy who places his ships
// around the edges of the board - the best move is
// to put the smallest ship in the upper left corner
//
var result = this._sumx * this._sumy;
if(result < 80){
return result;

// when result is 80 or larger
// return a smaller prime number
// prime is obviously not product
}else{
// 20% chance of getting 67
// (greater than 64 or 8*8)
if(!Math.floor((Math.random()*5))){
return 67;

// 80% chance of getting 61
// (less than 64 or 8*8)
}else{
return 61;
}
}
},
/**
* Sum x or y from down-right with up-left traversal
* @private
*/
_sum: function(pA, pB){
return ((pA + pB) - Math.abs(pA - pB));
}
}

/**
* Battleship CPU player algorithm
* Copyright (c) 2012, Christopher Stoll
* @author <a href="https://www.christopherstoll.org/">Christopher Stoll</a>
* @constructor
*/
function bsCPUplayer(){
// size of the synamic programming matrix
this._dmSize = (10-1);
// dynamic programming matrix
this._dm = [
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]
];

// tracks shots fired
this._enemyGrid = [
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0],
[0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]
];

// maximum target size
this._maxSize = 5;
// coordinate of last shot fired
this.lastShot = new coordinates();
// hits on ships not sunk
this.hitList = [];
}
bsCPUplayer.prototype={
// constants used in the enemy grid
SHOT_FIRED: 1,
SHIP_HIT: 2,

/**
* Call to let the CPU player make a move
* @param {Boolean} pOverride True to manually set move value
* @param {Number} pX The manualy set x value
* @param {Number} pY The manually set y value
* @returns {Object} The gridCoordinate to fire upon
*/
move: function(pOverride, pX, pY){
// Let the computer do its thing
if(!pOverride){
// search for a target
if(this.hitList.length <= 0){
this.lastShot = this._getCoordinates_find();

// sink a found target
}else{
this.lastShot = this._getCoordinates_sink();
}

// Use the manual vlues
}else{
this.lastShot = new coordinates(pX, pY);
}

this._enemyGrid[this.lastShot.y][this.lastShot.x] = this.SHOT_FIRED;
return this.lastShot;
},

/**
* Call when the CPU makes a hit
* @param {Object} pCoordinate The gridCoordinate of the hit
*/
markHit: function(pCoordinate){
this.hitList.push(new coordinates(pCoordinate.x, pCoordinate.y));
this._enemyGrid[pCoordinate.y][pCoordinate.x] = this.SHIP_HIT;
//console.log('HIT: ', this.hitList);
},

/**
* Call then the CPU sinks a target
* @param {Object} pCoordinate[] The coordinates of the sunk target
*/
markSunk: function(pCoordinates){
for(var i=0; i<pCoordinates.length; i++){
for(var j=0; j<this.hitList.length; j++){
if((this.hitList[j].x == pCoordinates[i].x)
&& (this.hitList[j].y == pCoordinates[i].y)){
this.hitList.splice(j, 1);
}
}
}
//console.log('SUNK');
},

/**
* Sink a found target
* Determine the coordinates to fire upon
* @private
* @returns {Object} The gridCoordinate to fire upon
*/
_getCoordinates_sink: function(){
var possibleCoordinates = [],
x = 0,
y = 0,
xMin = 0,
xMax = 0,
yMin = 0,
yMax = 0,
goVert = false,
goHorz = false,
lastHit = 0,
previousHit = 0;

// get last hit
if(this.hitList[0]){
lastHit = this.hitList[0];
}
// get hit before last
if(this.hitList[1]){
previousHit = this.hitList[1];
}
// starting coordinates
x = lastHit.x;
y = lastHit.y;

// search boundaries
xMin = x - this._maxSize;
xMax = x + this._maxSize;
yMin = y - this._maxSize;
yMax = y + this._maxSize;

// ensure search boundaries are in bounds
//
if(xMin < 0){
xMin = 0;
}
if(xMax > this._dmSize){
xMax = this._dmSize;
}
if(yMin < 0){
yMin = 0;
}
if(yMax > this._dmSize){
yMax = this._dmSize;
}

// see if we know the direction of the target
if(previousHit.x || previousHit.y){
// last two hits imply vertical target
if(previousHit.x == x){
// last two hits were next to each other
if(Math.abs(previousHit.y - y) == 1){
//console.log('goVert');
goVert = true;
}
}
// last two hits imply horizontal target
if(previousHit.y == y){
// last two hits were next to each other
if(Math.abs(previousHit.x - x) == 1){
//console.log('goHorz');
goHorz = true;
}
}
}

// search for possible coordinates
//
// go left
if(!goVert){
for(var ix=x; ix>=xMin; ix--){
// ran into previous hit no more possible in this direction
if(this._enemyGrid[y][ix] == this.SHOT_FIRED){
break;
}else{
if(this._enemyGrid[y][ix] != this.SHIP_HIT){
possibleCoordinates.push(new gridCoordinate(ix, y, 0, 0));
}
}
}
}

// go up
if(!goHorz){
for(var iy=y; iy>=yMin; iy--){
// ran into previous hit no more possible in this direction
if(this._enemyGrid[iy][x] == this.SHOT_FIRED){
break;
}else{
if(this._enemyGrid[iy][x] != this.SHIP_HIT){
possibleCoordinates.push(new gridCoordinate(x, iy, 0, 0));
}
}
}
}

// go right
if(!goVert){
for(var ix=x; ix<=xMax; ix++){
// ran into previous hit no more possible in this direction
if(this._enemyGrid[y][ix] == this.SHOT_FIRED){
break;
}else{
if(this._enemyGrid[y][ix] != this.SHIP_HIT){
possibleCoordinates.push(new gridCoordinate(ix, y, 0, 0));
}
}
}
}

// go down
if(!goHorz){
for(var iy=y; iy<=yMax; iy++){
// ran into previous hit no more possible in this direction
if(this._enemyGrid[iy][x] == this.SHOT_FIRED){
break;
}else{
if(this._enemyGrid[iy][x] != this.SHIP_HIT){
possibleCoordinates.push(new gridCoordinate(x, iy, 0, 0));
}
}
}
}

// return the first possibility
return possibleCoordinates[0];
},

/**
* Hunt for targets
* Determine the coordinates to fire upon
* (Build the dynamic programming matrix)
*
* @private
* @returns {Object} The gridCoordinate to fire upon
*/
_getCoordinates_find: function(){
var newXval = 0,
newYval = 0,
tmpScore = 0,

highScoreN = (6-1),
highScoreXs = [0,0,0,0,0,0],
highScoreYs = [0,0,0,0,0,0],
highScoreVals = [0,0,0,0,0,0],

shotCoordinates = new coordinates(),
scorePicker = Math.floor((Math.random()*highScoreN));

// down-right traversal
for(var iy=0; iy<=this._dmSize; iy++){
for(var ix=0; ix<=this._dmSize; ix++){
// determine values in the matrix
if(!this._enemyGrid[iy][ix]){
// x portion
newXval = 0;
if(ix > 0){
if(this._dm[iy][ix-1]){
newXval = this._dm[iy][ix-1].xVal;
}
}
// y portion
newYval = 0;
if(iy > 0){
if(this._dm[iy-1][ix]){
newYval = this._dm[iy-1][ix].yVal;
}
}
}else{
newXval = -1;
newYval = -1;
}

// create coordinate with values
this._dm[iy][ix] =
new gridCoordinate(
ix,
iy,
newXval + 1,
newYval + 1
);
}
}

// up-left traversal
for(var iy=this._dmSize; iy>=0; iy--){
for(var ix=this._dmSize; ix>=0; ix--){
// determine values in the matrix
if(!this._enemyGrid[iy][ix]){
// x portion
newXval = 0;
if(ix < this._dmSize){
if(this._dm[iy][ix+1]){
newXval = this._dm[iy][ix+1].xValRev;
}
}
// y portion
newYval = 0;
if(iy < this._dmSize){
if(this._dm[iy+1][ix]){
newYval = this._dm[iy+1][ix].yValRev;
}
}
}else{
newXval = -1;
newYval = -1;
}

// update coordinate with values
newXval + 1,
newYval + 1
);

// keep track of the maximum values
// highScoreVals[5, 4, 3, 2, 1] -- descending value
//
// TODO: if we kept track of which ships were sunk
// then we could eliminate cells which could not
// possible hold the remaining ships
//
tmpScore = this._dm[iy][ix].getScore();
// always record if new value is greater than least
if(tmpScore > highScoreVals[highScoreN]){
for(var i=0; i<=highScoreN; i++){
if(tmpScore > highScoreVals[i]){
highScoreXs.splice(i,0, ix);
highScoreYs.splice(i,0, iy);
highScoreVals.splice(i,0, tmpScore);
break;
}
}
// sometimes record if new value is equal to least
// (so that results are less direcitonally biased)
}else if(tmpScore == highScoreVals[highScoreN]){
// Why 1 in 7? It "seems" to work well
// (it would probably be better to vary
// based upon number of open spots left)
if(!Math.floor((Math.random()*7))){
for(var i=0; i<=highScoreN; i++){
if(tmpScore >= highScoreVals[i]){
highScoreXs.splice(i,0, ix);
highScoreYs.splice(i,0, iy);
highScoreVals.splice(i,0, tmpScore);
break;
}
}
}
}
}
}

// randomly pick one of the options if we can
if(highScoreVals[scorePicker]){
shotCoordinates.x = highScoreXs[scorePicker];
shotCoordinates.y = highScoreYs[scorePicker];

// random choice was invalid, so take the highest
}else{
shotCoordinates.x = highScoreXs[0];
shotCoordinates.y = highScoreYs[0];
}

return shotCoordinates;
}
}
``````
Published: 2012-06-01
BloggerJavaScriptArtificial IntelligenceCodeAlgorithmsDynamic Programming