The arcane mysteries of playing Bridge is something few of us aspire to. But CDS, with this new offering, is trying to make the world of the green baize and eyeshade more accessible to us mere mortals.
In addition, for those to whom bridge is not a closed book, this program attempts to provide a bit of relaxation when you can't tussle up the required three chums.
On one side of the tape is a tutor program which takes the beginner through the rudiments. There are ten 'hands' of bridge, each of which demonstrates a different sort of problem commonly encountered. The player chooses a card from the hand, and unless the right one is chosen, the program bleeps and another card must be tried. At the end of the hand, there is an analysis of why the cards were played.
On the other side of the tape is the heart of the program. Now you're on your own. A series of random hands are thrown out by the computer. First comes the bidding. Here the four players, playing as two pairs, must out-bid each other in an attempt to win the contract for that hand. The higher the bid, the more tricks they must win. Any legal bid can be entered, Including doubles and re-doubles. The computer will respond according to the ACOL system and will also respond to the Blackwood slam bidding convention.
After the contract has been settled, the game moves on to the play of the hand. If you are declarer, you control your own and your partner's hand. If you simply want to throw away your lowest card, you just hit return. Otherwise, the suit and value must be entered.
At any time a number of commands can be entered. The background colour can be changed, the hand abandoned, the bidding can be reviewed, the program can be restarted, or the state of play can be saved to tape or microdrive.
During play of the hand there is a further set of options. The rest of the cards can be played by the computer, some or all of the remaining tricks can be 'claimed ' if you think your cards are winners, although the computer doesn't check that they are, you can even peek at the opposing hands. There is also a hint available if you don't know which card to play. If you're completely stumped, or truly devoid of inspiration, you can even let the computer play a card for you.
At the end of the hand, the computer will tot up the scores, and display the total score in the rubber thus far. At this stage there is yet another set of options. The speed of response of the opposition can be changed, the deal can be listed to a printer, a hand can be typed in (for problem solving), or the points value or distribution of your hand can be set. The computer can also run through the bidding and play of the previous hand so, you can spot any mistakes.
For the uninitiated, for whom all the above explanation might just as well have been written in Chinese, there is a book in the package called 'Begin Bridge' which tries to shed some light on the subject for the total beginner.
'CDS have always come out with good games in the Colossus series and Bridge is no exception. The game is very well designed and very easy to get into - but there's no denying that the computer can play one hell of a game of Bridge. I often felt like swapping him with my partner who, frankly, seemed to be a bit of a fool at times. The game features almost everything that the average player needs on screen, tut most of it can be ignored if you only a beginner. I was annoyed that if you pressed the LOAD key, accidentally, while playing you had to go through all the LOAD/ SAVE procedure, and pretend to SAVE out your game - as there is apparently no abort. That's my only niggle, CRL have come up with another enthralling and addictive simulation.'
'As a bit of a bridge buff, I was looking forward to this release, and although better than nothing, it 's not quite the game I hoped for. The play of the other players is far too weak. You're not really going to improve if you can always get away with inaccurate bidding because the opposition is so lousy. Still, in most other respects it is a highly polished product, with very thoughtful details like seeing the last trick, score card, doubling and redoubling. It's good to see someone having a go at an underexploited market.'
'Well, I know nothing about Bridge, and playing this game left me none the wiser. The tutor program is far too fiddly. Half the time, two cards seemed equally good, but the program insisted you play one particular one. The book is quite good, and I suppose this is a fairly painless way of getting in to this game without embarrassing yourself in front of three people who have been playing for years.'
: menu drivenJoystick
: noneKeyboard play
: fastUse of colour
: virtually nilSkill levels
: variable response timeScreens
The bidding screen. Looks like a pre-emptive three clubs to me, but Cameron seems to be a bit indecisive.
No Cameron, three spades was not the right contract. Hmm, wonder if, I can get him to play for a penny a point.