Wednesday, December 3, 2003
The King of Card Games: Omar Sharif Bridge v1 Reviewed
Posted by Tim Allen in "SOFTWARE" @ 11:00 AM
<!> Bridge is a classic card game for four players invented around the end of the 19th century. It's fairly unique among card games in that it's a team game with two partnerships battling against each other. This aspect can be difficult to simulate with a computer program played by one person. However, Omar Sharif Bridge goes a long way towards achieving this and does let you play a pretty complete game of bridge without needing three other people. I looked at version 1.00F.
Bridge Rules OK
I don't want to go into all the rules here; there are plenty of books and resources on the Internet covering this in great detail. Suffice it to say that there are two basic stages to the game. The first is bidding, which is essentially an auction where you and your partner attempt to outbid the opposition in declaring how many tricks you think you can win with your combined hands. The second stage involves playing the hand itself, which is performed in fairly standard fashion, whist-style - highest card wins, except for trumps. If you win at least as many tricks as you said you would, then you score points towards a 'game' and eventually a 'rubber'; if you don't, then the opposing partnership scores bonus points against you.
Figure 1: You get some help, but it's not really a 'how to play bridge' guide.
From here on I'll have to assume you know how to play. Ultimately the rules are fairly simple, although there are admittedly quite a few of them to remember. It's an addictive game that's well worth learning, as the bidding and the teamwork combine to make every hand different, and it's this that keeps you coming back for more.
Omar Sharif Bridge supports both the ACOL and Standard American bidding systems; I'm only familiar with ACOL so can't vouch for its capabilities with the latter.
Figure 2: The bidding screen.
The bidding screen is concise and easy to read. It's easy enough to use although selecting bids from the dropdown is somewhat cumbersome - I would have preferred to pick from radio buttons or something similar. You can see a summary of the below-line score for each partnership together with an indication of who's vulnerable.
The program will give you a bidding hint if you're unsure what to do. I found these usually very accurate, although with a slight tendency to overbid in some situations - although this could just be a reflection of my fairly limited skill of course. Overall the computer bids very well, with no obvious inconsistencies.
Figure 3: Bidding options.
The expected slam-bidding conventions are supported, together with various cuebids. You can also configure the bidding to suit your style of play.
Playing the Hand
After bidding is complete you're presented with the main playing screen.
Figure 4: Ready for the off. I sure hope partner has some diamonds.
The cardplay screen is laid out very clearly, with no unnecessary graphical contrivances to get in the way or annoying colour schemes to distract you.
Figure 5: Card layout options.
A nice touch is the provision of various options covering how you want your cards laid out, which should satisfy the most particular of players.