Colossus Bridge 4 (CDS) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

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Colossus Bridge 4
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer Gamer #22

Colossus Bridge 4

When I used to run a bridge club, people were always coming up to me and saying that they would love to learn to play the game. Unfortunately, they weren't mathematically inclined and they had heard that there was a lot of counting involved in playing bridge.

Where this myth arose from, I am not sure but it is certainly widespread. Patiently, I would explain that yes, it did help if you could count, but only as high as thirteen, that being the number of cards in a suit. Sadly, most of them remained unconvinced and so were lost to the delights of one of the best games ever invented.

People play bridge for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy playing in tournaments, comparing their skills with the other competitors. Others play to win money but by far the largest number just play socially for fun. For unlike its great rival chess, bridge is a very social game. It is not a difficult game to learn and the Colossus 4 package is aimed fairly and squarely at the beginner. So, no more excuses about not having three other people to play with, sit back and find out just what you have been missing all these years.

For anyone who knows nothing about the game, here is a very brief run down of its objectives. Four people play in two partnerships of two who sit opposite each other at the table. The pack of cards is dealt out, thirteen to each player. Each partnership must then try and assess the combined strength of their hands during what is called the bidding. This is a bit like an auction with every big being at a higher level than the last one. The players try to paint a picture of where their strengths and long suits lie.

This bidding starts at the level of one which does not mean that you expect to take one trick on your combined hands, but rather seven. A 'book' of six tricks is assumed.

The bidding can continue up to the level of seven - a grand slam which is saying that you and your partner can take all thirteen tricks (seven plus the book of six) between them. Considerable bonuses are awarded for doing this and it is a rare and most satisfying achievement. Usually, the bidding stops well below that level.

A more frequent occurrence is to stop at game level. This involves trying to make nine tricks with no trumps, ten with hearts or spades as trumps and eleven with clubs or diamonds. The reason a game is so important is that it puts your side halfway to winning the rubber - the best of three games.

A trump is a card of a specified suit which has precedence over all other suits for that particular deal. Partnerships normally try to play the hand with their best combined suit as trumps. A bid of, for example, four spaces says that you think that your side can make ten tricks (4 + 6) with spades as trumps.

When the bidding has finished, the person who first bid the suit of the final contract must try and make the designated number of tricks. He is known as declarer and his left hand opponent leads a card to the first trick. Declarer's partner then puts his hand face up on the table for all to see. He is known as the dummy and takes no further part in that particular hand. Declarer plays both his own cards and those from dummy.

Confused? Very probably but don't worry too much. There is an excellent book included in the package called Begin Bridge by Geoff Fox, one of the country's leading bridge teachers, which explains all the terms and ideas of the game in considerably more detail that I have managed myself.

So what of the package itself? Upon loading, the cards are dealt for the first hand. You are shown your hand and must then take part in the bidding. When the final contract has been decided, you must then play the hand. If you or your partner is declarer, then you play both hands and must try and make your contract. If you are defending the hand (for you don't always get good hands!) you play only your own hand as you try and stop the opposing declarer from making the number of tricks that he contracted for.

Presentation wise, the program is excellent, especially in the Amstrad version. Options allow you to rebid or replay a hand or input hands of your own. Entering a particular card or bid is very simple and a help screen is always available.

Scoring is done automatically and you can always start a new rubber if things are going too badly for your side. Not that any self-respecting Computer Gamer reader would want to cheat!

As for the bidding and play, well the computer is at best average. Below you decide that this means that the program is no good, let me say that there are a number of good reasons for this, enough to ill another large article. Certainly, a beginner would not notice what was going wrong but an experienced player looking for a challenging game would probably be disappointed.

Side two of the tape contains a series of illustrative hands but I would suggest that you ignore them completely. The Spectrum hands are bugged anyway and you can't play them through but my main grumble is that they are totally unsuitable for a beginner, featuring several advanced elements of card play.

The package is completed by a form allowing you a 10% discount if you subscribe to Popular Bridge Monthly, one of the leading magazines. If you get hooked, this is one of the best ways of improving your game.

There again, if you get hooked, you will probably give up playing computer games! Anything that encourages people to take up this prince of games must be applauded and Colossus Bridge 4, despite some annoying features is a noble effort.

Recommended for beginners but not so much for experienced players.