PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT
You could be forgiven for thinking that the game of Bridge is an ancient and noble one, played by Kings in their draughty medieval castles.
Well, the modern game of Contract Bridge as we know it has only been around since 1925. Still, that's long enough for someone to have come up with a decent computer simulation you would have thought.
Bridge is a game, very similar to Whist, played with one deck of cards and four people. It's a game of two halves: the auction, where everybody tries to out-Sotherby each other guessing how well they'll do in the second part; and the play, where the cards are played in Whist fashion. Points are awarded for making your target and, as is the way of things, points are deducted when you fall short.
The card play isn't all that tricky to get to grips with, but the bidding can be. It's not just a matter of evaluating your hand of cards and bidding on that - you have to take into account what all the other players have, and what they are bidding.
Unfortunately, this is where most computer simulations fall down. It's a sort of fuzzy logic exercise which is difficult to handle with conventional computer programming, unlike Chess.
Omar's Bridge is very easy to use. The cards are quite clear, if a little small, and most of the menu options are accessible by a hotkey combination. Unfortunately, its bidding power isn't as great as the hype would have you believe.
Although it firmly bids according to the ACOL convention (including Stayman and Blackwood), bizarre hands completely phase it. It is also impossible to choose which conventions are to be added on to the basic system (no Gerber, Multi-twos, etc.) and there are no discard conventions. The card-play is not of a master level, except perhaps a Bird's Eye Menu Master.
To be fair, it is an excellent package for the beginner to learn on before he risks going down to the local bridge club to be glared at by real card sharks. The spot effects of Omar telling you how well you are doing are very nice, but get a bit tedious after a while. This program is like a pair of short trousers - you'll grow out of it quickly (unless you are the Art Editor of CU Amiga, that is).
If Omar Sharif really plays bridge like this, I'll have to invite him around for a few games at a pound a point...