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aBRIDGEd

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Out of the Box Games, 4 players, ages 12 and up, 30-40 minutes; $14.99)

 

When it comes to trick-taking games, Bridge is undoubtedly king of the castle. There are newspaper columns specializing in it, several high profile celebrities (Omar Sharif for example) devoted to it and thousands of card players spending hours on it. Despite this, the game remains a mystery to many because of the bidding associated with it. 1 Spade, 2 Hearts, 3 No Trump can make the average card player shake his head. Add the standard conventions of play and insight into the game vanishes in a cloudy sea of confusion. What to do? Maureen Hiron, noted game designer and world class Bridge player, offers a cure for this malady in her new card game, aBRIDGEd.

aBRIDGEd comes boxed with two 52 card decks. 4 quick reference cards, 4 score pads, 4 pencils and full color rules. Each 52 card deck consists of cards with values of 2 through 14 in four colors: red, yellow. blue and green. In addition, there are dots (“pips”) found on the top four numbers in each suit (1 pip on card 11, 2 on card 12, 3 on card 13 and 4 on card 14) and these will come in handy when it’s time to make a bid.abridged

One card deck is dealt so each player has a hand of 13 cards. (The second deck is shuffled so that it is ready to be used for the NEXT round.) The dealer is now faced with a choice: either Pass or Play. If the dealer chooses Pass, the choice shifts to the next player until someone calls Play (and becomes the “declarer”) or all players choose Pass.

If Play is called, the declarer has committed he and his partner to win 10 or more tricks with their hands. The declarer’s partner now places all of his cards, face up and grouped by color, on the table creating the “dummy” hand. At this point, the declarer decides which suit (if any) will be trump. Now, starting with the declarer two pieces of information are revealed. Starting with the player to the left of the declarer and moving clockwise, each player declares his “hand strength” which is the total of pips in his hand. (Total possible strength is 40.) Then, each player, in the same order, reveals his “color count” which is the suit (but not the amount of cards) in which that player has the most cards. Now regular rounds of card play begin (with the player to the left of the declarer) playing cared from his hand. The declarer plays cards from the dummy hand (his partner does not play what was once his hand) and tricks are collected by the player who played the highest card (or highest trump card as the case may be) in the round. After all 13 tricks are played, we score.

If all four players Pass, a slightly different procedure occurs. Now, all players, beginning with dealer, reveal their hand strength. The team with the highest total becomes the declaring team. (The partner holding the higher strength total becomes the declarer with his partner’s hand becoming the “dummy”.) The declarer is faced with two choices. He may declare “Ten” or “Seven” to indicate how many tricks he thinks his team can take. Color count is revealed (as with Play) and the round begins.

Scoring is based on whether we have a Play or Pass situation. For Play, the declaring team can score anywhere from 90 points (if collecting 10 tricks) up to 120 points (if managing to win all 13 tricks of the hand). Their opposition can score by preventing them from getting less than 10 tricks, from 10 points (if the declaring team falls short of their goal of 10 tricks by collecting only 9) up to a whopping 550 points if the declaring team is shut out from collecting even one trick! If Pass is the mode of play, the points possible are severely lowered. Declaring 10 tricks in this mode only earns you from 50 to 65 points (with the reward for stopping them falling to 5 to 50 points). If 7 tricks have been declared, the rewards are even smaller, ranging from 10 to 40 if successful and 5 to 35 if the opposition makes you fail.

Points scored are cumulative. A full game of aBRIDGEd consists of four hands or rounds. The team with the highest combined score after four rounds of play earns victory!

aBRIDGEd has several good things going for it. The thousands of players familiar with trick-taking games will have no trouble diving right into this. (For those unfamiliar, a glossary of terms used is provided to smooth the learning curve.) The reference cards for all players have everything you need to know, from game procedures to scoring, right at your fingertips. While the quality of the cards is satisfactory but nothing special, the use of color is. Too often, blues and greens blend together making it very hard to distinguish between them. Fortunately, NOT here. It is VERY easy to distinguish suit colors which enhances play. But the true beauty of the game is captured in the clever title: the arcane bidding conventions, so daunting to beginners intrigued by Bridge but have yet to master its intricacies, have vanished replaced by hand strength and color counts that capture the flavor of the original game (by simulating the gathering of information via standard bidding) while streamlining play.

It’s a safe bet that the game will not replace Bridge and certainly won’t knock the game from its pedestal among its aficionados. However, aBRIDGEd bridges the gap between novices intrigued by Bridge and those who have mastered the game offering a quick, easy way to get the feel of this card game classic without sacrificing the essence of the game. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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Fall 2006 GA Report Articles

 

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