There are several bridge app for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, but the one I’ve had most fun with is called, appropriately, Funbridge. This is already well-established as a Windows application, where you play against a computer but can compare your performance to other players, making the results much more interesting.
The iOS version is currently a free app, and has just been updated to include Tournaments as well as one-off games, now called Training.
In the latest version, you have to log in to play more than a couple of games, though the account is free.
Bidding and play is straightforward, with a few caveats. There is no fine-grained control over bidding conventions; you can choose between Beginner, Advanced, Expert, American Standard, Acol, or Polish system. Unless you choose Acol, these are all strong no trump, 5 card major systems. It is worth reading up on the systems used in detail, as otherwise you will get unpleasant surprises.
Note that during both bidding and play, Funbridge will call back to the server before every decision. This means you cannot play offline, and if you are playing where the internet connection is weak, such as on a train, you can expect frustrating delays; games can take so long that you forget what has been played!
During play just tap a suit to display all the cards you hold in that suit, then tap a card to play. Take care – there is no undo, and it is all too easy to tap the wrong card and then watch with horror as you see your safe contract sailing down to a penalty.
You can choose to withdraw on a hand, in which case it is not scored, but if you then play it again, you are given a kind of informational score that does not count towards your ranking. It can still be interesting to see how a different line works out.
Once play has completed, you get to compare your score with others and see how many IMPS (International Match Points) you achieved.
A really nice feature is that you can click the magnifying glass and get details of each contract, including card-by-card analysis. So if you are amazed at how well or badly someone managed to do, you can see how it happens. Sometimes, I have to say, it happens only because of a baffling misplay. I imagine this happens when the computer is playing on the other side, unless there are serious bugs in the engine.
A Tournament is a sequence of 10 games, at the end of which you can see how you rank among the other players, currently ranging from 150 to 750 or so in number. Scoring in tournaments seems to alternate between IMPs and Pairs scoring – the difference being that Pairs scoring rewards small differences in the score and makes big differences less costly, whereas with IMPs the reverse is true.
Overall it is enjoyable, though as in real bridge there are moments of frustration. The hands seem tilted towards more interesting or better than average holdings, though it is hard to be sure.
One complaint: the server seems to get too busy at times and the software does not cope particularly well; you click Connect and there is no error message, nothing happens.
Enjoy it for nothing while you can – it is “currently free” but I suspect will eventually attract a subscription cost – maybe a similar subscription rate to the desktop version, €74.00 for a year, or maybe something different.
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