Tag Archives: funbridge

Contract Bridge on a tablet: Funbridge vs Bridgebase vs Bridge Baron

Bridge is an ideal game for a tablet, well suited to touch control and the kind of game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours at a time, which is excellent for travellers.

So what are the choices? Here is a quick look at some favourites.

Funbridge is available for iPhone, iPad and Android. There are also versions for Windows and Mac. The Android edition is the newest but works fine, though of all of them it is the iOS release that is the nicest to use.

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The way Funbridge works is that you always play against a computer, though this is on the internet rather than running locally, but your scores are compared with other humans playing the same hands. I have not tried the “Two players game” so I am not sure how that works, except that the other player has to be a “friend” in the Funbridge community system. It looks like you play with your friend against two bots.

Funbridge has a lot to like. The user interface is excellent, much the best of all the tablet bridge software I have used and better than most desktop bridge software too. There is a good variety of game options, including one-off games, tournaments of 5 games each, and a series ladder you can climb from 1 club to 7 no trumps. You can select one of 6 conventions, including ACOL, SAYC (American Standard), and 5 card major at three levels from beginner to expert. I think this is a hint that to get the best from Funbridge you should use the 5 card major system.

Another nice feature of Funbridge is that you can go back and replay a hand to try a different line of play. You can also see all the other scores on any hand, and how they were bid and played.

Funbridge is not perfect though. The bidding is eccentric at times, and it can be hard to persuade your partner bot to play in no trumps rather than a suit. There is definitely an art to winning at Funbridge that is a different from what it takes to win at a real bridge table.

Since you are playing against a cloud-based server, you can only play if you have an internet connection. Not so good for most flights.

Funbridge is a pay per game service. Currently 50 deals costs £1.49 (about 3p each) or if you pay more the per-deal cost falls to under 2p. Unlimited deals for a year costs £69.99.

That said, you can get 10 games a week for free, though you only get the 10 free games if you have no paid games in your account; slightly unfair to the paying customers.

Bridgebase is available for iPad, iPhone, Android and Amazon Kindle. Bridgebase also offers a browser-based game based on Adobe Flash. Like Funbridge, you can only play with an internet connection. You can either play with human opponents, or solo with three bots.

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Of course human opponents are more fun, though there are advantages to playing with bots. No pressure, you can think for as long as you like, and none of the issues which afflict online bridge, such as players simply disappearing when in a bad contract, or being bad tempered if you make a mistake.

The Bridgebase user interface is OK though feels clunky compared to the smoothness of Funbridge. As in Funbridge, you can compare your score with other human players even if you play against bots. You cannot replay games, but you can undo your play which means you can easily cheat against the bots if you feel so inclined. Against humans your opponents have to approve an undo, which they will be reluctant to do other then in cases of genuine mis-taps.

The biggest problem with Bridgebase is the standard of the bots, which is much weaker than Funbridge. The play can be quite bizarre at times, sometimes excellent, sometimes daft.

A weak feature is that if your computer partner wins the auction, it also plays the contract, sometimes badly. I do not see the point of this. You may find yourself playing “hideous hog” style (Victor Mollo’s character who always tried to play the contract) as it is painful reaching a good contract but watching the bot throw it away.

Bridgebase is free to play, though there are subscription options online to get some extra features.

Bridge Baron is available for Android, iPad, iPhone, Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. It is inexpensive (£13.99 currently on the App Store) but you have to pay separately for each platform. Unlike the other two games, Bridge Baron runs entirely on your device, which is good if you are offline, but means you do not compare your score against other humans. You can set the standard from novice to advanced.

Bridge Baron plays well enough to be fun, though well short of the best computer players. You can replay games at will. You can compare your score against the Baron’s score, review the bidding and play, and undo your play at will. You can also ask for a hint from the Baron.

The Bridge Baron user interface is basic, a little worse than Bridgebase (though faster) and much worse than Funbridge. I do not know why the card icons are so small; it is like playing on a huge table.

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Still, good fun and good value.

Conclusion

All three of these games have something to commend them. Funbridge for the best user interface and a standard good enough to be enjoyable despite a few eccentricities. Bridgebase for the option to play with real people, and for free play with bots. Bridge Baron for playing offline.

On the other hand, Bridgebase is spoilt by the poor play of its bots. Bridge Baron is dull because you cannot compare your score with other humans. Funbridge is the one I choose if I have some deals available, but can get expensive if you play a lot, and you will get annoyed with your computer partner from time to time.

There is nothing on a tablet that comes close to Jack Bridge for standard of play.

Finally, note there is no bridge app for Windows RT. So if you are a bridge addict with a Surface RT, you are out of luck.

Funbridge: bridge for iPhone and iPad

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.

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In the latest version, you have to log in to play more than a couple of games, though the account is free.

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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!

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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.

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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.