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The Bridge in the distance

Speaking of card games, I’ve been enjoying the Bridge-related articles by Brian Bankler over at The Tao of Gaming. The most recent post responds to this NYT feature on the promotion of Bridge in American schools, a development I wasn’t previously aware of.

I’ve always wanted to learn more about Bridge, which looks (from a distance, anyway?) like a solid blend of overall strategy with short-term tactics, centered around intriguingly constrained partner-communication rules. I also might like its abstract bidding mechanic over Poker’s freeform, psychologically charged betting: the focus, to my vague understanding, seems to lie more with sussing out what your partner can accomplish than on what deceitful tricks your opponents are up to. That’s a space I would like to explore further.

The last time I tried to learn Bridge was at the 2004 Origins Game Fair, where an enterprising professional Bridge teacher held a session or two. She was clearly used to teaching the game to a more typical retiree-based audience, and I admired her ability to deal with an excitable crowd of tabletop-gaming-convention attendees instead. (She shushed us several times; after one guy, for example, became thunderstruck at his discovery and declared the game better than Ra, setting off a wave of outraged chatter.)

I did end up coming home with some basic knowledge about the game and played a little bit of it against AIs on a freeware Mac implementation I’d found, but I didn’t stick with it. None of my local game-fan friends are really into it, and there does seem to be a dearth of solid digital adaptations — strange, for such a well known traditional card game, even if it does have little cultural cachet compared to other games we could name. It still seems to be true: while a search for “poker” in the Mac App Store today reveals lots of titles, “bridge” comes up bupkis.

Does Bridge somehow not adapt well to digital, or even to online play? I’d think it might possibly improve the nature of the game, more easily restricting interplayer communication to actions alone. If y’all happen to have any favorite digital Bridge games, I’d love to hear about them.

(By the way, I’ve been reading and enjoying The Tao of Gaming for a while. Brian writes quite engagingly on a wide variety of gameish topics, digital and analog; if you enjoy The Gameshelf, you’ll probably dig that blog too.)

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