• Challenge Bridge – A Duplicate Bridge Diversion

    Challenge Bridge

    A Duplicate Bridge Diversion

    3M Company – 1973 – 4 Players

    Challenge Bridge is a system designed to allow bridge players to play the same hands that were used in American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) tournaments. The game includes the results from the tournaments so players can rank their play against that of the championship level players.

    The key to the system is the “computerized deal cards”. The deck of cards that comes with the game is marked. Literally. There is a pattern of markings on the back of each card. When the cards are placed in the “card selector” along with a “deal card” only one marking will be visible through the deal card. This indicates which player that card should be dealt to. There are 100 deal cards included with the game and discussions of the 100 bridge hands in the manual which also includes commentary by bridge expert Oswald Jacoby.

    I am not much of a bridge player and when I first reviewed this game I really didn’t see the attraction to it. Fortunately, Paul Bernhardt, the Educational Chair for the Salt Lake City Unit of the ACBL saw my review and gave me the insiders view of the game. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce his e-mail here.

    Tonight, I read your review of the old 3M Challenge Bridge game.

    I can see why you wouldn’t get the point of the 3M game, not being a bridge player. No problem with that, the 3M game would appear pathetically silly in that context. Let me try tell you a bit about how tournament bridge is played so that the point of the 3M game can be more clear.

    In duplicate bridge, both at clubs and at tournaments, the hands are played in such a way that everyone in the room plays the same hands over the course of the evening.** Then each partnership’s outcomes on hands can be ranked against the other partnerships’ outcomes. By moving the boards from table to table, and changing opponents every few hands, a balanced competition where a mix of east-west pairs play against the north-south pairs over the hands in play for that competition. The luck of dealing is therefore somewhat removed from the game. Every person sitting in your seat will have the same cards as you; all EW and NS partnerships will have the same cards. The measure of skill is based on who does the best with the same cards over the course of the evening. The changing of opponents makes it so that you have to perform against a variety of opponents’ skills and styles of play.

    When play on the hand is completed the score is recorded on a score sheet that travels with the board (in tournaments, it does not travel with the board but is picked up by a caddie after the round). Players scramble to see how they did compared with the other tables which have already had the board. At the end of the evening, players scramble around the computer screen to see how they scored overall.

    And that is where the 3M game may become interesting. Included in the 3M game are 100 hands from ACBL Tournaments with the scores actually made by the players who attended in person. As a player of bridge I am curious how I might stacked up at an ACBL Tournament. This 3M game might give me some hope, or be sobering. Unfortunately, this game removes one of the important elements that makes duplicate work: rotating opponents. If you play all night against the same folks, with their limited or exceptional skills, you will not be able to truly judge how you might have done in the tournament.

    Also, 100 hands is a terribly small number. At a typical tournament, where competitions have 2 sessions per day, players will play between 27 and 36 hands per session, 52 to 72 hands per day. Maybe 3M offered supplemental packs of ‘computer’ cards to make more hands. Still, as a bridge players, it is a lot to pay for 100 deals and an imperfect comparison against the tournament field. Still, for a more than casual player with little experience at tournament play, it may be interesting.

    There would be no market for such a game nowadays, in my opinion. Computer bridge games (which often include the same information for several ACBL tournaments, and all the hands for the entire 7 to 10 day tournament, is a much more attractive buy). And online duplicate bridge, sometimes against the best players in the world, is very popular now.

    **How we make sure everyone plays the same hands: The hands are dealt at the first table (or organized from the record of a computerized deal) and placed in duplicate boards (do a search at eBay on those words and you’ll find several versions). During the play of the hand, cards are not tossed to the center of the table as in typical card play. They kept immediately in front of the player, organized so as to indicate how many tricks each side has taken. At the completion of the play of the hand, everyone at the table confirms and records the outcome and the cards are returned to the duplicate board so the deal can be played at the next tables.

    Hope that helped you understand what that old 3M game was about.

    Yes it did, Paul, and thank you very much. If you are interested in contacting the American Contract Bridge League, you can find their website here: American Contract Bridge League.

  • Breakthru – The Double Strategy Game of Evasion or Capture


    The Double Strategy Game of Evasion or Capture

    3M Company – 1965 – 2 Players

    Breakthru is an abstract strategy game. One player, controlling the “gold fleet” receives 12 “escorts” and 1 “flagship”. The other player is the “silver fleet” and receives 20 ships. The gold fleet is set up in the central part of the board and the silver fleet in the outer part. The object of the game is for the gold player to get their flagship off the board before it is captured by the silver player.

    On their turn a player may make a “motion” move or a “capture” move. Ships may move any number of vacant squares either horizontally or vertically. Ships capture by moving one square diagonally. (Ships may not move diagonally or capture horizontally or vertically). Two motion moves or one capture move are allowed on a player’s turn.

    If the gold player manages to get the flagship to the outermost squares of the board then they are the winner. The silver player wins by capturing the gold flagship.

    This is an interesting game with elements of both Chess and Fox and Hounds. The naval fleet metaphor is really meaningless in the context of the game; it is an abstract strategy game with no element of chance.

    Also, continuing with my commentary on box art, look at the father/son pair playing the game. Their intense concentration is amazing.

  • Bazaar – The Trading Game


    The Trading Game

    3M Company – 1968 – 2-6 Players

    Bazaar is a trading game. The players attempt to collect the proper combination of colored “tokens” to allow them to buy “wares” from the “stalls” in the bazaar. They collect tokens by trading for them using the “exchange rate cards” in use for the game.

    Each turn, a player may roll a die to gain a token. Instead of numbers the die has colors on each face and rolling that color allows the player to select a token of that color. Or, they may trade for tokens using the exchange rate cards. For example, examine the images on this page. Using the rate cards shown, one yellow token can be traded for one blue and one red token or one blue token can be traded for two white and one green token. The exchange rates work both ways; a blue token and a red token can be exchanged for a single yellow token.

    The player is trying to get the proper combination of tokens with which to purchase wares. Again, in the example, two red and three green tokens are needed to purchase the ware (card) in the first stall (stack). Players receive points for purchasing wares, but the points are based on the number of tokens they are holding after they have purchased the item. The more tokens the player is still holding the fewer points they receive so the object is to try to exchange tokens for just the right combination before buying a ware.

    When all of the wares have been purchased from two of the stalls the game ends. The player with the most points is the winner.

    This is one of those games that fits the cliche “easy to learn, difficult to master”. The basic concepts are quite simple but in execution the game gets complex very fast. You can trade tokens to get just the right combination for buying a ware to get a high score but by that point your opponent may have bought two or three lower scoring wares that result in a higher total. There are ten exchange rate cards, only two of which are used at any one time and 45 wares cards of which only 20 are used in a game which means each game is different. Another classic 3M game.

  • Backgammon – The Game of Kings


    The Game of Kings

    3M Company – 1973 – 2 Players

    Backgammon, another entry in the 3M Bookshelf Classics series, has existed for over five thousand years. It is a race game, having elements of both skill and luck.

    The game is played on a field with 24 “points” or spaces; 12 on each side of the board. 15 disks each of two colors are placed on the points in a specified starting pattern. The object of the game is for each player to get all of their disks to their “inner table”; the six points closest to them. Once on the inner table, the pieces can be removed from the board.

    Pieces move according to the roll of two dice. The player moving can move two disks, each the distance shown on one die, or they can move one disk the total distance shown on both dice. If doubles are rolled then each die may be used twice.

    Any number of disks of the same color can be on a single point. If a point has two or more disks on it then disks of the opposite color cannot land on that point. If only one disk is on a point then an opponents disk can land on that point. In this case, the original disk is sent to the “bar”, the area between the two sections of the board. A player with pieces on the bar cannot make any moves except to move the piece from the bar back into play.

    The first player to get all of their pieces off the board is the winner.

    Backgammon has a near perfect balance of skill and luck. Moving some pieces leaves others vulnerable to being sent to the bar and savvy players will leave some pieces behind to attack their opponents with. But, a bad roll of the dice can destroy the best laid plans.

    The combination of luck and skill has led some to consider Backgammon a game of gambling. Indeed, a standard part of all Backgammon games is the “doubling cube” which is used by the players to double the stake involved in the game.

    The 3M version of Backgammon is adequate for playing the game but isn’t as high of quality as some of their offerings. The board is somewhat flimsy and comes in two pieces; the pieces are held together by a plastic clip (which becomes the bar). Still, Backgammon is a fascinating game and it is good to see it included as part of the 3M Bookshelf Classics line.

  • Acquire – High Adventure in High Finance


    High adventure in the world of high finance

    3M Company – 1968 – 2-6 Players

    Acquire is a game of hotel investment and development. The game is played on a 12 x 9 numbered grid. The players take turns placing numbered tiles on the corresponding square on the grid. The tiles represent hotels. When two or more tiles are placed adjacent to each other a “chain” is formed. Players may purchase stock in hotel chains. The more tiles which make up the chain the more the stock is worth.

    When a tile is placed in such a way as to connect two chains the chains merge and the larger chain absorbs the smaller. The top two stockholders in the losing chain receive compensation for the merger. All players can then reinvest their stock as they see fit.

    A chain of 11 or more hotels cannot be taken over and is called a “safe” chain. When all of the chains on the board are “safe” and no more tiles can be played the game is over. The players calculate their stock values and the player with the highest net worth is the winner.

    Acquire was the first of the “business simulation” games released as part of the 3M bookshelf series and is probably the best known. As a business simulation it is quite abstract but as a game it works very well, with the players having to carefully decide how to manage their stocks and investments and how to play their tiles so as to maximize the worth of their holdings. Players do find themselves taking the mentality of a stock investor; buying heavily into a chain just so it can be merged into another and a profit taken or dumping stock in a chain before it is bought out and the stock rendered worthless. Games magazine ranks this as one of their all time classic games, a rating it certainly deserves.