Hippo Backgammon


Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

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Hippotamus Software





Backgammon is one of those simple games that either seems very boring or hooks you completely. If you already know the rules and fancy sharpening up your play then Hippo Backgammon can be highly recommended. If you are a complete novice you will find a full explanation of the rules on the disk but it may first be worth buying a cheap backgammon board game to see if you like it.

Although a fairly simple game I find it fascinating and I have had many hours of enjoyment with this version. The game is essentially a solitaire game where you play against one of two computer 'robots'. The strengths of the program are that you can alter the 'intelligence' of the robots by amending or creating files called 'Neurons' and 'Cortex'. If you want to study the strategic importance of various moves and to see how the robots 'think' you can call up these details. Several parameters in the games can be altered. The program works in mono or colour and the colour version gives a choice of two colour layouts which is good as the default colours are awful! You can change sides in a game, input your own dice rolls to test play, 'undo' moves or just sit back and watch as the two robots play each other. The graphics are excellent and animation of the pieces good. Control of the dice and pieces is entirely with the mouse making play very easy.

Overall the game is excellent but there are one or two design problems. It is difficult to know at first exactly how to get started. You do not throw the dice but simply accept the value of the dice at the start of the game as your first move. Placement of the pieces has to be quite precise and if apiece won't 'go' when it should you begin to wonder why. To make the robot play you click on the dice, (your throw is done automatically at the end of the robot's turn), but this can be confusing as occasionally you tend to click the dice thinking it is your turn only to lose your throw. Another weakness is that the rules of backgammon state that you must move if possible but it is quite easy to cheat (even accidentally) by forcing the robot to play again if it is to your advantage not to move. Provided that you play to the rules, these problems will not cause too much bother but they should have been dealt with at the testing stage.

To sum up, if you like solitaire games or are hooked on backgammon, Hippo Backgammon can be highly recommended. You will certainly learn to play better and with the ability to change the way the robots play you can go a lot deeper, if you wish, than with a straightforward board game.