Priebe Software Pocket Euchre 1.3
(Updated January 9, 2004)
(Updated June 14, 2007)
Do you like Euchre? Do you like free software? If so, then you'll love Pocket Euchre. Read on to find out why.
UPDATE: Version 1.4 is out, but only seems to have some installation-related updates. I haven't found any playability changes, so this review should still be useful.
You can skip to any section of the review here.
Pocket Euchre is a free implementation of the card game Euchre. If you're not familiar with Euchre, it's played with a 24-card deck (nines through aces). Each player gets five cards, and the object is to be the first team to reach ten points. You get points whenever you take three or more tricks in a hand. I won't cover the rules of Euchre; if you're interested, there's a fairly comprehensive page at the pagat.com Card Games Web site.
This review covers version 1.3 of the game.
The screen below shows a hand in progress to give you a feel for the game.
A Typical Game Screen
Bidding is fairly straight forward. In the first round of bidding, you have the option to call the up card as trump, allowing the dealer to pick up that card. If you're the dealer, tap one card to discard it and pick up the trump. The screen below shows the dialog to call up trump.
The First Trump Option
If nobody called up the up card as trump, the second round of bidding starts. Players will be offered a chance to choose any other suit as trump. If this option gets to you, you'll see the screen below.
The Second Trump Option
In both cases, notice the option to go alone.
Once play has started, everything is very easy. When it's your turn to play, you'll see the words "Your play" on the board. Just tap the card you wish to play. If you aren't following suit, a message will be displayed until you tap a card in the correct suit. This is especially useful in preventing you from accidentally playing the wrong suit when the left bower was led. The trump suit is also shown near the player who called trump. The screen below illustrates that the player on the left called Diamonds as trump and that it's my turn to play.
Basic Game Play
If one player called a loner, the screen will be slightly different. The screen shot below illustrates where the player on the right called a Spades loner.
A Loner Hand
The game is played to ten points. Once one of the teams gets ten or more points, you see the message in the screen below.
Winning the Game
When you start the game, you'll see a blank card table. Click the New menu action to start a game. There is no pop-up menu there; it is an immediate command.
The Tools menu allows you to do several things, the most important being setting your preferences. The screen below shows the Tools menu.
The Tools Menu
The About action displays the typical screen with information about the program. This one even talks about the game logic. The screen below shows the About dialog.
The About Dialog
The Last Trick action displays the last trick played. The screen below shows the last trick display, which indicates that I won by playing the left bower (the Jack of Diamonds) over the bidder's 10 of Hearts.
The Last Trick Display
One problem with the Last Trick display was that I often experienced lock-ups. These occurred both on an iPAQ 3870 running Pocket PC 2002 and an iPAQ 5555 running Windows Mobile 2003.
The Options action allows you to set your game preferences. You can select the skill and aggression levels of the computer players, whether the dealer gets stuck calling trump if everybody else has passed, a face-up mode and an automatic game (with a fourth computer player), the pause length during play and the card back images. The screen below shows the Options dialog.
The Options Dialog
There are three different skill levels (Weak, Strong and Expert) and thirteen different aggression levels (-6 through 6). If you don't pay attention, you may not notice the -6 through 0 levels; I didn't for a long time, and thought 3 was the average aggression level.
The Exit action obviously allows you to quit the game.
You can get Pocket Euchre from Pocket Gear. (Priebe Software doesn't seem to have its own Web site.) Once you download the installation file, executing it will install Pocket Euchre on your Pocket PC. It will take about 59 KB of memory.
There is one major bug and a few minor problems in Pocket Euchre. There is also one major improvement I'd suggest.
The major bug, as mentioned above, is the lock-up displaying the last trick. This makes using that feature very dangerous, and almost useless.
The minor problems include:
When the opposing team has called trump, the computer players often lead trump. I wouldn't call myself a Euchre expert, but when the opponent has called trump, I figure they usually have more trump than we do. You need to maximize the use of your trump cards, which usually involves cross-trumping tricks. Leading trump just pulls any trump from your partner, which prevents cross-trumping.
Even worse, the trump lead is often the left bower (the second-highest trump), allowing the caller to take it with the right bower. If you have the left bower and a backer, you shouldn't lead it unless you have to. The screen below illustrates this bad play.
Stupid Left Bower Lead
Other times, the defender will lead the right bower, which again seems silly. That card will always win, so why show the caller you have it until you need to? The screen below illustrates this questionable play.
Silly Right Bower Lead
Finally, the computer players would make what I'd consider silly off-trump leads near the end of the game (after trump had been led out). There were many times I've noticed a computer player lead the Queen of Clubs (for example), allowing somebody with the King of Clubs to take the trick, when that player also had the Ace of Clubs. With only six cards in each non-trump suit (five in the same color suit as trump), it seems to make more sense to lead the Ace and hope to catch the King.
All of these playing issues may be due to the skill level or aggression I had set. As shown in the Options dialog, I play with all players at Expert skill level, and aggression set to 3. Perhaps reducing the aggression level would prevent some of these foolish leads, but, with thirteen different levels, I didn't intend to check. (I assume lowering the skill level would just make things worse.)
The computer players will often call a loner even though their score is eight or nine. You don't need the four points the loner could get, and it's considered bad form. In addition, if the score is eight, why exclude your partner when they might be able to help get the two points?
The New menu item is truncated, as the screen shot below illustrates.
Truncated New Menu Item
If you select the computer to play the fourth hand, there doesn't seem to be any way to set his skill and aggression levels.
The only real suggestion I'd make is to allow some form of multi-player gaming. All Pocket PCs have IR support and many have Bluetooth. I realize that this is a lot more effort, especially for freeware, and the lack of multi-player gaming doesn't affect my rating of the game.
Despite the problems mentioned above, I love this game and play it regularly. I played Euchre in college, but not much since then, so it's nice to play some more.
Rating the game on the typical five-star scale, I give it 4.7 stars. If they fix the lock-up and the playing gotchas, I'd easily give it 5 stars.
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