Simulating an industrial concern a bit more high-stakes than a lemonade stand, this game puts the player behind the accounting ledger of a company that builds bridges, which are large, complicated objects whose construction requires many resources and much labour. Coordinating supplies of both leaves a bit of money left over for research & development, which may yield one-time dividends or permanently lower some costs -- if not necessarily paying for itself except on a long-term scale. Random events in the business world may find their way to the player's desk, arbitrarily benefiting or penalizing their company -- some ~25 events in the original TRS-80 BASIC listing, increased to over 65 in the MS-DOS BASICA version.
All of this is a sideshow to the main business of winning contracts to build bridges. To even be considered for eligibility the player's company must have all necessary elements ready to go. Then there is a gentle art to a winning bid, striking some point on a Laffer curve not too high to be accepted but not too low to yield significant profits. Random factors are tempered with general rules, such as the documentation's suggestion to "Make note that usually the more expensive bridges will mean bigger costs, hence you are capable of making larger bids, and therefore make larger profits."
Once the player successfully amasses $500 million in profits, they are declared chairman of the board and the game concludes. Much more likely, however, is falling into bankruptcy, which ends the game a whole different way.
International Bridge Contractors is a great version of the 1979 BASIC games coded by Philip Case for the TRS-80 computer. The game was recompiled and expanded with more features by William Hileman and distributed as freeware in 1984, and again in 1986 as version 1.1 (the version for download here). IBC is basically a simulation of an engineering company for 1 to 4 players. Starting out as office manager with $40 million in cash, your goal is to make bids on bridges. The first player to accumulate $500 million wins the game.
The game is turn-based: each player's turn comprises up to 6 phase. The first phase is the company status display which requires no input from you, but shows all the pertinent information about your business including the number of bridges built (ordered by costs per foot), work crews available, R&D investments, materials, and most importantly cash. The second phase is the company purchases display, where you can hire work crews, buy materials, and/or invest in R&D. The third phase is the obscurely named 'secretary's report' phase. This is where random events happen (there are 65 possible events) to either help or hurt your business. I don't like the fact that some events can immediately make you lose the game (reminds me of the bankruptcy card in Monopoly), but at least the chance of getting them is rare.
The fourth phase is the R&D phase, which will only be active if you spent some R&D investment in the second phase. Here you will be told of any new breakthrough, which will reduce your costs of building the bridges. Your incremental R&D investment will also decline, thereby encouraging you to invest more. The fifth phase is the bridge specifications display. This screen shows the six bridges, their traffic types, their costs per 100 feet, and their safe and maximum distances. This phase is essential because it shows you cost information you will need to make better bids in the next and last phase: the crucial contract bidding phase. Here each of the 6 bridge types will be selected at random, with a controlled-random length. Your cost for building the bridge (materials, labor, etc.) will be displayed. If you do not have enough work crews or materials to build this bridge, you will be notified and your turn will end.
IBC is a lot of fun if you like business simulations - especially one that depicts a services industry that not many other games focus on. Your success depends on a careful balance between bidding price and construction costs. Naturally, if you bid too high, you will not get the contract. If you bid too low, you may find yourself strapped for cash when you discover your costs are much higher. The 'right' bidding amount appears somewhat random, since I could sometimes get away with hundreds of millions of dollars in profit which I could not replicate. R&D is a huge benefit, since lower costs allows you to make lower bids. Overall, I have a lot of fun with this old game which should please all die-hard fans of business sims. Recommended!
All things that come to bridge building are mentioned in this game. How much money you have, how many crew is available, material. you name it. First who earns $500 million is the winner.
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