Tombola may not look much from its homepage, but as Maria Pierides discovered, once you sign-up and put it to the test, a world of technicolour bingo and games awaits
There is something quite comforting about signing up to a site that has been in the bingo industry for several decades – Tombola has long history that includes selling bingo tickets to traditional bingo clubs as far back as the 1960s. Calling it the UK’s best-kept secret wouldn’t be completely accurate, but as it’s only available to us Brits, we can’t help but feel a bit of patriotic national-pride coming on. As far as online bingo sites go, it’s up there with the best of them, because not only is it from a well-established bingo background, but because it’s so much more than just another vessel for online bingo. It’s also invitingly mellow and differs from most of its flashing Vegas-style competitors. It’s not until you actually begin to play that you realise that they’ve saved their bright lights and endless colours for the games themselves as opposed to the homepage.
Getting set up on Tombola is effortless, as there are no additional software requirements if you already have Flash installed on your computer. Within minutes of signing up, you’re let loose into the world of Tombola, and you may find yourself not quite knowing what game to try your hand at first. Whether you want to play traditional bingo, or branch out into other games, there is something to cater to all tastes, offering something for card lovers and racing bettors and all else in between.
There are quirky little features that help personalise the game for each individual; some are simple little additions like choosing the colour of your dabber or chips, which may seem trivial, but really open the portal to personalised gaming. Cinco is just one of the games where you can pick and choose the décor to suit your liking. Some players favour games that have less players, for obvious reasons, but Cinco is a real party game, as the winnings increase as more people play.
Tombola appears to be the starburst of online gaming, as every colour of the rainbow makes an appearance in all the games one way or another. Many of the chat room names and bingo clubs have colour themes, such as “Rainbow” and “Kaleidoscope” – you’ll never realise there were so many different words for one “multi-coloured” until you’ve entered this site. Upon closer inspection, it’s obvious why there are so many different rooms available in the lobby, making it essential to provide so many choices. For Cinco, each room has a capacity of 75 players, so with 3,000 people online on a weekday afternoon, it’s obvious that some of the site’s most popular games are guaranteed to need all the extra rooms they can get.
Being popular really does have its advantages at Tombola thanks to their “play-mates” scheme. If your incessant appraisals for the site have persuaded one of your friends to sign up, naming you as their play-mate when they join opens up a window of future opportunities and payouts for you. This promotes the idea that everyone’s a winner, as when they win over £20, you win £1 just for recommending them. You can get your hands on a £25 bonus if they win £500 or more. Although there is only one play-mate allocated to each player, there is an almost infinite amount of friends who can choose you as theirs, meaning sometimes you can’t even tell where your bonuses are coming from as they’re flying in left, right and centre. To avoid any confusion though, there is a ‘PM’ symbol that appears next to your bonus which lets you know who to thank – and congratulate!
The chat rooms are a fundamental part of the site, and with over 30 available, you’re bound to make a few friends in there. It doesn’t take long for it to feel like a community, with players recognising each other almost immediately, spurring each other on and offering what appears to be genuine, altruistic well-wishing and congratulations when in order. However, for those who want to get straight down to business and don’t want to be distracted by others, many of the games include “no chat” options; it appears that they really have thought of everyone.
With Bingo 90 offering one of the biggest jackpots, it’s clear to see why this still remains one of online bingo’s favourite games. The excitement really does build up and tension mounts, as the game conveniently tells you how far away you are from winning.
The auto-play options are a handy addition too, especially in the bingo games, just in case you want to make a cup of tea during a game, although for that real-life simulation, the best part of the game is still crossing off your numbers as they appear, anticipating the next one and hoping no one will get there before you. The joy of winning is also elevated when you see your name in lights on the screen and the congratulatory messages come rolling in.
Tombola Roulette is one of the two roulette-based games on the site. Perhaps the one downfall that may unsettle some veteran roulette players is the fact that you can only place up to five chips on the table, with no option for splits or other popular tactics. Despite this however, both the roulette games have generated a positive amount of feedback from the players. Bingo Roulette offers the chance to place more chips on the table, giving it a more realistic roulette illusion. Your chips are cleared as the numbers come up, and with the promise of a £2,000 jackpot if you win in 10 spins or fewer, it’s an exciting game for everyone.
Most of the games seem to lean towards a bingo angle, after all, it is predominantly a bingo site. Hamster Race however, has no such tendencies… but is refreshingly one of the best games on the site. It has to be the most youth-recapturing game on the World Wide Web and becomes one of those highly-addictive games you’ll realise you’ve spent an hour playing without even realising. The hamsters can present you with mixed emotions, as one minute you’ll be thinking they’re utterly adorable fuzzy creatures that have been put in an amusing situation, or you may find yourself choosing highly inappropriate vulgarities to the one you’ve selected to pip the others to the post when they’re trailing behind. Tombola have caught onto how popular the game has become, by offering a Hamster Race night, which takes place every Wednesday between 6pm and midnight, and enables players to bet on up to four hamsters at the same time – the fact that you could only bet on one hamster was obviously a flaw that was playing on Tombola’s minds, which is why they may be testing out this new way of betting for future developments.
Finally, to add to the sense of community that has been built by Tombola, it also offers its members a mini social networking site called My Tombola, where users can add each other as friends, upload pictures and get to know each other better.
Overall, Tombola is a fun website that encourages players to interact with each other as well as immerse themselves in the games. And despite its understated home page, this should be regarded as one of the best and most vibrant bingo sites this country has to offer.