Try your hand at Spanish colonialism in Puerto Rico HD for iPad

Aug 16, 2011
Games

The game Puerto Rico has been in existence for nearly a decade, and since the beginning has been loved by board-game fans around the world. If you are one of these fans, or are curious as to what the fuss is about, you would be wise to pick up Puerto Rico HD ($7.99) for iPad. […]

The game Puerto Rico has been in existence for nearly a decade, and since the beginning has been loved by board-game fans around the world. If you are one of these fans, or are curious as to what the fuss is about, you would be wise to pick up Puerto Rico HD ($7.99) for iPad.

Boardgamegeek.com has ranked Puerto Rico as the No. 1 board game (currently No. 2) at various points, in each of the last eight years. This is no small feat, considering the hype and excitement that comes with each year’s new batch of offerings. Personally, I was quite excited to get my hands on the iOS app, to see if it could live up to the cult-like status the game has reached over the years. Does Puerto Rico HD meet those expectations? It does, but it isn’t a perfect app, at least not yet.

A brief synopsis of the game goes like this. You are a plantation owner in the early days of Spain’s colonization of Puerto Rico. Your job is to grow one or several varieties of crops to sell for cash or ship back to Spain for victory points. Victory points can also be earned by purchasing and occupying buildings in the town area. These buildings can help you to produce more goods, provide more colonists, etc. After the last round has been played, the player with the most victory points is declared the winner. This description might sound simple, but there are many complex choices to be made on nearly every turn. A boiled-down strategy, would be to choose the role that gives you the most benefit in relation to each player in the game. There are times during play when a particular choice initially seems attractive, but should be avoided because it benefits another player more than yourself.

One of the big challenges the developers of Puerto Rico HD undoubtedly faced, was how to display all of the necessary information on one screen. The game of Puerto Rico is complex and there are quite a few items to keep track of during play. I would say the developers accomplished their goal, with only a couple hiccups. First, some of the icons (crops, for instance) are quite small and placed close enough together that the player could easily tap an adjacent one by accident. This problem is partially negated by the addition of an undo-button, which worked well the few times I needed it. Secondly, the buildings are each different, but it is not obvious from a quick glance what each one is, especially for beginning players. The production buildings have the product symbols on them, but other types of buildings are ambiguous. In order to solve this problem, a help/hint question mark icon can be placed on top of nearly anything on the game board, and a pop-up window will display any relevant information about that particular item.

The in-game tutorial is quite well-done, taking you through an entire abbreviated game, while discussing, at least briefly, why the next action would be a good choice. This tutorial will be a must for new players, and quite welcome to those who know the game already, but could use a refresher course. In-depth strategy tips are lacking, though, and new players might need to find outside references to quickly get up to speed.

Overall, I was very happy with the app. It doesn’t have quite the polish of the recently released Ticket to Ride, but it plays very well, and I haven’t had any issues when playing either against AI opponents or other gamers over Game Center. I look forward to seeing asynchronous on-line play added in the future, and achievements would also be on my wish list. These two additions would elevate Puerto Rico HD from a good buy, to a must have in any board gamer’s book.

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Wayne Stuckey

After receiving his bachelor's degree in management information systems on planet Earth, Wayne decided to settle down and live there. He writes from the plains of the Midwest.

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