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iPad  header logo

Puerto Rico HD

For: iPad

A bit of the New (World), a bit of the old

Product: Puerto Rico HD | Developer: Ravensburger Digital | Publisher: Ravensburger Digital | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game | Players: 1-5 | Networking: wireless (network), on one device | Version: Europe
Puerto Rico HD iPad, thumbnail 1
It was a matter of 'when' Puerto Rico would appear on the iPad rather than 'if', such is the relentless march of boardgaming titles making their way over to Apple’s tablet PC over the past year or so.

Regarded by many as the finest of the ‘gateway’ games - a group that includes Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride - Puerto Rico is a tricky game of building, trading, shipping, and screwing over your opponents in passive-aggressive ways, set in the days of Spanish expansion into the New World.

But while the base game is highly regarded, this iPad adaptation leaves a lot to be desired, especially when placed alongside its platform peers.

On board

The rules of the game are a little more complicated than something like Carcassonne or Catan, in that they revolve around picking a certain ‘role’ (Mayor or Captain, for example) each turn.

These roles enable everyone in the game to take a certain action: the Mayor brings in settlers (which can be used to plough the fields or work the factories), while the Captain lets players ship the manufactured goods back to Spain for Massive Profit (well, victory points).

The person who chooses the role gets a bonus depending on which he picked, and at the end of each round the roles that weren’t chosen are given a Doubloon (the currency of the game) to make their selection more attractive the next time around, a little like how Small World handles unpopular civilisations.

Sounds simple, but the game is more reliant on everyone knowing what to do than the other titles mentioned, in that some roles can be completely useless in one turn while another may actually end up giving the advantage to your opponents, despite the bonus/money gained by picking the role.

It’s one of the reasons Puerto Rico is so well-regarded in boardgaming circles - there’s a surprising number of factors in play during any one game, so you have to adapt your tactics to what your opposition is doing as much as focusing on your own game.


But the iPad version is seemingly designed to put off anyone but the most hardcore Puerto Rico fan.

The graphics are muddied and unclear, with tiny symbols crushed into the screen space, while the interface feels a little overburdened and simultaneously unhelpful.

There’s no way of checking what the placed buildings are, for example, meaning you have to either memorise all the tiny drawings or constantly refer to the build chart. And why it has to permanently display all the discard piles - thereby squishing in the crowded playing area even further -is a mystery to me.

There's an extensive Tutorial and Almanac that goes some way to smoothing out the learning curve, but it took many games before I was comfortable with the layout and design.

Shipped out

It’s a shame, as the base game is arguably one of the best boardgames you can play - especially once you have a handle on some of the basic tactics.

Also to Puerto Rico HD’s credit, it comes with round-the-board multiplayer for five players, multiple levels of opponent AI, and online play for up to four players via Game Center, which is more than a lot of iPad boardgames can manage (at launch at least).

But while Puerto Rico HD isn't a bad representation of the much-loved game by any stretch, it's far from the ideal version fans would have been waiting for.
Puerto Rico HD
Reviewer photo
Will Wilson | 11 August 2011
Puerto Rico HD is a good game at heart, but its unfriendly graphics and interface will leave newcomers out at sea
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Show: Latest | Oldest
Aug 2012
Post count:
Yuda Kaizar | 18:56 - 1 August 2012
The buildings are the most confusing and disappointing part.

The automated moves are too quick to follow even on the slowest speed. We, unlike AI, need time to calculate all the moves made by the opponents.
Aug 2012
Post count:
Yuda Kaizar | 18:45 - 1 August 2012
I have experienced four versions of the game and this is my ranking from good to bad: original board game > online version from boardgamearena > PC version > ipad version.

It is better for them to faithfully recreate the original boardgame into ipad version just like the online version did.
Aug 2011
Post count:
anthonyafterwit | 23:31 - 12 August 2011
While I still disagree with your rating, I appreciate the speedy response to my first post.

I will admit, it is not a game I would recommend for everybody, as it does take a few games to start to understand what the heck is going on. But then, that's why I think it's so great. It's gonna take a long time for me to go back to gateway games like Ticket To Ride and Carcassonne after getting my hands on this.

Yes, Ticket To Ride is a great game because it's accessable, and takes five minutes to learn. Turns go quickly, but in the end, it's basically just Rummy with a map. It's fun. I'm not saying it's not fun... But...

The turns in Puerto Rico are also short. However, the decision making is so varied and interesting, I would say the level of immersion is several notches above that of any gateway game. On a single turn in Puerto Rico, here are some things you get to decide:

Should you focus on shipping or trading? Should you try to dominate one particular commodoties market or diversify your interests? Should you buy a new wharehouse to prevent spoilage, or maybe use that cash to invest in a university for access to a larger workforce? Should you start investing in high yield coffee crops, or perhaps build a quarry to reduce the cost of the 17 other building's you can construct, all of which grant various benefits to further steer your economy as you develop a cohesive overall strategy.

Or... you can play Ticket To Ride, the very pretty rummy variant with a map.

Is Puerto Rico a better looking game than Ticket To Ride or Carcasonne? No. Not the iPad version, or the cardboard version for that matter. But, unlike those games, Puerto Rico was the NUMBER ONE game on board game geek for YEARS, and remains the number one game that can accomodate more than two players. And again, this game has been out for YEARS. Imagine the strength of that reputation in any other industry.

I have now played over fifty games of the iPad version of Puerto Rico. I have every other major iPad port of a board game conversion, liked them all, with huge kudos to Ascension and Neuroshima Hex, but for me, Puerto Rico is hands down the best bang for the buck.

That's why your rating of a 6 "worth a look if you're a fan of the genre" is so egregious to me. As far as I'm concerned, if you're a fan of the genre, Puerto Rico is an absolute must-buy.

And again, I'm not affiliated with anyone involved in the game - my interest is purely selfish, in that I want other awesome board games to get ports too... Like, for instance, the number two game on BGG, Agricola. That would be awesome!

Dec 2010
Post count:
PG BBilson | 20:05 - 12 August 2011
Fair enough. I was tempted to edit out 'gateway', tbh - there are plenty of more complicated games than this out there (the incredibly dull Advanced Civ from Avalon Hill sticks in my mind like a sharp knife), and it's always brought up in conversations I have with board game fans in the same sentence as the other titles mentioned, but it is a fair bit more complicated than the usual.

Visuals-wise - I don't agree. It looks crudely drawn and is hard to identify the various aspects. I did miss the question mark button, mind, but the layout is cramped in any case. It doesn't improve it to such a degree as to overturn my initial assessment.

Discards/supply - really doesn't need to be on screen at all times. It's only relevant at specific points in the game. Important for planning - yes - but not with every role, and could have easily been hidden - allowing for more expressive graphics in the main play area (which would have removed the need to constantly tap the question mark).

I played it for a good 3 or 4 hours hours before writing the review. Naturally, I'm a bit annoyed at missing the question mark (I don't normally miss out options in games - I guess I got it confused with the other three help screens), but I think that's a fair amount of time to spend with a game I already know well to form an opinion.

Also, 6 means decent with our 1-10 scale. Indeed, to quote the scoring guide, "worth a look if you're a fan of the genre". And it is - worth a look, I mean. Just I feel it could have been a lot better, given the strength of the base game and the relatively strong field of other board games it's up against.
Aug 2011
Post count:
anthonyafterwit | 19:53 - 12 August 2011
Sorry about those weird symbols in my previous post - I pasted from Word..
Aug 2011
Post count:
anthonyafterwit | 18:49 - 12 August 2011
Sorry Will, but I think you’re way off the mark on this review, and it's a shame because having given Puerto Rico a chance, my wife and I are now TOTALLY addicted. IMO it's the BEST board game adaptation available for iPad. By far.
Here is why I think your review is unfortunately kinda crappy:

You refer to Puerto Rico as a "gateway" game. Not sure if you're a BoardGameGeek member, but I doubt it, as calling PR a gateway game is, well, it's just not helpful to people looking for gateway games, or people interested in more complex games that offer a deeper, richer experience. In fact, as far as gateway-ness can be quantified, BoardGameGeek members rate these things, and Puerto Rico is almost TWICE as complex as a typical gateway. In other words, gateway games like Carcassonne and Ticket To Ride are gateways TO more complex, deeper and IMO more satisfying games like Puerto Rico.

I get that reviews are subjective, but yours is also inaccurate - you said there is no way to see the function of a building without going through the build chart; not so. Just slide the question mark on the lower right of the screen over any graphic element for details about what it is and what it does.

Also, your criticism about wasting space with "discard" piles... huh? There are no discard piles. Are you referring to the supply piles that goods go into once they’re delivered? Those are displayed so you know how much of a particular resource is available, it’s important information.

I actually think the designers did an amazing job of including a LOT of information on the screen without having to dig into sub-menus. Again, this isn't a gateway game - there's almost twice as much going on than the games you unhelpfully compared it to. And IMHO this game blows those other trifles away in terms of flavor and depth – it’s not even a contest.

And yes, some of the buildings are difficult to remember at first (that's why they have the helpful question mark tool which you missed) but once you've played a bunch of times the buildings do start to become recognizable. As I said, I had never played before, but since I got the swing of it, I'm having a hard time putting it down, and all the buildings are now instantly recognizable. I also love the way the little windows light up and you can see smoke coming from buildings that are occupied; to me, that's an ingenious UI detail and personally, I think it looks really cool. If nothing else it definitely improves on the visuals of the original board game.

So yeah, I think it’s unfair to give this awesome gem a rating of 6 when frankly, you do not sound like someone who explored the game fully enough to be writing a review about it.

Let me finish by saying, I am in no way affiliated with the makers of the game – but I am a fan of board games, and as far as I’m concerned, they did a fantastic job porting one of the highest rated, award winners of all time, and I want to support the developer’s efforts, so we get more amazing games like this in the future.