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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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