Puerto Rico HD, the popular strategy board game, has been released by Ravensburger Digital and is available from the app store. Staying pretty faithful to the original board game, Puerto Rico HD is just another example of how to adapt a game to the touchscreen and make it feel like it was designed with the iDevice in mind.
Puerto Rico HD Pros:
- Terrific strategic offering with deep rule set and easy to follow tutorial
- Appealing graphical layout that crams in a ton of info without feeling cluttered
- Soothing acoustic Spanish guitar soundtrack
- Multiplayer via GameCenter
Puerto Rico HD Cons:
- Occasional need to re-tap to select crops
- Difficult to differentiate buildings and very steep learning curve
Puerto Rico HD can be played against up to 4 players, allowing you a mixture of AI, human, and online opponents. AI opponents are available at various skill levels, allowing you to tailor their competence to your own skill. The goal is to cultivate expensive crops and ship them back to Spain as you seek economic dominance over your competition and the acquisition of victory points that can earn you the title of Governor. Balanced play and strategic moves are required to improve your standing while holding back your opponents.
Each turn, one player takes on the part of Governor, selecting a role for everyone to fulfill. Roles include Mayor, Builder, Craftsman, Captain, Settler, Trader, and Prospector. The chosen role dictates what everyone gets to do on that turn. If it’s the Mayor, each player receives colonists to populate their plantations or buildings. When the Craftsman is chosen, crops are harvested. Builder gives you the opportunity to purchase buildings, while Settler makes plantations available to all. The Captain loads crops onto ships bound for Spain and Trader makes it possible to sell goods at market. Each player in turn follows the lead of the player who chose the role. The benefit of being the one to chose is that you earn a special perk, such as an additional colonist or plantation or discounts on buildings. Additionally, the building types can earn you privileges, as well as victory points at the game’s end.
In order to grow crops, you need both a field and corresponding building to process the product (except for corn). You also need workers, so several steps must be met to create something of value. There are a number of rules regarding shipping and trading that must be followed, restricting boats to specific crops or only allowing one of each crop type to be traded. There is an exhaustive set of rules and a terrific interactive tutorial to teach you the ins and outs. A hint button can also be dragged over any item to give you additional information. Much of the game comes down to strategic moves that can block your opponents from making proper use of their crops or purchasing buildings that offer the right kind of perks and the most victory points for your doubloon. The game ends when all of the colonists have been used or all victory points have been dispersed. Victory points are given for sending crops to Spain and purchasing buildings. We’ve hardly scratched the surface, but it’s safe to say that fans of strategy board games, especially the hardcore fans, should feel right at home with Puerto Rico. We’re not saying that casual fans won’t enjoy it, too, but the way all aspects of the game intertwine so intricately, it may be a little overwhelming for many.
Graphically, Puerto Rico has a vibrant look and feel, while cramming a ton of info into the limited space. The left side of the screen shows the total number of available victory points, colonists, and doubloons, the trader’s market, and the number of plantation types left, as well as the 5 possible to choose from. The right side of the screen indicates the roles to choose or the building types available to purchase, with an additional pop-out to explain the benefit of each edifice. Just inside of this strip are the player info areas, which indicate colonists, doubloons, and victory points obtained by the player, as well as the number of each type of crop that has been cultivated and is ready for trade or shipping home. The center of the screen houses each player’s plantation and town, where you can easily see what you own and the status of each. When a worker is placed in a building, a darkened window turns yellow, as if lighted from within. Similarly, plantations with workers appear to be covered in healthy crops rather than dirt. Ships form a boundary between the two, giving a look at their cargo bays, too. It makes for a very pleasing aesthetic that does its best to keep the clutter to a minimum. An acoustic Spanish guitar plays music in the background, complementing the theme while offering something interesting to listen to while you ponder your best move. There is also an in-game option to play music from your own library. All controls are tap-based and they work well for the most part, though we did need to tap on crops a few times to make our selection.
Replay value is great, as you’ll never play the same game twice. The online multiplayer mode can be a terrific way to extend the life of the game as you battle players from around the world. There are no leaderboards (though ELO rankings are maintained) or achievements to earn, but they aren’t sorely missed in a game like this. GameCenter is used for matchmaking. An iPad-only offering at a launch price of $7.99 (regularly $9.99), Puerto Rico HD is an outstanding addition to the strategy genre and a 4.5-Dimple champ.Puerto Rico HD,