Puerto Rico is, apparently, an extremely popular board game. Why? Because it’s based entirely on strategy – there’s no elements of chance involved, or so I’ve been led to believe. I’m neither patient enough nor enough of a board game connoisseur  to know if that’s 100% true, but it sounds good to me. No matter: I’d never played the game before the iPad version came out a few weeks ago, and now I’m like Linus without his blanket when I go for too long between rounds.

Aaron from Appency warned me when he pitched us on the game: Seriously, dude, prepare to have your life sucked away. Then he thoughtfully included an iTunes code so I could download and review the $7.99 iPad app from Ravensburger Digital GmbH (warning: iTunes link) . Eight bucks is a lot for a game these days, but the boxed board version runs thirty bucks or so on Newegg, so you’re actually getting a deal here.

So far as I know, the iPad version is faithful to the original, gameplay-wise. The idea is to raise crops and build a city by purchasing buildings and crops, and strategically placing colonists. Various crops and buildings yield different levels of income and “victory points.” The former you’ll need to pay for production, storage, and shipping facilities, and the latter are tallied to determine the overall winner of the game. If that sounds confusing, it’s really not, but there’s a better explanation of the game itself over on Wikipedia.

As for the iPad version, it’s really quite nice. The graphics are smooth, the mind-numbing background music can be swapped out in favor of your own tunes or silenced altogether, and once you get the hang of it, the UI is easy enough and features inline hints and quick access to game Rules and a helpful Almanac. You can play with friends, you can play solo against computer (AI) opponents, or you can play online via Apple’s Game Center. I’ve read some reviews that complain about the app’s artificial intelligence – or lack thereof – when the game is played versus computer opponents. Being a n00b player myself, I’ll just say this: After literally never having heard of the game before, within three days of (admittedly obsessive) play I was beating a table full of “Hard” level computer foes roughly 25% of the time. So yeah, if I got that “good” that quickly, there might be some AI work to be done. Either that or the interactive tutorial for P.R. beginners is just that good. The tutorial is pretty well done, but I’m guessing the AI is kinda soft.

Of course, the Game Center aims to alleviate such problems by way of online gaming versus human opponents. And you can put your iPad in the middle of a card table and pull up a chair with some friends for real live multiplayer action.

Puerto Rico HD’s calling card is, of course, the value of the original game itself. And like Aaron warned me, the game is solid, strategic, and yes, highly addictive. If you’re a fan of the board game, or a fan of this genre of games (Settlers of Catan, anyone?), the iPad version is well worth a look. Eight bucks may sound like a lot for a game app, but it’s darn cheap for a great game. Which, by all accounts, Puerto Rico is. My newfound addiction says so, anyway.

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