The 1999 Hasbro version of Acquire
|Playing time||90 minutes|
|Random chance||Tile drawing|
|Skill(s) required||Tile laying, resource management|
Acquire is a board game designed by Sid Sackson. The game was originally published in 1962 by 3M as a part of their bookshelf games series. In most versions, the theme of the game is investing in hotel chains. In the 1990s Hasbro edition, the hotel chains were replaced by generic corporations, though the actual gameplay was unchanged. The game is currently published by Hasbro under the Avalon Hill brand, and the companies are once again hotel chains.
The object of the game is to earn the most money by developing and merging hotel chains. When a chain in which a player owns stock is acquired by a larger chain, players earn money based on the size of the acquired chain. At the end of the game, all players liquidate their stock in order to determine which player has the most money.
The components of the game have varied over the years. In particular, the tiles have been made from wood, plastic, and cardboard in various editions of the game. In the current 2008 version, the tiles are cardboard. The following components are included in all versions:
The array on the game board is arranged with lettered rows (A through I) and numbered columns (1 through 12). The 108 tiles correspond to each of the squares: 5E, 10B, and so forth.
Acquire is a game for three to six players, though earlier editions included special rules for two players. Standard tournament games are played with four players.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives $6000 in cash. Each player draws a tile and places it on the board. The player whose tile is in the topmost row (closest to row A) goes first. If more than one player selects a tile in that row, then the player whose tile is in the leftmost column (closest to 1) goes first. All players place these tiles on the board. Then, starting with the first player, each player draws six tiles.
A turn consists of three steps:
Tile placement falls in one of four categories. The tile placed could be an orphan, adjacent to no other tile on the board. The tile could create a new chain of tiles, and the player who placed it on the board would have the opportunity to found a new chain. The tile could increase the length of an existing chain already on the board. Or the tile could link two chains, causing a merger of two or more chains. Since there are only seven hotel chains in the game, placing a tile that would create an eighth chain is not permitted.
When a player founds a chain, he receives one free share of stock in that chain. If, however, there are no shares left when the chain is founded, then the founding player does not receive the free share.
Chains are deemed "safe" if they have 11 or more links; placing a tile that would cause such a chain to be acquired by a larger chain is also not permitted.
After a player places a tile, and the results of that placement have been handled, he may purchase up to three shares of stock. A player may only purchase shares of stock in chains that have already been founded. The price of a share depends on the size of the chain, according to a chart that lists prices according to size. A player may purchase shares in one, two, or three existing chains (assuming at least three chains are currently in play), in any combination up to a total of three shares.
Finally, the player replaces the tile he played, ensuring that he has six tiles at the end of his turn.
A chain is a conglomeration of tiles that are linked to each other orthogonally but not diagonally. For example, adjacent to square 5F are squares 4F, 6F, 5E, and 5G, but not 6E or 4G. If there is a tile in 5F, then placing either tile 4F or 5G would result in founding a new hotel chain. A chain grows when a player increases the length of a chain. Suppose a chain consists of squares 8D, 8E, and 8F. Playing tile 9F would add to the length of the chain. Playing tile 9C would not.
Chains merge when a player places the tile that eliminates the empty space between them. Suppose there is a chain at 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A, along with another chain at 6A and 7A. Placing tile 5A would cause these two chains to merge. When a merger occurs, the larger hotel chain always acquires the smaller hotel chain. That is, the hotel chain with more tiles will continue to exist and now grows to include the smaller hotel chain (after bonuses have been calculated according to the steps outlined below). If a tile is placed between two hotel chains of the same size, the individual player who places the tile decides which hotel chain remains on the board and which is acquired. In this situation, there are a number of strategic reasons why an individual player might select one hotel chain over another to be the one that remains on the board. However, often it is most advantageous for the player selecting to choose to let the more expensive chains remain on the board (and trade in their stock of the less expensive chain at the 2-to-1 ratio described below).
The merger is the mechanism by which the players compete. Mergers yield bonuses for the two shareholders who hold, respectively, the largest and second-largest interests in a chain. Mergers also give each player who holds any interest at all in a chain a chance to sell his stock or to trade it in for shares of the acquiring chain. A merger takes place in three steps:
If placing a tile causes three or four chains to merge, then the merger steps are handled between the largest and second-largest chain, then with the third-largest chain, and finally with the smallest chain.
Any player may declare the game over at any time during his turn if either of two conditions is true: one chain has 41 or more tiles, or there is at least one chain on the board and every chain on the board has 11 or more tiles. Upon declaring the game over, the player is allowed to complete his turn (including buying stock). Ending the game is optional - if he believes it is to his advantage not to end the game, he may refrain from doing so. Once the game ends, the minority and majority bonuses are paid to the minority and majority holders in each of the remaining chains; each player sells his or her shares of stock in each of the remaining chains; and the player with the most money wins. Because ending the game is optional, and a player may not realize that he can end it, it is unethical to say "good game", or in any other way indicate that the game could be ended, until after a player actually has ended the game.
These conditions can be used to handle unusual situations.
The rules allow any player to count the number of shares available in the bank. However, the rules do not specify whether a player should hold his shares of stock face up or face down. That is, the rules do not say whether one player may ask another how many shares of stock he or she owns in a particular chain. Whether this is public or private information should be agreed upon between players before the game begins.
The current rules do not provide for a two-player game. However, the stock market was used as a "third shareholder" in previous versions of the game. By this rule, a tile is drawn whenever a merger is declared. The number on the tile indicates how many shares the stock market owns in the company that is being acquired. The players must compete with the market as well as with each other in order to receive bonuses.
The game was short-listed for the first Spiel des Jahres board game awards in 1979.
GAMES magazine has inducted Acquire into their buyers' guide Hall of Fame. The magazine's stated criteria for the Hall of Fame encompasses "games that have met or exceeded the highest standards of quality and play value and have been continuously in production for at least 10 years; i.e., classics."
It was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design's Hall of Fame, along with Sackson, in 2011.
Acquire is playable online through the GameTable Online site.
Acquire is also playable online for free.