Acquire Board Game
How To Play Acquire
I've never been one for business games. Even Monopoly, which I enjoy because it's a classic, leaves me dry. I want some adventure in my board games, even something as simple as the implication that my characters are from some oddball futuristic or backwater fantastic world is enough to hold my attention the first game. That's why it is so strange when I found myself playing Acquire, as the entire game is based on financial stock sales and trying to build the largest hotel chain. It should also be noted that I used to play this game with my father at the age of 12 or so.
Acquire is one of the oldest non-traditional board games that I've ever played, as it is from the early 60s, and the copy my father and I used to play is probably from right around then. Since then, they have remade the game a couple of times, but I can still remember how gorgeous the old Avalon Hill bookshelf games looked. It was like they wanted grown-ups to be able to have games on their shelves without having to admit that they enjoyed them.
How to Play the Acquire Game
Depending on what version of the game you play, Acquire is about building business chains, but the original (and from what I understand, most recent) versions are about you building hotels. Why they changed it? Who knows? It probably was a marketing department decision that becoming a hotel back makes less sense to today's world than backing some faceless and nameless corporation. I think they're equally distant from my life goals, but hotels tend to make more sense to me.
Gameplay is deceptively easy, and is built so that for a good portion of the beginning game you might be backing the wrong horse. The board is laid out with an empty grid, and you are given six tiles that are labeled with bingo numbers that relate to the board. (1-12 / A-I) On your turn, you place a tile and take a tile. When I was younger, I always found it confusing that these hotels would all sprout up in the tightest area known to man, and they just keep growing out until they are blobs engulfing each other. I didn't recognize that this was 'The Field Of Business' and this was all symbolic of what the company was doing in the stock and business world.
It is more than likely that the first few turns are going to be spent dropping seemingly unconnected tiles around the board. The minute someone puts two together, they have officially founded the first hotel in the game. That section is marked, and the real heart of the game can begin.
On each player's turn, they have the option of buying three stocks, as represented by simple arted cards. Hopefully, their hotel will get bigger, and in turn so will the amount that their stock represents in end game money. The real strategy comes in when you are trying to decide how to go about purchasing. Eventually, two hotels are going to merge. What that means is one of the chains will be absorbed by the other. The benefit of being the one absorbed is that your stocks will be immediately sellable and tradable for the new companies stock. You also get a bonus if you are the majority stockholder.
Eventually the board runs out of moves to give you, or one hotel will rule over all. You sell your stocks at their going rate and count the money. The person who is the richest wins the game. Surprisingly, all of the math throughout the game is very simple, and easy to keep track of, so don't think you'll be doing any exceptionally hard calculations to get yourself from the beginning to the end.
There are entire conversations you can find online about the right and/or best way to play Acquire, which is probably one of the biggest compliments you can give a game that came out 50 years ago. The great thing about the game is that the tile system keeps the entire movement of hotels random, as well as who is going to buy whom. One strategy might not fly based on the tile placement next game, so you are going to have to keep your eyes open.
The best strategy I can give you is to try and be on the winning end of an early merger. That boost in money and stock can take you a long way into backing the winning horse later. By getting a nice bonus and a little extra stock for your troubles, you are taking an early lead in creating your hotel empire.
Another strategy that beginner players tend to like is to not just back one horse. You can start the game with the idea that it is going to be your initial hotel chain that is going to take over the board, and bring you your millions. The fact is that, depending on your number of players, a couple other folks have that same goal. So keep some of your money ready to buy up whomever the next big player is, just in case it isn't you.
Sadly, there is the potential to watch as one player is completely defeated early on in the game. All it takes is a few rounds of bad decisions for the big boys to take them out hard. These players will sit there and twiddle their thumbs, having to put down tiles, but only watch as the power brokers of the world deal with money.
Acquire is a great game. It would have to be to last this long. The gameplay is simple and unique, and it really makes for an engaging time with some friends. If you want to play a game, but don't want to have to spend an hour setting up, learning rules, discussing house errata, and then beginning, try Acquire. You know most of the rules just from this review. Good luck in becoming the next big wig at your company or hotel.
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