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Acquire

Acquire is an abstract game of investing in hotel chains. The equipment is not fancy, but the game mechanics are vastly superior to the typical hotel-building board game with three-dimensional stand-up pieces. From two to six may play, but the dynamics are best with exactly four. A shortage of players results in less subtle strategy, while too many players makes the outcome more unpredictable and difficult for a skilled player to influence.

The game board is a rectangular array with room for one tile per location, as in Scrabble. Every tile has its location such as 7M or 1E printed on one side; that is the only location in which the tile may be played. The game starts with six tiles picked randomly and placed in their locations. Then each player picks six tiles at random for their starting racks. On each turn of the game, the player whose turn it is draws one tile and plays one.

Whenever two or more isolated tiles become horizontally or vertically adjacent to each other, a hotel chain is created. The player who places the tile that creates a new chain receives one share of stock in the new chain at no charge. Players may buy stock in each hotel chain, which increases in value as the chain gets larger. Two chains merge when a newly placed tile is horizontally or vertically adjacent to tiles from two different chains. When two chains merge, the larger aqcuires the smaller. The game ends when one hotel chain dominates the entire board, or when no possible mergers remain. All hotel chains pay bonuses to majority shareholders and the shares are cashed in. The richest player wins.

The mergers of hotel chains are the critical junctures of the game. Those are the only times at which stock may be sold, and thus the only time cash comes to the players. In addition, the top and second stakeholder in the chain going out of business each receive a substantial cash bonus. With only 25 shares for each of the seven available hotel chains, the maneuvering for a majority stake is intense.

Cash flow is the critical element of strategy. On one hand there is pressure to buy in order to achieve a majority position, but on the other hand holding only stock and no cash prevents one from buying into lucrative new chains as they are founded. The winner is often not the majority stockholder in the hotel chain which acquires all the others, but the player who contrives to have several of his small chains acquired while holding a majority.

Acquire is popular for several reasons. The game mechanics are easy to learn, but the strategies run quite deep. The game stays fresh, because drawing tiles adds an element of chance, but the skilled player has many opportunities to win even with inferior tiles. Each game takes about an hour to play, so it is easy to budget time. And finally it can be played at many levels, from fun family games in the evening to cut-throat tournament play.

Acquire was designed by the renowned game inventor Sid Sackson in the 1960s. It is currently owned by Avalon Hill.



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