Acquire

Acquire

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In Acquire, each player strategically invests in businesses, trying to retain a majority of stock. As the businesses grow with tile placements, they also start merging, giving the majority stockholders of the acquired business sizable bonuses, which can then be used to reinvest into other chains. All of the investors in the acquired company can then cash in their stocks for current …
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-RGS02575 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A True Classic of modern Boardgaming
  • Clever introduction to stock manipulation games, with different modes and rules for different player counts and experience
  • Encourages lots of table talk and back and forth especially at higher player counts, two player works surprisingly well
  • Can be genuinely tense, especially towards the end of the game
  • Simple to learn rules but surprisingly deep gameplay

Might Not Like

  • Can be very luck dependent
  • At two or three players it can take a little bit of time to really get going, depending on which tiles are drawn
  • Adding a drawstring bag and some player screens would have improved the game experience
  • Can suffer with a runaway leader problem in some games- the rich will definitely get richer
  • It can run a little too long
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Description

In Acquire, each player strategically invests in businesses, trying to retain a majority of stock. As the businesses grow with tile placements, they also start merging, giving the majority stockholders of the acquired business sizable bonuses, which can then be used to reinvest into other chains. All of the investors in the acquired company can then cash in their stocks for current value or trade them 2-for-1 for shares of the newer, larger business. The game is a race to acquire the greatest wealth.

History of Acquire: This Sid Sackson classic has taken many different forms over the years depending on the publisher, yet the rules and game play have stayed the same. The 1966 version of the 3M bookshelf edition included rules for a 2-player variant. The original version is part of the 3M Bookshelf Series.

Many books and websites incorrectly list this as a 1962 publication as the 3M Company used previously copyrighted artwork when they released the game in 1964. 3M actually received the idea for the game of "Vacations" from Sid Sackson in May of 1963 and decided to take his idea and put it into artwork they had developed the year before for a game called "ACQUIRE." 3M's original game idea for a game called ACQUIRE must not have been very good so they decided to take Sid's idea of Vacations and put it into their concept of ACQUIRE. They released some limited test market games in 8 Midwestern U.S. cities in December of 1963 with a box that had a 1963 copyright. These games had Sid's original rules. When 3M released the mass market games in 1964, they had taken liberties with some of Sid's original ideas and changed some rules and game play to match their production desires. They released them with outer boxes that were copyrighted 1962 and inner boxes with rules that were dated 1963.

December 1963 - Test Market World Map Wood Tile Edition
1964 - Dated 1962/63 wood tiles, chipboard with plastic overlay & stocks with printed backs
1965 - Dated 1962/63 plastic tiles, chipboard with plastic overlay & stocks with printed backs (last edition made with printed backs until 1999)
1966 - Dated 1962/66 plastic tiles, chipboard with plastic overlay & non-wax coated stocks (Only edition with these stocks)
1968 - Dated 1968/66 plastic tiles, clear plastic board with paper underlay (Both 1966 inner box games have a lot of mixed parts)
1971 - Dated 1968/71 plastic tiles, yellow hard plastic board
1975 - 3M sells rights for game of ACQUIRE to the Avalon Hill Company
1976 - Dated 1976 plastic tiles, yellow hard plastic board, redesigned money, no inner box (This edition was also produced in 1977, 79, 81, 82, & 86)
1989 - Dated 1976 Gray box edition with new box artwork same contents as regular 1976 editions (This edition was also produced in 1992)
1995 - Dated 1995 Large box cardboard edition with chipboard board and tiles, Special Powers Variant Tiles inspired by German editions
1997 - Avalon Hill sells the rights to the game of ACQUIRE to Hasbro
1999 - Dated 1999 Large box with large plastic board and tiles, 3D company buildings, redesigned stocks & money, large info cards
2006 - Hasbro assigns rights for the game of ACQUIRE to their subsidiary, Wizards of the Coast
2006 - Lloyd's Rules of ACQUIRE are made public, two major rule changes that help to bring the balance of the game of ACQUIRE back to the intentions of Sid Sackson's original ideas
2008 - Dated 2008 cardboard edition with chipboard board & tiles, redesigned stocks & money
2016 - Dated 2016 The current affordable mass-market edition. It looks at first sight to be similar to previous modern editions, but has been criticised for the use of inferior design choices such as hard-to-read grey-on-grey embossed slots and the unusual tile fonts. It contains modified rules and a slightly smaller playing grid. Although these changes have been criticised for not ultimately improving upon Sackson's original design, they are generally regarded as not being too damaging to it.

As someone still relatively new to modern boardgames, I have an unfortunate tendency to focus on newer, shinier games and dismiss older games as clunky, dull or simply inferior. I think my less than fondly remembered childhood experiences with games like Frustration, Game of Life and Sorry has somewhat tainted my opinions. And I know this is unfair. There are some brilliant older boardgames out there, it’s just sometimes you might need to dig a little deeper to find them. And maybe when you do, you will have to look past the tatty box and Bakelite components to try to see the gameplay diamond in the rough. Sometimes, though, we get lucky and someone comes along with a reissue of a stone cold classic and we get to have our cake and eat it: Lovely, deep gameplay with fancy modern design aesthetics. And so Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your delight and delectation, Sid Sackson’s Acquire, re-issued this year by Renegade Games. I am not sure exactly how many reprints this has had since its original release in 1964 but this one is definitely… the most recent. And I am here to tell you that, despite being just shy of 50 years old, it can still set hearts racing. And doesn’t it look great? Well… kind of.

All About The Money, Money

Maybe I’m a little scarred from all the Monopoly I had to play as a kid but I was initially lukewarm at the prospect of another game solely concerned with acquiring money through buying and selling property. In Acquire, the properties in question are hotels, or rather shares in hotel chains and the aim is to amass money by swallowing up smaller companies and build your stock in the largest companies by the time the game ends. Now I may be in the minority here but becoming the next Donald Trump has never been a dream of mine, so originally the theme left me a little underwhelmed. But I’m very glad I overlooked these concerns, as it turns out there is a very good reason this game is still going strong after half a century. As it turns out, Acquire is one of the most engaging and competitive games I’ve played in a long time.

Welcome To The Hotel Can’t Afford Ya

In Acquire, 2-6 players compete as property speculators/ entrepreneurs looking to invest in seven Hotel companies, hoping to gain controlling shares where possible and reap the benefits of their ruthless investment.

Acquire is played on a simple grid of 12×9 squares simulating the blocks of an American city. Spaces are each individually referenced A-I for the rows and 1-12 for the columns. Alongside these are square pieces with the grid references corresponding to each space. Players start the game with a hand of five tiles, drawn randomly and kept secret from other players, and £6000 in cash. Rather than rushing out and blowing the lot on boardgames and Tangfastics, as I would naturally be inclined to do, players are encouraged instead to use this money to purchase shares in companies on the board- once they become established. Players take turns placing one of their tiles on the board. If a tile occupies a space on its own then nothing else happens. However, if it is placed adjacent to another single tile then this instantly creates a company and that player gets a free starting share in the new company. This can continue to happen until all seven companies are on the board- although that is no by no means guaranteed. The important factor here, however, is that these companies do not belong to the players, even when first established. Anyone can purchase shares in them at the market price and there is nothing to stop all players from having shares in the same companies, however shares are limited in number- once the last one is gone then that is it unless the company is merged (see next section). Over time, as tiles are added to the board, companies grow in size and their shares become more expensive but also more valuable.

Emergent Strategy

As the board fills up with tiles, eventually two separate companies will be joined by placing a tile that connects them and at this point a merger occurs. The smallest company is swallowed up and it’s tiles becomes part of the larger one, increasing its size and value in the process. While this might seem like bad news for the owners of the smaller company in fact this might be exactly what they wanted. Because while the larger company may have gained value, the shareholders don’t see any of this money; whereas players with shares in the smaller company will instantly get paid the value of their shares when their company is merged. And just to make it even sweeter, the players with the most and second most shares in the defunct company will get an extra cash bonus too. The market in Acquire can change quickly as multiple mergers occur, sometimes in quick succession. If two companies of the same size are ever merged then the player whose turn it is decides which company remains. This can lead to some lovely spicy moments in the game with one player deciding who gets a big pay day. If a company ever gets above 11 tiles in size then they are considered safe and can no longer be consumed in mergers- although it can still grow by taking over smaller ones. While this may seem like great news for its shareholders in the long term, it can be a disaster for players too heavily invested as anyone who has been stockpiling their shares hoping for a juicy pay out will be unable to cash in until the end of the game.

And herein lies the tension that powers Acquire and keeps the pressure on throughout the game: For a game that is called “Acquire”, there are limited opportunities to actually acquire money. You need shares in big companies, as these are stable and will be worth the most money at the end of the game if you want any chance of winning. But shares in safe companies are worthless during the game as you can’t sell or otherwise convert them into hard cash. So if all your shares are in the safe companies, your income will be zero- have fun watching your net worth grow while you starve! In order to keep liquid, you will need to invest in some of the smaller companies and then have them merged (or hope that someone else helpfully does this for you) to keep your Trumpian dream alive. The key to success in Acquire will be to know when to target shares for income and when to speculate for long term profit… all while making sure your opponents don’t get too comfortable.

Easy Money

Acquire is a very simple game to learn and start playing. Unfortunately for new players, they will probably be well on their way to a first-game thumping before realising that the simple ruleset hides a much deeper game. But in honesty, that’s part of the fun. Acquire is basically a game about making money in one of the most ruthless ways possible in businesses- hostile takeovers. By its nature it is ruthlessly competitive and encourages players to be sneaky and to take advantage of when opponents are at their weakest, which is generally when they are running low on cash! There are two official ways to play the game. One, recommended for beginners, involves all players having open knowledge, where everyone’s shares and money are on the table for all to see. In the more advanced game, however, this information is kept secret so you can never be entirely sure how well other players are doing or who is the major shareholder in a specific company until it’s taken over or the end of the game. Both are pretty tense but the second is fiendish and adds a whole extra element of bluffing to the table. As the game progresses, players can represent better financial positions than they actually have in order to bully potential rivals out of bidding for shares in specific companies. And when this backfires, it’s hilarious. It seems odd that a game ostensibly about something as dry as property speculation can lend itself so readily to role play and trash talk between players, and I for one am definitely here for it.

Show Me The Money

So aside from the gameplay, how does the new edition look given it’s newest, shiniest update? Well the answer to that is honestly, OK. I had hoped that Renegade would have pushed the boat out a little with the production and try to make theirs the definite copy, given how many previous editions there have been and must be lying around somewhere. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. The plastic components in the box comprise the board and block pieces-which are basic but fine- and the Hotel pieces, which go on top of blocks to indicate the seven different companies. These are pretty thin and flimsy and just look a little cheap.

Furthermore, each of the hotels has tiny plastic flags which come on a separate sprue and are meant to be added to the hotel pieces. These are translucent orange, very fiddly and add nothing to either game play or aesthetics once added to the hotels. They look, quite frankly as though they were meant for a different game. This is only one of a number of design choices which left me scratching my head. The two elements I find most disappointing relates more to what isn’t in the box. Firstly, this game is crying out for a draw string bag. The set up is unnecessarily fiddly, when you have to start by turning all the tiles (over a hundred of them remember) face down on the table and then mix them up sufficiently just so you can pick the tiles randomly. This takes up a fair amount of table space and generally means someone will be sitting further away from the supply. I purchased a draw string bag and instantly the game is improved- more convenient, takes less space and is quicker to set up and put away. It is bizarre that a bag isn’t included, frankly. Another component that the game would really benefit from is a screen for each player. Even if you play the beginner rules, a screen makes keeping your tiles secret so much easier. When playing with the advanced rules, some form of screen to keep your money and shares hidden is practically essential.

Now, you can play without screens; the money and shares are single-sided so can be kept on the table upside down to effectively hide them from other players, but to be honest this just looks rubbish. Overall it feels shoddy and in a game with very few premium pieces to ramp up production costs, it’s not acceptable to leave out components which make the game work as it’s meant to be played.

There are plenty of games in my collection where high production values somehow elevate it’s rating in my mind- maybe I’m more shallow than I care to admit. But it isn’t often this works the other way, where poor design choices effect a game’s rating as usually, the gameplay will always come through. But in the case of Acquire, I think this is one of the exceptions where the component choices took some of the shine off my overall enjoyment, and that is a shame.

Greed Is Good!

So Acquire is not a perfect game and there are definitely elements of the gameplay that show it’s age. It can be unforgiving for new players, often produces a runaway winner and can be both slow to start and to end, depending on how the tiles come out. All of these would normally be points against my recommending it. Add to this the disappointing component choices and it would be understandable to think that Acquire will struggle to stay in my collection. But honestly? Acquire is a gem. I have enjoyed every game I’ve played and would happily introduce it to any game group as it is simple enough for beginners to grasp and deep enough for boardgame veterans to sink their teeth into. And for all the negatives I’ve outlined one fact remains: this game is more fun than it has any right to be! Mean, sneaky and as swingy as a Rat Pack reunion tour but crucially it’s never boring and that is something I will always recommend. So my advice is that unless you really don’t like the theme, or games with lots of player interaction, give Acquire a go. Who knows, this could be your first step on the road to the Whitehouse.

Editors note: This post was originally published on 3rd November 2023. Updated on 6th March 2024 to improve the information available.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A True Classic of modern Boardgaming
  • Clever introduction to stock manipulation games, with different modes and rules for different player counts and experience
  • Encourages lots of table talk and back and forth especially at higher player counts, two player works surprisingly well
  • Can be genuinely tense, especially towards the end of the game
  • Simple to learn rules but surprisingly deep gameplay

Might not like

  • Can be very luck dependent
  • At two or three players it can take a little bit of time to really get going, depending on which tiles are drawn
  • Adding a drawstring bag and some player screens would have improved the game experience
  • Can suffer with a runaway leader problem in some games- the rich will definitely get richer
  • It can run a little too long