Time: ~70+ minutes
Times Played: 20+
Acquire, at least the 2008 version that I own, is not a pretty game. Cheap box, monotone colors, grey tiles, paper money and the worst cardboard stands I have ever had the misfortune to touch. To be fair, the game is originally from 1964 so the design choices reflect that. However, just because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks doesn’t mean we need to Old Yeller this dog.
Acquire plays just as well as any game with better components. But if I had the option, I would snatch up one of the 50 year anniversary editions in a heartbeat. Those bad boys are gorgeous.
But I don’t own that version and thus, I cannot in good faith review it. Instead, we will be looking at this:
It’s not terrible and certainly gets the job done but it is incredibly uninspiring. The money is made of paper, but it has proven to be somewhat sturdy. The stocks are high quality and colorful. The cardboard stands are cheap and easily forgettable like my prom date and the tiles are just thin cardboard crisps. They were great the first few playthroughs but they’re so flimsy that I ended up nabbing a Scrabble from a thrift shop and re-purposing the wood stands for this game.
The stands are probably my second least favorite component that I’ve found in a box but board gaming is about more than the components. Again, this is a game that was released one year after JFK was assassinated, so they get some leeway. And it doesn’t really matter anyways as a solid game with bad pieces will prosper over a pretty game with bad game play. Acquire absolutely falls into the latter.
The board is divided into a grid with each square adorned with a letter and a number. For every square on the board, there is a tile that corresponds with the same letter and number. Each player has their flimsy cardboard stand flush with six tiles and on each turn, they will have three actions they can perform in order.
One, they place one of those tiles on the board. Placing a tile can mean one of the following can happen:
A) Nothing; if a tile is not connected to an existing tile, nothing more occurs regarding that placement.
B) A new hotel chain is founded; this happens when the tile you placed is connected to one (or more) free tiles already on the board. You place the available hotel chain token marker of your choosing over the connected tiles to indicate to everyone playing that this hotel is now active. You receive one free stock in hotel you have established.
C) The tile is connected to an already established hotel chain, thus expanding and growing the chain further.
D) Two existing hotels connect, thus signifying a merger. I’ll touch more on this in a minute.
Two, the player may buy up to three stocks from the existing hotels on the board. The price for each stock is dependent on how large the hotel is and which hotel the stock is being purchased from.
Three, the player picks a tile from the box to replenish their wet, noddle-like cardboard stand and ends their turn.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? The meat and bones (is that an expression?) of Acquire lies in the acquisition, or merger, of hotels. When a tile is played that connects two hotel chains, the larger of the two hotels acquires the smaller chain. The smaller hotel token is removed from the board and placed back on the side, ready to be resurrected in a later turn. The tiles that formally belonged to the smaller chain now belong to the larger hotel.
I want to be perfectly clear for a moment: Acquire is not a stock market simulation. Players are not buying low, expanding their hotel and then selling high every round as you will use all of your available funds and watch the game pass you by. Sitting through a game where you can do nothing for several turns is basically Wade Barrett, as it’s Bad News. This game is about making mergers happen and prospering off of those mergers.
This is where the money is made. Based off of the amount of stock each player owns, players determine who is the primary (most stocks) and secondary (second most stocks) holders in the acquired hotel chain (aka the smaller one). These players receive a payout depending on the size and type of the hotel that was acquired. Once these payouts have occurred, starting with the primary stock holder, players must decide what to do with the stock they now own in a non-existent hotel chain. Players can:
Sell the stock for money (dependent on the type and size of the chain; sensing a theme here?);
Trade their stock at a 2:1 rate for the larger hotels stocks; or
Keep the stocks in the hope that the hotel chain opens again shortly.
They can do any combination of those actions and once they have made up their mind, the player with the next most stock in that liquidated hotel makes their decision and so on and so forth.
Is a hotel ever safe from being merged?
Once a hotel is 11 tiles or more, they cannot be merged with another hotel. They can takeover hotels that are smaller than 11 tiles, but they themselves are safe. Two hotels that are 11 tiles or more cannot connect at any point. If you have a tile that would connect two such behemoths, it becomes a dead tile and cannot be played.
Acquire ends when every hotel is safe (i.e. no more tiles can be played) or when one hotel chain reaches 41 tiles big. Once that condition is met, all chains are evaluated as if they were being merged and the player with the most money is declared the winner.
Money is the victory points and money is the vehicle for doing anything in this game. You quite literally have to spend money to make money. Just don’t spend too much. Also, try not to be the third or later investor in a hotel chain. You will more than likely be on the outside looking in.
We have played Acquire with open and closed information and personally, I prefer closed. Not knowing how many stocks or how much money an opponent has really makes every decision you make that much more important.
Regarding the player count, three player Acquire is fine among friends but typically a player will be left behind and have no realistic chance at catching up.
Four players is the sweet spot personally. The game is much more smooth and balanced at that level.
Five players starts to get a little crowded but is manageable and six players is just an absolute dumpster fire (as I struggle to use PG terms).
Acquire is an all-time great game. It offers so much variety for what is packed into the box. One game you might have all hotels active within the first five turns. Another game might only have one hotel after five turns. The only randomization is the tiles you draw and even that is mitigated somewhat by having your choice of six tiles to play.
So is Acquire fun? I’ve basically just described some money management, tile drawing, hotel simulating math game. I was immediately impressed and downright smitten with Acquire. For a while, Acquire was my clear cut favorite game that we owned or had played. The game is affordable and easy to learn, with just enough depth and strategy to keep it coming to the table.
I bought Acquire in either 2012 or 2013. Does it still hold the reverence that I once bestowed upon it? If you have read my blog, you know that Acquire is no longer my number one game and that Chinatown is sitting comfortably on that throne. My answer is that yes, Acquire is still a great game but it does not hold the same joy it once did.
It’s basically like going to a reunion and seeing someone you were close with. You spend the entire day catching up, laughing, remembering the good old times but when the day ends, you remember why this is just an occurrence between you two rather than an ongoing relationship.
That’s how Acquire feels. I will enjoy the hell out of this game when we play it but I am no longer clamoring to play it three times in a night. This game hasn’t been replaced by other games, notably Airlines Europe in my collection, but it feels close. Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor that keeps my heart so warm for this game. But don’t get me wrong. This is a great game and I highly recommend it. This game still sits at number two on my top ten Board Game Geek rating.