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Richard Pardoe
United States
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Acquire is Sid Sackson's classic game of investments and economics. In fact, the game was first marketed in 1962 making it older than any of the players at the table. As Sterling's copy was one of the classic 3M versions and was selected over Rich's more modern Avalon Hill version. The first discussion before playing any game of Acquire is the matter of open/closed holdings. We decided that the share types would be open, but the share count would not. In other words, each player has a stack of shares in front of them, so the others can see that you hold shares, but you couldn't reasonably tell how many shares. Furthermore as seems to be the practice during sessions at my house, we used poker chips instead of the paper cash.

For those unfamiliar with the game, the game board consists of 108 squares in a 9 x 12 grid. Each row is lettered from A through I and each column is numbered from 1 through 12. Therefore, each cell has a unique identifier from A-1 through I-12. Each player has 5 tiles that cover one of the squares on the board and each turn one of the tiles is placed on the board. When two tiles are placed adjacent to each other, the chain is a "hotel" that is being developed. After building a tile to the board, the player has the option to buy up to 3 shares in any of the hotels on the board. If a tile is placed that joins two hotels, the hotel with the smaller number of tiles is said to be acquired by the hotel with the larger number of tiles. When this happens, the players holding the largest and second largest number of shares in the acquired company gain a shareholder bonus (money) and all the shareholders in the acquired company can sell their stock, trade their stock 2 for 1 in the acquiring company, or keep their stock in case the hotel reappears on the board. When a chain of hotel tiles reaches 11 tiles, it is said to be safe and can not be acquired by a larger hotel. The game ends with the board has only safe hotels on it or a single hotel reaches 41 tiles in size. There is a final payout round for the hotels still on the board and the winner is the player with the most money.

The game started fairly simply with Sterling being the first to develop American on the board. Helen quickly followed with Worldwide. A few turns later, Dave founded Continental; while Helen developed Festival close to Worldwide. Sterling developed the Imperial hotel also close to Worldwide while Dave introduced Tower close to both Worldwide and Imperial. As the development continued, it was Sterling who first merged two small chains (Worldwide and Imperial) yielding the majority payout for himself and the secondary payout for Rich.

Helen then introduced Luxor to the board and Rich brought about the resurrection of the Imperial chain. By this time, all 7 hotel chains were on the board. But this wouldn't last for long as Sterling placed a key tile that merged Festival and Luxor into American which had the added benefit of making American safe from take-over. The Luxor merger paid dividends to Sterling and Helen while the Festival merger paid dividends to Rich and Dave. A good chain is hard to keep down, as the next two turns say the resurrection again of Luxor by Helen and Festival by Rich. But Dave then merged those two chains as Festival acquired Luxor. At this point, Festival was a chain of 10 tiles sitting 1 space away from the large American chain. Helen had the tiles that could have merged Festival into American (and probably rewarded her handsomely for the move), but Helen thought she had time to do some other developments first. Rich played the 11th tile to Festival making it also safe from takeover.

The game was now rapidly winding down with 2 major hotel chains on the board. Dave merged Tower into Festival given Sterling and Dave large payouts. Sterling merged Continental into American which allowed Dave to liquidate shares in Continental for a rather large payout. Worldwide was the next chain to be taken over by the Festival conglomerate thanks to Helen. With the acquisition of the last minor (Imperial) by the other major (American), the game came to an end. The final payouts saw Dave and Helen tied as the majority shareholder in Festival while Sterling and Rich were tied as majority shareholder in American shares. After rather large payouts (involving the purple $5000 chips), the final tallies:

Dave: $42,600
Sterling: $40,400
Helen: $36,600
Rich: $32,500

Dave was the winner having benefited nicely from the Tower/Festival merger and the Continental/American merger.

(Playing time, including a quick rules synopsis: 90 minutes)

My thoughts: Believe it or not, this was my first playing of this classic game. The mechanism is quite simple, yet achieves its purpose very well. I can see why it has withstood the test of time and continues to hit the table some 42 years after its introduction. My newness in the game is reflected in the scores and looking back, I can see that I probably diversified too much in the chains and should have paid more attention to share majorities. There were several acquisitions where I was the third largest stock-holder so missed out on the merger dividend. In addition, I could not realize much revenue from my shares (especially when compared to others who always had more shares than I did.) I was truly amazed how much money I ended up with as while Dave was cashing in his shares, I was sitting on about $400. Big payouts at the end of the game. Now I see that a few smaller payouts mid-game would have made me a bit more competitive, I am eager to try this game again anytime it is suggested.
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