So, back in October, I resolved to finally play Acquire, which should have been on my Shameful List of Unplayed Games except for the fact that, for some reason completely unknown to me, I was barely aware of its existence and significance when I wrote the list two years ago. As many of you probably know already, Acquire is a true classic among modern boardgames, designed by the great Sid Sackson some 12 years before I was born (which would be in 1962, just in case you aren’t intimately aware of my age, which is 34 by the way), is currently ranked in the top 100 games on BoardGameGeek (current ranking is #58), and was decades ahead of its time.
Last night, the stars aligned, and I finally got my chance to play Acquire. I picked up the all-cardboard-all-the-time Hasbro version last year sometime, and had brought it a time or two to game night. When I arrived to Hypermind yesterday, however, the moment was right, and we broke it out to give it a try. I’m not going to go into how the game actually turned out right now (I’ll get to that in my regular session report for the evening, whenever I get around to it), but I just wanted to gush a little bit about how cool it was!
You can definitely see some of the old-school flavor of Acquire, especially in how it has a somewhat clunky table that you have to reference all the time to calculate the values and bonuses for each hotel chain. And in the first few turns, I was afraid that the random tile draw was going to ruin any sense of control over the direction of the game, but in the end I didn’t think that it was detrimental at all. Frankly, I was pretty blown away by the experience.
Midgame, just before it all hit the fan.
First of all, there is a real hand-management mechanic in the game, which allows you to plan ahead, either in how you’re going to play tiles to the board or in how you’re going to purposely hold them back to prevent the expansion of chains that you’re not involved in. And then there’s the elegant flow of play, which requires that you always play a tile before buying stock. So, especially if you have a few tiles that can expand a chain, you’re always having to make tough decisions about whether to expand it now and pay more for additional stock in it, or to hold off on expansion in order to get it for a better price.
But the coolest thing is how wonderfully the stocks are handled. Sure, you get one stock in a company that you found, but for the bulk of the game, everyone has the same free choice in which stocks to buy each turn. And then there’s the many options that you have in what to do with stock when a company is taken over – whether to sell it all for profit, trade it 2:1 for stock in the acquiring company, or to hold it in hopes of restarting the company later. All are equally viable depending completely on your situation and your long-term, strategic plans. Like I said, it’s a little fiddly to make all the payouts during merges and especially at the end of the game, but overall it’s very thematic and only a minor irritation in an otherwise elegant game.
Our game took just over an hour, but felt like it was only 15 or 30 minutes because of the speed of play and how engaged you are in watching other people’s plays and thinking ahead about your own. Overall, Acquire way exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to give it another try soon!