It had to happen… and if you’d have asked me, I probably could have predicted that it would have gone down like this. If you’ll remember, I was the undefeated Acquire Champion of boardgame night. But this weekend, I introduced Acquire to Gwen and my brother Tony, and no longer am I undefeated. In fact, I came in third out of three players, finishing about $15k below Tony and a few thousand below Gwen.
The game started out pretty well, but when the first few mergers happened, Tony was consistently getting the better end of the deal. Despite having never played before (which is probably the main reason that I had never been introduced to the game earlier in life either), he picked up on strategy very quickly and was making great investments all along. I put all my eggs in a couple of baskets that didn’t pay out as well as I’d hoped. One of these baskets was the American company, which did a good job of getting some cash, but I was also hoping to be able to exchange my massive amounts of stock for the larger company that took it over. However, there was a mad run on the stocks of Worldwide and Imperial (the two big dogs on the board), and by the time that American was acquired, there were no more stocks to trade for.
I don’t think that I’ve played with only 3 players before, and there was a subtle shift in the effectiveness of diversification that I didn’t anticipate. In 4- or 5-player games, over-diversification often wastes money because others end up getting the majority bonuses. But in a 3-player game, it’s really easy to make a minor investment and ride the coattails of another player. For example, I bought up 5 shares in Sackson early in our game, and worked hard to grow it through the mid-game. When it was finally consumed by the growing Imperial collective, I expected to pick up both the majority and minority bonuses. Tony, however, had picked up exactly one freaking share on the down-low at some random point early on, and got a huge payout for it. And if Acquire has any flaw, it would be the “rich get richer”/runaway leader issue, which Tony used really well to dig his tendrils into almost everything.
In the final evaluation, Gwen even managed to jump ahead of me on the strength of her early investments in Imperial and Worldwide, taking the majority and second majority in each, respectively. And Tony, of course, again had a big investment in everything and multiplied his investments even more as he continued to pull away from us even more. They both enjoyed Acquire (more than they thought they would, anyway), and I look forward to playing this great classic more with my family again in the future. The only downside is that Gwen and I can’t play it one-on-one.
Personally, I think that my real problem is that I just do too great a job of teaching games, giving away strategy advice and play tips that would otherwise allow me to crush my opponents and grind them into the dust. This theory is based on the fact that they did the exact same thing to me a month or so ago with Small World. But of course, the theory wouldn’t explain why I then lost two games of Ticket toRide (which we’ve played a ton, of course) to Gwen after Tony headed out.
In the first game, I really thought that I had her. I actually played more of Gwen’s normal strategy, picking up the globetrotter bonus for the most completed tickets. Unfortunately, on one of the last times I drew more tickets, I got four that I had no way to complete, so I kept the one that lost me only 7 points. As we totalled up points… well, look to the right to see how much Gwen ended up winning by. That’s why I don’t like the last-minute ticket grabbing that I avoided last week.
Despite winning, Gwen felt “totally unsatisfied” at how she had played in the game, so she wanted to play again. Never being one to turn down a game (even if it was after midnight), we re-set and got started again. This time, we got in each other’s way a lot more, and even though I completed a lot of long routes and took the longest route bonus, Gwen got her ticket-drawing machine running and won by 40 points or so. That made her feel more satisfied, so we decided to call it a night.
The cool thing is that Tony is going to be in town again next weekend, so maybe we’ll be able to revisit Acquire or play something completely new (to them, anyway, which I promise to do a poor and incomplete job of explaining)!