Acquire 2016 – A 3D Plastic Reprint of the Classic Stock Market Game
I still remember the day my husband came into the house breathless with excitement. He’d found a pristine copy of the highly-rated and valued 1999 Avalon Hill version of Acquire at our local thrift store. He says he got tunnel vision, his heart was beating so hard with excitement when he found it, that all he could do was carry it up to the cash register and pay for it immediately. I can’t help but wonder what other gems he may have missed on that momentous visit due to his tunnel vision.
Unfortunately for my husband, I was not nearly as enamored by this acquisition. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy he’d found a treasure for which he’d long hunted. I just wasn’t excited about playing it. While I thought the 3D buildings were pretty and certainly made the game more appealing, I had somehow come to the opinion that Acquire was too cutthroat, competitive, mathy and long for my tastes. So, I refused to try it and it languished on our game shelf for many years. I was wrong on all counts.
Designed by Sid Sackson who was designing Euro-style strategy games before such a thing existed, Acquire was first published in 1964 as part of the 3M Bookshelf Series. It’s been through many iterations since then, with its appearance – and sometimes its rules – changing depending on the publisher. The goal of Acquire, however, has always remained the same: acquire the most wealth.
To accumulate your wealth in Acquire, you’ll invest in Hotel Chains – Company Chains in many of the newer versions – the names and colors of which change depending on the publisher. While there are three tiers of stocks, each with its own starting stock price, the actions you and your fellow players take will primarily determine the value of each Chain’s stock. For example, as you and your opponents add more blocks to a Chain, that chain’s stock value increases as well.
Mix the tiles facedown and set them aside in a cluster or in stacks near the board. Give each player $6,000 and six tiles (players should keep their tiles concealed). Some versions of Acquire come with tile racks, in other versions the tiles are chunky enough that you can just set them up on edge like dominoes (true of Acquire 2016).
Players need to decide now, as a group, whether to play Open, money and stock holdings are public knowledge, or Closed, money and stock holdings are hidden. I think playing Closed makes the game more challenging memory-wise and Open play makes it more challenging strategy-wise.
To determine start player, each player draws a facedown tile and places it on its matching space on the game board. The player whose tile is closest to 1A goes first.
On your turn, do the following in order:
- Place one of your tiles on its matching space on the board. If this creates a Chain or causes a Merger, complete all transactions for the newly created Chain or Merger (explained below) before proceeding with your turn.
- Buy stock. You can buy up to three stocks total for any active Chains. The stocks can be for the same Chain or different Chains or any combination thereof, but the maximum stock certificates you can buy is 3. Consult the Information Card to determine each stock’s price.
- Draw another tile to your hand.
Creating a Chain
Whenever you add a tile to the board adjacent, orthogonally, to another tile (that doesn’t have any other tiles already adjacent to it), you start a Chain. As that Chain’s founder, you get to name it: choose one of the available inactive color Company markers and place it on the tile you just placed. As a bonus, you also get one stock certificate for that Chain. Only seven Chains can ever be on the board at one time.
Resolving a Merger
Should you place a tile on the board such that two Chains become joined, a Merger occurs. The larger Chain, the one with the most tiles automatically takes over, swallowing up the smaller Chain. Should both Chains in the Merger have the same number of tiles, the player who created the Merger gets to choose which Chain his tile applies to, thus determining the Chain that will continue to exist. The smaller Chain becomes Defunct. There are a few tasks you now need to perform to complete the Merger:
- Award Majority Holders’ Bonuses to the two largest Stockholders in the Defunct Chain (the one being swallowed up). In case of tie for first place, add the first- and second-place bonuses and split them down the middle. In case of a tie for second-place, the tied players split the second-place bonus.
- Dispose of Stock in the Defunct Chain. Beginning with the Mergemaker and continuing clockwise, players each handle their stock in the Defunct Chain in one or more of the following three ways:
- Hold on to it. You might do this if you plan to start another Chain with that name.
- Sell it at the price determined by the number of tiles that were in the Defunct Chain before the Merger.
- Trade it two for one. That is, you can acquire one share of the newly Merged Chain (if any shares are available), for every two shares of your Defunct Chain stock.
Latest Acquire Editions
Avalon Hill/Hasbro released a new version of Acquire near the end of 2016 with plastic components. The previous edition, that they published in 2008, featured all cardboard components. Cardboard chits replaced the usual plastic tiles seen in most editions. One of the most sought-after versions of Acquire is Avalon Hill’s 1999 edition – the one my husband was so lucky to find. It features beautiful 3D Chain markers and a nice tray to hold the stocks, money and Chain markers during play. The 2008 cardboard version was a sad successor.
Which brings us to Acquire 2016. While it’s certainly not as big or fancy as the prized 1999 edition, it at least returns to plastic tiles and features 3D Chain markers, and a tray for the stock and Chain markers. However, the publishers made a few more changes that you may or may not like:
- 10 x 10 square board – instead of 12 x 9 square board – with 8 less tiles.
- Two rule changes:
- Chains are Safe at 10 tiles instead of the 11 in previous editions.
- Stock prices increase at different stages.
- Money is printed on only one side, presumably so you can keep it hidden when playing Closed.
- All Stock Certificates have the same city-scape scene on the back for the same reason.
If you’re expecting the 2016 edition of Acquire to be as fancy as the 1999 Avalon Hill edition you’ll probably be disappointed. Everything in the 2016 edition is smaller: the tiles, number of tiles, and the board. Presumably, the publishers modified the rules to compensate for fewer tiles. Whether the publishers bothered to test these changes and their effect on game play is unknown.
I haven’t noticed that the changes make a huge difference to play, but I’m not an Acquire aficionado, so your mileage may vary.
Components-wise, I think Acquire 2016 is an improvement over the cardboard 2008 version, but not as nice as the 1999 Avalon Hill edition. It’s too bad they changed the Chain names again. The stock certificates and money from the 2008 version are prettier. Acquire 2016’s Information Cards are printed on sturdy cardboard with the Stock Pricing and Merger Bonus data on one side and Turn Summary and Merger Steps on the other – nice touch. Plus, there’s one for each player.
I’ve read many complaints on Board Game Geek about Acquire 2016’s game board. I’ve heard it called flimsy and hard to read. I don’t agree with flimsy at all: it’s quite solid. It would’ve been nice if the manufacturers painted the lettering. The grey-on-grey is hard to read. However, the lettering is raised, making it easy to make it more legible. I colored the letters with a silver Sharpie. Voilà! Problem solved.
The Chain markers, probably what most Acquire fans are looking forward to in the 2016 edition, are nice. They’re colorful, decent sculpts. The publishers provided tiny translucent orange flags and embellishments for all but one of the buildings. I recommend that you remove them from the spur and apply them one at a time. Otherwise, figuring out which goes with which building is a nightmare. The embellishments have engraved details. A wash might bring them out. I’m gonna try it anyway.
The first time I finally played Acquire, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I even asked to play it again. While Acquire is competitive, it’s not the cutthroat, confrontational or take-that kind of competition. You do have to do a little math: adding up your stock purchases and divvying Merger bonuses, etc. No big deal. Playtime is 60 to 90 minutes, which is just right for a medium to light strategy game in my book. I don’t know where I got the idea it was a 3+ hour game. Must’ve gotten it confused with Diplomacy.
Acquire reminds me a lot of Airlines Europe, which I love. Obviously, Acquire came first. Both games have a bit of luck: Acquire in the tiles you draw and Airlines Europe in the cards that turn up, but it’s the player actions that ultimately determine stock value.
Some versions of Acquire, including 2016, have variant rules to support 2 players. I haven’t tried a 2-player game yet, so I can’t comment on the game play. While I’m happy my husband found the 1999 Avalon Hill edition, I still bought Acquire 2016 edition to take places. Tim’s not letting his treasure out of the house.
Acquire 2016 supports 2 to 6 players ages 12 and up and plays in 60 to 90 minutes.
Copyright © 2017 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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