I want to tell you today about one of the greatest games EVER made. It's one that, no matter where I am or when it is, I will happily play. It's also been around for decades and is a testament to how incredible design simply lasts. One of legendary designer Sid Sackson's vast array of games,it requires a bit of financial savvy, some level of ability to read your opponents and a little luck. It's called Acquire – and it's amazing.
First released back in 1962 and still in print today, I'll be the first to admit that Acquire isn't for everyone. It will melt your brain and is as dry as a desert, yet I still firmly believe that it's easily one of the best games out there. Your target is to be the player with the most cash at the end of play, which is acquired (see?) by investing in companies that will slowly grow over the course of the game. You start with barely any money but – as if the game were a physical version of the American Dream – you'll end up with a fat wallet.But will it be enough to claim victory?
While the basic structure of the game is very straightforward, the options that are available to you get wider and wider as play goes on. A set of six tiles are given to each player that will be placed on a 12 x 9 board,and if two are next to each other that don't happen to be connected to any others, a company is formed! If you're responsible for starting a company you get to grab a free share, and with some concerns being worth more than others, you can often get a headstart on something pretty valuable.
So, you start your turn by adding a tile to the board, either starting a new company,expanding one already in existence or... well, adding a tile to the board. You then get the opportunity to purchase up to three shares (total!) in any of the companies that are currently available.However, with a limited amount of shares you'll need to race to seize a controlling stake – the only problem? The larger the company, the more expensive the shares become.
This is a good thing though. It'll make you money. Potentially LOTS of money! You see, the space on the board quickly becomes rather constrained, meaning that some companies (much like in the real world) will start eating each other up. If a tile is placed that links two different companies, play stops for some hot merging action.
Now all that planning you've done will pay off. The company that is made of the most tiles takes over the smaller one, paying out to the two players with the highest amount of shares – it's like they were the president and vice president. All players who own shares in the consumed company then get to choose whether they want to sell them, trade them in at a rate of two-for-one in the newly massive conglomerate or – the sneakiest option – keep the shares in the hope that the company will be relaunched later on in the game.
As the game progresses and space becomes a premium, it often ends up with one company becoming dominant and guzzling all that lays before it. Once a company hits forty-one tiles or there's no legal place for a tile to go, the game draws to a close and it's time to reveal the winner.More bonuses are handed out for each active company and every share is sold, meaning that everyone (hopefully) ends up with stacks of money. If you've got the most, you're the champion and obviously the best at financial stuff.
Like I said, it's not a game for everybody, but I strongly advise that if the opportunity arises that you at least give it a go once to see how beautifully constructed it is. However, if you give it the time that it deserves and revisit Acquire again and again you'll develop such a wide range of strategies, it's ridiculous. The only randomness in the game is down to the drawing of the tiles, and even that is mitigated by the fact that each player has a selection to choose from at the start of each turn.
Acquire manages to emulate the cutthroat world of business in under two hours, even with the maximum of six players sitting around the table. With that many,things can get a bit chaotic – really, it's best with four I reckon – but seriously, any chance to play Acquire should be seized with vigour. The current version of the game isn't the prettiest thing(that's reserved for the Avalon Hill and Hasbro set from 1999, a festival of plastic awesomeness) but that shouldn't put you off. Get a copy, play it to death and spread the word about how incredible it is.