ACQUIRE - Reviewed by Mike
Classic business game from Sid Sackson based upon the building of chains of hotels which gradually merge to form larger chains until eventually they are all safe from merger or one of them contains 41 hotels. At this point all players receive a final payout based on their Stock Certificate holdings and convert all other holdings into cash to determine a winner. The game can accomodate 2-6 players and takes around 2 hours to play.
Components consists of : -
a plastic grid 12 x 9 containing the letters 1-A to 12-I.
108 black plastic tiles which are numbered to cover the same range.
7 coloured tiles, one each to represent the 7 Hotel Chains in the game, each with a distinctive name.
7 sets of 25 Stock Certificates in the same colours to represent holdings in the chains.
6 Information cards(one for each player), on which are depicted the costs of buying/selling hotels and the bonus received for being majority shareholders when the chain merges.
Each player receives $6,000, an Information card, and chooses 1 black tile at random from the 108 tiles placed FACE DOWN in the box lid and places it on the grid in the matching space for it. The player who has the lowest tile(nearest to 1-A) is the start player and he draws 6 more tiles from the box and places them facing him so that others cannot see them. All other players in clockwise order from the start player select their 6 black tiles.
This consists of 3 parts :
1. Place a hotel on the board. If a chain is created then immediately see action 'Creating Chains' below.
2. Buy Stock. A maximum of 3 blocks per turn, in either 1,2 or 3 chains that are already established.
3. Draw a replacement black tile.
Creating Chains By placing a tile that is adjacent horizontally or vertically( not diagonally) to an existing placed tile a Chain may be founded. The player selects one of the coloured tiles to depict which chain he is starting. This choice has to be made with care, using the data shown on the Information card. The 7 chains are split into 3 categories of 2, 3 and 2 and the price to build depends on which category you choose and how many hotels are already in the chain, the price rising as the chain gets longer. Once the choice is made the player places the coloured tile onto one of the hotels in the chain and for doing so he receives a "Founders Bonus" of 1 free share in that chain.
The initial starting money does not permit you to go crazy and buy lots of Stock Certificates and it should be borne in mind that you can only sell stock when a chain is taken over, so when making the choice of chain to found thought should be given to how you might build up that chain in the long term with a view to either taking another chain over or by being taken over. (see "Merging Chains" below).
Buying Stock This again needs a little thought before rushing blindly into a deal. As an example let's compare two similar investments using the same money : -
Strategy One could be to invest heavily in the chain you have just founded, say Tower. You have got 1 free share as founder and as the chain is now 2 in length each Stock Certificate in this category (cheap) cost $200. You decide to buy 3 Tower for $600.
On your next turn you extend Tower by placing down the appropriate black tile and decide to buy 3 more Tower Stocks. As the chain is now 3 in length they cost $300 each, so you invest $900.
On your next turn you extend Tower even further by placing down another tile and buy a further 3 stocks but now this cost you 3 x $400, a total of $1,200.
So you've invested $2,700 but you have 10 Stocks in a chain of 4 hotels, worth $400 each giving a net worth of $4,000, a 'profit' of $1,300. The big incentive for you is that , if this chain was taken over you would receive the majority shareholders bonus of $4000, giving you a total net return of $8.000 and, if nobody else had bought a Stock Certificate in Tower you would receive the second majority shareholder's bonus of $2000 as well!. But the chances are that someone will have spotted that and bought just the 1 share at when it was at, say $300, realising that it might be the subject of a merger, and then make a quick profit of $1,700.
Strategy Two could be to found Tower as before but, rather than enlarge that chain, instead buy big into one of the luxurious hotel chains, say Continental, founded by another player, but for which you have tiles that will extend the chain. With a length of 2 hotels this chain cost $400 each to buy so you buy 3 Stock certficates which costs you $1,200.
On your next turn you place your tile to extend the chain, making it 3 in length, and buy 3 more Stock Certificates, this time at a price of $500 each, costing $1,500.>
On your next turn you place a further tile to extend the Continental chain but don't buy any more stock in this turn.
So you've invested $2,700(same as Strategy One) but you have 6 Stock Certificates in a chain of 4 hotels, worth $600 each giving a net worth of $3,600, a 'profit' of $900. However should the Continental be taken over you, as majority shareholder, will receive $6,000 Bonus, giving you a total net return of $9,600, which is better than Strategy One, but only if the merger takes place and you're the majority Stockholder.
Merging Chains This occurs as soon as a tile is placed adjacent to another chain. The larger chain takes over the smaller; if they are the same size the player who lays the tile causing the merger decides which chain survives. The coloured tile of the chain that is taken over is removed and returned for use in founding this chain again later on in the game. Then the Stock Certificates held by each player are examined and the majority shareholder receives the first place Bonus and the second highest holding receives the second place Bonus amount. (There are rules for ties which are not described here for brevity). Then, starting with the player making the merger, players get the chance to decide what to do with their stock in the defunct chain, as follows :
1. They can hold on to the Stock Certificates in the hope of founding the defunct chain again later in the game.
2. They may sell Stock Certificates at the market price at the time of the merger.
3. They may trade their defunct Stock Certificates on a basis of 2 for 1 in the new controlling chain(which will be longer as a result of the merger).
Players can decide to do a mixture of any of the above, whichever gives them the best result for their strategy. Let's use our example above to examine the options.
Supposing the player was using Strategy Two above and decided to merge Continental with Tower. As the chains are equal size he decides that he will make more money out of Continental so he allows Tower to take it over and Continental is removed from the board. As the majority shareholder in Continental the player receives the first place Bonus of $6,000. It's likely that another player will be the second place shareholder and they will receive the Bonus for that privelege. The player's options now are : -
1. Retain his 6 Stock Certificates in Continental and found it again later.
2. Sell his 6 Continental at $600 each to take further income of $3,600.
3. Convert his 6 Continental into 3 Tower Stock Certificates.
4. Perform a combination of any of the above.
Option 1 is only attractive if the player has tiles in his hand which would form a new chain and have the ability to expand it quickly.
Option 2 is quite appealing as the cash could be used to purchase other Stocks, maybe even Tower, who are now valued at $600 each as the new chain is 8 hotels in length.
Option 3 is of no appeal whatsoever as 6 Continental are valued at $3,600 whilst 3 Tower are worth only $2,400....I think not !!
Maybe a mixture of 2 of them provides the best option. Let's Sell 4 Continental for $2,400 cash and Trade the other 2 for 1 Tower. The latter means that we are 'investing' $1,200 on a Stock currently worth only $600 but they should be worth more in the long term if that chain is extended or taken over. Our second place majority shareholding is currently worth $3,000 and this will rise as the chain extends, which is likely as it already has 8 hotels and 11 Stock Certificates have been issued. This is just one of the fascinations of this wonderful game, there are so many permutations to it.
Chains continue to be founded, extended and merged in this fashion throughout the rest of the game until the game end conditions are met. However when a chain reaches 11 or more hotels in length it is considered safe from merger and cannot be taken over. The rises in the costs of purchasing additional hotels is not linear. After 5 hotels they fall into ranges of 6-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40 and 41 & over, wherein the price to buy and sell is the same for every level within the range. This is readily portrayed on the Information card.
My particular set is the 1976 edition but I understand that newer versions were published in the late 1990's which contain some variants on the play described above. As I have not seen them I cannot offer a comment upon what they add to the game. It's difficult to imagine how they could improve on what is already a brilliant game and one which is a must for every gamers collection. If you don't already own a copy then seek one out ( or perhaps take over someone else's copy .......???)