The object of the game is to earn the most money through mergers of the various hotel chains. When a chain in which a player owns stock is acquired by a larger chain, players earn money based on the size of the acquired chain. At the end of the game, all players liquidate their stock in order to determine which player has the most money.
The array on the game board is arranged with lettered rows (A through I) and numbered columns (1 through 12). The 108 tiles correspond to each of the squares -- 5E, 10B, and so forth.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives $6000 in cash.
Each player draws a tile and places it on the board. The player whose tile is in the topmost row (closest to row A) goes first. If more than one player selects a tile in that row, then the player whose tile is in the leftmost column (closest to 1) goes first. All players place these tiles on the board. Then, starting with the first player, each player draws six tiles.
A turn consists of three steps:
Tile placement falls in one of four categories. The tile placed could be an orphan, adjacent to no other tile on the board. The tile could create a new chain of tiles, and the player who placed it on the board would have the opportunity to found a new chain. The tile could increase the length of an existing chain already on the board. Or the tile could link two chains, causing a merger of two or more chains. Since there are only seven hotel chains in the game, placing a tile that would create an eighth chain is not permitted.
When a player founds a chain, he receives one free share of stock in that chain. If, however, there are no shares left when the chain is founded, then the founding player does not receive the free share.
Chains are deemed "safe" if they have 11 or more links; placing a tile that would cause such a chain to be acquired by a larger chain is also not permitted.
If a player has no permissible moves in his hand, he may replace his entire hand before placing a tile.
After a player places a tile, and the results of that placement have been handled, he may purchase up to three shares of stock. A player may only purchase shares of stock in chains that have already been founded. The price of a share depends on the size of the chain, according to a chart that lists prices according to size. A player may purchase shares in one, two, or three existing chains (assuming at least three chains are currently in play), in any combination up to a total of three shares.
Finally, the player replaces the tile he played, ensuring he has six tiles at the end of his turn.
A chain is a conglomeration of tiles that are linked to each other either horizontally or vertically but not diagonally. For example, adjacent to square 5F are squares 4F, 6F, 5E, and 5G, but not 6E or 4G. If there is a tile in 5F, then placing either tile 4F or 5G would result in founding a new hotel chain. A chain grows when a player increases the length of a chain. Suppose a chain consists of squares 8D, 8E, and 8F. Playing tile 9F would add to the length of the chain. Playing tile 9E would not.
Chains merge when a player places the tile that eliminates the empty space between them. Suppose there is a chain at 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A, along with another chain at 6A and 7A. Placing tile 5A would cause these two chains to merge. When a merger occurs, the larger hotel chain always "gobbles up" the smaller hotel chain. That is, the hotel chain with more tiles will continue to exist and now grows to include the smaller hotel chain (after bonuses have been calculated according to the steps outlined below). If a tile is placed between two hotel chains of the same size, the individual player who places the tile decides which hotel chain remains on the board and which is gobbled up (taken off the board, potentially to be re-established later in the game - see defunct chain below). In this situation, there are a number of strategic reasons why an individual player might select one hotel chain over another to be the one that remains on the board. However, often it is most advantageous for the player selecting to choose to let the more expensive chains remain on the board (and trade in their stock of the less expensive chain at the 2-to-1 ratio described below).
The merger is the mechanism by which the players compete. Mergers yield bonuses for the two shareholders who hold, respectively, the largest and second-largest interests in a chain. Mergers also give each player who holds any interest at all in a chain a chance to sell his stock or to trade it in for shares of the acquiring chain.
A merger takes place in three steps:
If placing a tile causes three or four chains to merge, then the merger steps are handled between the largest and second-largest chain, then with the third-largest chain, and finally with the smallest chain.
The current rules do not specify whether a player should hold his shares of stock face up or face down; that is, the rules do not say whether one player may ask another player how many shares of stock he owns in a particular chain.
The current rules do not provide for a two-player game. However, the bank/stock market can take the place of the third shareholder in an informal two-player version of the game.
The game ends when either all existing chains are safe -- that is, they cannot be acquired because they are at least 11 tiles in size -- or when one chain reaches 41 tiles in size. A player must determine on his or her turn that the game is over and then declare that fact to the other players; he may, of course, keep that information to himself, hope that other players do not notice, and attempt to leverage further play to his advantage. Once the game ends, the minority and majority bonuses are paid to the minority and majority holders in each of the remaining chains; each player sells his or her shares of stock in each of the remaining chains; and the player with the most money wins.