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Acquire

[uh-kwahyuhr]
Acquire is a board game designed by Sid Sackson. The game was originally published in 1962 by 3M as a part of their bookshelf games series. In most versions, the theme of the game is investing in hotel chains. In a recent edition, published by Hasbro, the hotel chains were replaced by generic corporations, though the actual gameplay was unchanged. The game is now published by Avalon Hill, and the companies are once again hotel chains.

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.

Equipment

• Game board with 108 spaces arranged in a 12 by 9 array
• 108 tiles corresponding to the squares in the array
• 7 markers, one for each of the hotel chains: American, Continental, Festival, Imperial, Luxor (or Sackson in the 2008 version), Tower, and Worldwide.
• 25 shares of stock for each of the seven hotel chains
• A supply of play money, in denominations of \$100, \$500, \$1000, and \$5000
• 6 charts listing the prices of shares of the chains (see below; the chart may also appear on the game board)
• 6 racks to hold the tiles (optional)

Rules

For three to six players. Standard tournament games are played with four.

Setup

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.

Play of the Game

A turn consists of three steps:

1. placing a tile
3. drawing a replacement tile

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.

Growing and Merging Chains

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).

Mergers

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:

1. Bonuses for majority and minority shareholders. Each player counts his or her stock in the acquired chain. The player with the largest number of shares is the "majority" shareholder, and the player with the second-largest number of shares is the "minority" shareholder. If two players tie for majority, they will share both shareholder bonuses. If two players tie for minority, they will share the minority shareholder bonus.
Suppose Festival is the chain being acquired. Alex owns 10 shares, Betty owns 8, and Carla owns 6. Alex is the majority shareholder, and Betty is the minority shareholder.
Suppose now that Worldwide is the chain being acquired. Alex owns 8 shares, Betty owns 8 shares, and Carla owns 7. Alex and Betty would share the majority and minority bonuses, and Carla would get no bonus. If instead Betty and Carla both owned 7 shares, then Alex would keep the majority bonus for herself, while Betty and Carla would split the minority bonus.
2. Sell, trade, or hold shares. Starting with the player who caused the merger to happen, each player may either sell his shares in the acquired chain, trade in two shares of the acquired chain for one share of the acquiring chain, or hold onto his shares of the acquired chain. Shares are sold at the same price as the current cost of one share of stock in the acquired chain. A player may trade in as many shares as he owns, but may not trade in one share of the acquired chain for half a share of the acquiring chain. If a player holds onto his stock, he runs the risk that the acquired chain may not reemerge before the game ends. If that happens, then he will be holding worthless stock at the end of the game.
3. Defunct chain. The acquired chain then becomes defunct. It is eligible to be founded again if another player founds a chain again in a later turn.

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.

Other Aspects of Play

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.

Ending 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.

Awards

GAMES magazine has inducted Acquire into their buyers' guide Hall of Fame.