Acquire: The Forgotten Classic
There are many classic boards which are beloved in the memories of almost all who played them in the past; games which are passed down from generation to generation and whose names live in the lexicon of popular culture. Most of these games were released decades ago and have only grown in stature since then as classic games who will not fade away. These games include Scrabble, Clue, Battleship, Risk, and of course the most infamous of them all, Monopoly. But somewhere along the way, one of these games was lost in the shuffle and remained in the background despite its ingenuity and years of experience. That game is Acquire.
Acquire has been around since 1962 and borrows elements from both Monopoly, in its real estate theme, and scrabble, in its tile-laying mechanic. Yet it is smarter and more cohesive than both of those classic games. Acquire rewards intelligence without diminishing the fun. Yet Acquire remains on the shelves of gaming speciality stores while other games like Monopoly are pushed to the foreground and can be found anywhere. Acquire is better than most of the classic games which were around in its time, yet it has been forgotten about by anyone who is not a gamer at heart. Acquire is a true classic and deserves better recognition.
Acquire is able to take old ideas and present them with a really unique gameplay. Players grow hotel chains using tiles drawn at random and buy stocks in these different chains. Once two chains are merged, the smaller chain is acquired and its stocks are sold, giving players who were shareholders in that chain dividends and bonuses,
Each player has a hand of seven tiles at all times. They take turns placing a tile on the board. These tiles are associated with a coordinate grid on the board, so each tile has only one space it can go (i.e. 1B, 4G). But depending on where the other tiles are on the board, your tile placement may do a number of things; start a new hotel chain, grow an existing hotel chain, or you will have a tile which will connect two chains and create a merger. These tile which can connect two chains are the important, strategic tiles which players must use carefully since these mergers are the heart of the game. If players can time these mergers right, depending on who has how much stock of what chains, it can have a real effect on the game.
The idea of shareholding comes into play a lot here and is well simulated as you have to try to diversify your stocks and try to manage your risk. You have to try to forecast which chains will be merged and which chains will become larger and increase your stock value. The gameplay is very strong and very different.
Acquire has seen a number of revisions over the years, including an attempt to make it more modern by changing the hotel chains to tech companies, but the current Avalon Hill version has brought it back to the basics. I like this because I am a strong opponent of messing with the classics and trying to change them to pander to modern audiences. The seven original hotel chains are back, from Worldwide to Tower and every one in between. I quite like the artwork of the different hotels on their tiles.
The tile board and tiles are nothing special but are functional and easy to use. Each player ha a tile shelf (much like Scrabble) which allow them to hide which tiles they have from others. They’re pretty flimsy to be honest, but work well enough. Acquire also comes with stock cards for each chain which are really nice quality, They look professional and are laminated nicely The money is paper money (much the same as Monopoly) which fits the theme; ti wouldn’t make sense to have cardboard or wooden coin chits with a game which deals with high finance. Besides, having a wad of paper money in your hands really makes you feel like a greedy stockbroker.
Acquire is almost fifty years old but it feels fresh and new. I bought the game without knowing much about it but my friends and I fell in love with it after our very first play. Its smart and thought-provoking, very competitive, and a lot of fun. It has the tight mechanics of the Eurogames of the modern day gaming world but also has the feel of a classic game which has been around for years. So why has this vintage game not gained the same status as the other beloved games of old?
When we look at games such as Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life, we see games which are geared either towards families or children. For this reason, they seem to have a better chance of surviving the years, much like old Disney cartoons and family classics like Wizard of Oz are more generally watched than other classic films of that era. Acquire is a game for adults and may lack a sense of childhood nostalgia which keeps these other classic games thriving.
Acquire may also suffer from the infliction of being ahead of its time. It certainly seems to channel more from modern day strategy games than the dice-centric, luck-heavy games of old. Acquire may not have been appreciated over the decades as much as it is now simply because most people were not ready to accept a smarter and more intricate game. Playing it today, its hard to believe that it was realized in the early sixties since it feels to fresh. Acquire may have been forgotten, but it has not been lost and it is now coming into its own. The game’s genius has still survived these past five decades and is ready to claim the classic status that it deserves.