Playing board games together is one of our family’s favorite past times. I recently began my review of the top 10 board games every family should play. This is the list so far:
Top 10 Board Games for Families:
5. Puerto Rico
Designer: Sid Sackson
Publisher: Avalon Hill/Hasbro
Players: 3 – 6
Time: 60 to 90 min.
Age: 12+ (My recommendation: 10+)
Fun to Age Ratio: 8
Type: Stock Speculation
Acquire is not only at the top of this list but is also my all-time favorite board game. It is a simple but sweat-inducing abstract game of stock speculation and corporate merger which moves fast and keeps players engaged the entire game. While it may not capture the interest of the younger members of your family, those 10 and up should get up to speed quickly and the intensity will keep adults locked in.
The game board is a 9 x 12 grid, with columns labeled 1 through 12 and rows labeled A through I. There are 108 tiles, one for each grid space on the board and labeled for that space – for example, 1-A, 1-B, 2-B, etc. Players start with 6 randomly drawn tiles and play one per turn. A new tile is randomly added to the players hand at turn end, so players maintain 6 tiles throughout the game. When a tile is played directly adjacent to a solitary tile already on the board, a hotel chain is created. As more connecting tiles are added, the hotel chain grows and its stock value goes up.
There are 7 different hotel chains and 25 shares of stock for each available for purchase. Once a hotel chain is created, stock may be purchased in that chain. Players may purchase up to 3 shares of stock per turn and the player creating a new hotel chain gets 1 free share in that company. Stock value goes up as a hotel chain grows, but the game is not simply one of stock acquisition. The most important element of the game is merging of different chains. When a tile is played that connects two chains, the smaller company is dissolved and its tiles become part of the larger chain. Bonuses are paid to the players who own the most and the second most (major and minor interest holders respectively) shares of stock in the dissolved company. All players who own stock in the dissolved company now have the opportunity to sell those shares, keep them in case the company is revived, or trade them 2 for 1 for shares in the new company. The game ends when one of two conditions is met and one of the players decides to call the game. Each player then liquidates his stock, all final majority and minority bonuses are paid out, and the winner is the player with the most money.
As already stated, game play is simple but intense. There isn’t a large variety of decisions to be made each turn; primarily, players have to decide which tile to play and which company’s stock to buy. However, players must continuously monitor what other players are buying and decide how to balance short term cash flow from mergers with long term growth in stock value. While game play is an abstract representation of stock speculation, the competitive wealth building is very realistic.
Acquire has a rather interesting history. It was first published in 1962 as part of 3M’s bookshelf game series. The game board in these editions is small but made of sturdy plastic with recessed spaces for each tile so they don’t slide around the board. Avalon Hill purchased Acquire in 1976 and initially produced a similar bookshelf-style game, although by that time component quality had decreased. By the 1990’s, Avalon Hill was publishing a much inferior traditional board style with cardboard components and tiles that could easily slide around the board. Hasbro bought the rights in 1998 and in 1999 produced a version under the Avalon Hill brand which had renamed companies but improved hard plastic components and tiles that fit in place as they did in the original version.
And now the bad news. The current version was released in 2008 and is once again a flat board with cardboard tiles that don’t fit in place. Please don’t hesitate to buy it if this is the only version you can find. The game play experience remains intact – just don’t bump the table. However, my recommendation is to find one of the 3M bookshelf versions from the 1960s. These are often on eBay for very reasonable prices. If you’re lucky you may find one of the 1962 versions with wooden tiles. Absolutely awesome.
Acquire is just simply one of the best games ever and has stood the test of time, remaining very much at home with the current crop of German board games. This may not be the first game on my list that you try, especially if you have younger children, but it is the one you MUST play.