The game play of Acquire is very straightforward -- place a tile, resolve any actions it creates, and buy stock. When a tile is placed it will either be on its own, create a new chain, or merge two existing chains.
If a tile creates a new chain then the player gets to select the chain to be formed. Each chain accrues value at a different rate and as the founder the player will receive an initial share of stock for free. This chain is now open for sale of stock to all players (on their turn).
Mergers bring cash into the game and involve most of the strategy. When a tile connects two chains on the board then the larger one survives. Players are maneuvering to control the size of each chain so that mergers go in the direction most beneficial to their portfolio. The "winning" side gains more net worth to win the game but the "losing" side gets cash to buy more stock.
The two players with the most stock in the dissolving company split bonuses designated by a rate card. Then all players resolve their stock. They can either sell it at the pre-merger rate, trade 2-1 for stock in the new company, or keep it if they believe the company will re-emerge in the future.
Once the tile is resolved and any new chains or mergers are handled the player can buy stock in any chain active on the board. Once stock is purchased the player draws a new tile to end his turn.
Over the course of the game chains will become "safe" when they contain at least 11 tiles. A safe chain can't be merged out but it can still absorb smaller chains. It can also grow by players adding tiles that don't create a merger.
When a chain becomes safe some tiles on the board will become unplayable (those that would merge the chain with another safe chain). A player may announce at the end of his turn that a tile is unplayable, reveal the tile from his hand, and draw a replacement at the end of their turn.
At any time the active player may declare the game over if all chains on the board are safe or any single chain contains more than 41 tiles. This is not required and it may be advantageous to continue playing! If all tiles in the players hands are unplayable then the game ends automatically.
To determine a winner all chains on the board are cashed out. This process is the same as mergers except that all stock is sold for cash. The player with the most money is the winner!
Acquire is a fast-paced game, usually playing in under an hour.While it plays best with at least 3 people it can be played with 2. In this case the board acts as a stockholder competing for bonuses. The simplicity of game play and overall time required for the game make it ideal for new gamers or a quick game at the end of the evening. Expect shifts of power at every merger, lots of cash moving around, and baited breath as you try to merge out chains before your competitors beat you to it, or worse, blow out your own chain first!
Acquire can be acquired at Amazon.com or your local game store for $20 - $25.
YouTube review of Acquire by Joel Eddy at Drive Thru Review
Scott enjoys playing board games, RPGs, computer programming, and amateur astronomy. When he's not doing any of those things he can probably be found under his family's Lionel train layout rewiring something. You can read more of Scott's work in Raspberry Pi Geek Magazine.