New Game Weekend: Acquire

acquire box

Acquire was designed by Sid Jackson and published in 1964 as part of the 3M bookshelf series. Produced from the early 1960s through mid-1970s, 3M’s games were a bit of an oddity outside their core office, medical and industrial supplies business yet they hold a solid place in the hearts and history of the gaming community. Along with classic board games like Go, Backgammon and Chess, the 3M bookshelf games also introduced the early trivia game Facts In Five, the election-themed Mr. President and economic strategy games like Acquire. In 1976, the 3M games were sold off to Avalon Hill which was subsequently purchased by Hasbro in 1998. The chain of ownership of Acquire through the years made for multiple international editions as well as a more recent period of the game being out of print until Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast made the game available again in 2008. For a game based in the economic mechanics of buying and selling, Acquire itself has passed through several acquisitions itself over the past five decades.


Various editions of Acquire from the 1960s to 1990s

I had a chance to play the modern incarnation of this venerable game on a recent weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. The latest edition of Acquire consists of relatively underwhelming card stock and paper components that is short on charm but does keep the price just under $30. The game board presents a grid of building lots marked with a number and letter combination which coincide with a set of tiles with the same markings. In turn, players play tiles and may opt to construct an available corporation once two contiguous lots are available. Constructing a new corporation gets the player a free stock certificate plus the opportunity to buy up to two more shares at the starting price.


My first game of Acquire in progress

On a turn where a new corporation is not being founded, a player may instead buy up to three shares total among the existing corporations. As chains of tiles are built out, the value and cost of a stock rises. Over the course of the game, existing corporations expand and larger corporations merge with smaller ones once their chains of building lots intersect. When corporations merge, players with stock may cash out, convert shares at two to one for the new coronation’s stock or hold the old stock for when (or if) the gobbled up company finds a new space to start again on the board. Once a corporation grows to a chain of eleven tiles it becomes safe from a take over, and the game ends once every company reaches at least eleven tiles in size. Stocks are cashed in and money is counted to determine the winner.


Stock certificates, tile rack and reference chart from Acquire

Acquire’s staying power rests in its simplicity coupled with a lot of strategic and tactical play mirroring something like actual investing. As in the real world, timing, location and having cash on hand to strike when an opportunity presents itself are all key factors in Acquire. The game is also almost purely competitive, and the rules as written offer no opportunity for side trading or off-board deals. Placing a tile is usually a direct benefit to the player or may be a defensive move against another player’s expansion. Swooping in to buy stock to become a majority shareholder right before a merger can cut someone else out of a hefty payout. A merger or expansion of existing companies may also benefit multiple players. The ability to quickly convert cash earned into a new investment and then flipping that into more profit rules the game.

While the modern incarnation of Acquire pales next to past editions with their better components, the game itself remains strong. The buy-sell cycle of investing hasn’t changed much over the years. For a game with a fifty-year history of itself being bought and sold, little has changed with Acquire either.

New Game Weekend: Guillotine


The French Revolution is a period where one can typically find little to laugh about, unless the mass slaughter of tens-of-thousands of people tickles your historical fancy or massages your deep-seeded hate for European aristocracy. The bloody period did much to shape modern world politics, abolished slavery in French-held territories and opened the door to the rise to Napoleon Bonaparte, but the popular symbol that lingers in most people’s minds is the guillotine.

Developed as an efficient and humane manner of execution, the guillotine was a perfect symbol for the Age of Enlightenment-fuelled violence of the French Revolution — a combination of vicious violence and modern invention. Executions of King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and countless other nobles and members of the ruling class were public events during the Reign of Terror of the Revolutionary period. Ironically, Maximilien Robespierre, one of the architects of the Reign of Terror would also meet his death at the guillotine when public sentiment turned against the violence of the era. Beyond the French Revolution, the guillotine would remain a prominent mode of execution for prisoners worldwide and a mode of terror for governments such as the German Third Reich well into the late 20th-century.


Guillotine, the 1998 card game from Wizards of the Coast, uses the Reign of Terror as a jumping-off point for an unlikely comical, fast-paced and enjoyable game. Playing in about a half-hour, the game is framed over three days (or rounds) of executions with a steady flow of nobles lined up ready to be rid of their heads. Players score points through the value of nobles executed, playing cards to garner extra points, bump valuable nobles to the head of the line and steal from other players along the way.

The game is set up with an initial queue of 12 nobles lined up before a cardboard standing guillotine. Players are then dealt five Action cards to begin. Each player’s turn involves three steps. First, a player may use an Action card as an option. Next, the player collects the Noble at the front of the line, adding the card to their pool of victims points in front of them. Finally, the player draws back an Action card from the pile.

Once a line of nobles is eliminated at the guillotine, the day ends and the next row of 12 nobles is dealt out with play continuing in turn. After the second day and a third day of executions is complete, players score points from their collected noble victims and the highest score wins.

guillotine game

Within the game there’s a surprising amount of strategy as players not only collect their own most valuable victims, but also do what they can to prevent their opponents from doing the same through play of Action cards.

Action cards bump nobles up and down the line, reshuffle the line, cause other players to lose nobles they’ve collected and rescue potentially-high-scoring nobles from a certain death.

Potential Noble victims come in color-coded cards: Civic (green), Royalty (purple),  Church (blue), Military (red) and Negative (grey). The grey-colored cards have negative point values, killing innocents or other crowd favorites. Collecting cards in certain color may result in additional bonus points made active by playing specific Action cards. Collecting combinations of nobles like the Count and Countess together or multiple Palace Guards can also reap bonus points.

Managing your own Action cards, your pool of scored nobles and the line of upcoming noble victims creates a great deal of dynamic play within the simple card-based mechanic. The card illustrations are comical and include a number of historical personalities such as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre himself, offering a mildly-educational element to the broadly-historical game.

While execution is a grisly theme, older kids will find the game to be entertaining when played along with a group of adults. Like a lot of historically-themed gaming, the nastier bits are pretty well glossed-over in Guillotine. The game does provide some great entertainment for a fast and fun Reign of Terror of your own as the dishes are cleared, the desserts are gobbled up and the last of the French noble class is once again marched to their doom.