Written by: Berthold Heß
Published in Spielbox Magazine, May/June 1999
Article and Translation provided by Berthold Heß
The search for excellence
It was in November 1996 when Knut-Michael Wolf (KMW) invited some players to a "conspiratorial game session". The aim was to try out the rules of a new game. That was still a hand sample, but a new game? No, that was the "Acquire" by Sid Sackson, which has been known for over 30 years!
The game has become a classic since its first appearance in the USA around 1963 (see spielbox 2/93). The game board shows 108 fields in a grid pattern, there is a tile for each field, in later versions a playing card. Whoever plays a card places a tile on the field. The stones form hotel chains, whose shares become more and more expensive the longer the chain is.
When two hotel chains meet, the larger one swallows the smaller one and its shareholders are paid out money. This is roughly the principle of the game.
This game has been on the market since it was first published by the publishing houses 3M, Avalon Hill and Schmidt, and was sometimes called "Hotelkönig" or "Hotelhaie". Over the long period of time, the rules of the game remained largely unchanged. So what had KMW unpacked here? The plan looked different somehow, was there a new "Acquire" in front of us?
A great trick
The game plan suddenly had 120 fields, but each field appeared four times. Of course this also applied to the corresponding cards! This simple sounding change changes the game enormously.
In the well-known "Acquire" versions it is very important to have certain cards in your hand in order to control a possible takeover. For example, if two chains can only meet in field B3, this gives the player with the B3 card absolute control over it.
But in the new version there are four B3 cards! It's still important to have the right card, but you can't control what happens endlessly, because at some point one of the other players will get one of the other cards in his hand.
This new version convinced us all around. It brought more dynamics and excitement to this already first-class game. New hotel chains are created much faster, and there are also more mergers. The game is less predictable and more random.
In 1997 in Nuremberg, the game was only shown "in the closet" on request. Allegedly it was supposed to be released in autumn. Instead, the Schmidt company went bankrupt in spring and was taken over by the Blatz Group in June 97.
I really wanted to have a new "Acquire" and hoped that the new company management would add the game to their program after all. By chance I learned that two or three journalists had received a copy. They had even been finished games, not hand-glued samples!
A futile search
I went on a search, but neither the disbanding company Schmidt in Eching, nor the bankruptcy trustee, the PR agencies or the Blatz Group in Berlin had a game to play. Roland Siegers, in a leading position at Schmidt until the end of 1996, could at least tell me the story of this "Acquire" version.
Despite TV advertising, sales of "Acquire" between 1993 and 1995 had not reached the target figures. Should the game be removed from the program or should a new attempt be started? Not least because there was still a large stock of the expensive game pieces, Schmidt gave the game another chance.
Siegers had always been annoyed that the owner of a card could block a field. So he tinkered until he had developed the present version. The agreement of Sackson as author and Avalon Hills as licensor was obtained and hand samples were made.
The game was never properly produced. There should have been a larger number of decks, the pieces were from the previous version. Some game plans were printed and professionally mounted on cardboard. Even fewer boxes were produced in early 1997. The game rule was never printed correctly, it exists only as the first black and white proof.
Siegers estimates that there were a maximum of 30 of these games, maybe even less. I could not find out anything about your whereabouts. I know the owner of five or six copies, the rest is missing. The rights to "Acquire" should now be with Hasbro, after Avalon Hill has also closed its doors, and has been taken over by Hasbro.
Should there really be a new edition again, the publisher should think very seriously about taking the version of Sackson and Siegers, because in my opinion this is the best. Finally, I asked Siegers why his name was not listed as co-author.
He just looked at me amusedly: "You know, when everything collapsed around us back then, and we realized that the company was going downhill, we really had other things to worry about."
Now you might ask yourself where the photo of this rarity came from, since I could not get a copy after all. In the summer of 1998 the postman brought me a package on my birthday. In it I found the game I had been looking for so long. KMW had actually found one for me! If this is not friendship?!