'Acquire' superfan aims to claim his own board game domain
It all started when Lloyd Solon played a game of “Acquire” 40 years ago and thought he could make the financial board game better.
Now, the Longview entrepreneur is gearing up to sell his newest fantasy-strategy board game called “Acquisitions,” in which three to six players construct buildings, generate cash and try to take over competing kingdoms.
The game launches on the online crowd-funding platform Kickstarter on Friday. If the campaign reaches its $30,000 goal, Solon says he’ll kick in $20,000 of his own to make the game a reality.
It’s an ambitious project for an independent hobbyist, but Solon is no stranger to board games.
Solon and his wife, Judy, were thrift store owners at the turn of the century until the local Dollar Tree edged them out of the market. But Solon has tinkered with Acquire almost from the time it was put in production in the 1960s.
In ‘Acquire,’ two-to-six players build hotel chains and try to end the game with the most money by strategically launching corporate takeovers and buying or selling stocks.
“It was, I guess my sister and her boyfriend that were playing it,” Solon, 61, said of his first encounter with the game. “I looked at it and thought, ‘That’s a boring game.’“
He played a round with an unlucky set of tiles and didn’t have much fun. So he came up with a few changes that gave players more options to trade stocks, made it easier for new players and added realism.
Solon kept tinkering, and his changes eventually became “Lloyd’s Rules of Acquire,” a handbook that Solon said has sold thousands of copies since his sister convinced him to start selling it in 2006. He even began scavenging extra copies of the game and printing replicas of the paper money to sell replacement pieces for fans.
Why the passion for the franchise? In large part, Solon is dissatisfied with how corporate America “screwed up Sid Sackson’s original concept.” Recent versions of the game have had uninspired design or cheap construction, he said.
Solon acknowledges the poetic irony in all of this: He’s sparring with corporate America over the soul of a game about corporate acquisitions.
Solon dreamed up his own super-charged version of the game called “MEGAcquire” in the 1980s. But it wasn’t until 2010 that, at the prompting of his brother, he got serious about designing and selling the game, featuring a bigger board with hexagons instead of squares and more complicated gameplay.
Solon’s passion for Acquire comes from a love of playing games with his family and friends. Lloyd’s Rules and MEGAcquire started as his own projects to make the game more fun for himself and his loved ones, but the surprising degree of public interest led Solon to realize there was a business opportunity to be his own boss, too.
Solon describes his work in plans and maneuvers, contemplating how his games will sell and what projects he wants to do next. A dynamo of ideas, he makes even the business of selling a strategy game sound like a strategy game. And even if the Kickstarter fails, it will have helped raise public awareness of Acquire and his work in the genre, Solon said.
Solon is “always going” and is a sharp thinker who enjoys games that let him try to outsmart other players, according to his son, Trey Solon. But when his dad started work on “Megacquire” about a decade ago, Trey, 25, was supportive of the idea but didn’t think it would get very far.
“I was a teenager at the time, (and thought), ‘You’re dumb, this isn’t gonna work.’ My thought was, no one likes board games. I’m in the back playing Xbox 360 at the time. I had football or baseball to go play.”
But he found he loved playing MEGAcquire even more than Acquire, and he’s excited to see where his dad is taking that passion.
The corporate owners of ‘Acquire’ weren’t interested in Lloyd Solon’s Megacquire, so in 2012 Solon ordered 500 copies from a small manufacturer and sold nearly all of them himself across 48 states and 18 countries. But Hasbro’s legal team objected to the name, and two attempts at releasing it instead under the name “MEGAcquistions” sputtered.
“You sound like you have a piece of cotton in your mouth with that word ... The name recognition is gone,” Solon said.
Then a fan wrote to him. “Why don’t you take the game in your own direction?”
So Solon started work on “Acquisitions,” which takes the genre back in time to an age of castles, wizards and dragons. Corporations are replaced with kingdoms, and coins take the place of dollars. The board is smaller than MEGAcquire, but it’s split into four sections that add more flexibility and strategy to where players set down their buildings.
Solon has blended variety of ideas from various versions of Acquire, like staggered stocks from an early test version of the game and luck-based “Destination Cards” inspired by a German version of Acquire into the new game.
And if the Kickstarter is successful, Solon said Acquisitions should be in fans’ hands by December.
Solon plans to return to releasing MEGAcquire one day despite the legal challenges — “Let Hasbro see if they want to spend the money” — but for now, he’s ready to put out his own distinct entry in the takeover game genre.
As Solon puts it: “I’m trying to give the general public a kick-ass game that corporate America won’t.”