While Settlers of Catan may have been your introduction to the world of eurogames (and it’s certainly the game that sent the genre on its skyrocket trajectory), it wasn’t the first example of this particular type of game. For that, we have to go back to 1962, to a game that’s been largely forgotten by non-geek-enthusiasts. But it’s hugely important in the history of the hobby.
Acquire was designed by the venerable Sid Sackson, who was also responsible for games like Can’t Stop, Bazaar, and I’m the Boss! But Acquire would have the most lasting impact on the gaming world, as it introduced many of the characteristics that would later come to define the eurogame genre.
(A good game) should be easy to learn yet have infinite strategic possibilities, give you the chance to make choices, create interaction among players and take a maximum of one and a half hours to play.
Before 1964, no games fit the eurogame model of today; there were plenty of wargames, which tended to be highly complex, and family games, which often relied largely on luck. The idea of a German-style game wasn’t around yet, and there was a big gap in the market that Sackson capitalized on with Acquire, which had relatively simple rules, yet was deeply strategic.
At its core, Acquire is a tile-laying and accumulation game; tiles are played on a grid in an attempt to create hotel chains, which can grow and be merged with other chains. As players increase the size of their chains and collect stock, they attempt to take over other players’ chains and accumulate an increasing amount of stocks, which are sold at the end of the game. The player with the most money at the end of the game is declared the winner.
It sounds like a simple game—maybe even a bit similar to Monopoly—but the combination of simple rules, room for strategic decision-making, and an emphasis on accumulation of resources was a novel one. It also placed a much smaller emphasis on theme than its contemporaries, and no players could be eliminated from the game . . . all hallmarks of the modern eurogame.
(Though it is possible for one player to be essentially knocked out early in the game and have no competitive chance, which is less than ideal.)
Of course, because Acquire was published before the rise of the eurogame, these mechanics weren’t associated with the genre yet. But tile-laying, hand management, abstraction, accumulation, and the types of decision-making present are all easily recognizable today as very euro-style.
The significance and impact of Acquire cannot be overstated. It was the first of what 40 years later would be deemed German style games. An entire genre of gaming would grow from this seed. Sid Sackson was the founding father of the German style game.
As Shapiro notes, Acquire wasn’t recognized as a seminal game in its time; it certainly was popular (it was even shortlisted for the Spiel des Jahres award in 1979), but no one knew that it would lead to a worldwide phenomenon. Since its publication, it’s been reprinted a number of times, sometimes with the original hotel-chain-building theme, and sometimes with a more generic “business”-building theme.
It was originally published by 3M (yes, that 3M, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing), but has since been published by Avalon Hill and Wizards of the Coast. People are still playing this game, which is pretty impressive for a modern board game that’s over 50 years old.
If you haven’t played Acquire and you’re a fan of eurogames, you should give it a try. It might feel a bit simple compared to some of today’s more complex euros, but it’s a very important game in the history of our hobby. If nothing else, it’s a great game to have on your shelf to remind you of the deep history of the hobby!