Friday 25 August 2017

boardgaming in photos: boardgame retreat, Acquire organised a boardgame retreat on the weekend of 12-13 Aug 2017, these were some of the participants. They have done this many times, but this was the first time I participated. In the past, the format of the retreat was a full-day schedule of game sessions, with score-keeping and prizes for the top scorers. This time the format was free-and-easy, making it more family-friendly. That was why I signed up and brought the family along. I played many games, the children played some and also made use of other facilities at the retreat venue, my wife enjoyed her reading.

The retreat was done at Broga Bliss, about an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur. It is near Broga Hills, which is a popular hiking location. We started Saturday afternoon and ended Sunday noon. It was refreshing for us city-dwellers to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and get some fresh air. The mobile network was poor and the WiFi slow, so we were happily disconnected. It was liberating.

I woke early on Sunday morning, and took a walk with Chen Rui who was also up early. The hills were misty. The surroundings were not quiet at all. We heard crickets, cicadas, frogs, and probably many other creatures we couldn't name. This was a lively choir compared to the lifeless silence of Sunday mornings at home in KL.

Right next to Broga Bliss was a rubber plantation. It was still in use.

7 Jul 2017. We played Acquire more than a month ago at This is one of Allen's favourite games. That day we had played Five Tribes, and after we were done, we wanted to do a shorter game. So we picked this, since most of us had played it, and it was quick to teach to Dennis who had not done it before. There are many versions of Acquire, and this is the best one. It has reached grail status. It is not easy to find, and if you are lucky enough to see a copy on eBay, it'll cost an arm and a leg. It is saddening that there has been quite a few editions after this one, but none measured up.

We did a four player game - Allen, Dennis, Heng and I. I knew Allen was the expert, so I mostly copied his strategy when I played. I still remembered that it was important to get yourself involved in the early acquisitions, so that you would earn money and would have a healthy cash flow to continue buying shares and making money from more acquisitions. I ended up having a portfolio quite similar to Allen's.

There are seven companies (hotel chains) in the game. These cards are the shares.

Allen and I played almost like we were playing a cooperative game. We managed to position ourselves as highest and second highest shareholders in many of the companies which were acquired in the early game. I felt a little bad - it was as if we were colluding against Dennis and Heng. We did have pretty lucky tile draws that allowed us to manipulate many early acquisitions. Heng joked that the foremost strategy in Acquire was - draw the right tiles! Indeed having the right tiles at the right moment is immensely powerful. Sometimes you hold on to a tile waiting for it to become crucial. Making wise investments is also very important. It is something you have control of. You need to read your opponents and read the board situation.

In this photo, Red was on the verge of being gobbled up by Yellow. If anyone had tile 3B or 4C, he could trigger the acquisition. Purple and Light Blue were of the same size. This is interesting because if a player triggers an acquisition, he can choose which company to buy the other out.

Now Purple was larger than Light Blue, so if a merger took place now, it would be Purple gobbling up Light Blue.

I knew Allen was good at Acquire, so from the beginning I never expected to win. I just played with a happy-go-lucky mindset. Only towards late game I realised I was doing well, and I should have aimed for victory. I neglected the fact that towards late game, investing in the large companies became more important. Although they were safe from acquisition and wouldn't give any acquisition payout, the shares themselves would have a high value, and these companies would give a large game-end payout. I stuck to the buy-into-small-companies tactic longer than I should have. It was important in the early game, but less so later. Eventually Allen did win, as expected. I was close behind. Had I been more ambitious, it could have been me. Lesson learnt - never belittle yourself. Heng and Dennis were both not that far behind either. They had many shares in the large companies. Although they missed out on the small companies which were acquired by others, they did become shareholders of the large companies earlier. They earned good payouts at game end. Cash flow was the crucial factor that gave Allen and I an edge. There were a few times Heng and Dennis had to forgo the opportunity to invest because cash was tight.

It still amazes me that a design like Acquire was published in 1964. It was certainly ahead of its time, and it still does not feel outdated.

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