As far as I’m aware, Pint Sized Planet’s Acquisition is the first game to combine the sedate pace of turn-based abstract board gaming with the race-and-chase gameplay of Capture The Flag. The fact that it does so with some original and clever mechanics is to its credit, even with a reliance on chance which will perhaps be a little bit too heavy for some.
Played on a hexagonal board, two players face each other at opposite ends. Each player has three ‘bases’, each with a star-shaped flag. The object is to capture each of the opposing player’s flags and return with them back to your own home line, before the other player manages to do the same.
Progress across the board is based on ‘acquiring’ the empty spaces, hence the game’s title. Each hexagon is surrounded by up to six empty recesses. Land on a space and you roll a die: the result gives you the same number of beads of your own colour, which you then use to fill the empty holes (or, if your opponent has already filled some with beads of their own colour, remove them).
Once you’ve placed your beads, a pointer spins, eventually stopping at one of the recesses’ positions. If it is occupied by a bead of your own colour, you acquire the space and move into it. If the spinner stops on an empty recess, nothing happens; and if it stops on an opponent’s bead, all the recesses are immediately filled with beads of their colour.
Similarly, you can attack your opponent if they are carrying one of your flags by moving onto the space they’re occupying. No die is rolled here: instead, the spinner dictates who wins the battle. If it stops on a bead of your colour, your opponent drops the flag and it’s returned to your base; if the spinner lands on an empty recess or one occupied by an opponent’s bead, your attack fails and nothing happens, allowing them to continue their race for their own home territory.
This mechanic results in gameplay where control of the board constantly ebbs and flows between players. Hexagons change ownership quickly, as do the odds of you acquiring a space you want to move into. Tactics therefore revolve around trying to rush across the board and back as quickly as possible, whilst launching attacks on your opponent to try and hamper their progress. All the while, the roll of the die and the turn of the spinner cause the balance of power to shift, and this chance-based element is probably the game’s weakest link – although its random nature does add excitement (and at times, frustration) to the gameplay.
Acquisition is well designed, with a satisfyingly grungy art style, complemented by atmospheric ambient music. The board viewpoint zooms into the action as it happens on each contested hexagon, which is well implemented without slowing things down.
That said, games of Acquisition can tend to drag a little, with no option to choose victory conditions. The ability to play a quick game, where only one flag needed to be captured, would be welcomed – as it is, being forced to capture all three can cause things to become a little drawn out and repetitive.
The AI seems competent, though again only one level is available. Different styles and levels of AI would introduce variety into proceedings, although the game supports two player head-to-head battles, which give you the deeper challenge of playing against a real opponent.
Acquisition is to be commended for introducing something new into the crowded abstract boardgame market and doing it with a great deal of style. Though it is a little too reliant on luck, it still provides an enjoyable and original challenge which is well worth checking out.
With a few more options and modes, it could well prove to be a game which stays on your iPad long after you first choose to acquire it.