Scrabble, Monopoly and more at shul games fest

By Robyn Rosen, August 26, 2010

Hundreds of board game enthusiasts have competed in a 10-day festival, organised by a Jewish chess champion, in a former London synagogue.

Players including the Turkmenistan junior chess team travelled across the world to take part in the 14th Mind Sports Olympiad, which began last weekend at the Soho Theatre, once the West End Synagogue.

The event, which was founded by Jewish chess player, David Levy, features 45 different competitions, ranging from classics like Scrabble and Monopoly to more unusual games, including Settlers of Catan and Entropy.

Etan Ilfeld, an American chess master and former member of the Israeli National Chess League, organised the event this year, after taking part as a competitor for the past two years.

He said: "I was looking for an interesting place to play chess, but ended up playing other games too.

"I went again last year and bought an all-you-can-play ticket, which is 12 hours of games every day. It was great. I can play almost every game now.

"It's a unique thing. I've never seen anything like this."

Mr Ilfeld, 32, who owns an art gallery and bookshop in Cecil Court, central London, studied maths and physics at Stanford after serving in the IDF and moved to London four years ago.

"The Mind Sports Olympiad has taken over my life," he said. "It's a great way to encourage sportsmanship, and is a useful way to teach children to think before you act and to realise there are consequences to actions. It's also a form of empathy because you are always looking at the world from your opponent's perspective."

Mr Ilfeld is already organising next year's event in which a new version of Scrabble will be introduced - Crabbles - which allows players to use anagrams as well.

Anyone for Powergrid? what's hot in game world

Alfred's Wyke is a game for two players, one is the Builder, the other is the Destroyer. The game is played on a square grid with 75 tiles representing building blocks. The Builder adds tiles to buildings while the Destroyer takes them away.

Age of Steam is played on maps to replicate the experience of building railways and having trains deliver goods around the country. The game involves trying to move coloured cubes to destinations of the same colour.

Carcassonne is a tile-based German-style board game for two to five players, based in a medieval world with farmers, knights, bandits and monks. Players score points by building cities, cloisters and roads made up from strategically placed tiles. The game, invented in 2000, has generated several console versions.

Powergrid is an award-winning board game. Each player represents a company that owns power plants and tries to supply electricity to cities. The players bid on power plants and buy resources which they use to produce electricity. They can then provide power to the growing number of cities in their expanding network.

Settlers of Catan is another German game which has been translated into 30 languages. The players represent settlers establishing colonies on the island of Catan. Players build settlements, cities, and roads to connect them as they settle the island.

Last updated: 1:44pm, August 26 2010