Monopoly on fun

Strategy and thematic games stretch a player’s imagination, and open up a world of fantasy and adventure (photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
Strategy and thematic games stretch a player’s imagination, and open up a world of fantasy and adventure
(photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
With the thick aroma of chicken fingers and fries in the air and the din of mobs of people hunched over dozens of tables laughing, arguing and discussing strategies, it is clear that the Havana Club has been successfully transformed from one of the hottest salsa dance halls in Tel Aviv into a wonderland for Israel’s die-hard board-game-playing community.
Last Sunday, nearly 200 board-game enthusiasts from around the country convened in the 1,000-sq.m. space to play one (or more) of the more than 50 games being offered at the monthly event. For an entry fee of NIS 30, board-gamers arrive early (at around 6 p.m.) and leave late, as the event lasts until 2 or 3 in the morning.
Don’t expect to find Candy Land or Battleship.
Games here test players’ wits and imagination. Think along the lines of Settlers of Catan, Labyrinth and Clue.
This is the largest organized event of its kind in Israel to feature board games; those in the know have been religiously attending this event for the past 13 months. The close-knit and passionate community of board-gamers is held together by the glue of social media. The Facebook group “Unbored with Board Games” has more than 1,300 members and counting.
Not your standard games with clear winners and losers, these are based more on strategy and socializing than on luck.
And they are, of course, fun. The games are intricately designed with massive instruction manuals instead of pamphlets.
Simple boards and pieces such as those found in Trivial Pursuit are replaced by rich settings and characters that are meticulously crafted to help bring players into another reality.
Eager players group around a wide variety of games, including family games and party games, which are played more for the fun of it. Cards Against Humanity is one of these games.
For something more hardcore and intense, there are strategy and thematic games that stretch a player’s imagination and open up a world of fantasy and adventure. These games tend to last several hours and can be played against the players or against the game itself. Good thing the Havana Club offers players a hearty menu of tasty munchies, as well as a fully stocked bar, to keep everyone well fueled.
Although one can sense a tenseness and competitive atmosphere, these games are played for pleasure, not to win or to earn a predetermined reward (which is not offered).
The monthly celebration of board games is the brainchild of Siel Oren. A lifelong board-gamer, he began engaging in them when he was young, and his interest grew as he matured.
When asked about how this event compares to the first one just a little over a year ago, Oren explains, “The first event had less than half of the number of people you see here now. It’s amazing. I am shocked at the amount of interest in this activity and am so happy about it.”
There’s something about these games that makes them quite addictive, as a majority of the participants have grown up with them. The level of enjoyment isn’t entirely dependent on the game itself but has a lot to do with the players as well.
When everybody playing the game has a mutual interest, the level of enjoyment increases.
Yair Libman, a self-described “boardgame enthusiast,” has been hooked on these games since the mid-1990s and has been coming to these events since they began. His idea of a good game is one that you enjoy so much that you don’t mind losing.
The collection of characters, geeks, religious folks, internationals, hi-tech women, soldiers and others adhered fastidiously to the main rule of the night: Talking politics is strictly off the table – a welcome and relaxing escape from the current situation.
In a world where people are typically glued to a screen to play games in virtual isolation, it is reassuring to know that there is still a strong interest in getting together to play games with actual humans who are physically present. •
Check out “Unbored with Board Games” on Facebook: groups/13490755581/?fref=ts