Sales of financial crisis board game surge in UK's richest area

By John Geddie and Alasdair Pal LONDON (Reuters) - There will be no Christmas break from market mayhem for London's financial elite if sales of a board game based on a banking collapse are anything to go by. Market Meltdown, which has echoes of the 2008 financial crisis that led to the worst UK recession since World War Two, is one of the bestsellers in the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square, home to hundreds of bankers and hedge fund managers. Manufacturer Clarendon Games has seen sales of the game more than double this year and creator Will Sorrell has noted particular interest from financial professionals. "I assume the people that are making big investments make their decisions based on rational reasons, but they tell me that markets aren't always rational," said Sorrell, whose father was a stockbroker in the "boom and bust" 1980s. Situated in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea -- where the average house price is over 2 million pounds ($3.13 million) -- Peter Jones has been restocking the game more than any other store over the last month, according to the manufacturer, which did not want to publish sales figures. Peter Jones' parent company, John Lewis, confirmed it was one of the branch's top sellers. The game is reminiscent of Monopoly, the 80-year old classic in which players try to amass a fortune in property speculation. But in Market Meltdown, players start rich and try to stay solvent in the face of defaults, spiralling debts and bonus caps. Flying private jets round the board, they bet on the stock market (represented by a roulette wheel), and can "go rogue" by borrowing up to a billion pounds to cover losses should their trades go awry. Launched in 2012, the game has uncanny similarities with the recent travails of real-life investment banks, as players can be fined for market manipulation or wiped out when the price of oil plummets. Each circuit of the board brings an interest rate hike -- shades of Russia's current turmoil -- while a Quantitative Easing card triggers a massive cash injection -- a move expected from the European Central Bank in 2015. The game's popularity has prompted John Lewis, which also owns the Waitrose chain, to heavily stock its Canary Wharf branch -- in the heart of the capital's banking district. Robert Hendrickson, marketing manager at the store, said: "The majority of our customers are bankers and so there tends to be a high demand for what they want -- our wine and steak and oyster bars both do very well." (Editing by Mark Potter)