Touring the Battle of Brooklyn at Green-Wood Cemetery

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This past Sunday a fellow member of Metropolitan Wargamers and I climbed aboard a trolley tour at historic Green-Wood Cemetery. The occasion was the cemetery’s annual Battle of Brooklyn Commemoration, fortuitously held this year on the exact date — 241 years later — of the battle on August 27, 1776.

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Leading the two-hour tour were the cemetery’s resident historian, Jeff Richman, and Barnet Schecter, historian and author of The Battle for New York. Schecter’s book is the long-held standard text on the battle, variously known as the Battle of Long Island or the Battle of Brooklyn. I’ve had a copy of his book for years and I’ve heard him lecture previously, but the tour offered a great chance to get up close with both Schecter and Richman as they spun a narrative of the battle’s events more than two centuries previous.

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Barnet Schecter presents the view toward eastern Long Island where British troops were observed landing in August 1776

One of the first stops on the tour was along a ridge affording an southeast-facing view from the cemetery out into Long Island. From this position, the historians presented with some certainty,  General George Washington and his staff were able to make their first accounting of the landing of General William Howe’s British forces at Gravesend Bay August 22nd-24th. The prospect sits atop a terminal moraine known as the Heights of Guan, the furthest point of a glacier’s advance millennia ago, and opens into a wide view across the flatlands of Brooklyn where only farms, fields and open ground stood between British and Continental forces. On the beautiful, clear morning of the tour, our view stretched to the horizon, making it easy to imagine how important the high ground had been in an era when first-hand observation was often the only information a commander had to go on in the field. From this view, Washington’s observations came to the (incorrect) conclusion the bulk of the British force would march here to his west flank and attack. The British command had other plans.

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The mausoleum of Robert Troup, lieutenant colonel of the Continental Army

Green-Wood being the final resting place of many prominent New Yorkers of the past couple hundred years, there were several stops along the tour at notable graves. One example was at the mausoleum of Robert Troup. A college roommate of Alexander Hamilton and junior officer in the Continental Army at the time of the battle, Troup was one of just five men sent to stand watch at the far east flank of Washington’s position at the Jamaica Pass on the eve of the battle. Unfortunately for the Colonials, the British secretly divided their force on the evening of August 26th and silently marched some 10,000 men, 40 guns and a long baggage train through the darkness to Jamaica Pass. In this audacious flanking maneuver, the British would capture Troup and his comrades and begin closing on an unsuspecting Washington from the east.

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The Delaware Regiment monument at Green-Wood Cemetery

Washington had thrown the bulk of his force on the west flank, led by William Alexander (aka “Lord Stirling”). Just as the British were moving in from the east, a British decoy force led by James Grant had made its way toward Stirling’s lines. Our tour traced Grant’s advance and made our next stop near the approximate site of the first clash of Stirling and Grant late on August 26th. The skirmish, now remembered in a typical mixture of fact and folklore, was recounted as being fought through near a watermelon patch at the now-vanished Red Lion Inn. This far edge of the cemetery property now houses a parking lot and maintenance sheds, so it really takes a stretch of the imagination to transport oneself to those opening shots of the battle. The one nod to the historic events there is in a relatively recent monument to the the Delaware Regiment which would play a part near this spot the following day as the Battle of Brooklyn commenced.

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Our guides for the morning, Jeff Richman (left) and Barnet Schecter (right)

It was here, Richman and Schecter both pointed out, that American troops for the first time in the war formed European-styled firing lines and exchanged volleys with British soldiers, then the most powerful military force in the world. Our tour then followed the action of the Colonial’s right flank as Stirling’s men -including the Delaware regiment and Pennsylvanians — repositioned at an angled rise, firing into Grant’s advancing troops. It was there that two distant cannon blasts, far to east, signaled the surprise advance of the main British lines that had snuck through the Jamaica Pass overnight. In one echoing report, the British had announced themselves and the Americans found themselves enveloped by a force more than twice its size.

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The statue of Minerva, placed atop Battle Hill by Charles Higgins in 1920

Following the retreat of Stirling’s troops, we made our way to our final tour stop at what became known as Battle Hill in the 20th-century. Standing before the statue of the goddess Minerva, Richman recounted the story of the monument’s placement by Charles Higgins, an Irish immigrant who made his fortune in India ink. Archival research unveiled Higgins’s original intent to have the statue face the Woolworth Building although we can be thankful today for its dramatic placement facing of the Statue of Liberty across the harbor.

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And it was on the hill 241 years ago this past weekend where a couple hundred Americans seized the 200-foot hill and held off 2000 British troops over several attacks. Out of ammunition, the Colonials eventually surrendered but they allowed for the majority of Stirling’s men to slip toward the Gowanus Creek. There, outgunned and outnumbered, the Americans (led by the 1st Maryland Regiment) made head-on attacks British dug in at the Vechte–Cortelyou House, known today as the Old Stone House. Once again, the sacrifices and delaying actions of Stirling’s force against the British allowed the vast majority of the Americans to flee toward the East River. Two evenings later, on August 29, 1776, Washington led a nighttime evacuation to Manhattan. Not only had the young Continental Army and most of its leadership been saved, but most probably the Revolution was saved, too.

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for more than twenty years and I’m an avid history fan, but sharing a morning with two passionate guides walking historic ground really brought long-ago events alive anew. New York and Brooklyn are not places that evoke the Revolution for most Americans. Boston, Lexington-Concord, Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Yorktown — those are sites of the War of Independence we all learn as children, not Brooklyn. But both Richman and Schecter hit on the importance of the Battle of Brooklyn over and over again on the tour — the first battle after the Declaration of Independence as Americans; the largest battle of the American Revolution; the first time Americans faced British in traditional open field battle; and, the event where Washington managed to snatch a victory (of sorts) out of a defeat. The war continued another seven years, but had the events in Brooklyn gone differently it may very well have ended less than two months after tAmericans had taken the radical first steps toward independence. One thing we Brooklynites are good at is promoting our local brand, but when it comes to the Battle of Brooklyn, it most certainly warrants repeated commemoration every August.

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International Tabletop Day Events In NYC – April 30th, 2016

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On Saturday April 30th, 2016, new and old gamers alike will crowd tables worldwide for International Tabletop Day. Now in its fifth year, the day has been spreading with the hobby each year with day-long events packed with gaming, food, drinks, community and yes, even exclusive swag, prizes and discounts at some locations. Even Barnes & Noble is getting in on the event this year with hosted games starting around 4pm at many locations nationwide. I’ll be spending the day with my own group at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, as I do most weekends throughout the year.

Those looking for their own place to play will find many spots throughout New York City. Below are my picks for the day, and I strongly urge you to check out each store’s website for full details.

The Brooklyn Strategist

333 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY. 718-576-3035

The Brooklyn Strategist has an enormous line-up of overlapping events all day from 11am to 11pm. Board game, miniature games and painting, and RPG games will run throughout the day in two large storefront rooms of tables plus the shop’s outdoor garden space (weather permitting). Many of the boardgames will be run by the designers themselves, and the miniatures gaming will range from sci-fi and fantasy to historical eras from ancients to World War II. Special discounts are also available for the day from the store’s big inventory of games, miniatures and supplies, and the usual selection of delicious snacks and drinks will be available at their in house cafe.

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The Geekery HQ

42-11 Broadway, Astoria, NY. 718-606-2853

This Queens gaming outpost will be open all day with a big slate of opportunities to take home gaming loot. Playing, hosting or winning games throughout the day earn participants points toward a ton of limited edition and promotional games. A raffle for the non-profit organization Kaboom! will also allow players to support children’s playgrounds while spending the day at the tabletop.

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The Uncommons

230 Thompson Street, New York, NY. 646-543-9215

Located in Greenwich Village just South of Washington Square Park, The Uncommons is the go-to board game cafe in Manhattan. Tabletop Day events will run from 2pm til 11:30pm, and it’s the perfect casual gaming spot with a collection of hundreds of board and card games for play and sale. There’s also a super solid selection of coffee, craft beers and snacks to keep your gaming fueled all day long.

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Twenty Sided Store

362 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY. 718-963-1578

Williamsburg’s premier gaming store will be running games from noon to 9pm with hourly raffles for give-aways. Every game will be game-mastered by experienced players, making the event perfect for new and veteran players. People should RSVP for the event to attend and get instantly signed up for the day’s drawings of exclusive stuff.

A Place To Play: The Brooklyn Strategist

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The Brooklyn Strategist was opened several years ago by Dr. Jon Freeman, a clinical psychologist, neuroscience researcher and life-long game fan. Situated along the main drag of Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, has quickly grown to be a go-to gaming space for the Brownstone Brooklyn crowds of kids, families and adults.

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Board games, card games and gaming accessories line the walls

The original storefront space of hardwood floors and exposed-brick walls holds a number of tables (including a stunning Sultan custom table from Geek Chic), shelves of games and accessories for sale, and a small coffee and snacks bar. In the spring of 2015, the store doubled in size next door. The new space added about a dozen more tables to accommodate the expanding children and adult programs, tournament events and growing miniatures gaming community.

The core of The Brooklyn Strategist is in its after school programming, and a packed regular schedule of events is also offered every day and night of the week. Magic: The Gathering card games are featured Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays also showcase ongoing Star Wars X-Wing play, and other X-Wing events are held periodically with hosting by the NYC X-Wing group. Scrabble and chess take over Tuesday nights, and opportunities abound for Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG games Wednesdays and Saturdays. Hundreds of games are on hand to pull off the shelf to play.

Paying your way at The Brooklyn Strategist is a great deal with a $10 walk-in fee, individual memberships at $25 per month, couples at $45 per month and family packages at $60 per month. Each level of membership comes with a package of discounts and perks which encourages a solid community to fill the space all week long.

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The expanded miniatures gaming selection includes Flames of War, Games Workshop, Star Wars X-Wing, Battle Foam cases, paints and other popular lines

This past weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with Colt Johnson who has worked hard for a year to expand the shop’s interest in miniatures gaming. Johnson said the miniatures scene is focusing right now on the “five food groups: Malifaux, Infinity, Warmachine, Games Workshop and Flames of War.” Over his time working at the store, the miniatures scene has grown from maybe a dozen players on a weekend afternoon to 40 to 50 packing the tables on a busy day. Organized miniatures tournaments, events and pick-up games rage on the tabletop battlefields, and players new to the hobby can drop in and whet their appetites using beautifully painted 28mm loaner models on hand in display cases throughout the store.

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Miniatures gaming and painting gears up on a recent Saturday

A Warhammer 40K escalation league just kicked off with nearly 40 players signed up to play over the coming months. On the day I was there, 40K was very much in the air. A group of players from Staten Island were settling into their first games on some beautiful tables packed with terrain. One table over, a young girl who recently hosted a birthday party for 15 other girls at the store sat painting up her latest plastic goodies from Games Workshop. As the dice rolled, a phone call came in from someone who had just moved to the city and was looking to play some 40K.

Sci-fi and fantasy miniatures gaming clearly has a big following at the The Brooklyn Strategist, but historical gaming is newly on the rise. The popular World War II 15mm game Flames of War is a recent addition to the store’s minis mix, and this past weekend also presented a demo game of the 15mm Cold War-themed Team Yankee. WWII at 28mm with Bolt Action and even some 18th-century Blackpowder gaming is also on the horizon.

While growing every aspect of miniatures gaming, Johnson is hoping to push into even more historical gaming as both a hobby and way to create excitement for local kids and adults around learning about history through gaming and modelling. No matter the game, period, theme or level of experience, everyone who finds their way to the tables at The Brooklyn Strategist will find themselves in the right place.

The Brooklyn Strategist is located at 333 Court Street in Brooklyn, NY 11231 (a short walk from the F/G train at Carroll Street). Contact them at 718-576-3035 or check them out on their website or Facebook page. For news on the miniatures scene at the shop, check out their separate wargaming Facebook page.

A Place To Play: Nu Brand Gaming

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Tucked away on a residential side street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is an inviting tabletop miniatures players paradise. Located in a former chiropractor’s office decked out in knotty pine paneling, wall to wall carpeting and an assortment of Americana and Wild West decor, Nu Brand Gaming opened in 2015 and is one of the newest and best gamer play spaces in the city.

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One of the many racks of terrain throughout the space

Nu Brand is operated by Ade Sanya, the resident owner of the building and son of the doctor who formerly served patients in the rooms where dice are now rolled and minis are pushed on tabletop battlefields.  With his family living upstairs, Ade has spent the past year creating an incredibly comfortable and inviting space for gamers focused on historic, fantasy and sci-fi miniatures. His skills as a carpenter and set builder are evident in the sturdy tables and racks of terrain found in the half-dozen well-lit rooms which radiate off the central hallway.

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Hobby room with supplies and tools to lend

A small hobby room sits at the back of the building where tools and supplies are available for use by members and drop-ins who come to spend time modelling at one of the many comfortable work places throughout the rooms. A small galley kitchen offers drinks, snacks and a refrigerator for visitors to store their own food. Secured storage lockers are also made available to members to store their gaming gear.

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 Miniatures painting in the back room

Membership runs $30 a month at Nu Brand, and a day rate of just $10 is available for people who come to just give the place a try or participate in one of the many growing number of events scheduled. Members can also take advantage of retail discounts with several suppliers Nu Brand is working with to bring product to the community. The space is generally open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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German Fallschirmjager and US Airborne troops clash in a Bolt Action game

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US Airborne assault a German tank in Bolt Action

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More Bolt Action gaming

My first visit to Nu Brand this past weekend found ten gamers playing in a day-long series of Bolt Action 28mm World War II games. Tables were gorgeous — from the towns of late-war Western France and the wintery ruins of an Eastern Front forest to an urban town fight and a clash on a Pacific Island. At the end of the day’s events, certificates were awarded for best painting and force lists, a raffle was held and announcements were made for the new monthly Brooklyn Bolt Action campaign kicking off at Nu Brand this month.

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One of the  Warmachine battles in action

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More War Machine gaming

As WWII battles raged in several rooms, other players were occupied with Warmachine and other fantasy games, and four hobbyists were camped out in the back painting away at their miniatures. A variety of games like Star Wars X-Wing, Beyond the Gates of Antares, Malifaux, Mage Wars and Warhammer 40K are played regularly at Nu Brand. Newbies and experts alike all find a spot at Nu Brand. No matter the game, the love of the craft and gaming in the hobby — no matter the era or theme — is evident with everyone who crowds the tables each week.

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Urban terrain set up on one of the many tables

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Modular tables allow for flexible game sizes

The hum of activity and welcoming environment was evident for regulars and newcomers alike at Nu Brand Gaming on my first visit. Aside from myself, two other members of Metropolitan Wargamers were along for the day and we were able to meet and play with a whole host of new people and veteran players who were connected to friends-of-friends throughout the New York City area. Like so many of us in the wide gaming community “keeping table top gaming alive” is the mission of Nu Brand Gaming, and this marvelous place to play is a fantastic new outpost to seize this objective.

Nu Brand Gaming is located at 194 31st Street in Brooklyn, NY 11232 (a short walk from the D/N/R train at 36th Street). Contact them at 646-696-4132 or check them out on their website or Facebook page.

 

News 12 Brooklyn Visits Metropolitan Wargamers

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I was fortunate to be elected as President of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY a few months back, having been a visitor and then a member for much of the past ten years. Our club occupies a private basement space on a quiet residential street in the heart of historic Park Slope. Members have 24/7 access to the space, and the walls are lined with shelves holding all manner of miniatures and board games covering just about every scale and genre imaginable. We meet up to game practically every day of the week, and our weekends can see board games and miniatures scenarios playing out on our multiple tables, including several sand tables. The games we play can last ten minutes to ten months. Our membership spans a large age group of early 20s to mid-70s, and we hail from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. What our membership has shared in over three decades of existence is a passion for gaming, and Metropolitan Wargamers continues to be one of the premier gaming spaces in New York City.

Recently, we were visited by a News 12 Brooklyn reporter who captured just a little bit of the flavor of our corner of the New York City gaming universe.

If you’re interested in joining our group, please register at our NYC Wargamers Yahoo group, introduce yourself and come by to play a game.

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The Ratzer Maps At The Brooklyn Historical Society

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Now in its final weeks at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the tiny second floor exhibition Unlocking Two Revolutionary War Maps: The Ratzer Maps at BHS showcases two incredibly important maps of the American War of Independence and the 1776 Battle of Long Island in particular. Alternately known as the Battle of New York and the now-popular Battle of Brooklyn, the Battle of Long Island was the first of the new nation after announcing its independence on July 4, 1776 and the largest of the entire war. For anyone with an interest in the American Revolution or 18th-century New York history, these maps unlock a close-up view of the ground fought over between the British Empire and the upstart Colonials nearly 240 years ago.

IMG_5426The “Percy Map” used during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 (left) and the restored 1770 “Ratzer Map” (right) at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Drawn by British cartographer Bernard Ratzer in 1766-1767, the Ratzer Map is one of the seminal documents of early New York. The BHS copy of the full 1770 edition of the Ratzer Map is only one of four in known existence and showcases an early snapshot of Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn in their early days where farms and rural roads still dominated the landscape. The smaller map on display, showing only the lower portion of the Ratzer Map, was carried by British General Hugh Percy during the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. The Percy Map is now co-owned by the BHS and nearby Green-Wood Cemetery, the high ground for much of the battle, and was first put on public view in the summer on 2014 at the cemetery. The current exhibit of these maps at the BHS after a restoration of the full Ratzer map in 2011 is a wonder of 18th-century map making and 21st-century preservation.

schecterbfnyBarnet Schecter’s classic “The Battle For New York” from 2002

The exhibit features text from BHS President Deborah Schwartz and historian Barnet Schecter whose compellingly-detailed The Battle For New York: The City At the Heart Of The American Revolution has become the standard narrative of the battle. Additionally, the BHS has produced a free educational resource entitled Exploring Pre-Revolutionary New York: The Ratzer Map which digs into much of the historical detail found in the map including panoramic views of the shoreline and major landmarks of the era.

History can feel so large and abstract, buried in long ago events which are difficult to square with the present day. The Ratzer Maps at the BHS bring history remarkably into the present and allow a modern viewer to trace pivotal events along lines carefully set down on paper and battlefields more than two centuries ago.

New Game Weekend: King of New York

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As the blog states, I’m a New Yorker (a Brooklynite to be exact), so playing a game based in my city of residence is always a plus. Prancing around a game board depicting the five boroughs as a towering, cartoonish monster with a nasty temper is even better. And so, King of New York hits the sweet spot for me as a gamer and occasionally cranky denizen of the city that never sleeps.

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Sample monsters from King of New York

Released late in 2014 by IELLO Games, KONY is a follow-up standalone game to the popular King of Tokyo from 2011. KONY expands on KOT but it is not an expansion but a largely different game based on a similar premise and set of dice and card mechanics. Each of the 2-6 players chooses to be a gargantuan monster represented by a cardboard stand up figure and a scoring card. The monsters begin the game in one of the four outer boroughs with no more than two monsters allowed per borough. Within each borough are placed three stacks of three cardboard tiles each depicting buildings on one side and military units (jeeps, tanks and jet planes) on the reverse.

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Sample cards from King of New York

A new set of six special dice are rolled by each player on their turn with faces for healing, attacks on other monsters, attacks on buildings, military attacks on monsters, energy cubes and victory point stars. Players roll the dice up to three times, keeping those dice they wish on each roll and re-rolling the rest. With the resulting dice, monsters resolve a number of actions. Buildings may be wrecked to earn healing points, victory points or energy cubes to purchase cards. Destroyed buildings flip over to reveal jeeps, tanks or jets which may attack other monsters in the same borough or across the board. Accumulated cubes are used to buy cards to provide permanent or one-time effects on monsters. Regular attacks take swipes at the other monsters on the board or the current “King of New York” romping northward through Manhattan. Monsters occupying Manhattan can remain on the island and earn victory points and energy cubes each turn or jump out to be replaced by an attacking monster. The first monster to earn 20 victory points wins the game to be crowned King of New York.

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A recent game of King of New York

There’s a lot more going on in KONY than its predecessor. New dice and the building and military unit chips add options and flavor to play. Two new special cards — Super Star and Statue of Liberty — add extra mechanics to the game as cards earned through dice rolls and then swiped by other players who also roll specific results on subsequent turns. The rest of the cards can be a bit overly wordy at times yet they pump up the interest by utilizing a lot of familiar New York landmarks like Columbia University, the Unisphere in Queens, Carnegie Hall, the Holland Tunnel, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Coney Island in Brooklyn and the infamous New York City Subway. Even with the new additions, KONY plays fast and fun with all ages.

If you’re a fan of King of Tokyo, giant monster films like the Godzilla series and board games set in New York City, King of New York is a towering success.