A Place To Play: The Brooklyn Strategist

IMG_7499

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.

IMG_7503

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.

IMG_7502

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.

IMG_7504

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.

Advertisements

A Place To Play: Brooklyn Game Lab

bgllogo

Living and gaming in New York City is all about space. While gamers worldwide enjoy games in their basements, garages, dining rooms and even dedicated spaces, gamers living in the five boroughs wage a constant struggle for tabletop real estate. It’s in this context that Brooklyn Game Lab opens today and joins a mini-boom in storefront gaming spaces and stores that have opened over the past five years throughout New York.

Brooklyn Game Lab is the vision of Robert Hewitt, a former Silcon Valley game developer, designer, co-founder of game app company HashGo and ESL teacher in Brazil. Carrying his start-up experience and a passion for games and teaching, Bob’s mission for the Brooklyn Game Lab is to provide not only a space for play but to challenge players to think about games beyond what comes right out of the box.

Located in the heart of Brownstone Brooklyn’s Park Slope, the core of the Brooklyn Game Lab is an afterschool program focusing not just on kids playing games but evaluating games and creating homebrewed expansions. The curriculum involves player self-evaluation of gaming mechanics, strategy and tactics, as well as a reward system which will allow kids to earn merits as their gaming prowess develops. Euro, cooperative, social and conquest games like Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island, King of Tokyo, Werewolf and Small World will serve as jumping-off points.

bglahlogo

Aside from the afterschool program, the Brooklyn Game Lab also features a number of After Hours gaming events targeting adult players. Mondays are Miniatures Night with a revolving series of fantasy and war-themed minis games the likes of Star Wars X-Wing, Space Hulk, Warhammer 40K and Flames of War for experienced players and curious newcomers alike. Wild Card Night on Tuesdays invites outside groups to host favorite go-to games for their own members and drop-ins from the general public. Thursdays are Singles Night, bringing in 20-somethings to roll dice, play cards and mingle. The old mainstay, Magic: The Gathering, occupies the Friday night slot, and weekends will provide opportunity for open gaming.

The 32-seat space will focus solely on the game curriculum and  special events for the time being, although there may be room for retail and private party rentals in the future. Things are off to a great start for Brooklyn Game Lab which is opening with a fully-booked afterschool program including my oldest son who will be a particpating Monday afternoons. Meeting with Bob for coffee last month, I was glad to connect with another passionate gamer looking to put a spin on New York’s gaming spaces. Getting kids engaged in games for life and igniting a developer mindset in them makes Brooklyn Game Lab a very welcome new space for the community.

New Game Weekend: King of Chicago & RoboRally

Friday night at Metropolitan Wargamers in Park Slope, Brooklyn had a decent crowd of six of us collected in the back with a few other people up front continuing play of a multi-week and fairly dense American Civil War battle. Coming to agreement on an ad hoc game together for a half-dozen guys is a challenge on its own, but we managed to settle on two games which are standbys at the club but pretty new to me.

King of Chicago

Produced in Denmark in 2005, King of Chicago takes place in the Prohibition-era Windy City where each player takes on the guise of gangster looking to rule the streets by creating and breaking alliances, building their empire and whacking the competition along the way.

The game begins with each player owning a gangster, a car, $1000 and a few resources. Resources in the game are booze, henchman and girls, and additional resources are picked up in various landmarks spread throughout the city. Combinations of booze, henchmen and girls in your gang allows you to build bars, casinos and brothels which create income at the completion of four turns in each round of play. At the end of a round, players collect income, new gangsters are put into play and resources get set on the board. Bidding takes place for gangsters to add to your mob, gaining you bonuses of speed, income, protection and lethalness. Players also bid to bribe the cops, controlling them through the next round of play.

The game offers a lot of strategic play in how a player chooses to build their empire and also in managing relationships with the other mob bosses on the board. Drive-by shootings, shutting down competing businesses and sending the other guys to the hospital or the morgue makes for a lot of opportunity for deals to be struck and double-crosses to take place. Certain cards cause “events” like police raids to be played and others send players on “jobs” which net substantial sums of income. The player who quickly amasses ten points from money, businesses and influence wins the game.

The game looks great with simple components and a wonderful collection of historic photos from the Chicago gangland days depicted on the cards. The many paths players can choose to build their mob empire adds significant replay value to the game.

King of Chicago was released with a limited print run and can be hard to come by in the United States. However, for lovers of gangster movies and the period when the underworld ruled Chicago, chasing down a copy is well worth the effort.

RoboRally

After a couple hours on the mean streets of Chicago, we had a seventh player show up. Our second game of the evening took us in a different direction with the hilariously chaotic RoboRally. The game was originally published by Wizards of the Coast way back in 1994 but was created a decade earlier by Richard Garfield who would go on to design the insanely-popular Magic: The Gathering card game.

The game takes place on a factory floor with each player’s tiny robot attempting to navigate through a set number of flagged gates. This seemingly-simple mission is hampered by moving conveyor belts, rotating gears, solid walls and laser arrays spread throughout the factory. Robots controlled by other players also wreak havoc on your path by bumping into and zapping your robot with their lasers.

At the beginning of each round, players draw up to nine cards each with directional actions such as left and right rotations, u-turns and movement backward and forward. Players secretly place their cards face down in front of them defining their robots’s moves for the round. In turn, players reveal each card and move their robots in order of card value and according to the movements selected. The fun and craziness comes in when well-thought plans quickly go awry as robots beginning bumping into each other and throwing each other off course. Just when you think you have a direct route neatly plotted out to a flagged gate space, some other robot (or two or three) ram straight into you, sending you wheeling off in some other direction.

Lasers cause damage to your robot, reducing your movement choices in a round and only made better by spending a turn shut down repairing. Occupying repair spaces can also provide fixes for damage, and even special robot upgrade cards. The truly unlucky robots will find themselves bumped off the board, returning to their last starting point at the beginning of the next round.

The more players who play only contributes to greater chaos on the board. Our late night seven-player game stretched to nearly two hours of mechanized madness until one player managed to get through a few gates and away from the crowd. My sad little robot, on the other hand, wound up spending the game unluckily bumping into his mechanized comrades and finished the game exactly where it started.

RoboRally has won multiple awards, and its many versions and expansions have ensured its continued love among gamers for nearly two decades. After the cold-bloooded and calculating play in King of Chicago, it was great to end the night on a much more lighter but no less challenging game like Robo Rally.