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.

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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.

 

A Place To Play: Brooklyn Game Lab

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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.

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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: Star Wars X-Wing

One of the big instant hits to come out of last year’s huge GenCon gaming convention was the new Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games. I finally got a chance to play it a few times in the past couple weeks with members of the Metropolitan Wargamers club in Brooklyn. Then, my brother brought me a starter set of the game over this past Easter holiday weekend. As both a lover of all things Star Wars and well-designed games, I’m hooked.

SWXW is the one of the latest fan favorites to appeal to both experienced and new gamers wanting some gaming right out of a box full of easy rules, well-designed components and beautiful pre-painted miniatures. The starter set offers two Tie Fighters and a X-Wing model, rules, movement templates and dials, cards, specialized dice and scenario markers for about $30-40. A few beginner scenarios are also included with the starter set, allowing two players a pretty solid and varied intro to the basics of the game.

In a nutshell, SWXW is a dogfight game where ships chase and fire at their opponents while maneuvering to avoid their own destruction on a typically 3′ x 3′ playing area. Play starts with each player pre-assigning movement to each of their models with a special movement dial. The dials are particular to each class of ship and allow for combinations of straight and turning moves. Since movement is planned in secret from your opponent, guessing which way the enemy will move and how you should react is key to the strategy of the game.

After ships move, firing lasers and other specialized secondary weapons occurs using special dice. Modifying “focus” or “target lock” actions increase the ability to hit enemy ships while “evade” actions increases a ship’s ability to avoid damage. Ships take damage to their hulls or shields, and destroyed ships are removed from the table. The game moves fast, and a basic game can be accomplished in well under an hour.

While the starter set allows for some fun intro games, players will soon want to grow their fleets and options. Like the Star Wars Universe itself, SWXW soon proves to be as expansive as players (and their bank accounts) allow. Single ship expansion sets of Tie Fighters, Tie Advanced Fighters (pictured below, right), Tie Interceptors, X-Wings, Y-Wings (pictured at right) and A-Wings retail for about $15 each (cheaper online). With these, players gain greater choice in fielding larger Rebel and Imperial fleets.

Each ship expansion comes with specific cards indicating pilots, astromech droids, secondary weapons and other special abilities which may be used in combination with that model or, in some cases, other ship types. So, an X-Wing can be fielded with Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles or Biggs Darklighter at the helm and R2-D2 or some other astromech droid along for the ride. You can assign Darth Vader to the controls of a Tie Advanced ship and then assign addition weapons and abilities to the ship. The latest expansion wave offers two large-sized ships — the Millenium Falcon and the Slave I — which are certain to be a huge hit with fans anxious to pit Han Solo against Boba Fett in an intergalactic duel.

Players wishing to get into SWXW will do well by themselves to get a couple of the basic sets plus some expansion ship packs. Once you’re quickly beyond the beginner stage, games are typically fielded with 100 points of ships on a side. Points are assigned according to ship class, pilot expertise and other add ons, allowing for lots of replay value and experimentation with combinations of forces. While the game is still new to me, I can see this one coming out of the box and onto the galaxy of my gaming table pretty frequently in the months ahead.