The Brooklyn Strategist: Fun and Board Games for NYC Kids and Families
After years of playing endless rounds of Candy Land and Sorry!, I decided my family was ready for something more challenging and exciting. That's why we started hanging out at The Brooklyn Strategist, a unique, interactive game center and community-based social club.
Inspired by Atlantic Avenue's Peter’s Ice Cream Parlor & Coffee Shop—the beloved old-school haunt that closed 10 years ago due to a rent hike—local resident Jon Freeman decided to create a similar cross-generational gathering space. At The Brooklyn Strategist, folks of all ages are encouraged to kick back, relax, think and connect through analog games.
My son fell in love with the strategy sessions at The Brooklyn Strategist during summer camp. His fellow gamers were equally enthusiastic, and I talked to many parents who said their kids were waking up before dawn, excited to go play with their friends. Here are some of the cool things you can play at The Brooklyn Strategist.
The Brooklyn Strategist is more than a retail shop or a gaming club, although it serves as both, and Jon isn't your typical game geek. He's a dad, a licensed clinical psychologist and a former neuroscience researcher. He strives to create an atmosphere of fair play, and knows how to handle cheaters and bad sports. There's lots of laughter in the air and kids really pay attention and don't fight. Jon makes sure the emphasis is on making friends and having fun, not necessarily winning.
Afternoon clubs are 2½ hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and are open to children ages 6 and up. You can drop in for $20, or purchase packs of two, six or 12. The more you buy, the more you save. Each day focuses on a different theme, with kids playing interactive board and card games that encourage negotiation, cooperation, creative problem solving and multidimensional thinking. This fall, Tuesdays feature award-winning Empire Building and Civilization Games, like Settlers of Catan and Railroad Tycoon, while Thursdays focus on History of Conflict, with rounds of classic games such as Risk and Machiavelli.
The learning is progressive and developmental. Your kid may begin sessions with a familiar, tile-based game like Dominoes and then move on to a more complex game like Mahjong. As you've probably surmised by now, there are no computer, video or digital games of any kind. My eight-year-old son went bonkers discovering ancient strategy games such as the Royal Game of Ur (from Babylonia to Boerum Hill!), Mancala and Senet (found in King Tut’s tomb). His favorites at the moment are two really clever card games: Munchkin and Dominion.
The first and third weekends of every month, The Brooklyn Strategist becomes a neighborhood social club with drop-in open family play. During these sessions, your brood can try more than 150 games, from well known favorites to vintage oldies (anyone else remember Mille Bornes?) to obscure out-of-circulation offerings. Open family play costs $10 per person for four hours, and you can play as many games as you want. Experienced staff is on hand to answer questions and clarify rules, and the competition is friendly. If you get hungry, the spot sells homemade Strategic Snacks like whoopie pies and Schorle, a natural soda that’s half juice, half seltzer.
The Brooklyn Strategist is always adding new events to its schedule. The spot recently held the first Strat-o-Matic Major League Baseball tournament in Brooklyn since the mid-’70s. Strat-o-Matic is the best-selling sports game ever, and the ancestor of all fantasy sports.
In addition to its after-school and weekend programs, The Brooklyn Strategist also offers vacation camps, can be booked for birthday parties and hosts monthly adults-only gatherings, so a date night may be in your cards.
The Brooklyn Strategist does sell a slew of games (at fair prices), so you can add new favorites to your collection. My son's Strategist experience prompted us to resurrect our weekly family game night, and these days we go way beyond our old standbys of Boggle, Yahtzee and Scrabble.
The Brooklyn Strategist
333 Court Street at Carroll Street
For more great kids' programs, check out our Classes Guide.