Jon Freeman knew he needed a change from working at his neuroscience research unit but he wasn’t sure what else he wanted to do now that he was “all grown up.” His “aha” moment came in the form of a desire to re-create a favorite local spot, now gone, where multiple generations of people would spend hours upon hours socializing. With no knowledge of the restaurant industry, Freeman tried to come up with other options. Perhaps that’s when his inner child reminded him how much he enjoyed playing games.
Thus the “Brooklyn Strategist,” or the “B-Strat” as it’s known by locals, was born. Freeman’s goal as founder and owner-create a place where one can put down the electronics and go in for some old-school gaming. His success has lead to a common meeting place where family and friends come to be part of a larger community of “gamers.”
No “Bored” Games
A wall of games covers one side of the shop. Divided into those to be played right then and there, and others to be purchased and taken home for fun after hours, Freeman’s library consists of about 350 games-from the nostalgic (think Tiddly Winks and Battleship), to out of print editions such as Machiavelli, Railroad Tycoon and the Genus Editions of Trivial Pursuit. There are approximately 200 retail games for sale.
Ten-dollars allows players up to four hours of play on any games in house. Staff members help facilitate, will play the games with you, or show you how to play if you’ve never done so before.
The B-Strat promotes itself as a “great place to enjoy strategy, community and competition through interactive board and card games.” Upon first glance, the shelves boast the ever-popular classics of Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble, but look closely and you may be drawn to the likes of Illuminati, Ravenloft or Diplomacy.
Strategy is Key
Freeman says the quality of games has dramatically changed and improved by the standards he grew up with. For a new generation of players, he emphasizes games of strategy.
In the evenings, gaming clubs offerings include-Scrabble Tuesdays, Magic The Gathering Wednesdays and Fridays, Chess Club Thursdays and Dungeons and Dragons on Saturdays. There’s also miniature model-building and painting on Saturdays.
For the Kids (and the Adults)
A Freeman’s motto for the kids: “Play.Learn.Think.” He has two daughters, now 11 and 4, but as he’s watched their interest grow in isolating games like the Wii and DS, he’s become even more sure about the importance of this space. Kids seven years or older can take part in afternoon clubs for the purposes of “interaction and learning.” The clubs are meant to serve as a place to, “think creatively, socialize and strategize against an opponent or with team members,” Freeman says. Organized clubs play games ranging from Senet, to the game of chess and more.
There is a small selection of games like Sherlock, Bakers Dozen and Look Look Dizios for children of 4-5. This winter, the Brain Benders after school program was introduced for 5-6-year-olds after school on Mondays and Tuesdays. All games played in this club are Mensa selected.
As for the adults, Freeman says B-Strat is simply, “Your friendly neighborhood game space.” Some internationally played games find a domestic home here. For instance, Carroms, the original game of pocket billiards is played across India, but there a few public places where it’s played in the U.S. “It’s fun and frustrating at the same time,” Freeman says, adding that’s all part of the learning process.
In the future, Freeman hopes to see the morning hours dedicated to games like bridge, Mahjong, dominoes-again–with a cross generational bent. “I think it would be spectacular to see the older generations playing with the younger generations-all together.”