Back in 2009, artist Jan-Luc Van Damme introduced Brooklyn residents to an item that immediately caused a stir: a Bushwick Board Game. The homemade creation is loosely based on the classic Milton Bradley Game of Life, only it involves pratfalls that are Brooklyn-specific: Bedbugs, the 3rd Ward closing, nasty looks from ex-hippie stroller moms. Until recently, the game has been little seen by the public, saved for Bushwick Open Studio events. But Van Damme found a permanent home for the game at the new breast-themed dive bar The Boobie Trap in Bushwick, where it nestles among selections like Monopoly, Jenga, and Battleship. And so I, along with some intrepid board game enthusiasts, went to go play it last night.
Players start in Williamsburg, where they’re priced out, and travel along the board in order to reach more affordable digs in Bushwick. Van Damme has actually been working on the game for nine years, long before the current boom in Bushwick real estate, but he’s worked to keep the board up to date. According to the inside of the box, the version at the Boobie Trap is the 2014 version. The rules are fairly simple: Each player has an “avatar” that moves along the board (you can choose between a toy soldier, a pawn, a Care Bear, and a NYC condom, among other pieces). You roll the dice to advance along the board, collecting or losing “nuggs” (pennies) and drawing cards that give you instructions. There’s a good deal of drinking involved, and a “cocaine rail” set of rules that makes the game go extra fast. There’s also a version in which players gradually lose their clothes, for the advanced board game set.
But the real treat of the game are the cards that you draw, which describe the sundry small victories and defeats of Bushwick life. Such as:
Another one of my favorites: “The empanada you ate has hallucinogenic effects. Roll die and go to that subway stop.” (Yes, the L subway stops are part of the board.)
The Boobie Trap is a good setting for the game, since it involves drinking anyway, and the Bushwick-kitsch aesthetic is strong there. And it’s a fun one to play, particularly if you get the references. Best of all, in case you’re angling for a unique Christmas gift, Jan-Luc is open to selling versions of the game to individuals.