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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

RANDOM THOUGHTS #225

Steve Cole ponders 10 more ways that World War II might have turned out very differently. (See Random Thoughts #213 for the first 10 and #217 for the second 10.)
    

1. The US might never have developed a nuclear bomb. Maybe they (like the Germans) decided it was impossible? Maybe they were still trying to get it to work and ran out of time? Anyway, an invasion of Japan (given the lessons of Okinawa) would have been a very expensive undertaking with at least a million dead American soldiers and sailors. And that invasion only envisioned capturing 1/3 of Kyushu and the area around Tokyo, assuming that this alone would force the Japanese to surrender. Given the Japanese mindset, that is just not all that certain. The US might have found that the invasion of Kyushu was so expensive (in lives) that no invasion of Tokyo followed. They might have captured Tokyo at such a terrible price that there would have been no will to spend another million lives capturing the rest of the country.
     

2. There were so many attempts to assassinate Hitler that any of them could have had a major impact, but all of them would have been resolved in two ways. Himmler would have taken power in a bloody internal battle and fought to the end like Hitler did. Alternatively, relatively sane generals might have taken power and tried to negotiate a peace. The German fantasy of peace with the US and Britain so they could keep fighting Russia wasn't likely to happen, nor was it likely that the Russians would have agreed to any result that left Germany intact. FDR had already declared the goal was "unconditional surrender" which to the Germans meant that Germany would cease to exist as a nation.
     

3. Stalin might not have purged his military during 1937-39 and had a competent officer corps to keep his Army from falling apart during the first weeks of the German invasion.
        

4. FDR might have been less friendly to Russia. Justly criticized for being soft on communism, FDR had the idea that if we treated Joe Stalin nicely and shipped him as much aid as we could that he would stop murdering his own people and give up plans to occupy half of Europe. (This policy has never worked toward any of the communist dictatorships.) FDR might have held back on aid and let the Germans and Russians kill as many of each other as possible, then agreed to British plans to invade the Balkans and keep the Russians out of Eastern Europe. FDR could have put conditions on aid to Russia (such as allowing freedom of religion or promising an independent Poland) but refused to do so.
  

5. Stalin might have believed everyone who kept telling him that Hitler would attack in 1941. Stalin was so anxious to avoid (or at least delay) a war with Germany that he forbade any preparation for it out of fear it would provoke one.
    

6. Stalin might have left the pre-1939 border defenses (pillboxes, bunkers, and other defensive lines) intact, rather than ordering them blown up or dismantled. This would have provided a stronger second defense line against Operation Barbarossa.
  

7. The British could have been more aggressive. While Montgomery is often criticized for his lack of aggression, it was actually not his fault. British government policy was to hold down British casualties (by taking more time to assemble supplies and bombard the Germans with artillery) and British units simply never displayed the kind of aggressive tactics that the Germans, Russians, and Americans used (with the sole exception of O'Conner's brilliant African operation). The failure of the British Army and Montgomery to take Caen on D-Day, to close the Argentan-Falaise gap, to close the German escape routes from the Scheldt Estuary, and to rescue the paratroops at Arnhem are all examples of a lack of aggression that ended up costing more casualties than they saved. Montgomery's crossing of the Rhine in 1945 was grossly overproduced; the Americans had already crossed the Rhine on the run at several locations.
        
8. Stalin might have not been such a paranoid maniac and not murdered most of his own generals in 1937-1939, giving his army competent leadership during the first six months of the German invasion.
   

9. Hitler might have gambled by concentrating his offensive during the initial invasion of Russia in the northern half of the front, leaving the southern half to follow along as it could. Without the diversion of Guderian's tanks to the south to trap a huge number of Russian troops, the Germans might have reached and taken Moscow and Leningrad before the Russian troops in the south could have been redeployed.
    

10. Hitler might have stripped other theaters to concentrate more firepower for the initial invasion of Russia. He just didn't have enough troops. Faced with a choice (July 1941) of grabbing Moscow or encircling the southern half of the Russian Army, he simply lacked "one more field army" that could have allowed him to do both. When he made the final push for Moscow (September 1941) he had to strip units from the Leningrad front (leaving that city uncaptured) when one extra field army would have done the trick. There were plenty of divisions doing more or less nothing on occupation duty in France and other countries.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Jean Sexton for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Monday, March 30, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 March 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we began printing Captain's Log #50 and laying plans for the next projects. The weather this week was warm often over 70F. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We had a staff meeting on Wednesday to review how much progress had been made on various projects and assigned priorities for the week. Later, the design team met to take the first look at content for Captain's Log #51. We did release another 20 pound-o-ships bags, which sold briskly.
      

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #50 FLAP list, Star Fleet Alert, and Captain's Log #50 Supplemental File. He added Captain's Log #27 and Captain's Log #50 to the history book, and quality checked a shipment of Starline 2400 Federation DWs.
    

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and quality checked a shipment of Starline 2400 Federation DWs.      

The 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are three months late.
       

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries and three updates.
     

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory, and quality checked a shipment of Starline 2400 Federation DWs..
 

Simone did website updates and some graphics.
   

Jean worked on the Kindle version of For the Glory of the Empire (almost ready for upload!), updated ACTASF ship roster cards (Klingons, Civilians, Romulans), managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,561 friends), managed our Twitter feed (136 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #50 Supplemental File and some advertising, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

On Writing and Proofreading and Marketing

Jean Sexton muses:

My job at ADB is different than the job that others in the company have. My work spans all phases of a product's life. Let me tell you about it.

As we start a new product I am often involved. For these meetings I wear my marketing hat. I ask myself, "Who will buy this? Who are we aiming for and can that be broadened? How can we add 'zing' and make it more exciting?" This sometimes worries the Steves. Will I ask them to toss out perfectly good (but too thematic or of limited appeal) ships? Will I tell them I need more excitement in a story? Will I barely restrain my eyes from rolling and pronounce their carefully laid plans as "boring"?

Then comes the creation of the item. I sometimes have a writing assignment. I have a confession to make. Writing doesn't come easily to me. I struggle not to sound pedantic. God help me if I must write dialogue as my characters would all sound alike. My creative writing is limited to Olivette Roche "research." I have to confess that is easy. I write something I know would have the Steves wincing. If they howl in anguish, it is perfect. Olivette is the right character for me -- she hasn't really got a creative bone in her body. She steals ideas from the past and writes them. She sees a situation involving the Federation and anyone, then believes that the "anyone" is in the right, especially if they are Klingons. Since I am writing a synopsis of a trivideo, book, or story, what is totally improbable to impossible gets blithely ignored and incorporated as part of a "good story."

Then comes the proofreading stage. Ah me, that is some of the most thankless work I do. The Steves hate capitalizing and de-capitalizing words. Before I came, no one cared if it were "Come to the Bridge" in the first paragraph and "The captain walked on the bridge" in the second. I have heard, "Jean, the guys know what we mean," until recently. To me, an edited book should never draw attention to the editing. You should never notice it, because what you are reading is right. If we write "The Gron ships are at SW-I and 21 hexes from the base," then you wonder if we meant 21 or 12.

The problem with proofreading is it takes a while. I might notice "Gron," but not see SW and see it as wrong until I read a couple more scenarios and ask "What is the difference between SW-I and WS-I?" Since I moved to Amarillo, I have insisted on seeing the "fixes." When I lived in North Carolina, I would check the new product when it came in, then wince as the "fix" to the problem wasn't. If "Bridge" became "vridge," that was a cringe-worthy error. I have had to learn that "perfect is the enemy of good enough" and turn things loose lest I proofread them to death and you never get them.

Once the item is released, the design team can rest on its laurels. I can take off my writing and proofreading hats. But what is this I see before me? It is the marketing hat! I need to build the buzz and keep it going until the item is available. I need to keep it simmering as people buy it and report how much they like it. It is a delicate balance to make people aware but not sound pushy and turn them off. I have to be aware of the rules of the various forums so as not to break them with commercialism.

In the midst of all that, I need to keep "housekeeping tasks" going. Just because we are working on an item doesn't mean that social media comes to a stop. Spammers certainly don't take a break. Customers have questions. Older books need to go up as PDFs (and they need marketing). All of those are part of my job.

Then just as I think the coast is clear come the clarion words, "Jean, we're having a meeting to discuss the next book. Come tell us what you think about it." And we are off to the races!

There is one thing I can say about my job -- there is never a dull moment!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Friday, March 27, 2015

WHAT TO DO ON A DATE

Here is what you can expect on a date with a suitable member of any of the SFB species.

Federation: Make First Contact.
Klingon: Go dancing. Saber dancing.
Romulan: Attend the submarine races.
Kzintis: Heavy petting.
Gorn: First attend the ballet, then just hold you close.
Tholian: Attend a Rock Concert.
Orions: They will steal your heart.
Hydrans: Just want to hold you close.
Lyrans: Heavy petting.
WYNs: Stay home and watch the house. Burglars, you know.
ISC: Attend an anti-war rally.
Seltorian: Attend a Beatles concert.


Thanks to Mark Kuyper, Timothy Steeves-Walton, Andy Palmer, Sandy Hemenway. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #20. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movies Unseen

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When did going to the movies become so hard?

I looked up recently, and noticed that several movies was interested in seeing have come to the theaters, and gone, and I did not go. Not even to the $2.00 theater to see them.

Does not sound like much, until you consider that not only have I not seen the latest "Night at the Museum" film, but it was too difficult to go see "The Battle of the Five Armies" and the conclusion of "The Hunger Games" even though I had seen all of the previous movies in those series.

It is not like it is any harder to get to the main movie theater here in Amarillo (I drive right by it every morning on the way to the office, and every evening on my way home). The experience has just become something I am no longer willing to endure.

I honestly do not think I will go to see the next "Star Trek" film, much less the next iteration of the "Star Wars" series.

I would much rather go to my own home and read a book or watch something on TV.