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Saturday, January 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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Of Life, Media, and Education

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things I run into is a statement by one side that "movies are entertainment and not political," and by the other side that "all movies are political." The curious thing is that the sides are not what you would think. The side that you would expect to be championing the idea that movies are just entertainment actually champions the idea that all movies are propaganda and should be designed to educate the masses in right thinking (even if those precise words are not used). One of the reasons that "American Sniper" is reviled because it fails to inculcate the right thinking.

Another is the statement that people should not expect to learn history from movies and thus the maker of a movie has whatever license they chose to take in how the past is presented. This can be somewhat harmless (while the overall message of the movie about how a squire assumes the identity of a knight and finally is claimed as a noble knight by the Black Prince stank to high heaven, the movie's producers and directors bringing modern touches was entertaining, to include "We Will Rock You" being sung as the knights joust).

The problem with the above is that the reality is without strong disclaimers at the start of a "historical film," literally with the director appearing on screen after the credits and before the movie begins to emphatically state that the piece is a "re-imagining of a historic incident, event, or character, or all of the above" too many people leave such films believing they are in fact historically accurate. Sorry, but I majored in history and encounter this effect all to often when I went to movies regularly. (Truth to tell, I do not go to movies much any more.) At least "Captain America" was known by most audiences to be an adaptation of a comic book, so not too many thought "The Red Skull" was a real person and "Hydra" an ally of the Third Reich.

I am trying (and that is the word) to watch the "Agent Carter" TV series. I find it incredibly painful to watch as I have a habit of watching older movies that were actually created in the time period that "Agent Carter" is set. "Agent Carter" has an agenda to make sure it is common knowledge that women were being ruthlessly crushed and held back by a "man's world." There is more than a little truth to that. It was, however, nowhere near as blatant if you watch the background information presented in movies of that era as "Agent Carter" makes it out to be.

As I have noted elsewhere, though, sloppiness is also a factor and seems to be creeping in everywhere. I find more and more typos in formally published books, and sometimes out and out historical inaccuracies (I recently, in the last two years, read a book on U-Boat operations that placed the Operation Torch landings in North Africa in 1943 for example).

I have stopped asking random questions of the college students I run into, because the answers are too often disturbing. The things that these young adults who are all High School Graduates do not know frightens the dickens out of me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on surprising and little known parts of military history.

1. After WWII, Stalin insisted that no one ever really feared for the loss of Moscow, that everyone was confident that the city could be held. In reality, the NKVD was preparing teams of saboteurs and assassins to stay behind in a German-occupied capital. One team of actors was told to prepare to entertain German generals; during their act, the juggler was to throw explosive bowling pins into the audience.

2. During WWII, the US regularly updated the Australians on their Pacific War plans. The Australian Foreign Minister was very pro-Russia and his staff promptly gave copies of the plans to the Soviet embassy. The really surprising part is that the Soviets then gave the plans to Japan! Why? To slow down the US advance in the Pacific so that the USSR could defeat Germany and then move troops to Siberia for an invasion of Japan. Stalin wanted to be sure that the USSR ended up occupying at least half of the Japanese home islands. This would provide security (Japan would then be unable to attack the USSR) and the USSR could confiscate Japanese labor and technology for the Soviet Union's benefit.

3. The next US atomic bomb was just a few weeks away and was scheduled to be dropped on Tokyo itself. That might have killed the emperor and decapitated the command structure, leaving nobody with the authority to surrender.

4. Everybody knows that the Germans crushed the French in a few weeks in May 1940. One of the little known aspects of this is that the collapse began with the Dutch. The small Dutch Army was badly trained, had not fought a war in a century, honestly expected to be left alone, and had virtually no anti-tank weapons. After 12 hours of combat, their high command ordered all troops to retreat to a tiny part of the country (on the coast, where most of the population lived). This left the southern half of Holland empty, and the Germans barreled right through it, collapsing the Belgian flank and meeting the French and British troops days before they expected to be fighting and miles behind the defense lines they had planned on using.

5. I was reading a history book which compiled interviews with many soldiers who served in Russia during World War II. In one incident, a group of Russian soldiers cut off behind German lines just two weeks after the war started ambushed a lone car, killing the three occupants. These were found to be a German general and his driver and a Russian nurse. The Russian soldier being interviewed assumed that the nurse had defected to become the mistress of the general. It is far more likely that the nurse spoke German (and her native Russian) and was being used as an interpreter. Until the 1960s, German was "the medical language" and virtually every doctor and nurse in Europe and the US spoke it because the medical journals of the day were published in German. (Remember in the old movie "Von Ryan's Express" that the British doctor inexplicably spoke German and impersonated a German officer? This is why it was the doctor, and not some random other officer, who spoke German.)

Tuesday, January 27, 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.

Monday, January 26, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 January 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady work on new projects. The weather this week was cold; we even took a "snow day" on Thursday. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week was JagdPanther#12.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were JagdPanther #12, the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Federation Ship Roster Card Pack, and the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Klingon Ship Roster Card Pack.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #50 fiction, A Call to Arms Star Fleet Book 1.2 Revision D, the SFU History Book, and the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 ship roster card packs.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #50, Captain's Log #51, the Klingon Master Starship Book, and the revision to the Hydran Master Starship Book.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds and doesn't expect them before March.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, covers for PDF products, and some graphics.

Jean worked on PDF uploads, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2476 friends), managed our Twitter feed (128 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread For the Glory of the Empire, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Snow and Driving and Kindness

Jean Sexton muses:

It is hard to believe, but I had never seen a foot of snow lying on the ground before. The time it snowed 17 inches in my hometown, I was visiting friends in Philadelphia and we saw four inches.  When it snowed 14 inches, I was in college and saw less than half that. After Thursday, I can no longer say that. A foot of snow is quite different than a few inches. When one has a dog who is only 11 inches tall at the shoulder, one finds the dog has challenges. I had to break a trail for Wolf. When he decided to leap ahead he found himself up to his ears in snow -- and he didn't enjoy that at all!

When I moved to Amarillo, I found my "heavy" coats weren't. The wind cut right through my wool coat and my lined windbreaker wasn't warm enough. I had one coat that was long and warm, but it was frequently in the way. I've added a jacket that is sufficient in most weather. After my first trip, I had a pretty pair of warm boots, but they weren't designed for wet weather. I now own sheepskin-lined rain boots and my feet are dry and warm. Wolf has an assortment of coats to handle rain, cold, and wet and cold. He is training me to carry him when his little feet would get too wet and cold on trips to and from the car.

That leads to driving. In the area where I lived (southeastern North Carolina), we realized that snow is slippery. Driving in it was hazardous. Most places closed if there was an inch of snow either expected or on the ground. My father taught me to drive with a few inches of snow on the ground. With no practice, my skills atrophied. Luckily, the Steves are willing to transport Wolf and me when I don't feel comfortable driving. Still, I am finding that my knowledge and skills are slowly returning. I may never be as proficient as they are, but I will be able to get around safely.

The apartment complex where I live now isn't responsible for clearing sidewalks or the parking lot, although they often do. The biggest problem for me is that I live in the north end of a "U" and it is shaded. Snow gets compressed or half-melted and then it refreezes to slick ice. One of my neighbors noticed I was having trouble when we were both out walking our dogs. He came over and cleared a path for me to get to the cleared part of the sidewalk. He did that again with this snowfall, having to dig about 300 steps to my door, through high drifts (two or three feet). Combined with my ice-melt crystals, I had a safe path.

On Friday, a young teen neighbor was outside and there was a snow shovel on his landing. There was a mound of snow behind my car that the plow left behind. I asked my neighbor if he'd clear it for me, sharing my nervousness about driving in snow. He understood as his mother felt the same way; his friend even cleared the car's back window. Both refused pay.

So many times we remember the rude and inconsiderate people: the person who rides your bumper, the neighbor who thunders up and down the stairs when you are trying to sleep, or the person who treats you unfairly. I am going to try to remember the kind people, the helpful people, and the people who lift others up. I think I'll be a happier person.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.