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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

From all of us at Amarillo Design Bureau to all of you who enjoy Halloween!

May your ships go "Boo!" and forget the "m" part of "boom"!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Own Worst Enemy

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Wargames enable us to replay a situation over and over again, as long as it amuses us. In most cases the principle variable, even if you are trying a new "strategy," is the randomness of the roll of a die, or dice. Few games do much to create a "fog of war," and most allow you to watch the unfolding of the enemy's operations with a high degree of intelligence. That is to say the abilities of any given enemy combat unit are known. This applies whether the game is a high order strategic game such as "War in Europe," or a low level tactical game such as "Sniper," or whether the game pits cruisers and destroyers against opposing cruisers and destroyers in "Iron Bottom Sound" or "Star Fleet Battles," or Sopwith Camels against Fokker D-7s in "Richtofen's War."

We go into any of those knowing much of what our own forces and the enemy's forces are capable of, the only real variable being the randomness of the die.

Does not mean we lack the ability to surprise our opponent by doing something "unexpected" or finding a "wrinkle in the rules" to exploit.

We are, however, often blind to one critical opponent: Ourselves.

If you have a run of victories you can become complacent, and complacency can lead to disaster.

One game that was published by the old "Simulations Publication Incorporated" was titled "Tank." Each game piece was a single tank and the "simultaneous movement" plotting system was used. One of the scenarios pitted a force of 22 Sherman tanks against a smaller force of Tiger tanks in mixed terrain. I was well aware of the history of such encounters, and the expected my Shermans to take heavy losses, but the first several times my opponent and I played the scenario my Shermans easily overwhelmed and destroyed his Tigers. Sadly for me, it became fixed in my mind that my Shermans would always destroy his Tigers, obviously the game was "broken."

What I was failing to allow for was that my opponent had been making a tactical mistake based on the Tiger's reputed invulnerability to Shermans, the result being that he had kept advancing his Tigers expecting to crush my Shermans with his heavy guns while my shells bounced off his armor. The result being that my Shermans were swarming his Tigers because of the closure rate.

My opponent finally figured out the flaw in his reasoning, and in one of the last games we played, instead of advancing with his Tigers, he turned to his left (my right) instead of boring in for the kill. This might not have been overly disastrous (I will never know as we never had another opportunity to play the scenario before we parted ways into the real world on our graduation). Unfortunately, I "knew" that my Shermans would swarm his Tigers and destroy them. The problem was that this time the Tigers were sitting back at range and not closing, and my Shermans were quickly reduced to so many piles of scrap. Not all of them. I no longer remember what my total losses were, but I did come to realization that my confidence in victory (because I had always won before) was seriously misplaced, and at some point broke off the attack and retreated my remaining Shermans from the map. I did not attack to my total destruction, but I know I lost heavily.

I was beaten, however, less by my opponent than by my own self delusion. My Shermans had always beaten the Tigers in this scenario before, and therefore would do so again by swarming them as they had before. My overconfidence due to my previous successes against this opponent and these tanks with this force several times previously blinded me to how dangerous the Tiger tanks really were, and my cardboard subordinates paid for my Hubris. I was my own worst enemy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


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

1. During World War II, the US Army created the Army Special Training Program. Over 160,000 smart young men (IQs over 120) were sent to college at Army expense to learn engineering, languages, medicine, or dentistry. They wore uniforms, took 24 hours of classes a week, and were paid as privates. They were supposed to earn a four-year degree and an officer's commission in 18 months. (The program was, in part, intended to keep land grant colleges from going bankrupt for a lack of students.) In early 1944, the Army decided that the program would take too long, was a luxury they could not afford, and that manpower was desperately needed, so most of these men were transferred straight to the infantry and were added to new divisions being formed. This worked out well since the infantry usually got only the men no other branch of the Army wanted.

2. Everybody has heard of ULTRA, the British code-breaking program that read the Nazi's radio messages. What few know is that the Germans broke the US diplomatic code, which the US military attache in London used to radio home all of the British war plans from November 1941 to July 1942. This German breakthrough was based on the Italian theft of the US code from the US embassy in Rome. (The Italians refused to give the code to the Germans but told them enough about the messages that the Germans could break it for themselves.) This leak (as bad as ULTRA) stopped when an Australian commando team raided an Italian base and brought home proof that the Italians had broken the US "black" code. It was changed immediately.

3. In the final days of July, 1945, the Japanese had assembled 60 twin-engine bombers and 600 commandos for Operation Sword. This was to be a one-way suicide mission to attack the US bases for B29 bombers in Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The theory was to crash land on the bases, at which point the commandos would rush out with machine-guns, grenades, and firebombs to cause as much damage as they could. The mission was continually delayed (by weather or by US attacks on their base) with one of the final dates set for a time when the Enola Gay was sitting on the runway with the Little Boy atomic bomb inside.

4. Lieutenant Akamutsu was Japan's King of Aces, with 250 confirmed kills of US aircraft. A functional alcoholic, Akamatsu flew every mission while drunk. Maybe Ulysses Grant really was onto something?

5. Captain Bligh was not a seagoing tyrant, but an effective British naval officer dealing with a crew that was lazy and wanted to stay in Tahiti where the weather and girls were warm. When the mutiny happened, most of the crew sided with Bligh. The mutineers set him and 18 others adrift in a boat, which Bligh navigated 6,700 miles to safety over 47 days. Exonerated by a court, Bligh served with distinction, commanding 11 other ships and retiring as a three-star admiral.

Monday, October 27, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 October 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on several projects. The weather this week was cool, but passed 80F at the end. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault: Federation Commander: Briefing #1.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 (finishing the first draft of the ship section), support work and graphics for the Federation Master Starship Book r1 and Hydran Master Starship Book, ship art for SFBOL 3G and quality control on a new load of map panels. Steve spent the weekend at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary as he does every year.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #50, the Hydran Master Starship Book (almost finished!), and revisions to the Federation Master Starship Book.

The Starline 2500 project is waiting for the arrival of Master Mold #2 with the new ships mentioned earlier.

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 and some graphics.

Jean worked on the new Galactic Conquest edition, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2305 friends), managed our Twitter feed (123 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Hydran Master Starship Book and A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

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.