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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Friday, November 21, 2014


I hear the plasma in the night,
But they hear only whispers of some future devastation.
I lead my ships into the fight.
The silver wings reflect the stars that guide me to my destination.
I asked an old centurion,
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient battle plans.
He turned to me as if to say,
"Hurry boy, there’s glory here for you."

It’s gonna take a war to keep me away from you.
There’s nothing that a tractor beam and ships could ever do.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
Gotta take some time to do the things we never did.

The dead crews cry out in the night,
As they grow restless longing for some ghostly company.
I know that I must lead the fight,
As sure as BattleHawks and Eagles rise
like a Phoenix over the horizon.
I seek to fight what’s deep inside,
frightened of this war that I’ve begun.

It’s gonna take a war to keep me away from you.
There’s nothing that a tractor beam and ships could ever do.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
Gotta take some time to do the things we never did.

[ instrumental break ]

"Hurry boy, there’s glory here for you."

It’s gonna take a war to keep me away from you.
There’s nothing that a tractor beam and ships could ever do.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
I fought the Gorns out at Gornshima.
Gotta take some time to do the things we never did.

Filk written by Stephen V. Cole. Appeared in Captain's Log #35. (c) 2007

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Experience and Planning For the Weather

This is Steven Petrick posting.

This last Sunday past I drove Leanna and Jean to Oklahoma City so that they could experience Mannheim Steamroller.

You are all no doubt aware of the weather situation that hit the center of the country with early snowfalls. Naturally that would provide for the fall of snow on the day of the trip.

It was not a surprise, we were aware of the ongoing weather event, and actually began monitoring the possible weather a week in advance of the operation.

When the day came and the final pre-flight forecast prompted the "go/no-go" decision, I judged that there would be light snow on the way out and that this should prove not too much of a difficulty, and that between the time of our arrival and the conclusion of the show the snow would have stopped, and the road crews would have had adequate time to clear Interstate 40 for the trip home. So I called the mission a go.

I did not, however, anticipate "freezing fog."

That is my best guess for what caused the high number of accidents we encountered about 20 miles short of the Texas Oklahoma border on the outbound leg. Lots of jackknifed and even completely overturned big rigs. Obviously a lot of people in smaller vehicles not allocating sufficient braking distance from the vehicles in front of them.

Jean and Leanna revisited the "go/no-go" decision, but I convinced them we would make it. Yes, we drove slower (to road conditions) and commented on the courage (or was that stupidity) of people who passed us, but overall the "stress factor" on the interstate was never particularly high for me.

My main concern as announced before the trip began was the surface roads inside Oklahoma City itself, which I knew that, unlike the main artery of the Interstate, would not be cleared.

How right I was.

Swinging by to pick up the ladies was relatively easy, but our simple exit to the interstate was blocked by the police (the apparent result of a wreck of some kind on the actual intersection at the top of the ramp). This diverted us to a long (mostly due to the slow speeds, icy conditions, dark, and unfamiliarity of the route we were now on) detour in search of the next entrance ramp to the west.

The roads were packed with snow turned to ice, and my high level of focus and need to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times led to significant pain in my shoulders by the time we made the ramp. SVC called and wanted us to make a go/no-go decision by the time we reached a particular exit just outside of Oklahoma City.

My prediction on road conditions held, however. And we were moving along at a reasonable clip by the time we hit the Garth Brooks exit, and so continued on.

There were, overall, fewer wreck sites in the return trip, but at least one of these was major with significant traffic back up about 15 miles on the Oklahoma side of the Oklahoma/Texas border, but over all the road crews had, as I had anticipated mostly cleared the road. There were a few rough patches, but not many, and we made it back to Amarillo by 2300 hrs.

Of course this was when I found that the road crews had not done quite as good a job on I-27 as had been done on I-40, and I-27 was still kind of rough even on the following day (Monday), but the sun was out and by Monday evening it was almost as if the snow had never been on the roadways.

Years of experience all came together to plan for the trip and the weather that was forecast to make a safe trip, but it was also skill and experience that allowed safety, in so far as my own driving, for the unanticipated aspect (freezing fog). And, of course, good fortune as while I can, and do, control my own driving (ever conscious of other people's lives in my hands), I cannot control the driving of others and we were fortunate that no one driving in excess of the road conditions lost control just at the time they would have hit us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-ins every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some 5,000 players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a Star Trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 November 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we released Communique #107, Hailing Frequencies for November, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 (revisions A and B) and the Hydran Master Starship Book. The weather this week was very cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. A European spacecraft landed on a comet.

New on Warehouse 23 this week was Hydran Master Starship Book.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were the Hydran Master Starship Book and A Call To Arms Star Fleet Book 1.2A and 1.2B.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies, then cleaned up his desk.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #50 Campaign Update and  battle groups, the Hydran Master Starship Book, and Klingon Master Starship Book.

The Starline 2500 project is still waiting for the next round of masters. We did assemble 24 one-pound bags of 2400 factory seconds which we offered for $50 each.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with five 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 Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,354 friends), managed our Twitter feed (123 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #107 and A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Steve Cole ponders ten ways that World War II might have turned out very differently.

1. Italy might have stayed out of the war. That would have effectively eliminated the Mediterranean theater, the Afrika Korps, and the Italian campaign. Seriously, Italy was very little help to the Germans, and was always starting sideshow wars that distracted the Germans from the main effort. Without the Italian-caused Balkan mess, the Germans would have invaded Russia two months earlier and Rommel might have taken Moscow.

2. The US might have been delayed entering the war. The American people had very little interest in going to war and were unhappy with FDR's undeclared and unauthorized naval war in the Atlantic. Without the Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor and Hitler's stupid move to declare war on the US after that, any US entry might have been months or years later, or might have never happened. The Japanese needed the oil in Dutch Indonesia but did not have to invade the Philippines to get it (despite their mistaken belief that they needed to). Russia's Siberian troops might have continued fighting the Japanese and Moscow would have fallen.

3. The Germans might (a few minutes after seeing the first T-34) have radically improved their Panzer-IV tanks by sloping the frontal armor, switching to the long-barreled gun, and widening the tracks. (Call it the Cougar just to give it a name.) Production of the Panzer-III could have been terminated in September 1941 and that assembly line used for the StuG-III tank destroyer, which used the same hull as the Panzer-III and the same gun as the long-barreled Panzer-IV. These steps (and a tank recovery vehicle) would have vastly improved the combat power of the Panzer divisions.

4. Hitler could have quit messing with the aircraft industry. He delayed jet production. He insisted that all German bombers be redesigned as dive bombers (which cost money, range, speed, and bomb load). For bonus points he could have sped up jet production. Waves of jet fighters would have stopped the strategic bombing campaign when it started in 1943 and would have seriously disrupted Allied air supremacy over Normandy.

5. The British and Americans might have built a better tank. Let's face it, the Sherman was substandard due to thin armor and an inadequate gun. Later versions helped a little, but other than the handful of Fireflys none of them were the equal of the Panzer-IV, let alone the Panther or Tiger.

6. The Japanese could have used their submarines as commerce raiders (as the US and Germany did). The long US supply line from California to Hawaii could not have been protected without a massive increase in US destroyer production at the expense of something else (perhaps those magnificent battleships that ultimately had nothing to do that the old battleships already on hand could not have done).

7. The Allies could have just copied superior German stuff. The 75mm anti-tank gun, the 88mm anti-aircraft gun, the MG34 (let alone the MG42) machinegun, and the panzerfaust rocket launcher would have been easy to copy and were vastly more effective than Allied weapons.

8. FDR made his demand for unconditional surrender without approval from his allies, and it shocked them that he made such a huge political mistake. The German soldiers then felt they were fighting for the very existence of Germany, and the Japanese thought they were fighting for the very existence of Japan. They might well have agreed to a negotiated settlement.

9. The Germans could have made a far more rational defense against D-Day. There were really only two plausible invasion areas (Calais and Normandy) so troops could have been concentrated there. No concrete should have been wasted on the western coast of France or the coast of Denmark. The key bridges that British glider troops seized on the night of 5 June could have been guarded by entire platoons of troops instead of a couple of sentries. The key German tank divisions could have been parked 10 miles from the beach not a hundred miles or more. Even so, the massive amount of naval gunfire (seven battleships and 23 cruisers) would mean that the landing was not going to be totally destroyed.
10. The Germans could have paid attention when shipping packages. The war in Europe went the way it did largely due to British success cracking German codes, but the British got their start from the Poles. A month before the war began, the Germans mistakenly mailed an Enigma code machine to an address in Poland. Recognizing what it was, and with German diplomats on the way to get it back, the Poles had two telephone engineers examine it for a few hours. Without their report, there would have been no ULTRA, no Bletchley Park, no code breaking, no man called Intrepid, and probably, a much more expensive victory, or a negotiated peace.