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Sunday, December 21, 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/).

Saturday, December 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!

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE TOP 10 QUESTIONS A CAPTAIN NEVER WANTS TO ASK DURING A BATTLE

1. If you didn't put the drones in the scatter-pack, where did you put them?

2. You loaded the photons with WHAT, instead of anti-matter?

3. Why is the cook leading the Marines?

4. You did what to the warp engines?

5. If the pilots are still on the ship, who is flying the fighters?

6. What do you mean "he went to the bathroom"?

7. If you're not using the UIM to aim the disruptors, then what are you using it for?

8. What do you mean "you're not sure" whether you launched the real or the pseudo plasma torpedoes?

9. You're using the stasis field generator to keep the vegetables fresh?

10. You're using one of the seeking weapons control channels to steal pay TV ?

Thanks to Geoff Gard. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, December 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sublight Squadrons Win Using the Rules

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Games give us opportunities to find solutions. The game mechanics and situation can place us in a difficult situation where success on the surface appears illusory at best. This gives us, however, an opportunity to work within the game's framework to find solutions.

Romulan sublight ships are obviously severely handicapped when facing warp powered ships. So much so that victory seems unlikely. Winning with them takes more thought and patience and you have to optimize the rules affecting them.

The fact that they move so slow makes it difficult for an opponent to gain and retain a lock-on if they are cloaked. However, that does not mean the opponent cannot simply fire without a lock-on to gradually wear away the sublight ship's defenses. Given the long range of the plasma-R torpedo, the opponent may be forced to operate at fast speeds in order to fire and "get out of dodge" before the long range plasma-R can catch him. He also has the advantage that the Romulan sublight ships are designed for "offensive" use rather than defensive, at least in space. All of the weapons on the Eagles, Hawks, and Snipes are designed to fire forward, there is not much to protect the vulnerable tails of these ships.

There is also nothing that keeps you from operating a few ships in a squadron of sublight Romulans in reverse. Whether moving not at all, or their maximum speed of one, has no effect on their ability to move one hex a turn by impulse power.

There is also the fact that they can hold off on moving at all until almost the end of a given turn. They should always, in battle, use only reserve impulse power to move. Whether that movement is a sublight tactical maneuver, or actually leaving the hex will depend on the enemy's operations. In the interim, it is somewhat harder to get a lock-on on a cloaked ship that is at Speed Zero most of the turn, except at most the four impulses at the end of a turn, and retaining a lock-on gained is problematic at such speeds, especially if you are fleeing from a Romulan plasma torpedo meaning you are opening the range.

No, this is not going to help in a duel situation. Lone sublight ships are extremely disadvantaged and one can imagine many a Romulan picket ship lost to raiders. But Romulan sublight squadrons can still prevail over small groups of enemy ships by optimizing the advantages the rules give them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

RANDOM THOUGHTS #216

Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:
    

1. PARAPHERNALIA, any sort of miscellaneous baggage or equipment carried by an individual, comes from the Greek para (beside) and phero (that which was bought). It originally referred to the personal property of a bride which did not become the property of her husband; it was separate from her dowry.
    

2. PARASITE, some person or other animal who lives entirely off the resources of someone else, is from the Greek para (beside) and sitos (food). Originally it was not derogatory and was used to refer to priests who existed from the donations of their flock. Later the term applied to guests at dinner (who were expected to flatter the host if they wanted to be invited back).
 

3. PARIAH, someone who is outcast, comes from an Indian word parai, which referred to workers who spent all day beating a drum to control the pace of work by other workers. When the Aryans invaded India about 2,000BC, they subjugate the dark-skinned natives and reduced them to the lowest caste, which were called pariahs not because they beat a drum all day but because they worked in low level drudgery. The British, hearing (and not completely understanding) the term used it to refer to anyone who had been cast out or banished.
    

4. PATROL, which means to walk around an area checking for trouble, comes from the Old French word patouiller which meant "to dabble in the mud." Later French soldiers assigned to walk around the outside of the camp to prevent anyone from approaching adopted the term, and the British (who copied many French military terms) copied and shortened it to patrol.
 

5. PATTER, a word used by the English (but rarely if at all by the Americans) to be babble or mindless recitation comes from the Latin pater (father). Peasants in the middle and dark ages recited their Latin prayers without knowing what the words meant; the the pater noster (our father, or the Lord's Prayer) was the most common of those.
     

6. PAVILION, once an elaborate tent and now often a public building where exhibitions are held, comes from the French papilio, which means butterfly. The French used that term because tents used by the officers and nobles were often of brightly colored cloth. Over time it passed into English.
   

7. PECULIAR, which today means strange or odd, comes from the Latin peculiaris, which originally referred to the cattle owned by a farmer. Over time, peculiaris began to refer to all of the wealth (and then to all of the possessions) of a farmer, worker, or soldier. Something you owned was "peculiar to you." Unusual creatures or cultures were said to have peculiarities, that is, attributes unique to them.
        

8. PEDAGOG, which technically means a schoolteacher but is often used today for "know it all," comes from the Greek and meant "leader of boys." A rich family would assign a specific slave the duty of caring for the sons, guarding (perhaps herding) them as they went outside of the house (perhaps to the gym or some other outing). Over time, it became highly desirable to buy a slave for this duty who was an educated man captured in battle, and he was expected to be more of a teacher and guide than a mere nanny.
       

9. PEN, PENCIL, now the most common writing instruments, would appear to be derived from a common root, but they are not, and their similarity is only coincidence. Pens came from goose quills, which were called Penna in Latin. Pencils were originally the finest of brushes used by artists, and peniculus was the Latin word for "little tail."
   

10. PERSON, which today means a unique human, comes from the Latin persona, which means mask. (It is easy to see how the modern word persona derives.) Greek actors always wore masks with unique exaggerated features so that those members of the audience in the most distant seats could tell who they were. Thus, in every play you saw, a particular mask (used over and over) was always a 40-year-old father, while a different mask was always a sickly boy, another was always the god Apollo, and so forth.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 December 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was cool (40F-50F). The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.
        

New on Warehouse 23 this week was JagdPanther #11.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were JagdPanther #11, Captain's Log #9, and Federation Commander Briefing #2 Pack B.
 

Steve Cole worked on the line items for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2C.
    

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #50.
 

The Starline 2500 project marched in place, waiting for masters that should have been here a month ago. We're as fed up with the mold-making company as you are.
 

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with six new entries.
 

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory. Mike got both Steves to help him do quality control checks on a new shipment of Starline 2400 miniatures. The casting house did a great job and there were less than 20 bad ones out of over 1000 pieces.
  

Simone did website updates, sent out Hailing Frequencies, uploaded Communique #108, and did some graphics including glorious comets.
     

Jean worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2C, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to almost 2400 friends), managed our Twitter feed (over 100 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.