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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The First Snow Day

We got our first snow of the winter last night, and of course today is the day that somebody let all the idiots who normally stay home get in their cars and drive. Happens every year. The streets are paved with ice, the wind is cold, and it's hard getting around outside. The warehouse is very cold as well. (Obviously, some of you had your first snow day already and others of you will have yours later. Whenever your first show day is, look out for people who are not used to driving in such conditions yet.)

The snow made it a somewhat strange day around here. Jolene doesn't work Thursdays, Vanessa stayed home, and Mike is home sick. So it was back to the 2004 version of ADB with just the three partners. Worse, the snow meant that Leanna and I got here and hour late and we're all going to leave two hours early to get out of here in daylight before rush hour.

Just to make it fun...
1. We're shipping the last of the CL34 wholesaler orders.
2. The Alliance restock came in only two weeks after the last one.
3. Tomorrow is the first of the "Vanessa deadlines" for Petrick and I to hand over finished pages of new products.

Vanessa has decided that (having watched us kill ourselves finishing CL34 in crisis mode) that CL35 shall be different. While Petrick and I have sworn that every time since CL19, Vanessa means business. She wants the first four pages of CL35 by close of business tomorrow and next week she will start adding pages of PD-Fed and some SFB product not selected yet to the total. She's quite a slavedriver.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Print On Demand

Down the hall, I can hear Samanta and Kate printing copies of Captain's Log #34. They previously printed the rulebooks for Strategic Operations and Romulan Border and Module C5 Magellanic Galaxy and other things.

Samantha (named for the lady on Stargate) and Kate (named for the murdered agent on NCIS) are Kyocera 9520 last print engines. We've had them for over two years and they can each print 100 copies of Captain's Log per day. They've been going for a few days now and have a few days to go, and they keep busy most of time printing restocks of old products. Other than color work (which must be done at a regular printer) we do everything (the black and white pages) print on demand, or print it yourself since we own the print engines.

The business model of the wargame/roleplaying industry for many years as been:
1. Print a minimum print run of a new product at a printing company.
2. Wait two weeks (or four weeks with some printing companies).
3. A big pallet of books arrives at the warehouse dock.
4. You sell enough of them to pay for the printing and to run the business another month.
5. The rest sit on the pallet waiting for restock orders, selling fewer and fewer copies each month.
6. Sooner or later, sales more or less end and you dumpster what's left, OR
6B: you sell out, need to reprint, and tie up a lot of money printing something that is selling a few copies a month.

This is basically a suicide pact. While it may work on cash flow (or may not), it accounting you can only deduct the cost of the books you sold, not the cost of the books you printed. You have to pay storage and insurance (and in Texas you have to pay inventory tax) on what's not sold yet. Most of the profits of most wargame/RPG companies were in fact "paper profits" (paper in the literal sense) stacked in the warehouse. All those unsold books were non-deductible expenses, in effect, profit but not money.

With print on demand, we print what we sell. We print a few more for what we expect to sell in the next month, but we don't have entire pallets of unsold books in the warehouse. If we spot a mistake, we can correct it on the very next copy. If we run out of something, we can start printing more copies of it without investing five thousand dollars in a standard print run of books so that we can sell five or six a day. We have, in the past, even thrown out pallets of non-selling books from printing companies (nice tax deduction there) and done an updated edition on the print on demand equipment (which if course means a lot of people buy it because it's the new version). Print quality is higher (since every copy is an original) and if one of the graphics prints bad, we know it when the first copy comes out of the printer (not when we have 5,000 copies land on the freight dock). We can replace that page before binding that book.

The running joke is that we could auction "the last copy of XYZ ever printed" on Ebay and then print another copy the next day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Another product done, and then...

Captain's Log #34 is done. We've printed the first hundred and the print engines are running full speed printing more. Wholesaler shipments start in a couple of hours and mail orders next Monday. During the last four weeks (when I was busy finishing Strategic Operations and then Captain's Log #34, and remember I was in Europe for the two weeks before that and getting ready to go to Europe the week before that) I was able to avoid a lot of things that should have been done. As a game publisher, it's incredibly easy to say "I'm finishing a product that HAS to go to press on X day. We'll chat then."

Well, it's then. And now I have to sift through all of the promises, all of the 'we will talk laters', and all of the things that I know need doing, and get them done, in some kind of logical order. And by the way, when we ship the first three boxes of Captain's Log this afternoon, we'll official reach the sales goal for the year we set back in January. Pity that I don't get to take the next 33 days as a vacation. After all, I did my job, right? Sigh.

I won't bore you with my entire list of things to do, but we really do need to get the opt-in newsletter working (that's scheduled for tomorrow), get that building Leanna bought a year ago put up in the warehouse (which will double our office space by using unused warehouse space), get communique 12 done, and a long list of other stuff.

I need to start on new products for next year, first being THOLIAN ATTACK. I have gotten pretty good at doing those ship cards, so that's fairly easy. The web rules are doing to take more doing, however.

The schedule for next year looks good. Thanks to Ken Burnside's conceptualization of the product line, the THREE fed commander products for 2007 are actually 21 (maybe 24) stock numbers and nine release dates. Add in two captain's logs and that's a nice year on its own. Once the outside RPG writers get the Federation and Tholian books done, and we get the conversions to a couple of other game systems done, we'll add several RPG products. The current plan is to print the counters for two or three or four SFB products in May and release them over the following six months or a year. Add in an F&E product and away we go with our best year ever.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Captain's Log #34 goes to press

Captain's Log, our twice-a-year "magazine", has been finished and will be printing shortly.

In this issue for Fed Commander players is a new scenario, eight new ships, and a battle report by the guy who won the first Fed Commander national championships.

Also included is a 22-page story about Klingons, pirates, a mutiny, corruption, and other mayhem in the Klingon empire. The story is written in a way that works in both Fed Commander and SFB.

For SFB players there are 14 new ships, 5 new scenarios, lots of tactics including Victory at Origins, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

For F&E players, there are tactics, an alternative romulan order of battle, the final resolution of every question ever asked about devastation and residual defense factors, and some special news on the large scale and extreme scale maps.

and a lot of other stuff. We'll put it on the shopping cart later today. It ships to wholesalers today and to mail orders in a week.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Things happening; today at ADB

Some days I can't think of anything to blog, or (like today) I am just too busy. So, a few lines about what's happening.

We are supposed to ship Captain's Log #34 on Monday and it's going to be a tough fight to make it happen. Lots to do. When I finished Strategic Operations two weeks ago, I had two weeks to "coast" through CL34, but the first week was spent on non-CL34 items, mostly to do with the website and marketing. That left two easy weeks of work packed into one crazy week, a week with a national holiday. I've been at the office from 9am to midnight or later every day this week.

I am almost done. We have 80 pages finished and 40 to go, and of those 40, over 30 are "written" just not formatted and edited. I lack the end of the fiction story (which is a great story, just a very complex plot), the new ship cards, and one scenario.

Every time we do a Captain's Log (May and Nov) we promise ourselves we won't try to do it all in the last two weeks. If you do the math, we just have to do five pages a week to get it done. But a week is lost to a trade show and another to a family crisis and another to a vacation and ten more to other projects that had to be done by a deadline, expanded to take more work than scheduled, and ate the day of each week we set aside for Captain's Log. Make no mistake, we do work on the issue all year. Some pages (like the compilations of six months of Q&A and the product schedules) cannot be done until the last month, but many can be done any old time. When we started the final two week drive we had about 80 pages in some form from complete drafts to a few finished pages. Most of those are done by Steve Petrick. I end up being the only guy who can write certain pages and the only guy who can get any of this stuff into Pagemaker, so today I need to be doing the missing pages but I also need to be putting the last draft pages into pagemaker so others can proof them.

Anyway, we'll get it done, and it's going to be really fun and special issue.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Graphics Director Jolene Settle writes:
As the Graphics progress here at ADB, I am learning about new things everyday. Take for example the printing industry. I learned that different printing presses have a standard for the bleed around a piece of artwork or it will spit it back out. Also working with Spellmann and Associates has also boosted my knowledge of the search engines. Learning about marketing is a whole field that is opening my eyes. Vanessa is very intelligent and I think working with her is giving me a head start. Although learning is everyday, making messups is a regular standard for me. One day I moved the ships around in the wallpaper artwork and I left "ghosts" and then Joe Butler uploaded them and I got tons of comments on the messups. But all in all, I love the messups because It means I am learning and I can hopefully never make those messups again.

Unfortunately, as a designer you can get caught up in making thing aesthetics pleasing for yourself and forget that you also need to make the consumer happy as well. See here I am!! I want to make you guys excited, so please let me know if you have ideas. Here are a few ideas I would love for you to comment on:

MySpace-What graphics would you like to see?
How does everyone feel about a calendar?
CafePress-Please let me know what you want to see on CafePress. I just had a comment about putting box art on a mug. I am currently working on that.

Here is my e-mail: graphics@starfleetgames.com or you can comment on the forum.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Star Fleet Universe Wishes Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Vanessa Clark: The Thanksgiving of Plymoth Rock was celebrated in 1621. The Pligrim's gave thanks for a bountiful harvest with Squanto and about 90 of his relatives. The Pilgrims were only actually expecting a few Indians; they didn't realize how BIG Squanto's family really was, yet they delighted and welcomed them all as different as they were. The Star Fleet Universe is the same. It is vast and still a frontier, full of unexplored wilderness and peoples. Yet, with each race we encounter, whether it's here on Earth or on the frontier of the great space, we welcome it.

Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. would like to give thanks for a wonderful year. We are thankful for our wholesalers, distributors, retailers, loyal players and still yet, the new players. While we can not have a three day feast as Governor William Bradford and the rest of the Pilgrims and Indians did, we can wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Star Fleet Universe and the people in it. Thank you all for a wonderful year!

STEVE COLE ADDS: Be thankful you live in a democracy (well, those of you who do). If you liked the last election, you like democracy. If you did not , take faith that a future election will change that. Be thankful you have a family, if you do. Most of my life, Thanksgiving was my grandparents, their four daughters and (eventually) the eight grandchildren and sooner or later the grandchildren-in-law and then the great grand children started showing up. It was crowded and the "kids table" was populated by people over 40 and a new "kids table" was established down the hall. Then my grandparents passed and one of my aunts said she no longer wanted to hang out with her three sisters (she wanted to be the reigning grandmother of a smaller dinner instead of the second-oldest sister). Then my brother died and the other grandkids sat around moping that we weren't supposed to go until all the previous generation did. Then my father died and my mother was permanently hospitalized with a breakdown and the two remaining aunts didn't want to have Thanksgiving with me (or each other) for reasons I still don't grasp. Seems in just a few years my family Thanksgiving Dinner went from a peak of 30 to just me and Leanna (and those turkey-thieving mini-leopards I live with). Be thankful if you still have a family holiday dinner to go to.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Boosters vs Squadron Boxes

STEVE COLE WRITES: One of the most baffling questions we get is: "Why don’t the ships cards in the boosters match the ships in the squadron box of the same number?"

The answer is that they were never intended to.

The ship cards in a major product (Romulan Border, Tholian Attack) match the corresponding set of three Squadron Boxes.

The ship cards in a set of three Booster Packs match the 24 ships in the corresponding Border Box.

For a complete list:
Ship cards in Klingon Border match ships in Squadron Boxes 1-3.
Ship cards in Boosters 1-3 match ships in Border Box 1.
Ship cards in Klingon Attack match ships in Squadron Boxes 4-6.
Ship cards in Boosters 4-6 match ships in Border Box 2.
Ship cards in Romulan Border match ships in Squadron Boxes 7-9.
Ship cards in Boosters 7-9 match ships in Border Box 3.
Ship cards in Romulan Attack match ships in Squadron Boxes 10-12.
Ship cards in Boosters 10-12 match ships in Border Box 4.
Ship cards in Tholian Attack match ships in Squadron Boxes 13-15.
Ship cards in Boosters 13-15 match ships in Border Box 5.

Now, the one thing that does match is Booster Zero and Squadron Box Zero, since those ships are not "in the game". (Well, four of them aren’t. The other two were not in the game when those products were released.) Maybe the fact that Zero matches makes people think that the other 15 match?

We thought that what matched and what didn’t match was obvious, but apparently it is not as obvious as we thought. Players seem to see "5" on two products and expect them to match, but they don’t. Maybe in hindsight it would have been better to mark the boosters with letters instead of numbers so there would be no "false correspondence" between similar titles? Something to remember the next time I do a new game system. One thing that these questions did do is to make us realize that our shopping carts did a haphazard job of explaining this. After the third time we got asked this question, I checked the cart and sent the CartMaster a memo to add better descriptions of what matches what.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Federation Commander Play-by-Email

FRANK BROOKS WRITES: Federation Commander Play-by-Email
Playing Federation Commander by email 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.
The basic gist of the Federation Commander Play by Email (PBEM) system is that you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via E-Mail. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "Sitrep" (Situation Report) to the players via E-Mail. 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 Federation Commander 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 of Federation Commander. Moderating a Federation Commander PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the Federation Commander rules.
While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (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 to 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 Federation Commander PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB Inc.'s website at www.starfleetgames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Scary New World

The company has undergone dramatic changes in the last year, with new product lines and a new outlook on what we want the company to be and to do. This has taken me way outside of my comfort zone, but I'm getting used to not being comfortable. Federation Commander started it; I was not comfortable doing such a "streamlined" game but it turned out to be pretty fun. Just in the last few months, we have built this new web site (for the specific purpose of bringing in new customers with the new product lines that we did for the specific purpose of ...bringing in new customers). The greatest change has probably been in hiring Vanessa Clark as Marketing Director and Jolene Settle as Graphics Director. I am unused to having such talented persons to assign tasks to. Take Captain's Log for example. Just a moment ago I told Jolene to take a copy of the last issue and go do the graphics over, starting with the ugliest ones, and to do as many of them as she could before we go to press. Wow, that was cool. Scary to think I have that much firepower at my disposal. (She did a new logo for SFB-Online and I was so startled by it that I told her to do more of these.) The really scary part, however, is how much raw power than Vanessa brings to the organization. That woman is a go-getter, and if not chained down is likely on any given day to "go get" new accounts, new customers, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. When we launched the Play By Email version of Fed Commander last week, I hadn't told her anything about it. (Big mistake, she gave me that "look" that makes my blood run cold.) She promptly set to work doing the "launch" for this new service after the fact. Yes, Vanessa, I have learned that surprising the Marketing Director is not a good thing for me to be doing.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Need more drone counters?

Somebody asked us the other day if we could print more drone counters. We didn't have to. The "ammo sheet" done for our earlier game Star Fleet Battles fills the bill quite nicely. This includes drones, plasma torpedoes, drone swarms, plasma swarms, and shuttlecraft for all of the empires in Fed Commander (including the ones in Booster Zero). The ammo sheet stock number is 5611-3F on the new cart. Oh, somebody else asked what a drone swarm was for. It's when one ship launches a bunch of drones at one target and for convenience you just keep them all together to avoid cluttering the map.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New product release: Strategic Operations

STEVE COLE WRITES: We just released a new product called STRATEGIC OPERATIONS. This is an expansion for our popular Federation & Empire game system (which is very different from Federation Commander). F&E is a strategic game. Basically, you collect taxes from your planets and provinces, and use them to buy ships to attack your enemies and defenses to protect your own planets. The game is not that complicated but is very big, and a full-scale campaign can see thousands of individual ship markers in play at any given time. While Federation Commander has a limited ship set focused on direct command, Federation & Empire revels in a huge ship list including esoteric variants and special units such as Marine Corps Generals, Diplomatic Teams, Starbases, Auxiliary warships, convoys, cruiser squadrons, and destroyer groups. You can find out more about F&E at www.StarFleetGames.com and can buy this new expansion at https://www169.safesecureweb.com/starfleetstore/merchant2/merchant.mvc where the stock number 3211 will help you find it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Organized Play League: new bonus cards

STEVE COLE WRITES: One of the more fun aspects of Federation Commander is the Organized Play League, where (all across the country) hundreds of players meet at least once a month to play scenarios. For prizes, the store managers are sent a set of "Bonus Cards" which give a victorious player a benefit for one-month of future gaming. (Stores that sign up for the Organized Play League are regularly sent a package of signs and bonus cards.)

The first set of six bonus cards included:
#1. Legendary gunner, subtracts one from all direct-fire die rolls.
#2. Legendary helmsman, able to make one extra safe high energy turn per battle.
#3. Heavy drones, the ship has four drones which take twice as much damage to destroy and have warheads twice as big.
#4. Captain’s Gig, a shuttle mounting its own 360 degree phaser-3.
#5. Scatter Pack, one shuttle holding six drones.
#6. Master Chief, gives the ship one extra repair point per turn.

A second set of bonus cards has now been printed, and will be used in mailings to stores starting today. It includes:
#7. Legendary Engineer, gives the ship one extra point of power each turn.
#8. Commandoes, which have better odds raiding enemy ships than mere Marines.
#9. Aegis Fire Control, allows a ship which misses an incoming drone to take a second shot.
#10. Plasma Shutgun, allows a Plasma-S launcher to instead fire three Plasma-F torpedoes (each must have a different target).

Cards #11 through #16 have also been printed, but we aren’t going to reveal their contents until we start mailing them out early next year.

Bonus cards are fun, and worth working to win, but while they give you an edge they won’t win the game for you. Note that each card is good for one calendar month (you write the date you first used them on the back) but remains good until you start using it. Over time, we will continue sending out the first six cards along with the ten new ones. If you win an earlier card later in the year, it’s still good!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Starships Released

STEVE COLE WRITES: We just released five new Starline miniatures. All of them are available at our on-line store (which has photos).

The FEDERATION COMMAND CRUISER is a new version of our existing Federation Heavy Cruiser. The difference is the saucer, which has a great deal of detail. (The Heavy Cruiser saucer is almost smooth.) We did a survey some months ago and there were players who wanted both versions (smooth and detailed) so we issued both versions. (The hull and engines are identical.). The ship is stock number 0211 and costs $7.95. It is available on both shopping carts, and appears in FC: Booster Pack #1. You can, of course, use a heavy cruiser for a command cruiser and a command cruiser for a heavy cruiser. Our policy is to give players as many options as possible.

The Orion OK6 cruiser is a unique ship in Star Fleet Universe history. The ship was built as the Klingon D6 heavy cruiser Anarchist. Sent to investigate pirate activity in a remote sector, the ship fell into a trap. The crew separated the boom section and escaped, leaving the abandoned rear hull with the self-destruct systems counting down rapidly. The Orions beamed an elite engineering crew on board and disarmed the bombs. The problem was that having captured the rear half of a Klingon cruiser, what could they do with it? Without a boom section (which the Orions did not have and could not build, and could hardly expect to purchase) the rear hull was not stable in flight. The Orion solution was to mount a raider cruiser (without its engines) to the front of the hull. The result was, for many years, the largest and most powerful ship in the Orion pirate fleet. This ship is scheduled to appear in FEDERATION COMMANDER: ORION PIRATES and just might sneak into an issue of Communique. The stock number is 0815, the price is $7.95.

Warships cost lots of money, several times as much per ton as commercial cargo ships, and with good reason. Warships are expected to move around at high speeds and to fight in dozens of battles over a service life of several decades. Because warships cost so much, they are never around when a local government needs them, and even the military doesn’t have enough ships to do every job that needs doing. The solution is the Auxiliary Warship, a commercial freighter to which a few weapons have been added. For the cost of one cruiser, an empire can have five or ten of these Auxiliaries, and they serve in no end of useful roles as troop transports, convoy escorts, and even as pseudo-warships in less threatening regions. We offer a package of two such ships (large and small) for $14.95. The stock number is 0113. These ships are scheduled to appear in FEDERATION COMMANDER: ORION PIRATES and just might sneak into an issue of Communique.

The Heavy Freighter (which has four cargo containers, the large freighter having two and the small freighter just one) is also known as the Large Ore Carrier, which is the most common use of this ship. It is the super-tanker of space, hauling the largest of loads. The stock number is 0123 and the price is $12.95. This ship was in FEDERATION COMMANDER: ROMULAN ATTACK.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to find opponents

STEVE COLE WRITES: Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four wargamers 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, and works much better, and you have a lot of ways to do it. For best results, do all of them.

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-in’s every day, and since it’s free you can try it every month or two and find out of somebody near you has signed in.

You can go to the forum and find the area where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations and let people know you’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.)

Feel free to go to your local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of Federation Commander (or any of our games) and "grown your own" opponents. If anybody already plays the game you demo, they’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.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to our Legacy site and look for the button that says Player Resources. Under that menu is a link for Starlist. 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 five thousand 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 your 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.

The original web site has a bulletin board system and the 8th item on the main menu is "seeking opponents". 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.

Many of those on Starlist and StarFleetGames.com/discus will be players of Star Fleet Battles, but most of those can be convinced to play Federation Commander. Indeed, over half of the names on Starlist are people who quit playing Star Fleet Battles for lack of opponents (or because SFB was too complex for them or their opponents) and most of those are ready recruits for the faster cleaner Federation Commander game system.

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see the links list on our site).

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 cards who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online and play Federation Commander on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $4 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 13, 2006

Free stuff for Fed Commander players

STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of part of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (enough to play a few battles). Go to our Legacy site and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:
o The free First Missions packet (demo version of Federation Commander).
o Turn guages and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.
o Sample ship cards.
o Wallpaper of game covers.
o Frequently asked questions.
o Information for Retailers.
o The original theatrical trailer (ok, not that, but it was the original flyer handed out at trade shows).
o Notes from the game designer (me) on what parts of the older game Star Fleet Battles we decided to include in Federation Commander.

But that’s just a start. If you join the Commander’s Circle, which is free, you can download the monthly Communique which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of Federation Commander players looking for new opponents (you!).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cafe Press

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. CafePress creates and sells products with your designs. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and I have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, Coffee Mugs, Ornaments, Mousepads, etc.
If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on CafePress to buy, Let me know , I will set it up for you!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November 11th

Today is Veterans day. It dates from the end of the First World War when the Armistice that ended it went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Of course, even then war did not really end.

The Allies (including some U.S. regiments) were briefly involved in the conflict known as the Russian Civil War to cite only the most significant conflict that continued with the end of fighting on the "Western Front". There were other conflicts around the world.

Among the "enlightened democracies" of the time, however, it was believed that they could finally (after the horrors of the trenches) simply outlaw war.

Conflict continued, and indeed continues to this day.

While many would like to "Study war no more", the sheer fact is that you cannot stop studying war unless you are willing to surrender all you have to those who will "study war".

Over the decades since our Nation was founded, we have been blessed with a small minority of our population who has been willing to accept the disdain of the majority and place themselves between our homes and war's devastation.

It is right and proper that we should have a few days set aside to remember and honor these men, many of whom died lonely and painful deaths not just on the battlefields of the world, but in the prison camps of our enemies.

So have a picnic, see a movie, spend time with your friends in the peace and prosperity that is our country. But remember that a largely silent minority has suffered, sometimes long after the fighting of a particular war has ended, so that you could do so.

Give at least a few moments of your day to remember that largely nameless and faceless handful, and do your best to make sure that they did not suffer in vain.

Federation Commander Wallpaper

Joe Butler (webmaster to StarFleetGames.com) and I have put a page together to download Federation Commander Wallpaper.
Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, Romulan Attack is currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.

If there is any other sizes or wallpaper that you would like to see, please feel free to write me at graphics@starfleetgames.com and I will try to get it set up for you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Federation Commander brings you...Federation Commander MySpace!

Vanessa Clark: Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. is pleased to announce that we now have a MySpace page! Be our friend and find us! Make comments, view upcoming blogs (yes we will be blogging there as well!), and see what's going on with Amarillo Design from another side! Our MySpace page is ran by Jolene (graphics) and myself (Vanessa-Marketing Director) so you will get different interaction with Amarillo Design Bureau than you have in the past.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Leanna and I got home last night and, on opening the kitchen door from the garage, were confronted with a powerful odor of natural gas. (Actually, natural gas has no odor. The gas company adds Mercaptan to the gas so that you can smell any leaks.) Being responsible adults who pay attention, we immediately went into response mode, and knew what to do. Do not turn on any lights (or anything else electrical) or start any fires. Immediately open the biggest hole you can (the back door) and then every other door and window. Check to make sure the pets are ok. (Isis and Ramses have a cat door into the back yard, and cannot get out of the back yard due to the special fence we built. They were playing happily, although we don't know if they didn't like the gas smell or just decided to go play. Without that cat door, they could have been killed.) Then go outside and use a cell phone to call the gas company. (If you can't find their number call 911 and the emergency people will transfer you to the gas company.) The gas company responded within minutes with a technician who had gas testing equipment. It took him two minutes to find the leak. (The pipes inside the 28-year-old oven had finally corroded through. Nothing lasts forever.) He then checked everything else and found two tiny leaks (not dangerous but deserving correction) in other appliances. Had Leanna and I been a few hours later coming home, we could well have found a pile of bricks instead of a house. (Note: houses are designed to breathe and it is better to leave two windows open a couple of inches, secured against burglar entry of course.That way, any gas leak that happens will not build up to a fuel-air mixture able to actually explode.) We have five gas appliances in our home, three of which have flameless ignition. The oven does not (but will) and the hot water heater does not (but will the next time we replace it).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Many people do not know (because we forgot to tell them) that you can play Federation Commander on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, http://www.sfbonline.com/, was created to provide players of Star Fleet Battles with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then.

This successful operation has now been expanded to include Federation Commander!

Now you can play with real live human opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the Federation Commander Game System as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don’t show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don’t be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else’s?) This “observer” system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

So come to www.sfbonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new Fed Commander aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and yu can learn from the best.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I voted. Did you?

You still have time; get it done.

This election will be a fun one. I suspect that the Dems will get the House but the actual result is going to be wildly unpredictable, more so than any previous election. The number of people who refuse to take part in polls is something like five or six times what it has ever been, leaving a huge "unknown, but presumably decided" vote out there. The Dems could get 20 seat more -- or less -- than they think they will.

I think people are very tired of polls, and that it's been clear for quite some time that the establishment media is using polls to tell people WHAT to think, not to find out what they already think. (You can get any result you want from a poll by asking the right questions. Consider asking the question "Do you support a draft for military service?" AFTER either one of these questions: "Do you believe in involuntary servitude?" or "Do you think young people need to learn self-discipline?")

Push polling by both sides ("Congressman Smith has voted six times to protect the rights of Child Molesters. Do you think this is right or wrong?) is rampant and the newspaper this morning said that 90% of the political ads this year were negative. I don't know that this is a bad thing since you can hardly count on your opponent to tell the voters things that may influence them to vote against you.

The evolving media is something to account for. When I was growing up, the constant one-sided drum beat of the news meant that the Republicans had to keep their mouths shut during the coffee break conversation because "everybody knew" that the Democrats were right and the Republicans were wrong. But now with Limbaugh and Fox News, the Republicans have the other side of the story and coffee break conversations get to be a lot more fun.

I have heard a lot of pundits saying that the Republicans should blow off this election so that the Democrats get blamed for the two years before the next election. That seems kind of silly to me, but I guess whoever wins (and whoever loses) will try to make the best of it, spinwise. The miracle of American democray is that now and again one party calmly hands over power to the other party and the country just moves forward all the same.

I suspect that this election will very much be about Iraq and I think that's probably bad because too few people understand it. I have heard the mantra of "send the troops to hunt Osama" but if you actually know how the military works you realize that we have exactly the maximum number of people hunting him now. (You just cannot supply more troops in that mountainous area.) Iraq didn't turn out like I wanted. I wanted it to be the new West Germany, a shining beacon of free-market multi-party democracy with a free press and an independent judiciary. I wanted to see an Iraq in ten years that was so far beyond the rest of the Arab world that even "the Arab street" could realize that the way they have run their countries for the last ten centuries isn't the right way. But I think now that the culture of bribery, tribalism, and "rule of the gun, not of the law" is so ingrained that you just cannot make democracy work in a country where everybody winks and grins and says "So if I get elected, I get to collect bribes, right?" Remember, guys, I'm the one who called the President of Turkey and offered to broker a deal to give Iraq back to the Turks and they would not take it.

Enough of all that. Go vote. Make it count.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.starfleetgames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry 28 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company last 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he as personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Is Luck Something That Sticks?

STEVE PETRICK WRITES: In the local group that I did my miniatures gaming with, there was a "cursed unit".

This unit was the Third Battalion of the Pavlov Foot Guards, a unit that participated in the fighting during the wars of Napoleon.

There was no "historical reason" that the unit should be cursed, it was just that it seemed like every time that unit was deployed on the gaming table, it would "break" (fail a morale check) and flee the field.

The First and Second Battalions of the Pavlov performed as well as any "Guard Infantry" formation. But time and again the Third Battalion would break. So much so that no one would volunatrily take that unit, even accepting units of lesser quality rather than the Crused Battalion.

I only became aware of this curse after the battalion was assigned to me (being the new guy and unaware that the battalion was cursed), and meeting everyone's expectations the battalion "Broke" and ran in the face of the enemy.

The Curse was so strong that those arrayed opposite a position where the Third Battalion was deployed would literally make their plans based on the Battalion breaking.

There was, as noted, no rule or anything else that was supposed to make that particular group of stands act in such a manner. Just somehow it seemed to always happen.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Who was that Demo man?

STEVE COLE ASKS: Can you help us solve a mystery? We heard a rumor that somebody was doing all-day demos of a game that might have been Federation Commander at the Essen game show. He was doing this in German in the Miniatures Hall. We’re a little skeptical of this rumor, since we never saw this event, and nobody who saw our games mentioned that the game was being demoed in another room. (But then, perhaps they thought we knew?) We would like to confirm this report and, if it’s true, provide the guy who ran this event with a suitable thank you. If we had known this was going on, we could have worked a deal for him to send us business (or us to send him participants). If you can provide any information, Email me at design@starfleetgames.com please.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Star Fleet in England

STEVE COLE WRITES: After our week in Germany, Leanna and I caught a quick flight over the channel to England, where we spent a week in London with our good friends and customers John and Victoria Crawford. While we did see the usual tourist stuff (Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards, Saint James Park, Trafalgar Square, Number Ten, the Tower of London, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum, Harrads, and of course Stonehenge and Avebury) we were there primarily to talk to British retailers and British customers.

We had the opportunity to see several. John Crawford has been a fan of the Star Fleet Universe since it began, and walked us to the shop where he first bought the pocket edition of SFB and to the shop where he bought Volume 3 of the Commander’s Edition, among others. All of this was during his spectacular walking tour of downtown London-Westminster. While I suffered horridly (I don’t walk much at home) by the end of the week I was walking long distances without trouble, and plan to continue walking a mile a day to get back into shape.

Our primary focus was a meeting with British gamers at Leisure Games in Finchley. (Finchley is part of Greater Metropolitan London. The actual "City of London" is only one square mile around the Tower of London.) We met with the shop managers, and had a detailed conversation of their business. (Leisure Games is the largest mail order retailer of our products in Europe. Their store functions both as a walk-in retail store and as a vast mail order warehouse.)

Several individual gamers drove or took the excellent public transportation system (often two hours or more) to meet with me at Leisure Games and discuss new products and new company directions, and to get their games autographed. It was great to see many customers who had previously just been names on the BBS or on mail orders. The British customers are overwhelmingly miniatures players, and were excited to see the new ships which we had brought to Leisure Games (all of which sold out while we were there). The British players want STAR FLEET OPERATIONS (which used to be called Module V) to generate scenarios and manage campaigns. They pointed out to me that because of the more limited set of ships and special rules in Federation Commander that the version of Star Fleet Operations to support FedComm would be simpler and easier to design than the originally intended version (designed to support the much more detailed Star Fleet Battles engine).

Those who attended included myself and John Crawford, plus: Bob Cochrane, Michael Ng, Martin Wilkinson, Dan P Ibekwe, Mark George, Jonathan Amery, and Michael Wheatley.

I want to thank John Crawford again. He and his wife Victoria took a week’s vacation in order to escort Leanna and myself around London, and we wouldn’t have seen half of what we saw without them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Essen Game Show

The Essen Game Show is an annual affair, and is reputed to be the largest game show in the world with 150,000 people attending. Every year, a dozen or two American game companies make the pilgrimage and rent booths and try to sell American wargames and RPGs to the Germans and a few other Europeans. Attendance was down this year due to the schedule. (The Essen show is always on the German "half-term" school holiday week. This year it wasn’t, and next year it won’t be, and that means fewer people showed up this year and presumably next year. At least it felt like fewer and was not as crowded; show officials insist they had more people than last year.)

ADB attended this year for the first time. (We plan to attend again, but probably not in 2007 due to it not being on the school holiday and besides that's my 30th wedding anniversary and Leanna isn't thinking in terms of game shows for a vacation.) Leanna and I met and talked with a lot of existing German and European customers, and met a lot of potential future customers (gamers, retailers, wholesalers). We got some ideas about what Europeans want and expect in a game, and how that differs from what Americans want and expect.

While the Essen show is ten times the size of Origins (in attendance, maybe five times the size in dealer booths) most of those customers are not interested in "wargames and RPGs" but only in "family games", so the actual number of potential customers is much closer to the number of gamers at Origins. Because most Europeans had never heard of ADB or the Star Fleet Universe, we didn’t have people heading straight for our booth as we do at Origins, but had to rely on the circulation of the crowd to bring them past our booth where a combination of posters, product displays, and demos attracted the attention of thousands of people. Thanks to the graphics created by Jolene Settle and the marketing packets created by Vanessa Clark, we had some success in attracting the attention of these future customers.

We have a new German distributor (Ulysses) which has our latest products in stock for German retailers. We spoke with other wholesalers (outside of Germany) and retailers who are considering our product lines.

The really marvelous thing about the Essen Show is that all of our "rivals" and "competitors" go out of their way to make it easy for other American companies to attend. Nobody told Mayfair Games that they had to be responsible for shipping everybody’s products to the show; they just do it (for cost) as a service to the manufacturer community. GAMA reserves the entire Hotel Jung and parcels out the rooms to publishers. Many publishers are only too happy to share booth space, rental cars, and other expenses, saving everybody time and money and mistakes. I am deeply indebted to Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo, who not only shared booth space and drove us from Frankfurt to Essen at 100mph in a shared rental car, but who made the deal with Ulysses for us.

Germany (and Europe in general) are not the US, and it was interesting to see how things work in other parts of the world. The Germans, for example, like to see a lot of meat on their dinner plates but just cannot grasp why Americans want ice in their soft drinks (or in anything else for that matter). What you expect in American hotels is not what you find in German hotels. Whoever told the Germans that cold cuts and half-cooked eggs were proper breakfast fare may have been playing a joke. The hotel did, however, have some super-great yogurt and didn't complain when we used the huge cereal bowls instead of the little yogurt bowls for it. We got to see a little of Germany outside the show and it seems a pleasant country.