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Saturday, March 31, 2007

I wonder about "Jericho"

I watch the TV show Jericho for many reasons. Being a military man it interests me on one level, and I like some of the characters. I do wonder about the technology and background. Some of it is probably wrong (not that I'm sure which parts) and some of it is certainly missing. The lack of any military personnel (isn't anyone in the whole town a reservists or guardsman?) is clearly because the writers wanted it that way; I don't think it's that realistic.

The bombs apparently had limited effect (a few big cities) but the later EMP strike seems to have caused a lot more damage. I'm not clear who has the capability to do EMP strikes on purpose as opposed to by accident. They are an effect of nuclear air bursts but they seem more a literary device than real technology, probably because the writers don't understand or care about the technology, but just do what they want to do to make a good story. The lack of any communication with the outside seems ... odd. Somebody would have gotten a working radio grid going.

The fuel situation confuses me. Being an engineer who has built refineries and pipelines, I cannot really figure out what is going on. Refineries are not built in big cities and are not heavily dependent on electricity and have their own generators. I highly suspect that most of the refineries are still working and without those big cities to serve there really should be plenty of fuel. The power grid is another question. Maybe that EMP thing did something, but power plants are not in the big cities hit by the bombs.

Anyway, it's a show about people in a situation that the writers created, just like all science fiction. It's about the people; the background is just made up.

Friday, March 30, 2007

In praise of our volunteers

The adventure (wargaming+roleplaying) game industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry.

Even at that, the ONLY way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Nick Blank does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, and Mike Filsinger for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer and Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system to pay the server costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) doing scenarios, or without Jeff Laikind (a real-world chemical engineer) in charge of the overall game system and the Ship Information Tables.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Scott Tenhoff, Chris Fant, Stewart Frazier, John Berg, John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, Mike Curtis, Loren Knight. Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. While artists Ted Geibel and Adam Turner do get paid, they could make a lot more working for advertising agencies than for us.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

We thank them, every one of them.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Wild Night in Tornado Alley

Last night there were 65 tornadoes in 6 states. At least six of them were within a hundred miles of ADB. Crazy night, sitting there watching weather reports like it was a football game (or maybe like it was combat reports from Iraq). Hail up to the size of baseballs missed my house by less than a mile. A huge line of storms over 100 miles long sailed up and across Texas, and the entire line came within a mile of my house, sometimes east and sometimes west and sometimes right on top of us. We were watching one of the networks on Tivo about 10-20 minutes behind "real time", but all of the tornadoes were north of us. It's not particularly funny, since people were killed, and it had the Bengals terrified (and having two terrified leopards in the house who want to sit in Mommy and Daddy's laps is anything but funny). But it's the kind of thing nobody can do anything about, so we just live with it. I've stood on the front porch of my house and watched tornadoes go by less than a mile away (although not last night). We all just pray, keep the televisions on, and keep in mind the best place to go hide.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In praise of Tivo

I love Tivo. I can't live without it. I won't go back to living without it. Leanna and I have three Tivos (networked of course) and record a lot of stuff.

Tivo makes recording easy. You don't have to program a time; you select a show. It's easier to find shows and make sure you got the right show. If you see an add for a new show you want to see, you can go to the search-by-title and find it. If you are just looking for amusing shows to watch, go to your favorite channel (for me: National Geographic, Military, and History) and just click down the listings until something amuses you. If you want a show and it says "Cannot record that without canceling that stupid Home & Garden show your wife programmed earlier" you can back up one step and click on "see other times this this show is on" and select a backup time. You don't have to change tapes or plan ahead to see how much you are recording and how much the tape will hold. You can see a season pass for your favorite shows, and if you see some old show you love (for example Paleoworld) you can see it to record "every episode including re-runs" and just delete the ones you remember seeing years ago and watch the ones you missed back then, or enjoyed enough to see again, or don't remember.

Tivo has other advantages. You can pause live TV and then restart it. Leanna and I love to start our favorite shows about 20 minutes after they start and fast-forward through the commercials. I love the "backspace" key which goes back 8 seconds so if you missed a line of dialogue you can hear it again without the hassle of backing up the tape.

Some shows that I find really interesting (such as Tomb of Jesus or Exodus Decoded) I just leave on Tivo (we have the one that holds 300 hours) to watch again whenever I am out of things to watch, or when I want to watch them again and go over the details. I can watch hours of TV without having to get up out of my recliner and change tapes. I never have to find a tape or wonder if this tape is episode #9 of 24 or episode #10. We pick a show or two to "bank" (leave unwatched for dead times like the Christmas season).

If you don't have Tivo, get it. You will never go back to regular TV.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Got any Marketing Ideas?

Marketing Director Vannessa Clark writes: While I have a strong education and quite a bit of experience in marketing, I can always use a new idea (particularly about this unique game industry that I have joined).
If you have ideas for a new product, a new way to sell existing products, or just a new way to do things, drop me a line at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and let me know. I'd be happy to discuss any of these ideas with you.
A month go (I always post this same thing on the 27th of each month) I commented on the idea of recruiting players of our Prime Directive RPGs to go to RPG forums and discussion boards all over the internet and "chat up" Prime Directive.

This idea has expanded in the last month into the Ambassador Program to cover all of our products and every forum we can find. Check the php forum on this site and the discus forum on www.StarFleetGames.com and you'll see where we have set up topics for Ambassadors to go to various sites/forums and report back what is being said about our products, get information from the company if a reply is needed, and of course to spread the word about the Star Fleet Universe.

In one recent case, a forum was holding a discussion about our products and wondered why we were not using the Constitution-class heavy cruiser on Fed Commander covers. There was suspicion that this marked some kind of contract or licensing problem. Well, nothing of the kind! SVC likes the Kirov-class battlecruiser and left to his own devices tells the artists to use that ship. A lot. We have used the Constitution on two Federation Commander products (Booster Pack #1 and Academy) so there is obviously nothing to this "great mystery" other than the fact that the Federation has dozens of different ship types and we try to spread around the "media time" for them. But we would have never know about this (or sent the correct information) except that an Ambassador told us!

We need to recruit more Ambassadors to carry the word back and forth. Ambassadors have a lot of fun, and are much appreciated. They will also be rewarded with honors, medals, and eventually some gift certificates and free products. We're still getting this thing going, so details of just what you have to do to get something are yet to be determined, but we've always relied on volunteers and have always made them feel special and appreciated.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I watched "Reign of the Gargoyles" over the weekend, the latest "straight to late movie" offering from SciFi channel. Some crude attempts at a plot. The senior officer had a son killed and the hot-headed kid reminded him of his son. How nice. The tech sergeant in the top turret who is the in-flight mechanic ignores an order to come down and work the fire extinguishers to put out the fire in one engine (which, by the way, the pilot controls with a switch) because he was too busy racking up glory points

What annoyed me was the endless technical goofs and silliness in the movie. I mean, does Hollywood:
a. not know anything but thinks they do?
b. not know anything but don't care?

Any number of amateur or professional historians would check this for them cheap just for getting to hang around a movie set. Sheesh.

I saw a British major wearing American rank insignia (the British insignia is a crown on the epaulet, not an oak leaf on the collar).

They shot down a German plane with a mortar. (Oh really? This would be the most impossible dumb luck shot in the history of impossible dumb luck shots. You'd actually have better odds firing blinding and praying for an accident than you would trying to hit the plane.)

The traditional "run down the road with machinegun bullets from the fighter plane's wing-mounted guns kicking up dirt on both sides." (Sorry, German planes have at least some their guns mounted in the nose!)

A British commando is firing a machinegun but the belt doesn't move and there are no ejecting shells.

He-111 bombers have one machinegun in the nose, not two.

Let's not talk about the guns that never run out of bullets, why an American shotgun is in the middle of Belgium, or just how many bombs fit inside a B17. (The aerial special effects were great, including the Ju88s.)

I don't even want to talk about the three armed Germans standing still in shocked amazement as the american captain drops one weapon, jumps over a wall, runs in plain site at a range of 30 feet to a truck, pulls another gun that he has never seen before, properly loads and cocks it, then shoots the dumbstruck Germans.

By the way, the Spear of Destiny is in a museum (not a grave). It was carried by Charlemagne in 800 AD and supposedly has one of the nails driven through the hands of Christ wired into the hollow spot in the middle of the blade.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Games Expo: A noble idea that deserved to work

Games Expo, one of the two competing shows (where manufacturers try to get retailers to carry their product lines) has concluded. The other one, GAMA Trade Show, is next month. (ADB did not go to GX and does not plan to go to GTS, but is paying another company to show off our stuff. This isn't because we're broke or angry at anybody or don't like retailers; we just found that we don't get any new business after paying two thousand dollars to go to such a show.)

Games Expo, by all accounts, tanked, sanked, and stanked. There were about 150 retailers there of which about 75 talked to anybody beyond the top 10 companies. For most companies, that meant maybe ten new stores to talk to, little if any new business, and a financial disaster. A lot of unhappy companies are unlikely to buy booths at GX-08, assuming that GX did not lose so much money it closes after its first year. To be honest, Games Expo made it a point not to predict how many retailers would show up. I gave my prediction (half of GTS) and I was high.

Games Expo was the creation of my good friend, Mark Simmons, the guy who runs Games Quarterly Catalog. Mark created Expo because he saw an opportunity; many of the exhibitors at GTS were unhappy with the show, with how it was run, with how few retailers (that would talk to smaller companies) showed up, with how little new business they got. Someone who is not Mark's friend would push the theory that Mark (who used to be the executive diretor of GAMA until he got squeezed out in a power play) started Expo just to attack/destroy GAMA, but I prefer to think that Mark saw an opportunity to better serve the industry, to build a better mousetrap as it were. GAMA suggested that Mark put his show in the midwest or east coast (since those retailers never go to GTS) but that would put Mark and Games Expo competing with the very solidly established Alliance Open Houses in Indiana and Maryland, shows that are functionally identical to GTS anyway.

Mark's big theory was to get more business for Adventure Game (i.e., wargame and RPG) Publishers by bringing in new kinds of stores: toy stores, gift stores, stationary stores, chain stores, greeting card stores, museum gift shops. It was a great idea (although I was the one publicly saying it would not work as such stores would only be interested in the top three or four Adventure Game Manufacturers and would not pick up anything made by smaller companies) and deserved to work. It did not work. There just were no buyers from such stores. [Ok, I heard someone say that there was one such buyer in the building but he only talked to selected companies in individual private meetings and never set foot on the showroom floor.] What did show up was a small slice of the stores that normally go to GTS, which means (since they won't pay to go to two stores) that GTS will take a financial hit and have fewer retailers. Basically, manufacturers got to spend the money this year going to two shows to talk to the same people who would have been at GTS anyway if it was the only show.

What will happen to Expo? I don't know, but if my good friend Mark Simmons ignores my advice to quietly cancel it, I suspect he will lose money and GX-08 may close before it opens. After this year, there is just no confidence that Mark can bring in new buyers, and I doubt if very many of the exhibitors this year will exhibit next year. I cannot imagine how Mark could lure them back. Allow me to repeat. Games Expo was a bold new idea and deserved to work, but it did not. I hope that Mark will swallow his pride and give it up.

But what does that mean for GTS? Will the manufactures all go back next year, or will too many of them start to question just how much business they ever got from GTS and wonder if they should bother? Some have long said that GTS exists for manufacturers with money to burn, manufacturers who feel they have to do it (to show retailers that they are still in business), and manufactuers who have bought into the classic marketing scam that you have to keep pouring money into marketing even when you see no results. Another of my friends, the greatest marketing guy in the wargame industry, says that GTS is all about talking to the 150 most successful retailers, the ones you already do business with, not about finding new business. I'm sorry, but I cannot afford to spend two thousand dollars and two weeks of my design time talking to customers I already have. I talk to those guys constantly by Email, and get more value from their wisdom and advice that way than I ever got at GTS. I can get more new stores paying a college intern to cold call retailers than I get at GTS. Will others find that to be true for their companies? Time will tell.

Back to the point. Lots of manufacturers have been unhappy with GTS for a long time. Besides the vague grumbling about how the place is run (and the ever-improving GAMA team is doing better every year) there is the complaint they don't want to address, don't want to admit exists, that there just are not enough retailers there, not of the kind of retailers which will walk the entire showroom and talk to smaller manufacturers about products far more innovative and exciting than the corporate-packaged products from the biggest companies. Until GAMA solves that, GTS will never grow, it will shrink as more and more people realize that the Emperor really doesn't have any clothes on (that lots of manufacturers really don't get much new business at GTS).

Until now, I have had no solution to offer GAMA for this problem, but something said by someone in a game industry discussion group sounded brilliant. Change GTS from Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday to include a weekend day (or two). That would allow retailers who have day jobs (and more importantly, retailers who have wives whose day jobs support the store) to attend, while not keeping current attendees away. I think it would be worth trying.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:
As the Graphics progress here at ADB, I am learning about new things every day, and drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list.

We are going to be making serious changes to both web sites, and you are welcome to not just comment on my changes, but suggest changes and check the changes I make. A new alphabetical index is being created for the old site which has so much stuff in it even the company doesn't know what's there and what's out of date.

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

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rainy Day in Amarillo

We don't get a lot of rain in Amarilo (maybe 22 inches a year) but it rained all day yesterday and today looks the same. Rumor has it that it will remain tomorrow. Good for the farmers (who don't have to pay to irrigate the wheat) and good for the lawns and gardens.

Leanna and I had a professional landscaper turn the back yard into something out of Better Homes & Jungles last year, and it came through the winter well. The plants are sprouting (including the catnip) and the lawn area is greening up nicely. Half of the yard is shreaded cedar and cyprus mulch, which is where the plants (and large pretty rocks) are. We also have a life size bronze sculpture of a cougar. (We named him Rocket after the Rocky Mountains and tell people he is the grandfather of our Bengal Leopard-Cats.) Leanna and I love to spend an hour in the gazebo on many evenings, watching the cats play and the sun go down. Very calming. We often picnic there, 50 feet from the back door of the house (and telephones).

We can hear the rain in the office, and of course, the thunder. It cools things down to a comfy 70 degrees, and the rain has a calming effect on everything. I love to go stand on the office porch and just watch and listen. Leanna reports we're now getting some hail and there is a tornado watch.

Work proceeds steadily on many projects, including Captain's Log 35, Omega Master Rulebook, Battleships Attack, Module R11, the Master Starship Book, and Distant Kingdoms. Now that I am past the Tholian experience, I have a fairly relaxed month ahead of me, one in which I can "work ahead" on future projects and make progress on everything and catch up on backlog. I'm planning to spend one day per week on the MSSB starting next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I am seriously allergic to onions (and peppers and mushrooms, but I'm talking about onions). This makes eating in restaurants a continuous challenge, as I have to ask the waiter to go ask the cook if something has onions in it before I order it. Which is why I tend to pick one or two things at each restaurant and just order them over and over. It's safer, and if I like something, I don't mind eating it every time I go to the same restaurant. Going to a new restaurant is an adventure akin to eating puffer fish; there is always the possibility I could end up dead. Yes, dead. I have extreme toxic allergies, the kind that cause internal bleeding, paralysis, coma, and death. A piece of onion the size of my thumbnail makes me sick for days, two of them would put me in the hospital, and if I ate three of them, I would be dead before I got the hospital. No joke.

My business partner, Steve Petrick (Vice President of Operations) is allergic to the same things (making everyone think we are brothers). He's a little more allergic to mushrooms than onions, and I'm a little more allergic to onions than mushrooms, but given that the result is death either way, the distinction has no difference.

There is a particular restaurant we eat at once a year on the Origins trip, Sweetwater BBQ at Missouri I-44 mile marker 163. Best Barbeque anywhere, I guarantee. When we walk in, once a year, the lady who runs the place says "Hey, No Onions is Back!"

Most places are fairly nice about my allergies. I went on a cruise once and told the waiter one time what I was allergic to, and every meal he would point out what I could and could not eat. When I was in Germany, the chef at the restaurant we usually ate at personally discussed with me what I could eat, and took it as a honor to prepare special meals for me. (At that restaurant, every meal was prepared individually anyway.) Sometimes I get a waiter or cook who argues that I'm not really allergic (how would he know?), and I have had cooks serve me something with onions then take the onions off of it and bring it back (it still has the onion acid in it, and that's what I am allergic to). Most restaurants will throw it out and start over but some just insist on trying to fool me. I can smell if onions EVER on my plate so quit trying!

The main place I have trouble with is my relatives. My aunts are just absolutely convinced that I "just don't like" onions and would eat them just fine if only they would not tell me that onions are in the food. I can tell, usually about the time I start throwing up. My nose and pallet know how to detect onions and if they do, I tend to automatically vomit to avoid that death thing. My aunts always tell me "You can't even taste them." which leads me to ask "Then why not leave them out?" Of course, they LIKE onions and CAN taste them so why do they think I can not? I was at a football game once when somebody sat down next to me who had, minutes earlier, eaten a chile dog with onions. I got sick and threw up just from smelling the onions on his breath. It was an automatic reaction; my body smelled onions and even though I wasn't actually engaged in eating anything at that particular moment, my body decided that it would rather be safe than dead and ejected the entire contents of my stomach ... just to be sure.

I love watching cooking shows, although mostly to watch the "command style" of the Iron Chefs or Gordon Ramsay. But is is a very rare episode of any cooking show that does not insist on dumping onions and usually mushrooms and often hot peppers into everything just as a matter of course without even thinking. Just once I would like to see Gordan Ramsay start a show saying "Some people, unfortunately, are allergic to onions, so for tonight's episode, I'm going to show you how to cook an interesting dinner without using onions." When I got the Origins Hall of Fame Award for Star Fleet Battles, I was invited to a fancy dinner party where there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that I could eat. Everything had onions and peppers in, and the "alternate" dinner you could special order was mushrooms. And by the time I got my trophy and got out of the meeting, all of the food places in the convention center had closed. Fortunately, the guys playing F&E had tons of food.

What is it with gourmet cooking? Do you absolutely HAVE to burn somebody's tongue with the acid from onions and peppers to convince them they're actually TASTING their food? Trust me, food tastes just fine without onions. I wouldn't eat the things even if I wasn't allergic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Federation Commander: Academy

We have added the FEDERATION COMMANDER: ACADEMY starter pack to the cart. This $24.95 version of Federation Commander has the full FC:KB rulebook, but only the smaller counter, only four ships, and an unmounted (paper) map. Even so, you can now drive a starship for less than half price and can get plenty of extra ships from Communique and booster packs.

Monday, March 19, 2007


We have added Booster Packs 13, 14, and 15 (4213, 4214, and 4215) to the shopping carts. These include two new Seltorian ships and four new Tholian ships.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

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.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Funny ADB stories...

We sent the covers for boosters 13-14-15-16 to press. (We won't need 16 until July but you print them four at a time.)

I tracked the job carefully, and they were to the point of cutting and scoring today.

Then they called. "drive over here and see this problem."

Got there, and the booster 14 cover has three big thumbprints in the middle of every copy. How it got onto the printing plate is anybody's guess.

Problem. Without the cover of 14, we can't sell 13-14-15 on schedule Monday.

They decided that it was their mistake and they would re-run the 14 cover over the weekend and have it Monday. We would need about 100 by 3pm Monday and 500 more by 5pm Monday which was "doable." The only problem was that running one cover was going to be expensive for the printer, and while it was their mistake and not ADB's expense, they would lose money on the entire job.

I remembered that we were scheduled to run out of Booster covers 1-2-3 in July, so I had Matt and Leanna email them over, allowing the printer to run all four copies and charge us for three of them, so they didn't lose money. All we lost was tying up a thousand bucks for four months, say $50 in interest costs (which is a phantom, as we don't get interest on our money -- it's not in the bank that long -- and don't pay interest as we have no debts). Not a great thing, but not a disaster.

The printer now loves me since by my going to extra effort, they avoid losing money, might even make a few bucks. A favor in the bank to call in sometime later, like when I need die cut counters made for Origins.

In business, when one of your vendors is about to lose money, if there is a way that by losing $50 you can prevent them losing ten times that, you do it, because you're partners and friends. This is how you BUILD partnerships and friendships in business.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The president of ADB Inc. played his first game in 1963, and published his first game in 1971.
It was a very different time.
In 1963, there was only one wargame publisher, Avalon Hill, and they did one or two games a year.
Every game came in a box with a mounted board.
Counters were always pink and blue.
Rulebook? Hah. The rules were printed on a single large sheet of paper and folded to fit into the box.
There was only one kind of game (what would now be called strategic boardgames) and only one combat results table which worked the same in every game. A few years later, a second combat results table appeared in which it was no longer possible for attackers that had twice the combat power of the defense to be destroyed by the attack, and the world rejoiced.
A few new games that were not the same rules with a different map started to appear, including the first navy and air force games.
There were no rule numbers in those "bedsheet" rules, and no cross referencing. It could take hours to find the rules that "everybody remembered was in there somewhere". In more than one case, a game had to be suspended until the next saturday (left set up on a table in somebody's living room) while everyone researched the rules "bedsheet". It took is four days to find the rule that prevented German fighters from attacking Allied bombers in the map-edge set up hexes of the game Luftwaffe.
There was no internet and the only magazine was the Avalon Hill General. The only sense of "community" was that you could place a free ad looking for opponents in the General (and get a ton of junk mail for your reward).

By 1965, Steve Cole was designing his own games for playing with the local game club, most of which which were (thankfully) never published. There was no way to buy sheets of hex paper so before a new game could be designed, he had to draw each hex with a T-square and triangles. There were no photocopiers available until about 1970, so every game map had to be drawn separately.

By 1971, there were maybe half a dozen real publishers, but there were a hundred amateur publishers.
Wargamers hungry for new games and innovative ideas were willing to accept lower production standards.
Die cut counters were too hard for little amateur companies to make, so they published the counters on sheets of colored paper which wargames had to spray-glue to whatever cardboard they could find.
Maps came as 8.5x11 pages gamers had to tape together.
The counter symbols were drawn with drafting instruments and the combat factors were lettered by hand. Maps were, mostly, drawn by hand. It would be almost a decade before rub-on lettering and sheets of "cut out and stick down terrain" revolutionized graphics. It would be 1976 before you could buy sheets of hex paper with hex numbers. The SFB maps published in 2003 used a sheet of hex paper published by GDW in 1976 and purchased at Origins #2. This same sheet of hex paper is still on file at ADB and is still used.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

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 (www.StarFleetGames.com/fc) 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!).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cafe Press

Graphics Director Matthew Cooper writes:

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!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday, a day of rest

SVC reports: I took the day off, stayed home, caught up on my sleep, and brushed the Bengal cats. They really love being brushed. Seriously, with my stress levels, you'll all be glad I took a day off.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A quiet Saturday

SVC reports: I am down here at the office, but not feeling well or doing anything much. I did some work on SFB module R11 so Steve Petrick can handle the SSDs. Leanna is down at the civic center where (twice a year) they have 80-100 garage sales in one room. I'm sure she's having fun.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Federation Commander Wallpaper

Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download Federation Commander Wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Help your store!

Steve Cole Writes: Are you having problems with your store's wholesaler?

At least once a month, I get an Email or BBS/Forum post from somebody whose Favorite Local Game Store is having trouble getting one of our products through their wholesaler. Once I get the complete story, I can usually fix it the same day. In the case of Alliance, I don't even have to fix it myself.

Alliance Games Distribution is the largest wholesaler in the US, being about 40% of the total US market, and twice the size of their nearest competitor. Just about every retail game store buys from Alliance, either as their primary or secondary supplier. Because Alliance is so big with so many clients, it has the largest number of errors, problems, complaints, gripes, and so forth. Not because they aren't good at their jobs, but because they are, well, just big. When the problem is with Alliance, I just send it to Mike Webb, Alliance's Vice President of Making Unhappy Customers Happy. And, every single time, Mike Webb fixes the problem, usually in under an hour. Just today, a store that had been unable to get a particular product for three weeks, was sent that product from one of Alliance's other warehouses, by the personal order of Mike Webb, who also authorized free shipping so the retail store did not have to pay extra because one of Alliance's four warehouses was out of one of the 70,000 products they stock. In another case a year or two ago, an Alliance salesman who was telling retailers that certain ADB products were out of print (so he didn't lose the sales commission when the store went to another wholesaler) was personally told by Mike Webb to stop fibbing to the stores or find another job.

If your store has a problem with any wholesaler, please contact me (design@starfleetgames.com) and I'll talk to the wholesaler and get it fixed. (I can't fix one problem, a wholesaler who won't sell on credit to a store that won't pay their bills.) To solve problems, however, I need the complete store info (name of store, complete address, Email address, phone number, and the name of the manager or whoever I need to talk to). If the problem is with Alliance, I'll just call Mike Webb. If the problem is with one of the other wholesalers, I'll call them and fix it myself.

And, if your store is one of the good ones that stocks our products on the shelves, and isn't having any problems at all, go ahead and Email me and Vanessa (marketing@starfleetgames.com) with their complete info (name, address, phone number, store hours, manager's name, store Email address) and we'll add them to our retailer locator and Vanessa will send them some signs and stuff. Try to get the store signed up for our Organized Play League. Run demos of our products in your store. Heck, while your hanging around the store waiting for a game, ask the manager if you can straighten shelves, empty the trash, or just pick up the clutter around the place. A good local store deserves your support.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fun with Employees

It IS fun to have employees.

My list of things to do is getting shorter. It's very very long (and I am not declaring open season for anyone to put trivial things on my list), but it has never gotten shorter before. [Note: there is a very specific ... and TOUGH ... process by which something gets on my list. Also note, I'm not talking about the list of 3 bazillion things I'd kinda like to do, or somebody asked me to do but we're not going to do, or the rest of that stuff, although if my "real list" gets short enough it's possible some of the stuff from the "maybe someday" list could move over.)

Most of this is due to my having Vanessa and Matt to delegate things to. Also, since Steve Petrick now has Mike to delegate warehouse stuff to, there is more Steve Petrick time available for me to get him to do things that would take me longer to do. (For example, it used to be that Steve Petrick did all the quality checks on shipments of miniatures, and did all the shrinkwrapping, and did most of the orders and game assembly. Now, Mike does all of the quality checks, all of the assembly except when we have a new release and everybody has to help, all of the shrinkwrapping, and almost all of the order packing. That has given Steve Petrick tons of time to do stuff for his own SFB projects and to help me with other projects.)

It's also eliminated a source of worry. For years, when somebody said "can you do ...." my response was, far too much of the time: "No, I don't know how, or I don't have time, or I just don't want to, but I'll spend the next hour doing nothing other than making myself upset that people are upset that it wasn't done."

Now, I can just put things like that on the list for somebody else to do. I have a file on my computer that lists things for Matt and Vanessa (and me and Mike and Petrick and Leanna) to do. Every morning, I print out the Matt List and the Vanessa list and put those on their desks. All day, those lists stay open on my desktop and as I find things I need done or other people ask me to have something done or tell me something needs to be done, I just add it to their lists for the next day.)

It's good to have employees. I don't know why I waited so long to have them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Federation Commander brings you...Federation Commander MySpace!

Marketing Director Vanessa Clark writes: 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 myself (Vanessa-Marketing Director) so you will get a different interaction with Amarillo Design Bureau than you have in the past.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Second Day at Gettysburg

Most people do not really understand the Second Day at the Battle of Gettysburg. They saw the movie and thought that one Chamberlain charged down hill, it was over. Wrong. That was just one tiny part of the battle that day, and while Chamberlain prevented a great loss, he did not win a great victory.

Lee's plan for the day was an "attack in echelon" with each brigade, starting from Hood's division on the right, starting its advance just after the one on its right. (Lee did this because Union General Sickels had advanced the 3rd Corps into a very dangerous and exposed position.) The intention of attacking in this way was to get the "cautious" Union commander Meade to send his reserves to the point of the attack. (Unlike what every wargame tells you, the attacks Lee made this day were mostly at 1:1 or worse odds, and they all worked.)

The Union troops were crushed, pushed back. Third Corps was destroyed as a fighting force. Most of 1st and 11th corps had been destroyed the first day. A newly arrived corps was thrown into the battle as 3rd corps collapsed, and was destroyed. (By the end of the second day, 25 of Meade's 51 brigades had been more or less destroyed and were incapable of combat, offensive or defensive.) General Hancock "the Superb" threw most of his splendid 2nd corps in the maelstrom and watched it be destroyed. The only combat-capable brigades of the 1st and 11th corps were thrown in, and destroyed.

At the critical moment, Meade was standing on Cemetery Ridge. He had no more reserves to throw in. He had a huge open gap in his lines just north of where the last Confederate attack had landed. He watched, knowing that once the last two brigades of Anderson's Confederation Division attacked, the Confederation Light Division under Major General Dorsey Pender would attack into the empty gap, and two more Confederate Divisions would storm Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, annihilating what was left of the shattered 1st and 11th Corps. Meade was, literally, in the act of issuing verbal orders to his cavalry commander on where to establish the screen behind which the devastated Army of the Potomac would try to escape. Meade and his Army were beaten, defeated, poised for a devastating disaster. At the end of the day, at least half of the Army of the Potomac would be dead or prisoners, and the remainder would be running at top speed for Pipe Creek, the last defense line before Washington DC.

What happened?

Those last two brigades of Anderson's Division never attacked. The first was the brigade of Carnot Posey. This idiot had fired off all of his ammunition driving a couple of hundred Yankees out of a farm house in the way of the attack, when one good bayonet charge would have done that trick. The other brigade was commanded by Mahone, an officer who some days was a fearless genius and other days was a coward and fool. Anderson sent a staff officer to tell Mahone to attack, and Mahone refused. (He said that Anderson had told him to stay there, which Anderson had not, and even if he had, Anderson just gave Mahone new orders. Duh!)

The Splendid Light Division was ready to attack, and Major General Dorsey Pender rode south toward Mahone to find out what the hold up was. Hello Mister Cannonball! Pender went down and nobody realized that (at this critical moment) NOBODY was in command of the Light Division. By the time they figured out who was next in line, it was dark. Meade did not know until decades later why the heck the Rebels had not annihilated him.

Gettysburg, if anything, proves that there is a God and that he doesn't care much for slavery. Every Confederate general had three "bad brain days" while the Yankee generals did their duty and held their line.

But would it have mattered? Nothing was going to bring Britain into the war on the Confederate side; that's a pipe dream that refuses to die. But a devastating defeat might well have forced a political negotiation. More likely, Lincoln (stubborn!) would not have agreed to a deal. Lee might have rampaged around for a month, maybe even burned Philadelphia, but would eventually have had to leave. The Washington defenses were too tough a nut to crack, and the Union still had plenty of un-drafted men.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

We made the local newspaper

The local newspaper did a major front-page feature story on ADB Inc. today (4 March). This includes a photo of Steve Petrick and Mike Sparks playing Fed Commander.

If you go to www.Amarillo.com (the site for the paper) you can find the article (Space, the familiar frontier) in the archive for today. I can't give you the actual url since I don't know much about Matt's uber-PC (I keep hitting something that "saves" the blog and then I have to go back the other way and "edit" it) and the site won't talk to my Mac-OS9 at all. I think it may be


but like I said, I can barely run this PC thing. Kind of a local-guys-make-good story. Supposedly, it will go on the UPI wire and some other newspapers may run it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Many people do not know 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 you can learn from the best.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A quiet friday

Steve Cole writes: It's a quiet day. Matt is in the next state to the west visiting his parents. Vanessa is two hours south watching her daughter recover from surgery. Mike is out the warehouse packing more copies of Tholian Attack. Steve Petrick and I just got done discussing to to move SFB Module R11 forward for Origins. I just got (and edited) the instructions for the prototype Juggernaut resin kits. I got the last staff reports on Comm-15 this morning, and Steve Petrick is re-proofing it, so it will be ready when Vanessa gets back next week. I have done and sent out the six ships for the TA boosters 13-14-15, and have done six of the battleships for the summer product. Things are progressing steadily on many fronts. If this holds up another six weeks, we'll have eliminated the backlog and can move forward with some special projects.

Many years ago, when I was a military analyst, I visited a National Guard unit to do an article about them. One of their officers told me "We have so many things to do, that we allocate so much time to each one, but if we don't get finished with a specific task, we just have to do as much as we can and move on to the next task, since it's better to get something done on everything that nothing done on everything but one thing." I took this to heart and used it when I was commanding Company C, 1-39 MP (Combat Security). I use it in ADB (when I don't forget to).

I am not sure how many different "piles of tasks" I have (I've been telling people six piles all day) and it could be six or ten or something else. I just don't get to work on one pile all day. I have to do something for every pile every day or at least every other day. My piles include but are not limited to:

1. FED COMMANDER: As noted, I did the sixth ship for the boosters yesterday, and processed reports on various ships and on Comm-15 today.

2. STAR FLEET BATTLES: Well, I did talk to SPP today about R11 (which will probably be the Origins product) and started processing one of the archives I haven't processed. I have it half done, will finish it today, but have several other archives.

3. CAPTAIN'S LOG, FICTION: I have to finish the CL35 story, edit the CL36 story, and make changes to the "reserve" story.

4. WAREHOUSE: Yesterday, I went out there and make more "factory seconds bags". I need to process some of the 14 boxes of "SVC's crap" which are cluttering the assembly line before Mike and Steve Petrick get annoyed and throw them out. I guess I can count doing the Juggernaut instruction sheet today since the warehouse crew needed it to pack orders.

5. BUSINESS-PRODUCTION: I spent some time reviewing inventory figures and production plans yesterday, and spent some of today discussing future juggernaut production. I've been talking/arguing with the GPA about their trade show sales program. I am in here at Matt's computer right now since my Mac can't talk to "new blogger" but I've got to check on the Booster-13-14-15 art and get Ted busy if we don't have it yet.

6. MARKETING-WEB: I did the SFB and F&E pages yesterday. Matt will have them up next week. I need to go through Vanessa's computer (she's been gone all week) and see if anything is going to blow up, burn down, or break out before she gets back.

I only covered about half of my list of things to do, because you'd get bored if I went on. Film at 11.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Advice to young men...

If you find a good woman, marry her. Don't keep her in "girlfriend" status for years. Marry her, buy a house, plant some trees, watch things grow.

If you're not going to marry the girl you're with, part company as friends and find the one you are going to marry. If you want to play the field for a few years, fine, but if you spent a year with a girl without giving her a ring, you're freeloading. Either marry her or move on. I know way too many young men who have no interest in marrying their current girlfriend, but every month they face the decision to waste another month of their life or give up the "benefits" and maybe do without "benefits" for a while. It's scary and just bad not to have a serious deep relationship, but if you're just in one for "benefits" and not for love, part company as friends and find someone who genuinely, truly, deeply, fall in love with.

Now, to those of you young men who pop the question and get engaged. I have this advice from my highly successful 30 years of marriage. DO WHAT SHE SAYS. It hurts less than arguing and she's probably right anyway. Women take a longer view, so let them steer the boat. Set aside an hour for a serious talk about once a month. Find out what's bothering her and what you can do to fix it. Let her know what's bothering you and work out ways she can fix it. Don't spend years being silently resentful of your spouse's bad habits. Get them into the clear air and make things better. Women want (in a husband) a companion and partner. They don't want to do all of the errands and shopping alone. Go with them, or split the list into three parts (yours, hers, and the ones you do together). Swap chores now and then just for variety and fairness.