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Monday, December 31, 2007


Steve Cole reports (Eighth and last of a series covering each product line): It must sound crazy to not get everything done for the seven product lines we have, and then wistfully look forward to more product lines, but we always do. There are plenty of ideas for products. We did our first paperback book this year (well, a prototype of it, and once we work out the kinks we will try to get the real production scheduled for sometime in the spring of 2008). We have done a lot of work on the second book. We did our second and third cloissone pins this year, and plan to do two more. We will do the "coloring book" sometime in 2009 so we can take it to Comic Con if we decide to go. I want to find time to work on Leanna's Fighting Starships. I still look forward to doing Klingon Invasion and Romulan Invasion (the "fast, fun" strategic games) in 2009.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Praise of Our Volunteers

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

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

Mike West answers rules questions on FEDERATION COMMANDER. Nick Blank does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Mike Filsinger for STAR FLEET BATTLES.

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

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

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Scott Tenhoff, and Chris Fant (the F&E staff); Jean Sexton (Director of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Steve Cole reports (Seventh of a series covering each product line): I want to do the expansions for this, and but for the interruption of the company's progress by the death of my mother, we might have been able to have these next summer. The cards are incredibly expensive, costing as much as three other products combined. It's hard to gather up that much cash, and it's hard to convince the Board of Directors (that is to say, Leanna) that the smartest thing the company could do is do the SFBF expansions instead of doing three other products. But I have hopes we will eventually see these expansions published. Don't forget that there are downloadable expansions on the website.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Steve Cole reports (sixth of a series covering each product line): Captain's Log remains our best seller, since players of all our games use it as a source for new play-value material (ships, scenarios, rules, answers to questions, tactics, updates on new projects, and so forth). We do two of these per year, one in May and one in November. (The November 2007 issue was delayed by the death of my mother to January 2008.) This has a set formula but flexible format, and is pretty much a fill-in-the-blank puzzle. We are supposed to do so many pages per week so we don't have to do 80% of it in the last three weeks (like we're going to have to with this issue) but that sensible plan got destroyed by the month I spent too numb from grief to actually do any work. Usually, find a good fiction story causes the most problems, but we have a great one this time (Tholians vs. Seltorians by Randy Green).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Steve Cole reports (fifth of a series covering each product line): Don't panic, F&E Fans, your new product will come along in the fall of 2008. We're current planning on the release of TACTICAL OPERATIONS in the September time frame, and ISC War in the spring of 2009. And, just maybe, we'll have a surprise that could shock and amaze you. F&E products are a special challenge because of the cost of the countersheets. They cost about $10,000 per print run, and that covers reprints for existing products as well as the counters for one or more new products. We have the information to produce Tactical Operations next week, but the budget is tied up with other product lines and cannot swallow the F&E counter elephant this spring.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, and the blessings of his holiday period, from the ADB family to your family.

This is the time of year when people who write blogs are supposed to get philosophical and profound about the true meaning of Christmas.

It's the day that Christians mark the birth of their savior. To be sure, historians have no idea what day He was born, and the early Church picked the winter solstice since the other religions active at the time (particularly Mithras, which very nearly won the competition to be the Roman Empire's new religion) had a big family party on that day and it was easier to get them to give up their paganism and join the Christians if they didn't lose a party in the deal. It doesn't matter if this is THE day Jesus was born; it matters that Christians take a day once a year to celebrate his birth.

The winter solstice is probably the human race's second oldest holiday (the first day of spring being the oldest). At some point, we got smart enough to track the shadows of a handy tree, and on this date the path of the sun reversed. It was on this day that everybody in the cave knew: this winter thing WILL end, it won't go on forever.

Other faiths, especially in the US, used whatever minor holiday was around the same time (Hanukka, Eid) to join in the fun of parties and presents and greetings and families. It's one time a year that we can all try to be friendly to everybody, just because it's that season. Kwanza was, more or less, invented to build a sense of community among a group that faced its own challenges. Family is important, and the Christmas Card thing is your one chance a year to keep track of which of your relatives that you haven't talked to in a year are still alive. Make it a point to call them, and make it a point to call them again before this time next year.

The true meaning of Christmas (or the "holiday season" if you insist?). Take a day to honor your own faith, and just as importantly take the day to be with your family.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

As the graphics (on the website and in the products) continue to improve here at ADB, Inc., I am learning about new things every day. It seems that I drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list, so your help in finding things for me to do would be appreciated.

We have merged the two websites. The combined site now has a new front page, site map, and index, making it a lot harder to use. You are welcome to comment on my changes, but more importantly, please suggest changes, and check the changes I make.

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Steve Cole reports (fourth of a series covering each product line): Starline 2400 miniatures will see their most innovative year in 2008, starting with the release of minis for new ships (including the Lyran NCA and Hydran Overlord), plus miniature fighters, drones, shuttles, plasmas, and gunboats. We expect much from the happy accident of finding Ninja Magic to produce the smaller minis for us.

The only bad news is that the skyrocketing price of tin means our costs for new ships are going up at least 70%. Since the ship itself is only part of the overall cost (packaging, shipping, sculpting, molds, etc.) the retail prices will go up by about 20% on the larger units, so the Romulan Shrike will be $12 compared to the larger Condor that has been on the market for $10 for many years. We won't raise prices on the older ships as we have recovered the sculpting costs from them. We always try to keep our miniatures affordable for our customers.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Steve Cole reports (third of a series covering each product line): Our RPG line has not gotten the flow of new products it deserves, but we intend to fix that in 2008 with the release of the FEDERATION (spring) and THOLIAN (fall) books for both d20 and GURPS. We have writers working on HERO and FUDGE conversions for release sometime in 2008, have the D20 Modern conversion ready for final editing and release by February. I seriously need to have a conversation with the prospective D6 writers and get that long-delayed project back on track.

Friday, December 21, 2007



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

Every 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 do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing 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.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Steve Cole reports (second of a series covering each product line): Federation Commander is our newest product line, and we continue to develop it with a properly-paced release of new material. Distant Kingdoms (including the trans-television races of the Hydrans, Lyrans, and WYNs) will appear in March. (We had long planned it for February, but had to push it back a month due to delays at the factory in other miniature releases.) I'm in the process now of selecting which of the hundreds of SFB ships for these races will make it into the product, and the playtesters are furiously finalizing the Hydran Stinger rules. (Those critters are deadly in Federation Commander due to the lack of so many SFB rules you can use to destroy them.) We always knew we were going to end up doing at least two complete products for Distant Kingdoms, although the planned title Kingdoms Attack cannot be used because it has the same initials as Klingon Attack and would drive the wholesalers' computers insane. It's just a matter of deciding which set of ships will go into each product. The second Kingdoms product might be an "attack" package with 16 ships or a "battle package" with eight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Steve Cole reports (first of a series covering each product line): SFB was our first game, the game that put Task Force Games and Amarillo Design Bureau on the map, and it's still going strong. We get new customers buying SFB Basic Set every day, so new blood continues to pour into the best selling science fiction game of all time. This is partly due to the subject matter, partly due to the game design (I got lucky that it worked so well; I'm not that smart), and partly due to the incredibly loyal fans. We will continue to do new products for Star Fleet Battles, including three new modules in 2008 (Module Omega Five, Module X1R, and Module Y2). We also have Module R12 in development.

Tuesday, December 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 website 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, December 17, 2007


Jean Sexton Writes:

Have you ever been to the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk?

I've been quite a few times since Kitty Hawk wasn't that far from where I grew up. With my dad being an historian, it was natural that we explored it.

I also went to the Festival of Flight back in 2003, celebrating the 100th anniversary of that original flight.

The 17th was cold, wet and rainy to start. One of the highlights was to have a replica of the aircraft take off. Sadly it never left the ground. One of my memories of that day though was President Bush speaking. One of his aides started to hold an umbrella over Bush so he wouldn't get damp. The President brushed him away, saying that if all these people had come here and were willing to stand in the rain, he'd survive a little damp.

From his speech, "Orville Wright lived to see the days of barnstorming and military aviation, the jet engine, commercial airlines, and the DC-3. The thrill of his life, however, was surely right here, when he felt that first lift of the wing. He flew just 12 seconds, and 40 yards, moving so slowly that his older brother ran alongside. And later in the day, with Wilbur at the controls, the machine stayed in the air for 59 seconds, and traveled 852 feet. Yet everyone who was here at that hour sensed that a great line had been crossed and the world might never be the same. A local boy named Johnny Moore was one of the witnesses. He ran down the beach and said, 'They done it, they done it, damned if they ain't flew.'"

When he left, Air Force One dipped its wing to the crowd honoring that flight.

It was a grand day and one I shall not forget.

Read the NYT article here:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Music to My Ears

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Music, by this I mean instrumentals as opposed to songs, can conjure up different images. It all depends on our backgrounds, and what we know of the tune.

Take "Tubular Bells". This is the music that accompanies "The Exorcist". It was included on a tape of tunes that came into my possession. Not knowing anything about it (I have never seen "The Exorcist", not my kind of film) when I heard it what plays out in my mind is an attack on a defended position. I hear the enemy scouts picking off the pickets and listening posts, deploying their heavy support weapons, and initiating their assault, and finally the defender's counterattack.

Same thing with "Classical Gas". I see a setting sun over a fire base, then an attack that is initially held, but rise to a crescendo as the attackers penetrate the base. The remaining defenders being driven to a final stand, and the colors slowly falling to the ground. The the arrival of the cavalry, usually in my mind attack helicopters and troop ships.

I do not know if "Maid of Or'leans" was done for a movie or something else. I had never heard it before. But the first time I ever heard it it conjured up the image of the aftermath of a lost battle. Of visiting the various positions that the defenders tried to hold, but were overrun. I know from the title that the music here is a theme for Joan of Arc, but I have no other knowledge of it.

There are other instrumentals that conjure up images. A carrier launching a strike is one, a strike group penetrating a defended air space is another.

What these instrumentals conjure in my mind is not necessarily what they would conjure in the mind of anyone else that heard them, or even what the musicians intended. But the ear hears of what it hears and the mind makes the image based on the knowledge base of the individual.

Some tunes, of course, have their own specific meaning. No one can hear the music for the attack on the Enterprise by the Reliant in "The Wrath of Khan" and not know that it is an attack. Indeed, I have known many players of SFB who would play that sound track to accompany their own attack runs on their enemies in games (whether they were Klingons descending on Hydrans, or Romulans descending on Gorns, Orions descending on some inoffensive convoy made no difference).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!

STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). Go to 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 gauges and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.

o Sample Ship Cards.

o Wallpapers 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 (Steve Cole) 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 Communiqué which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Carols for the Disturbed

1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?

2. Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are

3. Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

4. Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

5. Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and.....

6. Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

7. Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

8. Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

9. Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent Night, Holy . . .oooh look at the froggy! Can I have a chocolate? Why is France so far away?

10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

National Guard Birthday

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the birthday of the National Guard. The National Guard has served in all of our wars since its founding, and its heredity pre-dates even the birth of the nation, descended as it is from the original militia forces formed for local defense of the colonies.

Many of you may not be aware that National Guard Troops have been at the forefront of some of our most critical combat operations. For example, on D-Day the beaches that were stormed by the Big Red One (First Infantry Division) were also stormed by the Blue and the Gray (the 29th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit seeing action for the first time). The green, untried, guardsmen held their own alongside the veteran and battle hardened soldiers and leadership of the regular division, pushing forward and not giving up in the wrack and ruin that was Omaha beach.

It was the various militia companies, some standing and some created during that period, that carried the weight of the Civil War on both sides. The regulars were there too, but the total contribution of the regular U.S. Army during the entire Civil War was less than a single corps all told in the Union Army (the regulars provided many officers in Confederate service, but no Regular Army unit went over to the Confederacy).

In all of our conflicts, from the founding of the country to the present, the citizen soldier (militiaman or guardsmen) has been at the forefront of the battle. Whether marching into the Philippines to suppress the insurrection, marching south in pursuit of Pancho Villa, pressing the Kaiser's legions back towards Germany, or Kim Il-Sung's and Mao Tse-tung's hordes back north of Seoul, or Saddam's troops out of Kuwait, the National Guard has been there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


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. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will set it up for you! Email me at: graphics@StarFleetGames.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Memory Slides

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have spoken on several occasions about my experiences jumping out of perfectly good aircraft back in the Summer of 1978. I thought I would take a little time to use some of that to show how memory is not perfect.

Something of interest happened in each of my five jumps, as I have noted. Most of these were things of enough note that they are pretty much set in my mind down to their requisite sequence of events.

But there were other things that "happened" that I could not ascribe to any of the jumps. They are simply part and parcel of the whole experience.

In one of my jumps, certainly not the first one, and certainly not the last, but one of the three in between, I exited the aircraft, and as required was in a "tight body position", head down and looking over the toes of my boots. We were jumping near noon, so the sun was very high in the sky. In this particular jump, I watched over the toes of my boots as the ground went zipping by. I then saw the horizon line go past the toes of my boots, and started to see the sun. I was, near as I could make out, about to do a complete flip.

My thought process had just reached the point of thinking that this would result in "reversed risers" (something that was covered in the training, although WHY I thought this was going to result in reversed risers at that point I could not tell you) when the main deployed.

Again I note I have no sure memory of which of the three middle jumps this happened in. But unlike the other four, I "felt" this deployment as far more of an opening shock than I had felt previously. As in the sudden brake to my movement supplied by the parachute "cracked the whip", with me being tail end of the whip being cracked.

The shock was great enough that my arms were not able to maintain their position on the reserve, but themselves were shot down the length of my torso. The parachute then settled down, me actually "hanging in the harness" as if I were unconscious. I do not know how long I hung there, completely limp, before training asserted itself and I feebly reached up to grasp my risers and check the main and carried on from there.

Like I say, I do not remember which drop it was, but I remember that particular opening shock very well.

The other thing that happened that I cannot recall what drop it happened on (save again that it was not the first or the last) was the sight of red smoke on the drop zone, and a med-evac helicopter (a UH-1) coming in to make a pickup while a stick of paratroops was still coming down. A very clear indication of a serious injury on the drop zone. I never ever asked any questions about it, but if it was not life threatening I have no doubt that the casualty would have simply been taken off the drop zone in a stretcher rather than being picked up right under other descending paratrooper trainees. It might have simply been a trainee who really, really, messed up his landing badly. It might have been something worse. At the time, I did not want to know, and put it out of my mind to do the rest of my jumps, whether there were three more to do, or just one more.

I can remember a lot of things through my life. Some in excruciating detail, some that were just something that happened. But really, only salient points are of immediate recall. A few moments on a playground here, a few moments in a class room there. Day-to-day events mostly slip by. It is not even possible to say whether or not really crucial (at the time) things remain easy to access, or have simply faded over time.

Monday, December 10, 2007


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Part of what makes a good game player is the ability to see patterns, to discern a moment in the game where, if X is done, the opponent will do Y which will lead to the ability to do Z. This applies in any game, but the best example is in chess.

When playing chess, the player who is able to see the game several moves in advance has the advantage. This is not always easy because the opponent is human, and may miss the significance of a particular move, or indeed be seeing a different game.

One particular game of chess I played was building towards a stalemate. My opponent and I had so interlocked our pawn structures that there was no way to break the line without sacrificing several major pieces, and thereby hand the opponent a decisive edge. Looking at the board at one point, my opponent made a move and into my mind flashed an image that if my pieces had been in a particular order when he had made that move, I would win the game. I spent the next couple of moves setting up that configuration and then waited for him to again make that particular move. He did, and from that point, ever subsequent move he made was a "forced move". He had no real choice but to respond to each of my moves in the manner I had "foreseen". That game was the one and only time in my life, out of thousands of games of chess, that I saw the board quite literally eight moves in advance.

But I saw that "pattern" that one time, and seeing that pattern led to victory.

This is not unusual, to see a pattern, but it is something a player needs to think about. In SFB an opponent crabbing in a given direction usually indicates that he has heavily reinforced that shield that is facing you. A plasma ship that launches plasma torpedoes and turns away has very probably launched real plasmas, and not pseudoes (he is trying to open the range to reload his now empty tubes before you catch him). But the veteran plasma player may either be following his real torpedoes in for a close range phaser strike, or following his pseudoes to launch his real torpedoes at close range after dealing with your weasel. Watch your opponent and learn the pattern of his operations. Watch yourself and avoid giving your opponent a pattern to play against.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


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.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Steve Cole Reports: Well, here is the new schedule. I should note some things to explain how this schedule was decided. We have the products from the fourth quarter of 2007 which did not get finished due to the time lost to my mother's death and the decision to build a new corporate headquarters building. In some cases, these bumped products that would have been in the first quarter of 2008 back a bit. We also had the delay in Squadron Boxes 16-18 (caused by the sudden retirement of Al Pare from Reaper). Those had to be scheduled for February (to give Alliance time to cycle the price increase caused by the 70% increase in the cost of these ships over similar ships done earlier, that due to the price of tin going up, that caused by China). With those coming out in February, we had to push the original schedule for FCDK and Squadron Boxes 19-21 back a month. The limits on the printing equipment mean one Prime Directive book per month (and not in the same month as a Captain's Log) and PD20M was closer to press than d20Feds and Gurps Feds.

==== 14 JANUARY =======
Captain's Log #36, SKU 5736, $18.95
Federation Commander: Line of Battle (battleship booster pack), SKU 4007, $19.95
Federation Commander: Border Box #6 (10 battleships), SKU 4406, $99.95
Starline 2400: Shuttlecraft, SKU 0104, $17.95 (pewter miniature)
Starline 2400: Federation Fast Carrier, SKU 0296, Retail $7.95 (pewter miniature)
Starline 2400: Federation New Fast Cruiser, SKU 0298, Retail $7.95 (pewter miniature)
Starline 2400: Klingon D6S Scout Cruiser, SKU 0347, Retail $7.95 (pewter miniature)
Starline 2400: Seltorian Heavy Cruiser, SKU 1504, $8.95 (pewter miniature)
Starline 2400: Seltorian Warships (CL, DD, FF), SKU 1505, $19.95 (pewter miniatures)

==== 18 FEBRUARY =======
Federation Commander: Briefing #1, SKU 4021, $12.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 16 (five DNs), SKU 4316, $44.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 17 (five DNs), SKU 4317, $44.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 18 (five DNs), SKU 4318, $44.95
Prime Directive d20M (Modern), SKU8721, $24.95
SFB Module G3: Master Annexes, SKU 5423, Price $29.95

==== 17 MARCH =======
Federation Commander: Distant Kingdoms, SKU 4106, $34.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 19 (Hydrans), SKU 4319, $34.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 20 (Lyrans), SKU 4320, $34.95
Federation Commander: Squadron Box 21 (WYNs), SKU 4321, $34.95
Prime Directive: Federation (d20), SKU 8702, $24.95

==== APRIL =======
SFB Module O5: Omega Flotillas, SKU 5665, Price $21.95
GURPS Federation, SKU 8402, $24.95
Federation Commander: Border Box 7, SKU 4407, $99.95
Federation Commander: Booster 19, SKU 4219, $9.95
Federation Commander: Booster 20, SKU 4220, $9.95
Federation Commander: Booster 21, SKU 4221, $9.95

==== MAY =======
Captain's Log #37, SKU 5737, $18.95

Friday, December 07, 2007

Remember Pearl Harbor

This is Stephen V. Cole Posting:

Remember that people enlisted in the military back in the 1930s for low pay and uncomfortable conditions that they would be the first ones hit during an enemy attack, and would have to take the brunt of that attack and suffer and die because it would take the nation months to get ready for a war they knew was coming.

Remember that there are enemies out there we did not (and do not) take seriously who can hurt us.

Remember that there are enemies we do take seriously but still don't do what it takes to stop them from attacking before they attack.

Remember that there are enemies that it is not politically or economically convenient to take seriously, and that these are the ones who can hurt us.

Remember that not finishing a war just means that the war will come back and demand to be finished.

Remember that there are some wars that are inevitable, just a matter of time until the other side finds America's economic and social power too much to abide.

Remember that sometimes it's better to just go deal with the enemy rather than waiting to be attacked.

Remember that all attacks are made against targets that appear vulnerable to attack; nobody attacks invulnerable targets because people aren't that stupid.

Remember that being invulnerable isn't cheap, and that if you pay the money to be invulnerable and are never attacked, there are those who will say the lack of attack meant you wasted the money to become invulnerable.

Remember that if you are invulnerable to the attack you expect, you will be hit by the attack you did not expect, especially when there is an enemy who is determined to find a way to attack you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


This is Steven Petrick writing.

One the things that people need to understand is that general communication is often accompanied by visual and audio cues. We grasp that the other member of a conversation is not trying to be offensive, or challenging, based on his or her expression, general posture, and the tone and volume of their voices. All of these are missing from messages posted on a bulletin board or, indeed, in any merely "print" medium. If you read an author's work in a body of fiction, the author has to use more words to set the stage. The author must tell you that the speaker has leaned in (an aggressive posture), taken a harsh tone to his or her voice, perhaps lowered his or her voice to a "sibilant hiss of menace".

In an exchange on a bulletin board things depend on word choices. Worse, due to the great variance in levels of education, regional variations, and other background factors, mere word choice can be seen by the reader to be challenging, or derogatory, or simply offensive. The result can be a minor disagreement mushrooming into a major fight in which emotion comes into play preventing any reasoned discussion, and soon any rational resolution of the disagreement.

The hard thing to do is try to be the peacemaker, not even peacemaker, but simply a mediator of your own disagreement. If someone posts text that causes your own hackles to rise, at least have the courtesy to ask if their statement is actually what they meant to say.

People sometimes post in a rush because they have other things to do. This can cause them to not think their word choices through while you have the liberty of reading what they wrote, and re-reading it, and in your own mind through the prisms of your own background you mentally assign a tone and a posture to it.

No matter how much a missive seems to be geared towards belittling or insulting or otherwise disrespectful, if it does not absolutely include a statement (and sometimes even when it does) you might first ask if being harmful was intended.

Sometimes someone might call you a "moron" literally, but the person might be presuming on your prior communications and assuming that you will realize that it is a jest, intended as harmless jape among friends.

It is all to easy to explode in righteous indignation. Take a moment to draw a breath, think the matter through, and ask.

You might avoid losing your best friend on the internet because in a rush he or she forgot to include a "Smiley Face" icon or simply to add the word "Smile" after a particular line of text.

People get distracted or busy and things get posted that are not meant.

Never post in the heat of an emotional moment, and if you can, consider the other person or persons before you do post.

It does not hurt to ask someone if they meant to be insulting. They might reply with an embarrassed note that it was not their intention.

It costs you a few seconds of time to ask such a question, and could save you endless hours of burning up in anger for a slight that was not intended and avoid the loss of a friend.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Steve Cole reports: Leanna and I bought one of those robot floor-sweeper things (called a Dirt Dog) and set it to work in the den. We had fun watching it drive in circles for a while, but then it's little robot brain sent it off in a random direction. We noticed it go under a cabinet beside the TV (the cabinets are on rolling wheels) and thought that this was good as it would clean that hard to reach area. Then we heard a strange noise and the entire television system went dead. The Dirt Dog had gone behind the TV and unplugged the cable box and Tivo unit! It took us over an hour to pull out the cabinets and the sixty inch television and trace through all the loose and unplugged cables. Our TV is connected to the low-band cable, the high-band cable box, the DVD player-recorder, the Tivo unit (which is networked with two other Tivos in other rooms), and the old VHS system, and all of them are cross-wired to each other so we can record from one to another. The Dirt Dog had plowed through these cables like a Roman war galley through the oars of a Carthaginian war galley, unplugging a dozen different connections. Clearly, the technology of all those home electronics has outrun their ability to connect with each other, let alone get along with each other.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, 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 (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) 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 FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Steven Petrick Posting.

Memory is an important part of our lives. We spend all of our days filling up our brain with them. They go from the mundane things, like how to take proper care of our own teeth on a day to day basis, to how to drive a car. They are also filled with experiences so that we can avoid things, like touching an electric plug will give you an unpleasant spasm in your appendage that can run up your arm real quick, so best not to touch those funny holes in the wall. Some memories get built into reflexes so that we do them without really consciously thinking about them. If you fall, you stick your arms out to try to catch yourself before the conscious realization that you are taking that self-preservative action registers.

But memory is also a reservoir of other experiences. You remember the embarrassment of that first encounter with someone you found attractive, the clumsy steps that led to your later confident approach to others. You remember finding out that while some foods had unpleasant orders, or were unappealing to your eyes at first glance, your taste buds found Nirvana.

A lifetime's memories are filled with learning new things (whether it is math, how to read, or that first time you beat the old man in a game of chess), and the joys and sorrows of life in general.

Our memories are largely what we are. They define how we will deal with new experiences, and they do so through the learned prism of the cultures in which we grow up. They define the level of trust we will have in meeting someone new. They allow us to apply the past to current problems.

So live your life and build memories, and do not forget to hand the lessons of your memories down to the next generation. That first ancestor who figured out how to make a stone axe is not remembered by name, but in learning how to do that, and passing that memory on to others who remembered, is how we got where we are today.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Design for the Game Background

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things about having a game that has been continuously published is that you have a lot of existing history of that game that you have to deal with. When a game is created that has a "future history", you wind up defining a lot of events in that history, and as things get added, you have to work those things into the history without breaking the history or the game system.

An example of a fairly recent event in Star Fleet Battles was the proposal for a new Heavy Fighter shuttle to be employed by the Federation. The author's idea was that his heavy fighter was a competitor for the role of assault shuttle in Y167, but lost out to the A-6 assault shuttle. Okay so far, but then he went (as we used to say in the Army) "Off the Reservation".

His new fighter would be just large enough that it was not really a single space fighter (and so could not be used on carriers), but just small enough that it was not "really a heavy fighter", and so could operate in normal squadrons of 12 fighters rather than be restricted to six fighters as heavy fighters and bombers are.

Then he added the internal bay that first appeared on the larger (almost four times as large) B-52 bomber, but of course was smaller having only two spaces rather than four. To this he added the Modular Photon Torpedoes that first appeared on the Federation B-1 bomber eleven years after his fighter, which would have created havoc explaining why the Federation FB-111 and F-111 could not use modular photons if this thing could. He then added the "Special" drone rails that did not appear on any other fighter or bomber for eight years after his design (first used by the Kzintis eight years after his design, and adopted originally by the Feds ten years after his design), and to these special rails he added the ability to operate type-IV (large) drones.

The result was a fighter squadron that carried twice the number of photon torpedoes found on any other Federation Fighter Squadron (A-10s only carry one photon apiece, and A-20s and B-52s could carry two, but are limited to six fighters or bombers in a squadron. Not to mention the drones.

About the only thing he did not give his fighters were gatling phasers.

As set, the design created far too many discrepancies to be accepted. It was too far advanced for its time, creating too many headaches with the existing history of fighter and bomber development to be given any consideration.