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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The survey marches on

The survey I posted the other day has produced some interesting results, and I get more of them every day. And I want a hundred times what I've already gotten, so send yours in when you can.

Some have suggested new products, and in one case I have had the super-secret prototype laying on my desk for about a month. Some have suggested changes to some products, and some of these are actually practical. Some have suggested that we send demo copies of Federation Commander to stores. (We have those available if a store asks, but experience by many companies shows if you just send a retailer a demo game 80% of them will put a price tag on it and sell it, and won't use it as a demo. Heck, some of the retailers who ask for demo copies never intended to demo the games; they just wanted something they could sell for $20. There are retailers out there so desperate for cash that they constantly ask every publisher for demo copies and consider them a major profit center. Smart retailers use demos as demos to make even more money, but not every retailer is smart.) One survey suggested we list the web site on products (been doing that for years) and another suggested we combine the two web sites. (Can't do that. FC can't do what SFG does, and SFG can't do what FC does. SFG talks to veterans who know what they want and where to download it. FC talks to new customers who don't need to try to figure out hundreds of inventory items in their first year.)

We have had a few comments over the last year that the FedCom rulebooks should have color covers. The trick is, that would raise the retail price from $60 to $65. Is it worth it to you? I didn't think so. One suggested we emphasize Prime Directive more, and we will when we have a couple of new products (hopefully soon). One suggested that we emphasize on-line play and I don't know how to do more about that than we already do (banners, alerts, web site info, Captain's Log pages) but maybe we can think of a way. (or maybe you will suggest a way). Many have asked for Captain's Log (or Fed Commander) to be available by subscription, but we cannot figure out what benefit that would be to anyone (since we cannot give discounts or the stores will stop carrying out games). One guy suggested that Star Fleet Battle Force be reprinted with full color cards. It ALWAYS had full color cards. He just assumed that Star Fleet Battle Force was the old Star Fleet Missions card game in a new box (lots of people seemto assume this) and it's not even remotely the same game.

Some have suggested things we have been doing for years which we just never talked about. We do have a fire escape plan and a designated "meet and count heads" spot; we just never thought we needed to mention it. We do have a super-secret "what if Steve Cole dies" plan and a "what do we do when Steve Cole wants to retire in 20 years" plan, we just never had a reason to talk about it.

I am enjoying the survey results, both for the good new ideas and because it shows me we haven't done enough to explain what we're already doing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In praise of our volunteers

The adventure/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 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 Joe Butler 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.

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.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Four Questions for our Customers

Every now and then, any business needs to take a look at how it does business. Anybody who wants to can email me their answers to these four questions (design@StarFleetGames.com) and please do CC our marketing director Vanessa Clark (marketing@StarFleetGames.com). So far as that goes, feel free to include our business manager, Leanna Cole (sales@StarFleetGames.com) and my partner Steve Petrick (rules@StarFleetGames.com).

1. What are we NOT doing that we SHOULD be doing?

2. What ARE we doing that we should do DIFFERENTLY?

3. What ARE we doing that we should NOT be doing?

4. What new concept or idea should ADB investigate to improve its operations?

I won't promise to reply to all who Email, and (because so few know how the business operates) I suspect that most of the answers will be things we can't change or can't afford, but don't let that stop you. I'd rather be given 100 suggestions that I cannot implement than not given one really great idea.

(Members of the US Marine Corps will note that I ripped off their survey. Hey, steal from the best.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Star Fleet Assault

Having spent time in more than one "ground combat maneuver unit" and having designed dozens of non-SFU ground combat games over my career, I always wanted to do a ground combat game for star fleet. Based on the last poll results, it looks like I may get the chance, and yes, Star Fleet Assault will work just as well with Federation Commander.

The idea of Star Fleet Assault is a game that plays all by itself as a ground combat game in the 20-whatever-eth century, but one that you can play simultaneously with SFB or FC so that the ground battle proceeds in paralel with the space battle.

Defining space-age ground combat is, in it's own way, a challenge. We can assume some things (unit sizes in terms of warm bodies will get smaller as firepower goes up) and take a lot from SFB and FC (I don't care what you saw on TV, you can't "stun" an entire attacking army. Starship phasers can't be set that accurately.) We have such things as transporter artillery (you have the forklift load a pallet of 36 artillery shells on the transporter and then "transport" them to a point over the enemy; spring-loading pushes the shells apart into the pattern you want) in the game universe, and that's going to be fun.

Having shuttlecraft (instead of WW2 halftracks) race onto the map, land, unload troops, then take off and either go get more troops or serve as "helicopter gunships" is a blast.

When will Star Fleet Assault see print? sometime in the next 24 months. In May 07 we will select several products now in development for publication during July 07-July 08, and star fleet assault may be one of them. Or it may have to wait until May 08 for the July 08-July 09 cycle. But it's gonna happen because you, the players, voted it into 4th place from a field of a dozen possible products.

Oh, the others, just for your info, are SFB Module R11 Support Ships of the General War, SFB Module X1R more X-ships, and SFB Module Y2 "back to the past again".

Saturday, January 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.

Some of the ideas I have heard in the last month include adding a page to this web site that would have banners anyone could download and add to their web site. (I got that idea from Steve Jackson's web site.)

I am taking retail marketing this semester and present new ideas to SVC every day.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Captain's Log Marches on (Vanessa's schedule)

Captain's Log is our "magazine" and comes out twice a year (Nov and May). It has been 112 pages, went to 120 last issue, and will be at least that big next issue. It's done as a giant "fill in the blank" project, with around 30 "blanks" to fill. There is fiction, convention reports, after action reports, product schedules, Q&A, Input guide, Starline, Ask Admiral Growler, Ask WHY?, awards, comedy, Federation Commander (rules, ships, scenarios, tactics), Star Fleet Battles (rules, scenarios, tactics, ships), Battle Group, Brothers of the Anarchist, Monster special rules, update of some rules section, tactics (term papers, primers, victory reports), venues (computer games, play by email, play on line, card game, prime directive, galactic conquest), and Federation & Empire (ships, scenarios, tactics, rules).

Every time we finish one, we swear we won't do the next one that way. We get to a point 30 days from publication with maybe 10% of the 120 pages finished, and it's crisis management, blood-toil-tears, screaming matches, thrown laps, all nighters, and nervous breakdowns to finish (usually a week or two late).

Not this time.

Vanessa (who watched all that happen) decided she would not allow it again. "You will give me five pages every week!" she declared (and I don't even want to discuss how she enforces that). We have, so far, about 50 pages done. Wow, I have never started the last 30 days before publication (which starts in early April) with that many pages.

Thanks, Vanessa.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Graphics Interns: The Interviews

We contacted the college to get a new intern for Graphics Director. We needed somebody 1 Jan but didn't even get resumes until more than two weeks later. That's the way that office works.

We picked Matthew Cooper, a graphics major who has 17 months before graduation, meaning we just might get to keep him that long.

Another candidate who was a graphics major was 36 months from graduation, but his class schedule meant that he would only rarely be here when Vanessa was, and since he would be working for Vanessa, that would not work.

Another candidate was smart, dressed well, and was very professional, but she knew little about Dreamweaver and told us outright (and thanks to her for the honesty) that she just could not do what we needed done.

Matthew reports for work on Monday.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

We want your graphics ideas

Today is the 24th of the month, and on our schedule of repeating blogs (every 3rd day) this would be the day for our grpahics director to post a note about what has recently been done, learned, suggested, tried, failed, and succeeded. Unfortunately, our last graphics director left a few weeks ago (to get a job closer to her boyfriend) and the new one hasn't been hired. (As we hire through the university intern department, we couldn't even interview people until the new semester started a week ago today.) We have interviewed one and have two more interviews scheduled, after which we will hire one of them on Friday.

The email address for the graphics director (no matter who it is) is always graphics@StarFleetGames.com and you are welcome to send to that address your suggestions, links to snazzy things you saw on other sites, your requests, your minis painting contest entries, etc.

So when the new graphics director reports for duty, they will already have a mailbox full of fun things to check out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Akhenaten: what really happened?

Most have heard about Akhenaten, Egypt's "heretic king" who overthrew the old gods (for the 20 years he was king, anyway) and instituted what may have been the first monotheistic religion. (Quite possibly, the Israelites were working in Egypt at the time and got the idea from Akhenaten to merge all of their previous cannanite gods into Yahweh, but that is another story.)

I think there is more to it. I have never seen my particular theory of Akhenaten in any book on Egyptology, so maybe some day some college student will search for Akhenaten, find the post, research it, promote my theory in his doctor's thesis, (this theoretical student is welcome to steal the idea), and change the view of Egyptology and Akhenaten forever.

I think it goes back a couple of centuries before his time, to Hatsepshut, the female pharoh. (She wasn't the only one, but those are other stories.) Egypt had always had a triple power structure: the priests, the Army, and the bureaucrafts. Hatsepshut was the "king's wife" (there is no word for queen in ancient egyptian) for somePharoah I forget and am too lazy to google. Hubby died and left the throne to an under-age son, with Hatsepshut as regent. A few years on, she decided to make herself king. She had the bureaucracy behind her, but the army was against her. To hold power, she had to bribe the priests. She gave them a lot of land and instituted a system that the priests would be given some amount of new real estate every year. A few centuries later, and Akhenaten becomes king only to find that the priests own more of his country than he does! Hence, the phony new religion is created not for religious reasons, but to overthrow the priests and take back all the land they had been given over the years.

When Akhenaten died, Queen Nefertiti (or someone else, much debate) became king, then that king died and we got Tutankaten. Horemheb (general of the army and later a pharoah) took defacto power, forced Tut to change his name to Tutankamen, and restored the old gods (just not all of the land given to the priests.) Tut died in a chariot accident, the old man Ay (Tut's father in law) became pharoah, and finally Horemheb took power and picked the Ramses family to be the new dynasty.

Ok, my Marketing Director says I have to blog every day so the spiders will notice the site, and on days when nobody can think of anything about the company, we post ... well.. anything that comes to mind.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Federation Commander Campaigns

It is the nature of wargaming that players are full of energy and creativity. Thanks to the internet, these creative and energetic people can find an audience. Some do things helpful to the game system, such as these guys:


I don't know much about them, and we just started talking with them. We plan to support their activities with graphics and other materials. If you want to do something on line that supports the game, please contact us. We won't stop you (unless you're giving away our products for free or selling illegal copies) but there are sometimes some legal things (such as posting a note that we gave you permission to use our stuff).

There are some bad things you can do (most of which aren't legal) such as publishing copyright-violating material (say, converting SFB spaceships to Fed Commander, or publishing ships based on The Next Generation which would tick off Paramount) but few people do such things. If you see someone doing that, let us know and we'll try to re-direct their energies into useful and legal directions.

Sunday, January 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.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Running a local convention?

Like most adventure game companies, we support local conventions with publicity and in other ways. Below is our "convention policy" and you're welcome to contact us if your local convention wants to take advantage of what we have to offer.

AMARILLO DESIGN BUREAU, INC., Post Office Box 8759, Amarillo TX 79114
Phone 806-351-1950 -- Fax 806-351-2585 -- Email design@starfleetgames.com
This is the executive summary version. If you want the whole document, just ask.
If you want any of these services, just ask and we’ll walk you through it.
Our goal is to support conventions that have our games in play; failing that, to get info on our games in front of players.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
If your convention has events scheduled for our products, we will list it on our web sites and Ezines and provide you on request a list of our customers in your area. If you do not have events scheduled for our games, see 5B and you can always do Paragraph 2.
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We will provide box of our products ($200 MSRP, $100 if you had under 200 people last year) in exchange for a full-page ad in the program. A flyer will not do. We do not buy ads for cash. If your convention only takes cash I’m sure you will find plenty of companies to pay it; we find 20-25 cons a year that take merchandise for ads. We’ll both do just fine.
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If you have an event featuring our games we will sell the judge $25 worth of gift certificates for $10.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
The most sought-after prize for SFB players is the card and enamel pin of a "Rated Ace". If you have an qualifying SFB event, we will recognize the winner as a rated ace and mail him the pin.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Sadly, we do not go to conventions.
A. If you want an event and have a judge, our web site has instructions on how to run it.
B. If you want a judge and don’t have one, we will post a Judge Wanted notice on our web site; no promises.
C. If you want to have a demo, we will post a Ranger Wanted notice on our web site; no promises.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Support is provided for real conventions (dealer room, events, guests, seminars), not in-store game days.
We cannot provide any support to conventions which host events involving unauthorized SFU products.
= = = = = = = = = = = =

Friday, January 19, 2007

How to find opponents

STEVE COLE WRITES: Gamers are always looking for new opponents. 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. Now, I realize that 1/3 of the local game stores closed in the last two years, and that you may not have one currently. Look for other kinds of stores that might attract gamers, and talk to the manager to see if he might carry (or at least order) wargames and RPGs and operate some kind of contact system. You could even run a "mini-convention" in your home or some meeting space. (Call around, corporations and utility companies often have meeting spaces you can have for free if you reserve ahead of time and don't make a mess. The local VFW or similar organizations may also have meeting rooms rented cheap to the public.)

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.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Starline 2400 On-Line Painting Contest

We have been holding an on-line painting contest since Jan 2005 and expect to continue this through 2007. (Actually, we plan to keep doing it indefinitely, but let’s say we promised to continue it through 2007.) Each month, a theme is selected (announce well in advance). People paint ships or groups of ships and submit photos, which we place on our web site. Gamers then vote for the one they like best, as do company executives. Prizes are then awarded.
Here are the rules as of 15 Jan 2007. Rules are rules, not suggestions, and to ignore them is to risk being disqualified.
1. The ships must be Starline 2200, 2300, or 2400 bought (through stores including our web stores) from ADB. (Starline ships bought from TFG prior to 1999 are eligible.) Starline ships on which you did some modifications and kit-bashes are eligible for Player’s Choice but not Designer’s Choice. Ships manufactured by other companies (for example, FASA or Ral Partha) or which you built from scratch by yourself are not eligible. The old "elite" scale ships are not eligible. Zocchi plastic spaceships are eligible (Federation DN, CA, DD, SC, TG) no matter where or when you bought them. If you bought ships on Ebay (or other secondary markets) which are otherwise eligible, they are eligible. If otherwise ineligible, they are ineligible.
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2. Photos are submitted by the painter, not the owner. If you painted ships for somebody else, you are the one who enters. If somebody else painted your ships for you, he is the one who enters.
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3. Send photos to graphics@StarFleetGames.com as 72dpi JPGs not more than six inches wide and not more than four inches tall. If you send them to anyone else in ADB Inc. we cannot promise they will be entered. You can send your photos at any time; we plan to upload them on the 15th of the month of the contest. (Entries for January will be uploaded when we hire a new graphics director.) You may submit one, two, or three photos of each entry (obviously from different angles). If you send four or more, we will use the first three and toss the rest; we will NOT select the best ones. For reasons no one really understands, sometimes photos you thought were the correct size show up here in the wrong size. We’ll fix them as necessary regarding size. Do not photoshop multiple views into a single image; send up to three separate images, each with one view.
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4. While this should not be a photography contest, bad photos (ugly backgrounds, faded colors, out-of-focus, excessive empty background around ships that could otherwise appear larger) hurt your chances. We reserve the right to crop images. We reserve the right to change the contrast if the submitted images are not viewable. You CAN ask that we comment on your photos and recommend whether you do them over, but if you want this critique, ask for it a week ahead of time. You can retouch the background to eliminate issues but you cannot retouch the ship itself.
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5. We reserve the right to modify the rules for the good of the contest if issues arise that the rules did not anticipate.
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6. We won’t take points away for non-standard paint schemes so use whatever colors produce the best effect. However, some players may vote against you if your paint scheme is non-historical, and they have the right to do so. On the other hand, the point is drama, presentation, and painting skills. Sloppy historical paint jobs aren’t going to beat spectacular non-historical paint jobs.
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7. You are allowed to use decals for ship names/numbers and national symbols, but not for overall hull treatment.
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8. It doesn't matter when or how long ago your painted your ship; you can enter it in the appropriate theme category. Ships which win (or are part of winning entries) cannot be re-entered in later contests. Ships which did not win either prize can be resubmitted in later contests if they match the theme of that contest. For example, a Kzinti cruiser which did not win in May 05 could be resubmitted as part of a future Kzinti Fleet contest or a future cruiser theme contest.
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9. The Player’s Choice Award is a $10 gift certificate good at our on-line stores (or at our Origins sales booth). The Company Executives award a second $10 gift certificate for the Designer’s Choice Award. (There is not really a certificate, we just list the winners in a file Leanna keeps and you use "special instructions" to tell her you are using your "certificate.") Often, a single entry wins both awards, but this is not always the case. In contests with few entries, the company reserves the right to not issue a Designer’s Choice Award. We also give the winners a ‘combat ribbon’ in the Star Fleet Universe system of awards, which are listed in Captain’s Log. To be eligible for the Designer’s Choice, your entry must be an unmodified (but -- obviously -- painted) ship. If the theme for that month is a group of ships, only those entries which exactly match a fleet box, squadron box, or other specific package (for example, Cops & Robbers) are eligible for the Designer’s Choice award but all are eligible for the Player’s Choice Award. Winning entries will be posted in the pantheon of artistic heroes on the web site.
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10. Note, we are notoriously bad about uploading things on time, opening and closing voting, and compiling the winner. But we never do it early, so if you submit yours on time and within the rules, you get listed. If not, your odds diminish, but if we’re late uploading and get another entry we will enter it. We will not delay contests on the request of players who aren’t done painting yet. We will sometimes delay a contest if we don’t think there are enough entries. We upload the pictures into a topic on www.StarFleetGames.com/discus but if you have issues with that forum software you can just email your vote to design@starfleetgames.com and we’ll post it. In fact, if you just don’t want anyone to know who you are, you can email your vote to design@starfleetgames.com and we’ll post it. Normally, when we upload photos, we leave the topic locked for a few days to let people contact us if their photos did not present well or if we didn’t post their photos.
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11. You can only send one entry per monthly theme contest.
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12. When voting opens, the ONLY thing people are allowed to say ANYWHERE on the BBS (star fleet games) or the FORUM (federation commander) is the entry number they voted for. All extraneous comments such as "Entry #1 is obviously the best" or "I voted for entry #2 because of its color scheme" will be deleted (as unsportsmanlike attempts to influence later votes) and will not count. Votes cast cannot be changed. People kicked out of the BBS for misconduct can still vote in the contests via Email. Entrants can vote (for themselves or someone else). No entrant can publicize which entry is theirs and no one can do it for you. No "campaigning for votes" is allowed. If you get an Email or other communication asking for your vote, pass it to us and the entry will be disqualified. There is a topic where completed contests and their entries can be discussed, but you cannot discuss an ongoing contest.
We are still accepting entries for the November (Tholian squadrons) and December (Battleships) contests. We will be looking for entries for the January (Orion Squadrons) and February (Four Powers War battle scenes, must include one each of Klingon-Lyran-Hydran-Kzinti). March will be Hydran Squadrons, April will be Combat Damage (modified ships or just painted like they got shot at and hit).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This day in History

There isn't a single day of the year that isn't the anniversary of some historical event or the birthday of some famous person, but today is particularly special to me, as this is the anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. (My father, a professor at Army Command & General Staff School, used this as one of his two primary teaching examples, and I studied this battle for years in his classes.)

In 1781, the British Army under Cornwallis was pretty much forcing the southern half of the United States back into the British Empire. The only American military force was a tiny Army under General Greene. To avoid annihilation, Greene divided his small force, sendind about a third of it inland under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and keeping the other 2/3 closer to the coast. Corwallis sent a force of about a thousand troops to hunt Morgan. Running away as fast as he could, Morgan knew he was eventually going to get caught. On 17 Jan, 1781, he picked his battlefield: The Cowpens, an open field that sloped gently uphill, flanked on either side by swampy forests. The British would have to come straight at him, and the British had no problem with this. Morgan knew that, without something special, he was going to get destroyed. He arranged his forces in three lines. First, a handful of picked men with rifles (slow firing but accurate) were put at the bottom of the hill and told to shoot the British sergeants as this would disrupt their ranks. This bunch was told it could run away whenever it wanted, and every man could decide for himself if he had time to load and fire one more shot. Behind them were the militia, notorious for running away when the going got tough. Morgan told them that if they would fire two shots (the one already loaded, plus one reload cycle) they had his permission to run for it. He figured that was one more volley than he would get otherwise. The militia took the deal, fired its two volleys (which imposed a small attrition charge on the British) and then skedaddled over the hill. (Many of the first-line sharpshooters had stopped at the militia line to fire another shot or two. Some of these sharpshooters then joined the third line.) And finally Morgan had the Continental Line, six battalions (maybe five, I forget) of regular troops, long term veterans, in bright blue coats. These guys were to be the final line. The British marched head on into them, taking their losses from the American volleys, knowing that in just another minute or two, they would close to bayonet range and this silliness would be over. And, Frankly, Morgan was about to lose bigtime. But a mistaken order told the five battalions of American regular soldiers to turn and march away (reloading on the march as von Steuben had taught). The British marched a little faster and got closer and closer. Finally, Morgan got control of his army and told them to turn and fire, and they fired a devastating volley into the startled British from a range of less than 50 feet. The British were flabbergasted and stopped advancing. At this point, the militia which had run away and was watching the battle from a safe distance, figured that they actually were on the winning side and charged headlong (their officers had made them reload while waiting) and fired a hellacious volley into the British flank. Game over. The British regular troops of the line surrendered on the spot, and Tarelton and his small cavalry unit ran like heck back to Cornwallis with wild tales of huge American forces in the hinterland. Cornwallis (after winning a narrow victory at Guilford Court House where he had to have his cannons fire on his own soldiers to avoid losing) decided that he would head for a small sleeping port village called Yorktown to await the British Navy bringing him more men. Thanks to the French Fleet, Cornwallis was trapped and forced to surrender. The World turned upside down and the US won the war.

Lots of other things happened today (besides Benjamin Franklin's Birthday):
1377 Pope Gregory XI ends the Avignon period and returns the papacy to Rome.
1746 Falkirk: Bonnie Prince Charlie's Highlanders defeat the English
1773 Captain Cook in Resolution reaches the Antarctic Circle
1821 Mexico grants Moses Austin extensive lands in Texas. (big mistake)
1893 Republican coup deposes Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii
1945 Raoul Wallenberg, "Righteous Gentile", disappears in Hungary into Soviet custody
1955 USS Nautilus underway on nuclear power for the first time
1961 Pres. Eisenhower warns of a "military industrial complex"
1966 B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs crashes off Spanish coast
1991 Iraq fires eight Scud missiles at Israel
1991 Operation Desert Storm: Coalition airstrikes against Iraq; Jeffrey Zahn is the first US pilot shot down

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Just a day at ADB

This is a composite of yesterday and today (since today is only half over)....

STEVE COLE (president, chief of design): Conferred with staff on several items, including the results of the SFB new product selection survey, a local reporter wanting to do a story about us, publicizing the miniatures painting contest, an opportunity to promote our products through another company's fiendish scheme, and the need to send information to the small business develpment center. Reviews two intern applications for the graphics job. Worked on the CL35 story (mostly evaluating Klingon D7 deck plans and deciding where the commandoes are going to board the ship). Dealt with 2000 SPAM messages yesterday and 900 so far today. (Some server in Russia is using one of my email addresses as the phony return address for a million or so spam advertisements.) Opened up the civillian ships painting contest. Briefly looked over a retyped version of the Campaign Designer's Handbook that Aaron Staley did for us while he's stuck in Iraq. Complained that *I* was *NOT* in Iraq with the Army. (I am too old and too fat, and the colonel made me retire when I submitted the fourth request for transfer to Iraq.) Processed a couple of store registrationsand starlists requests and sent them to Vanessa. Note, My entry is longest because I know what I did. Other entries are shorter and reflect the core activities. This does not mean that I do more than they do.

STEVE PETRICK (head of SFB division): Working on tedious detailed example article for CL35.

LEANNA COLE (business manager): Processed $1,000 in mail orders and worked on year-end accounting.

VANESSA CLARK (marketing director): Dealt with wholesaler and retailer requests for information, art, and sales materials. Dealt with customer requests for help. Set up new "miniatures" area on the new forum. Dealt with store registrations and starlist requests. Conferred with SVC on marketing.

MIKE SPARKS (warehouse): Quality checked in a couple of thousand Tholian miniatures for the new product releases. Packed mail orders.

Monday, January 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 and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:

o The free First Missions packet (demo version of Federation Commander).

o Turn guages and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.

o Sample ship cards.

o Wallpaper of game covers.

o Frequently asked questions.

o Information for Retailers.

o The original theatrical trailer (ok, not that, but it was the original flyer handed out at trade shows).

o Notes from the game designer (me) on what parts of the older game Star Fleet Battles we decided to include in Federation Commander.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Deciding to make a better life

Being a guy, I really don't care if the house I live in is clean. Being a girl, Leanna does. Without my pitching in, Leanna (who works the same 55-60 hour week I work) couldn't keep up, and when i didn't help, she slowly gave up trying. You'd think that it wouldn't matter. I slept just as well (and Tivo worked the same) whether the living room had been picked up or the bedroom had been vaccuumed or the bathroom cleaned.

But I finally came to the conclusion that, subconciously, I just had quit trying to do anything but sleep, go to work, come home to Tivo, repeat. (Until Sunday when Ramses had to have his walk or blood was spilled.) And when I quit doing that, I quit doing a lot of other things that, in ways great and small, made me less healthy, grumpier, and less productive. Due to the ice storm, Leanna and I stayed home most of the last 3 days and just made a decision to pick up the house, and give it a good cleaning.

I actually do feel much better today than I have in months.

Go figure. And then try it yourself. Sometimes your partner/spouse will be a happier person if you pitch in.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

One of the great myths

There is a great myth of US military history, that somehow we beat the British and won the American Revolutionary War by wearing buckskin, hidding behind rocks and trees, and shooting at the stupid British wearing bright red coats who were standing in a straight line.

Simply not true.

The Americans won the American Revolutionary War by wearing bright blue coats, standing in a straight line, and just plain whipping the British. (Baron von Steuben teaching us how to reload and shoot faster than the British did help.) {Note, at Kings Mountain both sides wore buckskin and hid behind rocks and trees. At Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown it was the bright blue coats thing.)

There is something comfortable about the rocks and trees myth. Something about winning the war the easy way by some trick or unconventional tactic. The reality is usually different. We did what the British did, and we did it better than the British did it.

The same thing can be found in business. There are more business successes from finding a way to do the conventional thing 1% better than there are of companies that found a whole new way of doing things. I'm all for a whole new way, but until one comes along, doing it 1% better will do.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cafe Press

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. CafePress creates and sells products with your designs. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and I have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, Coffee Mugs, Ornaments, Mousepads, etc.


If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on CafePress to buy, Let me know , I will set it up for you!


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Change can be good

Vanessa Clark, Marketing Director writes: Continuous changes keep a company moving forward. As a marketing and business student, one of the biggest mistakes my professors warn me about is "stagnation." If there is no change, how can one expect to move forward into the future? This is true for business as well as for personal growth in individuals.

Change is many times scary and therefore some are hesitant to change. This is one of hardest concepts to grasp in business and (once again) for individuals. It's so easy to just fall into complacency and do "what works" rather than pushing for more or making small changes to make something better. Sometimes you need a change (but have to study carefully what change is the right change), and sometimes change is thrust upon you (and you have to take the opportunity to find something better, not just replace the old one with an identical new one).

For those that have followed Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., they see the changes that have been happening inside the company. SVC hired interns. The interns made changes from within to help company growth. Some of those changes were what the interns were hired to change, and others were changes that were needed if not realized. More graphics, newsletters, more hands on customer service for end customers as well as increased customer service with retailers and wholesalers; press releases, reviews, etc., etc., etc. the list goes on and on to the changes that have been happening with ADB, Inc.

Just when everyone was getting used to the new faces with ADB, Inc., we are upon another change. Jolene (our graphics designer) has moved on. She graduated in December and for those that have kept up with company gossip, you knew that she has a boyfriend, who recently popped the BIG question and became her fiance. With her fiance in Lubbock (attending medical school) and her here in Amarillo freshly graduated, it was time for her to spread her wings and make her way in world. She was hoping to attend graduate school there in Lubbock, which is closer to her soon to be husband, not to mention that she wanted the opportunity to find a job that would pay her as a "college graduate" rather than an intern. We will miss Jolene and wish her well, but as one door closes, another opens.

Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. has once again listed a position with West Texas A&M University for another graphics intern to fill the place of Jolene. The intern jobs ADB offers are incredible opportunities. Interns at big companies make coffee and run errands; interns at ADB are doing real-world work with real money and real success or real failures.

We are pleased to open our doors to another student eager to learn the industry and we are welcoming another change as a new person brings new energy and ideas. In the weeks following, I'm sure we will find the right person to fill the graphics position and once again, there will be more change with the "new" person as they learn the company and we learn them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Support your local store

Please support your local brick-and-mortar retailer when and if you can. If you don't have one, ask local comic and hobby stores if they would consider carrying games as a sideline.

There are two key reasons to support local stores, one is that it's the best place to find new opponents (through a bulletin board or in the in-store gaming area). The other is that "games on the shelf" are the single best way for the publisher to get new customers, as people interested in the genre (or former customers who lost touch) see them.

Most game retailers are run by gamers who wanted to be in the game industry and decided to run a store instead of trying to design and publish games. They make less money than they could anywhere else (except maybe as game designers) but just aren't happy if they're not in the game business.

Game retailers are under assault as never before, and a third of them have gone out of business in the last two years. One attack comes from the chain stores and walmart who have started carrying the most profitable (clicks and cards) of the "adventure games" (wargames and roleplaying games). These chains can undercut the game retailers, but provide no "in store gaming" and no "opponent meeting" services, and you just try to get a Warmart guy in a blue vest to explain a new game to you. Another attack comes from the on-line discounters (again, gamers who wanted to get into the gaming industry). With low overhead and "we don't order it from Alliance until you pay us for it" service attitudes, the on-line discounters can offer lower prices but at the price of destroying your local store. The local stores try to fight back with "if you didn't buy it here, you don't get to play it here" policies, which sometimes drive gamers away. [Retailers tend to get used as baby-sitting services by parents who buy their kid's games at walmart.]

So, help your store. Buy it from them if they stock it, and order it from them if they promise to get a second copy and put that on the shelf. Play your games there and run demos and tutorial sessions. While you're there, pick up the trash so that the store employee can use the time to check in a new shipment or something. I even know gamers who volunteer one hour a week to local stores, spending the time straighten shelves, stocking products, and other helpful things. (I know one store in the Midwest that would not be able to survive except that it replaced a fairly lazy paid employee with four one-hour-a-week volunteer stock boys.) Talk to the store manager. Make him aware that he can get signs and demo kits and other sales tools from Vanessa just for asking, and can get listed in our store locators just for sending us the information. And it works both ways. If you can get your store manager to talk to you about the challenges he faces, try to help him with them (or tell us what he wants and then report back to him what we can do to meet his needs).

Retail stores facing the assault by discounters and Walmart say "we need the manfacturers to do more for us" without really defining what that is. It's tough, I know, as what they really want is every company whose games they stock to give them the same stuff that Wizkids and WOTC give them, and I'm sorry, 99% of the industry is NOT composed of $25,000,000 (sales per year) companies, but we can do some things for little or no cost that will help them almost as much. Manufacturers sit around and complain that "shopkeepers" don't try to SELL our products or explain them to the gamers, they just want a gamer to walk in, pick up a game he already decided to buy, pay money for it, and then go play it in the store and convince others to buy it. A store manager cannot be an expert in every game and cannot explain the rules of every game to a customer who might be interested. YOU (the gamers who visit the store) CAN help by purchasing your games in the store (from the shelf, insist that they stock the game) and playing them in the store and showing other gamers how great your favorite game (one of ours or not) really is.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Federation Commander Wallpaper

We have put a page together to download Federation Commander Wallpaper.

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


If there 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.

Monday, January 08, 2007

All things to all people

We're currently running a survey to pick new SFB products, and we're running discussions here and on the discus board about new FC products. I'm seeing what I always see in such cases: most people know what the product is but a few people are voting for it or against it because they do not understand the contents/purpose of the product and think it will or will not include a particular thing. This is nothing unusual, and we try to gently advise people of what really is or isn't in a product, or why they really don't want what they think they want or really do want what they think they don't want. And sometimes, somebody thinks we're including something that we never thought of but which we realize would be pretty darn cool.

This isn't an unusual situation. Five years ago, in my reserve unit, my brigade commander offered me the chance of a lifetime, to raise (recruit) an entirely new unit. I did so, and the unit was a spectacular success, the elite shock troops of the entire brigade. We were running on our own missions that other units used to help do and helping other units do missions they had previously done for themselves. Half a dozen missions of other units would have failed if we had not (at our own expense) traveled a hundred miles or more to pull their cookies out of the oven. The tricky bit was that since it was a new unit, everybody who enlisted or transferred in had his own idea of what the unit would be doing, and some of those ideas were just strangely wrong, off base, and not what we were there for. Since I wanted a bigger and bigger unit, I accepted all of these recruits and then had that the real missions were more fun than the imaginary missions they thought they enlisted for. I apparently succeeded, as I had three great years in command and was the brigade's company commander of the year for the last two years. My successor was more blunt and less politic than I was (and had a worse temper if you can believe anyone has a worse temper than I do), and within weeks he had lost several troops who suddenly discovered that the missions they signed up for were never going to happen. Within a year, he had turned my large and successful unit into a tiny group of not particularly happy people, troops who stayed in the Guard in spite of their commander, not because of him. He forgot that as commander he had to promise all things to all people, deliver enough to keep them coming back, and convince them they always wanted what he always knew was what they were going to get.

The same thing happens on a grander scale. I was reading an article this morning about insurgency movements (real world rebels who kill people and blow up things). As the rebellion goes along, the majority are fighting for something (say, freedom for Ireland) and a minority think they are fighting for something else (say, a communist state running all of Ireland including ulster). When peace is declared and the majority of rebels got what they wanted, the minority of extremists are still fighting. The same thing happened in Algeria and a dozen other places.

So, back to the point, when talking about new products, try to keep in mind that not everyone wants what you want, but that the publisher can (if he listens and tries hard enough, and if you point out what YOU want in a friendly way) manage to give everybody enough of what they want to keep them coming back, and eventually give everyone just exactly what they wanted. We don't have to do everything in every product but if people want this or that in their game we eventually find a way to do it. Just work with us, hunt new gaming experiences with a shotgun instead of a laser beam, and we'll all be happy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Declutter the place

At home or at work, take an hour this week to clean up the clutter. Piles of junk you haven't deal with just clog up and slow down the arteries of your home and business, so get them dealt with. Force yourself to handle each piece of paper once. If scribbling a reply will do, don't write a letter. Ask yourself "what is the worst thing that would happen if I just threw this out?" and if you don't have a good answer, throw it away!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

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 us, so you will get different interaction with Amarillo Design Bureau than you have in the past.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Three Tiers of the Industry

Those of us in the "adventure game industry" (which includes the wargame industry and the roleplaying game industry) speak and think in terms of three tiers: Manufacturers (such as ADB Inc.), wholesalers, and retailers.

There are actually six tiers:
1. Vendors (printers, artists, game designers, landlords, utility companies) who are paid by manufacturers for various goods and services.
2. Manufacturers (companies that design and publish games).
3. Consolidators (companies that collect the products of tiny companies and sell them in batches to wholesalers. Fortuntely, ADB is big enough we don't have to use this level.)
4. Wholesalers alsoknown as distributors, who buy games in bulk from manufacturers and sell to stores.
5. Retailers (stores, either on the web or "brick and mortar" stores in your home town).
6. Gamers, also known as consumers, end users, and customers.

We manufacturers sell games at 40% of retail price to Wholesalers, who sell them at 50-55% of retail price to stores. A hugely big deal in this is "channel manners"which means nobody in the food chain sells to somebody two or more steps down for less than that person can buy from the step above. For example, we don't sell to end users (you!) for less than the retail price that stores charge, because if we did, the stores would stop carrying our products and we would lose the most valuable thing there is, shelf space in stores where gamers who just happen to walk by might be intriqued by the cover art and stop to check out a new game. (If the cover art can get you to pick the game up in your hands, the back cover -- basically a full page ad for the game -- is there to convince you to buy it.)

So you can see why we don't sell at a discount on our web site.

We'd rather you bought our game from a brick and mortar store that has it on the shelf. That encourages the store to stock and display the product and maybe sell it to someone else. If your store is only willing to special order it for you, try to get him to get two copies and put one on the shelf. And if that fails, make it a point to go to the store and PLAY the game so at least other gamers walking by will see it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tholian Attack

I am finishing up the last bits of FEDERATION COMMANDER: THOLIAN ATTACK even now.

Well, designing them. There is a lot more to a new product any more than there used to be.

After I finish the rulebook (by this weekend so the last playtest round can start) we need a full-bore production meeting. We need to figure out the final contents of Tholian Attack (will it have map panels and which ones? or something other than map panels?), but more than that. One sheet of laminated color cards will cover the 16 ships, and the second sheet will cover the bonus ships plus any ships we are short of plus possibly some ships for future products plus maybe a special ship or something. In theory, there might be space for the Franz Joseph booster (but that gets into complicated issues that the plastic zocchi ships are no longer available in quantities to support such a release and within a few months will be totally gone, unless maybe Lou makes some more). If it turns out that I need a reference card for tholian attack, I wil have to print the second sheet at the same time as the first one, and that causes cash flow problems, unless we don't print new maps at the same time....

More than that, thanks to Ken's brilliant product concept (no sarcasm there, trust me) we also have to schedule the production of new miniatures to fill the various squadron boxes, fleet box, and border box.

And then, this very web site has to be reworked to add a Tholian Page and a Tholian Attack page. Plus Vanessa needs to do an alert and some new banners and maybe a new new google keyword search. Sigh. The modern business world is exciting, but overwhelming as well.

Wednesday, January 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.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Damndable Crew Below Decks

Every ship (and game company) has a captain (the chief game designer) to command the ship, a weapons officer (the marketing director) to deliver the ship's firepower, and a pursur (the business manager) to control the ship's money.

But they are only part of the team.

The damndable black gang below decks that keeps the engines running (that is, the warehouse crew who assemble the games and ship the orders) never get much credit, but they deserve it. Sure, you wouldn't have a product if the designer hadn't designed it, but you also wouldn't have it if the warehouse crew had not assembled the game and shipped the order.

We started the company eight years ago and Steve Petrick (an Army officer) wanted to be in charge of something, so we gave him the warehouse (much like the Irish gave the bagpipe to the Scots, and the Scots didn't realize it was a joke gift). Steve Petrick threw himself into organizing the warehouse, and continually reorganizing it as the company grew and moved into new areas. When we started, I was the only one who knew how to run a shrinkwrap machine (and only because I used to stop by the TFG warehouse and they would let me play with it; anything as fun as long as it's not your job and you don't have to do it). I showed Petrick what I knew and he quickly decided that he was going to be in charge of the machine. I had to fight him tooth and nail whenever I wanted to play "gunner" on Old Smokey, but he grudgingly allowed me to operate his primary weapon just so I'd remember how when Steve Petrick was sick. When nobody else was available, Steve Petrick had to ask me to come help, and I unconciously ended up trying to run "his" warehouse and he unconciously let me, even though I didn't know where anything was and he eventually had to tell me to shut up and follow orders, for safety reasons if nothing else.

For a few years, we had my brother working part time, but Christopher was not a gamer and sometimes put the wrong book in the wrong box. After Christopher died, Steve Petrick and I decided not to hire a replacement and just do his job in our spare time, but we didn't realize that the growing company had made this a bad idea. Too many hours that Steve Petrick and I should have been designing games went into packing games and shipping orders, not to mention the endless restacking of boxes and respotting the deck to house a growing inventory.

So we hired Mike Sparks, a college student who played games at a local store. He's been with us two years (and will be for at least one more), and has become THE warehouse guy who gets little more than a "to do list" from Steve Petrick. Mike quality checks the miniatures, packs games, ships orders, and shows a lot of initiative. He doesn't wait to be given more to do; he just sees what needs done and does it. If we're short of Module J2, he packs a few dozen. Mike was invaluable last summer when massive orders for Romulan Border had to be shipped while Steve Petrick and I drove to Origins. It was the first time in company history that "the Steves" left the building without having all of the wholesaler orders stacked on the dock, but Leanna was able to get the rest of them done with Mike's help. When Mike Sparks took a week off for final exams and Steve Petrick had to do his job (during a massive Christmas mail order surge), Steve Petrick spent most of the day in the warehouse and frequently remarked "I had no idea how big that job had become." I forced Steve Petrick to teach Mike Sparks how to shrinkwrap, and now Mike does 95% of that (and 90% of that without being told to, he can see what shelves are empty). It's Steve Petrick now who operates Old Smokey just enough to remember how, and I am no longer sure I remember how. I could probably figure it out in a few minutes if we had to shrinkwrap a dozen boxes to finish an order, but I am hoping we never have to find that out.

As we moved into the final week of 2006, Mike Sparks as Steve Petrick threw themselves into a total reorganization of the warehouse. They disassembled two of our eight major shelf racks (these are 4x8 racks ten feet high) and set them up in other places to make space for "the building" to be erected. (Steve and Mike were all ready to show me that my plan for where to put one of the racks would not work, but it had a whole half-inch to spare! They should know better than to argue with a registered engineer.) Once the building is up, we'll actually have less warehouse space (despite last spring's erection of the 24x24 foot steel mezzanine deck. (That is 7.5 meters square for you Brits.) The way we're going to make things work is to load a lot of stuff on a dozen "rolling racks" which will be rolled into one of the aisleways, turning it into a solid mass instead of an empty space. This was Leanna's idea, since she saw the rolling racks on sale and bought them for this reason. Despite it being a solid 12x16 foot parking lot of rolling racks, we can get to anything in a minute or two by just rolling the racks out into the last remaining empty spot. Mike Sparks and Steve Petrick are loading the racks in a way that when they need to pack a new product they can just get (for example) Rack #4 and have everything needed for Romulan Attack. It's funny to think that when we started the company I had to do all of the assembly of new shelf units. After the first couple of years Petrick put them together while I was "finishing something and I'll be out there in a few minutes". Now, Mike does them while Steve Petrick is "answering this Email from Tos Crawford and will be out there in a few minutes).

Steve Petrick has, for years now, had something to say about each new product, about how it's designed and built, so that the warehouse crew can effectively pack it and safely ship it. Now, Mike is also giving us this kind of input, suggesting new ways of doing things so he can get more done in the time he works.

So the next time you get a game from us, remember not just the guy who wrote it (as likely to be Steve Petrick as it is Steve Cole) but the damndable crew below decks who put it together, shrinkwrapped it, and put it in a box to get to your local store or your front porch.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

The start of a new year is a time to look ahead.

Steve Cole resolves to lose weight and get the new Fed Commander products done.

Steve Petrick resolves to get the warehouse building built and get the SFB products done.

Leanna Cole and Vanessa Clark resolve not to let the first two welch on their resolutions.