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Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Cause of Global Warming

Scientists have discovered the cause of global warming, and it is not the burning of fossil fuels or sunspots, or even bovine flatulence. It IS, however, man made.

It is radar and other uses of the electromagnetic spectrum.

All those radar systems constantly scanning for air traffic control, weather predictions, air defense, missile defense, missile tracking, etc. are constantly churning the atmosphere, add to these literally millions of cellphones and tens of thousands of radio and TV stations.

While individually no single radar, no matter how large, has much effect (even the old DEW line radars), the constant additions of more and more radar systems (and television and radio stations and cell phone towers) in even third world countries and rapidly industrializing countries has resulted in more and more air molecules being "excited" by these man-made electromagnetic frequency waves.

The Earth is being gradually converted into one single gigantic microwave oven (although more precisely a thermo-conductive oven as the air molecules transmit the heat generated by their own movement to other objects).

It is this electromagnetic heating of the atmosphere that is making it harder for the seas to dissipate their own heat resulting in greater heat build up in the oceans (the oceans themselves are directly affected by ocean surveillance radars scanning from orbit, and other radar scanning from orbit for purposes not associated with tracking movements of the seas).

It was the effects of more and more radars, TV stations, and radio stations coming on line, including the original massive DEW line radars, that reversed the cooling trends that had been previously detected (during the 1960s and 1970s when there were real fears of global cooling) and have led to the current global warming crisis.

The new X Band anti-missile radars are causing even more perturbations in the upper atmosphere, which is even more dangerous, and the increasing use of cellphones, with several millions now in operation in the United States alone, are causing even more perturbations in the atmosphere.

The solution is a necessary reduction in radar emissions of all types, but military and transportation authorities have rejected these new findings. It is believed that the movement of Television to cable systems is a good step, but scientists are also calling for radio stations to be shut down and cell phones to be restricted only to emergency services. This has also been rejected by the military and transportation authorities citing the need for rapid communications to maintain the transportation systems and conduct military operations.

Friday, May 30, 2008

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. Mike Curtis 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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


One of the presidential candidates has said he will talk to anyone (for example, the nut-case presidents of Iran or North Korea) and many have been shocked at this naive notion, while his supporters have cheered this splendid idea.

Just what does talking with a foreign leader who is pretty much a maniac actually accomplish?

Not enough people ask that. Liberals assume that "just talking" is a good thing in itself. It might be, but probably is not.

In the case of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it's hard to see what would be gained. He wants US troops out of the Middle East (since they are in the way of his idea to take over the place). We can hardly agree to that, not until we no longer need the Middle East's oil. He wants Israel destroyed and we're not going to give him that either. He already plans to build nuclear weapons over UN objections, and he's not going to give that up. (Nor should he. Having a nuke or two means two things: one is that if the US flattens Iran he can at least get one shot back, even if a freighter has to deliver it, and the second is if he goes down fighting he could at least lay an egg on Israel and go down in Arab history as a hero.) He wants to continue supporting terrorists, and no one believes that "just talking" with him is going to result in him giving that up.

In the case of Kim Jong-IL, the nut-case dictator of North Korea, what good would talking do? He wants to remain in power, and (given the mess made when Saddam was removed) nobody is really anxious to see him go. He wants US troops out of South Korea, and that's not something we or South Korea are going to agree to (not with a communist dictatorship still in power.) He wants access to Western banks so he can sell his counterfeit US $100 bills, something the US isn't going to agree to. He wants to build nuclear weapons (and probably is) and no matter how charming the US president is, he's not going to stop (see above for why, but ignore the part about
Israel.) He wants to keep selling missiles to people who point them at our friends, and no amount of charm is going to stop his big cash export.

Talking is OK, and if Kim or Ahmadinejad want to talk to ME, I'll pick up the phone, but nobody should think that just talking is going to solve the problem. Contrary to myth, there is no big "misunderstanding" involved that is going to go away when two people meet face-to-face and have a broad-ranging chat and suddenly discover the mistake that caused all the problem. I've been in conversations with angry people who suddenly realized that they misunderstood, but that's not the case here. We understand perfectly well why Kim and Ahmadinejad want nukes. We just don't want them to have them because having a "final defense against US aggression" also means having a "sneaky way to get in a cheap shot before the US can even start being aggressive."

Talking also has a downside. Just talking with Kim or Ahmadinejad means we accept them as equals and accept that their point of view is just as worthy as our own, and that's not the case. When a US president meets Kim or Ahmadinejad and (surprise) absolutely nothing happens as a result, who is going to look bad in the eyes of the Third World? It's not going to be Kim, and it's not going to be Ahmadinejad.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Animals in Our Lives

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

People, not everyone, tend to think that their own particular pet is an exceptional animal. This has to do with living with the animal day to day and being constantly made aware of its own particular predilections and quirks. The simple fact is that while all cats are cats, not all cats are cats. By this I mean that they are all endowed with many feline characteristics despite the best efforts of humans to breed some of those characteristics out of them, but that some will act in ways that seem "uncatlike" on the surface.

I had a cat that I sometimes believed thought he was a dog. At least he was the only cat I ever had who would voluntarily go for walks around the block with me. I do not mean that I would call him, but if I went outside to take a walk, he would come with me and walk all the way around the neighborhood with me. Stopping here and there to check on things like a dog.

My mother had a cat that considered itself a fierce a hunter . . . but this cat had no concept of keeping its mouth shut, and would meow continuously as it was stalking its prey, even if the prey was on the other side of a window. It caught a few bugs now and again, but there was not a rodent or bird in the neighborhood who had any concern about being caught by this cat. It does much to dispel the myth about cats being natural hunters. This cat was, by the way, a pure white cat (all white fur, no spots of any other color) whose name was "Inky". She was not named "Inky" to be contrary, but because "Inky" was short for "Incompetent Cat". While she would doubtless have quickly starved if she had been forced to actually rely on her own hunting skills, she was a very affectionate cat which insured her good treatment by her humans, so perhaps she was not all the incompetent.

Cats are solitary hunters, not given to cooperative ventures generally, but more than one housecat has been found to have formed a union with "the dog" in order to steal treasures (usually food) from the humans in the house. And there is a recorded case in the northeast of small numbers of housecats engaging in "pack-like" behavior to attack very small deer (perhaps there is a bit of lion in these small felines so many of us like to have around). Such behavior is very uncatlike (cooperation among cats, or between cats and dogs?), but has definitely made the deer in the area very nervous (even though I have not read of any "successful" ventures on the part of the cats).

How smart are these small predators we keep in our homes? When I went to college, I took my then cat with me. Since the rooming house I was going to be staying at was very close to a major highway, I (me) decided that my cat would not be allowed out doors. I did not want to chance his getting run down. He put up with that for about four days. On the fourth day he waited patiently until I got into bed, then went to the door of my room, sat down, unleashed a thunderous cacophony of meows. This continued until I allowed him to go out of the room. I followed him to see if there was a problem and he went straight to a door to the outside, sat down, and again unleashed the cacophony. I explained to him that this was not going to happen, and took him back upstairs. He again waited until I got in bed and . . .

There was no question that he was going to wake up everyone in the place. Begging, pleading, attempted bribes, all these availed me nothing. Finally I saw no choice but to cave in and let him outside. But I did not let him go very far, and after he had been out for a few minutes, with me close behind, I again tried to go to bed, but no sooner was I in bed then he again cut loose.

I could not have him wake everyone up, I could not send him home, and I could not stay awake with him all night myself, so I was finally forced to let him go. One of the worse moments of my life.

Four days later he came back looking perfectly happy. From that point on he came and went as he pleased, as he had done at home. Some nights he would stay with me and sleep on the bed, but it was understood that if he wanted out, I would let him out.

Yes, I had learned who was boss. There was no question that he had planned his escape from my desire to keep him safe. He has been gone from this mortal plain for more than two decades now, but I still often think of him. He was in many ways the smartest and toughest cat, but also one of the nicest cats, I have ever known.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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.

As an addition, we are sorry there was no post yesterday. In the press of trying to get things done for Origins, we simply failed to accomplish that particular task.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Beware the Entertainers

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Whether on the left or the right, beware those in the entertainment industry. While they entertain you, they are also frequently trying to teach you to think about the present in the manner they think most appropriate. Any film or story you see today tends to have one or more hidden agendas embedded in it. This is because we, as beings, tend to be picture oriented. Something we see tends to imprint on us more than mere text in a book.

In addition, any "revision" or "change" to known historical facts can be written off by the entertainers as merely "artistic license". So if saying Lee Harvey Oswald could not have killed Kennedy by himself requires revising the history of Lee Harvey Oswald . . . well it is not the film maker's fault that you may not be aware that firing three aimed shots in the period is well within an experienced marksman's skills, and that Oswald actually was a skilled marksman. Not his fault that you may not be aware that an average man, unburdened and in good health, actually has no trouble walking a mile in a quarter hour so that when he tells you it cannot be done you are further involved in believing the movie's goal to make you believe that there was a conspiracy.

Is the film going to have any sort of disclaimer of these twisted facts? Nope, just the general "based on" and the laughing "If they are interested, they can check the facts themselves . . . we know they will not, and we gain a few more slack jawed converts to our cause."

Never ever accept as a fact anything that is presented in the entertainment media. Take the time to try to research the truth, whether you already agree with what is being presented (like the subtle slanting of historical facts given in the latest Indiana Jones film, or the subtle shading of facts in Ben Stein's "Expelled" film). Always assume that there is an agenda to anything being presented as mere entertainment. There almost always is, even if it might be unconscious on the part of the filmmaker (for myself, I no longer believe it is unconscious, but is quite blatant).

This, sad to say, even includes so called "historical documentaries". Anyone who would suggest the use of "horse holders" as one of the proofs that the men of the Seventh Cavalry were poorly trained at the Little Big Horn clearly has no knowledge of the operations of Cavalry. Every horse organization that relied on dismounted combat used horse holders, whether it was an American Cavalry unit, or a European Cavalry unit, or even Native American Tribes. Horses are herd animals, and if you have a group of them and one of them gets spooked, like by being hit by a bullet, and runs, all of them are likely to run. If you intend to dismount and fight for a while, and then mount and move somewhere else, you employ horse holders. Situations where the native Americans did not use horse holders were where they could pen them or hobble them, and even then they might leave a security detail. But if you intend to use the horses to move rapidly from place to place, perhaps falling back before a superior force to different fighting positions (as Reno's command did during that same battle), you use horse holders.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

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 we make.

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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Weekend and Rememberance

Jean Sexton Writes:

For Americans, Memorial Day weekend is upon us. It is a three-day weekend, time for hanging out with our families and friends, for grilling out, and for maybe going on a short vacation. But before throwing that burger on the grill, take a moment and think about why you are able to do so.

If it were not for the people who fought in the American Revolutionary War, this nation might not exist in the same form it does today. Certainly that is true of the Civil War. Without our participation in World Wars I and II, Europe would certainly look different and who knows where the changes would have stopped. Now we are engaged in a war against terrorism and more brave men and women are dying so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms we have.

While we celebrate with our families and friends, take a moment to remember those who are no longer able to celebrate with the ones they love. Remember those who gave their lives for their country. They defended the Constitution against all foes, foreign and domestic. They deserve to be remembered. It is the very least we can do.

Enjoy your holiday. Play games with your friends and family. Cook out. But while you do so, spare a thought for the patriots who have died and for those who now stand in harm's way. And at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, pause for the National Moment of Remembrance and recognize their sacrifice.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008



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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


When a new product is finished, being printed, and on its way to the wholesalers, retailers, and consumers, it is still not totally finished. There are several steps to take which are necessary, even if they aren't part of getting the product on the market.

For one, we have to put the product (including a suitable photo) on the shopping cart. Leanna then has to add the various options, such as loose-leaf vs. bound, hole-punched or not, and sometimes large print editions. She also has to list the spare parts and "double-category" the item into the "new releases" page of the web shopping cart. This also requires us to delete the older items on the new release page and rearrange the order of the products on that list. Leanna also has to change the front page of the cart to mention the new products.

The copyright documents have to be filed.

In some cases, a product information page has to be created (or updated) for the website.

Many documents have to be updated, including the website new releases page, the next newsletter, the list of product updates, the data files for the Greater Games Industry Catalog, the on-line text catalog, and of course our own catalog. For SFB products, we have to update the Master Ship Chart and Module G3. For FC products, we have to update the Reference Rulebook, the scenario indexes, the Master Ship Chart, and several product information pages. For F&E products, we have to update the Ship Information Tables.

We have to issue awards, free copies, and (sometimes) checks to individuals who worked on the product. If the product is done under a contract, this is a good time to actually make sure the contract got signed.

Review copies have to be sent, which means we have to check the list of reviewers and see if those sent review items actually reviewed them (and did so fairly). We also send a press release about the new releases to the media.

A Captain's Log is probably the hardest product to "finish" since it has elements of all of our games, requiring us to update the charts and databases for each game. It is also one of the few products for which we do a large print edition, which means about a day of reformatting (adding) pages and moving text around. We have to update the promotion records for those who write the various kinds of tactics articles, and we also have to post a list of who got published and reorganize the files of papers not yet published. We keep a master index of Captain's Log, and that has to be updated. Certain articles from each Captain's Log (input guide, the Star Fleet Battle Force article, table of contents) are PDFed and put on the website. We have taken to writing and posting a separate designer's notes file for Captain's Log. Captain's Log is where we publish updates and the answers to rules questions, and those files have to be put on the website.

So, a "finished" product is often two or three entire days of designer work away from being "finished". We have to be firm (and kind) with customers who have been desperately waiting for one product to be finished so they can start talking to us about the next product, because until the product is "finished" (all of the post-printing list done) it is not "finished" (time for us to move to the next product) even if it was "finished" (printed and shipped). If we let such customers talk us into starting work on the next product without completing the "final items list" then those items are much harder to do weeks or months later when the memories of the just "finished" product are no longer fresh in our minds.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Good Guys Hearts Are Pure (or Something)

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the most common occurrences in fiction (particularly in the visual media such as the movies) is the unfailing presentation of the heroes being able to beat superior numbers of bad guys. It is so embedded in the mythos of Hollywood that this is true that they cannot even see when they are utterly failing to make the bad guys as threatening and powerful as they are supposed to be.

Take the new film "Prince Caspian". The background information pretty much establishes that the bad guys military machine managed to march into Narnia and destroy the central castle from which the heroes reigned in the past. (This is implicit in that the castle has been destroyed by catapult stones). None of it logically holds together. If Narnia's trees were able to act in its defense as they did at the end, and if the river itself could rise up, then when the bad guys first ever marched in they would have been massacred.

This is the thing. Nothing in the military capability of the bad guys as presented was able to face off against an awake and active Narnia, therefore there was never any chance that they ever previously marched into Narnia and subjugated it. It could not happen. Any prolonged conflict between the two sides would have resulted in the bad guys being routed.

The whole plot literally fails on this point (perhaps it was better explained in the book, I do not know, I have not read any of the books in this series).

Everywhere you looked, the typical outcome of a clash between the Narnians and their enemies was mass casualties for the enemy. Their only advantage seemed to be that they could breed soldiers like cockroaches and just keep feeding them into the Narnian meatgrinder, taking an exchange rate that looked worse than five of them for every Narnian casualty in the big fight in the castle. And this was at the height of their power and the nadir of Narnia's?

Certainly there was very valid reason for the bad guys to fear the Narnians.

But no reasonable explanation of how they had previously defeated the Narnians and driven them from the height of their civilization to the depths they occupied at the start of the film.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

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.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Steve Cole reports: The last few weeks have been crazy as we finished Distant Kingdoms, Omega Five, and the two Booster Packs (19 and 20) and released them. The die cutter doubled his prices, and we delayed Distant Kingdoms a month to find a better price, and couldn't. Then the die cutter delivered the counters ten days late. We got them on Monday morning the 12th of May and that made it very difficult to get shipments out on time. We considered delaying the releases to the 19th but didn't want to delay things any further, so the whole crew jumped into the warehouse, assembling games and packing orders. I had several crashes with the FCDK rulebook file but kept multiple backups and was able to recover each time without losing much work. For what it's worth, we at least have the counters for Federation Commander: Orion Attack and the two Star Fleet Battles modules (X1R and Y2) in the warehouse, so the only thing holding up those products is us getting the work done. At least we won't be waiting for anyone else. Many do not realize that die cut counters are a royal pain to produce, and you have to print the counters for several products at once. This often means printing counters for a product not even designed yet, and only yesterday, Steve Petrick was working on Module X1R when he asked me "What kind of ship is THIS counter supposed to be?"

The delay in Federation Commander: Distant Kingdom will (as all such delays do) delay other things. Pushing FCDK back as far as we had to put it too close to FC: Orion Attack, so that will be rescheduled from Origins to sometime in late summer or early fall. The late release of FCDK does not leave us time to do Captain's Log #37 for the scheduled 2 June release, so we'll release it at Origins with SFB Module X1R. SFB Module Y2 remains a fall release, and it looks like a new expansion for Federation & Empire is likely for February 2009. Origins 2009 should see us releasing Federation Commander: War & Peace with the ISC and Andromedans.

A few random notes just to pass along some information:
1. Loren Knight was translating Air Force tapes and found records of a colony of escaped Tholians in the Draco drawf galaxy. We'll be covering those in a future product.
2. Adam Turner is busily doing the art for X1R and Orion Attack. If you haven't seen the art by SCUG on the PHP forum, go look for it, as it is spectacular. It's "wrong" in that the ships of the Star Fleet Universe don't look like his art, but his art is so darn cool you have to see it.
3. I have been sending one new ship card per day to FC On Line and am up to #87.
4. We have a new print run of maps due next week. These should be the best ever, being die cut rather than blade cut so there should not be any tearing along the edges. I have, by the way, finished the first new ship card for Orion Attack.
5. Our graphics intern, Matt Cooper, has graduated from college and moved to California for a job that pays better than all of us combined. We'll be hiring a new graphics intern as soon as we can.
6. We have two new wholesalers, Brave New World in Germany and Warpath in the US.
7. Ramses, our chief of security, has been chasing a lot of rabbits lately; it's spring and there are a lot of new rabbits around the house. His sister, Isis, has been going after ground squirrels.
8. My project to kill backlog got stopped during the last three weeks, but I am not any further behind and have resumed steadily dealing with things I never dealt with before. I did the quarterly updates for the Greater Games Industry Catalog. It's annoying to have to stop working for half a day to update this list but it's vital to our company to have all our products listed.
9. The phone company has had lots of trouble upgrading our DSL connection.
10. The Origins tournaments and other events are available for pre-registration. GAMA has been very cooperative in scheduling our events and giving us judge badges and the tables we wanted.
11. Jean Sexton and her team are making progress on the new RPG books and hope to have PD20Modern out for Origins.
12.The building project hit a glitch that may stop the entire idea of building a new office-warehouse building. Which is no big deal; the company will rent whatever size warehouse it needs and I will keep my money in the bank instead of investing in real estate.
13. Work continues by outside designers on Klingon Armada, Silent Death, Victory by Any Means, Star Fleet Battlestations, and Leanna's Fighting Starships.
14. The skyrocketing cost of tin could mean higher prices for existing miniatures by the end of the year.
15. Leanna hired a new cleaning lady who has made the office far more livable.
16. We sent 186 copies of Captain's Log to the 186 war zone recreation centers for US military personnel in the Middle East.

In industry news: RPGnet Gaming Index now records 10,000 unique RPG books and magazines published to date. Duke Seifried had triple bypass surgery. Gencon is being sued over a convention they ran in California which lost a ton of money, but expects to survive and pay off the losses over several years.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bullet That Was Not Fired

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the mysteries of life that cannot be defined is how much things can depend on just one solitary individual.

In our history, such an individual was George Washington.

Even after you discard the many myths our history has about him (throwing a dollar across the Potomac, chopping down the cherry tree and saying "Father, I cannot tell a lie" as examples) there is a great deal remaining.

He was a man who won a war, but declined a crown (his officers offered to make him king at the end of the Revolutionary War) for example.

There can be little doubt that he was central to holding the American Army, such as it was, together. Through a combination of not just discipline (he was as harsh as he thought he needed to be when circumstances dictated), but by remembering that his soldiers were men and appealing to their hearts.

Without him, there is little chance that we would have won our independence. Without him, we might have become another monarchy had we won (would the General who replaced him have turned down the chance to be a King?).

At one point, Major Fergueson apparently had George Washington plainly in his sights and needed only to squeeze his trigger. On that day, he forbore to fire on a man who, though an enemy, was simply going about his business as a fellow officer and gentleman.

The fate of our entire country, and world history, literally spins from that one bullet that was not fired.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

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!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anything But Time

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Napoleon said that his generals could ask him for "anything but time." In battles, the fate of a battle can spin on a few moments of time.

To take that perennial favorite, Gettysburg, what would have happened if Longstreet had attacked the Union left two hours earlier on the second day? This could have happened, but the officer sent to guide the Corps on its march was not experienced in this type of assignment, and though he had traveled a good part of the distance the night before, now he had to do it daylight. The result was that he got lost, and much of the Corps had to counter-march, resulting in time being lost.

There would have been two significant changes right away.

The first is that Sickles Corps would still have been on Cemetery Ridge rather than deployed forward. Longstreet's attack would either have been the original planned assault, or would have been launched as Sickles was advancing his corps, either could have resulted in a collapse of the Federal left.

The more telling thing, however, is that the Union Fifth Corps would not have been present. It was still on the march at that time. It was Strong Vincent's Brigade of that Corps that held the Round Tops (Famously with Chamberlin's 20th Maine on the left, and thus the left flank of the entire Union line).

That time lost on the march changed the chances of a Confederate breakthrough. It still took hard fighting by the Federals to stop that breakthrough, but if the Union Fifth Corps had not yet come up, the reserves that were needed to halt Longstreet's attack would not have been there.

With all the other things that went wrong for the Confederacy during those three days, the delays that allowed the Fifth Corps to arrive may have been the most decisive in denying the South a telling victory, one that would not have won the war for them outright, but would have gone a long way to creating conditions in which the war might have gone on for another year or two, and might have cost Lincoln re-election. That was the only real chance of Southern victory (Lincoln failing to retain office), and a resounding victory at Gettysburg might just have created that circumstance by forcing the Union to pull troops from the Western Theater, which would have delayed the Union campaigns in that theater. Perhaps long enough to have decisively altered the outcome of the war.

Lee doubtless wanted those lost hours back, as did Longstreet, but time once spent is forever beyond the recall of any mere mortal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

When I was younger I took a test that, supposedly, would determine whether or not you were a good candidate for space colonization. It was a timed event, a series of choices, with right ones in the given amount of time taking you on to other choices, while failing to make a choice in the alloted time, or making a wrong choice eliminated you.

I passed. Got every question right. Which got me an interview (I was about 13 or 14 or thereabouts, perhaps younger, perhaps older).

The result of the interview was that the test was thrown out.

The problem was that while I got them all right, I did not necessarily make the choices in the "correct" manner.

An example: Choose a door, behind one door is a Lion, behind the other is Minotaur. My logic, obviously both would kill me, so I chose the Minotaur for the simple reason that I had never seen a real one. This was the correct answer, BUT the reason you were supposed to choose the Minotaur (I no longer remember for certain if it was the Minotaur, but it was a Mythological beast that I chose) is because it is a mythological beast that does not exist and therefore cannot harm you.

There were several other questions (not based on Mythological creatures) that I got right for the wrong reason, and the psych guys were concerned that others might "pass" their test for the same reasons I did, which were the wrong reasons.

What can I say.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Stephen V. COle 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 try to set it up for you! Email me at: Design@starfleetgames.com

Sunday, May 11, 2008


We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your local game store when to expect new products.

See the link at http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/April_2008/

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Joy of Computers

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Computers are our friends. They save us so much time. They make our world so much easier. They make our errors so much more catastrophic.

The program that handles my E-Mail works well, but if you paste something big into the address block, it blows up and crashes the computer.

Now, this should not happen if I am paying attention, but life is full of distractions. The phone rings, someone says something, you allow your mind to wander from the mundane task of getting an E-mail ready to the next thing you need to do right now. You forget that the thing in you paste key is not an address, but the file you want to send. Sometimes you do not forget, but the mouse simply fails to transmit that click you just did to the program to let the program know you want what you are about to paste to be in the body of the message, not the address area. No matter how it happens, the result is a crash. A crash where the escape keys do not work, but only rebooting the machine can get things restarted.

So now you waste time waiting for the machine to restart, then you waste time trying to find the extent of the catastrophe (did you hit all the right save keys before the computer crashed, or are you going to have to rebuild a file). Sometimes you spend additional hours recreating a lost file.

Computers are great and wonderful, life as we know it would be so much different without them, and they do not crash THAT often. But when they do . . .

Most computers are probably not replaced because they are old, but probably because the "User" lost it when the computer crashed and destroyed that one vital file or vital connection and . . . well computers are not real good at defending themselves from having chairs hammered on them. (No, I did not do that, but the urge was there . . . old caveman instincts die hard in the DNA.)

Friday, May 09, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

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


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

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Security Matters

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I had a habit of "making the rounds" around the apartment complex in which I live before going to bed. And sometimes, if I woke in the middle of the night, I would pull on a pair of shorts and "make the rounds" again. Partly this is driven by the fact that I have found most people tend to just ignore things that are "not my problem", and in some cases assume they will be blamed for something if they do report it.

An example is that one day I was heading out to my car when I heard this great racket coming from the Laundry room. When I got there, I found water spraying everywhere, and fairly clear signs that someone had grabbed their laundry and departed. It was clear that the water had been spraying for a while (whether hours, or just an hour I could not tell, but definitely more than a few minutes). I contacted manager and got instructions on where to go to cut the water flow.

But there have been other incidents.

One night as I was returning to my own apartment, a young lady burst out of hers and nearly ran into me. She was terrified that someone had been looking into the window of her apartment from the alley behind the complex (into her bedroom). It was pretty obvious to me that by the time she had made the cause of her distress known, whatever had triggered it would be gone, but I still marched back to investigate. A careful search for recent signs of disturbance did not turn up anything, but that did not mean that she imagined it. At least the idea that someone would go back and investigate made her feel a little more secure.

I often joke that I am that guy you see in horror films. The one that first hears "the strange noise", goes to investigate . . . and never comes back.

Different people have owned the apartment complex in the years I have been there, all of them have gotten to know that if I see a problem, I tend not to let it get worse but at minimum (if I cannot stop it from getting worse) I will report it to them. Most of the problems have, as you might imagine, been water related. (Including a time when I literally heard the pipe burst while I was nearby.) But I have also reported wind damage (a fence that had been so weakened the next blow would probably bring it down, which was principally a problem in that it might damage cars parked nearby, for example).

In a way I am being preemptively defensive in that things that increase the costs of operating the apartment complex will eventually show up as increased costs to the denizens of the complex (which includes me).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We had rain today.

It came in the early morning hours.

I awoke during the rainfall, and experienced one of those rare pleasures.

The pleasure of hearing the rain falling heavily outside of my cave, and being able to roll over and curl up under my blanket and return to my slumbers, safe, warm, and dry.

It has not always been so.

In my time in the service I have been asked to sit waiting through the night in the rain for an enemy to wander into my kill zone. I have also sat patiently as the snow fell about me in similar circumstance, i.e., awaiting a target to come into the kill zone of the ambush we had set up. There were other nights where there was no rain or snow, just cold air, or hot air, or dust. For me, all of those little excursions weighed with the concern for the soldiers entrusted to me.

I have also known what it is like to sleep (yes, sleep) with nothing between yourself and the elements but a helmet, the clothes on your back, and a leaky tree to keep the cold rain water off you. That is to say not even a poncho, just a uniform.

I was in the infantry, and pretty much accepted that all of this was my possible life. I did not join expecting to always be warm and toasty on cold days, cool and comfortable on hot days. I expected to be hot, cold, grubby, tired, miserable, exhausted, and a host of other things.

Much of that I did experience, if not in Iraq and Afghanistan, then in Korea.

The experience of it, however, lends great appreciation to being able to hear the rain come down, and be able to just roll over and go back to sleep.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


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.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Foresight comes from Hindsight

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things about plans is that they can only go as far as things you have experienced. The mark of a truly great planner is the ability to go beyond that and anticipate the things that might happen, in some cases simply seeing the things that WILL happen and accounting for them.

An example was the game Jutland by Avalon Hill.

I devised a plan to trap the British Grand Fleet as it left its harbor at Scapa Flow, pinning the ships against "the edge of the world" more or less, and annihilating them before slipping back to Helgoland, evading interception by the other British squadrons.

The plan worked brilliantly . . . except that I did not take into account one small problem.

The problem was that by bringing the English ships to battle so far from Helgoland any of the German ships that were crippled (reduced to half speed) could not make it back to Helgoland before they ran out of coal.

This, of course, also "broke the game" since there were no rules for what happened when a ship ran out fuel, and no rules allowing for "towing" or various other options. And no rules for how a ship with "no fuel" would be handled in combat.

The result was that I had a "task force" of nine crippled German Dreadnoughts (and Battlecruisers) that was stopped (out of fuel) half way home. With no rules for "drifting" or anything else, these nine ships sat there, in a perfect formation of three columns of three ships each.

The British,having "chased" the rest of the German fleet back to its harbor now turned and hunted for the "lost column". Since I knew what they were doing, and where the column was, I massed all of my U-boats between the enemy and the column.

The results were humorous (at least in game terms).

The British found the "lost column" in the dead of night, when an engagement was going to take place at literally point blank range. The way the rules worked for the U-boats, they managed two attacks before the British reached the Column. The Crippled Derfflinger (I think that was the ship) with one operational turret left (where the power to operate it was coming from I do not know) cut loose at 3,000 yards, destroying a British battlecruiser with the first shot of the night engagement. It took the British ships more than an hour to sink the lost column, and the close range exchanges of fire allowed some of the crippled ships to give not quite as good as they got. But that "hour" allowed the U-boats to catch up and attack the British ships two more times before they could break clear and make for safe harbor.

While the "final outcome" of my "plan" was a clear German Victory (even with the loss of the nine ships in the Lost Column, the British edge in Capital ships had been eliminated and any future engagements would be at one-to-one odds, but if I had not had to sacrifice the "Lost Column" I would have had an edge in total battleships) I would never repeat it. I am not happy with "breaking the rules" (the designers had not, when they created the game, envisioned having rules explaining what happens when a ship runs out of coal or how to deal with it), and having been forcefully reminded of the problem with getting crippled ships home, I was simply not willing to conduct an operation that far from my home ports. The realization of the need to plan for crippled ships returning to port put a cap (reduced by 25%) on the maximum range at which I could conduct operations.

All of my operational plans for the Germans when playing Jutland after that particular game were made based on that factor. However, I really should have thought about the problem of crippled ships BEFORE it was something I had to face (and the game designers really should have written rules covering what to do if a ship ran out of coal). My foresight in planning for such circumstances came from the hindsight of the disaster of the "Lost Column".

Sunday, May 04, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have heard that the U.S. should never ever kill a bad man if there is a chance you might harm his wife and kids.

I cannot understand people whose thinking stops at "we must never do anything wrong", and never considers the consequences of "never do anything wrong" other than that it will make them sleep better at night no matter how many of their fellow citizens are losing their lives as a result.

The fact is that a policy of "we will never drop a bomb on you if you keep a kid in the middle of your armed camp" is basically surrender.

And that is the real point of that conversation.

They cannot make the people who would harm Americans or their allies stop doing so, but they believe the world will be a better place if we do not try to do so. Their logic is that the only thing that allows the bad guys to recruit more bad guys is Americans killing bad guys. If the Americans did not kill bad guys, the bad guys would just magically disappear because they would not be able to point to their dead comrades and say "see what the Americans did".

Osama bin Laden pretty much did not create Al Qaida and recruit the following that destroyed the World Trade Center by saying "look what the Americans did", he did it by committing atrocities against Americans and saying "See how helpless the Americans are, I kill them and they flail about ineffectually because Allah is on our side."

Still, the Phil Donahues of the Media will call on the Average Americans to wait calmly their time on the headsman's block, as long as they (the Phil Donahues) can sleep soundly knowing that Americans are not trying to strike back at their enemies.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


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.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Playtest Reports

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Playtest reports are important to any game system. It is far too easy for a game designer to forget that the people who are going to be playing his game when he is not there do not necessarily know that rule that he knows that was so obvious he never actually wrote it into the rulebook. Having that turn up as a question before you publish it can make your game a hit. Not having it turn up means you can spend endless hours crafting messages to explain why it was not written down and results in player dis-satisfaction.

There is a flip-side in that you have to keep track of who your playtesters are. That means watching what they report about how they play the game.

Not to long ago we did a scenario, part of the balance of the scenario was that the defenders would use all of the resources that were available to them. One playtest group reported the scenario completely unbalanced. One of the reasons was that while the attacker would be caught in a Tholian web for some period of time, the defender did not bother to equip his Tholian fighters with the phaser pods that are available in the stockpile of all true carriers (which the Tholian Small Fighter Ground Base was. While a few phaser-3s does not seem like much, delivered at close range against an opponent caught in a web a half dozen of them are capable of downing a cruiser's flank shield. Added to the phaser-3s the fighters normally carry and supplemented with the phaser-3s of admin shuttles, the trapped cruiser could take serious damage.

The result is that you get two different kinds of reports, one talking about how they were not able to do any real damage to the attacking cruiser (did not use the phaser pods) and another discussing the cruiser accomplishing the mission, but sustaining some damage (did use the pods), and another discussing the cruiser almost being defeated (supported the fighters with the Admin shuttles). All of them had some comments about luck factors (consistent bad, or good, die rolls is something you need to be aware of if you game uses dice). But the use of firepower available was key to making what seemed an unbalanced scenario workable.

SFB is a very large game with lots of options and capabilities, and while bad luck can always undo a good plan (like having an opponent who consistently rolls ones when he fires his photon torpedoes at you), maximizing your capabilities is the best path to victory.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Timely Information

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things that is often missing from films about the military is the importance of information. Soldiers do not have radios just so their commanders can tell them where to go, they have them so they can function as the Commander's eyes and ears. Information has to go both ways. And sometimes silence can be very telling.

If you position an observation post, you want to make sure they can signal you to tell you what is going on, but you do not in general tell them "do not call me unless you see something". You want them, if at all possible, to be in regular contact. This is because it is always possible that the only information they might manage to give you is that they are "no longer reporting". If outpost #5 was supposed to report at 0715 and did not, it could be because the enemy has made sure outpost #5 is no longer reporting. And if outpost #5 was watching for the enemy to try to slip through that isolated pass on your flank . . . maybe that is what is happening and you had better react now.

The problem is that maybe outpost #5 is not reporting simply because its radio has died (Murphy is an old, old friend and likes to visit at very inconvenient times). If outpost #5 reported at 0615 (assuming you asked for hourly reports but did not want every single outpost trying to call in at the exact same time), the fact that it has not reported now may mean the enemy has an hour to exploit the situation. How critical is that hour? Hopefully not too critical, as you really want enough time to get a patrol out to find out what is happening at outpost #5 before you start moving your reserves and adjusting your fighting line to something that may be nothing at all but a bad radio.

But that was one of the things you had to consider when you set up outpost #5, i.e., if they do suddenly go silent (as opposed sending an accurate message that they have seen the enemy and are displacing or continuing to observe, or etc.). As Napoleon Bonaparte said: "Ask me for anything but time." How much time do you have? Outpost #5 did not report on time, cannot be contacted, it has been an hour since their last report and more time is passing while you are trying to learn what happened. More time for the enemy to get around your flank through that pass, less time for you to strengthen the blocking force that is probably there. (But you will call them to put them on alert, right?)

Similar thing happen when you have a detachment out and your plan depends on them attacking an enemy position to support your attack. You need them to report that they are going to be in position to attack on time, or to tell you that some circumstance has occurred to make the plan no longer operable.

Still, radios have made it a far cry from the time when whether or not a given attack is to be committed depends on "hearing" the gunfire of another attack (several battles in the American Civil War, for example, came badly unhinged when an "acoustic shadow" prevented a force from hearing that another was engaged, resulting in attacks not being made, or reinforcements not being sent to a sector under assault).