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Thursday, July 31, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

On the drive in to the office today, I caught sight of a Coyote trying to cross I-27. I was rather surprised to see him, as the terrain, while rolling and full of vegetation, lacks a great deal of cover. The area is also quite close to "habitation", not to mention a pasture with cattle in it.

But there he was.

I assume he made it across the road, but I cannot presume to guess where he came from or where he was heading, as the terrain on the West Side of I-27 (the direction he was heading) is not materially different for that on the East side (where he was coming from).

Wednesday, July 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. Mark Tutton does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures at a cost that barely covers his costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

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 Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy 50th Birthday!

Jean Sexton Writes:

Did you know today is NASA's birthday?

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In part a response to the launching of Sputnik in October, 1957, NASA grew out of the existing National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. The Apollo flights culminated with humans setting foot on the moon and exploring our satellite.

Skylab, the first space station launched by the US, was part of NASA's work. The space shuttles' launches and returns have become almost commonplace, except when disaster strikes. The Hubble Space Telescope has expanded our knowledge of the universe.

NASA also has an educational function. NASA has educational programs for children in kindergarten through graduate programs and internships for students in middle school through graduate school. NASA's Office of Education takes its motto "Shaping the Future: Launching New Endeavors to Inspire the Next Generation of Explorers" seriously.

What does NASA's future hold? One of the exciting programs I've heard about involves sending a manned spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid. By learning more about these objects we could perhaps mine them instead of mining here in our own backyard. We could learn more about the solar system in which we live.

"For the Benefit of All" is NASA's motto and they try to live up to it. With their hard work, perhaps we shall achieve the dream of spaceships traveling through our galaxy. May NASA continue to explore our universe and educate us about its wonders.

Monday, July 28, 2008

More About Working Inside the Restrictions

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Another example of a race with seemingly impossible problems integrating its technology with other races in the Omega Octant is the Branthodons. This race had advanced genetic modification capabilities, and limited resources (the limited resources being the reason they developed the advanced genetic capabilities.

They managed to capture a baby space dragon, and have cloned and genetically engineered space dragons to serve as their starships. Due to their lack of resources, they do not have regular starships or shields or various other technologies.

Some think they should just capture these technologies and go from there as that is simpler than trying to think outside of the box.

An example of a problem: Deep Space Bases. How can you build a Branthodon Starbase if all you have is armor? Therefore, the logic goes, they must have shields like everyone else.

The more appropriate answer is simply that they do not have starbases (or battle stations or base stations).

You might say "What? That's crazy!", but the fact is that they do not need them. Most races that build large bases in deep space do so for a very simple reason: Their ships cannot land on planets. If you want to build a dreadnought (or a battleship), you pretty much need starbases to handle the jobs of repairing, resupplying, refueling, etc.

The Branthodons do not have this problem. Every "ship" they have is capable of landing. (How do you think a space dragon "ravages" a planet?) They do not have to go to the expense of moving large volumes of material into orbit to assemble them in a zero gravity field into a base. They need only find likely planets and build dispersed base networks on them. Liked by power grids to allow defending boarding parties to re-deploy quickly within each network, and small in size to force an enemy to come close, well within the effective ranges of their defending weapons, with the added benefits of the shielding provided by an atmosphere.

There are, in essence, Branthodon Starbases, but they are planet bound, any by their dispersed nature (as noted above) hard to attack. Battle Stations and Base stations are pretty much the same thing, just with smaller numbers of bases. The most vulnerable things will be Commercial Platform equivalents, but even those exist only for the convenience of other empires to trade with the Branthodons.

The Branthodon work within their technology because all their ships can make planet-fall. They do not have to have shields to be workable as an empire.

Sunday, July 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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Design Within The Background

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Part of game design is trying to stay "true" to the design concepts.

As an example we have the Omega Octant. Within the Omega Octant we have empires that have technologies that are very different in how they operate from the more homogenous Alpha Octant Empires (the Federation, Klingons, etc.). As a general rule, I will do my best to make sure that anything that is done for those Empires (and the ones that appeared in Magellanic Cloud and the various "simulator" races) is kept consistent with their technology.

This is not often easy.

I will cheerfully admit, in all honesty, that it would be far easier to simply give technology to various empires that they lack in order to avoid having to deal with the things that make them "different". Some have suggested that technologies and background items that make a given empire too difficult to operate should, indeed, be simply thrown out.

Take for example the Chlorophons. This is the "tree race" (sentient trees). There is only one Chlorophon (or "Phon") in any given Chlorophon ship. The ships are largely crewed by a race called "keepers" who are evolved to be completely dependent on the Phons (the only food they can eat is sap excreted by the Phons). If separated for too long a time from the Phons, a keeper will simply waste away and die.

The upshot is that there are no keeper "fighter pilots", and Phons are too big to man PFs. So obviously there can be no Phon Fighters or PFs (the rules say so in point of fact), and there are real questions about whether the Phons would employ large landing forces of Keepers (since they will normally not risk Keepers even to operate admin shuttles). This last makes the concept of Keepers operating freighters largely unworkable. Too much risk involved.

So the obvious solution it to throw the background rules out and "emancipate the Keepers". This has been proposed.

For myself, I op to turn to the existing rules.

Remote controlled fighters exist. There is no reason the Chlorophons could not have remote controlled fighters (standard size ones, Heavy size twos, Medium Bombers, and Heavy Bombers) as part of their planetary defenses. Sure, they could not operate them from carriers, but a full stable of Cholorphon fighters and bombers could be developed as part of their planetary defenses. A whole Chlorophon world could have plenty of Chlorophons who never had the desire to go "A-VIKING" (to borrow a phrase) but that would be perfectly willing and able to take charge of a remotely controlled fighter shuttle to defend the planet, or colony. Having such frees up ships to help defend "The Association".

The same thing could be extended to Gunboats (PFs), limiting them to planetary defense, as an outgrowth of "Death-Rider" technology (K7.0). Only the Phons would need to do this, so no one else ever did. Only the Phon's went that far. Again you have an otherwise sedentary Phon controlling the boat from the planet's surface, but due to their size they might have Keeper crews to do repairs and defend them being boarded. (You are going to have the internal volume of a normal gunboat that a crew would occupy in any case simply to do maintenance and replace worn out systems, so you are going to have to defend it from attack).

The same thing can be extended to a few freighters as an outgrowth of Suicide Freighters, but these being well away from planets would be controlled by the escort, and would thus be limited to pretty much nothing more than speed changes and "self-destruct" to avoid capture. They could not be "armed". The problem with having them armed (given how much more complicated running them would be compared to an admin shuttle) is that very clearly a single Phon could not operate the weapons and fire control of his own ship and monitor the weapons and fire control of another unit (otherwise, in simple, their admin shuttles WOULD be armed, and they are not).

Most important Phon cargoes are probably moved by tugs as with other races, and it would not be difficult to design a Phon Tug and pods for that purpose. But armed freighters are pretty much not going to be in Phon Service.

The exception would be Mercenaries. There CAN be a Phon Carrier that operated mercenary fighters, there could be a Phon PFT that operated mercenary PFs (perhaps even Phon PFs manned by Mercenary crews), there could be phon Troop Transports that carried Mercenary Battalions.

The trick is not to be blinded by what you are comfortable with, but to look at the technology and the rules available and take it where you can go, working with the empire to keep its own unique characteristics intact, not simply jettison them the moment they keep you from doing something you want to do.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Absurdity of Game Publisher "Competition"

Steve Cole Observes:

Can you imagine General Motors calling up Ford Motor Company and saying "Hey, where can I get a good cheap price on steel this week?" or Apple calling Microsoft and saying "Tell me how your new chip works" or Xerox calling Canon and saying "I can't make it to the trade show in San Diego next month. If I ship one of my printers there, will you display it in your booth for me?

And yet, this happens every day in the variously called adventure game, wargame, or roleplaying game industry.

I just saw a note on an industry mailing list where some other game company I don't even know asked "Does anyone have a good fast box-making company for my new product packaging?" and within five minutes he had two good contacts from me and three more from two other people.

This industry we have is unique. None of us, not one of us, wants to be a game publisher. We want to be game DESIGNERS and cannot get any other publisher to print our games. So, it's publish or get out of the industry. Being amateur businessmen, we pass around this kind of information all the time. Where to get good prices on die cutting, box making, printing, plastic pieces, whatever. I have had game companies buy some of my empty boxes and some of my surplus stock of packing foam. It's no big deal.

We don't compete because it's all about ideas. I am the only one doing star trek games so it's not like the guy who may now use my favorite box company is going to be "competing" for shelf space with his star trek game.

Thursday, July 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 easier to use. You are welcome to comment on the 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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do Something With Your Life

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There are competing philosophies in life. The one that has the upper hand in the United States currently is simply he who lives the longest and has the most fun wins. This is a destructive philosophy, one of the problems that is weighing down the entire world.

Life is not about simply living as long as you can and having as much fun as you can. That is ultimately futile simply because no matter how long you try to live, you will eventually die. Death is the only thing that is more certain than taxes for the average human being, which includes everyone now living on this planet (or in orbit above it).

You have a limited amount of time on this ball of mud, and what each of us should do is find something to do with our lives.

We are not going to see "the future", that is to say what will happen after we have gone. But all of us should strive to do our bit to make the future better, not just for our own children but for the world as a whole.

Wasting the fleeting hours of our lives sucking down pharmaceuticals or alcohol to numb the pain of existence is foolish. Find something you can do to make the world better.

Does this mean that you should never have fun and should live your lives as ascetic monks in a monastery? No. It does mean that you should do something that will give your life meaning not just for yourself, but for others.

Every day of our lives we are writing what will be our own obituaries. Consider your own life and what you would like to have people read about you.

It does not mean you must do what would be best in my own eyes (for example). I consider Cindy Sheehan, bereaved mother or not, an opportunist and remarkably lacking in common sense (my opinion, I have no doubt others consider her a hero). You have to admit that when she dies there are going to be people who will remember her, she has decided to do something with her life, whether it is ultimately for good or ill. While I can respect little else about her, I can respect that she is not simply letting the hours of her life pass by listlessly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Before Going to Korea

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

While I was in the service, I was at one point transferred to Korea. As part of this, I needed to put my motorcycle in storage, and to also make sure my treasured possessions, my shotgun, pistols, and rifle, were properly cared for.

This basically required my taking a few days leave to ride the bike "home" from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Melbourne, Florida.

Picture the thoughts that would go through your mind if you saw someone on a motorcycle with a pistol in a should holster, another on his hip, with rifle and a shotgun strapped across his back. Complete with appropriate magazines, a couple knives, and a machete.

Oddly enough, on the whole trip, I was not stopped by the law even once (this was back in 1981).

I did stop at a Denny's for coffee. Walked in, drew my .45 and dropped the magazine and pulled the slide back before putting it down on the table. Did the same with rifle, left the shotgun on the table with the action open, revolver broken open. And then ordered coffee.

At the time I did not think much of it, and it did not seem as if anyone in the Denny's (somewhere in Georgia) had any concerns either. I was clean shaven except for the neatly trimmed (to Army standards) mustache, and had a regular haircut. (I never ever went in for "whitewalls" . . . tended to think most people with that sort of haircut were really just "poseurs" trying to pretend they were "hardcore".)

When I finished my coffee, I stood up, let the slide forward on the .45, put in the magazine and returned it to the holster, sheathed the machette. Closed the action on the shotgun and slung it. Dropped the cartridges back into the .38 and holstered it. Let the action go forward on the rifle, and reinserted the magazine. Then I dropped a dollar on the table as a tip, picked up my helmet, gloves, and the ticket, and went and paid my tab. And walked out into the night, pulling on the helmet and strapping it down before mounting the bike and riding off.

Sometimes, these days, I think about that and wonder what was really going through the minds of the other patrons and the waitresses that night.

At the time, I did not think anything of it, I was just going home to put my bike and weapons in storage for the next year that I would be in Korea.

But, on reflection, it has always seemed odd that I rode the bike from Fort Benning to Melbourne without once having a police officer, trooper, or deputy pull me over to ask what I was doing.

Monday, July 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.

Sunday, July 20, 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.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Everything Comes Down to the Details

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC is working on a project to reduce the error rate on miniatures we get from our supplier. This involves using photographs and line drawings of the various miniatures to demonstrate what details need to be shown, and where those details need to be.

Sounds simple enough.

The problem is that the "detail" about the "background" against which the photographs of the miniatures was to be taken was not settled in advance. The photographer opted to do it against a black background, the result is that the pictures are too dark to be used and the project has crashed to a halt.

Progress is often derailed by a niggling little detail.

Friday, July 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.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Progress Continues at ADB, Inc.

Steve Cole Reports:

I'm still feeling in good spirits. I'm losing weight and feeling more energy.

I have been getting a lot of stuff done. I've spent time catching up on back Email since Origins and getting progress made on a lot of projects.

There has been steady progress on Captain's Log #38. I got Gary Carney's article finished and sent to Jean. I fixed Loren Knight's article about Draco-Tholians so it would pass the Petrick Test and sent that back to Loren for final checks. I read Petrick's article on Arastoz and had him send the raw text to Jean for proofreading before I put it into Pagemaker.

I had a nice chat with Neale Davidson about Leanna's Fighting Starships. I had a nice chat with Todd Boyce about the miniatures for fighters, and the Tholian fighter he did.

I got started on the F&E Ship Information Tables again, doing two pages of reports for the Klingons, which covered four ships. Sigh. Twenty pages of that stuff to go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weather Frustration

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Everyone has their own views of local weather. Here in Amarillo we would like a bit more rain than we have been getting (I know that elsewhere some have rain they would love to let us have in exchange for our lack of same, but bear with me).

Of late we have had a lot of rain in the area. Thanks to the Internet, we have access to weather radars and can watch the rain move.

It is extremely annoying to watch large thunderstorms move from the Southwest to the North East, completely bypassing us. It is more frustrating to watch a large storm heading directly for us, only to see it break up and die about ten miles Northwest of town.

The final straws are to see storms moving in that dissipate just West of town, and then suddenly rebuild and start raining again just to the East of town.

There has been a lot of moisture in the area, and we have gotten very little of it (we have gotten some, but not much).

Mind you, we are not complaining about the temperature, which for us has been running about 15 degrees cooler than normal for this time of year. We would be perfectly happen to keep that.

But can we please have some of that rain?

Tuesday, July 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!).

posted by Federation Commander at 9:39 AM

Monday, July 14, 2008

MOUT Confusion

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

When I was an officer trainee one of the training events was "MOUT" (Military Operations on Urban Terrain), i.e., fighting in a town or city.

As part of the training the unit I was in simulated an attack on such a site while another unit defended it. We wound up with a good example of how confused such fighting can be.

At one point I was sent to find and bring up a lost fire team. When I returned to the building the command post had been in, with the lost fire team in tow, I found the building empty. Drawing the logical (and correct) conclusion that the unit had advanced, I led the fire team forward to where I thought the command post would move forward too.

The new building we entered was also empty, so we pushed on from there.

Little did I know but the team I was guiding had now pushed on beyond enemy lines, enemy lines which "closed" behind us. We were now cut off with no communications to tell our own side where we were.

The "enemy" soon found us, and the situation became one of the enemy attacking us and forcing us to "retreat" (actually advance deeper behind their lines), while our own guys were attacking and forcing the enemy's main line to retreat. We had to fall back deeper behind their lines, or risk being trapped in the building we were in, i.e., get out before the next building behind us was occupied by the enemy.

We fell back through two other buildings (there were not enough of us to try to "hold" any of the buildings), finally finding ourselves trapped in a building whose exit on the far side was completely blocked. Here we were forced to make a "last stand". Through all of this we inflicted "casualties" out of proportion to our own numbers (mostly from the first building where our presence came as a great surprise to the enemy detachment that was moving to occupy it), and thus contributed greatly to the success of our unit in clearing the town, but none of us "lived" to tell the tale of our accidental exploit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Schools Fail, and thus Goes Civilization

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I am increasingly traumatized by what I see coming out of the school system in this country.

Just yesterday I went to a restaurant to have supper. The cost of my meal was nine dollars and fifty-one cents. I handed the cashier two five dollar bills, and then fished in my pocket for change. Confronted with fifty-one cents in change, the cashier asked me if I would mind just taking the change the cash register said I was due as she could not "do the math" to figure out what change I would be owed if she took the fifty-one cents I was offering.

I am not making this up (although I truly wish that I was).

I know that there are people who will say that this would all be fixed if we would just give more money to schools, but even allowing for inflation it seems as if the per student cost we are paying keeps going up, but the quality of the graduates continues to decline.

As more and more functionally inoperative people are graduated into the system, the more drag there is on civilization as a whole. The smaller and smaller number of people able to do the jobs that keep the whole edifice upright are eventually going to be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of those who are simply not capable of being net positive assets to society.

Saturday, July 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

Friday, July 11, 2008


This is Stephen V. Cole Posting:

When a crime happens, call the police (or the sheriff or whoever is responsible for your area), even if you think it won't do any good. Sure, the police are overworked and the crime you suffered was minor in the overall scheme of things, but call them anyway. Respect their time and have a report written for them (printed out nicely on your computer) before they arrive.

Modern police work uses powerful software for pattern analysis. Thousands of minor crimes go into a database, and data-mining software can find patterns that human eyes will never see. The burglary of $100 worth of your stuff may be trivial, but twenty such burglaries in your neighborhood is a problem that needs to come to an end before it gets a lot worse. If the police can connect several cases (cases that were properly reported) they can combine the clues from all of those cases and come up with enough information to identify and prosecute the criminals.

When a crime happens, sit down and write your own report. Everything you saw and heard. Everything out of the ordinary in the previous few days. Sometimes a crime happens so fast that the details are blurry. Here's a trick. Start with breakfast that morning and write down everything you saw and did for the entire day, in the order it happened. You'd be surprised how this trick will suddenly remind you of things you saw during those blurry moments of the crime in progress. If you find yourself in a situation (say, you see a crime happening down the street) instantly look at your watch and burn the time in your memory. That datapoint (and the watch which can be compared to some "official" time for accuracy) is the single key piece of information on which all other information hangs.

Don't say "It's only a few bucks". Call the police and hand them a report. (Heck, offer to go to the police station, but they'll probably want to send someone to the scene of the crime anyway.) Then take a few minutes and listen to the policeman's advice on how to prevent such crimes in future.

Thursday, July 10, 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.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Steve Cole reports: in our company, everything is focused on Origins. That's when key new products appear, and it's the biggest (sometimes only) road trip of the year. We got home a week ago and I have spent most of the last week de-stressing, doing some stuff at home, moving my files to a new (larger) hard disk, and cleaning the clutter off of my desk.

So, 7 July became "the first day back at work" for me. Leanna has been slaving away on mail orders for three straight weeks and Steve Petrick (who takes stress better than I do) worked most of last week, but did duck out for a movie or two. For Mike Sparks, the warehouse has been busy for months. For Jean Sexton, she's home from Origins and busy proofing files for new products.

Since the start of this year, I have worked to clear out the backlog of unanswered Email, unanswered questions, unreviewed submissions, and unprocessed reports. I made a lot of progress, but had to put that on hold during all of June due to Origins. Now, I'm back at work and will resume the march toward eliminating the backlog and keeping current.

Over a period of years, I have gotten steadily worse (health, work habits, attitude) but this improved over the period before Origins when I had to do things I haven't done in years (things I let Steve Petrick take over, but he was too busy on Module X1R and the delay of "my" Origins product to September left me with time on my hands). I got back to some fun, basic, game design and creative stuff that I used to do, and enjoyed it. The Terror Werks alien combat run at Origins (a live-fire combat exercise) pumped me so full of endorphins that it was the catalyst for a long-developing change in my attitude. I will, as of the moment I shot the seventh alien and had a real world Army airborne ranger colonel tell me how well I had done on the mission, no longer accept that what IS has to be the way things WILL BE.

Sure, I'm fat. But I can start exercising and go on a diet. Sure, my health is bad but I kept a month of blood pressure records and have a doctor's appointment to change my (no longer working) medication. Sure, the office was a mess, but I already cleaned it up. Sure, doing stuff around the house means fewer naps and less television, but it felt darn good to hand-scrub the cook top for Leanna and to go dig up the bricks that the tree roots were pushing up and cut out those roots. Sure, I had to delay watching Ice Road Truckers for a few hours but I did take a long walk around the neighborhood and felt better for it. Sure, it's been EASY to let Leanna deal with the gardener (when "outside the house" has been my job since I got married 30+ years ago) but I spent an hour with him this morning on my hands and knees doing soil tests to find out just exactly what is eating (and ruining) my lawn. Sure, I let Steve Petrick do 80%of the driving on the way to Origins but I did fully 40% of it on the way home. Most of all, I have simply decided to stop feeling sorry for myself.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Special Scenario Rule Abuse

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

A surprising number of scenarios are submitted to ADB, Inc. with rules violations incorporated into their special scenario rules. Some examples:

Special scenario rule, the ship has twice the number of T-bombs it can normally legally carry.

Special scenario rule, all of the boarding parties on the ship are commando squads.

Special scenario rule, ignore command ratings (the scenario had twice as many ships as the maximum command rating of a dreadnought operated by that empire).

Special scenario rule, all of the fighters on the carrier have been replaced with heavy bombers.

Special scenario rule, all of the fighters on the carrier have been replaced with plasma-drogues.

Special scenario rule, the Orion pirate ship does not lose any engine boxes when it doubles its engines.

Special scenario rule, the Andromedan ship can double its engines like an Orion pirate.

Special scenario rule, the HTS shuttles have all been armed with phaser-2s (yes, phaser-2s).

Special scenario rule, the Nuclear Space Mines in the minefield do not interact with ESGs, the non-Nuclear Space Mines interact with ESGs normally.

All admin shuttles belonging to side A are treated as a single fighter squadron and may be lent Electronic Warfare by any small ground base on the planet.

The minefield player can move one mine each impulse after all other movement has taken place. The mine that moves can only move a single hex, and no mine can move on two consecutive impulses. If the mine's movement takes it into the detection radius of an acceptable target, it immediately detonates; the target has no chance to sweep the mine.

The list goes on.

Some (some, not all) of these might have been published if they had been submitted as non-historical scenarios used in the fleet simulators to prepare captain's for unexpected situations. But all of them were submitted as "historical scenarios".

Monday, July 07, 2008

Devaluing Heroism

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

At some point in our society those who would reduce us to less than we should strive to be have somehow managed to gain control over how we will view and remember the reactions of the common citizen to times of great stress or peril. Thus the memorial that has "won" the competition for remembering 9/11/01 is more about them and their views of how the day should be remembered than it is about those who actually suffered and died on that day. To them, all that should be remembered is that people died. It is not important to know how they died, or even who they were, as that detracts from the central theme: They died.

Oh, and by the way, it was "our fault".

I have said this before elsewhere, and I will say it here.

What we should remember about 09/11/01 is not that they died, but that faced with situations beyond their imaginations striking out of a clear sky, ordinary men and women did their best to meet the challenge.

Were I to build the monument, it would simply be a four-sided stairway that ends. It would be peopled with statues. Some dressed as firemen climbing up the stairs, some dressed as policemen and paramedics at the base of the stairs, and some as those ordinary citizens coming down the stairs, some helping one another. For me, they would all be faceless statues, because there can never be enough to represent each individual who lost his life. But the showcase should still be on heroism, courage, sense of duty. The best things about the common citizen in facing disaster.

What we should remember is that there were citizens who helped each other rather than flee for their own lives. That firemen tried to reach the fire, to do their duty. That police officers tried to maintain order in the chaos and paramedics tried to evacuate the injured at risk of their own lives.

We should remember the heroism, and be inspired to rise to that example in our own lives.

Sunday, July 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.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

How did Earth Get the Moon?

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I happened to catch a bit of a show about the Earth and the Moon. The show was discussing how the two came to be in their current dance. At the point where I began watching they were explaining why the idea that the moon was in fact "thrown off" by the Earth while it was still molten was mathematically impossible, and then entered into a discussion about "capture". They explained briefly the original concept and why it was not workable because the a slowing medium to reduce the velocity of the moon was not present.

It has been said that "God does not play dice with the universe", but it seems to me that given enough moving objects in a large enough body with enough time, any event no matter how improbable will eventually occur. That we, in turn, might massively benefit from such an improbability is not out of the question.

If one posits the moon as originally a separate body pursuing its own orbit around the solar system early in its formation, could not the following have occurred (extremely unlikely, but see the above comments about time and quantity)?

The Moon, pursuant to its own individual orbit within the Solar System, might have made a very close approach to the Sun, accelerating as it came in due to the gravitational pull of the Sun. Having completed that close approach, it moved away from the Sun, braking (due to the effects of that major gravitational influence). As it continued to slow, its orbital movement intersected with the orbit of the Earth. The gravitational influence of the Earth at that juncture was just enough to pull the moon into a stable orbit around itself.

It would obviously be an extremely delicate balancing act. The Moon would obviously be near the perigee of its outward bound orbit from the Sun, near the tipping point to begin its return journey towards the Sun, but still with enough momentum to enter into a stable orbit around Earth, i.e., be captured by the Earth's Gravity.

I do not possess the math skills to prove, or disprove, the above. It would obviously be a very rare event (a body the size of Earth capturing a body the Size of the Moon), but if you need a braking mechanism, one already exists in the form of gravity. What the orbit would be, I could not begin to fathom, but it seems to my untrained mind a perfectly rationale explanation for how the Earth captured the Moon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thought on the Fourth of July

This is Jean Sexton posting.

Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was written and signed, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail.  About the signing of the Declaration, he wrote, "I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

And so we celebrate the Fourth.  Parades and fireworks, a day off work for many, good food eaten with friends and family, laughter and happiness are all part of our celebrations.  It is a good thing to remember that this grand country, the United States of America, has endured for over 200 years.

But back in 1776, the outcome was by no means certain.  Those who signed this document were considered traitors to England.  If the colonies lost the war, these men could not deny they had advocated rebellion.  John Adams was well aware of this.  He continued in his letter, "You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means."

The end didn't arrive until 1783, with The Treaty of Paris.  More than eight years of fighting took its toll; over 100,000 people died during the war, many from diseases. 

Freedom is rarely free.  Ours today is still supported by the brave men and women who fought and fight for our nation, as exemplified by the Constitution.  They deserve our gratitude and our support.  Remember to thank them today.  If you know the family of someone serving, remember that their loved one may be far away, keeping our country safe.

And let us do our part for the United States and honor this pledge given by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Happy birthday America!

Thursday, July 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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fun and Games

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

While SVC and myself were away, Leanna and Mike tried to do some upgrades to our computers. The result is that SVC's computer, which was already having various problems, now has major problems. He cannot "copy and paste" without his word program literally shutting down, and if he reopens it, it crashes the computer. His E-Mail system is in a disastrous mess. There are other things I could say.

So we are having a lot of fun just now.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Competing Desires

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Along our trip to Origins and back is Sweetwater Barbecue. SVC and I both consider the barbecue there to be very good. We always look forward to stopping there for lunch on the way to Origins. We always consider stopping there on our way back.

The problem is that however much we like the barbecue there, we also just want to get home, and the drive to get home makes us move further than we used to.

Originally, we would stop at Effingham, Illinois, on our way home. We usually got there about 2100 hrs, and would bed down. Come the morning we new we could not leave Effingham until after 0800 hrs, because if we left earlier we would hit St. Louis in the middle of the morning rush hour. Staying until 0800 meant we would hit St Louis at 1000 hrs, when most people would be at work and we could slip through. We would thus hit Sweetwater about lunch time and be able to stop.

But we always wound up wasting time sitting around in Effingham either not able to sleep yet, or having woken up early because we were still on the Origins schedule and not able to leave yet or we would be caught in the rush hour traffic.

We want to get home.

So one year we decided to try pushing on to St Clair. This gets us through St. Louis about 2300 hrs, when most people have gone to bed because the next day is a normal work day.

The result is that every year we tell ourselves we will sleep in at St. Clair so we can have Sweetwater Barbecue, but every year we wake up on "Origins time", and cannot sit around waiting because we want to get home.

So, every year (but the last year) since we adopted the St. Clair pattern, we pass Sweetwater Barbecue about an hour before they open. We talk about waiting for it to open, but neither of us can stand the idea of losing another hour on the trip home.

The desire to get home has always trumped the desire to have some of that really good Sweetwater Barbecue.

The only reason we got to have it on the trip home last year was that we decided to stop at Fort Leonard Wood to visit the museum (WHICH WAS CLOSED FOR RENOVATION). We lost so much time going through security and finding the museums (why security could not tell us the museums were closed we have never figured out) that Sweetwater Barbecue was going to be open. It was worth it to back track the five or so miles from Leonard Wood to exit #163 to eat there (we think the Barbecue is that good). It is just not good enough to wait more than 15 minutes (we have discussed this, and it is the maximum amount of time either of us is willing to wait) for it to open.