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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Passing on the Good in Life

Jean Sexton writes:

Today I was passing by the local Girl Scout troop selling their cookies outside one of the stores. The timing was perfect--payday for most us was Friday and this is one of the major stores in town.I was reminded of an ad on the radio.

The Girl Scout troops in Eastern North Carolina do something special called "Operation Cookie Drop". If you want to support the Girl Scouts and you want to make a soldier's day, you buy a box of cookies for a soldier stationed overseas. The cookies will go to troops from the five military bases in the area -- Camp Lejune, Fort Bragg, New river Air Station, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and the National Guard of Pitt County. Just $3.50 makes a difference in one person's joy.

Nearly every area has something that is going on where a person can share. Got a coat that you hate? Donate it to a community closet. Don't want that box of Girl Scout Cookies, but want to share the happiness? Ask the Girl Scouts to give the next person who comes up to the table and who has a child that box of cookies. Where there is a will, there is a way.

And by giving, you usually make your own life happier. So what are you waiting for? Reach out and give.

Friday, January 30, 2009

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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hollywood in a Different Era

Jean Sexton writes:

Part of my "Real Life" job involves cataloging DVDs. We catalogers are a persnickety lot and when I got in a DVD that claimed it was 100 minutes long in the cataloging description and the back cover claimed the two features were each 100 minutes long, and down in the fine print the case claimed the whole DVD was two hours long, well, none of those figures agreed! That meant I had to actually find out which time was the correct one. (For the curious, the DVD was actually 110 minutes long--90 minutes for the main feature and twenty minutes for the second.)

Now I skimmed through the first feature, but the second caught my eye. It was a film I had not heard of called Hollywood Victory Caravan. Filmed just after World War II, it told the story of a girl who wanted to get to Washington, D.C.to join her wounded G.I. brother. The only way she could do so is to ride with Bing Crosby's Victory War Bonds show. Major actors and actresses appeared in this movie and didn't ask anything for their appearance. Humphrey Bogart, Betty Hutton, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Franklin Pangborn, William Demerest, and Robert Benchley were among them.

The message in this movie had changed from the War Bond messages. Now it was "Buy a bond and we can bring a G.I. home." Much of the funding for the war and the aftermath came from ordinary people buying. first War Bonds, and then Victory Bonds.

It was a different time back then. Hollywood today seems to delight in cynically painting the U.S. and its military as villains. And yet, many of those movies do not do well in the heartland of the U.S. Could it be that Hollywood has lost touch with what ordinary Americans think and feel?

I don't know. All I know is that I feel proud to work with a company who appreciates those who serve and have served our country. Most products that ADB, Inc. publishes carry a dedication that recognizes those people. It seems to me to be the least we can do for those who stand and are willing to stand between us and the dark.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Jean Sexton writes:

Habit provides a "safe zone" for many businesses and individuals. We develop procedures for doing tasks and we follow through on those. For the most part, this is a wise choice. There are reasons for routines and that is so a person can minimize risk and still get the job done.

There is a time when coasting can be detrimental to your personal life and to your business. When is the last time you checked your insurance to make sure that the coverage is adequate? For a business, what do you have in inventory, new equipment, and new computers? If you have replacement value, have you checked to see what it would cost to replace what you have? Is the upper limit on your insurance high enough to cover that?

For individuals and families, have you added new gadgets? Did you add an heirloom? If you have something collectible, have the values risen? Take some time to document what you have and to keep that file or a hard copy somewhere else.

If a disaster strikes, then that will be one less thing to worry about.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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

Monday, January 26, 2009


Stephen V. Cole reports:

After ten years at 4107 West 45th, we have officially moved to 1504 West 10th. The telephone numbers and post office box are unchanged. Leanna and I bought the building as an investment and are leasing it to ADB, Inc.

Our old office/warehouse combination had 1500 square feet of unheated/uncooled warehouse storage, 500 square feet of unheated/uncooled warehouse used for "working space" (packing and shipping games), and 600 square feet of office. Our new office is 3,000 square feet, of which about 1,000 will replace the "working space"(doubling it in size) and 2000 will replace the office, tripling it in size. We also rented a separate 2000 foot warehouse for storage of stuff printed in larger quantities. Everybody has more space, and we were able to get the third print engine out of storage so we now have a 50% greater book printing capacity. We will get the second bookbinder out of storage, doubling that capacity.

Moving wasn't easy or cheap, and isn't finished. There are still an estimated six truckloads of "stuff" at the old warehouse, and a dozen or two trips by our cars hauling smaller items. We made four "car trips" today alone bringing over stuff. We're all dead tired, working up to sixteen hours per day and sleeping only a few hours per night as our sore backs wake us up to sing to us.

Moving has, so far, included:
  • Waiting a week to move in because Leanna wanted to rip out the 20-year-old carpet and replace it with new tile.
  • Renting a 16-foot truck twice (with a third time to come), moving five-six loads in each 24-hour rental period.
  • Paying $900 for a moving company to make three trips in a 30-foot truck moving heavier items (desks, the power cutter, the shrinkwrap machine, the stockroom shelving, and sixteen pallets of "boxes of stuff").
  • Having the Kyocera dealer move the print engines (which don't work yet, but will by tomorrow).
  • Paying to have new burglar alarms put in.
  • Paying to have new phone and internet connections added (the phones sort of work, and internet works in only one room, but we have very long Ethernet cables).
  • Paying to have new 220v electric connections and security lights added.
  • Delaying four new products by two-four weeks.

But it's all worth it and we're all very very happy. Everybody has more and better workspace.

We will be vastly more produtive here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reflections on Moving

Jean Sexton writes:

It has been a while since I last moved. My first move was to move away from home, to a new town, to a new job. Over the months my little Toyota Starlet and I made trips to bring down books and plants, clothes and dishes, and all the essentials of keeping house. It took a long time, but eventually everything I needed came down. I stayed in my little apartment well over ten years.

The next time I moved, all my belongings had to be moved downstairs and hauled 10 miles out of town to a house I could stay in. My possessions had grown over the years and I had far more books, furniture, and other "stuff" than I had started with. The move was accomplished in two days. The unpacking took a very long time.

The good part about moving is that you are not bound by what you had done before. I could put things where they were best used, not where they had fit around what was already there. I could finally put all my canning supplies together, consolidate my gaming books, and decide that the things I had that I was not yet ready to part with (but didn't really use) could be stored in the barn. Over the years I could add a garden of daylilies, roses, and herbs. I planted azaleas around the house and fenced in the back yard so my boxer could safely play while I was at work. Some constants stayed -- the quilt my grandmother made for me is safely in the closet, the dog my grandfather carved for me is in the curio cabinet, the slingshot my father made for me (and that I cannot hit anything with) still is here, and the afghans my mother crocheted for me are in the cedar chest. However, new things have joined them -- a tiny dinosaur, a carved turtle, a print of a cat reading a spellbook, and a bookcase filled with ADB, Inc. products -- and I know that they are part of the new constants in my life.

As ADB, Inc. moves, the people have a unique moment in time to think about the workflow and arrange things to suit them. Things will surely change there as Steve Cole and Steven Petrick will no longer be in the same office. Each of them can arrange his workspace to suit his own unique needs. Leanna's area looks larger and she can expand what she has into her new work area. Yet I know that the constants they will carry with them are intangible things -- professionalism, creativity, camaraderie, and care for their extended SFU family -- and will easily move with the people to a new building.

As I look down the road to a move to Amarillo in the not-so-distant future, I remind myself that a move can be a good thing. Fresh ideas and a new outlook -- a rebirth as it were -- are things that human beings and businesses need every once in a while. I look forward to that time when I get to shake up my life a little.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


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.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Practicing Patience

Jean Sexton writes:

As both Steve Cole and Steven Petrick are very busy moving the ADB, Inc. headquarters to a new building, they have delegated writing today’s blog to me. This is one of the times I wish I were not in “ADB, Inc. East” as I call my home office. If I were in the real Amarillo, I’d be able to see two people, skilled in logistics, putting their moving plans into action.

When I visited the offices in Amarillo, Leanna and Steve took the time to show me the warehouse. The main impression I took away was that I was very glad that Mike Sparks was there and knew where everything was because the warehouse was HUGE! There were boxes and boxes of ADB’s products. There was the shrinkwrap machine (affectionately called “Old Smokey”) which had recently attacked Petrick and burned his hand. There was the mezzanine which added lots of storage space and which my mother (who abhors heights) would have hated.

While I was there, they got in a shipment of boxes and I got to see how they moved heavy things around and how easy it was to do so with the right equipment. I noticed how they had the right equipment to store a large amount of material in a very crowded area and yet have it accessible when they needed it.

A great deal of planning went into making the warehouse as “user friendly” as it was. I just wish I could be in Amarillo now, learning the whys and wherefores of the decisions being made. Instead, curious cat that I am, I must practice patience and wait until I visit Amarillo again and see the new building and my future office.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Move Continues

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today in an explosive release of energy the #2 through #6 racks in the warehouse were disassembled, moved to the new warehouse, and reassembled.

At least ten pallets were prepared for movement, and will make the transition to the new warehouse in the morning.

The #1, #7, and #8 racks still wait to be cleared and disassembled, and our sights are set on getting at least two of these (#1 and #8) taken down and moved on Friday.

This should give us enough space to stage for the movement of the office on Saturday.

Best of all, there were no "bloody" injuries in today's maneuvers, only a few minor bumps that had no lasting damage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



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, January 20, 2009

Casualty on the Work Site

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The good news is that I am posting, the bad news is that I am being a little clumsy with the typing (something not really visible since I back space to correct myself). Things on the move were not as simple as they seemed. The "truck high dock" at our old warehouse is higher than the truck we are using to make the move, and "truck high dock" at our new warehouse is lower than the truck we using to make the move. This makes getting pallets on and off of it something of an adventure. We found that we had to "charge" the gate at the new warehouse, or the pallet jack's rollers would become wedged in the trough at the back of the truck for the door to seal. Unfortunately, as we were trying to get the last pallet off, the load "shifted", and as with most humans, the brain called for action before it had rationally thought out the problem. I reached out to try to steady the load, and the inertia was more than my merely mortal flesh bone and sinew could control. The result was that the top of the pallet drove my hand against the wall of the warehouse and then tried to focus all of its inertia on a single tiny spot . . . that being the tip of my right pinky finger. The pressure was great enough that the skin ruptured and spurted blood from the tip while grinding the flesh behind the cuticle to create another bloody wound, and with all of this caused a relatively minor laceration on the ring finger of that hand.

All digits, however, remain firmly attached, the pinky shows no signs of being "broken" or "mashed beyond recovery". Upon return to the office, the hand was cleaned, various excess pieces of flesh were trimmed away, and neosporin and bandaids were applied. The period of "throbbing" passed very quickly (I do not know if that is a good or a bad sign, but for now am assuming that things are okay). Having a blood wound on the tip of the pinky finger does, as you might imagine, make typing somewhat difficult, but I will get by.

If this is the worst we suffer in the move we will have more than ample reason to be grateful.

Inaugural Thoughts

Jean Sexton writes:

Today Mr. Obama will take the President's oath of office, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." With that oath he assumes great responsibility. We can, without invoking political discussion, hope that the responsibilities that go with that oath are carried out in all honor. To live up to the expectations that are expressed in our Constitution is to live up to the best part of all citizens of the United States.

No matter what one believes in the way of politics, one should always hope that one's leader will be a person who will guide this grand country to a brighter future. No matter how one voted in the election, one should wish our President, our Commander in Chief, the very best of luck, the grace to lead our country well, the wisdom to make the best choices for our country, and the ability to rise above partisan politics and do what is right for our country.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Plague Continues

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Plague continues to run through the office.

SVC, Leanna, and Mike Sparks all had a nagging cough that would not allow a solid night's sleep.

It finally got me yesterday.

Constant coughing. Hard to concentrate as every time you to keep a sustained thought going "cough, cough, cough". And some of them (at least for me) are deep dragging coughs that try to drive you to throwing up.

You can imagine how much fun that is trying to sleep.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

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, January 17, 2009

Things to Make You Proud

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

By now you all probably know about the plane that went down in the Hudson, and have heard much about the flight crew, and, yes, if what we are being told by the Media is correct they all deserve every bit of the accolades they have received.

There are, however, others who deserve accolades, and they should not be overlooked.

The stories I have heard to date have painted a picture of the majority of the passengers stoically meeting the emergency. Of taking time to take care of others even though they were complete stranger, of not allowing panic to take hold in an unusual circumstance.

If the actions of the majority of the passengers are as described, we can be proud of them as well as of the flight and cabin crews, and of the Hudson rivermen who took their boats in to give succor immediately when for all they knew the plane might have exploded at any minute. (Just because it is in the water, it does not mean that flame won't touch off the fuel in a ball of fire.)

If the stories hold, we can be proud, and hope that when called upon we will rise to the occasion as well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Newsletter #37 has been released

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Newsletter #37 has been released.

Jean Sexton continues her recovery from her fall.

SVC continues to try work through his own illness.

The floor of the new office is being worked on.

The hunt for a new warehouse continues.

Mike Sparks has come down with something also.

It is a new year full of new adventures!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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, January 14, 2009

Disruption Will Occur

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The new building for the company offices has been purchased, and renovation is ongoing. Finding a warehouse is now an urgent priority, and once found, almost everything else will have to be dropped in order to move the company.

All of us are trying to do things to get ahead of the curve before the blackhole of moving gobbles up every available erg of energy.

I will make no bones that six years ago this would not have bothered me, but my back and knees are not as good as they were then, and seriously, I doubt I have retained as much physical strength as I had then.

Still, the move must be made, and I remain a sizable part of the company's physical manpower which means I am going to be called on to shoulder a lot of the physical effort, and will plow ahead as much as I can until my limits start making themselves known.

I am not looking forward to discovering what my "revised limits" are compared to what they once were.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

A friend of mine would begin every interview with a prospective new employee by asking the above question, although he would change the topic each time. The point was to find out if the individual was "well-rounded" with a "broad range of knowledge, interest, and experience". He preferred such people around him, and found that they made better employees because they could find the answers to challenging assignments and problems in totally unrelated subject areas.

In the interview where I heard him ask the above question, the prospective employee knew little more than that they were white bears who lived at the North Pole, and was not hired. I wandered into his office and said "they don't live at the North Pole. They live along the Arctic Circle and their fur is actually clear, not white, but it's hollow and looks white from a distance." He laughed and said "I am not hiring you."

I know a lot about polar bears. I don't know what they weigh but I know it's over half a ton. I know they're more amphibious than land animals that happen to swim. I know they mostly eat seals and each one will eat about fifteen of them every summer, but they will eat a lot of things. I know that pappa bears don't like baby bears (except as a light snack) and that momma bears try very hard to keep away from pappa bears after the cubs are born. (If I am reincarnated as a bear, I'm going to be nice to my kids and be featured in a National Geographic special as the "good father bear".) I know what global warming is doing to polar bears (but I don't think my minivan caused it). I know that polar bears evolved from grizzly bears (so much for creationism) but they have longer necks, shorter ears, and a hump of body fat, all to adapt to the arctic. I know that a given bear will pretty much stay in the same place from when it claims a territory as a young adult until it dies of old age.

I actually know a lot of things about a lot of things. I read a lot, and watch a lot of The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, and that sort of thing. I can discuss dozens of subjects intelligently and can at least make some comment (or ask a reasonable question) about hundreds more. (I once read the entire Encyclopedia Britanica. Well, sort of. I read the first paragraph of every entry and if it was interesting I read until I got bored. I picked up enough general info about a lot of obscure subjects to give me a faint bell ring in my head.) When somebody shows up who is an expert on some strange subject, I know enough to become the star pupil of the impromptu class. It's a compliment to the expert to say "I have heard a tiny bit about that; could you tell me more?"

I do find that I can apply the lessons and parallels from totally unrelated subjects to business problems and see solutions that would never have appeared with a head-on approach.

Monday, January 12, 2009


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, January 11, 2009

Sunday, 11 Jan 2009

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC spent much of the afternoon giving some advice to some people trying to break into the publishing business. Not game publishing, but newspaper. SVC likes to have time to talk, businessman to businessman.

Leanna spent much of the day trying to finish the end of the year files, an annual event.

Mike spent the day with his wife.

I pretty much would not have been here today except that I need to keep up with the board and projects.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The New Office

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

New "office" has been purchased, and plans for occupation are moving forward. A little remodeling is intended (some of it is actually necessary) before actual movement can take place.

The search for off-site warehouse storage continues, and it is hampered by many inaccurate listings. We just visited a place today that supposedly would have met our needs, but . . . lets say that the description did not match what was on site by several thousand square feet. Finding off site storage is the major single problem with making a move (once it is found, the major single problem will be the actual movement to the new site and setting up).

Friday, January 09, 2009


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, January 08, 2009

Armageddon Week

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I watched some of the shows running on "The History Channel" for its "Armageddon Week" event.

The number one thing that I got out of it was how much of what we think we know seems to hinge on the assumptions of "experts".

There is (according to last night's show) an argument about whether the big rock that fell from the sky 65 million years or so ago was the "event" that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, or simply incidental to the extinction which had already occurred.

Side A (the rock did not do it, nyah-nyah we are smarter than anyone else because we figured this out) says that if the rock was the defining event, why are there no masses of dino corpses at the boundary layer? That it begs reason to not have lots and lots of places where dino corpses are found layered up (in essence).

Side B (the rock did it, you heathens) says that there are no masses of dino bodies simply because the dinos did not conveniently pile up in areas where their remains would be fossilized.

The reality seems to be everything we "know" about the extinction of the dinosaurs is a "guess", and pretty much based on the person who had the most powerful personality at first, and then became the entrenched Thesis and all who disagree must be purged.

I guess we are going to have to wait for one of two events to really know what happened to the dinosaurs (and what caused the other "mass extinction events" that have plagued the planet.

Either we are going to invent the "time viewing device" so that we can switch it on and watch events in the past unfold . . .

or we are going to have to wait until we each, individually, "pass beyond the veil" and ask the dinosaurs in person.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Saga Ends

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today we put an end to the idea of purchasing the Acton Building as a new home for Amarillo Design Bureau.

Had the water pipes not burst, we might have purchased the building, and then down the road been stuck with an asbestos removal problem. The mold inspectors said they would not remove the mold unless the asbestos was removed first. This added greatly to the cost of renovating the building, and the previous owner was not willing to come down on his price to compensate for that problem, apparently taking more of a "let the buyer beware" approach to the issue.

Worse, we discovered that even if you do remove the mold, the law in Texas (at least) provides that if you ever sell the building YOU are responsible for any future mold issues that the new owner would have. So if we bought the building, and we cleaned up the mold, we would be responsible for any mold problems in the building in perpetuity, but if the current owner could sell it to us and leave us to do the mold clean up, he would be free and clear of any such responsibility since he would then not have been responsible for the mold problem.

While it would have been nice to move into an "office and warehouse" building like the one we have now (albeit with more office space which we do need, and we do need more warehouse space frankly), the Acton building is not going to be the answer to our crowding problem.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

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 lasted 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 was 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, January 05, 2009

The Bus from Amarillo

Jean Sexton reports:

This trip was an exciting one and pretty amazing.

I got to work with the Steves in "their office". Steve Cole amazes me with the rapidity of his writing; Steven Petrick with the amount of care and diligence he uses to check materials for accuracy.

Leanna Cole is in some ways the heart of the operation. She understands the business end and all of the dollars and cents parts. She took the time to break things down into simple explanations so that I could see the implications.

And I did get a chunk of work done. Petrick and I made a good team checking the Ship Cards for Hydran Attack, although SVC nearly howled in anguish when he saw one was a sea of purple and green. Lots of progress was made on PD: Feds.

You know, I met the most amazing people during this trip.

The teacher from NYC who wants to write for TV, and said that if I had the courage to go off to Texas (the furthest west I had ever been) in order to follow a dream, she certainly should be brave enough to follow her dreams.

The young man from Senegal who spoke only French and verified with me if each stop were "Atlanta" and who was so tickled at my terrible French. I won't forget his "Au revoir, cheri," when we reached Atlanta.

The two guys who were heading to Amarillo and who worked out the system for really tight transfers that one of us would go straight for the next bus driver and point out the people trying to get luggage transferred.

The young couple expecting their first child and the love the fellow had in his eyes when he talked about possible names for the child.

The young soldier who said he wanted to jump out of perfectly good airplanes and was heading to Ft. Bragg.

The excitement of seeing new places a young girl had, her bravery in dealing with her sickle cell anemia, and the trust she had as she fell asleep with her head against me (her Mom was seated catercornered to me, and it did give her a bit of a break and let her sleep, too) .

The older gentlemen who knew that I had a tight transfer and held up the folks who were getting off for a smoke break so I could get off the bus and make that transfer in Columbia.

Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas (renewing that acquaintance) who stayed with me in Nashville.

Mark Thomas (again renewing an acquaintance) in the Amarillo bus stop--there is a new layer of seriousness about him.

While there were some bad things that happened this trip (the missed connection and the illness), they were so much outweighed by the good. I want to visit again.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday as a Day of Rest

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Being concerned that Jean might miss her bus, SVC, Leanna, Jean, and I spent Saturday night awake. SVC and I took Jean to the bus station about an hour before her bus (scheduled for 0445), only to discover that it had been delayed by weather and was running an hour behind. We waited with Jean until her bus arrived and she was safely headed up the bus's steps.

There are some who can be told when a deployment will occur and safely sleep the night away with no concern that they will awaken in time for it. I am not one of them, neither, apparently, is Jean. I have always been unable to sleep the night before, and have generally made up the sleep on the trip (I am fortunate to be one of those who is able to sleep the sleep of the just on a crowded airplane or even truck once I know I have not "missed movement".

To pass the hours, Jean, SVC, and I played Munchkin, the first time any of us ever had (although Jean noted that the system was similar to Chez Geek which she had played before. I am certain in my own mind that we were not following all the rules correctly, so who won or lost these games is not important (although Jean from her vastly superior experience in having played Chez Geek soundly trounced SVC and myself in the first two games). We had the game mostly because I was amuzed by the cards and had picked up a copy together with many of the expansions. Afterall, even I played some role playing games about delving into dungeons when I was younger (stop looking at me like that you young whippersnappers . . . I was young once too), and had enough experience to recognize and appreciate many of the jokes (and I read much of Kovalic's Dork Tower series as well . . . which helps).

Still . . . to be honest . . . for a lazy evening I probably would have enjoyed a round of Nuclear War more. It appeals just a tad more to that dark part of my soul . . .

In any case, at this juncture we are just hopping that Jean made all of her connections and gets safely back home. If so, she will post tomorrow's blog as a close out of her brief visit to Amarillo.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


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, January 02, 2009

Another Busy Day in Amarillo

Jean Sexton reports:

After SVC, SPP, and I lost two days to food poisoning, we've been playing catch-up ever since (in fact, Petrick left early today as well). We're looking at contracts for the Prime Directive authors and looking over their project memos. I've also been proofreading John Sickels's work for the Federation sourcebook and it is a pleasure to read--in fact it is very hard to not get too interested in what he has written!

In the middle of all this we negotiated a deal with John Berg to make his Galactic Conquest campaign rulebook available in stores.

One of the interesting things about being here in the office is that I get too hear how the real business operates. Today we solved how to cover up the d20 logos to make our books compliant with the new regulations.

SVC and I ate a quick dinner and are now back at work doing all the legal stuff to make our Prime Directive books happen. It promises to be a very late night as we have much to do.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year

And ADB, Inc. has wishes for each of you that the New Year be a happy one.