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Tuesday, June 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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Homeward Bound from Origins, 2009

Jean Sexton reports:

I am home, safe and sound. I lost a few plants that were apparently missed by the person supposed to do the watering, but my furkids are fine.

Steve Cole and Steven Petrick report they are about 230 miles from the office. They ate lunch (BBQ, of course) at Sweetwater. Knowing it would be another year before they got it again, they got more "to go" and are having it for supper.

Overall, attendance was down at Origins; no doubt the low attendance was in part due to the economy. However, ADB, Inc. had a better year than last year, due to our very loyal customers. For example, over 500 ships were saved from "A Fate Worse than Death" (melting down for scrap as they were factory seconds). We sold completely out of Booster #91. Star Fleet Battles boxed sets sold as did Federation Commander; I had requests for the sold-out Federation & Empire. We thank you for being at Origins, for stopping in to chat and play, and for telling us what you want us to produce for you.

Tomorrow I'm sure one of the Steves will have more information about the convention.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Last Day of Origins, 2009

Jean Sexton reports:

Origins 2009 came to an official end at 4:00 pm EDT. It was sort of an odd day all around. We come together once a year to say hello to our friends and on this day, we must say goodbye and wend our various ways home. I already miss my "Origins friends". Special thanks for Battlegroup Murfreesboro for getting me to and from the convention and for making sure I had enough fluids to wet my whistle (also arranged in part by the courtesy of SVC).

Steve Cole and Steven Petrick had an early morning meeting, so Colleen Knipfer, Celestia Getgen, and I opened the sales boothe with Mike Curtis acting as our security. We had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.

At 4:00 though, we are not focused on our customers, though.  We are working to pack everything quickly, but without damaging anything. All the boxed games, modules, expansions, minis, and card games were packed. No tee-shirts remained to be packed/ All of the stands and display units had to be packed. Luckily, some things (such as tournament supplies, were already packed and gave Steven Petrick something to take out to the van while Steve Cole and I packed fast!

When everything was either loaded or included in the last trip out, we parted company. But then next year, our community will gather again for Origins 2010.

Saturday, June 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 over.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Third Day of Origins, Second Day in the Booth

Steve Cole reports:

Everything is going well due to our expert, veteran staff.

Sales are always slow on Friday because the people there for the entire weekend have already bought their stuff and the people coming for only one day come on Saturday, not Friday. This year however we were pleasantly surprised by sales 50% higher than normal. We began the day within $100 of breaking even and ended the day within $100 of our overall sales goal.

Tournament attendance for all events within the convention is lower than normal due to the economy, but the level of competition is higher than ever due to the number of players with multiple ace cards.

I took Steve Petrick on the TerrorWerks live-action, machine-gun combat simulator. I arranged with the gamemasters for Petrick (who is a US Army infantry captain) to be the mission commander. I served as his trusty sergeant. The mission was a success. The team said they had a very good time seeing what an expert leader could do with the simulation. The GMs were flabbergasted to see what happened to their game when real soldiers showed how it is really done.

We had the annual miniatures conference where people were able to see and comment on several new ships as well as the new fighters, drones, and plasma torpedoes. We took suggestions from the attendees about what ships they would like to see in the future.

We are all looking forward to tomorrow  when the tournament finals will be held and crowds of new people will come to the dealer room. If you live within driving distance, it isn't too late to come and see us!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Second Day of Origins, 2009

Steve Cole reports:

Today was the first day the booth was open. We reported just before 10am and closed at 6p,. The crowd was a little light, but sales and spirits were high.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Day of Origins, 2009

Steve Cole reports:

Steve Petrick and I got up this morning in Richmond, Indiana and had breakfast with Garth and Celestia Getgen. We spent Tuesday nights in Indianapolis the last ten years, but this year we decided to stay in Richmond which is closer to Columbus. This put us one hour closer to Columbus. The 110-mile drive to Origins was very easy. As usual we filled up the car with gas just before reaching the convention because when Origins closes on Sunday afternoon every gas station on I70 for two hours west of here will be packed.

We checked into the Red Roof Inn, and, as per tradition, had lunch at Charley's Steakery. We met several gamers during lunch. Jean Sexton joined us there. Jean and I went to D240 to see the F&E game, but they had all gone to lunch. Jean, Celestia, and I went down to set up the booth. Steve Petrick and Garth brought the car around and brought in the stuff. Jean and Celestia took over setting up the display and did a better job than I usually do. We all went back up to D240 where the staff and many gamers had assembled.

I spoke privately with Chuck Strong about the two F&E products for this fall; then with Paul Franz about creating new kinds of products on SFBOL and FCOL; then with Mike Curtis about his excellent job as FEAR. I met many other old friends including Mike Filsinger, Dan Knipfer, Dale Fields, Tony Thomas and many others.

At 7pm we had the "singalong" in D243. For the first time in history someone actually sang (Jean Sexton sang "How Much Is That Klingon in the Window"). I spoke to the group about future products and said I was going to be turning more pieces of the projects over to staffers so I could focus on growing the company. We passed out the preorders. I met with the judges briefly. (They are all veterans and we did not have much to go over. They all know their jobs.) I met for a few minutes with the entire F&E contingent to tell them the kind of input I need from them to successfully complete F&E-2010. Steve Petrick was exhausted and had an early wakeup call, so went to bed. I followed a couple of hours later.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Off to Origins!

Steve Cole writes:

Steve Petrick and I (now on the road to Origins) have done the Origins trip ten times since we incorporated ADB, Inc., so this is number eleven. We did a lot of Origins trips before 1999, but mostly as event runners, but we started doing both and booth and a tournament that year.

Being military people, we have a way of doing things. We make checklists, and every year, we use the same checklist, updating it as we go through it, and save the updated list for next year. We have one checklist for things to do, and one for things to take with us. Many items on the "to do" list are to put stuff into the various boxes of the "to take" list, and the last part of the "to do list" is to check off loading each box on the "to take" list.

This makes it pretty straightforward to do everything (and forget nothing). There is still a ton of stuff to do, but at least we have a list. It's hardly stress free. (Sunday night, after Leanna went home, one of the print engines just stopped working for no reason, and she is the only one who could fix it, which left a couple of things not done, but those meant that other things could not be crossed off the list.)

Tuesday is "the good day". It's twelve hours of driving, with a stop at the best BBQ place in the world (Sweetwater, on I44 in Missouri, mile marker 163). No phones, no internet, no stress. Nice quiet relaxing day. The worst thing about Origins is that the only time we meet the public is at the end of the worst month (for hard work and long days) of the entire year. The relaxing drive on Tuesday is the only reason we arrive at Origins as functional people, not as babbling nervous wrecks. See you guys tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Origins Close Out Blog

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

This will be my last post until sometime after Origins.

Despite our efforts, once again the final day is filled with last minute things that need to be done, but we are pressing on with the mission of getting them done. Right now there is no reason we should not depart on schedule, even though we are currently almost 20 minutes behind, and have things to do that will put us further behind.

However, we have always taken the attitude that we must serve our customers (you who read these words), and we will somehow make it out of here and arrive at Origins.

We are, in fact, looking forward to seeing many old friends and making new ones.

So to those who are attending, we will see you there, and to those who cannot, you will be missed and we will hope to see you in the future.

Sunday, June 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.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Unexpected Delays

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

We are into crunch time. Somehow it happens every year. We keep swearing to ourselves to be better organized when it comes time to go to Origins, and we always wind up with too much to do and not enough time to do it all.

In this case at least part of the problem was an unanticipated vehicle breakdown (as if they are ever anticipated). The booth and tournament boxes, along with other things needed for Origins, are not in the office building, but in the warehouse (out of the way). So, someone had to go get them, and they needed to be in a larger vehicle than a normal car. So I took the old van over.

After I got it loaded, the battery completely died. We tried jumping it with two different cars, and the battery would not charge at all. So we had to get a new battery, and since that was going to be the case, I took a tool box with me to get the old battery out. The tool box had lots of Sockets, but no socket wrench. (Why does it have all those sockets and no socket wrench?) This resulted in another round trip to the office to get a socket wrench, as there was one screw holding the battery in place that could NOT be removed with anything but a socket wrench.

So much of Yesterday afternoon was taken up with resolving the battery problem, rather than preparing the chalk loads for the trip. An so, once again, we are behind schedule and will be working late and long hours to get everything done before we can hit the road to Origins.

Thursday, June 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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is This What Mohammed Said Allah Wanted

This is Steven Petrick posting:

I will confess here that I do not know much about the Koran, nor as much about Mohammed the military man as perhaps I should. But one has to wonder if this prophet would sanction what is done in accordance with his teachings and in the name of Allah.

Did Mohammed take hostages and use them as human shields? Certainly Genghis Khan did. Khan drove unarmed civilians before his armies to take the defensive fire of a city's fortifications and thereby allow his fighting men to take fewer casualties. The difference is that Khan drove the civilians of his enemies before his armies, and bin Laden's Al Qaida, the Taliban, Hamas, in fact all of the islamic terrorist groups use their own citizens and fellow believers as shields. They have killed far more of their own faith than we have.

Is this what Mohammed intended?

Is this what Mohammed taught that Allah would want?

I honestly do not know. Certainly the time Mohammed live in was a bloody time, and certainly the flame of Islam he unleashed on the world has killed millions in the name of Allah since he introduced it to the world.

Just as certainly it is in the interests of far too many Mullahs to feed the flame, to let this evil continue to their own profit.

Tuesday, June 16, 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!).

Monday, June 15, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Honor Your Soldiers.

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I happened to catch the Kurosawa Film "Shadow Warrior". It was subtitled (and shown under its Japanese title which began with a "K", but I can only remember the translation). There were two things that struck me about the film. One was that "conflict" was represented WITHOUT making anyone a "villain" in the usual sense. None of the leaders engaged in various antics that have come to seem the norm. None of them engaged in random executions of henchmen who had failed them or any of the other stylized "this is how you tell this is the bad guy". Yes, they were all vying for the complete control of Japan, but none of the faction leaders were "evil", even though they were in conflict with each other. The ultimate villain was Shingen's son, and yet he was less evil than simply someone trying to move out from under his Father's Shadow. That his efforts led to disaster is a negative reflection on him, but many people fail to live up to their own visions of themselves, and in the cases of nobility, this often leads to tragedy for their subordinates.

The other thing was the final battle.

I have often been accused by people (who apparently think they know me even if they have never met me) of thinking war is something "fun". I don't, and have not since I was of an age to fully understand it. I do know what "death" is, the grim reaper and I became acquainted at a very young age in a very graphic manner. Despite this, I did volunteer and served as an Infantry Officer in the Army. I make no apologies for it. I did not think it was going to be glorious, I thought it was a job that I had some particular skills at. I simultaneous do not regret that life never required me to demonstrate those skills, and that I was not there to share the burden with others who had to in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The final battle scene in this film consisted of just two parts. Each of the combat units of the Takeda clan began its charge, and as they went over the crest of the rise into full view of Ieyesu's musketeers, you just heard volleys. You did not see the men charge, you did not see them fall, you just heard the continous rattle of musketry. You just saw the increasing dismay on the face of Shingen's son as he proved unable to do anything but order the next unit forward into the field. When the shooting ended, the camera spent what seemed like five minutes simply looking at the field. Horses struggling to get up, and here and there a man "wounded unto death" would rise, take a few steps, and fall. Some just crawled a little.

I could not help but think that the man who had set that seen had seen the aftermath of more than one of Japan's failed Banzai charges into machine guns and artillery during World War II.

I have often noted that anyone considering going into the Infantry should first be made to watch the first half hour of "Saving Private Ryan". Not because I think people should not be soldiers, because soldiers are what protects a country from the larger evils that mere police forces would be powerless to stop. But because anyone who wants to be a solider should understand that war his a horrible, horrible, business. Something that should be entered into only with your eyes wide open. As the Iron Duke (Lord Wellington) noted, the only thing more melancholy than the aftermath of a battle won is the aftermath of a battle lost. Soldiers stand (to borrow from Robert A. Heinlein) Between home and war's desolation. Understand this, if you would not prepare for war, war will come for you while you are least ready for it. As the Roman said: If you would have peace, the prepare for war.

Honor your soldiers. They are the barrier that keeps the intentions of unkindly strangers from robbing you of all you own, including your very life. The fact that so many can disparage them is only the proof of how successful they have been.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Near Infinite Variation

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the fun things in a game like SFB is that there are just so darn many things you can do. You never have to just settle for a boring one-on-one duel day in and day out. There are always other things you can do to spice things up. That includes for many the chance to meet entirely new enemies that they have not met before (say from the Omega Octant, or the Magellanic Cloud, or even Module C4, or Module E2). There are always terrain situations (asteroids, dust clouds, planets including gas giants, ion storms), and you can really get things going by mixing things up (Asteroid field in a nebula during an ion storm).

It all really depends on what you want to do. The possibilities, while not endless, are near infinite.

Do not overlook the small boats. Sure, a Gorn Frigate will go up like a firecracker in a fleet battle with dreadnoughts and heavy cruisers slugging it out, but that is why you should hold it out looking for an opportunity to slip in and do some damage in a fight that big. But more importantly, use the small ships in small scale squadron clashes in and of themselves. Why have another reiteration of a duel between Cruisers when you could have a squadron of Gorn Frigates clashing with a squadron of Romulan Seahawks (or ISC Frigates, or Hydran Hunters, or . . .). And, heck, why not in an asteroid field as you are both looking for the hidden Orion Base that is a hollowed out asteroid and you both want to be the one to capture it (and maybe the Orions have something to say about that as a third party).

And maybe, just maybe, as you are doing all of this, you will create a scenario that you can send in and see published in Captain's Log!

Friday, June 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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Post Deleted

This post has been deleted.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Am an American

Steven Petrick writes:

I had a grandparent who was much into tracing family lineages, but it never meant much to me (and still does not). I am what I am; it does not matter that there is "royal blood" from this or that, or that some of my Scottish ancestors were "Hunters for the Stuarts".

All of my known relations who lived in Europe are dead (World Wars I and II did a pretty darn thorough housecleaning, thank you very much). Those of my relatives from "further East" were also eliminated in part by the Joys of Living in Worker's Paradises.

Given "normal human relations", there are probably some people over there that I am related to, i.e., there is always the possibility that some of my ancestors had progeny that were not "acknowledged" (to put it daintily). But then, given "normal human relations", some of my purported ancestors may not have been "progeny of their recorded fathers". (Historically, women have not always been honest about just who actually was the sire of a child.) Add in various invasions back and forth, and bloodlines, particularly among the non-nobility, can get pretty iffy. No telling how many "Russians" have "Nordic blood" mixed in from the Vikings passing through. No telling how many Russians have a little Mongol mixed in from the Horde passing through.

So it is just not something I get all that concerned about.

Further, I am not a Texan (where I live now), nor a Floridian (where I spent most of my childhood), nor a Pennsylvanian (where my parents came from), nor a Missourian (where I was born).

I am an American.

If you absolutely must classify me as a "Hyphen American", I will answer only to "Mongrel-American", but I am an American first. Not Irish-American, not Scots-American, not German-American, not Catholic-American or any other hyphen-American other than Mongrel-American.

I am just an American, and by that a citizen of these United States of America.

Tuesday, June 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.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I love this show, and want to figure out ways to help Sea Shepherd shut down the Japanese whaling industry. (Just personally, I think fitting the MS Steve Irwin with underwater torpedo tubes would be the way to go, but ... I'm just saying....) Some think it strange that I am a save the whales guy (since I'm a Republican who thinks Global Warming is natural event being blamed on man to push a goofy socialist agenda) but I just really do like whales and wildlife. (Not snail darters, but whales, tigers, and other pretty animals, and sharks.)

My business partner, Steve Petrick (another Republican who thinks Global Warming is a scam) does not trust the Sea Shepherds. He points to their vegetarian galley and warns that once they stop the slaughter of whales, they'll work to stop the slaughter of cows.

This season on Whale Wars, they found the Japanese fleet very quickly. How? Somebody thought of something so obvious that even I did not think about it. A ship operating near the icepack with chunks of ice all around it has to use radar constantly, and you can detect a ship using radar from a long ways away. (The TV show said 400 miles, which seems a little far, but whatever. They did find it.) They were very clever. Their radar detector was a modified satellite TV dish which a crewman holds pointing in various directions to see if something is out there.

I cannot wait for next episode. Seems the crazy pirate captain is going to ram the factory ship in order to shut down the operation. (Surely not, but it makes an exciting "join us next week for..." film clip.)

I posted my ideas last year, most of which would get people sent to prison for piracy or murder or both. Things like EMP bombs and firing grenades (with the explosives replaced by sulphuric acid) at the harpoon guns. I still like the torpedo tubes idea, too. I wonder if we could not just take a Barrett 50 sniper rifle and fire armor piercing slugs into the harpoon guns and call it a season?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Switch to Nothing

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We have been in the new building for a few months now, and we still have some mysteries. In the office occupied by Michael Sparks and Eric Olivarez there is a wall switch. Nobody knows what this switch is connected to. It does not operate the lights, or the fan in the office, and it does not operate the lights or the fan in the adjoining office. It also does not operate any of the electrical sockets in the office. It must be connected to something (no one simply puts a switch someplace that connects to nothing), but we have absolutely no idea what it is supposed to affect. Its location on the wall is also very "clumsy", being in a corner that generally winds up behind furniture, making it difficult to reach.

What is the purpose of this switch?

We may never know.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The D-Day Airborne Landings

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Sixty-five years ago, one of the two largest air-borne operations in world history took place, as elements of two American and one British airborne divisions were dropped over the Normandy countryside. The military planners were afraid that the casualties among the airborne troops would be exceedingly heavy (some predicted as high as 90%). The entire operation had been very carefully planned.

Things went wrong almost from the start, making the predictions of disaster seem the more likely.

Weather for the drops was not perfect (but then, weather seldom cooperates with military operations), that, and the relative inexperience of the Transport Command pilots in flying in close formation, at night, in less than perfect weather, while being shot at, resulted in many of the paratroopers being dropped miles from their designated landing points. Tragically, some of these men were even dropped into the English Channel where their equipment loads virtually insured they were drowned.

There is no accounting for the numbers of these men who died, or were badly injured, before they even had the opportunity to fire their own weapons. Those who made it to the ground were often lost (being miles from any of the land marks they had studied continuously in preparation for this operation), separated from the majority of their comrades, and surrounded by enemies.

Given how badly the drops had gone, one might have thought the men would have been demoralized, and literally simply tried to hide until the amphibious forces could contact them.

Some did.

The majority of them, however, gathered around their leaders, or in some cases found among their number an individual who, while he did not wear a senior NCO's stripes or the insignia of an officer, had the character and determination to step forward and become the leader. While the numbers of paratroopers that descended on Normandy were in the thousands, most of these little detachments of exceedingly determined men numbered in the tens and twenties initially. They, however, chose not to wait for the war to come to them, they went out looking for it.

Some by their determination reached their original objectives. Others, nowhere near where they were supposed to be, spread confusion through the German lines, creating an effective paralysis in the ability of the Germans to react, and keeping many local reserve formations pinned in place since they did not know which way to move.

The airborne drop could have been a complete disaster. Indeed, it started out that way, but the determined aggressiveness of the soldiers turned the looming disaster into an advantage, carving out zones that, while only a handful of airborne soldiers were present, could not be crossed, delaying German movements until the amphibious soldiers could secure the beaches.

Friday, June 05, 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.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Deadliest Warrior

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

After hearing discussions of it, I finally recorded and watched the series "Deadliest Warrior".

I will comment that mostly I was unimpressed with the methodology. When testing firearms they often went with a single run, so the Spetznaz did better than the U.S. Special Forces in part due to the night pistol course. A single run through, by a single man from each team. That was inappropriate because it was not an average. The other Spetznaz team member might have done worse, the other American team member might have done better. Instead, everything hung on one guy on one run.

I was also unsure on their study of history, as the Knight was certainly described more as the modern ideal of what the average person thinks Knights were, rather than the blood reality of what they were.

For the most part, their methodology seemed to give the edge more in terms of who had the most advanced technology than to the fighters themselves. (Steel swords defeat shark tooth axe, gunpowder defeats sword, Bronze sword and shield defeats . . .). The major exception was the Apache versus the Gladiator, and that was a matchup that never made any sense. By definition the Gladiator was at a disadvantage because (however much they tried to build him up) the reality is that he is armed and equipped for "spectacle" in a closed environment, and essentially not equipped to (say) Kill the Emperor as he is watching the action, much less other spectators. That shifted a major edge to the Apache, in part because the battle was on the Apache's turf (open ground so that the Gladiator could not back the Apache into a corner but the Apache could run and maneuver as much as he needed to win). It was literally the biggest mismatch they did.

Still, I have to say the fight between the IRA and the Taliban was amusing, in that they depicted one of the Taliban fighters going down to "friendly fire".

Wednesday, June 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.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Game Flaws

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the games that I enjoyed playing a lot was Game Designer's Workshop's Fifth Frontier War, set in their Traveler Universe. It was a fun game, having only two major flaws:

Flaw #1: One side could not lose.

Flaw #2: One side could not win.

Even so, the game was fun. Partly because you had to figure out your maneuvers five turns in advance, i.e., record that Fleet X was going to move to location A, then to location B, then to location C, then to location D, then to location E. At the end of Turn #1 you would record where the fleet would move on Turn #6. Of course you could plan for a fleet to simply remain at a location for a couple of turns. Each side had a number of admirals who, if joined with a fleet, could make decisions in less time (including one or two each that were "0" planning, i.e., every turn you got to decide where they would go, you did not have to decide in advance for them).

The above meant a lot of figuring out, visualizing how things were going to be. And you had to be careful how your own fleets moved (the "senior admiral" if two fleets were co-located would take the majority of the ships, and your best maneuvering admirals tended to be junior).

So, why could one side not lose and the other not win?

The problem was that victory was determined by capturing planets and using their Technology Level to see how many victory points they were worth. And the side that started "on the defensive" was both outnumbered in total ships, outnumbered in the number of fleets (no ship, except scouts, could move unless it was part of a fleet), and almost every planet, no matter its technology level, had no defenses. So the attacker would set up two fleets with nothing but troop ships, and wander them from planet to planet dropping off a division to "garrison" them. And there was nothing, absolutely nothing, the defender could do about it.

Still, it was a fun game. Dave Grossman and I invested a lot of time searching for a way for the Defender to win in the way the game was set up (i.e., not changing any of the rules or adding our own), but never succeeded.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Frustration for a Gamer

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the most annoying things that can happen to a gamer is to have game ended before he can see if his plan will work.

I got dragged into a game of "War in Europe". At the point where I was dragged in, the Russians had captured Ploesti, were driving across Poland, the French were still holding off the Germans, and the British (having conquered North Africa) were about to take Rome.

It was 1940.

The Germans were in Norway, and the Balkans, and that was about it.

I devised a plan to use paratroopers to seize the Suez canal, Tobruck, Benghazi, and other harbors in North Africa, landing marines in Lenningrad, and dropping airborne troops into London.

I really, wanted to see if it would work, even though it would all have come down to one die roll (if the allies rolled a five or six on their counter-attack to retake London, the plan would fail), and more importantly to see the aftermath (would I manage to turn the war completely around, or would even this most devious of plans fail). But the Allied players put the game up, deciding the Germans had lost (afterall, I could not tell THEM my plan).

Ah . . . frustration!