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Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows Past

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Today is All Hallows Eve, better known as Halloween.

Things have changed since I was kid.

Back in the 1960s my parents (and all of the parents in the neighborhood) thought nothing of dressing up their kids in costumes and letting them roam from house to house in the neighborhood getting candy from both known, and unknown, people.

Now it seems the kids have to be escorted by an adult to keep someone from kidnapping them. Or rather than go house to house, they go to a mall or a school where the doors can be controlled for their safety.

It is hard to see where things started to go so wrong. While actual cases of poisoned or tainted (or even booby trapped) candies seem to be more urban myth than reality, the fear is out there, and seems to be growing.

I wonder if the next generation will spend Halloween indoors, watching TV specials and perhaps being regaled by Grandpa's stories of the times he spent collecting candy door to door.

Friday, October 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, October 29, 2009

The First Game Night

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Last night SVC inaugurated "Game Night", essentially we at ADB, inc, are going to try to spend some time playing other games than our own to try to maintain a feel for the pulse of the game industry. We will try to do this every Wednesday.

For the first game SVC chose Space Hulk from the Warhammer 40K universe. SVC created his own scenario, taking the Genestealers, and assigning my five man space Marine team a mission to simply "scan" three rooms. I was briefed only as much about the rules as SVC thought it absolutely necessary for me to know in order to get started, and enough background of previous encounters with the Genestealers to let me know that "hand-to-hand combat is very bad".

SVC then made a conscious decision to play the Genestealers somewhat stupidly in order to make up for the fact that he had decided to use all of the Genestealers available to attack. The only thing being that they essentially came in small groups.

I opted to essentially take up a defensive position in the first room I entered (selected specifically because it allowed only two lanes of attack, two of the rooms did this, the third allowed three lanes of attack), and essentially destroyed the Genestealers with long range fire for a bit. This reduced their numbers quite a bit, but ran my one heavy weapon (a kind of gatling gun) out of ammunition.

At that point, SVC had the surviving Genestealers essentially adopt what seemed the optimum strategy (at least against the team of Marines I had. Essentially they stacked up in the other two rooms that I had to enter, and waited for me behind the closed doors. At that point, I was down to just four men. (The fifth man who had the gatling gun was only able to engage in hand-to-hand, so I sent him "home" . . . actually posted him so that he could watch for any Genestealers sneaking up behind me, but still be able to run off the board to safety.)

Due to the depletion of Genestealer numbers, my four remaining men were able to accomplish the mission, but I failed to completely avoid coming to hand-to-hand (the Genestealers had no distance weapons, but being able to choose when to open a door and charge to close quarters largely negated that, with greater numbers that would have been overpowering). The result was a loss of two men out of the team (40% casualties overall), but the mission was accomplished. In all seriousness, I would have retreated after the first casualty (effectively 25% of my strength at that point with the gatling man being out of the fight), but both casualties (effectively 50% of my combat power at that point) and the destruction of the last Genestealer in the brood happened too close together for me to initiate such an action.

SVC did make a few other modifications to help balance his scenario, the key one being to allow me a standard five command points (essentially five extra moves) rather than a random number up to six, and that did greatly help my ability to move.

I am not sure how Space Hulk works (SVC briefly discussed the capabilities of some of the space Marines he did not let me use, and some of them would make massing Genestealers in one room problematic), but there are very odd and strict limits on movement that make it very hard to operate how troops actually would (and real disconnects, i.e., the passage ways are all too narrow for two Marines to deploy side by side or both be able to fire down a hallway, but somehow wide enough to swing a battle axe?).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thinking Beyond Mere Survival

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

If you were the colonel on the Destiny in Star Gate: Universe, what would you have done?

While it was obvious from the start that the Destiny was not going to be destroyed by the star, if you were the colonel and not aware of that, how would you have handled the situation?

There are a lot of things to think of when you are trying to put 17 people out of about 80 on the shuttle. Too many of them were overlooked.

For example, the people you are sending are going to be totally on their own. Is it enough that they might live long enough to die of old age? Seriously, the colonel needed to do the best he could to have as diverse a genetic pool among the people on the shuttle that he could. Yes, the pilot and the medic were Gimmes. But he needed to look at other skills among the people available before resorting to a lottery. And suppose the lottery had filled the shuttle with 16 men and one woman? They would have all died lingering deaths of old age at the very best. The reality is that he needed to send women and men, and he needed to make sure that they understood that survival was going to require births. With as much of a mixture genetic codes as possible. Yes, monogamy was going to have to be dispensed with.

He needed to be trying to establish a colony. It ultimately may not have thrived, but given the circumstances (there is no chance the people on the shuttle are ever going to be rescued if Destiny is destroyed), the viability of what he sent out had to take absolute precedence.

Otherwise there was simply no point.

There are a lot of other factors (getting control of the guns before the lottery because those who lost might use the guns to try to change the result, for example).

But the writers seriously short-changed the viewers by not fully discussing what the colonel needed to do.

Tuesday, October 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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

MY Week: 18-25 October 2009

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we released Klingons PD20M, Hydran Attack, Boosters #25-#27, the shuttlecraft minis, and the six packages of fighter minis. It began with a full day of work on Sunday to finish up K20M. (We had started printing Hydran Attack the day before.) Shipments began on time and were completed on time, but due to the massive number of new products, it meant that I spent most of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in the warehouse packing Hydran Attack and helping Petrick run the shrinkwrap machine. (Mike was busy running the bookbinder and shipping orders.) Leanna and I got the new products onto the shopping cart and Eric uploaded photos.

The pain from the cracked ribs was pretty uncomfortable on Sunday but had gone away by Friday. We had a brief power failure (due to a suicide squirrel) on Monday, the 19th. We had a Chinese Fire Drill loading the huge outgoing UPS shipments during a thunderstorm on Tuesday. The White House began an insane attack on Fox News.

Leanna and I were gone on Friday the 23rd, Saturday the 24th, and Sunday the 25th for the annual party at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. We took 373 pounds of meat for the wolves. The pumpkins were, for the first time ever, stuffed completely full with good food for the wolves, including beef liver, heart, and kidney.

I got a little real work done: the FLAP list for the new products, the new FC Master Ship Chart, and Communique #47 all got done.

The new schedule theory kind of broke down this week (and last week) due to the workload of getting products out and the rib injury. Not being here Saturday meant that there was no staff meeting, for example. I did last week's work on deal contracts this week, and spent all of the Customer Request time finding out that what somebody wanted wasn't something we could afford to do.

Eric created a new place on the PHP forum for people to upload photos of their painted miniatures. This is organized so that others can refer to the examples later.

Looking forward to the next week (26 October through 1 November) I see work on the schedule on CL #40.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Characters Know, and What Players Know

This is Steven Petrick posting:

One of the problems in role-playing games is separating what the player knows from what the character knows. This problem arises fairly frequently when all of the players are present, but the action is centered on a few players who are technically not with other players at the time. All of the players see and hear what has happened, but the characters do not necessarily "know" what happened.

There are two ways to handle this. One is to simply continue ahead with the known information, i.e., the characters not present simply know everything the characters who were present know. This is the simplest method. The other is for the players to keep in mind what their characters know and do not know, and play them in accordance with that level of knowledge. This is the most difficult.

The problem is that some role-playing games absolutely demand that you play with the latter system. For example, in Call of Cthulhu it is important that the players operate their characters as if they are unaware that character "A" has been "converted" to Cthulhu and is now working against them until that character is "revealed" by some means. Not doing so can ruin the adventure.

This also applies, however, in Star Fleet Battles role-playing (see, there is a connection). Think of the episode "Turnabout Intruder" in which Captain Kirk's mind is switched with the mind of Doctor Janice Lester. Or the episode "Whom Gods Destroy" where Garth of Izar attempts to pass himself off as Captain Kirk and later as Spock. The players may know that one of their number is no longer one of them, but they need to follow through on the exercise and reasonably discover the problem.

Of course, sometimes the referee/dungeon master can accomplish things with a little misdirection. During a Traveler campaign I had need to have various members of the party be taken over by "the evil alien entity" (tm). So when the party split up to search a deck level on the derelict ship, I grabbed the player who had gone into the trap and went to another room. I explained the situation to him, and when we returned, with all the other players looking on expectantly, I simply explained that there had been a "treasure" in the room he had gone to, and I was giving him the option to conceal it and keep it for himself, but that he had decided to share it. The players looked over the "treasure", and lost interest in the character. I repeated this process again, and again. Finally when the group arrived on the derelict's main Bridge, which was the primary nest of the "evil alien entity" (tm), only one member of the party had not yet been taken over, and he was utterly unaware that the others in the party were now doppelgangers until he saw the originals hanging from the wall in the nest. This was despite the fact each player who had been "replaced" had become (role-playing their new status) incommunicative (not offering suggestions on courses of action or taking the lead) and ineffective (their skills became inoperative, i.e., they could not fix electrical shorts or other character capabilities). A little misdirection properly applied can help keep the adventure going. (Of course making sure there is some way for the characters to escape from your trap, when well sprung, is important to keeping the campaign going.)

Saturday, October 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, October 23, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

By the middle of this morning, Leanna and I will have left for the Halloween party at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary southwest of Grants, New Mexico. This is an annual trip.

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary provides a home for wolves that were bought as pets by people who (sooner or later) figured out that wolves don't make good pets. (A few were taken in from a small public zoo that closed down.) The wolves (timber and arctic) live out their lives in comfort and dignity, with a proper diet and good medical care. (These wolves have never been "in the wild" and could not survive there.) The wolves are kept in large pens, with two or three wolves per pen so they keep each other company. You can find out more about the sanctuary at the website: www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org and from my various blog reports. The Sanctuary is supported entirely by donations, and by those who pay for tours. ADB, Inc., makes annual donations to Wild Spirit, and of course, we make one or two trips a year over there.

People keeping wild animals (tigers are the biggest crisis, but wolves are a close second) is an epidemic in this country. (There are more tigers in Texas than in Asia.) It's legal to breed and sell these animals in most states, and it's legal to own them in most states. For whatever stupid reason, people who live in areas where it's not legal do it anyway. Somehow, it sounds "cool" to own a tiger, or a wolf, or a cougar, or some other wild animal. Some people own them as pets; others exploit the animals for profit as roadside attractions. Many of these animals are kept in deplorable conditions. Owners find out just how expensive it is to keep these animals and quickly lose interest in treating them properly. Those wolf-owners who have a soul call Wild Spirit and arrange to send the wolves there and make a donation to cover their care.

Perhaps it is human vanity or silliness, but someone decided that Halloween is the national holiday for wolves. Wild Spirit throws a party every year. A hundred or more people drive in to take tours and watch the annual pumpkin toss. It becomes a major event for wild animals of all types. Many people bring other wild animals that they keep (in a licensed, responsible way) for public education. There are always numerous birds of prey, and no end of educational seminars and presentations. Last year, the local Native American tribe (Ramah Navajo) put on a presentation of their heritage and culture.

The pumpkins are a key part of the festival. Children carve faces in the pumpkins during the day, and then in the afternoon, the pumpkins are filled with meat and each wolf is given one as a present (for the wolf holiday). The wolves who have been at Wild Spirit for more than a year know what to do with the pumpkins (they recognized "pumpkin day" easily enough, but the new arrivals are perplexed and have to figure it out. This is part of the "enrichment program" which keeps the wolves active, alert, and from getting bored. (The sanctuary does a party for Easter with baskets of meat.)

Wild Spirit is unique in my experience in that they allow people (with prior counseling) to bring food into the sanctuary and feed it to the wolves. Last year, I took over a hundred pounds of raw meat for the wolves; this year, I am taking over three hundred pounds. What does the healthy wolf eat for the national holiday? Well, you might think that the answer is sirloin steak, but what the wolves want and crave (and what I take them) is "organ meat": beef heart, liver, and kidneys. This is all good meat (better for you than sirloin), even if Americans won't eat it very much or at all. (I buy this stuff from a butcher who slaughters his own cattle, but I have to special order it weeks in advance. He saves up the organs from two weeks of slaughter, just for my wolves. Anybody can order heart, liver, or kidney, but few people do. Heart and liver are $1.50 per pound, and kidney is only 50 cents a pound, a fraction of the cost of sirloin, or even chuck roast. Most of this organ meat is sold to a dogfood factory.)

Wolves prefer organ meat, prizing it as delicacy and a special treat. It has more nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and other good things than steak and roast. A wolf pack that brings down a deer or a buffalo has a "social order". The Alpha Male (and his mate) get the heart and liver, and the other biggest and strongest wolves get the kidneys. The other wolves have to get by on sirloin, rump roast, ribs, and so forth. Give a wolf a pound of heart and a pound of sirloin, and he will eat the heart first (but he will eat both). Dogs may have gotten their start from wolves who hung around the garbage dumps near cave man villages, but garbage is not good for wolves.

I started going to Wild Spirit several years ago when Mike Sparks, our customer service guy, showed us a brochure for the place. Leanna and I love animals, particularly (well, almost entirely) predators. On the first trip, I remarked that it was a pity I could not bring food. I was surprised when I was told it was ok. (They gave me a detailed explanation of what to bring. No pork. No fat.) On my next trip, I brought three beef hearts. One went to Genghis Khan, the Alpha Wolf, and one to his lady, Artemsia. (Being a soldier, I have an admiration for old Genghis.) The third heart went to Doc, a wolf who was not having a good time and needed something special to brighten his day. I have taken beef heart to Genghis twice now; tomorrow will be the third time. The second time, he didn't eat it at first, but carried it to the highest point in his pen to show it off. Then he ate it. Wolves have such a keen sense of smell that when I arrive at the sanctuary, Genghis recognizes me from two hundred yards away and goes a little crazy waiting for me to trudge up the hill with his special tribute. Being the Alpha Wolf, he darn well better get the most and best of what I bring.

Wild Spirit feeds the wolves a variety of food approved by the US government. (They are regulated like a zoo.) Naturally, cost is an issue, and the wolves (who eat a few pounds of meat every day) get various items including purchased and donated meat. (There are many hunters in the region who donate the unwanted parts of the deer and elk they kill. Taxidermists send in loads of bones and meat.) Often, the wolves get chicken, because dark meat is cheap to buy, and they often get a thing called "wolf loaf". Wolf loaf is a mixture of ground beef, ground turkey, eggs, vitamins, and other things. It's a way to make sure they get a balanced diet.

The pumpkins have always had just the normal day's ration of something, usually wolf loaf with maybe a piece of chicken. That is, they got that until I showed up. Now, they get the Las Vegas Buffet of wolf food: a chunk of heart, half a kidney, a slice of liver, several pieces of chicken, and of course, a double handful of wolf loaf. I was much amused last year to watch the wolves open their pumpkins and sort through the buffet. Each wolf would pick out his favorite item to eat first. Some of them would go through the whole pumpkin to see if there was any more of that favorite thing before eating the rest. There were two wolves which actually traded treats; each ate what they wanted and then at their pen mate's leftovers! Genghis, who had finished a four-pound heart only two hours earlier, not only ate his entire pumpkin's contents, but stole the buffet pumpkin from Artemesia! (She didn't seem to care; her tummy was full of four pounds of beef heart. The poor girl has to eat her heart as fast as she can to avoid having Genghis steal it from her. She has a Bad Boy Complex that would put the average motorcycle mama to shame. When she says "my mate can beat up your mate!" she isn't kidding.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On Klingons Prime Directive PD20M

Jean Sexton reports:

On October 19, 2009, we shipped Klingons Prime Directive PD20M. Due to Real Life issues intruding, it was the book I thought that I could most likely finish within a year of the release of Prime Directive PD20M.

What is new and changed from Klingons PD20? Here are some highlights.

  • Information pertinent to PD20M players is in a format they will recognize.
  • The Paladin advanced class has been revamped.
  • Many of the species traits for the Subject Races have been reworked and there is information for age, height, and weight for the beings you would encounter in the Klingon Empire.
  • We listened to some additional tapes and discovered more information about the Bargantines.
  • We forced more information into the starship and personal weapons sections.
  • There is an additional page of starship art and it is gorgeous! Ted Geibel and Adam Turner are very talented artists.

ADB, Inc.'s books do not happen in a vacuum. They are a team effort and they reflect the strengths of us all. Let me tell you about the people who have worked on this book and their contributions.

Eric Olivarez did a splendid job of designing new chapter headings for the book. They catch the feeling of steel -- apt for "The Empire of Steel".

Jonathan Thompson had the lead in converting the d20 information into d20M terms. While some of the species were a breeze (having appeared in PD20M), others took much effort, especially in light of the disinformation the Klingons had put out about their Subject Races.

Ryan Opel spent a lot of evenings answering questions that popped into my head. How did so-and-so really spell his name? Please count behind me and see if the Klingons have tried to mislead us about the power this ship's engines produce. Only when he didn't have an answer was I forced to call one of the Steves.

Tony Thomas reworked all of the sample characters and really dug through those personnel files to discover the "real" people. We have warned him to be on the lookout for Klingon Dagger Teams when we release this sensitive information.

Gary Plana was there, providing information and background. His knowledge of the Prime Directive RPG games and their history was invaluable.

Steven Petrick had to answer many phone calls and questions. What's that square thing on the SSD? How do I know if this is a K refit thing or not? What year did this ship really come out? HELP! I can't find an SSD for this ship!!!!! Without his help I could not have checked the entire chapter on the starships. With his help I learned far more about the Klingon starships than I ever knew and realized that each change in design was logical and had a purpose.

Steve Cole was absolutely essential in getting this book to press. He did the layout and all the corrections to the text. He had the unenviable chore of making larger files fit into the same space and he did it seamlessly. He capitalized phrases and changed capitalized phrases into lower case (per ADB, Inc.'s "Capitalization Guide") without much protestation. He has been understanding when Real Life issues prevented me from working on the book as much as I would have liked to have done. And of course, he's the one who brought us the original book!

Thanks also go to Leanna Cole and the Coles's furkids (Ramses and Isis, two beautiful Bengal cats) who let Steve work late, late nights in order to get this done.

Wednesday, October 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, October 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.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MY Week: 12-18 October 2009

Steve Cole reviews the last week:

It was a busy week, finishing two major products (Hydran Attack and Klingons PD20 Modern), but by Sunday afternoon it had become what Leanna calls "a good tired".

The weather was ok all week, even a little cool in the morning and evening. It rained on Tuesday. The cracked ribs continued to bother me all week. Petrick was out for two days with a chest cold. Jean got a clear report on her surgery (no cancer) which was good.

The week started with a staff meeting that decided to delay F&E 2010, Fed Admiral, and FC-Briefing #3 to next year and move Captain's Log up to 16 November. The routine stuff was, well, routine. I changed to long-range, off-hand target shooting and my score dropped from 98 to the 70s, but I was too sore most days to shoot. Leanna uploaded the Klingon Armada ships to e23.

The bulk of my week was spent working on Klingons PD20M and Hydran Attack. I finished Hydran Attack on Saturday at 1pm and Klingons PD20M Sunday at 2pm. We got the covers for the boosters and Mike and Eric spent two days packing those.

We packed up a bunch of new miniatures and sent them to the casting house. They haven't arrived there yet, so I do not know which ones made it into the Master Mold we are doing. (We had enough ships for two, but not all of them may work, and I want to save the second master mold for the Hydran Pegasus we are waiting for.)

Eric uploaded some stuff to the new web pages for Starletter and Mail Order Bonus, and some more Star Fleet Times issues.

We look forward to next week with excitement. On Monday the 19th, we will ship a slew of new products (Hydran Attack, three boosters (#25, #26, and #27), seven packs of minis (the shuttles and fighters), and the Klingon RPG book) and on Friday, Leanna and I will pick up 400 pounds of raw meat (beef hearts, kidneys, and livers) at the slaughterhouse and leave for the Wolf party at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Somehow, throwing new products to the customers and raw meat to the wolves seems ... well ... it seems like it ought to seem like something.

Sunday, October 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, October 17, 2009

Hydran Attack on the Press

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Despite many last minute computer glitches (happens way too often, some kind of gremlin in the system, a document that prints with absolutely no trouble suddenly announces it has postscript errors every time we tried to print it). SVC has wrapped up Klingon D20 Modern, so with a little luck (and the printers hold together) we should be shipping on time.

It will, of course, be another long Sunday of work to get this done, but by now those of you who read these posts are aware that this is not unusual for us.

As for myself, I cannot shake the dregs of whatever it was I got. Nagging cough apparently trying to clear gunk out of my lungs, and just constantly tired.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sick Days and Self-Employ

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Regretfully, I came down with some kind of bug for the last two or three days. I am not quite over it yet (still have crud in my lungs that I am still coughing to bring up, just not as often). This is going to make the next few weeks even more fun as the time I needed to recover was not time that was in the production schedule. We already work seven days a week, so there is not really any slack to be cut to cover it.

Thursday, October 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, October 14, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

When I was in high school world history class, we got to World War II. (I had already read more books on WW2 than anyone in the school, including all of the teachers, but never mind.) The teacher took a class to regail us with funny stories of Polish cavalry units charging German tanks with pointy sticks. (Funny, all of the WW2 books I had read barely mentioned the Poland campaign, but then, it didn't last very long.) The stupid and vainglorious Polish cavalry, their pointy sticks hopelessly behind the times, became an article of faith, repeated by college level military history professors and ROTC officer instructors. I even designed a wargame (Poland 1939) without hearing anything to the contrary.

The funny stories turn out not to be entirely true. Well, not even remotely true. The Polish cavalry had stacked their lances in the warehouses in 1935 and only got them out for parades. Polish cavalry in 1939 carried rifles and operated as horse cavalry did during all of World War II (except for one battle), as dragoons, that is, as mounted infantry. (Yes, there were over a hundred thousand horse cavalry in World War II, mostly German and Russian, but some Japanese, Romanian, and even Italian.) The Polish horse cavalry would ride to the battle, dismount, and fight on foot with rifles, machine guns, and even small anti-tank cannons. No, there were no charges against tanks with pointy sticks.

If the myth has any basis in fact at all, it comes from a strange incident on the first day of the war. The 18th Polish Lancers, part of the Pomorski Brigade, caught a group of German infantry resting in a forest clearing. They launched a mounted charge with sabers, wiped out the small group of  infantry. Then, a group of German armored cars appeared, and fired on the still-mounted cavalry, causing horrendous casualties. The surviving cavalry, trying to find a way out of the trap and trying to escape, galloped through the formation of armored cars, leading the armored car crews to report that crazy Polish cavalrymen had charged them (with swords, not pointy sticks).

Poland had a long history of good cavalry. Napoleon delighted in his Polish Uhlans (lancers, those pointy sticks were used in the wars of 1800-1815.) Poland was a conquered nation for the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming independent by the force of its own soldiers in 1920 (and only because Russia had collapsed into its own Civil War). Polish soldiers, the most elite of whom were the cavalrymen, drove the Russians out of Poland after two years of desperate fighting. The Polish cavalry beat the vaunted Russian Cossacks in stand-up fights, and outmaneuvered the Russian infantry. The Polish cavalry brigades were the elite of their Army. Poland was slowly converting cavalry brigades to use tanks; one had been converted to light armor in 1939 and the rest were scheduled to be converted by 1943.  The Poles were not stupid; they were just broke. Poland was a poor country in 1939, having been free for only 19 years and slowly working its way up from the squalor in which the Czarist Russians had left it.

The truth is usually so much more interesting than the myths.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What We're Doing: 4-11 October 2009

Steve Cole reports:

The weather is starting to turn cold, although we haven't had a freeze yet.

We're heading for the 19 October release date for Hydran Attack, the fighter miniatures, Klingons PD20M, and the three booster packs. We got the covers and ship cards sent to press (and expect them about the 14th) and we received the shipment of counters from the new die cutter. (They are gorgeous, and while we have only been through a few hundred, we have yet to find a mis-cut sheet.)
Just today (the 12th) we rewrote the fall schedule, sending F&E 2010, Federation Admiral, and Briefing #3 to next year, and moving Captain's Log up from 7 December to 16 November. I just hope we can find a fiction story or that plan is going to self-destruct.
We tried to get the new minis to the casting house, but everything went wrong (in a minor way). The Juggy arrived, but the Fed DD engine did not. The F5W arrived, but had to be sent back to have missing phasers added. The sculptor doing the Hydran Pegasus did not do it, so that delays Squadron Box #27 into next year.
Eric created a new page for the old Subspace News stuff, a new page for the Mail Order Bonus stuff, and loaded all of the issues for both. He also added more issues to the Starletter page. Between Eric and myself, we got the 10 October Communique released a day early.
Leanna got the first PDF we have ever sold loaded into e23. This is the old Module Prime Alpha, which we did as a test of the system to create and upload PDFs. Leanna reported that orders this week have been unusually high.

Steve Petrick has kept busy on Captain's Log #40.
Mike Sparks has been packing fighter miniatures and had to shuffle pallets in the warehouse to make space for the new incoming shipments of covers, cards, and counters.
Jean has been recovering from her surgery and reported on the 12th that it was not cancer.
I had my best target shooting ever. On the other hand, on Wednesday I tripped over a curb, fell very hard, and cracked two ribs. This kept me from getting any serious work done on Thursday, Friday, Saturday (I went home early when nobody else showed up for work), and Sunday (I just stayed home and painted my new Space Marine figures). I felt somewhat better on Monday, the 12th.

Monday, October 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, October 11, 2009

What If Games

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC likes to, as a mental exercise, set up "time travel" scenarios when we are eating together as something to discuss. Quite often these run into problems in that my mind does not focus on what, say adding a battery of 155mm guns to the Army of Northern Virginia, effect the change would have on a battle (say Gettysburg), but on the logistics. Do you know how many tons a 155mm Gun (as opposed to a howitzer) weighs? Have you any idea of how many horses it would take to haul the things up the Shenandoah valley? Not to mention the weight of their shells.

It is like re-equipping the Federal Infantry with repeating rifles. The Union could probably have done it, and it would have markedly increased the firepower of Union regiments, but how many wagon loads of ammunition would you have needed to add to their trains (which were already unwieldy)?

Both SVC and I would have loved to add an inherent battery of Dr. Gatling's guns to every Union infantry brigade (note, we recognize that the South would have wanted these as well, but have to face the fact that the South did not have industry to do it). That at least would have somewhat held down the additional numbers of ammo wagons somewhat.

So we play "what-if" games as we eat.

It is a harmless pastime and takes our minds off of other things.

Saturday, October 10, 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.

Friday, October 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, October 08, 2009

Beer Can Serenade

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

As a child growing up, I was caught in the rain several times, but always had the option to go home or otherwise seek shelter. As an adult in the service, there was more than one occasion where I had to simply endure the rain to do the task at hand. The biggest difference was that as a child, when it was time to sleep I was always "indoors" and "in bed", although sometimes the indoors was a tent, and the bed was a sleeping bag. In the Army sometimes even that amount of luxury was missing.

It is indeed luxury to be out of the rain in a warm bed and able to listen to the rain falling, and roar of thunder after the flash of lightening, and just snuggle down deeper into your blanket. Most of us go through our lives not realizing just how much of a luxury it is to be able to sleep in a warm dry place.

Last night, however, was not so nice.

I have a neighbor (new one for this college semester) who likes to party on the weekends. That does not bother me. What bothers me is that, being college students, he and his friends have a lackadaisical attitude towards things like "property". There is a small stretch of fence from the end of the apartment wall that is my apartment to the large connex that sits right behind my apartment. My neighbor and his friends consider this a good, and less labor intensive, place to dispose of their beer cans. Simply tossing them over the wall. The area they are tossing the cans into is completely enclosed (why the owners have fenced this area off I do not know, but they have). The cans are out of sight, and thus pretty much out of everyone's mind.

Except that it rained last night.

Rainwater coming down at an angle does not land in the area between the connex and the building wall, the space is just too narrow. But it does collect on top of the connex and the apartment building, and after a bit really big drips start falling from those heights onto the cans below.

I cannot tell you how annoyingly noisy the result was.

I have dozed on rifle ranges, and during mortar live fires when I was not specifically needed. This noise was insufferable. I could reach the wall and see the cans through the slats, and four years ago I could climb that fence to get inside, but now I cannot.

I got virtually no sleep last night as a result.

My neighbor? Well his apartment is across the breezeway, so his bedroom is all the way on the other side of the building from the noise, he slept with no problems at all.

I was nearly driven to my car to try to sleep, but the rain finally stopped at about 4:30, and the water stopped dripping about a half hour after that. Now I have to find someway to get the cans cleared out, and more importantly to stop a repeat of the incident.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A Window on the Past

This is Steven Petrick posting:

I am sitting here once more stumped about what to write.

I have been, with some interest, catching up on a lot of old movies through the wonders of Tivo and Turner Classic Movies. It is interesting sometimes to see how much a plot idea changes. I was unaware that there was an earlier version of "Brewster's Millions", having only previously seen the more recent version. The major differences were the addition of a plot of evil lawyers trying to steal Brewster's windfall (oh, and of course the amount of money has increased . . . back in 1946 Brewster only had to spend one million to earn seven million). Beyond that, most of the plot points remained intact. Except that Brewster's last minute windfall was the result of his friends trying to help him, not an evil lawyer accounting trick.

I have also, as a result, become interested in tracking some actors. Not something I ever did before. And not big name actors, but ones that show up in movie after movie. Like Jenkins and Barton. These two were paired on and off. Barton played the police detective love interest in the "Torchy Blaine" series, and near the end of the series, Jenkins took over the role (the actress playing Blaine changed once or twice also, and Blaine of course had a major "sex change" in that in the book series it was based on Blaine was a guy with no love interest in the police detective).

I have watched several series of films now (the Blaine series, Doctor Kildare, others), more or less simply because I could.

Perhaps the biggest thing I get out of these old films, besides watching the differences in technology, and how Hollywood viewed the world and America in those days (Dr. Kildare was involved in solving several "crimes", but his loyal henchman would have been jailed for the methods he used to "extract" information . . . i.e., pummeling the crooks with a wrench). And of course the difference in what a dollar could buy.

I have also found in my "dotage" that a lot of acts that were funny, simply are not. It is too easy for me to put myself in the shoes of the comedian's "victim". Particularly the comedians, such a Charlie Chapman, who make their living by in essence stealing, conning, or otherwise taking from other people without recompense.

In a lot of ways, these old films are a "window on the past", when even 0.75 of a dollar could be seen as real money for going on a date. When the entire floor of swank first class New York City hotel could be had for $2,000 a month, and a steak dinner (the whole dinner, not just the steak) cost 93 cents.

Of course, back in those days there were a lot fewer amenities than we have today. Problems we solve with cell phones (change the meeting place . . . how do we tell our friends when they are not at a phone booth?) for example. And how many of us are willing to give up air conditioning?

Tuesday, October 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, October 05, 2009


Steve Cole reports on the week of 28 September to 4 October:

This has been the first week of the new post-Boot Camp management system. Long-time followers of ADB, Inc., know that I get more done than anyone they know, but that I also always try to do more than I actually can do, and that I am always finding a new management system to keep track of what I should be doing. This time, surely, I have found one that will work and that I will stick to.

The new system provides that I must work on "marketing" every Monday. I decided that part of that would be a summary blog for the week. I will skip the daily routine stuff, other than to mention that every day I read FYEO and my email, responded to customers, and had meetings.

We got word that the new countersheets have been printed and die cut and will arrive about 8 October.

I did the Communique and Hailing Frequencies for 10 October, way ahead of time this time. I sent the last of the Fed Commander cards to FC OnLine.

I did the Hydran Attack rulebook and sent it to the staff. Eric got the cover done and sent it to press.

I had dinner last Monday with my old Guard chaplain, who helped me deal with some stressful personal issues (adjusting to being older than I have been).

The burglar alarm went off at 2:10am on Tuesday. Leanna and I drove to the office to meet the police, but nothing was wrong, nothing was broken. Best guess, somebody leaving the bar next door stumbled into the front glass and it was enough vibration to trip the alarms that detect broken glass.

The BBS and Forum ran well, and I managed to score 100 on target shooting for the second and third times in my life.

On Customer Request Wednesday, I got a bunch of old Starletters sent to Eric to upload to the new Starletter page.

We got more intercom boxes and added Eric and Mike to the intercom system.

On Contract Friday, I wrote up the deal sheet for the Star Fleet Battlestations joint venture.

On Sunday, I had a nice chat with the local game-store owner, who had insights into the industry.

Leanna Cole created packaging for the fighters, did all of the mail orders, bought a Kindle so we can figure out how to do books that way, and started working on getting the first PDF book uploaded to e23.

Jean Sexton had her surgery, but still found time to finish: proofreading the FCHA cards, editing Klingons PD20M, and proofreading Communique for 10 September.

Steve Petrick worked on CL40. He probably did more work than anyone, and gets little to show for it on this report.

Graphics director Eric Olivarez created a new page for the old Starletter issues, and did the covers for Hydran Attack and the new boosters.

Warehouse manager Mike Sparks received the fighter minis and started packing them.

Well, that's what happened last week. During the next week, I need to send the Hydran Attack Ship Cards to press and get moving on Klingons PD20-Modern.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Time Passes

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

We are into the last quarter of 2009, the last quarter of the first decade of the 21st Century.

For those who are yet young, hardly any time has passed. For me, more than a half century of existence on has passed.

Much like my elders, it has been a period of much change. The computer has come, cell phones are common. Newspapers and news magazines seem to have become a mere passing fad as the internet and television continue to reduce readership.

According to the bible, more than two thirds of my allotted life-span has passed. I cannot help but wonder what changes I will see in the final third. I grew up (thanks to my father) with a steady diet of science fiction. I truly expected, at one point in my life, that by the time I was this old we would have multiple colonies "out there". Have met new life forms. So I can safely say that much of life has been something of a disappointment (but I know that it is Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Anvil, and others that are to blame for that).

I have hopes, still, for my species, but I am far less hopeful than when I was younger. The dream of getting "out there" seems (to me) to be being slowly strangled by the corruption down here.

Saturday, October 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, October 02, 2009

Looking for Opportunities

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

When we print covers for products (something we have to do outside of the office still) we are paying to print the entire press sheet, whether we use every square inch of it, or only use a single inch (no, we do not ever print just a single inch, this is just to make the point that the dollar cost is the same no matter how much of the press sheet we use).

For most businesses, you simply get what you need printed, and do not worry about the excess.

We are a game business, so we look for opportunities to use that "lost space".

In this case, SVC decided to use what would be lost space to print "battle force playtest cards". They will not be "playing card quality", but we will be able to get some playtesting done with real color "cards" of the Lyrans and Hydrans (albeit not complete sets of them as were found in Captain's Logs #25 and #27).

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I have more jobs than I can count: game designer, company president, customer service requests, deal making, marketing, and more. All of them need more time than I have and the only way to survive is to prioritize, to do the most important parts of each job and the less important items just don't get done. In theory, over time, I'll learn to train people to do some of these jobs until the total workload becomes equal to the total time available. The backside of this is that each job MUST get at least some time, but must not be able to steal time from other accounts. The new post-Boot Camp theory of management accounts for this.

Marketing is assigned a two-hour block on Monday. No other job is allowed into that time slot, so marketing will get at least some attention, but won't be able to steal time from other tasks. Marketing got Monday because it's better to send press releases early in the week. (I have a habit to send a press release at 5pm Friday for a product that will be released at noon on Monday. This drives wholesalers to the point of violence.) Customer requests get a two-hour block every Wednesday. Anything the customers want (such as me to sort through all of the old Starletters and give them to Eric to upload) gets done then, and no other job is allowed to intrude into that time slot. I have a long list of these things, which are sort of like "honey dos". In theory, there will be a triage, with the first 30 minutes spend doing anything that can be done fast and the remaining 90 minutes doing whatever is on top of the stack. Deal making (such as writing and revising contracts) gets a two-hour block on Friday. Right now, I'm involved in three "contract negotiations". I tend to forget to check on where these are (and a pot nobody is watching tends to get cold), and when I have something from the other party that I CAN work on, I tend not to do it as other jobs stole the time. So when Friday rolls around, I will look at each of these three deals and do what I can to make them move forward. If Jean needs me to write a contract for one of her RPG writers, she'll know that it's on the list for next Friday. The concept is, as noted, a two-way street. Those three minor tasks WILL get some time (because no other task can steal their time), but won't be allowed to steal from other time-accounts. Presumably, players will be satisfied to know that their requests won't get forgotten for months on end, and even the Visitation of the Great Dragon (some huge project that demands every available second) won't be able to steal the time alloted to these tasks. One thing I learned in Boot Camp is to treat these as doctor's appointments. There will always be "emergencies" that demand that I cancel these appointments, but the test is whether the crisis rises to the point that I would cancel a doctor's appointment to deal with it.

The accountability side comes from a series of meetings. I love meetings and have too many of them, or I don't have them at all. Meetings produce lists of things that people are supposed to do, but without a system to see if anybody actually did what's on their list, it's too easy for people (mostly me) to forget to do them (or just ignore the ones I don't want to do). Thus, the new system. We have three meetings a week. The longest one (90 minutes) is Saturday at 2pm, when we plan everything for the next week and "outlook" for the next month. Shorter meetings (30 minutes) at 2pm on Tuesday and Thursday go over everybody's "to do list" and remind people to get their lists done. This also gives people a chance to say that they need help or some resource to do their tasks. The scheduled meetings mean that we HAVE meetings but they don't become the ONLY thing that gets done. (We have gone through periods of having a meeting every day, and periods when we did not have a meeting for a month.) The schedule also means that everybody saves stuff that requires a group decision on a clipboard "for the next meeting". So nobody gets interrupted to review a question and make a decision; we all have a specific time alloted for meetings. Leanna knows that she will get a decision from me within 48 hours, and I know that every 48 hours I get to ask Leanna if she has done what I asked her to do. It also means that I cannot "drift aimlessly" for a week as I have been known to do, since the Saturday meeting gives me a "to do list" and the Tuesday and Thursday meetings make sure I actually did what was on it.