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Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alarms and Excursions

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Last night SVC and Leanna were woken from a sound sleep by the Security Company and advised that the "glass break" alarm had been triggered at the building. SVC and Leanna decided to head into town and check on the status of the building themselves rather than also wake me (who would have taken another ten minutes to make the trip since I live that much further away).

When they arrived at the office, the Amarillo City Police already had a man present, but neither he nor the Coles could discern any apparent damage. The officer was admitted to the building and did a quick walk through, but the rear door was secured as were all of the windows. (Most of our windows are on the front of the building, but there is a small window in the front bathroom also.)

With everything apparently secure, SVC and Leanna returned home and them to bed (after Rambo and Isis spent some time saying "what did you bring us").

The next morning, unaware of the night's incident, I arrived at the office. As I came through the door the phone was ringing. I picked it up and proceeded to the alarm system. Apparently I was too late for whoever was calling (I did not hear them hang up, but neither did I hear them say anything). I entered the security code, but the device did not accept it. Normally this just means reenter the code, but as I was trying to do so, it went off.

The System then insisted, non-stop, that there "was someone in the hallway", even though I was in one of the offices on the phone talking to the security company and could not have been possibly triggering the motion sensors.

After a bit (and having to talk to the Security Company two or three times) I finally got the system reset.

Still no sign of an intruder within the building (all the windows are intact), but I am wondering if there is some glitch in the alarm system now. It will probably (if there is one) show up on some really, really, REALLY bad night (it will be a night beyond question). You know, in the middle of a raging hailstorm or blizzard.


Monday, September 28, 2009

The Federation & Empire Variation that Never Was

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Working in a game system with multiple outlets, odd things can occur to you.

One that has occurred to me that I would kind of like to play with is the simulator empires (published in Module C4, Module P6, Stellar Shadows Journal #1, and Stellar Shadows Journal #2/Captain's Log #28, along with a few units for the various empires in other products).

The Frax (R51.0) could be the Klingons, the Qari (R52.0) could be the Federation, the Triaxians (R53.0) could be the Gorns, the Sharkhunters (R54.0) could be the Romulans, the Barbarians (R55.0) could be the Inter-Stellar Concordium (maybe also the Seltorians and Jindarians), the Flivvers (R56.0) could be the Tholians, the Deltans (R57.0) could be Lyran Democratic Republic, the Britanians (R58.0) could be the Hydrans, the Canadi'ens (R59.0) could be the Kzintis, the Hispaniolans (R60.0) could be the Vudar, the Eighth Air Force (R61.0) could be the WYN, the Peladine (RJ1.0) could be the Lyrans, and the Paravians (R18.0) could be the Orions, Orion Pirate Cartels, and Andromedans.

Counters would have to be done, special rules (e.g., Flivver Hoverwarp effect on combat, Qari Scud/Scaleboard missile attacks, etc.) would need to be written. Fleets developed, alliances re-allocated (just because the Sharkhunters are in Romulan Space, that does not mean they are the Romulans and enemies of the Qari in Federation Space). All of this needs to take into account how the Empire operates (which is why the Eighth Air Force is the WYN, since their photons are one-shot wonders that cannot be reloaded during a scenario, and a special modification of their rules would have to allow them to fire their photons at "Zone Crippled" ships since they cannot fire them at normal ships). Might require rules allowing the Eighth Air Force ships to "dock" to reloading facilities (bases) during a scenario to reload the photons. It does make them defensive units, and the major WYN rules would have to remain in effect (Cluster is wealthy and worth conquering, but none of the three surrounding empires will allow one of the other two to do so).

So, yes, there is a lot of it playing around in my mind. It might make for an interesting variation on Standard Federation & Empire. It may also be just too complex and uninteresting to bother with. And, yes, new units would need to be developed (e.g., Tugs).

But it does play in my own mind and has for quite a number of years.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Steve Cole Reports:

During 23-25 September, I attended the Amarillo Business Boot Camp, which was run by the local university (WTAMU) and economic development corporation (along with a lot of other groups, such as a Chamber of Commerce, the economic development councils of several towns, the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, and other organizations). This was held at the adult education center for the local college (Amarillo College).

We had serious grad-school level business courses and talks by local businessmen who turned one-store start-ups into $50 million businesses with dozens of stores.

The best of it was talking to other local businessmen who (despite being in very different businesses) were facing the same challenges: efficiency, expansion, sales, marketing, and so forth. My lab partners (as we called ourselves) included Joe (his wife runs a bakery, and he handles the business end as a second job), Kelly (who runs a crew that paints oilfield equipment and a lot of other things), and Chip (who runs a local car wash). Others in the class included a young couple who run a cheese factory, a lady who plans weddings, a person who is an interior decorator, a guy who runs a winery, a guy who installs sprinkler systems, my own bank officer (who wanted to expand her department), a lady who runs a spa, a lady who runs a wilderness adventure camp, a guy who runs a data-backup company, the regional sales manager for my phone company, a guy who runs his father's oilfield-equipment-manufacturing company, two guys who run a website-development company, several guys who run various restaurants, and many others.

I cannot say I learned a lot about business; frankly, I already knew 99% of the course work. What I did learn was a lot of experience stories about other businesses, their challenges and failures, their innovations and successes. I even learned what a female boss says to female employees who need to act like adults ("Put on your big girl panties"). I guess that's something like "Man up".

It's not so much that I came out of the class with a newly inspired idea to revolutionize the way I run ADB, Inc. Actually, I went into the class with the intention of using my three days there as an excuse to force myself out of my mental rut. I have five jobs (design, administration, customer requests, deal-making, and marketing) and all of them constantly try to rob time and attention from each other. The answer is to define the amount of time each day, and each week, that each of those five jobs can have. Each job then gets its allotted time, and ONLY that time. If I don't get all of the deals made in the allotted time this week, the deals will have to wait for next week. If I see one category falling farther behind, it will get more time in the next cycle, or I will delegate some of those duties to someone else, or (at worst) I will prioritize and the less important ones just won't get done at all. That's sad, to be sure, but if it means that more important things in other categories DO get done, the company will be all the better for it. As the system evolves, the design time will be divided up between the different game systems, so that none of them get forgotten.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A New Take on How We Will Do Things

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC spent the last two and a half days (including today for the half) at "Business Boot Camp". He notes that most of what they were trying to teach he had already learned either in the oil business, or in the "school of hard knocks" since he sailed forth to create his own company.

Still, he has been inspired by the experience and had vowed to change the way Amarillo Design Bureau, inc, operates in an effort to make the company more efficient.

We all wear a lot of hats (very few of us to do all the jobs), and have tendencies to focus on one particular job (hat) to the detriment of the others to some extent. We have been managing to get most things done, but not everything. Things fall through the cracks, mostly the things none of us really wants to do. That does need to change, all jobs need to be done, but we are probably going to continue to suffer from too much work for too few people.

At the end of the day, there is always more work to be done. Perhaps if we can save a few wasted moments here and there we can some of that completed also.

So, we are going to hold more meetings for the specific purpose of seeing what we have done and what needs to be done, and confirm that no one is "waiting for someone else to do something". (Even as small as we are, we have this problem, someone needs something from someone else, but the someone else is working on something they need to finish right now and cannot stop to do the thing the other person wants, so someone winds up doing nothing for a while if he or she cannot find some other task.)

My biggest fear is the "disruption" this may cause. I am often leaving my desk as it is to check orders or trim books or other things. Every time it happens my train of thought is interrupted and when I get back, I have to figure out where I was in what I was working on, losing even more time. Being interrupted when I was not currently trying to be creative is not a problem, but it really does hurt when I am trying to keep a stream of thought going. I never seem (in my opinion) to be able to find the same stream when I get interrupted. Whether by a phone call (I answer the phone most of the time) or having to go check what some else was doing.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Disruption of Al Qaida

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

President Obama has said that his goal is to "disrupt" Al Qaida. Some might take that as an admission of defeat as he is not trying to "destroy" Al Qaida.

It is not.

The problem is that Al Qaida is not a country. It does not have a government we can force to accede to our will by force of arms or negotiation.

Al Qaida is an organization. As long as there are two guys and a computer connection to the internet, Al Qaida will exist. There is always going to be someone so full of hate and belief in the justness of his cause that will keep Al Qaida alive.

Don't believe it?

Perhaps you believe that National Socialism is dead, that Communism has been permanently defeated by the fracturing of the iron curtain.

It is not so. Nazism exists to this day, even in Germany where the mere display of its symbols is cause for arrest much less here in the United States.

And, yes, there are still those who are devoted to Karl Marx's ideals.

So Al Qaida will be with us for the foreseeable future in one form or another.

The questions are how big a body count will it be able to foster (Communism is still racking up a body count, and has always made National Socialism seem like pikers by comparison, but that does not mean that Nazis are still not killing someone here or there, just that there lack of control of a government to do their killing makes it really hard to keep up with the Communists).

So Al Qaida will be with us, at least because it is fashionable for young men in predominately Moslem lands (and some even in non-Moslem lands) to visit the web site and speak about how "bad-A** they are to each other and on their own message boards.

So, Obama is correct when he says his goal is to keep Al Qaida disrupted. That does not mean that he will not go all out to get Osama if he gets good intelligence on his exact location (taking Osama out would probably be disruptive, but it depends on what Osama's current health and ability to shift the levers of power in his organization is, there are some doubts about both).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

Well, it was supposed to be yesterday. We were one day late. Due to a number of misadventures, we didn't get the Klingon Armada book ready until sometime after 2pm on Monday, and with two of the three print engines down (they started misbehaving over the weekend, while printing Starmada) there wasn't time to print enough books for the first day's shipments.

So we will ship today. One day, big deal.

Here's the score:

Drone minis and Plasma Torpedo minis: ready to ship. We had these over a week ago, and since we need to pay for them, they need to be released.

Starmada, the hard copy of the book that's been available from MJ12 as a PDF: ready to ship.

Klingon Armada: delayed one day, as noted, delaying everything one day.

Klingons PD20 Modern: This has been delayed to 19 October. Jean did her part. Other projects kept me from doing my part.

No excuses, just a delayed victory. Here's the explanation if you want to see how ADB, Inc. works.

I had ten days between the return from my trip to the convention in Denver and the scheduled release date. I scheduled to be one day for office stuff (the friction of war), two days for Klingon Armada page layouts, and seven days for K20M page layouts.  That actually left Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for printing books.

Office stuff took five days instead of one. There were just some issues around here that had to be dealt with (and I took one day off for my 32nd wedding anniversary).

Starmada took eight days, using up all of the reserve days. Some of this was my fault and some of it was a miscommunication. The book was designed to be a mixture of pages I wrote (not many), pages Dan wrote and laid out, and pages Dan wrote and I laid out. We had a huge miscommunication in that I planned to do the book in Starmada format (so that Starmada players would recognize it) and Dan set it up for Fed Commander format (assuming if I was printing it, I'd want to do it my way). That was funny once we figured it out. Worse, when I went through the raw text, I put it into FC format by force of habit and it took a day to convert it back to Starmada format. I should have paid attention. We spent most of one day just getting the fonts to lay out. After that, it was just endless "check this, oops, change that" and we noticed some design issues that Dan's playtesters had not noticed, and Dan was kind enough to solve them, but it took a day. Anyway, it's done, and it's a good solid book. I learned a lot doing it, including some new font tricks, and marveled at how simple Starmada actually is.

At this point, I haven't even started taking Jean's Klingons PD20M files and sticking them into Pagemaker (which in theory should only take three days or so). We could just delay all five products a week but I made a command decision to ship four of them on time (which turned out to be a day late) and just kick K20M to the next release cycle (when Hydran Attack will be shipped). Part of this is that I'm signed up for three days of "business school" this week, which wouldn't give me time to do it anyway.

The delay in K20M will probably kick Federation Admiral (set for 19 October) back to November 16th. (And remember that F&E 2010, also set for November 16, has priority so if there is only time to do one, it won't be FA.) This is just an ugly reality of game production. We have thousands of dollars invested in countersheets for Hydran Attack and F&E 2010 and we need to get those products onto the market without delay. We have no cash tied up in Federation Admiral, and even if it will sell better than FCHA and F&E 2010, we have to print those first due to the cash tied up in them.

Monday, September 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.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Tough Scenes to Write

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the hardest things, I imagine, in writing a fiction story based on something that happened in a game is explaining the motivations.

Players of a game often give no thought to what the counters abstractly reflect. If a counter that indicates an infantry battalion is removed from a game map, the fact that it represented the fate of 400 to 800 men (depending the organization of the battalion, different nations use different systems) has no impact on the gamer.

So you can get into a situation in which you, the gamer, can order your "troops" to commit suicide with no second thought. You are going to launch a strike with your fighter squadron, the fact that you know beyond question that the "pilots" will all die has no effect on your decision. You order it, the fighters take off, and fly to their doom.

The mindless automatons that many think real soldiers actually are.

The reality is that a desperate situation can see men of courage performing heroic acts to try to turn the tide.

But in a game, there may not be any such situation.

The scenario rules call for the ship to gather so many points of "lab" information. So the player simply places a EW package on one of his remaining heavy fighters, and "tells the crew" to go.

And they do.

Despite the fact that "everyone else" on the ship they are launching from has a chance to survive, and they have been ordered to die.

How do you write that scene when you, as the captain, have given the order? How do you portray the crew of that doomed fighter, getting their orders, perhaps not even from the captain personally but from some more junior officer in the chain of command to whom the task is delegated?

Outside of truly desperate "save the world situations", men generally do not like to be ordered to kill themselves.

There are some good representations of that in some films. Randy Quaid in "Independence Day" originally made a mockery of the concept (flying his red biplane on a suicide mission right from the start). But it was caught, and changed to a truly effective scene where Quaid's character, himself, decides to do what must be done to save his children.

But they are tough scenes to write when you are ordering men to their deaths, and they know it.

Friday, September 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Steve Cole reports: Today is the 32nd anniversary of the day I married Leanna (the first time, we were of course still married two years ago when we got married for the second time). I'm told this is something of an accomplishment these days, when divorce is so easy and the stress of modern living causes good marriages to come unglued. Considering that we had known each other only 31 days when we got engaged (and would have gotten married that day but for my mother pitching a fit), a successful marriage is something of a miracle. It was, arguably, less than 31 days between our first date (a singles mixer we went to together, more or less not even as a couple but just to see who else was on the market) was kind of a dud (we didn't meet anybody and decided to go to the movies instead, then got a snack at Denny's and I didn't even try to kiss her good night) and there almost wasn't a second date. (I misunderstood something she said and thought she had gone out of town for a few days and called her when I thought she got back. In fact, she had not gone out of town and was kind of annoyed I had not kept my promise to call her.) The misunderstanding was sorted out, and we had our first real laugh together. But perhaps one might say we really dated only 26 days before getting engaged.

The marriage was a success, I think, because we both treated marriage as a serious institution that deserved some respect, some planning, and some thought. Sure, we'd have gotten married on the day I proposed (except that the court house was closed and it would have taken a week to get the paperwork done), but we didn't. Instead, we spent the next month talking, talking, talking, not that we had not done a ton of talking in the previous 26 days. It was very much like a job interview, the most important one of our lives, and we had to force ourselves to be totally and brutally honest, not to guess what the other wanted to hear. We both approached it on the basis of "my emotional side is already in love and ready to get married, but let's take a deep breath and seriously discuss every single aspect of how we expect to live and what we expect to get, and let's try very, very hard to find some reason NOT to get married before we allow ourselves to fall into the abyss." Our logical sides were hanging on to sanity with our fingernails, desperately hoping not to find any problems but fully prepared to break it off and walk away if the marriage wasn't going to work. In the end, we found nothing we could not deal with. It wasn't perfect (I just cannot dance worth a darn and Leanna misses dancing) but it was, logically, as good as it was going to get.

We were 25, and we were ready to get married, buy a house, and plant some trees. It was time to get married, and that made it all the more important not to just let it happen and then find out later it was wrong from the start. We explored every subject (politics, religion, family, careers, hobbies, etc.) in detail. More importantly, I think, we "waited" until the wedding for the final act of emotional bonding, knowing that if we started doing that, we were going to stop the "due diligence" like so many people do. We respected the institution too much.

We enjoyed and still enjoy many of the same things. Many things that didn't even exist to be enjoyed when we fell in love have appeared and have become a part of our lives because we both enjoy them. We both love science fiction, astronomy, dinosaurs, and ancient history, and are fascinated with "how things came to be" such as how the Bible was written.

And so, here we are, 32 years later. We got up this morning and had breakfast out, then went to a place and she picked out some rose bushes (instead of a flower arrangement) to mark the day. (We'll plant them next week.) As I write these words, the very hour (1pm) of the actual ceremony has arrived. Nobody was running a stop watch, but I guess that after all of the incantations and recitations, the actual "knot tying" was a few minutes later. After the reception and opening of presents, we hit the road about 3pm and headed west for the Grand Canyon. We still have the flower pots that Leanna bought "tomorrow" morning. I can remember the moment I knew it was right. On the third day, we were driving and saw a sign for "Meteor Crater" and both said "I always wanted to see that!" and so we did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Army and Running

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I need to exercise, and do not have a problem with that. Although some aspects of my current physical state put some limits on what I can and cannot do compared to when I was younger.

One of the things I have always, always, ALWAYS hated to do was run. I had no problem swimming a mile or so, no matter how repetitive it was (and had worked up to being able to swim two miles non stop without really being bothered), but running any distance is something I have always hated. (Although, curiously, I would walk miles and miles without really even thinking about it, literally going on a 12 mile walk every weekend of the last three years I was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, for example.)

But running was a big thing in the Army, particularly when you were in the infantry. Whole posts would sometimes shut down for "division fun runs".

I hated running.

I hated it even more in formation due to the constant slowing and speeding of the pace as advanced units bunched up and then spread back out again.

I miss (somewhat) being able to do it (I first got severe shin-splits, and later my knees went bad, so running is absolutely out of the picture for me), but I do not miss doing it (if you get my meaning).

But run often enough, and it can become an infection.

While I was in Korea I was once faced with a day where I really had nothing to do. Boredom overtook me, so what did I do?

I "ran the hill" . . . backwards.

Normally "running the hill" from Camp Hovey in those days consisted of going out the South Gate, running through the village outside the gate and then up the grade to the top of a hill (a little less than the first mile of about a five or six mile run). Once over the crest, you pretty much coasted (down hill, and then on relatively flat level ground) for the remaining four or five miles, running through Tong du Chon (the main town outside of Main Post, i.e., Camp Casey), before entering the post through the main gate, "running to the flag pole" in front of Division Headquarters, then departing Casey to go back to Hovey, reentering Hovey through its North Gate (if I am remembering the layouts of the gates properly).

I started running that day, and at first decided to just go to the Flag Pole (run from Hovey on that relatively level ground to division HQ in Casey), but when I reached the flag pole, I just kept going, running out to Tong du Chon, down the road, and then took "The Hill" from the reverse side (after having already run four or five miles).

I am not claiming I set any track records, or did anything really super, but it showed the kind of shape the Army had gotten me into that I did that run, and the kind of mentality the Army's running habit can get you into that I did that run, despite the fact that I hated running, simply because I was bored.

Tuesday, September 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!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Complexity Leads to Error

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The big event today was that the proofs for the new counter sheets for upcoming products arrived. This was the major push for the office, and they were checked and sent back out by UPS this same day.

Funny thing is that no matter how much things get looked at, there is so much detail that little things manage to slip through the crack.

There was one glitch on one of the counters for one of the products, despite all of the people that had looked at it. It was not caught until today. No one (outside of the office) would ever know about it if it was not mentioned here, and the specific does not need to be said. But it goes to show once more that the more detailed something is, the more likely it is to have something wrong.

We have lost two space shuttles since they first took flight. When you consider how complex they are, it is a miracle they work at all.

Can you imagine how complex a real warp driven starship is going to be?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Revealing the Deckhouse and Other Secrets

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Almost every Klingon SSD in Star Fleet Battles has a square block on the back. This usually includes the shuttle boxes among other systems. The existence of this block goes back to the original depictions of Klingon ships in the Original series of Star Trek.

We call this block "The Deckhouse", and it is represented on virtually every Klingon miniature.

No one knows what function it was intended to have in the Original Series, it was just something to make the ship look like a ship. We have generally interpreted it to be the location of shuttle bay on the ship (leading to stacked deck houses for some Klingon carriers), and usually assume the APRs are there, or at least parts of the APR system are there.

Most Klingon ships also have their drone racks (if any, and not necessarily all of them) in the deck house.

But just because a system is shown "in the deckhouse" that does not mean it is there. SSDs are representations of things, and the deckhouse is not the whole thickness of the hull. So while a Klingon D5 has its ADD racks in the deck house, the actual launching ports for the ADDs are BELOW the deckhouse on the miniature.

The real point to all of this is while we hear at ADB, inc., know that the feature represented by that square is the deckhouse, many people are not aware of it, and are surprised to learn that the feature is actually a visual representation of something on the miniature.

This does not mean that we do not try to have things on the SSDs appear to be where they should be (for example, the Fed CA has its shuttles near the back of the Engineering/Secondary hull, while the Fed DN has them near the front of the Engineering/Secondary hull, in both cases in accordance with where Franz Joseph Designs placed the shuttle bays on those ship classes).

Saturday, September 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

Friday, September 11, 2009

On 9/11 and Remembrance

Where were you on September 11, 2001 when you heard that a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am EDT? Were you at work? Were you at home? Were you traveling? Did you wake up to the news?

Were you watching the television when Flight 175 hit the south tower just seventeen minutes later? Had you already realized that something was going on or was that your first sign that the attack was organized?

How did you spend the 35 minutes until the Pentagon was hit? One hundred twenty-five people died in the Pentagon and another 64 people on Flight 77. Did you find a fierce joy that the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought back and the hijackers’ plans were foiled? Did you then mourn for the loss of the heroic passengers?

Did you see the people choosing to jump from the doomed towers? Once the television stations realized that the falling objects were not debris, but people, they didn’t repeat those clips. Still one picture was printed in many papers and became known as "The Falling Man". The apparent calmness of the man as he falls is in stark contrast to the chaos around him. Did you wonder what you would choose to do in those circumstances and feel your throat tighten with emotion as you contemplated the choice?

In less than two hours, the towers were both gone. Did you gasp in shock as they fell? Did you cry out “No!” and reach out to try to stop it, knowing the gesture was futile?

Did you even watch it in real time? Or were you on alert, preparing to defend your country from yet another attack?

That day, did you think about what you could do for your country? Did you donate blood, hoping to help the survivors? Were you one of the rescue workers and emergency personnel from across the country who left for New York City in order to help? Were you one of the many people who volunteered to serve in the armed forces, even if you were too old or unfit for active service?

Did you go home to your family that night and seek solace in the fact they were there and alive? Or did you go home and mourn for a friend or family member lost?

Were you horrified at the snuffing out of 2,974 lives (not counting the 19 hijackers)? Did you mourn for all of the families torn asunder, the children who would never see a loved parent, the parents who were now going to outlive a child, the spouses who would never grow old with their love? Did you grieve even as you saluted the 411 emergency workers who died while they were trying to save others?

Eight years have passed, enough to have some distance from the immediate passions of the day. How should we react to this anniversary?

Do not forget the people who died. They and their families deserve to be remembered.

Do not forget your family. Resolve to spend time with them. A second per life lost that day is 49 minutes and 34 seconds. Surely we can spare that much time in our busy lives to be with our loved ones each day.

Do not forget the people in the military who stand between us and those who would repeat the acts of that day and would try to destroy all that the United States stands for. The armed forces stand ready to protect this grand country. Their members deserve our thanks as do the families who sacrifice as well.

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." -- President George W. Bush

Let us not forget, but keep our resolve, tempered by the power of our memories of that horrific day.

Remembrance is what the living owe on this day.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Born to Lead

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Some people are better at command than others.

At one point during my attendance at my Summer Advanced Camp, I got tapped to be "the radioman". I wound up carrying the PRC-77 radio all that day, and as a result was always right next to the cadet who was tapped for the leadership task. Several of my fellow cadets were cycled through the leadership position as the unit traveled (by foot) from place to place on Fort Bragg. Nearly the entire day was consumed with this iteration.

Being right there, whenever someone was placed in charge, I was always offering advice. Reminding them of things they needed to do. Suggesting courses of action, but being a "follower" and not the leader, letting them make their decisions (even if I did try to influence some of the choices).

In most of the cases, the Cadet who had been temporarily in charge thanked me after-wards. My advice was usually perceived as good (at least the instructors never dinged one of the cadet leaders as result of something I advised them to do).

There was an exception. This was the guy that was "better at command" than others. The last cadet selected to lead for the day did EVERYTHING. There was literally never a case when I saw an opportunity to make a suggestion (i.e., felt that perhaps he needed the advice). I was literally myself very impressed and wanted to be with this guy. He was going to be a great infantry officer (all of the tasks were basically Infantry oriented movements and missions).

But he did not want to be in the Infantry, he was branched Transportation Corps (the branch he wanted).

I do not remember his name any more (I do not remember the names of most of the people who were in my Cadet Platoon that Summer of 78). But he was truly the most together guy in that kind of field situation (admittedly, we were not in "real combat") I ever met among my fellow cadets.

He was truly born to command. Given the choice between following me and following him, I would tell people to follow me . . . and then I would follow him.

Monday, September 07, 2009

What to Post, What to Post

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the fallouts of doing a blog is that you are always looking for something to blog about. This results in your really (well, at least for me it does) thinking about things that are going on. Hence the most recent blog of mine. I am finding, as noted, more and more a feeling that the elected members of the government are not adhering to their oaths of office to the Constitution . . . except perhaps in the breach. It bothers me greatly, as noted.

Finding things to blog about is always a problem. I would go back to "Terrorwerks", except that SVC thinks I just want to relive the experience rather than that I am fishing for something, anything, to write a blog about. Was there some other event there that I might get a few lines out of or an idea to expound upon?

I could comment on how fast the brain processes information under "stress" (as much as one can imagine stress in such a case). That was one of the things that startled me after the fact when SVC asked why I had left the "hologram". There was an entire analytical string that flew through my head in just a handful of seconds. It was not something I "agonized" over. But the review of the situation and apparently relevant data points was so fast that when asked I actually was not able to immediately articulate what my thoughts had been.

All through Terrorwerks my mind was working at a very fast rate. Reviewing data as it came in, considering courses of action, rejecting some, putting others into effect, with little real conscious thought (as scary as that may sound). The thoughts were there, and they could be dragged out if you sat me down to make me try to recall why I did what I did at any particular point. But there was no time for "hesitation", decisive action was called for.

I could only hope that each decision was right, but each had to be made on the available data that my senses were gathering to add to what I already knew.

I am a very lucky man that I never ever had to try to do this with real bullets flying, but those who have been there should always know they have my deepest respect and regret that I was not there to help shoulder my share of the burden.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

We have a problem in this country in that people can (legally or not) buy tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, and other exotic cats (as well as wolves, coyotes, foxes, and even bears) as "pets". (There are more tigers in private hands in Texas than there are in the wild in Asia, and as many more in the rest of the USA.) When these idiots figure out that such animals make awful pets and cost $20-$40 per DAY to feed (most of them are kept in horrible conditions, some live their entire lives without ever touching grass or seeing the sun), they often either kill them, turn them loose in unpopulated areas (see the recent episode of Monster Quest), or (if they have a soul) call a "rescue shelter" to come get the animal and give it a good home. (Some of these people are nice enough to donate some cash to the shelter to take care of the animal, which can cost thousands of dollars over the animal's lifetime.) Leanna and I regularly visit and support several such shelters, donate money to them every year, and support them with a special link on the company website (http://www.starfleetgames.com/wildliferescue.shtml).

Leanna and I were at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Colorado only a few days ago; they have hundreds of these "large mammal predators" which were mostly confiscated by law enforcement. They had some rather unkind things to say about Texas, which has no state law regulating this stupidity and hence is the worst place in the USA for private ownership of tigers and other rare animals. (One of the shelters that Leanna and I support, which I will visit next month, allows me to bring food and feed it to the wolves. Before you show up at a shelter with the trunk of your car full of raw meat, call them and make sure it's ok and find out what kind of meat to bring.) This national shame and embarassment leads to criminals going into business breeding tigers and so forth and selling the babies. Most of such illegally sold cubs are seriously in-bred and have nasty genetic problems. Everybody thinks white tigers are cool, but they are deaf, cross-eyed, have hip displasia, and cannot digest food very well. Most of them die young after being miserable all their lives. Worse, a breading program for white tigers produces 15 genetically defective orange tigers that nobody wants for each white tiger which sells for $100,000. Some people have no shame!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Another day gone

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

SVC and Leanna have been enjoying their Colorado working vaction, spending much of today visiting a zoo.

Things here in the office have been quiet, with no apparent disasters while they are away. Their cats definitely miss them (well . . . miss being waited on hand and foot . . . I am a poor replacement since I do no spend the night there which leaves them to their own devices).

It is very difficult to get anything done while jumping around doing other tasks, more so than normal since SVC and Leanna are not here. I am looking forward to them being back so that I can start putting more time into just doing my own jobs.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stories and Relationships

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the problems with being around someone for a long time is you run out of stories. One of the reasons you should not marry quickly, as you may find that after both parties have exhausted their stock of stories, one party may not find the other as interesting anymore. One way around that, of course, is to cultivate new stories with your own points of view, i.e., be able to see something the other missed that is interesting.

But when you run out of stories, your relationship begins to exist purely on personality, and personalities without distractions tend to clash (not in all cases, but often enough).

Husbands should not cheat on wives, and wives should not cheat on husbands, but both need to have separate interests and things they do apart so that they both have stories to tell the other (the humorous anecdote about Fred falling off the boat while duck hunting, or George taking a pratfall with a full load of soft drinks at the baseball game, or Marlene's boys bringing home the snake, or Harriet's . . . and so on.

This keeps some interest in the other person.

While I mention marriage, it works for friends and of course gamers. Although gamers have advantages in that if they play the same game they can almost always find something new about a game they both played to talk about.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

Not that it has any chance of passing in its more virulent forms, but I feel a need to explain why I oppose this. It's not a reform of health care; it's a government power grab.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Post Office are classic examples of mismanaged government programs that are bankrupt (and, except in the case of the post office, riddled with corruption). I don't want to put a government that cannot manage my retirement in charge of my health care.

Obama says I can keep my current plan. Sure, if it's available, assuming that the State of Texas does not decide that it would be cheaper for them and for me to switch from what I have now to Obamacare, leaving me with no choice. (Being a diabetic, the only company that will sell me health insurance is the one company that the State of Texas decided would be forced to sell it to me, and their price is the highest in the country.)

My company does not provide health care (it costs too much). Health care for myself and my employees would cost far more than 8% of the payroll (what I pay personally is about 25%), and if we were forced to do one or the other, we would pay the 8%. A lot of other employers would do so. No, Virginia, you won't get to keep your policy if your employer decides to switch to Obamacare.

There are things wrong with health care, but Obamacare doesn't fix any of them. It doesn't fix frivolous lawsuits (the Democrats get too much money from trial lawyers to allow that!), it doesn't let me deduct my health care premiums (the unions won't stand for anyone taxing their free health care), and it doesn't let me buy health care from out of state. I can buy car insurance from a lizard in Maryland, but I cannot buy health care except in Texas. An identical policy from the same company but bought in another state would cost me about 1/3 less. Did the insurance lobby pay off Obama?

Obamacare supposedly resolves the crisis of 50 million Americans without health care. These include 10 million illegal aliens, 10 million who qualify for Medicaid but haven't been sick, and 10 million who make over $70,000 and decided not to buy it, and 10 million who make over $50,000 and decided not to buy it. The only real crisis is the 10 million who make somewhere between the poverty line and $50,000, and so they get Obamacare with a government subsidy, but then, people making much more can also switch to Obamacare and have the government pay part of their premiums. Why is
this necessary or fair? And if we cannot afford Obamacare for those who don't have insurance, how can we pay the subsides for those who already pay for insurance but now will switch to Obamacare for the lower subsidized premiums?