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Sunday, February 28, 2010

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, Jonathan Thompson and Jean Sexton 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. Bob Pomroy 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, Thomas Mathews, 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); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); 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.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

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 and Facebook pages exist for that reason as well. We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

I watch this show with Leanna, despite having no eye for fashion. As a game designer, however, it intrigues me to think up ways to make each season of the show different, to add a twist to keep the players on their toes. Here are some ideas.

1. Reserve fabric: After picking five rolls of fabric in the park, let the contestants keep what they don't use "in reserve" and use it on future projects.

2. Change the current elimination system to one of "three strikes". Every round, the judges can award a "strike" to one, two, or three players. If you get three strikes, you're out. That way, nobody is out on the first two shows, and nobody loses the game because of one screwup. This would have to be re-thought in the final rounds when there are few players.

3. There are millions of fans of the show. During one (or two) rounds, each player gets a "fan" who lives in New York, and wants to be on TV. The "fan" can be sent on an "errand" (such as going to MOOD to get stuff for a surprise challenge).

4. Each player is given four "reserve hours" and can use one or two of them on any challenge. If you aren't getting done, use a reserve hour to work past midnight.

5. Give the second (and maybe third) place player a "silver star" and the winner a "gold star" each round. At the end of each round, show on the screen a tabulation of who has the most stars. Allow players to trade "gold stars" (or two or three silvers) to wipe out a strike. Decide the ones going to Bryant Park by how many stars they have (minus strikes).

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

Now that F&E 2010 is finished and the first boxed games are en route to the wholesalers, it's time to take a minute a share some thoughts. I'm still pretty tired from the project, so this is not an exhaustive, detailed, or complete analysis of the project, but just some thoughts that came to mind when Jean asked me to do something for a blog.

The project began about eight or nine months ago, when we found the new die-cutting company and found out that we could get 280 counters on the same space we used to get 216 by reducing the size of the gutters and bars between the rows. The original layout of 216 was designed for TFG-#1 by the printer who did the first die cutting back in 1979, and he couldn't make it work and passed the job to another die cutter, who used the same die. The die was engineered to for the machinery used by the printer who ended up not doing the work, and I'm baffled why in all the years since then (with new dies built every few years) it never occurred to me to ask if we could put more counters on the sheet. We needed to print more F&E counters, and having 280 instead of 216 for the same price meant we could do some really great things. The very first thing I wanted to do was to get rid of the carrier group counters that I was forced to use (due to the budget on how many counters the game could have) back in the first edition of F&E in 1986.

The decision to do 2010 was somewhat controversial. Many did not want to get rid of the carrier groups because the strange rules required to make them work allowed carrier groups to use "out of sequence retrograde" and some players felt that game balance desperately depended on this rules fudge. Actual playtesting proved that it was no big deal and that the game would work just fine without it. But the real opposition to doing 2010 was from those who wanted to do the long-delayed ISC War product. They knew that there was no way for the staff (and the printing budget) to do 2010 and ISC War at the same time, and ISC War has been delayed way too many times. In the end, I'm still glad we did 2010 because when I processed ten years of Captain's Log rulings it became clear to me that the rulebook everybody was using literally did not exist. Everybody was using ten-year-old rules with twenty consecutive sets of rules changes. How many of you guys actually played F&E under those conditions is beyond me. Now, the new rulebook (which is truly a work of art) solves that problem and provides a firm base for us to move forward.

I was reluctant to work on 2010 for two reasons. One was that I knew it would be a ton of work, but the bigger reason was that the BBS gang has a tendency to launch endless witch hunts for rules changes that would mean they win the game on Turn #7. This kind of nonsense made the previous attempt to do the Warbook collapse as nobody could find the stuff we needed to work on because of the clutter of witch hunt rules changes that were being debated.

The first step was to convert the game into newer software, which required manually retyping all of the white-on-black titles. We found the last of the typos on those the day we went to press.

The second step was to include all of the Captain's Log changes that had been published over the previous ten years. The sheer volume of these made me wish we had done a 2005 rulebook, so I'd only have half as many to do now.

Beyond the Captain's Log updates, there were a total of twenty "core change case files" which were debated, some of them for months. Only two of these were things I wanted to do; the rest were player requests that got past the "witch hunt filter" and were deemed worth of being discussed. Most were eventually rejected as not needed or as bad for game balance. The six that were approved included Required Kill (adjusted to be about half of the new ship production rate); lowering the limit on minus points going into pursuit; getting rid of unbreakable carrier group counters; a minor limitation on maulers; consolidating the rules on tugs, LTTs, and theater transports; and eliminating the free slow-unit retrograde.

Some of these "core changes" were just bringing expansion rules including the basic game, including enhanced small-scale combat, flexible conversions, triangle fighter factors, limited war, and flexible tug assignments. These did not change anything, but simply brought later rules into the earlier game.

The many core changes rejected included: requiring two battle rounds for large pin battles (nobody wanted to count ships), more Directed Damage at higher battle intensities, using Directed Damage twice on battlegroup ships (no battlegroups in Basic F&E), eliminating free fighter factors (the hottest debate; it should have been done but was impossible to balance), making pursuit more deadly (wrecked game balance), more expensive allied repairs (wrecked game balance), limiting free Strategic Movement for repaired ships (wrecked game balance), limits on expeditionary reserves, bringing the F-111 rules into the basic game, and more deadly Directed Damage on CV groups.

The staff (Chuck Strong, Mike Curtis, Jeff Laikind, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, and Stewart Frazier) were very active in reviewing the revised pages and debating the core changes. Dozens of players also participated in some of the reviews and all of the core change debates.

The new rulebook got bigger, being 164 pages instead of 96. A little of that expansion (about five pages) was bringing rules from expansions into the basic rulebook (such as flexible conversions, flexible tug assignments, and of course, flexible carrier groups). Most of the rulebook growth was in those twenty sets of consecutive Captain's Log changes. Some of it, maybe a dozen or two pages, comes from a better layout, starting every rule (there might be an exception or two) on the top of a column (if not the top of the left column). This just made the book easier for me to work on, as working on rule 412 did not push rule 413 into another page.

Speaking of easier to work with, I think that the large reference blocks in the bottom outside corners (giving the number and title of the rule on that page) will make the rulebook very much easier to use. Previously, in all of my books, you had to visually fish a rule number out of somewhere in that page to tell if you were getting close to what you want. No more. Look at the same spot on every page (bottom outside corner) to see what neighborhood you are in.

There was a lot of debate and discussion about what expansion stuff to include. There were some who basically wanted the entire rulebooks of all six expansions dumped into the basic rulebook (presumably at no increase in price) and that was obviously not practical. (Besides pushing the rulebook beyond 400 pages, getting all of those rules updated was just not going to happen in the time available. As I mentioned, a few expansion rules were brought forward into the main rulebook, but the discussion of expansion stuff mostly focused on three areas: cross-references, annexes, and the Sequence of Play.

Thanks to the tireless work of Thomas Mathews and Stewart Frazier, every rule in Basic F&E that works differently with an expansion has that fact noted, with the rule number of the expansion rule (and marked with a double-dagger symbol) and provides an exception or special case. Just about any time we mentioned "bases" we listed all of the bases in the expansions, including types of bases not even published in F&E yet (and one that isn't even in SFB yet).

The Orders of Battle and Ship Information Tables do not list ships in the expansions because we thought this would clutter things up for new players. The other annexes do list these ships as it provides an overall view and the game system and makes sure that the expansions will be valid for the entire Warbook.

The Sequence of Play was another place we hotly debated what to do. At one point, we had two of them, one with everything in the expansions, and the other with just the Basic F&E stuff, and finally went with just Basic F&E as that would be less confusing to new players and save space.

There were suggestions that we include Maelstrom and Winds of Fire instead of the vague notes that comprise the current scenarios 604 and 605, but this was not done for several reasons. One was space (doing this would have made the book bigger), one was time (they need work to update them), and one was that those scenarios, being later in the General War, work better with the ships in the expansions and work funny with just Basic F&E ships.

The end of the project was very intense. I had to begin by shutting down as many of the different "places where I got input" as I could. I began by resolving and closing most of the core change debates. I reviewed the last of the Captain's Log updates that had not been reduced to specific rulebook language. I had a lot of staff reports on the PDFs they had been sent, and a large number of reports from the dozens of gamers who had seen the limited selection of rules PDFs I had posted. All of those had to be resolved. Then I began locking down the prototype report files, one for each chapter, and sending the final reports to a single topic.

In the final days, Jean Sexton went through the entire book for spelling, formats, style sheets, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and other such matters. She even found more than a few rules glitches. Steven Petrick also read the entire book and found many issues which had to be addressed.

I was supposed to finish at 2pm on Friday the 19th. I actually finished at 7pm on Sunday the 21st, but we still shipped the boxed games on Monday the 22nd at 4pm.

The book had just started printing when one of the staffers posted on the BBS "Which expansion do we upgrade next?" That's a good question. Coming off of the euphoria of this successful project, if I had naught else to do, I would relish the chance to do it all again with an expansion. (Mostly to work with the same great bunch of guys again.) But, alas, there are two obstacles to this swell idea. One is that the company has six other product lines and I cannot ignore them to work on just one line (if that were going to happen, would F&E be the line that got picked?), and the second is that we really do need to devote the F&E energy into ISC War first, and doing an expansion over again second.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fighters for Nothing

Fighters for Nothing

I want it, right now for F and E.
I want it, right now for F and E.

Now look at them Kzintis, that's the way you do it,
You convert all the warships to those car-ri-ers.
That is what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.
That what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Lemme tell ya, Klingons ain't dumb.
Maybe get some free ones
Maybe get a stockpile but we ain't dumb.

We got to install ground battalions;
Custom built those LTTs.
We got to move these old slow convoys.
We got to move these FRDs.

The little furballs with the drones and the fighters.
Yeah, buddy, that's their own fur.
Those little furballs got their own space fighters.
That little furball's getting all he wants.

I should'a learned to fly a fighter.
I should'a learned to launch some drones.
Look at that furball, he got it stickin' out the drone hatch.
Man we could have some of those.
And he's got those, you know, scatterpack shuttles
Bangin' on the shield walls like a chimpanzee.
Oh, that ain't workin' that's the way you do it,
Get your fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.

That is how they're workin', that's the way they do it.
They just keep pounding on that S. V. C.
That is what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.

Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free
They want it, they want it, right now for F and E.

Apologies to Dire Straits.

Parody copyright (c) 2009 Stephen V. Cole

Monday, February 22, 2010

This week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 February 2010

Steve Cole reports:

This was the final week of doing the F&E 2010 rulebook project, and the final week of the construction of the new addition at our house. Both progressed smoothly, but neither got finished by Saturday. It was a week of long days. Steve Petrick and I worked past 10pm most days. Well, he did every day; I had to go home Wednesday night to rest after I did something stupid on Tuesday. Wanting to get a lot of work done, I ate a big breakfast and a late lunch, and did not eat again until I hit diabetic hypoglycemia at 11pm (low blood sugar). I got the shakes very bad, and should have stayed home Wednesday but compromised with Leanna who let me work until 6pm as long as I did not drive.

The weather was cold all week, usually below freezing in the morning are rarely touching 50F during the week. We had a little light rain for a few minutes, but no snow.

Steve Petrick spent the week helping me with F&E. Leanna and Mike got a lot of orders out, and everything ready for the big shipments on Monday. Leanna actually packed Booster #92, the first time she's done that job by herself.

It was Eric's last week, and he got a lot of stuff uploaded before leaving us. The search for his replacement goes on.

As noted, my (SVC's) week focused almost entirely on F&E. I did not read FYEO or do much of anything else. Monday, I did the prototype report files for the table of contents and chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4, and sent them all to the staff and blind readers. Tuesday, I did chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 and sent them out. I also did the first pass on the SITs. Wednesday, recovering from the diabetic shakes, I redid the SITs and went through the hard copy that Petrick marked up so he could make the fixes after Leanna took me home. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were a blur of running down endless reports of glitches, fixes, and other issues, working until 11pm Thursday and Friday and midnight on Saturday. (We did finish the book on Sunday, two days later than scheduled.) Jean spent endless hours reporting typos, style sheet issues, and other things that made a better book. Petrick did most of the work here, listening to Jean on speakerphone as she directed fix after fix.

When we started the construction project at our house, the contractor promised he could easily finish by Valentine's Day. He didn't, due in part to the blizzard. So, it was supposed to be easy to wrap up the last two days of work this week, but that work stretched all the way through Friday as the tile setters, electrician, plumbers, and carpenters all did their final bits. By Friday night, all that was lacking was the cable television and internet stuff (which could not be done until next week), the bricks on the west wall (which could not be done due to the cold weather and I'm not sure they'll get next week either), and blowing in the insulation in the ceiling. At least, the big shower and big tub work, and we got to test drive them both Saturday night and Sunday morning (the 21st).

Sunday, February 21, 2010



Playing FEDERATION COMMANDER by Email is an alternative to playing Face-to-Face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

The basic gist of the FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via Email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "Sitrep" (Situation Report) to the players via Email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game of FEDERATION COMMANDER. Moderating a FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the FEDERATION COMMANDER rules.

While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Command Presence, or The Other Battle

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Back in 1979 I ordered a squad leader to take his men and assault an enemy position. It was his squad, so I expected, as an NCO, that he would do his job. At the time I was in a huddle with the squad leader, the six other men of his squad, and my radio operator.

Imagine my shock when the squad leader refused.

The obvious solution was to relieve the squad leader, appointing the next ranking NCO as the leader and having him conduct the assault.

But as I looked into the eyes of the men, I had a sinking feeling that if I did so, they would rally around the Squad Leader and refuse to advance.

My choices seemed to be to simply fail to make the attack, or to call my then superior and simply announce that the circumstances had changed and an attack was no longer possible. After all, the only people who would know the truth would be the eight other men with me. What could possibly be the consequences? (Well, obviously I would have no chance of gaining or holding their respect for my rank, much less my person, and equally obviously the tale would spread.) I could even tell the men that I had decided to listen to the squad leader's advice in order to save my own face. (There was pretty much no chance they would believe it, and I would also be branded a liar.)

This was mutiny, plain and simple. I had been kept in the dark that the Squad Leader had been telling his men that we needed to avoid the enemy because if they caught us, they would physically abuse us. The result was that the men were afraid, and this mutiny was the consequence.

For a few seconds the problem turned over in my mind. I will not claim my solution was the right one, only that somehow it worked.

I rose to my feet so that I could look down on the men from my commanding five feet, eight and a half inches, said just two words loaded with meaning, turned, and began walking towards the enemy position.

The two words? Simply: "Let's go."

By those words I did, in fact, relieve the squad leader and announced that I was now the squad leader, because I could not trust anyone else in the squad, and that whether the men did their jobs or not, the enemy would be attacked even if I had to do it myself.

As I began moving towards the enemy at a steady pace, not looking back, things happened. I did not see these events (as noted, I never looked back once I started forward), but learned of them afterward from various individuals.

The Radio Operator, as frightened as the rest, found himself forced to rise and follow me, because he had been a radio operator for a few years, and had learned that no matter what else, wherever the officer went, the radio had to go.

A few steps more, and the most junior member of the squad, the man with the least attachment to the squad as a group and the squad leader as his immediate leader, and the most recent graduate from basic training, rose and followed the radio operator.

At that point, the other five members of the squad, perhaps driven by the example of the first two, perhaps realizing that the invitation to participate in a mutiny by their squad leader would not work if there were other witnesses to verify a story of mutiny the lieutenant might tell, all rose and joined the advance. This left the squad leader, suddenly finding himself alone.

Alone, the squad leader, after reportedly looking around in shock after the rest of the men left him, suddenly had to dash forward and join the advance himself. He had lost the support of his men and needed to appear as if the attack had been his idea all along.

The assault was a smashing success as I recounted earlier, and this is why I refer to this incident as "the other battle". It was a fight I should not have had, should not have had to win in order to do what I saw as our duty.

On the plus side, the success of that night's action changed the members of that squad, at least for the rest of the exercise. From that point, flushed with their success, they were aggressive in the pursuit of the enemy and did in the presence of the enemy whatever their Lieutenant asked of them. Among their accomplishments in that exercise would eventually be the capture of a complete 4.2 inch Mortar with vehicle and crew, which enabled their Lieutenant to report the location of the then "missing" battalion of the enemy (it had been deployed and was in combat, and we were the first to discover and report that information).

Thus, the title "command presence". I could not tell you for certain, but perhaps that night I had it, since I converted eight fearful soldiers into an attack, a squad of lambs into a squad of lions (albeit only for a training exercise).

My only regret is that for various reasons I was never able to formally, and permanently, relieve the NCO from duty, although I tried. Partly my failure was the mistake of being the junior officer in the battalion when it was tasked to provide an officer to the post, and my relative inexperience was deemed to make me the most expendable. Which was silly as I was the junior officer only by virtue of my name beginning with "P", as two other officers had joined the battalion from the same IOBC course on the same day, but they were technically senior to me by virtue of the alphabet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

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 "grow 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 eighth 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 $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crazy Memory Files

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

When I was much younger, I had a pretty good memory (very useful, as one might imagine, in helping me get through school). It was so good that I was literally able, even though I was not part of a conversation or paying much attention to it, play back a conversation between three other people telling them every step of the way from what started the conversation to how they wound up talking about something that had nothing at all to do with the beginning of it.

This was after Star Trek, so as you might imagine (coupled with my general isolation from most people, just the way I was) I was often spoken of as "the Vulcan".

Many years have passed, and many different experiences and other events have claimed their parts of my memory. The result is that . . . well the files are muddled.

I recently watched an old Black and White movie I had never seen before. One of the Stars was Barbra Stanwyk, which surprised me as I had never known that she had done anything other than the TV series "The Big Valley", but there she was in 1940 singing and dancing on the big screen.

But she was not the thing.

A few days later I was talking about the film to Leanna, and I could not for the life of me recall the name of the male lead. I could recall other roles he had done (he was in the black and white version of "Beau Geste" for example, or "Meet John Doe" or "Sergeant York"). But I could not remember his name. And the few films Leanna and I actually had in common did not come up with the actor (she could name a film, I had seen it, but the actor was not in it, and I could name films the actor was in, but she had not seen them, basically our different tastes in films not intersecting on this actor right away).

Yet, part of a tune that I (frankly) regard as "doggerel" also stuck in my mind. The song is "Putting on the Ritz", and I suddenly remembered (even though I could not yet recall the actor's name) that the actor is actually named in that tune. Leanna did not know the tune, but enough of it stuck in my mind that I could suddenly go ". . . trying hard to look like Gary Cooper (super duper)". I do not know much more of that song (as I said, it is not one I found memorable, yet part of the overall tune), but somehow that bit stuck, and while trying to remember the actor's name, somehow the cross-references in the organic computer (and some other bits and pieces of the lyrics are in fact floating around in RAM memory up there) that is the human brain (specifically mine of course) came up with that as a means of remembering the actor.

Similar things happen in answering rules questions. Ken Kazinski asks about targeting shuttles on Balconies under (J1.53) and says there is a specific reference to them being "left and right", and somehow my brain connects his disconnect to the Tactical Intelligence Rules and provides an answer (i.e., no you cannot target shuttles on one side or the other of the ship, you can just see them, and if you cannot see the left side of the ship, then you cannot see if there are any shuttles on the balcony on that side).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!


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 Communique which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

This week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 February 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather was cold all week, with some more snow on Monday morning. We were told to expect bad weather on Thursday but it didn't happen.

The guys building the new addition to our home (Leanna's and mine) made a lot of progress this week, getting the tile, tub, light fixtures, and granite counter installed, along with all of the plumbing fixtures except in the shower, where the tile guys just finished.

Google's book deal was blocked by the US government, which was a good thing, as Google required any copyright holder to tell them not to use his book.

My week was dominated by work on F&E 2010. I processed all of the staff reports, the last of the Core Change topics, and all of the CL #41 Q&A stuff to date. I also posted a list of unresolved issues from the CL #18-CL #40 files of questions and rulings. Despite being busy with F&E, I kept my promise to Jean and did 21 pages of her fixes to PD Federation. I made the final fixes to Communique #50 and Eric posted it. I did not do any work on Customer Requests this week due to the F&E 2010 workload. I sent the ship cards for Booster #92 to press. I reviewed the proposal for a fiction story by Mike Bennett. I ended up doing two pages of CL #41 as part of doing the F&E 2KX project.

Steven Petrick worked on CL #41, did more SFB scenarios (that file got empty), and let himself get roped into doing a list of the changes from G2 to G3, which was not a productive use of his valuable time, but players wanted it.

Leanna did mail orders, book printing, and accounting. She also got two more CapLog reprints (#2 and #4) put onto the shopping cart.

Mike Sparks spent most of the week checking in (and doing quality control checks on) the huge shipments of miniatures we received, but he also processed mail orders and wholesaler orders, and saved us a bunch of money when he found an item we needed on Ebay. (He found it by accident, as the seller had misspelled it.)

Eric Olivarez was expected to leave this week, but was still here by week's end. (His family is moving to Austin, not something he wanted.) He got a lot of work done on the website and wrote extensive notes for his replacement.

Jean continued making progress on PD Federation, pushed the ADB page on Facebook to dizzying heights, and did short notice proofreading of the newsletter and Communique.

Captain Phil Harris of the crab fishing boat Cornelia Marie died Wednesday of a stroke (while on his boat); I always enjoyed his humor and his parenting skills on Deadliest Catch (one of my favorite shows). Brigadier General Dale Hoover, probably my father's best friend and the senior military office in Amarillo, survived a dangerous emergency surgery on Friday, but is now doing well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

Growing up, my nuclear family had a Valentine's Day tradition of buying each other small gifts. There was a limit (usually around a dollar, which is probably five dollars today) and the point was an expression of appreciation. Dad, of course, always did something more elaborate for the day, usually flowers, dinner, and an appropriate "girl gift." My father taught me to never give your wife an appliance or household item for Valentine's Day (or her birthday) but to always find a "girl gift" which she could enjoy "as a girl".

I had the same girlfriend from the age of 12 until she dumped me when we were 20. I always sent her a Valentine's Day card and (and in later years an appropriate girl gift) as we were never in the same town, until the final year we had together, when we were at the same college. She insisted that I not get her anything, then was furious that I did not get her anything. I always thought that this failure on my part was the beginning of the end, and she did dump me six months later, over many issues great and small.

Understanding women is easy in the general sense. They're girls and they like girl stuff. (OK, modern PC speak says I should say "women" but I think of "boys and girls" so it's not like I think calling them girls makes them subservient or minor children.) Girls/women like to be served, fussed over, and made to feel special. You have to do the right thing all year (make sure the oil is changed in her car, fill the tank for her when it's cold, pick up stuff at the store, help organize the errands and do your share of them), but Valentine's Day and her birthday and your anniversary days are days to make her feel not just taken care of, but adored. In the specific sense, however, a given woman may have specific likes and dislikes, but they ALL want you to find out what those likes and dislikes are and pay attention to them. Leanna, for example, abhors red flowers (or red clothing, or red anything. The "test" is did you actually listen to them all year (at least since Christmas) and understand what they want. Leanna is a very practical girl, and this year I took the money (which must always come from my separate funds, not family money) I would spend for her flowers, showed her how much it was, and took her to the place of flowers to pick our her own arrangement. Not finding anything to her taste, she asked and the clerk created a special arrangement just for her. It's in her office (photos are on the website and the company's page on Facebook), and the women who have seen it have expressed the appropriate amount of admiration for how well trained her husband is.

Flowers are, practicality says, the worst gift as they last only a week. (Leanna got them anyway, but they're not the only thing she got.) Chocolate does not last even that long and messes up the inevitable diet. What women want, so conventional wisdom says, is jewelry (as it last forever) but Leanna has years of jewelry I have given her as gifts. What she really wanted (and what I have offered to give her without her having to ask because I listened, read between the lines, and paid attention) is a husband, one who isn't distracted by business. So today, I won't go to the office. She has her flowers and will be given an appropriate and very personal gift, and will of course be taken to her favorite restaurant for lunch. But instead of going to the office, I'll stay home on Sunday, and do some clutter clearing, going through boxes, rearranging furniture, and watching some stuff that she's been saving on Tivo for a marathon viewing session. Oh, that and the 500-square foot addition to the house including a massive bathroom which was begun on her birthday and will be finished next week. I paid attention. I listened.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

As we start to move into eBook sales, we face the challenge of setting a fair price.

When comparing eBooks to printed books (at least in our industry) there are numerous factors.
1. The lack of dead trees makes production costs lower.
2. People expect to pay less for an eBook

There is, however, another factor that is far more important than the cost of paper, that being the cost of distributor/retailer markup, and you get into "Pricing Politics" which gamers don't grasp. It also gets complicated.

The general rule of thumb in setting hard-copy prices is a combination of two factors: comparison to comparable books and what they sell for, and a multiple of production costs. (It doesn't help to have the top ten companies printing 20,000 copies full color in hardback in China and selling them for less than I can sell a black-and-white book printed 1,000 at a time in the US.) I have heard manufacturers talk about using multiples between five and ten, but not everyone agrees on what you are multiplying. There is the cost of writing, the cost of editing, the cost of printing, the cost of the building and its utilities, and the cost of shipping, plus other costs like marketing, shrinkage, and customer support. What we do is figure the cost of printing and paper (we print our own books), multiply by a secret number, then compare that to other books. If the other books are lower, we might not be able to afford to print this, but we sometimes adjust down to that price and take a lower profit. This might be because the product needs to be part of the line, or because the produce involves zero design work and hence doesn't have as much overhead. If comparable books sell for a higher price, we might go partly up toward that price, since we need the profit to cover the ones that we don't make as much on.

A $25 RPG book sold in a store may net the manufacturer $2-$7 based on various factors (and your definition of net). The manufacture gets $10 from the wholesaler, and has to pay the production cost, editing cost, writing cost, royalties, art cost, shipping, and everything else out of that. In most cases, the actual cost of printing and paper, not including art, authors, editors, and royalties is about $2.50-$4.50, depending on a lot of factors.

That same $25 book sold on a website generates $15+ more profit as we're not giving a discount to the wholesaler. (We manufacturers have to sell on the shopping cart for the same MSRP or the stores get upset, which is Pricing Politics Part 1, known in the real business world as Channel Manners.) Just a side note, ADB, Inc. makes about half of our gross dollar sales and maybe 80+% of our profit on shopping cart sales. We'd be out of business without the shopping cart profit. We cannot blow off the store market, however, as that is the primary source of NEW customers. Some have said we should blow off the stores and sell $25 books on the website for $12, but the total sales profit would not keep the doors open.

An eBook isn't sold in stores, but through e23 or someplace like that. I don't have to "pay" Alliance $15 to get my $25 eBook into Joe Gamer's hands. So even selling it at $15 or so through e23 nets more profit from the not-markup than from the savings on dead tree costs. If I were going to make the same profit on an eBook that I make on a book sold to Alliance, the price of that $25 RPG book in a store would be about $6.

Pricing Politics Part 2 comes into play. Setting the eBook price becomes a matter of getting the most out of it that the market will allow. (This is not because I like rolling around in money but because I have to eat and buy gasoline and pay health insurance; if I were still paying a mortgage I think I'd have to go get a job at McDonald's to break even.) The higher profit of eBook and Shopping Cart sales subsidizes the store sales because my printing plant cannot touch Steve Jackson's printer in China, but I don't sell 20,000 copies of a new RPG book so the cheaper per-each price from China is a meaningless footnote.) It also becomes Pricing Politics Part 3, setting the eBook price very low (say $6 or $7) would "devalue the brand" and become such a bargain that hard-copy sales would be driven out of business (and I'd be driven out of business along with it).

Friday, February 12, 2010


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will try to set it up for you! Email me at: Design@starfleetgames.com

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Consider the Backgrounds

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the constant problems with submissions, like scenarios and fiction stories, is the effort by the author to create something grander than a simple scenario or story (granted, this is an increasing problem in the Star Trek universe where every novel gradually involved the Enterprise being the only ship in position to stop the total destruction of the Federation, and sometimes of the whole Galaxy, and sometimes the whole universe). We had a fiction story that included as a final anecdote that the various members of that one particular crew went on to totally redefine not just how Lyran Prime Teams operated, but the whole of Lyran society, putting an end to the divisions between the Counts, Dukes, and Emperor and creating finally a truly unified and internally peaceful Lyran Star Empire. Another author submitted a scenario in which the single battle became "the most renowned combat in the entire octant" setting the stage for how all other empires saw and treated that empire. There is also a submission in which the Iridani quests are transformed into an Octant-wide peacekeeping operation.

While we encourage people to be creative, and are always looking for good stories and articles and scenarios to publish, sometimes things are taken too far.

Sometimes we can fix things (like deleting the final anecdote from the fiction story, or editing out the more grandiose statements in the scenario), but sometimes we cannot. We usually send things back to the authors in these cases to see if they can fix them. For example, we got a recent article about how the Lyran officer promotion system works. The author, however, had decided that all officers were basically promoted by the Empire (other aspects of the system he devised I will pass over as we have asked him to try again). The problem is that Lyran background makes it very plain that there is not one Lyran Navy, but 21 Lyran Navies. This has to be, otherwise it would not be possible for the various civil wars that keep things "interesting" in the Lyran Star Empire to occur. The officers of the ships of Lyran Count X have to be loyal first to that Count, or when he decides he wants to be the Duke, they will not obey him.

So one of the things that keeps the Lyrans from dominating more space (as their background notes) is their internal divisions. The waste of resources because each Count, for example, has his own spy agency to spy on his neighbor counts (and his Duke, and the Emperor). And the Counts and Dukes are not created equal, so the Count of County X might promote the officers in his fleet purely on competence, while the Count of County Y promotes them based not on competence, but on Loyalty, the Count of County Z might promote good qualified people, but does not provide adequate funding for training, and so on. Twenty-one Counties, twenty-one different ways of doing things, all tied together by a Feudal System. (Yes, everyone is supposed to be loyal to the Emperor, but there is a constant internal turmoil as each Duke and Count weighs his chances to seize the throne.)

Articles and fiction about the Lyrans should reflect (at least at some level) this divisiveness. The Lyrans are very much a "Me against my Brother, my Brother and I against our neighbor, and all of us against the outsider" society.

Similarly, Fiction about the Klingons should have some indication that the Subject races are not always unquestioningly loyal to the Empire, and the Empire Security Service is omni-present in the background. Romulan fiction should at some level reflect their House system. Orion fiction should probably reflect that the crews are not all from a single planet, and so on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


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, February 09, 2010


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.

Monday, February 08, 2010

This week at ADB, Inc., 31 January - 6 February 2010

Steve Cole reports;

Winter weather continued all week as the snow melted from the blizzard of the week before. Four more inches of snow on Wednesday night left the roads slushy but passable.

Most of my week was taken up with work on F&E 2010. I finished and shut down all of the Core Change topics, and moved on to work on staff reports. I did process the PD Federation Deian planetary survey when Jean finished it. I also got Communique #50 finished so it can go out on time. On Customer Service Wednesday, I did a rank chart for Jean, the FC Klingon F5 three-ship card, and checked some bad website links and told Eric to fix them.

Steve Petrick continued to make progress on CL #41.

Leanna and Mike Sparks spent the week dealing with huge wholesaler orders.

Jean and Eric continued working on Facebook, gaining new fans every day. Eric did a lot of stuff on the website. Eric found out this week that his family is moving to Austin right now, instead of next June, which means he will be leaving us shortly. He did a lot of good over the last year and a half and will be missed.

Work continued on the addition to our home as the tile-setters laid the tile, which pretty much took the entire week.

I got word this week that Ghengis Khan, my adopted wolf who lives at the sanctuary in New Mexico, had died suddenly at the age of 14, still in the prime of his alpha wolf life. As many of you know, I drove over there several times taking him beef hearts for a special dinner. He will be missed.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Gamble for Command

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the experiences I had as a young lieutenant was a struggle to be the "man in charge" of my own platoon. This started while I was teaching my platoon tactics. One of the sergeants (actually, the senior NCO present, but not my Platoon Sergeant who was on Leave a the time, and my senior Squad Leader was also not present) started to tell the men that I had no idea what I was talking about.

It must be understood that my "platoon" was woefully understrength (the aftermath of Vietnam left many units understrength), and while it was authorized one officer and 42 "other ranks", its actual strength (on paper) was one officer and 20 "other ranks", and of that number only one officer and 18 "other ranks" were "present" (two men having been more or less permanently detached to other duties, but still counted as part of my platoon) and two were "non-deployable", i.e., they were in my platoon, but if the platoon was deployed to a combat zone, these two men would have to be left behind due to their profiles. (And of course two other men were not present that day, my senior NCOs.)

At this juncture, I responded to the NCO's challenge by making one of my own: I would take one man and set up a defense, the NCO would have the other 12 men of the platoon (my two most senior NCOs were not present you will recall) to attack.

The NCO had a lot of advantages, not just a six to one edge in numbers, but we were in a local training area which he was familiar with and I was not (I had been with the platoon less than two weeks while he had been training in the area over a year). I was laying out my "defense" based on the "reconnaissance of the ground" I was performing right then as I led my "detachment" in search of a defensive position.

As we moved back, we encountered and had to cross a gully, and about three hundred or so meters beyond it there was a conical rise of ground, a hill, that dominated the immediately surrounding area.

With this, my plan of battle was set.

I deployed my one man on the hill, designating it the "main battle position", then I called the NCO on the radio and announced we were ready. I then deployed my "screening force", i.e., I went back to the gully and found myself a concealed position above it. I chose me as the screening force because it was the "critical task" requiring command supervision.

Then I waited.

After an interval of time I began to hear men jumping the gully (as I had had to do). Now I began using some of the intrinsic intelligence I had of the enemy, i.e., I knew how many men the NCO had, and when the number of men who had jumped the Gully equaled half that number (from the impact of each individual landing), I opened fire. Blindly, yes, and only in their general direction. I switched the weapon between semi-automatic and full automatic, firing a few single shots and then a short burst to create the impression in the NCO's mind that I was making my stand at that point. I could hear confusion, as the gully separated the two elements, and the NCO was clearly totally unprepared to come under attack at that location. Once the magazine was empty, I abandoned the "screening position" and hastily withdrew, first to an interim position where I would fight if there was an immediate pursuit (there was not) and then back to the "main battle position".

Once at the main battle position, I told my one man that he was NOT to expose himself to enemy fire, but place fire on the enemy to fix their attention. I then moved to the rear of the hill at its base placing myself "in reserve" and again waited. Again, the reserve force was the most critical task as the use of the reserve had to be carefully timed.

Another interval passed and I heard weapons fire as the NCO began his assault on the hill. I listened to the volume of fire and the noise level, and when it "seemed about right", I initiated my counter-attack, sweeping around the base of the hill and arriving in the left rear of the NCO's assault. I found that, as I had anticipated, the NCO had committed all of his men to a frontal attack: there was no over-watching element or base of fire set up.

I was hoping to at least inflict heavy casualties (the likelihood that I would get all 13 of the attackers even with the advantage of surprise was pretty small), but here I found that my "covering force" action had paid a major dividend. The platoon had been split at the gully, and the NCO (even with squad radios) had made no effort to reunite the two elements. He had only half the troops with him, the other half was (as it happened) doing the right thing and "marching to the sound of the guns", but they were too far away to even see what was going on (due to intervening terrain and vegetation), and by the time they arrived, the action was over.

With the absolute numbers in the assault greatly reduced, my counter-attack actually achieved unqualified success, wiping out the entire assault element before they even knew I was there. The last to fall was the NCO, literally "shot down" as he turned to give orders to his men only to see the Lieutenant he had been disparaging standing behind him with a leveled weapon and all the rest of his men already eliminated.

After disposing of the NCO, I continued to the top of the hill rejoining my "command". Shortly afterward the other half of the platoon arrived, saw the "casualties" on the forward slope of the hill and, literally, broke on Morale and decided that they did not want to attack the hill. (Truth to tell, had I been with that element I would have tried to attack the hill, but I would have left about half of it to provide cover and supporting fire, a thing that would have destroyed my "counter-attack" had the NCO done so.)

It was a gamble that, honestly, I should not have taken. That it worked out so well was a major plus for me although the NCO never forgave me (and I had enough brains never to give him another chance to try to beat me in tactics, I knew I had been lucky, and stupid to even take the chance, but at the time I really did want to settle the issue).

Saturday, February 06, 2010


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.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Language and War

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Good leaders will make use of every tool, even things as mundane as language, to win the battle.

While I am hesitant to begin this with the above words, as it will sound as if I am "blowing my own horn" in what follows, I think the point is important.

Back in 1979 I was participating in a training exercise involving my then unit (the 197th brigade) against elements of the 82nd Airborne division. At one point in the exercise I found myself in position to assault a choke-point. (Essentially a simulated ford site in that it was a narrow corridor across a major road which passed through the "battle area", mechanized forces were not allowed to cross the road in other locations, excluding other designated crossing sites of course, in order to avoid tearing up the road.)

At that juncture, I was employing a great deal of "intelligence" to make my decisions. Among these were the fact that the 82nd had dropped that night, and was largely foot mobile from that point. To my front (which was actually to the right of the enemy position, I then being technically on their flank) I heard engines. I knew the enemy was the 82nd, and I had been in the Army long enough by that point that I could discern the sounds different engines made, and these were Jeeps. Hearing Jeep engines, I had mentally assessed what I knew about Jeeps, the 82nd, time, the terrain, and recent contacts with "enemy elements" (we had brushed aside some screening elements earlier that night). This had led me to the conclusion that what was to my front was a TOW element, i.e., Jeep mounted anti-tank missiles deployed to cover the ford site and prevent the mechanized elements of the 197th from crossing and driving deeper into the 82nd's drop/deployment zone. (I was at that point unaware that the 82nd's drop had gone badly with elements out of position, so badly that for much of that night the umpires had put a hold on operations while the 82nd tried to straighten itself out.)

Having come to a reasonable determination of what was to my front, I decided that an assault with my available troops would probably clear the position, but I expected to also be able to call on supporting fire from the Armored Cavalry element on the far side of the "river".

Near dawn I finally received permission to make the assault. (I had made repeated requests to be allowed to do so, but was never advised that operations were on hold, I simply had my requests turned down.)

As we swept down on the enemy position, I ordered my first squad to deploy to the left and come on line with my second squad and to get the second machinegun in action.

The result of the platoon assault on their flank out of the pre-dawn darkness was a complete route of the defending unit.

Probably the single most effective weapon in the assault was the commands I gave. These were a weapon because one of the things I kept in mind was that we were engaged in what amounted to a "civil war", i.e., the enemy not only was trained to a similar doctrine, but spoke the same language.

They never "saw" the force rolling down on their flank, but they "heard" the weapons fire and the commands, and from that knew that a full platoon was rolling down on their flank, threatening to envelope their position and cut them off from escape.

What attacked them was barely a squad. They actually had the advantages of numbers and firepower. But the commands they heard out of the dark greatly inflated the force that was rolling on their flank, and they took council of their fears (they had heard the tanks and APCs of the Armored Cav unit arrive on the far bank, but were unaware that a "platoon" of infantry had "crossed the river" and gotten on their flank.

The assault opened up the choke-point, and the "river" obstacle was breached, allowing the 197th to drive deeper into the 82nd's deployment area. The breaching occurred while the bulk of the 197th had not yet closed up to the "river".

The use of language as a weapon had breached the "river".

I know this in part because a judge who was there informed me that he was awarding me the capture of the site AND the destruction of the TOW unit that had been there because he, himself, had believed, based on the noise and the commands, that a whole platoon had come rolling in from the flank, and was stunned to learn that the entire attacking force had consisted of only one (crazy) second lieutenant and eight other men.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Genghiscon, February 11-14, 2010

Jean Sexton reports:

Genghiscon XXXI, in Denver, Colorado, will be held on February 11-14, 2010. ADB, Inc. will have a game presence there thanks to Andy Vancil and Scott Moellmer.

There will be three Federation Commander scenarios: "Who Is the Mutineer?", "Combat Rally", and "Last Stand".

Star Fleet Battle Force will have a competition.

Andy Vancil will be running Star Fleet Battles scenarios.

The GURPS Prime Directive game is sold out already.

It sounds like a good time will be had by all.

For more information, see their website: http://denvergamers.org/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=13 They still list our games under Task Force games, so choose that after you navigate to the Board Games page.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then.

This successful operation has now been expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

GHENGIS KHAN 1996-2010

Many of you know that Steve Cole adopted Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary's alpha wolf Ghengis Khan. On February 1, 2010 Steve wrote this memorial:

The wolf that I adopted at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, the misspelled alpha wolf known as Ghengis Khan, passed away on 21 Jan 2010. Word reached me about this on 1 Feb due to the snow storms. Ghengis was nearly fourteen, old for a wolf, having been born at Wild Spirit as one of seven pups on Easter Sunday 1996. His parents had been captive wolves all their lives and the litter could not be released back into he wild. Ghengis outlived his three brothers and one of his sisters. He was the indisputable alpha wolf of the huge 50-wolf pack at the sanctuary, and never backed down from anything. He died suddenly, on a day he had been very active, presumably of a heart attack or stroke. He was known as the star of the sanctuary tour, clearly the biggest and most powerful wolf presence there. Never shy, he was always at the front of his enclosure to meet the guests (and size them up for dinner). Only the two most experienced handlers could enter his enclosure, only when they had to, and they had to do so with protective clothing and something to keep him at a distance. Ghengis knew he was the head wolf, and he acted like it. Other wolves (unable to instinctively understand the chain link fences), hid their food from his view. I was proud to have known Ghengis, and to have met him on four different occasions, each time bringing him a beef heart, the traditional portion of the kill reserved for the alpha wolf. It was very special that I could spend most of a day with him last October, and to have personally fed him over 20 pounds of meat (heart and liver) that I brought to the camp just for him. That was, the sanctuary staff told me, the greatest day of his entire life. Artemesia, his female companion for many years, is devastated and inconsolable, as am I.


To visit the website of Wild Spirit's Wolf Sanctuary, go here: http://www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org/

Monday, February 01, 2010

This week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 January 2010

Steve Cole reports:

It was a quiet week, as weeks go, not least because the storm shut down the office (and most of Amarillo) for Thursday and Friday. I had stayed home to rest on Sunday, so this was the first week in a long time in which I only worked four days. The weather was pleasant on Monday through Wednesday, at least. When I finally got to the office on Saturday, I didn't do much other than the routine stuff for the two lost snow days.

Kyocera sent a guy from the national office to review our printing operation on Monday, and see what we're doing.

My week focused on the two key projects. On F&E 2010, I cleared my "notes" pages, resolved some issues, did some line items from the BBS, and posted a new draft of rule 203. On PD Federation, I made all of the corrections Jean had mailed me, mailed Jean a fat package of new pages, and read the Fralli file, which the gang needed a lot of effort to get right. I also did the Frax CWS and Fed DDF for Communique #50, and did the last two Omega maps for the historical maps page of the website. I revised six old cards from Klingon Border and got them ready to reprint on 10 February.

This week, Steve Petrick got the Battleforces figured out for Captain's Log #41 and assigned people their opponents for writing tactics articles. Leanna and Mike worked on orders and inventory, while Eric uploaded some stuff to the website.

The contractor made some progress on the addition to our home (mine and Leanna's), getting the painting and staining finished, but lost three days of work due to the storm, which will probably push completion beyond the end of next week.