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Friday, December 31, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

This was a year of fighting like crazy to stay where we were, and we succeeded more than I expected we would. Sales, in the end, held even in an industry where sales were down for most companies. The economy was bad, lots of people didn't have (or lost) jobs, and many who had a job were terrified that they might lose it, so consumer spending was down, and the entire wargame industry suffered a loss of sales that it had never suffered before. Wargames are recession proof; that's an article of faith, but not this recession. A lot of wargame companies went out of business. (Leanna stunned us all in the final Board meeting with the statistic that half of all orders were from totally new customers who had never ordered from us before, at least not directly. I suspect that may reflect a lot of local stores going out of business.)

We're all well and healthy. Steven P. Petrick and I have been taking a 30-minute walk almost every day for the last few months.


We released a lot of new products.

Star Fleet Battles,
now almost entirely in the capable hands of Steven P. Petrick, had a great year, including Module R12, Module Y3, and Module YG3.

Federation Commander saw the release of War & Peace, with the Andromedans, Vudar, and ISC, along with their boosters and miniatures.

Federation & Empire 2010
was probably my favorite project, as we vastly improved the rulebook. The Federation & Empire Compendium is one of those products that grew out of a customer suggestion. (Our customers are more a part of how our business runs than those of any other company; this is one reason for their legendary loyalty.)

We did Captain's Log #41 and #42 and turned the Supplemental Files into a formal part of the project (if not the product) instead of just an afterthought.

Starline 2400 saw the release of five Vudar miniatures, the Hydran Pegasus, the Fed LTT and OCA, the Tholian TK5, and the Klingon B9.

Our growing Starmada product line added Romulan Armada and Alien Armada.

Our Prime Directive line gained Federation PD20M and Dread Pirate Aldo.

There were products that never happened. Federation Admiral proved to be a mountain of work and had to be rescheduled (for April 2011). The iPhone games proved a morass of red tape and contracts, and still aren't on sale (but soon will be). There were problems with the Battlestations game, delaying it to next year. Star Fleet Marines: Assault was delayed to next year by market conditions (which are now much better; in hindsight, we'd have been ok to print it on schedule.) Leanna spent months working on our first Kindle book (For the Glory of the Empire) and finally abandoned the effort and hired a contractor, who promptly messed things up. This has now been corrected, but the book that should have been out last summer will not appear until early 2011.


A few "new" things happened this year.

The biggest of these was our (long-resisted) move into electronic publishing. We have uploaded the Federation Commander Reference Rulebook, the F&E 2010 Rulebook, and (hell froze over) the SFB Master Rulebook, along with many other products. We expect to continue uploading a book for each product line each month.

Graphics Director Eric Olivarez left in early February, as his family suddenly decided to move to Dallas. New Graphics Director Joel Shutts arrived two weeks later and took over the duties. Joel is a different person than Eric, and has brought some new energy to the company. Joel is excited to work for a game company, and helps Mike out in the warehouse whenever he's not busy with graphics or the website. (Eric spent, and Joel spends, more time than I like chasing down pirate websites with illegal copies of our products, but at least we're now doing that religiously.)

One of our two bookbinding machines burned out, and we bought a new "automated" one that does a better job in half of the time.

We started our first SFB charity tournament (for breast cancer research) through SFBOL.

Leanna and I added onto our house, and Leanna's vast new bathroom is the envy of her friends.

I went deaf in my right ear, which the doctor says happens to some people when they get old. I am not happy about getting old. I've been too busy to go buy a hearing aide for it.

We started posting Demotivational posters on the website, which are a laugh riot.

We launched the Wall of Honor project, showcasing the medals, campaign ribbons, and other awards earned by our staff and volunteers.


The year began with the last days of Jean Sexton's second winter visit. We spent another week with her at Origins, and she arrived on Christmas Day to spend her third week in the ADB, Inc., office. She is, of course, our RPG Line Editor, Marketing Director, and Proofreader, and has done much to improve our products, and our outreach to the customers. Jean is now actively planning her move to Amarillo (for the summer of 2013). Jean's visit last year saw major work done on Prime Directive Federation. The PD20M version was released this summer and she finished the GURPS version while she was here in December 2010.


Jean has done a lot of things to better connect ADB, Inc., with the gamers. She and Eric launched our page on Facebook in the final days of 2009 and (with Joel's help) it reached 600 friends in the final days of 2010. Mike Sparks added to our expanding series of YouTube videos and the expanded offering on Café Press. Paul Franz continued holding "radio talkshows" on Talkshoe every Thursday night. Jean's "no politics on the BBS" order was strictly enforced, and did make things run smoother.


We did a lot of the same things we do every year, and it feels good to have a routine (one that is not a rut).

We skipped the GAMA Trade Show in March (there are just not enough retailers attend it to make it worthwhile, more is the pity).

We held the company picnic in May (the local trade show where we gather enough free office supplies for the year and enough free chocolate for a month).

We attended Origins in June (where we saw a lot of old friends and six of us went through the TerrorWerks combat game). We announced the end of the Gold Hat (to be replaced by the electronic Platinum Hat in 2011). I had to remember that I was an engineer when the car's windshield wipers self-destructed during the drive home, but duct tape will fix anything!

Leanna and I made the annual trip to the wolf sanctuary in October (sad this year as Genghis Khan died in January). I am know there as "Chef Steve" as I prepare the Wolf Buffet with over 400 pounds of raw meat that I bring with me from Texas.

We had the company Christmas Party (during the time Jean was here).

We got Communique and Hailing Frequencies out on time (more or less) every month.

I managed to maintain my plan to work on Customer Requests almost every Wednesday, but plans to spend an hour on "marketing" every Monday were all too often honored in the breach. I just don't like doing marketing, and the company has suffered for it. (Jean's efforts on marketing are focused entirely on consumers. Where I am failing is in keeping the wholesalers and retailers up to date and happy.)


Behind the scenes, Leanna Cole and Mike Sparks continue their vital tasks. Leanna handles orders, pays bills, does the accounting, and is the "adult supervisor." Mike runs the warehouse, packs the orders, and handles customer support.


Nothing gets done without the staff, all of whom are unpaid volunteer gamers who spent their "hobby time" working as hard as they can to make new products better. To mention any of them is to risk forgetting someone important, but I'll try. Mike West is invaluable in work on Fed Commander and Early Years, and there are rumors that he might actually design an RPG engine for Jean. He is assisted in FC by Art Trotman and Thomas Matthews. Scott Moellmer and Tony L. Thomas are invaluable playtesters and product reviewers. Paul Franz not only runs SFBOL, FCOL, and Warlord, but he does other invaluable work including Talkshoe. Nothing happens in F&E without Chuck Strong, ably assisted by Mike Curtis, Jeff Laikind, Scott Tenhoff, Ryan Opel, and Stewart Frazier. Frank Brooks takes care of PBEM. Loren Knight, Dale McKee, Adam Turner, Ted Geibel, and Xander Fulton, all play important roles. Steven Petrick is assisted in running SFB by Mike Filsinger and many others. We wouldn't even be in the Starmada business without it's designer, Daniel Kast.


There were things we need to do better. First among these is getting accurate product release dates, cover art, and descriptions out to the wholesalers much earlier than we do. This is a perennial failing, and is entirely my fault. (I am the only one who can do it, and I don't want to do it, and it can be hard to perfectly guess the size, contents, and price of a product that has not been finished.) We have GOT to get a better system to make sure that we have good fiction on file for the next Captain's Log before it becomes a crisis.


In the end, 2010 was a good year, a better year than I thought it was going to be when I was halfway through it. We shipped over two dozen new products, made the BBS much more efficient, vastly improved the website, and got a major start on electronic publishing. Looking at the schedule, I'm actually quite excited about 2011, but that's another blog for another day (tomorrow).

Thursday, December 30, 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 PD20 and PD20M, 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.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ADB Members Predict the Coming Year

This is Steven Petrick posting.

We had the annual company end of year/Christmas party last night. Mike Sparks's wife Kyla could not attend due to illness, but it was a pleasant time otherwise.

We have a sort of joke tradition where in each attendee is supposed to make a prediction for the coming year, but as it is sort of a joke, only I remembered what I had predicted.

Sadly, my prediction did not come true, and Osama bin Laden is still a free, if hunted, man. For the new year, I predict that the United States will begin to draw down its forces in Afghanistan in preparation for a full pullout.

SVC could not remember what he had predicted, but for the coming year he predicts that the elected members of the Tea Party will "go native", i.e., be suborned by the (Republican) establishment and lobbyist culture and accomplish none of their stated goals.

Leanna, who also could not remember her previous prediction, decided to predict for the coming year that SVC would be Gibbsed, frequently, very, very, frequently.

Mike Sparks simply predicted that he would be able to clean a lot of junk out of the warehouse in the coming year.

Jean predicted that she would finish and see released Prime Directive D20M Romulans.

Joel predicted the end of mankind as a supervirus reduces the world's population below the self-replication levels.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I was slightly saddened that RUBICON was cancelled by AMC, but I can tell them why the show failed to keep the audience it started with. It was simply too hard to figure out the basics of what was going on. I don't mean the big conspiracy of the fourth branch of government (that did and should have taken the whole arc to play out). I mean the most basic things about what the American Policy Institute was, why it existed, who funded it, and what it did. That should have all been explained in the first episode. Leaving the audience scratching their head about the secret conspiracy was ok, but leaving the audience in the dark about the most basic background was dumb. Imagine a television series about ADB, Inc. in which the audience isn't told that we manufacture Star Trek games until episode five. Do you think we'd have kept the audience that long if they didn't know what ADB was doing? (Would we have them that long if they did?)

2. The average person dreams about four times per night. Dreams get longer as the night goes on. The first dream averages eight minutes; the fourth dream over 30 minutes.

3. According to Bucky Kat, wild Muppets in Khazhakstan have wiped out the alligator population.

4. I'd vote for Al Gore for President if he'd eliminate spam.

5. Bill O'Reilly is allergic to onions, just like Steven Petrick and myself. I knew great minds think alike, but apparently great stomachs do as well.

6. I was sitting in the car while Leanna was in a store, and saw something happened out of the corner of my eye. My hand reflexively tried to click the "Tivo back button" to see what it was. Somehow, this did not work.

7. The US government has done absolutely nothing to prepare for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

8. You know what I want? I want a "combat television game" where I can stand in my den and "go on patrol" in jungle, desert, mountains, or a city, and face numerous shoot/no-shoot situations. I wonder if Wii has that? Jean says it does. Maybe I will investigating buying a Wii, but Jean says it won't count as my daily 30-minute walk.

9. When I was in high school: nobody knew what a cell phone was (everybody had a quarter in their pocket for an emergency call from a pay phone), the girls all wore skirts, and everybody ate in the cafeteria despite it being pretty darn awful.

10. I'd love to go eat at Hell's Kitchen, but I cannot (or won't) eat most of what they cook, and they don't seem to have any system to account for "leave this out of my food".

Monday, December 27, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc.,19-25 December 2010

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of Christmas, and the design staff mostly used it to clean up the debris of a busy year while the production staff continued shipping huge orders. The weather this week was cloudy. The first half of the week was relatively mild (reaching 70F sometimes) while the last few days were very cold. The spam storm varied from 657 on Sunday to 1179 on Thursday.

New uploads to e23 included the biggest upload ever (the electronic Master Rulebook).

Steve Cole worked on desktop clutter and updating the Wall of Honor. Steven Petrick worked on CL#43, C3A, and the update for the Basic Set.

Leanna, Mike, and Joel worked all week on getting the huge mail orders out the door. Jean spent the week packing and left for Amarillo on Thursday night, arriving Saturday morning. Steve Cole and Steven Petrick enjoyed a Christmas dinner prepared by Leanna Cole and Jean Sexton.

Sunday, December 26, 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 continue to expand our line of non-game products on Cafe Press http://www.cafepress.com/starfleetuniv. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here:

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, December 25, 2010

Our Wishes for You

We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas (or a happy other winter holiday of your choice).

Friday, December 24, 2010


ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to “like” the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.
if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Steve Cole explains:

I have had trouble explaining this concept before, and an article I put in the last Captain's Log just confused people. Ok, I'm going to try again. I have to explain some things about the industry, but I'll be as brief as I can be.

Retail game store owners are busy people (most game stores are single-owner/single-location things), and there are thousands of new game products each year. They cannot study each new product to see how it fits into their store and judge how it will sell; relying on wholesalers to educate them has failed since the retailers can't stay on the phone long enough. Worse, by the time the retailers fill most of the store with the top ten publishers, they have little space left for the other 90 hard-copy publishers (a random dozen of which share the last shelf unit, and the rest get ignored or considered to "pre-paid special order only" status). So, the retailers tend to buy what they know, by product line and by publisher.

Take ADB and (for example) Steve Jackson Games (which is literally ten times as big and run by a good friend of mine). SJG products are in every store; ADB products are in ten percent of stores, and have very little chance of ever cracking into the other 90% of stores. (There are a lot of things ADB could do to get into more stores, some of which actually work. We do all of the ones that work, and have tried most of the ones that don't work. We gain new stores at something a bit more than the rate existing stores go bankrupt, but that will take decades to get into 99% of the stores.)

Let's say both ADB and SJG produce an innovative new product designed to sell outside their current market. Say, Zombie Dice (a real product) and Star Fleet Rescue Dice (we designed it, but never manufactured it). Both of these are products with no history, no track record, and no comparison. No store can look at any other product and say that either of those new ones "will sell like that one did". Virtually every store buys products from Steve Jackson games, so when SJG produces such a new (unknown) product, every store takes some (usually an average of the number of other SJG products they buy). The same thing happens with such a new (unknown) product from ADB. The 90% of stores that do not carry ADB products do not even look at the "innovative new product that ADB did to sell beyond its current customer base" because they don't have time to look at new product lines (and SFRD gets lost among the hundred or so other products that came out that week). [This is why we decided not to invest money in SFRD and just turned it into a one-page free game in Captain's Log.]

Net result, Zombie Dice sells pretty well and Star Fleet Rescue Dice (if we had done it) would sell about ten percent as well (and we would have had thousands of dollars tied up in unsold inventory). Status quo. Nothing changes. ADB cannot get bigger. Again and again, we have done bold new innovative products designed to sell to gamers who don't buy SFB (e.g., SFBF, FC, Starmada) and, every single time, they sell mostly to stores that stocked SFB and -- net result -- sell only ten percent as well as they could or would if every store bought them.

I am not stupid. I know that SFB is a very complex game that only an elite section of humanity are (frankly) smart enough to play. I have heard perfectly intelligent retailers say "SFB is too complex, too plain, and too old to sell to my market." That's why we did the new products (e.g., SFBF, FC, Starmada) to appeal to people who don't play SFB, but these are products most stores never even thought about giving a chance. Those new products sell very well to both SFB players and non-SFB players. Who do they NOT sell to? To people who never see them because their stores don't even notice they exist, because those stores don't stock SFB and don't look at anything done by ADB. They have us (incorrectly) pegged as a company that does only complex, plain, old-style games.

So, what can we do about it?

A lot, not much of which actually works.

We have been to the GAMA Trade Show and have found that by the time you take the few retailers that show up (about 150 stores), deduct the ones that already carry our products (125 of them), and deduct the ones that refuse to even talk to us (about a dozen of those), that leaves about ten or twenty stores that will at least talk to us. Every time we go, we get five or ten of those (at a cost of several thousand dollars and two weeks of the company's time). It's a losing proposition and only a drop in the bucket. ADB needs to gain stores by the hundreds, not single digits.

ADB has spent a lot of money advertising, but the retailers ignore the ads. They don't ignore them because they are bad ads (they're actually quite good ads); they ignore them because (like most humans) they just don't pay much attention to most ads. (A few do, and these are the most successful retailers. Many of them pick up our product lines because of this, but at a cost of $300+ per retailer gained, it's not a workable business model.)

We could get in the car, drive to every retailer, take them out to lunch, show them our products, play a sample game or two, put on some demos, host a tournament, and gain retailers that way. I suspect that would cost a lot more money than we'd get out of the deal, and take a year or three, assuming we could average four or five stores a week. (Way back in the ancient days of the 70s and early 80s, there were half a dozen people, known as "reps", who made a living doing just exactly this, i.e., carrying with them the products of about ten game companies, and getting paid a bounty for every store they got to place an order. These "reps" went the way of the dinosaur a two decades ago.)

We do ask our gamers to go into stores and convince the owner to stock our products, and sometimes that works. Most of the store owners just say "I will order it for you" but they won't stock it where a NEW customer would see it. This might work if we could train our customers to be really first-rate professional salesmen, but that's hard to do by email, and even if we ran a seminar on how to do this at Origins, it might gain a dozen stores, at most, per year. Sigh.

We did mail the retailers something explaining our products, but they get so much advertising mail that most of them don't have time to read any of it.

We could mail stores a free product, but it wouldn't be much of a test, and most of them would just sell it and forget it.

The best success we ever had was to have Ken Burnside (and then Vanessa Clark) "cold call" stores and talk to them about our products. This worked for two reasons: Fed Commander was a hot new product (now, it's just "old news" to overstressed retailers) and the people making the call were born salesmen. We don't have anyone on staff who has the personality for this, and several attempts to hire outside salesmen on a commission or bounty basis have not worked (they want to be paid for effort, not results, and we cannot afford to pay for failed efforts, no matter how much effort was involved).

So, we press on. We're gaining, but it's a tough battle, because 90 other companies are doing the same thing to attract the attention of the same (shrinking) number of stores. We do ask (and appreciate) our customers trying to find new players, reactivate old players via Starlist, and get stores to carry our products. It all works, I just wish it worked a lot faster.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Think about how you spent the last ten days. That's pretty much how you're going to spend your life. If that's not ok with you, do something about it.

2. Every truth started as a radical theory rejected by mainstream thought, but only one radical theory in a thousand becomes a truth.

3. I just love a good press conference. Turns out that the Federal pay freeze is a scam. It doesn't apply to annual (step) increases and to grade increases (promoted to a higher pay scale while staying in the same job). It only applies to cost of living raises, which were already calculated to be zero this year. Net result, it's all a scam.

4. It's clever how things are marketed. The New START arms control treaty is marketed for its verification measures, but: we don't really need to verify what Russia has (they cannot afford to build enough new stuff to matter), nobody wants to talk about the real issue (the treat limits the US ability to deploy defensive weapons), and it doesn't solve the real nuclear weapons problem (Iran). The "equal pay for women" act that Republicans blocked actually does nothing of the kind; it just adds more bureaucrats to solve a non-problem. (Women in equal jobs are, 98% of the time, paid equal amounts. The supposed "pay gap" averages men in higher, male-dominated levels with men and women in balanced lower levels. I'd love to have my pay equalized with Bill Gates.)

5. If Assange and Wikileaks were serious, they'd release the UFO alien technology files dating back to Roswell. I mean, really, given the amount and kind of stuff that's leaking, is there any doubt that (if those files exist) Assange has them already?

6. I was watching a television movie the other day and two of the characters were given a surprise project to create a wedding cake on short order when the stores were closed. (A playful dog had destroyed the cake. The grandfather and granddaughter succeeded by gluing cookies baked the day before together with frosting.) A better solution would have been to send the cute 13-year-old girl to knock on the neighbor's doors and beg for any boxes of cake mix in the various pantries. Surely the girl could have found three or four boxes of cake mix that could have been used (one box per layer) to make an emergency wedding cake?

7. Here is a nightmare for you. A terrorist with a suicide bomb gets in line at an airport, and the security guards detect "something fishy" at which point he detonates the bomb. Sure, he doesn't bring down an airliner, but he does kill dozens of people, and shuts down the airport. In fact, such an attack would shut down every airport until somebody figured out a way to stop it, a way that doesn't involve a whole bunch of un-screened passengers being in one place.

8. A little truth here. The tax cuts don't cost the treasury anything, as they will result in more tax revenue.

9. A little point of economics. If you fire an American and hire a foreigner, you're strangling the American market for all products and creating a stronger product (mostly for cheaper foreign stuff) overseas.

10. While minimum wage laws are great because they provide more money to the lowest workers, they also have the effect of freezing a lot of teenagers out of the job market as they aren't worth the relatively high minimum wage. The secret to minimum wages is that they're a creation of labor unions to make sure that skilled union workers (easily worth two or three unskilled teenagers) get higher pay.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by Email or by post 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.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system 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 FC or SFB 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. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (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 long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 December 2010

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week, mostly cleaning up stuff that didn't get done earlier and shipping mail orders. The weather was warm through Wednesday, then very cold with a light snow. The spam storm ranged from 956 on Wednesday to 1670 on Thursday.

New uploads to e23 included Alien Armada and Tholian Ship Card Pack #1.

Steve Cole worked on backlog, Wall of Honor updates, e23 uploads for Tholians and Orions, reviewing the contractor's work on the Kindle book, and finishing Communique.

Steven Petrick continued to work on the SFB MRB for e23.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She also had to replace her 11-year-old G3 with a 5-year-old G4.

Mike kept orders going out, and got Steve Cole to film two videos about new products.

Joel did website updates and set up the January issue of Hailing Frequencies.

Jean continued work on GURPS FEDS, and did some marketing and proofreading.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Saturday, December 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 war gamers 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, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then 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 if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they'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.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'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. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. 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 a 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.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. 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.

Friends of our page on Facebook can use the Discussions tab and find topics for the various games. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

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 cars who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and 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.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Twelve Turns of Fighting

On the first turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
A D7 with an E3.
(Darn Klingons, they start everything!)

On the second turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Two Kzinti drones
(Just because I said they looked like Lyrans?)
And a D7 with an E3.

On the third turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Three Sabre-tooths,
(Who told the Lyrans I said that about the Kzintis?!)
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the fourth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Four Frax subs,
(Drat, who let the simulator empires out?!)
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the fifth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Five Jind rock ships,
(My, they are BIG!)
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the sixth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Six Rangers raiding,
(Fighters, they got fighters! Lots and lots of fighters.)
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the seventh turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Seven scouts a-scouting,
(What's an "EW"?)
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the eighth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Eight Prime Teams spying,
(You can’t all be named Bond!)
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the ninth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Nine Selts to bug me,
(They brought how many Hives?!)
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the tenth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Ten Cands a-mauling,
(None of them are shocked? Oh drat!)
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the eleventh turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Eleven Vulture dreadnaughts,
(I figured they’d get here, eventually.)
Ten Cands a-mauling,
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the twelfth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Twelve Terminators,
(Great, just great. They’re here, too.)
Eleven Vulture dreadnaughts,
Ten Cands a-mauling,
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

Fine! I surrender! (I don't seem to have any asteroid fields to whang them into.)

After all I’m facing
12 Terminators,
22 Vulture dreadnaughts,
30 Cands a-mauling,
36 buggy Selts,
40 Prime Teams,
42 Scouts (all doing their EW thing),
42 Rangers with all those fighters,
40 Jind rock ships (and they are huge!)
36 Sabre-tooths
30 Frax subs
22 Kzinti drones (and they keep getting faster)
12 D7s and E3s

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.
(Although this has been over-filked to the max, we hope you enjoy this holiday offering.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

Steve Cole and Steven Petrick lock themselves into the ADB offices to finish Captain's Log #43. They turn off the phones and internet (no radio or TV in the office). After four days, the magazine is finished, but the electrical power fails just after CL#43 is saved to the hard disk. They turn the phones back on, and they don't work. Stepping outside, they encounter a small number of zombies, and say to each other: "We have seen this movie and it does not end well." What do they do?

1. If the number of zombies is large, the Steves jump into one of their cars and depart. If the number of zombies is small, the Steves might go back into the office, lock the door, and gather things before trying to leave. (There is some canned food, but the only "weapons" are a crowbar and some 2x4s. Those will do in a pinch. We gotta remember to buy a pistol at a gun show and put it in the safe.)

2. Guns, we need guns! First thought is a gun store less than a mile away. Going there, perhaps the Steves find too many zombies around to take time to break into the well-secured store. They make a note to go back later and then head south to SVC's house, which is closer than SPP's and in a less populated area. (Both Steves have a number of firearms locked in their gun safes.) The Steves might or might not decide to take a shot at getting to SPP's house for more guns and more ammo.

3. Arriving at the SVC house, they find (let's say) a note from Leanna that she took the cats and headed for a safe zone to the south. Being in an isolated sub-suburb, there probably aren't a lot of zombies around (since there were not that many people around to start with), and most of those are probably off chasing the cows in the nearby fields. This gives the Steves some time (perhaps hours, at most a day) to make plans.

4. They pull the car into the garage and secure the building. They load the available weapons and food into the car and debate where to go. They also load some assorted things that seem to make sense. (If there were electric power, they would check the more recently recorded shows on TIVO for any news or other broadcasts as to what is actually going on.)

5. The Steves decide to go somewhere that they have a chance of contacting someone else. After some discussion, they decide to head for the airport and get to the control tower, which will have backup generators and radios and be in a less populated area. (Also, control towers are secure against terrorist attacks.) If anyone in the US is still alive with electric power and a radio, the Steves will be able to contact them (assuming that the last people leaving the control tower conveniently left the door unlocked).

6. Let's say that the Steves find out there is a secure and well-defended bastion 300 miles away. That being just six hours (and one tank of gas) away, the Steves would probably make no real effort to do anything else but go there, but they would delay leaving until they had plenty of time to get there during daylight hours. That might mean spending the night in the airport tower and leaving the next morning. They might well take two vehicles just to be sure they have one running vehicle.

7. Let's say the Steves find out that the nearest secure defended colony is 700 or more miles away, farther than they can travel in one day. This trip will take more planning. They'll need a larger and better-protected vehicle, with extra gas and food stored on board. They might want to take that vehicle and a smaller car, just in case, but carefully manage the load so that either vehicle can make it without the other. (This might mean loading up the smaller vehicle for only one day's travel, and reloading it each night from the bigger truck.)

8. Before such a long trip, the Steves might well want to stay in Amarillo for several days (even a week), trying to gather up more supplies, and (most important) more living people. The Steves might find a good enclosed truck, and bolt plywood to the sides of it to better protect it. They might store two motorcycles inside for a last-chance escape (or recon). The Steves might place signs around Amarillo telling others where to find their airport bastion, and leave this bastion secured (and stocked with food, water, and guns) so that others can use it even after the two Steves leave. (They'd also be sure to leave word where they went and when they left.) The Steves would certainly search for signs of other living people and put signs on the highway. The Steves will raid gun stores for ammunition, and search houses for guns, ammunition, and canned food. (A portable generator would be nice.)

9. All of this has to be done, of course, while dodging zombies. Every "check this house" mission must include the vehicle parked in a way that it is ready to leave, and one man on watch outside while the other searches the building. Contact with a few zombies means the Steve just leave that area and go a few blocks away. Contact with more zombies may mean having to kill them to facilitate departure. (Killing zombies makes noise and attracts more zombies. One or two zombies might be dispatched with a machete, but more than that means shooting them: see noise.)

10. The big question is the future. Do the zombies eventually die (for real) due to the decay of their bodies? Do they die (for good) when they run out of food? Do the zombies get smarter as time goes along, learning how to use tools? Would it actually be possible (with a larger body of trained soldiers) to kill all of the zombies in a given area? Or all of them in the whole country? One thought we had, assuming a bastion of a few hundred armed people exists, is to fly to Puerto Rico, or some small island like Saint Thomas, kill every zombie on the island (surely there is enough ammo for that), and have a safe headquarters to work out of.

Our assumption is that the zombies eventually die (for good) due to lack of food (or gunshots to the head), after which we're back to a hunter-gatherer wild-west lawless world in which each colony tries to survive as best it can.


Zombie Wars (what really happened): Steve and Steve exited the office with the pistol they always meant to keep locked in the safe. (They will probably start keeping one now, since the zombie show has really upset them.) Encountering a couple of zombies coming up the sidewalk (said zombies making noises and waving their arms and obviously attempting to attack and eat them), whoever has the pistol shoots them. Heading on to their car, they see two more zombies, and the other Steve (demanding a turn) shoots them. Reaching the traffic light at the end of the street, they see a sign that says: "Science Fiction Convention Parade Route".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

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). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

It's hard to figure out what's going on, which is probably accurate, in that the situation has gone so bad so fast that anyone who figured it out probably had no way to spread the information.

1. Zombies will eat you if they catch you, but if they just bite you (i.e., if you get away after the first bite) you die and then become a zombie. So what percentage of the population was turned into zombies? It matters. Are there five billion zombies walking around Earth? Or just a few hundred thousand?

2. How fast did that happen? [Episode 6 said that the virus started six months earlier and went global two months ago, which doesn't work with the hero in a coma. He'd have been too weak to walk if he'd been in a coma that long.]

3. How did the first zombies get infected (and how many were there)? There must be some way to "catch" zombie-fever without being bitten. Does that still work, and if so, how do we avoid that? (And why is nobody worried about it?) Can someone who died by other means (than a zombie bite) get infected and reanimated later?

4. Why do some zombies wander around by themselves, while others cluster in large groups?

5. Just how long is the period between being bitten, death, and resurrection as a zombie? [Episode 5 seems to say about 12 hours between bite-death and zombie resurrection, but the scientist said a few minutes to six hours.]

6. Some zombies seem smarter than others (one used a rock to break a door, at least one could turn door knobs, at least a few could climb fences, but none seem able to climb ladders). Do zombies get dumber as their brains rot, or smarter as the virus builds up steam? Do Zombies get slower as their bodies rot, or faster as the virus takes hold? Do zombies rot at all? A dead body won't rot for two or three days, and if it turns into a zombie and starts eating living flesh, won't it survive in a non-rotting state more or less forever?

7. Just how small a bullet will kill a zombie? Obviously, a 9mm will do (the hero used the Army 9mm pistol to do that), but will a .22LR do the trick? It would be easy to carry a thousand rounds of .22LR on your person, but bigger bullets would be harder to carry in that quantity. (A .22LR won't penetrate a human skull at any significant range, but then, a pistol won't hit a head beyond 50 feet anyway. Even so, I'd rather kill a zombie at 50 feet than at 5 feet.) Will any bullet in the brain take out a zombie, or do you actually have to damage the brain stem where the virus resides?

8. Zombies can smell you, but a severed zombie head is still alive, so ... they can smell but don't have to breathe? But then, the re-animated sister started breathing, so ...? (Seems to be a case of the writers doing stuff that sounded cool without thinking it through.) Does nerve gas have any effect on zombies?

9. Some zombies keep staggering around, but others go into hibernation. Are the sleeping zombies just tired or exhausted or out of food? Or are they the ones not fully zombificated yet?

10. The biggest question of all: Where did the zombie virus come from? Was it a secret military weapon that got out of control? Or was it corporate greed in trying to genetically engineer something more benign? Given how Hollywood thinks, it was surely one or the other. But there is this question: If the CDC doctor did not know what it was, how did he expect to find it in a blood test?

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 December 2010

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of mail order shipments for CL#42 and Alien Armada, and it was busy all week. The only new upload to e23 (the CL#42 Supplemental File) has yet to be posted by them.

The weather this week was a little cooler, but not bitterly so, and most of our afternoon walks needed only a jacket (although it was so cold on Tuesday that the walk was canceled). Steven Petrick and Steve Cole have extended their route again, but without the staggering and moaning of last month. They're still finishing in about 30 minutes. The spam storm varied from 756 on Sunday to 1457 on Thursday.

Steve Cole finished the CL#42 Supplemental File on Monday, the Large Print Edition of Captain's Log #42 on Tuesday, and Communique #60 on Friday. He also worked on the CL#42 FLAP list (the 37 things we do after each Captain's Log is finished, from updating the catalog to posting the table of contents), finishing it on Saturday. He did the first few updates for the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick worked on getting the SFB Master Rulebook updated so it can go on e23. Steven took a rare day off to catch up and rest (after working seven-day weeks for a month on CL#42).

Leanna kept orders moving with help from Mike Sparks and Joel Shutts, and received the first Kindle book back from the company doing the conversion. (There were some issues there that the contractor cheerfully fixed.)

Joel did some website updates.

Jean advised us that she will arrive in Amarillo for her annual pilgrimage on Christmas morning. Jean laughed when somebody asked what movies she would go to see while in Amarillo. (She works 12+ hours per day during her "vacation" at ADB, and this year will finish GURPS Federation.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Michael Sparks writes:

Looking to express your appreciation of the Star Fleet Universe? Need somewhere to send a gift-giver where you know you'll like what you get? Have to replace your mouse pad? Look no further! We have a storefront that sells all sorts of Star Fleet Universe designs on a variety of items. From buttons to mouse pads to t-shirts to hoodies, we've got them all! Klingons, Federation, Romulans, and the bad-boy Orion Pirates, each one has designs.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our newest designs featuring art from Xander, one of our hot artists.

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: Support@starfleetgames.com

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

I started watching this new AMC series (having never been a fan of zombie movies) because of advertising saying it was well written. I'm having some doubts about that claim of quality writing, even if I enjoy the show. The writers keep including fairly dumb technology mistakes, cliché storylines, and glaring plot loopholes. Here are some thoughts:

1. Why did the hero not use the powerful radio at the sheriff's station (or the military radios at the hospital) to try and contact anyone? For that matter, why did he do no research (newspapers, recorded television programs) to determine what happened?

2. Why did the black guy and his son not move to the better-defended sheriff's station after the deputy left? Electricity, hot water, steel doors, what's not to love?

3. I can understand the sheriff's humanity in tracking down the half-body zombie and shooting her, but leaving his car and wandering off with only one gun and no spare ammo is just suicidal and stupid. It also really doesn't make any sense considering how many other zombies were around that also could have been put out of their misery. (I wouldn't go anywhere without a rifle, two pistols, and a machete.)

4. Why did the sheriff not watch his gas gauge and change vehicles before he ran out of gas? Being law enforcement, he is probably aware that every gasoline pump in America (by law) has a manual-crank pump system inside of it, allowing gasoline to be obtained from the tanks during national emergencies without electricity.

5. Where are the guns? America is awash in firearms. At least one house in three (in Texas, four out of five) have at least one gun (in Texas, an average of five). Why has no one made any real effort to find guns in houses? For that matter, look in the phone book and find a gun store (there are at least ten in Amarillo alone). But there is another question: why did the sheriff's office still have guns? Had not the sheriff and deputies deployed those for defense already? (If there was time for the military to set up shop at the hospital, the sheriff had already deputized men he knew and given them guns.)

6. Why are the survivors sending expeditions into Atlanta to "get stuff" when they could get anything they need from less populated areas? Here is my point. Some percentage of the population turned into zombies, and the zombies only move to find food (and slowly at that), so it seems logical that most of the zombies are not that far from where they were pre-zombie. That being the case, the best grounds to scavenge would be isolated farmhouses, then small towns. What does a department store have that you need? (Unless it has a gun department, which it probably doesn't.)

7. Tanks cannot sit idle for more than a day or so with their systems active without the batteries going dead, and that tank has been there for several days. Police walkie talkies cannot talk to military tank radios. Even if they could, the odds that they would happen to be on the same frequency would be pretty slim unless maybe the Asian guy had scouted the tank earlier, turned off the systems, and put the radio on a frequency his walkie talkie could reach.

8. Zombies apparently won't eat dead zombies. They will, apparently, eat living animals (death and being eaten in either order as long as they are in close proximity). So why is there an uneaten dead body laying on top of the tank? (Is it a dead zombie?) Assuming that the battle position was overrun and the soldiers were eaten, why are there no weapons scattered around? The tank hatches were open, and apparently a soldier inside the tank was bitten, slumped down inside, died, then turned into a zombie. Why did no zombies climb through the tank's open hatches to eat him before he died? (BTW, real M1 tanks do not have that much room inside, or floor hatches.)

9. The dead body (zombie) inside the tank had a pistol in a holster, but no ammo pouches for spare magazines. The hero searched him for more ammo (and did not check most of his pockets), but did not find empty pouches. (Sloppy prop department. A real soldier would have had at least a spare box of ammo in a cargo pocket.)

10. The colony of survivors has clearly done almost no thinking about selecting a safe and defendable colony site, even after one zombie walked in. (Episode 4 proved this to be dumb.) There was no reaction plan for a zombie attack, and most of the people did not have a weapon with them.

11. Why did the guy who is most careful about avoiding zombies drive a car with a screaming car alarm all the way back to the colony (leading zombies to it)?

12. The racist didn't have to saw off his own hand to escape. The hacksaw would have nicely cut that bolt the handcuffs were clipped around.

13. Why did the four-man rescue team walk home from Atlanta instead of just stealing another vehicle?

14. Having found a CDC doctor, why did they not get more information from him? Where did the outbreaks start? How fast did they spread? Will any place they go be safe? What were the last nearby places known to hold out? Why did they never mention the helicopter (proof of some kind of viable bastion) to the doctor (which might have cheered him up)?

Apparently, the writers think it's "great writing" to include the wife who thought her husband was dead (and had an affair with his best friend), the racist whacko who cut off his own hand, and the grieving husband who cannot shoot his own wife now that she's a zombie. These just sound like stale clichés to me.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, what's new on Cafe Press, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for FC players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. President Obama has submitted the US human rights record for UN review, resulting in the US being condemned by Cuba, Libya, and Iran (which, as part of some great cosmic joke, are on the UN human rights panel).

2. Black Friday is not the biggest shopping day of the year. The biggest shopping day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas, and it always has been. The Black Friday thing is a myth created by the retail trade association to get people to start shopping earlier. I'm not saying that shopping earlier is a bad thing.

3. Contrary to myth, Cyber Monday is not the biggest on-line shopping day of the year. (That happens about December 15th when you start having to pay premium shipping charges.) This is another myth by the retail trade association to get people to spend money earlier.

4. Friends said I should try watching Barney. Well, I did, and I found his hearings and press conferences on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be boring, although I can see why people call him a dinosaur.

5. We had a situation the other day in which one employee overslept (and slept through numerous phone calls). We discovered (over the process that led to finding him) that we did not have the following information about him: his car license plate number, the phone number for his closest relative, the phone number for his apartment manager). We now have this information for everyone here. It's a file that everyone knows how to find. We also discovered that the police will do absolutely nothing (other than filing a missing person report so that if he shows up by accident they know where to send him or his body).

6. I don't know how they calculate this, but on average women say 7,000 words in each day and men say about 2,000. I must have a feminine side as everybody says I talk a lot. Personally, I think I write more than 7,000 words a day in emails and my various publications.

7. I am asking all of my friends to send a Christmas card to the ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, NY NY 10004, so as to brighten their sad little dark world. Be sure it says "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays" or something. (A few million Christmas cards might show them that the American people do not support their war to destroy religion.)

8. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. (The Kzinti shot the Klingon.) In passive voice, the subject of the sentence receives the action. (The Klingon was shot by the Kzinti.)

9. A typical beaver chews down 200 trees a year. The real damage beavers do is not in chewing down smaller trees, but in chewing into bigger trees (killing them while leaving them standing). These standing dead trees then become an economic loss to the land owner (who could sell the lumber) and a danger to everyone who goes near them.

10. Perplexed, I looked up the "Name three common words ending in 'gry' in everyday English" puzzle and discovered it's a joke, there are only two such works -- angry and hungry -- the rest are "obsolete words" from Olde Englishe.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Remember The Other Casualties of Pearl Harbor

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today we mark yet another passing of the seventh of December. Most of us will hear something about Pearl Harbor today, some of us may even know what happened there and be able to find it on a map.

In a larger sense, however, we should not forget that Pearl Harbor was not the only place we were attacked that day. To a great extent the men stationed at Pearl were mostly lucky.

Yes, more than 2,000 of them were killed, and another 2,000 were wounded, some of those crippled for life. Some died hours, and even days, after the attack as the air in the compartment of the ship they were trapped in ran out. Some few died because frightened men fired on unseen enemies in the dark of that night and killed friends.

But hundreds of men were left to fight, and eventually fall into the tender mercies of the Imperial Japanese Military on Wake and Gaum. Thousands were left to face the Japanese Army in the Philippines with no hope of resupply, seeing their rations cut again and again.

All of these men, and some women, were members of our armed forces. None of them expected to be abandoned to the tender mercies of what had by that time become perhaps the most brutalized, and brutalizing, military force on the planet, at least among "civilized" nations.

The overwhelming majority of them did their duty as best they could, while the men and women at Pearl Harbor picked up the pieces there, but did not miss very many meals or suffer from lack of proper medical treatment, even if it was hectic the first few days after the attack.

We should remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, yes. But we should also remember those others for whom the start of the American involvement in World War II was an even longer and more agonizing part of their lives.

Most of them did not survive it.

They, too, were casualties of Pearl Harbor, because with the Fleet disabled, there was no hope of rescue, much less resupply.

So when you think of Pearl Harbor on this day, think also of the various American outposts in the Pacific that the disaster at Pearl Harbor ultimately delivered into the less than tender hands of the Japanese Military, and remember that for all of that, cut off and isolated, they fought.

Wake fell before Christmas on 23 Dec 41, the Battered Bastards of Bataan held out until May of 1942.

Monday, December 06, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 28 November - 4 December 2010

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we shipped CL#42 to the wholesalers, and worked on the Supplemental File and the Large Print Edition for the mail order releases. Nothing new got uploaded to e23 because we were so busy.

The weather this week was typical of Panhandle winters. No snow or rain, but it was cold in the mornings, and some of the afternoons (while other afternoons passed 60). The spam storm varied from 504 to 1323.

Steve Cole and Steven Petrick finished CL#42 at noon Monday and Alien Armada an hour or two later. SVC worked on the FLAP list. Both worked on the Supplemental File, the first workbook for CL#43, and continued their daily 30 minute walks. Steve Cole took Wednesday off (the third non-Sunday he's taken off since Origins) because he was so stressed out nobody wanted him around.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and got the proof copy of the first Kindle Book.

Mike and Joel kept orders going out.

Jean worked on marketing and the Supplemental File.

Sunday, December 05, 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 over 30 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, December 04, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. The Origins Awards are soliciting submissions for this year. I never bother, and won't bother. When someone from GAMA comes around to my booth at Origins every year asking me to help promote the awards, I tell them to go away. The awards system doesn't work, and I've been screwed out of at least five of them (I have won three) because they spent years putting all science fiction games into the fantasy category, and no science fiction game ever won because fantasy games sell more copies. (A friend of mine won with a science fiction game by sneaking it into a non-science fiction non-fantasy category for which it was blatantly not qualified.) I've written to (and spoken before) the committee that runs the things more times than I can count, and they don't care and don't want to hear anything more about my complaints, although they continue to send me things asking me to support the awards. Until they figure out a way to give me the awards I was screwed out of, I will continue to refer to them as The Irrelevant Awards and will have nothing to do with them.

2. I loved the part in CASTLE where he started speaking Chinese (as he did now and then in the series FIREFLY) and then explained he had learned the language because of "a science fiction show I used to love."

3. I love Ann Coulter, but she's dangerously wrong on one point: if we only search Middle Eastern males at airports, the terrorists will recruit (or disguise themselves as) someone else. I think the full body scanners are worthless and dangerous, and will be happy to allow a female security guard to pat me down any time she wants.

4. Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona are going to require Obama to present his real birth certificate or he won't be allowed to be on the 2012 ballot for president. Other states may pass similar legislation. One might assume that judges appointed by Obama or other Democrats might block this, but the laws allow each state to set candidate eligibility rules.

5. If you want to understand what's going on in Afghanistan, it's a political battle over control of the foreign aid money. The Afghan government wants control over the money so that senior government officials can steal it. (Not just for their personal enrichment, but so they can spread it around to various warlords to keep them supporting the government.) President Karzai is (supposedly) not corrupt, but his family, tribe, senior cabinet officials, and friends are very corrupt, and are pressuring him to gain control over the incoming foreign aid because, well, it's not "not how things are done" to see all of that money actually going to the people it's supposed to help instead of being rightfully stolen by senior officials. Karzai ordered the foreign aid agencies to give up their private security forces at the end of the year, and they all packed up and left instead of trusting the Afghan police. Now Karzai wants the money just handed to him and the donors are threatening to cut it off completely.

6. Steven Petrick did warn me that going with the low bidder for my attempted coup in Madagascar was not a good plan.

7. Russia and China have stopped using the US dollar for foreign trade and now consider their own currencies strong enough to use for that. This cannot be a good thing.

8. I read the other day that those states which banned "texting while driving" actually had accident rates go up, not down, so maybe their drivers were texting each other with traffic safety updates?

9. I read the other day that government requirements for child-proof caps on pill bottles had actually caused more child poisonings because people found them so tedious, difficult, or annoying that they left them off of the bottles. Wow! It never occurred to me to leave the cap off of a pill bottle, although in my house with no children I could see little harm. I guess I just always assumed that bottles should have caps and dealt with the annoying things, which (seriously) aren't THAT bad to deal with.

10. I was going to go out to the airport to see if a female security guard would pat me down, but Leanna said they only pat down people who have a ticket. Wow! You can buy a ticket for a pat down? Sign me up.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Deck the Room

Deck the room with Petrick's judges
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hang them high with winks and nudges
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Vie we now for Gold Hat status
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
"Speed is life" is all that matters
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See our SVC before us
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
WebMom's here so we won't cuss
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If we do, we know what hits us
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Griswold Number Eight will find us
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away our games will fly
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Petrick to the booth will hie.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Origins, we all were here
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Farewell then, until next year
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.
No judges were harmed in the creation of this filk.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Many people do not know that you can play either STAR FLEET BATTLES or 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. It since 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 $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the STAR FLEET BATTLES/FEDERATION COMMANDER game systems 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.

We continue to develop FEDERATION & EMPIRE for an on-line environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. Players can even fly the FC Federation CA, FC Klingon D7, and the SFB Federation and Klingon tournament cruisers 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, December 01, 2010

A Look into the Future

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have been directed to delve into the future about what will be in Captain's Log #43.

We have a "victory at" article which we can use, and the basics for the "Battle Groups" article have been worked out (it will probably open for submissions sometime this month, that is December, but not until after we finish the Supplement for Captain's Log #42).

The Monster update will obviously be the Metamorph (the next one in line), although I am somewhat disappointed that no one has created any scenarios using the previous articles.

We do have a lot of problems to overcome. We need a good fiction story, and we need it soon. But we also need Term Papers, Command Notes, and Tactical Notes, as well as a good primer.

SVC has an idea for the next update to the Battle Force Card game, and thinks he may have an idea for something that can be done as an example article (that does not mean that others cannot request example articles, but there really does need to be an effort to make the requested example something that is explicit rather than open ended).

I have two SSDs in mind to start the SSD section for the issue, but we are open to other suggestions.

Scenarios may be a problem. And we need more than "do a scenario where a Federation Police Ship stumbles on an Orion Light Raider Looting a Freighter in an Asteroid field, there's the idea, you write it". We would like scenarios where the writer has at least done his own research and pushed the counters around enough that he can write his own scenario tactics (or have discovered his own scenario was unworkable and moved on to something else).