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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).