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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Name Tracking

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Star Fleet Battles has a long past, and sometimes people submitting things forget that they are not the only ones doing so. It is easy to look at the name of an existing ship and decide to build a scenario, or even a fiction story, around the name. An example of a scenario is "The Dictator's Diplomat", Dictator being the name of a Klingon D7N.

The problem is that you may not be the only person who has decided to use a particular named ship for a particular thing. This does not mean that you should not continue working on the idea, but it does mean that it is a good idea to ask if you can use a particular ship if it is necessary for what you want to do. Asking lets us check our records and make a note that someone asked at a particular point in time if they could do something with that name. If someone else subsequently asks, we have a record of the previous person's request and can say "no", or give a provisional "yes". For example, the IKV Vandal appears in the fiction story "Escape from the Holdfast", and history says it was converted into an FX (advanced technology frigate) at a later date. Does that mean some cannot do a scenario or piece of fiction perhaps titled "Vandalizing"? No, the ship is still available as long as the story (or the historical outcome) does not require the ship to be destroyed, and does not interfere with any of its previous mentions (like having the scenario set in Y206, the year after the ship was apparently destroyed by being caught in a Nova blast).

And even if someone asked to use a ship, if the record says they asked six months ago, and nothing has been heard from them since, we would probably release the ship to a new request.

So if you plan to write an article and use a named ship, even if the only existing record you can find of it is in a list of ship names in the R section of the empire as the only previous place the name has ever been used, ask. There could be someone else working on an entirely different item that needs that particular name to make it work.

Saturday, October 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.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Tribbles on my shoulders make me happy
Tribbles in my eyes can make me cry
Tribbles on the water look so soggy
Tribbles almost never learn to fly

If I had tribbles that I could give you
I'd give to you tribbles just like this one.
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make your tribbles run.

Tribbles on my shoulders make me happy
Tribbles in my eyes can make me cry
Tribbles on the water look so soggy
Tribbles almost never learn to fly

If I had tribbles that I could sell you
I'd sell tribbles sure to multiply.
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for tribbles all the while.

Tribbles on my shoulders make me happy
Tribbles in my eyes can make me cry
Tribbles on the water look so soggy
Tribbles almost never learn to fly

Tribbles almost never, ever learn to fly.

Tribbles almost always ...

by Jean Sexton,
Parody copyright (c) 2010 ADB, Inc.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Steve Cole, a professional engineer, comments:

Congress passed a law requiring the automobile companies to improve the gas mileage of their cars. The mileage has been improved, and a lot of gasoline has been saved. Good so far.

But how was this accomplished? Congress assumed that the automobile companies would make smaller cars that were just as safe, better gasoline engines, and new technology such as electric cars and hybrids. What actually happened is that the vehicles were made lighter (a good way to improve gas mileage is to carry around less mass), and that has led to death. Engines just could not be improved, not enough, anyway. (The technology of internal combustion is a century old, and there just isn't a 20% improvement left to be found.) New technology is still a decade from being economically feasible. That left only less metal.

There's a lesson here. If you give somebody an ultimatum to accomplish a task, he may accomplish that task by means that were not the means you assumed he would use. Congress thought that safety would not be compromised, but given the impossible cost of a more fuel efficient engine (and the sky high price of a hybrid, which by the way produces more pollution in the manufacture of its special batteries than it saves), what other choice was there but to build the car out of thinner and weaker and just plain less steel?

Reducing the weight of the average car by 500 pounds has caused somewhere between 2200 and 3900 more automobile fatalities every single year. Why? Because vehicles that get into collisions have less "armor" around the people. Lighter vehicles tend to come apart (or crush) during collisions, instead of staying in one piece and providing "room to stay alive" inside the damaged areas. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration says that reducing a small car by only 100 pounds means 5.63% more deaths, while reducing a larger car by 100 pounds means 4.7% more deaths.

It's a tradeoff. One argument is that human life is priceless, but then, insurance companies (and juries) put a price on human life every day. The national decision to HAVE cars in the USA costs 45,000 lives per year, but given geography (this is a large country with a fairly thin population compared to, say, England or France) you cannot make the US functional without them. Are 2,000 lives worth cutting fuel consumption (and imports!) by a billion dollars or two? How many lives are lost in "wars for oil" we have all watched on TV? Are people really priceless? Apparently, not.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. We 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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Steven Petrick writes:


I do not care who you vote for, whether the Democrat, the Green, the Libertarian, the Republican, some other independent, or even the Socialist Workers (Communist) Party.


As long as you vote honestly, i.e., do not write in Micky Mouse or Donald Duck or what have you.

Even if you cannot vote for somebody, at least vote for what YOU believe is the lesser evil. Do not allow a greater evil to win just because all of the choices in your view are bad ones.

I wore a uniform and carried a rifle, sat in the rain and snow in the mud, sometimes missed a meal for more than a decade of my life so that you would have this right.

So vote.

Do not vote as I vote, I do not ask anything more of you than that you exercise your franchise and be as honest in your selection as you can.

Do not vote for a Democrat just because you are a Democrat, or a Republican just because you are a Republican, or for any other party just because you are a member of that party.

Just cast the best vote you can.

It is all I ask.

It is what I suffered for, what millions of others through the history of this country suffered for, and many of them far worse than I did, and a lot of them died or were crippled for the remainder of their lives.

So casting an honest vote, doing your solemn duty as a citizen, is the least I, and they, can ask of you.


Words Have Meaning

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Words mean things, but the reality is that the words have a meaning not just in their context, but with the occupation of the people using them.

A recent example.

"Move if you have to."

What do those words mean?

To a professional soldier those words mean that if I deem it necessary to move, my superior has delegated to me the authority to do so on my own initiative. However, my superior also has said by those words "do not move unless you have to". I am required by those words to maintain my current position unless circumstances are such that I believe I "have" to move. I cannot simply abandon my current position because my superior is trusting me to use my own judgment to determine when movement is necessary and otherwise wants me to maintain my current position.

Compare that to "You have freedom of action."

Freedom of action allows me to do whatever I deem possible with the forces at my command. I can maintain my position, withdrawal from it at my own discretion, or even initiate an assault on an opposing force if I deem it the best course of action. The choices are all mine.

In both cases I am expected to keep my superior advised as to what I am doing, and of course circumstances can result in his changing my orders. I am still subject to the commands of my superior.

"Do whatever you think necessary".

The professional officer knows that those words are loaded with other phrases that need not be said. They are not a carte blanch authorizing, for example, violations of the Law of Land Warfare because "I think it necessary". If I do violate the Law of Land Warfare, I cannot claim that I was "only following orders", that my superior by using the above words has sanctioned any criminal act I may commit. All he has done is release me to make any lawful decisions possible to maintain my force. Whether that is attack, retreat, or defend in place, or destroying my own equipment in preparation for attempting to infiltrate my people through enemy lines. It does not allow me to execute any prisoners I may be holding.

A reporter, on the other hand, would tend to take the above sentence as my superior authorizing me to commit crimes, and most civilians would not understand the nuances of the phrase "Move if you have to", assuming that it means the command in question can simply decide to move and that there is no onus on the subordinate commander to try to maintain his current position.

Words have meaning, but the meaning is often a product of who is speaking and who is listening.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 17-23 October 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was warm enough, with cool mornings (down to 50F). It rained all day Thursday.

The spam storm continued to building, reaching 2000 on Tuesday, then dropping back to 500.

This was a fairly calm week as we tried to get a lot of routine stuff done before we start three intense weeks of finishing Captain's Log #42.

New uploads to e23 this week included Klingon Ship Pack #1, Federation Ship Pack #1, and the free First Missions pack.

Steve Cole worked on the packs for e23 (Kzinti Pack #1 is out for staff review), Communique #59 (which he finished, including a new Vudar ship), the project to convert FC cards to low-toner versions (he is halfway through Klingon Attack), designed the new calendar (with Joel and Mike), and a Star Fleet Alert about videos. He maintained his exercise program, building up to 28 minutes walking per day. Steve Cole and Leanna were gone Friday and Saturday on their annual trip hauling 400 pounds of raw meat to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for their annual fundraiser.

Steven Petrick worked on elements of CL#42.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and continued work on the first Kindle Book. She also handled the reprinting of two product covers.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and continued adding products and images to Café Press.

Joel did website updates and reworked Café Press with Mike and the calendar with Steve Cole.

Jean got some work done on GURPS FEDERATION.

Sunday, October 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!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

TV Guide is always running those articles about which shows some celebrity watches. I couldn't care less, but obviously all of you guys want to know what I am watching. Ok, here goes:

Amazing Race:
I watch this, but Leanna refuses because three or four seasons ago the producers used too much footage of husbands and wives yelling at each other. The show's producers pick too many non-traditional couples, and I'd rather see more married couples.

Blue Bloods: Your standard dysfunctional cop family show, which I suppose only got on the air because Tom Selleck agreed to walk through it. The underlying conspiracy theory is just stupid and should be quietly forgotten ASAP.

Bones: Once a favorite show, now watched out of habit. The frustrated romance angle has just gone on too long. If they had started this season with Bones and Booth getting married, it would be one of my favorite shows.

Castle: My personal favorite and Leanna's third favorite. I love how the sexy detective manages to solve the case despite the interference of her buffoonish sidekick.

Chase: A new show, portraying another side of sexy female US marshals. (The one on In Plain Sight does witness protection; the one on this show tracks federal fugitives.) Very watchable and somewhat more realistic than some of the other cop shows.

Chuck: This is a cute show I actually enjoy, although we seem to have all of last season on Tivo unwatched.
CSI: Miami: I haven't seen the first episode of the year yet, but I will watch Emily Proctor shoot holes in a phone book. And the cases are fun, even if too many of them involve The Beautiful People (TM ).

CSI: New York: Not as worn out as CSI, but I get tired of the New York accents and think the cute chick married the wrong guy. Anyway, the new FBI babe is much cuter and smarter that the original Greek babe, so I'll give it another year.

CSI (Vegas): I still watch it out of habit, but they should have just shut down after Grissom left. The show hasn't been the same and Fishburne is just an empty (and overpaid) suit.

Detroit 1-8-7: One of the grittier cop shows, with good characters. No real babes in it, which sort of helps the reality and grittiness. Fitch seems modeled on Munch.

Good Guys: One of the most original shows on TV (and probably the most original cop show since the first episode of Law & Order). The two goofball cops are assigned the least important cases and always stumble into the biggest crime bust of the year. I love the babe prosecutor who played a demon on a different show.

Grey's Anatomy: My #2 favorite show and Leanna's #1. I would be a lot happier if the board would call in the two lovebirds and tell them that a Justice of the Peace is there to make it legal and they can just grow up.

Hawaii Five O: A fantasy cop show where the governor protects the police from being bothered by judges and the Constitution. What a world. Best. Theme. Music. Ever. Leanna thinks that Danno is modeled on Petrick.

Hellcats: Leanna watches this; I do not.

Hell's Kitchen: I seriously enjoy this show, even if Ramsay has never cooked anything that my allergies would allow me to eat. Interesting dynamics of leadership.

Law & Order: Los Angeles: We gave it a try, and Leanna quickly voted to dump it. I may give it a second try but I am not impressed. Both of the canceled L&Os (the original and Criminal Intent) were far better.

Law & Order: SVU: I will watch Mariska read a phone book. That said, the cases are cleverly written and interesting, even if some of them are "icky".

Law & Order: UK: I caught one episode of this on BBC America more or less by accident, and found it interesting to watch even if it's hard to follow the garbled English.

Mentalist: A favorite show because Patrick Jane always pulls out something that isn't magic but might as well be. I love how the understated-sexy detective manages to solve the case despite the interference of her buffoonish sidekick.

NCIS: Leanna's #2 favorite, but a show I think has been on the air for two seasons too many. I manage to sit through it without falling asleep, but I would be happy if it ended.

Nikita: In this retelling of the classic story, Nikita escaped from Division (which has gone rogue and now runs its own missions for its own profit and the government hasn't noticed because some of those missions are favors for crooked politicians). The Asian babe they got to play Nikita is incredible, but the idea of computer access in and out of Division is laughable.

No Ordinary Family:
I have only seen one season of this rip-off of the Fantastic Four, but it seems watchable, even if I'll never believe that Chiklis could get a babe like that to marry him.

Smallville: Now on the official last season, I officially stopped watching it. I actually stopped watching it two years ago and just sat there reading a book and ignoring it while Leanna watched it, but I'm tired of pretending.

Stargate Universe: I just watch it for the colonel, and even then mostly to critique his goofs with Petrick at lunch the next day. Could have been so much more than it is.

Undercover Boss: An interesting show about how to improve a business. I just cannot believe that there is a coffee break room in America without the boss's photo just so nobody gets fooled by this.

Universe: A science show that isn't on often enough. Sometimes I cannot follow it, but most of the time I love the astronomy photos and the astrobabes. I keep meaning to look up if they're actually doctors or professors or something since it seems they would have to be to be selected as spokeswomen.

Whole Truth: Seems to be a good show, but I cannot watch it until I finish two more seasons of NUMB3RS since one actor is in very different roles in the two shows. So, we'll bank this for later in the year when we run out of new shows.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Player

On a warm summers evening in a con line bound for nowhere.
I met up with the Player; we were both too wired to sleep.
So we took turns staring out the window at the darkness
Till boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, "Son, I've made my Aces out of reading peoples faces,
And knowing what their Plot was by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my saying, I can see you're not an Ace.
For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice."

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression
Said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to overload 'em,
Know when to run away and know when to weasel.
You never count your internals when you're rolling on the tables.
There'll be time enough for counting when the rolling's done.

Now every player knows that the secret to surviving
Is knowing what to fire and knowing what to keep
'Cause every ship's a winner and every ship's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

So when he'd finished speaking, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and wandered off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness, the Player, his photons broke even.
But in his final words, I found an Ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to overload 'em,
Know when to run away and know when to weasel.
You never count your internals when you're rolling on the tables.
There'll be time enough for counting when the rolling's done.

by Kenneth Jones,
Parody copyright (c) 2010 ADB, Inc.

Thursday, October 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/).

Wednesday, October 20, 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!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Making a Difference

Jean Sexton writes:

Sometimes an opportunity arises to make a difference in the world. The difference may be small or large, but the important thing is that the difference should be a positive one. The Fight For A Cure tournament is a way to make such a positive difference.

Why did ADB, Inc. decide to promote this effort to benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation? Steve Cole was talking to me about his reasoning. Wargamers are generally male, but most guys know a lot of women. Mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, friends, and co-workers all have an impact on people. One woman in eight will be affected by breast cancer. The odds are good that each of our gamers knows someone affected by this disease which other than skin cancer is the cancer found most frequently in women. This gives gamers something to fight for -- helping fund an organization that assists women who are too poor to afford mammograms and to perhaps save someone's life through early detection.

So you want to know more about Fight For a Cure? The tournament format will be the usual single-elimination tree, but those eliminated will automatically re-enter (no additional fee) as long as first-round seats are available. This will be a sanctioned rated ace tournament. ADB, Inc. will provide a prize of $50 in merchandise credit for the winner. All players and donors will receive an honor bar on their page of the Wall of Honor. Additionally, Dale McKee, the noted artist and contest-winning painter of minis, will be donating a painted mini to be awarded to the winner of the tournament. To commemorate the event, the mini will be of the winning ship.

Why can people enter again after a first-round loss? No one says doing something "good" has to be less than "fun"! We expect to see (and are seeing) people who have never played SFB before trying it out for this tournament. Others have never played using SFBOL. We want everyone to have a chance to play a couple of games at the very minimum. For only $10, people can fly the Klingon or Federation tournament cruiser and see how they like it. If they want to try something different, then they can subscribe to SFBOL (http://www.sfbonline.com/) and fly any tournament cruiser.

Within a few hours of our announcement, we got questions from some of our non-SFB-playing customers. "What about me? I want to help, but I'd rather donate than play in a tournament." We decided to be inclusive and quickly set up the storefront to allow donations. If you go to http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=S&Category_Code=charity, you will see that you can donate or play.

Our fans are really great people and are pulling together to make this event a success. Paul Franz created a whole new sign-up page for this tournament. Roger Rardain volunteered to judge it. Dale McKee is furnishing a painted mini to the winner. Xander Fulton created a spiffy logo that you can see here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/Fight%20For%20A%20Cure.shtml

What do you have to do to be part of the First Annual Fight For A Cure event? Pay your $10 entry fee by 11:59 pm October 22 (notice the extended date), 2010. Then you'll be eligible to enter your ship. Then play your best and have fun! It's as simple as that.

For many of us, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first science fiction books we read. In it is this quotation: "Like it or not, we either add to the darkness of indifference and out-and-out evil which surrounds us or we light a candle to see by." Let's make this tournament a candle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 10-16 October 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week continued to be pleasant, 60s in the morning, low 80s in the afternoon. We all cheered the rescue of the Chilean miners. (Texans feel a kinship with Chile that begins in high school when we have to learn to tell the two flags apart.)

The spam storm raged from 600 to 900 per day.

Steve Cole finished Communique #58, Klingon ePack #1, and the alert for Fight For A Cure (FFAC). He worked on Communique #59, CL#42, Star Fleet Admiral, and Alien Armada. He began a process of converting all existing cards to low-toner format and gave the first nine to Joel for upload. Steve Cole also went for a 20-minute walk every single day this week and reach his first five-pound diet goal. He also did the fleet scale version of the Stellar Fortress ship card.

Steven Petrick worked on CL#42 and the Borak (Module E3). He and SVC reviewed some proposals.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, got the stuff uploaded to the cart for FFAC, and continued work on the first Kindle Book.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and continued adding products and images to Cafe Press.

Joel did website updates and reworked Cafe Press with Mike and Hailing Frequencies with Steve Cole and Jean Sexton. Joel continues to post the low-toner cards done by Steve Cole and Scott Johnson.

Jean got some work done on GURPS FEDERATION and reworked the Hailing Frequencies newsletter format. She also ran the Fight For A Cure campaign. Jean totally revamped and updated the "twelve canned blogs" that get posted once a month and made SVC rework the PDF advertising pages that are attached to each E product.

Sunday, October 17, 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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I was watching SWAMP PEOPLE the other night, and noticed someone firing a rifle with an unusual left-side bolt. I thought that this must have been a custom-made weapon for a left-handed shooter. Then I saw the same guy firing a seemingly identical weapon with a right-side bolt and realized that some idiot had, for some reason, flipped the image over. Of course, on all of these reality shows, they cut pieces of other events to use as stock footage and while you may see one gator caught, shot, and pulled into the boat, you may actually be seeing bits of video from three or four different gator catchings. It's kind of like DEADLIEST CATCH and SWORDS where you see the fishermen pull something into the boat from a position way outside of the boat (a helicopter or another boat). The producers only have maybe one day of that kind of footage and splice it in to show the general idea.

2. Again and again, watching crime shows, cop shows, lawyer shows, I find myself saying not "What would the criminal do here?" but "What is the television writer going to have the criminal do here?" I also find myself saying not "Ok, who did the murder?" but "Ok, who did the writer decide to set up for the murder?"

3. Hawaii Five-O. Best. Theme. Music. Ever. But why, when the original tune is three verses, and the first (Jack Lord) show only gave us the first and third verses, does the new show only gives us the first verse? Does anybody know that there are words for this music? (One of the versions starts out: "In the early morning, at the break of day...")

4. I really hate the stupid TV writers who show you some scene at the first of the show, then say "Three days earlier" and start the real story. I don't like that. I hate that. Once I am king, it will be the death penalty for a writer to do that. For that matter, the stupid idea of NCIS showing the last frame of film from each segment before the segment begins is dumb.

5. I mentioned to my wife that the gym shorts I sleep in were totally worn out and that she needed to take me to the store to buy another pair. She went without me, and bought what was on sale, which is why my pajamas are now printed all over with Superman comic strips. (Didn't they have Batman?) Seriously, I didn't know they made comic strip pajama shorts in my size. I could have gone a long long time without knowing that.

6. The Russian Army is reinstating chaplains. We live in very interesting times. This will take several years, because the Communists had severely restricted the number of new priests and there is a continuing shortage of them, even two decades after the fall of communism. The other problem is that the Russian Orthodox church wants to control the new Chaplain Corps, and keep other religions and denominations out. About a third of Russians are not religious, and twenty percent are not Russian Orthodox, but are other kinds of Christians (including Mormons and Pentecostals, who have been heavily recruiting in Russia since the fall of communism), Jews, and there are even a few Moslems. (The US military has Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jewish, Moslem, and Buddhist chaplains.)

7. Why is there any real urgency to build a working time machine? Once you have it, you can go to any time you want, right? So if you finish it this year or last year, you still can go back to 1863 and watch the Battle of Gettysburg when you get it finished, right?

8. I ask again, if China can keep its citizens from receiving anti-government email, why cannot the US keep its citizens from receiving spam?

9. I don't think anyone can understand Dune without reading the Harvard Lampoon edition of Doon. On Doon, the planet is entirely covered with sugar and is the only source in the galaxy for beer. Giant pretzels swim through the sugar, and the local inhabitants are desperate to import entrees.

10. I would love to attend Dave Ramsay's Entrée Leadership program, but he only holds these things in expensive foreign resorts. What's up with that? If I pay to go to a resort, I don't want to waste most of the day in a class. If I want to attend a class, why do I have to pay a fortune to stay at a resort that I have no time to enjoy?

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Much Is That Klingon in the Window?

How much is that Klingon in the window?
The one with the unwrinkled head.
How much is that Klingon in the window?
He doesn’t look all that well-fed.

I must take a trip to Hilidaria
And leave my poor Feds all alone.
If they have a Klink they won’t be lonely
And the Klingon will have a good home.

I heard on the vid that there are Pirates
Who raid our systems with cruisers
My Feds need a Klingon to protect them.
And scare them away with phasers.

I don’t want a Vulcan or a Lyran.
I don’t want a Hydran that talks.
I don’t want a hive of Seltorians.
You can’t take a buggy for a walk.

How much is that Klingon in the window?
The one with the unwrinkled head.
How much is that Klingon in the window?
He doesn’t look all that well-fed.
He doesn’t look all that well-fed.

by Jean Sexton,
Parody copyright (c) 2010 ADB, Inc.

Thursday, October 14, 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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Note about Chile

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

It is almost a given that this blog will be about the mine in Chile. It is the big "good news" of the day (so far, and hoping this does not jinx it). It is very rare for a problem in a mine to not end with a body count, whether one of the larger disasters all to common in China, or those albeit smaller ones in our land.

We do not yet know the whole story, or who the real heroes are. We only know that 33 men somehow came together, and somehow maintained morale and self-discipline to survive for days on what must seem like rainbows. Somehow they shared what little there was so that all of them made it.

If all of this is true, it is a shining example that all of us as humans, when faced with disaster, can aspire to emulate.

Life and disaster is not always so pleasant.

Sometimes we do have to make life and death decisions. Sometimes when a ship sinks someone has to decide who is, and who is not, getting in the lifeboat, because if too many people get in, all will die.

Nature does not care one wit about the existence of human beings, and whether an earthquake, hurricane, volcanic eruption; whether rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief; will impartially wipe us all from her path of destruction.

So let us celebrate this triumph of human spirit and resolve. It will mark these men in times to come. Some of them may further stand up as leaders of their own country. Some may reveal after this that their feet are still made of clay.

But for now, they are all heroes, and all of us should thank not just them for having hung on until they could be saved, but the men who saved them.

Tuesday, October 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

Monday, October 11, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your store when to expect new products.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 3-9 October 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was clear and a little cooler (60s in the morning, low 80s in the afternoon) with a little rain.

The spam storm ran about 500 per day.

This was the week that we shipped Y3 and YG3. They both went on the shopping cart for mail orders that will go out next week.

New uploads to e23 included our first SFB file (YG3).

Steve Cole worked on Klingon ePack #1 (but did not finish it as Jean and Mike blew fits and wanted more changes than he had time to make), the Star Fleet Alert for Cafe Press, wrote some more blogs for Jean, wrote Communique #58, did a stellar fortress for FC, and worked with Jean and Joel reworking Hailing Frequencies.

Steven Petrick worked on CL#42.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and continued work on the first Kindle Book.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and continued adding products and images to Cafe Press.

Joel did website updates and reworked Cafe Press with Mike and Hailing Frequencies with Steve Cole.

Jean is fighting her way through short turnaround proofreading projects to get some work done on GURPS FEDERATION.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and I will get it set up for you.

Friday, October 08, 2010


If I could start the war, If I could find out how,
I'd come over the border and kill you ... Right now.

I don't know why I bombed the things I did.
I don't know why I killed the beings I killed.
Pride's like a sword it can cut both ways
Bombs are like novas at the end of days.

I didn't really mean to miss you.
I didn't wanna see you leave.
I know I made you run, but really...

If I could start the war, If I could find out how,
I'd come over the border and kill you ... Right now.
If I could reach your stars, I'd take them all from you,
Then you'd hate me hate me like you loath to do.
If I could start the war...

Your world was shattered, It was torn apart.
Like I just took a sword and drove it deep in your heart.
You dove into that sea, I let you get away
I just lost track of your starship then and there...

Too mad to tell you I was coming
To proud to warn you at all.
You know that I am coming, and Kai...


I didn't really mean to miss you.
I didn't wanna see you leave.
I know I made you run, but really...


Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Supposedly, the way out of the budget mess is a new VAT (a national sales tax), but that's just taking more money from people who are already paying taxes. (Those low-earners who don't pay taxes now would be protected by a tax credit.) How about instead of more taxes, we try less spending?

2. I don't get enough calls on my cell phone to matter (one or two a week) so when I get home I leave it on the kitchen cabinet. Seems the only time I get a call is when I'm at home, and if I heard it ring at all, I cannot ever get there before it stops. Annoyingly, voice mail doesn't work and the "list of missed calls" is in some scrambled order so the call I just missed might be any of the 20 calls on the list. I gotta switch to a new phone sometime, even though I know that the missed call is almost certainly not a real one, but a salesman or something.

3. I keep seeing these rich people who own three or ten or more cars. If I were rich, I'd still own just one not very expensive car (plus the old van for when I need a pickup). I need to get where I'm going, not show off on the trip.

4. I really think that we need some new kind of punctuation mark, an "inferior period" which is used for abbreviations leaving the real period to just end sentences.

5. Note to PROJECT RUNWAY: Gray is not a color. Black and white are only barely colors. Show us color.

6. On SWAMP PEOPLE, they are hunting alligators with a .22LR popgun. What's that about? Giving the gators a fair fight?

7. I think I have come to the conclusion that Zahi Hawass (the buffoon who heads Egyptian archaeology) has a good heart, and it may just be a buffoon we need to bring history to the people.

8. I grew up in a male society where every man was obsessed with packing the gas tank (pushing in a little more so that it rounded to an even dollar). Then Jerry Seinfeld, on a commercial, deliberately changed an even dollar amount to an odd amount, and from that moment, none of us men even tried for an even dollar amount. Thank you, Jerry, for showing us the way to freedom from even-dollar tyranny.

9. I am, sadly, never going to be on reality television because of my food allergies. I can just see telling Jeff on Survivor that he has to go get me something without onions, and by the way, a diet soda instead of a bottle of wine.

10. Pet Peeve: Cop shows where the cop fires two shots out of his pistol, the slide locks back on an empty magazine, and the clueless actor continues to point the now empty pistol at the bad guy. Argh. The prop master read the script which said "hero fires two shots" and put exactly two blanks in the pistol, so the weapon was empty and the slide locked back, making the hero look like a moron to anyone who has actually fired an automatic pistol. If there is some insurance or safety issue about putting a third round in the magazine for this scene, why not use a dummy round (available in any gun store) which will cycle like a normal round (and leave the slide forward) but won't fire?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.StarFleetGames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry 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.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Captain's Log #42

This is Steven Petrick posting.

With the furor of Module Y3, and the follow-on of Module YG3, being past, the time has come to concentrate on Captain's Log #42. We are starting somewhat behind the curve as few new Command Notes (for Federation Commander), Tac Notes (for Federation & Empire) or Term Paper (for Star Fleet Battles) have been submitted in the interim, and the stocks of available papers are very depleted. I can wait another week or two for new ones to turn up for the grading pool, but I am going to have to send what few I have out for grading pretty soon to allow the graders to do their jobs.

We have the cover done, and a few ideas for things to fill the issue. Most of which will take a great deal of effort to accomplish along with just keeping the company running and keep you, our customers, happy with us.

As usual, we are not going to skimp on the effort. We intend this issue, as we intend every issue, to be something we are proud of, and we intend for it to be released on schedule.

Monday, October 04, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 26 September-2 October 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was a little cooler than last week (70 in the morning, reaching 80s or maybe 90 in the afternoon), without much rain. The spam storm ran at about 700 per day.

This was the week that we shipped Y3 and YG3. They both went on the shopping cart for mail orders that will go out next week.

We had an issue around our warehouse and had to go put up no trespassing signs.
New uploads to e23 included Frax Pack #2 and Frax Pack #3. New Xander mugs were uploaded to Café Press.

Steve Cole finished the Y3 flap list, did some marketing with Jean, finished the Wall of Honor updates, sent Jean two reserve blogs, got a pack of Klingon ships ready for next week on e23, worked on the system for Jay W to fix the problems Jean found in Federation Admiral, did 15 whole minutes of Tai Chi, and walked half a mile for exercise.

Steve Petrick launched an initiative to change the Origins National Gold Hat Championships into the Electronic World Platinum Hat Championships, and to offer different kinds of events at Origins that would bring new people to the show.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and continued work on the first Kindle Book.

Mike kept orders flowing out, handled some conventions support, shot a new video about Y3 and YG3, and uploaded new stuff to Café Press.

Joel updated the website, helped Mike on orders, and got the new products put onto the shopping cart.

Jean is fighting her way through short turnaround proofreading projects to get some work done on GURPS FEDERATION.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


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

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

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

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

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Steve Cole muses: I am going to dedicate this entire collection to apocalyptic scenarios such as the TV show THE COLONY. The scenario is that 99.99% of the population has died of some kind of mutated and deadly virus, and the government has decided to round up survivors and establish them in small isolated colonies far enough apart avoid infection while feeding themselves and scavenging or building whatever they need (windmill generators, for example).

1. The first question is just how fast did 99.99% of the population die. If they all died in one night, then there are plenty of grocery stores, gun stores, gas stations, and hardware stores fully stocked with all we need to rebuild society. If, however, this die-off happened over weeks or months, then panic spread, production/transportation of anything and everything stopped (along with transportation of such items from production to warehouses to stores) and things are going to be much more difficult to put back together.

2. If the VOPA (Viral Outbreak Protection Agency) scenario of THE COLONY is valid, this group of colonists would have been given guns to defend themselves. The USA is awash in guns and ammo, and there would be no problem for the government to give some to the colonists and no problem for roaming bands of people to find guns. No doubt, the TV show couldn't have guns or any confrontation between the reality show colonists and outsiders would because very expensive to insure.

3. Somebody smarter than me should, in a real world scenario, figure out the minimum workable size of such a colony, and I think it's more like 20 or 30, not the 7 (later growing to 9, then 10, then 8) seen on the show. (No doubt, the TV show is limited to the number of people that some expert figured the audience could keep track of.) You need to have somebody on the watchtower all the time in daylight, and somebody awake and guarding the door all night, and the group on the TV show is too small to make this workable. The limit would be how much food you can find, hunt, or grow in a certain area, but you need more bodies than the show is using.

4. The colonists on the TV show (both seasons) never pay much attention to security (until it's too late and they're trying to secure what's left after an attack). That would be my FIRST concern. The TV producers need to include at least one soldier or veteran in each group (the real government would). It would also give them some kind of book about how to build a colony and security would be on page one.

5. There are, in this real world, a limited number of true survival experts. Being a soldier won't do; you need special forces types (or professional mountain guides or survival teachers). Failing to find enough of these guys, you need to have some kind of school established for teaching people how to hunt and fish, what plants are edible, etc. I can see VOPA sending a survival expert on a tour of colonies, helping each one. That would entail a risk of spreading infection, but different things can be tried.

6. A question about the core scenario is whether the farm animals all died. If not, putting a colony in a small town in farming country might be a good plan. I think fuel would also be a key problem. I'd actually put the colony in a place like Amarillo. It's a big enough city that you can find or salvage everything, but there is a small fuel refinery here, and plenty of oil wells within 100 miles with established pipelines feeding it. You just need one oilfield guy who knows how to turn the wells on and off.

7. Something the colonists never did much of (on either season) is recon. (We suspect this has more to do with areas near the TV show venue being private property not subject to scavenging.) They need to just walk around the look for stuff they can use (and a better place to stay). Steven Petrick and I marvel at this all the time. We'd be out on patrol every morning, starting with a circle of the camp looking for footprints, and then heading off to some area to see if we could find anything useful. We'd also move the colony to that old jail, a big concrete building that is defendable.

8. The government on the TV show has (in the scenario) found these survivors, made sure they are not infected, and planted them as a colony, after which, the colonists encounter various groups of other survivors who are not "government checked". It would seem to me that the government would have a means to gather these people to the fold. Each colony would be told: "If other people contact you, let us know, then tell them to wait at a designated area a mile away and the government will go check them out and either add them to your colony or move them somewhere else." The government would promise to deliver food if people go wait at the designated spot, so the people would probably go there. For that matter, I think that if you have a workable and defendable colony, you need to drive around (remember that refinery I mentioned, so fuel is not an issue) and post signs saying "For help, go 'here'" with instructions on where to go.

9. During the attacks, the colonists on the TV show have some people go inside the building to defend it, and some people stay outside to fight. Ok, that makes for good TV, but in the real world, the 19 attackers (not 30, we counted) would simply kill the few outside defenders.

10. Given no guns (which is ridiculous), the next thing I would do is make a bow and some arrows. Put that in the hands of somebody on the roof, and when the gang of 19 attackers shows up (who also have no firearms for whatever reason), you just fire a few arrows into the crowd. A few wounded and screaming comrades will take the wind out of the sails of any attack.

11. On the show, the colonists have decided (or perhaps the TV show producers have encouraged them) to raid the "militia camp" that these 19 attackers come from. Ok, I am as bloody minded as anyone (more than most) but the last thing I want to do is pick a battle with a stronger force. (Never fight a battle that you do not have to win.) If I recon their camp and figure out a way to conduct an attack that destroys them and steals all of their stuff, maybe I don't have to move from the colony to the fishing camp five miles down the bayou. Just attacking the militia and getting them angry is pretty dumb if I'm only moving five miles away.

12. Frankly, I think that the whole idea of moving the colony is a bad one. (Again, the colony is too small to send some of the people to secure the destination.) They have a compound that is defendable, and plenty of territory to scrounge, and lots of ruins they can scavenge, and this is where VOPA put them. The only real reason to leave is the militia, and I'm not sure I wouldn't be trying to find a way to merge with them, rather than attacking them or running away from them.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Other night, in a fight,
Klingon drones were closing on our right.
We are losing, and we're out of whack,
But the Klingon's gonna get it when the BCH gets back!

Shoot down the fighters, that's all right,
Fly into a minefield in an asteroid fight.
I can fight my best in your ambush zone;
I can win this battle when I launch my drone.

It's the BCH, it's the BCH, Oh, the BCH is back.
Saved our bacon as a matter of fact.
It's the BCH, it's the BCH, And she's better than you!
It's the way that it moves,
The things it can do.

She fights the way, with blood and gore,
Rubs their faces in an open sore.
I don't like death. My God, what's that?
Oh it's full of nasty habits when the BCH gets back!

It's the BCH, it's the BCH, Oh, the BCH is back.
Saved our bacon as a matter of fact.
It's the BCH, it's the BCH, And she's better than you!
It's the way that it moves,
The things it can do.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole