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Monday, January 31, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23-29 January 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was supposed to be "project week" when we worked on non-product projects that weren't getting any attention because they kept hitting snags. Well, the projects we worked on all hit snags and while progress was made, none were finished. The weather this week was not bad, even getting to "shirtsleeve" weather in the last few days. The spam storm continued, peaking at 1600 on Tuesday.

New uploads to e23 included GURPS Prime Directive and we did the paperwork to set up a store for PD20M on DriveThru. The plan is to only sell PD20M stuff on Drive Thru, and to sell PD20M stuff only on DriveThru. Everything else will go on e23 and not on DriveThru.

Steve Cole worked on projects, marketing, finishing the FC Reference Rulebook 6 (which proved to have flaws that will require another week of work before it can be re-released), wrote some blogs, updated the retired staff on the wall of honor, designed three Andro Ships and outlined an Andro seeking weapon for C3A, talked to people about doing an Android app, and dealt with someone who was trying to become a problem. Steve promises to have more Ship Card packs for e23 next week, or the week after, or at least soon.

Steve Petrick worked on C3A.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did website updates and helped Mike.

Jean is elated that GURPS PD Federation finally went to Steve Jackson for review.

Apple approved our "slider" game for the iPhone, but if the history of other projects (e.g., Cafe Press) is any guide, they might well lock it down and ask us to fax them our contracts with Paramount, then unlock it again. So far, no problems.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

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.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Poinsettias (the red Christmas flower) were introduced to the US in 1828 by Joel Poinsett, who was at the time the US ambassador to Mexico.

2. We have a tradition in my family. When a man dies, the screwdrivers from his toolbox are passed out to the other men in the family. I have, in my toolbox, screwdrivers from my brother, my father, two of my uncles, my grandfather, my great-grandfather (who died when I was two years old), and his father (who died long before I was born). They are never really gone, since I remember them every time I go to my toolbox.

3. The first Christmas cards were privately printed in London by one businessman in 1843. The next year, a few of his friends also had cards printed, and a few more did so the next year. In 1846, commercially printed cards were sold in stores.

4. Unable to get Cap & Trade through the Senate even when he had 60 votes, Obama now plans to create the same thing by EPA regulations of dubious legality. Cap & Trade will have many effects, such as doubling the cost of electricity, increasing the cost of gasoline by $1.50 per gallon, and making some well-positioned businessmen into billionaires. It has never been shown that this will save the planet, create green jobs, or reduce energy imports.

5. I got another email just now of a type I get now and then. Somebody sent me an idea by email, and having no reply, he assumed that I was angry with him. No, I'm just considering the idea and bouncing it around the staff. If I were angry, you wouldn't have to guess about it.

6. The FCC, acting against the decision of the Congress, the will of the people, and the rulings of the courts, has decided to make the internet "fair" by requiring websites to either post both views of an issue or link to opposing views. Oh come on. Like anyone who really wants to study an issue cannot do that for himself? Like it's really going to accomplish anything? If I just want to read stuff I agree with, I'll just ignore the obligatory links to opposing views, just like I ignore newspaper columnists whom I don't like to read.

7. On 12 Jan, we arrived at work to find blood spatter all over the sidewalk and parking lot. Being responsible citizens, we called the police to ask them if they knew about it, and if they wanted to bag the various items soaked with blood and photograph the crime scene before we cleaned it up. They appreciated our responsible action. When you find a crime scene, call the cops and ask them what to do (if they want to do anything); do not mess with anything that could be evidence.

8. Spain is bankrupt, but found the money to pay for ads asking Spanish people to buy Palestinian-made potato chips instead of Israeli-made potato chips. I didn't know either one of those made potato chips.

9. Titivillius, the demon assigned to introduce errors into the work of scribes, academics, authors, editors, publishers, and game designers, never sleeps.

10. A year after the devastating Haiti earthquake, and nothing has been done about rebuilding the island. Millions still live in refugee camps and tent cities. No major buildings or businesses or even home have been replaced. Billions have poured into the island, some of it stolen, but most of it used to pay for tents and food (instead of rebuilding houses and getting people back to the point they can feed themselves). The Haitian government is even charging 40% import duties on stuff relief groups bring in!

Friday, January 28, 2011


There's a point we can't measure in between trash and treasure.
There's a spark in the distance offering no resistance.
There are wars in the hexes, wounded prides where the wreck is.
Ships that rise from the ether, slaves will bow to the masters.

There on the map there are boundaries
Where they say fate will sometimes shine.
We fight for our lives, but few will survive,
Inside the hex lines.

Move a hex, take a shot, show the convoy escort what you've got.
Rise or fall, bet it all,
You might just find your fate inside those hex lines.

Move a hex, take a shot, show the convoy escort what you've got.
Rise or fall, bet it all,
You might just find your fate inside those hex lines.

(apologies to Clyde, Fisher, and Davis who wrote First & Ten)

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, January 27, 2011

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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Jean Sexton reports:

Facebook should never be your sole source for getting out information. It is primarily useful to get info to people who live and die by Facebook. It is good for reaching out to those who have a fondness for your games, but aren't rabid fans. The rabid fans haunt your website already. Facebookers are the folks who your want news in small doses. In our case, we have a thousand fans on the forum and over six hundred friends on our page on Facebook and the overlap between the two groups is tiny, less than a hundred people. LOTS of people found our forum to be "too intense" and require them to pay too much attention to too many posts.

You have to feed your page on Facebook every day, two-to-five wall posts per day, in order to keep Facebookers interested and the news "above the fold." Some days we have to work hard to find something to post, and other days we have to hold back and not post too much. We usually post a piece of art every day, some of it old stuff and some of it new stuff. We had to get the design/graphic people into the habit that when they did some new piece of art, they would spin off a copy to me to upload to our page on Facebook. The artists now know to send me their preliminary sketches which build buzz about future products (and make the artists feel more important). We have a blog where we post something every day, and most days we link to the blog and mention what the blog is about. If the big shots at the company post some important news on the forum, we either copy it to our page on Facebook or link to that forum post. Whenever I can convince the boss to do a press release, we load it onto a special website page and link our page on Facebook to it. Whenever we upload some new "free useful download" (say, a chart that some fan created that compiles obscure date) we make sure to tell the forum about it and port it to our page on Facebook. If you keep people coming back, then you can get them to pay attention to what you really want them to pay attention to (announcements of a new product to buy, an event you are attending, a survey you need answered).

Check your insights (some of the statistical data provided by Facebook if you know how to dig it out). See if you are really hitting your target groups, and if too many people are blocking your news feed. Keep an eye on spikes (sudden increases in friends or in responses) and ask yourself what happened to cause it. Did a game store "friend" you and you are getting some of their customers? Was there a convention where your ad ran in the program? Did you send out a newsletter or press release? Did a fan post a major talk-up monologue on some website? If you can figure out what caused something good, maybe you can make it happen again, but even things that work six times in a row may stop working eventually.

Make it easy for folks to friend you. Have a like button on your website. Remind people in your products, press releases, and newsletters that you have a page on Facebook. New people join Facebook every day and they may forget to friend your page unless you remind them. Conversely, remind the folks on Facebook of your website and forums. There is cross-pollination to be found.

Don't stress over what Facebook does or doesn't hand out about people. Your customers are there on Facebook anyway; just remind them to practice safe Facebooking. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to hire someone who knows Facebook to run your page on Facebook for you.)

Get a "front-person" to do your page on Facebook (if for no other reason to avoid spending so much of your own time). If you aren't warm and fuzzy, if you aren't "into" Facebook, find one of your employees or trusted fans who is. Facebook is all about people connecting and it takes someone who is a "people person" (and someone who just likes Facebook) to send out the right vibes. If you find Facebook tedious, boring, annoying, or bothersome, get someone else to run your page for you.

Remember that if you don't take control of your product on Facebook (set up, manage, feed, and grow your own page), odds are that some fan will set up a page about your product and company, and people on Facebook who want to know about your product and company will go THERE as you didn't give them an official choice. Ask yourself if you want people getting information from some fan (who may or may not know what he's talking about) or from you. You have to manage your message.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Government is Being Stolen From Us

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things that frightens me is how little Americans know about the document governing how the country is supposed to be run. So many of us know so little and our elected officials seem to know even less.

You would think the Constitution is a large and forbidding document to read and this is why no one takes the time to do so. Yet, even with all of its amendments it fits into a slim little book, in nine point type, barely larger than the palm of your hand with enough room to include the Declaration of Independence. The binding is perhaps an eighth of an inch thick. This is too much for us to read?

I have spoken with a lot of college age people, and of all of them only about five had read the Constitution, and four of those because a parent or a respected relative suggested they do so. One read it because a teacher suggested he do so. That seems to make that teacher a rarity.

I had occasion, here in Amarillo, Texas, to speak with two teachers while having my car serviced. One taught in grade school, one taught in high school. Both, when asked, said the other school was responsible for teaching the Constitution. The grade school teacher saying it was supposed to be taught in high school, the high school teacher saying it is supposed to be taught in grade school. Both, however, agreed that it was too important a document for parents to teach their children, but should only be taught by "accredited instructors".

Some students would admit to having been taught "The Bill of Rights", as if those were the entire constitution. And they seemed to have different interpretations, depending (apparently) on what their teacher believed. Some believed (as taught by their teacher) that the second amendment actually prohibits the individual right to "keep and bear arms", but only allows the militia, which is the Army today, to have weapons. Others were taught that the second amendment did allow an individual right. There were other interpretations of other amendments. Again, however, they were unaware of such basic things as the fact that President's do not have "the power of the purse" (and quite a few of them do not even know what that term means), but that the budget actually originates in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution is not a living document to be interpreted at the whim of a judge or a politician, it is an eternal document that represents the wisdom of the founding fathers. And, yes, in a sense the founding fathers DID intend the Constitution to be a "living document", but they meant for it to live not by being interpreted at need and based on the laws, customs, and usages that had developed over time and in foreign lands but by being capable of amendment. Amendment in which "We, the People", were to have a say. Amendments are to be sent to the states to be voted on by the people. We are supposed to agree or disagree with how the Constitution is amended, how our government will change and impact our lives. However, the ignorance of "We, the People" allows our leaders (both politicians and judges) to do things that a better knowledge of the Constitution might hold them in check.

Slowly, bit by bit, we are being moved from being citizens of a free land, to being the subjects of an increasingly controlling government which will decide what we can, and cannot, do not just with the fruits of our own labors, but with our own lives. And our right to stand up and say "no", much less "yes", is slowly be stripped from us through our own ignorance of our governing document.

Part of that, and this frightens me most of all, is that the young men and women of our country who occupy positions of power and authority, are swearing an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America", and have no idea what they are swearing that oath to. They may think of themselves as good and honest people, but in so doing they are, in effect, swearing an oath to obey the orders of their superiors without a true basis to know if those orders are in fact legitimate. A day may come when a President (no, I am not saying it will be Obama for those who are rabidly looking to take a bite out of anyone who does not praise him, I am looking towards a future darkly) will order the military to "arrest Congress and the Supreme Court", and they will do so because it has been ordered. Because they will not realize (short Congress and the Supreme Court actually committing a massive act of treason that really did require such action) that such an order is illegal.

By not teaching the Constitution in our schools, our schools are ultimately stealing our government from us and paving the way for disaster.

Monday, January 24, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 January 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that SVC finished the sixth edition of the Federation Commander Reference Rulebook. Most of the work was finished by Tuesday, but nagging issues with three rules (that amounted to five sentences of updates) did not get finished until late Saturday.

The weather this week was cold but without rain.

The spam storm continued, reaching 1092 on Tuesday.

The only new upload to e23 was Steve Cole's free book on how to run a game publishing company. He has promised to get more new stuff uploaded in the next week. E23 is adding about 10% to our sales and 20% to our profit.

Steve Cole worked on RRB6, but took time out to solve a retailer's problem with Alliance, support several conventions, consolidate posts in the e23 topic into FAQ posts, and go for a walk most days with Steven Petrick.

Steven Petrick worked all week on C3A and the 2011 version of SFB basic set.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date,

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did website updates and helped Mike.

Jean continued work on PD20M Romulans and proofread the new paragraphs of RRB6. Jean reports that our page on Facebook continues to gain friends, reaching 631.

Jay Waschak reports that the first iPod game has (finally) gotten to the Apple Store. We are now waiting for the inevitable "prove you are legal" conversation with the Apple guys.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


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, January 22, 2011

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/).

Friday, January 21, 2011

We Could Be Klingons

When I was working on Klingons PD20M, I felt so sorry for the Bargantines that I wrote a song for them. I hope you enjoy it. -- Jean

We Could Be Klingons (The Bargantine Song)
(to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine”)

Chorus: We could be Klingons, we could be warriors
If you would let us on your ships
We could be fearless; we could be bra-ve
Ple-ase, let us on your ships.

The other day, dears, when I was farming,
I was a Klingon, true and brave
But then somebody threw a tribble—
There are some things one can’t brave.

I’ll always be brave when I am able,
I’ll drill and drill from day to night,
I’ll practice firing my disrupter--
Don’t let foes within my sight!

Why won’t you let us be like real Klingons?
We could be warriors strong and true
We could whip Hydrans and nasty bad guys
With our ships all shiny new.

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

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Steve Cole writes:

The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare won't work (at least until a new election) and plans to sabotage it by mucking with various parts of it will just make a mess. How about we just fix it? Don't repeal it, just eliminate the stupid parts and celebrate the smart parts.

First, eliminate the 1099 provision (requiring all businesses to fill out 1099s for everything they do). It's just stupid (even Obama said so) and has nothing to do with healthcare. This will have no effect on budget or Obamacare.

Second, eliminate the government takeover of student loans. There is no need for it. This will have no effect on budget or Obamacare.

Cancel the cut in Medicare, which we all knew would be canceled. Ok, that's going to cost $50 billion per year, but we all knew it was going to happen and I can cover it, see below.

Eliminate forced purchase. It's unconstitutional. This will drive up costs, since the whole deal of forcing insurance companies to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, children, no caps, and so forth was going to double premiums, but forcing the young people to buy insurance would lower premiums. So, at that point in my plan, everybody's premiums go up even more than Obamacare has already driven them up, but I can fix that.

Institute Texas-style tort reforms in every state. Instant 15% cut in premiums in the 47 states without tort reform. The only ones hurt are trial lawyers and the congresscritters they bought off. Surely you agree.

Allow inter-state purchase of health insurance. This instantly lowers premiums by 20-60% for 85% of Americans. This also solves the problem of those who want to buy insurance but cannot find it as now they can find a state that will sell it to "anyone" (see Texas High Risk Pool). The only ones hurt are the special interest lobbyists who convinced this or that state legislature to mandate junk 98% of people never use (e.g., sex change operations).

Remove the edict that all states have to adopt the most generous Medicaid rules. States with generous medicaid are bankrupt. Those with non-generous Medicaid are not bankrupt. Do the math.

Claims that Obamacare lowers the deficit are nonsense and we all know it. That savings only happens if you count on massive Medicaid and Medicare cuts that we all know aren't going to happen, as well as other cuts that are offset by identical spending in separate legislation. No, Obamacare costs, it doesn't save.

Let's figure out ways to reward whistle-blowers who expose fraud, like doctors who see 999 patients in one day.

Illegal aliens do not get non-emergency healthcare; everybody can show proof of citizenship. Illegals can pay for their healthcare, or we can if you want bill their employers (and if they don't name an employer, we can deport them to their own countries where they can use the local healthcare system). Remember that Reid and Pelosi already included a "no illegal aliens" regulation, but then blocked every effort to require proof of citizenship. If you really think there is enough US cash to pay for US healthcare, you cannot possibly believe there is enough to pay for the rest of the world as well. (If they have green cards and pay taxes, then I'm ok with them.)

To sweeten the pot for you liberals, allow anyone to buy into Medicaid (no subsidies) which provides the public option you so desperately want. (As long as taxpayers don't have to pay for the public option, I have no problem with it.)

Raise the limit on companies forced to buy health insurance from 50 employees to 250, allowing small businesses to grow. Given all of the above, people can now buy affordable insurance on their own.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 January 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that work got started for the new year's schedule. Steven Petrick was busy on C3A and the new version of SFB Basic Set, while Steve Cole worked on updating the FC Reference Rulebook.

The weather this week was very cold in the mornings, but warm enough to walk around the block in shirt sleeves by the afternoon of the last few days of the week. Wednesday, there was a lot of blood splattered on the sidewalk from a 2am bar fight that started next door. Three people were hurt, none of them from ADB. (No one works that late so we never have issues with the bar next door.) On the same day, someone tried to break into Jean's house. Coincidence?

The spam storm continued, reaching 1698 on Wednesday.

We did not get anything new uploaded to e23 and that was a failure we should have avoided.

Steve Cole almost finished the end of year updates for the Wall of Honor, finished editing the Alien World Survival game, updated his book on the game industry so it can be uploaded to e23, updated the list of retail stores, and did a flurry of customer requests. He also did his weekly "touch bases with outside contractors" but really should have gotten some marketing done and did not.

Leanna kept orders up to date and got the year-end accounting and royalty statements done.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did website updates, got Communique #61 uploaded, and got Hailing Frequencies sent out.

Jean is back in North Carolina, proofreading things, finishing the last template (Marshals) for GURPS Federation, and being Webmom on the BBS and Facebook, which is up to 625 friends.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Laws of Unintended Consequences

This is Steven Petrick posting.

By this time I suspect you are all aware of Somali pirates. What you may not be aware of is that their operations are affecting your own personal pocketbook. You do not see it, it is, in effect, a hidden tax. The increase in fuel usage by all the merchant vessels plying the danger regions. The increased costs of the crew for hazard pay. The costs of all those warships on distant stations and the logistics to support them. The increased insurance rates, not to mention the ransoms. The disruptions in deliveries with the further disruptions of ships being diverted to make up shortfalls due to non deliveries. All of these things are paid for, ultimately, from the pockets of consumers. This overlooks the simple human costs as some of these failures to deliver are costing the lives of people dependent on those cargoes arriving in a timely fashion.

Some insist the Somali pirates should not be interfered with as the are "modern day Robin Hoods", robbing from the wealthy western nations and putting the money into the Somali economy. This ignores the fact that a lot of the money never makes it to Somalia, but winds up in the hands of wealthy middle eastern middlemen who negotiate the ransoms. It also overlooks the livelihood of fishermen whose boats are stolen, sometimes with them being impressed into work as pirates, and sometimes they are killed.

The Somali pirate situation (and it is spreading to other regions due to the failure to act) is a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. When the first freighter was taken, my response was that it had to be taken back by force immediately. The act of seizing a freighter had to be demonstrated as a "bad idea (tm)", not something that would deliver a reward to those so bold.

The decision by those who were supposed to know better was to treat the seizure of that first freighter as an aberration. Pay the ransom this one time and it will never happen again.

And look where we are now.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

M1A4 Club

On the BBS, when we discuss real-life or hypothetical situations that involve politics, we move them to an alternate reality called "Arth." There Steven Petrick is the ruler of a superpower named Petrovia. In a scenario set in prehistoric times, he described the history of the M1A4 Club. This was written for him and is to the tune of "Darling Clementine."

M1A4 Club

In a region, called Petrovia,
Looking for a better club,
Lived a Petrick, with his hat trick,
That’s his M1A4 Club!

Oh his lethal, oh his lethal,
Oh his lethal wooden Club.
You are upgraded and discarded,
Dreadful sorry, wooden Club.

Light it was and very leafy,
And its branches numbered nine.
Pulled the leaves off, pulled the bark off,
M1A1 was just fine!

Light it was and very handy,
But its branches numbered nine.
Cut them all off, chop some length off,
M1A2 was just fine!

Light it was and not so heavy —
Some more weight would be right fine.
Found a fat stick; handle’s not thick.
M1A3 was just fine!

Heavy was it, but quite smooth —
Stone and bone chips, found he nine.
He put each chip in the tip.
M1A4 is just fine!

Oh his lethal, oh his lethal,
Oh his lethal wooden Club.
You are upgraded and discarded,
Dreadful sorry, wooden Club.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. One thing I learned in six years as a construction engineer: you can get more done with A+ people and C+ equipment than you can with A+ equipment and C+ people.

2. At one point, the US more or less abandoned civil defense because Russian nuclear bombs were so big that the entire idea of surviving one was laughable. Now, with Islamic terrorists eventually going to get a "small" nuclear bomb, we need to look back into the idea of fallout shelters, evacuation plans, and survival situations.

3. According to Groucho Marx, only one man in a thousand is a leader of men. The other 999 are following women.

4. The constitution is NOT a "living document" that adapts to the whims of whatever judge got appointed. It is an eternal document that reflects the wisdom of the founding fathers, and most of what the government does these days is not covered by the constitutional authority that states gave the Federal government.

5. Even during the two or three "balanced budget years" of the 90s, the debt went up. Why? Because the budget wasn't really balanced. The government basically sold bonds to the Social Security trust fund, and counted the resulting money not as debt issued but as revenue received.

6. Ok, we know that socialism has failed (gone into bankruptcy) every time it's tried, but people still want to keep trying it, keep hoping to get it right. What's going on? Because socialism is just a smokescreen to get the votes to give more power to the Federal government, that's why.

7. In the US military, the rank insignia for 2nd Lieutenant and 1st Lieutenant (Navy ensign and junior lieutenant) are the same, except that one is silver and the other is gold. This is the same for major and lieutenant colonel (Navy commander and lieutenant commander.) Why does the silver one outrank the gold one? Because it symbolizes that in the USA, the silver of the self-made man outweighs the gold of the upper class's inherited wealth.

8. I never cease to be amazed by people who think that ADB will stay in business and keep updating the game rulebooks if we stop producing new products, don't charge for the updates for the old products, and just spend all of our time updating the old products and giving away the updates for free. Where is the revenue stream that pays for rent, utilities, salaries, and so forth?

9. Recently, a player wanted us to add a certain group of ships to the same (new types of freighters). We pointed out that they probably did exist in "reality" but that gamers would not want to pay for the pages, since they were (in the end) just targets consisting of more or less the same boxes as older freighters that had been rearranged. He suggested that (since that was the case) we should do the ships and then give them away for free, but could not understand that it would take some number of man-hours to create (and staff-hours to check) these ships and that if we were not going to get paid for doing them (either because we gave them away, or because nobody bought them) we would be working for no pay.

10. We get the presents. The cats get the empty boxes, the wadded-up wrapping paper, and the loose ribbon, and they think they won.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


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

Monday, January 10, 2011


Steve Cole comments:

Recently, a conservative website posted the "top ten political lies of 2010" and I thought I'd review their list and discuss some of it.


Lie #1. Ninety-five percent of "working families" received a tax cut.
Website: The bill gave tax cuts to some and tax credits to others.
Comment: Seems a technical issue, not a lie per se.


Lie #2. The General Motors bailout "worked."
Website: The bondholders got 10% of the stock for their $27 billion while the unions got 40% of the stock for $10 billion in bonds.
Comment: Both true. I don't see this as "lie" per se. The bailout did keep the company (technically) alive. It did reward the unions (an Obama goal). So it did work.


Lie #3. Obamacare will "bend the cost curve down."
Website: The savings require unlikely cuts in Medicare.
Comment: I don't think it will bend the cost curve because the cost of medical care is what we're willing to pay for it. I think it is a lie but that the website explanation of the lie is not on point. A better lie is "you can keep your doctor/insurance" (which the website also mentioned as a sub-lie) which isn't true if Obamacare convinces your doctor to retire or your insurance plan to shut down.


Lie #4. The tea party is "racist" because it uses the racially coded rallying cry "take our country back."
Website: Democrats also said "take our country back" (from George Bush).
Comment: Score one big deliberate lie.


Lie #5. The $800 billion "stimulus" funded millions of "shovel-ready" jobs.
Website: No, it did not.
Comment: Score one big deliberate lie.


Lie #6. Stimulus "saved or created" 3.5 million jobs of which 90% were in the business sector.
Website: No, it did not. It created 682,370 jobs of which 80% were in the government sector.
Comment: Score one big deliberate lie.


Lie #7. There is a "consensus," according to the White House website, that the stimulus plan "pulled us back from the brink of economic disaster."
Website: No, there is not. Polls show 65% of Americans think the stimulus did nothing.
Comment: Score one big deliberate lie.


Lie #8. The 111th Congress was the "most productive" in a long time.
Website: The 111th Congress tripled the deficit and cost the Democrats their majority.
Comment: You can make whatever you want of this one, so I don't think it's a lie.


Lie #9. Bush-era "deregulation" caused the Gulf oil spill.
Website: The Obama Administration, not Bush, approved the Deepwater Horizon well.
Comment: They forgot to mention that Obama policies forced drilling into deep water.


Lie #10. Guantanamo Bay will be shut down in 2010.
Website: And it wasn't, and that's a good thing.
Comment: I'm not scoring this as a "big political lie." When everybody knows it's a lie, it's just politics.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 January 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that Jean's annual visit ended (she left Monday morning and got home safely Tuesday night) and the year's work began. The weather this week was fairly mild, reaching into the 60s in the afternoons and rarely dropping to freezing overnight. The spam storm clocked along over 1100 per day, counting only what got past the server filters.

Nothing new got uploaded to e23 due to the office cold.

Steve Cole was sick with a cold for several days this week, so progress was limited. He did some Wall of Honor updates, caught up on email dating back to the CL#42 blackout, and wrote some blogs.

Steven Petrick caught the office cold and spent two days in bed, but staggered back to work on Friday.

Leanna kept orders up to date and finished the year-end accounting.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did website updates.

Jean is back home, recovering from the office cold.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

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.

Friday, January 07, 2011


There once was a lady of Klingon,
Whom, it was said, had a fling on
With a captain named Ketrick
Who she said knew a cute trick
That left her without anything on.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, January 06, 2011


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.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Steve Cole writes:

Today, one of the great miracles of human history was repeated. Power transferred peacefully from leaders of one political faction to another in the US House of Representatives. In most countries of the world, a change of power like that happens at the point of a gun, after a lot of blood is shed and a lot of property is destroyed. It's good to be an American, a citizen of one of the "western democracies" that created peaceful power transfers.


At the time the gavel changed hands, I imagined a Roman slave, standing behind the podium, telling the outgoing and incoming Speakers both a solemn message: "In this, all victory is temporary. Sooner or later, the gavel will pass back. Play nice, children. Do unto others as you would have them do, not as they spent the last two years doing." I'd like to see both parties working together on issues. For the last two years, one party has been frozen out of the process and not allowed to include any of their ideas in the resulting legislation. That needs to stop. Compromise isn't always possible. If one side wants something and the other side doesn't, somebody is going to be unhappy. Even there, it's possible to either accomplish the valid purposes another way, or to build safeguards and better ideas into the way that is chosen.


A good first step, even an inspiring one, was to read the US Constitution aloud in the chamber. I wonder if some of those present had ever heard it before. Much of what Congress has done in the last 100 years has been extra-constitutional.


Ok, so we have to go through the political theater of voting to cancel the President's greatest victory. It won't be canceled, in the end, but lines will be drawn in the sand and the next election may be decided by that vote. Once that theater is over with, could we consider doing some things that would actually improve health care? Simply pass the kind of tort reform that a very few states have, and the rest see their costs drop 10%. Allow inter-state purchase of health insurance, and some people will see their rates cut in half. More importantly, if you allow that, no one will voluntarily be without insurance. Get rid of the silly stuff like 1099 rules and control over student loans that had nothing to do with health insurance. If you want a public option, allow people to pay premiums for NON-subsidized Medicaid.


And ok, so we're going to have to go through more political theater to hold hearings and show that the Administration did some things they should not have done, and legally or constitutionally could not do. I get that. Both parties have done it when they got power back. The truth has to be brought out, I get that, but why do any of you guys things that it's going to make any difference? If one party did what they wanted to do, that party's voters aren't going to be impressed by hearings that make a case that their party couldn't do what they already did. Just don't let these things divert Congress from the real job.


Guys, here's what I sent you to Washington to do: cut spending and balance the budget. I know you cannot do that in two years, but you can make a serious start. I am going to be VERY disappointed if the Tea Party gets overwhelmed by the Establishment Republicans and they both turn into Big Spending Government. That's doomed. It needs to be the other way; Establishment Republicans need the Tea Party spirit. The Tea Party is not the extreme right; it's the center. The Tea Party wants spending cut and government power limited, something neither party has been interested in.


The debt is too big and needs to be stopped from getting any worse (i.e., a balanced budget), then needs to be paid off (i.e., new revenue from a booming economy paid on the debt, not on new programs). I know it's going to hurt. I know that some of my favorite programs are going to be cut or canceled, along with some truly silly nonsense that should never have been voted on. I'm ok with that. Cut spending and balance the budget. Everything else is rubbish.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


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.

Monday, January 03, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc.,26 December 2010 - 1 January 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of Jean's third winter visit, and the most successful of all, as she finished GURPS FEDS and had it ready for me to hand-carry to Steve Jackson when I go to Austin for a family gathering.

The weather this week was cold, but not bitterly so, and there was at least no snow or rain. The spam storm peaked at 1364 on Wednesday.

There were no new uploads to e23 this week because they were shut down.

Steve Cole worked on GURPS Federation with Jean, but also managed to do some other things (mostly cleaning up a year of clutter on his desk). He did get the term paper and ace pins added to the Wall of Honor, but the multi-person pages have yet to be reposted as everything has to be shuffled. Jean forced him to write an annual report and a vision statement for 2011. Steve Cole was sick most of Friday and Saturday with a cold, but stayed at his desk most of both days because Jean needed him to do charts and things.

Steven Petrick worked on Basic Set 2011, CL#43, and C3A.

Leanna kept orders up to date and worked on year-end accounting.

Mike and Joel kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Jean spent the whole week on GURPS FEDS, which is now finished and ready for Steve Jackson. Jean and SVC called Talkshoe on Thursday night.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On Bus Trips and Barbecue and Buffalo

Jean Sexton writes:

As many of you know, I am in Amarillo on what has become an annual winter pilgrimage. As is the norm, I ride the bus out and back, seeing much of the country and meeting new people. I spend a week of hard work on a project and then head back. Still the Steves and Leanna make sure that I enjoy my time here.

The big project this time was GURPS Federation and I think that before I walk out of the building today, SVC will have something he can hand to Steve Jackson. Some of my global changes made the text's appearance less than our professional best, so I want to clean that up before I leave. It was a complex process, but the end result is something we will be proud to release.

However, books are not written on empty stomachs and Leanna and SVC have been hard at work to make sure that I sampled the barbecue out here. I think I've sampled nearly a restaurant a day! I think my favorite may be a little place called Robinson's where the Steves took me one evening. Still, I enjoyed the variety of tastes and textures in each place.

Since I will be living here someday, they also wanted me to see the countryside. The very first day SVC drove me by a place that had a mother buffalo with her baby. Today I spotted a whole herd of buffalo! There were also hawks to be seen and tumbleweeds. I got to see real working oil wells and a wind farm. It is the land, however, that has gotten inside my blood. The wide open space, the sharp edges of the canyons, the short trees that aren't peach trees but rather mesquite, the grass moving in the wind all seem to draw me in.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be getting on the bus back East and leaving Texas. I'll miss the Steves and Leanna dreadfully, for it feels like this is already my home. When I am back in Red Springs, I will again dream of winter and my future pilgrimage to Amarillo.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Steve Cole reports:

I have a horrible record of predicting what products will be released. Some of that is my fault (just not getting them done) and some of that is the fault of others who promised products (or work on parts of products) that they never delivered. So this is not a prediction of 2011, but it is a vision, a goal, a theory, perhaps even the lightly penciled in outline of a plan.


I want to get a lot of good products released, at least one or two for every product line.


For SFB, I want Steven P. Petrick to get a lot of existing products updated (and uploaded to e23), and major parts of the Master Starship Book done, at least three or four empire-chapters. I'd be pleased if he also does a couple of new products, including C3A (Andro Threat File) and E3 (the Borak Star League).


For Federation Commander, I have an idea to convert the unpublished (and unworkable) Boosters #94 and #95 into an Origins release to be called TRANSPORTS ATTACKED. Those who are looking for SFB scenarios to convert to FC should focus on anything with an LTT or a tug. We will continue uploading Ship Card packs to e23, but we're going to run out of the Ship Cards already done (which allows two or three packs a month) and it will really slow things down to have to create several new ships per pack (which will mean a pack every month, or every second month). The challenge there is that I'm convinced that only single-empire packs should be done, and if I have to do six new ships per empire it could be two years before your empire comes up in rotation.


For Federation & Empire, I am determined to release ISC WAR for Origins. I want to do "quick and dirty" conversions of the existing books into Pagemaker, make a few Jean-changes, and get them uploaded. Updating them with all the existing errata is going to take a lot longer and won't even start until ISC WAR is published. The "design challenge" there will be to decide how doing one rulebook a month (max) is going to work with integrating them into a "warbook." I don't know that answer ... yet.


It goes without saying that we'll do two issues of Captain's Log, #43 in May and #44 in November. We will start uploading the really old issues to e23, but I'm not sure when more current issues will be uploaded. I have emotionally accepted that, someday in the future, there will only be electronic versions done. I have no idea how many years that will be.


For Prime Directive, I expect that Jean will finish GURPS FEDERATION and the conversion of PD20 Romulans into PD20M Romulans doesn't look that hard. We're also going to do a 16-page booklet for Free RPG Day (and then sell it on e23) called STARSHIP ALDO. (You find a wrecked ship. You can make out the letters "... ALDO ..." but you're not sure if this is the auxiliary cruiser AGUINALDO or the freighter GERALDO or some other ship with those letters in the name. The next step would be (in one direction) to do either the Tholian or Orion book (for PD20M and GURPS) and/or (in the other direction) the first book or two for a new game engine (probably Mongoose-Traveler but there are many other choices). If Jean were here full time, I think we'd do a lot more than that, but the world is what it is, not what I wish it were. We do want to upload the existing GURPS books to e23 and the existing PD20M books to DriveThru RPG, probably one per month (or less), alternating between them.


For Starline 2400, I just don't know. We've done 200 ships, and going over the remaining list of unique hulls doesn't leave much with any real sales potential other than PFs. I'd love to get the guy who did the fighters to do them, but I suspect he didn't make enough in royalties to be worth his time. That may mean having our stable of sculptors do the PFs. We'll continue to look at ideas for ships and consider them on a case by case basis.


I do plan to get the second paperback book released, and it and the first one onto Kindle and into the wholesale distribution system.


Daniel Kast says he's agreeable to doing another book for Starmada, and suggested Distant Armada as a combination of Distant Kingdoms and Hydran Attack. After that, I suspect that we may do either the ISC/Vudar book, or the battleship book.


I definitely want to finish FEDERATION ADMIRAL and get it published. This is a campaign system, and while designed for use with Federation Commander it will work pretty well with SFB.


I would like to see us have six iPhone games on the Apple Store during the year, but as I cannot do them myself, I'm at the mercy of others. Now that the contract bits are sorted out, we'll get the first game uploaded, and I suspect the flow of more games will depend entirely on the sales for that one.


Star Fleet Marines is a personal favorite of mine, and now that I've set my sights on an achievable budget (I was trying to do in one product what should take three) Leanna will let me print it.


Nothing would make me happier than for the BATTLESTATIONS game to get done, but that isn't something I control. I can say "It needs to happen THIS way not THAT way" but I'm not the guy who can actually do it.


Beyond just products, I have plans (well, visions, daydreams, goals, fond wishes, something) for the company to do other things.


Most of all, I want to actually do a proper job of communicating with the wholesalers. They want to know the title, price, description, stock number, release date, and cover art three or four months in advance. They don't NEED that, and the stores don't USE that, but I'm tired of trying to convince them that they're running their businesses all wrong, so I guess I have to make that happen. This terrifies me. I can TELL them my best GUESS, but I cannot guarantee that I got it all right on products that haven't been finished.


I'd like to see us do a better job of keeping in contact with general game BBS communities (Star Ranger, Tabletop Gaming News, Board Game Geek, and others) but I have no idea where the manpower will come from. We need the Rangers Demonstration Team to be far more active and far more effective.

The website, the page on Facebook, the channel on YouTube, and the shopping cart are all running fine, and will need only incremental additions.

I want to start doing Twitter, but I refuse to accept the theory that I have to tweet five times a day about nonsense to build a following. (I want my tweets to be often enough you didn't forget who I am but rare enough that you don't delete them unread.)

I'd like to be on TalkShoe more often.

Café Press is what it is, and I wish there were a realistic alternative that produced lower prices for you and more profit for the company, but so far, I haven't found it. Making that kind of stuff one at a time is just very expensive, and limits what's worth doing.


We have looked, for a long time, into buying a color printer. This would, in theory, allow us to do low-production runs of product covers, Ship Cards, advertising, maps, other game components, and other things. It's not just that it's a big chunk of money; we're still not sure what the market (or cost per copy) really is.


I want to launch our system to provide print-on-demand services and distribution channels for smaller game companies, but there are so many things to do that it's hard to do everything at once.


I am very excited about the Platinum Hat tournament, which will bring the national championships to an international level. Then I want to totally redesign our Origins program and turn it into a weeklong party for all of our fans and friends.


Most of all, I'd like to have fun next year, which means having a lot less "not-fun" to cloud up the really enjoyable part of the business. I'd like to not hear from angry people with unrealistic demands. I'd like to see an end to discount webstores that provide bad customer service and steal sales from brick and mortar retailers. I'd like to see an end to pirate websites with illegal copies of our products (and products from many other companies).


And to you, our customers and friends, we wish you a happy and prosperous new year.