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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. One of the problems I have in writing for Jean's approval is that I use a lot of commas. When I write, I think in terms of speaking aloud, and can actually hear myself reading the thing to an audience at Origins. Thus, I use commas when I take a breath, or for a "half a pause" which there is no punctuation for. (A dash is, of course, used for a dramatic pause in the spoken text, sort of a -- wait for it -- punchline.) Jean has never figured out that is what I am doing, and I don't really think she cares. She just follows the Rules of Punctuation that date from the Avignon exile of the papacy, or perhaps from Pope Peter I.

2. Jean does most of her corrections by phone, with Petrick or me listening to the speaker phone as she tells us "right hand column, fourth paragraph, third line, comma after 'photon' should not be there." I have a tendency to argue with her (sometimes in jest, other time for real) but I do what she says 99% of the time. It took her a while to figure out that when I ended the argument with "move on" that I had actually done what she said to do. (She thought, for months, that I had refused her orders to make the change. Only when she checked the printed pages did she realize that I did make the change, but that I just didn't want to discuss it any more.)

3. I buy canned cat food for my cats. They lick the gravy and leave the chunks of mystery meat. Maybe cat food companies should market cans of gravy?

4. Your best chance to get your name published in a product is to write a Federation Commander scenario using a tug or LTT, and get it to me as soon as you can. In Federation Commander, the only pods are cargo pods.

5. The residents of the city we know as Troy actually referred to their city as Willos.

6. Somebody asked me when Captain's Log #38 would be uploaded to e23. I don't know. Technically, we have no plans in place to upload any issues beyond #16 (or maybe #18) to e23, at least not anytime soon. Right now, I have to get beyond Origins before I can even think about it.

7. People have asked me when C3A will be uploaded to e23. We decided to do this about June 1st on the theory that nobody would be able to get the PDF faster than they could buy a hard copy in a retail store. Keeping the retailers (who see PDFs as cannibalizing their sales) happy is critical. We're still studying the issue of sequencing the releases of such things. Will a given product be put on e23 before, after, or a long time after the hard copy? No decision has been made on an overall policy, and it will probably be product line by product line, if not product by product. We did upload GURPS Federation before the print edition was done, but that was a special case on several levels. For one thing, SJG uploads GURPS stuff early, and GURPS players tend to expect it to be uploaded two months before the hard copy. The plan was to use that as an experiment and see how it affected sales. Sales of GURPS Federation were far below expectations, but that could just as easily be the overall market. (Sales are down 50-80% for every RPG company in the industry.) Remember that decisions and policies for any given product line do not necessarily define the decisions and policies for other product lines. We uploaded the Starmada stuff because Starmada had a policy of doing that long before Starmada became a part of the SFU.

8. I had never seen the movie TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE until the other night on Tivo. I found it excessively dirty but politically very clever. Even Petrick (who found the movie painful) agreed with me that Kim Jong-il stole the movie.

9. The "second story" for Captain's Log #43 is one I wrote about some Klingon gunboats assigned to conduct an infantry investigation of a planet that might have some Kzintis on it. (No one knew if the Kzintis were a few stranded colonists, some castaways from an earlier battle, or a clandestine Kzinti base behind Klingon lines.) As some asked when I mentioned it, this is NOT a good mission for gunboats. The story includes some "infantry tactics decisions" that are just crazy, but were obviously done by people who are not well versed in doing such things. The story doesn't really make any point of saying "The did this and it was stupid" but anyone who has carried a rifle while wearing a funny-colored shirt will recognize the mistakes. Posting the overwatch where the manual says to (without reading the part that assumes that the overwatch element will have weapons which were not assigned to the landing force), bumbling attempts to get troops lined up for the attack, sending the backup company to search a second area while the search company is still searching the primary area, the slowness of the operation, the sloppy formations, it's all part of "how this does not work." The story would have been condemned as just wrong had these navy guys conducted a perfect infantry operation without having the training for it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 May 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the second week of the normal two-week drive to finish a Captain's Log. We knew that we wouldn't quite make it (because of work that had to be done on ISC War, Starmada Distant Armada, and Transports Attacked) but we wanted to get close. We didn't get as close as we wanted (due to difficulties with the battle group article) but we have the book well in hand. Progress was tracked by the workbook PDF posted every day: Sunday 65%, Monday 68%, Tuesday 70%, Wednesday 72%, Thursday 76%, Friday 78%, and Saturday 78%. (The problem with Battle Group was not the only one. Steven Petrick lost a day being sick and so did Jean Sexton.)

The weather this week was getting hotter, often passing 90F in the afternoons.

The spam storm remained fairly calm, under 100 per day.

New uploads to e23 included Captain's Log #9 and the ISC Ship Card Pack #1.

Steve Cole worked on the mysterious U contract, helped Joel smite pirates, coordinated with the die cutter who is working on ISC WAR, created five LDR ships, helped a returning player find a long-deleted rule, coordinated with GAMA on Origins events, wrote descriptions for products going on e23, updated the GGIC catalog listing, finished ISC Ship Card Pack #1, and of course worked on Captain's Log #43.

Steven Petrick worked almost entirely on Captain's Log #43.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, worked on art for Captain's Log #43, and smote pirates. He shut down two dozen torrents and pirate distribution copies.

Jean was busy all week proofreading Captain's Log #43 and updating the GGIC catalog listing. Jean reports that our page on Facebook passed 820 friends.

Sunday, May 29, 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, May 28, 2011

On Memorial Day

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Today is part of the Memorial Day weekend.

It is a period of time taken from the calendar that we might honor those who have served our country in times of great peril, far too often at the expense of their lives or their health, whether physical or mental.

There is no true way we can measure what those who have served our country in the armed forces have given up that we may have this extra day to ourselves. Families sundered; children not just growing up without a parent, but never even conceived. This ignores things these people might have invented or discovered, works of art that were never created, or poems that were never written.

Much has been lost because of the sacrifices those who have served made.

We owe them.

We owe them to make the nation they fought for worth their sacrifices.

We owe them time to remember them, and to thank them that they made those sacrifices.

Not one freedom, not even the freedom to have this day off, would exist without their sacrifices.

The word "hero" is a much devalued term in our society today. Actors are heroes for championing a cause. Sports stars are no longer stars, but "heroes" in their own right.

There is no question that the fireman who rushes into the burning building is still a hero, as is the police officer who places himself between the citizen and the villain.

We should never forget, however, the true heroes. Men who fought on in the face of certain defeat and near starvation in the Philippines and endured the Bataan death march. Frightened men who fell out a dark sky in Sicily in 1943 to help secure a struggling beachhead. Honorable men who answered their nation's call to serve in a thankless war in Vietnam only to come home and see those who refused to go given honors.

The real heroes are those who have done what was necessary to protect their fellow citizens, even if their fellow citizens are utterly unaware of why the job had to be done. Whether it was Iraq, Somalia, Tarawa, Cuba, Galveston, Tripoli, or Vera Cruz, yesterday, or today, and hopefully if necessary in some distant future.

Let us all resolve to be worthy of them and what they have given us by service, and yes, sometimes their sacrifice.

Friday, May 27, 2011

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 5

41. Assign it to carry oil exports from Planet Alyeska and provide the captain with plenty of booze.

42. Assign "Boom-Boom" Kilgore to the crew.

43. Tell the ESS there is a Federation spy on board

44. Tell environmentalists it uses spotted owls for fuel.

45. Tell environmentalists that its movement kills dolphins.

46. Cancel the warranty.

47. Drop the Black Hole coverage from its insurance to save money.

48. Park a white Bronco in the shuttlebay; the reporters will rip the ship to bits trying to get at it.

49. Paint "this end forward" on both ends.

50. Remind the crew it was built by the lowest bidder.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, May 26, 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, May 25, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. We wargamers (and I include RPG players in that honored group even if they reject the name) are a unique bunch, and a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the human genome. We're people who get our fun by making our own decisions, and taking responsibility for those decisions. We're risk takers. Most humans want to sit on the sofa, watch a TV show or read a novel or comic book, and be scared out of their minds that the hero is going to be killed (or sent to prison or kicked off the police force or reassigned to Toledo). But there is always the secret and secure knowledge that at the end of the adventure, everything will be right back where it was, with the hero in the same job he was in when the season or series started. Wargamers are perfectly willing to risk the starship captain's life and career, and accept that we'll be starting over as an ensign in the next game if we got it wrong. This has many implications, the worst of which is that the wargame industry is very small with very few customers. If a higher percentage of the human race were instinctive wargamers, the wargame industry would be as big as the comic book industry, and even small game companies like ADB, Inc. would have 20 or 30 employees and annual sales in the tens of millions of dollars.

2. I think we need some new punctuation marks. We need two kinds of periods, one to end a sentence and one to use for an abbreviation. Separate marks would end confusion. We also need two kinds of commas (plus the existing semicolon).

3. The road from the earliest proto-humans to actual humans is one that has long fascinated me. I have always held the view that it was meat that made us human (it allowed our brains to grow) and that it was walking erect that made hunting work for us. Brains use a lot of food, and only the high value meat from hunting made large brains a workable plan. (Because of our large heads, all human babies are born at least six months premature, if you define mature as able to walk beside mommy and keep up with the pack).

A new book (Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham) says that the real turning point was Homo heidelbergensis. His smaller teeth and jaws meant that he was eating (wait for it) cooked food. Cooked food is easier to digest. (Food has the same calories cooked or raw, but raw food passes through the system only leaving half of those calories behind, so you have to eat a lot more of it.) Apes spend half of their day chewing plant food that humans could never eat. (Apes have massive teeth and jaw muscles just for this purpose.) With cooked food, we spent less time chewing, and that gave us more time for tool making, hunting, empire building, and designing Facebook.

Another thing about cooking is that, all over the world, women do most of it. Why? Because it was in their own interest to make sure somebody cooked. Switching a baby from mother's milk to cooked food takes about a third as long as it does to get a baby to eat raw food. With less time spent stuck nursing babies, women can get on with doing things like creating a civil society.

Men went hunting while women stayed in the cave because the first year of taking care of a baby required nursing, which meant that the baby had to be with mommy almost all day. It's hard for mommy to run down a deer while carrying a baby. Even after baby could be left with a sitter, the habit stuck, and that sitter was usually the women at the next campfire who was still nursing her own baby.

4. I very much enjoy the Canadian show MANTRACKER about a cowboy who hunts down people in the woods. (It's sort of a game show.) The two contestants are taking to a starting point and given a map of a destination 25 or so miles away. Mantracker starts two kilometers away (not knowing where they are or where they're going) and tracks them down by observing tracks, stepped-on brush, and (from hills) the contestants themselves. I could never compete on the show at my age or weight. (I would be lucky to make two miles before I had to sit down for an hour or two. Running into woods when I see the horsemen coming is out of the question.) Being a multiple victory map-and-compass champion in the Army and Boy Scouts, it's on my "wish I could do it" list. I think Petrick and I (at age 30) could have given him a run for his money. (We both had escape and evasion training in the Army.) For one thing, I'm more than capable of walking down a trail at night without a flashlight. I'll plan my route to end the first day just off of a road or trail. When it gets dark, I'm going to rest for a couple of hours while Mantracker sets up a tent and builds a campfire, then hit the road and get four or five miles before sunup. I'd carry a lot less of a load than most contestants (no tent or rucksack, just a pocket knife, a poncho, a first-aid kit, some energy bars, and a gallon or two of water in my web gear and a small pack). I did like the one team that used "painter booties" to turn boot prints into blurs.

The "missing" Random Thoughts #41 blog post is on our BBS as it is about bin Ladin.

Tuesday, May 24, 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!

Monday, May 23, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 May 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was week we released GURPS Federation and SFB Module C3A. it was also the first of the usual two-week final drive to finish a Captain's Log. It's different this time as, being so close to Origins, we're working on multiple products at the same time, and even if we finish CL#43 in a week, it may be two or three weeks before it ships.

The weather this week was cool in the mornings, but tending to edge toward hot in the mid-afternoon.

The spam storm remained calm, below 100 per day.

New uploads to e23 include Captain's Log #8 and Galactic Conquest. A Board meeting decided to release the electronic C3A on June 1st, to keep retailers happy.

Steve Cole mostly worked on Captain's Log #43, pushing it past 61% complete. He did finish the ISC Ship Card Pack and send it to the staff, did the FLAP list for GURPS Federation and C3A, wrote two blogs, and did the first LDR ship card for Federation Commander.

Steven Petrick worked almost entirely on Captain's Log #43, but made his first-ever phone appearance on TalkShoe.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, smacked pirates, and helped Mike and Leanna.

Jean is proofreading Captain's Log #43.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Steve Cole remarks:

Tomorrow marks a special day. We will send two major new products to mail orders, and each of them marks a special moment in the company's history and product line.

GURPS Federation is the GURPS version of the Federation book (by John Sickels) that we did for PD20M a year ago. (This is the way we do our Prime Directive RPGs. We take our background and make books for existing RPG systems, rather than inventing an entirely new RPG system.) Jean Sexton and her staff of Jim Goodrich, Gary Plana, Bob Gilson, and John Sickels did the conversions of the character stats into the GURPS system, and rigorously edited the book to pass Steve Jackson Game's exhaustive standards. I had some things to do with this book, but most of the work was Jean's and John's. (I had to approve the historical text, and I wrote maybe 25 or so of the pages.) What marks this product as a special moment is that most of it was done by Jean's team (which has really come into their own).

Star Fleet Battles Module C3A The Andromedan Threat File: Boy, that's a mouthful of a product title, isn't it? It's funny that so many of our products end up having several interchangeable titles. This one is know as "C3A" in the office, but most customers know it as the "Andromedan Threat File." This is another major product done almost entirely by Steven P. Petrick (his first was R10), pulling together suggestions and submissions from a lot of players and sources. It's special not just for that reason, but because it is the most unusual book (and in some ways the most realistic, because everything it in never happened, even in the fiction universe.) It is difficult for players who read the rulebooks and know everything there is to know about the Andromedans to realize that the people who fought against the Andromedans never knew any of that. For entire decades, no one even realized they were from another galaxy. No one ever knew how Andromedan technology worked (they could only calculate approximations based on what they saw Andromedan ships do. This books is a combination of what they thought the Andros were doing and what they thought the Andros were likely to start doing. The book includes historical data on the Andromedan destruction of the LDR, as well as the alternative timeline (where the Andros won) that was revealed by the time-traveling starship Darwin. Remember that only one Star Fleet Marine ever met an Andromedan face to face. The experience turned his hair white, and he never spoke of the encounter. That made him the most interesting man in the galaxy (who got to visit museums and touch the art).

Saturday, May 21, 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, May 20, 2011

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 4

31. Name Conan O'Brien as the Public Affairs Officer

32. Beam Madonna on board.

33. Tell the feminists that there are no female officers.

34. Get really lucky with the photons.

35. Tell it battleships can ignore minefields.

36. Send it alone to the Kzinti capital. It can handle it!

37. Tell the Conservatives that Hillary is the captain.

38. Let an ensign conduct unsupervised science experiments.

39. Put two B10s next to each other, and the gravitational stress will tear them both apart.

40. Make it the next site for Woodstock.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, May 19, 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, May 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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten out of Ten: Not What Will Happen

Steve Cole comments: The spring schedule for ADB, Inc. included ten products to be out by Origins. We're not going to make it. We should get more than half of them out, but not all of them. Let us review:

1. SFB Module C3A: This one was late, shipping on 16 May instead of in February. That is a failure of my leadership. I thought I was giving Steven Petrick freedom to do it without my bothering him, but instead, I left him adrift without helping him deal with issues as they arose. (The death of my aunt and a month-long depression-inspired chocolate binge didn't exactly make me accessible.) Anyway, it's done, so one out of ten.

2. Federation Admiral: This is probably going to end up being the biggest book we have ever done (not counting the SFB Master Rulebook which is a compilation of a dozen other books). Things I have said about this have led people to the inaccurate estimation that I don't want to do it, but in fact I think it's going to be one of the more important products we have ever done. It is, however, a huge project, and wasn't helped by the delay caused by my month-long depression over suddenly becoming the third-oldest member of my family. It also didn't help that I didn't exercise better leadership (due to trying to manage too many projects and too many outside designers at the same time). I had been under the impression that Jay understood that the book had to match the SFU knowledgebase, and didn't discover until long after he sent in his files that he had invented entirely new concepts of supply, logistics, and technology which were so different from the SFU that it just wasn't an SFU product any more. (Under our contact with Paramount, the SFU has to remain a self-consistent whole. Having a product which does things totally differently would break the contract. His technology system was just wrong based on SFU data, requiring you to invent both an FFS and a DWS and a CWS when under SFU concepts once you have the S part you can apply it to the FF, DW, or CW hulls without inventing a new ship.) I am committed to getting this thing out this fall after I have time to devote to walking Jay through doing it to match the universe. So, failure #1, limiting our potential to nine out of ten (and we won't even get that far).

3. Star Fleet Marines: This will also be delayed to fall. I sent it out to playtest and received reports and filed them unread until the schedule said "work on Marines now" at which point I discovered that the reports all said "major problems requiring design changes and re-testing" which meant it wasn't going to happen before Origins unless I canceled other products. Since this one is my personal pet project, I wanted time to do it right. It is also an expensive product to print (color maps) and needed to come after two other successful products (which did not get done on time) to absorb the cash flow hit. Two, two failures, and we're at one out of ten, with seven to go and two that won't go.

4. Starship Aldo: This is a little sixteen-page RPG adventure done with both GURPS and PD20M rules. It was done for Free RPG day (which is in early June), and we'll have hard copies on sale at Origins (and put it on e23 when we get back). This turned out to be a really fun product to design, and if I cannot have fun designing games, why am I enduring the drudgery of publishing games by others? It's got a set of deck plans, characters, and even die roll charts for what you find in each room. It's sort of a dungeon crawl thing. Two out of ten.

5. GURPS Federation: This was written by John Sickels and edited by Jean when she was here last Christmas. (I wrote some fairly big pieces of it and was heavily involved in editing.) It went on e23 two months ago and was released on 16 May. So, we're at three out of ten.

6. Captain's Log #43: This isn't done yet, but since this is our best selling product line, it has the highest priority. As the entire fiction section (always the part that delays the issue) is already done, I am sure this will be shipping before Origins. It would be premature to say "four out of ten" but I am fairly confident I'll be able to claim that before too much longer.

7. F&E ISC War: This will be out at Origins, assuming nothing goes wrong. The counters have gone to press, and what's left is just taking the scenario and annex files that the staff are finishing and editing them into the page layout software. It's still got a ways to go, but it has the highest priority after CL#43. It's way too early to claim that it gets us to "five out of ten" but I am confident we will get there.

8. Starmada Distant Armada: This is the next product for this line, being done by Daniel Kast (who has a good track record for turning in work on time). This is the conversion of Distant Kingdoms and Hydran Attack into Starmada. While it's not under my control, Daniel has a better track record than any outside designer in ADB history and I am supremely confident that he'll get it done, which would take us to "six out of ten."

9. Federation Commander Transports Attacked: The ship cards for this one are out for final checking, and it does not need counters (they were in Hydran Attack). I had plans to include 12-20 scenarios about tugs, but without non-cargo pods, there are only two or three scenarios. So, I have yet to decide if I will send it to press with a smaller rulebook (and a lower price), reprint a dozen or two Communique scenarios, or (my preferred choice) include a dozen entirely new scenarios (but I may not have time because I really cannot predict how much time will be spent on the other three products. I'd rather get to Origins with two finished products than three unfinished ones. Whether this gets finished in time for Origins or not is yet to be seen. Cash flow is always an issue, color ship cards are expensive, and it would make more business sense to release it a month after we cash the checks from the other products, but a good business plan has never stopped me from doing something stupid before now! So, we might or might not make "seven out of ten".

10. SFB Module E3 Borak: This product is about a "failed empire" on the off-map border between the Lyrans and Hydrans. (Too complex to tell you right now, but the product sort of explains why the Lyrans and Hydrans had no off map wars.) This is another outside design (being done by Jeremy Gray). Jeremy is a real-world US Navy officer, and if the President tells him to go fire some cruise missiles instead of working on this product, well, I'm not going to win that argument (and that's not a failure of my leadership or Jeremy's work ethic). Jeremy has discovered that a "finished design" is not a "go to press document" which is something I had to learn years ago. Jeremy might or might not finish this in time for Origins (I tend to doubt it) and even if he does, we might not have time to "process" it, but it will get done this fall if not sooner.

So, I'm going to have to limit myself to "seven out of ten" and may have to accept "six out of ten" before I get to Columbus. The missing products will still get done this year.

I should take a moment to note that "ten" is not really the real number. I have, besides the "ten products" noted about, finished five issues of Communique (with a sixth certainly to be done), Mike Riddle did our first iPhone Application (the DAC from SFB), and I have done Revision 6 rulebooks for several Federation Commander products. So my score is probably going to end up somewhere around 16 out of 20 or 18 out of 22, which does not sound nearly so bad. And, to be sure, out of the six or seven products that will get done, most were done at least partially by people other than me (C3A by Steven Petrick, GURPS Federation more by Jean than anyone, Starmada by Daniel Kast, ISC War by Chuck Strong and the staff; plus of course Federation Admiral by Jay Waschak and E3 by Jeremy Gray). That does not mean I'm lazy, but it does mean that my original job as game designer has evolved into a job of recruiting, managing, supervising, coaxing, encouraging, and editing other designers. That's how business works. Those good at their jobs end up supervising the next generation as it learns that job.

Monday, May 16, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 May 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of the annual Company Picnic. It was also the week that C3A got finished, Communique #65 got released, and our page on Facebook passed 800 friends.

The weather this week was a bit cooler, but still quite nice.

The spam storm stayed calm, usually below 100.

New uploads to e23 included GURPS Romulans and WYN Ship Card Pack #1. Our first real iPhone APP (the DAC for SFB) released on the Apple Store.

Steve Cole returned refreshed from a surprise spring visit to the wolf sanctuary. He worked on the covers for GURPS Federation and C3A (both went to press), did a few final checks on C3A, finished the ISC War counters and sent them to press, did the first pass on the ISC War rulebook, and passed his annual medical checkup with flags flying.

Steven Petrick worked on final fixes to C3A, getting Jean's last report on Monday morning.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, worked on the new covers, and helped Mike.

Jean is proofreading C3A and has some stuff from ISC War and Captain's Log #43 in her queue.

Sunday, May 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.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Module C3A

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Module C3A: The Andromedan Threat File will be heading to the stores soon. What is in it? Well, first you have to understand that almost everything in this product is conjectural.

First, there is the Andromedan "dissection beam" which can dismember ships, but is fortunately short-ranged. There are four ships which use it (including a Devastator battleship variant).

There is a mini-energy module, a little larger than a T-bomb (and uses T-bomb spaces) that allows even a satellite ship to dump some energy from its panels and beam it overboard.

Pseudo-satellites can pretend to be not just Cobras, but Cobras, Vipers, or Mambas, or any variants of those hulls. So when those three Terminators suddenly appear, things will get real exciting real fast.

There were a lot of proposals for Andromedans with Galactic weapons, and just doing a lot of SSDs replacing tractor-repulsor beams with photons or disruptors or plasmatic pulsar devices or what-have-you would have been easy to do. Too easy, it would have felt like cheating the players (at least it felt like it to me). But I did do a "plasma pod," basically a modified cargo pod that could create plasma torpedoes that would then be launched by transporter. This of course gave them a myopic zone (they need to recover from disrupted fire control before they can actually pursue their targets), but they can be launched in ANY direction, and can be placed anywhere within five hexes of the mothership carrying the pod. There is a phaser-1 refit for every Andromedan unit, just to let you know how nasty they could have been if they were able to upgrade those weapons.

There is an alternate Andromedan command system which allows more Andromedan ships to turn up.

There are rules to allow the Andromedans to use their transporters to place nuclear space mines (and limits on the numbers of them they can have), but also rules that allow even a satellite ship to use its transporter to transport another satellite ship . . . or even a mothership.

Energy modules might not simply sit and slough energy into space; they may actively pursue your ship, by displacement, and detonate on reaching it.

Spatial distorters are yet another function of displacement devices that can break up your formations, or suddenly increase the range to an Andromedan ship, or make it impossible for your fighters to land back aboard the base for rearming.

Historically, the Andromedan mobile weapons platforms never really evolved, but now they gain warp booster packs (allowing them to reach Speed 31), and Adder fast patrol ships make their appearance with a full array of variants. An SSD of mobile weapons platforms, and of the variants thereof, was included so that players do not have to draw the added (two box) booster packs onto the SSDs in Module J2. (These SSDs also include the phaser-1 refit as appropriate.)

There were requests for Andromedan fighters and bombers, and well, if the Andromedans could launch satellite ships, why not bombers? So the Andromedans are able to launch bomber squadrons into direct combat. There is no real Andromedan "carrier," but modified cargo pods convert any mothership into a carrier of sorts. One of the problems was not allowing large openings on the Andromedan ships that those nasty galactic players could use to crash land shuttles full of Marines into an Andromedan ship, so even the fighters and bombers are launched by transporter (but one transporter operation can launch an entire squadron . . . recovery is a lot slower though). Further, virtually all of the fighters and bombers were designed to be "Andromedan," i.e., almost all of the fighters, and all of the bombers, use power-absorber technology, meaning with a little time they can "recover from damage" and come back into the fight.

Variants of different Andromedan units not see before are included. (What if the Conqueror were real, what would its variants look like? What if the Andromedans had upgraded the Viper like many Alpha Octant empires upgraded their frigates to heavy frigates? What if they upgraded their Cobras? Their Mambas?)

The first cut of Andromedan advanced technology rules appeared in Captain's Log #18, and are included, along with an array of advanced technology ships from an Intruder (the INX) down to the Viper (VPX), including rules for the X capabilities of systems included in Module C3A.

And, yes, there are suicide sleds that work like suicide freighters . . . but also a look at using cargo variants of satellite ships (Mamba, Cobra, Viper) as suicide ships, or even using a mothership that would otherwise have been taken out of service as a suicide ship.

Module C3A also includes a short timeline of the "alternate timeline" encountered by the Darwin. There's also an article looking at how the Andromedan conquest worked in that timeline, and an article about why the Andromedans did not see to adopt, or adapt to, technologies in the Alpha Octant.

The only thing NOT conjectural in Module C3A is the Fall of Demorak campaign. This is, in a small scale (because the Lyran Democratic Republic is smaller than most other empires) the first campaign about the assault on a "capital planet." This means it is big, and it will take multiple playings to wear it down, and both sides will have to carefully expend their resources in the quest for ultimate victory.

Friday, May 13, 2011

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 3

21. Paint a female Space Dragon across the top of it.

22. Install X-technology and a positron flywheel.

23. Have Rodney King drive it through Los Angeles.

24. Start a rumor that the captain will go to war without approval from the Council.

25. Tell the crew that movies are going to be replaced with episodes of Webster.

26. Tell Oliver Stone the crew is conspiring against someone.

27. Have small mammals eat the eggs.

28. Assign construction to NASA.

29. Anchor it with six Gorn ships and unload plasma torpedoes.

30. Paint "The Emperor wears bunny slippers" on it just before the annual Klinshai naval parade.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, May 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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about where some common words came from.

1. Afraid comes from the old English word affray, which means to startle someone who was resting or asleep, with no real connotation of fear.

2. Most armies of the Middle Ages used the phrase "to arms" to mean "the enemy is here, get your weapons." For some reason, the Italian version (alle arme) became the one every army used and it is now the word "alarm."

3. The ancient Egyptians had kohl, a black powder used as eye shadow. This was used by many countries, and came into European use from the Arabic al kohl. English writers, not realizing that the al was a separate word (the), combined this to produce the word alcohol, which meant any fine powder. Chemists used terms such as "an alcohol of sulfur." By 1500, the word had somehow come to mean "superbly refined." By 1700, the best wine was known as "alcohol of wine" and from there it was a short step to the current usage.

4. Italian armies of the Middle Ages used the term "alla erta" to mean "on duty on the watchtower" and this eventually came into English as "alert."

5. Alimony does not mean "all the money" but instead is just a contraction of the Roman word "alimentum" which means "nourishment."

6. The old world has several species of crocodiles, although only in Africa. (These things are, in fact, older than dinosaurs, and twice were the dominant land animal, only to lose out to dinosaurs and then mammals.) When Spanish explorers reached Florida and the Mississippi River, they came upon several different species of the same general beast, but used the familiar term "el lagarto" which means "the lizard." Spanish, like Arabic, puts the word "the" in front of every noun for some reason, and Englishmen don't realize that the "al" or "el" isn't part of the word, so this came into English as alligator.

7. Until 1700, the word "one" was pronounced "own" which is why we have "alone" (all one) and "only."

8. The ancient Greeks who fought the Trojan War were actually the Mycenaeans, who were in Greece before the current Greeks showed up. The Mycenaeans explored widely, and came into contact with tribes which lived around the Black Sea, one of which supposedly consisted entirely of women. (Graves found in Asia in the last decade or two containing women of large stature buried with weapons and gold seem to confirm such tribes existed, or at least that some warrior women existed.) Homer called this tribe "Amazons" which means "without breast" because (Homer said) the women had their right breasts surgically removed to allow them to use a bow. (There is no historical evidence to support this, and modern women Olympic athletes seem to use a bow just fine without this sacrifice.) In 1541, a Spanish explorer (Orellana) was paddling up a large river in South America when attacked by a native tribe. The women of the tribe fought alongside the men, so Orellana named the tribe Amazons. (Contrary to myth, he was under no illusion that these were the same tribe who met the Greeks.) The next wave of Spanish explorers referred to the river by the tribe's name.

9. Ambiguous comes from two Roman words, ambigo (around) and ago (drive a chariot). The original term had a precise meaning, that being to drive your chariot around an unfamiliar area with poorly marked (or non-existent) roads looking for some sign of the destination you are seeking. Today, of course, it means "vague" which certainly applies to an unfamiliar area with poorly marked locations.

10. Ambition comes from that same Latin ambigo, and the word eo, which means to go or to walk. The word referred to what a politician seeking votes did, i.e., go around the town and talk to voters, explain his views, and ask for their support. Thus, a man who had ambition was a man asking for people to vote for him in the next election.

Tuesday, May 10, 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 latesthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif 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:

Monday, May 09, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 May 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the second week of Leanna's reign of terror, as she cracked the whip on the two Steves.

The weather was cooler, but still quite pleasant. We could use some rain. The spam storm remained quiet, usually below 100 per day. The death of Osama bin Ladin started the week off to a good start. New on e23 were Captains Log #7, the F&E Chart Book, and our own link on the What's Hot page. (We're the #2 company on e23.) We uploaded GURPS Romulans and the WYN Ship Card Pack #1 but they didn't get released as the lady at SJG who runs e23 was sick most of the week The first SFB iPhone App (the DAC) was sent to the Apple store for review.

Steve Cole spent much of the week on the "U contract", one of his endless stream of deals that will change the company if only one of them will work. The contract was finished and sent to the lawyer on Friday. Steve set up the file for ISC Ship Card Pack #1 but did no further work on it due to other priorities. The WYN Ship Card Pack did get finished and uploaded, but did not get released. Steve did a lot of work on ISC War, including the countersheet, which was posted Friday. He did get out a Star Fleet Alert on the new products and finished Communique #65 (with the Hydran Lord Admiral and Andromedan Galleon) and sent it to the staff so it can be released on the 10th. He also sent Joel everything for the C3A cover.

Steven Petrick finished C3A, and it's one of our most creative products in years.

Leanna has kept orders going out (and the whip cracking).

Jean has proofread some Captain's Log #43 stuff and has started on C3A.

Mike has gotten the inventory back up (but the new restocks from Alliance wiped out everything he did).

Joel smacked some pirates, did the C3A cover, and did a bunch of website updates.

Sunday, May 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.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. The average wife has three secrets she has never told her husband, the biggest of which is that she has secrets at all.

2. Bucky Katt plans to create a new television show called Fantasy Peninsula, which would have all of the fantasy but half of the travel expenses of Fantasy Island.

3. I watched a fascinating TV show the other night called "How the States Got Their Shapes" about how state borders came to be. I knew some of these fun old stories, but didn't know others, such as the 3/4 mile bulge in the Vermont-Quebec border caused by a surveyor's mistake (which is still there), and the 1835 shooting war between Michigan and Ohio over who would own Toledo. Worth catching, and the two-hour show (apparently shown last year) is now becoming a series of one-hour episodes with more fun stories of strange borders.

4. Leanna's new "Have a meeting every day in which she gives each Steve a list of things to be done on new products in the next 24 hours" seems to be working. Steven Petrick is able to tell people "I cannot do what you want because I have to meet my work quota from Leanna."

5. Leanna got a mailing tube from Cattleman's Supply of Fort Worth, Texas the other day. It's about 3 feet long, 3 inches in diameter, and required an adult signature. I'm really not sure what it was, but she said I'd find out if my work quota was not met.

6. I really enjoyed doing STARSHIP ALDO which was finished and started printing on 29 April. This 16-page RPG adventure is being given away via Free RPG Day (and will be sold at Origins, and our webstore and e23 after Origins). The story goes that after the General War, all of the government sold off a lot of leftover starships. (This worked nicely with Chuck Strong's work on F&E ISC WAR, where the sales of those ships neatly reduced the fleet sizes and paid for the empires to recover from wartime exhaustion.) A female Kzinti, who was the captain of an Armed Priority Transport, took her back pay and the inheritance from her father (and money from her deceased husband) and bought another ship like that and went into business (looking for war wrecks she could salvage). She hired about 30 ex-military people (Kzinti, Klingon, Federation) and had a lot of contacts with Kzinti and Federation business, military, and port people. One day, her ship came upon a wrecked hulk of a freighter. Painted letters on the side spelled "aldo" and her intelligence officer (Jena Biblios) looked that up, and thought it might be either the freighter Geraldo Rivera, the military auxiliary Aguinaldo, or the luxury liner Waldorf Astoria. She sends a boarding party over to find out. (The boarding party consists of the six guys who played the Terrorwerks gun run at Origins last year.) There are deck plans for the freighter, die roll charts to find out what is in each compartment, and character stats for all eight people (in both GURPS and PD20M). Jean has made a lot of "oooooh" sounds and says she didn't realize that I could do such a creative job writing RPG stuff. She's already laying plans to turn the 16-page booklet into an entire 120-page magazine called Final Frontier #1, which she will edit and publish when she moves to Amarillo in 2013.

7. Jean's plan for FF#1 is to add deck plans for an APT, more crew characters, and several planets they can investigate. One would be Texmex, where Kzinti travelers stop to hunt live cows and deer. Another would be a Klingon colony where you can buy tons of war surplus weapons. Another would be the Leebyaah mentioned in SFB, where a civil war is raging (and you can sell the rebels meat from Texmex and guns from the Klingons). You will recall that the leader of Leebyaah is Moon-em-moor Klodhoppy, the commander of the Air Force is Yezzir Imarat, and the head of the church is Ayatoldyouso Kokamamie. Thanks to research by Mike Grafton, we now know that the prime minister is Maddog Inadinnerjacket.

Friday, May 06, 2011

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 2

#11. Tell the government it's carrying toxic waste.

#12. Tell the DSF it's being assigned to the ISF to hunt pirates.

#13. Tell the ISF that the helmsman is drunk.

#14. Put Rush Limbaugh at the helm; he only turns right!

#15. Attack it with 500 administrative shuttles.

#16. Tell the Orions the crew consists of green slave women.

#17. Forget to close the hatch when leaving spacedock.

#18. Tell the captain he cannot raise the shields until the ship's counselor certifies that he's in touch with his inner self.

#19. Tell Congress the drone racks exceed the magazine limits.

#20 Challenge a Dominator to a duel and neglect to prohibit it from bringing satellite ships.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, May 05, 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, May 04, 2011

When do the Rules Apply?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Whenever I hear about the use of "child soldiers", my immediate gut response is that the adult leaders are to be killed with no chance of parole.

Making children into "soldiers" (which they are not really as the training mostly consists of handing them a weapon and telling them in essence to kill or be killed) is fine if you are a warlord, but it is not a way to build a country. The majority of them will be so warped from their experiences that they may never be able to recover mentally or morally. The result is a crowd of unrepentant murderers little better (and in a lot of ways worse) than wild animals. They learn that all they want in life can be gained from the barrel of a gun, whether it is someone's food or a woman that is not interested in them or just to be let alone to laze away the day before they use the gun to acquire one of the previous.

But, again, when do the rules apply?

It is one thing when a warlord unleashes child soldiers to appoint himself dictator (or President for Life), or simply "everything locally is mine and anyone that comes in here must pay me for the privilege".

But if the Hutus are killing all Tutsis, men, women, and children, do you not hand a 12-year-old child a weapon to defend himself and your group from an otherwise overwhelming attack? If the kid does not fight, we all die. We risk all I have said before, and yes I know there are some who would choose "we all die rather than I make this immoral choice, my morality means more to me than my own life and the lives of others."

Why does this come up now?

Two reasons basically.

One is the recent movie "Battle: LA" where the aliens were killing everyone (it was implied even babes in strollers, but as can be expected in Hollywood MOST times this was not explicitly shown . . . but the last "Aliens versus Predators" definitely showed a Predator in a hospital creche).

The other is recent world events (and not so recent as drawn from the Rwandan incident).

When the choices are death or survival, are there really any civilian non-combatants? You may want to protect your medical personnel, but if the bad guys will not pay any attention to the Red Cross (or Red Crescent), they will need to be ready to fight as well.

And that may lead to decisions about arming the children.

So, when do the rules apply?

I would not voluntarily allow children to fight in a conflict under normal conditions. It is how I have been trained and socialized all through my life.

But I am always aware that sometimes the rules may no longer apply.

Tuesday, May 03, 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, May 02, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24 - 30 April 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that Leanna laid down the law: get those new products done (and done right) or she will show us what she just bought from Cattleman's Supply Company. She began meeting with both Steves every day, giving them assignments for the next day, and checking to see if previous assignments were done. She said C3A needs to go to Jean by 5 May so it can be shipped with GURPS Federation on 16 May.

The weather this week was cool in the morning, and often quite warm in the afternoon. Steve Cole got most of his exercise walks in the evening with Ramses.

The spam storm rarely passed 100 per day.

We set a monthly all-time sales record on e23. New uploads this week included Captain's Log #6.

Steve Cole finished a product (the sixteen-page Starship Aldo for Free RPG Day) which shipped out on 29 April. He did the Revision 6 rulebooks for Orion Attack and Klingon Attack, wrote a three-player FC scenario for Communique #65, wrote four blogs, entered the Origins dealer badge info into their Byzantine on-line form, requested press quotes, read 26 pages of C3A, wrote four pages of Captain's Log #43, helped Leanna do the F&E chartbook over again for POD printing, made Jean's last fixes to GURPS Federation, and worked on the U contract.

Steven Petrick worked on C3A, finishing the SSDs, Andro fighters and bombers, and the ship descriptions.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and rode herd on the Steves.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and helped Leanna get the F&E chartbook ready to print.

Joel did website updates, smacked pirates, and helped Mike get orders out.

Jean worked on Starship Aldo (finalizing the characters and proofreading the whole book three more times), proofread some Captain's Log #43 pages, and hounded Petrick for C3A pages.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about where some common words came from.

1. The word "abet" which means to encourage someone else to do something illegal comes from an old Norse word for "bite" by way of the French. The French term was used for the person who handled the dogs used to "bait" a bear back in the 1300s, when bear baiting was a sport. For that matter, "bait" also comes from the old Norse word for "bite."

2. The word "abeyance" which means "on hold" or "dormant" comes from a French legal term describing any property, the owner of which had died, during the time that the courts were figuring out which of the claimants actually owned it. Back in those days (centuries ago) this was often a vitally important matter, as few people could write, possession was nine tenths of the law, and people who owned valuable things tended to die violently and leave a lot of relatives with competing claims of ownership. Wealthy people tended not to declare (while alive) who was to inherit something, as they needed to play their relatives against each other and anyway, heirs were about as likely to die violently as owners.

3. The word "abhor" which means to dislike or shrink back from comes from the same Latin word as "horror" and refers to the hair on your neck standing up. Thus, abhor originally meant to "shrink back in horror" and today, the horror part is forgotten.

4. Abigail is an old biblical name for a woman. In 1609, a playwright used the name for a spirited woman who was a lady's maid. This became one of the first "breakout characters" and everyone was quoting her humorous barbs in everyday conversation. She was so popular that other playwrights began to include a feisty lady's maid in their plays and assign her the name Abigail so she became the first "recurring character" who jumped from story to story, century to century, city to city, country to country. Eventually, "Abigail" became a common term in England for a lady's maid by 1800 and is still used as such to this day.

5. Abominable (as in the snowman, but it's also a word that now means loathsome and disgusting) comes from the Latin Ab Omen, meaning "ominous" or "inspiring dread."

6. Aboveboard (meaning open and honest) came into use in the 1500s among card players, who wanted to be sure that everyone kept their hands and cards above the table.

7. Helen of Troy was born in Sparta. Even as a teenage girl, she was so beautiful that men desired her. She was kidnapped by Theseus, the prince of Athens, who wanted to keep her locked up until she reached the legal age for marriage. The Spartans sent Castor and Pollux (her brothers) to rescue her, which they did with the help of an Athenian named Academus. The Spartans were so grateful that they purchased a lovely grove of trees outside of the city and gave it to him. He tended the grove with care and when he died, it became a city park. Plato owned the land next to the park, and tended to wander the park teaching philosophy to his students. As this went on for some decades, the Grove of Academus became the name of the group of Plato's students (Academia) and the park became known as "the academy." And of course, thousands of years later, academy means a school of higher learning and academia means the faculty of such a school.

8. Accost (to approach someone and pressure them into hearing you out) comes from old Latin ad costa (to lay along side of, since costa meant rib bone). The term was used by sailors and of course came to us as coast (shore, beach, edge of the land by the ocean).

9. Acre was originally the Roman word for unoccupied land of any sort. By the fall of the Empire, it meant land that could be farmed. When the word reached England, it became the amount of land that could be plowed in one day. Since some land was easier to plow than others, one of the King's declared an acre to be 40 rods square. Each furrow was thus 40 rods long, and became a furrow-length or furlong.

10. Admiral comes from the Arabic words Amir al (commander of the). Christians hearing the words thought they were one word, and adopted it as Admiral.