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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of common words.

1. Barbarian: The Greek word for any outsider who did not speak Greek. The common joke was that the language of outsiders sounded like "bar-bar-bar" which I guess was the ancient Greek version of today's "blah-blah-blah."

2. Barbeque comes from the 1500s, when Haitian natives would cook meat on a lattice of green sticks. The Haitians bought metal grills from Spanish traders, which worked better. The Haitians called this "barbacoa" which may have come from the word "barbican" meaning a metal grill to protect the door of a castle from a battering ram. The Spanish explorers adopted the practice (being a simple way to cook a whole animal in short order) and the term spread into other Spanish colonies and then into the southern areas of what became the US.

3. Barnacle, a shellfish that grows on the hulls of ships, was once thought to be the egg of the barnacle goose.

4. Battering ram, a military device for breaking down walls (a log hung on chains and swung back and forth by soldiers) was (simply) named for a ram (male sheep) which fought for mating privileges by smacking into other rams.

5. Bazooka, a military rocket launcher used to attack tanks, was named for a comical musical instrument invented by Bob Burns (who stuck together parts of a trombone and other instruments). He named it a bazooka because it was a common expression at the time for a blowhard to be known as a bazoo. This musical instrument was simply a comic prop but it did make sounds when he blew into it. When the US Army (during WWII) invented a rocket launcher similar to the German panzerfaust (armored fist), someone humorously compared it to Burns's trombone, and the name stuck.

6. Bedlam, a confused and noisy group of people, is a contraction of Bethlehem. In the 1200s, the term hospital meant a hotel, not a medical facility. Saint Mary's of Bethlehem was a hospital in London that providing housing for visiting church dignitaries. When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church, he confiscated the hospital and it was used to house the insane. By that time, the name had been shorted to Bethlehem and corrupted to Bethlem and then Bedlam. The confused noise of the inmates gave rise to the current usage.

7. Beggar, someone who makes his way in the world by asking for donations, comes from a Belgian religious order (Begue) which started with women (Beguines) but eventually included men (called Beghards). The men of the order would leave the abby to go ask for donations, and soon enough other beggars (not members of the order) were claiming to be members in order to seek donations to their own sustenance.

8. Belfry, a bell tower, started out as a siege engine known as a bergfrid (sheltered shed, a movable tower which was used by archers to shoot down into a besieged city). Every nobleman had one or more to use in warfare. When gunpowder made these obsolete, the last remaining ones became watchtowers and were fitted with bells so that the watchman could sound the alarm. The German word bergfrid had (over the course of 300 years and 500 miles) become the English word belfry.

9. Berserk, applied to someone violently out of control, started out as the Viking and Germanic Bear Shirt. Brave warriors wearing shirts made from bear skins would be used as shock troops to break the enemy's battle lines in one of the earliest uses of shock & awe.

10. Bible, the Christian holy text (or a generic term for a bound collection of shorter books), is from the Greek word biblios (little books) which came from the earlier byblos (papyrus scroll). Christians spoke reverently of "the books" in the church, and by the time they were bound into one volume the term had become bible. The term is sometimes used today as slang for the definitive documents that define a trade or practice.

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

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

This was another normal week, as the design team worked on upcoming products and the production team kept shipping unusually strong mail orders. The weather remained hot, often passing 100F every day. The spam storm continued to exceed 100 most days.

New on e23 this week were Captain's Log #12 and the Omega Master Rulebook.

The joint venture with Mongoose moved forward with many new ship designs (Klingon F5; Fed Old CL, FF, FFB) reaching us, and significant changes to the first ship (Fed CA) to remove excessive deep lines. This took a lot of SVC and SPP time, but we knew that would happen when we signed the contract. This week included the very first phone call between Steve Cole and Matthew Sprange, which probably included more discussion of British things than actual work but was an important part of the developing relationship.

Both Steves playtested Star Fleet Marines numerous times. This included the second scenario (Destruction of Company B and its variants for Company A and Company C) and the third scenario (meeting engagement, capture the town, two variants).

Steve Cole (besides Mongoose projects) worked on Federation Admiral, Boosters 31-32-33, Captain's Log #44, did new ship cards for Federation Commander, launched the Omega Gazetteer project, started the new research honor bar, and did everything on the list that the Tuesday staff meeting gave him (such as getting quotes on printing and finding the original OMRB cover). He also talked with another game company that wants to do their new game under our contract with Paramount. He reviewed a non-SFU game design from an outside designer and warned him that there was no market for the game.

Steven Petrick (besides Mongoose ship reviews) finished the Omega Master Rulebook and the OMRB update list and worked on Captain's Log #44 battle groups.

Leanna showed considerable leadership this week, calling a meeting on Monday to decide that the Omega MRB would be released as one big book for $45 and put on e23 immediately. Leanna called a board of directors meeting to discuss the financial situation, announcing that all bills were paid up and there was enough money to print the projects for the rest of the year. Leanna and SVC continued to attend business management and leadership classes on Wednesday mornings, and Leanna seems to be more comfortable to take charge of certain projects. (She now manages print buying after SVC gets the original price quotes.)

Joel sank pirate ships, updated the website, did the cover layouts for Boosters 31-32-33, and worked like a demon to get the BBS archived and reduced below the danger point, finally reaching the goal of 150,000, then continuing until it was under 143,000. (Mike Curtis, Paul Franz, Steve Cole, and Jean Sexton helped with the archiving, but Joel did the lion's share.)

Mike Sparks kept orders going out, and asked for more responsibility. We're getting clearance from the insurance carrier for him to use the power cutter and a company credit card for him to make the mail run.

Jean reported that our page on Facebook had surpassed 922 friends and that we dominate the non-SJG listings on e23.

Failure to communicate

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

This blog is late because, even in a small company, we had a communications breakdown.

Thus it becomes a blog in itself and a lesson.

SVC assigned me to do the blog on Sunday, 28 August 2011, early last week. Saturday he decided that I needed to take a day off (I usually come to the office on Sunday to at least check email and see if anything is happening on the board). Saturday I remembered I needed to do a blog, but I was tired and had decided to do it the next day. I left the office fully intending to come in and do the blog myself, so I did not mention the blog situation to SVC. No reason to do so, I was going to come in and do one. SVC, of course, had already forgotten that I was supposed to do the blog, and Jean Sexton, the final and ultimate backup, was at her Mother's house where the power (courtesy of the hurricane) had knocked out the power.

Sunday morning I woke up, and still being tired, I remembered that SVC had told me to take that day off, and I just decided to do so. I spent a good part of the day watching TV, and a good part of the day sleeping.

I never called SVC and confirmed that I was taking the day off, so obviously I never mentioned to him that someone needed to do the blog. Each time it occurred to me that a blog needed to be done, I simply fell back on SVC would check the blog from his home sometime, or Jean would (I was unaware that Jean Sexton was off line).

The upshot, my failure to communicate (and indeed I know better) resulted in no blog being posted on Sunday.

Saturday, August 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. 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.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 7

61. I'm making an auto-documentary on the effects of sensory deprivation.

62. I'm making guest lists for my boarding parties.

63. I'm trying to remove my excess damage.

64. I have to rotate my shuttle bays.

65. I'm observing National Apathy Week.

66. Having that much fun gives me hives.

67. We invited the Gorns over for a barbecue.

68. I have to jog my memory.

69. My transporters need a transplant.

70. I'm going to get my tactical intelligence probed.

(to be continued)

c. 1992, Captain's Log #10, Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I think the toughest lesson I have had to learn in running ADB is that not everything that CAN be done SHOULD be done, and of those things that SHOULD get done, not all of them are going to get done. There is only so much time, and only so much money.

2. Who knew there were so many dwarf planets around? By accident I stumbled onto a site that lists a dozen: Haumea, Makemake, Sedna, Orcus, Quaoar, 2002-TX, 2002-AW, Varuna, Ixion, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. (This list does not include Ceres, the "largest asteroid" and lately the largest of the dwarf planets. Most of that list are Kuyper belt objects discovered from 2001-2009. I gotta do a better job of keeping up with this stuff.

3. Having been successfully married for almost 34 years, I can say it takes work to keep a marriage going. The secret is to never, ever, assume that the other partner is happy. Find out if they are happy and do what it takes to make them happy. Sometimes, you need to do something to make them happier even if they're already quite happy enough.

4. We were watching a TV show that had been on Tivo for two years the other day, and there was a joke about some husband who was so good that he threw his wife's towel into the dryer when she took a shower so it would be warm when she got out. I did that as a joke for Leanna and she liked it so much (try it!) that now I do it a lot. Not every time, but a lot.

5. Another thought on my plan to win the lottery, buy a ship, and go mess with Japanese whalers: I want a "towed sonar" which broadcasts whale danger calls. When I get close to a Japanese whale ship, I can make sure they find nothing to hunt.

6. I get asked this a lot: Have you looked at the Federation Commander scenarios I sent in yet? Were there any problems? When will one be used?

And the answer is: I probably haven't. I have over 50 FC scenario submissions on file, and we use 20-25 a year, so it's not like I average doing one a week and it's not like we'll use everything received since 2009 by Christmas. To be fair to everyone, I try to do one from each author and then move that author to the bottom of the stack. If I had only one job (FC scenarios) I'd be done in a week (and then unemployed, I guess). Remember that I have a lot of different jobs and I don't get to do any one of them for an entire day, let alone an entire week. What I started doing in August was the FC Scenario Bank, which was a plan to do one per day for two weeks so I'd have a selection of finished scenarios on hand. I don't know if I'll get to the last person before I have to give up doing one per day because my other jobs need attention. If there are any problems, I fix them if I can. I have no idea when one of your scenarios will be used. The scenarios for Communique #68 and Communique #69 are already selected and done; everyone has an equal chance for future Communiques, Captain's Logs, and other products.

7. Leanna and I love the business makeover shows where some expert arrives to rescue a floundering business. The latest of this ilk is Tabatha's Salon Takeover, where this British lady shows up to take over a hair salon that is losing money. I know nothing about doing ladies' hair and have no real interest in it (the whole concept of foils and highlights is beyond me) but I do find, again and again, that THE failure is one of LEADERSHIP. Somebody is screwing up and the leader (the boss, owner, manager, or whatever) is not taking corrective action (perhaps because they're too busy to notice it). It seems unusual to me that the lady who owns the salon is almost ways a working hairdresser in the salon. This violates one of the Army's big principles: a leader already HAS a job, so you cannot (for example) give him the machinegun. Yet, this "owner as one of the workers" concept seems to be universal in that trade. Ok, so be it, but I don't want my hair cut by an owner who has to keep running around checking on what her employees are doing. Of course, I have the same flaw. I am the leader of ADB and one of the primary game designers. So I have to keep track of what all of my employees are doing while I try to design games. It's not that bad: Leanna mostly supervises Mike and Joel for me, while Petrick, Leanna, and Jean require only the barest minimum of guidance. That's probably why we're not on a TV show for failing businesses, because we're doing fine (no debt!).

8. Iran was Sunni until 500 years ago, when it was forced to convert to Shia, on pain of death, by a Shia emperor (who killed about a million of his subjects in the process). Sunni is the basic and mainstream form of Islam. Shiites believe that Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammad, is equally important (if not more important) than Mohammad. Shias also incorporate a lot of old Zoroastrian traditions, holidays, and rituals into Islam, something Sunnis consider heresy. (Christianity includes a lot of old pagan holidays as well, such as Christmas and Easter.)

9. Recently, we set up one of the PCs to use Carbonite to back up the files. (The Macs have another system.) An employee was assigned to make this happen because the computer itself needed to be trashed and replaced. The employee found a note from Carbonite that there were certain kinds of files that would not be backed up unless told specifically to do so. He looked at the list and set some files to back up, but assumed (what an ugly word) that the PC had no files in one of the listed formats. He was repeatedly asked "Is everything backed up?" and repeatedly answered "Yes" to that question. He never mentioned that there was a list of excluded files, and never asked anyone if we knew of any files of the excluded types. (There were files of those types, files destroyed forever when the old computer was trashed and rebuilt.) Everyone is now upset and damage was done that cannot be repaired without some expense and effort. You have been warned. In the specific case of Carbonite, make sure everyone who uses the computer knows what is and is not going to be checked for backup. In the more general case, anytime something is going to be done that cannot be recovered, everyone in the department (or company) needs to know that and have a chance to point out potential hidden issues.

10. I have OnStar in my car (it came with it) and pay the monthly fee for it (even though I have never once used it) just because at my age I might have a "health issue" at any time. What I did not know was that it can be added to any car. When I learned this, I ordered it added to Leanna's car at once. For someone young and healthy, it might not be an issue, but for someone my age, it gives me peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 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!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lessons My Father Taught Me

Jean Sexton writes:

My Dad was always a teacher. In over half a century, he taught me many lessons. I'd like to share them with you as one of his last gifts to the world.

Your right ends where the other guy's nose begins.

Dad always emphasized that we have rights to do certain things, but the absolute right to exercise them stops when it affects someone else. Then it is time to question whether your right is the correct thing to do.

With privileges there are responsibilities.

If you have the right or privilege to do something, you must use that privilege responsibly. There are consequences for actions and you must be willing to accept them.

The buck stops here.

There are times it is necessary to make a decision. Do it. And then, when you do something, accept the responsibility for having done so.

You have to look at yourself in the mirror each morning. Make that someone in the mirror someone you can live with.

Think about your decisions and choices. Make the best choice you can because you have to live with it and the consequences for the rest of your life.

Family is important. Do what you have to do for family.

Once Dad went fishing with a person and there were no life jackets worn by anyone on the boat. The boat capsized near a dam and Dad was struggling in an eddy that kept pulling him under. He thought of Mom and us kids and tried one more time with all of his might to get to the surface. Obviously he did, but he did it because our family needed him.

Learn from your mistakes.

Dad never, ever went on a boat again without wearing a life jacket.

Don't boo the referee.

People who are giving time and energy to make it possible for you to enjoy a sport aren't deliberately making mistakes. They are making the best decision they can from what they observed at the angle at which they saw it.

Things can be seen from different angles.

And that explains a lot of conflict in the world. Try to see things from the other guy's perspective so that you understand him better.

You have to understand what happened to understand why it happened.

If you understand the whys, then maybe you can see patterns and repeat the good ones and avoid the bad ones.

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

Because patterns repeat -- that's what patterns do. And this carries over into your personal life as well and into your interactions with people.

Sometimes the best way to be with God is out in His world where there is just you and Him.

Many times Dad went fishing in the early morning or was working in the yard before the sun was fully up. That is when we'd plant my daylilies when he came to visit. In the cool of the morning, with your hands in the earth, you could be close to God and know the beauties of the world He made.

Who we are is inside and that is what matters.

The outside of us is not what matters. Who we are is what is important. Therefore we must be the best person we can be.

If you love someone enough, you know you can let them go when they need to move on.

That's true for children who need to live a life that is connected to you, but apart. It's also true for children who must give up a beloved parent when his body finally fails him. Neither one is an easy thing to do, but love lets you do what is best for those you love, not what you want to do.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 August 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a "normal" week at ADB, Inc. The weather remained hot, passing 80F at sunrise and peaking at 100F most days. The spam storm remained about 100 per day.

This week's staff meeting cleared the way for an 25-card expansion pack for Star Fleet Battle Force, agreed to review a proposal for a new RPG product Mongoose suggested (the alternative would have been to kill the project based on little more than the name and the game engine, but we LIKED the idea and thought it would be great fun), and decided to use the existing box wraps for F&E (we forgot we had these until Mike Sparks found them) rather than printing a new box with new art. Leanna also approved the publication of a full set of 16 new Ship Cards in Boosters 31-32-33 after working out a deal with the printer that means we no longer have to print Ship Cards in batches of 16. She also approved the inclusion of "about 30" new Ship Cards for whatever Federation Commander product is picked for 2011 (Reinforcements Attack or Borders of Madness Attack, plus boosters). Leanna rejected a customer who asked to be allowed to pay money to sponsor the selection of the customer's favorite ships, saying that this was just tacky and crass to solicit bribes or provoke a bidding war. (For the record, nobody liked the suggestion but we did promise him that we would actually vote on it.)

Steve Cole worked on the current projects (Marines, Fed Admiral, Boosters 31-32-33) and reviewed new 2500-series minis by Mongoose, started work on the Vudar ePack, did several Federation Commander scenarios for the "bank" file, did a couple of new FC Ship Cards, exported the Captain's Log #40 update for S8 so Joel could post it, did a few minor things for the Omega Master Rulebook, created the provisional list of ships for Reinforcements Attack, and killed a few thousand obsolete posts on the BBS (which is almost out of room). We were contacted by another game company which wants to print one of their games under our Paramount contract but (while talks were cordial) our lawyer says we have done enough deals for 2011.

Steven Petrick spent most of his week getting the updated Omega Master Rulebook read, but he also checked Mongoose minis, did battlegroups for Captain's Log #44, made the mail runs, and operated the book trimmer.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, did a demotivational poster for Jean, and helped Mike. He also quickly learned how to archive BBS topics, killing thousands of obsolete posts that had to be kept in some form.

Jean returned to work mid-week and managed our page on Facebook as well as did some marketing.

Sunday, August 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/).

Saturday, August 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!

Friday, August 19, 2011

SVC Learns to Delegate

Our hosting company has a maximum limit on the number of posts the BBS may have. That limit is fast approaching making it necessary to remove some posts. The Steves and Jean are heavily involved in that process and (as there is only so much time in the day) it cuts into design and proofreading time. Jean knew there had to be a way of doing it more efficiently: delegate! But SVC is a hands-on sort of guy so ...

SVC writes about his stressful day learning to delegate:

Jean: SVC, you need to delete 40,000 BBS posts. Start by archiving the minis kit bash topic and having Joel upload the archives. Go on now.

SVC: But that's a ton of work!

Jean: Then delegate it to Joel.

SVC: No, no, I'll go do it.

Jean: Listen to me. Delegate. It. To. Joel.

SVC: I don't wanna delegate anything. He might screw it up.

Jean: Will the world end if he does?

SVC: No.

Jean: Were you not going to just delete it without archiving?

SVC: (whisper) yes.

Jean: Then delegate it to Joel.

SVC: I don't wanna.

Jean: Let's see. Leanna's private line is...

SVC: (whisper) I guess I can let Joel try one folder and see.

Jean: There's a good boy.


SVC: Joel says he cannot do it. His computer doesn't have a word processor on it.

Jean: Why not?

SVC: It was deleted when Jack was upgraded to Thor and hasn't been re-installed.

Jean: And your next step is?

SVC: Archive the topics myself?

Jean: Try again. Your next step is?

SVC: But I don't know how to install software on a PC. (Or a Mac, for that matter.)

Jean: Try again. Delegate.

SVC: I guess I could ask Leanna.

Jean: Good boy. Get on with it.

SVC: She said she'd do it.


Joel: Leanna installed Open Office, but it won't make PDFs.

Jean: Yes, it will.

Joel: No, it won't.

Jean: Yes, it will.

Joel: No, it won't.

Jean: Let's see. Leanna's private line is...

Joel: I guess I can go look again.

Jean: There's a good boy.

Joel: Found it under "export".

Jean: I knew you could.


Joel: Steve, I'm ready to do that now.

SVC: Oh, I already did 2003 so I could avoid working on Fed Admiral. I guess you can go do 2004.

Joel: I have archived the 2004 file.

SVC: You probably screwed it up.

Joel: Would you go check?

SVC: Hmm... your file looks better than mine.

Joel: Thanks. Shall I do 2005?

SVC: Nah, your shift is over, I'll do it after you leave.

Joel: I guess I will tell Jean that you'll be handling the rest of it.

SVC: Oh second thought, maybe you could do 2005 tomorrow?

Joel: I can try.


SVC: Jean, we have archived the 2003 and 2004 files and have deleted 826 posts.

Jean: A good start. Let me go check. Why does 2004 look different from 2003?

SVC: Maybe Joel was learning to use the software?

Jean: Do I need to ask him about that?

SVC: Oh, wait a second, yeah, I remember now. I did 2003 when he said his new software could not PDF stuff.

Jean: I thought as much. What did we learn today?

SVC: That I can archive just as well as Joel can so I don't have to delegate?

Jean: Try again?

SVC: Delegate the minis kit bash topic, and the minis update topic, to Joel while I go archive the SFB proposals topics?

Jean: Halfway there, Steve, want to give that another think?

SVC: Delegate the minis kit bash topic, and the minis update topic, to Joel while I go find other topics I can have him archive?

Jean: Much better.

Thursday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about his recent appearances on yet to be seen reality shows:

1. Survivor: Ok, people, listen to me for a minute. I'm declaring myself the leader, which means you'll vote me out the first time we lose a challenge. That's no biggie, since I don't want to win; I want the month-long vacation at a resort where they keep me incommunicado and I can work on my new book. What we do need to do is get organized, get a shelter built (guess what? I'm an engineer. Get it?), a toilet set up, and the food supply. Unlike you lame brains, I actually read a few survival books so I know that half of the stuff around here is edible. I also spent an hour a day learning how to make a fire. So here's what we're going to do first...

2. Top Shot: Ok, Ok, I get it. You're going to send me to the stagecoach elimination shoot-off. I'm sorry. I know I'm fat, but if you guys could move a 220-pound log to that last shooting station, the bunch of you could have boosted my fat ass up there, so it's really your own bloody fault that I never got to shoot!

3. Tabatha's Salon Takeover: The reason you never saw anyone get their hair done in eight hours of spy camera footage is that we aren't really a hair salon. We just wanted to get your advice on how to better run our publishing business. I mean, shucks, business is business, right?

4. Hell's Kitchen: Chef Ramsay, my signature dish is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. No, I did not make the jelly from scratch. How quaint that you would think I could do that.

5. Deadliest Warrior: Yes, I am the expert on Gideon Pillow, the worst Confederate general. I'm going to make sure he wins. Who is he fighting? John C. Freemont? No problem, I can make Gideon win. Got this one in the bag. Say, what's Petrick doing here? He's on the other team!?! Uh-oh.

6. Ice Road Truckers: No, I don't actually know how to drive a truck, I just wanted to meet that Lisa chick before I got thrown off of the show.

7. Deadliest Catch: Captain Sig, I presume? Can you have a steward take my bags to my suite while I dash off to get another case of Diet Doctor Pepper at WalMart?

8. Whale Wars: Yeah, my luggage IS full of canned meat. You didn't actually think I was going to eat that veggie crap you serve the rest of these Eco Fruit Loops -- did you? Watch it! That long suitcase might go off if you bump it too hard.

9. American Chopper: Ok, look, I completed the build of a tank-inspired motorcycle, but there is no way I'm actually going to ride one of those things.

10. Cowboy U: I told you before, and I'll tell you again: I ain't gonna ride no bull. Those things are mean, and they have horns, and I've been head-butted by a bull before and it's not going to happen again. "Cowboy up" my ass.

11. Axe Men: Yeah, I used C4 explosives to knock down that tree. So what? The rules didn't say I HAD to use a frakking chainsaw, now did they? What did I do with the leftover explosives? Oh, I thought you knew. I tied the satchel to that last log that went up the hill. Why is everyone running?

12. The Colony: Listen to me, guys, we need to secure the building FIRST and worry about these stupid projects LATER. That gate over there won't stop a cranky cub scout, let alone a bunch of bandits. That door over there has no lock on it; we need to barricade it shut. That staircase leads straight to an open and unguarded window. Get it now? Thank you! Ok, I have a list here of what security tasks must be done on the first day and who I have assigned to them. What am I going to be doing? I am going to be making spears, knives, bows, and arrows, THAT is what I am going to be doing!

13. The Bachelorette: Oh, hi. I guess you're the girl on the show? Nice to meet you. Listen, I'm already married so you can rose me out first. Why am I here? I heard that the caterer was really good and I needed another out of communication vacation to finish Klingon Invasion.

14. Design Star: I painted everything in digital camo. So?

15. What Not to Wear: Yes, everything I bought after all of your lessons was identical to the stuff you threw away on the first day. Your design advice is crap and I just wanted new versions of the worn-out stuff I already had. Thanks!

16. Expedition Impossible: You're kidding? Climb that? I'm dropping out of the competition. I know that these shows always hold the eliminated contestants incommunicado until the show is over, and I need the time to work on Traveller Prime Directive. That's why Jean Sexton and Mike West are my team partners. Can you send for the helicopter now? We need to get busy.

17. Project Runway: I cut the cloth across the bias so that it would drape properly over the model. By the way, Tim, what does bias mean?

18. The Apprentice: Show me in the rulebook where it says I cannot eliminate members of the other team with a Barrett 50 sniper rifle.

19. Dancing with the Stars: I just wanted to meet Sarah Palin. I thought she was on this show?

20. Last Comic Standing: And the next stupid thing I did that blew five grand on a plan that should have worked was...

Tuesday, August 16, 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.

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 August 2011

Steve Cole reports:

Jean Sexton's father passed away this week, taking her out of action. We were all saddened by the loss but celebrated Warren Sexton's successful 83-year life as an educator.

This was, otherwise, just another "normal" week as the design team worked on scheduled products and the production team caught up with orders and moved on to some of their other work. The weather this week was hot, over 100F most days, with a touch of rain on Friday. The spam storm remained at about 100 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #11.

Steve Cole got Communique #68 (and #69!!!) finished, and worked with Joel to get Hailing Frequencies done. He also wrote several future blogs, finished the Ship Cards for Boosters 31-33, did several more Ship Cards, updated the rules for Star Fleet Marines several times, wrote a page of Captain's Log #44, deleted 1500 old posts on the BBS (which is, again, approaching the limit), did another FC scenario for the bank (then found out that two he had already done were wasted effort), and read (and rejected) two fiction stories. He also took a couple of hours to help his pastor (Chaplain Denton) write an article on sacrifice and leadership that went into the Amarillo newspaper.

Steven Petrick worked on the Omega Master Rulebook, integrating Omega Five and the errata. He also worked on Captain's Log #44 battle groups, checked FC Ship Cards, made the post office runs, trimmed books, and checked orders.

Both Steves playtested Star Fleet Marines several times, focusing on Scenario Two (The Destruction of Company B).

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. He also got Steve Cole to shoot three more Youtube marketing videos and then got Steve Cole to help him triage stuff in the back room and throw out some junk that was just taking up space.

Joel did website updates (including the creation of the Transports Attacked page), chased pirates, released Communique #68 and Hailing Frequencies, and helped Mike.

Jean took the week off to be with her family. Our page on Facebook passed 915 friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Steve Petrick muses: Just thinking to himself about his recent appearances on yet to be aired reality shows:
1. Survivor: Of course I wiped out the other tribe. That way there were more resources for my tribe so that we have more time to figure out how to get out of here. Why are you looking at me like that?
2. Top Shot: Show me in the rules where it says I could not use the first gun to take care of the members of the opposing team. Show me in the rules where it says I cannot keep the gun to convince the members of my own team not to vote against me. Show me.
3. Tabatha's Salon Takeover: Get out of my office!
4. Hell's Kitchen: Onions? Peppers? Mushrooms? Where's my headlopper!!!
5. Deadliest Warrior: Fremont versus Gideon Pillow? Uhmm . . . are there other choices?
6. Ice Road Truckers: What do you mean I cannot shoot at the other trucks?
7. Deadliest Catch: What do you mean "you have been shanghaied?"
8. Whale Wars: I know you eco fanatics. Once you save the whales, you'll be coming for my hamburgers. This stops now! Aiiieeee!!!!
9. American Chopper: I know how to ride a basic street bike, but can I fit it with forward and rear firing rocket launchers? Purely for self-defense you understand.
10. Cowboy U: I thought there was going to be a quickdraw competition and that we would get to ride "shotgun" on the stagecoach and shoot at bandits?
11. Axe Men: Okay. So the daisycutter was not the best idea, but if you had already had the road made to the site it would be easier to get the logs . . . er okay, so all that is left is firewood, but you can still make some money off that, right?
12. The Colony: I am going scouting for a few days. To, among other things, see if anyone is in the neighborhood that I do not think we can be friends with, and see about convincing them to move on . . . one way or another.
13. The Bachelorette: If you are shallow enough to think you can find someone on a show like this after all the fiascoes the previous shows have produced I pretty much do not want anything to do with you anyway. So give me the bloody rose and I will go get caught up on my reading.
14. Design Stars: Of course every room has a gun rack. Why would it not?
15. What Not to Wear: I prefer basic colors and I really do not care what you think.
16. Expedition Impossible: Why couldn't I sabotage the other team's gear? There is nothing in the rules that says I can't.
17. Project Runway: But body armor and concealed weapons go with evening wear!
18. The Apprentice: As the briefcase bomb at the first meeting also took out Mr. Trump, I assume that means I cannot be fired. As I am the only healthy survivor (having fortuitously excused myself to the men's room before the explosion), I guess that means I have won.
19. Dancing with the Stars: I thought this was about studying the motions of the stars in the sky. What a disappointment.
20. Last Comic Standing: And the next reality show they tried to put me in was . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23 and DriveThru RPG websites. So far on e23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way e23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and GURPS Prime Directive products We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale on e23. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG.

So check them out! Many people like the fact they can search our rulebooks for a keyword and find everything that pertains to that issue. Others like the fact they can carry around multiple books on one device. Some Ship Cards are available exclusively through e23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 6

51. I'm running off the the WYN zone with an Orion dancing girl.

52. I just picked up a book on comparative religion so many races and I want to convert to all of them.

53. I have to wash my ship.

54. There are galactic problems that need worrying about.

55. I have to draw "Kilroy Was Here" on all the latrine walls on the ship.

56. I promised a friend that I'd help him fold star charts.

57. I'm trying to be less popular.

58. I feel a song coming on.

59. My sensors aren't.

60. I'm uncomfortable when I'm alone or with others.

(to be continued)

c. 1992, Captain's Log #10, Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Steve Cole reports:

I spent all of May and June doing projects for Origins and all of July doing things that did not get done during May and June. For August, I set myself a goal to make a lot of progress on a lot of things. I took my "things to do list" and inserted it into the bottom of the format for the MY DAY blogs. Each day, I did something (usually a page of work, say, a ship card or scenario) from the first few categories, eventually running out of day. I tried to make sure that every day included some little project that I could get done that day (thereby shortening the list and making sure something new got into the next day), as well as some projects which I could do a little of each day.

For example, the first thing on the list was the missing ships for Boosters 31-32-33. Doing one of these per day means I will be done before the middle of August and can have these ready to print with the September releases. While that killed an hour per day, eventually, they'll all get done and something else will get worked on for an hour per day. (I like working on graphics and would do that all day every day given the chance. I had to force myself to stop at one per day so that each day included something fun.)

Every day, I tried to do some work on the next Communique and the next Hailing Frequencies. It only takes a few days of doing a little per day and the next one of those is done and that item goes to the bottom of the stack for a couple of weeks.

Every day, I tried to do something on the next ePack of Federation Commander ships for e23. Sometimes that gets a lot done for a little effort (such as putting the existing ships into the file), while other days mean a lot of work for a little progress (doing a new ship card, the scenario, or the counters).

I had a lot of "one time" projects, such as the formal document to extend the contract on the Valkenburg computer game or the revision six rulebook for Romulan Attack, and tried to do one per day.

I have a lot of low-priority projects, such as updating the gazetteer, but tried to make sure one of these got onto the list for one day each week.

Every day, I did some work on Star Fleet Marines. One day that might be a playtest session, another day might be a rulebook update, and another day might be a scenario.

One of the projects I looked forward to the most was the Fed Commander Scenario Bank. I have over 50 scenario submissions on file. Some of them take five minutes of work to make publishable, others take an hour or two. It annoys me that every time I actually need a scenario I find myself with one of the hard ones. So I decided to just do one a day, easy or hard. Well, one day I did four really easy ones all from the same guy. My theory was to start with the oldest ones on file and do one from each person.

The virtue of the system is that because work being done to projects means projects being finished, and single-day projects getting done means more work on other projects.

Fed Admiral is on the list and gets higher every day, blipping the radar just now. I expect to start doing a couple of pages per day this week. I know a lot of people want that to happen, and I intend it to happen, and to happen correctly. That means I don't just throw it into the page format software without reading it, but actually make sure it fits into the Star Fleet Universe instead of just having an SFU sticker on game mechanics written for non-SFU projects.

Wednesday, August 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 latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, 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:

Tuesday, August 09, 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.

Monday, August 08, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 31 July - 6 August 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was another "normal" week for ADB. The design team continued working on many future projects, while the production team seems to have caught up with the surge in orders. The weather this week was hot, often over 100F, but we did get a trace of rain on Saturday. The spam storm dropped below 100 per day again.

New on e23 this week is Captain's Log #43: Supplemental File.

Steve Cole decided that he would make a little bit of progress every day on multiple projects. He updated the list of retail stores, finished Communique #68 and sent it to the staff, finished LDR ePack #1 and sent that to the staff, did one of the Gazetteer update files, did seven FC scenarios for the bank of ready to publish scenarios, did multiple playtests of Star Fleet Marines, sent Joel the stuff for Hailing Frequencies, wrote reserve blogs, did some of the ships for boosters 31-32-33, reviewed a fiction story that might go into Captain's Log #44, did quality control inspections on 2000 FC map panels, did the revision six rulebook for Romulan Attack, and sent Mongoose information they needed.

Steve Petrick worked on the update for the Omega Master Rulebook, trimmed books, and made the daily post office run.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel used the rebuilt uber-PC Thor to do website updates and chase pirates. He also helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (now at 907 friends), proofread things, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Computer Restoration

This is Steven Petrick posting:

This is the first time in several months I have been able to post directly. For some time, apparently (based on this post) related to internal computer problems every time any one here at ADB, inc. tried to post from the office we would get a message telling us that the blog site could not be found. We would get this message even when we did not use the pre-programmed links, but tried to go to the site directly.

The upshot was that posts would be e-mailed to Jean Sexton who would then post them (as whatever the problem with the office computer was, it was not affecting her computer).

The posting system is working now, but it ultimately required so much work to the computer involved that, for all intents and purposes, it is a new computer. About the only thing that is original to it is the box (so I have been told).

We really should have just purchased a brand new machine.

In any case, with so much wrong we went ahead and invested in a computer back up service, and downloaded all the files (particularly the many links and product covers) to an off-site server before having the computer "restored." Those files have all be re-uploaded to the computer, and work can proceed apace.

The computer is working faster now, and has an updated operations program (which will of course cause trouble for those of us not yet adapted to it, and who have a hard time adapting to changes in how computers work). The increase in productivity for Joel (our graphics director) should help make up for all of that.


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of common words.

1. AUBURN (reddish brown) is the old Norman word for blonde, which they used to refer to the hair of the Saxons that they conquered.

2. AUGUST (the month) was named for Octavian (the nephew of Julius Caesar and first Roman emperor). The word august means "honored" and Octavian was named Augustus by the Roman Senate to reflect his new status as emperor.

3. AUSPICES (authority or blessing) is from two old Latin words that meant bird-watcher. The auspices were government employees assigned to watch the flights of birds since common myth at the time assumed that such things indicated if an upcoming decision or program was likely to succeed or not.

4. BABBITT (and alloy of copper, tin, and antimony used for bearings in large high-speed engines) was named for Isaac Babbitt, the metallurgist who invented it.

5. BALLIWICK (area of responsibility or authority) comes from the old words bailiff (a government official in charge of a village) and wick (the old English word for village).

6. BAKELLITE (one of the oldest forms of plastic, still used today in industrial applications as it will not transmit heat or electricity) was named for its inventor, Leo Baekeland.

7. BALLOT is the old Italian word for little ball, which is how the oldest elections were conducted.

8. BALLOON is the old Italian word for a large ball. The oldest form of soccer, rugby, and American football (400 years ago) was called balloon and involved kicking or throwing a very large ball around in a field.

9. BANDANNA (a sort of scarf) was the Indian word for "tie dying" or taking a piece of cloth, tying it knots, and then dipping it in dye so that the color varied in a nice pattern. It came to us by way of Portuguese traders.

10. BANKRUPT comes from two Italian words meaning broken bench. From ancient times to the middle ages, money changers (and lenders) conducted their business from a bench in a public forum. (The Italian word banca became our word bank.) The Italian rotta (broken) came into English via the Latin rupta. When a banker could not meet his obligations, the town officials would break up his bench to signify that he was no longer allowed to conduct business.

Saturday, August 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.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 5

41. People are still blaming me for the General War.

42. The handle to the airlock is on the other side.

43. I'm waiting for Doomsday to be finished.

44. My phaser-3s want to know how they can grow up to be phaser-4s.

45. I have to do my next turn for Galactic Conquest.

46. I'm touring Klinzhai with a pacifist group.

47. My Save the Space Dragons meeting is tonight.

48. I never go out on days that end in "Y."

49. I have to write to my pen pal.

50. My mother would never let me hear the end of it.

(to be continued)

c. 1992, Captain's Log #10, Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Forgotten Wars and the San Patricios

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Korean conflict is often referred to as "America's Forgotten War", but in truth America has many forgotten wars.

One of the forgotten wars is the Mexican-American War, despite the fact that it was that war which secured New Mexico, Arizona, California, and other states as property of the United States, not just confirmed that Texas was now part of the United States.

Strange to say, but when news of the war reached Europe it was generally believed that the Mexican Army, a rather large (compared to the American military) professional and combat tested (if mostly against its own citizens) organization would make quick work of the Americans.

There were some "near misses" (battles that might have gone Mexico's way), but mostly the war was a disaster for Mexico.

While the war is mostly forgotten in the United States, it is remembered and taught, and even celebrated in Mexico, at least according to Sergio Aragones (whom many of you might know as the creator of the many "marginal" drawings in Mad Magazine, as will as the creator of the Groo comic book series).

Mr. Aragones made particular note of the San Patricio battalion which fought for Mexico in the war. Mr. Aragones said the San Pats are heroes and insists that in his youth children would (presumably when playing "war") pretend to be members of the San Patricio battalion.

So, who were the San Patricios?

The San Patricios were (at least mostly) deserters from the American Army. It is possible that some were expatriates from other lands (indeed, some of the deserters were themselves, in effect, expatriates from other lands, having enlisted in the American army after arriving in the United States). A large number of them were Irish (yet another example of the Irish "Wild Geese"), which lead to the name of the battalion as the "Saint Patrick" battalion. Most, but not all of them, were Catholics.

The reasons for the desertions are varied, and you can take each as you will.

Some supposedly deserted simply because the United States was a largely Protestant nation and suspicious of Catholics (who were referred to derisively as "Papists" because it was believed they were more loyal to the Pope in Rome than to the United States -- an attitude that was thought still prevalent when John F. Kennedy ran for President, i.e., there would never be a "Catholic President"). As Catholics these men were supposedly (who really knows for certain now) subjected to more mistreatment by their Protestant peers and superiors. Being Catholic could hold up, or prevent, promotion. (This attitude was supposedly even more prevalent in the South. General Cleburne, an Irish Catholic and regarded as the "Stonewall Jackson of the west," was supposedly not promoted to corps command by the Confederacy because of this suspicion of Catholics, even though he was made a general and given a division command.) In response to this mistreatment, these Catholics deserted and went south to fight for Mexico against the United States.

Some supposedly deserted simply because they were Catholic, and would not fight for a Protestant nation (the United States) against a Catholic one (Mexico) whether there was mistreatment or not.

Some, however, supposedly deserted and went south due to the "inducements" (money, land, promotion, and prestige) offered by Mexico to do so.

The San Patricios were, in one sense and at least some of them, the Major Nidals of their day.

Their combat record without a doubt marked the San Patricios as one of the Mexican Army's most, if not the most, effective units in that war. They were without a doubt fanatics, and roughly equivalent to the Al Qaida brigade that fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan. They could, and would, kill Mexican soldiers who had decided (on their own) to retreat in the face of an advance by the American Army (something left out of Mexican text books that laud the San Pats). And their fanaticism was driven at least in part by the fact that most of them were deserters, and if captured, were subject to execution for that crime alone. Having donned the uniform of Mexico after having enlisted in the American Army, they were also turncoats and traitors, and again subject to execution if captured.

What became of the San Pats?

There is no full accounting of every man who served in the Saint Patrick Battalion,

Those who were not killed or captured essentially vanished into history. Some supposedly actually benefited from the land grants Mexico had offered to induce their service.

Those who were captured were given trials (there is question of the standards of these trials), and in defiance of then accepted practice were almost entirely sentenced to be hanged (at least one was executed by firing squad, which was the then accepted practice for desertion in time of war), and at least 50 men were hanged.

From my standpoint, having been raised as a Catholic, being by descent part Irish, being an American by birth, and having served as an officer in the United States Army, I have no problem with these men having been executed. On this, Mr. Aragones and I would part ways, but this is the world in which we live and I am willing to accept that Mr. Aragones would never understand my viewpoint.

Wednesday, August 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.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Pluto, which isn't even a planet any more, has four moons: Charon, Hydra, Nix, and P4. How can a non-planet have non-moons? Are they non-moons? Or maybe dwarf moons around a dwarf planet? I think there is an injustice going on here, somewhere. NASA's space probe (New Horizons) is due to arrive at Pluto sometime in 2015, and I can only hope that Pluto's proper status as a planet is restored before that happens.

2. Google and the internet have made trivia boring. There is just no worthwhile question that you cannot find the answer for in a few seconds, even with no prior knowledge of the subject.

3. I have been getting a lot of spam for the Genie Bra (which I don't need, being a guy), free airline tickets (we all know that's a scam, right?), reviews of local dentists (not sure how that is a scam but it must be), quick and easy loans (also a scam, this time to get your bank account info), great deals on cars (another scam to get personal info), and for aluminum wallets (which strike me as uncomfortable to have in your pocket while sitting down).

4. I get a lot of FC scenarios, and a lot of scenario authors asking if I have reviewed their scenario yet (or could I review it right away). If you haven't heard from me, I haven't reviewed your scenario, but I will when I can. What I have been wanting to do is to open up the file and do a scenario or two every week, just so I have a file of finished scenarios waiting whenever I need one, but I haven't had time yet.

5. FYEO reports that LRADs (long range sound-guns) have never failed to drive away Somali pirates (other than one time the guys who were operating it had it on the wrong frequency), but the Sea Shepherds on Whale Wars are bombarded by Japanese LRADs all the time and just keep on going. What's up with that?

6. While we were finishing Captain's Log #43, Jean Sexton annoyed the heck out of me, wasting my time making me put the people on the various awards lists in alphabetical order. Then I had to go back and do an audit (assigning ribbons to people who wrote a battle group article in a supplement but who did not already have a ribbon for the main issue) and boy, it would have been handy if she'd made me alphabetize the last six or eight lists like she did the last one.

7. One day last week, Steve Petrick walked into my office with a problem. (Being Vice President, a part-owner, and head of the SFB division, he has a right to demand a chunk of Steve Cole Time anytime he needs it.) A rules question had come up on SFBOL and he had tracked it down to a particular rule. He needed to know what I meant when I wrote the rule 23 years earlier. (Good luck!) I sighed, noting that I was going to take me half an hour to puzzle this out, but he said that he wouldn't ask if it didn't have to be decided now for an ongoing tournament game. So, I read his memo (he had properly placed the question, the rules, and all pertinent points on a single sheet of paper in type that did not require my reading glasses) and figured out (took 20 minutes or so) what I did mean when I wrote that. I assumed that everybody would reactivate their fire control immediately when their WW blew up as there was no benefit to waiting. Someone thought he had found a reason to wait, as the rule might imply (if you ignore three other rules that made the case plain) that delaying gave you an extra period of protection. (No, it does not; when the explosion period ends, it ends, and delaying fire control activation does not extend it.)

8.Three places that WW2 could have changed dramatically: 1-The US could have bought British torpedoes instead of wasting two years making their own work. 2-The Germans actually delayed jet production because they thought the war would be over before they could be ready. 3-The Japanese trained naval pilots to special forces standards. Lots of men who could have made excellent pilots were washed out of the program instead of trained for a reserve, and the Japanese just plain ran out of qualified naval pilots before they ran out of carrier aircraft.

9. It pains me that I can never run a restaurant or be a food critic because of my allergies (onions, peppers, mushrooms). There are just too many things I cannot eat.

10. The next Mars rover (Curiosity) is due to land in August 2012 specifically to look for evidence of ancient microbial life forms. I have kind of given up on staying alive long enough to see men land on Mars but maybe this will do.

Monday, August 01, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24 - 31 July 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This week saw the design staff pushing ahead with new projects while the production staff struggled to keep up with incoming orders. The weather this week was warm (in the 80s most days, over 100 once) but not as hot as before. Spam stayed at about 125 per day.

New on e23 this week was Starship Aldo. Our page on Facebook passed 900 friends.

Steve Cole reorganized his things to do list, worked on that mysterious new sheet of F&E counters, hunted down class names for Mongoose, finished the Wall of Honor updates, finished the FLAP list for the Origins products, playtested Star Fleet Marines, complained about GAMA management, set up the files for boosters 31-32-33, wrote three blogs, asked for quotes on Star Fleet Battle Force expansion cards, started work on Communique #68, processed two Federation Commander scenarios (that had no specific product, these are just for the stockpile), and had his annual eye exam (which went ok but took too long).

Steven Petrick worked on several projects (mostly Captain's Log #44).

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and did the quarterly royalty statements.

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

Joel did a couple of website updates, but as his computer spend most of the week in the shop, he mostly helped Mike Sparks with orders.

Jean managed our page on Facebook, proofread E4, and did some marketing.