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Monday, October 31, 2011

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a strange week, as we had no more Mongoose ships to check, so that let us catch up on things and move on to Captain's Log #44 and other projects. The weather this week was colder; it even snowed on Thursday. The spam storm mostly remained at just over 200 per day. Another game company used our artist gallery to contact Mark Evans about art they need.

New on e23 this week was, well, nothing. We were busy and are waiting to see if sales for SSD books justify posting any more of them. (So far, no. Steven Petrick is updating the Basic Set one, but we're doubtful that the massive amount of work this is taking will be justified by any improvement in sales. If you guys really are serious about us posting SSD books, you should buy them when we do make them available.)

Steve Cole read the Mongoose ACTA:SF rulebook and sent them a report, and got another draft on Friday. He also finished the Orion background article, creating much new information. Other than that, he did some work on Captain's Log #44, wrote some blogs, appeared on TalkShoe, created a Federation CB ship card for Communique, and spent an afternoon working on the 4th-Generation counters for all of the ships in previous Captain's Logs.

Steven Petrick finished up the Borak (including a new history that Steve Cole approved), worked on Captain's Log #44, continued updating Basic Set SSDs, and read the ACTA:SF rulebook.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. Mike and Joel continued to reorganize the stock room, installing new shelving.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, spun up the first draft of the Hailing Frequencies for November, and helped Mike. Joel also spent Thursday teaching our new high school intern, Charles Diaz.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to over 1000 friends), proofread the Orions, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson and Jean Sexton for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Mike Filsinger for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Bob Pomroy does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures at a cost that barely covers his costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Steve Cole was thinking the other day about the things most people do not know about the Battle of Gettysburg.

1. Nobody at the time thought it was a decisive battle that changed the Civil War. It kept Lee from attacking some large northern cities, but that was really about all. It wasn't so much a matter that Lee lost; the point was that he did not win the desired victory on Northern soil. (Lee, in fact, lost the only two battles he fought on Northern soil.)

2. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was actually strung out in a column walking east toward Philadelphia when the Union Army of the Potomac (marching north) ran into the middle of it. Some of the Confederate troops east of the battle had actually marched through the town of Gettysburg earlier in the week.

3. Everyone knows that with Stuart and the Confederate cavalry off on a joyride, Lee was blind, but few understand just what that meant. Lee had no idea that the Union Army of the Potomac was moving toward him until a spy told him just before the Union troops ran into his. Even after the battle started, Lee had to leave some desperately needed infantry troops outside of the battle area to watch his flanks because he had no cavalry to watch those directions for any approaching enemy. (Few civilians understand that the general fighting the battle does not have those pretty maps that were published after the battle showing where everybody was.)

4. Lee's biggest problem was that he was running out of generals. Without Stonewall Jackson (who was killed a few weeks earlier) Lee had to divide the Army of Northern Virginia into three parts because the available three-star generals were not good enough at their jobs to handle as many troops as Stonewall usually commanded. Those two replacement three-star generals were simply not up to their jobs. Ewell had lost a leg in an earlier battle, was arguably tired of getting shot at, and threw away Lee's first chance to win by not taking Cemetery Hill on the first day. A P Hill was sick and just not up to the job. (There simply wasn't anyone else to promote.) Of the nine two-star division commanders, one (Harry Heth) was the best of the one-star generals who were NOT good enough to be two-star generals, and another (Anderson) failed to do his job on the second day (throwing away Lee's second chance to win the battle). Isaac Trimble (a very good two-star general who had just returned from medical leave) was with the Army but was not given a job until the third day.

5. Invading Pennsylvania was only one of the Confederacy's choices after the smashing victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville two months earlier. One option was to stay where they were and let the Union attack him, but northern Virginia was out of food and Lee's Army would have starved if it stayed in place. Another option was to send half of Lee's army to prevent Grant from taking Vicksburg, but only Lee (or Jackson) could have won that battle -- and Lee refused to leave Virginia. It's unclear if even Lee could have defeated an attacking Army of the Potomac with half of his troops gone.

6. Contrary to the movie, the Battle of Gettysburg was not won when the 20th Maine kept the rebels from getting around the Union left flank at Little Round Top. That was only the first part of Lee's attack on the second day of battle. Lee's plan had all of his units attacking in sequence from south to north. The battle continued to move to the north (Union right, Confederate left), with Confederate units defeating one Union division after another. (Meade was robbing his right-north flank to reinforce his left-south flank, and had run out of troops he could move.) Lee might well have won the battle but (at the critical point) the next scheduled brigade to attack (Posey) was out of ammunition due to a bungled prior skirmish. The next brigade commander (Mahone) simply refused to attack, and the next commander in line (Pender) was hit by a cannonball before he could give the order to attack. Meade was in the process of giving orders to retreat when he noticed that the Confederate attack had stopped coming.

7. Contrary to the axiom that you have to attack at 3-to-1 to achieve success, the troops of Longstreet's two divisions (Hood and McLaws) crushed the left wing of the Army of the Potomac on the second day and they were actually out-numbered when they did it. (True, they didn't destroy that wing, just defeated it, kicked it back a mile, and left those units too shaken to fight for another month.)

8. Pickett's Charge is the famous part of the battle, taking place on the third day. Few know that Pickett only commanded a third of the troops that took part. (After the war, Pickett wrote a number of thrilling magazine articles about the event and made sure that his name was the most prominent one mentioned.) The charge might have worked except that Lee (who ordered it) went back to his headquarters, leaving it in the hands of Longsteet (who openly said he didn't want to do it). Longstreet never sent the second wave of the attack, which in all certainty would have broken the Union line. This threw away Lee's third chance to win the battle.

9. Union commander Meade never wanted to fight the battle where it was fought. When the battle started, Meade was surveying battle positions at Pipe Creek (where he expected Lee to attack, but Lee was never headed for Pipe Creek) and he decided to hurry the back part of his army north and join the battle rather than call his advanced troops back to Pipe Creek.

10. In the end, even a victory by Lee would have made no real difference. England was not going to openly help the Confederacy as long as slavery remained in place and a victorious Lee (with an exhausted and shot-up army that was out of artillery ammunition) would still have had his path to key Union cities blocked by the survivors of the Army of the Potomac (which would have been at least half or more of the troops). Washington (surrounded by forts and heavy guns) was not really vulnerable, although Philadelphia was. Before Lee could get moving again (more artillery ammunition was on the way to him) the Union would have called in other troops to bring Meade back up to strength, and it was unlikely that Confederate President Davis would have sent Lee the five brigades he took away from Lee's army just before the campaign began. Such a campaign would have put Lee deep in enemy territory with extremely long supply lines vulnerable to Union flank attacks. He was, perhaps, more likely to have had his army wiped out in the never-fought Battle of Philadelphia than at any other point of the Civil War.

Friday, October 28, 2011


On ISC Plasmatic Pulsar Devices:

Warning: Not tested in actual combat; results may be radically different than simulator; DO NOT use this device against an Andromedan ship; may require multiple attempts for a successful target lock-on. Not responsible for lost or misdirected pulses.

On Gorn Navigation and Warp Engine Modules:

Warning: This product is guaranteed to survive one (1) High Energy Turn only; do not attempt any radical maneuvers; warranty null and void after the first HET, or above speed of warp 2.289428485107.

Thanks to Hyun Yu. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, October 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Coming of the Borak Star League

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have invested considerable time in the Borak Star League (Module E3). The books are essentially done (currently a 56 page rulebook and a 76 page SSD book).

The biggest remaining problem to be worked out is the graphics. Jeremy Gray had a number of ship graphics in his draft rulebook, which look fine on the screen as part of the .doc file he sent, but do not print worth a darn. So I am going to need to get those ship graphics and insert them into the book, or delete them. I would prefer the former of course.

I need to get that resolved, but I am also involved in the Mongoose project and that took up most of my last two days (as well as good parts of a lot of other days resulting in SVC being a trifle miffed that I did not finish the project earlier).

All of the Borak SSDs and ship descriptions are done to the "new standard," that is to say each ship description lists refits available to the ship, and each SSD has the year for a refit included, among other upgrades. In addition, the Master Ship Chart reflects all major refits (it cannot reflect the partial X-refit because there is no set standard for these, e.g., a given ship might have X-phasers but not X-batteries or X-APRs, while another ship might have X-batteries but not X-APRs or X-phasers, and another might have all three). It also does not reflect the mech-link refit because that particular refit was never universal (not even for the Lyrans even though all of their SSDs show it). Every other refit applicable to a unit is shown. There are of course other things that are part of the "new standard" for ship descriptions that were included, but most of you already know what the basic new standard is from Modules R12 and X1R.

The above does mean that, for example, there is a listing for a Borak SBe, meaning "starbase early weapons," to be consistent with (R1.R2) in Module R1. This does not put a Borak starbase in the "early years," but simply deals with the case that when Borak starbases first enter service not all of the Borak weapons are in fact available, and are added at a later date.

The Borak reflect the vision of their designer, which means there are some things that are oddities, at least to me. I am curious to see if others see these oddities and comment on them.

Tuesday, October 25, 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, October 24, 2011

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was the last week of getting the Mongoose 2500 starships finished, and was very intense for the Steves, but all of them got done. The weather this week was nice, with cool mornings and warm afternoons. The spam storm mostly remained at about 200 per day. Our new high school intern was unable to start due to illness.

New on e23 this week: Well, nothing, but we did get the newest versions of the Sequence of Play for SFB and F&E uploaded to our own website as free downloads.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Mongoose stuff, checking ships and rules. He found time for only a few other projects, including new background material for the Kzintis, Gorns, and Orions (which goes into the ACTASF1 rulebook and later into our own products); helped a retailer get access to products that the wholesalers did not stock; and wrote the THIS WEEK blog.

Steven Petrick worked on the Borak and Captain's Log #44, updated more SSDs for the Basic Set SSD book, and of course helped with the approvals of the Mongoose ships.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, finishing all of the royalty statements.

Stephen and Leanna left Friday for the annual trip to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary fundraiser, where Chef Steve provided hundreds of pounds of beef heart, liver, and kidneys to 53 wolves, one fox, and five New Guinea Singing Dogs.

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

Mike and Joel reorganized the stock room, using new shelving to replace old plywood decking and get a lot of stuff sorted out, stored, thrown away, or put in better locations.

Joel did website updates (all those new ships on the 2500 page), chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 983 friends), proofread the new background pages, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Steve Cole is a big fan of Dave Ramsey, the get out of debt guru, although he takes pains to point out that he paid off his last debt before Dave Ramsey got out of bankruptcy. While Steve only rarely hears Dave say anything he doesn't already know, he always enjoys listening. (Leanna listens to the website all the time, and downloads episodes which they listen to when driving on trips.) Recently, Dave Ramsey did a one-day event of his small business class, and this was simulcast to a lot of places (one of them in Amarillo). Leanna and Stephen took the day off to go see his live performance (on screen) and jotted down a few notes. By the way, the EntreLeadership thing is a combination of Entrepreneur and Leadership.

1. The biggest killer of a small business is debt. Making debt payments can be a huge hurdle for monthly revenue to overcome. Many people who start a business just assume that they have to borrow a few hundred thousand dollars to do so, and that's not only not true, it's very risky to do.

2. Something over 2/3 of new small businesses are started with less than $5000 and no borrowed money. To be sure, these are not the kind of business that is going to employ a dozen people on the first day, but if you plan well and pay attention you can make a living for yourself and grow a small business steadily.

3. It may be annoying to pay $450 every time you need to rent a backhoe for one day, but that's better than making debt payments on a $50,000 backhoe, pulled on a $10,000 trailer by a $30,000 truck and covered by an insurance policy. Borrowed money increases risk and magnifies mistakes.

4. The definition of entrepreneur is risk-taker, but that must be tempered by research and knowledge. Taking stupid risks or doing anything that bets the whole business on one deal is a bad plan.

5. None of your employees are going to be motivated to work as hard as you work if you don't do anything to motivate them. To them, it's just a job. You have to make them feel like a family and reward them with performance bonuses.

6. If you have idiot employees, it's your own fault. You hired them without enough of an interview process, and you did not fire them when you figured out they were idiots.

7. A dream is just a wish. If you can define it, it's a vision. If you have a plan to accomplish it, it's a goal.

8. If you don't balance your business and family time and take care of your health and social life and spirit, you'll fail.

9. Delegate things that are urgent but not important and ignore things that are neither urgent nor important.

10. You need to have your accounting up to date. You need to know things like how much business you do a month, what the average turnover in your inventory is, what profit you are or are not making on any given job or product.

11. You really need to have a written budget and update it every month, if not every two weeks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Friday, October 21, 2011


On Seltorian Particle Cannons and Web Breakers:

Warning: Results unpredictable outside the originating galaxy; do not attempt to engage Milky Way galaxy ships, as this will usually tick them off without doing any significant damage. Use only as directed, against Tholians.

On Federation Photon Torpedoes:

Warning: May cause damage to your shields if used improperly; not responsible for irate Klingons, Romulans, or Andromedans; may cause power shortage on certain classes of ships; do not use overload setting on destroyer-class or smaller ships. If shield damage persists after five (5) consecutive uses, contact your field technical support immediately.

Thanks to Hyun Yu. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comments on Terra Nova

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have been watching Terra Nova, and the logistics is still really out of sync.

I cannot imagine setting up this colony and including so many people that people are sitting around unemployed. The teenagers seem to neither have to get educations, or do any work, but are apparently being supported by the colony as they otherwise entertain themselves. There is clearly work that needs to be done (while our Hero was put to work clearing a stretch of wall of vegetation, we have since seen other stretches of wall in need of similar attention). Not to mention construction, farming and simply other maintenance work.

I also cannot figure out the troop commitment to this operation. Every time something happens when there is not an actual alert (like Commander Taylor infiltrating into the colony while affected by the virus) there seem to be troops everywhere. (The towers were manned, and there were roving, if single man, patrols such that Taylor had to take out one of the guards to complete his infiltration.) I look at the size of the perimeter and the manpower to maintain that kind of a security density is . . . impressive. Just how many security troops are there that this kind of presence is being maintained on the perimeter apparently 24/7?

There are lots of predators out there (in addition to "the sixers"), but apparently it is not unusual to send out individuals to check instruments and otherwise do things "beyond the fence."

Yes, I know, the carnivores only attack and the sixers only kidnap people "at the needs of the plot."

There is also the oddity that the sixers included children in their number, and took them into the woods when they fled Terra Nova.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Find Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Friends of our page on Facebook can use the Discussions tab and find topics for the various games. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town, or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a star trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their Email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Monday, October 17, 2011

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was another week in what passes for normal during the final phases of getting 66 new 2500-series miniatures approved. The weather this week was not as hot, reaching 80 once or twice. The spam storm mostly remained below 200 per day. The Amarillo School board approved ADB, Inc. to host a high school graphics intern one afternoon a week for seven weeks.

New on e23 this week: SFB Basic Set SSD book and Captain's Log #15.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Mongoose stuff, checking ships (approving the Klingon F5, C7, D5, E4, and D5W; Rom KE, BH; posting the new Klingon E4; Gorn HDD, CM, DD#2, Gorn BC#2, and BDD; Rom Condor, BH; Kzinti BC, BCH, FF, DN, DW, NCA; Orion LR, CR, SAL.) and rules. He found time for some other projects, including some reserve blogs, and finished Communique #70.

Steven Petrick (delayed in his trip home from Council of Five Nations) spend Sunday night in Houston but staggered home Monday noon and got back to work on the Borak, checking Mongoose ships and ACTA background articles, got books ready for e23, and answering rules questions. He began a project to update one or two Basic Set ships per week, finishing the first six.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and worked on quarterly royalty statements.

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

Joel did website updates, posted Communique #70, sent Hailing Frequencies Oct 11, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (now up to 978 friends), proofread Communique #70 and ACTA backgrounds, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the fall TV season.

TERRA NOVA looks to be good. If it has dinosaurs and guns I'm down for it, but this one actually seems to have some depth. There are enough moving parts (Sixers, rebellious teenagers, renegade hermit who carves petroglyphs, the unspoken big secret) to keep the plot interesting. One note about episode 3, the pterodactyls were in fact rhamphorinchoids, the long-tailed ancestors of the short-tailed pterodactyls. Rhamphorinchoids had been extinct for a very long time before 85mya.

UNFORGETTABLE: I'll watch Poppy Montgommery read a phone book, but the tortured heroine thing is a little overplayed here. That said, who doesn't need another girl-cop-kicks-ass show? Love her new hair color.

RINGER has intrigued me and I'll watch Sarah Michelle Geller in anything, but I doubt that this show can keep going. It took three weeks to get Leanna to watch Episode Two, but she was (after that) willing to watch Episodes Three and Four.

REVENGE seems interesting, but like too many shows the writers are enamored of the "jump back and forth in time" format and that makes it very jarring to watch. I wish they wouldn't do that. I wish no one would do that. They could have done a two-hour movie "the railroading of her dad" and just done minor flashbacks of it each episode. Leanna loves the show.

CHARLIE'S ANGELS is not as awful as the guys on the BBS told me it was, but it did not make the cut for us. We always give a try to more shows than we can practically watch, and we gave up after one episode. Leanna dropped it because of Bosley and it while I found it watchable, it wasn't good enough for me to watch alone. I watch a few shows by myself (e.g., Top Shots, Blue Bloods) but this wasn't going to be one of them.

PRIME SUSPECT is your typical girl-cop-kicks-ass show, and that's fine. I could do without her stupid hat. She handled her boyfriend's ex-wife very well. I could not follow the second episode but the third was better.

SECRET CIRCLE is Beverly Hills 90210 with witchcraft, and I wonder how it can fail (beautiful teenage shows usually do not get cancelled). It seems to have enough political intrigue to keep me interested. However, it's marginal at best for us and may get dropped because we just have too many shows on the "really do want to watch" list. We have two or three as yet unwatched episodes and I am dubious that we will watch them.

GRIMM and ONCE UPON A TIME haven't started yet.

PAN AM was interesting if only for the different time (from my own childhood). The oversexed employees are cliche and the stewardess-spy strikes me as something Hollywood is going to use to attack the people who kept the US free during the Cold War. While watchable, Leanna decided that she would not watch it and I did not like it enough to watch it alone.

RETURNING SHOWS: I am glad Beckett survived being shot, but we all knew she would. They may have added enough complications to Hawaii Five-O to get me to watch one more year, but I liked CIA girl more than Profiler girl, and we all know Kono is under cover. Body of Proof remains a favorite. Would someone please cancel NCIS so Leanna doesn't force me to watch it? CSI-Vegas surprised me in that Ted Danson was not as awful as I feared; he does drama better than he ever did comedy. SVU seems to get along just fine without Stabler. Grey's Anatomy was my favorite show but has grown tiresome. The Mentalist remains an arrogant bastard, but I keep hoping he will sleep with Lisbon. Bones does not restart until November? Kitchen Nightmares is always a favorite, but Leanna cannot stand his cussing, even though she loves business makeover shows. I haven't caught up on last year's Chuck yet but I am banking this year's. CSI-NY has moved some people around so maybe it will avoid becoming stale. Blue Bloods remains a favorite, but that undercover plot is never going to work (crime families have facial recognition databases). Amazing Race continues to convince me that I do not want to sign up for it but I will watch it. CSI-Miami continues Caine's quest for more and more angst.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Friday, October 14, 2011


On Romulan Plasma Torpedo Launchers:

Warning: The nature of this equipment may expose the user to unfavorable tactical situations due to the length of the arming cycle after each use; the torpedo device may be decoyed by specialty shuttles. Do NOT use within 100 parsecs of any Organians.

On Hydran Fusion Beams:

Warning: This equipment requires a very close approach to be effective; not responsible for any undue, unwanted, and forcible alteration to the structure of the generator ship due to the said close approach; not responsible for any angry Lyrans or Klingons. Warranty void where prohibited by damage control.

Thanks to Hyun Yu. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Anabasis to Albany and Back

This is Steven Petrick posting.

First, and most importantly, I want to thank the guys at Council of Five Nations, in particular Ken Kazinski, for having me. I enjoyed meeting everyone, and hope that those who had not met me previously were pleased with the experience. Even though the event itself was pleasant, however, I cannot say I found the trip at all enjoyable.

I am old enough that I can remember when flying was not an uncomfortable experience in which you more or less were treated little better than cattle in a cattle truck. In short, I can compare my flying experiences as a child to those as a young adult and to what I have just gone through.

I can understand the need for security, but I had to get to the Amarillo airport an hour before my flight for security reasons (which then took about 10 minutes even though I was selected for "extra screening," so I was waiting nearly an hour for my flight, an hour I could have spent sleeping), and two hours early for my flights out of Albany (again it took about 15 minutes to get through security leaving me sitting around the airport for an hour and 45 minutes) and Houston (same story). My flights, however, were early morning ones in the first two cases, and perhaps this is a "one size fits all" solution based on expected crowds through the day. If so, it does not explain why I had to be in the Houston airport at 0930 for an 1130 flight as it still only took about 15 minutes to get through security. I did notice differences between the security in each place. In both Amarillo and Houston they made sure I took off my belt, in Albany I forgot to take off my belt, and my belt buckle did not trigger the metal detector despite being slightly larger than average for a belt buckle. In Amarillo and Albany they were not concerned with my wallet, handkerchief, or comb (okay, I no longer have a full head of hair, but what is left up there does still need the occasional straightening up); in Houston you had to take everything out of your pockets, including any "pieces of paper," in addition to the comb. I will also note that I can feel for the "Homeland Security" personnel who man these stations. Terrorism has made this an apparently necessary task and they have to deal with a lot of unhappy people on a daily basis even if most of us just want to get the security check over with and get on with our travels. I am even now unsure of any reason for "heightened security" during my trip, but this was an almost constant announcement over the speakers at every airport. I know there was an explosion at an airport in Oklahoma, but near as I can make that bomb went off on Saturday, and I was hearing the "heightened security" announcement on Friday, and I just do not know any reason for it. It has been more than 10 years since 9/11/01, and if that is the reason for it, it just seems silly to still be saying it. It becomes background noise with no real meaning if you use the words "heightened security" continuously.

I have heard increasing stories about luggage being looted by baggage handlers (and was actually personally affected by that going through Denver once in the 1990s), but honestly took carry-on only simply because it was all I needed (two shirts, two pairs of pants, two changes of underclothes and socks, a pair of shorts to sleep in, toiletries). However, the number of people who abused the privilege (a carry-on and a "personal item" that was in essence a second carry-on) made this difficult. All the overhead storage was taken by the first passengers to board the plane, and if you were not in that group you had to give up your leg room. As the boarding often was by groups (not always), if you were in group "3" you might find storage space, but if you were in group #4 you were going to be out of luck. (If in group #3, try to be at the head of the line for your group.) Not being aware of this, when I boarded the first plane I was stunned (being in group #3) to find all the overhead storage already full of the baggage of those who boarded in the two earlier groups. I had meant to pick up a disposable razor in Albany, but was not able to, and I am even now unsure if "Homeland Security" would have confiscated a disposable razor had one been in my carry-on.

I learned, and I got up early and filed into line quickly on subsequent flights, so I never had to put my carry-on under a seat subsequently.

On that last flight that did not help much. I am overweight (I would honestly say "fat," but not "obese"), but not so much that I should find my legs cramped in the space between my seat and the seat in front of me. This got so bad on the flight from Dulles to Houston that I was actually beginning to feel claustrophobic, and was looking at my watch every few minutes towards the end because I was so desperate for the plane to land. I know in my heart that airline seating in economy is all the same size, so I should not have been any more cramped, but the fact is that when I sat down on that plane my cell phone was forced off my belt, something that did not happen in any of the previous flights, and there was not enough room for me to put it back on so it spent that part of the trip in a pocket of my "travel vest."

I will take a moment here to say I am thankful I have a travel vest. I have seldom worn it (if at all) since the last time I flew back in the 1990s, but its copious pockets enabled me to begin the trip with several sandwiches and some candy, which stood me in good stead (together with time for a nice Waffle House breakfast before my first flight) getting to Albany. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to stock up on victuals for the return trip, and only had a bag of "Life-Savers" which ran out Sunday night. If you can find one of these, and you are going to travel, you ought to get one. You can put everything from your pockets into the pockets of the vest (and a sandwich or two and some candy) and when going through security you only need to take the vest off and put it in the scanner bin (along with your belt and shoes), then put it back on once you are through the scanner instead of having to put everything back in your pockets.

For reasons that remain obscure, the airline could not verify my flight from Houston to Amarillo, so I left Albany with no boarding pass for my flight from Houston to Amarillo. The distance between gates and the time to make that distance in Dulles did not leave me time to try to again get that boarding pass. This led to great misery in Houston eventually.

When I arrived in Houston, I could see out the window that the weather was worsening, but I have flown in planes when it was raining previously, so I did not really give it any thought. Getting off the plane in Houston, I had to find the gate for my flight to Amarillo. As the attendant at the gate did not know I had to go find a monitor. As might be expected, I headed in the wrong direction. Had I looked for a monitor in the opposite direction I would have been closer to the tram station, as it was I had to backtrack the distance I had covered to find the monitors on my way to the tram station to get to from terminal C to terminal B.

I had good luck in that I arrived at just about the last possible moment to board a tram that was already there and was heading my way. A few more seconds delay and I would have missed it, and not made my gate connection at all. As it was, I got to the gate, and got a boarding pass . . . the last one issued for the flight, just seconds before it was due to begin boarding.

I also got the news the flight had been delayed (the weather did not look that bad to me outside, but it was enough, I would learn, to shut down the whole airport due to wind sheer and lightning strikes). In short I had had plenty of time to "make the flight." Except that about two hours later the flight was no longer delayed, but cancelled.

I was issued a standby ticket for the next plane to Amarillo, but advised that it was booked and my chances of getting on it were dim. No one from our cancelled flight indeed got on that plane (which was also repeatedly delayed). So we were shuffled to the next plane, which was also delayed. Worse, it was not the originally scheduled plane and had been fueled for another airport, which put a weight limit on it. It finally came down to about six of us standing at the gate and only one could go. Since I had the last boarding pass from the earlier flight, I was already eliminated at that point, but I did not know it. Had I known, I would probably have taken the deal they were offering if I volunteered to not make the flight (two days in a hotel, with food vouchers, a ride home on the first flight Tuesday morning, and a $400.00 voucher for the next time I flew in the coming year . . . I was not sure I would ever use that last voucher in a year which was besides the fact that I really wanted the flying experience to end was one of the reasons I did not take the deal).

Then we got the news that if we did not take the deal, we would get tickets for a flight out on Monday, but no other compensation (this after we were formally excluded from the last plane out that night). Weather is, after all, an act of God and not the airline's fault (and the various airlines all had thousands of disabused customers by that point, not just people who missed flights out of Houston, but people who had missed flights into Houston and were stuck in other airports.

Part of me was grateful for the overnight, as I was completely exhausted and staying awake at the airport that night would have been virtually impossible (at some point exhaustion would have cause me to pass out, and I suspect I would then have slept through and missed my newly scheduled flight AND probably have had someone steal my "carry-on" bag). By 0700 hours Sunday morning I had already been up 24 hours straight. (I woke up at 0700 Texas time Saturday so that I would be present at the convention. I was up all day, and had an opportunity for a playtest of Star Fleet Marines: Assault that went on until almost 0200 hrs Texas time, leaving me a maximum of three hours to sleep. I felt I could not take a chance on answering the wake-up call and sitting down tired and passing out again, so I stayed awake the whole night (i.e., another three hours) hoping to catch some sleep on the planes as I had done in earlier days, but it was not to be.) If I had been rested, staying at the airport with a book to read would not have been much of a sacrifice for me, but I had no book to read (I had finished reading the only one I had brought with me, and the book store in the airport closed for the night about the same time I was told I would not be going home.)

I did get nearly eight full hours of sleep overnight at the "Oxford Inn & Suites" in Houston. I went to the bookstore the next morning after passing through security (the first stop of my day actually), and discovered that there was simply nothing in it I wanted to read. That, and a full plane back to Amarillo with a child sitting behind me who loved the sound of her own voice and did not stop talking for more than 20 seconds at a stretch for the whole hour and a half of the flight, and occasionally put her feet up against my seat back (about every five to 10 minutes) and pushed made the final stretch as uncomfortable as the rest had been. (Complaining about the child got me a "there is no seat to move her to or to move you to" and "mom" was not interested in trying to control her beautiful, perfect child. It basically seems to have been decided that the child was going to make someone unhappy, so if I switched seats with her and got my seatmate to switch with her mother, the person in the seat in front of mine would be harassed by the child, and I would still have to listen to her constant "the airplane is mine, the airplane is mine" among many other litanies of things that were hers and the occasional not quite scream, not quite shriek, not quite a wordless yell vocalizations.)

Wednesday, October 12, 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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, 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, October 10, 2011

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was another week of what currently passes for normal. The staff meeting finally gave up the battle and rescheduled Star Fleet Marines for next year; Mongoose is just consuming so much SVC time that he cannot work on anything else. The weather this week was cooler, with some rain. The spam storm mostly remained below 200 per day.

Nothing new was put on e23 this week because Steve Cole was too busy doing Mongoose work to think about it.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Mongoose stuff, checking rules, writing background articles, and approving ships (Fed CF, CS, NCF, POL; Klingon D7, FD7; Rom SP, SK; shuttlecraft. He found time for few other projects, but did an hour's work on those counters for past Captain's Logs.

Steven Petrick worked on the Borak, checked Mongoose ships, wrote a blog, and went to Council of 5 Nations, the largest annual gathering of SFB players.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She and Steve Cole continued attending business school classes on Wednesday morning, learning how to make ADB better.

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 971 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 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.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


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

1. Braille, the raised dot alphabet used by the blind, was invented by Louis Braille, who was himself blind.

2. Bribe is an old French word for money or food one gave to a beggar. By the time it reached England, the word mean extortion. By our time, of course, it means a voluntary payment to induce someone to do you a favor.

3. Broker, someone who buys or sells as an agent for someone else, comes from the French broacher, a man who bought a barrel of wine and then sold it off in smaller quantities in a retail store or tavern.

4. Buccaneer, a sea-roving adventurer (or pirate), is the French form of the Spanish term barbacoa, a grill used in Haiti to cook meat. Caribbean explorers, traders, and pirates in the 1600s had adopted the Haitian means of cooking (it was more efficient than using a spit), and this same word came to English as both barbecue and buccaneer.

5. Budget, the money available for certain uses over a certain period of time, comes from the French word bouget, which is the diminutive version of bouge, the French word for purse. (Thus, bouget means "little purse.") How it got from there to here seems obvious. The money in your purse was how much you had to live on until you got some more.

6. Bug, used today for many things (an insect, a verb meaning to annoy, or a flaw in a system), was originally the Welsh word bwg, which meant ghost. From there, the word was used in Cornwall (as bug) to refer to a particular beetle (which sort of looked like a hideous ghost). The word was sometimes expanded or modified into bugbear (a big bug, now a worrying problem), bugaboo (a scary creature, now some big dramatic mess), or bogey (a ghost, now an unknown target). Once bug became used for any insect, the use as a verb (to bug someone) was obvious.

7. Bugle (a musical instrument often used by the military) was invented by the Roman army, which made its bugles from the horns of bullocks, which (in Latin) were buculus. Thus, to blow on a buculus was to blow on a musical instrument made from the horn of a bullock. Much later the instruments were made of metal but the name stuck.

8. Bulldozer, a construction vehicle that scrapes the ground and pushes around piles of dirt, is the end of a curious path. Texas cattle ranchers used a bullwhip to control herds of cattle. In post-Civil War New Orleans, local whites (most of whom were Democrats) used bullwhips (bought from Texas) to scare Negroes away from voting places, lest they vote Republican. Carpetbaggers and Republican Negroes used the same bullwhips to scare other blacks whom were suspected of voting for Democrats. To strike someone with a bullwhip (which could open a cut in the skin) was said to be "giving him the bull dose" of punishment. Quickly, someone who used a bullwhip on humans (a bully of the worst sort) became known as a bulldoser. The word bulldoser remained in use for decades as a term for bully. Eventually, someone needed a name for a construction machine that shoved things around, and bulldozer was selected, first as slang, then as the product name.

9. Bunk, speech that comprises nonsense or lies often of a political nature, derives from Buncombe County, North Carolina. In 1820, as Congress debated the Missouri Compromise, Congressman Felix Walker (from that county) rose and gave a long speech that had nothing to do with the Missouri Compromise. His colleagues asked him about it, and he said that his constituents expected him to give the speech and it seemed as good a time as any. He said he was "speaking to Buncombe, not to the House." The term stuck (as funny stories often do) as bunkum, which was shortened a century later to just plain old bunk.

10. Bus, a vehicle carrying lots of passengers on a fixed schedule (for long or short routes) comes from omnibus, the Latin and French term meaning "for all". Bus service was invented in Paris in 1662 (special wagons carrying passengers on fixed routes and schedules for 1/30th of the cost of a carriage ride) but the business failed after two years. (Rich people had been the primary uses, but quit using the service to avoid associating with riffraff. Poor people rejected the "rich people's ride." Bus service was resumed in Paris in 1827. Mindful of the marketing problems of the earlier venture, the new business wrote "omnibus" ("for all") on their wagons, and the English (who copied the idea two years later) shortened it to simply "bus."

Friday, October 07, 2011


On Klingon Stasis Field Generators:

Warning: Requires high energy input and very cool nerves; this equipment requires a very close-range approach to the targeted object; manufacturer not responsible for any undue, unwanted, and forcible alteration to the structure of the generator ship due to the said close approach; warranty void and null if #1 shield is breached. The manufacturer makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, with respect to the hardware referred herein as SFGs, its quality, performance, mechanical reliability, or fitness for any tactical situations.

On Lyran Expanding Sphere Generators:

Warning: Manufacturer not responsible for paint scratches, hull dents, or loss of fur/life due to mishandling of the generators; warranty null and void if there are any hostile objects inside the radius of the generator, whether the generator is active or not; if not used properly, this equipment may result in severe damage to unintended parties.

Thanks to Hyun Yu. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Steve Cole writes:

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

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

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry over 30 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company lasted 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he was personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

TV Gets the Details of Reality Wrong Again

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One can learn all sorts of lessons from TV shows, many of them very wrong.

A recent example was in the second episode of the revision of "Charlie's Angels" (which I will say here is the last episode of it I will ever willingly watch). At one point, the show's "Bosley" deflects an assassin's pistol to save the victim. He does this by actually gripping the pistol itself, and forcing it into the air. The assassin responds by dramatically firing the pistol several times.

The pistol in this instance is an automatic. Normally when an automatic pistol is fired the recoil of the round discharging forces the slide back to eject the spent cartridge and then pick up and chamber a new cartridge so that the weapon can be fired again. Now, obviously the slide would protect "Bosley's" hand from being burned by the barrel of the pistol as it is heated by the weapon being fired . . . except that it would not.

The problem is that the slide is going to go to the rear of the pistol, and is going to do so forcefully. "Bosley's" grip might slow the slide enough to cause the pistol to miss-feed, i.e., jam, but his grip could not prevent the movement of the slide at all. This means that his hand would have been pulled against the hand grip and trigger guard and hand of the man holding the weapon at a minimum, would have had the flesh of the palm of his hand and his fingers ripped, and if despite that he was able to maintain his grip would have found his hand closing on the heated barrel as the slide attempted to come forward again before being stopped by a probable "stovepipe" jam.

In either case, while "Bosley" would have injured his hand, the pistol would have fired only one time (unless "Bosley's grip was so loose as to have no effect on the pistol's operation, but he is very clearly seen to be gripping the slide of the weapon, not the assassin's hand, and forcing the weapon into the air). It is thus unlikely that the weapon would have discharged more than once (it fires at least three times in the scene), and if you watch the scene you will notice that the pistol's slide does not move at all (clearly marking the weapon as a prop gun designed to bang when the trigger is pulled but not actually operate in any way as a weapon).

While it should be obvious from the above that, yes, a prop gun with an inoperable slide was used and it was used for "safety" reasons (so that no one was injured by the slide as the actors "struggled" or by ejected hot blank cartridges bouncing around in the crowd of extras), the result is a poorly staged scene and a bad lesson for anyone watching. "Bosley" should have been shown forcing the assassin's arm into the air, and should not have touched the pistol proper unless it was intended as part of the scene that his hand be injured by the weapon's being fired.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Leanna and I watched a dozen episodes of TUDORS during our anniversary weekend, and I continue to point out that Henry VIII didn't just want a son to prove he was a man's man. He wanted a son to prevent a civil war between various branches of the previous Plantagenet dynasty that wanted the throne back and were constantly scheming to achieve their goal. (Two branches of Plantagenets, York and Lancaster, had fought in the Wars of the Roses, but those lines died out. That left several distant Plantagenet cousins (Glochester, Buckingham, Clarence, Cambridge, Bedford, Warwick) who all claimed they should have had the throne after Richard III died in battle. (Richard III died because he could not find a horse on which to escape from Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII. Henry Tudor was a branch of the Lancaster house, and married Elizabeth York, uniting the two warring factions.) None of these claimants had a strong enough claim that everyone in England would accept it without argument, and it was obvious that without an heir to Henry VIII (the second Tudor) there was going to be one very nasty civil war upon his death. England had (to that point) not had a Queen Regnant, and it was unclear if people would accept his daughters (Mary and Elizabeth) as able to rule. (In the end, they both ruled successfully.)

2. In another business case study (those classes that Leanna and I take), a businessman was having great sales, but losing money. Once the idea of employee embezzlement was ruled out, the logical answer was that his costs were out of control. In the case of one of his product lines, his employees were mixing too much of the most valuable element into the product. In the case of his other product line, he had 70 items when 20 would cover 90% of the orders, and stocking perishable elements of 70 items meant that he was throwing away half of everything he bought.

3. Yet another business case study: A man is in an industry for 40 years, sometimes owning a store and sometimes working for other stores. Call it mixed success. At the point of retirement, his children say "Take your retirement money and buy us a business. We know we don't know how to run a business, but you can take your last five working years to teach us (working part time yourself) by which time we'll have paid back your retirement money. Then you can retire and we'll have a working business. He agrees, but the children won't listen to him when he says that starting a new business means working 12 hours a day. Worse, they hire a bunch of friends to man the store and run it like a party. At least they aren't losing money, but they aren't paying back the loans, either. Dad calls in the expert with their own TV show, but the children say "We don't need help. We're doing fine." Dad, pointing to the lack of any business growth or loan payments, disagrees. This all comes back to leadership. If the leaders run the business like a party and haven't even tried to learn business skills (they don't even know the average number of customers served per week) the business is not going to thrive. I'd really love to run a business that makes so much money that I can do an awful job of running it and still make a nice salary and have no debt.

4. I think my greatest failure in running ADB, Inc., is in failing to account for things that obviously need to be done (and done early in the priority list) but which are not on the "time budget" for work to be done. Now, there will always be things one cannot predict (say the warehouse burns down and we have to spend a lot of time with insurance claims and figuring out what to replace) but that's normal and you cannot plan for it. The big issue right now is that the Mongoose Joint Venture is eating up 80% of my design time. (Checking ships is taking a lot longer than it we calculated to take. Reviewing their rulebooks was thought to be a matter of a couple of hours a week but I've spent about six hours this week and that only caught up to the third draft; I haven't read the fourth. While it makes perfect sense that I will spend less time writing the 40 pages of background their rulebook needs than I would have spent fixing something they wrote, there were no hours in the budget for me to do that. (It will take only about 10 hours since I just have to string together and write-through existing background from SFB and the RPG books. Even so, this obviously represents poor planning on my part.) There is also the issue that I keep scheduling unfinished projects based on a guess of the work it will take to finish them. If it's a project that Steven Petrick and/or I are doing, we can get a pretty good guess. If it's a project someone else is doing, we have a tendency not to guess very well. (That, and sometimes we don't get documents from the outside designer as fast or in the form that we expect to get them.)

Monday, October 03, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25 September - 1 October, 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was another normal week, with the Steves working on future products while the production team continues shipping strong orders. The weather this week was mild, with mornings in the 60s and afternoons in the 80s. The spam storm mostly remained below 200 per day. The Board of Directors moved Federation Admiral to next year due to the massive workload that Mongoose had dumped on top of SVC.

New on e23 this week were Captain's Log #14 and LDR Ship Pack #1.

Steve Cole worked almost entirely on Mongoose stuff, checking ships (approved Federation CC, DNG, NCL, NCA, DW; Klingon D7, C8. posted Fed NCF, CS, POL; Klingon C7, FD7; Romulan FH, FFH; Gorn BC, CL, DD; shuttle for public comment) and rules and writing the empire backgrounds. He was gone 1.5 days for Leanna's routine medical screening and 1.5 days for business schools, found time for some other projects, including a few pages of Federation Admiral, finished the basic version of the Captain's Log countersheet, and wrote some reserve blogs.

Steven Petrick worked on the Borak and checking Mongoose ships.

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, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (now at 961 friends), proofread some ships for Booster #31, kept the Mongoose forum appraised of the minis progress, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 02, 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.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. It's going to be strange, staying home next summer. There seems no point in going to Origins, as most of you won't be there, and the reason we go is to meet with you guys. We considered Gencon, but the dates for 2012 aren't much better for veteran SFU players, so you would not be able to go there if we told you we were going. Gencon is very expensive compared to Origins, and (for us) produces a lot less money. (We'd lose money going to Gencon. Going to Origins produces nice sales, most of which we'd get anyway if there were no Origins, and the rest of which cover the costs.) There are no other conventions that could gather a national SFU conclave (although we might go to a regional show in Dallas during May). We're even considering the idea of meeting Jean for the Dallas show in May and spending some non-company vacation time with her and SPP. We have long thought about Comic Con, but it's very expensive and very little of what we have in the current product line would sell. (Maybe the paperback, the pins, and some of the minis. Maybe an RPG book or two.) I want to think about doing Comic Con sometime.

2. I was, some days ago, driving home after dark. A few blocks from the office I pass through a "rough" part of town. Stopped at a traffic light, a small crowd of "riff raff" were knocking on the windows of the stopped cars asking for the windows to be rolled down. I know better than that, as the "aggressive panhandler" then has the edge, as he can get physical, try to grab whatever is in reach, or even try to open the locked door from inside. I played dumb, waved like I was a simpleton, and ignored their demands that I roll down the window. A minute later, the light turned green and I departed the area. I was a little scared (enough so that I didn't want to stay there, roll down the window, or talk to them). This is one of the reasons that I don't let Leanna work after dark unless we're in the same car. Such "aggressive panhandling" is not common in Amarillo. (I have only seen it twice, both at that same intersection.) I told Leanna about it the next day (so she would be warned) and she said I should have called the police who might have sent a squad car by the area to tell the ruffians to go home.

3. We heard a commercial for SportsClips, a franchise of sports-themed barber shops for men to get haircuts. Petrick and I have decided to launch our own franchise chain called WarClips, where men can get haircuts while watching classic war movies. We may specialize in mohawks and buzz cuts.

4. I went to the annual Chamber of Commerce BBQ a few weeks ago. It's one of those events (I am sure there are hundreds of them across America) where all kinds of teams, groups, and organizations cook BBQ (the meat is donated by some big company, the beer by someone else, the sodas by someone else). There were a hundred or more "stands" or "booths" in four fenced-off city blocks, and 5000 people wandering around balancing plates of BBQ and cans of drink trying to figure out how to eat standing up. (Does it never occur to anyone to provide tables and chairs?) Despite the relatively cool weather (78F) I wish I had worn my boonie hat. I didn't eat much but did taste some really good (and really bad) BBQ.

5. Leanna and I love watching business makeover and business rescue shows like Tabatha's Salon Takeover, Bar Rescue, Restaurant Impossible, Kitchen Nightmares, and others. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can lose money every month for four years and not change anything, or how someone who is losing money can argue with the visiting expert that they should keep doing things the same old way.

6. The case study in one of the Wednesday morning business classes (that Leanna and I attend) was about a woman who owned a business, bought a second location, and (unable to find a manager) put her husband in charge. He knew nothing about the industry and hated the job, and the result was disaster as the employees got lazy and sloppy. It's a military adage that "an army of rabbits led by a lion will beat an army of lions led by a rabbit." The reason that is true is because the followers will pick up the spirit and habits of the leader.