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Thursday, March 31, 2011


Steve Cole observes:

Was Robert E. Lee stupid to launch Pickett's Charge on the third day at Gettysburg? His detractors, determined to prove that the man was just stupid, claim so, but the facts paint a more complicated picture. The fact is that the attack very nearly worked. The attack reached and penetrated the Union line, but ran out of combat power at the critical moment.

1. Pickett's Charge was part of a larger plan, including the seizure of Culp's Hill (the south held half of it at the end of the second day, but the north took that back early on the third) and on a cavalry attack behind the Union lines (which failed). Lee knew about Culp's Hill (but didn't have time to set up a different plan) but not the cavalry failure. Had either of those worked, the attack would have worked.

2. Lee was counting on the massive artillery barrage, and had no way to know until months later that most of it had gone over the heads of the Union infantry, just plain missing them. At the time the attack started, he assumed that the barrage had devastated the Union line (because the Union artillery stopped firing to conserve ammunition). Had the barrage been on target, the attack would have worked.

3. The fence halfway from where the charge started to the Union lines was much more substantial than anyone realized, and caused the attack to stop at the critical range of the Union guns. Many of the troops sent on this attack went no further as the crowd of wounded soldiers, those trying to get over the fence, and those who had lost heart because of the fence and the casualties. The fence broke the momentum of the charge. Without that fence, the attack would have worked.

4. Lee had put the attack into the hands of Longstreet, who did not want to make it. Longstreet paid little attention to how the attack was set up (the left flank brigades had been shot up on previous days and had no business being there, and promptly collapsed at the worst time). Longstreet also ignored Lee's commands to form and send a second wave including the divisions of Anderson and McLaws. Had that second wave been sent, the attack would have worked.

5. Lee had few alternatives. Standing on the defensive would have wasted a day. (Meade wasn't going to attack anything. Half of his brigades were no longer capable of combat.) Shifting troops to attack one flank or the other would have taken time. To his discredit, Lee was fixated on the point of the Union line where his second day attack had broken down.

Now, the definition of "worked" would have been "two-thirds of the Union Army is forced to retreat and the other third is captured". Not a war-winner (Meade's remaining troops were enough to stop Lee from going anywhere), but definitely a major victory on northern soil.

Wednesday, March 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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just wondering to himself if he can fill up the blog form without politics.

1. It seems to me that somebody could write a hilarious article for Captain's Log entitled "You know that your captain is Charlie Sheen if ..." Maybe if he glares at the Klingons their facing shields melt?

2. Arsenal is the Arabic word for "House of Manufacture."

3. The radio term "roger" means "received, over" or "I heard that, do you need to tell me anything else?"

4. Three things a military pilot needs when entering a dive: mirrored sunglasses, a big watch, and a bunch of cash. A pretty girl doesn't hurt but there are usually some of them in the dive anyway.

5. I want to go on a vacation to the Top Shot reality TV show firing range. I don't want to "compete" or "vote to eliminate a team member" or any of that stuff. I just want to see the event, practice with the weapon a little (or maybe bring my own rifle and pistol) and then try a few times to see if I can make the shot.

6. On a reality TV show (Pawn Stars) a guy came into the store wanting to sell a World War 2 pilot's leather jacket that mentioned the P-38 lightning fighter. Rick, who owns the store, said "I think that P-38s were only in the Pacific so this jacket is a fake." The customer insisted otherwise, and the expert came in to tell Rick that there were P-38s in Europe. Now, I knew that because long ago I played a lot of the old Avalon Hill game Luftwaffe which had P-38 squadrons (and those were for a long time the only fighters able to reach Berlin). Rick could have just walked over to his computer, gone to Google, entered "P-38" and either "Europe" or "Italy" and found out the truth in a second, without insulting his customer or displaying his own lack of knowledge.

7. Speaking of Pawn Stars, somebody tried to sell them cans of fallout shelter crackers. Back about 1980, the building where I worked hauled up pallets of those things from the basement and told the employees to help themselves. I took six cans home, tried some of the crackers, found them to be just fine, and used them in soup instead of buying new saltines. Then I gave the empty cans to a neighbor who used them in her craft shop to make mailboxes. A friend of mine brought up his truck and took home most of the them (few people wanted them) and spent the next year feeding the crackers to his chickens.

8. Steven Petrick explains that the job of a project executive or military officer is to keep juggling all of the balls he is given until he can figure out how to put some of them down (i.e., avoid having anyone notice he hasn't finished a project until that project is actually finished). Steven Petrick explains that there are several kinds of balls.

If you drop a rubber ball, it bounces without a sound. Nobody notices that you momentarily dropped the ball, and you can get it back into the swirling mass of balls.

If you drop a glass ball, it does not bounce -- it breaks (the project now cannot be completed, and you not only failed to finish it, you ruined things so that whatever opportunity, obligation, or potential it had is lost). Worse, it makes just enough noise for everybody to notice that you screwed up. Some of the glass balls, when broken, release poison gas. In any case, the glass shards are now under your feet and will cause you trouble for a long time.

If you drop a wooden ball, it doesn't break. It makes some noise (a few people notice, maybe not everybody) and it's harder to pick back up (you have to bend down while still juggling other balls), but no real harm is done.

If you drop a ball of putty, it doesn't bounce, it goes flat (you cannot get it back into the swirl without doing some extra work to mold it into shape), but nobody hears it.

If you drop a metal ball, it makes a pretty good noise (lots of people notice that you dropped it), but it doesn't break and you can pick it back up without too much trouble as it does bounce -- a little -- once.

There are other kinds of balls, but I'm out of space in the blog form, so I'll stop here. Jean will be so proud that I did a whole "random thoughts" blog without politics.

Monday, March 28, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-26 March 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This week saw serious progress on Star Fleet Marines and C3A. The weather this week was mild, barely reaching freezing overnight and in the 60s in mid-afternoon. The spam storm remained below 100. We also found out that we won't get to go to that Abilene convention in October as it is the same day as the annual Wolf trip.

New uploads to e23 included Captain's Log #3 and Hydran Ship Card ePack #1 (which we uploaded a week ago, but were delayed by the host). Dread Pirate Aldo, a new upload, was released.

Steve Cole worked on Star Fleet Marines. He also helped Jay W make progress on Federation Admiral, reviewed the RPG book article about TFG and ADB, discussed software and applications with several developers, sent Randy Blair's story about the Warspite back for major revisions, sent back another story by someone else for a total rewrite, added Jena Biblios to Starship Aldo, reviewed the Star Fleet Munchkin cards, and reached a handshake deal with "U" which will be announced when signed. Steve Cole pulled a muscle in his leg during the Tuesday walk, had to be brought back to the office by car as he could not walk, and was limping for the rest of the week. While not feeling well, SVC cleaned out his hard disk and sent Jean over 100 photos and graphics for our page on Facebook.

Steven Petrick worked C3A, CL#43, and other projects.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and approved the new Ranger Plan (then didn't give SVC enough time to implement it).

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and dealt with some miniatures inventory issues.

Joel did website updates and helped Mike.

Jean continued work on PD20M Romulans, and reports that our page on FB is up to 739 due to one player (Michael Baker) posting notes about it on three other websites.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. We continue to expand our line of non-game products on Cafe Press http://www.cafepress.com/starfleetuniv. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here:

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Steven Petrick writes:

Some more comments about Battle: Los Angeles.

One of the things we do not know is how the alien landers work. We can be fairly certain that they have a heavy braking mechanism from the shock rings we saw as they plunged into the sea off the coast. But are they "one way" vehicles? What is their capability to lift off? Can they maneuver underwater or, once landed, are they immobile?

The reason this comes up is the decision (on the part of the invaders) of what to do at Los Angeles. The air support is gone, and if there is no way to replace it, what orders do they give the troops there.

Strategically, the troops at Los Angeles (even if there wwere a means to extract them) might be ordered to simply hold out as long as they can. This would be an effort to tie down the forces attacking them, preventing these forces from being re-deployed to strengthen the attacks on other "beachheads." Without air cover, this would essentially mean writing off not just the beachhead, but all of the troops in it. The troops would need to be told to destroy anything that might be of value to us, but there are going to be problems with that. We might be able to reverse engineer their rocket launchers and the heavy weapons on their attack drones because they may not be able to recover or effectively destroy all samples. We are obviously going to have more bodies to "dissect", and will learn more about their small arms because we'll have, either way, a failed beachhead to examine.

Alternatively, except for a rear guard, the bulk of the troops might be withdrawn back into the landers (if they are able to lift off) and moved to reinforce other beachheads. But if the landers are too vulnerable to air attack, that might not be an option.

We do not know what the alien's logistics are like. Are later landings supposed to be made to reinforce the existing beachheads? You might look at the Normandy landings as an example here. All of the troops we needed to win the war in Europe did not land on day one, and supplies were landed daily (across the beach, later on the mulberries . . . mulberry after one was destroyed by a storm . . . and still later through captured harbors).

From what we have seen so far, canceling the invasion does not seem possible. (The landers seem to be one way, and their approach to the planet does not seem to indicate that it was possible to turn their invasion craft around.) So they are going to keep coming for a while at least. And obviously a follow-on wave would have to have another command ship (there has to be some limit over how much territory a command ship can control drones, so as the front line expanded they would need more command ships to cover the added sectors).

So when will the next wave arrive at Los Angeles? No matter when it does, we now know we have to get the command ship before it can hide. So how effectively can we target it?

Seriously, it has been reported that the invasion consists of 30 million alien infantry divided between 20 invasion sites, giving 1.5 million infantry per site, and we are still talking about invading a planet with a population of over six billion. Even if you assume only one-twentieth of that population can be used as troops, that is still ten to one odds versus the alien landing force. So they need more troops somewhere.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Galactic Phone Booth

Just a few ...

Q: How do you get 30 Feds into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there's a new life form to talk to.


Q: How do you get 30 Klingons into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them it's Earth.


Q: How do you get 30 Romulans into a telephone booth?

A: Install a cloak on it.


Q: How do you get 30 Gorns into a telephone booth?

A: You don't. You don't even try.


Q: How do you get 30 Lyrans into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there are 30 Kzintis in it.


Q: How do you get 30 Seltorians into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there is a Tholian hiding inside.


Q: How do you get 30 Frax into a telephone booth?

A: Don't build the booth. Only imagine one.

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, March 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!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Speaker Boehner's plan to cut $51 billion from the budget for this year includes the $1 billion allocated to prepare state guard armories for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

2. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that around 600 kilometers (375 miles) of the U.S.-Mexico border is insufficiently monitored (i.e., not adequately protected) in order to stop drug smuggling and human trafficking. That is about 19% of the length of the entire border. The GAO estimates that the U.S. Border Patrol has what it calls operational control sufficient to stop smuggling activities along about 45% of the some 3,200-kilometer (2,000 mile) long border.

3. I own a car, and now and then it needs work. When you go to the local dealer, the manufacturer sends you a survey form to fill out and mail back. What upsets me is that there is a copy of this form taped to the sign-in booth marked, with big red marker, indicating that "completely satisfied" is "pass" while anything from "satisfied" on down is "fail." It gets worse. About the time I get the survey, I get a phone call from the service department asking me "Are you going to be able to mark the survey 'completely satisfied'?" I have gotten to the point of mailing them back not filled out with a letter explaining why, and telling the nice lady from the dealership why. First, I find it intimidating to be told that if I do not check the box "completely satisfied" that it is considered to be a "fail" grade. It makes me feel like I am the one who failed, or that if I don't give them super-excellent marks that one of them is getting fired. I feel like I am being pressured to give them the highest mark no matter what I really feel. Second, I think that this is a bad way to manage your employees, to say that satisfying the customer is "failing" in some way. I grade my employees to the standard of excellence, not perfection, since perfection is impossible. I would, using the same form, tell any employee who got a "satisfied" rating that he had done just fine, and anyone who occasionally got a "completely satisfied" mark on one of the ten questions might get a pat on the back. Without the form taped to the sign-in booth, I probably would mark "satisfied" instead of "completely satisfied" because I regard the visit as "no big deal." Is there anything I am unhappy about? No! I'm fine. I'm satisfied. I just think that you should not automatically give anyone the highest mark. If you want that highest mark from me, do something extra, something beyond your duties, beyond what you get paid for. I want the flexibility to note that question 4 (explaining what's going on) was completed to a higher standard than question 9. (Did my invoice look like a fair price for the service? Dude, you're not getting a top mark for that one unless you give me the service for free.) As I write this, I wonder if the nice lady who called to remind me how to fill out the survey is having an uncomfortable meeting with her boss. I told her that the public should never see the "how to fill out the form" sign as it insults the customers, and that it's wrong to grade employees on perfection.

4. I am starting to suspect that television military history professor Aryeh Nusbacher and television paleontology professor Tom Holtz are the same guy. Google some photos or film clips and see what YOU think.

5. Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, and she did it backwards wearing high heels.

6. Few people realize that "Dead Reckoning" is actually a corruption of "Ded Reckoning" which is short for "Deduced Reckoning". Any or all of them are a method of navigation in which one says: "I know that I started HERE and that my compass said THIS bearing and that my speed was THAT fast and that if went for THIS period of time and (do the math) that puts me HERE." Dead Reckoning often doesn't work, because it doesn't account for air or water currents (or wandering around rocks and bushes if you're walking).

Ok, six items this time, and I have filled up the blank on the form, so that's all the randomness you get today.

Tuesday, March 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/).

Monday, March 21, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 March 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of major work but slow progress on the campaign book Federation Admiral. The book proved to be much farther from publication than was thought. We got to page 31, then ran into a major problem (an entire section had to be done over as it did not match the existing SFU knowledge-base). It's unclear at this time if Fed Admiral can be produced before Origins.

The weather this week was mild, with warm afternoons and cool nights that rarely hit freezing. The Spam Storm remained at bay, with at most 80 per day getting through all of the servers and filters.

We sent two new products (Captain's Log #3 and Hydran Ship Card Pack #1) to e23 but they're in the middle of changing managers and neither of them got posted.

Steve Cole spent most of the week on Federation Admiral, but made progress on Star Fleet Marines, Transports Attacked, F&E ISC WAR, Starship Aldo, Communique #64, Captain's Log #43, and Briefing #3. He also prepared files for future e23 uploads and continued negotiations on a major deal. He also wrote two blogs for Jean (one of which she rejected).

Steven Petrick worked all week on C3A and Captain's Log #43. He and Steve Cole took several walks for their health.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did several website updates, busted some Torrent Pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean stayed busy all week helping with the Fed Admiral project, and finally convinced SVC to stop putting political stuff into the blog. She reported that our page on Facebook passed 700 friends and that one company that is literally ten times our size has less than 900 friends.

Sunday, March 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!

Saturday, March 19, 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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prayer to the Marketing Director by SVC

Jean, who art Marketing Director,
We tremble at your name.

Your schedule set,
Your will be met,
In Game Trade as it is in Previews.

Give us this day, our daily tasks,
Forgive us not our failures,
And forgive not outside designers who fail to deliver their RPG books on time.

Let us not fall into stagnation,
But make us deliver the products.

For thine is the schedule,
and the marketing plan,
and the Profit,
for ever and ever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Steven Petrick writes:

I have now seen this film. I consider it worth seeing, and frankly think I may need to see it again. The reason I think I need to see it again is that at different points in the film equipment seems to simply appear. I cannot, off the top of my head, recall any of the troops carrying AT-4s, and surely if they had they would have used them in some of the situations they were in (like taking out that mobile missile support unit the aliens were using during the causeway fight). Yet, an AT-4 or two is present in the climatic final fight. Maybe they picked them up at the destroyed forward operating base or found them in the light armored vehicle and I did not notice.

The aliens' proof against our small arms firepower is considerably less than I thought from the commercials, it was still obviously superior requiring quite a few shots to take them down. However, our own body armor had some value against their infantry weapons.

There is a question about the aliens' tactics. Obviously it took some time between their landings and the deployment of their own air assets (hours). This makes it curious as to why they did not wait to begin their assault until their air assets were able to take off. This would have reduced some of their ground troop losses to our own air assets earlier in the battle -- perhaps enough to tip the scales. This is assuming their assets took off from under the ocean. It seems unlikely that their ground-pounders cleared a zone and the air assets were then dragged ashore so they could take off. There is no indication that the aliens had anything approaching a truck or other vehicle to accomplish this task, so apparently they were staging in the waters off the coast. Delaying until their air assets could deploy would seem to have been a better tactic. Once their own air assets went into action they quickly cleared the sky and made further use of our own air assets suicidal (proved by the cancellation of the main strike).

The lack of initial air assets does explain why our heroes were able to deploy by helicopter to the forward operating base in response to the aliens' landing and assault.

What is not explained is the big question: Neither side used the nuclear option, one of the film's biggest weaknesses because this option is simply ignored. No explanation is offered for the aliens not using nuclear weapons, and no explanation is offered as to why we did not use nuclear weapons.

Basically the film covers a period of about 48 to 60 hours during which time our intrepid band gathers intelligence leading them to be at the decisive point. They discover the aliens' Achilles' heel and are able to exploit it, turning the tide in Los Angeles. In one fell swoop, they completely eliminate the enemy's entire air capability, clearing the skies for our own air assets (doubtless severely depleted) to return. And despite the losses our own forces have sustained, we have enough combat power (having eliminated the enemy air) to take the offensive. This seems unlikely as apparently every one of our ground combat units that actually engaged the enemy to this point has been wiped out. Raising the question of where these additional troops are coming from. Hollywood would have done better not having them all wiped out, but pushed back with loss so they still existed.

One of the problems is that the victory in Los Angeles, much like the local victory in "Independence Day", does not translate into automatic victory elsewhere.

In "Independence Day" the "City Destroyers" were apparently only vulnerable when they tried to use their main weapon so technically we did not have the firepower to bring them down unless they were deploying their main weapon, and they could have withdrawn into space and struck again at times and places of their choosing. The only real question was how long they could operate without resupply from the mothership.

In this film, even knowing that destroying a command ship would eliminate the aliens' local air assets, the problem remains of finding and hitting it. The Air Force sergeant was definite that her mission had been to find the command node, requiring a ground presence, but the aliens were able to hide it. Finding the 19 other command ships and being able to call in laser guided munitions to kill them is going to be a lot more problematic. The aliens know they lost the one at Los Angeles, and doubtless how that happened (it must have broadcast what was going on). The current solution to keep it from happening again is easy. Just keep a good squadron of defending drones on hand to intercept the Copperhead shells, and hit the launching sites when you can. Other than that, maintain air superiority and keep pressure on the enemy ground forces.

Other questions: The alien operation would seem to be just a "first wave" situation except that we are told the aliens are here for our water, that water fuels their technology, and that their use of our water to do so is already lowering the level of our oceans (?????). In any case, to take the whole planet, they are going to need more troops, but if the troops they have are already using up the water they are here for, why are they here and can they really afford to send more troops?

There is no indication that the aliens have any means of leaving the planet (none of their "landers" is ever seen to take off from the ocean). They seem to be on a one way mission. Are they in fact all there is of their population?

There are other "unexplained" bits that I can live with. The aliens are never seen to take human civilians captive, but this does not mean that they did not do so. The aliens do, however, make some attempt (apparently) to abduct at least one member of our squad. This fails, but it raises a number of questions (like "why do they want to capture a Marine?", but there are obviously a lot of other questions). I can, however, accept that these are not answered (no way for our hearty band to discover everything the aliens are doing after all).

One of the aspects of the film I had trouble with is the concept that the forward operating base is overrun, but a light armored vehicle is left undamaged. This screams that the forward operating base was "taken by surprise". It is otherwise inconceivable that the light armored vehicle did not have a crew (commander, gunner, driver) aboard when the forward operating base was attacked and thus would have been destroyed in the fighting. I could see a Hummer surviving, even if it had a man manning its machinegun, but the intact light armored vehicle made no sense as it makes no sense that the forward operating base succumbed to a surprise attack. That vehicle should have had a crew aboard and been destroyed.

For what it is worth, the Huey that picked up the heroes after their light armored vehicle excursion should have had all of its lights turned out, or it should have been blown out of the sky by the aliens.

There are the obligatory Hollywood moments.

The initial scenes of the squad moving towards the police station has the men way too bunched up in the street, a couple of grenades would have wiped them out.

To the best of my knowledge, a Copperhead is not a "missile" but a shell. As such, it travels way too fast for a grunt to see it, much less to see it, see a "drone" moving to interpose itself between the shell and its target, and that soldier having the time to deploy an AT-4 and shoot the "drone" down, clearing the way for the Copperhead. In all seriousness, I doubt any missile moves slowly enough for that sequence to play out. (One could ask why the command ship did not simply shoot the "Copperheads" down with its own weapons since they were moving so slowly.)

The film, as with many war films, presents us with a "clean" battlefield. That is to say that except where it advances the plot, the enemy generally fights to the death, and the only time we have a wounded enemy is where it advances the plot. The only time the enemy retreats is after their command ship is destroyed. Most small unit ground combat lasts until one side gives up and leaves, not until one side is annihilated.

Most of the combat is at the small arms level, and generally such combat will generate two to four wounded for every man killed. When the firefights end, there are generally no alien "wounded". There are no indications that there are even alien medics. The scene where the aliens advance down the elevated freeway in the teeth of the defender's fire is not consistent in this regard. This group of aliens had taken out a tank (taking some losses apparently in doing so) and then proceeded against the Marines. Given the aliens then had air superiority, it would have made far more sense for them not to expose themselves and simply called in a gunship to deal with both problems. Essentially the alien ground troops should only have been providing suppression/fixing fire. This gets back to the numbers of the aliens. They should be trying to minimize their casualties where possible if they are planning on a long-term campaign of conquest. The fight on the overpass was inconsistent with this goal.

Another problem with the fight on the overpass is that the M203 grenade launcher is not used. That weapon would have been able to take out the alien walking missile launcher, or at least inflict casualties while the enemy was walking forward. In this case, however, we can assume that the grenadier used up all of his shells during the fight at the police station. Still, there were times when hand grenades might have been used.

And as to the one wounded alien we do see: yes, what the staff sergeant did was a "war crime" (if you did not notice this). He in essence "tortured a wounded prisoner to death for information". That there were elements of the scene designed to make it more horrific (the alien combatant is symbolically reduced to the role of "animal;" a veterinarian assists the staff sergeant in his "interrogation" instead of the corpsman) may be accidental. This is the only "wounded" alien we see and he was apparently abandoned by his compatriots during the original assault on the police station, i.e., the aliens apparently do not take care of their own wounded. (Since the aliens won at the police station in the earlier fight that created the wounded alien, why was he left behind?) At least I do not recall seeing any other wounded aliens. Yes, aliens get shot and fall, but except for the one in the pool they do not seem to keep getting back up once they fall. There never seems to be an effort on the part of the aliens to recover wounded or even check their own casualties to see if they are wounded.

There is an indication that the staff sergeant is aware that he has committed a war crime in that the information he gained (how to kill the aliens more efficiently, i.e., where to shoot them) is not transmitted to higher headquarters for dissemination. At the time the Marines had not yet learned that the aliens were tracking their transmissions, and the squad had radio contact with higher headquarters. Yet on learning the aliens can be killed most efficiently by shooting them in the right side of their chests the squad does not transmit this information. Was the staff sergeant concerned that he would be asked how he had obtained this information? Does this hearken back to some dark secret about Afghanistan or Iraq? And notice that the lieutenant is conveniently "not in the room" when the staff sergeant does what he does.

As noted, what he did is a war crime. There are people on this planet who profess that they would rather die (and by the way that all the rest of us should die) rather than do something they believe to be morally reprehensible. These people would, if they were aware of the staff sergeant's actions, be horrified and demand that he be tried and punished for his actions. These are the same ones that insist that we prove our moral superiority over Al Qaida and the Taliban by treating them as lawful combatants despite the fact that they as a group slaughter civilians (to include women and children) and generally execute any prisoners, wounded or not, that come into their hands. In short, they do not conform to the laws of land warfare, much less the Geneva Conventions, but must be accorded full benefits of the same or we are the bad guys. The fact that the aliens are taking no prisoners (and are clearly not signatories of the Geneva Conventions) is thus irrelevant and the staff sergeant's actions should not be sanctioned. That the enemy is barbaric is simply all the more reason for us to be steadfastly civilized, even if it means we lose and are annihilated not just as a culture, but a species. Of course the majority who take this opinion are quite happy that they themselves do not have to pay the price for this attitude (at least not right away as they enjoy their lives), but rather soldiers and Marines (who are expending their lives to ensure the bliss of those individuals).

There are a lot of other things that can be discussed about this film: the aliens' military intelligence for example. How did they determine their landing points? What is their level of technology? Did they really come from outside of our solar system (their approach to our planet does not seem to indicate they had access to faster than light engines), or from a planet inside our solar system? They appear to be true amphibians, able to work underwater without need of special gear, but also fully adapted to maneuvering on dry land. And clearly they were oxygen breathers and completely comfortable in a 1G gravity field and the atmospheric pressure, etc.

There is a lot I could go into in the strategic department, but I have already taken up too much space with this.

Still, I will say again that this is a film worth seeing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thoughts on Mankind and the Disasters in Japan

John Sickels, author of Prime Directive Federation, Prime Directive Romulans, and many short stories, wrote the following which highly impressed us. We asked him if we could reprint it for our readers and he agreed.

If you are anything like me, the ongoing disaster in Japan is consuming a lot of your attention. I have some friends and business contacts there, and while everyone I know is OK physically, the stress is palpable from half a world away. The impact of the earthquake and resultant tsunami itself is catastrophic and stretches the boundaries of normal imagination: thriving cities leveled, entire towns washed away, tens-of-thousands dead, incalculable physical, personal, and emotional suffering for the survivors. Then add on top of this the malfunctioning nuclear reactors, and you have one of the greatest disasters in human history.

Two particular themes come to mind for me this afternoon.

1. The bravery of the engineers and technicians at the reactor sites, right now fighting to prevent the worst from happening, at tremendous and possibly suicidal risk to their health if reports coming out about the radiation levels at the reactors are true. It reminds me of the FDNY and NYPD first-responders on 9/11, or the Soviet firefighters and technicians who gave their lives containing Chernobyl. This is mankind at our best.

2. The reminder of how small and vulnerable humanity really is in the face of the Universe. If you think about it, the entire disaster is a microcosm of Man vs. Nature. Nuclear power generation is perhaps mankind's greatest attempt to harness the Laws of Nature for his own benefit, yet that very Nature, through the earthquake and tsunami, proves in the end to be superior to our efforts. Look at the easy way natural forces can brush away our most sophisticated infrastructure and our best engineering, exposing us naked to the power of the universe, in both a metaphoric sense and a literal one.It is easy to come away from these thoughts with a sense of utter futility.

Every human life comes with a dose of misery, whether through a natural disaster, a man-made folly, or just random chance. Some of us are luckier than others and face easier trials, but in every life a trial will come in some form or another: an economic calamity, a sickness, an accident, a disabled child. Death will touch us all in some way. Often these trials seem without meaning or any hope of a positive resolution.

Yet when my thoughts focus too much on Point Two, I go back to Point One: mankind at his BEST, mankind showing courage in the face of fear and devastation and pain and loss. Mankind helping each other. In the end, I think that's all we can do: help each other, reduce each other's suffering in any way we can, and remembering each day that we really ARE all in this together, Japanese, American, Haitian, Libyan, Iraqi, Egyptian, Israeli, Palestinian, Russian, German, British, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani...all human, all just as vulnerable to pain and suffering as any other human, and also just as capable of acts of courage and love.

Tuesday, March 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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 March 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week to keep working on many projects. The weather was mild, touching the freezing point overnight but warm enough to take a pleasant walk most afternoons. The Spam storm remained AWOL, producing at most 79 on one day, usually about 50. The earthquake in Japan on the 11th was a shock to everyone.

New uploads to e23 included Captain's Log #2, the F&E Hurricane Scenario, and Federation Commander Orion Ship Card ePack #1.

Steve Cole worked on Starship Aldo (doing Deck B), Hydran Ship Card ePack #1, Andromedan Ship Card ePack #1, Lyran Ship Card ePack #1, ships for Transports Attacked, Communique #63, updated the ship request list for FC, ten pages of the FC Reference Scenario Book, the Romulan Border Revision 6 Rulebook, the reports on the F&E SIT for the ISC, helped Shannon Applecline compile the history of TFG (and ADB, and JagdPanther) for her book on the RPG industry, and formatted the exciting John Sickels story for Captain's Log #43. Steve started posting cryptic notes about yet another company wanting to make a deal to piggyback on our IP and contracts. Some of those work out, but most don't. These sound positive and promising.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #43 and Module C3A, and told Barry Kirk that we would have his proposed Omega tournament ships posted on the website.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and did research to support the deal conversations.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and got the bookbinder fixed. (Steve Cole, an engineer, had to come help get the gears un-keyed so the new chain would go in.)

Joel did website updates and posted Communique #63 and Hailing Frequencies on schedule on the 10th.

Jean is proofing ePacks and making progress on more RPG books.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Michael Sparks writes:

Looking to express your appreciation of the Star Fleet Universe? Need somewhere to send a gift-giver where you know you'll like what you get? Have to replace your mouse pad? Look no further! We have a storefront that sells all sorts of Star Fleet Universe designs on a variety of items. From buttons to mouse pads to t-shirts to hoodies, we've got them all! Klingons, Federation, Romulans, and the bad-boy Orion Pirates, each one has designs.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our newest designs featuring art from Xander, one of our hot artists.

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will try to set it up for you! Email me at: Support@starfleetgames.com

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Friday, March 11, 2011

From the Star Fleet Academy Exam, Part the Last

These are the final questions from the exam. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

Engineering: The disassembled pieces of an M-class starfreighter are under your desk. There are construction plans and specifications printed in ancient Lyran. Assemble the ship, register, and take the ship on its space trials. Insure that you use the proper Federation painting scheme before registry.

Economics: Develop a realistic plan for the economic domination of the Romulan Empire. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, warp theory, and phaser efficiency. Outline a method from all possible points of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

General Knowledge: Describe this in detail. Be objective and specific.

Politics: Using any arm of the military services, except Star Fleet, adapt a political means for dealing with a full-scale ISC invasion of Federation space. Include a complete list of all of your cabinet members and their dossiers.

Thursday, March 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, what's new on Cafe Press, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for FC players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Steven Petrick writes:

As I type this, this movie has not yet been released. By the time this is being read, the movie may have been released. The point is that I am typing this to input some thoughts based solely on what I have seen in the commercials.

One of the things that will need explaining is why nuclear weapons are not being used: why have the aliens not used them, and why our own side has not resorted to them. If the aliens are able to cross the void of space to begin an invasion of planet Earth, they must have nuclear capability. Maybe they even have weapons even more terrible but otherwise currently beyond out imagining. Why are they not employing these to further disrupt our ability to defend ourselves? While the aliens are launching their attacks against at least a dozen major coastal population centers on our planet, why are our own governments not using nuclear weapons against these initial lodgments? While their use would create massive civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure, it would ultimately be less than what the aliens are going to inflict if allowed to gain lodgments.

The nuclear option aside, if your battalion is being committed to this fight, one of the things you need to do is cull a cadre from it, and send it inland. This is going to be a long war (barring the nuclear option), and the enemy has significant technological advantages. You may have to trade multiple human lives to kill one alien (and you may be locked in ground combat with the alien landing force when a nuclear weapon is used with little or no warning). So send a cadre in land to train new troops.

Any civilians you come across who can be turned into soldiers, well, they are going to be. At best, this is going to be a "war of attrition." We have a planet with a population of several billions; they have a hopefully finite number of personnel they have transported to our planet. We might have to trade 10, 20, or a hundred (or even more) of our own to kill one of them (not a math we desire, but a math that may be necessary to "win"), but if they only have a hundred thousand troops, they will not be able to sustain the losses. We have to work on the theory that their numbers are limited due to the distances they had to cross just to get here. If they can bring their own planetary population to bear combined with their superior technology . . . then it is game over; we are done. So we have to believe their manpower is drastically more limited than ours, do what we can to minimize our losses, but we must inflict loss on them.

For American troops, this war will take some mental adjustment. We are utterly unprepared, mentally, to have an enemy that can contest control of the skies with us. Movement under threat of air attack, not to mention no doubt superior night vision capabilities and satellite reconnaissance capabilities, plus the loss of our own satellite systems (to include GPS) will put major handicaps on our operations. This will require time to adjust.

Another thing will be our vulnerability to chemical and biological warfare. It is almost certain that the invaders will examine us to find means to exploit that. Their own ground troops, fully encased in battle armor, will be effectively immune to such weapons on our own part.

Tactically, it would appear the best option is a mix of close ambush with our most skilled riflemen using high-powered armor piercing munitions. The close ambush is distraction, keep an enemy squad focused on the near threat, while the riflemen pick them off from better fire angles. The enemy seems to have "energy-weapons," so it is possible they will not have acoustic detectors and thus not be able to determine where effective long-range fire is coming from, especially when engaged close. We will have to give ground, and lure the aliens into pre-selected kill zones. We will have to fight short intense squad level actions, no more than a minute or two before disengaging, or they will be able to call in the heavy stuff or cut our retreat.

You need to have officers coordinate with the local police forces, and move the medical staffs out of fixed hospitals (they are going to need to take care of your casualties) and take control of any organized bodies of personnel, even if they are not normally combat troops (e.g., fire departments). You need to arm them (take control of any place that sells guns and munitions) and feed them (take control of any extant food supplies in shopping centers and malls) through the early part of the emergency. Find sources of water and places where you can store water. ("When it comes to slaughter, you will do your work on water.") Fixed sites will eventually be destroyed by the enemy. Use the police and your officers to try to rally the drug gangs as you need the troops and we are all in this together. They may fight for their neighborhoods (their "turf") as an entry (when pushed out of their neighborhoods, they may rally to the cause). You need to make them understand they cannot set up in a building and defy the enemy as they are not fighting "cops." (Cops cannot call in smart bombs to destroy a building like the military can, and the aliens will have no compunction not to destroy an entire city block to kill a few gun men like the U.S. military would.) Inflict loss on the enemy, and back up before you are pinned down and destroyed by their superior firepower. Drug gangs may know their own turf well enough to conduct more of a guerrilla campaign for at least a little while (shoot and move, shoot and move).

It should be obvious that anyone who says "no" will be told: "Martial law" is in effect until the emergency is past. You may record your objections and present them to a court at that time."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I hear lots of commercials saying you should buy gold, and I would have to agree (to a very minor point) that having a couple of gold coins in the bottom of your sock drawer might be worth having for a rainy (post-depression) day. However, I hear people whom I respect saying that gold is on a bubble that will burst and that buying gold now is a really awful idea. Over the last five or ten years, gold was a swell investment, but over the last 50 years, it was pretty awful. That said, let me give you some advice (which is worth what you're paying for it). Buy bullion gold, not collector gold. (Pre-1932 double eagles are sold at "collector prices" which go up and down much faster than the gold price.) If you must buy gold coins, buy American Eagles or Krugerands or Maple Leafs (which trade at the spot gold price), not Austrian or Chinese or other foreign coins (which trade at a discount of 3% or more). But really, if you're buying it for post-depression investing, you'd do better to pay off your house. If you're buying gold for post-apocalypse investing, you're better off to buy ammunition (of common calibers, such as 22LR, 38 special, 45acp, 9mm, 223, or 762x39). After that asteroid hits or something else makes society collapse, nobody is going to trade you a sack of potatoes for a shiny gold coin, but somebody will trade you potatoes for ammunition that fits his gun. I'm just saying.

2. Something that applies in a lot of situations is the concept of "It is not about THIS time. It is about NEXT time." This explains why military forces are willing to get several people killed to rescue one downed pilot. (If every pilot knows what nobody will come after you if you are shot down, nobody wants to fly.)

3. The closest human relative (species) alive today in not the chimpanzee but the bonobo. Notice that I didn't try to convince anyone which is descended from which.

4. I was very upset by a recent episode of Hawaii Five-O. First, Steve & Danno call the governor (tricking her into thinking it's official business) to horn in on a federal investigation for personal reasons (the FBI is investigating Danno's stock broker brother). Then, despite being warned that doing so is a felony, Danno tells his ex-wife and then his brother about the investigation. The brother had been trying to work a deal to launder drug money in order to make enough profit to cover what he stole from his hedge fund, but (warned by Danno) he walks out of the deal (ruining an FBI sting and a chance to disrupt a major drug cartel). Danno's brother then steals the rest of the money from his hedge fund (so his victims won't get anything back, instead of getting half of it), and flees the country. Steve lies to the FBI and sends them on a wild goose chase to another part of the island, allowing Danno to go after his brother (presumably thinking that Danno would bring him in). The brother tells Danno "shoot me or watch me leave" and gets on a Gulfstream. Danno, unable to shoot his own brother, does nothing (when he could have shot the tire of the plane's nosewheel, stopping his brother from leaving, and then arresting him). To my mind, the FBI is now conducting a secret investigation of Five-O that is going to destroy the task force (and the governor) and get Steve & Danno sent to prison, and frankly, they deserve to go.

5. I watch all of the CSI shows, and I have to ask: why are crime lab technicians (and the head of the crime lab) smashing through doors, serving warrants, and arresting bad guys? Ok, I know that Hollywood wants the high paid actors to be the heroes, but this is just stupid. CSIs have jobs to do in the lab, and are hardly up to full speed on serving felony warrants.

6. Crucifixion is a nasty way to die, but few really understand how it works. (There are a lot of ways to do it, but most work more or less the same.) With your arms elevated, you cannot breath out naturally, but have to force yourself to exhale. When you get tired of that, you push up with your legs into a position where you can breath naturally, but your legs get tired and sore, so you sag back down. After a few hours, you're too exhausted to do either, and you suffocate.

I am going to stop here to keep these all about the same length.

Monday, March 07, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 27 February - 5 March 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on many projects. The weather was mild, touching freezing each night but reaching the 60Fs in the afternoons. The Spam storm, blocked by the new filters, continued to run at the astonishingly turgid rate of about 65 per day.

New uploads to e23 included Captain's Log #1, GURPS KLINGONS, and Romulan Ship Card ePack #1. KLINGONS PD20M was uploaded on DriveThru RPG.

Steve Cole worked on a multitude of projects, including blogs, submitting the Origins events, a few pages of CL#43, the scenario for Communique #63 (finishing that, it was sent to the staff), did reports for Orion Ship Card ePack #1 (it lacks only Jean's report, did an F5L Ship Card as a customer request, which came in after the reporting period for this blog), finished the Hydran Ship Card ePack #1 and sent it to the staff, did about a fourth of Starship Aldo, did three ships (T7, T6, KRT) for Transports Attacked, and calculated (with SPP's help) some factors for the F&E guys.

Steven Petrick worked on C3A and CL#43, and convinced SVC to go on several 30-minute walks.

Jason Siadek from Gorilla Games stopped by during a trip in order to discuss the Battlestations deal.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and reported that February PDF sales exceeded $2200.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Joel did website updates, created an art gallery for Richard Smith, and helped Mike in the warehouse.

Jean is working on Romulans PD20M and evaluating proposals from writers for the next game system to add.

Sunday, March 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.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I saw the movie IRON MAN the other night on Tivo. It was a fun romp. The "defense contractor selling to the enemy" as pure Hollywood nonsense. ("We Hollywood Elites hate the military-industrial complex and will make up any lie we can to make them look bad.") The idea that "Some of the weapons my company made were used by the enemy against us so I'm going to stop making weapons" was just stupid. Weapons get captured or stolen all of the time. It's not cool, but this is not a perfect world.

2. Steven Petrick asked me why, as a citizen and voter, he has no legal standing to ask for proof that Barak Obama was constitutionally qualified to be president (i.e., that he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya). I had no answer for him, but the courts have said that this is so.

3. I see on TV crime shows a lot of people on anti-psychotic drugs who quit taking them because they made them feel "dull" and committed violent crimes. I am just curious as to what percentage of people prescribed (or ordered to take these drugs) do this? Is this just a minor issue, or a big one?

4. Many years ago, back when I was still running FYEO (a military newsletter), I came up with an idea to make a thing that fit into a TOW missile launcher but had in it three 70mm air-to-ground rockets. (Making them fit required an expensive thin heat-resistant plate between the thinnest point of the three mini-tubes). My theory was to give these to Bradleys so they would have some high-explosive artillery. I found nobody in the military who was even vaguely interested. Nowadays, they might be more useful in the conditions we are fighting in (Iraq and Afghanistan) where enemy armor isn't on the battlefield and the TOW launchers on Bradley's are pretty useless. I also note that the Marines (and others) have developed guided versions of the venerable 70mm rockets (APKWS II) which would perhaps give the vehicle the high explosive firepower it always wanted. While we're on the subject, I wonder if you could not make a similar "spacer" that would load four 40mm grenades into a TOW launcher?

5. Did anybody notice that the only Republicans on the Bipartisan Debt Commission were the very few Republicans who had previously said they wanted to raise taxes? Most Republicans want to leave taxes alone and cut spending. How come none of them were appointed to the Commission? For that matter, why has the Commission report been forgotten?

6. I am not in the business of giving financial advice, but I would have to say that if you're buying those television-advertised sets of current coins (presidents, states) in un-circulated condition (perhaps with platinum or gold coatings, or painted pretty colors) thinking that these are an investment, you're doing it wrong. They have no collector value (unless you sell them to your dim-witted neighbor just before you move), and coin dealers (let alone precious metal dealers) won't buy them from you. (No, I have never bought any of them, but I know enough coin and metal dealers to know that these "coin sets" are a horrendously bad investment. If you want to pay for them so you can look at them, swell, but if you think that someday you're going to sell them for more than you paid for them, I'd suggest you call a local coin or metal dealer and ask them what they will pay for them.

7. Lots of thought, discussion, and movies have gone into the idea of a major hunk of rock detected on a collision course with Earth. Most of these scientific analysis programs solemnly report that using a nuclear weapon would be a bad idea, since it won't vaporize the rock, and that a bunch of small rocks could do more damage than one big one. Well, it depends. We don't need to vaporize the thing, just kick it off course. I'm also not sure that a few fragments (even those big enough to be city killers) are not better than an extinction-level impact.

I am going to stop here rather than going for ten thoughts since some of the ones I have written are kinda long.

Friday, March 04, 2011

From the Star Fleet Academy Exam, Part 3

The whole thing is rather long, so I'll pull some questions each week until you have the whole thing. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

Psychology: Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rhameses II, J'hrai the Bzornian, and Saurek. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the genocide of all known life forms. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Philosophy: Sketch the development of Vulcan thought and estimate its significance. Compare it with the development of engineering theory of Earth's 12th century.

Strategy and Tactics: Describe a method of infiltrating a single PF flotilla into the heart of Klingon space and rendering a B10 and all of its escorts inoperable. You may plan for a single escort for your flotilla, but no tender is available.

We'll wrap this up next week!

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, March 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.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Steve Cole comments:

I am going to try to do this as a straight analysis, and show both sides. There is a LOT going on, and it will change America in profound ways. What's happening in Wisconsin (and other states) is just the first row of robots to march off the cliff. All of the states are in the same financial mess; it's just a matter of degree. Some states are closer to the edge of the cliff than others. The current recession and the impending massive bills for the new health care law have just turned "getting close to the edge of the cliff" into "standing on the edge of the cliff."

States are in financial trouble for numerous reasons, but all of it comes down to spending too much money compared to income, and making promises that have proven hard to keep. Starting continuous spending programs in good times turns into programs too expensive to sustain during bad times. Kicking the can down the road has been going on for decades and that can is going to explode one day, and guess what, for some states, that day is today.

It's great to spend money to make people have better lives. It's tricky when you are spending money you don't have, or take on obligations you cannot pay. If the situation is one-time (buying a new house) or temporary (a period of unemployment or illness) then you can make it work. If it's a matter of "continuous spending even for worthy reasons" then you get into trouble. Every year, you borrow money to pay your bills and support your lifestyle, and sooner or later something breaks. Maybe you cannot borrow any more money, and/or have a sudden drop in income or increase in expenses, or the cost of interest exceeds money you can get your hands on. In any case, deficit spending for more than a few years is simply not sustainable. Sooner or later, you cannot pay the money you owe. Raising taxes is no longer an option, as taxes are so high that businesses are fleeing high-tax states while liberals decry "tax breaks for business" and pretend that such things have no real impact on creating new jobs.

States are in trouble for numeorus reasons, and all of those reasons add up. Providing more services is widely supported so let's just let that one pass. That leaves the three strikes:

1. Government employee unions. Collective bargaining with people (legislators) who don't actually have to pay the money is never going to end well. (Private sector unions bargaining with ownership that is taking the money out of their own profit to pay the demands is very different.) Not to put too fine a point on it, public employee unions bargain with Democrat-controlled legislatures for more money, then kick back support (contributions, rent-a-crowds, and campaign tactics of dubious legality) to those same Democrats. You may not want to hear that (or want anyone to say that) but it is true. There is no "fundamental right" to public employee unions; even labor icons President FDR and AFL-CIO President George Meany said so.

2. Cost of Medicaid: It is nice to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves but it is very expensive. The new health care law is making that MUCH more expensive, in some states doubling the cost. Those states that held Medicaid to minimum levels are now facing massive unfunded mandates to spend a lot more and bring millions of new people onto the rolls.

3. Illegal aliens, who consume services (often without paying taxes if they live on the cash economy) and fill jails and so forth. This varies from state to state and by itself isn't that much, but some states are demanding that the Feds pay for illegal alien healthcare and illegal aliens in jail because the Feds won't control the borders. (THAT failure is the part of BOTH parties. The new Tea Party holds controlling the border as an article of faith, further proof that the Tea Party is not a wing of the Republicans, but a force very different from them.)

One way to balance state budgets is to put an end to government employee unions bargaining for more money, or at least requiring a referendum of the voters (the people paying the bills) to approve increases. This varies state to state, but we've all seen the reports of unionized government employees retiring at full pay at age 50, getting free healthcare for life, getting "defined benefit" retirements (you get what you want no matter what it costs the state and no matter what the stock market is doing), and other things. The government employee unions also bargain for "working conditions" that translate into higher costs. (Teachers unions demanded that class size be cut from 32 to 23 students so they could teach better, but this also means more teachers on the payroll. By the way, test scores have steadily declined. Get rid of teacher union collective bargaining and a school board can decide that 32 is not that bad, fire a lot of teachers and administrators, and save a ton of money. Even better, school boards should be able to fire incompetent teachers, but unions make this an expensive multi-year court battle.) What's happening in Wisconsin is multifold and complex. The governor's plan (which the voters knew they were voting for) is to break the union. (That IS his plan and the voters DID know, whether you think it's a good plan or an evil plan.) One element is a 10% pay cut, disguised as making them pay for their healthcare and retirement like most of us do. One part is to end collective bargaining meaning that every city, county, and school board can set whatever work rules and whatever number of jobs, number of hours, retirement age and benefits, and health benefits they want to, without the unions forcing them to pay more and more. (A few such entities, controlled by Democrats, have loudly announced that they do not want this new freedom.) Say what you want, but Wisconsin teachers are better paid than any other teachers and way better than the official US average of all people. The governor also wants to end "payroll deduction for union dues" which means a lot of people will stop (voluntarily) paying those dues. The unions say the governor won't sit down and discuss things (but those same unions have refused to discuss anything with anyone for years, and have said they would rather than the governor lay off tens of thousands of union workers than cut union power) and that he's pushing this through too fast. (He allowed two weeks of debate and hours of hearings, while the previous Democrat-controlled legislature pushed through massive tax hikes in one day with no hearings.)

What's really going on (for good or evil) is a war for control over the entire nation. The Democratic Party would be seriously hurt if public employee unions lost members and money and clout. If what is happening in Wisconsin happens two dozen more times, you can expect the Republicans to dominate things for the next 20 years. (Some of you think that's awful, and some of you think it's peachy. Some of you will, now that you understand this, think that it's the right/wrong thing being done for the right/wrong reason.) I hope you now understand why this is such a battle. My joke about teacher's unions breaking into National Guard armories and driving the tanks onto the capital lawn doesn't seem quite so far fetched as it did last week.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Steve Cole reports on the company's plans for the next few months.


Looking at the schedule, I'm excited by what we're going to be doing and terrified at how much work there is. With good people helping me, however, we'll get it done. While this does add up to an impressive TEN major products, one of them is already finished, another is being done by a reliable outside contractor, and major elements of several others are already finished. Few game companies will produce five major products in an entire YEAR! Before I even get to the ten major products, however, I have to mention two other projects.


During January, we released the Revision 6 edition of the Federation Commander Reference Rulebook. That has triggered a series of work projects. As we run out of each Fed Commander product, I am told by Leanna to drop everything and get the rulebook for that product updated. This doesn't take a lot of brain power, but it does take a bit of busy work. I have to open a copy of that rulebook, and start replacing chunks of it with things from Reference Rulebook Revision Six. The task is simple (takes an hour or two per product) and I have already done Klingon Border and War & Peace. (One challenge in W&P was that it got half a page longer, so two pages are now in a slightly smaller type size, but still larger than SFB products.) These projects can get mentally confusing as the Revision Five copy of any given product and the Revision Six copy of the Reference Rulebook often look almost identical, and if I get interrupted in the middle of a book, I can find myself accidentally reversing the processing, copying Revision Five stuff backward into Revision Six. To avoid this, I have added huge "just off the page" colored markers to the Revision Six book so that I know which one I am looking at. I also decided to add the "star that marks changes" to the sidebars so that everyone can instantly tell what's revision six. As I write these words, Leanna is asking me for the Revision Six version of Romulan Border.


One "design project" that I just finished on Monday the 28th of February isn't really a product, but is about the same kind of "thinking work," that being the Origins event submissions for 2011. I have to coordinate what is being done for F&E, SFB, FC, GPD, and other events, games, and seminars. It's sort of like herding cats to get all of the various judges to get their information to me, but they've all done it so many times that the only real challenge is when one of them is out of town for a couple of days and doesn't get the email. It did not help that GAMA gave us the wrong date for the submission forms and then they all stopped answering their email because they're all so busy with their other convention (the GAMA Trade Show) making me wonder why the event submissions deadline for Origins is at a time when they're too busy to deal with it anyway. No matter; it's done.


March will see the release of two much-expected products, both of which are unique in their own way.

Star Fleet Battles Module C3A: Andromedan Threat File is a book of alternate rules and ships for the Andromedans, being compiled by Steven Petrick from many submissions and suggestions and a lot of his own ideas. The story is that this book compiles all of the incorrect guesses about what the Andromedans had or were about to create. As a product, it's challenging because three weeks from publication the contents list is still unfinished. Some things he's been working on for years just aren't working and will be dropped, while some other relatively new ideas are working and will be incorporated.

Federation Admiral is a campaign system done by Jay Waschak and his crew from Victory By Any Means. He's done campaign books for many games by many companies. I'm handling the page layout for this book because it's very tedious to get it converted from his file formats into ours, but I have to say that I really don't understand most of what he's doing. Fortunately, I don't have to, as I just have to send each chapter back to him as I finish it. This is, for me, a relatively simple project. Game designers learn to be graphic artists and page layout technicians more or less as a byproduct of their jobs, so this kind of project is actually relaxing.


The April release is the one I am most excited about: Star Fleet Marines: Assault. This is the first of a new product line, showcasing the ground combat aspects of the universe. Transporters, armored vehicles, ambushes, and lots more are included. The game rules are done, the countersheets are printed, and all I have to do is the scenarios and the map graphics. Being a ground combat guy in my military life, and a major player of the Panzerblitz game system, I've long wanted to see how ground combat works in the SFU.


May will see two major products, one of which is already finished and the other of which is the project we have the least amount of trouble with.

GURPS Federation: This is the fourth book in our series of licensed RPGs using the GURPS game engine. This covers the United Federation of Planets. We cleverly do one (never published) book and then insert the data for each game system. The PD20M version of Federation has been on the market for months, and Steve Jackson has now approved the GURPS version. A major focus of the book is how colonies are found, surveyed, started, and grown into member planets. The book includes complete surveys of all of the Federation's member planets and surveys or notes on dozens of other planets. It also includes the deck plans for Star Fleet's Burke-class frigate, data on new weapons (such as the "phaser-Uzi"), new species (the ugly and doomed Fralli, the mysterious galactic rockhound Prellarians, the beautiful and seductive Deians, and the four-armed Breccons), and much more! I love this book because it is already 100% finished and won't get in the way of work on other projects, and yet it will be a major best seller.

Captain's Log #43 will be the next issue in our best-selling product series. These products are basically a gigantic fill-in-the-blank puzzle. We currently plan to fill in the fiction blank with a story that takes place at the same time as a classic Trek episode (and explains some mysteries nobody ever understood). We will fill in the blanks for FC ships and scenarios, SFB ships and scenarios, and all of the other blanks. Much of the work on this project is already well in hand.


The next product at that point is Starship Aldo. This is a little sixteen-page book for Free RPG Day. We'll print six hundred copies and send them to Aldo at Impressions Marketing. (Dozens of other companies will do the same thing, each printing a new book to be given away free.) Aldo will then put one copy of each book into each of 600 boxes, and send them to the top 600 game stores. Those stores will have posters advertising Free RPG Day and, on that day, gamers will arrive and scramble to grab up the free RPG books. Starship Aldo (following last year's Dread Pirate Aldo and the earlier Planet Aldo) is designed to use both GURPS and PD20M. Your starship finds a wrecked piece of a starship, decades old. The paint on the side is burned, but you can make out the letters "aldo" but you do not know if this ship is the freighter Geraldo Rivera, the auxiliary warship Aguinaldo, or the luxury cruise ship Waldorf Astoria. Finding out is only the first mystery you have to solve. Hard copy and PDF copies of Starship Aldo will be released for sale after Free RPG Day is over for those who don't have a participating store nearby. The six-man team sent to investigate the ship is based on the six real people who played the Terrorwerks game at Origins in 2010.


Origins promises to be a major blowout, with four major releases for as many different game systems.

Federation Commander: Transports Attacked: The next module in the FC game system covers tugs and light transports. Scenarios cover the battles they get into. This was what we did with the cards not used in the canceled Booster #94 and #95 releases. Releasing them in this format means that we'll sell enough copies to justify printing them. This should be a fairly simple product to do. I just have to finish one card per week, and we're getting plenty of scenarios. (Maybe somebody will write a fiction story?) We won't even need counters since those were already in Hydran Attack.

Federation & Empire: ISC WAR: The long-awaited expansion to F&E which brings in the first new empire in two decades. This will have extensive history and scenarios. We have just completed the Ship Information Table for this product. The rules are done, and the massive historical peacekeeping scenario is almost done. (The non-historical scenarios will all base off of the same Order of Battle and will be easy to do.)

Star Fleet Battles Module E3: Borak Star League: This "E-module" was done by one of our fans (Jeremy Gray, who in his spare time commands a US Navy destroyer) and describes a new empire (beyond the Lyrans and Hydrans). The Borak were wiped out before they could become a threat, but what a threat they might have been!

Distant Armada, the fourth book in our Starmada series, covering the Hydrans, Lyrans, and WYNs, is being done by Daniel Kast. Daniel does such incredibly good work that it's no panic adding this to the schedule, as the total work it will take me is about one day of page layout.


Remember that the 10 major products listed above are just the MAJOR products for the next four months. During that time, we will also do four issues of Hailing Frequencies, four of Communique, and a dozen Star Fleet Alerts. We will also upload three more RPG books to e23 and three more to DriveThru. We will also upload sixteen old issues of Captain's Log and a dozen or more ePacks of FC ship cards to e23. All of that in addition to answering emails, managing the BBS, and running the company. Sadly, I've already had to start telling a few people to "hold that thought" until Origins is over, and I'll be doing more and more of that over the next 16 weeks.


I suppose I should say something about the fall, but frankly, I won't have those plans even penciled in before May.