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Friday, September 30, 2011


o your shuttlecraft has been up on blocks for over a month.
o he paints flames and an NRA sticker on the warp nacelles.
o you have a shuttle called "Billy Joe Bob".
o he refers to Klingons as "Critters".
o he refers to Romulans as "Yankees".
o he refers to Photon Torpedoes as "Popguns".
o he has the sensor array repaired with a bent coathanger and aluminum foil.
o he installs a set of bullhorns on the front of the saucer section.
o he says "Got your ears on, good buddy" instead of "open hailing frequencies".
o he hangs fuzzy dice over the viewscreen.
o he rewires his communicator into his belt buckle, along with his tricorder and his pocket knife.
o he keeps a six-pack under his command chair and a gun rack above it.
o he says "Yee-Ha!" instead of "Engage".
o he has a hand-tooled holster for his phaser.
o he insists on calling his executive officer "Bubba".
o he sets the forward viewscreen to reruns of "Bassmaster".
o he programs the food replicator for beer, ribs, and turnip greens.
o he paints the starship John Deere green.
o he stocks catfish in the ship's pool.
o he spends every Tuesday evening in the ship's bowling alley.
o he refers to a Pulsar as a "Blue Light Special".
o he refers to the Mubarsa Nebula as a "swamp".
o his moonshine is stronger than Romulan Ale.
o the spare seat on the bridge has his cowboy hat in it, and no one, absolutely no one, would dream of sitting on it by accident.
o he sings "Lucille" instead of "Kathleen".
o his idea of a dress uniform is CLEAN bib overalls.
o he wears mirrored shades on the Bridge.
o his idea of a "gas giant" is that big ol' XO Bubba.
o he sets the phasers to "Cajun".

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Praise of Our Volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Commander is Everything

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Combat leadership takes a special kind of character. You are going (if the proverbial balloon goes up and you are leading troops in a combat zone) to be making choices and decisions on which the lives of other men are affected. Good choice will keep most of them alive, generally. Bad choices will kill the men, and if you have any kind of a conscience at all, will haunt you for the remainder of your days. (Truth to tell, even the good decisions will haunt you if one or more of your men pay a price.)

The thing is, you have to realize that your own person can be a tool.

SVC ran a war game exercise one time, in which a tank battalion commander in Vietnam suddenly found himself leading a task force composed of elements of his own battalion and a badly shot up rifle battalion. The background said it was TET, and the combined force needed to fight its way back to a firebase.

As part of the exercise, the tank battalion commander dismounted from his command tank, and walked back to the firebase. In essence, he assumed the role of an infantry battalion commander. He saw it as necessary to help encourage the soldiers of the infantry battalion. Their own command had been, essentially, wiped out, and the tank battalion commander wanted to "share the danger" with them.

Sure, he was on the road and more or less surrounded by armored vehicles (a slowly moving box formation while the infantry companies kept pace in the jungle keeping the enemy from getting at the softer skinned vehicles carrying the wounded). He was not, however, safely "buttoned up" inside a command tank, and as long as he was on the road, the infantry could be sure the tanks were not suddenly going to accelerate and leave them behind.

Did this actually have an effect? Morale is a difficult thing to divine. In the end, the battalion commander personally led the infantry in the final assault that opened the road to the safety of the firebase. Again, as worn as the infantry was, the commander had decided that his personal example in taking that risk was needed.

This was, after all, just a simulation. Yet even though he was not aware of it, the commander essentially emulated a division commander on D-day. When the troops were pinned down and things looked bleak, the man came to the beach himself and succeeded in inspiring the men to continue fighting. When the time came to make a breach, and the first man who volunteered to make the attempt was killed, the General personally charged into the enemy's defense, inspiring his soldiers to follow him and creating the breach that enabled the division to begin moving off the beach.

When you are in command, everything you do, the image your men have of you, is part of what you are.

Even in the simulation, the tank battalion commander was partly able to accomplish his leadership task because he had been in command long enough that even the soldiers of the infantry battalions knew who he was. His established character and willingness to share their dangers was part of what made the battle a success, even if it was a desperate retreat, rather than a desperate fight to get off of a beach in Normandy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 September 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, as the Steves worked on new products and the production team printed more books and shipped orders. The weather this week was much nicer, even dropping into the 50Fs for part of one day and the 60Fs most mornings; it rarely exceeded 80F. The spam storm mostly remained below 200 per day.

Nothing new appeared on e23 this week but Steve Cole did finish LDR Ship Pack #1 and it will be released next week.

Steve Cole's week was dominated by working on Mongoose projects, checking new ships, product packaging, and their rules. Lots of new ships showed up this week, and a lot of work was done on ships Sandrine started earlier (Klingon C8, F5, D7; Fed CC, NCA, NCL, DW, CF; Rom SPH, Snipe). We saw the first scale-test images for the Condor, SkyHawk, and BattleHawk. Steve also wrote the Klingon background for the Mongoose rulebook, but has yet to do the background for the other empires. Steve was very pleased that when Mongoose went home for the weekend he got to do four pages of Fed Admiral, all of Communique #70, wrote four reserve blogs for Jean, and he did another hour of work on a customer request project that will take several hours to accomplish.

Steven Petrick worked mostly on the Borak, getting their SSDs fixed and ready for publication. This is very tedious and frustrating for him. The files are unstable because Jeremy Gray did them in a program we don't use on a computer we don't use, and translating them into MAC files was, well, less than clean. The result is that there are a zillion little invisible land mines in the files, and if Steven bumps into one while fixing things (like turning A HULL into R HULL), it crashes (and destroys) the file and he loses all of the work he did on it. (One of the landmines causes it to, randomly, announce "out of memory, cannot undo." He closes the file without saving but the file is just a sheet of static-pixels when he re-opens it. Steven Petrick also spent an hour or more per day checking Mongoose ships, answered rules questions, kept an eye on the two online tournaments, and other things.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. Mike is more productive now because he can run the cutter himself, and having Mike do the mail run gives Steven Petrick an extra half hour per day.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook, proofread a few pages, and did some marketing.

The new shipment of F&E boxes arrived so that game is back in stock. They are identical to the previous boxes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


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

1. BLACKGUARD, a low-class vicious criminal, was originally (and humorously) the black guard, the part of a noble's retinue that included the cooks and cleaning people, who were usually pretty dingy and very non-military.

2. BLACKMAIL, extortion demanded for keeping an embarrassing secret, was originally the Scottish term for "rent paid in agricultural products" as opposed to "rent paid with silver" which was white mail. (Mail was the Scottish word for rent.) Remote farms had to pay the local robber chieftain protection money, and paid it in animals or grain.

3. BLIZZARD, a major snowstorm, was originally an American word meaning a stunning blow with the fist. (Where that came from is anybody's guess.) An Iowa newspaper editor first used it to describe a snowstorm in 1870, and he used it frequently thereafter, while other newspapers picked it up. (It was common for newspaper editors to swap subscriptions back in the days before mass media.) A series of storms in 1880 affected much of the US and newspapers all over used the term blizzard to describe them.

4. BLURB, a short descriptive paragraph about a new product or event or other news, originated in 1907. It was the custom for publishers of a new book to throw a party for the press, and give each of them a free copy. It was the custom that these free copies had different dust jackets from the regular production books, including information a reviewer would need (what we now call a blurb). It was the custom for these special dust jackets to always have a picture of a girl (a girl who almost always had nothing to do with the book). One publisher named the girl on one of these covers (of the humorous book Are You a Bromide?) Miss Belinda Blurb (a name the author made up). The name "blurb" instantly became the term used for the descriptive information provided about a new product.

5. BOGUS, a crude word for counterfeit or sham, was first used in an Ohio newspaper in 1827 to describe a machine used to make counterfeit coins. The term quickly came to be used for all counterfeit coins and shortly thereafter for any counterfeit product.

6. BOMBAST, surplus language used to inflate the importance of something being described, comes from the Latin word for cotton: bombax. Cotton padding worn under armor was bombase (in French) and by the time of Henry VIII such cotton padding was used without the armor to make men look bigger, stronger, or more broad-shouldered. Something that had been padded was bombast (the French past-tense version of bombase).

7. BONFIRE, a large blaze created for a celebration, was originally bone-fire, the day in summer when all of the leftover bones from animals slaughtered all year by an English or Scottish village were gathered into a pile and burned just to get rid of them. The practice goes back a couple of thousand years, and had become an excuse for a big summer party (usually on the longest day of the year). In Christian times, it was moved to 24 June (the eve of Saint John's Day) to avoid Church criticism that it was a pagan event.

8. BOOK, a bound manuscript, comes from the old English work boc, which was the bark of the beech tree. That bark was used to make paper in olden times.

9. BOULEVARD, a wide street often with lots of retail stores, comes from the identical French word, which meant bulwark. At one point, the French decided that the ancient city walls were obsolete in modern warfare, and converted this wall (which was not a stone wall like a castle, but was made of packed soil and was wide and high) into a wide promenade-street lined with new shops and stores.

10. BOYCOTT, to shun and refuse to do business with, is the name of Captain Charles Boycott, who managed the Irish estates of the Earl of Erne. In 1879, years of bad crops had made it impossible for tenant farmers all over Ireland to pay years of back rent. The absentee landlords told their managers (including Captain Boycott) to evict the peasants and lease the land to those who could pay. Charles Parnell had formed a Land League to demand that Parliament prevent the evictions, and he suggested that everyone should refuse to do business with any landowner who evicted peasants or any peasant who took over such land. Captain Boycott had the historical misfortune to be the first target of such an action. Peasants stole his mail, broke down his fences, convinced his servants to resign, prevented vendors from delivering food to his home, and harassed him on the streets. Within a few weeks, the term boycott was used for the actions first taken against Captain Boycott.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Join Us on Facebook!

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!

Friday, September 23, 2011


1. If you didn't put the drones in the scatter-pack, where did you put them?

2. You loaded the photons with WHAT, instead of anti-matter?

3. Why is the cook leading the Marines?

4. You did what to the warp engines?

5. If the pilots are still on the ship, who is flying the fighters?

6. What do you mean "he went to the bathroom"?

7. If you're not using the UIM to aim the disruptors, then what are you using it for?

8. What do you mean "you're not sure" whether you launched the real or the pseudo plasma torpedoes?

9. You're using the stasis field generator to keep the vegetables fresh?

10. You're using one of the seeking weapons control channels to steal pay TV ?

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Habit of Victory Can Lead to Defeat

This is Steven Petrick posting.

My father taught me to play chess. He taught me what I regard as the right way: He never let me win. I suffered defeat after defeat, threw fits (I was between six and eight during this period), but always came back for more. He taught my older brother the same way. The result was that one day, I won a game. After a while of more playing, I started winning more consistently. I was probably (actually, the truth is that I simply was) by the time I was 10 or 11 the best chess player of the three of us (Mom and my younger brother had no interest).

Winning at chess in my family simply became, after a while, a habit. Playing people outside of my family was more of a challenge because they were "unknown" to me. I was, however, pretty good (not perfect, i.e., I could not always beat someone I had never played before, and there were players who could routinely beat me). But at home, on my own ground against my father or my brother, I would win.

A sort of complacency set in (habit).

One day I sat down to play my brother, and he began to play just about the worst game he ever had. I became more involved in taking his pieces and pawns than actually playing the game. He was playing badly, I always beat him anyway, so what could go wrong.

Turned out, my brother had a plan, and my "habit of victory" caused me to walk right into his plan with my eyes wide open. Mike offered me pieces and pawns on the flanks, and drew my attention away from the center to capitalize on these easy kills without really looking at what was going on. I would win after all, I always won.

Then my brother announced "checkmate."

I was stunned. My brother's pawn structure had been crushed, most, but not all, of his pieces had been eliminated, I had lost little of my own forces, but I had absolutely no way of getting out of check.

It was certainly a lesson I should have been aware of. History is full of commanders who were certain of victory, even victory over forces they had beaten several times before, only to have an unexpected change, whether a new tactic (as happened in my case), or a new technology, or change in enemy commanders, or simply an unfamiliarity with a significant terrain feature, cause catastrophic defeat.

The habit of victory is useful to an Army. Wellington's troops in the peninsula campaign won at least one battle simply because the habit of victory carried them past the point where they were defeated.

No commander, however, should ever succumb to the habit of victory. Each and every battle should be judged on its own merits. Just because you have beaten the enemy before, whether the same enemy or a different enemy, does not mean they have not come up with a new wrinkle to pull on you today.

Not even numbers ensures victory (as the Romans learned at Cannae).

You should not fear disaster and worse take council of your fears (as McClellan so often did), but you must treat every battle as an event for its own sake, and make certain you do all you can to gain victory, never simply assume it will be yours because "we have always won before."

The habit of victory can lead to sloth (not fully preparing for the battle), blindness (failing to see what has changed since your last battle), paralysis (not being able to adapt to an unexpected enemy action), and disaster (Charles XII, the Great, of Sweden lost one battle to Peter the Great of Russia, and despite all his previous victories that one destroyed his Army and nullified all of his previous victories, Sweden never really recovered from it).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 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!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 September 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, with the design team working on Captain's Log #44, Starline 2500, Star Fleet Marines, and Module E3 while the production team kept up with the steady stream of orders. The boys in the office played the game DUST on Wednesday, as they try to have a game night every two weeks.

The weather this week was much nicer, in the 70s except for Thursday, when it was in the 50s all day and rained. We needed the rain, being 75% behind a normal year.

The spam storm remained below 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #13.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Mongoose projects (A Call to Arms and the Starline 2500 starships), but also did some other things: the zombie scenario for Star Fleet Marines, Captain's Log #44 fiction, 12 pages of Federation Admiral, descriptions for old Captain's Logs to keep them headed for e23, did some Fed megahex counters somebody wanted, and provided Joel with things for the new Marines page on the website.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #44 (battle groups, monster article), reviewed some scenarios, answered Omega questions, helped playtest the zombie scenario, worked on Module E3 Borak, and reviewed new Starline 2500 series ships for firing arcs.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and worked on schedule planning for the fall. (Leanna and SVC took the weekend off to celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary, which is also their 4th anniversary since they loved each other enough to get married twice).

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory (running the power cutter), and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates such as the new Star Fleet Marines page and new ships on the Starline 2500 page, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook, proofread the LDR ship cards, and did a lot of marketing (most of it for the joint venture projects).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Find Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Steve Cole reminisces:

1. "Ok, sure, the deal (the way I want it written) is getting around the limits of your contract with Paramount by committing fraud, but nobody needs to actually know that."

2. "Notice how I am doing this under the corporation I just formed so if the joint ventures fails I won't actually have to pay you any of the money that I owe you."

3. "I am going to pay you $100,000 for the Star Fleet Universe, money that is to be paid a year later and isn't secured by anything and that I'm not personally liable for. Then I'm going to go borrow enough money secured by the Star Fleet Universe property that I can pay my rent and bills for a year while I try to get this deal up and running to produce money for both of us. Well, sure, if in the end I don't actually produce any income you'll lose the Star Fleet Universe and get paid nothing, but that's not going to happen!"

4. "You invest enough money up front for me to print 12 issues of this magazine, including my salary for writing and editing them. We'll sell enough advertising in those 12 issues to keep going, and eventually we'll be making a profit. No, I really don't want any goals written into the contract that you can pull the plug if we don't sell a set amount of advertising in the first few issues, or any of the first 12."

5. "You go find $250,000 from investors. I'll use it to pay the salaries of my buddies while we write a really cool computer game that will produce royalties for two or three years before players think it's old and out of date."

6. "You pay me $20,000 to run this advertising campaign, and if it doesn't produce any results, I'll run a second campaign for you for half price!"

7. "You sell your games to my web store at wholesale rates, and I will then sell your games to the public for a 40% discount, in direct competition with your own web store. Oh, sure, I need you to put links to my store on your website so your customers can find my store, and I'll let you handle all of the rules questions and other customer service. I'll also need you to promote my webstore on your bulletin boards. Oh, and I don't want to keep any inventory, so I'll need you to ship each order direct to the customer within 24 hours of when it comes in. Yeah, that will put your web store out of business and all of the brick and mortar stores will drop your line, but so what? Think of all the work you won't have to do! Nah, it won't cheapen your brand; it will just establish a new price level that your customers will love!"

8. "I will design a cool game for your company. You print it and pay me a royalty. Because I am a famous game designer, you'll have to guarantee me that I get royalties on the entire print run, whether or not they sell."

9. "I want to publish my own SFU games under your contract with Paramount. I will pay you a royalty, and you can pay them. Sure, that's not legal under the contract, so just don't tell them that I'm the one selling the games, and they'll never notice. I am not going to allow you to have any control over what I print, even if it contradicts something in a product you did. You can just do errata for your products. No, you cannot tell me to remove something that you think violates your contract with Paramount if I think it does not violate the contract."

10. "Buy this $100,000 printing machine that does the same thing as any two of your $7,000 printing machines! Plus, unlike the repair guys from your $7,000 printers (who show up in a few hours), our repair guys show up sometime within a week! But hey, our machine is SOOO much better!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 10

91. I'm going to a seminar on "Who Shot JFK."

92. I don't have the impulse right now.

93. I'm attending a Torture Convention where I'll be the Guest Agonizee.

94. I'm calculating pi to the last decimal place.

95. I'm trying to figure out the correct response to "Jeopardy."

96. I've beamed down and can't get up.

97. I've enrolled our ship in the Macy's parade.

98. I have to check the rules and see if it's legal.

99. Violence never solves anything.

100. My crew has mutinied.

... and finally

I had to take my shields down to have them cleaned!

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

Thanks to Tom Gondolfi and friends.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts About 911

This is Steven Petrick posting.

This past Sunday was the tenth anniversary of the attack by Al Qaida.

At least, it is the attack that all of us who were older than about five or six on that day remember.

What is forgotten is that it was not the first attack Al Qaeda launched on us. In the 1990s they bombed two of our embassies in Africa, tried to sink the USS Cole in Yemen, among other atrocities. It was not even the first time they attacked us in our own homeland since the previous bombing of the trade towers was also their handiwork.

What makes 911 so memorable is that the towers fell (an image carried into our homes and endlessly repeated over the succeeding decade), and travel by air was never going to be the same.

We treated Al Qaida as a "law enforcement problem" in the 1990s. Despite the organizations proven desire to inflict "mass casualties" (it has been noted that the first bombing of the trade towers was itself intended to bring them down, i.e., the bomb was supposed to topple one tower into the other). It was more luck than anything else which denied Al Qaida its goal of tens of of thousands of dead Americans. It was our luck that their first failure resulted in plans to evacuate the towers if there was ever a repeat. Those plans could not help those on the upper floors of the buildings, but they did much for those who were below the floors where the planes crashed. The delay interval between the two attacks also helped us immeasurably as the evacuation of the second tower was well under way before the second plane hit.

Our "law enforcement" effort to deal with Al Qaida in the 1990s did nothing more than make us seem a clumsy giant floundering around helplessly and uselessly. We spent great treasure in a cruise missile strike on their training camps in Afghanistan (most notable for a cruise missile that crashed virtually intact in Pakistan that was then turned over by the Pakistanis to China for examination). To this day, no pictures (at least none I am aware of) have ever been released showing the "damage" to the Al Qaida camp which we spent several million dollars to hit.

We did get a great deal of press for bombing an "aspirin factory" in Africa, however (disclaimer, our government continues to claim said factory was in the process of manufacturing chemical agents for Al Qaida to employ).

Since the towers fell we have spent billions treating Al Qaida as a military threat, and radical Islam (not Islam as a whole) as a threat period. The argument goes back and forth on which is better.

It can be proven that treating AL Qaida as a law enforcement problem did not destroy it, but demonstrated weakness on our part and Al Qaida did not lack for funding or volunteers to attack the "Great Satan," i.e., us.

It can be argued that treating Al Qaida as a military threat has not made us safer, but by invading Muslim lands has fired the Islamic Zeal of fundamentalist Moslems to fight the "Great Satan," that fighting Al Qaida and its adherents has only made Moslems around the world hate the U.S. more and want to destroy us.

What cannot be argued is that in the decade that followed the first attack on the towers, Al Qaida was able to initiate more attacks on the U.S. and its citizens, and had resources to make large scale attacks, to include 911. In the decade since 911 Al Qaida has dwindled to little more than an on line presence and has not actually managed to stage a large scale attack since that day.

None of this means that Al Qaida could not stage a comeback if we, due to our own desires for peace and an end to the fighting, were to back off of our pursuit and allow it.

It is actually what Al Qaida's remaining adherents are hoping for, in fact, what they have been hoping for since the first retaliatory smart bombs began falling on their base areas in Afghanistan.

If we do back off, then Al Qaida may, indeed, rise again. And more of out innocent civilians will in the future be killed, and fingers will be pointed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 September 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was a short week, as the company closed for Labor Day for the first time in years. The weather this week was not nearly as hot. The spam storm mostly remained below 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Mongoose stuff, but also made some progress on Federation Admiral and Communique #69.

Steven Petrick worked on Mongoose ships and the ACTA:SF rulebook, Captain's Log #44 battlegroups and monster article, and the Borak.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

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

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

Friday night, Leanna had the whole crew down to our house for supper and we played a boardgame called DUST which is sort of like Risk.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Too-Often Unsung Heroes

Jean Sexton writes:

On this, the tenth anniversary of the attack on the United States by terrorists, I'd like to reflect not on the losses of that day. All of us who were alive on that day remember those and the accompanying images. Instead, I would like to focus on the people who are perhaps the under-recognized heroes of the day.

We know of the heroic role of the firemen and police there in New York City. We know about the results of the actions of the passengers on Flight 93.

Do we remember the firefighters from Arlington County, Fort Myer, and Reagan National Airport who responded to the attack at the Pentagon? Do we think of the soldiers who were on the survey team from Fort Belvoir who were tasked with checking the interior of the building, knowing the horrors they would find?

Do we think of the medical personnel who responded to their workplaces waiting for an influx of patients who never arrived?

Do we remember the members of our military who scrambled to defend our country from any further attacks?

Do we think of the "ordinary" Americans who responded by donating blood, by keeping classrooms calm in the face of disaster, by volunteering to help in any way, who joined or re-joined the military so their skills could be used to defend this country?

Do we remember the families who now carry on quietly and with dignity, dealing with the loss of loved ones?

Sometimes I think we forget that one of the defining qualities of being American is that we pull together in the face of adversity whether it be terrorists' acts or natural disasters. We open our hearts; we open our doors; we volunteer; we give. That is who we are as a people.

So let us commemorate this anniversary in a meaningful way by remembering who we are and acting on it. Remember those who died, but also remember those who gave quietly behind the scenes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for FC players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 9

81. I gotta heat m'engines so they is HET.

82. I'm grooming my other personality for a spot on "Federation's Most Wanted."

83. I have to tune my Chambers coil.

84. I've been assigned to a new ship that's still in playtest.

85. I've been traded to another race for a captain to be named later.

86. My Orion friend is coming over to trade weapons.

87. I'm having trouble drawing enough blood from the crew to launch my plasma torpedo.

88. It wouldn't be fair to the other 4000 BPV of ships.

89. I'm addicted to the agonizer booth.

90. I'm busy subjugating another planet right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you.

(to be continued)

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

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Some Submissions are Unusable

This is Steven Petrick posting.

We have a lot of creative customers who send in their own ideas, and when we can we try to use them. Some take the time to try to do our work for us, and sometimes they do such good jobs that we are able to use what they send with only a little editing.

The problem is that sometimes we get things where the customer has done a lot of work, but the customer saw fit to include his own ideas of where thing should go and how things should be without asking us if this was a good idea.

Some recent examples from one customer (no, I am not going to name names as there is no intent here to embarrass anyone, just to try to use a lessons learned format).

A customer really, really, likes the Iridani from their background. So he wrote us an article to use in Captain's Log in which he determined that the Iridani had appointed themselves as more or less the peacekeepers and law enforcers of the Omega Octant. He determined that all "quests" were assigned by the Iridani King, and the King used his central control of the quests to assign ships to missions that would enable Iridani ships to help empires that the author liked, and hinder empires that the author (essentially taking on the role of the Iridani King himself) did not like.

This was, of course, inconsistent with what we already knew of Iridani background. Indeed, the only extant campaign in the Omega Octant so far is in fact an Iridani quest, and it takes only a short examination of it to determine that our questing knight is basically on a piracy campaign. And among those he is conducting operations against are some of those empires the author thinks the Iridani should get along with. The quest this knight (Sir Bonnaventure) is on is not assigned by the King, but rather self-imposed.

The reality of the Iridani is that they have a King, but the king is not all powerful. Individual knights, dukes, barons, and whatall can assign themselves quests, or challenge others to go on quests, and yes even the King can impose quests when the Iridani honor code allows it. But there is no central control, and a quest might simply be a group of knights (or other nobles) literally banding together to try to make a little money by piracy as their "quest." Again, see Bonnaventure's quest or the backgrounds of several of the published scenarios.

One of the things that does not yet exist for Omega Octant is its own version of (S8.0). For now, they would skate off the existing (S8.0). But the Magellanic Cloud (Module C5) has its own version. Our author thought it would be a good idea to do one for Omega Octant. But again, his love of the Iridani stepped in. He decided to include in this write up that the Iridani would never, ever, under any circumstances work in conjunction with the Zosman Marauders, or the Andromedans, or the Souldra. By his own fiat he determined that if an Iridani ship was ever in a scenario with those three empires, it would have to be the odd man out that the other three could ally to destroy. No negotiation, Iridani honor demands the player of the Iridani ship die rather than try to work a deal. He extended this that if a player wanted to create a battle group of Koligahr ships that happened to include an attached Zosman mercenary ship and an Iridani mercenary ship . . . you could not. He made it illegal. The Iridani ship would refuse to serve with the Zosman ship.

He had other restrictions applying to empires he thought noble. (Can you picture never having a scenario where a Federation ship was working with an Orion Pirate ship?)

I have no doubt that the author put a lot of work into his version of Omega Patrol Scenario rules, but once you got into his (for want of a better term) "honor restrictions" it was unworkable.

I do not, at this time, know what a "grand quest" order of battle would look like for the Iridani trying to retake their home from the Andromedans. I would, however, be more than willing to bet that it was not all just Iridani ships. I would bet that they made up a large portion of the Quest, but also that they would have hired (which might include calling in favors from the other Omega Octant empires that quests might have helped) whatever other ships they could. And I do not think they would have quibbled at including Zosman mercenary ships in the quest.

Tuesday, September 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.

Monday, September 05, 2011

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 August - 3 September 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was another routine week, with the design team working on Captain's Log #44, Federation Admiral, A Call to Arms, Starline 2500, Star Fleet Marines, and other projects. The weather this week was not as hot, but still uncomfortable. Nobody wants to spend a minute longer outside than it takes to get from the air conditioned building to the air conditioned car and vice versa. The Spam storm rolls along at about 150 per day average.

The Tuesday staff meeting decided to cancel all Friday staff meetings but never cancel a Tuesday one, and assigned work tasks to everyone. Mike Sparks took over some new duties, running the book trimmer and making the mail run.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms (sending reports on the first 30 pages), Starline 2500 (9 ships exist and 5 of those are more or less done), a Star Fleet Alert for the Omega MRB, new FC ships (Lyran DND, Vudar CAF), wrote a company policy blog and a reserve blog, posted the SFB scenario list to the Forum, reviewed the next Hailing Frequencies, worked on counters for Captain's Log ships, made "Jean fixes" to the update list, did another FC scenario for the bank, finished the Vudar ePack #1 for e23, worked on the big fiction story for CL#44, did 11 pages of Fed Admiral, and sent a memo to the Battlestations guys.

Steven Petrick checked things SVC had done; reviewed the next Hailing Frequencies; worked on Module E3, the E4 campaign article for CL#44, Starline 2500 ships, ACTA pages 1-30, CL#44 SSDs, CL#44 battle groups, and the CL#44 monster article.

Both Steves playtested Star Fleet Marines and worked on scenarios and tactics for that rulebook.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and continued showing great leadership (learned from the business school classes she and SVC take Wednesdays and -- this week -- Friday).

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike. Joel has been showing great initiative lately in doing more things with less supervision.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (928 friends), proofread some things, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. My father would often say "It's papa who pays" when pulling out his wallet for something (family dinner out, family going to movies, family on vacation). As little kids, my brother and I thought this was pretty neat. As teenagers (with a little of our own money) we knew it was the cost of being a grownup. When we each got married, dad said to us "Now, YOU are papa." After I got married, I never asked my parents for money (and actually loaned Leanna's parents the down payment for their new house). From the time I graduated college and got a job as an engineer, I paid rent to my mother. (I didn't want my own place as I didn't want to bother with cooking, cleaning, or laundry. This situation made Leanna nervous when we met, but that's another story.) When I got married, I had my own money (from the sale of the old JP Publications game company) to make the down payment on my house. I paid my own bills, and haven't been in debt since the checks from F&E paid off the mortgage in 1986. I think that too many kids today never figured out that somewhere along the line they had to grow up and become "papa who pays."

2. I watched that recent SyFy movie (Doomsday Prophesy) and found it was "not nearly as bad" as most of their badly written drek. The plot made at least some sense (even if the science was total crap) and I like the girl who used to be on Firefly.

3. On a recent episode of THE PROTECTOR, one of the cops (to prove he and his wife had not committed murder) made a dramatic confession that he had once lied on the stand to send a guy to jail for a crime he might not have committed (said guy having escaped justice for two murders on a technicality). This caused the criminal in question to get upset, kill someone, and try to frame the police officer and his wife. The hero of the show "knew the cop was hiding something" and demanded that he provide "the missing piece of the puzzle." This is a typical (and badly overused) Hollywood plot device. Hollywood loves the idea that cops are self-righteous Nazis who send innocent people to jail because they probably did some other crime. Hollywood never wants to think through that now that this lie has been exposed, everyone ever convicted of anything in which that cop testified gets a (taxpayer-funded) new trial (in which he will probably be found innocent because of lost files or fading memories or dearly departed witnesses). Said "exonerated" criminal then gets a few million taxpayer dollars to compensate him for wrongful conviction (when he was guilty all along). This didn't have to happen. The cop could have just said (much earlier in the episode): "I put that criminal away for X. He was also guilty of Y but escaped on a technicality. He always claimed that I lied and hated me for it."

4. It's not like I let myself go. It's more like I never held on.

5. A recent episode of DEADLIEST WARRIOR matched Hannibal against Genghis Khan. Ok, I get that they have to find a name-recognized warrior and that they already had Alexander the Great on an episode two seasons back, but Alexander would have been a much better opponent. They also should have put all five Mongols on horseback as that was how Mongols fought.

6. Speaking of Deadliest Warrior, I'd like to see Custer vs. Nathan Bedford Forrest. They were contemporaries but never fought personally. One of the flaws of Deadliest Warrior is that if you match people from different centuries the technology, not the general, wins the battle. Worse, all of those intangibles are just guesses and warp the outcome.

7. I watched a very nice movie last weekend. One small element of the tiny plot was a father having learned that his college-student son had dropped out of sports (and out of school) and planned to go to art school to learn to be a professional photographer. The father had to come around by the end of the movie to the point of "I will support whatever my son decides to do." This, of course, is what Hollywood wants. Parents must always bow to the wishes of their children, no matter what it is or what it costs (unless the children want to join the military). What I think would have been much better is for dad to say this:
"Ok, if you think you want to go to school to be a professional photographer, let's discuss that. I've been around for a couple of decades longer than you, and I learned (painfully) that if you don't consider every angle, you could pick the wrong way. First, let's find out if you have a real talent for this. Since I am a big-shot columnist at a newspaper, I'll get you an internship with our photographers. You may find out that you hate that kind of work, and better to find that out now than a few student loans later. Our photographers have been to these schools and can tell you some things neither of us know. Second, I heard you say that you like this school in California, but we live in Maryland. You apparently do not know that there is an equally good school in New York, which is closer to home. (It's just an Amtrak ride away, allowing you to come home for a weekend now and then.) If you show me that you have some talent for this job, which I already know will provide you a decent living, I'll support you getting whatever training or education it takes. But let's consider the possibility that the school in California may not be the only, or the most cost-effective, way for you to reach this goal. You don't want to graduate with a bunch of debt and then find out you went to the wrong school and studied the wrong things, or that you never really liked photography as much as you thought you did."

Saturday, September 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.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Klingons: 101 Ways to Just Say "No!" to Attacking the Alliance, Part 8

71. What the Hull for?

72. I mizia my ship and have to get back to it.

73. I saw the poster in Captain's Log #8.

74. My ship cloaked out and now I can't find it.

75. I just washed my Energy Allocation Form and can't do a thing with it.

76. I'm counting the tsetse flies in my labs.

77. My "Cloaking for Obscurity" class meets then.

78. I'm sorry but that subspace number has been disconnected.

79. I have to take my engines to the psychiatrist ... they're warped.

80. I'm studying for a blood test.

(to be continued)

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

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Steve Cole reports:

Some time ago, an outside designer came to us with an idea for a product. We liked it, and agreed to publish it. Recently, he conferred with us on where the product stood and how we might go about finishing it, and we sent him an answer. That answer sounded interesting and it applies to a lot of projects, great and small, and so we thought that a generic version of it might prove of interest to those who read our blog.

Few authors who have not had a product published can judge how close their manuscript is to publication, and of course there are a lot of kinds of manuscripts. Some authors know that their project will take a lot of our work (and assume that we'll drop everything to do that work) while others assume that their project is ready for publication (but they rarely are).

What sounds easy may in fact be hard and what sounds hard may in fact be easy.

Most manuscripts do not arrive without our having previously worked with the author, providing him guidance, formats, and things to fix or avoid.

Upon arrival, a supposedly finished manuscript is assigned to somebody to review, usually Steve Cole (F&E, Fed Commander), or Steven Petrick (SFB), or Jean Sexton (Prime Directive). That reviewer then surveys the material. (This involves reading it, checking a few things, and getting a good sense of the state of completion.) Sometimes, the item is minor (say, a single ship or a one-page article for Captain's Log) and the reviewer simply finishes it for publication. Sometimes, the item has problems and is sent back for fixes. Sometimes, the manuscript cannot be fixed or is not something that is publishable even if it were fixed. Sometimes, a major manuscript (say, an entire E-module) is indeed ready to "come inside the house" and be finished by us.

In such a case, the reviewer conducts a review that may take an entire day or more. The point is to determine how much work it is going to take to finish the project. This partly depends on whether the decision is made to do this as a playtest pack, an e23 product, or a "real" product (which would take more work as it has to be done to a higher standard). The reviewer often comes up with more than one option.

The reviewer will then present a plan to the Board of Directors (the Steves and Leanna). The Board reviews the product to see if it is marketable (and in what format), fits into our plans for universe development, and whether the amount of time it will take to do is justified by the potential sales.

Oftentimes, this step is badly made, and we end up deciding to publish a product with nowhere near the amount of information we should have had to make a proper decision. This has resulted in some vaporware products that have never been finished (because they proved to be far more work than they appeared to take, or were thought to have a far greater market than we thought, or because we thought that the outside designer was going to do things that he did not, in fact, actually do). In the bad old days, we announced the product at this stage (often with a price that proved mistaken based on a project size that was miscalculated). In really bad cases, we actually print parts of the unfinished product (in batches with other products) and that proves to be a mistake (as we really wish the printed elements could be changed). These days, we try very hard to force ourselves not to schedule products until we know a lot more about the work it takes to finish them.

At this point, the board reviews just how many man-hours it is thought that the project will take. If that seems reasonable (compared to the sales potential) we will review the overall work schedule and determine when those hours can be found. (Captain's Log always has the highest priority and has a fairly regular schedule. So if one of the Steves is a month from finishing his current project, that does not necessarily mean that the new project begins after that point, as time is already reserved for Captain's Log. Sometimes, other projects are already scheduled and the next open time period for the designer who will do the new product may be months or even a year in the future.) Fewer required hours means an earlier production date. Too many hours and we may re-evaluate the project and decide not to do it at all.

Under the new "find out what this is really going to take" plan the Board will define some part of the project and some portion of the estimated time. The designer will then do that part (usually 10-20 percent of the project) and compare it to the time estimate. If the project is taking less time-per-page than expected, it moves ahead. If it's taking more time, it may be re-evaluated and either delayed or dropped. This is usually a good way to figure out if the project has major flaws. (In one case, we agreed to hastily to produce a really large book based on the theory that the received manuscript was "plug and play" without actually reading the manuscript. Then, when we started reading it and doing that "plug and play" page formatting, we found out that the manuscript included major problems. The project was sent back to the designer for a major do-over, and has been proceeding slowly since then, a few pages a week, behind the scenes, as we find problems and have the outside author fix them.)

One we have a supposedly complete draft, there is the outside playtest and review phase. (There are many kinds of projects which take very different kinds of testing and reviewing, which may take days or weeks. It just depends, but projects that need serious playtesting are hard to schedule as dependable playtesters are few and busy. We may not be able to proceed with a given product even if a Steve is available because the playtesters are all busy with other things.) The reports of the playtesters, proofreaders, or reviewers may mean that the project requires a few hours of editing, or has to be done over or scrapped.

Then we can talk about Jean, who seems to think that the world will end if any project goes to press with a mis-conjugated verb or an unfortunately capitalized noun. (Worse, Jean has a full-time non-game job, plus she handles marketing, manages the BBS and Facebook, and runs the Prime Directive product line, so getting something proofread takes some tricky scheduling. Proofreading a 120-page Captain's Log can easily take her three weeks, and given the chance, she'd do that twice. (The second trip would also take three weeks and would find 1% as many mistakes as the first, so the Steves rigorously avoid letting her see anything more than once.) In some cases, Jean is shown a few pages of a project, and we decide if it's going to get Jean-A or Jean-B treatment. Jean-A proofreads every word. Jean-B proofreads a few pages from each section and gives the assigned Steve a list of consistent mistakes that need to be addressed. That, and years of intensive training and a rigorously updated capitalization guide means that 90% of the mistakes are found by Jean-B.

Only when it is a finished document will it go onto the schedule. This is a fairly new rule designed to prevent vaporware from sneaking into the schedule. A playtest book or an e23 pack gets released pretty quickly after that point. In the case of a "real product" (say, Module R19) it goes onto the release schedule for 90 or more days down the road. (This may be even further away if it requires countersheets that have to be batched with other products.)

So, when is a product not a product? Until it actually goes into a carton with a UPS label. THEN, it IS a product!