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Saturday, March 31, 2012

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 Andy Vancil 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. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

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, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, 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.

Friday, March 30, 2012


91. Every drone you try to control at once will require one aspirin in the morning.

92. Have a battle plan. It won't survive the enemy's first maneuver, but you should always have a plan.

92. Specific reinforcement will always be on the wrong shield. [Note: This was the numbering as published pre-Jean.]

93. The rule you thought was perfectly clear will be disputed by 14 other players and the judge will rule against you.

94. In a target-rich environment, you don't have enough weapons to kill everything that is trying to kill you.

95. The target you shot was not as important as the one you ignored.

96. If you think it doesn't matter if you sideslip or not, it will.

97. No matter how many times you count it, your opponent always has time to decelerate and weasel.

98. The average die roll is 3.5, which means your opponent gets the 3 and you get the 4.

99. The new rulebook you thought was a reprint was actually a revision.

100. Every PF can be a minesweeper. Once.

101. If the rule makes you invincible, you mis-read it.

102. One turn before your first PBEM victory, your hard disk will crash.

103. If your opponent is doing what you expected, he's up to something you didn't expect.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So, You Want a Job With ADB, Inc.

Steve Cole comments:

At least once a month I get somebody asking me for a job in the game industry. We just don't have any jobs going begging, and being too small to train people we can only hire people who already have the skills the job requires. We just don't hire game designers (not as employees) which is the job a lot of people think is easy to do and makes lots of money. (It's very hard to do and pays peanuts.) Every game publisher is a game designer who couldn't get a job and couldn't get anyone to publish his game.

I'd suggest anybody who wants to work in this industry read my free book (www.StarFleetGames.com/book). The first three chapters will give you a ton of information you don't have, and define some ways that you could build a small second job in the industry (perhaps as a game reviewer).

The best I could recommend to someone who desperately wants a job as a game designer is to move to a city with a game publisher and get a normal day job. Then you show up whenever the publishing company playtests new games, offer to proofread new products, and otherwise try to be useful. Don't expect to be paid. You need work on your own game designs and eventually show them to the publisher and see if maybe they'd make some kind of deal. While one would assume that any gamer who shows up at the office of a game publisher, hangs around, and tries to be helpful would be welcome and useful, the reality every publisher learns is that (other than playtest night) such people are more a distraction than actually productive. There is rarely office space for them and they're always looking around for something to do and striking up conversations with paid employees who should be working instead of talking. In theory, if you were really great friends with such a publisher, you could show up (unpaid) and sit quietly in the corner and maybe now and then somebody hands you a draft of something and says "Read this and write down some notes."

If you have an active local group where you live, you could playtest for any number of companies. (ADB already has more than enough people who read games and solo-play them, but we always need people with active groups willing to playtest.) Don't assume that your group is willing to playtest without talking with them first. Many don't like playtesting games that don't work yet, or controlling their competitive urges and trying to make the game work. Petrick and I were playtesting Marines, and we constantly found ourselves saying "I forgot to move this guy" and then "sure, go ahead and move him, it's playtesting, not competitive play". Playtesting is hard work and not any fun, and while many gamers jump at the chance to playtest, most of them quit before finishing the first battle. Playtesting, again, is not fun. It's work. Hard and unpaid work.

The alternative is the hard, slow way to work your way into the ADB family (or the family of another publisher). Read the BBS, comment on new products, do after action reports on existing products, playtest what you can when things are made available for that (e.g., playtest every Federation Commander scenario in Communique after it's published since none of them were playtested before publication but they have to be tested before they move into a real product), and become someone we recognize as having valued input. It takes a while to work your way up that way but Jean Sexton did it, and so did Steven Petrick, but they're each one in a thousand.

Oh, and game designers in this industry don't make any money. Game publishers make little enough. We do it because we wouldn't be happy doing other jobs. I'd make three or four times as much money using my engineer license but I'd come home miserable every night and get drunk. I really hated that job when I had it.

So there you have it: how to get a job with us. We hope to see you involved in the SFU.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Full Metal Jousting Versus Top Shot

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the shows that both SVC and I watch is "Top Shot." I have an interest in watching people shoot because, well I was an infantry officer and had a vested interest in people on my side being good shots. (Trust me, you always hope the other side has poor shots.) Sometimes on "Top Shot" they will bring out some archaic weapons. While I would hope to never be in a situation where I might have to pick up some of those weapons, I always watch with some interest when there is a chance that that weapon, or something like it, might be something I could encounter.

Thus I have an interest in spear throwing, because circumstance could cause my life to depend on that (say a plane crash or a ship sinking leaving me marooned). But I have no real interest in learning how to use an Atalatal. A spear is something I might fashion, but the Atalatal is beyond my rough skill set. So I am content to see the weapon demonstrated, but have no interest in watching a series of shows where expert Atalatal users vie for the top score or do trick throws or what have you. Having watched the show, I now have a good idea how it was supposed to work and would not be out of my depth if someone started a conversation about the weapon.

I am more interested in the various other weapons displayed. Pistols, machineguns, grenade launchers, cannons. But not especially interested in crossbows, and bows and arrows. The latter I had some training in, but have only rough ideas how to fabricate one out of materials on a desert island or the middle of a forest.

This brings us to Jousting.

The Discovery Channel (I believe it was) rounded up a few guys and ran a demonstration how knights actually employed their lances. This was interesting to me at the time (after all, it was something I had only read about and this was the actual mechanics). I watched the show and then set it aside.

Now the History Channel is running a series called "Full Metal Jousting" in an apparent effort to build up a "sport." I have absolutely no interest. I find it stupid. It has no modern military value. (SVC says that firing a flintlock pistol has no modern military value because of the skill needed to keep the weapon on target while waiting for the flame to actually ignite and fire the ball, I disagree because some anti-armor weapons in my experience actually do require you to keep the cross hairs on the target after launching the missile). I see absolutely zero chance that I am going to find a random horse that is going to let me ride it at someone while holding a long pointy stick, much less that I am going to have the skill to control the horse while doing so.

My basic interest in jousting ends at that point. I do not find it a militarily useful skill. (Perhaps after civilization collapses it will make a comeback, but until then.)

Worse, despite the padding and armor, the small group of people participating have had more (from what I have seen in passing) people sent to the hospital during the show than a major football team does in a full season (near as I can make, I am not really keeping track of either). So I just find the whole concept of "Full Metal Jousting" (falling headlong off of a horse if your opponent lands a good lance hit) stupid.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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, March 26, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 March 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was another normal week. We're suddenly realizing how much stress we don't have because we're not going to Origins. The weather this week was wet (badly needed rain!). The spam storm remained at something over 200 per day. The board discussed some badly needed capital expenditures, turning some of our cash stockpile into new equipment.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #21, JagdPanther #3, and the old pocket edition reloaded with the missing chart added.

Steve Cole worked mostly on Star Fleet Marines, but managed to find time to discuss lumbering Gorns and new Gorn ships with Mongoose, Federation Commander battle tug pack (sent to staff for checking), read SFB scenarios, sun snake and other ships for Reinforcements Attack, updated cards already done for Reinforcements Attack, sent pinwheel rules/cards to Mongoose, wrote company blogs, updated the index of Captain's Log, and did quality control checks on two boxes of map panels. He made it a point to find two hours to work on Federation Admiral. He reviewed an outside game design with the board of directors but found no reason to pursue the matter.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB scenarios, checked huge orders to wholesalers, worked on Captain's Log #45 tactics stuff, worked on T2012, and worked on Marines.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and worked on getting new documents to e23.

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

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1051 friends), proofread a few ship cards, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


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

1. Collation, collection, and conference all come from the Latin verb confero and its participle collatum, which meant in those days exactly the same thing they mean now, that is, to collect and organize information.

2. Colonel, a military officer who commands a regiment of a thousand soldiers (these days, a brigade of five thousand) come from the Italian world collonello, meaning a little column of marching troops. (The bigger version of column was the entire army of which the regiment was only a part.) We pronounce it kernel because it came to English by way of the French version, coronel.

3. Colossal, colossus, and coliseum all come from the Greek kolossos which simply means a larger-than-life statue. The word came into English as meaning something really, really big because the Colossus of Rhodes was in fact really, really big.

4. Comedy comes from two Greek words, komos (revel) and oide (song, the same word ode comes from). The original comedies were for men only, were extremely vulgar and pornographic, and included political satire that would cause riots or mass arrests today. Over time, tastes improved and the lighter form of drama kept the word komodia. (The darker form was tragedy, in which the hero almost always died or fell from power in disgrace or both.)

5. Commando, which today means special forces (such as the Green Berets or Army Rangers), originally meant little more than a force that was under command. Portuguese, then Dutch, then British settlers in South Africa organized small mobile commands to raid into black-held territory and destroy their villages, driving them out. Later, the Boers used commando tactics against the British. Decades later, in World War II, the British revived the name commando for their elite Marine raiding units. It got to the current use (not wearing underwear) during Vietnam when troops operating in swampy areas noted that walking around all day in wet clothing caused chaffing, and wet underwear (being the tightest and the slowest to dry out) caused the most problems. Troops took to wearing no undershorts inside their fatigue uniform pants.

6. Company and companion come from the Latin words con (with) and panis (bread) and originally meant friends or co-workers so close that you would be willing to share a loaf of bread with them. Now, company means a business organization or a group of 100 soldiers.

7. Complexion comes from the Latin words con (with) and plecto (to braid) and originally meant how the four humors of the body combined to define your disposition, attitude, and actions. Since these qualities were often evident on the face, the word came to mean the color of the facial skin. Someone who was angry would have a red complexion, which is to say that the humor blood was the strongest of the four in that person.

8. Comrade became as the Latin word camera, meaning a chamber. (The first picture-taking devices were the size of an entire room.) This went into Spanish as the word camarada, those fellow soldiers who shared the same room in the barracks or billet, and came into English about 1650.

9. Constable, now the term for a minor law enforcement official in the US, began as the Latin words comes stabuli, or master of the stable. In time, the master of the emperor's stable became a powerful official, often the commander of the Army. During the 1500s and 1600s, the Constable of France (and the Lord High Constable of England) was the title given to the selected commander of the entire army.

10. Copper, the reddish metal we use for small coins and electrical wires, comes from kuprus, the Roman word for Cyprus, where most of the Roman Empire's copper was mined.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


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, March 23, 2012


81. Always lab drones from a scatter-pack. You can at least admire the enemy's brilliant new loadout before you die.

82. At Range Zero, fire control is irrelevant.

83. If the enemy got to Range 4 when your plasma tubes recycled, you were on passive fire control.

83. Targets for the PPD are in one of two places: Out of arc or in the myopic zone.

84. Your enemy will point out a rule you did not know just before the point you were going to win the game. Your girlfriend will be there to watch.

85. Klingon phaser arcs are great when you are shooting and lousy when you get shot.

86. If you wait one more impulse to fire, your weapon will be destroyed.

87. If you are calmly expecting to win, you don't know all the facts.

88. Make mistakes; it confuses the enemy.

89. Your most brilliant term paper will be lost in a server crash.

90. Just when you announce your NSM trap, you realize you wrote down the wrong hex number.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Same, but Different

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander share much of the same technology even if they operate differently. The result is that scenario ideas for one game can often be adapted for the other, However, you have to be careful when doing so as the differences can be very different.

One recent scenario designed for Federation Commander and being converted into Star Fleet Battles required an Orion Raider Cruiser to destroy two targets. Both of these targets required 50 points of damage to destroy, and so the Orion was given a free pass on Turn #1 to damage the first target before the Federation could intervene on Turn #2. The Orion had two drone racks and a photon torpedo in his option mounts, so he had a good chance (after overloading the photon) of destroying the first target. The Federation ship would be able to intrude to protect the second target before the photon could be reloaded, forcing the Orion to fight for his victory.

While this works in Federation Commander, it does not work in Star Fleet Battles. In Star Fleet Battles the Orion has many additional options: heavy (type-IV) drones, scatter-pack shuttles, and T-bombs for example. If you simply used Star Fleet Battles technology, then on Turn #1 the Orion would enter near the first target (there were six total, evenly spaced around the map and they are all stationary). He would drop a scatter-pack shuttle (with two type-IV drones) at Speed Zero two hexes from the target, and fire an RA phaser-3 at pointblank range as he passed the target (minimum of three points of damage). Nine impulses later the scatter-pack would release the two type-IV drones which move two hexes before the turn ended and score another 48 points of damage on target #1 (total of 51 points of damage minimum . . . target destroyed). Before that happened the Orion would have reached target #2 (moving Speed 31 since he can double all of his his engines), and performed the exact same maneuver (fire rear arc phaser-3 and drop a scatter-pack with two type-IV drones); Target #2 is destroyed. But the Orion does not have to stop there, he can proceed to target #3 (which he can still reach on Turn #1), launch two type-IV drones from his drone racks and a fire a single phaser-1 as a phaser-3 and destroy target #3, all in a single turn (and he only needs to destroy two targets in the Federation Commander version of the scenario).

On Turn #2, with the Federation ship present, the Orion could destroy two more of the targets. He will reach the fourth target with his drone racks ready to launch again, and can fire an RA phaser-3 to finish off the target. Then he can race to target #5 lowering a shield (being careful not to let the Federation ship get a shot at it). As he nears the target he transports two T-bombs adjacent to it (in separate hexes) such that they will arm before he reaches them, and raises his shield. His own movement will then trigger each of these in succession (20 points of damage), the overloaded photon torpedo will hit at point-blank range (now at 36 points of damage, although the Orion has now scored 24 points of shield damage total on his own ship, and four points of warp and two points of impulse damage by the end of Turn #2 as a consequence of doubling his engines). At Range Zero (as he overruns the target) his four phaser-1s fired as phaser-3s will score a minimum of 12 points of damage (total damage now a minimum of 48 points). If the four phaser-1s score only 12 or 13 points, then as the overrun is completed the Orion can fire his last RA phaser-3 to complete the destruction of the fifth target.

At the end of Turn #2 our Orion has only two type-IV drones (or maybe four type-I drones) remaining in his type-B drone racks, the same in his reload storage, and (assuming he never put any energy into his phaser capacitors since the scenario began) a half point of power in his phaser capacitors (so he could have been using all of that extra power above movement simply to reinforce his shield facing the Federation ship and possibly five points of ECM so that even if the Federation ship is running six ECCM there would still be a die roll shift of one against him).

Now, if his victory condition required him to destroy all six of the targets, he would have a chance to do so, but by this time the Federation ship would probably be parked right on top of it and more than a little miffed.

The differences between the two game systems make for a very different tactical situation which, when converting the scenario has to be accounted for. This also applies if you are converting a Star Fleet Battles scenario to Federation Commander. When making such conversions you have to be very cognizant of just what the differences are and adjust the scenarios accordingly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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, March 20, 2012

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, March 19, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 March 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was another normal work week. A ton of orders went out, Mongoose finished shipping Federation Fleet Boxes, and the two Steves worked on new projects. The weather this week was warm, even hot now and then. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

There was nothing new on e23 this week.

Steve Cole worked on new Mongoose ships, Starline 2400 carrier group boxes, playtesting Marines (transporter artillery works, shuttles need work) and updating that rulebook, descriptions for e23 uploads, getting Secret Project T ready for playtest, Reinforcements Attack (first 12 of 40 ships sent to staff), ACTASF errata (fixes for Gorns and Kzintis).

Steven Petrick worked on Mongoose ships, SFB scenarios, T2012, and checked new FC ship cards.

Wednesday, we held the first official playtest of Secret Project T with all five in-house people. The non-player assassin won (killing more than the five players combined), as everybody used him to deny kills to the others. We reduced the power of the assassin from killing everything in sight to a 50% chance of one kill.

Leanna kept up with the high volume of orders and accounting up to date. Leanna added Zocchi's Alien Space and Star Fleet Battle Manual to the shopping cart.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, checked in large restocks of 2400s, and managed customer service.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,142 friends), worked on Traveller, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

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 post to see who is out there. 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, March 17, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wanted a blog that was actually about the company.

1. Over the years of running ADB, no end of people have suggested that I delegate more. The theory seemed to be that more products would come out and more other things could get done if I just let others do some of it for me. I resisted this for a very long time, not because I am a power-mad dictator but because of the lack of qualified people who could actually get the jobs done. Time and again, I delegated jobs to people who either did not do them, did them wrong, or abused their position to do things that were bad for the games and bad for the universe. The hard part to learn was that potential helpers don't show up by accident; they have to be trained and taught. You cannot just give them the drawing; you have to give them crayons, show them how to use them, and teach them that the lines mean STOP HERE. Over the years, more than a few people have volunteered to become "the delegated" but have demanded total control over whatever it was they wanted me to delegate to them (i.e., they could change anything they wanted without my approval, even if the result did not match stuff other people -- or I -- were doing). The fact that SFU has survived this long is not just a testament to one-brain leadership, but to multi-brain creativity. In all fairness (to me) I have delegated a lot of stuff now that I have qualified people. We've had Q&A guys for all of the game systems for a decade, Steven Petrick runs SFB (except when he wants me to make some decision for him), Jean Sexton runs the RPGs and Marketing and FaceBook (except when she asks me to decide something), Daniel Kast runs Starmada (which he created), Paul Franz runs SFBOL and Warlord, John Berg runs Galactic Conquest (which he created), Frank Brooks runs PBEM, and Matthew Sprange runs ACTASF (which he created). More than that, the department heads (Chuck Strong at F&E, Mike West at FC) are very nearly as independent as Steven Petrick is. So I have done plenty of delegating, and as fast as I can train people, I am doing more.

2. The whole concept of the company blog is somewhat beyond me, or perhaps, is something I really wish wasn't on my to-do list. In theory, posting a blog every day means people come by just to read it, and new arrivals find something very fresh on the website. It's even possible that somebody doing a search engine scan for something will find one of the blogs. (I am talking about the real "literary" blog, not the dayblog on the BBS, which is about as literary as TV guide listing for a new show.) I really wish I didn't have to do "real literary blogs" as they're just unpaid work product. (The dayblogs are just a part of my project schedule system and daily duties list and sort of generate themselves.) I'd rather spend the time on Star Fleet Marines or Project T or Reinforcements Attack or Civil Wars. (The same thing applies to Hailing Frequencies and Communique. All of the work that goes into 156 pages of Communique would produce at least one entirely new product a year. I know why I need to do them, but I wish I was running a bigger company so that I could assign those unpaid things to someone else and focus on new products.) Blogs are an important part of communication, marketing, recruiting, and retention, and deserve some focus and attention. In theory, every staff meeting needs to include a step where we discuss what needs to go onto the blog. In reality, Jean sends a memo every Monday saying "this is what we're doing, this is what we need" and that seems to get the job done. In order to reduce the workload, I usually delegate one blog a week to Steven Petrick, and of course we have the 12 rotating blogs that (updated) repeat every month, and the weekly summary that Jean got me to start doing. For my own blogs, I use a combination of things. That book on word origins produces a blog any time I need one. I collect "random thoughts" about TV shows and such, or something I read in a book. Jean has been making me do blogs (like this one) about the inner workings of the company. Every now and then, I wax rhetorical in some email and say to myself "That's good stuff!" and turn it into a blog. It seems to keep the dragon (i.e., Jean) fed and happy.

3. Every now and then my desk reaches "critical mess" and I have to clean off the loose paper and clutter. It's a good way to find projects that got forgotten (not all of which I wanted to find). During one recent clean-up, I found: a memo from Mongoose that just needed to be filed, an old list of things to do (those not yet done got added to my current list), a few draft things that Steven Petrick proofread (I had already made the corrections and just needed to throw these away), some SFB SSDs that I want to convert to FC (added those to the clipboard of such things which I also found in the pile), the form for Free RPG Day (which I had already faxed and just needed to throw out), several catalogs of military stuff (I ordered a birthday present for Steve P), several accounting reports from Leanna (I had Joel shred those), several scratch pads (threw away the note on the top page and put the pad back into the bin of scratch pads beside my desk), and old article on Tholians (rejected as it did not fit Loren's book, thrown away), some old sudoku puzzles (took them to the rest room on my next trip there), a bunch of newspaper editorials (some of which I added to my monthly political blog), some ACTASF drafts (already sent reports, so threw these away), some notes for the Random Thoughts blogs (added to that), my F&E 2010 rulebook (I had wondered where it went), some lottery tickets (put in pocket to check at quickie mart tomorrow), the minutes of three September 2011 meetings (put in file), a note to email somebody (I found out later he wasn't answering my emails because he was making a deal with someone else), half a dozen notes and cards for appointments I already went to (trash), a toothpick (trash), a number of now mysterious notes (one says "Howard, battle tugs"; another has a phone number; I tossed them all), catalog pages for the shelving Leanna bought last October, various drafts of Captain's Log #44 (trash), Jean's draft copy of E (some typos I stopped to fix), some Lyran 2400 minis (put in out box so Mike can put them back in stock), the quote for card deck printing (glad I found that!), a bite-size candy bar (ate that), a pack of stale crackers (did not eat), six almonds left over from the Origins trip (ate), a page of Captain's Log #45 that Jean had edited (checking, I had missed one of her typos), an old draft of ACTASF (I used to keep every draft of every product, but now I just toss them), drafts of press releases sent a month ago (trash), one of those Chick religious books (put with my collection), a shipping box full of Styrofoam peanuts (sent to warehouse), a press quote for something it turned out we didn't need to print (file), an Alliance catalog (filed), a whole clipboard of stuff I need to sort through later, half a dozen ball point pens, and two handkerchiefs (sent home for laundry).

4. Once we began uploading the old JagdPanthers, we started getting questions. Here are some of the answers. We'll do every issue of JagdPanther, in order. We'll do them at least one per month if not faster, just depending on what else we need to upload or what else we need to do. They'll sell better one at a time then uploading them all at once. I am scanning what was in the archive box and am not updating them. The issues of Bushwhacker, ICW Newsletter, and the non-magazine games will be uploaded as we find them. I know we have all of the JagdPanthers and think we have all of the games, but I doubt we have all of the Bushwhackers and newsletters.

5. We own some of the old TFG games and do not own others. We may someday scan some of the ones we own the rights to and upload them to e23. Not so much to make money as to preserve them for posterity.

6. Jean's free RPG thing sold 100 (free) copies on DriveThru RPG in 24 hours, and 900 in a week. That may call into question the theory that anybody on DriveThru will go to e23 to get things we only upload to e23. Maybe it does. Maybe not. I did tell Leanna to put JagdPanther #1 on DriveThru.

Friday, March 16, 2012


71. If your attack run is going well, so is the enemy's.

72. Everything you thought the enemy used batteries for was actually allocated in advance. That ESP again.

73. If there is any rule that will result in a friendly seeking weapon targeting a friendly unit, it will happen.

74. When you fool the enemy seeking weapons into hitting the planet, you will remember that the victory conditions were damage to the planet.

75. As soon as you get your fleet in position to attack the enemy capital, a frigate will cut your supply line.

76. If you discover the perfect battle plan, you will be short one point of power.

77. You will never guess lucky about when to put extra power.

78. If you discover a term paper that means your plan is doomed, your opponent wrote it.

79. If your judge forgot to register your ace card, your first opponent will be a fleet captain.

80. The new ship you submitted has been in the file with somebody else's name on it for six years.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

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, March 14, 2012

Some Other Notes on Game Development and Playtesting

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When running a playtest, one of the things to try to do is "break" the game. If the game imposes a bad effect for multiple morale failures, find out if such an event is possible, otherwise the rule (and perhaps the game) is basically broken. This does not mean that something that is defined as "rare" in the game's rules must occur in every game, but if it can only occur as a result of deliberate (as opposed to simply making mistakes) bad playing on the part of the players, then it is broken rule. You need to either delete it, or revise the game rules such that it can occur.

Part of this means considering the possible strategies. SVC notes that one game he worked on only worked when one hex of the map (which was a historical World War II battle) was converted from clear terrain to jungle, otherwise the Japanese were easily able to outflank the defenders and roll up their line, something they could not do historically.

You also have to consider that players will ask questions and do things that "are not forbidden by the rules." As an example, in a first person shooter game where all the players are supposed to be on the same "side," shooting a fellow player so that he cannot gain any more victory points. (Of course if your game is supposed to allow the players to betray one another that is another matter.)

So if you are doing a game based on "The Shootout at the OK Corral," you might need a rule forbidding Doc Holliday from changing sides and supporting the Clantons against the Earps (or you might include rules allowing all of the players to "change sides"). When creating the basic version of the game, though, you need to remember that not all players will play the good guys because they are "playing the good guys."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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, March 12, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 March 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, with work proceeding on projects while orders keep going out. Mongoose seems to have turned a corner on miniatures production. The weather this week was cool to cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Star Fleet Times issues 6-10, and the Star Fleet Times 1-5 pack was upgraded to searchable.

We finished and released Communique #75 and Hailing Frequencies on the 9th.

Steve Cole worked on Communique, Hailing Frequencies, Project T, Project E, Reinforcements Attack, Mongoose ships, ACTASF errata, and Captain's Log #45, but he spent most of the week playtesting Marines. He still hasn't finished the Captain's Log #44 FLAP list but did update the text catalog this week, updated the Lyran SIT, helped the Galactic Conquest guys work up a rule about ground bases, did more blogs to stay ahead of Jean, and worked out plans with Daniel K of MJ12 for the new Starmada edition. He even found time to take Leanna out on an actual date.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45, scenarios, T2012, and playtesting Star Fleet Marines.

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 (which is up to 1,135 friends), proofread Hailing Frequencies and Communique, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Do zombies have constitutional rights? I mean, the ones that haven't actually been declared dead by a doctor (the ones in the hospital morgues).

2. I watched a bunch of those Doomsday Prepper shows on National Geographic. I find the whole concept ludicrous because anybody with a year's food in their house is going to be a target for desperately hungry neighbors with guns. Even building an armored castle in the desert isn't going to help much. You need more warriors with guns to defend the place than you can feed. The guy who thought he was (in the middle of a crisis) going to walk four blocks from his storage locker to his home with a duffle bag full of food had to be very naive. The bunch of New England farmers who thought they didn't need guns to protect their year's supply of food were just nuts.

3. The average American soldier or Marine infantryman in the Pacific in World War II saw a total of 40 days of combat, spread over 4 years. The average American soldier or Marine infantryman in Vietnam saw 240 days of combat in one year. Most Americans sent to either conflict only rarely saw any combat at all, as they served in rear area units.

4. Back in high school, I read the book A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS about Sir Thomas Moore (and later saw the movie). Both praised him for being a man of principle, a man who went to the executioner's block rather than pretend to change his political position. Funny how the book never mentioned that Sir Thomas Moore spent the previous few years burning Protestants at the stake.

5. Leanna and I tried to watch THE RIVER and gave up halfway through episode #3. We just were not enjoying that show. On the other hand, we're down to just three episodes of CHUCK that we haven't watched yet. RINGER and REVENGE remain intriguing, CASTLE and GREY'S ANATOMY remain favorites, and I still think that GOLD MINING MORONS is the best show in the history of television.

6. The US did not know that the Japanese super battleships Yamato and Mushashi had 18-inch guns until after the war when they got the blueprints from the shipyard. For the whole of World War II, we Americans thought those ships had 16-inch guns (same as those on our battleships).

7. Bad career move #74: Tell the woman you sleep with that you have a stockpile of chocolate in your desk and then eat it all before she comes by (a week later) asking for some of it.

8. Bad career move #75: The woman you sleep with asks you to pick up her favorite snack when you stop at the quickie mart, and you forget. (Go back and get it, even if she says it doesn't really matter.)

9. Something is very wrong. American universities gave about 61% of the advanced degrees in engineering and 50% of the advanced degrees in math went to foreign students. Worse, American students claimed 65% of the advanced degrees in education.

10. The so-called gender gap in salaries is actually far less than it appears. Averaged over all men and all women, sure, women make 64% as much. Women also tend to be in lower-paying jobs (by their own choice, such as teachers for lower grades). Many women have shorter careers (if they take time off to have kids), which is one reason the rare cases of exactly equal jobs don't always have the same salaries. Female doctors make less than male doctors, but that's because surgeons made more than other doctors and most surgeons are male. Very few women work as bricklayers, stonemasons, or steelworkers, which tend to pay well. Women who are 30 years old and have never been married actually make more than men who are the same age and have never been married. It's not all sweetness and light; sometimes men just get promoted faster than women because older men don't like pushy women who fight for promotions. But sometimes, women just don't want the stress (politics, long hours, and danger of getting fired for screwing up) of better paying leadership positions.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


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 Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, March 09, 2012


61. If the enemy lets you get to Range 8, you are going to be anchored.

62. Be sure to guard the bridge. That way, you will have a shoulder to cry on when he raids the sensor track.

63. The only time Fred defeated you is the one he posted on his website.

64. Only the enemy will put Guards in the right place; remember his ESP?

65. The enemy launched 80 drones; you killed his scout. This means that one entire squadron of his fleet are drone-scout cruisers.

66. Mizia learned that trick the hard way.

67. You will never get the enemy to follow your retrograde, but you will never fail to follow his.

68. If you successfully cloak in front of 75 drones, 74 of them are targeted on the one Type-VI.

69. The enemy knows your weakness better than you know your own strength.

70. If your ally has a cloak, he will use it to leave you in the trap -- not help you get out.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

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, March 07, 2012

Have a Contingency Plan

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Have a plan and be ready to toss it out the window if things are not going as they are supposed to.

The last time we had a "game night" we played a three-player round of "Dust."

In the setup, I grabbed the capital on the North American continent. My plan was that my two opponents, having a common land border, would probably initially fight with each other, whereas I would be able to sew up the north and south American land masses during set up. While my opponents preoccupied each other, I would move stealthily to secure control of the seas. I would try very hard not to antagonize my opponents so that they would not see me as a threat while they were dealing with each other. In this way, I would minimize my own losses early in the game (giving me more combat power late in the game) while my opponents burned resources fighting each other.

This is not as easy as it might seem, since this meant that a lot of my power would be in sea units which are not useful for fighting land campaigns. Worse, controlling the seas did not mean my own heartland was safe from attack as there are two ways to invade across the seas other than by sea (bombers can take ground in Dust, and the mech dropper card is far too common in the deck allowing an invading force to simply drop a mass of mechs anywhere on your continent).

Things looked good as Joel initiated an aimless attack into northern Europe accomplishing nothing of note except to poke SVC. SVC initiated a drive into the center of the lands held by Joel in Asia, not quite splitting Joel's holdings in half but isolating India. I sniped around the periphery, solidifying my hold on the seas and eliminated much of Joel's navy (since he had no choice but to respond to SVC's advance).

Then disaster struck in the battle for Afghanistan.

Joel initiated a major counteroffensive designed to wreck SVC's major army in a battle of attrition. The disaster was that SVC rolled an amazing number of hits, virtually annihilating Joel's army in a single throw of the dice.

Suddenly the situation had changed. Joel was effectively at SVC's mercy, and I was not yet in position to try to pull off my plan. (I needed more time, but if I took that time SVC would crush Joel and with the combined economies and his comparatively huge army (because Joel had inflicted virtually no casualties on him) would easily be able to build a force to attack me.

I had no choice but to execute my contingency plan. One of the cards in my hand was an aforementioned "mech dropper" card. I built all the mechs I could and dropped the force on SVC's African holdings where two of his production centers were located. It was a sacrifice move, the force would be annihilated by SVC's counterattack, but SVC would be forced to turn away from Joel (maintaining Joel's existence and depriving SVC of the ability to capture additional resources from him). SVC had no choice but to counterattack as my mech force had occupied two of his production centers and threatened his capital, and I could spend my entire economy placing new forces at my "newly gained" production centers in what was his rear.

The end result was victory for me, but only because while keeping my eye on the prize (ultimate victory) I had a contingency plan prepared, and had it prepared before the first turn of the game had been played. (I could have executed the contingency plan against Joel as well, had things in Afghanistan gone the other way, and would not have needed to execute it at all if Afghanistan had resulted in the bloody stalemate that had seemed likely before SVC's astonishingly lucky throw of the dice.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


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, March 05, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 26 February - 3 March 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a more or less normal week. The weather this week was cool, with a spot of snow on Friday night that melted off by noon Saturday. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was the SFB Pocket Edition.

We got a small shipment of Mongoose minis.

Steve Cole was sick with a miserable cold most of the week but was at his desk at least part of each day. He did a Star Fleet Alert; Communique #75; some work on E, T, and Captain's Log #45; Gorn and Lyran minis; some customer request items; the Starmada schedule; and (as he does once a year) slipped out one afternoon to go see a movie with Steven Petrick.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45, T2012, scenario proposals, fiction author support, rules questions, G4, etc.

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 (which is up to 1,130 friends), proofread some things for Leanna, worked with the SFB Galactic Conquest Rules Committee, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


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

1. Chess is an old game (well over a thousand years old), and the origin of check (in all of its meaning including a payment order to a bank), checkmate, and even exchequer. The game began in India and reached Spain by way of the Arabs, who called it shah (the Persian word for king). Thus, check was the English version of the French version of the Spanish version of the Arabic word, and meant "Your king is exposed." Checkmate is the derivative of shah mat (the king is dead). For what it's worth, the queen in European chess is the old Prime Minister or Vizier from Indian Chess. (The game is unchanged in over a thousand years, with the minor edition of the en passant rule as the game passed through France.) Exchequer (a system of government accounting) derives from the fact that in Medieval times, the government's accountants used a table divided into squares to pile up the money from each feudal lord who owed revenue to the crown.

2. Cavalry (horse soldiers) and chivalry (politeness, manners, and deference to women) come from the old French word cheval (horse). Chivalier was simply the French word for a rider, and that word spawned both cavalry and chivalry. (The word cavalry actually comes from the Italian version of chevalier.) A warrior rich enough to own a horse and a suit of armor was a knight (the lowest form of nobility). As knights dominated the battlefield and supporting a war horse and buying armor was expensive, warriors selected for their bravery and loyalty were given land (and its revenue) by a feudal lord, since the king expected all of his feudal lords to show up with a group of mounted and armored knights whenever a war started. (The whole concept of feudalism was basically a way to afford enough horses.) A knight swore an oath not just to obey orders but to behave in a suitable manner, that is, a code of chivalry.

3. Clerk, a secretary or office worker, is a shortened form of cleric, since priests were (a thousand years ago) the only ones who could read and write. Nobles employed priests not just for religious duties but as secretaries to handle records and correspondence. The need for more and more such secretaries sparked the training of non-priests to do the job and thus the spread of general education and literacy.

4. The Greeks knew that the world was round (or at least the top half was round; they didn't know about the southern hemisphere). They envisioned that the slope varied with the distance from the pole or equator, and klima is the Greek word for slope. The Greeks thought that there were seven klima from north to south, and later envisioned that each slope (klima) and its own weather (or climate). The old expression "a change of climate" originally meant to relocate to someplace farther north or farther south.

5. Cloak (a cape) and clock (a timepiece) actually come from the same word, cloca, the Latin word for bell. (A clock chimed the hours while a cloak looked vaguely like a bell.)

6. Clue comes from the middle English word for a ball of yarn. Chaucer retold the classic story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur and finding his way out of the labyrinth by means of a ball of yarn he unrolled as he entered the place.

7. Coach is the English version of the Hungarian town of Kocs, where someone (his name lost to history) first invented a heavier enclosed carriage that had springs between the axles and the body.

8. Cobalt is the English version of the German word kobold, a sort of malignant goblin prone to pranks. When German miners found what seemed to be metallic ore that actually produced no metal when smelted, they threw it aside as denounced the kobold who had tricked them. In 1735, scientists finally identified the mineral cobalt.

9. Coconut comes from the Portuguese word coco, meaning a grinning face. Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to encounter this form of nut, and the three dark spots on the end of it reminded them of a grinning face.

10. Coin comes from the Latin cuneus, a word that defined the wedge-shaped tool used to hammer a die (containing the face of the emperor) into it. Coins had begun as mere droplets of metal, which had to be weighed in order to establish their value. Someone in ancient times got the idea of making droplets of uniform size to avoid the hassle of weighing them, and marked them as such. (The art of producing this uniform size evolved over time. Originally it involving taking random droplets and shaving them down to a desired weight. Modern coins have ridges or writing on the edge to show that no one shaved off some of the metal.) The government eventually stepped in and provided an official mark (and criminal punishment for producing coins of lesser weight or lower-quality metal), and that mark was stamped into the metal disk with a cuneus.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


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, March 02, 2012


51. By the time the Harriers get to Range Zero you will recognize them as Howlers.

52. Since the enemy did not have a copy of your plan, he could not oblige you by walking into your trap. And since your force was bought based on your plan, your plan isn't going to work with the ships you bought.

53. If you overwhelm an Orion with drones, you will discover that he could afford to buy a cloak.

54. Sending your really cool loophole tactic to ADB is the best way to get the rules changed to block it.

55. The ADD that missed was the one targeted on the type-IV.

56. The more you need to find the rule, the better it's hidden in the rulebook.

57. Congratulations on destroying all of the enemy's plasma launchers. Too bad he anchored you seven impulses later.

58. If you can Hit & Run the enemy, he can do it to you.

59. All ships are underpowered except for the ones that are under-gunned.

60. Those strange maneuvers of the enemy just led you across a nuclear space mine.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Little Physics Problem, Or Jettison the Cargo and Live

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Here is a problem in physics.

I have walked along a given stretch of sidewalk near my apartment for over 20 years, so I have covered this route something in excess of 10,000 times coming and going.

Recently I was walking from my mailbox to my apartment. I had my keys in my left hand (so I could open my apartment door) and a large diet coke in a Styrofoam cup in my right hand. The cup was full, I had not taken a drink out of it since I had left the store where I had gotten a free refill.

As my right foot came forward the bottom of the boot caught the lip of concrete between one slab and the next. Forward momentum kept me going, but now my center of gravity is ahead of where my legs are.

As you can imagine I was desperately working both legs trying to "catch" myself before I fell. I staggered four or five steps, and realized that I was "not going to make it." I was going down, so it was time to start making preparations to minimize the damage from the "crash."

I did not think it possible to veer to the left (into the grass), and veering right entailed possibly damaging other people's property (parked cars), which was fine because I do not think I had enough control at that point to veer in that direction. I was going down on the concrete and that was all there was to it.

At this juncture I began "jettisoning" anything that would interfere with minimizing the crash. I dropped my keys so that I could use the palm of my left hand instead of landing on the knuckles with the impact driving the edges of keys into my palm in addition to the possibility of fracturing my knuckles. I also disposed of the diet coke.

This is where it gets kind of weird.

The moment I jettisoned the diet coke, recovery happened. Now, this was not a case of just opening my hand to let the coke drop, I did half toss it away (holding on to it would have entailed it being destroyed on impact anyway, but my right hand's fingers would have been in an extended, and thus sub-optimal configuration for the crash landing probably resulting in dislocations if not outright fractures).

With the coke gone, there was enough shift in my center of gravity that I was able to pull myself up and, literally, short as in all forward momentum stopped before my feet entered the "debris field" of the splattered coke.

Was the weight of that coke that much of a factor in my inability to regain my balance? Or was it the weight of the coke and the impetus of thrusting it away from myself that gave me enough leeway to regain my balance?

I literally went from "crash landing is now inevitable" to "stable motion regained" as a result of jettisoning the coke.

I really do wonder, though, if it really was jettisoning the coke or some other factor I am just not aware of. All of my "built-in" systems at the point where I began preparing for the fall to the concrete were 100% certain that I was past the point of no return in regaining my balance and the fall was inevitable (or I would not have dropped the keys and the coke).

But the fall did not happen, and the recovery seemed to be entirely the result of jettisoning the coke.