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Tuesday, July 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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 July 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the second of the "two weeks" of Captain's Log #45 (which is actually three weeks). The weather this week was a little cooler with some rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Star Fleet Times #31-#35.

Steve Cole worked almost entirely on Captain's Log #45, moving from 53% finished on the night of 21 July to 87% finished by the end of a late Saturday night. Steve lost two days of work when a mysterious pain in his right wrist forced him to be on pain medications, but the pain went away after that and he was back at work and the doctor said not to worry about it.

Steven Petrick worked mostly on Captain's Log #45 but did make progress on the Advanced Missions update.

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 1280 friends), proofread Captain's Log #45, wrote her "Input" article, and did some marketing.

We did discuss the fall schedule at the Tuesday meeting: Federation Commander Reinforcements Attack, the other two Starmada books, and some SFB product yet unpicked in September/October, Captain's Log #46 in November, Traveller in December.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the things he learned from Dilbert.

1. To determine which employees are in the worst health, close the parking lot closest to the building. The ones with heart conditions will just die and avoid future layoff issues.

2. When you're attending a meeting and the next few agenda items don't involve you, feel free to just lay your head on the conference table and take a nap.

3. If your lawyers cannot get done what you want, hire a physicist who will tell you (honestly) that somewhere in the multiverse what you want has already happened.

4. Incorporate your business in heaven, where there are no taxes. The Federal government cannot question your claim because of the separation of church and state.

5. If your online reviews are bad, change one minor feature (even if you make it worse) and change the model number and the bad online reviews will look stale.

6. Give your idiot boss the illusion that he is actually managing your work by randomly emailing him yes or no questions, such as "Should I rotate email addresses so they wear out evenly?"

7. If you discover that one of your products actually harms the consumer, you may have just discovered a lucrative military application.

8. If the only way to get promoted is for an older co-worker to retire, die, or quit, take action! Leave brochures for retirement homes and dangerous adventure vacations around the break room. Send the email addresses of co-workers to executive recruiters.

9. Before showing your boss the new user interface, make sure it is idiot proof.

10. If your boss says he's going to cut the fat out of the department, remind him that the fact there is any fat is his fault so he should start by firing himself.

Saturday, July 28, 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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Clash of Wills

From Captain's Log #12:

A captain of the nearly crippled cruiser Potemkin was coming in to Earth for repairs. Most of his instrumentation was trashed and his helm control was minimal. After entering the system, his helm officer reported that there was a ship on a collision course.

The captain got on subspace and ordered the other vessel to change course. Shortly a reply came back for him to alter his course. Incensed he replied, "I am a Captain; change your course immediately."

"I am an ensign; change your course NOW!"

The captain was furious. "Now listen, Ensign. I'm coming in with a crippled *&%@#@@!! cruiser; change your course!"

"This is a @#!#%'%#@ planet ... Sir!"

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Steve Cole reports: During my time at business boot camp, I learned about a malady I have always known I had, but had never really understood: Entrepreneur's Disease.

This condition affects people who run small businesses that employ and require a lot of creativity. Basically, it's a condition of having so much work, and so many different kinds of work, that it doesn't all get done. There is no cure, but organization, delegation, and prioritization can reduce the symptoms to manageable levels.

Some symptoms include:

1. Constantly inventing and revising time-management systems in a perpetually failing effort to get more things done and avoid having things that never got done bite you in the behind. (At least I delegate to Leanna things that would send me to jail, such as filing and paying taxes.) [All I can offer as a solution is "find one that works and stick with it."]

2. Using a system in which "If I am waiting for somebody else to do something, it's not my problem." With too much to do, anything we send to someone else (such as a request for information, or instructions to do something) is no longer on our overloaded "to do" list. Sooner or later, the requested information or work will arrive and the overall project will go back on our "active to do list" but until then, it's just not our problem. The problem is that this assumes that everybody else is less incompetent and less busy and less disorganized than we are, and can result in waking up the day before (or after) the Big Deadline to find that we never finished a major project because somebody else never answered the request for information or sent something we needed. [My solution here is to keep such directives and requests in my Email outbasket until the designated person answers the question or does the thing. Every week I ask people I am waiting for to do what I asked them to do.]

3. Ignoring, consciously or otherwise, those of our many jobs that we really aren't that interested in or good at to start with. It's also incredibly easy to ignore several of your jobs while focusing on one of them. My blindspot is marketing. I hate doing it and just won't unless somebody forces me to do it, since I have little self-discipline. [A solution I have found it to budget a block of time for each job, and not allow other jobs to intrude on that time, or these small annoying jobs to use other time. The problem is that I don't have the self-discipline to respect that time block, and other demands on my time often confiscate it.]

4. Constantly apologizing for things that did not get done, or explaining why they did not get done. After writing four or five apologies, I've used more time apologizing than the time doing the thing would have taken. [I don't have a specific solution here. If I had time to do it the first time, I would not have had to spend time writing apologies. Maybe what I need is a generic apology form letter I can just cut and paste?]

5. Putting stuff on the schedule or the TO DO list that you know won't get done just because not putting it on the list would look bad and would be politically damaging. This happens every time I try to do any kind of list in public. Telling somebody that they aren't going to get the product they want, or that the product in question won't include the thing they want, gets them upset. Putting that item on a list of "goals" at least gives them time to find something else they think they want and maybe forgot that one. Rarely works, but at least it delays the angry emails a bit. [The only suggestion I can make is to keep the published schedule down to the next few months and have a separate "future outlook" file that describes other projects while making it clear there is no firm schedule for them.]

6. Assuming that anything that CAN be done SHOULD be done. Sure, I could do a product about this or that subject. That doesn't mean it would sell. Even if it would sell, that doesn't mean that other products would not be more profitable. [I have this symptom under control, and have had no problem explaining to people why they won't see a certain product in print. All I can recommend to you is to be firm and realistic and to take the time to explain why it won't happen.]

7. Failing to re-invent yourself to respond to the market. We're still doing the same "kind of games" we were doing back in the day when SFB was the #1 game in the industry. Now, games are simpler, faster, and have fancier components. [We need to be doing games like Tribbles vs. Klingons and quick-playing card games, not another 300-page book that sells 300 copies.]

8. Getting into debt. Debt can kill a company because the interest payments eat up too much income. But what kills an entrepreneur is a long to-do list that keeps getting longer. The extra work needed because of that "to do list debt" is the killer. Time spent explaining to customers why this or that hasn't been done is not time spent actually doing it. Time and money spent making up for the things that didn't get done is time and money not spent creating new income. Things that got half-done produce less useful results than things done well. Running as hard as you can just to keep in place means you need to reorganize what you're doing, how you're doing it, and who you're assigning it to so that your to-do list gets shorter not longer. [I don't have a problem with financial debt, and we don't have any. To avoid that, just don't borrow money and don't spend money you don't have. Do the best you can with the money you have. As for the time debt issue, I've obviously failed pretty miserably on that one.]

9. Falling into psychic energy sinks. Sometimes, something that is taking a lot of mental energy (or producing a lot of stomach acid) isn't really important but you just don't want to lose. [One option for an ongoing email argument is to just delete the next one you get unread. You aren't upset by it and they think you gave up and let them win. Another option is to "save" rather than "que" all angry emails and send them at the last minute so you don't have anger feeding back and forth in continual exchanges that interrupt your work.]

10. Allowing yourself to enjoy a meaningless accomplishment. Everybody loves a feeling of accomplishment, but really, if it didn't put work in the finished file or products on the shelf or money in the bank, it wasn't really an accomplishment. Certainly, you need to devote time to cleaning out clutter, but don't let that time expand to fill a whole day, giving you a feeling that you accomplished something when you actually didn't. [Force yourself to do the quota of productive work first and the feel good projects later.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Captain's Log #45 Moves Along

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the joys of creating in a business is that sometimes you have a lot more you would like to say, but you run out of room in which to say it. Your creativity has to work to a "budget." There is only so much space. You can find yourself spending off hours thinking of things you want to say, to tie something into the larger game background, and there is just not room to say it. Suddenly you are trying hard to fit a lot into only a few words, and much detail has to be summarily dismissed into the darkness.

There is also the eternal problem of dealing with the creativity of others. We are fortunate that we have a lot of very creative people who both play our games, and enjoy sharing their own ideas and concepts. And sometimes that means erasing something I want to say so that they can (when the company feels their concept is a good one) have their own say.

I long ago stopped writing term papers, mostly because I work here, and I think the space should be made available for others. And, yes, because I long ago made the top rank available for term papers (followed closely by Ken Burnside). Also, it is hard for me to tell anymore what ideas I have addressed. The dearth of term paper submissions of late led me to post one in hopes of generating more submissions. It perhaps tells you how desperate we are for more submissions that this one was rated the best of the issue. (Yes, it is one of those sneaky little things I have done on several occasions when I played a lot, and had largely forgotten about.)

While they take a lot of work on my part, I enjoy the battle groups because they allow many players to express their own tactical concepts and perhaps engender discussions with their friends in their local groups. I am already at work trying to think of a good plot for the next one, but have not found one as yet. We need to get the Federation Commander battle group set up also.

I do know which monster is next, and this one will be (compared to a lot of them) easy to do. Often the hardest part is trying to invent some kind of explanation for the monster that is "different" from previous monsters. The next one, however, will not need a lot of explanation as to its operations in terms of its motives, actions, and reactions.

Well, things are moving along.

But once again I will plead for you all to share your own tactical insights. There have been only two Federation & Empire Tactics Notes uploaded since the pot closed for Captain's Log #45, and one of those arrived by mail and was typed in by me so that others could see and comment on it.

We really do need more term papers, tactical notes, command notes, conquest notes, call out notes, and primers for the next issue, so take the opportunity to create and show people how clever you are!

Tuesday, July 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!

Monday, July 23, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 July 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the first of the "two weeks of finishing Captain's Log #45" (although to make it easier on Jean the issue will actually go to press at the end of a third week). The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. A unique medal as issued to our two top internet pirate hunters, Charles Chapel (who had found nearly 200 violations of ADB copyrights) and Shawn Hantke (who found nearly 600 violations of Paramount copyrights). The replacement for the replacement for the new bookbinder arrived and was not defective nor freight-damaged.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #24 and Federation Space.

Steve Cole worked on almost entirely on Captain's Log #45, and by the end of the week, 76 pages (just over 50% of the book) had been sent to Jean. Steve had to have a nurse dig the wax out of his good ear because it had gone deaf.

Steven Petrick worked on mostly on Captain's Log #45 but maintained some progress on the Advanced Missions revision.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and began printing Nova edition Starmada books.

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 1,277 friends), proofread Captain's Log #45, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 22, 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/).

Saturday, July 21, 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!

Friday, July 20, 2012


From Captain's Log #12:

Hydran proverb: Your enemy is only as strong as his weakest shield.

Orion proverb: While money can't buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.

Klingon proverb: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, prepare to die.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I like the television show REVENGE but the last two episodes seem to badly paste into the story a bunch of new information that didn't really fit the overall arc. Suddenly we have the white-haired man who murdered the original fall guy (and several other victims). Suddenly we hear about the super-secret "Initiative" that is behind everything. Suddenly we hear that daddy Grayson had a wife and kids before Victoria. Didn't they have a plan for Season Two before they started?

2. I waited patiently for the start of the seventh season of ICE ROAD TRUCKERS but -- what the heck -- no girls? Where's Lisa Kelly? Where's that feisty New York chick? Who wants to watch those two fat old Canadians for a seventh year? We need a new show VOLCANO ROAD TRUCKERS with girls in bikinis driving pickups on Kilauea in Hawaii to deliver lunch to the science research station.

3. The oldest military ship in service is the Russian VMF Kommuna, which is used to salvage submarines and to operate smaller submersibles. The 2,500-ton catamaran was built in the Netherlands and entered Russian service in 1915. It still works just fine and the Russians have kept her in service. VMF Kommuna became the official oldest military ship with the retirement of the British light cruiser Caroline, which was built in 1914 and served at Jutland. Caroline had been tied to the dock as a training ship for many years. The oldest US ship is the carrier USS Enterprise, which has served for 48 years. (This doesn't count the two-century-old USS Constitution, which is only in commission in a honorary sense.)

4. Bill Blass, the famous fashion designer, worked during World War II to design new forms of camouflage for the allied armies. I guess if you understand (as he did) how the human eye perceives things, you can use that talent in many ways.

5. Steven Petrick and I have been reading a set of books on D-Day by Balkoski. These are very detailed books with a lot of tactics and doctrine, the kind of history books that pull no punches and point out the mistakes that were made instead of sweeping them away with heroic tales of perseverance. Omaha Beach was very nearly a failure because so many things went wrong. The Germans had moved in a new first-class division three months earlier and the allies did not notice, assuming that the previous static division was still in place. (Part of it still was.) The naval bombardment was too short and the air bombardment missed by miles. The rocket bombardment felt harmlessly into the ocean. Troops who had been told they would walk up on the beach and arrest a few dazed German third-rate troops were pinned down under murderous firepower. The only troops to survive were those who landed in the wrong place! Things went from bad to worse as following waves (told they would walk over an already-cleared beach) were also caught in murderous fire. Engineers who were told "the Germans will be long gone and you can get to work clearing roads and landing lanes" found themselves fighting as infantry against German defenders who were still very much there. The plan (direct assaults on the valleys that formed the only breaks in the cliffs) collapsed when those assaults failed with massive casualties because the bombardment had not neutralized the defenses. But despite all of that, in two hours, the Atlantic Wall had broken and the troops were pouring through the German lines. What happened? Individual leaders, from one old brigadier general to the lowest sergeant, decided that the original plan had failed and that they needed a new plan. Throwing away thousand-page planning documents, they invented new plans on the spot and did what everyone (including the Germans) knew was impossible: they simply climbed the cliffs and got behind the German pillboxes in the valleys.

6. I keep watching DEADLIEST CATCH thinking that I could design for them a collapsible crab pot that would be easier to stack. With lower stacks, things would be a lot easier and lot less dangerous.

7. Should everyone go to college? Ok, it's a nice theory, but some people just aren't interested, and some just aren't college material. Student loans have meant that unqualified students are running up huge debt for useless easy degrees because someone talked them into it or because it sounded more fun or less work than getting a job. Some colleges have had to water down their courses just to keep the students from flunking out (which would off the flow of student loan money to college coffers). About 40% of recent college graduates are working in jobs that never required a degree. They'd be better off with four more years of seniority in those jobs and no student loan debt.

8. There are about 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today, and within a few decades that will drop to 6,000 (as there are at least 1,000 of them, including 100 in the US, that are spoken only by old people). By 2100, the number of languages will drop to 3500. More people mean more communication between isolated groups and the smaller groups learn and then adopt the language of the larger and richer groups. There are about 1000 languages in New Guinea, 3/4 of them in isolated pockets that (due to the dense jungle) are not in regular contact with any other groups.

9. About half of Americans leave the water running while brushing their teeth. Stop doing that, as you're wasting a gallon or two every day.

10. It is estimated that all of us end our lives having left about 50 coins in odd locations. Just the normal activities of life mean that we sometimes pick up a coin (or notice one we dropped or left laying around) and instead of putting it with our other coins we put it somewhere else. (Think about it. Are there really no coins at all in the drawers of your desk at work? Really no coins in the chest of drawers at home? Are there really no coins you left laying around? You got change at the drive-up window and, it being awkward to reach your pocket, you threw the coins in the ash tray.) It might do well to make it a point to grab them when you see them and put them with your other coins. Some of these odd lost coins are foreign coins that showed up in change or came home from trips. If you don't really want them as curiosities, donate them to the church which might send them in packages they send to missionaries.

Wednesday, July 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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Last Jump School Jump

This is Steven Petrick posting:

It has been a few years since I posted of my experiences in Jump School, but I am going to take today to finally tell some of the tale of my final jump.

I was about the fifth person to go out the door. I was jumping from a C-141. The first eight or so jumpers (since we were jumping from both sides of the aircraft) were females, and I was the first male on my side of the plane (left side I believe).

The actual exiting of the aircraft was (accounting for the greater airspeed and thus wind blast in jumping from a jet) normal. Stuff started happening after that point.

With my chute opened and checked, I began looking around for fellow jumpers.

None were at "eye level." Not the female students who had jumped before me (being lighter than guys, they normally descended a little slower), not the guys who jumped after me.

I was "higher" than everyone else.

In fact, I continued to get higher.

I had exited the aircraft into a freak updraft, and instead of descending I was actually rising.

This continued long enough that I was actually still in the air, and higher than the jump aircraft when it came to lay its next stick of jumpers. I actually saw one of the flight crew tap his fellow crew-member on the shoulder and point at me through the cockpit window.

Not really knowing what else to do, I waved at them.

Once the aircraft had passed, I started trying to rectify the situation. I did this by first pulling two-riser slips in all four directions. This did not seem to accomplish anything, so I switched to one riser slips, again with no apparent affect. I could see, however, that I was moving towards the Chattahoochee river. It was still a good distance away, but it was the direction in which I was moving. I would have to cross a barrier of trees before I reached it, but as I did not wish to do either a "tree landing" or a "water landing" (both of which had been covered in the training, but were still not something I wanted to actually do), I went with another part of the training. You can pull a little extra riser in one riser slip, but it is D A N G E R O U S.

I did.

This actually had immediate effect (or maybe it just coincided with my finally exiting the updraft, I do no know). I went from "floating" to "moving down" . . . down at a noticeably accelerated rate faster than I had ever gone down in a parachute any previous time.

Okay, I am going down. Now the problem is that I have to s l o w l y release the riser I have pulled down into my chest. The object being not to create "oscillation." Oscillation, you see, is fun. You swing back and forth in your parachute harness until you hit the earth. The problem is that you may reach the point of hitting the earth while at the top of an oscillation, which then swings your whole body slam into the ground with no control. (You might reach the ground closer to the mid point of the swing in which case you may be able to do a proper parachute landing fall, but you may not really be able to control direction).

This was perhaps the one time training failed me. Avoiding oscillation was not something you really got to practice (at least I did not) before it happened (truthfully, a lot of things were taught that you did not get to practice, you were just told what to do). Despite my effort to slowly release the riser, I found myself oscillating after I had fully released.

Even though that part of the training had failed me, the part of the training on how to fight oscillation when it happened did not (grab the risers in the direction of a given Oscillation movement, pull them towards you, then slowly release them as you swing back, then alternate to the other side until the swinging stops).

I was so focused on cancelling my oscillation I was no longer really looking around. Just as I finished cancelling the Oscillation, I looked ahead (not down, just straight ahead), and saw "the tops of trees." This did not mean that I was about to crash land into the trees, but that my sight level was even with the tops of the trees an thus that "landing is imminent," i.e., I was about to hit the ground.

Having no idea which way was my direction of movement, I did not know which set of risers to grab for the "prepare to land" maneuver, and did not think I had time to look a the ground and determine my direction of movement, so I simply grabbed a set of risers and pulled them into my chest and otherwise adopted the "prepare to land" position. Then I waited, and waited, and waited.

After what seemed a minor eternity, I felt the toes of my boots brush the earth. Then, a few seconds, it seemed to me, afterwards the heels of my boots settled on Terra Firma. There I was, in a tight "prepare to land" position, standing upright on the Drop Zone.

One of the things the Black Hats tell jump students is that if you do a "Hollywood landing" during jump school (that is land standing up without doing a parachute landing fall), even if it is your last jump, they will wash you out of jump school and you will not get your parachute badge. With this in mind, I promptly hurled myself to the ground and executed a parachute landing fall in case any of them were looking.

Okay, that is over, right?

Well, no.

I still have to unhook from my parachute, pack it all up in a kit bag, and "double time off the drop zone."

So I jumped up and looked around for my parachute.

No parachute on the ground.

I was, however, surrounded by suspension line/parachute cord. This caused me to look up and discover that my parachute was still fully inflated and floating over me like a giant amoeba. Not wanting it to descend on me, I hustled out from under it and it laid down behind me neatly, making it easy to roll up and put in my kit bag.

As this was my last jump, I had just decided, after flipping the kit bag onto my back, that I would not "double time off the drop zone" (there was no threat of being failed out of jump school for that). Just at that moment I heard a loud "thung," and as I spun around I saw a steel pot coming down for its second bounce about 10 feet from where I was standing. Another stick of jumpers had been laid, and a female jumper (the helmet had a "W" on it) had lost her helmet which had impacted the drop zone near where I was standing.

With an image of being killed on the drop zone after completing the last formal action needed to graduate racing through my head, I moved to the edge of the drop zone near the bleachers with considerable alacrity.

With that, there was just collecting my parachute badge, orders, and personal property, and I left Fort Benning for the first time on my way back to school.

I would return to Fort Benning less than ten months later to attend the Infantry Officer's Basic Course.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 July 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of focus on specific projects. The weather this week was a little cooler than previously. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: Star Fleet Battles: Module R2 SSD Book 2012.

Steve Cole worked on the story for Captain's Log #45, finishing it late Saturday. Those around him said it appeared that a thousand pound weight had been removed from his shoulders. He also did a few things for Mongoose and finished up Communique and Hailing Frequencies.

Steven Petrick worked on the revision to Advanced Missions and worked on the tree for Platinum Hat.

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 1,266 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 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.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Random Thoughts Blog #70 was a compilation of the 10 blog items I thought were best from all of the previous blogs. People liked it, so I decided to do one every 50 blogs. In order to get back on an even pace, I'm doing that in #100 and will do it again in #150. So, here are my own TOP TEN.

1. Lady Gaga does a song called EDGE OF GLORY which I really like. It's not just a good beat (always a requirement if you want me to like a song) but it could mean anything you wanted, from someone putting their feelings on the line and asking if their love is returned, to the gold mining guys in Alaska, to a soldier wondering if he'll be a hero or a zero in his first battle, to a businessman wondering if his new product is really going to be a hit. We're all waiting for the moment of truth.

2. I continue to enjoy (and be frustrated by) the AMC series WALKING DEAD, which is about apocalyptic zombies. The people continue to show a singular lack of curiosity about how this mess started. Nobody seems to think of finding a ham radio and just broadcasting to see if anybody else (say, a surviving military unit) is alive. They found a zombie in a well and decided to get him out before they killed him so that the water would not be polluted by his smashed brains. So why did they lower Glenn down on a rope and then try to drag the zombie out by a rope around his neck (resulting in half of the rotting corpse dropping back into the well)? Would it have not made more sense to find a ladder and let him climb out? Also, if the zombie reached the bottom of the well by some underground route, does that not mean steps have to be taken to seal off this well from further intrusions? (Not to mention establishing a twice-daily check to see if zombies found underground routes into the other four wells.)

3. Someone asked: Do you have any thoughts to ADB going into a new path? Would you consider doing a Babylon 5 or Star Wars version of SFB? Would you ever consider doing something entirely new?

The answers are: We think about new ideas every day. We probably would not want to do Babylon 5 or Star Wars because the licenses would cost way too much. We do entirely new SFU stuff all the time.

4. In the basement of the Berlin museum, there are many crates of dinosaur fossils collected in Africa before World War I which have never been opened due to a lack of budget. Finding fossils is only half of the problem. The skilled prep techs who painstakingly scratch away the rock surrounding the bones (which are themselves rock of a slightly different kind) are underpaid, overworked, and in very short supply. In many museums, fossils pulled out of the ground wait 10 or 20 years to be dug out of the matrix of rock around them.

5. It amazes me how you can forget things. When you're 25 you think that every fact you ever learned is still there, but when you reach 55 you realize your life has lasted long enough that you have forgotten things that were once well known. (I was fluent in Spanish when in the construction business. Now, I can barely manage a dozen words.)

6. Some of our planets are missing! Turns out, when the Solar System got going four and some fraction billion years ago, there were at least 20 (smaller) planets between the sun and what is now the orbit of Mars. A couple fell into the sun, most merged into the four rocky planets, and others got gravity-flung out of the system entirely to wander forever in the interstellar void. One of those narrowly escaped this fate when it was caught by the gravity of Neptune and became the moon Triton. Mercury got hit by another planet (much like Earth did) with its crust thrown into space (where it fell into the sun) and the cores of the two planets merging into the Mercury we know today. (The fact that Mercury is more or less solid iron resulted in a stupid SyFy channel movie about it getting magnetized and heading for impact with Earth at 1/10 of the speed of light.)

7. We really need to do a better job of marketing. Jean does a lot of really great stuff I don't know about at the trench level, but the important stuff (getting proper release information to wholesalers) is still not happening. Part of that is getting cover art on time (I'm always waiting for a cover that is months late), part of it is getting the design far enough along that we can predict the price and release date. The wholesalers want 90 days notice, not because they need it but because the comic book industry does things that way. (The stores know that anything announced that far out won't happen anyway and they ignore it.)

8. Jean wanted us to create two pages of advertising for the two main RPG systems. (These were to be included in that RPG intro pack she did to explain the universe to new customers.) I basically blew a fit, since I am overloaded with things to do, hate doing marketing, and I get stuck with writing all of the advertising because nobody else seems to know how. Jean understood my situation, and decided to sneak one by using the old Rock Soup system. She told Joel to create "rough draft" advertising pages using the copy from the shopping cart. She cleverly thought that once it was shown to me, I'd start marking all over it, take charge of it, and it would get finished. Well, it worked, but perhaps not the way she expected. Joel did what he could, and brought it to me. Rather than taking over the project as Jean assumed I would, I explained to Joel that I was going to teach him how to do ad copy. (That way, I'll have someone to delegate this stuff to.) It took Joel five trips back and forth to my office with updated drafts, but we made it work. I would show him a problem and discuss how to fix it, he'd go take his best shot (he's actually pretty smart), and then I'd discuss with him ways to do it better. I guess I'm just getting too old, but I was calm and tutorial during the process. I figured out that it was easier to give Joel inadequate instructions and then show him how to fix the result than to lay out the instructions so fully that I had basically done all of the work. I had him write some new copy to fill in one item, and told him to "go find some art" to fill some blank spots. He found some art, but the four pieces of art came from three different places, and didn't look good together. I pointed this out to him, and suggested that since Xander Fulton keeps bombarding us with all kinds of art, that maybe he could find four Xander graphics that would work and would actually look like a matched set. That is just what happened! In the end, the process took two hours, but only about 15 minutes of my time. I could have done it by myself in an hour, but after we worked our way through the first of the two pages Jean wanted done, Joel was able to whip up the second page by himself in only 10 minutes. So, I learned something. (If there is no one to delegate things to, invest the time in training someone.) Joel learned how to do ad copy, and learned a few tricks, tactics, and principles for building a creative ad. He stretched his skills and in the end did a better job than I could have, since he knew better than I did where to find all of the art pieces in his computer. Jean honed her skills at manipulating me (and others in the office) to get her goals accomplished.

9. 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 the 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.

10. Once we began uploading the old JagdPanther magazines (that I did during the 1970s), 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.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Jean Sexton writes:

Today is Friday the 13th -- supposedly a conjunction of two unlucky times. (Some myths hold that Fridays are unlucky and the 13th has a long history of bearing the reputation of unlucky.)

ADB didn't go the route that some hotels did and skip 13 in its numbering. However, some folks might think the R13 section unlucky -- and if you've faced a full fleet of ISC ships, then you might agree!

Just keep hockey masks and machetes away from your opponents today. And remember that black cats playing space dragon on your playing area can mean bad luck (well, any color cat could, but you get my drift).

May your gaming today and always bring you happiness.

Thursday, July 12, 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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Leadership and Loyalty

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Leadership is not a science. We can read history and learn what others did, but no matter how much we try to teach it, the reality is that each individual must find his or her own unique qualities. This does not mean that there are not similarities, or that leadership should not be taught. It is simply that in some cases the leader would be the leader if only the leader "knew how." So, yes, the skills can be taught, and a graduate of a military academy or of ROTC or of an OCS system who can be leader becomes a leader.

Leadership in the military is often characterized by that willingness to put others before self. To get a little less sleep yourself because you are making sure the people intrusted to you are getting the sleep they need. Eating last to make sure all of your people are fed, rather than grabbing the first plate of food and turning your back to them. You can be a leader, but if you do not know how to put your people before yourself, you may not be a successful leader.

That is, however, not to say that there have not been successful leaders who acted as if they cared nothing for their subordinates.

This is one of the differences.

We tend to think of true leaders as people we follow because, for some indefinable reason, we believe in them and want to follow them. Whether they are religious leaders, military leaders, or political leaders (the leader of a "peace and love commune" is very much a "political leader").

The others are the appointed leaders, who have appointed followers. They may be the heads of corporations or bureaus, or the director of a hollywood film. They tend very much to be less caring of their followers who, after all, are paid money to be abused by the "leader."

And this is where loyalty steps in. Real leaders, whether appointed and grown into the job, or rising out of the pack, inspire loyalty, and return that loyalty (i.e., they take care of their followers or subordinates, and are able to put their needs ahead of their own when circumstances dictate its necessity). It is the return of that loyalty they inspire which makes the truly great leaders, whether in the military, or in business, or day to day life.

Tuesday, July 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:

Monday, July 09, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 July 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week, although it probably should have been a more intense week of work. With the holiday (and the time spent finding Steven Petrick a replacement car) we still managed a fair bit of work. The weather this week was in the 90s every day, with broken promises of rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: we have sent in the R2 SSD book.

Steve Cole worked mostly on the Captain's Log #45 fiction and the ACTASF scout rules. He took a day to do the Communique that is due to come out next week.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions revision.

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 1260 friends), proofread some for Captain's Log, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


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

1. DIVAN, a word for a sofa, comes to Europe from Persian by way of Turkey. The word originally meant any bound collection of pages (such as a few poems) smaller than a book. Then it became an account ledger, and then a government official who used such a ledger during a meeting. The meetings were conducted in a council chamber with a ring of sofas around the edge. Europeans noticed this when visiting Arab countries, Persia, or India. To European visitors, the word "dewan" came to mean first the ledgers and then the officials, and finally the fact that the officials reclined at ease instead of sitting up in rigid-back chairs. (Europeans thought the foreign leaders to be lazy and more concerned with comfort than with getting work done.) From there, it was only one step for the word to mean the furniture itself, rather than the ledger held by the official sitting on it.

2. DOILY, a fancy fringed table napkin placed under a plate, bowl, or glass, was originally the surname of a shop owner in London's Strand district. Around 1720, he found a local weaver who would make a cheap wool cloth that looked quite fancy. It became (for few years) commonly used in clothing, which would then be cheap and rich-looking. In order to impress upper-class customers, he had special napkins made to put under glasses and bowls (so they did not mar the furniture finish) and these were known as Doily napkins, which many people copied. Eventually, the term was shortened to doily.

3. DOLLAR, a unit of currency, comes from the German word thaler, which means valley. In 1516, silver was discovered in the Joachim Valley of Austria, and the local count minted his own coins (as was common at the time). These had the face of Saint Joachim and were known as Joachimthalers or simply thalers. His coins circulated widely under that name, and the term was soon applied to any silver coin of that approximate size. (The size was common as that amount of silver was equal to the gold florin that was the standard currency of the era.) The British colonies in America used Spanish "oros" (silvers) as their standard currency (they did a lot of trade with the Spanish) and those coins were nearly the same size as German or Australian thalers. The Spanish coins displayed a vine wrapped around a column, which produced the dollar sign. For trade, it was common to use a cold chisel to cut a Spanish oro into eight pieces, each of which was close enough to the English shilling that such "bits" became common as small coins.

4. DRAGON, a large reptile with wings (and the ability to spew fire) were common in legends the world over due to the occasional discovery of dinosaur bones. (Homer mentions a drakken in the Illiad.) When firearms were first invented, some of them were called dragons because they spewed fire. Men armed with firearms were sometimes called dragons, a term that eventually was limited to mounted infantry (since the heavy firearms were more easily carried by men on horses), and of course, a mounted infantryman is even today a dragoon.

5. DUMBBELL, a weight used in exercising, comes from dumb (silent) and bell. People noticed that the village or church bell ringer had a very well developed chest and arms, a true "manly man" of great physical prowess. Those who wanted to develop such muscles used a device that simulated the effect with weights (not a bell) in their home (the first exercise machine). As these exercise machines made no noise (at least, they did not ring a bell) they were known as silent bells or dumb bells. The term eventually meant the "free weights" used today.

6. DUNCE, a stupid person, derives from a real person who was anything but stupid, Jon Duns Scotus, a scholar who died in 1308. He was a Franciscan who spent his career contradicting the theories of the Dominicans (mostly Saint Thomas Aquinas). His theories of logic dominated until 1500, when they came to be seen as hair splitting and obstructionist. At this point, opponents of the Scottus School called their ideological foes "Dunsmen" and later "dunces."

7. DUNGEON, a prison area in the basement of a castle or fort, comes (ironically) from the French term donjon which applied not to the castle's basement but to its tallest (or dominant) tower (the one that Englishmen called a keep). The prison cells were in the basement of this tower, which was the best defended part of the castle.

8. EASLE, a stand on which a painting or sign is placed, comes from the Dutch word ezel, which means donkey or ass. To the Dutch, such a stand was a smaller version of the carpenter's horse (or sawhorse), and thus was a donkey.

9. EASTER, the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ, comes from the German goddess of spring, Eastre. Every culture in the world (at least where it snowed) had a spring holiday. With plenty of food about to be available, the last of the food stored for winter could be combined with the first new food available to hold a feast, celebrating that the winter was over and that the group had survived the most challenging part of the year. Christians decided that it would be easier to convert pagans if existing pagan holidays were simply converted to the new religion, and it seemed appropriate that the rising of new life in the spring would commemorate the rise of the resurrected Jesus.

10. ECHO, the reflection of sound, comes from the name of a Greek nymph. Zeus (king of the gods) liked to party with with the nymphs, which upset his wife, Hera. She tried to follow him around to keep him out of trouble. He arranged for Echo, a natural chatterbox, to distract Hera with pointless small talk. Eventually catching on, the outraged Hera cursed Echo to wander the world unseen, unable to speak until spoken to, and then only able to repeat the words just spoken.

Saturday, July 07, 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.

Friday, July 06, 2012


There is still time to register for our second Internet SFB International Championship Tournament. Registration will close midnight at the end of July 9th. This is a single-elimination tournament using a standard tree. This tournament will be conducted through SFBOL and you will need to be a member of that service to participate. Peter Bakija, who won last year’s event, will be the chief judge.

We will have at least 32 seats, and up to 64 if there is demand. There is an optional entry fee (see the paragraph below to see if you qualify for the waiver) of $10 per person which will be added to the prize fund which ADB, Inc., has always provided, and distributed down to the top eight players (16 if we have 64 seats).

We want to encourage the greatest number of people to play, so anyone who qualifies as a "deuce" can enter without paying an entry fee. (If we have more people than seats, the last "deuces" to sign up will be matched against each other to gain the final seats, effectively adding a round and giving everyone else a bye.) To qualify as a "deuce" you must have not won an ace card in the last three years (that includes people who have never won one). Even if you qualify as a deuce, you can pay the entry fee and be treated as an ace (even if you’re an ace with no ace cards).

After we know the number of entries, we will lock in the format (i.e., decide if there are 32 or 64 seats, decide how many seats will be reserved for re-entries, seed the aces, and assign byes). Aces will be "seeded" according to the total number of ace pins and SFB Gold/Platinum hats (total) each player has in their lifetime record. Deuces (and perhaps lower-rated aces) will be distributed randomly in a way to avoid same-ship duels as much as possible. Depending on the size of the tree and the number of active players, we may give some first-round byes to the highest rated players, and we may reserve some seats for re-entries. (We will not reserve more than eight seats for re-entries as filling 26 seats in FFAC took weeks.) Re-entry seats will go at no cost to eliminated players (or at the normal fee for late sign-ups) in the order people ask for them.

The winner must send in his Platinum Victory article (which must meet the standards of previous articles) within 90 days of the end of the event or be disqualified (in which case he will get no prize and there will be no winner named). Do you find writing daunting? Don't worry! We have expert writers and editors who will help you write your article -- and you also get paid for the article in addition to the prize money.

As we did in Platinum Hat 2011, Tournament Marshal Steven P. Petrick will "ride herd" on the tournament to ensure that games are played on schedule and the event does not drag. There will, inevitably, be some delays near the end when re-entries have to "catch up" to the initial entries. A firm hand on the helm will ensure that these are as minor as possible. Two or three senior players will be appointed as "honorary sheepdogs" and empowered to encourage people to get their games done. People who do not get their next game completed in a set number of days will be disqualified and the player they beat (or a wildcard selected by the judges) replaces them.

To register, use this link: http://www.sfbonline.com/tourn_signup.jsp

To pay an entry fee, use this link: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=9650&Category_Code=03

Cone on out and participate! Let's make this the largest Platinum Hat competition yet -- and only you can make that wish come true.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Car Search is Over

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

The search for a new car as ended.

The 2004 Buick LeSabre Special Edition has been replaced by a 2005 Buick LeSabre Custom Edition.

The differences are that the air conditioning and locks are not programmable. The interior is cloth, not leather. There is only a CD player, no cassette player. The seats are not heated, nor are the side view mirrors. There is no lumbar support, and while the seats are powered to move forward and back, the angle of incline is manual only, and there is no built in memory for different riders in a given seat. The On Star system is clunkier, there is no "direction" indicator and it does not tell you external temperature. The car also lacks programming buttons for garage door operation and turning on the houselights.

Further, the car itself is not in as good overall condition. There is about a $1,000.00 of work that will need to be done, not to mention an oil change and replacing the front tires and balancing all of them. The cigarette lighter is missing (an annoyance) and the cup-holder is broken (if I had known this was going to be the case, I could have scavenged these things from the older car, but that is now not possible).

It is a newer car (by a year), and has a lot less miles on it (about 80,000), and the owners were not as kind to it as the owner of the previous car.

Tomorrow I will take it to be serviced, and on the 16th it will go into the body shop to get the gigs on the front end resolved.

And so life moves ahead.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

July 4, 2012

I believe in America because we have great dreams -- and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true. -- Wendell L. Wilkie

We at ADB, Inc. wish a happy birthday to this great country where we've been able to make our dreams come true.

We hope that you are all able to follow the wishes of John Adams:

It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Enjoy your day. Please be aware the office may not be staffed as we celebrate.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Play Online

Many people do not know that you can play either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander online in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of Star Fleet Battles with an online 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 online 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 online 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.

Monday, July 02, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 June 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week, although the company really needs to find a sense of urgency. The weather this week was hot, often over 100F. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. Our new bookbinder arrived (to replace the new one the truckline destroyed) but it has some melted glue inside it (in the wrong place) so it's a $3000 paperweight that we'll have to send back to the factory for a total disassembly.

New on e23 this week was Star Fleet Times #25-#30. Next week will be the R2 SSD book and another Captain's Log the week after that.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #45, ACTASF scout rules, Project E, Project S, proofreading Petrick's Advanced Missions update, Matthew's historical Red Dagger Squadron, and Traveller cover art.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions revision. He finished the R2 revision.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. He checked a new shipment of Romulan 2500s and 119 of 120 ships passed inspection.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1248 friends), proofread Captain's Log #45 and R2, and did some marketing. Jean continued to promote the Platinum Hat tournament and convinced Steven Petrick to extend registration another week.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Steve Cole muses:

There really should be a book GROWN UP FOR DUMMIES that tells people everything they need to do when they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Joel Shutts, our graphics intern, recently graduated from college, conducted a brief but effective hunt for a professional graphics job, and officially became a "grown up." There are a lot of things that happen at this point in your life, and there really isn't a book explaining all of them. The mental shift from "college student just getting by on as few dollars as possible" into "employed worker who needs to act like a grown up in society" can be confusing, even jarring. I've seen too many young people get themselves in trouble (or miss opportunities). Normally, you have parents to help you with this, although Joel's parents aren't even in this hemisphere and more than a few young people don't have a working relationship with their parents. Leanna and I have kind of taken Joel as "an honorary nephew" and tried to point him in the right direction. This blog cannot cover what needs to be a whole book, but let me hit the high points. No two situations are the same, and many parts of the transition happen at different times for different people. (Joel moved to his own apartment long before graduation. Leanna got her own apartment just days after graduation. I graduated, then lived with my folks until I got married. Steven Petrick graduated and entered the Army.)

1. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a day to enjoy being out of school, then later give yourself a day to enjoy starting a full-time job. Take it all in. Think things through. Major life-changing events (the change from student to worker, the change from single to married, inheriting a big chunk of money) do strange things to your brain and you should not do anything in a hurry.

2. Do a complete and major financial assessment of your situation before vs. after graduation. Your old sources of income (student aid, student loans, part-time after-school jobs, money from family) just stopped and your new source of income (your full time paycheck) just started. Your old expenses (tuition, books) just stopped and new expenses (a different place to live, taking over things your parents used to pay for you) just started. (Hint: Avoid taking on a lot of new responsibilities -- like buying a new car -- right away.) In theory, you suddenly have a lot more money. (If you have student loans, the time when they keep giving you more money is over, and the time you have to start writing checks to pay them off has started. In that case, maybe you don't have a lot more money. Maybe you actually have less.) The point is to reconstruct your budget for the month(s) before you graduated and write a new one for the months after you got a job. Lots of things changed, as I noted above. Just writing them all down on paper can be mind-boggling but at least you'll know where you are. Allocate enough money to paying debts that you're out of debt as soon as possible, preferably no more than two years. Minimum payments isn't going to do it.

3. Look ahead at the next year or two. Is there some big expense out there (a wedding, a period of lower income, travel home for Christmas) that needs to be budgeted and saved for? Better to build that into the budget right now. Dave Ramsey recommends that your first step is to put $1000 in the bank and leave it alone. That's for emergencies, not for Christmas shopping. That thousand bucks means that a disaster (like major car repairs) is only an inconvenience. Of course, you want to steadily build up your savings. In the "normal" course of events, your future includes some major expenses (a new car at some point, an engagement ring, a wedding, the down payment on a house) and you need to accumulate money. Nobody says you have to live like a monk, but you don't need to spend every dime and run up your credit cards besides. (Speaking of credit cards, pay them off every month. Or just buy stuff you can afford with checks and cash.)

4. Get a lot of advice from other grown-ups, people who entered the work force a year or two (or a decade or three) before you did. Ask them for their advice, and for their now-funny stories of the stupidest things they did. (We all did something stupid, sometime. It's how we learn.) Read a book or two on personal money management (and on getting out of debt if that's a factor).

5. Celebrate a little, but responsibly. Assuming your new budget has a surplus at the end of the first month, put half of it in the bank (or debt payments), then spend the other half. Spend some of it on some big item you really need and will have for a long time. (It will remind you of your graduation.) Spend some of it having fun. See a movie every night for a week. Go to a nice restaurant and order a very expensive steak. Take a weekend to drive to the mountains or the sea shore. Just don't do something that gets you arrested or injured. No drunken binges, no sky diving, no tattoos, no celebratory shoplifting. Comprende?

6. Maybe you lived in a dorm or with your folks or in a cheap student apartment. If so, moving to a new nicer apartment is going to be a chore. (If the apartment you had as a student is good enough for an employed single adult, you've already done part of this step.) Take time to find the right place, near work and things you like to do, at the right price. The bigger issue isn't going to be finding a place to live but setting up a household. Your parents have a house full of stuff (that they accumulated over years), and maybe if you lived in a dorm you had the first bits and pieces of that stuff (a few odd dishes and cooking pots, some sheets, a few tools), but setting up your own grown-up apartment means buying a lot of stuff. Don't try to buy it all in one day. Buy it as you need it, and don't try to find an excuse to buy something that the salesman is pushing you to buy, or something you don't want but all of your friends have. Don't buy the fanciest stuff, and make do with hand-me-downs if you can. You can get a lot of stuff at garage sales and it will last until you accumulate money and experience and want to replace it with an upgrade.

7. Some of the things you will need to buy: Enough dishes, pots, pans, and appliances to cook a holiday dinner. (Start with four place settings of white dishes, a reasonable set of stainless tableware, a decent non-stick frying pan, a few cooking spoons, a spatula, and a couple of saucepans.) Enough tools to do whatever you need to do around your house. (At minimum, a small hammer for hanging pictures, a few screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and a tape measure. If you don't know what to do with a certain tool, get a friend or relative to show you before you decide to buy one.) Furniture. (You can probably start by shopping the attic or storage area of your parents and grand parents. Over time, you'll want to replace it with nicer stuff. When you move to a real house, you can put the old stuff in the guest room and buy nicer stuff for yourself.)

8. There are some adult responsibilities you will have to face (and just maybe your employer can help with some of these). Build a good credit history. Buy a little life insurance. (As a single person, you only need $10,000 worth of term insurance to cover funeral expenses if you walk in front of a bus. You don't want to be a burden on your parents, right? Do not let some salesman con you into "investing" in a big cash value whole life policy. That's the worst investment you can make.) Start a ROTH retirement account. (The dollar you put in there at age 23 will, on retirement, be worth a lot more than the dollar you put in at 43.) If your employer has a retirement plan, use that (especially if they match your money with their own.) Health insurance (at your age, you really just need some kind of major catastrophic coverage, not everyday stuff).

9. Pay back the kindness of friends and relatives who helped you get through school. Everyone who gave you money or stuff (dishes, furniture, a winter coat, whatever) to survive as a student deserves a thank you. Perhaps you could buy them a present or take them out to dinner. You're an adult now. When your aunt invites you to dinner, you ask if you can bring something (a bottle of wine or a pie). Or maybe you arrange to bring everything for them to cook one special meal so you can share with them your entry into the society of equal adults. Being a grown up means responsibility. You don't get a pass because you're a starving college student. You've got a full-time job, so pull your own weight.

10. Maybe you got to this point in life without a sweetheart or maybe you already have one of those. If you have one, include them in the celebration. If not, you need to think about finding one. [Seriously, you're not going to die alone 60 years from now, are you?] There is no hurry, and don't take the first one to come along, and don't take the wrong one out of desperation. Being alone is not as bad as being with the wrong person. (If you haven't dated much, this is going to be scary, but you'll survive. It was scary for everyone else when they started dating. Just remember: there is one of "them" for every one of "us," and they're every bit as nervous about dating someone new as we are.) Figure out where you will meet the kind of person you want to be with. For many, that's church, for others, that's the gym and the military reserve or the garden club or a friend of a friend. (You need someone with common interests. If you have nothing you enjoy doing together, you won't stay together.) Again, there is no hurry, but casual dating (dinner and a movie) is a way to start thinking of yourself as an adult (and it's fun). Circulate, don't tie yourself down right away, have a lot of friends and enjoy their company. (You really do not have to have sex on the third date no matter what television says.) Don't date someone with bad financial habits or a criminal record. Don't date someone who is of a different life philosophy or political party. The point is to just start dating. It's fun. Do it responsibly and respectfully and leave behind a few exes who have fond memories of something that didn't work out, not axes to grind or restraining orders.