about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Sunday, September 30, 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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Steve Cole reports: A lot, and more than you think. A lot of costs go into a game, before, when, and after it gets printed.

The first thing most players don't know is the retail structure. A publisher sells a $20 game for $8 (and has to pay the cost of shipping out of what he gets) to a wholesaler who sells it to a retailer for $11. The retailer tries to sell it for $20, but many new games the retailer gave a try end up in the half-price bin just to get (most of) the money out of them. So remember when you see a $20 game that the publisher only got about $7.50 for it. (That "cost of shipping" also included a buck or two for the cardboard carton that the products were packed in as well as tape and bubble wrap. That all adds up.)

The most obvious cost is printing. That $20 game probably cost about $4 to print, but the actual amount might have been anywhere from $2 to $5 just depending. (Sometimes one product in a series is more or less expensive than the others but has to sell for the same amount). Many publishers work on the theory to take the print cost and multiply by five, or six, or ten, to establish the retail price. Other publishers set the retail price by finding similar products from other companies. (ADB prices are actually some of the lowest in the industry based on what you actually get. Ever notice that other companies have wider margins, bigger type, and more white space? That may be visually more pleasing but it also means that they did less design work than we did and gave you less value.)

That, obviously, is not the only cost. The publisher has to pay for art, both cover art and interior art. The more art, the more cost. The more copies, the lower the cost of the art in each one. I have seen game companies pay $100 for cover art and I have seen them pay $5000 for cover art. I have seen incredibly good art and incredibly bad art at all of the price levels. What you pay is not what you get. Who you hire is what you get. We probably have less art in our products that most companies, partly because we had to lose space we might actually use for another rule, partly because we don't like spending a lot of money, and partly because we're usually in a time crunch and don't how how much art there is room for until very late in the process when there is very little time to use it. You can stretch the art budget re-using old art (copying RPG art we already paid for into boardgames is a great way to save money) and by using simple graphics that are done in house. You can also have artists do art in layers so you can pull a guy out of this cover or a starship out of that cover and use it as interior art in another product.

Another cost is royalties or other fees to an author who wrote the book. Writing a book in house means not having to pay for an outside author, but also means paying the payroll for that inside author. If we have to pay the inside guy to edit and fix the outside author's work, then we're paying more than if we just wrote it ourselves, but what you're buying is a new idea that nobody inside the office had.

There may be intellectual property royalties, perhaps to someone who owns a game system, or perhaps to a motion picture company or book publisher that owns the background, or maybe both. In theory, you're paying more on every copy in order to hopefully sell more copies.

Another cost is page layout, editing, and proofreading. We do all of that in-house so it's just payroll costs, but it also means we cannot schedule a product unless we can justify the payroll cost of someone to lay out the pages, proofread it, and edit it. Some companies contract out those services, and they also have to justify the costs.

We can and do use standard components as much as we can. We buy dice in lots of 10,000 for example, and we buy a lot of plain white boxes that we use sleeve wrappers for. We also buy a lot of plastic clamshells that we use printed covers for. This keeps down the cost of those parts. For some unusual things (the little red beads we use for SFBF damage markers, the little balls of fluff we use for tribbles) we will if we can find someone who already makes that (for some real world reason) in quantities of a million and see if we can buy them in little bags.
One element of the cost few think about is how much money has to be spent before the first copy of the product ships. We print color work (die cut counters, FC ship cards, and covers) outside in quantities of a thousand or more. That means tying up thousands of dollars. For some companies, that means borrowing that money (or owing a printer who thought he would get paid promptly), but ADB never prints anything without having the cash in the bank first. It's just a rule we have, one Dave Ramsey copied from us.

When you actually get the game components back from the various vendors and printers, somebody has to assemble them into boxes or wrappers. That is more payroll cost. While we're talking about payroll costs, let's talk about the building that the employee works in and the utilities (water, air condition, heating, electricity) he needs in order to function. All of that is overhead, and every product has to make more than we spent on printing to pay for some of the overhead. Also remember that our game designers may well spend half of their time doing things other than game design (government forms, customer service, strategic planning, marketing, supervising things like SFBOL) none of which pays for the overhead, so each game product has to pay for the overhead spent not just working on that product, but working on no end of things other than products.

Individual mail orders cost a lot more to handle that bulk wholesaler orders (almost the same amount of employee time and packing materials), but since you make more on them, that's ok. What we charge for shipping only covers what we pay the post office (or about 75% of what we pay UPS) and doesn't cover any part of the cost of processing the invoice, pulling and checking the order, or packing it. Nor does it cover the credit card fees which are two or three times as high for a small mail order dealer as they are for a huge retail store.

And finally let's remember that some part of that overhead I mentioned earlier included the cost of the game designer answering questions months later or the marketing lady trying to drum up some business when the product is actually shipping.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Air Power

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I used to play a lot of a game by Avalon Hill called "Blitzkrieg." Because I played it a lot, I developed a "standard opening" whether I was playing the blue side or the red side. The openings were, of course, specific to the side I was playing, i.e., each tailored to the circumstance and initial set up of the respective empires.

Some of the pieces available in the game were fighters, bombers, and heavy bombers.

I never used them. I literally placed them on the map and paid them no attention as I was usually able to smash my opponents with my "blitzkrieg" strategy, no matter which side I was playing. I would quickly seize key areas, constricting my opponent's options, then mass for assaults on critical locations, often including an amphibious assault deep in my opponent's rear area when he was overly committed to the front.

A critical part of my plans was always the quick seizure of the center of the five neutral countries separating our two sides. I honestly no longer remember why this was so important (production? simply positional?), but it was. And I always (no matter which side I played) got there first and in force and drove my opponent beyond its borders.

There would usually be a short period of stagnation once the battle of Centralia ended when the final build ups were completed before the new battles began.

One day while I playing Ray Millen, I was executing my standard plan when Ray did something.

He deployed and used the air force counters to the front. There were not many of these, both sides in fact had equal air forces, but mine were, of course, all sitting around in my homeland. It was kind of stunning to have Ray's use of air power stop my attack cold, and literally drive my forces out of Centralia, allowing him to secure the critical riverline defensive barrier on Centralia's Eastern Border.

I had, however, learned my lesson, and quickly deployed my own air forces and invested in building them up as rapidly as possible over replacing some of my ground losses. Ray assumed that the Centralia border was secure (and, in truth, in his place I would normally come to the same conclusion . . . after all when I played his side of the game securing that riverline was the goal of my initial operations for precisely that reason). But now air power was massively in play, and Ray was shocked when I launched a major offensive on that riverline, heavily supported by medium bombers and fighters. Ray had not built up his air force despite the victory it had gained him, and now paid the price as I broke the riverline and began rolling his army back to his homeland.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Join Us on Facebook

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 24, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 September 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week as major progress was made on Reinforcements Attack and C6. The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something well under 200 per day. Stephen and Leanna tried to take Monday off for their anniversary but came in and worked because of huge incoming orders.

New on e23 this week: Star Fleet Times #36-#40
Steve Cole finished the last ship cards for Reinforcements Attack and the three boosters. He also spent spent 90 minutes on TalkShoe answering questions. He did quality control on a thousand FC map panels, reviewed the new Lyran CA deck plans, and prepared next week's presentation to the local small business institute.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB Module C6 and 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 1344 friends), proofread some things, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about what Jean could do for the company after she gets here and can work full time:

1. Most important, she can make sure we get product notices to wholesalers. This is an involved process that starts with project planning starts and continues all the way through it. She has to be sure that the cover art is done far ahead so it can be used in wholesaler product catalogs.

2. Jean can make sure we send something to e23 every week. Right now, that's an extra job for Leanna who is busy and doesn't always get that far down her list.  It's a ton of extra work to upload stuff to DriveThru RPG and Jean could take over that task.

3. Jean needs to make sure Marketing Monday doesn't get skipped. Jean can make sure we do marketing press releases twice a month. They don't always have to be new product announcements.

4. Jean needs to be an RPG Line Editor in deed as well as title. The company needs to print at least six RPG books a year, not just one, or rarely two. Traveller needs to get done, other systems (such as Savage Worlds or whatever is hot a year from now) added, and the Final Frontier magazine and an online PD newsletter started. There is no end to the available systems and ideas; she could even do Steampunk SFU.

5. Marketing our products on other websites and expanding our outreach to those websites. The managers of those websites need to get frequent communications from us, not random once a year bolts from the blue.

6. Managing Kickstarter projects. This starts from product design as incentive levels have to be designed in from the start.

7. Jean can, twice a week, fix us a healthy lunch of real food for half the price of greasy restaurant stuff.

8. Jean can take over the Ranger program, which is so far down SVC's to-do list that it gets no attention. She needs to link this to stores and conventions that want a demo.

9. Make sure that the Steves don't get distracted into side projects and focus on what's really important, such as Tribbles vs. Klingons.

10. Jean can hunt down game reviewers and keep track of which ones actually did the review.

11. Jean could promote the Ambassador program, which right now gets almost no attention.

12. Jean could contact gaming stores directly (by email) and see what they want from us.

13. Jean wants to fight Petrick for the job of being first in line to pick up a ringing telephone. She feels that Petrick, who in 1999 was sort of "the universal assistant and low man on every totem pole" is now a full-fledged designer, and he needs to keep his focus on the new product he's working on, not constantly get interrupted by the phone.

14. Jean has a fantasy that she's going to make sure that the two Steves remain healthy by taking a walk every day. (The doctors have ordered, prescribed, and pretty much begged us to do that.) Good luck with that.

15. Jean could take charge of getting our products into convention game libraries and making sure such a program is not abused by someone building up his personal collection while pretending to be a convention.

16. She can probably get more proofreading done without the constant interruptions of her current home life. Proofreading corrections will be more efficient if she can just read the stuff on screen and fix it as she goes along instead of having to do it twice and use Steve Time in the second round.

17. Jean wants to run some ads on FB to see if they bump sales. This is too complicated to manage part time by long distance. Also, Leanna (who saw us waste a ton of money on Google ads that produced no sales at all) has set a strict limit on how much Jean can spend until she proves that this works. (Watching two women fight over money is going to be fun.)

18. Jean wants to enforce "every other Wednesday game night" including Leanna to see what other game companies are publishing. (Tribbles came from such a game night.) Jean also wants to sit down with SVC and others once a month when the new Game Trade Magazine arrives to review what other publishers are doing.
19. Jean wants to update the GURPS PD main rulebook. There are, she thinks, lots of issues with it.

20. And finally, Jean wants to remind us all to try to think young and find out what our current and future customers are playing. She wants "four pages of rules and some toys" to be a reality, not a greeting card slogan.

21. Meanwhile, we want Jean to figure out how SVC can do twice as much work in half as much time, and stop the rising of the world's oceans.

Saturday, September 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/).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Political Speech

This is Steven Petrick Posting. It is getting close to the election time when all those 18 and older who are citizens in good standing should cast their ballots. I have but one political speech on the matter. I wore a funny green suit and carried a rifle for a decade of my life. I did not do so in order to tell anyone who to vote for, so do not expect me to do so now. I did the above so that you would have to the right to vote for the candidate of your choice. I do not have the right to tell you who to vote for, but I do have the right to ask you to vote. Just because I wore that funny green suit and carried a rifle, that does not mean I am automatically correct about who should be elected. We live in a Republic, and each of you has the right to help decide who our leaders should be. We have to believe that the will of majority will make the best choice, and that in two (representative), four (president), or six (senator) years we will be able to review that choice and either keep the current person of replace him or her. So, on the strength of my service, I do not ask you to look to me to tell you who to vote for. I do ask that you do vote. I ask that you do not vote democrat simply because you are democrat, or libertarian simply because you are a libertarian, or republican simply because you are a republican. I ask that you give serious consideration and vote for the best person you can irrespective of party. How you vote is your prerogative, and I do not seek any more influence on that beyond that you do vote. It is not only your right as a citizen, it is your duty to the Republic, and one of the least things that you can do.

Wednesday, September 19, 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!

Tuesday, September 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-ins 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 online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 September 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, but maybe it should have been more intense than it was if we're actually going to get some products done. The weather this week was much cooler. The spam storm mostly was calm, just over 100 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #25.

Steve Cole worked on numerous projects, including Reinforcements Attack, Captain's Log #46, and the card game expansions. Steve spent a day at the doctor getting a hearing aid (should have done that when he went deaf in May 2010). He did more updates for the Wall of Honor and got started on Communique #82.

Steven Petrick worked on Module C6 and 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, got Communique #81 uploaded and Hailing Frequencies released, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1341 friends), proofread Hailing Frequencies and Communique #81, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


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

1. FRANK, which means abrupt honesty, comes from the Germanic tribe the Romans called Franci, which was the Latin word for the kind of javelin that the tribe carried. The Romans had conquered the Franks and set them up as allies to control the various tribes of Gaul. When the power of Rome ebbed about 550AD, the Franci became their own bosses but continued to control the Gauls to the extent that Gaul eventually became known as France. British writers a thousand years later translated the Franci, or Francs, into Franks. The abrupt honesty part comes from the Frankish tribal tradition of open and honest dealing among themselves. A Frank did not break his word once it was freely given.

2. FRIDAY, the sixth day of the week, comes from two Nordic goddesses, Frigga, wife of Odin, and Freya, the goddess of love. (Freya comes from a separate Germanic series of myths and gods that is often intermixed with the Viking bunch led by Odin and Frigga.) Frigga and Freya were often confused and conflated by non-Norse/Germanics. Anyway, the seven-day week was created by Egyptian astronomers, who named Friday after the planet Venus which they presumed to be the goddess Isis, the goddess of love. The Romans adopted the seven-day week under Constantine and renamed the day Venusday. The Franks, Germans, Angles, Saxons, and Vikings then adopted the seven-day week and collectively renamed Isisday/Venusday as Friggaday or Freyeday. It's arguable if we're honoring the German goddess of love or the Viking queen of the sky.

3. FUDGE, which means (besides a delicious chocolate confection) a lie or twist of the truth, may come from Captain Fudge, a notorious liar from the 1600s. While he was a real person, stories of his legendary lies, excuses, and tall tales cannot all be true or originate from him. He was known as Lying Fudge, but in a day when sea voyages were dangerous and a seasoned captain was needed to bring the ship home, even Lying Fudge was one of the most successful. How the name was linked to the candy is unclear.

4. FUN, a general expression of merriment, was originally spelled fon and was the root-word of fondle (to feel up) and fond (warm feelings toward). The original use of fon, however, was fool (someone who is silly or not entirely sane), not merriment.

5. FURLONG, an eighth of a mile, comes from furh (furrow) and lang (long). It happened like this. The Romans introduced the only standard measure in England, the Stadium Mile, which was 1618 yards or 0.92 of a current mile. (Until a few centuries ago, a yard, a mile, and an acre were whatever the local lord said they were.) Fields were laid out in stadium miles, and each was divided into 64 squares (one eighth of a mile on a side) because a tenant farmer or serf was expected to handle that much land in each day with his plow and oxen. Later confusion over just now long a stadium mile was resulted in a king issuing a statute, resulting in the current "statute mile" of 1760 yards. Napoleon invented the metric system partly to standardize the non-standard measurements used in various parts of France.

6. GALVANIZE, to coat steel with zinc by an electrical process, celebrates the name of Luigi Galvani, an Italian professor of anatomy. He accidentally discovered that if a scalpel carrying a static electric chart touched the nerve of a severed frog's leg, the leg would twitch. Twenty years of research later, Galvani published a paper claiming that nerves generated electricity. This was later proved wrong by Volta, but the paper did open up lines of research followed by many scientists.

7. GAMUT, meaning the full range of something, comes from the Greek word gamma and the Latin word ut (note). When the first musical scale was invented about 1040 by Guido of Arezzo, he named the lowest note gamma.

8. GAUNTLET, an armored glove or a form of punishment in which the guilty man runs between two lines of soldiers who each strike him with a rod or lash, has a double origin. The name of the glove came to English through French from the Latin. The punishment originated in Sweden (those inventive Swedes!) where it was known as gatloppe (running the lane). The Germans saw the Swedes use this punishment and called it gantlope. The English copied the idea and simply changed the name to be the name as the name for an armored glove.

9. GARDENIA, a type of flower, was named by the British Royal Society after Alexander Garden (a young doctor and noted botanist from South Carolina). The word garden had meant a small area used to grow herbs or flowers for centuries before that time.

10. GARGANTUAN, meaning really big, was a character in a series of stories written in the 1500s by Francois Rabelais. Gargantuan was a giant (sort of the French version of Paul Bunyan) who rode a horse the size of six elephants and needed 1100 cow hides to make a pair of shoes. The stories were popular all over Europe as they were a satire of the ridiculous excesses of the French royal family. The name became used for anything really, really big. It originated as the name of a giant in unrelated stores from the Middle Ages.

Saturday, September 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.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Carnivon Article That Might Have Been

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The working project for Star Fleet Battles is Module C6, which will provide for General War level capabilities of the Paravian and Carnivon empires. The Paravians had a previous treatment in Captain's Log #28, but in Module C6 they will be a more formal empire occupying space with colonies to defend.

The Carnivons were undergoing some thought for a future Stellar Shadows Captain's Log, and this project will probably be abandoned. The working background would have seen Carnivon fleets forces into the WYN Star Cluster in the same manner that the Usurper entered the Cluster. Of course, the Carnivons would have entered the Cluster well before the Usurper, and the alternate history would have seen the Usurper and his followers destroyed by the Carnivons. Other changes to history would have seen the Orion Cluster Cartel never form, the Carnivons destroying the Orion ship.

With more ships, and a larger initial population base, the Carnivons would have developed the cluster more than the Usurper had been able to do, eventually leading to the establishment of a Carnivon shipyard within the Cluster.

Eventually, a Carnivon fleet would emerge from the Cluster and set about destroying one of the two feline empires (either the Kzintis or the Lyrans, which would be first had not been settled on). Long term, the Carnivons would have intended to attack the other feline empire, but the Inter-Stellar Concordium would arrive to intervene. This would be followed by the Andromedan War and, at the end of recorded history, left a renewed Carnivon Empire occupying parts of both feline empires and Klingon space and centered on the WYN Star Cluster as its capital.

I would, at this juncture, like to point out that having the Carnivons occupy the WYN Star Cluster prior to the Usurper was not an idea unique to me. While I had thought of it on my own, Mike West also mentioned the idea to me, so great minds do sometimes think alike.

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 11, 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:

September 11

Jean Sexton writes:

This year, September 11 is the 255th day of the year. In non-leap years, it is the 254th day.

On September 11, 1609, Henry Hudson found what would be known as Manhattan. It was inhabited, but now the Europeans knew about it.

On September 11,1941, ground was broken for the Pentagon. It is the headquarters for the United States Department of Defense.

On September 11, 1974, Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crashed in Charlotte, North Carolina. This accident led to rules to help cockpit crews stay focused on descents.

On September 11, 2001, airplanes were used as weapons against the World Trade Center's twin towers and the Pentagon. Another plane was to be used as a weapon, but it is nearly certain that the passengers revolted and the plane crashed as a result -- killing them, but probably saving many others.

On September 11, 2012, I remember those who lost their lives, those who lost people close to them in these attacks and in the aftermath as they tried to save people, and those who have lost loved ones in the following wars. I also remember those hurt physically and emotionally during these wars.

Please take a moment from your busy life to remember those people with me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 September 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, with game designers designing and everybody else shipping orders. The weather this week was cooler, and we had some rain. The spam storm quieted to only about 100 per day. We were offered another joint venture deal by an old friend but had to turn it down as it was not a good fit for the product lines.

A decision was made that the next Star Fleet Battles module will be C6 Forgotten Empires, containing the general war versions of the Carnivons and Paravians. These will be done as full empires with over 70 SSDs so they can be used in campaigns. Steven Petrick held a live conference about C6 on Talkshoe, and Jean announced that the two Steves will try to make a pre-scheduled appearance on Talkshoe every month.

Steve Cole worked on many projects, having come to grips with the idea that he could not do everything. So, a lot of things that were not the first five on the list got put on hold. He did Communique (including an extra new scout because of a customer request), Hailing Frequencies, asked for quotes for the Star Fleet Battle Force card game expansions, wrote some blogs, and did the first few multi-person pages on the Wall of Honor. He also totally reorganized the scenario submissions for Federation Commander. Steve also helped Paul Franz define the new SFBOL 3rd Generation Ship Description files so that project can get moving. He continued to push progress on the deck plans project.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions update. It's a big product and is taking a lot of work.

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 1330 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, bought her tickets for the December visit, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 08, 2012

On Memories and the Present and Changes

Jean Sexton writes:

Almost all of my life I wanted to be a librarian. My father got me a large packing box one summer when I was nine and when my mother gave me a stamp pad and a date stamp, the box became a circulation desk. My poor brother had to "check out" all of the books he wanted to read and woe to him were he late returning his books for I knew where he lived! It was tremendous fun as I knew exactly where all of our books were and could give him the book he wanted in a heartbeat. While librarianship is far more than that, the desire to help people runs deep in the philosophy of the profession.

My mother, also a librarian, warned me that I'd never grow rich in the "library world" -- at least not in money. I'd have the satisfaction of helping people learn and discover out how to find the information they needed. She was quite right -- I have delighted in seeing students learn new things and watched them "not need me" to find what they wanted.

And then about eight years ago, I discovered I was able to combine my love of gaming, science fiction, and Star Trek in one place. True, I came to it late compared to many who have played in the Star Fleet Universe for decades, but SFB Galactic Conquest allowed me to add in even my loved RPGs as I poured out propaganda on ADB's BBS on behalf of the ISC Queen as we ran our own collection agency (Inter-Stellar Collections) to collect overdue debts when neighbors didn't pay for damages inflicted on Our Planets.

In the midst of that game, I wandered out into the wider area of the BBS where I finally came to the notice of Steve Cole. He made me "WebMom" on the BBS and the "Wielder of the Purple Pen of Perdition" for our publications, but every player has welcomed me and has helped me in my areas of weakness (those miniatures will be my downfall!). I've loved being part of the SFU family and of the company as the Steves, Leanna, and Mike (as well as the various web-design folks) made sure I was included in things.

What ADB needs me to be -- Director of Marketing, Line Editor of the RPGs, WebMom, and assisting in the non-design, non-packing (after seeing my packing job for sending my stuff out to Amarillo, I think they all got together and decided I wasn't allowed to pack ANYTHING for a customer) aspects of the company -- is reaching the point where I cannot do both my librarian job and what ADB needs me to do well. Something must give.

That something will be resolved by my decision to retire from being a librarian. It is time to spread my wings and learn new things (maybe even how to pack!) from new people. It is a bit down the way (May, 2013 bar unexpected things), but I want to leave things in my librarian job all tidied up and ready for someone new.

You will be hearing more as I plan for my trip to Amarillo over Christmas and New Years. While change is exciting, it can also be a bit scary. Still I have faith in myself and in you, our fans and customers. You will help me learn more and grow into what we need me to be and for that, I thank you.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 6

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

FRAXTV: Pay-per-view: "Simulating Virtual Reality." All your dreams guaranteed to come true. At least you'll think so.

Republic Broadcasting: 10:00 p.m. "Overthrowing a Count," part 2 of 12. Helpful hints from the LDR for Lyrans everywhere.

Captain's Log #14, (c) 1994 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

How Not to Get into the Game Business

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Battle Group Terrain

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The battle group topics have been revealed, and each pairing of battle groups for Captain's Log #46 faces its own terrain challenge. More so than any other battle group articles, these will each be unique as the commanders have to deal not just with an enemy to their front, but terrain other than open space or a planet.

There are numerous terrain situations in Star Fleet Battles, some of which have also been incorporated into Federation Commander (which faces similar challenges).

Each commander will have to assess the restrictions the terrain he has encountered have placed on him, and on his opponent, and maximize any advantages he can gain, while minimizing any liabilities it will impose, reversing those circumstances on his opponent.

Because we wanted the commanders to deal with the terrain, it was necessary to use a closed map (otherwise the commander would simply "float" the maps to open space and ignore the terrain). They must deal with it, and thus we hope for articles that will be useful for other players when confronted with such terrain, and perhaps interest them in challenging themselves to face such terrain.

We are also again dealing with a reality in that commanders will rarely get to specifically design their force for the terrain in which they encounter their enemy. Thus, as in real life, they have to fight the enemy with the forces they have, not the forces they wish they had.

This has always been something of an option in Star Fleet Battles, which provides for random terrain generation in design your own scenarios. When I played extensively I can assure it was a shock when one fleet battle we had set up to play suddenly devolved into the middle of an ion storm (and while it was not the same empires as were later showcased in the scenario "One Corner of Hell," my memory of that fight was the basis for creating that scenario years later.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Steve Cole answers some questions from a fan.

1. What is Kickstarter?

It's a website where people propose a new product (including a lot of games) and fans can order it by pledging their credit card. If enough money is raised, the credit cards are charged and the product is printed. If not, the credit cards are not charged and the product is cancelled.

2. Why haven't there been expansions to the Star Fleet Battle Force card game long before now?

Because decks of cards cost a lot of money to print, making such projects risky, and most card games printed in this industry lose money.

3. Why don't you do pre-painted starships?

Because the minimum orders from the Chinese factories are 100 times the most we ever sold of any ship.

4. Can you print new index separators (full-page-sized cardstock dividers for each letter of the alphabet, each one listing every rule in that letter)?

Not economically. We've gotten price quotes many times as they're just incredibly expensive to print.

5. How about printing a real index for Star Fleet Battles, one that lists every term and what rules numbers it is in?

That would be a massive project, and to be done right would virtually be a reprint of the rulebook. It wouldn't do you much good to have a list of rule numbers that mention "boarding parties" unless each and every entry indicated the context of that mention, e.g., boarding parties against suicide shuttles. What we do have are a basic index (listing the key rule) and the "rules cross-index" (which lists the rule number for every interaction between two rules). Those two documents accomplish 99% of what your "real index" would accomplish.

6. Can you do a new strategic game that does for Federation & Empire what Federation Commander did for Star Fleet Battles?

We plan to (Klingon Invasion, Federation Invasion) but it's not yet on the schedule. In the meantime, just play F&E and leave out scouts, fighters, drone bombardment, carriers, escorts, and other tedious rules.

7. Can you do 3d terrain for Star Fleet Marines?

In theory it could be done, but probably not in economical quantities and in all seriousness it would probably be less than useful as you'd be balancing stacks of counters on top of little miniature trees.

8. How about a re-release of H1 and H2?

We did that quite a few years ago and sell the new H1 (which includes what was once H1 and H2) on our cart.

9. Does ADB still own the rights to all of the out-of-print stuff?

Yes, although there really isn't that much out of print (if you don't count the earlier versions which were replaced) and most out-of-print stuff is on e23.

10. Why did Steven Petrick update R2 instead of some more important product?

Because we ran out of R2 SSD books and had to convert them to print-on-demand and it seemed logical to update them while we were at it.

11. Why isn't Star Fleet Battles run at World Boardgaming Championships?

We don't have the money to go to every convention, nobody seems to want to take SFB to that one, and the guys there (the one time we did go to a lot of effort to get someone to run it) were hardly receptive to any kind of science fiction game.

Monday, September 03, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 26 August - 1 September 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal work week. The weather this week was a little cooler until Friday, when it hit the 90s again. The spam storm mostly remained at just well 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Volume I of the SFB Commander's Edition.

Steve Cole finished the individual Wall of Honor updates and started on the multiple people pages. He worked mostly on the deck plans project, but found time to do more steampunk gun turret ship graphics, some blogs for Jean, some work on the last Captain's Log #45 FLAP list items, and other things. He spent a day getting his new PC up and running so he can check internet places that his old MAC9 won't go to without going down the hall to another office. He did spend two hours on TalkShoe on Thursday night. A certain amount of time went into helping Paul get the SFBOL third-generation SSD project moving.

Steven Petrick worked 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 1320 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 02, 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 on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of
gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general
opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to

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

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. Players can even fly the FC Federation
CA, FC Klingon D7, and the SFB Federation and Klingon tournament cruisers as a
free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION
COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can
learn from the best.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


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

1. FASCINATE, to attract the interest of someone, comes (by way of the Latin fascianatio) from the Greek baskania, which was their term for "evil eye" (i.e., the ability to do bodily harm, destroy crops, or inflict curses at a glance).

2. FEBRUARY, the second month of our year, was the Roman month of purification. During one of their rituals for the patron god of shepherds, goat skins were cut into strips (februa) which priests (running through the streets) used to strike people (with a blessing that cured women of barrenness, among other things).

3. FIASCO is the Latin word for a small bottle and actors who flubbed their lines would they had "made a bottle." Soon, others used the term to mean "I made a mistake." In later times, the word was used for the worst and most far reaching of these mistakes.

4. FIB, a minor lie, comes from the word fable (a narrative that while telling a lesson is something that didn't actually happen). Fable is, as a word, six centuries old. About four centuries ago, mothers would tell their children they had told a fibble, a term meaning a childish story to avoid blame. That was shortened to fib.

5. FIFE, a small musical wind instrument which produces a sharp tone, originated with the Swiss mercenaries in the 1400s, named pfeiff in German. It became popular with armies because it was easy to carry and require little maintenance. Arriving in England two centuries later, the German word (too hard for the English to say or spell) evolved into fife.

6. FILIBUSTER, a parliamentary maneuver to block a piece of legislation, derives from an old word for pirate. During the 1500s and 1600s, Spain had a lot of New World colonies and forbade them to trade with anyone but Spain, which set the rates at extortionate levels. There was also a lot of gold discovered and sent home to Madrid. The English, Dutch, and French wanted to join the trade (and make a profit by avoiding customs laws) and sent ships to slip into Spanish colonies. These ships were armed for self defense against the Spanish Navy. From there, it was one short and obvious step from simply capturing Spanish merchant ships, which (after all) held everything the English, French, and Dutch smugglers wanted to buy. English pirates were called buccaneers and the French used the term corsair, but the Dutch preferred the term vrijbuiter which meant "free robber" as in someone not sanctioned by the Dutch government. (Plausible deniability is that old, and much older.) The French version of vrijbuiter was fribustier which in Spanish became filibustero. When William Walker and his American adventurers tried to take over the countries of Mexico, then Nicaragua, then Honduras, the locals (who spoke Spanish) called him a filibustero, a term that was copied into American newspapers as filibuster. A few years later, senators who tried to talk a bill to death were called filibusters because they tried to hijack the legislative process.

7. FORK, the table utensil we used to convey food from plate to mouth, comes from the Latin forca, which was a two-tined hay fork used by farmers. It first appeared about 1050 in Vienna, and reached England by 1600.

8. FORTNIGHT, an archaic term for a period of two-weeks, comes form the old English feowertene nihta, or fourteen nights. While the Romans used a seven-day week, the Saxons who conquered England about 500AD thought in terms of fourteen days, or half a month.

9. FOYER, a room by the front door of a business or other large building, is the French word for fireplace. Even as late as 150 years ago, theaters were not heated, and during intermission the audience went to the lobby (where a large fire was burning in a fireplace) to warm up.

10. FRANC, the French unit of currency before the Euro, originated in 1360, when King John II issued new gold coins equal in value to a pound of silver. The coins had an image of him on a horse and were known as "frank au cheval" or Frank on a horse. His successor issued similar coins with himself standing (no horse) and these were known as "franc au pied" or Frank on foot. As the two coins (and later ones) were interchangeable, they were collectively "francs".