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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 5

Romulan SparrowHawk IRV Plasma Donor
Seltorian light cruiser Muddy Waters
Tholian Web Tender Passive Resistance
WYN OLR frigate Loyalty

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, November 29, 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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Always Remember There Are Two Sides

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When I was much younger, I was eager to read about history, military history. I cared little about political or social history. I can remember being stunned when my second college history professor asked me "who was the King of England in World War II?" To which I more or less responded "King? England had a King?" I  had stopped caring about the Kings of England when they became figureheads rather than true military leaders in their own right.

Even so, my view on how I read history has changed very much.

I want both sides of the story.

It is not enough to read about how this or that combat unit or other military force overcame the enemy (or was defeated). I also want to know what the other side's view of the situation was.

At different times I have come across the other side's viewpoint of a specific incident that I knew of. A story where American forces triumphed and captured a pass from the enemy gets a different take when you read the enemy's viewpoint in which their orders were to hold the pass for a specified period of time, and then withdraw. While the enemy still retreated (and retreats seldom lead to ultimate victory, but there are exceptions, e.g., if the British Army had been lost at Dunkirk, World War II might have been very different), the Americans had not actually forced them to. But the Americans believed that they had defeated the enemy force.

And not all victories are truly as great as they seem. Custer may have been lost with almost half his command, but the Native American forces that won that victory never really won another. It was their high water mark, as Isandlwhana was the high water mark of the Zulu nation against the British Empire.

But what is going on on the other side of  the hill? Why did the enemy attack where he did and when he did? Why did he retreat? For the reasons we are told in our history books or for other reasons of his own?

When we play games, we can actually look across the table and ask our opponents those questions. Why did he commit to the low odds attack on Turn #X? What was he hoping to gain? How did he see the correlation of forces on the map that led him to the conclusion the attack was a good idea? Did he consider what the failure of the operation would cost him?

As players, we  almost always have a lot more information to hand than real soldiers will when they make their choices. Our enemy has a calculated (in the game system) combat value, and that combat value will usually be consistent whether the opposing player is well or happens to be a little sick that day, whether our opponent has eaten a good lunch or not, or missed a night's sleep will have no effect on the unit counter on the map. These factors may affect his game play, cause him to be inattentive at a critical moment and perhaps not get the best use out of a given counter, but the counter will still be what it is. Even in most "fog of war" games (where you do not necessarily know everything about the enemy's force) the enemy force capabilities are pretty much standard.

In real life, yesterday's heroes may be today's shirkers, and today's dispirited troops may be the ones whose elan allows them to advance under heavy enemy fire and take their objective. Depending on numerous variables, many of them beyond your immediate control, your troops might fight well on one day and poorly the next.

Books tell us stories of combat units brought to a halt in the middle of an assault because a key popular leader is killed. The case of a single sniper's bullet having more force than a machine gun. History may record that the defense triumphed and drove back the attack, but it may miss the point of the importance of one individual's death in the midst of the overall carnage as the key. By the same token, sometimes the death of one man can have the reverse effect. On Okinawa, a popular Marine officer died charging through a gap in an effort to inspire his men and, although he died, his death did inspire (or enrage) his men to charge through the gap and break the Japanese defense.

So, these days when I read a book about the landings on D-Day, I am always curious what was going on in the German Command Posts on the other side of beach. When I read an individual's personal account of how cool he and his unit were, I am always curious what his own men and  his superiors actually thought of him, and what the enemy's intelligence reports on his unit indicated. Whether the book is Anthony B. Herbert's "Soldier" or Otto Carius's "Tigers in the Mud" or Audie Murphy's "To Hell and Back," I am always curious what the opinion of others was.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a holiday week, and like every office in America, people were a bit distracted, but a ton of work got done on future projects. The weather this week was cold but not that wet. The spam storm mostly remained at something around 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: PD One: Uprising!

Steve Cole worked on Reinforcements Attack, Communique #84, and Captain's Log #46. He also negotiated a deal with GAMA to bring ADB back to Origins 2013.
Steven Petrick worked on Module C6 and Captain's Log #46.
 Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, even working almost a full day on Thanksgiving itself to get orders ready for Mike to ship. (She had lost a day of work earlier to a sinus infection and felt a need to catch up.)
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 1381 friends), proofread Reinforcements Attack, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wants more blogs about the company.

1. Every week, I get at least one email either asking me for the current value of some Star Trek or gaming collectible or asking me if I want to buy it. I don't buy Star Trek collectibles. I really have no clue what some old trek thing, or some old trek game, is worth. I have seen original SFB pocket games sell for $12 and for $230 a month apart, so I suspect that there is a very thin market of very few collectors and that to make any real money you have to dumb luck into one of the few who will pay big bucks for old stuff. I would suggest being very careful about buying or selling that stuff. I see a lot of people selling "rare FASA starships" that are in fact regular production 2400s we sell every day. I have seen people trying to auction "rare, out-of-print Zocchi Star Fleet Battle Manuals" identical to those which we sell in mint condition on our website for $11. (Supposedly, the original Star Trek Battle Manual is worth big bucks but I've never seen one actually sold so I don't know if that is true.)

2. Back in 1964, I saw an episode of Twilight Zone including a soldier time-warped in from the future. Somehow, the name Quarlo Kobregnik stuck in my head. The other day, I Googled for this, found out it was spelled Qarlo Clobregnny, and made that the name of an auxiliary troop transport.

3. I don't think anyone who has never run a business has any concept of what it takes to do that. Most of my time goes into things that don't produce money (many of them spend money). So when you ask why I haven't finished designing this or that new product yet, take a moment to consider what else I have been doing. I'm delegating everything I can, but I've done that and now I'm down to things that take more time if I delegate them to someone I have to supervise.

4. On our 35th wedding anniversary, we had planned to take the third day of a mini-vacation. Leanna insisted that we go to the office because we had received several wholesaler orders and mail orders over the weekend. Leanna has a reputation for getting orders sent out very quickly and that was more important to her than a celebratory dinner with hubby. In small business America, that's what it takes to stay alive.

5. Picking the next SFB module was kinda fun, but it involved a lot of situations. We needed a product that could be done in a few months, but one that could have its counters printed far sooner. We needed a product that would sell. The original plan (to combine E3 and E4 and R107 into a product) wasn't workable due to consumer resentment at re-buying recent products. (The Borak-Peladine module will happen in two more years.) On the other hand, the Paravian-Carnivon module was doable in a reasonable time, but more to the point, the ships could be defined (and counters done) in far less time.

6. In several situations I have given the answer "I don't care" and had people take that to mean I didn't care about the customer, the product, the game, or quality control. Far from it. It simply meant that there were two valid options and I was just fine with either one of them.

7. Recently, I said to someone that "Jean won't let me do social media because I do not suffer fools and idiots gladly." Jean got all upset, saying people would think I felt that everyone who uses social media was a fool or idiot. Far from it. Fools and idiots (and people deliberately being difficult) comprise a small percentage of every crowd. The point about social media is that the particular crowd of very nice people over there would probably not take well to having me smack a fool or idiot or jerk even if they deserved it. On my own BBS, people already know that's how I maintain some semblance of order, by not allowing people to deliberately disrupt the conversation for their own amusement. Anywhere I go, I am eventually going to run into someone who is being disruptive and all it takes (so I'm told) is me being "mean" one time on social media to upset social media people for years. Apparently (and I know this from experience) if someone on social media does something dumb everyone just ignores them. I can remember one time I did a blog about Tivo, and specifically noted that one of the things I wanted was something Tivo could not do. Someone trying to make himself sound important at my expense then said on our social media page "Apparently, Steve doesn't know that Tivo cannot do that." He made himself look like a fool (or an idiot, or a jerk, you pick) to those who read the blog (and made me look like an idiot to those who didn't read the original blog) and I was not particularly amused by the experience. Jean insists, however, that to simply point out the reality of his comment would be "mean" and that social media doesn't like mean people and would never forgive me. (Wasn't he being mean to me? Did he lose "friends" over his wisecrack?)

Saturday, November 24, 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! Be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 4

LDR battleship Imperial Fealty
Lyran battlecruiser Feline Harmony
Lyran command cruiser Paper Tiger
Orion Battle Raider Benevolence
Orion destroyer 12 Step Program

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Thanksgiving and Family and Friends

Jean Sexton muses:

For our friends from countries other than the United States, I ask your indulgence as I write about Thanksgiving, a holiday indigenous to the United States. Each family has its traditions and most of them include gathering together and indulging in food. Nationally, one turkey is traditionally granted a presidential pardon. However, I am reminded of a family friend who raised a turkey and planned to have him for dinner on this holiday. The little fellow followed our friend around his yard and gained a name of "Tom." Somehow he wasn't quite big enough for Thanksgiving when that day came around. He still wasn't big enough by Christmas. After that, he was too big and "too tough to eat." He lived out his days in peace, much loved by our friend.

My family won't have that trouble this Thanksgiving. We will gather at my brother's home and he will fry a couple of turkey breasts. (Do be careful if you want to fry a turkey -- there are many pitfalls. My brother is a professional in the food business and knows how to do it correctly.) My mother will cook a few family favorites. I'll bring some others and we will feast throughout the day.

If all goes as planned, this will probably be my last Thanksgiving in North Carolina. Next year I will be in Texas, making new traditions. It will be a change, but I am know that I'm up to meeting that one. And I won't be alone -- my ADB family will be there.

Finally, I would like to close with these words from the Thanksgiving proclamation issued by President Kennedy in 1961.

This year, as the harvest draws near its close and the year approaches its end, awesome  perils again remain to be faced. Yet we have, as in the past, ample reason to be thankful for the abundance of our blessings. We are grateful for the blessings of faith and health and strength and for the imperishable spiritual gifts of love and hope. We give thanks, too, for our freedom as a nation; for the strength of our arms and the faith of our friends; for the beliefs and confidence we share; for our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base; and for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children's children.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Monday, November 19, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of solid progress. The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole finished the rulebook for Reinforcements Attack, but found out that the counters won't arrive until mid-December.
Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #46 and Module C6.
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 1379 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to Find New 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 5,000 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.

Saturday, November 17, 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.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 3

Jindarian battlecruiser Hard Rock Cafe 
Klingon battlecruiser IKV Daisy 
Klingon penal frigate IKV Insubordination 
Kzinti battlecruiser KHS Feline Brotherhood 
Kzinti battlecruiser KHS Vegetarian 
Kzinti light cruiser KHS Hairball 

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, November 15, 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, November 14, 2012

Got To Be One Of Murphy's Laws

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Last night, before he left, SVC told me that he and Leanna might not be in today.

Being aware of that, I did not, as I normally do when I get to the office before SVC and Leanna, clean out Leanna's E-Mail (deleting spam, downloading orders). I had decided that, since Leanna was not going to be in, I would clean up her E-Mail as the last thing I did before leaving for the day, so even if Leanna got to the office before me on the following day, there would not be quite as much accumulated E-mail.

Mike Sparks got to the office before me this morning.

No one had mentioned to Mike that SVC and Leanna might not be in today (Mike left the office before I did the previous night). And as SVC had only said that he and Leanna "might" not be in, I saw no reason to mention that to Mike, after all, SVC and Leanna might come in, perhaps just a little later than normal.

Mike received a phone call before I arrived in which the caller said that SVC had an appointment.

Mike sent an E-Mail to SVC and Leanna about the appointment. Since he expected SVC and Leanna to be in the office well before the appointment, he did not include me in the E-mail, nor mention the phone call to me. He saw no reason to do so since he expected SVC and Leanna to arrive shortly after I did and the phone call was a personal one for SVC, not me.

SVC arrived in the office more than hour later than he normally would.

Mike was in the back of the building packing products (Squadron boxes in fact), and back there you cannot hear the door chime when someone enters the building. Mike was not concerned about that since I was in the front of the building and would handle any arrivals. So Mike was unaware that SVC had arrived.

And I was still unaware that SVC had an appointment.

I asked SVC if Leanna would be coming to the office today as well, and he indicated that she would. We exchanged a few other pleasantries, and SVC went into his office and sat down to begin cleaning up the monstrous number of Spams he had received overnight (his E-mail is clogged with hundreds of spams every morning despite his filters).

As Leanna was due into the office now, I decided to go clean out her E-mail before she arrived.

Leanna does not get near the amount of Spam SVC gets, so I got through her E-mail pretty quickly.

Near the end was an E-mail from Mike, titled "Phone Call This Morning." It was not to me, and I had not been included in the list of addressees (why would I be, it was not really any of my business). However, the fact that Mike had sent the E-mail meant it might be important, so I opened it.

I then looked at the time.

I then moved with alacrity to SVC's office to advise him that he had an appointment, and would be late in three minutes.

If SVC had not told me that he and Leanna might not be in, I would have read Mike's message much earlier, and would have called SVC to tell him of the appointment when it got near a half hour of its time.

If someone had mentioned to Mike that SVC and Leanna might not be in, Mike would have informed me of the appointment, and I would have called SVC and Leanna to remind them of it.

The disaster (such as it was) all came down to a casual mention by SVC that he and Leanna might not be in today.

As it was, SVC was late for the appointment, but not catastrophically so, and fortunately neither the fate of the company, nor anyone's lives depended on his being there on time.

I am sure there is a "Murphy's Law" that covers the above, but it is one I have long since forgotten.

Tuesday, November 13, 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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of good progress. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something around 100 per day.

New on e23 this week were SFB Master Rulebook update D and Star Fleet Times #41-#45.

Steve Cole worked on Communique #83 and Hailing Frequencies for November 2012 and did half of the Reinforcements Attack rulebook.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #46 and Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel did website updates, sent out Hailing Frequencies for November 2012 and Communique #83, uploaded some Wall of Honor updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1367 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the Armistice and Remembrance and Veterans

Jean Sexton writes:

"The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten." --Calvin Coolidge, 21 July, 1920.

The armistice ending the hostilities on the Western Front of World War I came into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. That world war was one of the most deadly in the history of the world. For many years November 11 was a time to remember all the soldiers who died during that war. After World War II, the scope was broadened to include all soldiers who died during wartime.

For the countries in the British Commonwealth, it is still a day to remember those who fell in defense of their country. The red poppy is used as a symbol of that loss. "In Flanders Field" has its stark reminder in these words:

 If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

In the United States, the day has changed its focus. On this day Americans focus on service members who are still alive and who can accept our thanks. Memorial Day is used to remember the fallen soldiers.

ADB, Inc. would like to take a moment today in order to acknowledge and thank military veterans. We know full well that we and our customers enjoy the freedoms we do due to the service of these men and women. While a particular individual may not have stood directly in harm's way while he or she served, the knowledge that sacrifice might have to be made was always there. In this day and age, many veterans have survived wounds that would have killed in the past, but now maim. They have given much for freedom.

Many of our customers and friends are veterans; some of them are still serving. We pause to thank each veteran for the service, for the sacrifice, and for keeping the wolves from the door. Words are inadequate for just how grateful we are.

For those who read this, take the time to say thank you to someone who has served. Let that person know how deep your appreciation is.

"Again and again we have owed peace to the fact that we were prepared for war."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 2 June, 1897.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Steve Cole reports:

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

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 2

Hydran cruiser HMS Forgiveness
Hydran destroyer HMS Cowardly
Hydran light cruiser HMS Lukewarm Dedication
ISC destroyer Assault
ISC frigate Veteran of Ten Battles
ISC strike cruiser Vengeance

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau.
Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Proposing Variants: The Background can Matter

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Star Fleet Battles is a big game, and it is obvious that many ships appear in very small numbers of variants. It is easy to propose that a variant of a ship be done, but you run into the problem that no matter how easy it might be to do the variant, you have to decide if it is "real" or not.

The Star Fleet Universe is large and diverse but also interconnected. Add a new variant, and you have to ask what, if any, impact it will have on Federation & Empire, or Galactic Conquest. When considering the design, you have to think about A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, and Starmada. Fortunately most ships do not have a major impact in the various role-playing modules (although more than one player has his own "avatar" that he assumes in game play) and there is seldom any effect on Star Fleet: Battle Force.

If you are working with a ship class with a long service life (say one that entered service, as a class, between Y120 and Y130) there are openings for it (it does not necessarily have to impact the General War). But this means that it was probably a "failed design" no matter how much the designer might want to make it a "super ship" (one of the most difficult aspects of design is trying to strike a balance and create a workable ship, not a demon that is so good it would clearly remain in production and be converted to an Advanced Technology Design).

So if your basic ship is an old one, then look at similar designs. Why did the different variant remain in service if your new variant is clearly so much better. Why is your new variant not the standard for the start of the General War?

Does this mean you have to build a ship that is unworkable?

Not really. Often you can look at the background and find a reason. Perhaps the ship was a good design, but the conversion was too difficult and expensive, so only a few were built and they were lost before the General War began, but of course that leaves open at least the possibility of later production. Perhaps your variant is a good design, but the empire you want to build it in is full of political back stabbing, and it is just too bad that your "house" fell out of favor with the praetor and the design was cancelled in favor of a more prominent house. Perhaps the design is good, but the Holdfast needs to build more standard Cs and cannot spare hulls and so none were ever built.

In short, consider the background and how your design will fit.

Wednesday, November 07, 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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

On Rights and Responsibilities and Voting

Jean Sexton writes:

In the United States it is Election Day, the day that we choose the people who will represent us in our towns, counties, states, and nation. Today it is not my job to tell you for whom to vote. Today it is my responsibility to remind you to vote if you have not already done so. It is a right that every US citizen has. It is a responsibility that we should shoulder so that our government functions as it ought.

I urge you to vote your conscience and to vote for the people who you believe will best represent you, your family, and those around you on the local, state, and national levels.

My father always told me that if you don't vote, you gave up your right to complain about anything the government does. Please choose to vote.

Thanks for letting me step up on my soapbox.

Monday, November 05, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 28 October - 3 November 2012

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week when we saw major progress, with the countersheets for Federation Commander Reinforcements Attack, Star Fleet Marines Last Stand, and SFB Module C6 going to press. The weather this week was quite nice, being 70 most days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. (SVC's email address has been published enough times to put him on every spam list there is, with over 2000 spams per day being stopped by three layers of filters.)
New on e23 this week: Starmada Distant Armada Nova Edition.
Steve Cole worked on the counters for the new products and Reinforcements Attack and kept Jean's stock of blogs full.
Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #46 and Module C6 and convinced Steve Cole to resume walking around the block once per day to start the long road to stamina.
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 1372 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


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

1. GOSSIP, rumors usually derogatory to someone, began as godsib (siblings in God, as in the current godparents). A family with several children might have different godparents for each, and all of those "godsibs" would have a connection and might talk among themselves about the news and welfare of the base nuclear family.

2. GRAHAM as in those brown graham crackers we all eat is the name of Sylvester Graham, a minister in the early 1800s of Connecticut. He was a vegetarian and health nut, and had a mill create a special kind of flour to his liking. Others liked it as well and the mill happily sold "graham flour" to any who wanted it, including bakeries that sold "graham crackers" to anyone.

3. GREENLAND, a big island at the northeast limit of the new world, was named that by Eric the Red who discovered it and felt that the name would attract colonists.

4. GREGARIOUS, a term meaning people who like to hang out in crowds, comes from the Latin for "the way of the herd." The Latin word for herd was greg or grex, and people first compared military units to herds of livestock because they all moved together and looked like. This word has spun off its own herd of words, including aggregate, segregate, congregate, and even egregious (which means an action so bad the herd kicks you out).

5. GRENADE, a small hand-thrown bomb, comes from the Latin word granam, which meant seed. That word produced grain, granary, grange, garnet, and even pomegranate (an apple with seeds). The current hand grenade comes from the pomegranate fruit, as grenades were sort of dangerous fruit full of dangerous seeds.

6. GROG, the ration of rum given to British sailors, comes from Admiral Vernon, who (in the 1740s) first watered down rum. As the admiral wore a cloak of grogram he was called "Old Grog" which was perhaps one of the kinder nicknames that admirals and ship captains have received from their crews. One of Admiral Vernon's officers was Lawrence Washington, who retired to Virginia and named his plantation Mount Vernon because of his respect for the admiral.

7. GUILLOTINE, a device for removing someone's head, is named for Joseph Ignace Guillotine, who did not invent it. He had seen a beheading machine used on criminals in other countries and when the French national assembly wrote the new civil code in 1789 he suggested this as the method of capital punishment. (Since capital is derive from capita, Latin for head, you see where we get "capital punishment" since that originally meant "beheading" not other methods of death.) anyway, the machine (first used in 1792 for criminals) was designed by Doctor Louis and built by a German mechanic name Schmidt. It was officially a Louisette Machine but the crowd insisted on renaming it for the man who first suggested it.

8. GUINEA was a place (and still is a nation) in Africa frequented by British traders. In 1663, the British crown minted special gold coins for use in trading with the place, marking them with a picture of a "guinea hen" and they were hence called guineas. In theory, they were equal to 20 silver shillings, but as dishonest people tended to shave a little silver from the edges of silver coins, the guinea was fixed in 1717 as equal to 21 shillings. The last guineas were minted in 1816 and replaced by sovereigns.

9. GUY, which currently means some average man seen on the street, was originally just a name like Bill or Joe. Lots of people in history were named Guy, which was pronounced Gee as it was originally French. After Guy Fawkes was caught trying to blow up parliament and executed, Guy Fawkes Day became something of a British holiday, and effigies of Guy Fawkes were paraded through the street hung from a gallows. Anyone who vaguely resembled him was subsequently known as "a guy" and years later the likeness was long forgotten and "some guy" was just another way to say "some man" or "some fellow" or perhaps "I know a guy."
10. GYMNAST, someone who performs acrobatic stunts, is from gymnos, the Greek work for "naked." In ancient Greece, all young people took physical education as part of schooling, and did their exercises in the nude in a gymnazo (which is now a gymnasium).

Saturday, November 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.

Ten 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.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 1

Andromedan Negotiator Class Cruiser
Federation battleship USS Gandhi
Federation destroyer USS Good Ship Lollipop
Federation heavy cruiser USS Defiler 
Gorn battleship Barney
Gorn frigate Alligator Belt

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau.
Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Scenario Hooks and SPP Limitations

This is Steven Petrick posting.  

Star Fleet Battles has a lot of "hooks" in its various backgrounds. Whether a mention in a ship description that a particular ship was lost in a given battle, or a similar mention in the background of a scenario, or simply a few words about an event in a larger background article in Captain's Log. All of these are openings to create a scenario showcasing the event.

There is a concept that all that is necessary to create the scenario is for someone to point out one of these "hooks" to me (Steven Petrick), express an interest in seeing the scenario about the battle, and it will magically appear.

It is, however, not that simple.

Setting aside the basic research I would do to create a scenario (the year, available forces, other background data) there is the problem that all there is to the purported scenario is the "hook." I do not know anything more about the purported battle than the line item provides, and at the time the line item was created there probably was no concept for a scenario, just a desire to create an interesting background point.

Thus someone can ask for the scenario about the duel between a Klingon C7 and a Kzinti CVD that is mentioned, but other than my noting that a C7 could not defeat a Kzinti CVD group by itself, where do you go from there? How do you create an interesting battle where both players have a chance to win?

And how do you create a background that fits the historical context?

Obviously the C7, while the only named opposition ship, cannot normally appear and contest space with a CVD, which should be supported by an escort group (not to mention its fighters).

If you strip the CVD of some of its fighters and some of its escorts, create a situation where it is withdrawing from some battle which leaves it weak enough to be attacked by a C7 by itself, how do you make the battle interesting?

If you do not strip the CVD, but instead add a few ships to the C7 (it is a "flagship" after all), again what makes this particular battle interesting? What makes it more than "this group of ships fights that group of ships?"

So, please, do not just point out some obscure reference to some battle. Find the obscure reference and then try to imagine, within the background and rules of Star Fleet Battles, just why these ships fought. What were the victory conditions? Why did the CVD stand and fight such that the C7 destroyed it? Was the CVD all that stood between the C7 and its supporting ships and a crippled Kzinti DN, a DN so badly damaged that it was necessary not to let the Klingons even get a few long-range disruptor shots at it? Was the CVD all that stood between the C7 and its supporting ships and a Kzinti Special Attack Force being withdrawn back to Kzinti space? Was the CVD damaged in raid and has now been run down by the Klingon C7 and its friends, and must successfully hold the Klingons off until help arrives (which it historically failed to do)?

Use your imagination and try to give me something to work with beyond the "hook." Something that will add to the background and give flavor to the eventual scenario.