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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Praise of Our Volunteers

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

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

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

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 30, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was another normal week, as progress was made on several projects while orders kept moving out. The weather this week was cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #19.

Steve Cole worked mostly on the Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File. He found time for some other projects, including E, T, blogs, the Vudar card pack, Marines, a new ship for Communique #74, and the Wall of Honor updates. Steve was called for jury duty Monday and actually wanted to serve (it was a case involving engineering!) but had to be excused when one of the expert witnesses turned out to be an old family friend and mentor.

Steven Petrick worked on the revision to Module T and the Captain's Log #45 battle groups.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,102 friends), checked the Vudar ship cards, proofread some of Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

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

2. I hesitated to mention this one as I don't want to sound like I am bragging. I go to this one quickie mart most mornings on the way to work. I buy a Diet Doctor Pepper there every day and gas once a week and sometimes a snack. I went there on a Saturday and Judy (who has the Saturday morning shift) said she was out of nickels and dimes and had just given a customer 17 pennies in change (and Judy said she was running out of pennies). As I drove away from the place, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Knowing that the banks were closed on Saturday (it turned out that they were not) I went to WalMart, which I figured was a big store with a customer service desk and just maybe I could sweet talk them out of a roll or two of coins. Turns out, the little bank inside WalMart was open and took care of that, and Judy was very happy to have the supply of coins. I felt good because I had (as I only rarely do) fulfilled the Boy Scout pledge to do a good deed for someone every day. (The world would be a nicer place if we all did that.) Anyway, the lessons are that there is always a solution if you think creatively. Who (among those facilities that are open) has what you need and just might accept a sob story to sell it to you?

3. While I haven't always, I have for the last year or two tried to remember to be polite to women, opening doors, letting them go first in line, and so forth. Time and again, women are shocked to find someone who remembers the old way of doing things. In one case, four women who were present swore they could not remember a man letting a woman go first in line anytime in the last decade. One young man even asked me "Who said girls go first?" A woman standing at the scene said "Ask your grandmother. Your mother may have failed you but I bet your grandmother remembers how it's done."

4. Our local newspaper has been cutting costs, trying to stay in business. They cut back the number of big name editorials they buy from syndication and bought a bunch of editorials from people I have never seen on TV (but they did not buy Ann Coulter's column, which is pretty reasonable). The replaced most of the well-known comics they have carried for years with cheaper comics by new artists. The colored Sunday funny pages are now half color and half black and white.

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

6. Leanna and I had our house flooded by broken pipes twice and the ADB office once. All of the paper stuff is now on pallets (if not in bookcases).

7. I love the show ONCE UPON A TIME but it is driving me crazy because it's really two shows, one in the 21st century and one in the 14th (or maybe 7th) century. The story lines get confusing and I tend to think of it in casual conversation as two separate shows.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Steve Cole recently answered a series of questions from a fan of the company and its games.

QUESTION: Any thoughts to ADB going into a new path?
ANSWER: We think about new ideas every day.

QUESTION: Maybe a WW1/2/3 naval system, as the SFB rules could be modified to work with such.
ANSWER: I doubt if it would sell, and don't have time to do the detailed historical research. However, Mongoose is doing a new bunch of naval miniatures and they did ask me if I would consider converting SFB to the battleships venue. Maybe.

QUESTION: Would you consider doing a Babylon 5 or Star Wars version of SFB?
ANSWER: Probably not. A license would cost a lot of money and I can barely get the products we have now done. Also, people who are fans of such genres have a tendency to expect their games to faithfully follow the knowledge base and I just don't know it. Tell you what, though, I'll happily license the SFB game engine to anyone who wants to do a Babylon 5 game or a Star Wars game or any other game, assuming you can show me you have the legal rights to do such a game. Such a deal would NOT include access to any SFU or Paramount material and would probably involve a game that is not transparently compatible.

QUESTION: Would you consider doing a new version of FASA's Centurion/Renegade Legion?
ANSWER: I do not know that system, have no clue how to get rights for it, and don't know that I'd have time. Frankly, I just have no interest in it as a designer and I have more things I do want to do than I can do.

QUESTION: Would you ever consider doing something entirely new?
ANSWER: We do entirely new SFU stuff all the time. As for outside of SFU, you'd have to show me something that would be as profitable. And again, I cannot get all of the SFU projects done that I want to do. (Marines, KRAG, PD Tholians, PD Gorns, PD Feline Empires, Klingon Invasion, the list goes on.)

QUESTION: (In the opinion of the fan asking the questions) BattleTech has gone downhill bad in the last 10 years, and a new mech type of game could be well received if it allowed people to use their miniatures.
ANSWER: Ya know, I've never played a mech game and have no idea how to they work. I bought one once, read the first 20 pages of the rules, and gave the game away. It was just too complicated. Ok, that sounds funny, the guy who did F&E and SFB saying BattleTech was too complex, but the point is that after spending all day writing rules for SFB, FC, and F&E, I really want a game about as complex as Munchkin for an evening of relaxation with friends.

QUESTION: I know it is a pretty small shop, which may have no desire to branch out or diffuse support for current products, I was just curious to know if there were any plans to create additional great products.
ANSWER: More great SFU products, yes. Moving off in random directions and other venues and genres, probably not. Doing a new SFU product starts with a ton of research already done. Starting a new game on say the Boer War or Battlestar Galactica would take a year or two of research before we could even start.

QUESTION: Has there been any work on getting Paramount to allow SFB to expand into the Next Generation timeline?
ANSWER: We have talked with them in the past, but their licensing system is not really workable for us and they really aren't that interested in seeing the SFU expand into TNG. Now, when they're ready to have me take over the management of Star Trek as a brand, I have scripts written for the first ten episodes of Prime Directive.

Friday, January 27, 2012


1. If the enemy is in overload range, so are you.

2. Seeking weapons have the right of way.

3. Don't fly the only unique ship in the squadron, it just makes you the most interesting target.

4. There is always a rule you have forgotten.

5. The open path to the enemy planet is mined.

6. Shuttles should try to look non-threatening; they might not want to waste a phaser.

7. Rated aces are predictable and dangerous; new players are unpredictable and even more dangerous.

8. The decisive point of the battle will come at one of two points: a. your weapons aren't recycled or b. you're out of power.

9. Stay with your squadron; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at.

10. If you can't remember if he has something armed or ready, he does.

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

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, January 26, 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, January 25, 2012

Module R107: The Nicozian Concordance

This is Steven Petrick posting.

We are uploading a new product to e23. This is Module R107 the Nicozians. The Nicozians were first proposed back in 1999. In a sense they are more or less a "monster" in that they are a space traveling species that build ships, but are not a true empire in that their stated purpose is to find a new "homeworld."

Their homeworld is a neutron star about to go nova. No, their homeworld does not orbit a neutral star that is about to go nova, they live on a neutron star.

Due to the intense gravity, an individual Nicozian is about the size of a grain of rice. Thus there are never any boarding actions. Further, due to their need for intense gravity, the gravity systems on their ships make it impossible for them to dock with non-Nicozian ships (or land aboard a non-Nicozian ship despite the fact that the largest Nicozian ship is the size of a drone. Yes, a drone.

The Nicozians have a unique movement system called "skipwarp," and employ their own variations on weapons. Pulse phasers are their phaser of choice, the subspace auger is their heavy weapon, and the skipwarp missile is their seeking weapon (and they have some different warheads not seen anywhere else).

Because of their need for intense gravity, they cannot operate shuttles (even they cannot build a gravity generator small enough to for a shuttle), and thus also have no fighters. However, they do have a variation of their gravity generators that they use as a mine. When triggered it pulls all other units with in three hexes towards itself as a kind of mini-black hole before finally burning out.

The Nicozians are, like the Peladine and Borak, currently a playtest module, but they should provide an interesting opponent, whether encountered in the Alpha Octant, Omega Octant, or in the Magellanic Cloud.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


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

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

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

We hope to see you there!

Monday, January 23, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week as the Steves worked on new products and the rest worked on shipments. The weather this week was cold and dry. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: SFB Module R3 SSD book.

Steve Cole worked on a number of things, including ACTASF errata, Project T, Project E, the Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, copyright pirates, Communique #73, Wall of Honor updates, reviewed new ships from Mongoose, did a Star Fleet Alert, and updated the Federation SIT.

Steven Petrick worked on stuff for Captain's Log #45 (battle groups, tactical papers), the update for Module T, proofread things SVC did, stuff for Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, and reviewed new ships from Mongoose.

Leanna kept orders and finished the year-end accounting.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. Mike and SVC checked the warehouse situation and decided that it could be handled without having to move.

Joel got home from Africa, did website updates, chased pirates, uploaded Communique #73 and Hailing Frequencies for January, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1095 friends), proofread things, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hailing Frequencies and Communique Released

Steve Cole reports:

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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Explanation for January 18, 2012, and How to Find Opponents

Yesterday was one of the very few days that ADB, Inc. did not publish a blog entry. Here is why:

We don't think SOPA or PIPA is a good idea and while we didn't take down our BBS, Forum, our page on Facebook, our website, or our web storefront, we didn't post on the Forum until after 5:00 pm or on the BBS in the afternoon until after 5:00 pm CST because our Forum and BBS would be possible targets if a fan posted something that was too close to forbidden territory. We didn't post on our page on Facebook (except to let people we were there but were not posting) as Facebook could also be a target of this legislation. We didn't post a blog on StarBlog because too many blogging sites might be closed.

While we don't condone piracy, SOPA and PIPA are too broadly written and would adversely affect all entities with websites or fan-contributed content, in our opinion. We thank you all for your patience and understanding as we help our own small protest.

Now on to the rest of the blog.



Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Module R3 SSD Book Updated and Going to e23

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things to be uploaded in the near future is an updated version of the Module R3 SSD book. This includes the appropriate updates as developed for Module R4 (and also used in the creation of the Module E3 SSD book) and follows the updating of the Basic Set SSD book to the same standard. Dates when refits are available are included on the SSDs now. The Klingon ships are delineated as to whether or not they ever had type-F drone racks.

Also included are two new Lyran SSDs. One of these is simply the Puma transport tug with two cargo pallets. This SSD was originally promised in Module C1 to be in Module R3, but when Module R3 was first complied this promise was forgotten. Also with this SSD is the never before seen SSD of the Lyran SRV (Lyran Survey ship with carrier pallet). While the rule for this SSD has always existed (with the publication of Module R3), no actual SSD had ever previously been done. When we get around to updating the Module R3 rulebook, both of these ships will need modification to their ship descriptions to note that they are included in the product, but nothing else is really needed (for example,the Lyran SRV has been part of the Annex #7G for a long time).

This SSD book has now become part of our product line on e23.

Monday, January 16, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, with orders going out and the design team working on new products. The weather this week was cold, but not miserably so, and without snow. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was the SFB Module E3 Borak, which comes in two parts (rules and SSDs). We found the old boxes of JagdPanther magazines from the 70s and plan to start uploading them to e23.

Steve Cole worked on a lot of different things, and spent way too much time on a new game (Project T) which has "one page of rules and toys" if you can believe that (the deck plans will also be used for PD and KRAG). He playtested Star Fleet Marines, updated the Gorn SIT, had some nice phone chats with Lou Zocchi, reviewed Mongoose's decals, and spent an entire day on ACTASF errata, and finished updating the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick finished Module R107 (the Nicozians) which will go on e23 next month and R3 SSD update (which goes on e23 in a few days). He set up the battle group scenario for Captain's Log #45, playtested Marines, and answered questions.

Leanna kept orders and finished the year-end accounting.

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

Joel finished up his month-long trip to Africa and started home.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1091 friends), proofread stuff, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


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

1. Canopy, a covering, comes from the Greek word Konops, or mosquito. The Greeks covered their beds with mosquito nets called konopeion which the Romans copied and called canopeum.

2. Canter, a modest walking pace for a horse, came from Canterbury, the cathedral where Thomas Becket was buried. In the 1200s and 1300s, upper-class people took the annual pilgrimage to Canterbury, which became something of a vacation. (The roads to the cathedral had many comfortable inns, spas, and resorts.) Nobody was in any hurry on that trip, so farmers watching the annual travelers said they were going at "a Canterbury pace" which eventually shortened to a canter.

3. Canvas (a rough cotton cloth) and Canvass (to sift or survey) come from the Latin word Cannibis, or hemp. Originally, canvas was made from hemp, and the term eventually was applied to heavy cloth made from other plant fibers (such as cotton). Canvas was later used to sift flour and resulted in the second meaning.

4. Caper (to jump around), Caprice (whim), and Capricious (whimsical and erratic) all came from capra, the Latin word for goat. Young goats would jump around, and anything else that jumped around was said "to caper." Caprice then came to mean something erratic that jumped around from one idea or position to another, and capacious was someone who changed his mind without any real reason for doing so.

5. Cardigan, a knitted wool jacket, is only one of many things named for Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan and the general who led the charge of the light brigade. While the charge is controversial and he may have misunderstood the target, it was certainly heroic and when new wool jackets arrived for the soldiers to wear during the winter, they were named in the honor of his heroic ride.

6. Carnival is a combination of two Latin words, one meaning meat (carnem) and eating (levare). Every year, Lent came around (meaning 40 days with no one allowed to eat meat). The day (or week) before Lent was the time for a great party or festival or feast in which meat was served. (This has also come down to us as Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday.) In time, any festival involving rollicking entertainment and feasting came to be called a Carnival. Carnage (a word often associated with battlefields or sometimes crime scenes) also comes from carnem (meat).

7. Carol, now meaning a song (particularly one about Christmas), comes from the old Greek word chorus, which does not actually mean singing, but dancing. A chorus was originally a circle of people dancing to a flute. Later, they started singing along, and there you have it.

8. Carousel, another term for merry-go-round, comes from the Italian word carosello. The old jousting contests of the Middle Ages were made obsolete by gunpowder, but Italians (always in the mood for a party) invented a kind of exhibition of horsemanship which brought back the older period (just without people being taken to the hospital with spear wounds). Lancers would try to spear targets or rings (not each other). The sport migrated to France and then to England. When it reached the United States a few centuries later, the horses were of wood but (in some rides) the young knights could still try to grab the brass ring for a free second ride.

9. Carpet, a floor covering, was originally a heavy cloth used as a religious garment in the 1100s. By the 1200s, this heavy cloth was used as a tablecloth, and the term "on the carpet" came to mean "a plan being discussed at the council table." By the 1400s, some noble lady figured out that the heavy tablecloth was the perfect thing to keep her feet away from the cold stone floor of the castle, and by the 1500s the term "on the carpet" meant someone called to answer to the king (or other noble) for his actions.

10. Cartridge, which now means a brass shell containing gunpowder, primer, and a bullet (for a breach-loading firearm) originally was the term (cornucopia) used by bakers for the flexible paper funnel used to contain flour, sugar, or frosting. Soldiers armed with old muzzle-loading weapons would have two of these hanging on their belt, one containing bullets and the other gunpowder. Long before someone figured out how to combine it all into one package, the term cornucopia (as applied to the military usage) had been corrupted into cartridge.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Weasel 0.01
Wild Weasel 0.75
Rabid Weasel 0.00
Legendary Accountant (fixes EAF errors) 10.00
Tractor 0.50
John Deere Tractor 7.00
Red Self-Destruct Button 0.01
Safety Catch for Red Button 9.99
Flashing Lights and Siren 0.10
Motion Simulator for Bridge 1.00
Appeal to Game Designer for Rules Change 25.00
Rules Lawyer to Argue for You 15.00

-- Originated by Mark Kuyper; additional suggestions by: Jeremy B. Williams,
Steven Petrick, David Crew, Maik Hennebach, Eric Stork, Andrew Harding, F.
Michael Miller, Tom Carroll, found in Captain's Log #20.

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things in life is people using old sayings without really understanding them, and so applying them where they do not actually belong.

"A poor craftsman blames his tools" was said to me recently. The problem here is that you can be the better craftsman, but if your tools are bronze and the other craftsman's tools are are iron, he will get the job done faster. Is it wrong for the craftsman to blame his tools for not being able to do the job as fast as the man with better tools?

"History is written by the winners." This one implies that only the winner gets to tell his side of what happened. An example is the Punic Wars where we learn the Romans were the good guys, because they won and the Carthaginians do not get to tell their side because . . . well there are no Carthaginians. Again, it is not necessarily true. We (the United States of America and our allies) defeated the Japanese Empire by the end of the Second World War, and we (and the world) all know the Japanese were the bad guys in that war. Take some time to read a Japanese history book that Japanese children study to learn about the war. You will get a very different viewpoint on the war and, oh yes, the Japanese were not the bad guys. In point of fact, with modern archeology even the Carthaginians are having their side of the story told about the Punic Wars. (Even the Philistines and the Canaanites are getting their side of the story told, which differs somewhat from the Israelite's side we are more familiar with.)

Any time some one uses and old saying to make a point, take some time to consider the saying and its ramifications. In the first instance, the reference was used to disparage the skill of a player who was having abysmal die roll luck, and yet in a game that is entirely dependent on die rolls for every action (even how far you can move), no matter how good your plan is if you cannot roll at least as well (or your opponents roll at least as badly) you are going to lose. Your tools (the die rolls) are at fault, not your skill.

Ah, but then remember Napoleon, who was known to ask when a man appeared for promotion: "Is he lucky?" But then, Napoleon was not asking if the man simply had good luck, he was asking was the man "prepared and thoughtful." Because to borrow from another saying "Fortune favor the prepared." Napoleon noted that any Commander must constantly look around himself and ask "if the enemy suddenly appeared there, what would I do?" If he does not have an answer, then he is not a good commander.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

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

2. I love TERRA NOVA but the plot loopholes are laughable. We have a meteor that creates an EMP burst. (I am not aware of anything saying that could happen.) Then we discover that every microchip in the colony has fried, including the one chip that is needed to make more chips. (But somehow, that chip can be fixed by a bartender.) And yet, the database computer is shielded. (Why did they bother to shield that from EMP and not shield a stockpile of reserve chips and the chip needed to run the chip maker?)

3. I like gravy, specifically, cream gravy on chicken, turkey, biscuits. Leanna won't eat gravy, so she has no idea how to cook it. When she cooks chicken or turkey, I scoop a cup of chicken stock out of the sauce pan she used and stir in flour and maybe butter. That's that. I never knew that I was doing it wrong.
Leanna has been on a kick of making biscuits, and decided one Sunday to make them from scratch. I decided to make gravy. She looked it up on internet and had me read it. You mean, you're actually supposed to COOK gravy on heat in a pan, not just stir flour into pan drippings? Who knew? She found a 29-cent pack of gravy mix in the cabinet and said "have at it" and so I put a cup of milk into a sauce pan, warmed it up, and stirred in the packet. Hmm... too thin, watery, soupy. Walked across kitchen, got flour canister, returned, opened canister, got scoop of flour, sprinkled in some, tried to stir, noticed that the heat had thickened the gravy to the point of perfection and I had just dumped flour on top of perfect gravy. Yetch! Tried to stir in the flour, but it just went all lumpy. Who knew you actually COOK gravy? And, from my experience on Thanksgiving, you can apparently overcook gravy as mine turned (with about a minute too much heat) from a nice creamy texture to a thick pudding that would not flow out of the gravy boat.

4. My psychiatrist gave me a book on how to deal with women who want to Gibbs me. He suggested that I hold it over the back of my head whenever I decide to do something stupid.

5. There are many causes for failure. In one recent episode of RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, we noted that the place had lost business over the last few years for several reasons. First, increased competition meant that their old way of doing things (cook in the morning and then scoop it onto plates all day) could no longer compete. Second, the general manager had left five years earlier and had never been replaced, leaving no one in charge. Third, the decor had not been updated in two decades.

6. I continue to love the show GOLD RUSH and refer to it in conversation by a disparaging name. I saw on TV that the guys on the show were unhappy with being portrayed as idiots and just wanted to say that they obviously have good hearts, but are also obviously still learning how to do that stuff and really needed to hire someone who knew what they were doing. If I win the lottery, I will drive to their mine site and cook lunch and supper for them just to show that I really am a fan of the show (even if just to watch them make mistakes). Hey, if we cannot laugh at our own mistakes, we can at least laugh at theirs? Right?

7. I look at BONES and see two people in love, but she is unable to admit it. I look at CASTLE and see two people who are in love but both are afraid that the other one is not there yet and don't want to scare them away. Reminds me of when I met Leanna. I fell in love very fast, and really wanted to get married TODAY about three weeks after I met her. I was terrified that she could not possibly be falling in love as fast as I was and I didn't want to scare her away. (She felt the same way, and fortunately we both decided to just take a deep breath and get our feelings out in the open. After that, engagement followed on our 31st day of knowing each other.) I guess maybe that wouldn't make as great a television show as this tension thing does, but the tension thing on both shows (and several others) has really gotten way beyond the point of being annoying.

Monday, January 09, 2012

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

Steve Cole reports:

This week started in a flurry (as Jean was working 16-hour days on Sunday and Monday to finish PD20M Romulans and the Intro to SFU booklet, then left on Tuesday). After that, it sort of became a normal week. The weather this week was cold overnight and decent in the afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was the ISC WAR rulebook for F&E.

Steve Cole was supposed to take some days off this week, but Leanna was too busy with year-end accounting and orders going out, and what's the fun of a day off alone? So, SVC puttered and worked on minor projects. He updated most of the multi-player pages on the Wall of Honor, but Joel won't be back to upload them until the 16th. He wrote the Captain's Log #19 description so it can go on e23 when Joel gets back to add the art. SVC and the F&E staff wrote a plan to get the SITs updated. He finalized the list of ships for FC Reinforcements Attack and boosters 34-35-36. He wrote the web rule for ACTASF2 and wrote one draft of the ESG rule for that game. He dug through boxes and found a copy of every Star Fleet Times. He wrote a three-page story for a future Captain's Log. He wrote three blogs for Jean to use as needed.

Steven Petrick answered rules questions, and worked on Captain's Log #45 (monster article), E3, the R3 SSD book, and the Nicozians.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel was still in Africa visiting his family.

Jean helped us organize the e23 plans, which include one new upload per week for at least the start of the year. Mostly, she traveled home and recovered from the trip and updated Facebook.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 07, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself things he blogged before but thinks bear repeating. (This also increases the chance of someone finding them on a Google search.)

1. Every restaurant table needs a trash can. Give me a little bucket six or eight inches across and I will cheerfully fill it with empty condiment packs, soiled napkins, straw wrappers, chicken bones, and no end of other debris and detritus that I don't want cluttering up my table. The waitress, instead of picking that stuff up one item at a time, can just wait until I leave and empty the little bucket then.

2. My cats love canned cat food but only lick the gravy; they never eat the meaty chunks. So can cat food companies just sell me cans of cat food gravy?

3. If China can block everyone in China from reaching websites with anti-Chinese stuff (and, just recently, from reaching porn sites), why can't the US block anyone in US from reaching those foreign websites with pirated files or viruses, or from reaching file-sharing databases that contain copyrighted materials? For that matter, if the Great Firewall of China can keep Chinese from reaching such sites, why can't the US build a Great Firewall of its own to stop SPAM?

4. If Assange and Wikileaks were serious, they'd release the UFO alien technology files dating back to Roswell. I mean, really, given the amount and kind of stuff that's leaking, is there any doubt that (if those files exist) Assange has them already?

5. Note to PROJECT RUNWAY: Gray is not a color. Black and white are only barely colors. Show us color.

6. We wargamers (and I include RPG players in that honored group even if they reject the name) are a unique bunch, and a tiny tiny tiny fraction of the human genome. We're people who get our fun by making our own decisions, and taking responsibility for those decisions. We're risk takers, but not gamblers. Most humans want to sit on the sofa, watch a TV show or read a novel or comic book, and be scared out of their minds that the hero is going to be killed (or sent to prison, or kicked off the police force, or reassigned to Toledo). But there is always the secret and secure knowledge that at the end of the adventure, everything will be right back where it was, with the hero in the same job he was in when the season or series started. Wargamers are perfectly willing to risk the starship captain's life and career, and accept that we'll be starting over as an ensign in the next game if we got it wrong. This has many implications, the worst of which is that the wargame industry is very small with very few customers. If a higher percentage of the human race were instinctive wargamers, the wargame industry would be as big as the comic book industry, and even small game companies like ADB would have 20 or 30 employees and annual sales in the tens of millions of dollars.

7. I get really tired of (when watching TV) hearing "after the break". Guys, I am watching the show, I don't plan on changing the channel, and I resent the fact that two or three minutes of actual content was left out of the show to make room for this needless repetition. When I heard "after the break" I click the fast forward button, so I'm not hearing it anyway and it's just more commercial time as far as I'm concerned. And I am not watching the commercials either, not unless they have cute animals or cool sci-fi effects.

8. If you want your girlfriend to wear sexy clothes, consider that nothing is sexier than a wedding gown.

9. The American Civil War is misnamed, because a civil war is two groups trying to take over a single country. Robert E. Lee had no more interest in taking over Chicago and New York than George Washington had in conquering London. It could properly be called the War for Southern Independence or the War Between the States. For that matter, the American Revolution was not a revolution as the Americans were not trying to overthrow the British government.

10. Pet Peeve: Cop shows where the cop fires two shots out of his pistol, the slide locks back on an empty magazine, and the clueless actor continues to point the now empty pistol at the bad guy. Argh. The propmaster read the script which said "hero fires two shots" and put exactly two blanks in the pistol, so the weapon was empty and the slide locked back, making the hero look like a moron to anyone who has actually fired an automatic pistol. If there is some insurance or safety issue about putting a third round in the magazine for this scene, why not use a dummy round (available in any gun store) which will cycle like a normal round (and leave the slide forward) but won't fire?

Friday, January 06, 2012


Romulan Ale (per bottle) 0.10
Romulan Ale (per case) 1.00
Orion Slave Girl 5.00
Orion Slave Boy 0.05
Twin Klingon Female Warriors 0.02
Legendary Blonde Female Yeoman 9.00
Presents for LBFY 11.00
Go-Go Boots for Female Crewmembers 1.00
Custom-written theme song for your ship 4.00
Stereo system to play theme song 1.00
Automatic Taunting Module for drones 1.00
Legendary Cook (recaptures boarded ship) 14.00

-- Originated by Mark Kuyper; additional suggestions by: Jeremy B. Williams,
Steven Petrick, David Crew, Maik Hennebach, Eric Stork, Andrew Harding, F.
Michael Miller, Tom Carroll, found in Captain's Log #20.

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25-31 December 2011

Steve Cole reports:

This was Jean Week, when we have her delightful company and hard work all week. Christmas was a time for family, but we did spend a few hours in the office just getting Jean organized for the next week and clearing spam out of the email files. The weather this week was cold at first (starting with a white Christmas) but warmed by the end of the week. The spam storm mostly remained at just well 200 per day.

There was nothing new on e23 this week because SJG was closed for the holidays.

Steve Cole spent the week thinking about and organizing for the future. The company needs to change, and to limit the time spent on fun but secondary things that relatively few people want. (Why do FC eCard packs that few buy when work needs done on Marines, Fed Admiral, and PD Tholians?) He did some actual work, including a one-page Captain's Log #45 story about Ketrick's cat, another one-page story, 10 pages of Project E, the annual report, the look-ahead blog, a new Andro ship card for Communique #73, reviewed the first draft of ACTASF2 Battleships, read the Traveller rulebook, and resolved a problem when a freight shipment included nine boxes of another company's dice.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45, doing the SSDs, campaign update, and starting on the monster article. He also finished the reports on the R3 SSD book update so that can go to e23 next week.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel is with his family in Africa, but Charles Diaz came in two afternoons to handle critical functions.

Jean worked almost entirely on PD20M Romulans, but she also tested new games, did marketing and customer support,

Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Jean Sexton, and (for the first time ever) Leanna Cole appeared on TalkShoe on Thursday night. The program lasted over two hours.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Many people do not know that you can play either STAR FLEET BATTLES or FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the STAR FLEET BATTLES/FEDERATION COMMANDER game systems as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

We continue to develop FEDERATION & EMPIRE for an on-line environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

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

Monday, January 02, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse

This is Steven Petrick posting.

While Jean was here we played a couple of rounds of a game by another company about "zombies" (Jean has a collection of Zombie games from that company).

SVC likes the game, but I find the system simply too reliant on luck. You have to roll to see how far you will move in addition to whether or not you can beat a Zombie that has moved into your square (or into whose square you have moved) in combat.

Dice are not supposed to like people, but if you make a lot of bad rolls in a row you can wind up so far behind that you cannot catch up. Thus, even if you have a good plan (well, you may think your plan is good, I thought mine was after all), you lose because others roll better than you on movement (and in combat with the Zombies) and pick up all the goodies before you can reach them.

Simply put, you need bullets to adjust die rolls to survive combat with Zombies, so you tend to move towards buildings where bullets can be found, but if the other players keep getting there before you, you wind up using up your bullets in fights with Zombies that you cannot evade and, well you die (which, for some reason, makes it very hard to "win").

I can understand that the game is amusing to a lot of people (I frankly find it tedious, but then I tend to roll bad dice a lot and have to make up for it by better tactical/operational play in most games I play). In all seriousness, if the dice I rolled in this game (both times we played it) were photon torpedo die rolls I would be able to conquer the Klingon empire. In this game, a die roll of "one" is bad rather than good, and I rolled a lot of "ones." There was a period in the first game (for example) where I rolled a "one" for movement five consecutive times.

And as fate would have it, the only time in that entire game I got to move six squares occurred only because I had a card that doubled my movement and rolled a "three," only to have SVC play a card that allowed him to control my movement and use that to run me six squares further away from where I needed to be. By the end of the game (three turns later) I STILL had not gotten back to the square I had been on before SVC moved me in the opposite direction.

SVC, Leanna, and Jean racked up lots of dead zombies (not enough to win the game on "body count"), but I only managed to kill six for the whole game.

Placing all the of the zombies on the game board is more tedium to me.

SVC and Jean may like the game (Leanna did not want to play it the second time), but to me it is pretty much "read the cards one time and then forget about it."

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Steve Cole reports:

Next year looks to be fun, with a lot of great products. I wish I could make Jean (and all of you) happy with a specific month-by-month list of the entire year's products (and then release each and every one of them exactly on time), but in many cases I simply don't know yet exactly what will happen. The best I can do is sort of a rough outline (through a scanner darkly as the saying goes) with a few comments. I am going to go through next year, one product line at a time. Where I have specifics, you'll read them.

A Few General Notes

We want to get out as many products as possible before the world ends on 21 December 2012. After all, the guy who dies with the most games wins, right?

If we only had one product line, it would get multiple products, but with several of them, each will get one or two. There just aren't days on the calendar or money in the bank to print four new products for each of eight or more product lines.

Without an Origins trip on the schedule, we can look forward to a less chaotic and more steady flow of new products. At least I am finally going to get to do some serious work on my lawn during the spring when it actually would do some good. (That would make Leanna happy.)

More products by outside partners means more total products. That includes not just the two partners we already have, but one or perhaps two more who will come on board during the year. We're talking to several potential partners.

Some new technology is coming available that could make short print runs of card decks and die-cut counters possible. If that works out, it will be a game changer, literally.

We're hoping that the increased sales from the joint-venture lines allow us to bring someone else into the office who can take over some of my (Steve Cole's) non-design workload. There are a ton of design projects that I want to do, but it's literally a matter that every hour of work I do on (say) Federation Commander Reinforcements Attack is an hour of work that was not done on Prime Directive Gorns.

If the company is going to be any kind of a success, I have got to do a better job of marketing, specifically getting accurate information (and cover art) to the wholesalers in a far more timely manner. And while I love the social media marketing that Jean does, I wish she'd limit the hours she spends doing it so more hours went into proofreading my products and doing her own. Until she moves permanently to Texas (June 2013) that's not going to improve.

Leanna was so impressed by the fact that most game companies don't work during the week between Christmas and New Year's that she had declared that I will take off at least three days right after Jean goes home. My health could use the break. The doctor has all of my blood numbers in a good place but I'm totally exhausted all of the time.

Star Fleet Marines

First and most of all, I want to get Star Fleet Marines: Assault finished and in the stores in February. This game looks to be very popular, given how many people who have never even seen it are trying to submit scenarios, tactics, new units, new rules, and even fiction to go along with it. Playtesting is in the final phases, and you can actually watch me playing a small scenario on YouTube.

Many have asked about a series of miniatures for use with the game. I'd love to do them, and we might. (They could also be used for other things such as Prime Directive and KRAG and games I'm not going to talk about yet.) I've got a few ideas how to make that happen and we'll just have to see how it goes.


This was our first joint venture with another company (Majestic Twelve Games). They report that they're doing another edition of Starmada, which will result in new editions of our various Star Fleet Universe books during the first quarter of the year. We also expect to release Battleships Armada during the first half of the year. There are also some existing Starmada books which we have never done print-on-demand and distribution deals for, and we really ought to make at least one of those happen.


The guys at the Mongoose casting shop are trying to get the un-sent pre-orders out, and expect to clear that all up in January (as new equipment triples production) and re-launch the line to the stores in February with the fleet boxes. The spring and summer will see a steady series of releases for Starline 2500.

August will see ACTASF2 (tentatively titled Battleships). The plan is to complete the Tholian and Orion fleets (i.e., Tholian Attack, Orion Attack), add the battleships (i.e., Battleships Attack), and add a new ship or two for every empire. Once that's done, we'll see how many pages are left in which we can add other things. Perhaps this would be the Lyrans, or perhaps the heavy and/or light dreadnoughts (or maybe both). This book will of course come along with a whole range of squadron boxes, fleet boxes, etc.

The Hydrans will all but certainly wait for 2013 (perhaps titled ACTASF3 Fighters), more new empires will appear in 2014 (perhaps titled ACTASF4 Gunboats), while the Andromedans will wait for 2015 (perhaps titled ACTASF5 X-ships). Ok, we all know that predictions three years out are worth exactly as much as the ion cloud they're written on, but at least we have a plan ... well, an outline ... well, a vague concept.

Star Fleet Battles

The girl who brought us to the dance will always get her turn on the dance floor. The question is just what. Obviously, it would be a new module (maybe two) and there are plenty of ideas for Steven Petrick to pick from. I'd really love to see Module X2 get published, but I seriously wonder if I'd have the time to support the design of so many new rules and ships. Other options include Module R13 (More Ships That Never Were), Module J3 (more fighters and carriers), Module Omega Six, Module C5A (Return to the Magellanic Cloud), Module X1B (more X-ships), Module Y4 (more Early Years), C3B (more ships for the five smallest simulator empires), and other ideas.

One thing that will definitely happen next year is for us to update more and more of the SSD books and post them to e23 for you to download and print whatever you want.

SFBOL will continue to grow, and will move into a new graphic format for ship descriptions that will work better for the players and do less damage to product sales.

Federation & Empire

F&E may or may not get a new product in 2012. (If not, expect Civil Wars in 2013. Just a note, Civil Wars may turn into two products by the time I figure out what's in it.) That is going to depend to some extent on when we sell out of some of the countersheets and have to reprint them. (Reprinting F&E counters is very expensive and to justify the cost we pair that with a new product. I think we're only going to be short of one sheet and if rumored new technology makes shorter print runs practicable, we may do a short run of the one sheet.)

What F&E will get this year is a set of updated Ship Information Tables and (perhaps) a new edition of one of the existing expansion rulebooks.

Federation Commander

You will get Reinforcements Attack (along with its boosters) in 2012. You may also get a book of some kind, perhaps the Reference Starship Book, or the Reference Scenario Book, or the Federation Commander Tactics Book.

I am also determined to see Federation Admiral printed next year, although I cannot promise when. What I can promise is that Jay Waschak and I will pound our way through a few pages every week and see how fast we can reach a point of critical mass.

It is all but certain that Borders of Madness will be the next "attack product" for this line (with its own boosters), but I don't want to give anything approaching a promise that it could appear in 2012.

Captain's Log

I can predict with a great deal of confidence that we will get Captain's Log #45 out in May and Captain's Log #46 out in November. What I cannot predict is their format. We are tossing around the idea of going to more pages (140?) and a $24.95 price point. That will probably involve reducing the Supplemental File to just the designer's notes and the rejected tactical notes (and using the better material in the main issue itself).

Prime Directive

We should have PD20M Romulans out in the first few months of 2012, completing the transition of the existing books from d20v3.5 to the d20 Modern system.

The big move then will be into the Mongoose Traveller game system. Jean Sexton (line editor) is working with Traveller author Mike West to bring these products to the market. I don't know a precise release date but I'm going to get very cranky with Jean and Mike W if we don't have a book or two out in time for GenCon.

We'll certainly do some kind of 16-page adventure (probably on the planet Texmex) for Free RPG Day.

Beyond that, I'd love to finish Prime Directive Tholians (done by Loren Knight) or maybe Prime Directive Gorns (which I have taken a fancy to doing myself) and get such a book out for at least one of the RPG systems. (The way we do these, the other systems would follow fairly quickly.) The problem is that there are only so many hours in the day, and these RPG books consume a mountain of Steve Cole Time and Jean Sexton Time, and there are a lot of demands for those very limited quantities. When Jean moves to Amarillo (June 2013) she'll have a bunch more time and we should see RPG books pouring out of the print engines in 2014.

And Other Things

If the new card printing technology pans out, we will see the long-awaited expansion for Star Fleet Battle Force.

I really want to print the second fiction anthology (Day of the Eagle). It would seem that this would be the easiest of products (go get the already published stories and put them into the page layout software) but the project gets complicated if we're expected to revise them to standardize things like titles and date/time notations and capitalization and other terms. Then again, getting them printed is only part of the battle. We need to get them into distribution, which is another battle. The game wholesalers might not do much with them, and the book wholesalers don't even know ADB exists (and frankly, they don't care). A better solution there might be to make them into Kindle books, something I want to look into.

I want to get a third joint venture deal done. There are two companies we are talking with, another two we want to talk with (who are waiting to see how the Mongoose thing works out), and I have an idea for another joint venture deal that would be so easy to manage that it wouldn't block us doing a fourth joint venture. The problem with joint ventures is that they take Steve Cole Time to manage, and every hour I have to spend teaching a joint venture partner what they can and cannot and must and should not do is an hour I am not working on some actual product.

Jean wants me to create a small free booklet introducing the Star Fleet Universe that she can give away to new customers on e23 and DriveThru. Worse, she claims that I actually agreed to create it (and to do so in the very new future). I wonder what she thinks is in it?

If the technology for short production runs of die-cut counters work out (and I can convince Leanna that I can sell a couple of hundred sheets by mail order) I already have one F&E sheet and one SFB sheet done, and Steven Petrick wants me to do short-run sheets for C3A, E3, and E4.

There is one very creative (and very useful to you customers) book I really want to spend time on, but I'm going to have to pace myself and do just a couple of hours a week on it. When it reaches "critical mass" maybe I can convince Leanna to put it on the schedule.

I don't play train games (not unless I can blow up the train as it crosses the river on a bridge) but Jay Waschak's Merchants of the Federation has attracted the attention of at least one potential partner for a joint venture.

I definitely want to see more iPhone apps done (and to expand those into Android apps) but so far, sales aren't even paying for the annual cost to have a store. Sounds like we need to do some better marketing there.

Starline 2400 ships will continue to be available by mail order (and some stores will carry them). We're looking into what new ships might be added to that range, but honestly, there aren't a lot that haven't already been done and would sell well enough to bother doing.