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Thursday, February 28, 2013

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 online 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 retired 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 and volunteers 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, Howard Bampton, and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, 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 or our page on Facebook, 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, February 27, 2013

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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Steve Cole reports: A few years ago, Leanna and I purchased a vacant commercial lot, then decided not to build a new building on it. We put the lot up for sale, and finally found a buyer as the economy improved. Guided by a good real estate agent, the offer-counter-offer process went quickly and a deal was struck. Then, we hit a snag.

Whenever a piece of real estate is sold, the actual transaction is handled by a title company, which does all the paperwork, registers the deed, handles the money, and makes sure that everyone gets paid. They also do a lot of background stuff nobody notices, like making sure the seller actually owns the property and that the buyer isn't going to face future claims from somebody. One of the things they do is to check and see if the seller has any judgments against him, meaning he has an unpaid debt that the court has certified. That judgment has to be paid before the deal can go through.

Now, I don't have any unpaid debts; it's just the way I run my life. However, somebody with a similar name does, and whenever I do something, I run into his old judgments. I had thought that mess was behind me since he passed away in 2008 and his estate was closed in 2010, making all judgments against him void.

In this case, the woman who sued "the other Steve Cole" didn't know anything but his name, so her judgment has no middle name, no driver's license number, no social security number, no business license number. She's also 100 miles away and was unaware of his death. She still wants (and deserves) her money but I'm not the one to pay her. If he owed her $10 I might just to be a kind person, but not several thousand dollars.

So, here are a few notes, thoughts, facts, and bits of information you may want to be aware of.

1. Please pay your debts before they go to judgment and don't think that old judgments get forgotten. They don't. They will haunt you to the end of your life.

2. If somebody with a similar name has a judgment against him and it screws up a real estate or other deal, don't panic. Have the title company explain to you what has to happen to get the matter cleared. Then get it cleared. It's not that complicated.

3. You're not the first or only person this has happened to. The title company has seen it before and knows how to fix it. Basically, you sign an affidavit that you aren't the guy named in the judgment. If it turns out you are lying and you ARE that guy, you're going to be a whole heap of trouble (and in prison). If it isn't you, you don't have a problem.

4. It would be cleaner to get the judgment clarified to prove that it's not you so that this doesn't happen again and again every time you do anything. That isn't always easy, but sometimes it is. In one case I just called the guy who had sued "the other Steve Cole" and he amended his judgment to make sure it wasn't going to show up on my credit record.

5. Don't think it doesn't apply to you. Sometime when you are old your house will be sold (either by your estate or when you move to a retirement home) and it will be harder to clean up then. The executor of your estate may not know it's not your debt and may take money away from your heirs and pay the bill. Even without a house, you still have an estate and any judgments against you or against someone with a similar name will surface.

6. It might be worth a few bucks every 10 years to have a title company run a check to make sure there are no judgments against people with a similar name and get them cleared up while you're young and healthy and not busy.

7. The worst possible scenario is that the person owed the money will reject the affidavit and try to scare you into paying somebody else's judgment to clear your name. Don't let yourself be bullied. Ask your lawyer to explain to the person owed the money that they're abusing the legal process and can get in a lot of trouble. Worse case scenario: they drag you into court where you simply show you're not the one who owes the money and they get into trouble with the judge for wasting your time (and the judge's time).

8. If you are owed judgments, check every few months to make sure the person who owes you is still alive and if you cannot find them, scan the local records for death certificates. If someone who owes you money dies, be quick to file a claim with the estate. If it's a large amount, you might want to scan the records every month.

9. If you are aware of people in your area with similar names, make friendly contact sometime and keep a file folder with information about them, especially if anything bad comes of it. If someone calls you asking for money owed by somebody with a similar name (deadbeats often have unlisted phone numbers; you, being honest, are easy to find), be sure to keep a record of who they are. If you can help them find the real deadbeat, it may save you trouble later. At least make them aware that there are two or more people with similar names and ask them to make clear when they file a lawsuit that it is not you!

10. Nothing in your life is as important as keeping your good name clean, clear of entanglements, and without anybody else's judgments attached to it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 17-23 February 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was almost a normal week, as orders caught up and Steve Cole returned to work (in a wheelchair). The weather this week was cool, with a bit of snow. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Federation Ship Pack #2.

Steve Cole was out on Monday and Tuesday but returned to his desk for the rest of the week. The bone doctor said that Steve's leg would heal without surgery but that Steve will have a slight limp for the rest of his life. Steve did 16 Wall of Honor updates, posted the draft fleet doctrine rules, finished the Captain's Log #46 Supplemental File, approved the battlegroup rules for Captain's Log #47, reviewed the shipment of new Starline 2500 ships, and got the Star Fleet Marines Last Stand map sent to Xander. He took time to help a grad student in business school with a project on small press publishing, and helped a young game designer figure out how to release a very limited run of a boxes game.

Steven Petrick worked on C6 and Captain's Log #47, and spent part of his week helping Mike Sparks catch up on orders.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, finally catching up despite massive re-orders from the wholesalers.

Mike worked extra hours to catch up on orders and rebuild the inventory, checked in a shipment of new Starline 2500 minis, and continued to manage customer service.

Joel did website updates, sank some pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1495 friends), proofread Captain's Log #46 Supplemental File, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

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.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Giving and Receiving and Memories

Jean Sexton muses:

As many of you know, I am planning on moving to Amarillo in the future after I retire from my position as a librarian at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. In some ways, giving up my old life leaves bittersweet memories. As I do "this" for the last time, I try to reflect about the moment.

In the nearly 30 years I have spent at the University, one of the things we have been encouraged to do is to give back to the community. Over a third of my time there, I have been involved with the public schools as they hold "The Battle of the Books." This started on the state level as a competition for middle school students to compete and it showcases learning and reading. There is a list of books (each year it changes) that they must read. From those they must remember themes, events, and formats. They are asked questions about the books and must remember the correct title (and for extra points, the author). The questions cannot have names or parts of the title in the question. For example, a simple question might be "In which book does a boy help an African-American lifesaving group save people from shipwrecks?" The answer would be Rescue on the Outer Banks by Candice F. Ransom. A harder question from the same book might be "In which book did a horse's wild ancestors eat sea oats?" As is typical in quiz-bowl types of competitions if the question is missed, the other side gets a shot at it. The winners for the county move to a regional competition and those winners move on to the state level.

In this county I have watched this competition expand over the last decade. For a large part of it, the local county has tried to prepare younger students for the competition by holding matches for third through fifth grade. This year, the state has chosen to add a fourth and fifth grade competition. In response, we have expanded to a competition for second and third graders. It was my pleasure to serve as the moderator for the very first competition held in the county and the state.

In one sense I was giving to the community by helping them. In another, I was receiving from them the joy of seeing young students compete and succeed. When they got the answer right, their happiness washed out. At that age, their emotions are all on the surface and so evident. As a moderator, it was my job to be impartial, but I couldn't help celebrating inwardly when the answer was right. Part of me was sad when they bungled a title or forgot the author in midstream. The most heartbreaking moment for me was the tiebreaker round for third and fourth place. The winning team would get medals and a trophy; the losing team would get a certificate of participation. One person was so sure he knew the answer that he quickly answered without consulting with his teammates. Unfortunately, the answer was wrong -- the only wrong answer in the round. He broke down as he realized that he alone had lost the match for the team.

As I saw him, I remembered all the times that I thought I had done something wrong, that I was unhappy and not comforted, that I didn't realize that I would learn from the loss. As it was the last round, I could shed my impartiality and move to say something to the child. I reminded him that without all of his right answers, the team would never have made it to that round. I hope he takes with him the memory that he did a lot of things right. I hope he remembers the kindness of strangers and at some point in his life he comforts someone who is hurt. I hope he continues to compete. I shall always wonder if he does. But this memory is one I shall store away. I am fortunate that memories take so little space to pack up, for I have so many I wish to keep when I move to Texas.

Our SFU players are so talented. Many already give to their communities. If you haven't tried it, I encourage you to seek out an opportunity. You may find yourself the recipient of joy and satisfaction. And who know, perhaps you could store a few memories for yourself.

Friday, February 22, 2013

No-Limit Klingon Hold-'Em for Star Fleet Battle Force

The latest poker craze, as we all know from watching the Travel Channel, is "No Limit Texas Hold-'em", a game where everybody has two cards and uses these with five "pool" cards face up on the table to build their hand. The game is popular because it is possible (although hardly easy) to calculate the percentages of winning or losing a given hand.
It is possible to play a variant of this game using the cards from Star Fleet Battle Force.
No-Limit Klingon Hold-'em is based on the same basic concept. Everybody has two ship cards; the weapon cards are then dealt in the center of the table and the winner is the player who can launch the most powerful attack using those cards and his two ships. Not knowing what ships others have makes the odds harder to calculate, but that is just what makes it fun.

To prepare for No-Limit Klingon Hold-'em, take a standard deck from Star Fleet Battle Force. Put the 36 ship cards in one stack (some players discard the six or twelve smallest ships; some discard all of the carriers) and set aside the Player Order cards which are not used at all. From the Action Deck, remove and set aside the following cards:
    Damage Control
    Erratic Maneuvers
    Reinforce Shields
    Tractor Beam
    PF Flotilla
    Planet-Based Fighters
    Klingon Mutiny
    Prime Team
    Legendary Engineer
    Legendary Gunner
    Wild Weasel
    Electronic Counter-Measures
    Electronic Counter-Counter Measures
    Organian Ceasefire

Each player starts with a stack of chips. It isn't important how many chips you use as long as every player has the same number. Around 50-200 chips is probably a good amount, but you can use whatever chips or other tokens you have. A typical set of poker chips includes three or four colors, so if you designate these as one, five, ten, and twenty-five Credits, it should be possible for everyone to have a good pile to start with.

The Dealer duty rotates clockwise between players. The player who is the current dealer could actually deal the cards, or you could have a non-playing dealer handle the cards while the player who is the honorary rotating dealer is designated by a special marker or token known as "the sun." A player who is "on the sun" is the nominal dealer, even if a neutral dealer is actually handling the cards.

For each hand, the player to the right of "the sun" makes a small blind bet (before cards are dealt). If each player has 200 Credits, then five Credits would be about right for the "small cloaked bet". The player "on the sun" then makes a bet equal to double this amount - the "large cloaked bet" -- and then either deals the cards or signals to the neutral dealer to do so. When each player is eliminated, the amount of the "small cloaked bet" is increased by an amount equal to its original size. After the first player is eliminated, the "small cloaked bet" would raise to 10, and to 15 after the second player is eliminated. The "large cloaked bet" is always double the size of the "small cloaked bet".

Play begins when the dealer hands out the ship cards. He shuffles the Shipyard Deck and deals each player two cards, face down, one at a time. The players then examine their own cards (but obviously not those of their opponents). The player to the left of "the sun" then either matches the "large cloaked bet" or "disengages" by discarding his ships. Players who "disengage" are out of that hand but (if they still have chips) will be in the next hand.
Each player may "call" the current bet, "disengage", or "raise". No player can make more than two raises in each round. Betting continues until all players have matched (and not raised) the current high bet or have "disengaged".

The Lock-On is next. The dealer shuffles the Action Deck and deals three cards face down in the center of the table, then turns them all over (with a flourish). The act of turning the cards over is known as "the Lock-On". Players then examine the three dealt cards and compare them to their ships and see if they have a good match of weapons to ships. (Hint: If, at this point, none of the dealt weapons match either of your ships, you probably want to "disengage" unless maybe you are holding a ship with a plasma-R and one of the exposed cards is an enveloper.) Players then, in turn starting to the left of the "sun" and proceeding clockwise, place bets. Each player can either match the current high bet, raise the bet, or "disengage". No player can make more than two raises in this round. Betting continues until all players have matched (and not raised) the current high bet or have "disengaged".

The HET (High Energy Turn) is the next step. The dealer takes the Action Deck, discards the top card, and then turns over the next card and places it beside the three cards of the HET. Another round of betting (as above) ensues.

The Overrun is the final step. The dealer against takes the Action Deck, discards the top card, then turns over the next card and places it with the three cards of the HET. Another (final) round of betting (as above) ensues.

The winner of each hand is the player who can assemble from his two ships and the five weapons/action cards the strongest attack. Each ship can use any of the cards (and both ships can use cards), but each card can only be used by one of each player's ships and a given ship can only use as many cards as there are weapons. For example, if a player had one Klingon D7 (with two disruptors) and one Romulan SparrowHawk (which has no disruptors) and five disruptor cards were placed in the center of the table, he could use the two biggest disruptor cards but the other three would be wasted. In such an unusual case, victory would probably go to a player who had two disruptor-armed ships.
The overload, scatter-pack, and enveloper cards double one weapons card of the relevant type, but there must be a card for them to double for them to be effective. For example, if one of the five pool cards is an Enveloper but no plasma torpedo cards are in the pool, then the Enveloper is meaningless.
Carriers (if used) count each fighter symbol as six attack points and do not need a card to launch an attack. Because of this, some players remove the carriers from the deck. Cloak and web symbols have no function, and range limits (a major factor in Star Fleet Battle Force) are ignored.
 If you're holding a pair of frigates, you need two heavy weapons, two phasers, and a double card to have a 50-50 chance!

from Captain's Log #28, Copyright ADB, Inc. 2004

Thursday, February 21, 2013

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/).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cardboard Self-Sacrifice

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Games are always at best abstracts of reality. Sometimes the reality the game abstracts is itself an abstract, like Star Fleet Battles. One of the hardest things to abstract is the actions of people. Many games either ignore this facet, allowing you to march your troops off a cliff or into a lake of lava at your own pleasure with nary a whimper in protest. Others impose various rules on morale, but even in so doing will still allow you to order your troops to commit suicide in the name of the cause, even if doing so serves no function.

People are always a critical factor in real life.If you get them really invested in a belief system, you can see them committing acts of self-sacrifice.

Hollywood even expects it.

If you review films about World War II prior to the mass advent of Kamikaze attacks by the Japanese you can find examples of Americans sacrificing themselves. In one film, a nurse offers herself as a prisoner to the Japanese during the battle of the Philippines, but before doing so drops a grenade with the pin pulled down her blouse. Something we would later decry Japanese soldiers doing, i.e., surrendering in an effort to kill Americans. (The nurse, of course, was trying to buy time for her fellow nurses and the wounded to escape, but the general concept of offering to surrender in order to get the grenade close enough to do the job holds.) Hollywood, even before the Kamikazes gave us images of American airmen flying their planes into German or Japanese attackers to save their friends, James Cagney's character did so when a German fighter somehow intercepted the squadron of unarmed bombers he and others were ferrying to England. (How a single-engined German fighter got to an intercept point west of Ireland is not explained.)

In reality, barring massive brainwashing as was found in the imperial Japanese military in World War II, asking, or ordering, your men to commit mass suicide is going to meet considerable resistance. Even the Soviet Union had to employ additional inducements, i.e., machineguns teams with orders to fire on anyone retreating, to get their men to keep advancing into a determined defense.

The gist of this is that the human factor is always a part of real world situations. In Star Fleet Battles when you order that fighter squadron to attack the enemy fleet with their phasers, you have a pretty good idea that the fighters are not going to come back. And you are not going to think about the problem of trying to recover the pilots, you just let the game mechanics work that out down the road. You know that your pilots will all heroically charge the enemy defenses until they are destroyed. You have ordered it, what other choice have they?

In reality, if you have a habit of sacrificing your subordinates, you would probably find yourself with mutiny on your hands.

But gamers, by and large, are far more bloody minded than real commanders controlling real people can afford to be.

Our little cardboard, or plastic, or electronic, or metal, markers will obey our commands like the unfeeling automatons they are, granting us our "bloodless" victories even though their fates on the game board often represent the fates of thousands of individuals, if not millions, who have fallen at our behest.,

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 10-16 February 2013

Jean Sexton reports:

This week was quite busy until Friday the 15th, when Steve Cole fell and broke his leg.

New on e23: Federation Commander: Federation Ship Pack #2

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #46 Supplemental File and got it to Jean to proofread. He worked on providing art from Captain's Log #28 to Leanna and to Jean. After his fall he has spent his time obeying his doctor's orders.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB Module C6. He has to recreate the SSDs as well as the rules and descriptions he had written.
Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. After Steve Cole's fall, she has spent her time assisting him. As a result, orders since Thursday morning will be temporarily delayed until she can make it into the office sometime early this week.
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 1,486 friends), kept communication lines open, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

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, February 16, 2013

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, February 15, 2013

The Top 10 Things Every Captain Wants to Hear, pt. 2

5. Headquarters says we have one ensign too many and you should pick one to send back.
4. Ed McMahon is here with a check for you.
3. Aliens just kidnapped Ensign what's-his-name.
2. Headquarters says to report back for leave and a refit.
1. Ensign what's-his-name is repairing the airlock.

(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #24

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Module C6 Blues

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I am working on trying to recreate what was lost in the crash. The rules section (which was not finished) has been trashed and is gone. Most (but not all) of the SSDs I had finished disappeared. I am currently trying to recreate the Paravian SSDs I had done (in truth, none of the Carnivon SSDs had been done before this point; I had meant to get them done last month, but I kept putting it off because I had not created the new Disruptor Cannon table with the overload function).

This is going to be a lot more pressure because I need to get my Captain's Log files started and running, all of which have dates certain that I cannot put off and need their own time. And of course all of the usual interruptions of my time are going to occur like getting ready for Origins.

Then there are continuing problems with the new computer which so far does not seem happy to work with me (I am doing the SSDs on Mike Sparks's computer). I have to get the SSDs done so I can do the Annexes, and the ship descriptions.

It is going to be an exciting couple of months.

And if I have not mentioned it, we need scenarios (my scenario file is trashed, so I will have to find time to piece together scenarios for Captain's Log while all this is going on, as well as Module C6 scenarios). And I really, really, really need people to write more command notes, term papers, assault notes, tactical notes, call out notes, and conquest notes. While the bulk files of previously submitted papers survived, there is not really a lot in them, and we need more.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



1. Never fight a battle that you do not have to win. Do not let pointless arguments with cranky people absorb your time and energy or get you too upset to work.

2. It is always later than you think, which is why "now" is usually the best time to get started. Don't start something you don't know how to finish, so you have to always be getting ready for the next thing your business needs to do.

3. It is not enough to be a success, but it is also not necessary for your friends, rivals, and enemies to be failures. Someone else's good fortune is only very rarely something bad for you.

4. It is not enough to work hard to get your money. The devil works hard, too -- so do a lot of idiots.

5. Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman, and sometimes the best man for the job is your worst enemy.

6. If at all possible, grow your business without taking on debt. Debt will crush you since the payments still have to be made when business slows down. Don't buy a big piece of equipment unless you're already paying more in rental fees than it will cost to buy it, maintain it, and move it around.

7. Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice tie!" while your attorney files the lawsuit.

8. You do not have to know everything or even know someone who knows everything. But you need a big enough circle of friends that one of them can answer the question: "Does anyone know someone who knows how to do this (or where to get it)?"

9. Sometimes you just need to have a long rambling chat with your suppliers and customers. Things (good and bad) come up in a casual conversation that would never come up during interviews.

10. Excellence is achievable and worthwhile; perfection is not achievable and chasing it will drive you insane. It's cheaper to pay to correct the one thing in a thousand that goes wrong than it is to make sure nothing ever goes wrong.

11. The best surprise is the unexpected.

12. The guy you defeated, destroyed, and utterly humiliated last week is the guy you will have to ask for a favor next week. So be nice to people, even ones you don't like.

13. It's easy to be somebody's favorite customer. Pay your bills on time without being reminded. Learn how to frame your orders and requests in their terms.

14. It's easy to pay your bills. Don't spend money you don't have in the first place!

15. It's always the worst possible time for somebody you have to deal with today. Respect that and have your questions organized before you interrupt their work.

16. It's better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all -- unless trying costs a lot of money.

17. The only one who will ever really understand you is your most dangerous rival.

18. Failing to write a plan is a plan for failure.

19. What's "Good Enough For Government Work" is not good enough for a successful business.

20. There never has been, nor will there ever be, a good time to release a bad product.

21. Junk mail arrives the day it was sent. Checks sent to you are always late. Checks you are racing to the bank always win. The letter you regret sending already arrived.

22. It's not hard to meet expenses; they are everywhere. Fortunately, most of them are predictable and can be taken into account in your budget. Taxes are not unexpected. Neither is the annual insurance payment.

23. It's not how good your product is; lots of good products never find a market. Assuming you have a good product, success comes down to how well you market it it.

24. It's not the work that gets you down. It's the interruptions that are the real killers, the worst of which are the ones you create for yourself.

25. Always have a reserve. If you have to use it, start creating a new reserve. Always know where the new reserve that replaces the current reserve is going to come from.

26. Sometimes you have to ask: "Are we trying to get this project done, or are we just trying to prove which one of us is the biggest elephant in the herd?"
27. Sometimes, you have to ruin the fun and point out that the new plan violates the contract, or the law, or ethics, or the copyright of someone who has a lot of lawyers.

28. It's necessary for people in a small business to have more than one job. It's not ok for them to just do one of their jobs and ignore all of the others, not even for one whole day.

29. You had the staff meeting. You told everybody what to do. You made sure they had the resources to do it. Did you check back later to see if they actually did it?

30. Use college interns when you can. For $10 an hour, you can get a student in marketing, web design, or other fields who has the latest skills and knowledge. They'll work hard for you in exchange for cool things on their resume.


Excuse: It's Not My Job!
 Answer: Ok, then whose job is it and why isn't he doing it?

Excuse: It's out of my control!
Answer: Then we had better get control of the situation, or stop getting ourselves into situations we cannot control.

Excuse: I didn't know that would happen!
Answer: So you admit your planning was faulty.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 11, 2013


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:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 3-9 February 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This included the last of the wholesaler orders for the seven new products, and the mail orders. It was very busy for everyone. The weather this week was cool. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 100 per day.

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #46 large print edition and FLAP list, and the final items to get the Admiral version of Battleships Armada (which Daniel Kast then finished). Steve updated Romulan Space to FC Revision Six. (We sell very few of these and still had some packed copies of revision five.) Steve spent a lot of the week packing products and doing quality control checks. The two Steves evaluated a fiction story and found it too fatally flawed to fix. Steve did complete his work on Communique #86 and the February Hailing Frequencies, both of which will go out on Monday. When asked to find some old campaign ribbon art from 19 years ago, Steve not only found it, but created an entire page of campaign ribbons for the Prime Directive download file. He even took a moment to help a student at a business school with a research project on the wargame industry. He reviewed the Klingon cards for ACTASF and found them 99% good (one trivial typo on the E4 must be fixed before they are uploaded for sale).

Steven Petrick worked on the assembly line much of the week, but with his hard disk largely (but not entirely) recovered, was able to resume work on C6 (which will be delayed from March to May). Steven Petrick finished the week doing exploratory work to see if Part One of the Master Starship Book would be a practicable choice for Origins release.

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 1,473 friends), proofread Communique #86 and the Federation Commander Federation ePack #2, and did some marketing.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

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.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Top 10 Things Every Captain Wants to Hear, pt. 1

10. The ISC are asking for political asylum.
9. I think we left Ensign what's-his-name on that last planet.
8. They just invented a new medal for you.
7. Ensign what's-his-name has requested a transfer.
6. The errata says we get two extra APRs.

(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #24

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Simple Errors in Crime Films

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Most people, it seems, are able to watch shows and movies and accept what is happening.

I cannot.

I watch shows in which the innocent person is found over the murder victim with the gun in his (or her) hand, and thus the police know he (or she) is the killer.

No, he (or she) is not he killer. He (or she) is only a suspect. The fact that he (or she) has a gun in his (or her) hand and is standing over the murder victim does not in and of itself mean he (or she) fired the gun. Once you test him (or her) for gunshot residue, then you may have the killer. The caveat being that the scriptwriters might take that into account and have had the man (or woman) fire a weapon earlier in the day in an unrelated incident.

This is not high tech "CSI" stuff, the ability to do a gun shot residue test goes back to at least the 1930s, if not earlier.

So, yes, take the person into custody (he or she is standing over the victim after all), but that does not end the search for the killer. (Okay, if the movie/episode of the show is about corrupt cops looking to make an easy resolution to the murder or in cahoots with the murderer that is different.)

If the person is  holding his (or her) own gun, it is fairly easy to determine if it was fired recently (in the case where they drew their own gun and entered the room after hearing shots), and further in most cases whether or not the bullets in the victim match the rifling of the person's firearm. Again, old technology making it possible to determine if the individual's story has merit rather than assuming guilt and not looking for anyone else. (All this to allow the hero, whether the innocent individual or the cop or detective who believes in the innocence of the individual, to move on with the plot.)

It is possible in some cases these simple tests are left out of the script to save time and get the story moving, but because I know of them (and other things to look for in a crime scene) I have a difficult time enjoying what I am seeing. For example, there is a movie in which the innocent person is lured out onto a balcony with the victim, the innocent person is mad and has his own gun. A shot is then heard and the victim is dead. Everyone thinks the innocent person did it, but the fatal shot is actually fired from a window two stories above the balcony from a rifle. In short, the angle of  the bullet's trajectory, the size of the slug, the rifling of the slug, the lack of gun shot residue (even if there was blood splatter), and the fact that the innocent person's gun has not been fired all prove right then and there that he did not kill the victim, but the police pursue him for most of the rest of the film.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

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, February 05, 2013


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

1. ICONOCLAST, someone who destroys cherished illusions or shatters comfortable myths, comes form the Greek icon (picture) and klast (breaker). It refers to a period in the Eastern Orthodox church (726-842 AD) when pictures (icons) were banned from churches because of fear of idol worship.

2. IDIOT, a medical term referring to an adult with a mental age of eight, and used in common speech for a stupid person, comes from the Greek where it simple referred to someone busy with his own affairs and not a holder of a public office or someone involved in the great political debates of that (or any other) period. The Romans borrowed the term but assumed anyone not interested in the great issues of the day (or public office) must not have the brainpower to formulate an opinion or perform the tasks of a public official.

3. IGNORAMUS, another term for a stupid person, is simply the Latin phrase for "we do not know." It was commonly used in legal proceedings when the grand jury or local lord did not find enough evidence to proceed with prosecution. In 1615, a play called Ignoramus (the lead character being a lawyer with that name) satirized the lawyers of the day, saying they had no idea what they were doing. The term then moved into the common speech as we use it today.

4. IMP, which means a mischievous child or perhaps some kind of fantasy creature like a gremlin, was the Old English term for an offshoot of a tree, or a baby tree growing from a seed. The term was often used to refer to the male children of a leader or lord. As such children could not be disciplined (except by their father, who thought they were cute) it came the term for a mischievous demon.

5. IMPEDE, or restrain, comes from the Latin. Roman slaves were usually not tied up, since the punishment for running away was severe and the chances of being caught were extremely high. Those slaves working in areas where escape was more possible were often chained by the ankle, and the Latin term for such was impedio, created by combing the words for something "placed upon the foot." The opposite of this is EXPEDITE which means "to remove the chains from the feet" and as anyone knows, a chained person suddenly unchained feels able to move about more freely. Thus expedite means "to hasten" with the implication that the personal leadership of someone is being exerted in order to remove impediments to progress.

6. INAUGURATE, meaning to begin a great enterprise, a new business, or a term of office, comes from the Roman term "auger" meaning to consult the gods and see if the signs were right. (Auger actually means "talk to the birds" because the birds were usually the way gods signaled their will.)

7. INCUMBENT, meaning the obligations of an office or duty, comes from incubus, an oppressive load. Incubus comes from the Latin words in (upon) and cubus (to lay), meaning "to lie upon" someone. (Succubus means to lie under someone, either term implying sexual congress.) It was thought that demons came in the night to torment people, that an incubus might get a woman pregnant with a demon while a succubus might seduce a man and spawn a demon from his seed.

8. INDENT, which means to put a little space between the written word and the margin of the writing area, means "in teeth" in Latin. In the Middle Ages, two copies of a contract or treaty were written on a single piece of parchment. The space between the two copies was then cut in a random pattern, creating a unique set of "teeth" or indentures. Each party had one copy to refer to in managing his affairs. If there were any dispute, both parties would show up with their copy of the contract, and if the two did not match, someone had created a modified document that was not valid. (How you told which was the cheater is unclear, but presumably the seals and signatures on both copies could then be checked, or witnesses summon, or a sword fight could be held, or something.) The contract between a servant and a master was called an indenture for just this reason, and the term is still used in some cases to this day.

9. INDOLENCE, or laziness, comes from the Latin indolentia, which meant "to not suffer" in the sense that the earlier Greek apathy meant. Like apathy, the term evolved in use into someone who not only does not suffer with the difficulties of life, but does not bother with them either.

10. INFANT, a baby, and INFANTRY, foot soldiers, come from the same root, the Latin term for "unable to speak." The term did not really mean "a baby who has not said his first word" but "a young person not yet able to enter into contracts" and thus unable to "speak for himself."

Monday, February 04, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 27 January - 2 February 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a very busy week. Six new products (Captain's Log #46, FC Reinforcements Attack, Boosters 34-35-36, and Starmada Battleships Nova Edition) all came out and the two game designers ended up spending a lot of their week on the assembly line, making new and even old products. (The wholesalers restocked, and we're watching SFB sales exceed ACTA sales). The weather this week was cool but tolerable. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.
Steve Cole worked on the assembly line. He also worked on the FLAP list, sending notices to people getting free copies, updating the GGIC listing, text catalog, update list, website schedules, and other documents. He worked on the Captain's Log #46 Supplemental File and on Communique #86. He had to do quality control checks on map panels, not because we needed more good panels, but because we ran out of bad panels to use as packing material!

Steven Petrick worked on the assembly line.
Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.
Joel did website updates (lots of those generated by the FLAP list), chased pirates, and helped Mike.
Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,466 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

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 include Federation Commander!

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

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

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

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

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

We continue to develop Federation & Empire for an online environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

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

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Thoughts #126: Picking Federation Commander Scenarios

Steve Cole reports: 

Several players responded to my notes about "spending an hour or two finding a Federation Commander scenario to print" with lists of ones they submitted. They don't understand the issue. FINDING scenario is not the problem. Finding a PUBLISHABLE scenario is much harder. There are over 100 submitted FC scenarios on file and there is no magical system that says "This one is usable and perfect for this situation." I have to check out several (which takes a while for each) before I even know if something is usable. If history is any guide, half of them can never be used and most of the rest require an hour or two of fixing things the original writer/converter could have done right the first time. In many if not most cases, it would take less of my time if they didn't even try to convert an SFB scenario but just sent a note saying "How about converting THIS scenario from Star Fleet Battles next?"

Anyway... The scenarios are in file folders by author. Whenever I need a scenario, I go to the author who is next in line (which is why reminding me of your submissions isn't productive; when it's your turn, your scenarios are already where I can find them). [Truth in blogging: That's the theory. The reality is that the scenarios were not well organized until early September and some people got their turn more often than they should have. Also, many scenarios get used ahead of their turn because they fit the product or available space.] Once in an author's folder, I start reviewing his scenarios.

First, I have to make sure we haven't done that conversion or (if a new scenario) anything too similar. (I also have to sort out the mess when an author sends multiple versions of a given scenario.) Then, I have to decide if a given scenario needs to stay in the file to be used at some later time (maybe it's too long or a special case), be sent back with a note explaining why it was rejected (notes take time to write but must be done while I still remember the issues), or if I can fix it and print it. (At least I usually don't have to evaluate a scenario twice.) Fixing it is, half the time, just standardizing the format. (We gave you the format. Please use it. Why don't you use it? It would save me having to do your work over for you.) One big issue is starting positions. SFB can say "This ship in hex 1234 and that ship in hex 3412" but FC has to say "Put this ship HERE and the rest of the ships in designated positions relative to the first ship." Very few writers get that right, and I cannot figure out why so many writers do it wrong. You cannot say "put the Klingon in this corner and the Fed in that corner" because the large-hex and small-hex maps are not the same size and that puts the ships different distances apart, and sometimes that matters.

Special rules are the hook for most scenarios, and most authors produce special rules that don't work for any of a dozen reasons. So I have to do them over. Most authors don't do the variations (assuming I will, so I do). That all takes time. One author does great work that is a joy to behold, but to be fair, I don't go to his file until it's his turn. Three or four others do work that is 80% ready, and they wait their turn as well. I'm determined to give anyone who writes or converts a scenario a fair turn at publication, but that's becoming emotionally difficult to justify.

When I went to the file to find a scenario for Communique #81 the "senior" guy had sent only scenario notes, not actual scenarios. The second guy in line had sent a scenario too big and specialized to use. The third guy in line had sent the first of a mini-campaign of three, but without the other two I could not use it. (I did remind him to send them.) The fourth guy in line (having not had a scenario published that I could find) had sent in one I couldn't use right now, but I ran a scan and found another scenario of his that had been mis-filed and it turned out to be a great pick, so I used that.

Friday, February 01, 2013


Hey, Klingon look at me. Do you fear what you see?
You ain't seen the best of me yet.
Give me time I'll make you regret this war.

When you invaded here, you thought I'd quake in fear.
How's that working out for you, guy?
How many of your men had to die?

[Chorus] Remember my game! War!
I'm gonna fight forever. I'm gonna teach you to cry.
My fleet is coming together. Klingons will see me and die. War!
I'm gonna send you to heaven. Light up your ship like a flame. War!
I'm gonna fight forever. Klingons will faint at my name.
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender,
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender!

Hey, Klingon fear my might, 'cause I can make it right.
You can shoot with all that you got,
Give me hell, I'm over the top of you.

Hey, Klingon I am tough, and you don't have enough.
I'll pound your ship 'til it breaks,
Ooo, I got what it takes.

[Chorus] Remember my game! War!
I'm gonna fight forever. I'm gonna teach you to cry.
My fleet is coming together. Klingons will see me and die. War!
I'm gonna send you to heaven. Light up your ship like a flame. War!
I'm gonna fight forever. Klingons will faint at my name.
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender,
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender!

(Our apologies to the Broadway musical Fame)

(c) Stephen Cole and Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.