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Sunday, March 31, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about life, culture, and business:

1. I enjoy watching DOOMSDAY PREPPERS but find most of their plans impractical. Most of them plan to travel a couple of hundred miles to some remote fortress, which will be difficult when everyone else is fleeing in panic. Plus, you'll get there to find that the construction crew who built it for you have moved in and they have guns. Seriously, people do need to prep, but more for the short-term disasters (say, hurricane cuts off power and supplies for 10 days) than anything else. Buy one of those hand-cranked radio/flashlight things, get a good first aid kit, keep two weeks of your prescriptions on hand, and stock a few cases of canned food in the bottom of the pantry. (Eat a can or two every week and buy a few new cans once a month. Mark the date and rotate your stock. Over time, you might increase this to an actual ten-day stockpile for your family. While I can eat canned stew every meal for a month, you probably can't, so stock some variety.) You might even want to buy some three-gallon water bottles, fill them, and put them in a back closet. [At our office, we have two of those but primarily for times when the pipes freeze and we use the water to flush toilets.]

2. Recently, my PC (the non-Mac I use for the internet) started working funny. I noticed it when it would not let me renumber wildlife photo files I was downloading. Jean asked if the top-row numbers still worked, and they did, but even she did not connect the information, insisting that I call the technician in for a virus scan (which found nothing). Then I remembered that Petrick's Christmas present had fallen off a shelf onto the keyboard, and started looking around, and found something I had never seen called NUMLOK which, which I pressed it, fixed the problem. Curious about the fact that the number pad on the Mac didn't work in PageMaker but did work in every other program, I did an experiment and found that the mysterious NUMLOK key fixed that problem as well. Who knew? (Everybody but me, apparently.)

3. Recently I watched an episode of Hotel Impossible where the expert tries to make a fishing lodge in the Alaska wilderness successful. He did a lot of things with marketing and maintenance and it seemed to fix the issue. One thing I noticed was that every lodge in town had a fish cleaning service. (The big attraction is a river full of salmon.) They will send a bell boy out to clean and filet your fish and freeze the meat for shipment home. This results in a whole lot of fish parts which (if left in a trash barrel) attract bears. Bears can be dangerous to people. Encouraging bears to hang around the hotel and eat the guests is not good for business. The expert told the staff to throw the bags of fish parts (heads, tails, spines, guts) into the freezer and then haul them to the dump later. Seems to me that the lodges and the town are missing a bet. Pick a spot a mile away and set up a tourist feature: a bear feeding station. Pick a time of day and haul all of the fish waste out there and dump it, then let tourists take pictures. This creates another attraction for the area, at no real cost. It's also a nice thing to do for the bears and would attract them to some isolated spot a mile away from town.

4. One day I was flipping channels and came upon a show called DANCE MOMS. Even though I am not a fan of dance, I was hooked by the show and it's dynamics. I don't really understand why Abby Lee thinks she needs a new routine every week. I don't think her leadership style works very well. She's very arrogant. It's true that to get the best out of a 10-year-old girl you have to push them, but you don't need to punish a girl because her mother said something nasty.

5. Can an old dog learn new tricks? Can an old husband learn to correct things that annoy his wife? Maybe. When Jean was visiting, Leanna told her (in front of me) that she could tell where I can been because the drawers were open about an inch instead of being closed. (Ok, when I open a drawer and want to close it, I give it a shove in the general direction of closing. If it makes it, fine. If it gets within an inch, that's good enough for me, but not for Leanna.) My feelings were hurt and since then I've tried to make it a point to shut drawers. Of course, I get no credit for the extra effort because I'm supposed to be doing it that way anyway. At least maybe 35 years of resenting a slothful husband will slowly melt away.

Saturday, March 30, 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.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Secret Order of the "F" and the "E"

MEMO: June 22, 2013
From: FBI SAIC, Columbus OH
To: Director of Homeland Security
Re: Suspected Terrorist Group "Order of the 'F' and the 'E'"

    The following are the transcripts of the listening devices planted in the designated meeting room of the target hotel.

Sound of knocking on door.
Voice #1: "Who is there?" [FBI Note: Data comparison with military recordings identifies this voice as a renegade colonel who left the Air Force under curious circumstances and has been involved with this terrorist group for some years.]
Voice #2: "Me ... Ted ... a friend ... Oh, yeah, I forgot ... a new brother in the order of the 'F' and the 'E' asks for entry into the conclave." [FBI Note: Data comparison with court transcripts identifies Voice #2 as a lawyer from Dallas, Texas. Further analysis of archives indicates that while this group has existed for years they did not begin using the name "the F and the E" until the last year.]
Voice #1: "Did you bring refreshments?"
Voice #2: "I found this bag of stale Fritos in my car." [FBI Note: The meaning of this codeword is unclear at this time.]
Voice #1: "Enter, brother."
Voice #2: "Sorry, I had trouble finding this place. It's not listed in the program."
Voice #1: "Of course it isn't. We're not part of that bunch at the convention center." [FBI Note: Reference unclear.]
Voice #3: "You mean they threw us out for 'treason' after last year when you had to go do your own thing and take us with you." [FBI Note: Keyword "treason" resulted in this conversation being pulled from the Echelon Intercept Database for further analysis.]
Voice #4: "Hey, we had a better time last year than ever before. No hassles, no rules, lower cost ..."
Voice #3: "No food court, no dealer hall, no seminars, no new products, and he didn't even show up."
Voice #1: "Stop complaining. They threw us out."
Voice #5: "Not technically. We could have come here."
Voice #1: "Not me, and not most of us. Most of us had kids in school and could not be here after they changed the schedule." [FBI Note: The phrase "kids in school" is thought to mean "terrorists in training camp." The reference to a change in schedule may be why no terrorist attack was detected during the previous 12 months. Twenty-three field agents are digging into that.]
Voice #4: "You weren't followed, were you?"
Voice #2: "No, I went through the Puffing Billy room to make sure I lost any tail in the crowd. [FBI Note: The phrase "Puffing Billy room" is thought to refer to a nearby Amtrack station. Fifteen field agents are now checking that facility for any suspicious devices.]
Voice #1: "Now that Brother Ted is here, can we get going?"
Voice #3: "That's gonna be kinda hard after the fuzz confiscated all of our counters." [FBI Note: The term "fuzz" refers to law enforcement. The meaning of "counters" may refer to dangerous radiological materials or perhaps drugs.]
Voice #4: "Yeah, some idiot had to haul his cartload of counters right past the registration desk. Those Gamma goons said that they were prohibited because of last year's incident." [FBI Note: The term "goon" is a clear reference to prison guards. Based on this, the Greek letter "gamma" is thought to refer to the Federal supermax prison at Marion, Illinois. This part of the conversation is thought to refer to a failed attempt to smuggle contraband to terrorist suspects imprisoned at Marion.]
Voice #1: "They had no right to take my counters. The US Constitution doesn't allow them to do that." [FBI Note: Another reference to "counters" which may refer to radiological devices intended to cause a mass-casualty event, i.e., a "dirty bomb." It is well known that terrorist groups try to use their "constitutional rights" to subvert the needs for reasonable homeland security requirements.]
Voice #6: "I think I got this worked out. The peanuts are the clinks. The raisins are the Feds. The candy corn are the furballs, and the Hershey's kisses are the rockheads." [FBI Note: Analysis of these codewords is ongoing. The "Feds" are obviously Federal law enforcement agencies. The term "clinks" may refer to prison guards.]
Voice #7: "What about the gorns and roms?" [FBI Note: The term "roms" may refer to the Romney campaign staff, but this is unclear. No one has identified what a "gorn" is. The only reference in the database is to one episode of a 1960s television show and obviously irrelevant.]
Voice #6: "We won't get around to them for a week. We can find something in the meantime."
Voice #8: "You mean I can find something in the meantime. You already used all my snacks for counters. Why don't you use Ted's stale Fritos for the snakes?" [FBI Note: The term "snakes" is unclear but may relate to the Israeli codeword "viper" which means "nerve gas."]
Sound of knocking on door.
Voice #4: "Cheeze it, the Gamma goons!"
Voice #5: "Ted, you were followed, you idiot!"
Voice #3: "Hide the maps!"
Voice #1: "Calm down, everyone! ... Who is there?"
Voice #9: "The Mentor, a friend to the order." [FBI Note: This codename is thought to refer to a native-born American terrorist suspect with former connections to military intelligence and a radical Texas-based militia group.]
Voice #1: "Enter, Mentor."
Voice #9: "Sorry for the delay. Jean would not let me out of the booth while the media was hanging around. She sent brownies." [FBI Note: "Jean" has been identified as a college professor from the southeastern US whom even liberal colleagues refer to as "radical." The term "booth" may refer to a secret terrorist headquarters. It is thought that "media" may refer to Homeland Security agents. The term "brownie" clearly refers to marijuana.]
Voice #3: "He brought counters!"
Voice #6: "Real ones?"
Voice #9: "I am a river to my people."  [FBI Note: This phrase is commonly used by Middle Eastern warlords who spread a small portion of the money collected from bribes and other corrupt activities to the population to maintain loyalty. Refer to Anthony Quinn in the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" for an example.]
Voice #3: "He brought seltorians!"  [FBI Note: Other references to "seltorians" as "bugs" may mean this is code for electronic listening devices.]
Voice #9: "Just got them from the printer."  [FBI Note: The term "printer" is possibly a reference to an organized crime group that sells weapons and explosives to terrorist groups on a "no questions asked" basis.]
Voice #1: "Did you bring rules for the seltorians?" [FBI Note: The term "rules" refers to detailed plans for an attack.]
Voice #9: "Nah, I figured we'd just wing it."

This group obviously poses a clear and present danger to the American people. The immediate arrest of the entire group is suggested at the earliest opportunity.

Captain's Log #46 (c) 2013 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dead Scenario File

This is Steven Petrick posting.

As has been noted, the computer crash destroyed the file of submitted and formatted scenarios that were left from the previous Captain's Log. So far, there has been an absolute dearth of new submissions.

As it is, the only thing I can think of to do is try to take a week to create scenarios from scratch, but I would rather let other people exercise their creativity.

Yes, submitting a scenario is hard. Trying to get balance right and a background that makes sense is real work. We do not want to publish scenarios that are just this ship (or these ships) happened to run into that ship (or ships) and a battle occurred or (as so many have done) massive fleet battles that are just exercises in putting as many ships on the map as possible.

We want scenarios that have interest: maybe something more to accomplish, or some handicap to be overcome. And, yes, those are harder to come up with given all of the scenarios that have already been published using so many different ideas to date.

Scenarios with multiple sides can be submitted, but the backgrounds need to make sense for why it is happening.

Bear in mind that when you try to have different objectives and hidden objectives that everyone will have read your scenario, so it generally does  not work to say "side A was unaware that supporting force B was going to switch sides on Turn #X," because side A is fully aware and will do what ever is necessary to circumvent the negative effect you scenario calls for, so such things do not usually work.

So, sit down, look at the history, put some forces together and look for some interesting angles, keep balance in mind, and be creative and submit a scenario.

Wednesday, March 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, March 26, 2013


Steve Cole muses about ballet.

During December, I surprised Leanna with a birthday present: tickets to see The Nutcracker, which the local ballet company puts on every year. The Lone Star Ballet puts on a show that is far larger and more elaborate than many much larger cities, costing well over a million dollars. Leanna had always wanted to go, and I decided that it wouldn't kill me and besides I needed to do something for her birthday.

I know very little about ballet. There are, apparently, two of them, one of which has ducks. The Nutcracker had no ducks so it must be the other one, although it had so many things in it that it seems to me they could just add some ducks and eliminate any need for a second ballet.

I have never seen The Nutcracker (at least, not that I remember, maybe mother took me as a child) but I knew the music. When I was growing up in the 60s every family had a record player (not a stereo) and a copy of The Nutcracker Suite as a long-playing vinyl album. With only three TV stations we often had entire evenings with nothing we wanted to watch so playing records was one way of filling the evening (often while reading a book). For this reason, much of the music was very familiar.

The presentation seriously needed a narrator who could speak a few lines now and then and explain what the heck is going on. I had to go online the next day and read up on this to find out what was happening.

The show begins with Doctor Who (I guess that's who it was from the way he was dressed) packing dolls into a sack and helping a robot girl get dressed. (One has to wonder what he was doing with the robot girl before she got dressed. Why would you ever need your robot girl to be undressed?) Apparently, some rich guy was throwing a big Christmas party and (for some reason) invited Doctor Who to show up instead of Santa Claus. Doctor Who gives every girl a doll and every boy a toy sword and gives Clara, the daughter of the rich guy, a nutcracker dressed up like a toy soldier. (Everybody told me that Clara was the star of the show but she frankly doesn't seem to do much, and does almost nothing in the second inning.) He also has some other presents, which seem to be more robots or something. There was also a bear, which might or might not have been another robot.
The party winds down, the guests all go home, and the family goes to bed. Clara comes back downstairs to play with her toy nutcracker again. (One has to wonder if she's going to make a good wife for someone a decade later, given her preference in toys.) Anyway, she falls asleep and has an elaborate dream, which constitutes the second half of the first inning and all of the second. (Fortunately, there were only two innings.) If these are the dreams of a twelve-year-old girl, she needs to seriously cut back on the crystal meth.

Her dreams include some kind of war between toy soldiers (who seem to be Russian hussars) and some animals (maybe giant gerbils, only one of whom could afford to buy a sword). The Russians eventually win (having more swords and a big cannon), and tie up the gerbils. Then the nutcracker turns into Prince William. Then Clara's dream goes outside and we see some lady in a tiara dancing with a bunch of other people. Clara and Prince William then mount some kind of magic sleigh (no reindeer? Maybe it's Doctor Who's sleigh?) and fly off.

Then we have an intermission, during which I (and several other husbands) tried to make a break for the gun show in the other end of the civic center but I got caught by Leanna and taken back to my seat. At the start of the second inning, the giant gerbil attacked the conductor with his scimitar right in front of my seat, but the conductor pulled out a light saber. Doctor Who broke up the fight before it got interesting. (Leanna's bad vision got us seats on the right end of the front row.)

The synopsis of the second inning seems to be "everybody's grandkid gets to do something" as it seems a random collection of dances by Bo Peep, some German girls with pan flutes, baby ballerinas, grown-up ballerinas, Chinese girls, Arab girls, and a crazy lady with leprechauns under her skirt. (You'd think with all of that, they could have had some ducks.) Then two grownups danced onto the stage and hogged it for longer than the other groups combined. I read later in the program book that these were out-of-town ringers brought in for some reason I have yet to fathom. (Note to the guy: if you're going to wear white pants that tight, cut back on the Viagra. It was really embarrassing.) Then all of the dancers came back on the stage and it become obvious that we were close to the end (but still, no ducks). I gathered up my coat and when the final curtain when down, Leanna made a run for the exit and I followed. I read later that the producers get mad if you don't stay until the cast comes back out and bows several times. Oops. Anyway, it was Leanna who wanted to leave, because she was tired.

Monday, March 25, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week at ADB. The design team designed; the production team produced. The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23: Klingon Ship Card ePack #2.

Steve Cole worked on Star Fleet Marines Last Stand, some Mongoose stuff, finished Romulan ePack #2, did most of Romulan ePack #3, did alerts for next week, wrote blogs for Jean's file, discussed Squadron Strike with Ken Burnside, did quality control on 1200 map panels, and worked on the Captain's Log #47 story. He did an old CA SSD for someone who asked for it. He continues to get better on his crutches and hopes to be recovered by the end of April.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation section of the Master Starship Book.
Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She continued upgrading computers as the hardware arrived.
Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.
Joel did website updates, sank pirates, and helped Mike.
Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,542 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 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, March 23, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about life, culture, and business:


Your company may well be based on your great idea for an innovative product or service, but get real.

Your company is not a religion, a commune, a crusade, or a movie. It's a business working in the real world with real money, real laws, real taxes, real risks, and real rewards. If you sit around the house talking about a great idea for a business, you can say (and think about doing) anything at all. Actually start a business, and reality says you have to play by the rules. (I had a friend who once said, over dinner, he wanted to start a business so that he could use interviews with possible employees to find dates. OK, that's fun to say over dinner. Do that in the real world with real people -- and real lawyers are going to smack you with real lawsuits.)

If you run out of money, it's over. You won't get to keep the money and leave the bills behind; your vendors are not that stupid. (They'll be sure you're personally on the hook for the money.) Nobody owes you a paycheck just because you had a great idea that deserved to work. If you don't do it right, you lose and so does everyone who trusted you, invested in you, sold you something on credit, did you a favor, or loaned you some equipment. If they are smart (and people who have money often are), they will make sure you cannot escape from paying them. (I once had a gentleman offer me a business deal. Part of his sales pitch was to explain that he had created a corporation for his end of the deal so that if things went bad he would not have to pay me. Do you think I signed the deal?)

If you have never run a business, you do not know how to run a business. Learn to run one before you spend a bunch of money launching one. If you own a business and never had any formal business education, then get some. The simple answer is to go to a college bookstore and buy the basic books on business, accounting, and marketing. Read them. There are tons of really great business books in any bookstore.


If you own a business and your answer is "American Idol, The Voice, and X-factor" then you're not doing it right. You are in fact doing your business a disservice.

You always need to be learning how to make your business better. Case studies of other businesses help you do that. So watch Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Bar Rescue, Hotel Impossible, Tabitha Takes Over, Shark Tank, Restaurant Stakeout, Dragon's Den, and/or Tabitha's Salon Takeover. I know that you don't run a restaurant or a hair salon, but you run a business and some parts of every business apply to every other business. What are they doing that's good, that's bad, or that's just stupid? (Are you doing something equally stupid and just never noticed it?) What can they (and you) do better? (Just watching somebody else's business on TV trains you to spot what's right and wrong in your own business.)

Here's one thought. On Restaurant Impossible, the heroic chef arrives to rescue the failing owner and always asks: "What are your food costs?" Few of them know, and those that do usually have a food cost that is too high. Take two key points from this:

First, if you don't have easily at hand the key financial numbers for your business, you're going out of business.

Second, if the bigshot TV star is coming to save your bacon, maybe you should watch one of his shows ahead of time, see what he's going to ask, and have the answers ready for him so you don't look like an idiot on national TV. (Before you go face a potential investor or loan officer, maybe you want to think about what they're going to ask and get the answers ready?)

And just another note, every one of those restaurant or bar makeover shows checks the kitchen to see if it's clean. None of the failing owners spend the night before the expert arrives cleaning the kitchen. Is it any wonder why they're failing?


One thing you will notice on the business makeover shows is that failure of the company always results from a failure of leadership. Sometimes the leader doesn't care, or doesn't know, or just let's things keep going bad without changing them.

I learned this in military school: An army of rabbits let by a lion is going to kick the ass of an army of lions led by a rabbit. (An army of lions led by a jackass isn't going to do any better. The other day on Restaurant Stakeout I saw a restaurant that was an army of lazy rabbits led by an even lazier rabbit.)

A leader who won't make a decision, won't learn, won't take a risk, takes a risk he did not calculate, doesn't know where his people are or what they're doing, doesn't know what resources he has or how they're being used must eventually fail.

Friday, March 22, 2013

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 4)

You mark batteries destroyed when you use the power.

The only time your ship generates ECM is when it tumbles, which is amazingly often.

You avoid hexes with ships in them because you're afraid you're going to hit them.

You think a phaser-4 does less damage than a phaser-3 since the phaser-3 does less than the phaser-2 and the phaser-2 does less than the phaser-1.

Flying an unrefitted Federation DD, you order the photons to full overload.

-- Thanks to Dennis Bergendorf, Steven Petrick, Matthew Francois, David Beeson, Donald Miller, Daniel Zimmerman, Dennis Capone.

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Of Battles and Battleships and Kindness

Jean Sexton muses:

Today was the second of three days of the Battle of the Books for fourth and fifth graders. This is a competition much like the old quiz bowls where a student is asked a question and must provide an answer within a set time. For this age group, they are allowed to confer and the subject of the questions is limited to a list of books. One question might be "In which book is a quill compared to a sword?" with the answer being Poppy by Avi. It is a round robin tournament which means 120 matches between the 16 schools.

The children work very hard at this and the winning school in Robeson County progresses to the regional level. If your local school district doesn't have a competition like this, I strongly urge you to suggest that it implement a similar program. These children were just as proud of pulling out an answer as they could be. It is a way to reward good readers with a good memory for details.

I've always had a fondness for the USS North Carolina, saved from being scrapped in part by schoolchildren donating lunch money and spare change to bring her home. In total, $330,000 was raised during the "Save Our Ship" campaign. Now a National Historic Landmark, the ship serves as a memorial to all North Carolinians who served in World War II. Knowing that I am moving over a thousand miles away, I recently visited her again to store up some memories. She isn't the plain grey but has on the blue-grey camouflage paint from her war years. I hope to visit her one last time before leaving, but if I cannot, I also took pictures to help my near-photographic memory. (It works when I am near photographs!) Saying farewell to the land I love is difficult, but I know I will find things to love in Amarillo, too.

The self-sacrifice and kindness of schoolchildren has not yet ended. I was struggling yesterday with the pronunciation of one young man's name which didn't resemble its spelling. I practiced it much of last night, but it just wasn't sticking. One of the teams wanted to have its picture taken with me before the competion started. Before they left the stage, a young lady came over and gave me a mnemonic to help me get the name right. I was touched by her thoughtfulness -- and the aid helped me say his name with confidence. Today I was leaving the Battle of the Books when I stopped to admire the bouquets some of the students had been given. As I started to move on, one of the students seperated out one of her pink flowers and gave it to me. Her kindness brightened my day. As I sit here at my desk and look at my pretty pink flower, I hope to pay it forward some day.

Wednesday, March 20, 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/).

Tuesday, March 19, 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!

Monday, March 18, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week at ADB, as the design team continued to work on new products while the production team continued to ship unusually large orders. The weather this week was cool, but not bad. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. The HVAC system in the front half of the building died and will have to be replaced.

New on e23 this week was the SFB Tactics Manual. Next week will be Klingon Ship Card ePack #2.

Steve Cole continued his recovery from the broken leg. He cannot walk without crutches, and only about 30 feet on them, using his wheelchair for most maneuvering. The doctor says to expect another four weeks in the wheelchair before resuming walking. In the meantime, he finished the Captain's Log #46 FLAP list (including the Reference Ship Chart and Scenario Index for FC) and the Wall of Honor update. He also worked on Star Fleet Marines Last Stand, the April Communique, ship cards for ACTASF, finished Klingon Ship Card ePack #3 and sent it to Jean, got Jean's reports on Klingon Ship Card ePack #2 and sent that to Leanna for the week's e23 upload, and chatted with Ken Burnside about the Squadron Strike module for the Star Fleet Universe. Steve created the long-overdue manual backup for his computer.

Steven Petrick worked on the Master Starship Book, delaying work on C6 until the computer upgrades are finished.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and searched for an automatic backup system that will work with the existing computers.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. Mike and Leanna bought and installed new shelving to make the printing plant more efficient.

Joel did website updates, sank pirates, released the Communique and Hailing Frequencies for March, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1535 friends); proofread Communique, Hailing Frequencies, and Klingon Ship Card ePack #2; and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 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, March 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, March 15, 2013

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 3)

When the enemy rolled a "tractor" hit, you marked all of your tractors as destroyed.

When you doubled the left warp engine on your Orion Raider, you marked the whole engine destroyed.

You bought a whole Kzinti carrier fleet and then found out five minutes before the game that fighters and drone speed upgrades are not free.

You laughed at the Andromedan ship, since it did not have shields, and ordered your entire Marine force to transport over and capture it.

You agreed to fight the Tholians and told them to lay whatever web they wanted around their base After all, that traps them inside, right?

-- Thanks to Dennis Bergendorf, Steven Petrick, Matthew Francois, David Beeson, Donald Miller, Daniel Zimmerman, Dennis Capone.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Loss At A Good Time

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The company suffered another loss today. We knew it was coming, but as is usual in such situations we hoped we would have more time.

Sadly, when I came into the office yesterday, I did not even note the passing.

It was Leanna who noticed it.

The office was cold.

Of course, it had been colder outside, and fortunately we had not suffered this loss before the big blizzard and freeze that happened just last week.

The loss?

The office heating system,  having done yeoman service for us and prior owners for nearly two decades has given up the ghost.

The loss is at a good time in that things are warming up compared to previous, and the office is livable (particularly for me . . . as noted I did not even notice the heater was not running and I had been in the office almost two hours before Leanna showed up that day). And as noted we knew were living on borrowed time with the system.

And while it is an expense to replace it, at least we as a whole have the funds to do so. It is just a matter now of figuring out what we want in a new (and more energy efficient) system and whether the air conditioning will be replaced at the same time, and when these will happen. (The inevitable interruptions as the tradesmen go about their craft.)

It could, however, have happened at  a worse time, like during the big freeze or when all of  the craftsmen were fully employed repairing other systems damaged by the recent freeze.

So while we have a new expense, on the bright side it is again something we can survive.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


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

1. INK, a chemical color used to write your name with a pen, comes from the Greek "en kaio", which meant "to burn in" and referred to the manner in which they stained stucco to create a mural. The Romans used the term encaustico for the act of signing their name in ink, and the term got shorter and shorter until the English called it ink.

2. INSOLENT, arrogant disrespect and defiance of authority, comes from the Latin words "in soleo," which meant "not according to custom." The term evolved over time, with the understanding that someone who did not follow the traditions and customs was perhaps trying deliberately to offend or defy authority.
3. INSULT, meaning to verbally denounce someone, comes from the Latin "insulto", which meant "to leap upon" in the context of an attack. (Doctors will use the term "insult" to mean physical damage to the brain.) The derivation from that point is obvious.
4. INTERLOPER, one who sneaks or barges uninvited into a conversation or arrangement, comes from the Latin inter (between) and the English loper (runner). The term first appeared in the 1500s. A British business enterprise had a monopoly on trade with the nascent Russia. Spanish and other English businesses tried to bribe their way into the Russian marketplace, and were denounced as interlopers.
5. INTOXICATE, meaning drunk with alcohol, comes from the Greek word toxikos, which referred to the poison that barbarians smeared on their arrows. (The Greek word toxon was the word for an archer's bow.) From there, the term "toxic" (poison) came into use, and "intoxicate" meant "to poison someone" by physical means. Even by today's definition, that term is not far from the truth.
6. INTRANSIGENT, someone who will not be moved or persuaded by any argument, comes from an almost identical Spanish word with the same meaning. From 1868 to 1875, the Spanish throne was vacant and there were endless political maneuvers to get someone to accept it, or seize it. One of the political factions wanted to build a communist society, and refused to consider any other outcome. They became known as the Intransigentes because the would not "come together" with other factions in any compromise. The word may well have been around in Spanish for centuries but it came into English due to news reports of the political situation in Spain.
7. VESTIGE, a sign or trace, and INVESTIGATE, meaning to look for the truth, come from Latin, where vestigium referred to the footprints of a game animal.
8. ITALIC, a slanting typeface used for ship names and foreign words, was invented by a Venitian printer named Mannucci sometime around 1500. He had decided to make Venice the center of publishing the finest of books for use by scholars, nobles, and governments. He succeeded primarily because of the magnificent and clearly readable type faces which he either carved himself or which his pupils carved under his supervision. He named the slanting typeface Italic after his homeland of Italy (perhaps because Italy slants, albeit backwards, on a map oriented north-south).
9. JADE, a lovely green semi-precious stone, was brought to Europe in large quantities by Spain, which found the stone in Peru. Somehow, people got the idea that wearing a jade stone would protect you from the colic. The Spanish term for colic was ejada. The French called it le'jada and the English called it simply jade. Curiously, the English already had the word jade, taken from the Norse, which meant a female horse. The term had fallen out of that use (other than sometimes being applied to a cranky old woman, which is where we get "Jaded").
10. JANISSARY, a term which means a fanatical soldier, comes from the Turks. About 1300, the Turkish sultan decided that he wanted to conquer Europe, but he found his Army was not up to the task. Various means were tried to build a better fighting force, resulting in a number of unique and colorful units, few of which were any more effective than the corrupt and lazy Army the sultan already had. One idea, however, worked. The idea was to take 1,000 young male children away from Christian families every year and raise them in a closed and rigidly disciplined military lifestyle. They were called the yeni cheri or New Army, a term that was corrupted into Janissary. The idea worked, and the Janissary corps was the most powerful in the Turkish Army. After reaching a strength of 20,000, enough new boys were recruited each year to maintain that number, and the corps remained that size until 1700. While Janissaries received little pay, they had many privileges, and Christian families began to compete to have their sons accepted. The boys were not forced to become Moslem, but many did. After 1700, the Janissary corps began to expand, reaching 135,000 by 1825, apparently with no loss of quality. The larger force began to consider itself above the law, and rebelled. The problem was that the sultans, having seen the effect of professionalizing their Army, had instilled drill, discipline, and other soldierly virtues into their other units, and the Janissaries were annihilated by Moslem units of equal discipline and combat power.

Tuesday, March 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, March 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, March 10, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week at ADB, with progress on many projects. The weather this week included cool mornings and warmer afternoons. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole continued to recover from his broken leg. He was still confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk; the one time he tried to walk cost him an entire day's work. That said, he did manage to complete the Wall of Honor updates (the last few pages are waiting for Jean to check before they get uploaded), the update of the Federation Commander Reference Ship Chart (now on line), Communique #87 and Hailing Frequencies (set to post Monday), and the Fleet Doctrine Rules for ACTASF, FC, and Starmada. He approved the ACTASF ship card sets for the Kzintis, Romulans, and Tholians. At the end of the week he was cleaning old files out of his hard drive to facilitate the new backup system.

Steven Petrick worked on the monster article for Captain's Log #47, Module C6, and the Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1528 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, and did some marketing. Jean was awarded a special honor scroll for her First Contact Medal reflecting that the ADB page on Facebook had passed 1500 friends, something no game publisher of our size had achieved.

Saturday, March 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, March 08, 2013

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 2)

You think that whenever you turn mode comes up you can turn any direction you want.

You think that you can only turn on impulses evenly divisible by your turn mode number.

You accepted an easy battle with your 600-point fleet against a Klingon police ship on an open map. Then he avoided you for two turns and disengaged. 

You thought you had to buy two new batteries every turn.

You thought you had to ram your ship into the planet killer.

-- Thanks to Dennis Bergendorf, Steven Petrick, Matthew Francois, David Beeson, Donald Miller, Daniel Zimmerman, Dennis Capone.

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

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Work Proceeds Apace

This is Steven Petrick posting by way of Jean Sexton.

I have finished the draft for the monster article for Captain's Log #47. This one was hard to do because there were so many interruptions. I would finally be "in the zone" and have to get up to check orders, or make the run to the post office. By the time I would get back, I literally could not figure out where I was, and reading my previous text often did not clue me in to what I was thinking. Worst, I would have to review the scenario the monster appears in to recall what its capabilities were.

Today, however, I finally (despite once again being pulled away to check orders and go to the post office) got to the end.

During this troubling period I also hit on an SSD concept for Captain's Log #47, and ran it  by SVC who has approved it. With the monster article in final draft (it might change as a result of my reading it again later and thinking of something I have missed or something I want to expound on a little more) I decided to get a head start on these new SSDs.

So I spent time this afternoon getting set up to do that, and working on the first one.

I almost had it finished, I was literally working on the Crawford table as the last item I needed to do, when I had to get up and go back to my own office to get the year in service date for the ship (it has to appear at the same time as another ship and so is tied to that ship's year in service). As I got up, I hit something on the computer, and the SSD was destroyed. Literally. It is completely gone and my efforts to recover it were all for not. I do not know what it was I hit (Mike's keyboard is older that my keyboard and does not work quite the same way), but it is gone. And I thought my anguish was expressed in a low tone, but SVC who often cannot hear my speak normally and asks me to speak up heard through the wall between Mike's office and his.

At this juncture I am putting the set of SSDs off until tomorrow, and will try to get them all done then.

But it seems like I am running into one frustrating computer problem or timing problem after another.

Wednesday, March 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, March 05, 2013


Steve Cole writes:
Recent scientific work has found lots and lots of planets, at least 2300 of them. The method we use to detect them cannot detect 80% of stars with planets (because the orbital plane is at the wrong angle), so it's very likely that almost every star out there has a nice set of about ten of them. (In the case of stars with Hot Jupiters, the big planet spiraling in may have destroyed or ejected any planets that were originally closer.) We can only see the big planets so every planet we can see probably has three or four little brothers (at least).
How would we know if any planet has life? Well, by going there, I guess. Put that one down on the "to do" list. Maybe we could detect an alien civilization by detecting their television and radio signals? Maybe, but as our own technology gets better, the amount of power used by radio and television drops like a rock, so you may have at most a 100-year window in the history of a civilized planet where they generate enough radio waves to be noticed.
Some point to that old equation that makes 10 assumptions and ends up speculating that every civilization destroyed itself in a nuclear war. I don't think there's any evidence to support the inevitable self-destruction of a sapient species. To be blunt, the ONLY evidence we have (ourselves) is that it does NOT happen, at least not in the nuclear war that most think of. I'm sure it did happen, some percentage of the time out there in the galaxy, but our own history proves that sane heads prevail and that systems designed to prevent accidental war have a high degree of working as advertised. (All of those "nuclear war almost started by accident" stories, if you really read them, show that it was never really a close thing. The Cuban Missile Crisis and Reagan's Pershing missiles just prove that saner heads prevail and deals get made.) You must also remember that the original self-destruct theory was not a scientific theory about life on planets but a political statement about about nuclear disarmament.

We might consider asteroid impact as the inevitable end of any civilization, but seriously, an extinction level event is pretty rare (one in 63 million years and counting!) and if you consider that we'll surely have a perfect asteroid defense in another century, the window of vulnerability is pretty small (maybe seven thousand years from pyramids to a bulletproof planet) and almost closed. Even then, we've had ELEs five times in 4.7 billion years and better species appeared after each one, so even if we get smacked by a big rock, give it 63 million years before the cockroaches or the lobsters or the racoons have space-based communications.

The real danger (now that the Mayans are out of the game) may be overpopulation. Just my guess, but I think even that is self-correcting as the environment will eventually go bonky and cut the population by some huge percentage (disease, famine, drought, collapse of the ozone, zombies, or something). After that, the world heals and leaves the sub-billion-human population with all of the technology and the knowledge that limitless baby production is not a good plan.
How many planets have life? By our own evidence, around 12.5% (and maybe 25% or more if we count that moon of some gas giant with an ocean full of speculative fish, and definitely more if we assume Mars had microbial or better life at some point). The actual number in the broader universe is probably lower, but even 1% of a whole bunch is a whole bunch. Kepler has found 2300 planets in the neighborhood, and give orbital plane angles you're probably talking 10,000 or more just around here.
How many of those planets produced sapient life? Well, the evidence we have is arguably 50-50 (if only because you cannot prove that the Martians ever got that far, even if they had a billion years to give it the old evolutionary try).
I suspect that a thousand or so years in our future we may reach the "ascended beings that just no longer care about the mortal plane of existence" level.

Monday, March 04, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24 February - 2 March 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of the Great Blizzard of 2013, when we got 19.1 inches of snow on Monday (the 25th). Amarillo knew well in advance that the storm was coming, so everyone bought groceries, rented DVDs, and stayed home on Monday (and, for half of the town, on Tuesday). National media reports that Amarillo was all but destroyed were found humorous here. The roads were passable (at 15mph) on Tuesday and normal traffic flow resumed on Wednesday, by which time the show (piled on the sides and centers of the streets) was little more than a curiosity. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was the Captain's Log #46 Supplemental File.

Steve Cole continued to recover from his broken leg, working half-days all week. Adam sent in the cover for Last Stand. Steve managed to complete the addition of medals and ribbons to the file pages for the Wall of Honor, but Joel has yet to post over 20 individual pages, while Steve has only done a few of the 40-odd multi-person pages. Steve is negotiating another deal with a computer company (few of which ever get to the point of release) and has completed the first round of paperwork.

Steven Petrick worked on Paravian SSDs for C6, the monster article for Captain's Log #47, and errata files for later R modules.

Leanna kept the unusually strong orders up to date and kept up with the accounting.

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike. His computer (Thor) crashed on Wednesday, bringing his work to a halt for the week). Everything is backed up on Carbonite but we're waiting for a new hard disk to be installed.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,519 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 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, March 02, 2013


This is Steven Petrick posting via Jean Sexton reposting:

Sad to say, but Captain's Log #47 has a publication date and a lot of problems meeting that publication date.

This is mostly due to a dearth of articles from our customers.

While the destruction of my hard drive did not cost us the existing files for most of the tactics sections (the "Assault Notes" file being the exception), we have received almost no new Term Papers, Tactical Notes, Command Notes, Conquest Notes, Call Out Notes, or Assault Notes since those topics were purged for Captain's Log #46. We really do need you, the players, to submit more papers to those topics and soon.

SVC has noted that I am to write an example article, but no one here seems to know what I am supposed to do an example of. Please note that I do SFB examples, and if someone needs an example in one of the other venues, someone else will need to do it. But in any case, if there is something in SFB that needs an example, can someone make a request for it? And please bear in mind that the requested example needs to be relatively specific. While a request for how to attack a planet with a fleet has been made, there are so many moving parts and variables in such a case that it would pretty much require an entire Captain's Log (all 144 pages) to do such an example. You might look at the PF flotilla versus a Moray Eel example and remember that there were just eight (including the Eel and the PFL's shuttle) moving parts in that example with no tactical options for the Eel at all. The more moving parts, the more complex the example, the more impossible it becomes to write a concise one. There has been a request to do an example of loading fighters, but the requester never got it down to what fighters in what bay. Again, there are too many variables to do all fighters (drone-armed, disuptor-armed, plasma-armed, fusion-armed, hellbore-armed, etc.) not to mention size-1 or size-2 fighters, or if they are on a ground base or a ship, or if they are moving to an escort or . . .  it gets really complex. I need to know just what precisely the example needs to cover for what empire.

We could use some new tactical primer for empires that have never been showcased, and for now it appears that any primers sent in previously that have not been published have been lost with the destruction of my hard drive (there are no unused primers in the recovered CL#46 folder).

If you previously submitted a scenario that was not rejected or has not been published, you may need to resubmit it. The processed Scenario file was one of the files lost in the crash. (It was also not in the recovered CL#46 Folder). So not only do I need old scenarios re-submitted, I also need new scenarios for Captain's Log #47.

All of these things are needed, and more, to get Captain's Log #47 ready for publication, and all will take time to do in a period when other things are already scheduled to interrupt planned work (yes, I know that sounds confusing, we have things we need to get done, and other things that are not connected to getting those things done that also have to be done, i.e., scheduled interruptions).

Help us make Captain's Log #47 a good and timely project by doing your bit. Get your tactics in, write primers and submit them, craft scenarios and send them in for publication.

Friday, March 01, 2013

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 1)

You think that drones are free. They must be, since you launch the whole rack every turn and it automatically reloads.

You think PFTs come with free PFs.

You think scouts can only use one of their sensors at a time.

You think that photons are seeking weapons.

You think that the word "varies" on the photon overload table means you roll two dice to determine the damage.

-- Thanks to Dennis Bergendorf, Steven Petrick, Matthew Francois, David Beeson, Donald Miller, Daniel Zimmerman, Dennis Capone.

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