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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about life, culture, and business:
1. I happened to record a SyFy movie called THE END OF THE WORLD which was not just very realistic but hilarious as well. The heroes had packed a separate duffel bag for every possible emergency, from zombies to alien invasion to volcanoes. Some of that stuff turned out to be useful.
2. I put salt on chocolate cake. That sounds strange, but there is a chemical reaction between salt and chocolate that enhances the flavor. Not everybody likes everything (I cannot abide ketchup on eggs) but you shouldn't knock this one without trying it. I never, however, put salt on chocolate pie or pudding or cookies. That just wouldn't be right.
3. National Geographic is just full of interesting things I had never known. Tens of thousands of elephants are murdered for their ivory every year, despite the ban on ivory trading. Hundreds of thousands of songbirds (the size of sparrows) are killed every year migrating through Africa, where they are considered delicacies. (Each has about two bites of meat.) About 2.5% of our DNA is Neanderthal. For Australian aborigines, another 5% of their DNA is another (previously unknown human-ish species called Denovonia (known from two teeth and a tiny piece of bone.) The latest theory on solar system formation says that Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune formed much closer to Jupiter, were pushed out by its gravity, and the effect of those moving gas giants on the Kuiper Belt caused the infamous Late Heavy Bombardment.
4. Pluto (that thing that used to be a planet out there usually but not always beyond Neptune) has five moons: Nix, Styx, Charon, Hydra, and Kerberos. (That last one is better known as Cerberus, the multi-headed dog that guards the entrance to the underworld. I did a game once about a planet with that name.) Surely, with five moons, it deserves to be promoted back to planet? The New Horizons spacecraft will be there in 2015 and I expect I'll still be alive to watch it on live TV. The plans are to slingshot New Horizons around Pluto and aim it for one of the Kuiper Belt "planets" twice as far out there.
5. Shoot what they only have one of. That's what I was taught in the Army as the way to deal with a Soviet attack. The Russian Army had zillions of tanks but relatively few of the special support vehicles, such as mine clearing vehicles, bridge laying vehicles, or air defense vehicles. If you looked at a hundred attacking Russian vehicles and shot the thing they only had one of, then some critical capability would be missing. This applies (at one scale or another) to many military things. Iran has fewer than 100 oil refineries and fewer than 100 significant electrical generating plants. Destroy those and Iran has no electricity and no fuel. The Allies spent years of WW2 trying to destroy German ball bearings (on the theory that few plants made them) but these were easily replaced by smaller facilities. What we didn't know to go after was the German electrical grid, where less than 400 targets produced 82% of German electricity. It would take months to replace those huge generating facilities; they could be bombed faster than they could be rebuilt. You didn't have to get them all, but randomly picking 100 out of the 400 would hurt the Germans really bad. (Two power plants near Berlin would have blacked out that city for several months.) Back to Iran. It has a lot of rough terrain without that many railroads or highways. A week of attacks on bridges and tunnels would shut the economy down cold.
6. Bill O'Reilly says that his next book will be Killing Jesus, which follows the success of Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. (These are lightweight history books that appeal to his many fans primarily because of his name. For people who have never read a serious history book, they are a fun read, more like an extended magazine article than a history book.) He might also consider Killing Caesar, Trying to Kill Hitler, Killing Czar Nicholas, Killing Rasputin, and Killing Doctor King.

Tuesday, July 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 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 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. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 21-27 July 2013

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a normal week with work progressing on several projects. The weather this week was not as hot as last week and we got some much needed rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We were all happy about the birth of a future King George of the UK. Customer Tim McMullen stopped by to say hello.

New on e23 this week was For the Glory of the Empire.

Steve Cole worked on Away Team Log, the FLAP list from Captain's Log #48 (which he should have finished a week go), designed a Fralli light cruiser, and updated the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick worked on the Paravians for SFB Module C6 (running a week behind schedule but he's trying to do it completely correct the first time so the testers have a better baseline).

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone did website updates and some graphics. She got taken on a tour of Zip Print, one of our major print vendors.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive and Away Team Log, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1680 friends), managed our Twitter feed (42 followers), worked on blogs, caught up the Ranger bookkeeping, proofread some materials, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Changes and Juggling and Fitting In

Jean Sexton muses:

Working at Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. has been a learning experience for both the company and me. The corporate world and the world of education are miles apart; the worlds of small business and public university libraries are light years apart.

In my new world, I bring different experiences and knowledge to the company. They are getting used to me asking "Why?" I've supervised many students in my days in the library and I am bringing that information and experience to working with our new intern. I enjoy different games than the Steves and I bring those ideas to the company. I have a different style of working and they are learning that I cannot work without some sort of music around. We all learn from each other and that means adapting and changing on both sides.

In my old world, if something needed doing, it was done. We'd buy a resource that only a few students would ever need or use, because those few people needed it. If something would make my job easier, it could be bought. There were people in my department and we'd balance the tasks so that people had plenty to do, but were not overwhelmed. With the budget cycle, we knew there would be slack times when we could catch up. I could focus on one task until it was finished.

In my new world, we must tell ourselves, "Just because we can do it doesn't mean that we should do it." We must ask ourselves, "Who will buy this?" "How much will it cost; how much will it bring in?" "Is there something that we should do that would make more money, please more customers, and not take more design time?" Doing something that takes a few minutes and makes one person happy is one thing; spending several days doing something that makes that person happy becomes an expensive investment. There's no one else to do many of our jobs: I cannot design the games that Steve Cole can or create the ships that Steven Petrick does; they don't do social media or role-playing games. There's no slack time -- the rent is never not due, bills never don't have to be paid, and resting on one's laurels is not an option. Focusing on one task can be costly.

Costly? How so? It becomes costly when I focus on one job to the exclusion of others. I cannot focus solely on the Rangers (our demo team) and forget to tell people about a new release. I cannot market new releases and forget to work on Away Team Log. I cannot proofread Traveller Prime Directive and forget to work on the blogs. I cannot focus on responding to an email from a customer and not answer the phone. I cannot do lots on social media sites and forget our newsletters. I cannot work on our games and forget to supervise our new intern. Each marketing venue has people who only visit there. Each game has its unique customers. Each job has consequences for being undone.

So I am learning to juggle. I focus on setting the schedule for the blogs and getting them set up one afternoon. That way I don't log in multiple times during the week or forget to do them. I try to note when someone else is responsible so I can remind him to do it. I go ahead and notify people when something new goes up on e23. I try to handle Ranger issues as they arise. However, I do roll away from the computer and give myself time to handle some things (like Away Team Log and Traveller Prime Directive) without distractions. That way I minimize the chances of my dropping a ball. I do make note of things that must be done by such-and-so date so I don't get surprised with an unrealistic deadline. These are contained in purple datebooks so I can see things at a glance and go more in-depth as needed.

Sometimes I set a task aside, but leave a visible reminder that it needs to be done. That's so I don't "drop the ball." I still need to make sure I don't focus on something that will wait and lay aside something that won't. Our weekly meetings make sure that we all stay on track with our various projects.

As I juggle and change, I try to fit in. I've learned which tasks I can take from someone else -- tasks they didn't like and so didn't focus on, but which I can do. From over 30 years of answering, "Where's the encyclopedia?" I have learned something about customer service. I don't mind answering the same question a zillion times. As I absorb a task, I visualize a jagged part becoming smooth. That way, I think we'll all fit together better and provide the excellent customer service you have come to expect, the games you want to play, and the information to help others discover them. I hope you stay with us during the trip.

Saturday, July 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.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 5

9 pm:

CBS1: That Y170s show.

FED2: The Pelican Brief. Two lawyers search for the truth in the wreckage of a Romulan minesweeper as the countdown to war continues. Stars Owen Riley and Paul Scott.

KLG3: The Taming of the Crew. Kommander Konglet orders random executions to improve morale.

ROM4: Remus and Andro, movie starring Nicholias Cage and Richio Glover; two unlikely neighbors share posh apartments on Remus on the eve of an Andromedan attack.

(c) 2003 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, July 25, 2013

And So the Mighty Fall Once Again

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I am too a point where the greatest difficulty I have sleeping is my left leg, and currently the problem is concentrated in the joint (the top of the ball of the left foot actually) behind my left big toe. At various times I get a "sharp pain" (for want of a better term) in that joint. It throbs somewhat (in that the pain recedes and then returns), but this is not in sequence with my heartbeat. I have found the best way to deal with this pain is to go for a short walk. Ignoring it does not work as the pain is sufficient that the nerves in the leg try to move the foot away from the pain. Mental override only works so long, and the leg eventually "moves" whether I wish it to or not, and sometimes violently.

Okay, so I go for a walk when this drags me out of sleep (and I should point out that compared to what was happening even at Origins this year it is not nearly as severe).

Most nights this is no big deal, two or three times I will rise and walk the circumference of the apartment complex (or walk the hall of the Red Roof Inn at Origins).

Last night was different.

It rained.

I was in the infantry, and I have no particular problem with walking in the rain, particularly when I know I will soon be in a warm and dry place, i.e., back in my apartment.

However, last night I hit a patch of concrete that, for some reason, became absolutely slick, as in like ice, when wet.

Both of my legs shot out from under me, and I imagine a movie would have made the moment quite comical as the force and speed at which they did so caused the sandals I was wearing to fly off my feet (not joking here).

As you probably have imagined the resulting impact was quite solid, but fortunately not restricted to my posterior, but spread over my entire back from my shoulders down to my buttocks, and a good portion of my right arm (not sure why my left arm seems to have failed to try and help absorb the shock).

The major negative is that I did fall, and I am sore, if apparently not really bruised, from the fall. The major plus is that somehow I kept my brain housing group from joining my back in impacting the concrete. No bumps or contusions on that component, and while I am as a result somewhat stiff (or at least stiffer since I have been), I am still ambulatory and (as you can see by this blog posting) able to type.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

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've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Doomsday Prepping is not going to work: I really enjoy watching the shows about people preparing for financial collapse, the Yellowstone volcano, an EMP blast, the collapse of the power grid, a pandemic, zombies, alien invaders, government takeover of everything, or some kind of widespread terrorist or enemy attack. I laugh because none of the preps are going to work for anything that bad.

1. In the basic scenario, society collapses into anarchy. We see this happen today in limited areas, usually in a war-torn country but sometimes in a limited area (e.g., the Rodney King riots in LA, or the Katrina mess in New Orleans, or the hurricane in New Jersey). In the limited situations we have seen, there is plenty of stable area outside of the chaos which can send help. Doomsday prepping assumes that there is no stable area outside from which help can arrive, that everything goes bad everywhere (at least, everywhere in the US). There would be no police, and everyone would have to fend for himself. The collapse of society means the collapse of the food distribution system, and within three or four days, entire cities would be empty of food and full of hungry desperate people. A hundred million Americans will die of starvation the first year.

2. Some plans involve "bugging out" and leaving the city for some area with fewer people and more resources. Good luck with that! Everybody in the city is going to be fighting to get out, and the 99% who did nothing to prepare for the apocalypse will steal the supplies and tools from those who did. (I saw one couple on TV who planned to hike several miles across Manhattan carrying paddles and a rubber boat, then escape across the Hudson River. Now, think about it. If a couple of million people on Manhattan want out and cannot get out, and they see these two idiots walking across Central Park carrying paddles, what is going to happen? You guessed it. The bigger meaner people are going to take their boat away. Guns don't help. Two people with pistols are not going to fight their way past a few thousand people with clubs and rocks who want that boat. Sure, lots of people get shot, which may be better than starving to death. At least that rubber boat will probably be full of bullet holes by the time they put it in the water.) The best you can hope for is tens of thousands of hungry and sullen but well-behaved people trudging their way down the roads out of town to some sanctuary they can only imagine exists.

3. Then let's think about those people who plan to drive somewhere. Think about rush hour traffic, then double the number of cars on the road, all of them going the same direction on half of the roads. Can you say Mother of All Traffic Jams? I thought you could. Cars will run out of gas waiting for the car ahead of them to move, and that just blocks the road for everyone behind. (There will be no place to move the stranded car.) Gas stations don't have the supply to refuel them all. Mix into this that the people will be desperate and hungry and many of them will have guns. Once a fire starts in that gridlock, forget it.

4. Let's say you get far enough out of town that the traffic has spread out and you can zip down a half-forgotten country road on the way to somewhere you think you will be safe. You can bet you'll run into a roadblock. Now, this roadblock may be manned by criminals (who brought their guns along but had no other prep supplies like food, tools, or medical supplies) and will just take the supplies from the next fully loaded vehicle that comes along. They won't have any reason to leave you alive, and will not really have any reason to negotiate. Unless they actually need your vehicle, they'll just open fire when they see you approaching, disabling the driver and killing everyone else after they walk over to where you crashed. Another option is that the roadblock might be good nice people who just want to keep the riffraff (i.e., people without their own supplies and tools) from entering the selected wilderness survival area (where, presumably, a few people might survive as hunter-gatherers). Do you qualify to join them? Are even nice people likely to be trigger-happy? Are even nice people liable to be picky about more people entering the survival bastion? (Even if you legally hold title to a few acres of the area, do the people who got their first need more survivors competing for whatever resources there are? Remember that there are no police to tell these nice people with guns that they don't get to survive on land you legally own.) A final option is that roadblock might be manned by perfectly nice people with plenty of food and survival tools who had their car break down or run out of gas. They're now pretty desperate to complete the journey to the remote wilderness area where they can survive, and they ask nicely if you will let them load their family and their supplies into your vehicle (which is already full of your family and your supplies). Do you see any potential problems with this?
5. Somehow, you arrive at the remote wilderness area where you plan to camp out (or occupy a previously built house or bunker) until the world returns to normal. Well, did anyone else get to your hideout before you did and either occupy it or steal your stuff? Think about it. Imagine if you got out of the big city full of starving desperate people with only the guns and food that were in your house when the apocalypse started. You have nowhere specific go to, but you drive around until you find an unoccupied cabin in the woods and move in. Perhaps you even find it stocked with supplies. What happens when the legitimate owners drive up and order you to leave or they'll call the sheriff to evict you? Now, imagine that you just drove up to the cabin you built and stocked and find it occupied by armed desperate (nice) people. Or even worse, by heavily armed criminals who are as desperate to survive as non-criminals but far less reluctant to fight for their lives. Do you see any potential for things to go wrong here?

6. But maybe everything went right? You got out of town, hit no roadblocks, and reached the bunker or cabin you built just for this purpose. The generator is running, steaks are on the grill, the children are fishing in the creek, and your spouse no longer thinks that prepping was a stupid idea. Just how can you defend this place? Even a steel bunker is not going to survive a determined attack (or siege) by a gang of heavily armed and very hungry drug dealers. Think about that. Drug dealing street gangs are organized, heavily armed, ruthless, and (now) desperate. They're the ones most likely to fight their way out of the city, and best equipped to gather supplies. They will not be gathering supplies from nature, but from refugees who stockpiled supplies or brought them along. Think about a wilderness area of 20 square miles dotted with a few dozen prepper cabins and bunkers. A drug gang of maybe 50 armed people move into the area, kill everyone they can see, attack every house above ground, and then settle in to dig out the few $60,000 bunkers (which they regard as Christmas presents full of goodies). The sheriff is not likely to show up and arrest them. They can just stake out each group of preppers in turn, capture anyone who wanders into the woods, and then parade the prisoner up to the camp/bunker with a gun to his head and demand that you lay down your weapons. Do that, and you're all as good as dead. Don't do it, and your family member is going to die and at least some others will be killed or injured in the imminent gunfight. Your odds of winning that gunfight are not even 50-50.

7. Ok, once again, you escape from town and reach the cabin or bunker you stockpiled. Having planned ahead, your cabin is near that of other preppers and you have a solid network or community designed for mutual defense. The two or three roads into the area are blocked by previously dug battle positions manned by you and your neighbors. Let's even assume that you survive here for six months or a year while the world burns and 90% of the population dies of starvation or gets killed in the chaos. Now what? Your canned food and fuel will eventually run out, and your ammunition won't last forever. You'll be back to the 1870s Old West, trying to find or raise enough food to keep your family fed. Outside of your little community there are the worst and most dangerous of the gangs that arose to prey first on the weak, then the survivors, then the preppers. You're on an island in Indian Country and there is no cavalry regiment going to show up and force the blood-thirsty savages to behave. Now what?

8. Let's try this another way. You knew that getting out of town was going to be a problem and there was nowhere to go anyway. So you planned to "bug in" and defend your home with its basement full of canned food and its back yard (or rooftop) full of fish tanks and hydroponics gardens. Good luck unless you have at least six riflemen and have wired your neighbors' homes for demolition to clear the fields of fire. Even assuming that the barbed wire on the fire escape and the plywood on the windows stops a determined attack by a hungry mob that managed to find a few guns, sooner or later (given no fire department) there will be a fire and you'll get burned out. (Fires can start from lightning, arson, idiots, broken gas lines, leaking gas appliances, or out of control campfires in trash barrels.)
 9. So you're going to wait for society to return to normal. If things are as bad as prepper scenarios expect, that's not going to happen. Remember, there is no big secure area full of nice people who are going to arrive with truckloads of stuff to help you rebuild. You're going to have to rebuild society from what you can salvage. After the riots, the wars, the raiders, and the savages, you'll be lucky to be living in the 1870s, and headed downhill fast. Do you know how to make gunpowder out of something you mine from somewhere? Can you build a computer? Can you operate a factory to can food? Do you know how to do the old-style home canned food?

10. I have said before that the best thing you can do is to prep for realistic localized scenarios (snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes) which might last up to a week. Stockpile 10 or 20 days of food and water. Have a first aid kit, a hand-cranked flashlight and hand-cranked radio, a water purification system, a realistic number of firearms (one per house or one per person), and a realistic plan to dig in and stay safe. A bug-out plan should be based on driving 50 miles to a nice hotel out of the disaster zone, not driving 300 miles to a bunker in the woods past desperate armed mobs.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 July 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week. The weather this week was cooler than last week, reaching about 90F each day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. A chance comment by a customer gave Steve Cole and idea which he took to Jean who spun it into a new product (Away Team Log, a compendium of all of the RPG stuff and anything else RPG players would want to read in Captain's Logs #30-#47).

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #47 FLAP (Finish like a Pro) list, finished updating the Wall of Honor, and created Away Team Log.

Steven Petrick worked on the Paravian part of Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone did website updates, sent out the July Communique and Hailing Frequencies on the 15th, and learned her way around the company.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1675 friends), managed our Twitter Feed (up to 40 followers), worked very hard on Traveller Prime Directive, continued to deal with the Discus crash, finished organizing the Rangers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 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/).

Saturday, July 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!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 4

8 pm:

GOR6: Honey, I Enveloped the Kids. Movie; PG.

THL7: Pinwheel of Fortune, Alex Deridex hosts.

ORN8: Orion¹s 11, looting the casinos on Planet Vegas.

LYR11: History of the Civil Wars, Part 23.

ISC13: The Magnificent Seven. A team of mercenaries tries to protect a village that won¹t help itself.

(c) 2003 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, July 18, 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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Steve Cole's pick of the 10 most important items in his last 50 blogs (in no particular order):

1. The oldest military ship in service is the Russian VMF Kommuna, which is used to salvage submarines and to operate smaller submersibles. The 2,500-ton catamaran was built in the Netherlands and entered Russian service in 1915. It still works just fine and the Russians have kept her in service. VMF Kommuna became the official oldest military ship with the retirement of the British light cruiser Caroline, which was built in 1914 and served at Jutland. Caroline had been tied to the dock as a training ship for many years. The oldest US ship is the carrier USS Enterprise, which has served for 48 years. (This doesn't count the two-century-old USS Constitution, which is only in commission in a honorary sense.)

2. A symptom of Overworked Entrepreneur Syndrome is using a system in which "If I am waiting for somebody else to do something, it's not my problem." With too much to do, anything we send to someone else (such as a request for information, or instructions to do something) is no longer on our overloaded "to do" list. Sooner or later, the requested information or work will arrive and the overall project will go back on our "active to do list" but until then, it's just not our problem. The problem is that this assumes that everybody else is less incompetent and less busy and less disorganized than we are, and can result in waking up the day before (or after) the Big Deadline to find that we never finished a major project because somebody else never answered the request for information or sent something we needed. [My solution here is to keep such directives and requests in my Email outbasket until the designated person answers the question or does the thing. Every week I ask people I am waiting for to do what I asked them to do.]

3. As with any game company, we have more ideas for games than we have time or money. An outside design is going to have to be really special to be published, not simply a fun game that actually works. Remember that virtually all publishers are designers who could not get anyone else to publish their game.

4. Biggest money mistake: OPERATE WITHOUT A BUDGET: You don't have to be nitpicky, but set up some general categories. Always know when the next big bill is coming, always have an emergency fund, invest in some savings and retirement, and avoid spending more than you have. This applies to singles but especially to couples (and especially to non-married couples). Know how much each person is allowed to spend (and actually spends). If your girlfriend/roommate is buying expensive stuff, will that person have the rent money when it's due? (If your spouse is spending wildly, will YOU have the mortgage payment when IT'S due?) Now, normally conservative people don't need much of a budget plan since they unconsciously just don't spend a lot of money, but if you tend to splurge a lot or ever come up short at the end of the month, you need to set a written budget and stick to it.

5. I have written a lot of magazine articles on a lot of subjects, most of which my customers never saw and never heard of. One that was never published, however, is the one that my mind keeps coming back to. I had written a couple of minor articles on stamp collecting when I pitched an article about "collecting stamps on your vacation" to a major stamp collecting magazine. They gave me a green light on the outline and I sat to work, even doing some field research. My advice (which covers a lot of collector fields, not just stamps) was partly practical (how to find stamp dealers in an epoch before the internet was invented, setting a total budget, visiting a dealer while the family sees something else) and partly tactical (how to negotiate the best prices). As with any collectibles, there are no fixed prices for stamps. There are only so many of them and catalogs list an official market price, but only the dumbest of collectors pay it. Most stamps are sold for about half of the catalog price, but condition varies (and the seller's opinion of a given stamp may be a higher grade than the buyer's). I recommended that a vacation buyer should take his list of the stamps he wants to add to his collection (every collector maintains a "want list") and do research with mail order lists in stamp newspapers and catalogs to determine what something was really worth. My article recommended making sure the dealer knew you were from out of town, meaning he had one chance to get your money, but that any sale he made to you was good because you were from outside the circle of his usual customers. I also included hard-nosed advise on bargaining, insisting on a better deal than the mail order lists, and perhaps on package deals for several wanted stamps at an even lower price. I frankly thought it was some of my best business writing. The stamp newspaper refused to publish the article because they feared it would upset the retailers who carry the stamp newspaper on their shelves. They wanted the article rewritten to say you should build a relationship with a dealer by paying more than the going price. I pointed out that this was ridiculous in the case of a dealer you would meet only once on a vacation, and frankly wasn't that smart even in the case of your local dealer you buy from all the time. They told me not to submit any more articles.
6. I don't think anyone who has never run a business has any concept of what it takes to do that. Most of my time goes into things that don't produce money (many of them spend money). So when you ask why I haven't finished designing this or that new product yet, take a moment to consider what else I have been doing. I'm delegating everything I can, but I've done that and now I'm down to things that take more time if I delegate them to someone I have to supervise.

7. We all know the story of the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack and that the Merrimack should be called the Virginia and that while the two ships fought for hours neither one did much damage to the other. There is, however, something not many people know. The Union knew that the Monitor was the only ship able to stop the Virginia from destroying any wooden Yankee ship and breaking the blockade. For them, a tie was as good as a win and a loss would be devastating beyond all calculation. For this reason, the crew of the Monitor was told to use only "medium" charges of gunpowder in their two 11-inch guns. Back in those days, metalwork was not the science it is now, and a charge of gunpowder that would burst one cannon might work just fine a thousand times in an identical cannon. The factory making the cannon would test a few to the point they exploded and then tell the government not to use more than 2/3 of that much gunpowder. In the case of the Monitor, they used only half of the "suicide overload" charge of powder. Even so, the Monitor did crack the Virginia's armor, and (as the legend goes) maybe using the heavier 2/3 charge would have seen cannonballs going through that armor. The Union would not risk it, as the maximum 2/3 charge sometimes (one out of a hundred or so) blew up the cannon, and for a cannon to explode inside the small turret would mean that the ship was out of business and the blockade would have been broken. Something that almost nobody knows is that the Virginia challenged the Monitor to battle on two subsequent occasions. In the first, the Monitor remained docked under the protective guns of a Union fort. In the second, the Monitor ran away when the Virginia showed up. What does that tell us?

8. 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 10-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.]

9. Recently, scientists said that they would be able to produce a cloned Neanderthal within a year or two. Obviously, we should do this if only to answer questions about them. (Can they speak? Just how intelligent are they? Do they have phenomenal memories? Can they invoke the ancient spirits of nature?) But then comes the big question. Neanderthals are not Homo Sapiens, but are they close enough to be called human and to be given human rights? (They made tools and fire, so they're clearly much smarter than chimps. They did not make clothing but did wrap themselves in skins. They buried their dead with flowers.) Would Neanderthals be a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities act? While no Neanderthal was ever in North America, would a Neanderthal clone born in this country to an American woman (you have to use a surrogate) be an American citizen? Would a Neanderthal be a "special needs child" under the laws of the state where it was born? Would we want to create a few dozen Neanderthals and create a place they could have their own community? Would doing so be segregation?
10. I wonder if anybody out there understands how this business (or any business) runs if they haven't run a business. There are lots of categories of things to do, and it's hard to balance them. Some of them are "get to it as fast as you can" and there is a list of those and when not doing anything else I go to the top of that list for my work. Some things magically appear on the list from time to time and go right to the #1 spot. Some of those are predictable (e.g., Communique that has to be done before the 7th of any given month so the staff can report before it goes out on the 10th) while others are less so (I got a set of ACTASF cards from Matthew and had promised him that whenever he sent a set I would drop anything other than an emergency to check the cards right away and fire the required fixes back to him; those cards get this treatment because they've been delayed too long and because we need the fixed cards to get the revised rulebook out). Some new items that show up get to start their march to the top of the list from a higher or lower spot (e.g., a possible big money deal for a project goes to the highest part of the list). That, unfortunately, means everything else goes down a notch. Then there are the fires the blow up or break out. Recently, something that should have been a simple yes/no decision ended up being a major multi-hour project involving phone calls to outside parties. That kicked other things off that day's schedule. (I had promised one guy on Thursday afternoon that his thing was now #1 on the list and would obviously get done on Friday. Then a fire broke out Friday noon and pushed his thing to Saturday.) Other things happen.

Tuesday, July 16, 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:

Monday, July 15, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 July 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of the bizarre BBS crash that wiped out the entire database of 1600 users. At about the same time, the shopping cart crashed. It's on a different server and we must assume the two events are just coincidence. The weather this week was hot, reaching 96°F every day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #29.

We got Hailing Frequencies for June and Communique #90 sent out on 8 July but for some reason most people did not get the emailed link. We're still looking into that as we work to get Hailing Frequencies for July and Communique #91 out on the 15th of July.

Steve Cole worked on the FLAP list, the Wall of Honor, Starline 2400 quality control, worked on the broken links in the Traveller page layout file, and discussed Starline 2500 and ACTASF marketing with Matthew at Mongoose.

Steven Petrick worked on the Paravian part of Module C6, and did some quality control on the Starline 2400s.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and did quality control on the 2400s.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,659 friends), managed our Twitter feed (39 followers), proofread Communique, did her part of Hailing Frequencies, got the Rangers organized, got Simone's internship paperwork done, worked on Traveller, dealt with the BBS database crash, and did some marketing. Jean put Gary Carney to work on an Omega RPG book.

Sunday, July 14, 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.

Saturday, July 13, 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.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 3

8 pm:

CBS1: Survivor: The Hydran-Lyran Border, host Robert Cole

FED2: The Romulan Strain. A team of scientists on an isolated base study a Romulan biological weapon while time runs out on Earth. Mike Raper stars.

KLG3: 18: ESS Agent Jark Kauer rescues his daughter from a strip club while foiling a coup against the Empire.

ROM4: Who wants to be a Centurion? Xander hosts.

(c) 2003 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, July 11, 2013

More on The Dome

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Okay, we have seen several attempts within the dome to find a way under it. Manual digging, and an effort to use existing tunnels.

We still have not seen an effort to get under the dome from the outside. And, seriously, with the assets available to the United States I cannot fathom why mining equipment has not shown up outside the dome in several sites trying to tunnel under it. Each digging to a different depth. None of them will work, of course, but the effort should be made because those outside the dome do not know (they have not been given the script before hand) if it will work or not.

The "oddest" thing about the interaction between those inside and those outside of the dome is the statement that there is no "communication." This just does not make any real sense unless the dome has become a "one way mirror" (okay, maybe the outside does not reflect back, we do not really know anything about the outside except the occasional intercepted radio traffic) since the opening episode. We KNOW that the Deputy could see her fiance, and her fiance could see her when she and the sheriff flagged down the fire truck. That was, however, on the first day and in the first hours. Maybe the dome has become opaque to those outside the dome now? This would at least explain why the guys doing the fire hose experiment did not react to the two kids inside the dome (and why the soldiers did not react to the purported strip tease).

Otherwise, as noted, you can easily communicate with written messages, Morse code light signals, semaphore, even sign language. And if the dome is not opaque, then this communication would have to be going on.

Part of the problem inside the dome would be the sense of isolation if they are indeed cut off. If the dome is clear, the simple passing of messages, information on conditions inside the dome to help scientists look for answers, would be a big boost to morale within the dome. The fact that they could take some active role in their own rescue even if it is nothing more than reporting on their own status would help. And stations could be set up to just provide news (who won the series and by how many runs, etc.) would help alleviate the feelings of isolation.

We know the council member is the big villain inside the dome, yet a lot of what he has done is the right thing to do. (Obviously in future episodes he will trend further down the dark path, but he was already on such a path to begin with.)

I will have to admit that I did break down and "Google" the dome, so I know as much about Mr. King's opus as WIkipedia allowed. I will admit that I am glad I have not read the book, and I will admit that I probably have never read anything by Mr. King. (Not enough of a horror fan to invest time in reading horror novels.) I have seen some of the movies made from his books, and generally have not been impressed (maybe the books are better than the movies, I do not know). I will probably watch the rest of this show only because they have said that the "ending was changed" to some extent, so there is still a possible surprise. By and large,  however, I am so far unimpressed with the presentation of how people are reacting to the event, both inside and outside of the dome. I would have been pushing conserving (and inventorying) resources from day one, communicating with the outside from day one, and exploring the dome from day one. To me, the people inside the dome are exceptionally stupid, and the people outside of the dome are not operating in a manner consistent with the situation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Simone Pike 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.

Tuesday, July 09, 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:

Monday, July 08, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 30 June - 6 July 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a fun week as we interviewed new graphics technicians and gave them a test drive. We finished the week by hiring Simone to replace Joel. The weather this week was warm, but not overly hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Platinum Hat 2013 began registration on 1 July.

New on e23 this week was the Captain's Log #47Supplemental File.

Steve Cole worked on Communique #90 and #91, Traveller, the Wall of Honor, reserve blogs, the Captain's Log #47 FLAP (Finish like a Pro) list, graphics-intern interviews, and Hailing Frequencies for June and July.

Steven Petrick worked on Module C6, completing most of the Paravian half of the product.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. Leanna and Jean celebrated the Fourth of July by attending the musical drama TEXAS in Palo Duro Canyon; they particularly enjoyed the spectacular fireworks display.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1651 friends), managed our Twitter feed (37 followers), proofread Communique #90, and did some marketing. She was also trained to handle telephone orders and worked on getting the Ranger Brigade properly organized.

Simone joined our happy company, getting Communique #90 uploaded and built the Hailing Frequencies file.

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Origins 2013 After-Action Report and Lessons Learned
1. Taking Jean in the car was the right move, even if it meant leaving out six cartons of backstock (which cost us maybe $70 worth of sales) and the big blue display (which took up a lot of space without really adding anything). Putting Jean on the bus for the Origins trip was never really considered and having her share the driving reduced the exhaustion factor a lot. Having her as Electronic Warfare Officer (checking storm fronts on her Xoom and making blog posts en route) was very useful. Buying Jean a dealer badge was a good move as she could go take care of things without having to be escorted through security by one of the Steves (neither of which were doing well on their damaged knees). Steve Cole spent the show in a wheelchair. While he COULD walk, he could do so only for limited distances, and the "hotel to booth" distance was at least twice his limit.

2. For the first time, we actually had retailers talk to us during the Retailer Hour, and more of them later during the show. That exposed the fact that we had no real plan to deal with them. SVC thought that Jean should have sent them to talk to him (he was only a few feet away) but that did not occur to Jean. (SVC never told her because he never believed another retailer would appear.) We need to create a card with two or three questions we want to ask them, and be sure to get their business cards and follow up with a mailing of customer support materials.

3. GAMA did their usual good (but not perfect) job. We had our badges and stuff waiting for us. Some gamers complained of registration problems (and cited very unfavorable comparisons with GenCon which supposedly processes more people in less time). Event pre-registration seemed to go very well. GAMA did tell one very noisy booth to turn off their sound system, which was a good thing. There were a lot of silly typos in the program. GAMA ran the Origins awards but when I was asked for my suggestions on improving them my only response was "Shut them down." GAMA continues to want to attract some GenCon people to go to both shows but cannot grasp that Origins offers nothing that GenCon people want to see so the effort is futile and wasted. GAMA needs to focus its efforts on doing the best Origins it can and not try to recruit GenCon people.

4. The crowd seemed smaller and spent less money. (GAMA insisted that the crowd was bigger than the disastrous 2012 show.) More and more game companies remarked that "It was a decent Origins, but Origins is only barely worth going to." The Saturday crowd is huge but is largely composed of non-gamers who buy cheap tickets to look at the non-game booths (and the funny game people). It is a cheap, air-conditioned, family outing. This inflates the number of attendees without helping the game publishers. It does help the non-game booths and those non-game booths (jewelry, costumes, T-shirts, game tables, backpacks, card sleeves, toys, swords) are taking over more and more of the dealer hall to the point Origins is rapidly turning into a general convention than a game convention.

5. Sunday was (as always) almost a total waste of time. We might have sold $200 worth of stuff, none of that after noon. GAMA really needs to shut down the dealer hall at 2pm and let us go home earlier. It's against the rules to pack up the booth before 4pm, but we "rearrange the stock" and quietly take half of the games out of the shelves and slip them back into boxes. (We still have a full display until the end and have at least one copy of everything on the racks.) Many others do the same, but others (so disgusted at the poor sales this year and at the stupid rules) blatantly began taking apart their booths and packing away their stock long before closing.

6. Tournaments are dead at Origins and we will not run them again. Board wargames are also dead (except for F&E). If we run events (other than F&E) in future we will only run single-session scenarios and demos, and probably will not run anything that doesn't use miniatures.
Due to a comedy of errors, four GURPS events somehow go onto the event schedule during a year that all three of our qualified GURPS gamemasters did not come to the convention. We were able to satisfy the players and run the events by having Leanna email us a copy of Starship Aldo and recruit two people to run the events in exchange for gamemaster coupons (that are as good as cash). Next time, we need to have an envelope full of RPG stuff ready to go just in case a gamemaster does not show up.

7. Of the 14 trips to Origins, only once did we do what we should do and set up the display ahead of time, then pack the products for each rack into a marked box. This would make it much faster to set up the booth.

8. We need to divide the minis rack between 2400s and 2500s. (We had no blistered 2500s and the ones in bags did not fit the racks.) While displays of painted minis would seem likely to increase sales, we have done this before (it's a lot of trouble) and seen no increase at all. We're thinking of having some laminated pages of color photos of painted ships next year.

9. Some have said we should have a bigger booth and that this would produce more sales. In fact, a bigger booth would cost another thousand dollars, take a second full-time booth person, and would not produce more than a few additional sales. If we get Tribbles vs. Klingons (and/or other "first class" games out) by next year, we might consider a second booth to use as a demo area. Tribbles vs. Klingons must be played to be fully understood (and more importantly, enjoyed).

10. At noon on Sunday we were told of new load-out rules that were not used in 2011 or any previous year. (I do not know about 2012.) Those rules were that we could not park in the back lot before 4pm and had to load in 20 minutes (which wasn't possible). After SVC complained, the rules changed (or perhaps were just clarified) and we were allowed to take as long to load as we needed as long as someone was obviously working on the car. SVC showed Jean and the Knipfers (who helped us) how to load things, and headed to the car. (The problem is that the car is full of things like luggage that go on top of the heavy boxes of unsold games, not that there was a lot of that.) So SVC unloaded the car, then reloaded it in the proper order, while everyone else kept bringing him stuff to load. We were out the gate in record time at 4:50. That was the start of an uneventful trip home.

Saturday, July 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 online 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.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 2

7 pm:

HYD9: The Great Gatling, classic movie, 4 hours.

AND10: To be announced; 4 hours.

LYR11: The Lyran King. Betrayed by his uncle, a young Lyran prince struggles to regain his father¹s throne.

ISC13: NYPPD BLUE: Two hard-edged policemen try to keep the peace between seven savage gangs that refuse to help themselves; stars Ryan Peck and Chris Fant.

CAR19: Carnivon Idol. Contestants howl at the moon while the losers are savagely torn to pieces by the judges.

(c) 2003 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, July 04, 2013

On July 4, Drama, and Canyons

Jean Sexton muses:

This July 4 will be my first outside one of the original 13 colonies of what would become the United States. Yet I won't be alone today as Americans all join together to celebrate Independence Day (or, as one of my British friends described it, "To celebrate your country's insurrection against its lawful rulers"). One of my favorite Founding Fathers is John Adams who wrote, "It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations, from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more."

Today ADB, Inc. will be running a short day with a skeleton crew toward the end of the day. We plan on celebrating with eating together this afternoon and then Steve Cole will drive Leanna and me to see the outdoor drama "Texas." That will be our "Shew" and if the weather is right, we will have "Illuminations."

I look forward to seeing "Texas" as it was written by Paul Green, a fellow North Carolinian. Not only did we share a state, we attended the same university, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I enjoyed seeing his "The Lost Colony" and I expect to enjoy this one. I also look forward to seeing the Palo Duro Canyon. The second largest canyon in the United States, it has a beauty all its own. I found it beautiful in the winter and hope to see the vegetation in the summer.

As we enjoy ourselves, we hope that you have fun as well. Happy birthday USA!

Wednesday, July 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.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Why Aren't They Digging?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

So far, I have watched one episode of "Under the Dome."

Being me, questions come up that I want answered.

Why is no one on the outside trying to dig?

This is on two levels. First, a shallow hole. (Does the line in the ground go very deep, or does it only go down ten or twelve feet? Does it seem to go deeper as we dig?)

Second is the driving a mineshaft hole. It is unlikely that the dome has formed a complete globe around the town, and if there is a chance that it adjusts to digging at its edge, perhaps we can dig a shaft twenty or thirty feet down and get under it?

The dome quite clearly crosses water (the truck that smacked into the dome was crossing a bridge). What happens where the dome and flowing water intersect? If there is a water source inside the dome, has it been cut off (the dome does go all around the town underground so that ground water is no longer flowing)? If a  stream inside the dome is still flowing, is it backing up and flooding where it hits the dome (this means there is a limit to the dome's depth as it is not blocking the rise of water within its confines)? In point of fact, is the flooding of the fall out shelter something caused by the dome's blocking the flow of ground water out of the enclosed area?

Has anyone tried explosives yet? We know it cracked up a plane and contained that small explosion, but how about putting a 120mm tank round into the dome? Or start smaller with bullets and increase the force until  you get to that tank round. See if we can crack it, and what level of force is needed to do so. (And, yes, it might eventually get to a shaped charge nuclear blast.)

The above is stuff that could clearly be done or determined on the first day (well, okay, you will definitely not get to the nuclear blast for a month or so, but you will get there if this is not resolved soon). The truck that hit the dome had mass and inertia (and was smashed flat worse than if it had gone head on with another truck exactly like it). Bullets and other projectiles have more velocity even if less mass.

Right now, I lean towards the dome being "extra-terrestrial," and that it is essentially an "ark." The aliens know planet Earth is going to suffer some horrible calamity, and they are arranging for some of our species to survive (why this particular location is not known, but the methodology of aliens is an obvious mystery). Or the aliens are conducting an experiment on human society and the townspeople are just "lab rats" to them. No other possible explanations make any sense to me at  this juncture (I have never read Stephen King's book, and I am unlikely to do so from this show).

I am more than a little uncomfortable with the lack of leadership inside the dome. Gas supplies have been cut off, yet everyone is still running around in their cars. No food is getting in, but no one has taken charge of the available food stores and set up rationing (yes, people will hoard and defend what they have if you try to impose such, but the survival of the whole requires it, and the sooner it is implemented the more likely more of us will survive as long as possible).

Monday, July 01, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23-29 June 2013

Steve Cole reports:

 This was a quiet week as we wrapped up Origins and Captain's Log #47 items and launched new projects. The weather this week was pleasant. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Romulan Ship Card Pack #2.

Steve Cole finished the Captain's Log #47 Supplemental File and wrote up Communique #90, and did a PDF of an old book that Leanna needed to reprint,

Steven Petrick worked on Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,637 friends), managed our Twitter feed (37 followers), proofread Communique and Romulan ePack #2, worked on Hailing Frequencies, kicked off the Platinum Hat tournament for 2013, rewrote the convention policy, did some marketing, and finally cleared Texas Passport and Immigration Control (except for the gun and permit, which she'll get later). She moved the Traveller PD files to her computer so that she can get moving on her primary project for the fall.