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Saturday, August 31, 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.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Top Ten Reasons for the Paravians to Go to War with the Rest of the Galaxy

10. A translator-error at "First Contact" when the commander of the Federation Marine brigade, Colonel Hiram Sanders, invited the Paravian delegation to "Join him for dinner."

9. What the Vulcan "Hand-Salute" means in Paravian.

8. The Romulans have all the really cool bird-ship names.

7. All the other empires' fighter-jocks laugh at the "Thunder Duck."

6. To compensate for the plasma torpedoes making the QWT look so ... inadequate.

5. One too many "Why did the Paravian cross the galaxy?" jokes.

4. The inevitable tragedy every time the Paravians met one of those "Oh-so-compulsive" cat species.

3. "But Wing-Commander, the Seltorians just looked so yummy!"

 2. The tragic results of inviting the new Tholian ambassador to tour the climate-controlled hatchery.

And, the number one reason for the Paravians to go to war...

1. One word -- Omelettes.

-- Contributed by Stephen J. Schrader for Captain's Log #30 (c) 2004, ADB, Inc.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Rangers and Battle Groups and Marketing

Jean Sexton writes:

One of the reasons that ADB, Inc. wanted me in Amarillo was so that I could really do the marketing that I had been dabbling in for the past few years. Steve Cole has been managing it for years, but his time is better spent on designing games and providing the creative direction and energy the company needs. With his guidance and mentoring, I should be able to grow into the job.

One of the first parts of Marketing that Steve gave me were the Star Fleet Rangers. These had been written about in Captain's Log#22, published in the spring of 2001. The idea was (and is) that the Rangers would go to conventions, gaming stores, war game clubs, and similar venues and demonstrate our games there. The event would be used to expose new people to the games and expand the player base. It would also let the local Ranger "grow his own" opponents. The Ranger program drifted with us acknowledging anyone who reported a demo, but no real push to expand the program.

I've got the time to organize the database of Rangers, coordinate their rewards with Leanna, and eventually link Rangers to upcoming conventions. I have time to chat with the Rangers and better understand their needs and concerns. With Simone's help, we are giving the Ranger pages a facelift. We should be getting the resources for the Rangers both updated and more organized.

How can you help? Join the  newly re-energized Rangers. Then reach out to your community and run demos. Sometimes local libraries have game nights. Some local colleges have a gaming club. Local cons and game stores may enjoy having you promote a (new-to-them) game. It's an exciting time to be a Ranger.

The next project we are taking on will be promoting battle groups. Steve and I wanted to tackle this earlier, but we found it would have to be another "Jean project." Battle groups will let us expand our playtesting across a wider player base. We'll be sending people on Starlist to contact nearby battle groups. With any luck,each battle group will be able to provide a home base for at least one Ranger.

What can you do? Look at your local play group. Are you interested in playtesting and willing to take the time to send in reports? Do you want to create playable scenarios? Or do you just like hanging out and playing SFU games? If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," then hold yourself in readiness. By the time the next issue of Captain's Log comes out we'll have procedures in place for setting up your battle group's online presence. We hope that you are as excited as we are.

What does this have to do with marketing? No, it isn't trying to get you to buy the next cool module. It is about encouraging you to have fun. My philosophy is that people having fun share their enthusiasm. Shared enthusiasm means more people will have fun. The gaming industry is all about people having fun. People having fun make the world better and that makes me happy. And if happy people want to expand their knowledge base by buying our books, that is just gravy!

So stay alert for more exciting news from ADB, Inc. Consider becoming part of it. Help us grow this great family of games.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Steve Cole responds to Jean Sexton's call for a blog about the company.

1. A guy called me one day offering to sell me a software system where all of the mail orders on my webstore would be forwarded to local game stores. He could not understand why I told him "no thanks." Let me try again. First, anybody who wants to "order online and pick up in person" is already doing that because the local store has that on their own website. Second, we don't want to send orders to stores because we would lose most of the profit and go out of business. (His theory that we'd sell more total games this way ran into the reality that there just aren't enough wargamers in this world to expand the customer base at will.) He theorized that it would be swell to do this because the stores would be forced to stock every product we had in order to take advantage of orders that might appear. I advised him that every game store was a mom-and-pop operation and did not have the cash or space to stock more than they are stocking.

2. Someone asked if we were interested in outside game designs that were not Star Fleet Universe. Basically, we're not. We cannot get all of the SFU games done and don't really see any non-SFU game that would sell better than SFU.

3. I have an annoying tendency to get to a deadline for Captain's Log without inventing something I know needs to happen. So I announce it in broad terms, knowing I have plenty of time to actually do it before anyone notices I haven't done it yet. The problem is, I forget the whole thing because it never got onto the "to do" list. An example is the Rangers. We announced how that worked and what Rangers got, then when people did demos and sent reports, I filed the reports but never took the day it would take to invent the system to record and reward their efforts. So, now, I'm getting carbon-copied on a string of emails from Jean (who took over as Commandant of the Ranger Brigade) listing combat action bars I need to award in Captain's Log #48 and gift certificates she's passing out to people who did demos two and three years ago.

4. Recently I was negotiating a potential business deal for a joint venture game with someone. As happens most of the time, we could not agree on several key points and he walked away. I came to find out a month later than he wasn't even the owner of the company he represented and had no authority to make a deal anyway, and that in fact the real owners still wanted to do the deal (which is impossible without the non-owner being involved) but the non-owner had never told them why the deal crashed. I guess the bottom line on that one is to be sure that you know what position the other guy in the negotiation actually holds, and that his bosses are given true copies of your comments.

5. Games have to work not just mechanically (that means there is never a situation in which the rulebook doesn't tell you what happens or what options you have) but the game has to be fun to play. For example, consider the card game Spades. Why does this have a Nullo bid? Well, two reasons. One is so a person with a really awful hand can still participate in the hand. The other is so that someone desperately behind in points has the option to "go for it" and catch up. A lot of Spades players I know aren't aware that you CAN bid Nullo with several high cards in your hand as long as: none are spades, you have low cards of the same suit to hide behind, you have a short suit you can use to dump (ruff) the most dangerous cards. I have seen game designs submitted to me in which the player had no decisions to make, but just did whatever the die roll (or some other random generator) said to do. The rules may "work" but the game is playing you, not the other way around. I have seen games (and new SFB empires) submitted that are just no fun to play as the only tactic that works is "get close and shoot."

6. A constant danger in small business America is the idea that anything that CAN be done SHOULD be done. The list of ideas and requests is longer than the time available, and some really good ideas and valid requests just won't ever happen. The problem is when one of the principle "doers" around here allows some request (or some bad review or snarky comment by someone on some website) to reset the priority.(Or, worse, one of the principle "doers" focuses all of their time on the jobs they enjoy and not the jobs that make money. We're all guilty of that one, myself more than anyone else.) The heck of it is, the priority has to be (first) whatever will produce the most profit in the shortest time, followed (second) by long-term things that will produce a specific profit (not a general concept that if we do something then someday some profit might show up somehow). A certain amount of each day's work by a principle "doer" (unfortunately, about half of it in a business this size) goes into non-revenue items (tax forms, customer service, secondary projects that feel good but produce little or no revenue) and semi-revenue items (marketing, recruiting and managing demo teams, etc.) that produce some kind of revenue that's hard to track and slow to arrive.

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 August 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was a little cooler in the mornings but still hot in the afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was SFB Module D3. New on DriveThru RPG was JagdPanther Magazine #4.

Steve Cole worked on fiction projects (trying to find a story for Captain's Log #48, worked on getting press quotes for Tribbles, discussed Starline 2500 relaunch plans with Mongoose, finished the FLAP list for Away Team Log, and started a project to update the ancient list of characters in fiction.

Steven Petrick worked on the Carnivon SSDs for SFB Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, She also prepared Module D3 for e23.

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

Simone did website updates and some graphics, helped in the warehouse, and chased pirates.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1710 friends), managed our Twitter feed (54 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing (Drive Thru, Wargame Vault, e23).

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Steve Cole comments on tactics for eating an elephant.

The standard reply to complaints about some huge project is that "You eat an elephant one bite at a time. You don't have to do all of that work for the whole project in one day." I'm going to suggest a few ways to speed up the process.

1. REMEMBER THE EIGHTY-TWENTY RULE: This rule says that in any project 80% of the goal takes 20% of the effort while the last 20% of the goal takes 80% of the effort. Maybe you need to ask your boss if eating 80% of this elephant is good enough. Remind him that in the same time you could completely eat one elephant you could eat 80% of five elephants.

2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER: Any huge pile of work usually consists of a lot of smaller elements. So sort the file into two or five or more categories. Say you have to file 10,000 invoices in a random order. Go through and divide the pile into six blocks of four letters (A-D, E-H, I-L), or five blocks of five letters. Then deal with just the first block for now. Heck, once you have done the first sort, divide the first pile into individual letters. At least that way you'll be working in one filing cabinet, not constantly walking back and forth.

3. CAN SOMEONE HELP YOU?: No doubt, most of the project is hard, technical, and detailed work that only a skilled person can do, but surely there are some easy parts. Take an hour to teach an intern or junior staffer how to handle the easiest ones. Then sort through the whole pile (without actually doing any of them) and give those easy ones to the intern. By the end of the first day, you'll have some points on the board. In a case of 10,000 soldiers (having been told to find the best 1,000 and promote them) have a junior person sift out and set aside anyone who is overweight, has been court-martialed, or doesn't have the school certificates required for their next promotion.

4. ELIMINATE THE THREES, AND THE FIVES ARE EASIER TO FIND: Pick one of the categories (an easy one!) and do that. Then it's easier to see what's left to be done. Say in those 10,000 invoices about 1,000 of them aren't going to be done by you (or your team) at all but sent to the Pacific Rim office. Great! Take time to pull them out first. At least you won't keep handling files you can't use over and over and the other office can get started on their part of this mess faster. Or, pull out the first 100 of them and ship those off right now, then set aside any Pacific folders as you find them and send them to that office each day or every other day. Don't make them wait until you're finished.

5. TAKE THE LOW-HANGING FRUIT: In any huge mountain of work, there will be some stuff that is laughably easy. If those are easy to find, do them first. (The fewer unhappy customers or un-filed invoices or unprocessed orders you have left, the better). If the easy ones aren't easy to find, at least watch for them as you work your way through the pile and put them all in a special place. One hour before quitting time, stop your main workflow and do whatever easy ones you have found. That should rack up more points on the board and end your day with a feeling you accomplished more.

6. MAKE A GAME OF IT: If you manually sift 10,000 pieces of paper looking for the one invoice that says "Prescott" on it, odds are that your brain will go to sleep and you'll mindlessly move "Prescott" to the "Not him" pile without even seeing it. So, change the methodology every now and then and approach the stack from another angle.

7. THE TEAM WORKS TOGETHER, BUT NOT ALL DO IT THE SAME WAY: Say you are part of a team that is filing 10,000 invoices or updating 100 contracts or responding to 1,000 customer service letters. Not everybody has to do the same thing the same way. One person could specialize on each area or type of file. Divide the stack of work into one (unsorted) pile for each person. Everybody goes through their pile and does only their specialty (maybe a letter of the alphabet, a region of the country, complaints about a specific product, requests for a specific file, etc.), putting everything else in their out-basket. An intern can circulate among the team, taking everybody's out-basket to the next person. Everybody should then do the "stuff from somebody else's out-basket" first since THAT stuff has already been cleaned of at least some of the things you aren't responsible for. Now, if there is a truly huge pile, then everybody take enough to work on for a few hours and leave the rest on the conference table for someone (an intern or a supervisor, depending on how hard it is to tell what file is what) to sort through. That person can then divide the piles into specific piles for specific people, meaning after the first few hours nobody will have to handle a file that isn't his problem. It will go much faster. And by all means, if you discover someone sent you the wrong file, just put it in your out box and don't waste time getting upset about it.
8. MOVING vs. STATIC: Say you have to pack 10,000 products, each consisting of a box containing some number of parts. There are two methods. One is to have each team member build a complete product. This only works if the number of parts is small enough that each team member can have a stack (or bin or cup) of every part in front of him. The other is an assembly line. Assembly lines can be done two ways: either the box moves from person to person (each person adding one or two or three parts from stacks in front of  him) or the boxes stay put and the people move. (Pull all of the parts in stacks. Each person picks up an armload of the next part and walks down the line, putting one (or whatever the required number is) in each box. Once you reach the end of the row, you put the leftover parts back into the stack and get whatever part is next. (One word of warning. If you run out of something and decide that this will be a good time to break for lunch, mark the empty spot where that part was so that you don't come back from lunch and start packing products that are missing that part.)

9. AN HOUR PER DAY: Maybe the project in question is huge and has to be done by a distant deadline, but isn't that high a priority. The way to handle that is to set aside one hour per day (maybe more, maybe every other day, do the math to figure out which is best) to work on eating that elephant. You can use all of the tricks above to make that hour more productive. Remember that once you have an item in your hand and figure out where it goes, all of the time spent reaching that place is basically wasted. That's why it's best to do everything going into one filing cabinet so you don't have to keep walking back and forth between 26 filing cabinets, filing them one invoice at a time. So maybe Monday you do nothing but sort through unsorted files pulling out people with names M through P and then Tuesday you file M, Wednesday you file N, Thursday you file O, and Friday you file P. Then next Monday you have an easier time to sort through the remaining Q through Z files looking for Q, R, S, and T.

10. REPEAT THIS OVER AND OVER: "IT'S A FINITE NUMBER": No matter how many files were dumped on your desk, there aren't an infinite number. Sooner or later, you'll do the last one. Now, if new files are being added faster than you can do them, you have to use a strategy that maximized output without being unfair (e.g., first do all of the easy ones that arrived today, then do the oldest files still on your desk). If that doesn't make headway, tell your boss that you can't keep up and get some extra manpower or divert some of those files to somebody else's desk.

11. DON'T FORGET YOUR DAY JOB: Maybe this massive pile of work dumped on your desk was intended to be done in addition to your day job? That gets tough, since you were probably busy enough before this. Take a look at all of the stuff in your day job, streamline and eliminate what you can, and set aside a block of time every day to work on the current real job, then get as much done as you can on the elephant.

Saturday, August 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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weapon That Never Was ... Or Was It?

Tribble Launcher

Being an economic powerhouse, the Federation sponsors a tremendous amount of research. While some of this results in useful gadgets like the type-G missile rack, replicators, and 8-track tapes, an equal amount of the research goes towards developing useless items such as positron flywheels and public television.

One item that should have been more useful than it turned out to be was the Shoulder-Fired Tribble Launcher. Designed to take advantage of the allergic reaction Klingons display around tribbles, the intention was that special forces and heavy weapons units could disrupt Klingon attacks and troop concentrations by lobbing live tribbles into their midst. Like all "non-lethal" weapons, troops had to carry the thing around looking for the rare circumstances in which it would work, then make an effort to set up (or find) just the right tactical situation. While it was used by some special forces units and actually did work as advertised, most troops issued such weapons quickly discarded them as too heavy to carry around "just in case." In one instance, Federation special forces used the weapons to lob tribbles into a prison camp, causing panic among the Klingon guards and facilitating an escape by hundreds of Federation prisoners.

Each missile is one tribble (in a canister), which (if it hits someone) causes 2d of crushing damage. Each tribble+canister weighs half a pound. When the tribble reaches the target, roll against its health (in GURPS this is 15) to see if it survives. If the tribble does survive, any Klingons within 10 yards must roll a fright check.

-- Contributed by Matthew Francois for Captain's Log #28
(c) 2004, ADB, Inc.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Propaganda as Entertainment

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I continue to be amazed at the things about the U.S. Military that I did not know which show up in TV shows.

Recently a TV show revealed that, apparently, U.S. military forces during Gulf War I (Desert Shield/Desert Storm) traveled with large quantities of chemical weapons. Further, we apparently penetrated well into Iraq during Gulf War I.

This has to be true, because the writers had a former U.S. colonel confess to the main characters of the show that his force was outnumbered by an Iraqi force, and to save it, he launched a surprise chemical assault on the Iraqi town the Iraqi force was in and killed them all, including all of the civilians.

I know there are a lot of writers for the entertainment media who hate the U.S. military, and a lot of producers and others who cheerfully go along with this concept. Plot-lines constantly appear that tar members of the U.S. military far more than reality.

Note, I am not saying that there have not been instances in the U.S. military where people have done the wrong thing, or even committed crimes (the recent completion of the trial of the man who killed 16 Iraqi citizens for example), but in our own entertainment U.S. military personnel are often the go-to people for villains, and there is no standard of reality, but these shows become fixated in the minds of people watching who do not know any better and it becomes a common knowledge that (as an example) U.S. troops used chemical weapons against Iraqis in the First Gulf War.

Wednesday, August 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/).

Tuesday, August 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!

Monday, August 19, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 August 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on many projects. The weather this week was a little cooler (in the 80s) with some rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New as an e-book this week was Away Team Log, although a clerical error put it at $25 instead of the correct $20. We fixed this as quickly as we could. You can find it on both e23 and DriveThruRPG.

Steve Cole worked on Away Team Log, Captain's Log #48, fiction projects, and blogs. This week, Steve officially returned his office furniture to the normal arrangement, ending five months of wheelchair accessibility. A lot of Steve's week went into talking with insurance adjusters and roofing contractors about the hail damage to the roof. With the new Starlist form working and Jean advertising it, we got more Starlist requests this week than all of last year.

Steven Petrick worked on the Carnivons for SFB Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone was off this week on a long-planned family vacation. We missed her.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive and Away Team Log, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1706 friends), managed our Twitter feed (56 followers), did blogs, commanded the Rangers, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing (including the convention ad that hasn't been updated in five years). Jean sank a pirate fleet, scoring 100 skulls on her honor bars.

Sunday, August 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.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Steve Cole muses on his list of things to do with the Zombie Apocalypse.

1. You need to have the usual emergency supplies everybody thinks of: food, water (canteen, purification system, bottles), first aid kit, compass (GPS also if you want), combat knife, pocket knife, machete, gun(s), backpack, combat boots, multi-tool, fire-starting stuff (more than one kind), soap, gun cleaning kit, extra clothes, duck tape, backpack, camp stove. The problem is, you cannot carry all of that around with you all the time. You should have a main storage area in your home but a backpack of essentials in your car.

2. Let's talk guns. Zombies mean you need a gun, preferably two or more, those being a good rifle (preferably a semi-auto assault rifle with multiple magazines) and a good pistol (preferably a semi-auto with multiple magazines). The problem is, the optimum weapons will cost you over a thousand dollars. If you don't have lots of money to spend, you can get a good solid used 30-caliber bolt action rifle (e.g., a Mauser or a Mossin-Nagant) for about $100. It might keep you alive if you don't confront too many zombies at once. Another choice might be a twenty-two caliber long-rifle weapon (.22LR) as a semi-auto version can be had for about $100. (Avoid the tube-fed ones as they take forever to reload. Get a magazine-fed version and buy several extra magazines, each with as many rounds as you can find.) For a cheap pistol, get a .380 automatic (maybe $250). A revolver is better than nothing (but takes too long to reload and can be considered just an emergency backup gun). Shotguns are not good anti-zombie weapons. Buckshot is likely to miss the brain and slugs are heavier than rifle bullets. You're better to carry a magazine-fed assault rifle, but if a shotgun is all you have got, use it. Given tons of money, you might consider getting a rifle and pistol that use the same ammo. There are endless 9mm pistols out there and you can get a 9mm carbine or MP5. If you prefer .45acp there is an MP45 that uses that round. A zombie that is more than 50 yards away is not worth shooting, and your odds of a miss or a non-killing hit are too high.

3. Assuming that a .22LR will penetrate a human skull is, however, iffy. Sure, .22LR ammo is cheap, easily available (well, as much as any other ammo you find by ransacking abandoned houses and stores), and you can carry a lot of it, THE problem is that it might or might not penetrate a skull  and then do enough brain damage to put a zombie down. (Shooting for the eyes is harder and might not actually hit the brain.) I'd really have to consider a .22LR to be secondary special weapon. The only way to safely carry it is to have another (bigger) gun to use if the .22LR doesn't work. The only way to safely use it is to only use it when the zombies are far enough apart that you can afford to take a second and maybe third shot at each zombie (or draw your 9mm pistol). While it's complicated to do, one good system might be to have one person carrying a .22LR rifle (and a 9mm pistol) and a second person with heavier (.30 caliber, 5.56mm, 9mm, etc.) firepower. The heavy gunner can protect the light gunner if the .22LR doesn't work. The light gunner does as much of the killing as he can because (see above) the ammo is lightweight and easy to get.

4. For backup weaponry, you need a good combat knife and a sword or machete. The problem with swords is that most of those you'll find in homes or catalogs are cheap reproduction swords not really intended for combat. For every real katana (samurai sword) you find, you'll find a dozen cheap copies that will break (or not cut very well) when you use them. Same thing with no end of knives and other swords. Test them on small numbers of zombies and only when a gun-armed friend is close at hand (or maybe test them on something else like a fence post). Frankly, I think a spear is better than a sword; you have more reach and you don't have to find room to swing it. But carrying a spear and a rifle is clumsy, so I suggest you use a good bayonet on a good rifle. If the bayonet gets stuck in one zombie when another one is coming closer, you can just pull the trigger to get it loose. So don't wait  until you're out of ammo to start stabbing.
 5. Ok, seriously, I love zombies a lot, but zombies are (like vampires) creatures of myth. Will there be a zombie apocalypse? Maybe, but if there is, it may be very different than the movies. What is likely to happen is a pandemic, a widespread, infectious, fatal disease. Those infected will be desperate to get to somewhere they can be cured. Those not infected (or who aren't sure) will be desperate to get out of the infected zone. Does it really make any difference if the crazy neighbor charging at you wants to eat your brains or just steal your car (leaving you in the infected zone, and possibly infected)? The only difference is that its probably not illegal to kill a zombie. (Case law on that is lacking.)

6. The problem with zombie movies (and TV) is that the writers make sure that the number of zombies that show up is the number needed to cause whatever the plot needs. If the writer wants to kill someone, he sends lots of zombies. If the writer just wants to show that the cute blonde chick learned how to shoot, five or six will be plenty. If the director needs the fence to collapse, spend the budget for a hundred "extras" from the Screen Actors' Guild. In a real zombie apocalypse, you don't get much choice. Whatever shows up is whatever you have to deal with. (Ok, you can run away, assuming there is somewhere to go and a path to get there.) How you deal with whatever the number is depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to kill zombies, you want as many as possible but you want them strung out so you only have to kill a few per minute. If that's not practical, you need to create a barrier that stops them in a location you can easily kill them. If you're trying to escape, anything more than dozen of them on a city block is going to start being a challenge even for someone with a rifle, pistol, machete, and knife.

7. Don't let someone you love get eaten just because there is no clear head shot. A sword-chop to the leg will at least slow a zombie down, maybe way down. Chopping off their arms makes it easier to resist their attack. The point is safety. Killing every zombie in sight is a good move, but so is going somewhere with no zombies.

8. When building zombie defenses, remember that no matter what you do, you'll eventually have to leave. Maybe the defenses collapse, or maybe the food runs out, or maybe a big fire is spreading your way. Whatever it is, you need a way out. In a perfect world, the way to do it is to zipline to an adjacent building (one not surrounded by zombies because no one is inside it to attract their attention). Inside that building (where wandering humans cannot loot them) are supplies and vehicles.

9. Here's a perpetual quandary: What do you do or not do to attract and collect other humans? Assuming you want to do that (strength in numbers, after all) you can post signs (or spray paint temporary ones) telling people where to go. Now, if  you're really concerned over security (and you should be) don't send them to your hideout or bastion. Send them to another place where they would be safe. Pick a place that you can observe. (If they look ok, you can go meet them and lead them in. If you attracted a bunch that looks dangerous, just don't contact them, but they know you're somewhere nearby and they'll come looking for you and eventually find you.) Just exactly how dangerous any moving group would be is questionable because nobody knows what the real world situation will be. If the group is that strong, they should build a bastion, not keep moving around, but once a group has a bastion, they have to send strong looting and raiding parties out to gather supplies.

10. Food is a major issue. Let's assume that 98% of the human population are now dead (permanently or otherwise). That leaves 2%. The food chain keeps food flowing to people and (assuming the zombie apocalypse happened quickly) shut down abruptly. Any given house will have about three days of food in it, on average. (This counts only canned and storable food you get to before it spoils.) So, you multiply three by 49 (there are 49 empty houses for every house with a living group) and you can find food for five months. The grocery stores will have about three more days of food and the food warehouses (find them in the phone book) will have three more. That works out to about a year or so of canned food. You can extend that somewhat by finding livestock (cows, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys) and slaughtering one now and then (so nothing spoils). Some food crops in the fields (corn, potatoes, apples) can be harvested, giving you more food. (Fruit trees will produce every year, but corn and wheat have to be planted.) What happens then? Well, before you run out of food, you need to start growing food. That means you're going to have to start actually farming. I, for one, have only the barest of ideas how to do that. Maybe you can find a book about it? Maybe a book about survival agriculture could be added to your emergency stockpile?
11. For that matter, think of everything else you need, starting with gasoline. Whatever there is, you can gather, but gasoline goes bad after a year or two unless treated with some kind of stabilizing agent. After a year, two at most, you're actually going to have to restart an oil well and restart an oil refinery or you won't have gasoline. Maybe somebody smarter than you will do that and trade for your apples?

12. Once your group decides that zombies have to be killed in order to create a safe area and rebuild society, what's the most efficient way? Shooting each one of them is certainly possible (there is more than enough ammo in this country to shoot every citizen a few times) but is that the most efficient way? (Rifles do wear out, but should not be that hard to find.) There has to be some kind of industrial-strength system for handling this, like funneling them all into a sawmill with a high speed bandsaw running horizontally at head-height. (Height isn't that critical as zombies come in all sizes, anything from eye-level to a couple of inches below shoulder level will work just fine.) The bodies could then fall onto a conveyor belt leading to an incinerator. The few zombies that are very short of stature can be handled by a rifleman or swordsman waiting at the end of the conveyor belt.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 8

10 pm:

KZN5: Beauty and the Beast. A Kzinti noble falls in love with an Earth girl, who starts pumping iron in her prison cell.

GOR6: Gorn Storm Rising, a young Romulan officer discovers an impending Gorn attack, but nobody listens.

ORN8: CSI Vulcan: Investigators make logical deductions.

LYR11: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright. Disaster movie.

ISC13: Last Man Standing. Bruce Willis tries to stop a fight between two outlaw gangs that refuse to help themselves.

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

Thursday, August 15, 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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I Do Not Write Fiction

This is Steven Petrick posting:

I am not a writer, in the sense that I cannot write stories with characters. I have a difficult time dealing with thought processes that are not my own. I know there is such a crime as treason, but I cannot imagine an amount of money sufficient that I would betray my country as an example. So I cannot truly fathom that concept, i.e., I cannot imagine a person such as Anthony Snowden or Charles Manning. I know both those men claim they did what they did for higher moral reasons, but to me they both are traitors and I cannot understand why they did what they did, so I could not in a story create characters with their motivations.

I do understand loyalty, at least I think I do, but that comes from a context in that I cannot imagine betraying a trust: the oath I swore to the Constitution, for example.

What I can bring to writing are my own experiences and the mechanical processes. I will listen or read a scene and think about other things that should be there. A recent example is a story shown me in which (to not reveal any specifics) I noted that when "the truck moves to this new location, in your scene, they are going to be driving over "X," so you will need to make some mention off this." Also, I have read that one of the things a writer needs to do is add "background" in the sense of setting the scene. Mention things like a smell, the color of the sky, clouds, the shadows, to help place the reader in the place he is reading about. These do not need to be used heavily, but should be used often enough to make the reader feel part of the story. In a horror story it is often a good idea to juxtapose normality with the horror: the sun shining brightly on the bloody bits of cloth that are all that remain of the monster's most recent victim, for example. That applies to stories about reality too, i.e., the cheerfully babbling brook cascading past the body of the soldier killed while trying to fill his canteen.

I can imagine scenes of carnage if I could write the overall story arc to include them. The character entering the forward phaser room where the inertial dampers flickered for a pico second, and in that interval of time the five crewmen in the compartment of a ship traveling at tactical warp speed were reduced to a thin veneer of matter spread over the rear wall of the room. At least they never knew, but now the character (and others with him) have to take over the controls and continue the battle. Or the young lieutenant, j.g., waking up in the dim darkness to see the eyes of the Andorian officer he had been infatuated with staring into his. While he is wondering how he got her to his quarters the ship shakes and the emergency bridge lighting is restored and acrid smoke assails his nostrils from shorted out panels and he realizes that her dead body is laying atop him where they were thrown by earlier damage as the battle goes on. (A scene imagined for the start of a short story about a young lieutenant having to take command of a ship in a battle after the bridge and auxiliary control have been knocked out leaving him the senior officer, perhaps including the scene in the forward phaser room of the heavily damaged ship.)

I can imagine scenes, but I cannot create characters.

So, mostly what I write are scenario backgrounds where rather than characters, I try to create history. Why the situation in the scenario exists without delving into the motivations of individual commanders beyond the strategic situation which led their ships to be where they are. The grander scope of the randomness of the universe is far easier for me to address than the simple motivations of a small group of people, or even a single individual, to be able to tell a good story.

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 August 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on several projects. The weather this week was cooler and we got some rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #30.

Hailing Frequencies, the Star Fleet Alert for Away Team Log, and Communique #92 were released on the 9th.

Steve Cole worked on Away Team Log, Captain's Log #48, blogs, internet pirates, Ranger graphics, Communique #92, Hailing Frequencies, Starlist requests (there were a flood of those after Simone did the new form), the scenario for Romulan ePack #3, prime team rules for Paravians and Carnivons, Star Fleet Alert for Away Team Log, and the Paravian SSDs. Stephen and Leanna got to attend classes at business school on Wednesday morning. Steve and Jean negotiated a deal under which he split Starlist into Active (2000-2013) and Archive (1991-1999) sections so that fewer invalid entries were sent to users.

Steven Petrick worked on Module C6, finishing the Paravians and starting on the Carnivons. He also set up the tree for Platinum Hat 2013.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone did website updates (including the Starlist form) and some graphics, helped in the warehouse, and chased pirates.

Jean worked on Traveller: Prime Directive and Away Team Log, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1701 friends), managed our Twitter feed (55 followers), commanded the Rangers, proofread (Communique #92, Romulan ePack #3, Hailing Frequencies and she even proofread Away Team Log again), dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers (including more who were deleted by the bug in Discus), and did some marketing (of JagdPanther on DTRPG).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

RANDOM THOUGHTS #154: Starting a Successful Business

Steve Cole writes:
In our current economy, many people who find themselves suddenly outsized think of starting their own business. This can be fun, and it can work, but there is no guarantee that it will. Indeed, if you have never been part of running a successful business (i.e., if you don't actually know how to run a business), your odds of success are nearly zero. Running a business is not easy and it's a skill set that many people do not have (but most can learn). Far too many people think that if they just open a business, enough profit will automatically come in to pay the rent and a salary, without any real effort. That's not simply wrong; it's seriously dangerous. Nobody is going to loan money to a new business without expecting to get paid back even if the business fails, which means you'll have to come up with some kind of personal guarantee or collateral. For many people, this is a home equity loan, and results in losing the home and the business when it proves to be less than successful.
So, enough gloom and doom. Let's review the rules for starting a successful business.

0. Understand What a Business Is
A business is where you do, make, or sell something that people pay for. The difference between what it costs to do, make, or buy that something and what you can get paid for doing it is not the profit; it's the margin. The profit is what's left after the margin pays the cost of overhead (rent, salaries, insurance, taxes, utilities, advertising, shipping, equipment, and everything else). Worse, some of the profit has to be kept inside the business for emergencies, replacing worn-out equipment, investing in new things to do, and so forth.
That's the theory. The problem is that the overhead expenses are going to keep going whether you sell anything or not. Let's say you have a huge collection of baseball cards. You rent a store and offer them for sale, but nobody buys any. Well, the rent on the store still has to be paid, as do the utility bills, and your own personal rent (or mortgage) and utility bills also have to be paid. That's the trap. If you don't pick a business where enough people buy the thing (product or service) and you don't make enough profit on each thing, you'll fail.

1. Do Something You Enjoy
If you hate your job, you won't be able to drag yourself to work during the not-yet-profitable period. Even if the business becomes a success, what's the point of owning a business that you hate working for?
The problem side of this is that not every business that you would enjoy makes a profit. Say your great passion was to be a consultant on 18th-century German polka music, and you'd really enjoy that job. The problem is, nobody is going to pay you money to do that job, no matter how much you enjoy doing it. So don't let the fact that you love something trick you into thinking that others will love paying you money to do that something.

2. Do Something You Know
I love that television show about fixing a failing restaurant. Most of the time, the place was started by people who had a vague idea about how to cook and absolutely no idea about how to run a restaurant. If you don't know how to do something, learn how to do it before you try to run a business that does it.

3. Write a Business Plan
You need a written plan listing all of your expenses and what you expect sales to be. You need to document and prove every expense, and do the best you can to estimate sales. If you do not know how to write a business plan, learn before you go forward. Find out what business courses are available in your area, perhaps at the local college or from local business groups. Consider taking a course or two in business administration or accounting or marketing (or all of those) at the local college.
There are no end of wonderful books out there about how to start a business. Go buy two or three of them (or borrow them from your local library) and read them.

4. Visit Another Planet
Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. They don't look at the same thing the same way. What's a perfectly logical plan to a man is the height of insanity to a woman (and vice versa). Ask someone of the opposite sex, someone who loves you: a parent, child, sibling, or spouse. If they shoot holes in your idea that you cannot patch, get another idea.
For that matter, run your idea past someone who actually runs a business, someone you respect, someone who likes you enough to spend an hour telling you what you didn't know, didn't realize, didn't expect, or didn't anticipate. Ask them how they would run the business you envision. Do not ignore those who tell you that you are just wrong or naive or even crazy.

5. Have Enough Money, but Avoid Debt
Borrowing money is dangerous. It's another bill to pay, and it means paying "rent" (interest) on something you cannot really touch. Debt is another recurring expense, one you have to pay every month whether you sell anything or not.
Go back to Rule Zero. You need enough money to pay the overhead for several months, plus enough money to buy the equipment you will need for a manufacturing or service business or the inventory you will need for a retail business.
If you don't have the money for that, please don't start a business, as you'll simply end up in bankruptcy.
About the only kind of debt that a start-up business should even consider is equipment debt secured by the equipment itself (if you can get the equipment vendor to sell that way, which you probably cannot). This is the kind of debt where, if the business fails, the vendor just takes back the printing press or the pizza oven or the welding truck and you owe nothing. Maybe some vendor is desperate enough to sell things that way. A similar idea is to buy inventory for sale on a returnable basis, perhaps with a small restocking fee. Just remember that, if you buy inventory on credit, any sales have to go to pay off the inventory debt, not to pay overhead. You have to have the overhead money to start with, and be willing to lose it all if you fail.
If you don't have the money to rent a store, try to start a business from home. If you don't have the money for the equipment, find another way to run the business or buy used equipment or lease equipment on a contract (if you can find one) where you can just hand the equipment back and not have to pay years of payments.

And in Conclusion
There are entire books on how to start and run a business, and this article is NOT a substitute for those. The best I can hope for is to open your eyes to how much you do not know about starting and running a business. Most new businesses fail because the wonderful thing about the United States of America is that anyone can start a business, even someone without a clue how to do that.

Copyright (c) 2013 Stephen V. Cole

Saturday, August 10, 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:

Friday, August 09, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 7

10 pm:

PBS1: Real Life. As the gang prepares steaks for dinner, somebody asks the Lyran if he¹s seen the Hydran recently.

FED2: Chicken Hawk Down. A dozen Romulan soldiers try to fight their way to safety after their ship crashes on Somalius, but can manage only a humiliating rout.

KLG3: The Taming of the Crew. Kommander Konglet whips the crew into a frenzy.

ROM4: Different Cloaks. The adorable ragamuffin who moved in with the senator asks "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Praetor?" touching off a Romulan civil war.

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

Thursday, August 08, 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.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Curse of Module C6, or "Revenge of the Mummies"

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Module C6 was picked as a new product a while ago, and the tombs of the Paravians (destroyed by a Sun Snake) and the Carnivons (believed exterminated by the Kzintis and Lyrans) were opened.

Work commenced, and as you probably all now know, my computer that had been happily churning away for years suddenly died.

We moved to another computer to make progress, and that computer chose that moment to also give up the ghost. Not only that, but Leanna's computer suddenly died.

Well, we sent the hard drive to be recovered, and while many files were, some files were not. Too many of them (at that juncture only Paravian SSDs had been worked on, but also the file on weapons rules) were destroyed. I have yet to return to updating the various Carnivon weapons (I have not had the stomach for it, but at least I know what I was going to do with the Disruptor-Cannon, and the hiatus gave me more time to think on the Heel-Nipper and Death-Bolt, as well as the Quantum Wave Torpedo and how it would work on fast patrol ships and fighters).

The people who worked on the hard-drive, however, did not believe we were in any rush, so they were late in getting any files back to us (we in fact had to call them and say "where are they?" to get them to finally send them).

A replacement computer arrived, and promptly demonstrated despite the promises that it could not work with the recovered files. So another computer had to be procured.

In the interim, my personal health suffered a setback (those of you have seen me have probably noted my left leg became all but useless for much of the last six or so months), and a trip to move Jean Sexton here and another to Origins, and work on other projects at a reduced capacity all had to be done.

Finally all that was behind us, but computers are operating (the first computer can recover the files and put them on thumb drives so that the second computer can open them and let me work on them). All should be well, but no.

As I was assembling the Paravian part of the SSD book, I suddenly noticed that three SSDs were "not right." Somehow those three, two not changed at all, one only half changed, had apparently not been properly saved when they were finished. I knew they had been finished because their data had been entered into the Master Ship Chart, something that cannot be done until the SSD is completed. There they were, however. So I had to redo those SSDs based on the Master Ship Chart, their ship descriptions (something else only done after the SSD is completed) and how similar ships were done.

The new computer will not synch up the internet, and so I cannot print anything. I have to copy things onto thumb drives and go to a third computer to print things. While the second computer will let me work with Pagemaker, it will not open pagemaker files from the first computer or from the recover disks, which means Leanna has to open the files on her computer (the third computer), resave them, and bring them to me so that I can work on them.

More and more work arounds.

Yesterday I was ready to print off a draft of the Paravian Master Ship Chart. When I opened the file, it was blank. I had no idea what had happened. So I opened an older back up copy, saved six days earlier, and it was also blank. I knew the data was there, I had just updated and saved changes the night before, and the older copy was safely closed and on a back up thumb drive. Both files were blank, the data appeared to be gone even though the files were 32K in size.

As I was just reaching the point (after explosively cursing and having to apologize to Jean and Simone for doing so . . . Leanna was not in the building at the time) where I was going to have to sit down and go through the SSDs to recreate the file, Mike Sparks remembered a story about older versions ExCel, and discovered that all that had happened was that the program had interpreted the last shutdown as "improper" and a glitch caused it to collapse all of the columns into one column that appeared as a kind of black line on the left of the screen. Reminded of it, Jean confirmed that she had heard of this glitch also. So that file was, not so much recovered as reset.

I keep wondering where the "Curse of Module C6" will strike next. The computer I need to do the SSDs on will still not connect to the internet or printers, and anything I do on that computer is unreadable by the other computer which can connect to the internet and the printers, forcing me to go to Leanna's computer to print my work.

I miss the days when one computer served my needs, even if there were some internet sites I could not go to (more than one time clicking on some link someone posted on our BBS crashed the old computer).

We have opened the tombs of the Paravians and Carnivons, and their curses have followed me ever since.

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 05, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 28 July - 3 August 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was hot, over 90F every day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was JagdPanther #6.

Steve Cole finished the Wall of Honor Update, finished the Index of Captain's Log, finished the FC Scenario Index, did quality control on 300 rosette maps for FC, taught Simone to hunt pirates, wrote two pages of Captain's Log #48, and dealt with the insurance company about the recent hail damage to the building.

Steven Petrick worked on the Paravians for 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 (including the entire Wall of Honor) and created the Away Team Log cover, added a Twitter button to our front page, and chased pirates (earning her first medal).

Jean worked on Away Team Log, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1693 friends), managed our Twitter feed (52 followers), commanded the Rangers, proofread some pages of Captain's Log #48, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

On Rangers and Battle Groups and Con Support

Jean Sexton writes:

One of the reasons I moved to Amarillo was so that I could take several projects away from "Steve Cole time" and add them to "Jean time." Steve has long known that he needs to spend more of his time designing games and running the company. Marketing our products got a lick and a promise of more attention later. That promise is coming due.

One of the best ways to find new opponents is to run demonstrations and teach people how much fun the games are. We've had the Ranger demonstration teams for a very long time, but there was no organization. My previous job was all about organizing information so that it can be retrieved and used. I'm trying to bring that organization to the Rangers.

Do you want to be a Ranger? Contact me and let me know that you want to join the Rangers. You'll be a Ranger Recruit until you hold your first demo. Then you earn your Ranger pin on your plaque on the Wall of Honor.

Another way that you can find new opponents is to run a battle group. This is a group of people who meet and play SFU games. We're working now to set up a page to publicize these. You can promote the game days you have, and cons that you attended as a group, and and demos you sponsor. Rangers that belong to a battle group will also be featured on that page. Active members can have their individual battle group insignia added to their plaque on the Wall of Honor.

What else do active battle groups get besides fame? The glory of being able to get special playtest materials. As long as they report on it (and do a reasonable job of it), then they will get more materials to playtest. Contact me with information on your battle groups.

We've always supported cons, even if our SFU games are not played there. What is going to be different is that if we support a con near a Ranger or battle group, we'll try to contact Rangers to let them know about the con and we'll do the same for battle groups. We want to get our name and our games out there to the world. And we want to help you find more folks to play with.

Ideas? Feel free to contact me at ADB: http://www.starfleetgames.com/about.shtml (I am doing the marketing now). I'm always willing to listen.

Saturday, August 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.