about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Monday, September 30, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 September 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we finished and shipped Star Fleet Battles Module C6 Lost Empires, but it was also the week that the fire in Steve Cole's belly rekindled in a way none of us have seen since he did Federation Commander. (It's actually fun to work for a boss who is actually having fun being the boss.) The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was SFB Commander's Rulebook Update #2. New on DriveThru RPG was PD One: Prime Adventures 1.
Steve Cole had more fun than a barrel of monkeys managing multiple teams working on multiple projects. He helped Steven Petrick and Jean Sexton finish SFB Module C6, doing the page layout for the scenario section and helping to make proofreading corrections. He pushed the SFBOL team to start doing 3rd generation countdown SSDs, and propelled the Federation & Empire staff to finalize processing the QARF (the list all of Q&A and rulings from Captain's Logs #29-#47), got all of the rules reformated for the Fighter Ops reprint (and wrote a unified auxiliary rule). He got three pages of Fed Admiral done (with Jay's  help), talked with the printer who will do Tribbles, assembled a 12-page preview PDF for C6, and worked on other things.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB ModuleC6. When it was finished, he cleaned up his desk and took a few days off.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and managed the production and shipment of C6.

Mike kept orders going out (including the wholesaler shipments of C6), rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Simone did website updates, some graphics, and helped Jean with marketing. Our website exceeded its memory limit and Simone discovered that 2/3 of it is full of obsolete files that should have been deleted a long time ago.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1751 friends), got both Steves to participate in a two-hour Star Fleet Universe on Call conference on C6, managed our Twitter feed (63 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread C6, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did massive marketing for C6 and for new PDF uploads. Jean created the new PAMPER list (Promote And Market Product Entry Regime, a full-scale marketing campaign for every new product including press releases, Star Fleet Universe on Call, Star Fleet Alerts, preview packs, and other things).

Sunday, September 29, 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.

Saturday, September 28, 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, September 27, 2013

Pranking Jean (Again)

Steve Cole writes:

As many of you know, the Steves have a hobby of pranking Jean Sexton, which is so easy because of her trusting spirit and her good-natured reaction to finding out she's been pranked. While we tried very hard to avoid pulling pranks during the intense final days of finishing Module C6, there were several light hearted moments to relieve stress.

Take this one, during the final proofreading:

SVC: (looking through a stack of SSDs) "You'd think we could have spelled THAT right."

Jean (snatches SSD, checks every word on both sides) "There's nothing wrong."

SVC: "I wasn't talking about THAT one." (Gestures toward the previous SSD in the stack.)

Jean (snatches SSD, checks every word on both sides) "There's nothing wrong.... WAIT A MINUTE!"

This continued a few minutes later when one Steve remarked to the other that "Jean never noticed that the Carnivon ship names are dirty words and political comments spelled backwards." Jean furiously checked the entire Carnivon file, finding one name that (spelled backwards) was sort of a mis-spelled version of a real word but not an offensive one. Somehow, when the Steves tried to convince her that some of the ship names were anagrams of politicians, she didn't believe them. They had clearly gone a prank too far to trick even her trusting soul.

During the proofreading and correction process, Jean had marked that the word "defacto" is in fact two words (de facto) when in fact either version is quite acceptable to my dictionary and spelling checker. Noting that Jean had put a squiggle in the margin to make sure that the small edit mark was not missed, Steve Cole sent the page back to her with the word de~facto since, after all, that squiggle was obviously meant to be inserted.

But the greatest prank of all was when, Tuesday afternoon, Steven Petrick remarked that he wasn't comfortable with all 10 scenarios being credited to him, even if he had written them all. Steve Cole suggested that the scenario names be changed to the cast and guests of the Fox News comedy TV show Red Eye. Jean pounded the table and screamed "No!" repeatedly. After she calmed down, she suggested that a time-honored practice was to give honorary scenario author credit to staffers and others who had done nice things for the company. Steve Cole (who was doing the scenario section just to relieve some of Steven Petrick's workload) split the difference, crediting five scenarios to Star Fleet players and five of them to the three regular members of the Red Eye cast and two guests who had honored "the leg chair" with their loveliness. Jean never noticed, and every demand that she be given a copy of the final pages to prove we had not used the Red Eye cast was ignored or deflected. Jean could have walked into the printing plant any time and gotten herself a copy of the book, but never did. (Perhaps she was just too tired?) On Thursday, Steve Cole actually handed Jean a copy of the scenarios, but Jean (who wondered aloud "Who is Greg Gutfeld?" did not remember that he is the host of Red Eye (which she had never seen). She also saw the name Bill Schulz (the comedic drug-addled idiot on the show) without recognizing it. In fact, she didn't even realize what Steve Cole had done until she read this blog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Computer Apocalypse

This  is Steven Petrick posting.

When computers work, life seems to be fairly simple and things move ahead at a pleasant clip. Once you have learned how to work with the computer of course.

When computers start acting up, life can quickly become hellish.

Files become corrupted for no apparent reason.

Address files are destroyed.

Work completed has to be done over again.

What can be truly maddening is to have a file completed, back up the file for the night, and when you come in the next morning the file has been destroyed. No problem you think to yourself, I backed it up before I went home. And the back up has somehow also been destroyed.

Frequently having your computer crash, and when you reboot it, the first thing it does is complete its system check, and then crash.

Madness soon follows.

It is a wonder that the current computers in my office have not been smashed to pieces in a moment of rage trying to get through the last project. I literally stopped doing anything but hitting the save button at the end of every sentence, because the computer would often freeze when I was simply moving the cursor between two files.

I have long ago given up trying to figure out why there is a "restart" message on the screen when I often have to force quit some files. Even on my old computer which seldom crashed if that message showed up hitting the button it offered would just crash the computer.

Leanna says she is going to run a lot of diagnostics on the computer now that we are passed Module C6 to see if the problems are something that can be resolved, but I am not holding my breath.

On my old computer there was a button on the front of the computer to make it reboot if it crashed. This new computer design dispensed with that button, and if it crashes you literally have to unplug it from the wall to be able restart it.

Technology has advanced since my old computer, but I do not think it has gotten better (except for  the "thumb drives" which I do find really neat).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Steve Cole ponders recent events, television shows, books he read, and other thoughts that sprang to mind.

1. I watch the show SISTER WIVES about that guy Cody and his four wives. The new season started and the story of the first episode focused on the failure of their internet jewelry business. (Two of the wives like the business, the other two and Cody aren't that interested. This isn't what caused the failure, but it has caused friction as the two who like the business don't understand why the other three don't want to be part of the "fun" of running it.) What I can tell them is that the jewelry is too expensive and the designs have a limited appeal. Certainly, the four-women logo pieces appeal only to groups of four women (sisters, sister wives, friends, or whatever). I can feel their pain. I have walked into trade shows with great expectations and known within an hour that I wasn't going to sell anything and was stuck sitting there for two days, wasting my time being miserable. The standard sales pitch ("This is the one I gave my sister wife for her birthday") is singularly ineffective.

2. Jean gave me a book called THE EAGLE UNBOWED which is about Poland in World War II. My eye-rolling reaction was "why did she get me THAT when everybody knows that the Poles are those awful soldiers who got whipped by the Germans in two whole weeks back in September 1939?" Well, that did happen, but it turns out Poland is somewhat more interesting than just that. All the stories of the British codebreakers in Bletchley Park ignore the fact that it was the Poles who told the British how the Enigma machine worked. (The Germans accidentally shipped one to a Polish address and two Polish telephone engineers got to examine it before the Germans showed up to ask nicely if they could have their fancy typewriter back.) The Poles reverse engineered the machine and built their own copies, giving one to the British and another to the French. Polish fighter pilots were swell in the Battle of Britain because they had been combat tested in the Battle of Poland, so at least they weren't novices. (The Poles knew their equipment was bad, but orders for new tanks and planes were not delivered before the Germans attacked.) I have often made the joke that "Hitler and Stalin split up Poland and Stalin got to keep his half" but what Stalin wanted (and got, and kept) was an area that was only partly Polish (it was mostly Ukrainian and Byelorussian) and had been Russian territory prior to 1918.

3. The ship Andrea Doria was sunk by an accidental collision with the ship Stockholm in July of 1956, when I was five years old. I can actually remember seeing the ships sink on TV very nearly the day it happened. That is one of my earliest memories. (I know it wasn't a later documentary because I can remember my mother saying "that's happening right now.")

4. In the last decade, cocaine use in the US has dropped by 50%. In that same time, paramilitary operations in Colombia have cut cocaine production by 50%. That seems to me to mean that all of the anti-drug "dealing with the users not the producers" programs in the US have had zero effect and that the only way to win the drug war is on the ground where the drugs are produced.

5. I love trail mix as a snack but haven't really found one I love that much. I want fewer peanuts, fewer almonds, more cashews, and more fruit (raisins, cranberries, pineapple).

6. Remember when Tampa Bay was added to the NFL? I had a competing offer for the new team position (Amarillo Desperados) but the NFL got wind of my cunning plan and decided that it could not be allowed, so my bid (which actually won) was quietly forgotten. I had found a 7-foot-4-inch Watusi warrior named Matabunga who could kick a field goal from his own 20-yard-line. (To prevent other teams from simply breaking his legs in a convenient on-field "accident" I also hired his two brothers, three cousins, and four sons, all of whom could do it. I figured I have two or three on the team and the rest in reserve to replace anyone injured. Since I could hire the whole family for like eleven bucks a week it wasn't a big deal.) My plan was that I would have no expensive offensive unit, just the best defensive unit money could buy. (I'd pick the best defensive players on other teams and offer to double their salaries. Defensive players never get long contracts.) I'd also have a special team for kick returns. (Whenever we'd kick off, the ball would go into the stands so nobody would ever get a runback on us.) I had recruited lightweight-class sumo wrestlers for my front line, and South Korean martial arts expects as linebackers. I figured every time we got the ball we'd just kick a field goal and then give the other team the ball back on their own 20 yard line. If they scored about half of their possessions in the first half, I'd keep the game really close. Their offensive unit, playing 50 minutes of field time per game against the best defensive unit in the NFL, would be dead tired by the second half.

Tuesday, September 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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 September 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was an intense week of work on SFB Module C6, which came within hours of completion as Saturday night arrived. The weather this week was a bit cooler than before. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Shawn Hantke visited the office on Thursday.

We had a discussion with the SFBOL people about the stalled conversion to the 3rd General countdown SSDs, and implemented a plan to track progress weekly. It looks to be exciting times ahead for people who play on SFBOL.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was ROBOTS!

Steve Cole worked on SFB Module C6 this week, proofreading pages, writing or editing alternate histories, managing cover production, and creating the map. He did a little work on Communique for October and wrote some Away Team Log character sketches. He also pushed forward on the F&E Fighter Operations 2014 revision, getting all of the rules move to the new format, and making dozens of line items fixes. Support from Ryan Opel and Thomas Mathews moved a dozen pages of the QARF file (all of the published Q&A and rulings) into the future file or the already done file. He also got the preliminary quote request for Tribbles sent to the Chinese printers. Steve and Leanna managed to take a day off for their 36th wedding anniversary.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB Module C6, making corrections and completing the final elements.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone did website updates (creating pages for Module C6, Paravians, Carnivons, and Reinforcements Attack and updating the Federation Commander page), got the C6 cover printed, and did some document updates.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1744 friends), managed our Twitter feed (63 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread Module C6, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, uploaded the old Robots! game to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault, and did some marketing. Jean and Leanna took an evening off to go see Jean's first rodeo (horses, bull riding, all of that).

Sunday, September 22, 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, September 21, 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, September 20, 2013

The Top Ten Mistakes in Fiction

10. It’s the middle of a war and your characters refer to the border (as in “we must get back to the border”). Guys, the border became irrelevant when the invasion started. It’s the front line you want. Of course, if you’re talking about pushing the enemy back to the original border, then border is the correct word.

9. Using the word it’s as a possessive. The possessive form is simply "its." It’s" means "it is."

8. Be careful using dashes. Any time a dash can be used, another punctuation mark would work, but there are rare cases when it makes sense — such as a pause in the conversation.

7. It seems that grammar schools no longer teach people how to punctuate or capitalize dialogue.
Wrong: “Take the ship to the left helmsman.” Said the captain. “And bring us behind them.”
Right: “Take the ship to port, helmsman,” said the captain, “and bring us behind them.”

6. Klingons, more than anyone else, avoid being chatty in combat. When writing Klingon dialogue, go back and see how many words you can delete. Consider:
Chatty Human: “The warp power is at maximum. Engines are running within acceptable parameters. That new flux coupler Korik-than installed seems to be hanging in there. The batteries are at 100% status.”
Terse Klingon: “Warp power max, parameters acceptable, new coupler stable, batteries 100%.”

5. Write a story about a great, anguished, heart-rending debate about something every SFB player knows the result of.

4. Fight the entire battle without launching a drone from your racks. In fact, totally ignore the fact that the ship in your story even has drone racks. Alternately, ignore reserve power.

3. Be sure to get the year wrong. Pick a year for your story when the two empire were not at war, or when the ship you are using had not been built, or when the situation your story presents could not have happened.

2. Give the hero of your story your own name.

1. Have the ship’s crew do something that makes no sense, such as stopping in enemy territory without charging the phasers.

(c) 2005 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #31. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Traveller Prime Directive and the Past and the Future

Jean Sexton writes:

One of the most anticipated RPGs that we've worked on is Traveller Prime Directive. We thought it could be done while I lived in North Carolina, far from the computer files for the product. We were wrong. No one already in Amarillo really had the spare time to work on layout, to fix the fiddly bits, and to make the book come together. It had to wait until I moved to Amarillo. Now I can work on layout, fix the fiddly bits, and work with people to make the book be a reality.

What we've done in the past is simply swap out RPG System 1 for RPG System 2 when we did the books. We left out some of the various species when we went from GURPS to the various d20 versions and we've never heard the end of it. The players felt cheated, but we made sure that they were all included in the "sourcebooks" for empires -- and we intend to make sure they are part of the systems' next non-empire-specific book. We learn from the past and we will try hard to not make those mistakes again.

What does the future hold? Traveller Prime Directive, for sure. It may have a different organization -- I want to learn from people experienced in RPGs, not just go on what I think, what I like, what I feel. I want the Traveller players to have the feel of holding a well-edited Traveller supplement that covers the Star Fleet Universe. I want them to have some facts they may never have had about alien species before. It seems that so much of Traveller universe takes place in such a small area that the humans haven't encountered many aliens. One thing is certain about the SFU and that is we have aliens: lots and lots of aliens. I want the players to be able to be the bridge crew on a starship if that's what they want. I want them to be able to be traders to the stars if that's what they want to be. Spies? Sure! Who knows what secrets (and skills) that lovely Orion dancing girl has? Maybe you are Chantelle Kambanga, known throughout the Alpha Octant as the best person to explore ancient civilizations -- you and your team have actually lived through two other excavations!

What we want is to learn from our past and in the future bring you the best Traveller Prime Directive that we can. It's going to be a great book and RPG.

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:

1. LOTTERY, a drawing you pay to be part of so you might win a fabulous prize, goes back to the old Roman tradition of "drawing lots" to make a selection or settle an argument. The Romans would have a (free) drawing for a big prize as part of the Saturnalia festivities. Later European kings did this now and then, perhaps to convince the peasants that there was at least a chance of a better life. Then someone hit on the idea of selling tickets and using the ticket money to fund the prize (and a profit for the organizer). This first happened in Bruges in 1446, but the first drawing actually called a "lotteria" was in Florence in 1530. The first lottery in England was in 1559 to raise money to repair harbors. Thereafter, the idea took off. The first modern numerical lottery (five picks from 90 numbered chips) was in Genoa in 1620 and included various levels of prizes.

2. LOUNGE, to relax (or a place to relax) is simply the French word for "long" thus a "chaise lounge" is just a "long chair."

3. LUMBER, boards made from trees, comes from the Lombards, a warlike tribe who took over northern Italy around 568. Later, a few Lombards moved to England where they became pawnbrokers. Their establishments were known as "lombard houses." Because most of the things pawned in those days were wooden household furniture, the term "lombard" came to mean anything of wood. It's not hard to get the rest of the way to boards.

4. MACABRE, meaning spooky or something else to do with death, comes from the Arabic Makbara which meant funeral chamber. They might have gotten the word from the Jewish Macabean kings who built elaborate tombs still available for tourists visits today.

5. MACADAM, which now means a paved road, comes from John McAdam, who was the commissioner for roads in Bristol around in 1815. He figured out that the cost of road construction would drop like a rock if he used only six inches of crushed rock instead of the previous system of ten inches of crushed rock over a layer of large stones.

6. MACKINTOSH or Makinaw, a waterproof coat, is simply the name of Charles MacIntosh, a chemist who figured out in 1823 that if you dissolved rubber in naptha you could spread it on cloth to produce a waterproof jacket.

7. MACHIAVELLIAN, to employ subterfuge and a shortage of integrity and ethics to achieve a political or business objective, comes from Niccolò Machiavelli, who advocated no such thing in his book The Prince. His detractors spread lies about what the book said. Most of his advice is now part of every good government.

8. MAELSTROM, a whirlwind of conflicting forces, is simply the name of a tidal whirlpool near the island of Moskenes  near Norway.

9. MAGENTA, a reddish-purple color, is the name of a battle in 1859 where French and Italian troops won a surprising victory over a much larger Austrian force. As French chemists had just invented a new dye they decided to give that most glorious of colors it the "brand name" of Magenta in honor of the victory.

10. MAGNET, a magnetic stone, is named for the town of Magnesia, where the first natural lodestones were discovered by the ancient Greeks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 September 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of intense work trying to get SFB Module C6 finished. The weather this week was cooler than before. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

We had a problem with a scenario and did not get the planned item uploaded to e23 this week. New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was JagdPanther #5.
Steve Cole worked on parts of C6 (maps, cover, background, proofreading, ship names) but mostly focused on his small projects list. He added blurbs to the Starline 2500 ships on the shopping cart, wrote blogs, finished Communique, created a new galaxy map for Jean's Traveller Prime Directive book, talked with the company that will eventually print Tribbles, wrote character sketches for the Away Team Log supplements, did some entries in the future encyclopedia, got a proper in-tray for his desk and organized the loose papers on his desk, finished a generic computer deal sheet to use in future negotiations, did the scenario for Romulan ePack #3, and finished the contract for another project.

Chuck Strong, the head of our F&E department, stopped by on Tuesday and helped organize a program to make small but steady progress on a 2014 revision of Fighter Ops.

Steven Petrick worked on C6 and petty much nothing else.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone sent out Hailing Frequencies, uploaded Communique #93, 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 1739 friends), managed our Twitter feed (62 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread C6, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing (mostly of ebooks).

Sunday, September 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
Want to introduce a friend to the Star Fleet  Universe? Try the free download of Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive and Roleplaying found here: http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=ADB8000

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, September 14, 2013


Steve Cole muses: People have asked me what kind of music I like to listen to. Well, there are several categories, and most of what I like are the

FAST SONGS: These are good songs to have in the car when you're driving: Classic Gas (my all time #1 favorite song), the theme from Hawaii Five-Oh, Carry On Our Wayward Son, Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band, Sultans of Swing, Let it Ride, Ninety-Nine Tears, I'm so Excited, Ninety-Nine Red Balloons, Danger Zone, Wheel in the Sky, Barracuda, Don't Fear the Reaper, Long Cool Woman, Eye of the Tiger, the fast version of Layla, Holding Out for a Hero, and Rhiannon.

SAD SONGS: Love is Blue (all time #2 favorite), What if God was One of Us?, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Sundown, Diamonds and Rust, Fountain of Sorrow, Died in Your Arms Tonight, Fernando, Solitary Man, Knowing Me Knowing You, The Rains Down in Africa.

OTHER SONGS: You're so Vain, Paint it Black, and Someday Love Will Find You. These are all both fast songs and sad songs. Men of Harlech (the version from the movie Zulu) is also a favorite. I like very little classic music, my favorite being Rachmaninof's concerto in C minor. Some of the Weird Al Yankovic stuff is pretty funny, including Eat It and Like a Surgeon. My Sharona wins the guilty pleasure division, with Slow Ride a close second.

ALBUMS: In most cases, I don't care much for albums, as I only like one or two songs from each artist (although I like almost everything ABBA and Neil Diamond do). However, I do like entire albums of movie music, including most of the James Bond stuff, Top Gun, Lawrence of Arabia, and Guns of Navarone.

I don't like country music much, but I do like a lot cowboy music, particularly Frankie Lane, Gunfight at OK Corral, and Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Top Ten Ways to Get a Ship Rejected

10. Include this sentence: “They improved the turn mode by doing [something you cannot see on the SSD and which has no cost].” A favorite here is “lowering the engine struts”.

9. Take a sheet of graph paper and see how many boxes you can draw on it to make a really big ship.

8. Create a grid listing all of the common variants for the selected empire and all of the basic hull types. Then fill in the grid with the ships already in the game. The empty boxes are then the ships you submit. For example, the survey version of the Kzinti CL and the drone bombardment version of the Klingon E7.

7. Add foreign technology to your ship. The Klingons always wanted ESGs, didn’t they? If the Feds can buy plasma-Fs from the Gorns then why can’t the Kzintis?

6. Create a single ship designed for at least two missions that do not work well together, for example, a commando ship that does drone bombardment, or a base constuction ship that mounts extra heavy weapons so it can defend itself. Give rare technology to ships likely to get killed (penal-SFG) or to a  low-priority ship that would never have it (police carrier with F14s).

5. Take any SSD in the game and add a couple of weapons (or even less creatively, a couple of fighters) and some more power by rearranging (but not eliminating) the existing boxes.

4. Create a ship for which there is no valid mission, or create a special mission ship for an empire that never does that mission.

3. Combine sections of ships from at least two different empire, and call it an “allied project” or “conversion of a captured ship.”

2. Create a ship that carries things that are very rare, such as a Federation carrier with F14s, F15s, and F111s.

1. Adding nuclear space mines to any non-Romulan ship other than a minelayer. This includes adding mine racks to standard warships just because you want those NSMs.

(c) 2005 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #31. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault 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. We have started offering general RPG books there as well as some of the general gaming materials that Steve Cole has written. We have started an experiment to see if there is interest in Federation Commander products on Wargame Vault.

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Towers and Memories and Bravery

Jean Sexton muses:

On September 11, 2001 at 8:45 am, the New York City skyline was dominated by the two towers of the World Trade Center. Television shows and movies included shots of them to instantly set the location for the audience. These iconic locations were destroyed in acts of terrorism at 8:46 and 9:03 am. Another airplane was crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth plane was crashed into a field, never reaching its hijackers' intended target. Nearly 3,000 people died in these attacks and more than double that were physically hurt. Many more bear the scars of lost loved ones.

It's odd to me how tightly memories are tied to locations. Since ADB, Inc. began its blog, each year I have written the post for September 11. In each previous year I could look at the desk where I sat when I heard the news. My office really didn't change much. It still had its dark wood furniture, its green carpet, its white walls, and the art I had chosen for it. I could look out the window and see the same trees that were there on that day. I worried that moving to a new state, a new town, a new office would perhaps lead to remembering the events less fully.

But as I sit here in my office, hearing cars drive by and the Texas wind whine past the door, the memories of 9/11 are just as intense. I can almost feel the carpet beneath my feet instead of the tile. I can remember the horror and shock of the events. I can remember how time seemed to slow to a crawl. I suspect I am not in a minority of people who recall that day.

What I want to remember is the bravery of people on that day. One reason the death toll was so high was the emergency workers went into buildings to try to save others. One reason it wasn't higher is the passengers of Flight 93 apparently were responsible for the plane not reaching its intended target. I want to think of the bravery of people who lost loved ones that day and who have continued their lives with a void left there. Somehow I want to be worthy of their sacrifices. If I can live my life in a way that I make at least a small difference, then maybe I will.

I remember the people; they deserve that. And so I pause today to truly remember and I hope you do as well.

Tuesday, September 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:

Monday, September 09, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 September 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work, and gaining traction. Simone caught up on critical site fixes and began tackling some major projects, Steve Cole reorganized his "to do" list and starting getting some half-forgotten tasks taken care of, and Jean learned how to update the shopping cart without asking someone else to do it for her. The weather this week was warm, in the 90s most days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #31. New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was Federation Commander: First Missions. 

Steve Cole worked on character sketches for the Away Team Log supplement, did Communique #93, reviewed fiction proposals (rejecting most of them), added color text to a lot of Starline 2500 minis on the shopping cart, signed the contract for the new roof on the building, and wrote a few pages of Captain's Log #48.

Steven Petrick worked on SFB Module C6, which is in its final week of design work just before final editing.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service. Mike got the two Steves to help him do QC checks on a huge shipment of 2400s and the first shipment of 2500s from the new factory.

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 1,727 friends), managed our Twitter feed (58 followers), commanded the Rangers, got SVC to do a Star Fleet Alert for Module C6, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique, Hailing Frequencies, and some Captain's Log #48 stuff, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 07, 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, September 06, 2013

The Top Ten Ways to Get a Scenario Rejected

10. Make your scenario too big for people to actually play, such as maxing out the command rating for five different empires.

9. Make sure your scenario just isn’t interesting or fun.

8. Make sure your scenario is so unbalanced that there is no way for one side to win.

7. Build a “trick key” into your scenario, some simple thing one side can do (and the enemy cannot stop him from doing) to automatically win, such as disengaging on Turn #1 and scoring the “appearance money” points you get just for showing up.

6. Write a scenario that is just a BPV battle, or is just SG2 with no special rules or situations.

5. Write a scenario where carriers don’t have their escorts because you think that the escort requirement rules are silly.

4. Don’t pick a year for your scenario, just select ships, weapons, and political situations from all over the timeline and roll them into one battle.

3. Write a scenario that is historically impossible.

2. Write a scenario without a hook, or anything else to make it catch our interest.

1. Write a scenario that is “the first time they saw a ____ and boy were they surprised!” (Hint: both players read the scenario and nobody is surprised. Rarely, someone can write rules to account for a surprise, but like we said, it is very rare.)

(c) 2005 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #31.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


This is Steven Petrick posting.

"Rewind" was a busted pilot for a proposed TV show in which our heroes would travel back in time to "make changes to fix problems in the present." In a sense it was a remake of "Seven Days."

One of the concepts for "Rewind" is that they had a massive database which would enable them to search not just for what was needed to be changed to fix the current problem, but also to look for "ripple" effects that our intrepid heroes might cause by accident in the past.

The plot for the two-hour pilot had our heroes going into the past to kill a man so that he would not, a few decades in the future, kill a woman who was the wife of a man who would plant a nuclear weapon in New York city. Thus they would kill one man to save nine million.

You see, our heroes cannot control their time portal, but have to look for opportunities in the random windows it provides. So they cannot go back to the day before the bomb is planted (say November 16th, 2012) and stop the bomber, they have to use the opportunity presented by the random opening of a window into August 23, 1929, to effect the change. Thus, they cannot kill the bomber while he is a child (or his parents or the parents of his wife before either was born and met), but they can kill the man who would eventually murder the wife.

Now, this is where I run afoul of this "prevent ripples" thing.

The man they are going to kill committed a number of other crimes in his life. He interacted with other people. There is no computer program in the world that is going to tell you how important any one of those things in his life was. There is no way of knowing every single detail of any random individual's life is from just a criminal record (or a military record or what have you). He may have shown a random act of kindness that caused someone else not to do some act. His being caught and imprisoned may have kept someone else from going down a life of crime. He may have had an illegitimate child of which there is no record, but who grew up to be an important legislator. The possible ripples of his death are simply not something you can account for. Even his death could cause problems in that there is an unsolved murder that some police force's attention was diverted to.

Further are the effects of our band of heroes.

While in the past they cause an accident in which truck full of illegal booze is wrecked. We are assured there will be no ripple effect from this because it will not be reported to the police.

But wait a minute.

The booze was not delivered. Money did not change hands. A new truck for running the booze would have to be acquired, meaning money went in a direction it did not go previously. People did not drink the booze, other people did not make a profit over selling the booze in their speakeasies. Some individual did not get drunk and get into a fight. Another individual did not get drunk and have an accident. Various people did not meet and interact.

There is just no way for a modern super computer to have enough data to compute the possible ripple effects of truck accident. There is no telling how much effect even a few seconds delay can have on anything.

I have said before that all of us live in seconds, but are not aware of it. A few seconds delay, or departing a location a few seconds early can be all that is between us and death. Just today I narrowly avoided a traffic accident  only because I am relatively attendant to the road. The light turned green, and I am aware that because it is such a fast light that often a car will run the light, so I did not pull forward when it turned green, and enough a pickup truck went through, obviously on the tail of the light turning yellow (since, as noted, my light had turned green already). After the pickup went through I started to move forward, only to have to jam on the brakes as another car "ran the red." A few seconds delay in hitting the brakes (because I had that green light) and I would have hit the car running the red light.

Our heroes made their trip from their point of entry into the past to where they needed to kill their victim and back by borrowing a car. They made a point that they needed to borrow a car that would not be missed while they were using it. Again, there are going to be ripple effects. The owner has a couple hundred more miles of wear on his car, which means it will wear out sooner, the tires will need to be replaced sooner. He will have to refill his gas tank sooner, meaning the pattern of his life is temporarily interrupted. The car's engine was tampered with to get it to start without a key, and our heroes had no time to undo the tampering when they returned.

And, of course, in the event, they did not kill the man, but rather changed his life. Instead of becoming a career criminal, he went on to be a hero in World War II as a Marine. What effect did that have? People who should have died did not, others who should have lived (albeit not Americans) died. What else happened in his changed life? What happened to people he influenced as a criminal?

Ultimately I would not have watched the show as I could not get past the concept that the ripple effects could be predicted and managed. Not just the sheer unimaginable (for the apparent purposes of the show's background) that they were just going to randomly have a hole in time open up that would enable them to go back and fix a particular problem. (And the pilot made implications that they would be able to go back even further in time to "fix" problems in the present when there were even fewer records on people and what they did than for the pilot episode.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Steve Cole shares his thoughts on Custer's Last Stand .
1. Every American has heard of Custer's Last Stand (the destruction of about a third of the 7th Cavalry by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in the old west) but few actually know much about the battle. Even those who do know how the battle went in superficial terms don't get the point.
2. The conventional wisdom is that Custer raced to get to the Indian camp before the rest of the Army in order to get all of the glory for himself. (Fair enough, but he was also concerned that the Indians would try to get away from the trap before it could close. He had no delusion of defeating the Indians, but if he could accomplish his plan -- see #6 below -- he would win the campaign for his boss. The fact that he turned down artillery and Gatling guns were certainly a warning to his boss that Custer intended to move as fast as he could.)
3. The conventional wisdom is that upon arriving at the Indian camp, Custer stupidly divided his force in the face of the enemy. (He did divide his force and only about half of the 7th Cavalry was destroyed with him. The plan was for half of the regiment to lure the Indian warriors into a gunfight east of the village while Custer slipped in the back door. The plan was actually a good one, but there were more Indian warriors than the plan accounted for.)
4. The conventional wisdom is that Custer was an idiot to have picked a fight with that huge number of Indians. (The Army was convinced that there were only 1,000 warriors in the area and either half of the 600-man regiment would have been able to deal with them because of the better battlefield discipline of the soldiers. Turned out there were 3,000 warriors. Oops. Even when a quarter of the warriors -- the oldest and youngest -- stayed to protect the village and a couple of hundred kept Major Reno busy, that left almost two thousand of them facing Custer's 260 men.)
5. The conventional wisdom is that Custer simply rode to "Last Stand Hill" where he fought to the death in a circle of dead horses. (The reality is that Custer and the 260 men with him tried seven times to fight their way through or around the Indians to get across the river and into the camp.)
6. The conventional wisdom is that Custer wanted to attack the camp to slaughter helpless women and children because Custer was just a mean racist. (The reality was that he was trying to attack the horse herd, the animals needed to move the women, children, tents, and baggage. If he could have captured or scattered the horses, he could have prevented the Indians from leaving the area before General Terry and the rest of the Army arrived. Once Terry was there, the Indians would have been forced to surrender and go back to the reservations.)
7. In the end, conventional wisdom says, Custer and his men did fight to the death in a circle of dead horses. (The reality is more complex. The 200 men still alive with Custer at the end of the battle were divided into two groups about half a mile apart. Since C Troop had already moved from South Knoll to North Hill to pick up spare ammunition and take it back to South Knoll, it is fairly clear that the two groups could have joined up. This might have been complicated due to the number of soldiers who no longer had horses, but C Troop did make it all the way back to South Knoll fighting mostly on foot. Why the two groups did not join up is a mystery that will never be answered. The combined groups would have been too powerful for the Indians to overwhelm in the final hour of daylight. Once darkness fell, the survivors might have slipped away. When the South Knoll group tried to move to Custer's location somewhat later, more Indians had arrived, the ridge between the groups was under heavy fire, and the South Knoll group did not coordinate their departure very well, meaning L troop was accidentally left behind and I Troop was caught halfway to Custer. (Both were annihilated.) C Troop did reach Custer and died with him as well as E and F Troops. Another question is why did the last group that broke out of the trap ride south, toward the river and the village, instead of east, toward Reno and safety. We will never know that answer.)
 8. The conventional wisdom is that the Indians had superior repeating rifles. (The reality is otherwise. The Indians had whatever rifles they could get, and at least a third of them had no rifles at all. While some Indians had repeating rifles, those had half of the range of the cavalry's single-shot Sharp's rifles. The well-trained cavalry were able to maintain a fairly steady fire with these single-shot breach-loading rifles. The Indians didn't have a lot of ammunition, and the repeating rifles had to be reloaded, meaning the number of shots fired in a single hour is not that different. The Cavalry, being trained soldiers, were actually better shots at 300 yards than the Indians were at half that range. Many of the Indians were loading their rifles with the wrong ammunition because it was all they had, and this degraded their range and accuracy. By the way, some of the Indians had Civil War muzzle-loading muskets.)

9. The conventional wisdom is that the cavalry were frightened young boys from big cities and no match for the Indians who grew up in fresh air and sunshine. (In reality, the cavalry were better disciplined. There are repeated cases during the six hours of combat in which a troop of 40 men standing in the open held hundreds of Indians at bay. The soldiers could score enough hits at 200 or 250 yards to keep the Indians from trying to get closer, while the Indians could not score killing hits at those ranges to win a gunfight.)

10. The conventional wisdom is that the final destruction of Custer's battalion took only a few minutes. (Reality says the battle took six hours, during which Custer and his units maneuvered repeatedly. Even at the very end, the Indians could not crack the defensive rampart -- those dead horses again. Every charge was met by a disciplined volley of rifle fire, even if a few soldiers fell every time. The end came when a group of 20 fanatical Indian teenagers volunteered to ride straight into the cavalry rampart, dismount, and fight with their knives and tomahawks until the circle collapsed. Over half of the boys were killed just trying to get there, but enough got inside that the soldiers were dealing with an enemy inside the circle and this broke their disciplined volleys, allowing the main Indian attack to overwhelm the position. All of the "suicide boys" were killed.)

Tuesday, September 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.

Monday, September 02, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25-31 August 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of accelerating work on many projects. The weather this week was warm, sometimes  hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. This week, Terri and Sam Pray of Final Sword Productions visited and we all enjoyed taking time to talk with another game company about the industry, the market, and other matters. Given one spark of an idea from Terri, we may be able to solve the problem of getting our fiction onto Kindle.

New on e23 this week was Klingon Ship Card Pack #3. New on DriveThru RPG was PD One: Graduation Exercise.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48, the Character Database, the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, character backgrounds for the Away Team Log supplements, the Origins booth box (finally repacked and sent to the warehouse), and blogs. He also reviewed two proposals for novels (rejecting one and sending another back for a rewrite), finished Klingon ePack #3 (so it could be uploaded), and did the Star Fleet Alert for SFB Module C6 (that alert goes out next week).

Steven Petrick worked on the Carnivons for SFB Module C6 (now set for release on 23 September), finishing their SSDs and starting on ship descriptions, MSC, annexes, weapons rules, and scenarios.

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, helped in the warehouse, and chased pirates. Jean and Steve invented a new system to better define Simone's priorities now that she can only work a few hours a week. After Jean discovered that our convention ad had not been updated in six years, Simone designed a dynamic new ad for us to send conventions.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1720 friends), managed our Twitter feed (58 followers), began a series of uploads to DriveThru RPG, commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread Klingon ePack #3, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing (mostly on DTRPG).

Sunday, September 01, 2013

On Anniversaries and Home and the Future

Jean Sexton muses:

I started my "retired" life on May 1 this year -- four months ago. It seems a good time to reflect back on what that has meant to both me and to ADB, Inc.

On a personal level, it has meant a lot of good days. I do miss my beautiful gardens as well as the tree frogs and toads that lived around the house, but I don't miss the combined heat and humidity. I certainly don't miss the mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies, and stinging gnats that attacked in the evenings when I got home. I also enjoy the new challenges of setting up my own little apartment and a quiet life. As I unpack and find things, I make a place for them. I have had to move my collection of books to be more e-books. I cannot buy them all at once, but they are on my "wishlist" so that I can find them if I need to re-read an old favorite.

Professionally, it has been great! I've had a shake-up in what I do and how I do it. I have new opportunities for growth in serving our customers and doing some things that are good for the company. We've been talking about the Star Fleet Rangers for about 10 years; now they have the chance to reach their full potential. Starlist has grown. Our e-zines are thriving. Our website will be brushed up some to look more appealing while keeping its functionality. Away Team Log is out on e23 and DriveThru RPG and I'm learning more about their tools to highlight our books. Traveller Prime Directive is coming along smartly. We are all hoping this will help the company and let us provide more things for you, our customer.

The one problem I am having is the location of "home." Is it where I grew up in Murfreesboro, North Carolina? Is it Robeson County where I lived for 30 years? I'm slowly moving to "home" being my apartment in Amarillo. I don't think I'll ever sound like a Texan and my "default" in tea will be sweet tea, but I will explore this new "home." Its beautiful blue sky has already found its way into my heart.

As for what the the future holds for me, I will discover that in the fullness of time. I hope that it will include a pet to make the time at the apartment more fun. I think it will include a lot of hard work to put ADB out in front of the gaming companies so that no one ever again thinks we're out of business. I do know that I will live my life and not merely exist, that I will try to leave people happy, and that I will find joy in the ordinary things of life. If I make the world around me a bit better, then my life is a success.