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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Meet the USS Powerista

Jean Sexton writes:

Today is Halloween. It's a day for ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. So today, we'll focus on our "Frankenship," the Fralli cruiser USS Powerista. Here is her official story.

Federation policy was to provide member planets with older starships for their local defense. This accomplished several goals: relieving Star Fleet of boring garrison duty, getting a few more years of service out of old worn-out ships, and training reservists for rapid fleet expansion during a possible future war.

When Frallia asked for such ships, Star Fleet was none too happy to part with any useful vessels. They sent the Fralli an old light cruiser with a severely damaged forward section, two worn-out police ships without working photon torpedoes, and a frigate with burned-out engines. The Fralli found none of the ships of any use, and Star Fleet blithely suggested that they scavenge systems to use on auxiliaries built on freighters.

The Fralli wanted their own real ship for their defense (having very narrowly defeated a horde of rampaging monsters with an armada of 550 shuttlecraft) (see Captain's Log #47 for their tactics) and set about to make what they could with what they had. They combined the saucer of the frigate, the back half of the light cruiser, the back half of a police ship, and a spare set of police ship engines into the Powerista, a cruiser in every respect.

Back story: Steve Cole has always teased me about the Fralli (see our blog post). He announced he was going to make an "ugly ship" for them. He struggled, because his natural instinct is to make an organic whole that is pleasing. Finally he created the story and the ship flowed from that. He then contacted a master kitbasher named Tony L. Thomas to create the Powerista. Steve worked on the ship card for this unique ship and found, to his surprise, that she'd be a fun ship to fly with new advantages and challenges.

In the meantime I created a scenario for the Powerista. I knew it had to be something from early in its career. Then it came to me -- a kidnapped Fralli artist, a rag-tag crew of Frallis, and a bunch of drunken Orion pirates who think they've pulled off the Crime of the Month -- that's what the Powerista needed!

To see the ship card and try the scenario, check out our free Communique #94.

Have a safe and fun Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:

1. MAY, the fifth month of our calendar and third months of the Roman calendar, was named for the Sabine goddess Maia, who was known to the Romans as Fauna, the goddess of the spring season. Numa, the successor to Romulus, was a Sabine and is thought to have originated the calendar we use to this day.

2. MEANDER, to wander or twist and turn, is simply the name of a river in Turkey which is remarkable for the number of twists and turns it takes in its relatively short path to the sea.

3. MEERSCHAUM, a light and soft mineral used to carve smoking pipes and cigarette holders, is the German term for sea (meer) and foam (meerschaum). The mineral had been known from ancient times (and everyone called it sea foam) but nobody found anything useful to do with it until those clever Germans used it to make pipes because the tobacco stained it a lovely brown color.

4. MENTOR, an advisor or teacher of a young person, was the name of the friend to whom Odysseus trusted the care of his wife and son when he went off to the Trojan War.

5. MESMERISM, a form of hypnotism, comes from Doctor Friedrich Mesmer, who performed various cures by rubbing patients with magnets or his hands.

6. MILLINER, or a retailer specializing in clothing, comes from the city of Milan. Traders from that city visited England with unusually fine clothing starting in the early 1500s.

7. MINIATURE, or small of scale, comes from the old red lead paint known as minium. This was used to add fancy letters and small pictures to religious documents. An artist who did that was said to "miniate" the manuscript so his work (almost always small but theoretically of any size) was a miniature.

8. MISCREANT, and evil-doer or criminal, began as two old French words: mss (not) and creant (believer); the two combined to mean unbeliever or heretic. Over time, this came to be any person who did not follow the moral rules of an honorable society.

9. MOB, or a group of angry and unruly people, began in the 1600s as mobile vulgus, Latin for a fickle rabble. That term was shortened to "mob" by casual speakers.

10. MONEY, that is, cash or currency, became as moneta, the name of a temple the Romans erected to honor Juno for her advice in a war. The Romans first produced silver coins in that temple in 269BC, and those coins were called "monetas." This root word also covers such things as monetary and mint.

Monday, October 28, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-24 October 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a short week, and a lot of it went into preparing for the trip. The weather this week was somewhat cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: Romulan Ship Card Pack #3.

New on DriveThru this week: Uprising PD1.

Steve Cole worked on trip preparations, fiction, and plans for the relaunch of the 2500s and ACTASF.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 stuff.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Simone did website updates and some graphics. She sank a few pirates.

Jean worked on trip preparation, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1813 friends), managed our Twitter feed (66 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread parts of Fighter Ops 2014, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing. She and SVC dealt with a continued onslaught of spammers and fake registrations on the BBS that were running up our bandwidth charges.

Sunday, October 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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


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

1. I was recently offered a deal in which I would get $1500 up front, and then might or might not get $7500 at some future point. The problem was, the deal depended on my doing a couple of weeks of work first, and it had to be the NEXT two weeks, not some two weeks at some future point when I wasn't pushing against a deadline. The bottom line was that I'd break even on the cost of my time, but doing this would delay every product I was working on by two weeks. In the end, the Board voted to prohibit me from working on that deal, requiring me to focus on projects already on the schedule. For anything to get on the schedule and go straight to the head of the line, it has to be some combination of very quick to do and/or making a lot of profit in the very near term. Breakeven deals (or deals that only make somebody else money, which is why that guy was pushing me to do it) do not go to the head of the line.

2. Back when we started doing RPG books I had this vague idea that we'd churn out a book every other month. I laid out detailed plans to do a series of books in a series of game systems, even announcing prices and stock numbers. Then I found out that most of the outside authors never wrote the books, the books we did were awful for a variety of reasons (including dueling designers and editors and a publisher who tried to insert cool rules into a game system he had never played). The whole thing more or less collapsed. Eight years later we have actually released 12 books but we've spent two years on the 13th one (the core book done over for Traveller). I've now learned to let Jean do things one book at a time, encourage others to do whatever preliminary work on several other books, and then sit down with Jean after a book is finished and decide what book to do next. We also don't announce books that aren't more or less complete. Some web stores still list the never printed books from those early days.

3. Part of the RPG thing was to do versions of each book for multiple systems. The idea was that a 144-page book of Klingons only needed about 10 pages of actual rules, so once Klingons was done for one system, we could do the books for other systems quickly and cheaply. Then I found out that those 10 pages were more work than the other 134. Oh well.

4. Still discussing RPGs, everyone told me that the players of each system wanted "their own book" rather than a generic book and a small supplement of "their" rules. This meant multiple low print runs instead of one bigger profitable run. Then we did Away TeamLog on the theory that the book was generic and mostly fiction, with later small PDF supplements for each system. This is basically a test to see if maybe in future we can do one Tholian book with several supplements instead of doing five or six nearly identical books. It also means if somebody says "Hire me to do conversions for system XYZ" we can tell him to try to do the supplement for ATL. This will tell us if that author can produce work accurately and quickly, if he can produce work that doesn't take months to edit and proofread, and if anybody will actually buy System XYZ to play Star Trek.

5. About 15 years ago, some guys came to me with an offer to buy the Star Fleet Universe for a significant pile of money. The money, however, was not a lump sum, but a series of payments over several years. I thought that was fine and sent the contract to my lawyer for review. He came back and pointed out that the contract promised I'd get paid, but did not back up the promise with anything. The promise was made (in effect) by a brand-new corporation with no assets that had existed for only a month or two. If they just didn't pay me, there was not much I could do. I said that in such case I'd just demand that they give me back the SFU. My lawyer said that since they wanted to own title to the SFU IP on the day of signing, they clearly planned to pledge the SFU IP as collateral to borrow piles of money to invest in their plans for a major online computer deal, so if they didn't pay me, they would not be paying those loans, and the holders of those loans would have already confiscated the SFU IP in lieu of payment. I went back to the guys with a counter-offer that the title to the IP would change hands only after I had been paid all of the money, and they refused, which pretty much confirmed that my lawyer's guess about their plans was spot-on. (A further counter-offer, under which they would have to offer other security such as the deeds to their houses, was also refused.) I had considered myself a pretty sharp business man, but blinded by all of those dollar signs I never asked the question: "What if they just don't pay?"

Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Serve up Hydran

A while back on the Federation Commander Forum there was an exchange about Hydran ships. It quickly degenerated to the usual discussion about Kzintis preferring Hydrans barbecued. It then had a couple of interesting exchanges


You know very well that it is BBQing ONLY if the meal is rushed. BBQ sauce covers up that Hydran je ne sais quoi.

A gentle marinade of the Hydran (covered with a thin layer of sea salt) takes at least 24 hours. That is followed up by rinsing the Hydran and patting it dry. A nice flavored butter is then patted over the Hydran and it is seared at a high temperature to seal in the flavor. Then the temperature is reduced and the Hydran is cooked until the desired interior temperature is reached. (Be sure not to get the thermometer too near a bone.) Garnish appropriately and serve piping hot.

While some swear that slices are best cooked in a cast-iron frying pan, it is generally agreed that this tends to toughen the Hydran.

[From the article "How to Serve Hydrans" by Cat Who Cooks. (Kzinti Culinary Delights v. 500, no. 5, 2560). Please note that this article is considered quite controversial as some consider that it is intellectually plagiarized from the article "Hydrans Served Well" by Purrr Sweet Lee, published in Now We're Cooking, v. 428. no. 3, 2540. Kzinti cooking enthusiasts point out the different temperatures and suggested marinades yield a completely different (and exquisite) flavor. Lyrans tend to roar "Thief" and slaughter those who defend the Kzintis. Most diplomats are cautioned to never mention the article.]


The question was then asked by a "Klingon" if the technique didn't make the Hydran taste rubbery. The response is below.


From Cat Who Cooks: 
A rubbery-tasting Hydran is a clear indication that the preparation has been rushed. The salt tends to draw out the more unpleasant tastes of a Hydran (found in those who have prepared theirs quickly) and the marinade is designed to deeply penetrate the Hydran (do be sure to cover the Hydran completely in the marinade).

No doubt you have only been served Hydrans prepared by Lyrans and no doubt that is why you think them rubbery. It is a clear indication of the lack of culinary skills typical of that Empire.

This was received from Purrr Sweet Lee:

That lying [expletive deleted] furry [expletive deleted] thief wouldn't know how to serve a Hydran any more than harejkaslaas can fly. [Please note that harejkaslaas weigh several tons and live in the sea. --ed.] In all truth, we had to rush the first one we served to a Klingon and he said he just adored it, so that has been the manner of preparation for Klingons since that day. This is the first notice we have gotten that perhaps Klingons were just "being polite". We shall try to rectify that in the future.


And so now you know. Of course, in the tradition of the greatest of cookbooks, one should note that first you must catch the Hydran. 

Thursday, October 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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Continuing Decline of Civilization

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things I find annoying as time passes is changes that are good for someone else are not so good for me.

The owners at the apartment complex where I live decided to dispense with mailing rent invoices. This saves them about $0.50 per tenant per month (once you factor in the cost of the envelope). It costs them the value of an employee to go from door to door of the apartments to tape the invoices to the doors (and the minimal cost of the tape), plus that employee's travel (gas). I imagine they also gain a "no, it was not lost in the mail" statement to their tenants. (I have only been late one time in the period I have lived there, and that was literally a result of my check having gone through the slot and flown under a piece of furniture and not being found until that manager moved out and was replaced.)

These are, by the way, the third set of owners in twenty years. I got on very well with the second set, and almost never saw the first set.

The problem is that I have noticed that these invoices taped to doors are "red flags." If it is 0130 hrs, and you walk into the quadrangle of the apartment complex you can look around and see the doors that still have invoices on them, and know with great certainty that the people living in that apartment are "not home." Which tells you which apartments are probably safe to break into.

This has not happened that I am aware of, but the message is there.

Further, I have noted from experience that sometimes someone is not home on the day the invoices go up, and the Texas wind is sometimes strong enough (if your door is facing in the right direction) to tear the invoice from the door. This should not matter as you know your rent is due on the first of the month, but as the rent is not a "fixed amount," but varies based on the use of some utilities nominally paid by the owner of the complex, so without the invoice the only way you can know what you owe is to go to the office and wait for it to open. However, several apartment complexes are owned by a single company, and they have consolidated the management into a single office that is not conveniently co-located with any of the apartment complexes (so at least all of the renters are subject to the inconvenience of traveling to the separate management office that is in a storefront near the movie theater several miles from the apartment complexes).

All of this is convenient to the owners (reduced overhead to pay managers, as there is not one manager per apartment complex but rather two managers for five apartment complexes). And there is the savings of not having to mail the invoices (having the invoices taped to the doors at least lets the owners say the managers "walk around the apartment complex at least monthly").

I keep watching conveniences slip away.

The local book store is closing, the only one in Canyon, Texas, and if I want to shop for a book I can no longer do so locally, but have to go to Amarillo to do so. I am not talking about looking for a specific book, which I know I can do online these days, but the simple pleasure of going into the store to peruse the ranked titles to see if something catches my eye to be a possible good read. Truth to tell, there are not as many authors writing things I wish to read any more. But I will miss the opportunity to discover an interesting book on my own.

Tuesday, October 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/).

Monday, October 21, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 October 2013

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady work on several projects. The weather this week was cooler, and was close to freezing on Friday. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was JagdPanther #6.

Steve Cole worked on fiction, a new plan for the 2500s and ACTASF, Captain's Log #48 stuff, and (finally) found the lost Romulan ePack #3 pages on that mess he calls a desk and got that sent to e23.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. Leanna had cataract surgery on Tuesday and can now see much better. Leanna, Jean, and SVC went (on Friday) to the world championship finals of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting contest.

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

Simone did website updates and sank dozens of pirates.

Jean worked on the Tribbles launch, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1810 friends), managed our Twitter feed (64 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, dealt with the wave of fake people trying to get into the BBS, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 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!

Saturday, October 19, 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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Original Fralli Prank

Jean Sexton writes:

I don't know what it is about the Fralli that inspires people to make fun of them. True, they aren't attractive by human standards, but neither are Dr. Seuss's creations. It seemed to start up when I was trying to reconcile two vastly different pieces of information. One source indicated their planet was a sulfur-based atmosphere; the other source had it listed as Earth-like. How could both be correct? I felt I had to explain this or someone would be forever pointing out the "other" source. Further digging into the Air Force tapes yielded the answer. Except for the toxic-to-human levels of sulfur dioxide, Frallia is a rather pleasant planet to visit. 

Other pieces had to be reconciled -- was a "Spark Wand" a performer or a tool? (Eventually we determined the answer was "yes.") How did we make the statistics for the Fralli create a species that would be fun to play without having the Fralli take over the universe? How could Fralli serve aboard Federation ships? All of these questions took time.

As a result of the time taken and the fact I kept adding to Federation PD20M, Steve Cole had been threatening to delete the Fralli for a couple of months before the book was finished. Every time I added a word to the book, he'd warn me that if there weren't room, the Fralli were gone. Every time John Sickels (the author) added a sentence, I'd get warned that the Fralli were doomed. I wanted to add the Mantorese; Steve would say, "Good, we can delete the Fralli!" "You want me to do WHAT!?! Fine, the Fralli are GONE!" After his computer crashed while we were editing part of the planetary surveys, he told me that the Fralli file was gone. If I mentioned he needed an accent mark "here," he'd threaten to do in "my" Fralli. When I triumphantly told him that he couldn't do them in without re-reading the entire book to fix the pagination references, he said he'd put in filk songs instead. "Fralli, filk, they both start with 'F'." He even told me that I wouldn't know if he'd omitted the Fralli until I saw my copy. 

Finally the book was done! Steve told me that he had mailed my copy of Federation PD20M to me personally. He explained that he was so excited by the book and he knew I would be as well, that he wanted to be with me (by phone) when I opened this long-awaited book. I got home from work, sat down with the package, and called him at home. He called back so I wouldn't have a big phone bill.

I opened the package and pulled out the book. Woooohooo! My name was up there with all the others. I flipped over to the Fralli page and saw ... a filk song! I opened the book wider and spotted the Fralli picture. The Fralli were safe! Steve (who did the layout) must have had more room than I thought in order to include the filk song.

I flipped over to another page to check as Steve said I would like to see the artwork. Oh the horror! The caption could not be right. Not only did it show a Fralli being blown out of existence, but the caption had a misspelled word!

With a sinking feeling I went back to the Fralli page and read the caption beside another piece of art. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! This could not be right. I started reading the Fralli write-up. I started spluttering in absolute horror and dismay. 

Steve finally could not hold it together any longer. Everyone in the company was in on making my "special book" since the first day of printing ... everyone but me. Print on demand has certain capabilities in making practical jokes come to fruition.

I laughed so hard it hurt.

I have a "real" copy of the book now and the other one is clearly marked so if it were to ever escape into the wild, no one would say, "Hey, my character is suffering from 'Fralli Fright' and just cannot get excited by that hot Orion slave girl chick," or "Whadddyamean you've got a Fralli engineer! Everyone knows they aren't allowed in space."

The art is wonderful...

And SVC deserves some sort of honor bar with stars for each time he's successfully pulled my leg.

Did I mention I love working with these folks? 

To see what Steve sent to me try these links: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Documents/fake_falli_81.pdf

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Steve Cole's thoughts on various zombie scenarios and how he would handle them.
1. THE WALKING DEAD: The current definitive work on zombies, this imagines slow zombies killed by a single shot anywhere in the cranium. It was never explained just how fast things happened, which would define how much stuff is left on store shelves. (Overnight and the grocery store and gun store are full. Over a week, and the stores are mostly empty.) I'm not sure I would not have moved my base to Woodbury after the civil war happened, but if you're going to stay in the prison you need to work every day on improving the bastion. Repair the gates, do something about that big hole in the back wall, and then hunt down and kill every zombie in the place. After that, get some crops planted and conduct an expanding systematic search of every house and building in the area for food, guns, and ammo.
2. SALTY DOGS: A ten-minute short film on YouTube, this has two people (a guy who has several guns and a woman who doesn't know how to use them) who have reached safety on a small island. Then a whole bunch of zombies come up the beach. How did they get there? Not really sure, maybe they drifted in on a boat. (There was a quick flash of a boat.) Maybe they walked across the ocean bottom. These are medium speed zombies, but some of them survive headshots. The gun-happy idiot blazes away at full auto, wasting the two magazines he has for his M16. He apparently didn't do much to be ready for the inevitable invasion, as his plan seemed to be to retreat into someplace not particularly zombie proof and leave the girl alone in a frame house with lots of windows and a baseball bat. Given that these zombies did not die politely of a single headshot, I'm not sure anything he did or did not do mattered.
3. WORLD WAR Z (movie): Fast zombies capable of scaling 100-foot walls by means of zombie pyramids. You're screwed, guy, at least until they figured out how to infect themselves with something the zombies ignored.
4. ZOMBIE COMET: This is my own (incomplete) zombie novel. The Earth goes through a comet tail and, well, zombies happen, quickly, at 10am on a Thursday morning. Everybody with type-B or AB blood is ok, but the rest of the world drops dead, then wakes up 30 minutes later. At least you know how it starts and all the stores are still full of food, guns, ammo, and campaign supplies. The key to survival will be Army types who were on the firing range when "the event" happened. Holding a loaded rifle when attacked by rabid zombies pretty much clued them into how the new world order worked, giving them a much higher survival rate than most type-B blood people (who got eaten by hordes of zombies).
5. BOOKS FOR ZOMBIE WARFARE: Jean Sexton, who is an avid gardener, has suggested that your zombie survival kit should include books about finding edible plants and eventually growing your own food. She recommended for growing your own food you should have one or more of Gardening for Dummies, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, and All New Square Foot Gardening. In those dark first days after the apocalypse, you should know how to find food, so one (or more) of these should be handy: The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants (an Army handbook), Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Bradford Angier, and Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Computer Travails Continue

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I continue to miss my old, now dead, computer. When it worked, my life was so much simpler and work was much easier to do. We were old friends, more or less used to each other's little foibles and oddities. Both the new computers that I now need to do my job (three if you count this one) provide constant problems and headaches.

The computer on which I do my normal internet stuff has lots of weird items in its internet programs.

One of them is this:

If I copy a lot of text from our board and paste it into a Word document, it provides special formatting for all of the "who posted and when" titles. Every "by john doe on 15 october 2013 at 1900 edit" line comes in encapsulated in a blue box. No combination of computer commands in Word will eliminate this blue box (I can eliminate the color, but the box in face remains, even if I specifically tell "borders" to go away). Worse, this box is exempt from all other commands, thus if I change the page layout to columns, the boxes exempt themselves from the command and extend into the adjoining column.

I am required to either manually remove each box and its accompanying text and then manually type in the text in the box (so I can keep track of the authors and the dates things were sent), or I can carefully highlight the text of one message at a time on the board, and then after pasting that into the document, manually type in the author's name and when it was sent.

Even better, it deletes all of the line breaks in the messages except for these boxes -- which are all that keep everything I am cutting and pasting from becoming one massive block of text with no paragraph breaks. So once I copy text from the board, I have to do a series of manual searches to put back in breaks, and that is pretty much a "guess and by God" affair.

All of which as you might imagine is long, tedious, time consuming, frustrating, and detracts from getting work done on products. It also makes me shy away from doing it, which is why I have not yet cleaned out the tactics topics, because I have to do the above for each one of them.

With my old computer I just had to highlight the whole block of text and past it in and no weird formatting came with it and all of the paragraphs retained their breaks and spacing.

And you can see my previous post about how almost every action on our board requires multiple clicks. I click on a topic I want to read, no problem. When I am done reading it and want to leave the topic to go back to the board, EVERY SINGLE TIME it asks me if I am sure I want to do that (we cannot find anyway to make it stop doing this). About a third to a half the time even after I say "yes, I want to leave this topic" it will pop up and ask me again (we have found no rhyme or reason why it does this). Leaving a topic after I have posted a message (never mind posting a message in the topic which also brings its "are you sure" message) often has it ask me if I am sure I want to go back the main board or to someplace else.

Getting through the board is thus often a very time consuming and frustrating experience (and some of you have noted that occasionally the computer will "double post" my messages, and again we have no idea why it does this).

Today we set up the other computer to let me read the board to try to have some relief.

The good news is that it does down load topics without the "blue boxes" and retains the formatting of the messages when pasted into a document.

The bad news is that every time I try to post something, or enter the board, it also asks me if I am sure I want to do that.

So if you happen to see me, and I look frazzled and am constantly muttering imprecations against computers and their inventors, you will understand why.

For your own safety, do not ask me, if you are in the same room, how things are going with my computers . . . I am pretty sure I am dangerously close to a major psychotic break over all of this . . . at least I have noticed that SVC has been taking all of the pointy things out of my office and Leanna just removed my letter opener.

Tuesday, October 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.

Monday, October 14, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 October 2013

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady work on many projects. The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. A new assault began on our BBS by a Chinese content spam engine, sending over a dozen fake people registering on the BBS every day, clogging up the system and flooding the "pending registrations" file. We played our first four-player game of Castellan at the first "game night" in months (Leanna won).

We got the Tribbles vs. Klingons quote from China on Thursday and started spending a lot of time getting ready to launch the Kickstarter for it (probably in early January, with game release next summer).

New on e23, DriveThru, and Wargame Vault this week: Federation Commander Academy.

Steve Cole (still suffering from a wicked cold) worked on Federation Admiral, blogs, Tribbles, a Star Fleet Alert, Captain's Log #48, the Academy upload, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies.

Steven Petrick worked on stuff for Captain's Log #48.

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 and sent out Communique and Hailing Frequencies.

Jean worked on Tribbles, the PAMPER list, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1804 friends), managed our Twitter feed (which has 64 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread the Communique and Hailing Frequencies, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about a few of the critical moments of his childhood that defined his worldview and character:
1. When I was about 12 years old, I was at my father's lumber yard, following him around as he discussed material options with a customer. Suddenly, a large stack of plywood fell over toward us. My father, the customer, and I all grabbed for the stack to stop it from falling (and killing us). My father then ordered me to leave (to protect me, as a father does his child). I was upset, pissed, outraged, and angry. Why did I have to leave instead of being one of the "men" who pushed the stack back into place? Everyone else wanted their childhood to last as long as possible but I wanted mine over with. I wanted adult responsibilities and adult respect and I wanted them NOW.
2. When I was in junior high school, there was a thing thumb-tacked to the wall of the gym that said: "All too often, you can trace the haves and have-nots back to the dids and did-nots." That stuck with me. When I feel lazy, I remember that and go back to work.
3. Something that I read in a military magazine (in an article about re-constituting units that had suffered heavy casualties) was this gem: "A leader has a full-time job being the leader. He cannot also be the guy who fires the machine gun." It drives me nuts that I have to have five part-time jobs, one of which is being the leader of ADB. Leader and worker get in the way of each other.
4. I think the single best piece of advice I ever heard (well, read in a magazine) was to never make a permanent decision in a temporary state of mind. Every time I have let that happen, it turned out badly.
5. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? (The implication is that maybe there is no God. I don't accept that.) I think the reality is that people don't grasp that God wants to see how you handle a world in which good and bad things happen. Bad things teach you to be strong, to have faith, to put your trust in God. Maybe the bad thing doesn't happen to you, but you learn when something bad happens to a good person to you know.
6. I hear a lot of jokes about men not having a commitment gene in their brains. Not me; I have a huge one. I grew up in a household run by a loving couple who had spent their lives together, and I wanted to find a girl to marry and buy a house with and I wanted to do that as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I latched onto a girl (also from a loving family and also wanting to get married as soon as possible) when I was 12 and we were 20 by the time we figured out we didn't even like each other. (You change as you grow up.) With Leanna I had to grab hold of something solid and hang on because I fell in love with her so fast that I would have married her about Date #7 if I wasn't terrified that maybe she wasn't the right one. (Turned out she was the right one, but that's me being lucky, not me doing things correctly.)
7. The motto on my family coat of arms is "Worship God and Serve the King" which is one way of saying "Render unto Caesar." I heard that at a very early age and it stuck. I don't worship my government but I serve it when required. I don't serve God (and Jesus) so much as worship them.
8. My father regarded his reputation for honest dealing and quality construction work as the most valuable thing he had. Once, another builder in Amarillo died suddenly. His widow called my father and said a letter with her husband's will said (in the event of sudden death) to ask my father to wind up his construction projects because he (my father) was the most honest man in town. My father took that as a compliment. He took charge of and finished all of the building projects in progress without charging the widow a cent for his time or trouble.
 9. In school, I was the dumbest kid in the smart class, and I was miserable. After I begged my way out of the honors program, I became the smartest kid in the "average" class and everybody hated me. There's no way to win this. My only friends were smarter than me, and I think they kept me around just as a point of reference or maybe as comic relief.
10. I played my first Avalon Hill wargame at age 12 and was designing new ones within a week, even if I had to draw my own hex maps with triangles and a T-square. I had the drafting equipment because my father was an engineer, builder, and Army engineer officer. He was probably the greatest influence on my life and I am, frankly, not as good a person or man as he was.

Saturday, October 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 and Star Fleet Battles 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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fighters for Nothing

I want it, right now for F and E.
I want it, right now for F and E.
Now look at them Kzintis, that's the way you do it,
You convert all the warships to those car-ri-ers.
That is what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.
That what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Lemme tell ya, Klingons ain't dumb.
Maybe get some free ones
Maybe get a stockpile but we ain't dumb.

We got to install ground battalions;
Custom built those LTTs.
We got to move these old slow convoys.
We got to move these FRDs.

The little furballs with the drones and the fighters.
Yeah, buddy, that's their own fur.
Those little furballs got their own space fighters.
That little furball's getting all he wants.

I should'a learned to fly a fighter.
I should'a learned to launch some drones.
Look at that furball, he got it stickin' out the drone hatch.
Man we could have some of those.
And he's got those, you know, scatterpack shuttles
Bangin' on the shield walls like a chimpanzee.
Oh, that ain't workin' that's the way you do it,
Get your fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.

That is how they're workin', that's the way they do it.
They just keep pounding on that S. V. C.
That is what they're wantin', that's the way they want it.
Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free.

Fighters for nothin' and their drones for free
They want it, they want it, right now for F and E.
Apologies to Dire Straits.

Parody copyright (c) 2009 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

On Mountains and Molehills and Friendship

Jean Sexton muses:

ADB is a closely knit company. Most days the Steves, Leanna, and I go out to lunch together. Fridays we have boys/girls lunch out as the guys love the barbeque at one place and Leanna and I would rather eat elsewhere. This Monday we chose to eat at a place and the meal turned into a disaster. The room was cold to the point that we were shivering, after more than 30 minutes the meal hadn't arrived and was still not near ready, and the service was such that we were having to call out to people to get them to stop at our table. We left, went to a fast-food place, ate, and got back to the office, still having had a two-hour lunch and thus an hour shorter workday.

I was reflecting on my day and decided it was "stressful." This morning I decided to think about the "stressful" day and see if it were really stressful. To do this I looked at my page on Facebook, which is basically an online diary for me, in addition to keeping up with my varied interests. Six months ago I was worried -- would I have an apartment? Would my former landlord be able to give me a good reference? After all he was trying to figure out if I wanted an apartment through him when we chatted last and he was finding it hard to remember who I was. How could I get the utilities turned on when I didn't even have a place to live? Could I keep packing things up for the move? How would I get moved out in just two days? Could I get my office handled? How would the "Real Life" work go? Could I get my staff's evaluations done and approved? Would I like Texas? What needed to be done to become a legal resident there? Would I be homesick for my beautiful North Carolina and my gardens? How would I cope with only knowing four people in Amarillo?

A bad lunch experience pales in the light of those worries. I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Even my legitimate worries turned out to be molehills eventually. I got the apartment and my former landlord remembered me well enough to give me the reference of being an "above average" tenant. I found out how to do the utilities (much easier than the last time I had to handle that issue nearly 30 years ago), materials did get packed and shipped (and I was wise to do so as the largest truck the rental place had was filled top to bottom, front to back), the move was accomplished with the help of dear friends, and I wound up my professional life as a librarian in a way that left me with no regrets. While I miss the lush North Carolina landscape, I find the beautiful blue skies of Texas bring me joy. I have found gardens that I look at on the way to and from work, and I enjoy them. I'll have plants on my patio in time.

The one thing I needn't have worried about is not knowing anyone in Amarillo. Thanks to social media, my friends are there at my fingertips, just an electronic pulse away. I merely have to reach out and they respond. They comment on my mountains and my molehills. They offer support and doses of reality when I need grounding. The best of friends have a way of letting you gently know that you are heading off into drama queen territory and offering a hand to get you off that cliff edge. I am so fortunate to have so many friends, all through the country and the world. So many of them I have found through the Star Fleet Universe with our common interests there. Thanks to social media, I've been able to reconnect with friends from school and college. And I have made some friends since the move.

I'd like to take today to thank my friends that have offered laughter and kindness through the years and to my new friends that I suspect will be there, too. Sometimes they don't know how much their words mean. Today, I hope they will. And I hope that I can give them the same lift and support when they need it, whether it be over a mountain or a molehill.

May your day be filled with friends both near and far, and may your mountains turn out to be molehills.

Monday, October 07, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 September - 5 October 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we shipped SFB Module C6 to mail orders. The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: Star Fleet Battles Module C6 Preview.    

New on DriveThru this week: Valkenburg Castle and Star Fleet Module C6 Preview.

Steve Cole was sick with a cold most of the week, but worked on the new F&E unified auxiliary rule, the QARF, the C6 preview pack, the fighter ops revision for next year, quotes for Tribbles and interesting future non-SFU project, Fed Admiral, the 3rd generation project for SFBOL, Communique #94, Hailing Frequencies, and graphics for the article in Gygax magazine. He had has annual physical and was found to be in surprising good health for his weight.

Steven Petrick worked on stuff for Captain's Log #48 (battle groups, the monster article, the update).

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.

Jean worked on the C6 preview pack, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1780 friends), managed our Twitter feed (64 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread the C6 preview and Communique #94, gathered information for Hailing Frequencies, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 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.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

On Buying and Marketing and Growth

Jean Sexton muses:

One of the exciting things about moving to Amarillo and ADB, Inc. is that I am learning new things, expanding my horizons, and having fun in this new job. While some of the new things include finding my way around a city and setting up a new life, others are very definitely related to moving to a small business world from a government-supported academic world.

I have had to change how I think about books. I was on the "buying end" of the book industry. I bought books I liked to read for my personal collection and, for the library, suggested books that I thought students might need or would enjoy. I read the ads and reviews to see what I would like or suggest for others. I definitely shopped in bookstores to spot new titles and authors. A cover would draw me in, I'd read the writeup on the cover, and then I'd make the decision to buy or not. My friendly local game store knew what I enjoyed and let me know when something I would like was released. Buying things was easy!

Now I find that I'm the one hoping to see a cover that will draw people in. I'm the one trying to figure out how to get that image out to the world. I'm the one trying to see what will tip a person into spending hard-earned money on "my" book, not "the other company's" book. What do I write that will appeal to our existing customers? What do I write that will appeal to new customers? How do I get this book to stand out and make people pick it up?

For a long time, we haven't really "done" marketing at ADB. It was "catch as catch can" due to everyone having so many "jobs" to get done. Marketing consisted of an email to existing customers, a listing in the trade journal, and, more recently, to promoting the item on social media to existing fans. We blog about things we think will interest our customers; we try to maintain forums that are pleasant to visit. All these are aimed at keeping existing customers. However, the company needs to expand its customer base in order for the company to stay healthy. We need to keep our existing customers, find our old customers, and expand by reaching out to new customers.

How do we do that? Well, one thing we are going to try is to try previews of our new releases. People like "freebies" and maybe we'll find some of those people who used to play our games and then thought we went out of business for good during the transition from Task Force Games to ADB, Inc. Maybe someone will be tempted to try Federation Commander if they try the free "First Missions," with visible proof of its shorter rulebook. Maybe we can show people what the Star Fleet Universe is and how it differs from canon Star Trek.

We are expanding from e23 to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault. Different people shop at different "stores" and maybe we'll find some of those missing and new people there. I'm trying to make announcements on BoardGameGeek in hopes that people will find us there. (I'm having to learn their rules about publicity, but I'll get there!) I need to learn other places to visit to make announcements.

We are growing our demo presence via the Rangers. I'm trying to keep up with who is doing what, make sure that they have what they need, and make sure that they get their rewards. Next on my list is to encourage the growth of battle groups. We promised we'd have that going a while back and we are following through on it. Battle groups are a nexus of gamers and able to help us turn out better and better books.

How can you help? Become a Ranger and help introduce our games to new people. If you see something that you think we're doing right in the way of advertising, let us know. If you know of places we should expand, let us know that, too. If you are on a board and it is appropriate, let your fellow gamers know you enjoyed something we produced. Help me learn, please. I want to see our games reach every roleplayer and gamer that would enjoy them. You can always email me at marketing@StarFleetGames.com or message me at our page on Facebook.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Top Ten Bad Ideas for Submissions

10. Start off your cover letter by insulting the company and game designers, such as “You people are probably going to reject this because you are morons.”

9. Forget to include your name and address. For bonus points, just list your initials and assume we know who you are.

8. Leave your submission at the Origins judges’ desk. This is especially cool if combined with #9.

7. Include a statement claiming that if we do not print it within 90 days you acquire the right to print your own SFB products. (Hint: Under copyright law, you can’t print your own SFB products as they would be “derivative works”. You also cannot impose your own conditions unilaterally.)

6. Insist that no changes can be made by ADB, Inc.

5. Copy characters, ships, and weapons from non-trek science fiction.

4. Use characters from any TV show, movie, or book. We’re not licensed to use “literary elements” of Trek.

3. Submit something, and get our response. Then resubmit it without fixing the problems listed in our response. Even better, don’t even try to answer or explain away our objections.

2. Cruise the web. Find somebody’s website with his SFB stuff on it. Copy the stuff and submit it under his name (or even better, under your name).

1. Use material from a published Star Trek book. (Hint: if we were licensed to use that book, we would have already printed everything that could possibly be based on it.)

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

Thursday, October 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.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:

1. MANDRAKE, a poisonous plant, is simply a short version of the scientific name mandragora. The roots of the plant often take the shape of small humans. That and the poisonous nature gave it no end of magical properties in the minds of the ancients. Mandragora means man-dragon and drake is simply a shorter word for dragon.

2. MANURE, fecal matter used as fertilizer, comes from the old French verb manouvrer, which meant to work the soil by hand. That French verb also gave us the military term maneuver meaning to move troops around on the field.

3. MARCH, the third month of our calendar and the first month of the old Roman calendar, is named for Mars, the God of war. Turns out, he was also the Sabine god of agriculture and when Rome conquered the Sabines the two versions of Mars merged.

4. MARMALADE, a spread made from fruit, was originally made from a fruit called the quince or honey apple, and the Portuguese word for that was marmelo. The Portuguese exported boatloads of marmelado spread to England, where English housewives discovered they could make a similar and cheaper delicacy from almost any fruit.

5. MARSHAL, a high military officer, was originally the groom of the king's stable. When the king went to war, the marshal went along to make sure the king's horse was taken care of. Riding beside the king led to being the king's trusted right-hand man, and then the commander of the cavalry, and from there the "marshal of the field" deployed the King's army for battle and became the "field marshal" of the British and German armies. Now, back when the stable groom became the king's right-hand man, he was made the chief judge of the Court of Chivalry. When the king wanted to prosecute somebody important, the Marshal was sent to fetch the VIP to the king's justice. Hence, today in the US (which has no field marshals because General George Marshal did not want to be Field Marshal Marshal) the US Marshals are the law enforcement officials who bring evil doers before the court of justice.

6. MARTINET, a military officer more concerned with form and discipline than battlefield tactics, comes from Colonel Martinet, who commanded the French Royal Regiment in 1660. When Louis XIV became king, he decided to change from the old system (hiring the entire army when war started) to having a large standing army. The Royal Regiment being the only unit on permanent active duty before this reform, its troops had the best drill, tactics, and discipline, and Colonel Martinet literally wrote the book on professional soldiering.

7. MATCH, something used to light a fire, comes by a strange path from the Green myxa, the mucus from a runny nose. The Roman myxus meant nose and was used for the end of a lamp where the flame burned. This led to the Italian miccia, the word for lamp wick. That led to the burning cord or slow match that was used by someone who had to walk around lighting fires in a great house. It was then used by a soldier to ignite the gunpowder in his matchlock musket.

8. MATINEE, or the afternoon showing of a theatrical performance, began as the entertainment a lord enjoyed before his dinner (which was at 3 o'clock until 1360). Since anything from sunrise to dinner was "morning" the "matinee" was simply the "morning show". Matin is the French word for morning.

9. MAUDLIN, meaning depressing or sad, comes from the old "miracle plays" that the churches staged from about 1250-1590 in England. Each displayed some miracle of the bible or the life of a saint. In time, each guild of a city would "stage" one "pageant" or scene of the play mounted on a wagon. The wagons would then progress from one part of the city to another, so each crowd would see each scene of the overall play in the correct order once or twice a year. The most popular of all such plays was about Mary Magdalen, in those days mistakenly thought to be the same person as the sinner who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. The early English pronounced Magdalen as Maudlin (and still do to this day). Because she was crying in every scene, someone who was impossibly sad was said to be Magdalen or Maudlin.
 10. MAUSOLEUM, today any elaborate or large tomb, was the name of the tomb of Mausolus (a minor Greek king of a part of Turkey). While he started construction, it was finished (and made one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) by his inconsolable widow Artemisia.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Of Legs and Ladies

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have at various times and on various forums admitted my gross ignorance in understanding the gender opposite my own. One of the things I have noted in the last decade or so is that my current weight seems to have some kind of impact. When I was able to swim regularly and my weight got down into the 220s I started noting (for want of a better term) "approaches" by young ladies: essentially invitations to enter into conversations, which I found odd particularly from the standpoint that I was much older than the young ladies.

I admit to still having no idea what that was about.

My weight has fluctuated over time, from an all time high (that I am aware of) of 255 pounds (weighed). I have no idea if it was ever more than that, down to its current level.

Of late, now being a decade and more older, I have gotten my weight down to a fluctuating scale of between 196 and 206. (Which seems to me to indicate that there is some kind of correlation between age and weight, as apparently I have to lose more weight as I get older to create the connections in the female mind that engenders "notice.") That my weight is down this low has encouraged me to try to get back down into the 180s, simply because I think it would be a better weight for me given my approximate five-foot-nine height.

The odd part is that of late I have been accosted by a young lady I'll call "Patsy" on my rounds and engaged in conversation (Patsy is 20). The two young ladies who were my neighbors until this past Sunday when they moved out also suddenly seemed to be taking an interest that I cannot explain (they were both college students). These are not constant contacts and I do not (and did not in the latter case) have much sustained contact, e.g., the last time I spoke with Patsy I broke off the conversation, politely, because her apparent boyfriend was beginning to look a little put out that she was talking to the old guy.

The incident that most recently caught me off guard and flat footed (so to speak) is the one that I do have a more or less sustained contact with.

A young lady I'll call "Jane" works at a BBQ restaurant, and SVC likes to eat there when he can, at least weekly although that schedule is not always maintained. I have eaten there with SVC many times and joked with Jane in good nature. On more than one occasion I have worn sandals and knee-length shorts. This past Friday (27 Sept) since I was taking some time off having finished with Module C6 I asked SVC if he wanted me to show up for the designer's dinner (what he calls the once weekly meal out). Since I had not been in the office, and was not going anywhere after the meal, I opted to wear a long-sleeved pullover, sandals, and athletic shorts.

Now, okay, the shorts being what they are cover a little more than a standard square cut swimsuit, so they reveal my thighs and knees in addition to my calves (and the pullover does not do anything to conceal my gut which still extends before chest) and I honestly do not think much of this as Army PT uniform shorts got me quite comfortable being in a public arena with that much exposure (although obviously not in formal areas), and growing up with easy access to the beach also helped desensitize me to such.

So suddenly Jane comments on how "toned" my legs are, and then goes on to compare my legs to her own.

Can you say "flustered?"

I have seen mayhem breaking out around me, held on tight as a crash was going on and swung immediately into appropriate action in its aftermath, charged into danger without thought of my own safety to help others. But any nice comment (I guess it was a nice comment) about me and I am flabbergasted and have no concept of how to respond. I mean, in the aftermath and later review I guess I should have simply said "thank you."

But, honestly, I have no idea what that was about and am even at this juncture utterly baffled and confused.