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Saturday, November 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.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Steve Cole's designs for Klingon T-Shirts.

1. Why are we doing transporter testing on animals when we have plenty of prisoners of war?

2. Did I offend you? Well, fine, I'll just kill you. I don't have time to deal with you being upset.

3. I have finally learned that I cannot please everybody, but it's fairly easy to burn entire planets to the ground.

4. Don't thank me for being so nice to you. It's just an act while my Marines get behind you.

5. Nothing is worse than that moment when you realize that the Klingon you're arguing with is carrying a disruptor.

6. I don't need for you to find the good in the Klingon soul. I just need you to sign the @#$% surrender documents.

7. So you think I'm in a blind rage? Wrong. I know exactly what I'm doing to you and exactly how much it hurts you. The blind rage is just an act to scare you into surrendering.

8. Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice Kzinti" while the crew loads the scatter-pack.

9. Some of my crew try very hard to be my best friend. Fools! They need to make friends with the agonizer booth technician.

10. It is better to fight and lose than live your life as a coward.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Being a Stranger in a Strange Land, Happiness, and Thankfulness

Jean Sexton muses:

By now it is oldish news that I moved from my native North Carolina to Texas. I've now been in Texas for over half a year and there are times I feel as though I am a stranger in a strange land. I heard this ringing noise when I was walking to my apartment the other day and saw a person wearing spurs. Spurs! On a Real Person! Not an actor or someone in a rodeo! Tumbleweeds still elicit a "Tumbleweed! There! Rolling!" response from me. And snow in November? It turns out this is normal! And while I love the big blue sky in Texas, I am keenly aware that it is different from the tall trees that abounded in North Carolina. I have to remember to order "sweet tea" here in an area where "tea" defaults to unsweetened tea, either hot or cold. And part of me still considers it heathenish what they call barbecue -- cow covered with a sweet, red sauce. Where is my pork with its light seasoning of vinegar and herbs?

And yet, I am happy, as happy as I have been in a long time. I have my own spaces (well, shared with Markie Dog Sexton) at work and at home and I'm decorating them as I want. My mother and I chat whenever we want, so doesn't seem we're far apart. I live so very close to work and to lots of stores. I'm able to work at "fun stuff" most of the time. I think I am making a difference to ADB and for our customers and that makes me happy, too.

All this month I've been thinking of things for which I am thankful. I am thankful for things such as good health and good fortune. I am thankful for my family who supported me in my move miles away from all that I knew to do a job they don't quite understand -- facilitating gaming and RPGing. I am thankful for friends who were there in person to help me move and who have supported me here. I am just as thankful for the community of friends that are out there, just an electronic whisper away, who are there when I need a laugh or some support or just a friendly hello. I am thankful for the people I work with who made it possible for me to be here and to bring Markie to work with me.

I am also thankful to you, our customers. Without your support ADB wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have the life I now lead. It is a modest life, but that is all I really want or need.

We hope that all of our American friends have time today to spend with family and friends. We give our heartfelt thanks for those who are working today to keep us safe and healthy. (For our friends elsewhere, thank you for indulging us in our time off today.) May you have much to give thanks for in the coming year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here:

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conspiracies Come, and Sadly, They Rarely Go

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there. This does not mean that some conspiracies were not real. (John Wilkes Booth had a band of fellow conspirators and intended what we would now call a "decapitation operation" against the Union government, but in the end only he succeeded in killing his target.) There is little doubt that there are a lot of "little conspiracies" going on even now, driven by the internet that allows so many like minded people to find each other.

One of the things that makes so many conspiracy theories seem somewhat plausible is a general ignorance of things outside of our own fields of interest.

One item that keeps coming up about the Kennedy Assassination is that "the records were sealed for 75 years." Obviously the government had something to hide in this one specific case.

Problem is, prior to about 1966 it was standard procedure to seal the records of any given government investigation for 75 years. It would have been unusual if the records had not been sealed. (And, by the way, most of the Kennedy assassination records have already been released to the public because so many people were clamoring that their being sealed must mean there was a conspiracy with the result that an act of Congress was passed to release them prematurely.)

Other things are to impute impossibility to the possible. In Oswald's case, he was a trained rifleman, and "JFK" to the contrary he was a competent shooter when he was in the Marines. He did not score "Maggie's drawers." And could a bolt action rifle be fired accurately in the time stipulated from the Zapruder film? Actually, yes. Because one of the key aspects is that the rifle was being fired at a receding target moving in a straight line. The shooter did not have to search for a dodging target, nor wait for the target to appear from behind cover between shots.

Once you do these things (find like minded people, impute the possible is impossible, and work on ignorance . . . this latter for example is that most people do not know how fast a bolt action rifle can be fired in the conditions under which Oswald was operating), you then simply start smearing your favorite villain of choice.

In John Wilkes Booth's case, there are some who still insist that members of Lincoln's own administration were in on the plot to kill him, and this explains how Booth was able to kill Lincoln.

So we live our lives surrounded by conspiracy theories. Big Oil, the Gnomes of Zurich, FDR knew about Pearl Harbor beforehand, Roswell/Area 51, the invasion of Somalia was to get the Somali oil, 9/11/01 was an "inside job." Most of them are put forward by people simply because they have their own agenda and railing against a larger conspiracy against them or their cause helps draw the ignorant in to support them.

Am I immune to all of this? No, not even myself. Even I can craft possible conspiracies behind some actions and activities. And I am certainly quite capable of "spinning a web of tissue" to link things together that can appear plausible. But what makes most conspiracies appear plausible to those not already part of them is a lack of knowledge about how things really work.

Like the records of Federal Investigations being sealed for 75 years is a government statute that long predated the findings of Warren Commission, and was not created to conceal the findings of that commission, but was simply the way things were done at that time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a busy week as we had to shuffle the work schedule to delay Captain's Log #48 to January. Jean kicked into high gear on Traveller Prime Directive. The weather this week was increasingly cold, and it started snowing on Saturday afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We had a company dinner at Dyer's BBQ and we all met Simone's boyfriend Andy.

New on e23 this week: Battlewagon Article #2: The Battle of San Bernadino Straits - A Battlewagon Scenario. 

New on DriveThru RPG this week:
Battlewagon Article #2: The Battle of San Bernadino Straits - A Battlewagon Scenario and Star Fleet Battles Pocket Edition.

New on Wargame Vault this week: Battlewagon Article #2: The Battle of San Bernadino Straits - A Battlewagon Scenario and Star Fleet Battles Pocket Edition.

Steve Cole worked on various projects, including stuff for Captain's Log #48 and the restart of the Starline 2500 product line. He also kept an eye on Jean's work on Traveller Prime Directive and Tony's work on ACTASF-1.2.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and future SFB productions.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,847 friends), managed our Twitter feed (74 followers), uploaded stuff to the PDF sites, commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, dealt with public relations from the change in the Mongoose deal, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Steve Cole's thoughts on military history.

1. There is endless debate over who was the greatest general in all of (Earth) history. I have long ago settled on Genghis Khan. He was a national leader (which lets out the likes of Patton, Montgomery, Lee, and Grant) who conquered a vast empire (only Alexander the Great comes close). Genghis made more military innovations than Alexander (who made none other than lengthening the spears his father had issued) and the empire of Genghis survived centuries after his death while Alexander's crumbled within months.

2. Who was the greatest general of the Civil War? Well, Grant is a strong candidate. While he was a bloody butcher who just hammered the rebels, but he did display some brilliant leadership at Vicksburg and some dogged defensiveness at Nashville. Mostly what he did was fail to read the memo previous Union generals read, the one that said "When Lee whips you, you're supposed to go home for a few months." Lee is a sentimental favorite and master of defensive warfare, but his ability to maneuver died with Stonewall and his only two offensive operations failed. Sherman has to be considered in that he conducted bold operations over long distances, and fought more than a few major battles to victorious conclusions, and I'd almost consider him over Grant. Thomas is one almost no one remembers, but he may have been the best of the lot.

3. Sad to say it since I am an American soldier, but the US Army has never really understood squad tactics, and gets by with massive artillery and air support. I mean, we went into World War I with that moronic chautchaut thing as our squad machinegun, and into World War II with the very nice B.A.R, but neither of them was what we needed and everyone else had: an actual squad machinegun like the Bren or MG34. Look at the squads of other armies, and you find a machinegun in every group of ten soldiers. The machinegun does the killing while the riflemen just carry ammo, keep enemy soldiers out of hand grenade range, and occasionally take over the enemy foxholes.

4. The Marine Corps "island hopping" campaign of World War II deserves a serious look by someone who examines the question: Why didn't they just bombard the island the Japanese were on and invade the empty island next door? That's how the Army did it. (Once they took the empty place, the built an airbase and cut off supplies to the Japanese island they bypassed.)

5. I read something interesting the other day. The US Army (during WWII) took pictures of every damaged B17 and B24 that came home. They mapped out every bullet hole or flak fragment hole in them onto a single model of each aircraft. Certain areas stood out as devoid of any damage, which meant that any aircraft damaged in that spot crashed. These spots were then given some armor plating.

6. The British have long claimed that the debacle on Omaha Beach was because the US did not use British special engineer tanks for obstacle breaching. There are conflicting sources on this, some saying that the US tried to get these special tanks but the British factories could only make enough for the British beaches, others agreeing that the US didn't really think they needed the special tanks. A careful analysis of the battles on Omaha Beach do make it clear that the special engineer tanks would have added little to the chaos that happened there. The problems were multiple. The naval barrage did far less damage than anyone expected (on every beach). The aerial bombardment was wasted because bad weather meant planes had to drop bombs blind, and they were told to avoid hitting US troops and so ended up hitting nothing. Nobody (British or American) noticed that the German 352nd Infantry Division had taken over the sector three months earlier, meaning that the defenses were much stronger. The four "draws" that allowed access from the beach to the top of the cliff were all blocked by unexpectedly strong fortifications. The precise schedule of the landings meant that useless anti-aircraft and other units were sent into a beach that was expected to be clear of Germans, but in fact was not.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Swish, smack! Whip crack!
Smash, Maul! Pinch, nab!
You go, my lad!
Ho, ho! my lad!

The black crack! the back crack!
The black crack! the back crack!
Down down to Andro-town
Down down to Andro-town
Down down to Andro-town
You go, my lad!
Ho, ho! my lad!

Andros quaff, and Andros beat
Andros laugh, and Andros bleat
Batter, jabber, maul, and taver hoooooo!
Below, my lad!
Ho, ho! my lad!

The black crack! the back crack!
The black crack! the back crack!
Down down to Andro-town
Down down to Andro-town
Down down to Andro-town
You go, my lad!
Ho, ho! my lad!

by Mike Curtis

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Wednesday, November 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!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Driver Said "Uh Oh"

This is Steven Petrick posting.

On our recent trip I did most of the driving, which is fine as I like to drive and considered doing so much of the vacation for me.

As we were heading back out of Colorado, the road we were on was a dual divided highway and pretty much an interstate. Except that some of the small towns it passed through had actually erected stop lights. While the speed was posted at 75 MPH for most of the route, it would slow when you passed through (in some cases, beside as the town was entirely on one side of the roadway) these towns.

At one point in the drive SVC heard me say "uh oh." I did not say anything else after that, but SVC eventually concluded that I had said it because something was wrong. I did not get much more animated about things, and we simply kept driving.

The problem was that I had moved my left leg. How was this a problem? In this particular case, somehow the floor mat had adhered to the bottom of my boot, and moving my boot resulted in the floor mat coming up and curling around over the brake pedal. The "uh oh" was caused by the realization that I now had no brakes, the foot/parking/emergency brake being on the floor adjacent to the brake pedal, and thus also blocked by the mat. Having already gone the other direction on this road, I was aware that somewhere ahead was one of those towns I mentioned with a traffic light.

I did not want to upset the other occupants of the vehicle. This only because if I told them what was going on, there was nothing they could do about it. They were already all buckled up if something else went wrong, and even if they got unbuckled to move about the cabin, none of them could have reached down where my legs were to try to clear the problem. If one of them could have done something to clear the obstruction sooner, I certainly would have asked, but that was simply not possible.

I could drop out of cruise control and shift into neutral and drift to a stop, but there was other traffic.

So, having identified the problem, I continued driving (even though Jean, at least, was wondering what was going on because she had heard the "uh oh," and SVC was doing his best to disabuse her of any concept that there was any real problem). As I did so, my feet were desperately working on trying to get the floor mat out of the way.

We continued this way for perhaps a minute, although to me it seemed a much, much longer interval, as in about five or so minutes. I doubt we even covered an entire mile during the interval (even if we were going 75 miles an hour and thus were covering more than a mile in less than a minute). Finally the mat laid back down in its proper place, and I concealed a sigh of relief.

Things might have happened. A vehicle in front of us hitting its own brakes for some reason or other. Absolute disaster was possible. In the end, the driver had a few seconds of "excitement," but nothing happened and most of those present were simply left with a mystery of why the driver said "uh oh."

Monday, November 18, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports: 

This was the week that our contract with Mongoose was modified and we took effective control over ACTASF, the Starline 2500s, and Traveller Prime Directive. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on the transitions for the 2500s and ACTASF, ordered the first new 2400s, did color images for SFBOL third generation conversions, and did some work on Captain's Log #48. He posted the first photos of a metal Kzinti 2500 DN and declared to the media that: "I AM Plasma Man!"

SFBOL now fully supports the 3rd generation SSDs and the first few of them have gone live.

Ramses, convinced he is a mountain lion, charged a Labrador and a shepherd dog. The dogs, convinced that he was a mountain lion (or maybe just insane) ran away.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, got all of the Federation Commander ship cards put on the shopping cart, and some graphics.

Jean got Battlewagon stuff ready to upload to PDF sellers, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,840 friends), managed our Twitter feed (73 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread various things, dealt with waves of fake people entering the BBS and trying to post spam, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-ins every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some 5,000 players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a Star Trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD
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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thoughts on the Fralli

Jean Sexton writes:

I don't know why the Fralli are always getting picked on. They may not be the handsomest beings by Human standards, but they have some very good strengths, not the least of which is being able to power their own equipment. Still, here is some recent commentary on the Fralli from the BBS.


Fralli on starship crews are always the first pick for away teams.

First, nobody cares if you lose them or "accidentally" leave them behind.

Second, few planetary predators will eat a Fralli. 


Didn't the first war with the Klingons happen because the first Federation Away team the Klingons met was an all Fralli team? 



"I have the Fralli commander on line now, Sir."

"Very well. On screen."

"On screen"

"Fralli commander.... whoa... off screen! Off screen!" ***gak***

"Sir, they're hailing us again."

***gag*** "Don't touch that panel, Lieutenant. Raise shields, arm phasers!... OK, Lieutenant, AUDIO ONLY."

"Yes, sir. Channel open."

"Fralli commander. Look, we're just gonna leave. DON'T follow us!"  


Thanks to Steve Cole, Patrick Dillman, Loren Knight, and Steven Petrick for those Fralli moments ...

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Steve Cole comments on his recent vacation.

For years, I have driven to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary every October to be "Chef Steve" and prepare the wolf buffet for their fundraiser. Every year, I have practically begged Leanna to "take a few extra days and take a side trip and see something" before going home. Every year, she said "no" because she was tired and wanted to go home. It got to the point that I couldn't even remember what one was supposed to do on a vacation. (We considered going to Branson but could not find any shows we both wanted to see.)

This year, Jean wanted to go along and wanted the side trips. Maybe that's what convinced Leanna to take the extra time (and maybe that's what convinced Steven Petrick to tag along and do most of the driving) or maybe Leanna just wanted a decent vacation. We haven't had one since 2007 (when we went to Vegas to get married again to celebrate our 30th anniversary) but even that trip was a disaster as we got very sick and limped home driving a few hours a day before crashing in a hotel. We went to England a few years ago but that was partly a business trip (although Stonehenge and London were well worth seeing).

I did most of the planning in a general sense (the route) which began with the wolf thing and ended in Raton (both things I wanted to do). I let Jean and Leanna pick any stops along the route they wanted. They decided to stop and see the little dinosaur museum in Tucumcari on the first day, and I was quite okay with that. On the morning after the wolves, I ran Jean the 15 miles west to the Arizona border so she could see another state she had never visited. She came away disappointed that we didn't take a few hours to see more. Meteor Crater was within range, but not if we planned to see Albuquerque that afternoon.

I had allocated an entire day for Albuquerque but the ladies checked the tourist books and found nothing there they wanted to see, so we went to Los Alamos instead to see the (fascinating) nuclear museum. We didn't have enough time there before they closed and plan to see it again on a future trip.

We had plans for the day in Santa Fe that collapsed when the museum we wanted to see was not open. Instead, Steven Petrick stayed in the hotel to read while I went with the ladies to take a tram tour of the city, and walked over to see the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the miracle staircase at the Loretto Chapel.

We saw the museum the next day and then took the scenic drive north along the Rio Grande Gorge to Taos, then around the Enchanted Circle to Red River and Eagle's Nest, then through Cimmaron Canyon (where I spent most of my summers as a boy) and on to Raton. I should mention that we stopped at a national park office in the Rio Grande Gorge (just to use the bathroom) and the nice lady told us about a secret road through the deepest part of the gorge that led us to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos (a miracle of engineering I wanted to see again). Getting advice on secret scenic routes was something I have never done before, and it added a note of spontaneity to the trip (and saw some great scenery we'd have never known was there.) The trip through Cimmaron Canyon was somewhat upsetting as big parts of the canyon were full of junky human habitation that was not there the last time I was (decades ago).

On the way to Raton we saw a herd of well over 200 buffalo (also known as American Bison) but nobody had a camera out and (being the end of a long day of driving) it never occurred to anyone to stop the car, turn around, and drive one mile back to get a photo.

The next day we met one of my lifetime goals and drove to a spot where a few feet up a hillside you can touch the KT Boundary, the iridium layer from the time the dinosaurs died. (Creationists think this layer is the clay from Noah's Flood, which is when they agree that dinosaurs died.) It was a hands and knees operation to get past the boulders and the only way to actually touch the boundary layer was to lay down on the hillside (which was too unstable to allow anyone to simply walk up there and crouch down). Photos show me on my belly while Steven Petrick stands beside me, but even he admitted that he could not have reached down to touch the boundary without the unstable hillside coming out from under his feet.
We were at a loss what to do on "Raton Day." There wasn't much in Raton. We drove down the historical district (5 minutes) and did the KT thing (30 minutes). We were actually thinking of going back to the hotel to spend the afternoon playing a game that we had brought along. We decided to take an hour and run over Raton Pass into Colorado because Jean had never been there. We stopped a the State tourist office and a nice lady told us about another one of those secret sightseeing trails past lakes, forests, old mines, and interesting geology. That took a couple of hours and filled the afternoon quite nicely.

On the last day we stopped on the drive home to see Capulin Volcano, a perfect cinder cone you can drive to the top of. There is a paved trail around the rim, but it's pretty steep and has no handrails. The intrepid Steven Petrick completed the circuit but none of the rest of us felt like trying it. (Given my weak leg that has never healed, it was pretty much not going to happen for me.)

One aspect of the trip that was interesting was "adventure dining." Now, going out to lunch is a big frakking deal for me because I like food, but my idea of fine dining is pretty low-key (e.g., Wendy's). When Leanna and I travel, we rarely consider a local restaurant, preferring chains because of my food allergy problems. Jean, on the other hand, considers it a lousy vacation if she doesn't eat at places they don't have at home (i.e., no chains). This had mixed results, and we all had some good meals and some bad meals and chain vs. local really had no correlation. I had bad and good meals from chains and good and bad meals from locals. I have long since learned to include some substantial food in the snack cooler just in case I have to skip a meal at a restaurant.

The word "recreation" literally means "re-creating yourself" by clearing your head, resting, refreshing your spirit, and getting rid of some of the stress of ordinary living. The trip was a considerable success on every front, and we're already discussing plans for a future trip together.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PRESS RELEASE -- 13 November 2013

ADB, Inc. and Mongoose Publishing have signed a contract modification which ensures that the three joint-venture product lines (A Call to Arms Star Fleet, Starline 2500, and Traveller Prime Directive) will continue and grow. This does not end the joint venture; it simply realigns the responsibilities to better match each company's core competencies to the best advantage. The two companies remain great friends.

We will ask you to be patient a little longer regarding elements of the new production plan. We could not begin to work out the details on some items until the contract modification was signed. (You're welcome to send your questions which will be answered in future press releases as we resolve each of them.)
ADB will assume primary design responsibility for A Call to Arms Star Fleet including the revisions to Book One and the entirely new future Books Two and Three. (Tony L. Thomas will manage the designs as developer; Matthew Sprange remains the designer of record.) ADB plans to sell these as both PDFs and print-on-demand books. The revisions to Book One will include adjusting the relative power of some weapons at various ranges, revising damage scores for some ships, creating a new way to handle seeking weapons, extending the range for transporters, changing compulsory movement, altering some special actions so they no longer preclude some other special actions, removing most of the crew quality checks, clarifying any confusing rules, and adding unobtrusive cross-indexes without resorting to formal rule numbers. ADB is committed to maintaining the existing ACTASF game system and improving it. ADB will be the only source for the purchase of new ACTASF books and PDFs. Mongoose will retain ownership and control of non-SFU versions of ACTA.

The Starline 2500 range will continue and expand. Mongoose will remain the primary designer of new ship models, but ADB will be responsible for production, marketing, sales, and quality control. ADB is committed to keeping the 2500s in production as long as someone buys them, and to adding new 2500s as long as enough players buy new ships. The stands will be changed and most resin ships will be replaced by metal ships. ADB has (with the signing of this deal) become the only source for 2500s. Mongoose will fulfill or cancel any back orders on file and any obligations to the Mongoose Infantry. The contract modification happened when Mongoose had just shifted production to a new facility, and until that facility is fully on line, ADB will be selling 2500s by mail order only (not through stores). We expect to do a major relaunch of the line in the first half of next year. This will include the missing Book One ships, several new ships, as well as changing the packaging and price structure.

Work will accelerate on the four Traveller Prime Directive books, which will be written, produced, and marketed by ADB in both print-on-demand and PDF formats. ADB will be the only source for the purchase of new books and PDFs. We expect to see the first book released in the spring of 2014 and one or two of the other books later during 2014.

Tuesday, November 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.

Monday, November 11, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-9 November 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a "calm before the storm" week, as we tried to get everything loose finished up and battened down before next week, when a lot of work on Captain's Log #48 begins. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week Captain's Log #32 and Battlewagon Article #1 Rulers of the High Seas from Nexus, no. 1.

New on DriveThru this week was Battlewagon. It is also available on Wargame Vault.

Everyone worked on catching up things that happened during the trip to New Mexico.
Steve Cole worked on Communique #95, Hailing Frequencies, Captain's Log #48, and the mysterious Project Monrovia.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, added all of the FC ship cards to the cart as individual items, and some graphics.

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies and Project Monrovia, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1826 friends), deleted dozens of spambots from the BBS, managed our Twitter feed (69 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #95, dealt with Mongoose, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 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:

Friday, November 08, 2013

ADB, Inc. Announces Cardboard Patches, Sparks Controversy


AMARILLO, TEXAS – ADB, Inc  publicly announced that their popular cardboard product would soon be available in wearable patch form.

According to company president Stephen V. Cole, “The patches are designed to slowly release cardboard into the user’s bloodstream, helping to prevent cravings. An icon on each patch identifies the strength of the patch, making it easy for users to ensure they are getting the right dosage. The patches are available in a wide variety of designer colors, including black on blue, white on black, and black on red.  At approximately half an inch square, they can also be worn discreetly under clothing.”

The announcement was received enthusiastically by ADB’s customers. “This is wonderful,” said “Kommander K.,” who says he owns “a dozen Plano tackle boxes full” of cardboard. “You used to need at least a kitchen table’s worth of space to get a fix. Now I can just slap ‘em straight on my skin.” Others aren’t so sure, citing concerns over the long-term effects of cardboard use. Professor G. N. Sexton, a neurologist at Miskatonic University, believes that cardboard can have severe effects on vulnerable individuals. “Cardboard use seems to affect the language center of the brain, re-wiring it,” she said. “Users suffer a kind of aphasia, using normal words in bizarre ways. For example, they use the word ‘race’ to refer not to a competition, but to a nation or ethnic group.” In heavy users, the effects seem to be even more severe: “Users of high-strength double-sided cardboard lose almost any ability to communicate normally, using nonsense words like ‘DirDam’ and ‘ComPot.’ The heavier the cardboard use, the more resistant the patient is to remedial therapy. Most double-sided cardboard users are hopeless cases.”

Mr. Cole dismisses the concerns. “Most of these guys are career military,” he says. “Years of using military jargon will destroy anyone’s ability to communicate clearly.” He also dismisses claims that cardboard is addictive. “Most users voluntarily limit the amount of cardboard they use in a session, referring to any excess as ‘clutter.’ Would they do that if it was addictive?” According to Professor Sexton, it is. “Most cardboard users experiment with it during high school or college, then stop using it as they mature. For a small number of individuals, however, it is highly addictive and they need larger and larger doses. Some use thousands of counters at a time.” Even going cold turkey is not enough to break the habit, Sexton says, citing the case of “David Z.” “He used heavily for some years before finally giving up, but then found out about ADB from its page on Facebook. Within days, he was using cardboard again.” Some users seem to realize that they are addicted but don’t care: “I’m addicted to cardboard. I could give up at any time, but why bother?” says one.

Hardcore cardboard users form a small, tightly-knit subculture. Users think of themselves as an elite group,  referring to themselves as “players,” a term borrowed from the hip-hop music culture to mean a high-status person. On blogs they claim to be a tiny minority of “risk takers.” Users meet at each other’s homes and on Internet message boards to use cardboard or plan meetings to use cardboard. Some will travel thousands of miles to meet at “game conventions” and binge on double-sided cardboard for three days or more.  Professor Sexton believes this behavior is extremely dangerous and that double-sided cardboard should be banned. “It’s all bright colors and big numbers on the face of it,” she says, “but the flipside is crippling.”

Thanks to Terry O'Carroll for finding this article!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Visit to Capulin National Monument

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Part of our recent trip was a visit to Capulin, a dormant (as they say there is some chance that it might erupt again someday) volcano raising up out of New Mexico.

I could talk about this for quite a while as I have a number of "military" observations about it, both "real world" and "zombie apocalypse." I am, however, going to limit myself to my walk around its rim.

First, I want to say that I brought a collapsible walking stick with me on the trip just for this moment, and then did not actually take it with me. That was a mistake.

If you have never been to this monument, you should go. The drive up the side of the volcano would give (if you have never driven around steep mountain terrain before) you an idea what it is like to drive around Italy's mountain roads, or the "yamas" of Korea, among many other places.

I would, however, suggest that you do not walk the rim unless your legs are in much better shape than mine now are.

There is a pathway that is "manmade" in that material has been poured (it appeared to me) to create it. It is, however, conformable to the terrain. There are no steps, so when you hit the steep parts . . . well they are steep.

There are also no hand rails, or guard rails. As I mentioned, you are walking the rim. One serious misstep could very easily see you pitching over either side, and both are themselves very steep in a lot of places. Steep enough that once you pitch over, you are going to keep going.

I strongly suspect that when I was younger, even as much as just 10 years ago, I would not have considered the path much of a problem. However, my legs are not as steady as they used to be (even if someone very recently mentioned they were well "toned"), and very definitely not as reliable (I "stubbed" each of my feet four times, eight times total, while on the walk, and each time was almost enough to bring catastrophe as it was). Most of this does come from my left foot, which really seriously does not work like it used to, but in all honesty is much, much better than it was just five months ago.

Five months ago I would not have attempted this walk at all, or at least I would not have attempted to complete it, but would have turned back pretty quickly. As it was, I could not tell you if my heart rate was elevated just because of the exertion of the walk around rim, or the contained terror. (I am afraid of heights, but possess that kind of courage that makes me face that fear and press on despite it, how I was able to graduate jump school, but it is still there even if I am trying to mask it.)

I really only attempted the walk at all because of another fear. Given how weak I was five months earlier, could I really hold onto the belief that the next time I got to Capulin, if at all, that I would be able to walk it then? No, to me this was a make or break, I either did it this time or accepted that I might never be able to do it.

About a third of the way around is a "down walk" branch (wide enough for one person at a time to go down and standing place at the bottom for two or three "close friends") to the "best place to look at the floor of the volcano." This was the point where I made another rather terrible discovery. My legs are bad as noted, but they handle "up" far better than they handle "down." Going down slope my legs are far less stable than they are going up. Far, far less stable. I can honestly say I did not get close enough to the edge to really look down into the crater (if I had had the walking stick, I probably would have, but my legs being what they are I had real fear that the slope combined with looking down would have been too dangerous a combination).

Convinced that surely things would not be much worse, I pressed on from that point, and things naturally got worse. First, there was much more up slope to contend with. (The only really positive thing I can say about my progress is that I never stopped unless there was a sign posted with something to read or pointing at something to look at in the distance and I had a pair of 7x50 binocular with me for that purpose, but I did stop every time I encountered such and was grateful for the break.) Second, once you got past the last of the up slope, the down slope was even steeper than I had imagined, complete with "switchbacks" that had not appeared while going up. Finally, there had been a light snowfall at the top, and the sunshine had melted much of it, but in the shadows provided by the vegetation . . . yes, ice. The man made trail had a rough surface, but still . . . ice. The ice was only in patches, there was no place where large stretches were covered, but a misstep, or a stub which left me trying to recover my balance and forcing a shift of a foot . . . well things could have ended very badly. (Did I mention my heart rate earlier?)

Maybe it was not all as terrifying as it seemed, maybe I am over speaking. Maybe a younger and more fit person would have been absolutely comfortable on that trail (there were lots of benches where one could sit and admire the view, but I never used one) and think the pathway ridiculously broad.

That few pounds of gray matter above and behind my eyes has, however, made a lot of adjustments to the physical capability I currently possess. About 10 years ago at our old warehouse I was standing on the roadway in front of the loading dock. Without really thinking about it I took two or three steps and did a vertical leap from ground level to land on the loading dock flat footed. Yes, my knees then had to unfold into the standing position, but I did it and was utterly unconcerned that it was beyond my capability. There are low brick walls that I used to easily jump to the top of and then step off without breaking stride. About three years ago whenever I went to our new warehouse with its lower loading dock I would jump to the top of it without thinking to save the steps of walking up the stairs.

I do not jump at all anymore.

I can't.

Just before we went to Capulin the hotel we stayed at had a low brick wall that could be negotiated to save a few steps to breakfast. My brain looked at it and determined that I could walk to it, and step up on it, but I could not jump to the top of it without breaking stride, and the jump off the far side would probably harm my knees, so I always walked around it.

If we ever return to Capulin, I will probably not attempt to walk the rim again (I do intend to try to walk down to the bottom of the crater, and would have done so this time had we had the time available, but as it was the walk around the rim took much longer than I had imagined as my consciousness still thinks of a mile walk as something that takes a quarter hour no matter the terrain). I may only be in my late 50s, but I am pretty obviously on a very steep decline in physical capability. The distances I can walk have shortened over time. From the casual 20 miles without thinking about it of my youth, to the weekly 12 miles while I was in the service, down to the six miles I would casually walk in the 90s to try to maintain some stamina, to the hard fought two mile walks I often cannot find the enthusiasm to attempt of late (although I have built back up to them since last February when my left leg went completely wonky for a while).

My legs apparently "look good," but they are wrecks compared to what they were, and even my sense of balance is wonky. (Small bumps can throw me completely off balance and require me to grab a wall or chair or something to keep from hitting the floor, and part of my mind seems to be constantly monitoring my surroundings for something to grab if my balance does fail . . . does not seem to be conscious thing but buried in the automatic routines.)

You add that wonky balance to walking the rim of Capulin, and perhaps you can understand why my heart was racing with the utter lack of hand rails on that walk and steep falls to either side no matter how wide (or to me narrow) that path was.

Still, with all that said, if you get a chance to visit Capulin, you should, and if your health allows it, you should take the one mile walk around its rim. At least you will be able to say "what a wimp Steve Petrick has become if this frightened him!"

Wednesday, November 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.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Steve Cole writes notes to young people, those just about to graduate and start their adult lives.

1. You're focused on getting to the day after graduation, but you need to have a good idea of where you're going to be at age 25 and how you're going to get there. At age 25 (plus or minus), you should have finished school (and perhaps a term in the military), paid for your education, married your forever-spouse, bought a house, and planted some trees. Do you have the job skills to get a job that affords that house? Are you serious about who you're dating and would they make a forever-spouse? By the way, get to age 25 (true adulthood) with a clean credit history and no police record.

2. You're in for a shock when you move into your first home and find out that it doesn't have in it everything your parents spent the last 25 years accumulating. All of that stuff, from a hammer to a pair of scissors, has to come from somewhere. With a strong family, you can probably start with the old (now surplus) copy of everything.

3. When you buy a major appliance (or a car, or the heating and air conditioning system for your house) understand that nobody promised you'd have that forever. Those things last a few years (from five to fifteen). When you need a new one, you need to have the cash in the bank to pay for it, not plan on putting it on a credit card and paying interest on it.

4. Buy the right house, and when you can, throw a couple of hundred (or thousand) extra dollars at the mortgage. (Do not plow your entire cash reserve into it; you might lose your job and need that cash.) Those first few house payments on that mortgage actually contain only a hundred dollars or so going on the principle, so adding a few hundred here and there shortens your mortgage by months and saves you interest at the end. Be careful because no matter how much extra principle you pay, you still have another payment due next month.

5. You need to make the right kind of friends, people who are serious about their own future and career, not people who do drugs or are always in trouble with the police.

6. By the way, while you're getting that college education (or other education for an adult career) be sure that you do three things: get a degree that leads to a job, get a broad degree that can open the doors to a wide range of jobs, and pick up a few electives and other courses that broaden your view of the world. You also need to learn to write effectively, spell correctly, use punctuation correctly, and clearly state what you're trying to say.

7. Just personally, I think everyone needs to spend time in the military, but then, it's frankly not for everyone. Even for people who might enjoy learning a little about that life and gaining a little self-discipline and some team-building skills, giving up a few years isn't always practical. (Even joining the reserve, these days, all but guarantees you a year overseas at an inconvenient time.) One alternative is the State Guard, where you could be a soldier, never get shot at or go overseas, not travel far from home, and leave any time you want. If the military isn't for you, at least go take the Red Cross first aid and CPR courses.

8. When looking for a job, use a shotgun, not a rifle. Go for any job you'd enjoy in a field you know, not one specific narrow job. Go for a line job, not a support job, because support people get laid off first. Look for a job with a bigger company where there is more training and more different routes up the ladder.

9. Stay out of debt. Don't go to an expensive college. Don't use student loans for anything other than education. Avoiding spending anything on a credit card you cannot pay off that month. If you have to, work from a written budget (with a reserve for flexibility).

10. The single most important decision you will ever make is the person you will spend your life with. Choose wisely.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Jean Sexton reports:

After spending a couple of days catching up on a huge backlog of emails, we are ready to get back to work. The vacation left us re-energized and ready to tackle the whole universe -- at least the Star Fleet Universe!

Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was our vacation trip to the wolf sanctuary and then to explore northern New Mexico. The weather there was cool, but not bitterly cold. Friday we drove to Gallup. Saturday we fed the wolves at Wild Spirit. Sunday Jean took a quick trip into Arizona just to say she had been there, then we all saw Los Alamos nuclear museum. Monday we toured downtown old Santa Fe. Tuesday we saw the Bataan Memorial Museum and took a scenic drive through the Rio Grande Gorge to Taos, then around the Enchanted Circle through Questa-Red River-Eagle's Nest, then Cimmaron Canyon to Raton. Wednesday we drove into Colorado and toured the Highway of Legend to see rock formations, lakes, forest, and old mines. Thursday we saw Capulin Volcano and came home.

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

Simone did website updates and sunk pirates.

Jean was able to do some BBS maintenance and customer service while on the trip, but prohibited any discussion of business or politics. SVC checked the BBS every night but not his email.

Friday, November 01, 2013

We're Back ... Almost

We are back in the office, but we have a huge backlog of email and information to process. We should be back in the saddle on Saturday.

Thanks for your patience as we took this time off.