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Tuesday, April 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 and Jean Sexton 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 Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); 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.

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

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that contractors built Jean's new office in what used to be SVC's target shooting range (wonder how Jean's going to like that?). The weather this week was cool, with one very cold day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. The two Steves spent much of the week getting ready for a trip that began on Friday.

New on e23 this week: JagdPanther Magazine #5.

Steve Cole continued the recovery from his broken leg. While the doctor released him, he faces weeks of physical therapy before regaining the full ability to walk. The muscles around the reshaped knee joints have to get used to new stresses. During this week, he supervised the construction, made some progress on Captain's Log #47, and helped Joel do the covers for two new products.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel did website updates, sank pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,567 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about life, culture, and business:
1. Recently, scientists said that they would be able to produce a cloned Neanderthal within a year or two. Obviously, we should do this if only to answer questions about them. (Can they speak? Just how intelligent are they? Do they have phenomenal memories? Can do invoke the ancient spirits of nature?) But then comes the big question. Neanderthals are not Homo Sapiens, but are they close enough to be called human and to be given human rights? (They made tools and fire, so they're clearly much smarter than chimps. They did not make clothing but did wrap themselves in skins. They buried their dead with flowers.) Would Neanderthals be a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities act? While no Neanderthal was ever in North America, would a Neanderthal clone born in this country to an American woman (you have to use a surrogate) be an American citizen? Would a Neanderthal be a "special needs child" under the laws of the state where it was born? Would we want to create a few dozen Neanderthals and create a place they could have their own community? Would doing so be segregation?
2. Recently, Jean sent me a link to an article about scantily clad women on the covers of science fiction and fantasy books. The article said that it started with Conan the Barbarian and artwork done by Frazetta and others. Well, that brings up a funny story. Back when I was a teenager, my father came home with a bundle of 20 assorted paperback books he had bought for a nickel each (i.e., a dollar for the whole bundle, no choice of what books were in it). We quickly discovered that all of the front covers had been torn off, and years later I heard why. (Bookstores take books that didn't tell, tear off the covers, and send those covers back for credit. In theory, the stores then throw away the coverless books because everybody knows not to buy them because they are effectively "stolen" books.) One of those books was the first CONAN book, and opened my eyes to a world of literature I had never known existed. It wasn't for another couple of years when I saw later CONAN paperbacks in a bookstore that I collected the entire set. The point, however, was that I was attracted to the books by their content, not their covers. (Leanna and Jean have both refused to pose for game covers, by the way.)
3. The US Army personnel replacement system in WW2 was very bad and resulted in a lot of extra casualties. Draftees were sent to a training division, and every week, that division sent a trainload of soldiers who had completed training to a seaport where they got on a boat, went to a theater of war, and (after a momentary pause in a replacement depot) were sent in batches to some division that had just taken a lot of casualties. Once there, they were parceled out between regiments, which split them up between battalions, each of which split up whatever replacements it got between companies, each company then split up the new soldiers between platoons, and finally the platoon sergeant assigned one or more to each squad. (The system was necessary because the US, with oceans to cross before reaching the war, decided to build fewer divisions and keep them in combat continually, adding replacements as needed. The system was more flexible than that used by the British and Germans, in that the US Army could send replacements to whatever unit needed them. If a British or German unit took a lot of casualties in a hurry, their replacement systems could not handle the required volume as soldiers were recruited from specific areas for specific regiments and it took months to get from the draft board to the front.) The problem with the US system was that replacements had no sense of unit identity, invariably were separated from friends they had trained with at every step in the process, and got no "at the front" training before being put into a foxhole. Replacements would report to their new unit with no idea of the unit's history, and would often be killed (because they didn't know how to avoid being killed) before their sergeant learned their name. One possible solution would have been to use a part of the German system, with each division forming a training battalion. Replacements would spend a day or two there learning "the ropes" from veterans who had come from the front-line squad or platoon they were going to. They'd have a chance to become part of a team (unit cohesion is the single most important factor in combat effectiveness) and learn how to avoid being killed.
4. An old girlfriend (Carly, 40 years ago) once told me I had "walked in here like you were walking onto a yacht." I had no idea what she meant, and asked her to explain. She did one of those "well!" numbers (something between a gasp and a shriek that means "you don't get it!") and left the party, and I haven't seen her since. (She wouldn't answer her phone, not even after I sent flowers and chocolate.) I was just wondering if anybody else knew what she meant? I mean, what is yacht-walking? I've never been on a yacht so I honestly don't know. I mean, was it because I was staggering a little (my knees were tired from a day of rock climbing) or because I was wearing the uniform of a British commodore (it was, after all, a costume party)? I really wish I knew what she meant, or whatever happened to her after that.
5. I bet you did not know that the US has been a military dictatorship. George Washington held emergency powers as dictator for two brief periods during the Revolutionary War.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q4

4. "You did WHAT to the warp engines?"

Well, according to the head janitor, who is a genius, if we just reverse the polarity of all the leads, we can double the output. But it does seem to keep us from using the power to move. I'm sure the impulse engines will be sufficient, won't they, Sir?

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Engineer and the Infantryman

This is Steven Petrick posting.

SVC and I are both products of our training in the Army, but both of us come from different branches and it seems to color our thinking.

Recently SVC was running a solitaire playtest of a scenario for Star Fleet Marines: Last Stand. He had laid out his defenses, then reviewed them and chose an axis of advance for the attacking force. After running a few turns he called on me asked me to review the set up and situation.

To my eye, SVC had chosen to attack the strongest point of his defense, and I indicated that I felt that his primary attack should actually have been a supporting secondary attack. The position did need to be attacked in order to divert the fire from that location away from where the primary attack (in my opinion) needed to be made. I chose a point where there was a little less open ground to cross, and the primary defensive bastion was more easily isolated and subject to being overrun, in my opinion -- only if, however, the strongest position was also attacked to draw its fire away from my chosen principal point of the attack. Both of us agree that trying to attack everywhere simply means that all of the defending forces get to shoot, optimizing their defensive firepower against attacking forces trying to cross “the deadly ground."

SVC, noting my selection of points of attack and stated reasons for doing so then asked how I would deploy the defenses. The only real difference between us is that I opted to pull the heavy defenses back in a little bit to make the perimeter tighter and allow more overlap of the available firepower. The upshot, in the end, was simply to reinforce my own observations about attacking the location. The best place for the primary attack still remained, but the supporting attack still needed to be made against the strongest part of the defense. It was just that now both of those attacks would face greater peril.

In the end, both of us chose the same general defensive layout, I simply chose to place more emphasis on interlocking fire. I also chose to be more active in the defense (moving troops up to support the outer defenses, planning to retire to the final defensive lines if the outer perimeter were breached). SVC seemed to take a more passive stance, establishing defenses and planning to simply allow the attackers to advance into them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Join us on Facebook

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 hope to see you there! Be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


 Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of interesting words:

1. JANUARY, now the first month of the year, was named for the old Italian god Janus. He was in charge of doorways and always shown as having two faces. Perhaps one saw the outside and the other the inside, or one saw the front door and the other the back door. The original Roman calendar had ten (longer) months. Later this was changed and two months (January and February) were added to the end. (Janus was picked because his feast day fell in that month). March was the first month of the year until about 400AD. Janus did not become the first month of the year in every country until 1582 as some continued to regard March as the first month.

2. JEEP, the small quarter-ton truck (and now a line of cars that continue the spirit) began as an alien character in the Popeye cartoon strip. Eugene the Jeep could move into the invisible fourth dimension and reappear somewhere else. When the quarter-ton truck was invented, it had no official name, and had dozens of unofficial names. Irvin Hausmann, one of the test drivers, hated most of the unofficial names but liked jeep and used the name at every opportunity. His one-man campaign branded the vehicle forever. Some think the name came from "G.P." (general purpose vehicle) but in reality that just made Hausmann's campaign a little easier.

3. JEOPARDY, to be in peril, comes from the French iu parti, meaning even chance. It originated as a term in chess (about 1500AD) meaning a situation in which the chances of victory or defeat were equal. The term quickly appeared in many other games. The French version, on English tongues, became the new English word Jeopardy.

4. JOKE, a jest or funny story, entered the English language about 1600 from the Latin jocus, which meant joke.

5. JOURNEY came into English from the French words jour (day) and nee (that which was accomplished). In England, a journey was 20 miles, the distance a healthy adult could walk in one day.

6. JOURNAL came into English from the French words jour (day) and nal (a record). This came into English primarily for use by the Church, which keep records of what was to happen on each day. In that sense, the journal for each day was an hour-by-hour listing of what prayers were to be said or what ceremonies held during that day. This is why the French word "jour" became "hour" in English.

7. JUG was originally the nickname (in 1500) for any (non-noble) woman named Joan or Joanna. (No one knows why, but then, nobody knows why Richard becomes Dick or John becomes Jack or Margaret becomes Peggy.) About the same time, potters became to make an earthenwear vessel the same shape as a pitcher but somewhat larger. For unknown reasons, the nickname jug was applied to this vessel.

8. JUGGERNAUT, a huge irresistible monster or machine, comes from the Hindu god Jaggannath. The word came to English because travelers observed the spectacle of the annual pilgrimage of the statue of the god from his temple to his summer house (about a mile away) and (a few months later) his return. The 35-foot-tall statue is moved on a cart 30 feet square with 16 wheels. Moving this massive thing that far takes several days and is accompanied by no end of celebrations and festivals and ceremonies. The term juggernaut applies more to the assemblage (statue, cart, thousands of worshippers pulling on the ropes) than to the god himself. One traveler saw a worshipper accidentally fall under the wheels and be crushed, and this became (through exaggeration) endless tales of hundreds of such worshippers throwing themselves under the wheels. (That never happened.)

9. JUNE, the sixth month of our years (fourth month of the original Roman calendar) was named for Lucius Junius Brutus, the first Roman to hold the office of Consul. He defeated the last of the Tarquin Kings in 510BC.

10. JUNKET, a trip taken for political reasons, comes from the French word jonquet, a woven basket used to carry fish. Since the basket wasn't used for that very often, it came to be used for anything from making cheese to carrying your lunch to work. It eventually evolved into the current picnic basket, and from there into a pleasurable journey, and from that into a pleasurable journey at the expense of the taxpayers.

Monday, April 22, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on several products. The weather this week was moderate, often very cold in the mornings and usually pretty warm in the afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We were all shocked by the Boston Marathon bombings and grateful that police found the terrorists.

New on e23 this week Battlewagon (2nd Edition)

Steve Cole worked on several projects, including: posted Orion 2500s for comment, worked on Captain's Log #47, did one tiny part of the project to award medals for the products done prior to 1993, and checked reports on the FMSSB. His recovery from the broken leg went very well, and by the end of the week he was able to walk (slowly) anywhere he needed to (but his leg did get sore by later afternoon). Steve watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and amused customers by pretending he thought it was Downtown Abby and that he was having trouble figuring out where Abby was and why she never went down town.

Steven Petrick worked on almost entirely on the Federation Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel did website updates, sank pirates, and helped Mike. Joel announced that he had found a real-world job and would be leaving at the end of the month, but would continue to maintain the website until we found a replacement.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,569 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q3

3. Why is the cook leading the Marines?

Errr, Sir, he isn't leading them, unless you count being in front leading. I believe he feels the enemy will be more merciful than the Marines after what he served them for lunch.

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Bombs and Heroes and Choices

Jean Sexton muses:

I  know that to me the Boston Marathon bombings are evil. To plan to hurt people when they are so happy, perhaps watching loved ones at the finish line or maybe after running a good race, is wickedness on such a level that I cannot truly understand it. So many people are hurt and three (at least) are dead, apparently including a child.

Although I am angry, I will not let whoever did this win by remembering the horror. I will remember the first responders who ran toward the injured, heedless of the possibility of more bombs. I will remember the police who headed toward the people who needed them. I will remember the runners who immediately left for the hospitals so they could donate blood if it were needed. I will remember that people opened their homes for the people stranded in Boston. I will remember the ordinary people who threw themselves on strangers and their children in order to protect them. I choose to remember the good and to remember that there were far more people who did good than who did evil. Those people are the heroes of this event.

Long ago I watched Star Trek and it helped shape my beliefs: that most people are basically good, that we can overcome prejudices and fears to learn from "others," that we will dream of the stars and explore them, and that we will assist those who need a helping  hand. While acts such as this bombing seem to indicate that I am foolish to hold those beliefs, the reality is that so many more people affirm those beliefs by their actions. I hope that if the day comes when I must choose, that I choose to live by my beliefs and run to help those who need it as best as I am able.

Monday, April 15, 2013

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was an intense week as final work was completed on Star Fleet Marines: Last Stand, which started printing on Saturday and will ship to wholesalers on the 15th. The weather this week was moderate: cold mornings and nearly 70F in the afternoon. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week were the Admiral and Nova versions of Battleships Armada.

Steve Cole worked on Marines Last Stand but also found a moment to work on reserve blogs, that deal that dropped out of warp, the e23 schedule, finished Communique #88, and approved the fifth Mongoose attempt to create a Lyran for 2500. He met with the contractor building the missing 1.5 walls of Jean's new office. Steve began introducing Jean to the wholesalers and getting proper art for their catalogs. Steve signed a contract with a Japanese company to reprint some old JagdPanther games in Japanese. Steve's leg continues to heal and he can manage a dozen steps without crutches (but only once a day).

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book as computer problems kept him from working on C6. Steven also helped with Marines.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and worked to get SPP an SSD computer.

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1559 friends), proofread Last Stand and Communique #88, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about how important it is to pick the right spouse:
For a successful marriage, you not only need true love and physical passion, but common values and goals. Most people meet, start dating, and spend a few months gently getting the answers to the various questions that determine if this is the person they want to spend their life with. During that period, you at least have some fun dates. You don't want to push too hard to get the key answers because when you get a wrong answer, the fun dating part tends to end, usually with a broken heart for both players. Then you have to go to all the trouble to find a new sweetheart.
This seems a good point to say that while half of all marriages fail, those that happen in the old-fashioned way (six to twelve months of courtship between church-going people who are in their mid-twenties) have a very high success rate, around the 90% just like marriages from the 1950s.
When Leanna and I met, we were 25, which was very old for single members of our generation. Almost no one our age was single, other than those who had been divorced. We both felt the clock ticking and knew that "old maid" and "old bachelor" were going to be our nicknames by the end of the year. However, both of us were at least slightly more terrified of marrying the wrong person out of desperation than of not marrying at all. (Old maid was better than divorcee in those days.) Once we thought we had something that might work, we made a conscious decision to compress the normal six-to-twelve-month dating period into a couple of weeks. We gave up the fun dating part and took the risk that maybe the answer to the next question was the deal breaker. The deal never broke. It wasn't perfect (I just cannot dance and she misses dancing) but it was very, very close.
Below are the key questions every couple needs to ask before they get engaged (and start buying things together, like houses). I'm sure that endless magazine articles have similar lists and I'm told that one of the dating websites has about 30. I'll settle for 10. If you both are in love and both have the same answer to every question, you have a very high probability of a successful marriage. If not, you may have some serious thinking to do. Marrying someone hoping to change their mind on core beliefs is a suicide mission and will result in one of you deeply resenting the other.
To be sure, there is some wiggle room. Someone who has always thought of having three children might be able to adjust to idea of only two, and a Tea Party member might be able to get along with a country club Republican, but direct opposites do not attract -- they collide.
1. How many children do you want to have? The big problem is if one of you says "none" and the other says "one or more." Even if you both agree, you also need to be aware if your sweetheart's family is unhappy with your mutual choice. Maybe you are absolutely committed to never having children, and your sweetheart readily agrees, but your future in-laws may be looking forward to grandchildren. That's going to make for a lot of uncomfortable family dinners. While we're on this one, do either of you have children you are supporting or are fighting for custody thereof? How often do you have to see your ex-spouse?
2. What political party do you support? Any marriage is going to have enough arguments without constantly fighting over the direction the country is going. Your social circle will be greatly influenced by your politics (and your churchgoing status, see the next item). Gun ownership is another key point. Someone who cannot stand being around firearms is not a good match for an avid hunter with a concealed carry permit.
3. What religion/denomination are you? Specifically, how often do you see the married couple going to church? Every week? Twice a week? Twice a year? Weddings and funerals only? Are you an evolutionist or a creationist? If you're not members of the same denomination (which is one reason why church is the first place to look for a spouse) then you're going to have to reach a comfortable middle ground, perhaps selecting a neutral denomination. Members of different religions have a tough battle unless (maybe) one of you has basically no religion at all.
4. Financially, are you a spender or a saver? Are you someone who wants to stay out of debt (except buying a house) or someone who doesn't mind carrying around tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt? Frankly, and you won't like this, you need to run a credit check on each other and discuss the result with your own parents. Are you sure you want to marry someone with $50,000 in student loan debt for a worthless degree in German polka history?
5. Where do you see yourself living? Someone who cannot imagine living anywhere but your home town isn't going to be a good spouse for someone who assumes that their career will inevitably take them to New York. At the same time, discuss your career goals. Marrying a lawyer with a secret desire to leave his education behind to become a starving artist is not something to find out later. Another consideration is just how much of an obligation your career will have for work hours and travel. Maybe you do not want to marry someone who will spend weeks or months away all the time? Someone who wants to go to a special event once a year may not be a problem as long as you realize that you'll have one vacation week a year that you'll be alone.
6. Just how much time do you see yourself spending with your in-laws? If your sweetheart's family is a thousand miles away, are you willing to travel there at least every other year? Do you honestly expect your new spouse to spend every vacation and every Christmas at your parent's house? This gets really sticky if your sweetheart is from a foreign country with a very different culture. International child custody battles are a really dark and gloomy future to consider.
7. You need to discuss your habits: smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs for a start. Marrying someone who smokes (when you do not) is a deal breaker. Someone who gets drunk all the time is a bad match for someone who never drinks at all. Someone who uses illegal drugs is not someone you need to marry unless maybe you're a defense attorney. While we're at it, any criminal records will have to be revealed, both to your sweetheart and their family. Another thing is to discuss any medical situation. A family history of some disease may be a deal breaker. (If it is, maybe you're not as much in love as you thought you were? If it's not, maybe love is making you blind.) If you (hopefully) have no incompatible habits, discuss your hobbies. Maybe your future spouse isn't happy about you spending every dollar you can get on some activity they have no interest in? Maybe your future spouse assumes you will attend every game of a football franchise an hour away, or every concert of a rock band you just don't like.
8. Meeting your sweetheart's family is critical. (A girl of 20 will probably grow into her mother; a boy of 20 will very likely grow into his father. Want to know who you're going to be living with? This is your chance.) If your sweetheart's mother hates you, your future mother-in-law is going to be actively working to destroy your marriage every single day it lasts. That's not necessarily a deal breaker, but it is a major challenge to prepare for. Your spouse is your lifelong companion and must come before your parents, so if your future spouse is not willing to defy their parents, this isn't going to work.
9. Extra-marital obligations need to be discussed. Some of these we have mentioned before, such as prior debt, continuing child support, or criminal records. There are many others, such as membership in some volunteer organization or social club or sports team, an aging parent, a special needs child, military service obligations, a job (one you have or the one you want) which requires extensive travel, or anything else. Your future spouse needs to know about anything that is going to take you out of the house. Asking them to attend a charity fundraiser now and then should not be a problem. Marrying someone who spends every weekend and two nights a week at meetings for his favorite charity or issue or political party is going to become tiring.
10. Whether you're going to be monogamous, serial cheaters, or a swinger couple is up to you as long as you're both completely happy with the other person's choice. You're also going to have to be comfortable with their "past" so get it all out in the open. For that matter, once you get beyond the basics, there are a lot of things two people can do in the dark and if one of those is a deal breaker, find out before you get engaged.
The point of all of this is complete openness, and that is scary. That secret you're hiding that you know is a deal breaker will come out sooner or later. The heartbreak of a failed romance is nothing compared to the heartbreak of a failed marriage.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23 and DriveThru RPG websites. So far on e23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way e23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and GURPS Prime Directive products We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale on e23. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG.

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q2

2. "You loaded the photons with WHAT?

Sir, the Doc had some bio-hazard material to dispose of and the photon containment chambers were the only place the regulations did not prohibit storing it.

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Calculus Of Battle

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Most battles appear to be straightforward things. Side A arrived with more combat power than Side B, and Side B is crushed. It is, however, not always that simple.

According to that simple formula, Cannae should have been a disaster for Hannibal. Instead his outnumbered Carthaginian army (largely composed of non-Carthaginian mercenaries) inflicted a crushing defeat on the largest army Rome had yet gathered in one spot.

This is where leadership comes in. One should never, as the leader of a military force, assume that numbers alone will allow you to prevail. Every battle should be approached with the view that the enemy may have some trick up his sleeve. (Hannibal lured the Romans into massing against his center, using his superior cavalry to route the Roman and Roman allied cavalry before closing the trap on the rear of the Roman infantry).

Hannibal, it must be remembered, chose the battlefield, and even chose the Roman Commander for the day of the battle. (The Roman forces were composed of two Consular Armies, so each consul acted as over all commander on alternating days, and Hannibal chose to offer battle when Varro, the more aggressive of the two, was overall commander.)

It is hardly the only case.

The Battle of Lepanto was a disaster for the Ottoman empire at least in part because they had a “tradition of victory.” They had always defeated their Christian foes at sea before, and obviously would do so again. While their numerical advantage was nowhere near as great at the better that two-to-one the Romans enjoyed at Cannae, the Ottomans did bring a superior number of ships to the battle. They failed to realize that their foes were going to be doing something different: use heavy cannon in a sea battle. The result was the virtual annihilation of the Ottoman fleet. While the Ottomans would rebuild their fleet and gain some victories in the following decades, they never really recovered from the disaster (unlike the Romans after Cannae).

In both cases part of the reason for the defeat was the commander of the losing side not being able to imagine that his opponent might actually be able to something in the face of his obviously superior position. Disaster followed as night follows day.

Here in Texas the battle of San Jacinto stands out. Santa Anna knew the Texican revolutionaries could do anything to his Army. After all, the Texicans were a rabble, while he commanded a professional army that had been pursuing them. So confident was he that he did not even bother to post guards. The result once again was disaster.

Never write off an opponent, no matter how much you judge the odds to be in your own favor. He may know something you do not: something about the ground, or something about a new technology, or simply some flaw in your own tactics that until that day has served you in good stead. Always expect the unexpected, and remember that if you are committing your last reserve (and you must be prepared to commit it, as sometimes holding your last reserve uncommitted will itself cost you the battle), you should have a plan to reconstitute a new reserve in case the enemy’s plan is to hit you once your last reserve has been used.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Steve Cole reports:

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

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts 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.

Monday, April 08, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 31 March - 1 April 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on several projects. He did Communique 88 and sent Joel everything he needed for the April Hailing Frequencies. He wrote the last scenarios for Star Fleet Marines Last Stand, made Steven Petrick's fixes, and sent the pages to Jean for review. He finished the alert for Module C6 and Mike sent it to the wholesalers. He reviewed an outside design for a non-SFU educational game, declined the chance to buy it, but helped the designer with self-marketing. He reviewed an offer from a Japanese company to reprint some old JagdPanther games. Steve got the press quotes for the Last Stand map and sent it to press, and worked with Joel and Jean to finish the Last Stand cover.
Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book.
Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.
Joel did website updates, sank pirates, and helped Mike.
Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,555 friends), proofread some of Last Stand, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Have You Ever Wondered ...

How Materials Are Proofread for ADB, Inc.?

Jean Sexton writes:

With the Steves in Amarillo and me in North Carolina, proofreading materials can be quite a challenge. We've finally found a good way for this to happen.

The person who does the layout of material makes the first pass with the material. Outside writers may use British English, slang, jargon, or have typos. All of those issues get smoothed over ... except when they don't.

Next, both of the Steves check the material in Amarillo. Every mistake they catch is a bonus. Then they have a draft that they convert to a PDF and email off to me and to people on the "Game Team" (which varies by the game or type of material the future book covers). The "Game Team" emails in written comments which are usually technical issues. The game designer enters into a dialogue with them. If enough issues are found, a second copy is created with the corrections made.

What I do is very different from the "Game Team." They are looking for serious game issues -- does the ship have the right number of phasers, are all the pieces and parts there, is the history reasonable. They may spot a word that isn't right or something else that needs fixing. However, I am the one who is supposed to catch the misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, and incorrect capitalization. For Federation ship cards, I have a checklist of items to verify, many based on preventing mistakes I noticed in the past.

We started out with me emailing my list of fixes, but my list was quite long and I was spending a lot of time counting out which paragraph and which line was an issue. If one of the others had found something and a Steve had changed the text, then my correction might not even be where I spotted it. It just didn't work.

Then we tried my scanning in the proofread pages and emailing them. The problem there was that my purple marks turned black when the Steves printed them on the non-color printers. Too many marks got missed. In addition, at that point I had dial-up access for my computer (I live in the wilderness) and it took long times to email pages of correction -- usually an hour per page.

We then hit upon our current system. I let the appropriate Steve know that I have reports ready and set up a time for me to call. I deliver my reports by phone. This way we can get instant feedback such as a line got added and now we need to find a way to pull the line back up so we don't have a final page with one line on it!. Sometimes I don't understand the intent of a sentence and the designer can explain what he means. If it isn't clear to me, then maybe we need to work to make it clearer for all.

As for how I proofread, I pretty much have to do it from a paper copy. Somehow the mistakes on the screen don't jump out the same way. If I have lots of time, I copy the PDF into a word-processing program so it can help me catch some typos. I'm a firm believer in letting machines do what they can. Still I know full well that it won't catch the wrong word ("tolled" instead of "told" or "fro" replacing "for") so I must read through the pages. If I can read it aloud, then more mistakes get caught.

Sometimes I have suggestions for clarity. Nearly everyone writes a sentence related to "I found a tribble beaming down food supplies." Probably the tribble wasn't really doing the beaming down and the sentence needs tweaking. I also try to catch "widows" which are just a few words from a paragraph carried over to the following page.

All of these errors are marked with in purple ink (Steve Cole uses blue ink, Steven Petrick uses green, and Leanna Cole uses red). This color coding helps the person entering the corrections know whom to contact regarding any clarifications.  That's why you may notice references to "Jean's Purple Pen of Perdition" since when I started proofreading for ADB, the pages were filled with marks. (It's much better now since our writers have been reading the "Input Guides" found in our Captain's Logs and also found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/input-guide/index.shtml.)

The final parts of the proofreading mix are my copy of the Capitalization Guide (which we hope to update in the near future) and my unabridged dictionary. Sometimes I may have to refer to one of our books to "see how we did it last time" so we don't keep reinventing the wheel.

If I am actually in Amarillo as I was over Christmas holidays in 2012-13, then I get back the corrected pages along with my marked pages. I check them to see if the changes were made and to make sure no new error crept in. It doesn't improve things if I mark that "nad" should be "and" and it gets changed to "snd."

The hope is that we create a product that is relatively error-free. The theory is that if people see typos and mistakes, they may assume that the entire product is shoddy. If they don't, then they subconsciously connect the product with excellence. If I do my work well, the reader never notices.

And now you know more about proofreading at ADB!

Saturday, April 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 on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q1

1. If you didn't put the drones in the SP, where are they?

Well, Sir, the drones are in the scatterpack, but they don't have warheads. The Marine commander felt his boys weren't sufficiently serious abut training, so he borrowed some live nukes from the weapons officer and they didn't get put back before the, um, action started.

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, April 04, 2013


This is Steven Petrick posting.

To some extent I make my living by writing. I am not an imaginative writer in that I do not generally write fiction. I am more of a mechanical writer in that I try to explain how things work, whether in an example article or a scenario background explaining the historical context in which the action occurred. A lot of my imaginary writing is tied up in the monster articles where I try to find something different to say about each monster, such as why they are not hunted to extinction or detected before they attack.

Because I do a lot of writing, I tend to notice errors in other people's writing. It is bad enough that errors get out in my own writing (I cringe when something I have written is published and a casual read finds missing clauses and other problems that I did not notice at the time I was writing it and attempting to proof it).

Recently, however, I am noticing more and more errors in published books. I cannot tell you how jarring it is to be reading a series and suddenly stumble across, in the middle of a meeting of characters, not only the presence of a known "enemy" character participating in the meeting, but a "dead" enemy character (he died thousands of miles from the meeting in a previous chapter and his appearance is not as a ghost, but the author clearly misusing the name). Or reading a book and noticing that the author apparently has only a passing acquaintance with possessive apostrophes (among many other problems). Jarring scene breaks that make no sense. I find this more and more in books I read. Older books do not seem to have as many errors.

I have to admit that there are times something triggers a desire to write my own fiction, but the black gulf is that I would need a collaborator. I find it nearly impossible to imagine how someone would think and act in manners different from myself. I do not do people well. So many of my own reactions are so hard wired. Put me on the Titanic, and the story ends with my "going down with the ship" because even knowing the ship is going to sink, I would do all I could to assist the crew in putting women and children in the lifeboats. I cannot imagine trying to force my way onto one of the boats, even knowing the cold death awaiting me. So I find it impossible to write the scene of the cowardly cad who tries, and perhaps succeeds, in doing so. Oh, I have no problem imagining such a person,  history is full of them, but I cannot fathom such an individual; I would need someone else to write his character.

There is also a problem that, perhaps due to some failing of my own character, many plots I do imagine end tragically. The heroes may succeed, but the success costs him, her, or them their lives. Worse, they may not even know they succeeded, but they died "trying."

Real life adventures have shown me the "accidental hero." The Intelligence officer who convinces the Operations officer to send a group of troops from the Headquarters to reinforce a critical position, the reinforcement group is repelled by the enemy, and the Intelligence officer is killed. A sad story, except that the Intelligence officer's body convinces the enemy that a larger body of troops is nearby and halts their advance for a few critical hours, turning a defeat into a victory. In convincing the Operations officer to send forward the detachment, and losing his life in the process, the Intelligence officer was the hero, but never knew, and in the normal course of events, no one would ever have known. He "died" trying to save the day, but it was his "death" that ultimately did save the day.

How do I write those scenes and breathe life into the characters, make their motivations plain and believable? That is beyond me.

One of the stories I would write if I could started on the board. It started with a battle group article: a challenge from a player that the situation was impossible. When I demonstrated that the task could be accomplished, I went on to draft an outline of a story. Characters, outside goals (a coup on a Lyran planet and the hunt for the Far Stars Duke by his illegitimate son who was the governor of the planet but would never be Duke trying to reconcile that matter). Treachery, good fortune/chance, courage, loyalty, all these playing their roles. Combat not just in space, but desperate fighting opening on the grounds of the Duke's estate, where Ranel servants take up arms to protect the Duke because they believe he is better for their home planet than the Duke's illegitimate son would be, and spreading over the planet. A heroic stand by a Lyran prime team (who on this critical night had just happened to be invited to spend the night by the Duke in recognition of some other service they had performed) giving the Duke and his family time to flee. I think it would have been a good story, if only I had the skill to craft it, but I also think that it had grown so much that it would never have fit in a Captain's Log as there are far too many characters. Characters who are "broken," not the best people in the situation, but some grabbing for their chance at glory. Others in the face of disaster simply doing their jobs, simply because it is their job. One, committing treason, and constantly asking himself "why" am I doing this, finally choosing to act to save his men in what is seen as an act of betrayal by some, an act of loyalty by others.

I know "plot comes from character." By the only character I have to work from is my own.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Play Online

Many people do not know that you can play either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander online in real time against live opponents.

Ten years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of Star Fleet Battles with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to include Federation Commander!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the Star Fleet Battles/Federation Commander game systems as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in online tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

We continue to develop Federation & Empire for an online environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


 Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of interesting words:

1. KALEIDOSCOPE, a children's toy that uses mirrors to reflect bits of colored glass in an amusing pattern, was named by its inventor (Sir David Brewster) in 1816 for the Greek words kalos (beautiful), eidos (form), and skopos (watcher). A self-taught scientist, he also invented the stereoscope (Greek for solid watcher).

2. KANGAROO, the signature animal of Australia, was named by Captain Cook and his science officer, who asked locals what they called it. A second expedition a few decades later found no local who knew the word, leading to endless debates over just who told Cook that name and what the name actually mean. (Perhaps "I don't know" or "who cares?")

3. KETCHUP, also CATSUP and even CATCHUP, a tomato sauce used as a condiment for burgers and fried potatoes, comes from the Chinese term for the original condiment, ke-tsiap. The Dutch were the primary customers for this, and they called it ketjap. The original sauce was made from mushrooms, not tomatoes, but when a tomato version began to appear in England, people thought it was the sauce that the Dutch loved so much.

4. KHAKI, a dusty brown cloth often used by the military, comes from India, as does its name. British Army units in India first used it in 1848, finding very suitable for hard use in hot climates, and an excellent camouflage. These days, the cloth might be made of any sort of fiber, and the color has settled on a dusty tan. At various times, other colors including brown and olive drab were called khaki.

5. KHAN is the Mongolian term for king or supreme ruler. Europeans first heard it in 1222 when a Mongolian army under Genghis Khan wiped out the Russian army and broke into Europe itself. No one really was sure what it meant until Marco Polo wrote his book, telling about Kublai Khan, one of the grandsons of Genghis.

6. KIDNAP, to capture, transport, and imprison, originated about 1670, combining the English words kid (child) and nap (steal). The demand for young laborers in the British colonies of the new world was high, and the number of unemployed youth in British cities was so high, that the two problems solved themselves. Unscrupulous ship captains would kidnap hundreds of youngsters and transport them to Maryland or Virginia, where they were offered two choices: exist on their own in the wilderness with no help or supplies, or sign up as indentured servants for seven years of labor (at which point the colony gave them 50 acres of land and their employer gave them enough farm equipment to get started raising their own food).

7. KNAVE, a dishonest person, comes from the German knabe, which simply means a young boy. The British knave also meant any boy, but later came to mean a boy employed as a servant or apprentice (and the Jack in a deck of cards is this knave). As the knaves were often provided only the barest of necessities (scraps of food, cast off clothing, and a chance to sleep in the stable) they had to improve their lot by petty theft or other nefarious schemes. This led to the meaning of a dishonest person, although the term probably hasn't been used for anything in the US for a century or more.

8. KNICKERS, a British term for underwear, comes from a Dutch farmer who settled near Albany NY in 1682. His name was Knickerbocker. His great-grandson was a wealthy man and was the object of a humorous book by Washington Irving which purported to be a history of the colony explaining the value and virtue of the original Dutch colonies. This book was known as Knickerbocker's history. It included drawings of Dutch men and boys wearing short pants that had buckles just below the knee. These became popular boy's wear in about 1850 and continued to be so until about 1910. Those short pants were known as knickerbockers. An even shorter version of these became underwear or knickers. That term recrossed the Atlantic and is still used in England today. Most Americans know the term but few use it.

9. LACE, which means a fancy trimming for clothing or a cord for tying ones shoes, comes from the Latin word lacius, which means noose. The term was originally applied to snares to trap animals and came into English from the old French word las. It was common for clothing in the middle ages to be tied with laces instead of buttons, and the word continues in that meaning today (e.g., shoelace). As clothing grew fancier, the laces and nooses used to tie in closed were made fancier and evolved into the frilly version of the word lace.

10. LACONIC, meaning someone who uses few words, comes from the old Spartan province of Laconia, where their youths were trained (in addition to normal Spartan virtues) to use as few words as possible in communication.

Monday, April 01, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 March 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week. The designers worked on Marines and the Master Starship Book, while the production team filled orders. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week SFB Designer's Edition Volume II and III.

Steve Cole worked on primarily Marines Last Stand. He also looked over some Federation Master Starship Book reports, finished the ACTASF ship cards except for some items Matthew needs to discuss with ADB, did a graphic for the Friday Funny, did two more reserve blogs for Jean, and updated the Fed NCC list. His second doctor appointment for the leg he broke six weeks ago showed healing was well along.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation chapter of the Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel did website updates, sank pirates, got JagdPanther #5 ready for upload next week, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,549 friends), proofread the Federation Master Starship Book, and did some marketing.