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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In Praise of Our Volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. 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: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

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

Monday, April 28, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-26 April 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was warm, once reaching 80F. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Our website hit the bandwidth limit (again) so we upgraded to the highest available service package and our own dedicated server.

Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, and Mike Sparks took part of two days to help rebuild the Ramses Barrier on SVC's back fence, keeping the neighborhood poodles safe.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week: the fifth historical scenario for Battlewagon.
Steve Cole worked on art for Federation Master Starship Book, fiction (a short story for Captain's Log #49 and what may be a future cover story), blogs, and minis production.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book and the Advanced Missions SSD book (finished and being checked).

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with six new entries. Simone sent out 156 emails, resulting in nine updates and 98 non-contact entries move to archives.

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 fiction, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2088 friends), managed our Twitter feed (97 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Advanced Missions SSD book and Federation Commander Tactics Manual, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

OPERATION FETCH: 26 April-4 May 2013

Steve Cole writes:

Plans for this mission (to rescue Jean from North Carolina and bring her to Texas) had been in the works for at least three years. Looking back, the whole idea seems insane, and only Divine Fortune brought all three of the expedition members to Amarillo safely.    
The problem was Jean's unpredictable ex-boyfriend who would have tried to stop her from leaving if he had known about it. Everything had to be done in secret and in a way that he would not notice. (He kept close tabs on Jean, meaning we could do nothing he might notice until it was too late for him to intervene.) What that meant, however, was that once the plans were locked in (during January) they could not be changed, no matter what happened. Steve Cole broke his leg in February and spent the entire expedition on crutches while Steven Petrick was in a knee brace due to a sports injury in April. Frankly, neither of the Steves had any business going on the trip, but it had to happen when it was scheduled, or it might not happen at all.
FRIDAY 26 APRIL: Jean worked her last day at the library, although the ex-boyfriend thought she would keep working for several more days. After work, Jean drove three hours to visit her mother, keeping out of the way of the ex-boyfriend. The two Steves left Amarillo headed east in a rental car. It started raining when they passed Oklahoma City and rained for a week; they reached Little Rock, Arkansas, for the night.
SATURDAY 27 APRIL:  The two Steves drove across Arkansas and Tennessee, then turned south across the tail of North Carolina and entered South Carolina. It was pouring rain the entire day. They had lunch with SFU staffers Tony Thomas and his lovely wife Evey near Nashville.
SUNDAY 28 APRIL: Jean spent the day with her mother. The two Steves toured the battlefields at Cowpens and King's Mountain in a pouring rain, then drove on to meet Jean for dinner in Lumberton, North Carolina.
MONDAY 29 APRIL: Once the ex-boyfriend was on his way to work, the two Steves surveyed Jean's house and storage lockers to calculate the size of truck that was needed. It rained on and off for much of the day.
TUESDAY 30 APRIL: It had been planned for Jean to take the Steves to see the USS North Carolina, but the trip had to be abandoned due to their leg injuries. They did turn in the rental car and pick up the biggest rental truck available.
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY: Jean, the two Steves, two of Jean's local friends, and two SFU friends (Howard Bampton and Chris Sanchez) emptied Jean's storage lockers into the truck. A secret plan made sure that the ex-boyfriend did not have the chance to make a surprise random inspection of the storage lockers. It rained and/or sprinkled on and off; the loading crew had to stack up stuff by the door of the storage building and dash to the truck whenever they saw the sun. Meanwhile, back in Amarillo, Leanna officially rented Jean's apartment and picked up the keys.
THURSDAY 2 MAY: This was D-Day for Jean. The two Steves, Chris, Howard, and two local friends arrived at Jean's house and spent eight furious hours loading everything she wanted to take with her into the truck. They left just minutes before the ex-boyfriend got off of work. (They left behind a map marked with the wrong route back to Amarillo.) Mercifully, there were only a few sprinkles and showers now and then during the day, but it did start raining that evening. After hours of driving in dark and rain, the truck and Jean's car reached a motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Meanwhile, back in Amarillo, Mike Sparks moved dozens of boxes of stuff Jean had shipped ahead over to Jean's apartment.
FRIDAY 3 MAY: Awakening to a decent hotel breakfast, the three members of the expedition drove north for two hours to Knoxville, then turned west on I-40. (Conveniently, this highway continued from Knoxville all the way to Amarillo.) They had lunch with Mike Curtis, Tony Thomas, and Evey near Nashville. It rained during alternate hours. Steve Cole drove the truck for one hour to give Steven Petrick a break, but everyone agreed that (despite his previous experience with even larger trucks) his injured leg made it too dangerous for him to drive this one. This condemned Steven Petrick to drive the truck all the way home. Home base was notified that we might not get home until Sunday, a day later than scheduled, due to the inability to rotate drivers. Steve Cole spent the trip as the navigator and communications officer in Jean's car. (Jean did not let him drive because of his injured leg. In retaliation, Steve assigned Jean the radio call sign "Swamp Rat" which she found amusing.) The plan had been to drive to Little Rock, but the expedition had to stop an hour early due to exhaustion. After trying two hotels that were full, an exasperated Jean sprang for the cost of an expensive hotel rather than sleep in the car or drive another hour. We expected as we went to sleep that we could not possibly reach Amarillo on schedule Saturday night.

SATURDAY 4 MAY: The expedition arose to more rain but a wonderful free hotel breakfast. Steve Cole voted to stay there for the day to rest and give the rain a chance to stop, but the other two insisted on pressing on. They drove west across Arkansas and Oklahoma, finally reaching clear skies at Oklahoma City. This (and a lunch break) brightened everyone's outlook considerably, and they decided to press onward. After another hour-long meal break, they were only three hours from Amarillo and (brains addled by food and exhaustion) decided to "go for broke." They reached Steve Cole's house safely at 11pm.
SUNDAY 5 MAY: A glorious clear sky awakened the travelers, who took the truck up to Jean's apartment to help her officially move in.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Steve Cole ponders a few things most people did not know about World War II.

1. There were over 50,000 Indian soldiers (of the British Army, who got taken prisoner in the early going) who enlisted in the German and Japanese armies. The Indians were so serious about getting rid of the British that they went that far. There were two units of Indians in the German SS that fought in France, but the British made sure they were kept out of the news. (About 100 of them were parachuted into Iran by German aircraft in an effort to infiltrate to India.) Fortunately, the Germans never formed them into a unified Indian-SS division or they'd be hard to keep out of the history books. (There are dozens of books about the SS divisions but very few about the dozen or so independent units.) Most of the British-Indian troops who surrendered at Singapore joined the Japanese Army (reinforced by thousands of civilians of Indian heritage in Japanese-held areas of Indo-China) and fought in Malaya right up until 1945. These were all handed over to the British, who had planned massive show trials and executions for the traitors, but in the end the British realized that their time in India was over. Knowing that they could never again trust Indian soldiers, they just forgot the whole thing and released them.

2. The Germans had problems keeping their tank strength up to what they wanted for many reasons, combat losses and the bombing of factories being well known. What is not realized is that the Germans starved the spare parts system to build new tanks, and did not field a tank recovery vehicle until 1944. They would have had to reduce tank production to make the number of spare parts needed, but would have had more tanks in the field because of it. The Americans were constantly repairing their Shermans, some of which were knocked out by German fire five or six times.

3. The Germans spent the modern equivalent of $180 million making a movie about the Titanic, with a script that blamed the sinking on greedy British business people who wanted to make a fast crossing to manipulate the stock market. When finished, the war was going so badly that Goebbels would not allow the film to be shown in Germany as it was too depressing to watch ships sink (as most of the German Navy was on the bottom by then). The movie was shown in Germany in 1950 and was a smash hit.

4. Most people believe the myth that Polish cavalry charged German tanks. A few people who have actually read some history books know that the Polish cavalry repeatedly charged German infantry, but only once (after hacking up the infantry unit) accidentally ran into some armored cars which shot up the cavalry with machineguns. Few know that the day after this unique incident the Germans parked a few tanks around the dead cavalrymen and horses and brought in foreign journalists to show them the staged scene, and their reporting sparked the myth.

5. The infamous Nazi Salute did not come from ancient Rome. (There is no evidence that the Romans even had saluting.) It came from an American named Bellamy who thought it a smart way to say the pledge of allegiance (and Americans did it that way from 1890 into the 1920s). The original Bellamy Salute started with the hand over the heart, but as the pledge went on, the hand would be extended out and up to end in the position of the Nazi Salute. An American fascist took the salute with him when he went to Italian in 1920, and Mussolini saw it (when fascists in Trieste rioted) and adopted it as the "Roman Salute" for his fascist party. Hitler copied Mussolini. Hollywood heard about it and used it in Roman epic movies in the 1920s and 1930s but dropped it (replacing it in movies about Rome with the right fist over the heart) during World War II and since then.

6. Rene Duchez was a French interior decorator hired to redecorate the offices of the German Organization Todt in Caen. These offices were responsible for all fortification construction in Normandy. One day, Rene saw a map detailing all of the fortifications, stole it, and handed it off to the French resistance, who spirited the map to England. The British assumed that the Germans would realize the maps were gone and change the plans, but instead, the German engineers just printed up a new set of maps and kept going on the original plan. Admitting that they had mislaid the maps would have caused uncomfortable questions from the Gestapo.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ten Things the Romulans Won't Tell You

1. The cloaking device isn't all that good.
It's not a perfect camouflage system, and you can still hit us. Even if you cannot deal devastating blows with those photons, you can get enough hits that we cannot stay "down there" all that long. We just use it to reload and to get away. Sneaking into trouble, yeah, right, we do that, sure we do. Seriously, every minute we spend under cloak is one of helpless terror.
2. We're more afraid of each other than of you.
The Great House system means that every ship is like a corporation with a lot of minority stockholders maneuvering to build a majority and throw the other stockholders (officers) overboard. Literally. When you Feds talk about a rival stabbing you in the back, you're talking figuratively, right?
3. We don't like the Klingons all that much.
They were going to conquer us, they sold us their junky old ships instead of the new ones we thought we were paying for, and they're arrogant jerks who think charging into the teeth of a photon salvo is the epitome of military strategy. And they smell.
4. We think we're civilians, not soldiers.
The way the great houses work is that we're more concerned about money, expressed in terms of controlling planets, resources, ships, and businesses, than we are about military careers. To be successful in a great house, you need to have spent two or three decades in uniform, but we're on those ships to build our resumes, not to spend our whole lives there. Remember, we live a long time and most of us have three full careers (war, business, politics) in the span of our lifetimes, not just the one you have.
5. Big plasma, yeah, but...
Those torpedoes are really cool when they hit something, but have you ever noticed that most of them don't hit anything? They may scare you away or push you off to one flank, but actually hitting a ship that isn't trying to close in on us? Fagedabodit.
6. The Inter-Stellar Concordium scares us.
You just can't talk with those guys. I mean, they think we're crazy and that's no way to start a negotiation. They have those big mean ships and they always show up in whole fleets.
7. Tholians? What Tholians?
You mean there is another empire on that border? Hmm... we'll have to remember to send some ships to check that out. Right after we learn to stop annoying the Gorns.

8. We're the real Vulcans.
Thousands of years ago, our perfectly nice species was torn asunder by those self-righteous, arrogant, religious whackos who thought that "logic" was the be-all and end-all. Yeah, those guys, the ones who have sex once every seven years. Is there any wonder why we left? I mean, really, they told you that they threw us out? You want to compare the forests and oceans of Romulus to that desert wasteland those nutballs call home?
9. Fighters and gunboats are perfect for getting rid of inconvenient relatives and hangers-on.
The casualty and survival rates on those things are atrocious, and no scion of a great house would be caught dead in one. Actually, most of the pilots and crews of those things are eventually caught dead in them. But not us great house sons and daughters. Nope, we're not that stupid. We do run a lottery promising any peasant who survives 20 missions that they'll get membership in a great house. Nobody has ever collected that bet.
10. We do in fact hate you Feds, and we fear your money.
Those decades when the Orions were looting our Empire and you pretended you didn't know, yeah, those decades, that still rankles us. We're even more afraid that some of the great houses are already secretly owned by Federation investors and maneuvering to force other great houses to sell out.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


This is Steven Petrick posting.

Leanna and Jean decided to go see a play, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." The play, however, was in Oklahoma City. I had no interest in the play, but offered to do the driving as, frankly, I kind of enjoy driving for the most part, and am largely familiar with the route, it being part of the route we normally take when we go to Origins.

As I did not intend to see the play, I opted to bring a book along that I would peruse while the ladies were at the play, one of several I have read of late on the Normandy landings. To make certain I would not forget the book, I tossed it in the back of Leanna's car, the vehicle selected for the trip, the evening before the trip.

The day of the trip we all piled into Leanna's car, while SVC remained behind to babysit the dog. It was a pleasant day for a drive, with clear skies and not very high temperatures. We made quite good time, and with the exception of having to find the correct exit (the only thing not specifically noted) had no trouble finding the convention center. Leanna, in point of fact, made it a point to hand me the directions at our lunch stop so that I had time to commit them to memory (there were not a lot of them) rather than having her or Jean try to read them to me as I drove.

This capped off the first leg of a relatively uneventful trip (well, it turned out that the originally selected spot for lunch was out of business, and we missed the exit for it in any case, and circling back proved an adventure as the west bound on ramp was also closed when we tried to turn back). We had, as it turned out, started early enough on our trip that this did not impose an impossible delay.

Having arrived and found parking, the ladies were ready to head in and I went to the rear of the car to get my book . . . which was not there.

The evening before Leanna saw the book and (since SVC and I have very similar reading habits) thought it was one of SVC's books and took it out of the car and left it on the counter at her home. So I was now left with nothing to really occupy my time while I was waiting.

This was a case of "Murphy's law," but I am well acquainted with Mrs. Murphy's darling little boy in my life, and have over time come to the attitude that "if the world will not end as a result" I take such things in good humor. I could not help but laugh at the situation.

Leanna and Jean enjoyed their show, but could not help discussing what I was going to do. Leanna thought I would read the newspaper, which I had tossed in the car for her to read on the trip. The paper arrives so late in the day now that I seldom have time to read it before heading to work, so I had not read it that morning. However, I rarely read the whole paper as I have almost no interest in sports or human interest stories. Leanna was right that I did read more of the paper than I would normally in an effort to keep my brain occupied; even so, the paper did not take up a lot of the time (and even in this emergency I could not make myself read the sports section). Jean thought I would take a catnap, and as it happens was also correct in that I reclined the driver's seat, opened the driver's side window and dozed for a bit.

All the above, however, still left hours to kill. Experience has taught me that my brain is not a safe place to wander around in, so I do normally try to keep it occupied (driving, working, reading, watching television, anything other than just thinking). You really, really, do not want to know what goes on in my mind when it is more or less completely taken off the leash. It tends to go exploring questions and concepts that are not for polite, or even civilized, society.

Eventually I had to go for a walk to find "facilities" and discovered that about a fourth of the convention center is surrounded by "police operations." I discovered this when a police car stopped next to me, and out of habit I stopped, wondering what the officer wanted. This was another case of Murphy, as the officer wanted nothing to do with me, but was heading into a building, but because I had stopped to look at him, he wondered what I wanted. A short conversation soon resolved the non-verbal miscommunication and directed me to where I could find facilities after a short walk.

After I got back to the car, I began noticing people moving to parked cars elsewhere in the location, although not right where I was parked, and even so deduced that the play was over. A short while later Leanna called and confirmed the end of the play and that it would take them a while to catch an elevator down from the fourth floor, so I engaged in a little traffic control while I waited. Things worked out well as most of the vehicle traffic had cleared from the parking area by the time they got to me, and we were easily able to get back on the move and regain the main artery home.

We did have a few traffic incidents on the trip (a pick up truck apparently had its passenger side front wheel come off the rim, and at one point a tractor trailer pulled into the passing lane we were in necessitating coming down on the brakes a little harder than I liked, among a few other things), but over all the actual driving was uneventful and we were soon back in Amarillo where Jean was reunited with her dog and Leanna with SVC and I was on my way home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 April 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we announced the new price structure for the Starline 2500 miniatures (and made them mail-order only). The weather this week was cold to start but warmed up by midweek. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week: SFB Module T with colorized SSDs.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week: F&E Chart Book, Battlewagon Article #4, SFB Module T (rulebook, colorized SSDs, and B&W SSDs), and Federation Commander Klingon Ship Card Pack #1.

Steve Cole worked on the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, art for the Federation Master Starship Book (35 ships, plus some color ones for Facebook), blogs, and six WYN cards for FCOL. He started replacing the last of the metal Ramses Barrier with wooden planks. After speaking with Bruce Graw, Steve assigned Gary Carney to create the lost empires of the Omega Sector. He had a bit of excitement on Tuesday, helping to direct traffic around a bad highway accident, using his old State Guard training.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Master Starship Book (adding art) and the Advanced Missions SSD book. He assigned battle pairs for the battle groups scenario for Captain's Log #49.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 150 older entries sent emails, of which about 90 were moved to archives and about 10 sent updated information. Twelve new entries were added.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, finished the Wall of Honor, and did some graphics.

Jean worked on the Starline 2500 price change thing, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2077 friends), managed our Twitter feed (97 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS (deleting 4 spambots), managed the blog feed, proofread Federation Commander Tactics Manual, took care of customers, sunk a pirate, and did some marketing. She also won the poetry contest at UNCP which she managed for 14 years.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ten Things the Klingons Won't Tell You

1. We're scared most of the time. 
Oh, we manage our fear and we perform despite it, but we are afraid of a lot of things, mostly being destroyed by enemies on multiple sides. The Klingon Empire is small and has no room to expand, and those Kzintis want to eat us! You think we got kicked out of the Hydran Kingdom but we think that the Hydrans stole five of our provinces! And remember that the Federation stole about 10% of our Empire with that "border treaty" that you wrote and we never signed. We live in constant fear of someone biting off another chunk of our territory.

2. Our civilians hate us. 
They know that tons of money is spent on the military and they realize that soldiers hardly live like kings, but they also know that if we'd just sell the whole Empire to the Federation that the Empire's civilians would have a higher standard of living and we could still be soldiers flying starships. We really don't want to be Feds, even if our civilians do. That's why they hate us.
3. We really don't like drones all that much. 
They're kind of a necessary evil, since the ships don't generate as much power as more weapons would need. We mostly use drones to kill some of those Kzinti drones (and they're a wash against Fed drones). The problem with drones is that you have to launch them from short range in front of the enemy, and that's exactly where a photon-armed ship wants us to be!
4. We actually understand accounting. 
Ok, it's loads of fun to watch a Klingon emperor throw an accounting PADD over his shoulder in disgust and we're actually kind of happy about you thinking that happens. But really, our military officers have university degrees, and that includes several classes in accounting. Fuel costs money, as do repairs, spare parts, and ammunition, and any officer who doesn't understand how money works isn't going to have much of a career.
5. We are not alcoholics. 
We like it when you guys think we're drunk all the time, as you don't take us seriously while we maneuver for the kill. Your trivideo guys are always showing Klingons drinking until we fall down. Ok, we do that now and then, on special occasions, when there's no enemy in range and guards are posted. Your Star Fleet officers do the same thing and make sure you never know.
6. We don't fight duels very often. 
Klingon sports are rough and often involve a small amount of bloodshed. Your military officers are always playing racquetball and volleyball and soccer, and our officers play our own sports. Our rough-and-tumble sports often look like vicious battles to non-Klingons, and that's often misinterpreted.
7. Nobody wants to be assigned to an SFG ship. 
That's what's called a suicide mission. Ok, we have this really cool weapon that freezes your ships, but to use it, we have to come to a complete stop (in front of ships with photons!) and then after we freeze you we cannot do anything to you.
8. Maulers aren't for what you think they are for. 
Ok, sure, the mauler is a really big cannon, but the point of the ships is those huge batteries. These are great for bashing our way through minefields and winning tractor auctions.
9. We wish fighters and PFs had never been invented. 
The casualty rates are astronomical and we need a lot more officers for those things than for starships. Our enlisted men laugh as the officers fly off to die in the wild black yonder.
10. We don't hate you Feds; we fear your money. 
We really have no grudge against you guys, well, other than that territory you stole. We hate the Tholians and fear the Kzintis and don't like Hydrans. We're mostly afraid that with your economy you'll just buy us in a hostile takeover.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

FLASH, no bang?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have not been able to walk as regularly as I had been. Some of this is conditions and timing, but some of it is sheer laziness. If I can once get into "PT Uniform" my inner drill sergeant will make me do the trip, but of late making me get into "PT Uniform" is becoming harder and harder.

Even so, I do get in some walks. And sometimes things happen on the walks.

On one particular walk I was heading West on the final "outbound" leg (the path takes me West, then South, then the longest leg of East, followed by North, then West again, South again, and finally East again to get to the apartment complex). As I started up the slight incline I was suddenly hit in the eyes by a brilliant flash of white light from above and to my immediate front. There are no "artificial" light sources in that direction normally, and my brain immediately jumped to the conclusion of "aerial explosion." There was no "bang," at least not immediately associated with the flash, which meant the explosion was a considerable distance away. It was however a very large and very bright flash.

As I was beginning to wonder what was going on, all in the space of a few seconds and perhaps one or two more steps, my eyes rose to the sky to ascertain what was going on (possibilities included an aircraft exploding, or piece of space debris breaking up in the atmosphere, or some odd form of ball lightning) I learned why the flash had not been accompanied by a bang, and any bang would be a long time in coming.

I would imagine that photons impacting the moon's surface would be considered as exploding before they rebounded off and headed towards Earth, but even if you could hear photon impacts on Earth itself, you would not hear them through the void of space from the moon.

That brilliant flash was simply the Sun's light reflected off of a full moon. The rotation of the Earth, the Moon's orbital movement, and my direction of march combined with the slight upward incline of my path at that point had resulted in the brim of my cap rising just enough to catch the bottom edge of the moonlight.

It was a rather embarrassing moment for an old Infantryman to discover just how out of touch I had become with my surroundings. I was utterly unaware that the Moon was full as I set out on my walk. I used to be much more in tune with what went on around me, after all, in my job specialty my life could have very well depended on it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.

1. One constant problem around this place is that there are too many jobs chasing too few people, and not enough money to hire new people. Getting Jean was supposed to help, but she seems fully busy and the only part of my job she took off of my list of too many jobs were jobs I wasn't doing anyway, so I'm just as busy as I ever was.

2. One aspect of too few people is that constant delay of small but worthwhile projects that just get lost in the cluster. Between doing what it takes to keep the company going and producing entire new products, these smaller projects just never happen. That makes the very creative people who sent them in very upset that they aren't getting any love. It also means some things that are entirely internal also aren't getting done. These are not the "very small" projects where somebody wants something and I take ten minutes and do it; those are one-time things that just get done. I started calling these things quangos (which is a British term meaning something entirely different and unrelated) but finally decided to call them SmaPros, SnapRows, or Small Projects. Looking over the list of things on this list I see an very interesting APP somebody sent in that I never had time to look at (it ran afoul of the lack of a device that could run it, but Jean put it on her Xoom), finding the files for JagdPanther #7, getting the damaged drywall fixed in the back room, and about 30 other things.

3. Jean argued with me for a year over how much to upload to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault. I wanted to stick mostly if not only to Warehouse 23 because is has lower fees and is run by a friend of mine. Sometime in February, Jean finally won the argument, and has now started uploading an existing item from Warehouse 23 onto DTRPG/WV every week.

4. As the article in Captain's Log #48 says, we want to improve Starlist, which is our opponent locator service. We know that many of the entries on the list are no longer valid because people move or find new interests, but as there is no way to know which are and which are not valid, we don't delete anything. (Besides, we use it as a master address list in case we need to track down somebody who submitted something a decade ago that we finally got around to using.) The plan to "improve" the list is twofold: reduce the number of obsolete entries and increase the number of valid entries. To reduce the obsolete ones, we have four initiatives. First, we moved everybody from before 2000 to a separate archive list. Second, we cross-check the entries from one state every day (unless we're busy) to identify and remove duplicate entries. Third, we have started to email the people with entries from 2000-2004 to see if they are still valid. It will take months to complete that step, but it does turn some old entries into new ones, removes dead email addresses, and removes some people who are no longer interested. Fourth, we are offering a campaign ribbon to anyone who will contact 20 people on their local list and report which entries are valid or not. To add more new entries, we made the Starlist form on the website easier to use, Jean advertises Starlist every month, and Leanna added an "Add me to Starlist" button to the shopping cart. Nobody gets on Starlist without asking to be on it and providing their own contact information.

5. In late March, Shawn Hantke (who has done a lot of nice things for us regarding PDFs) sent in a surprise new product: SFB SSDs colorized in the Fed Commander pattern. We debated whether to sell this on the download sites. The primary objection was "Will it make people demand that we do all of the SSDs this way?" Well, maybe it will, but people  have been asking for that for a long time anyway, and Shawn's tournament project will show us whether anybody will really buy these things. If only a few buy them, we know to divert Shawn's energy in other directions. If a hundred buy them, we do indeed need to offer more products this way.
6. On the same day that Shawn sent in that project, Gary Carney sent in the Federation Commander Magellanic Playtest Pack. Gary is the "all things non-Alpha" guy and previously did the FC Omega Playtest Pack" which has sold 100 copies so far. We told him to make a few fixes and we'd upload it ASAP. Gary had a reputation for being a pest but has turned into a real staffer of great value to the company. We had to take time to teach him how to do things, such as marking any new material he created in the middle of a larger product so we could identify and review it before it became an official part of the universe.

7. Steven Petrick finished the Federation Master Starship Book but has been waiting for me to do the art. One night at dinner we kicked around ideas for how to do this more efficiently than the way we tried to do it earlier, and hit upon one that may work (to do the ships it batches of the base hull type; I will print out a sheet of the stock hull and Steven P will mark what greebles to change for each variant). Meanwhile, somebody asked if it would include X-ships and Y-ships. We debated this for some time, but finally decided that the book (which currently does not include those) needs to be finished and marketed to see if it paid the cost of two months of Steven Petrick design time and a month of me doing graphics. We need to prove the books will sell before letting them get bigger.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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://www.warehouse23.com/products/introduction-to-the-star-fleet-universe-prime-directive-and-roleplaying

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 downloadable art for your computer and iPhone so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 April 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week: Battlewagon Article #3: Battlewagon Scenario - The Last Sortie of the Yamato.

New on DriveThruRPG and Wargame Vault this week: Battlewagon Article #3: Battlewagon Scenario - The Last Sortie of the Yamato. 
Steve Cole never had a chance to work on his primary task (Federation Commander Tactics Manual) due to demands for secondary projects. He worked on a minor deal to release an app, production issues with 2500s, art for the Master Starship Book, fiction, repairs to the fence at his house, and finished the Wall of Honor update.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions SSD book update (finishing the Gorns) and inserted dozens of pieces of new art into the Federation Master Starship Book.

The Starlist Update Project continued to move forward. 
Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics. She took over emailing old Starlist entries to verify their status.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2062 friends), managed our Twitter feed (97 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Wall of Honor pages, took care of customers, and did some marketing. Jean won the poetry contest at the Mary Livermore Library at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She ran the contest for 14 years and previously was barred from entering because she did manage it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Typical Day at ADB, Inc.

Wolf Dog Sexton tells Jean to write:

My day at work starts when I escort Mom to her car. It is very important that she not be attacked, so I stay alert for any stray cats or birds that might hurt her. When we get to the car, I watch while she puts all the junk in the car and then I get into the car carrier.

When we get to work, Mom lets me out of the car carrier and I escort her into the building. (The Steves say she should always be escorted by one of the gentlemen of ADB, so I take this seriously.) When we go into the building, we sometimes have to hurry and turn off the alarm system; other times we just have to go into the office.

Once in the office, I must watch for the arrival of the rest of the pack. When each person comes in, I carefully check to make sure no imposter slips in. I do this when I get patted or talked to. I'm restricted to the office until all of the pack is in the building.

Once everyone is here, I have to go and check to make sure each person is where he or she belongs. They should also be at work and work is feeding me kibble treats when I need them. Each person has his or her responsibility.

Steve Cole is responsible for enrichment activities. Helicopter Dog, Anteater Tongue, and Dig for Food are part of his duties. Sometimes he works on The White Box, but when he forgets his duties, I remind him by bouncing his leg. If that doesn't work, I am forced to become increasingly vocal. I think he is coming along well in his training.

Steven Petrick is excused from kibble treats, but carries me back to the front when I am tired. He gives the most excellent chest rubs, though, so he is good.

Leanna Cole makes me dance for kibble treats, but that is fine because she picks me up and holds me. Sometimes she is on The White Box, but bouncing her always works.

Mike Sparks pats me. Sometimes he forgets and I have to remind him, but that's okay. His kingdom has a shut door, but I'm smart and understand I cannot go in there. Besides, there's a gate and I can't get over it.

Simone Pike has a job and it is to play with me. She hides her hands and I have to bark to make her give them back. I am working on teaching her to fetch my toys when I want them. I think she is smart and will learn which one I want over time.

Anyway, I have to go back and forth a lot to make sure everyone is working appropriately. When I take a break, I sleep in my bed in a chair beside Mom. Sometimes I watch people go by through her window. Sometimes a stray dog wanders by and I tell them that the position of watch dog is taken.

I also have perimeter patrol about three times a day. I make sure that graffiti is noticed, wandering dogs are told to move on, holes in fences are reported, and that Mom gets her exercise.

It is hard to be at work with Mom sometimes. She does embarrassing things like brush my ears in public. But she also walks me as does almost anyone else if Mom isn't available.

The only part of the day that I really hate is L U N C H time because I have to be apart from my pack. I wasn't sure when they would return, but I am learning that they will always come back. I then do my happy dance to make them laugh.

I do announce when the postal delivery person and the UPS person are here. They bring things and people need to know that stuff arrived. I am working on not announcing their arrival quite so long.

At the end of the day I escort Mom and a Steve to Mom's car and go back Home. My ADB duties are not done until she gets into Home and we get to go on the Long Walk when I inspect the outer perimeter of Home -- a half-mile walk.

As you can read, my day is very busy. I stay at it, even though I am only eight months old. I wouldn't trade staying at the apartment by myself with going to work and being with my pack. Besides, I make my Mom laugh and that is my highest calling.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the  Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault websites. So far on Warehouse 23, 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 Warehouse 23 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).

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 are also listing Federation Commander, Federation & Empire, and Star Fleet Battles products on Wargame Vault.

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 Prime Directive products. We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale through the various venders. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

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 as PDFs. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Friday, April 11, 2014



Kitchen Sink: A term used to describe extensive support from the logistics section which never actually arrives.

Kzinti-Backflip: What happens when the higher commander keeps changing his mind in mid-battle.

Let's Rock: Term given by Star Fleet commodores on trivideo (but not real people) when ordering the final attack to begin.

Paint the Picture: Explain the current tactical situation to visiting political dignitaries in a way that convinces them that all is under control and their wishes are being fulfilled.

Percussive Engineering: The fine art of smacking a million-credit piece of technology in a final effort to get it to work.

Police up the Battlespace: After defeating most of the enemy forces in a given area, sending in the police to arrest any enemy starships still operating there. Meanwhile, the actual fleet elements can go rest, refuel, resupply, and hold a victory party.

Pound the Dilithium Out Of: Used when briefing visiting political dignitaries, it means somewhat more than disrupt and somewhat less than totally destroy.

Run and Gun: To fly past the enemy while firing lots of weapons, although not getting close enough to get them to actually come out of their deployment area and fight, since actually fighting is a very dangerous and career-risking move. The maneuver usually fools visiting political dignitaries into thinking that you did something very effective and devastating to the enemy.

Scapegoat: Someone high enough in rank to reasonably be assigned the blame for some failure but low enough in rank that he cannot protect himself from the accusation.

Seagull: A higher commander who swoops in, makes a lot of noise, and leaves everything messy.

Selfcon: When a starship captain realizes that his fleet commander is an idiot and attaches his ship to another fleet.

Shoot: A term that once meant to fire a weapon and now means to transmit a message to someone.

Sweep: Maneuvering the squadron through the battle space in a way that looks impressive but actually avoids running into any inconvenient enemies.

Threatification: Deployment of forces in a way that makes the enemy think we may attack something of theirs.

Tugload: An undefined but very large quantity, with no particular relation to what a fleet transport tug will actually carry, for example: "A tugload of Klingons crossed the border."

Zippin-de-do-dah: Maneuvering your squadron past the Critical Locality fast enough that the enemy cannot engage you, thereby satisfying the orders from higher headquarters to "control" a locality that is actually irrelevant to the overall situation.

(c) 2014 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Of Floods and Warnings

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Monday morning I awoke and went to the bathroom to shave. When I finished shaving I looked down casually for some unknown reason and saw that the edge of the bathmat closest to the sink was wet. I thought nothing of this, believing that it was simply some water that had somehow gone from the sink to the floor while I was splashing water on my face in preparation for lathering up to shave.

Thus I total missed, or at least failed to interpret, this ominous sign of impending disaster.

I went to work and did not return home until well after 2000 hours. I did not visit my bathroom until near midnight in preparation for going to bed.

The edge of my bathmat was still wet.

In face, all four edges of the bathmat were wet.

Not just wet, but thoroughly and completely soaked.

Examination of the underside of the sink revealed that water was leaking from one of the pipes.

Immediate action would normally dictate hitting the water shutoff, but those are frozen (have been for years, and reporting it through three different owners of the apartment complex never got anyone to come out and fix them). It probably would not have done any real good in this case anyway, as examination seemed to indicate that the leak was in fact the water shut off valve itself.

So I cleaned everything out from under the sink and inserted a bucket. I then called management.

I have noted before that the system used to manage my apartment complex is that there is an owner, who owns four of five (maybe six or more) apartment complexes, and maintains just one office to manage them all. So there is no on site manager whose door you can knock on. I made the phone call, and the person on the other end of the line took my name, address, and phone number and assured me that maintenance would be contacted. So at different parts of the night I dumped water from the bucket, and in the morning contacted the office and sat down to await maintenance.

I waited for maintenance all day Tuesday.

I spoke with one of my fellow tenants and he noted that he had once had to wait three days for maintenance to show up to deal with a leak in his bathtub. But then, the lead in the bathtub was after all contained in the bathtub. Mine was not, and was getting worse. (Take your pick on whether it was slowly getting worse, or rapidly getting worse, it is dependent on point of view.)

By this time the leak had "spread". There were now multiple leaks in the system, and no one bucket could be put in place to catch them all, and it was impossible to use multiple buckets because their round edges would always keep one of the drips from going into a bucket, and all of the leaks were worse. (I really need some square buckets, but I had none and no real idea where to find some that I could in fact secure in time to do any good.)

I was beginning to wonder when a pipe joint would just suddenly completely separate.

I called the number again, and this time was advised "We are just an answering service, you will have to call the office at 0800 hours to report the problem."

A full day wasted while things got worse. Gallons of water poured down the toilet, and now another night to spend tending my dying sink, and the many leaks continued to get worse. There was always water on the floor as the bucket filled, and mopping could not keep ahead of it.

Dawn of the third day arrived, and shortly after 0800 I called the office. Maintenance arrived somewhere near 0900. The guy did his best, but we had a new problem. He was unfamiliar with the apartments and did not know where the main water shutoff was. Naturally, he did not ask me as he set off for what used to be the manager's office (back when we had a live in one in the 1990s) in search of it. He moved quickly, so I was unable to restrain him when he headed in the wrong direction. By the time I caught up with him, he was on his cellphone to the guy who coordinated the maintenance and the two of them were trying to figure out where the water shut off was, looking in the laundry room for it. I was able to say, politely and calmly, that the water shut off was in the alleyway behind the apartment complex located in the middle of the length of the complex. I was not believed until I walked with him back there and showed it to him. Just at that moment the head of maintenance called to tell the actual maintenance guy that they had been unable to determine where the water shut off was, and he responded "I have found it, the tenant knew where it was."

I knew where it was because I got along well with the second set of owners and had helped them deal with water issues before and they had told me where the water shut off was because they trusted me to turn off all the water to the complex if it was necessary. (This was after an incident in which a water pipe to a washing machine in the laundry room had blown out and I was the tenant who reported it and tried to help.)

In any case, the pipes have now been replaced, and my bathroom sink is back in operation, and while the flood waters have receded, the flood damage is still being dealt with.

All because I missed that first little warning on Monday morning. If I had bothered to look under my sink then and report the leaking pipe bright and early that day . . .

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download backgrounds and covers for Facebook with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/backgrounds.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. We even have backgrounds for the iOS7 iPhone.

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

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on the zombie apocalypse.

1. I have a lot of trouble understanding how the Army could have been overrun in the defense of the CDC building in Atlanta (in THE WALKING DEAD). Zombies (at least in that show) are incredibly easy to kill, just shoot them in the head. To be sure, head shots are hard at battlefield ranges, but zombie war ranges are as close as you want them to be (since zombies aren't carrying guns). Any soldier can make a head shot at 10 meters and most at 20 or 30 meters. So long as you don't panic, the only way for a hundred armed soldiers to be overrun by zombies is to run out of ammunition while surrounded. Okay, maybe that's what happened. At least that would explain why Rick & Crew didn't gather up dozens of M16s and M4s as they passed through that battlefield.

2. The problem with killing zombies is not killing them (that's the easy part). The problem is getting the zombie to first walk to the place where you want to leave the body, since gathering bodies, hauling them off, and burning or burying them, has got to be intensely dangerous (or at least icky). It's stupidly simple to walk up to a chain-link fence and stab a zombie in the brain, but then what? You have a rotting, stinking corpse next to your fence. Worse, if not hauled away, the bodies become a ramp other zombies might use to climb over the fence. Seems to me that the solution is to use Army five-ton trucks with a squad of soldiers in the back of each one. When the zombies crowd the fence, you lure them away from the gate (easy enough) and then the trucks drive outside the fence. Once outside, you go slow enough for the zombies to follow you for a half a mile or so, then park the trucks where you have clear lines of fire. (That part is tricky, but not overly so.) Once the pack of zombies is half a mile from the fence, circle around so that you can fire into the pack without having your homestead down range.

3. How do you win the zombie war? Well, first, you survive until the zombies are all gone. The trick is, what is the modality for their departure? Will they all just rot after a few months or years? Will they freeze, allowing you to stack them somewhere convenient and chainsaw their skulls? How do you kill zombies on a mass scale? There actually IS more than enough ammunition in the country to shoot every zombie (if you don't waste a lot of ammo) but you might actually burn out your rifles. (Not a problem, there are plenty of rifles.) The problem is not the countryside; the problem is the major cities where a hundred thousand (or a million) zombies are wandering around looking for something to react to.

4. Your best bet to handle a huge number of zombies (100,000 or more) is going to be to set up firing ranges and disposal areas and use vehicles or helicopters to lure "some" of the zombies into the killing zone. This will have to be repeated (a lot of times) before you even notice the numbers starting to fall.

5. The problem with barrier defenses is that when you're talking about defending habitation areas you need a lot of barrier, too many miles of it to build around anything bigger than a very small village. The first thing to realize is you cannot defend farmland (too much of it is needed) so you'll have to settle for defending the housing area and using patrols and outposts to detect any zombies that wander into the outer farming area. Then a patrol can go out and kill them. The best barrier (i.e., the only practical barrier) against zombies is distance. Set up your defensive bastion ten or more miles from any town of 100,000 (and correspondingly further from cities of a million or more). Set up a continual series of patrols (it takes too many people to do outposts) around the farmland to detect any zombies then lure and shoot any of them that try to cross the "dead line." Zombies don't move that fast, maybe one or two miles per hour assuming they have some reason to keep moving and don't just go into a random wander (which effectively keeps them in the same few acres). Remote cameras could replace scarce humans if you can get electricity working to them.

Monday, April 07, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 30 March - 5 April 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of changing plans, as the scheduled work on new products was delayed by needed work on other projects. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Our April Fool's joke about new rules for all games using percentile dice got a huge reaction (some even took it seriously!).

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were the Star Fleet Battles Electronic Master Rulebook and Federation Commander Federation Ship Card Pack #1. Jean continued to work with Warehouse 23 to fix the various problems caused when they merged their two stores.

Steve Cole was supposed to lay out the Federation Commander Tactics Manual this week, but it never happened. Instead, a lot of other things got done. A massive breakthrough on the Starline 2500s saw six ships (two of them 2400s) go to prototype, two new ships get posted, and progress on three sets of masters being fixed by the master modeller. Steve managed to transition the final stage of the Starlist project (contacting everyone on it, oldest entries first) to Simone. Steve did a lot of art for the Federation Master Starship Book (12 CLs, 16 DDs, 14 DWs, 18 FFs). Steve finished the updates for the individual pages of the Wall of Honor and did about a third of the multi-person pages. Steve finished the Captain's Log #48 FLAP list, including the Federation Commander Reference Scenario List and Reference Ship Chart, the Text Catalog, and the Index of Captain's Log. He also finished Communique #100 10 days early so that it could go out with the Century Series joke charts. Steve survived minor skin cancer surgery that left a three-inch scar on his arm.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions SSD book update and the Federation Master Starship Book.

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 was scheduled to work on Traveller Prime Directive all week, but ended up fixing a lot of messes on the internet, including categories on DriveThru RPG, product listings on Warehouse 23, and product info files on BoardGame Geek. Beyond that, she managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2048 friends), managed our Twitter feed (98 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread updates for the Wall of Honor, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with all 50 states cross-checked, about 75 duplicate or obsolete entries deleted, 23 new entries, and 50 emails sent to older entries.

Gary Carney sent in an updated Omega Federation Commander Playtest Pack and a new Magellanic Federation Commander Playtest Pack; Shawn Hantke sent in some color SSD packs for Star Fleet Battles. All of these will be uploaded to the PDF download sites as soon as we can.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

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.