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Saturday, May 31, 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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Andromedan Bumper Stickers

On an Andromedan Terminator:

Hit me with your best shot!


On an Andromedan Intruder:

That which does not kill us, merely fills our panels.


On an Andromedan Conquistador:

If you can read this, look behind you.


On just about every Andromedan ship:

T-Bombs on board

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The History Channel Does Yet Another Disservice to its Viewers

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have an interest in history. I acquired it at an early age and have often indulged it. Yes, it has a decidedly military as opposed to political bent. The last King of England I have any interest in was George II, because he was the last one to personally lead troops into battle (or at least command on the field). So much so that when one of my college professors (who detested the military) decided to put me in my place he asked "who was the king of England in World War II," to which I responded "King? England had a king?" I know it is political and economic factors that largely drive conflict, and I probably should know more about those factors than I do, but I am, honestly, just a simple infantryman. A tool of the "powers that be" in my own country that goes where I am told to go and fights who I am told to fight pursuant to my oath to the Constitution of the United States of America.

So you would think the "History Channel" would be something that I watch avidly, eager to learn new things.

The "History Channel" is one of life's great disappointments. I shudder to think how many people may be influenced by its inaccurate and often slanted views. Ignoring the slant, how can a show professing to be about the "leaders" of World War II make claims such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt personally designed the American plan for the Battle of Midway? How can it cavalierly claim that George Patton conquered Italy in six weeks? How can it claim to be showing us the character of Winston Churchill and totally ignore the fact that the man served before World War I, both in the Mahdi uprising in Sudan and in the Boer War? How can they show Macarthur escaping from the Philippines and not let us know that, unlike a lot of military men, his family had been with him during the battle and escaped with him from the Philippines? And how can they fail to explain why the Philippines Army Air Forces were caught on the ground by the Japanese despite the hours of warning that Pearl Harbor had been attacked?

One wonders if McChrystal and Powell and the others would have lent their names to this show had they seen the final product before it was aired?

I suppose it would be better that the History Channel continue doing shows like "Vikings" (where they are merely "politically correct" and changing things mostly in keeping with that in addition to telling a story) rather than try to do real history. It seems to me that whenever the "History Channel" does real history, it is a mockery and travesty and massive disservice to its viewers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on the war going on behind the scenes during World War II. It seems all of the allies distrusted each other, most of them were out for their own post-war benefits, and most of them hated each other.
1. The Americans did not trust the British (who wanted to use US troops to secure the British political position in Greece and Yugoslavia). The British wanted to invade the Balkans to keep Stalin from grabbing them and hinted that the US was not taking seriously the threat posed by a post-war Stalin.
2. Stalin and the Russians were convinced that the British and Americans planned for the Russians and Germans to bleed each other white and then the British would walk in and take over all of Europe. Stalin was as concerned over how much of Europe he got to grab and keep when the war was over as he was with fighting the Nazis.
3. The British considered the Americans to be "colonial amateurs playing at war." The Americans considered the British to be afraid to fight (because of the massive losses suffered in World War I). Americans spoke often that "the British will fight to the last American." The Americans felt that Montgomery would never attack anything until he had built up so much power that he could not lose, but then, they also blame him for being rash in Market-Garden. The British wanted to keep fighting in Italy but the US considered the capture of Rome on 5 June 1944 to be the logical end of an Italian campaign that should have never been started. Whenever the Americans complained that the British weren't attacking enough, the British response was that the stupid Americans just didn't understand how war worked.
 4. The British hated Free French Leader de Gaulle (who used everything the British gave him to fight the French communists instead of the German Nazis). The French underground (which the Germans only barely noticed) spent most of its time fighting itself (de Gaullists vs. Communists). De Gaulle appointed himself President of France (with no legal authority whatsoever) and demanded that the Allies announce that fact to the French people on D-Day. The British and Americans instead announced that France could pick its own leader once it was free. At one point, de Gaulle's airplane was sabotaged (acid on the control rods) while on a British airfield and he always believed that the British tried to kill him. Probably, they did.
5. The Canadians are suspicious that Churchill threw away thousands of Canadian lives at Dieppe just to convince the Americans that invading France in 1942 or 1943 was a really dumb idea. Frankly, it would have been a really dumb idea to invade then.
6. Army Chief of Staff Marshal and Army Pacific commander MacArthur had hated each other since before World War I. During World War I, Marshal tried (and failed) to have MacArthur's division disbanded for replacements. Later in World War II, Marshal began to side with MacArthur against the Navy and Admiral King.
7. The US Army and Navy hated and distrusted each other. The Navy wanted a Pacific-first strategy, preferring to let Germany burn itself out while the US crushed Japan. The Army thought that the Navy was spending too much money on obsolete technology (battleships) and wanted to use Army divisions to seize islands so that Army aircraft could protect the Navy. During 1943 and the first half of 1944, the Army continually tried to get the Navy's fleet of landing craft moved from the Pacific to England for use in D-Day, and the Navy hid them to prevent this as without the landing craft there was nothing much they could do against Japan.
8. US Navy chief Admiral King (in Washington) hated MacArthur and did everything possible to cut off or steal any supplies crossing the Navy-controlled Pacific to reach MacArthur in Australia. The Navy invaded Guadalcanal partly because it was in MacArthur's territory and they wanted to push the dividing line a few hundred miles (or even better push MacArthur out of the Pacific entirely). The Navy decided that the way to advance was to grab Japanese fortress islands (at ferocious cost in Marine lives) so they could use the existing Japanese air bases. MacArthur and the Army thought the best plan was to bombard Japanese air bases and the land on some unoccupied nearby real estate and build a new airbase, leaving the Japanese base to starve. Both plans worked; MacArthur's cost far less blood.
9. The British and American bomber force commanders felt that Overlord was not necessary and that Germany would surrender as soon as the strategic bombing campaign could get some clear weather. The British and American Army people thought that strategic bombing was largely ineffective and cost too much money and too many lives, and that it would have been better to spend the money on more ground troops. After the war we found out that strategic bombing had little military effect and that German production of war material actually increased. The Germans didn't have fuel problems until the Russians overran their oil supply.
10. The two Chinese leaders (Mao and Chiang) hated, feared, and distrusted each other. Both did everything they could to keep their troops away from the Japanese. Chiang gathered up huge amounts of US weapons and ammunition, but stockpiled it for future use against Mao rather than attacking the Japanese. The Japanese were perfectly content to ignore China, launching a major operation there only when forced to capture American airfields in China in order to protect Taiwan and Japan.

Tuesday, May 27, 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, May 26, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 May 2014

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady work and some preliminary decisions about the schedule. The weather this week was warm. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week: Color SSDs for Star Fleet Battles: Module C3A.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Star Fleet Battles: Module C3A - The Andromedan Threat File divided into the Rulebook, B&W SSDs, and color SSDs.

Steve Cole worked on the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, reviewed new Starline 2500 miniatures, and managed the progress of the 2500s at the mold company.

Steven Petrick worked on the monster article for Captain's Log #49 and the Advanced Missions SSD book.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 6 new entries, 5 updates, and 3 older entries moved to the archive.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive and the Advanced Missions SSD book, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,115 friends), managed our Twitter feed (98 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, dealt with some pirates on Ebay,  managed the blog feed, proofread more of the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that came to mind.

1. On cop shows (and other action shows) you eventually see the bad guy grab someone (usually an attractive woman) and hold a gun to her head (or a knife to her throat) and order the good guy to put his gun down and kick it away, which the good guy does because he's, well, the good guy. In the real world, people who carry guns are taught to never put the gun down in such a situation. That gives the bad guy the opportunity to kill both of you. Instead, you tell the bad guy: "Hurt her, you die. Try to take her with you, you die. Stand here until I get tired of humoring you, you die. The only way you leave here alive is to surrender."

2. It gets better. Most cops and a lot of soldiers are very good shots. When I was in the State Guard (the lowest of the low of police and military organizations) my pistol score was so high (243 out of 250) that I was authorized to "take the shot" in a hostage situation. In real life, the cop doesn't give up his gun, and doesn't even make dramatic speeches like the one above. He simply aims very carefully and shoots the bad guy in the head. (Lieutenant Provenza did that on Major Crimes a few weeks ago and I stood up to cheer.) That's the best chance of survival for all of the innocents and the bad guy already forfeited his chance to survive when he pointed a weapon at an innocent person. I can say that anyone who holds a gun to my wife's head is going to get a bullet in his brain, and I have absolute confidence that he'll die before his finger gets the message to pull the trigger.

3. While I love astronomy, the big bang confuses me (as it does astronomers). The big bang theory is that the universe originated at a single point and expanded; it's now several times as big as the 27.4 billion light years we can see, which is why it looks the same in every direction (i.e., no obvious center of the original explosion). I heard another theory on TV which made a lot more sense, that two of those really thin dimensions which only physicists understand ran into each other 13.7 billion years ago and caused the instant creation of hydrogen atoms over the entire infinite billions of light years of the universe. Those then coalesced into clouds and the clouds into stars and the stars burned out and exploded and formed more clouds that turned into more stars.

4. I have been the smartest person in the room enough times to know how cool an ego boost that situation is. On the other hand, the smartest person in the room cannot learn anything (since he knows more than the others) and will ultimately be held responsible for whatever goes wrong (since, after all, they were counting on the smartest person in the room to let them know what was about to go wrong).

5. If I were on HELL'S KITCHEN and my team won a fun day with Chef Ramsay, when we got back I'd jump in and help the losing team prep the kitchens for the dinner service. This would keep me busy, make me feel better, earn me some friends on the other team, and allow me to be sure that our kitchen was prepped correctly.

Saturday, May 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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Galactic Phone Booth

Just a few ...

Q: How do you get 30 Feds into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there's a new life form to talk to.


Q: How do you get 30 Klingons into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them it's Earth.


Q: How do you get 30 Romulans into a telephone booth?

A: Install a cloak on it.


Q: How do you get 30 Gorns into a telephone booth?

A: You don't. You don't even try.


Q: How do you get 30 Lyrans into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there are 30 Kzintis in it.


Q: How do you get 30 Seltorians into a telephone booth?

A: Tell them there is a Tholian hiding inside.


Q: How do you get 30 Frax into a telephone booth?

A: Don't build the booth. Only imagine one.

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Dog is Learning

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Sometimes with pets it is a question of who is training whom.

Jean's dog has learned that if he is being ignored, he can "make noises" to get attention. These start with low groans, to whines, to minor barks, to major barking fits until he gets attention.

I tend to frustrate him, because I refuse to respond to his "vocal" demands for attention. But if he bumps me, i.e., jumps up and puts his paws on my leg when I am not otherwise paying attention to him, then he gets rewarded with notice, pats on the head and petting.

I still, however, will not give him any treats. He has never gotten anything to eat (at least from me) inside my office or from my hand. He has pretty much come to accept that I am not going to give him snacks, but on the other hand he seems to think I am pretty good at petting.

He and I are having an argument about his tendency to "mouth," that is mock bite. I am trying to get him to understand that for me at least this is bad behavior and will not be rewarded. The trick is making him understand that when I withdraw my hand it is not "a game," which is his current attitude as Jean and Simone let him play the "mouth game."

While the dog is still not happy at being separated from people, he has demonstrated a willingness to be separated during lunch as long as he is not locked in carrier, but allowed the run of Jean's office. He still gets very excited when Jean comes back from lunch and releases him back into the larger building, but first he has to make sure Jean knows how glad he is not to have been abandoned permanently.

He is very definitely comfortable with the six people in the office he was frequent contact with, but with Simone getting a new job outside the office, we will be looking for a replacement for her, and the dog may have more trouble adjusting to a completely new person as a constant companion among the six people he knows almost daily.

Wednesday, May 21, 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/).

Tuesday, May 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!

Monday, May 19, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 May 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was another week of steady work. The weather this week was warm, often very hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. The annual company picnic held on 15 May was great fun for the entire staff.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #4.

Steve Cole worked on the Federation Commander Tactics Manual and is in the last chapter; he also wrote some blogs. Bruce Graw reported that eight ships had gone into ADB Master Mold 2501. Paul Franz reports that 106 third generation SSDs are now on SFBOL.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions SSD book and the battle groups for Captain's Log #49. No progress was made on the Federation Master Starship Book because Steve Cole was busy with the Federation Commander Tactics Manual and could not work on art. We got a massive shipment of Starline 2400 production and both Steves took much of two days checking it in and approving quality control.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 9 new entries, 5 updates, and 2 old listings move to the archives. The posting of archived names on the BBS resulted in several new entries and updates being done.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2106 friends), managed our Twitter feed (98 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, dealt with a wave of people illegally using our photos on Ebay, managed the blog feed, proofread much of the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 18, 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.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Steve Cole reports: 

I have been going to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary about once a year since sometime in early 2007 (and twice a year for the last few years). Usually I go with Leanna; once I went with Steven Petrick; twice I went with larger groups. This year (May 2014) was the first time I went by myself (and the first time I had driven that far by myself in 35 years).

I enjoy spending time with the wolves and supporting the sanctuary. Many people don't understand what wildlife sanctuaries are and why they exist, so let me explain. Lots of people think it would be fun to own a wild animal as a pet. There are plenty of unscrupulous breeders who will sell you a baby tiger, wolf, or whatever else you want, knowing full well that in a year or two you will realize that wild animals make awful pets and have a problem on your hands. (Guess what, the breeder won't take the pet back as they can only sell the cute baby animals.) There are more "pet" tigers in Texas than in there are in the wild on the entire planet. Most of these pets end up being put down, turned loose in the wild (with tragic results), or kept in small pens and fed insufficient food. Those owners with some morality eventually try to find one of the dozen or so sanctuaries that will accept the pet animals and give them a permanent home. Since it takes about $2000 to keep a wolf for a year (tigers cost more) the sanctuaries can only take the animals they have space to house and money to feed. Sanctuaries are always having fund raising events, and always turning down requests to take an animal. (Most shelters have strict rules, such as they won't take an animal from someone who is breeding more animals. Sometimes the DEA will pay a sanctuary to take an animal confiscated from a drug dealer, or a circus will pay a sanctuary to take a retired performing tiger.

Our first few trips to Wild Spirit (we have been to other sanctuaries as well) were during trips to Las Vegas for vacations or trade shows. Once we found out about the fund raising parties, we started going then. WSWS has four of these a year, and I go to two of them (in May when each wolf gets a basket of food, and in October when they get a pumpkin full of meat). Once I found out what was going on, I started bringing organ meat (heart, liver, kidney) to put into the baskets or pumpkins. The wolves love organ meat because they never get it unless I bring it, and anyway it's 1/3 the price of steak. For the last couple of years, I have been part of the program, giving lectures on wolf diet and behavior as "Chef Steve."

This year, Leanna didn't want to go, and (rather than accept Steven Petrick's offer to go along and do the driving) I decided to go on my own. A seven-hour drive (each way) by myself would give me time to clear my head and think about what to do with the rest of my life. (I decided to keep doing pretty much what I have been doing.) I booked a room at a bed and breakfast about a hundred yards from the sanctuary and planned to stay for three days. (Usually I get there just before the party starts and spend most of the day cutting meat and feeding wolves, then leave before the party ends.) This time I was determined to work with the staff and learn more about wolves. (I had one college course on predators 40 years ago and have read a few books and websites about the subject.)

I was greeted warmly on Friday afternoon by Crystal (the #2 ranking person at the sanctuary). I spent that day with her and with Joey (one of the volunteers). Crystal let me help take Kota (the 130-pound king wolf) from his normal pen to another one (so a tour group could take photos of his mate, Duchess.) [I should note here that WSWS never breeds or sells animals. The males are all fixed upon arrival. The animals cannot be released into the wild as they are captive bred, have no mother-taught hunting skills, and will approach humans expecting to be taken care of.] Thus began my first lesson that "every instinct you have about wolves is wrong." I have petted several of the "ambassador" wolves before, but Kota is not that friendly and cannot be allowed near crowds. His handler (Crystal) could control him with just me around. She invited me to pet him (which I did) but I started to scratch him all over and did something he didn't like so he growled at me. Fearing he was about to bite my hand, I instinctively raised my hands above my shoulders. Unfortunately, wolves think this means "I am a grizzly bear; we shall now fight to the death." Crystal had him under control and Kota (to his credit) looked at me with eyes that said "Dude, you have no idea what you just did, so I'm not going to kill you for the mistake." Later, I got to spend more time with Kota and he came to tolerate me very well.
I had some time with Ramon, the head of maintenance, who is sort of the handyman for the sanctuary. (Which is pretty big, housing as it does 60 wolves, four dingoes, five singing dogs, one fox, and three coyotes. There are numerous buildings and the animals are in pretty big pens. It takes over an hour to hike all the way from the office to the farthest pen and back.) I have (for the last five trips) taken not just organ meat but tools of various types. Ramon had sent me a list, and of course I took him about three times as much stuff as was on the list. He was very happy.

During the visit I saw many of the previous gifts Leanna and I have taken being used, from a carpenter's level to the water bottles most of the staff carried around.

Saturday morning I spent the day with various members of the staff, including Rae (the nutritionist who set me up a nice carving station so I could cut the meat), Meredith (head of enrichment), Ramon (who was construction an addition to one of the buildings), Joey (who is from North Carolina), and some of the other volunteers (Mikhail from Sweden, Holly from England, Chloe from Wales, Amber from Australia, and two very pretty girls whose names I never heard). WSWS has a program where students in animal and wildlife management intern at the sanctuary, and many volunteers spend time there.

During the day, I learned that everyone who works there (even the highest-ranking people) have certain animals assigned to their care. Every day begins at 8am with these people taking white buckets to the pens to clean up the poop. Everyone is supposed to be done with that by 9am because at 9:30 everyone is back at the same pens with orange buckets of meat to feed the animals. (You do not want to be inside a pen with two wolves when they see the wolves in the next pen given meat. They get pretty enthusiastic about feeding time.) After this is over, one unlucky volunteer has to clean out all of the buckets with bleach and take the poop to a pit on the far end of the property. (The sanctuary owns an adjacent campground where many people stay overnight.)

In the afternoon, several of the volunteers conducted tours for people who had come to see the wolves. I tagged along, adding my comments to the various wolf stories. I know a lot about wolves since I have been going there longer than any of the volunteers.

Late in the day, word came that Leyton (the big boss) was arriving at the camp from a trip to another sanctuary (in Indiana) where he had picked up the first three coyotes to join the WSWS menagerie. I hiked up the hill (when I really wanted to take a nap; I am not in the best of shape in the first place, my broken knee was swollen, and the altitude was killing me) to the coyote pens. (I learned that the various species cannot be kept in adjoining pens because diseases that one species ignores as deadly to another. There is a ten-foot gap between pens with different species.) I was able to help this operation in three ways: my multi-tool wire cutter solved a problem, I provided some of the meat for the first meal of the new arrivals, and I became the default "still" photographer as the other three were taking video. Leyton was concerned that the coyotes would not want to eat during the stress of the trip. He threw them a few pieces of chicken, which they ate with gusto. (They would not get close to him as he was not familiar.) At my suggestion, Leyton went back down the hill to the Wolf Kitchen to get some of the heart and liver I had brought. This turned out to be the first red meat that the coyotes had ever had in their entire lives. After sniffing the first piece he threw to them, they came right up to him and put their noses into the bowl. Leyton dumped the meat on the ground and backed up, not out of fear but to avoid stressing them. They ate the offerings with extreme enthusiasm. I had a chance to have a nice long chat with Leyton, who treats me like a brother. (We both have food allergies that make dining in unfamiliar restaurants a life and death casino.)

The day included my two mistakes, and the early-afternoon event is worth it's own mea culpa. I had for years been trying to convince the WSWS staff that everything has to be marketing and they should charge tour groups extra for the privilege of throwing food to the wolves. I asked permission to take four of the rib bones I had brought up the hill and give them to Kota and Duchess in front of a current tour group. This was granted and Rae even got the bones out of the cooler room for me. So I staggered up the hill on my bad knee and walked right up behind the tour group. Someone saw me coming and the whole group turned around to see me, passing the excited word "He's got bones!" What I did not know was the Joey (who was the guide for that tour) was inside the pen with the two wolves across the path from Kota and Duchess. Remember what I said about not wanting to be in a cage with two wolves when two other wolves were getting food? Joey quickly extricated himself from the pen without getting hurt, but his two wolves were very jumpy. (It should have been arranged for me to wait out of sight while someone warned Joey of an off-the-schedule event.) The point of four bones was that Kota steals Duchess's food and we all figured that we'd have to give him three for Duchess to get one. I quickly made a deal with Joey. I gave him two of the bones for his wolves in exchange for him opening a remote gate that moved Kota into a separate sub-pen from Duchess. That way, Kota would only get one bone and Duchess could chew her bone in peace. Then came my second mistake. After I fed Kota a bone, I called out "Is there a young lady who would like to give this bone to Duchess?" Most of the women (of all ages) raised their hands and I gave the bone to the first teenage girl who reached me. I didn't think a bit about the fact that I was handing someone a piece of raw meat; neither did the teenage girl. (Handling raw meat is one of those "go wash your hands now" things.) Joey, caught up in the moment, gave his two bones to a teenage boy and girl and allowed them to feed the wolves. Crystal heard of this and told us both that it was really very un-cool to hand a tourist raw meat in a time and place that there was no way for them to wash their hands with soap. She also told me that they had (following my suggestion) already begun having "feeding tours" at a different time of the day (and a higher price), so there was no real need for me to prove to them that tourists wanted to feed the wolves themselves. (These feeding tours involve rubber gloves. The point is to protect the tourist from the meat, not the wolf from the tourist.)
 I should take a moment to mention a man who became my good friend, Frank Blackmoon. He runs (and built) the Trading Post across the road and the B&B lodge behind it. That Trading Post is the only hardware store within 50 miles and does steady business from the people who enjoy living that far off the grid. His B&B is primarily filled with people visiting WSWS or visiting their relatives in the area. Frank exemplifies the very best of Small Business America; he saw a market and filled a need!

Then Sunday came, the day of the big fundraiser itself. They had a special treat for me, to thank me for all the meat and tools, which was a private meeting with Zoerro, the wolf who is the official mascot of the University of New Mexico. Unfortunately, nobody realized just how much blood I had spilled on the ground in front of the Wolf Kitchen when I was cutting meat the day before, and I was sitting on a chair in the middle of that. Zoerro came up to the area and became very shy and agitated. He was convinced that he had accidentally stumbled into the killing ground of another pack of wolves, and that I was the alpha male of that pack. Zoerro genuinely feared that I would kill him just for being there!

After that, I helped pack the gift baskets, which contain a lot of things that the wolves are not otherwise given to eat (goldfish crackers, Raman noodles), just because it gives them something different. The staff let me add the raw liver and heart to each basket. (I thought this a great honor but the real reason was so nobody else had to wash their hands three times in boiling water as I had to afterward.)

The crowd gathered at 12:30 and I got to give my Chef Steve speech (which I cut short because of the 40mph wind). Then the wolves were given their baskets. I didn't see most of that as I was having a very bad time with my swollen knee and what the altitude was doing to my heart. I did see Kota get his basket (and for some reason, he wasn't interested in the heart despite having eaten the last several with great enthusiasm).

I walked down the hill intending to wait for the tour's last stop (Romeo the fox) but noticed that my deadline to leave had arrived. I had to leave then or not get home that night, and to wait for all the friends I wanted to say goodbye to would mean that I would have to stop halfway home and make it back to Amarillo sometime Monday. So I found someone (Amber as it turned out) and explained to her that I had to leave "right now" and proceeded to drive home (into a constant 45mph headwind, dirt storm, and tumbleweed stampede).

My goal for the trip was to learn as much as I can, and I want to thank the whole WSWS crew for being so patient in answering my questions.  While I take them a lot of stuff I am far from their biggest donor and I'm sure I pushed towards the limits of their patience. Thanks to Leyton for sitting down after a 30-hour drive and teaching me the ins and outs of moving animals across the country. Thanks to Georgia for chatting with me about the coyotes when she would rather have been chatting with her husband.  Thanks to Crystal for letting me meet Kota and to Rory for trying to let me meet Zoerro. Thanks to Ramon for reminding me what it was like to be a very young project director trying to get a lot done with not very much in the way of tools or materials. Thanks to Meredith for discussing enrichment with me, and to Dawn for our hilarious conversation about what it takes to run a non-profit page on Facebook. Thanks to the interns and volunteers (Joey, Mikhail, Holly, Chloe, and the two young women whose names I never heard) for chatting with me about their experiences. Thanks especially to Rae who, on her busiest day of the year, explained to me not just what went into a basket for each wolf but why it went in there in the order it went. She also taught me that if five pounds of meat is the right amount, adding a few more pounds was most definitely not "simply swell."     

All told, it was a fantastic experience. I learned ten times as much about how to handle wolves in the three days I was there than I have ever learned during one of the parties.

Friday, May 16, 2014

DAY ONE: The Untold Story, Part 3 of 3

Computer Support, USS Texas

"Commo room, anybody up there?" the technician asked over the intercom.

"Sure," the night commo tech asked.

"Listen, our email bandwidth just maxed out. What are you doing up there?"

"Nothing much," the commo tech answered. "I was downloading Season Seventy-Four of The Walking Dead."

"Nah, that's not it," the computer technician said. "This is outgoing stuff. Enough bandwidth to send our entire database halfway across the Federation. Who's using that much email?"

"Let me check," the commo tech answered. "Ok, looks like it's that new ensign, Korak or something. You know, the guy who showed up without orders last week. I guess he's talking to every office he can find trying to figure out where his orders are."

"Can't blame him for that," the computer technician said. "At least he's doing it in the middle of the night when we're not busy."


Remote Warning Station K42, Klingon Border

"What's this?" the lieutenant asked, gesturing to a small crate on the table in the conference room/dining hall.

"Heck if I know," the ensign answered. "The chief petty officer said it wasn't on the supply manifest and I thought I'd ask you before we opened it."

"This came with the regular shipment this morning?" the lieutenant asked. The remote stations along this stretch of the Klingon border were supplied by a contractor using an old Free Trader. He won the bid at the contract offering six months ago.

"Indeed," the ensign, second-in-command of the tiny station said. "The rest of the stuff is the standard package, a month of food, the standard allocation of spare parts, and whatever parts we special ordered. The chief petty officer signed for the shipment but this box isn't on the manifest. That guy is always so sloppy with his paperwork. At least this time he was a week early instead of a week late."

"What the..." the lieutenant said as he opened the crate. He pulled out a bottle of champagne. "Lobster, pate de foie gras, quiche... some admiral is wondering where this is!"

"Let's eat!" the ensign said, keying the intercom.
"A toast," the lieutenant said to the assembled crew. "To a continuation of the peace." During dinner, a few remarked that the food tasted funny, and then everyone got sleepy.

Thursday, May 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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One of the Worst War Movies ever

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Recently I watched "The Nun and the Sergeant." A film made in 1962 and set during the Korean War. A Sergeant is being sent behind enemy lines to blow up a tunnel. After arriving by helicopter, the pick up a nun and seven teenage/young adult Korean school girls.

Got all that?

Oh, yes, the "Marine" patrol consists of 12 guys with large white "P" on their uniforms. You see, except for the Sergeant and his South Korean sidekick, they are all the dregs of the Brig. Not because the Marine Corps told the Sergeant to take them, but because the Sergeant does not want to lose any more "good men."

This film is about an hour and 15 minutes long, and has no pay off and some ridiculous "resolutions."

All of this is not the worst of it.

Here is a patrol behind enemy lines on a "raid mission," and one of the men SINGS? While walking around behind enemy lines, one of the men is singing!

And we have this nun and her girls, so the Sergeant puts them in the order of march behind all of his men but for his one man "rear security." And, somehow, one of the girls "wanders off" and they are not aware of until the Sergeant decides to take a break? So the Sergeant and the nun have to go looking for the girl?

You do not even really know what happens by the end.

Did the Sergeant die? Did all of his men die? Did the nun die? You do not know. There is definitely an explosion that appears to be the tunnel blowing up, but that is about it.

You only know for certain that five of the school girls survived. You do not even know for sure if the cowardly Marine found his courage (sure, you see him start down the hill with the others, but still he could have backed up at any time after that in the firefight, but the firefight is now shown, only the reckless charge down hill starting).

Unless you want to see "How Not To Operate Behind Enemy Lines," if you ever get a chance to see this film, DON'T.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Steve Cole explains how new miniatures are created.
The management system I use (which works when I don't forget to use it) is to have a combined list of every new miniature for 2400, 2425, 2450, and 2500 and where it is in the process. These steps go from design to CGI that was posted on the BBS to a CGI that was sent to prototype to a prototype on my desk to masters on my desk to production pieces for sale in our warehouse. It's not a straight path as many things have to be done more than once, some things can only be done in batches, and with a lot of different ships in the process of creation it's hard to keep track of them all any other way.
These steps are complicated, and most of them are not under my control. As manager, all I can do is to keep track of who is doing what and remind them to move along with the project. Things happen, people get busy, and things that take a day or two for somebody to finish might wait a week or two before that somebody has time to work on them. You'd think that perfectly competent grownups would move along without guidance, but they have questions, issues, problems, and interruptions. The reality is that if you don't remind them every week, sometimes something gets stalled for weeks. (This is why Jean reminds ME every week to go through the minis list and see who needs a push, or help, or questions answered, or whatever.)
Tuesdays are minis days (unless I am really busy when I might skip one Tuesday in a given month, but even that is dangerous) and I go over each miniature and have a chat with whoever is doing the next step. Tuesday is not the only day I do things related to minis; but it IS the day that nothing I can do is left not done. I might not do quality control on a new shipment the day it arrives, but I do not leave the building Tuesday without doing it. I might not post a new CGI the day Sandrine emails it to me, but I don't leave the building Tuesday until it is posted. Now, the reality is that some things I could do are not done. I COULD send preliminary data and drawings on 40 or 50 ships to the sculptors, but the reality is that they can't work on more than two or three at a time and so there's no point in my stacking up stuff in their in-boxes.
The steps are complex. First, we pick a ship we want to do. This might be a 2500 being rescaled for 2400s (e.g., the Klingon D7K), an existing 2400 being done over for 2500s (e.g, the Orion CA), an entirely new ship done for both 2400 and 2500 (e.g., Klingon HF5 heavy war destroyer), or a ship being done for the multi-scale 2425s (e.g., the jumbo freighter).
Once picked, I send drawings and (a 2400 sample if there is one) to the sculptor (usually Sandrine at Mongoose, sometimes Will at Seattle). Sometimes I wait weeks for the CGI sculptor to do their thing, which is where that "gently remind them to move forward" thing comes into play.
The sculptor works up a CGI and emails it to me. I check it (and perhaps direct changes), then Steve Petrick checks it (and perhaps directs changes), then it goes on the BBS and Facebook for a week or two of public comment. I then collect the public comments on the next Tuesday and send them to the sculptor, who fixes any issues. Sometimes that leads to another round of checks and posting, while other times I can approve the CGI to go to prototype. A given ship might go through one round of public comment or as many as five or six.
Mongoose sends CGI-ships to be made into plastic prototypes in batches, so sometimes a CGI-ship that is ready has to wait weeks for some friends to go along on the trip.
Then the prototypes land on Matthew's desk. If he approves them, they go to ADB and if we approve them (Jean photographs them and puts them up on our page on Facebook), they go to Bruce at the casting house. You would think if the CGI were good the prototype would be, but this is not the case. All too often, phasers on the CGI are missing on the prototype. If that happens, we might do the prototype over or we might have a sculptor add the phasers to the masters. Bruce might stop a prototype because he thinks it won't cast well. Just because a prototype is made doesn't mean we don't have to go back and do it over.
Then a number of prototypes are put into a master mold. Here is another chance for delay. If there are not enough prototypes to fill a master mold, then perfectly good prototypes will sit waiting for some friends to join them. There is no way to work "batches" through the system because one ship might have six rounds of public comment while another has one. Ships move forward when they move forward, not when it's their turn. A fast-moving ship might get produced before a problematic ship goes to prototype.
The master mold is then spun a dozen times to produce metal masters, one or two of which is sent to ADB. At this point, anything could happen. We might approve it (and let Jean photograph it). We might have the masters worked over by a master modeler such as Tony Thomas, who might fix a full set or might just create one "correct" one which goes back into a master mold. We might tell Mongoose to do the prototype over again. We might decide not to do the ship at all. Or something else might happen.
If the masters are approved, then a set of them (usually eight) goes into a production mold. (In some cases, it takes two or three production molds to make one ship, since it doesn't work to cast pieces of very different sizes in the same mold.) Assuming that all of this works, the production mold arrives at the casting house and a few spins are made, and a few samples are sent to ADB. Assuming we approve those, we give one or two of them to an artist to paint for the shopping cart, let Jean take some photos, and order a production batch from Bruce. Once the production batch arrives, it is run through the Quality Control Committee and those that pass are put into inventory. Jean then photographs them and announces them as ready for sale.
Sometimes, even at this last step, we may come to the conclusion that the ship won't work. The problem is that at every step the model changes a little. The master is just a tiny bit smaller and thinner than the prototype, and the production ships are tiny bit smaller than that. (The CGI is designed to allow for this, but it's hard to guess just how much is enough.) What was a perfectly strong Kzinti wing on a CGI may be so thin in the production model that you cannot put it in a box without bending it or breaking it. When that happens, we might to back to the masters and have Tony Thomas thicken the thin parts or add missing parts we didn't notice were missing. Then we do a new production mold. Sometimes, we have no choice but to go all the way back to the CGI and thicken the parts most likely to bend, then do a new prototype, which goes into the next available master mold, and so on.
As you can see, it's a multi-step process, and every step may have to be done over several times (or might work the first time). Just keeping track of everything and what stage it is in is a management chore. Sooner or later, a production batch of a new ship arrives at the warehouse and is officially released. It is impossible to predict when a given ship will appear because it is impossible to predict what will happen at each step. The point of managing the system is to keep enough things moving forward that a steady flow of new items is released.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 May 2014

Steve Cole reports: 

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

New on Warehouse 23 this week was the Lesser Magellanic Cloud Federation Commander playtest pack. The Federation Commander Omega playtest book was updated.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were the Federation Commander Lesser Magellanic Cloud Playtest Pack, Federation Commander Omega Playtest Rulebook, and the Federation & Empire Compendium.

Steve Cole worked on the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, art for the Federation Master Starship Book, and prototypes for the 2500s. (Nine prototypes were sent to Bruce, who already has four. We will discuss how many master molds that fills.) Steve went on the semi-annual pilgrimage to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary (the first time he went alone), spending three days there.

Steven Petrick worked on battle groups for Captain's Log #49, the Advanced Missions SSD book update, the Federation Master Starship Book, and checking 2500 prototypes.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with four new entries, eight updates, and 26 people moved to the archive.

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 celebrated the completion of her first year in Amarillo. She worked on Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2097 friends), managed our Twitter feed (99 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #101, took care of customers, and did some marketing

Sunday, May 11, 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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


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 a new ship, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, May 09, 2014

DAY ONE: The Untold Story, Part 2 of 3

Battle Station K3, Commo Room

"Hey, boss, you wanna look at this?" the commo tech asked.

"Let me see it," the supervisor said.

From: Border Outpost K62@Starfelet.com
To: All stations in sector K2
Re: Defense Plans File
Hey, guys, I accidentally deleted the defense plan file, and the boss is holding an inspection in an hour. Can somebody send me a copy?

"Sure, send it to him," the supervisor said. "I spent a year on one of those outposts. It's pretty miserable. I feel for the guy."

"Sending it now, boss," the commo tech said. "I hope he gets it in time."

"Better send it priority," the supervisor said.


Starbase 15, Personnel Center

"Do you have the fleet payroll files completed yet?" the head of Third Fleet humanoid resources asked.

"I just got them in from Pay.Kom," her assistant said. "I gotta say, and not for the first time, that your decision to hire those guys was inspired. They do virtually all our work for us, and at a fraction of the cost."

"That's the thing about the free market," the head of HR said. "Somebody will find a smarter way to do it, and they can underbid the market. They're saving us, what, 60 percent of the cost of doing it ourselves?"

"Yeah, at least that," her assistant said. "We've fired just about all of our employees, except those friends of yours who cash their paychecks and never show up for work."

"Consultants, son, consultants," the head of HR said. "They're the ones who advised us to farm out the work."

"Who would have ever thought that a colony planet right smack on the Klingon border would host a galaxy-class IT company able to process everything so efficiently?" the assistant asked. "They must have an incredibly low pay scale for computer technicians. Yeah, here's the file all right. Promotions, assignments, transfers, they have every single member of the Third Fleet right down to the lowest recruit. They know where everybody is, what ship or base they're on, everything. They even keep track of where to forward the pay credits when a ship moves from one sector to another. These guys work very hard."

"What about the police payrolls?" the head of HR asked.

"Their file is here, too," her assistant said. "Convincing the police to let you handle their payroll was genius."
"We did it for half the cost," the head of HR replied. "And Pay.Kom does it for half of that. That's why you have a triple-A-class apartment on the starbase instead of the C-class room with bunk beds that your position actually rates."
"Now that the files are in," her assistant asked, "can I take the rest of the day off? I took the liberty of scheduling a couples massage with my girlfriend for this afternoon."
"Have a good time," the head of HR replied.

Thursday, May 08, 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.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Some Thoughts on an Old Movie

This is Steven Petrick posting.

As has often been noted, I tend to watch a lot of old movies because of Tivo. It gives me the option to easily record them and view them later. Having majored in History (albeit with a decided bent to things military) I find it interesting to look at the films in the eras in which they were crafted. The way things are presented.

Recently I watched a 1959 film titled "The Angry Hills." I thought it would be about the Greek resistance after the Germans and Italians occupied the country. And it sort of was (although the only attempt at armed resistance ends in disaster, massacre, and atrocity).

While the main thrust of the film is the transmission of a list of Greek patriots to the allies, a list of Greeks who are willing to "collaborate" with the occupiers and be seen as traitors so that they can gather information for the allies, it is really about something else.

Yes, the main character evolves, from not caring or wanting the responsibility, to being motivated by the sacrifices of others to deliver the list if he can.

His foe evolves as well.

His foe is a Gestapo man. And, oh yea he is a villain. He is the one that orders that the Greeks who attempted to raid a munitions dump are all killed rather than taken prisoner. He is the one that sees that the orders for reprisals against the villages the men came from are carried out.

Yet he is also the one who understands that force and violence are not always the correct answer. He is the one who reins in his Greek Collaborator who is eager to beat another Greek for information and gets the information by using a little psychology.

In the end, he fails and the hero escapes with the list.

But rather than lashing out at those around him, at the person who betrayed him, he shows compassion and urges her (she turns out to be his ex-wife, and while he had stated he was willing to kill "their" children to complete his assigned task, to do his duty, on learning she has betrayed him so that they may escape with the hero while she is sacrificing herself for their children) to leave. To not be near him when his superiors arrive to deal with his failure. A trace of humanity and admission that he did still love her and their children.

He could certainly have had her arrested and interrogated immediately to determine who had helped the hero and their children escape, but he does not lash out.

Still, the film fails in one major sense (in my view) because near the end a character comes  out of the woodwork. Someone the woman apparently knows but has not been anywhere else in the film, and suddenly is the key man who arranges the hero's and the children's escape. And even he says he does not know why except that he is doing something different than he normally would. At one point saying,to the Greek Collaborator he is holding prisoner to keep him from warning the Gestapo man of what is going on after the Collaborator asks if he can save him, that he does not even know if he will be able to save himself for getting involved.

Tuesday, May 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.