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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Captain's Log #49 Update

Jean Sexton reports:

As we wind up shop today, Captain's Log #49 is waiting for one piece of art. We do have in hand a sketch that would work, in the case of an emergency.

We have gone through and checked the art. I've moved some around so it isn't bunched up. We'd love to hear feedback on art placement when you get your issue.

On Friday we should get the covers in. With any luck we'll be able to start printing on Friday. Then we'll be able to ship to distributors on the 4th. We will also open up mail orders then and ship those out a week later.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 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, July 29, 2014


Steve Cole writes:
1. In the basic doomsday scenario, society collapses into anarchy. We see this happen today in limited areas, usually in a war-torn country but sometimes in a limited area (e.g., the Rodney King riots in LA, or the Katrina mess in New Orleans, or the hurricane in New Jersey). In the limited situations we have seen, there is plenty of stable area outside of the chaos which can send help. Doomsday prepping assumes that there is no stable area outside from which help can arrive, that everything goes bad everywhere (at least, everywhere in the US). There would be no police, and everyone would have to fend for himself. The collapse of society means the collapse of the food distribution system, and within three or four days, entire cities would be empty of food and full of hungry desperate people. A hundred million Americans will die of starvation the first year.
2. National Geographic is just full of interesting things I had never known. Tens of thousands of elephants are murdered for their ivory every year, despite the ban on ivory trading. Hundreds of thousands of songbirds (the size of sparrows) are killed every year migrating through Africa, where they are considered delicacies. (Each has about two bites of meat.) About 2.5% of our DNA is Neanderthal. For Australian aborigines, another 5% of their DNA is another (previously unknown human-ish species called Denovonia (known from two teeth and a tiny piece of bone.) The latest theory on solar system formation says that Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune formed much closer to Jupiter, were pushed out by its gravity, and the effect of those moving gas giants on the Kuiper Belt caused the infamous Late Heavy Bombardment.
3. The first step to starting a business is to understand What a Business Is. A business is where you do, make, or sell something that people pay for. The difference between what it costs to do, make, or buy that something and what you can get paid for doing it is not the profit; it's the margin. The profit is what's left after the margin pays the cost of overhead (rent, salaries, insurance, taxes, utilities, advertising, shipping, equipment, and everything else). Worse, some of the profit has to be kept inside the business for emergencies, replacing worn-out equipment, investing in new things to do, and so forth. That's the theory. The problem is that the overhead expenses are going to keep going whether you sell anything or not. Let's say you have a huge collection of baseball cards. You rent a store and offer them for sale, but nobody buys any. Well, the rent on the store still has to be paid, as do the utility bills, and your own personal rent (or mortgage) and utility bills also have to be paid. That's the trap. If you don't pick a business where enough people buy the thing (product or service) and you don't make enough profit on each thing, you'll fail.
 4. For the Zombie Apocalypse, let's talk guns. Zombies mean you need a gun, preferably two or more, those being a good rifle (preferably a semi-auto assault rifle with multiple magazines) and a good pistol (preferably a semi-auto with multiple magazines). The problem is, the optimum weapons will cost you over a thousand dollars. If you don't have lots of money to spend, you can get a good solid used 30-caliber bolt-action rifle (e.g., a Mauser or a Mossin-Nagant) for about $100. It might keep you alive if you don't confront too many zombies at once. Another choice might be a twenty-two caliber long-rifle weapon (.22LR) as a semi-auto version can be had for about $100. (Avoid the tube-fed ones as they take forever to reload. Get a magazine-fed version and buy several extra magazines, each with as many rounds as you can find. But get a real rifle, as it's iffy to assume a .22LR will penetrate a human skull or do enough damage to kill a zombie.) For a cheap pistol, get a .380 automatic (maybe $250). A revolver is better than nothing (but takes too long to reload and can be considered only an emergency backup gun). Shotguns are not good anti-zombie weapons. Buckshot is likely to miss the brain and slugs are heavier than rifle bullets. You're better to carry a magazine-fed assault rifle, but if a shotgun is all you have got, use it. Given tons of money, you might consider getting a rifle and pistol that use the same ammo. There are endless 9mm pistols out there and you can get a 9mm carbine or MP5. If you prefer .45acp there is an MP45 that uses that round. A zombie that is more than 50 yards away is not worth shooting, and your odds of a miss or a non-killing hit are too high.
5. Sometimes the boss assigns you a gigantic task that will take forever. The first step is to REMEMBER THE EIGHTY-TWENTY RULE: This rule says that in any project 80% of the goal takes 20% of the effort while the last 20% of the goal takes 80% of the effort. Maybe you need to ask your boss if eating 80% of this elephant is good enough. Remind him that in the same time you could completely eat one elephant you could eat 80% of five elephants. If nothing else, do the easy stuff first and hope that something else distract him before you waste a lot of time doing the last 20%. Pick out the very easiest parts and hand them to an intern to do. Since any given mountain of work will contain some stuff that is laughably easy, do that part first as at least you made some progress on the overall whole.
6. A guy called me one day offering to sell me a software system where all of the mail orders on my webstore would be forwarded to local game stores. He could not understand why I told him "no thanks." Let me try again. First, anybody who wants to "order on line and pick up in person" is already doing that because the local store has that on their own website. Second, we don't want to send orders to stores because we would lose most of the profit and go out of business. (His theory that we'd sell more total games this way ran into the reality that there just aren't enough wargamers in this world to expand the customer base at will.) He theorized that it would be swell to do this because the stores would be forced to stock every product we had in order to take advantage of orders that might appear. I advised him that every game store was a mom and pop operation and did not have the cash or space to stock more than they are stocking.
7. Colonel Custer of the 7th Cavalry wasn't as stupid as most people think. The conventional wisdom is that Custer raced to get to the Indian camp before the rest of the Army in order to get all of the glory for himself. (Fair enough, but he was also concerned that the Indians would try to get away from the trap before it could close. He had no delusion of defeating the Indians, but if he could accomplish his plan to scatter or captured their horses, he would win the campaign for his boss. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that he stupidly divided his force, his plan was to distract the warriors and attack the horse herd, which would have immobilized the Indians while the rest of the Army closed in. While Custer is regarded as an idiot to attack 3,000 warriors with 600 cavalry, the Army was convinced (and had convinced him) that there were only 1,000 warriors, a force his disciplined cavalry could have dealt with.
8. I watch the show SISTER WIVES about that guy Cody and his four wives. The new season started and the story of the first episode focused on the failure of their internet jewelry business. (Two of the wives like the business, the other two and Cody aren't that interested. This isn't what caused the failure, but it has caused friction as the two who like the business don't understand why the other three don't want to be part of the "fun" of running it.) What I can tell them is that the jewelry is too expensive and the designs have a limited appeal. Certainly, the four-women logo pieces appeal only to groups of four women (sisters, sister wives, friends, or whatever). I can feel their pain. I have walked into trade shows with great expectations and known within an hour that I wasn't going to sell anything and was stuck sitting there for two days, wasting my time being miserable. The standard sales pitch ("This is the one I gave my sister wife for her birthday") is singularly ineffective.
9. I was recently offered a deal in which I would get $1500 up front, and then might or might not get $7500 at some future point. The problem was, the deal depended on my doing a couple of weeks of work first, and it had to be the NEXT two weeks, not some two weeks at some future point when I wasn't pushing against a deadline. The bottom line was that I'd break even on the cost of my time, but doing this would delay every product I was working on by two weeks. In the end, the Board voted to prohibit me from working on that deal, requiring me to focus on projects already on the schedule. For anything to get on the schedule and go straight to the head of the line, it has to be some combination of very quick to do and/or making a lot of profit in the very near term. Breakeven deals (or deals that only make somebody else money, which is why that guy was pushing me to do it) do not go to the head of the line.
10. Advice to Young people: You're focused on getting to the day after graduation, but you need to have a good idea of where you're going to be at age 25 and how you're going to get there. At age 25 (plus or minus), you should have finished school (and perhaps a term in the military), paid for your education, married your forever-spouse, bought a house, and planted some trees. Do you have the job skills to get a job that affords that house? Are you serious about who you're dating and would they make a forever-spouse? By the way, get to age 25 (true adulthood) with a clean credit history and no police record.
11. There is endless debate over who was the greatest general in all of (Earth) history. I have long ago settled on Genghis Khan. He was a national leader (which lets out the likes of Patton, Montgomery, Lee, and Grant) who conquered a vast empire (only Alexander the Great comes close). Genghis made more military innovations than Alexander (who made none other than lengthening the spears his father had issued) and the empire of Genghis survived centuries after his death while Alexander's crumbled within months.
12. The worst German mistake in all of World War 2 was the failure to destroy the British Army at Dunkirk, which might well have caused the fall of the Churchill government and resulted in a peace agreement.
13. The worst Allied mistake in World War 2 was the failure to take seriously that war was coming: The British and French disarmament movements of the 1920s had left an opening for Hitler, which the rearmament programs of the 1930s were not enough to overcome. One can include here the failure to give the Germans an equitable peace at Versailles. (Instead, the French insisted on crippling reparations and on ignoring Wilson's 14 points which were the basis of the armistice. The Germans felt betrayed, and they were.)
14. Never marry a girl without meeting her mother. That's what you're going to be living with, so check it out.
15. Myth: The US won the American Revolution wearing buckskin and hiding behind rocks and trees shooting at the stupid British wearing bright red coats and standing in a straight line.
Truth: The US won wearing bright blue coats and standing in a straight line; we just learned how to shoot faster, the French helped, and the British had an ocean in the way of their Army. This myth seems to have originated in a Bill Cosby comedy routine.
16. I am annoyed by the use of the word "hero." A hero is someone who risks or sacrifices something for some greater purpose, such as risking his life to save others or risking his career to speak truth to power. I hate hearing about "sports heroes" (although "sports legends" are fine). I am tired of hearing about someone who is "a hero" who didn't really risk anything, but just did their assigned job very well. Such a person might be a role model or a paragon, but not a hero.
17. If you own a business and you watch X-factor, American Idol, and The Voice but don't watch Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible, Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue, Tabitha Takes over, or On the Rocks, you're doing it wrong and your business is not all it could be. Owning a business includes the obligation to continually improve your knowledge of business and make your own business better.
18. 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. 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.
19. 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."

20. Nobody (beyond the professional military) realized that the allies in World War II were not a happy united family. 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. The Americans thought the British wanted to use US troops to build the British Empire. The British considered the Americans to be "Colonial amateurs playing at war." Stalin was convinced that Churchill wanted the Germans and Russians to bleed each other white so the British could take over Europe. The British tried to assassinate Free French leader DeGaulle. The US Army and Navy hated each other more than they hated the Japanese or Germans, and some American generals hated each other even more.

21. Myth: Columbus believed the world was round when everybody else believed it was flat.

Truth: Everybody knew the world was round, the argument was about just how big it was (and how far away China was if you went West instead of East). Turns out, Columbus was the one who was wrong, and the diameter that the Greeks calculated in 300BC was right after all.

22. I was watching Shark Tank and some woman said that her business was not making money and she desperately needed cash from the sharks to keep going. Let me get this right. Your business is steadily losing money and your plan is for us to give you money that you will use to cover the losses and your living expenses until somehow your business starts to make money. Do you actually have a plan to change what you're doing into a profitable model? No? Then you don't need an investor. You need a psychiatrist.

Monday, July 28, 2014

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was the second of three intense weeks of work on Captain's Log #49. The theory was to finish laying out, assembling, and writing the book this week and then spend next week proofreading, editing, tweaking, and finishing it. The problem with this plan was that all of the department heads got their stuff in late, so we ended up (not delayed but) with far more "final done" pages than any other second week (86% done overall), even while more "still waiting for content" pages remained on the chart than ever before. By the end of the week, all of the late stuff showed up so everything can still be finished on time. The weather this week was very hot, over 90F every day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #49 and not much else.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #49 and not much else.

The 2500 project moved forward with the first three ships on the cart and the shipment of the second three ships arriving.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics for Captain's Log #49.

Jean worked on Captain's Log #49, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2176 friends), managed our Twitter feed (108 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Consistency and Patterns and Success

Jean Sexton muses:

It is remarkable how the lessons I am learning about training Wolf (ADB's official greeting dog) apply to gaming.

One of the first things that Wolf's trainer told me was that Wolf needed consistent orders and training. His hand signals need to be given consistently. One person cannot wave a hand over Wolf's head and expect him to "sit" and another hold a treat in a fist and expect him to "sit." Wolf always needs to learn to let humans go out the door first. (We never got the order of precedence settled about Klingons or Vulcans!)

The next thing that Wolf's trainer told me is that dogs learn in patterns. If Wolf always gets three walks between getting home and bedtime, then he expects that. The other night when it rained, Wolf was pretty upset that he missed his walk, although not so upset that he insisted on going out in the rain. Another pattern that Wolf learned is that the Terrible Trio of Dachshunds live behind a particular window. Wolf wants to stop there and issue a warning bark across the window. If I reverse the usual path, Wolf doesn't remember to bark there and peace is maintained.

When I gamed regularly, I did things in a particular order so that I didn't miss something I should do. (I still have a checklist for checking ship cards so that I remember to check everything.) I also watched for patterns. If someone did something consistently, I could plan for it to happen. I also tried to make sure I didn't develop a pattern.

It seems with Wolf that the key to success is being consistent and knowing when a pattern needs to be broken. I suspect the same is true in gaming. May all your games be successful!

Friday, July 25, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 3

21. Paint a female Space Dragon across the top of it.

22. Install X-technology and a positron flywheel.

23. Have Rodney King drive it through Los Angeles.

24. Start a rumor that the captain will go to war without approval from the Council.

25. Tell the crew that movies are going to be replaced with episodes of Webster.

26. Tell Oliver Stone the crew is conspiring against someone.

27. Have small mammals eat the eggs.

28. Assign construction to NASA.

29. Anchor it with six Gorn ships and unload plasma torpedoes.

30. Paint "The Emperor wears bunny slippers" on it just before the annual Klinshai naval parade.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, July 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, July 23, 2014

Mission First

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Well, "The Last Ship" brought me to one of those moments of deep disatisfaction.

I am sorry, but the correct answer was to leave.

Yes, I know it is morally wrong to leave the girl, and her people, to the less than tender mercies of "El Toro." And, yes, commanders on the spot have to make decisions without guidance from higher.

However, the captain risked everything, at least as far as he knew.

He knows that the Russians wanted his research and researchers, but he does not know if there are other teams out there also working on the project who have not yet been overcome. (Not enough background to know, I mean there could be a Chinese team out there, or an Argentinian team or what not, and maybe the arrived to collect samples in the cold after he and the Russians left.) It is implied by the show's background that his ship and the Russian ship are all there is, but in all honesty the writers could at any time write in another research team somewhere. It is a big planet after all.

Even so, the Captain does not know this.

So he risks himself and his executive officer on a Quixotic operation to bring justice and save the girl. Does he really believe that there is anyone else on his ship holding them all together and on task? His researcher needs the monkeys, and he is risking them not getting to her.

This is a "fate of humanity" moment, and the show would (I admit) probably bomb if they had not saved the girl, but I at least would have profoundly respected the choice to save humanity first.

Now, I might have taken the monkeys to the ship and then returned with landing party, but only "might." I only have so many crewmen, and I have a ship that I have to keep running somehow, which leaves me very few people I can afford to have killed while I am playing Don Quixote. How many men might I lose to those booby traps they had planted (and was it not amazing that in their three man night attack they did not trip over a single one of them)?

Yes, our three stalwart heroes easily won the fight (such as it was), but only one of them was a highly trained ground combatant, and the result of there one-to-four odds attack starting with no weapons was unlikely in the extreme.

It was, however, the wrong answer and the wrong choice no matter how "moral" it was and how much it made all the writers feel good about how "our hearts are pure so our strength is the strength of a hundred men" resolution.

More likely El Toro's boys would have been the best fighters he had in running his gang before the collapse, and on their own ground (since they have been there a while) would have been able to at least inflict casualties on our heroes before they died.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that came to mind.

1. Is there some reason that TV shows are once a week? I know that back in the old days of three networks and no cable, the shows were shot during the year and you were watching a show that had been shot only 8 or 9 days earlier. But these days, we have these shows that are shot months before they are shown, and is there some reason we could not have the eight-episode half-season of Walking Dead on eight consecutive nights?

2. On the season finale of ELEMENTARY, Mycroft goes into hiding after the British secret service faked his death. He did this to protect Sherlock and Watson from retaliation by the French mob. Hearing this, the intrepid pair insisted that they could take care of themselves from the French mob came after them. No, they cannot. If a major criminal organization wants to kill you, they will. These two consulting detectives are always going here or there to investigate something and it should be no trouble at all to stake out a point near their home and ambush them. After all, Watson was easily kidnapped in an earlier episode.

3. If I were going to do a TV show about politics (something like West Wing or Scandal) I would do it about the "Union Party" and the "Federal Party" and we'd talk about "the immigration bill" without ever saying what was in it. I would not want to lose half of my audience because they did not agree with my politics.

4. A mix of white and red is a distinct color called pink but a mix of blue and white is just "pale blue." Maybe the red faction had a better branding expert in their marketing department and was able to create a new color?

5. I watched the season premier of FALLING SKIES and found it as badly written as ever. From a military standpoint, the plot is just full of holes, things that sound good (to the writers) but make no sense to anyone who has been in the military. They could do perfectly good stories that made sense, but Hollywood just thinks it knows everything. In the end, whatever happens is whatever the writers decided was going to happen, not what was the most likely thing to happen.

6. The new show DOMINION has redefined gutsy moves. The show starts with "Twenty-five years ago, God disappeared" which caused the angels to get upset and decide to wipe out the humans. (The anti-human angels think that God was so disgusted with humans that He just walked away.) So is this a Hollywood anti-religion show or is this a "Left Behind" sort of thing where God really has an involvement in the physical world far beyond His current level of miracles and meddling? I don't know, but seeing a twin 35mm anti-aircraft gun shoot down an angel has me watching the whole season.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of serious work on Captain's Log #49; at the end we were 50% finished. The weather this week was cloudy and cool, 74F instead of 94F. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week: Captain's Log #36 (containg the original B&W SSDs) and separate colorized SSDs for the issue.

Steve Cole worked on mostly Captain's Log #49 but did a few customer requests.

Steven Petrick worked almost exclusively on Captain's Log #49.

The 2500 project saw the first three new ships arrive in Amarillo; they are on sale as of 21 July.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with four new entries.

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 PDF uploads, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,174 friends), managed our Twitter feed (108 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #49, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 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, July 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, July 18, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 2

#11. Tell the government it's carrying toxic waste.

#12. Tell the DSF it's being assigned to the ISF to hunt pirates.

#13. Tell the ISF that the helmsman is drunk.

#14. Put Rush Limbaugh at the helm; he only turns right!

#15. Attack it with 500 administrative shuttles.

#16. Tell the Orions the crew consists of green slave women.

#17. Forget to close the hatch when leaving spacedock.

#18. Tell the captain he cannot raise the shields until the ship's counselor certifies that he's in touch with his inner self.

#19. Tell Congress the drone racks exceed the magazine limits.

#20 Challenge a Dominator to a duel and neglect to prohibit it from bringing satellite ships.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lack of Creativity

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of my continuing problems here at Amarillo Design Bureau is that I am in a job that requires some amount of creativity, but (as you readers are no doubt aware) I am not myself a very creative person.

I watch Stephen Cole whip out new ideas on the spur of the moment, creating new things in whole cloth, and how he does it is completely beyond me.

Anything I do is little more than building on what someone else has done. I have my moments when I take some pride in something, but I am quite aware of how ultimately feeble and derivative my efforts are.

A lot of scenario backgrounds I create (and in some cases, the scenario backgrounds others submit that I then "re-imagine") grow from both my own knowledge of history and the game's history. Some of those I am quite pleased with even though they are derivative. It is all, however, just mechanical writing, not "imaginative" like what Stephen Cole does.

Even the "monster" articles I do for Captain's Log are essentially derivative. (I did not create the monster . . . well, I sort of created "The Moray Eel of Space," but you should talk to Stephen Cole about how difficult it was for him to drag that monster out of me.) I am taking a monster created by someone else, and trying to add more to its background consistent with what has already been published to come up with something "new and interesting." I try very hard to keep some difference between them as to why they are not hunted down and killed.

Not being creative, I am often amazed by the creativity of some of our players, who send us interesting submissions and ideas for things. Sometimes the real problem is to try to control their creativity (creative people, I have been told, tend to be more chaotic than disciplined, but there are exceptions to that rule).

So if you see something I have written, please accept that if it was not simply editing (like most of the battle group articles), that it was very, very hard for me to do (like creating a background for a ship in a shipyard report in Captain's Log). It can take me hours to create a a few ship backgrounds, and in the same space Stephen Cole can have written a short story.

And that is one of the reasons I am always so impressed with anyone who takes the chance to write fiction, because it is so far outside of my own capability. I think I can come up with plots that might be of interest to people, but it is utterly beyond me to create characters and breathe a life into them that will come across the page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.
1. When we announced the new pricing structure for the Starline 2500 minis it was after a whole lot of work and deep thinking over just what things cost. Someone noted that a very small ship cost half of the price of a bigger ship that was five times as big and heavy. That's because the weight of the metal is only one factor in determining the cost. We start with the cost of the CGI and plastic prototype, which is fixed no matter what size it is. Then there is the cost of molds, which varies somewhat with the size of the ship (a mold makes fewer copies of bigger ships). There is the metal cost of course, but there is also the casting costs. Sometimes two molds that hold the same number of pieces require very different amounts of work or do not produce the same number of usable pieces. The cost of shipping from the factor to Amarillo is more or less proportionate to size. The royalties we pay to Mongoose and Paramount are proportionate to the final price. There is a certain minor administrative cost to process each order, where one line item costs the same effort as any other regardless of cost. The biggest factor is hand labor by ADB. We have to inspect every ship (which is not much harder for a big ship compared to a small one), put them in a bag and store the bags in a bin that wasn't free (same cost regardless of the size of the ship), pull them out of the bin and match them to an order and put them in a box (same effort no matter what it is). If we were doing retail packaging, the cost of the clamshell box and a person to put the ship in it is not cheap and is pretty much fixed to the number of pieces. The metal cost for most average ships can be anywhere from 20%-40% of the total cost, so a really small ship might end up costing 80% as much as a much bigger ship. That's why big ships cost more but not in proportion to their overall weight.
2. On 15 May we attended the annual Company Picnic, otherwise known as the Amarillo Business Connection. This is a huge business-to-business trade show at the civic center. Hundreds of booths offer no end of services and products, from landscaping to banking, from web development to personnel staffing, from restaurants to hotels. These booths hand out lots of free stuff (pens, scratch pads, sticky notes, chocolate, candy, etc.). Fourteen years ago Leanna saw it in the newspaper and she and I went. A couple of years later we took Steven Petrick along, then we added Mike, then Jean last year, and Simone this year. Everybody has instructions to bring back shopping bags full of loot. (We haven't had to buy office supplies in 10 years.) We operate as a team. Since I go faster than others in the show, when I get to the end of each showroom (there are three) I find a chair and rest. Everybody then comes to me at the end of each row to drop off full bags and pick up empties. Mike takes the full bags out to the car on the parking lot. (This year, I went to the show an hour earlier to park the car in a closer spot.) This year, Simone used the show to find clients for her new freelance graphics business. The last act of the Company Picnic is to put all of the candy in a big pile and take turns selecting three pieces of it. This is a chance for social interaction and to find out what everybody likes.
3. Something that the Chamber of Commerce did for the Business Connection show this year was to have a food court from 11-2 so everyone could have lunch. For $10, you were in a room full of tables surrounded by trade show booths where local restaurants were passing out free food. This allowed us to try several restaurants and find a few new ones. It kept all of the messy food in one area, and allowed people to eat sitting down. (There had always been restaurants passing out free food, but you had to eat it while walking to the trash can at the end of the aisle.) This was, all in all, a genius idea. The $10 paid for the fourth exhibit hall, the booths were already there anyway, and everybody got to eat in comfort.
4. Something that has always been a problem at ADB (since there are not enough people to do everything that should be done, let alone everything that could be done) is the balance between "primary projects" and "small projects that would actually make a few dollars if we just got them done." I have often called this the Hitler-Guderian argument. Hitler wanted to send a few divisions here and there while Guderian wanted to send everything to Russia. Both were wrong, but Hitler usually got what he wanted and, well, the Russian front collapsed. (If I let myself get sidetracked with too many "small projects" and the big projects don't get done, we'll run out of money.) Big projects are things like the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, A Call to Arms Star Fleet Book 1.2, Captain's Log #49, and Federation & Empire Minor Empires. Small projects are things like several people who wrote apps we might sell for money, sorting out the prizes for the tournament, those government forms I need to fill out, reviewing a proposed change to a significant rule in one of our games, and marketing books done on Kindle.
5. What we did for that problem was to create the SmapRo list (SMAll pROjects), anything worth doing that will take an hour or more of my time. I sit down every Saturday with the partners and staff, and we discuss any new SmapRos that appeared on the list, then study the priorities, and finally select five of them (one per day as the sixth day's SmapRow is to evaluate the list again). Priority evaluation depends on many factors. Just how much time will it take? Just how many people will benefit? What promises were made (and broken) and now need to be kept? Who is complaining about any given item? We try to pick one personal item, one broken promise, one profitable item, and two wild cards. JagdPanther got onto the list when enough people complained to Jean and Leanna that they begged me to get it done so they wouldn't be bombarded with requests.
6. The problem is always too much work and too few hours/people and too many interruptions, emergencies, crises, and explosions. It's physically impossible to get done everything that should be done. And when you suggest that I "Just do the highest priority" it means that only one thing will get done, and because of the broad product range that one thing is not something that some significant number of customers want. So the theory is to, every day:
A. get a major chunk of a major project done (say, a chapter of FCTM)
B. get some "other" work done that is time-critical (say, a star fleet alert)
C. get one thing done for the Starline 2500s (say, post the latest Slaver revision)
And D. spend an hour and get one "SmapRo" (SMAll pROject) done (such as getting my driver's license renewed or fixing the mess I made of the Platinum Hat prizes). Some SmapRos can't be done in one hour so they are at the end of the list when (given no other SmapRos on the list that take less time) I can devote an hour a day for a week.
Right now the SmapRo list has 20 or so things on it, but hey, that doesn't include the 20 things I forgot to put on the list (such as one which was forgotten until someone reminded me). The list includes both personal items (like my annual checkup) and business items (like four different computer apps that need contracts) and projects (like figuring out what Daniel Kast needs to do the next Starmada project and sending it to him).

Tuesday, July 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, July 14, 2014

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we shipped Communique #103, Hailing Frequencies, and the Federation Commander Tactics Manual. We also began serious work on Captain's Log #49. The weather this week was hot, over 90F every day. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week: JagdPanther #7. We also sent the Federation Commander Gorn Ship Card Pack to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault (it is still available on Warehouse 23, too).

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #49, wrote a few future blogs, and made a surprise appearance on TalkShoe.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #49, questions from games, and other projects.

The Starline 2500 project moved forward as we got the molds for the July releases; they are being spun-cast today.

The Starlist Project moved forward with four new entries.

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 managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2170 friends), managed our Twitter feed (107 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Hailing Frequencies and Communique, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The famous last words of bankrupt businessmen.
1. The customers are idiots who don't understand why they should be buying our products.

2. I told him to do it, and he can't be as busy as I am, so I don't have to keep track of when he actually does it. I just have to wait for the email saying it's been done.
3. He's a grown man so I don't have to remind him to do his job. He knows what to do. He'll be there on time.
4. No, I haven't actually walked back there to see if that employee is doing his job or playing computer games. Do I really need to do that?
5. I'll take today off and do twice as much work tomorrow.
6. I know I need to talk to that vendor but I suspect it's going to be an unpleasant conversion so it can just wait.
7. That's good merchandise, so we don't need to fire sale it or throw it out. Sure, it hasn't sold in three years and we have a 54-year supply, but it's good merchandise.
8. Our products are fine, but I have no idea why customers aren't buying them.
9. We spent $10,000 on advertising and got no results, so obviously we did not spend enough.
10. I know nothing about this new market I want to move into, but how hard can it be to figure it out after we launch a few new products in that market?

Saturday, July 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, July 11, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 1

Let's take a look at some of the ways.

#1. Tell the media it serves buttered popcorn on media nights.

#2. Tell the crew the popcorn is being replaced with healthy alfalfa sprouts.

#3. Transport tribbles into the engine room.

#4. Dare it to chase the Millennium Pelican through asteroids.

#5. Tell the Klingon EPA that it runs on leaded dilithium.

#6. Force the crew to read The Kzinti in the Hat.

#7. Schedule it for conversion to a mauler.

#8. Have it built at a Yugo plant.

#9. Tell Congress it is Space Station Freedom.

#10. Flush all the toilets at once while the Emperor is in the shower.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16

Thursday, July 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 ebook, 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:

Wednesday, July 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, July 08, 2014

Unintended Consequences

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Over the years players have found loopholes to exploit in Star Fleet Battles. These are always the unintended effects, the players taking advantage of a rule in a way that the designer did not imagine.

One example is T-bombs and NSMs. Back in the 1980s virtually any unit that had commander's option points could purchase NSMs, you just could not buy more than two. The upshot was that no matter what empire I was playing, I almost always bought the two allowed NSMs. You can probably imagine how gingerly the opposing players would maneuver around each other knowing the other guy might have left such a nest egg.

You were also allowed, back in the day, to purchase up to a dozen T-bombs. And whether you purchased T-bombs or not, you automatically had an unlimited, u n l i m i t e d, number of dummy T-bombs (they were not called that at the time). This had another effect as during play large "fields" of dummy T-bombs would be laid to "influence" the maneuvers of the opposing player. After all, it only cost 1/5 of a point of power to lay the dummy mine and a point of power could usually lay as many such mines as you had transporters.

In  those days piracy operations were truly thrilling, as the convoy you were approaching had its own Commander's Option Points, and large freighters could easily afford an NSM among a few other things. Light Raiders learned to purchase all the boarding parties they could as it was not all that unusual for a small convoy to board the pirate ship. Tactics for the pirates were always to approach from the side of the convoy, never from the rear, and rarely from the front (from the front you often wound up overrunning the convoy and hitting the mines they laid behind them). You never tried to board a freighter within a convoy, you tried to tractor one and drag it off to board later. All this even if there was not a Q-ship in the convoy.

Inevitably this led to an amendment to the rules prohibiting civilian ships from having mines at all, and greatly reducing the numbers of mines available to warships and pretty much restricting NSMs to Old Romulans (one for free), Romulan KRs and Hawks (still allowed to buy one) and minesweepers and minelayers. (The latter has, in this modern age, led to more than one player trying to include a minelaying freighter in his convoy.) And the number of dummy T-bombs has been massive reduced. (Really, only the Kzintis truly applauded the limits on T-bombs as they saw this as making their drones more effective . . . okay, the Romulans like the reduced incidences of being "flashcubed" and the Orions are able to approach convoys with more confidence.)

The game is actually better for these changes, as they re-emphasized maneuver over fortification.

Monday, July 07, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 June - 5 July 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we finished the Federation Commander Tactics Manual (FCTM). The weather this week was in the 80Fs or 90Fs. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Starmada Battleships Armada. It is available in both the Admiral and Nova editions.

Steve Cole worked on the FCTM almost exclusively.

Steven Petrick worked on the Federation Commander Tactics Manual and Captain's Log #49.

The 2500 project went nowhere this week, as the company making the molds didn't, and the company making new prototypes didn't do that either.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with four new entries. Simone posted the last of the archived entries to the BBS.

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 FCTM, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,166 friends), managed our Twitter feed (106 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, July 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.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

How Does ... A Manuscript become a Book?

Jean Sexton answers:

It actually starts before the manuscript with a concept. A person has an idea for a book or a story and then emails Steve Cole with the idea. Together they will mull over the idea to determine if it has merit. Rejection letters are always hard because it is the author's "baby" that is being tossed out. However, the idea must fit the Star Fleet Universe and must be plausible enough militarily that the Steves don't reject it outright.

Once the idea is accepted, then the author will write his concepts and turn them into a cohesive whole: a manuscript. To give it the best chance at acceptance, he will run it through a spelling checker and a grammar checker. He will check with Steve Cole if he is producing charts or graphics. Steve can provide guidance on what our book will need -- what looks good on the author's screen and prints on his printer may not have the resolution we need. The writer will coordinate with Steve to see if his computer's word processing program will "play nicely" with Steve's programs. Sometimes Steve may want a PDF of a chart so we can recreate it.

Once Steve has a manuscript in hand, he progresses to design and layout. For books there are all sorts of decisions. What sorts of headers and footers do we want? Do we need a border along the sides of the pages as our Federation Commander books have? What will the title page have on it? What about the publisher's data, including the copyright date? For an article, we will need to lay it out in an existing format, such as Captain's Log's headers and footers.

Sometime in this process cover art is ordered and tweaked until it suits. Our graphics person will add the title information  and logos. We'll create back text and our graphics person will choose a back cover color and some bit of art. It won't be printed until we know how thick the book will be (and that also determines the price).

Depending on the length of the manuscript, Steve may go ahead and lay it out. We did that for the Federation Commander Tactics Manual. For a shorter item with leeway on time, he may just produce it as straight text. The straight text has the advantage of the readers (Steven Petrick and me) being able to make changes without affecting the pagination and careful editing that goes into traditional layout. We'll determine if it needs a table of contents and/or an index. Actual data for these types of pages is checked far later in the process.

Once the item is laid out, then things become trickier with the proofreading. If I tell SVC that we need to spell out "7," then that could create an extra line. That isn't so bad, unless there's no room for an extra line. Then we go looking for a way to "suck up" a short line at the conclusion of a paragraph. For example, "a short line at the conclusion of a paragraph" could be "a line at the paragraph's end" without losing much meaning. Sometimes I have to learn to live with imperfection to avoid having a page with a single line on it.

Proofreading has become a process here at ADB. Steve sometimes refers to it as "shifting mountains, boulders, rocks, and dust." He tries to catch the mountains as he lays out the text. For example, does our author always refer to "internals" when he means "points of internal damage"? If so, Steve tries to catch it and fix it. We all know he won't catch everything on this pass.

Next come the "boulders," or things that are frequently (but not consistently) wrong. Does our author sometimes forget our "Oxford comma" that comes before the "or" and "and" in a list of three or more? (That isn't an uncommon problem as most people are carefully taught to omit it.) I try to catch that sort of problem.

Then comes the "rocks" pass through. Did our author have a typo and write "due" instead of "do"? We've caught some of these smaller problems on other passes through the manuscript, but sometimes things get missed.

"Dust" is the editing that helps clarify what an author meant. "Tom told Harry that his socks didn't match." Whose socks were mismatched? A rewrite will clarify it. "Tom noticed Harry's socks didn't match and told him about it."

At each point we check the changes we made. Did "Tom " become "Tiom"? Did a period go in instead of a comma? On a page with a dozen fixes, one could be skipped.

Petrick is usually "the fresh eyes" on the "next to the last" pass through. He knows the rules and knows to question facts. "The destroyer has fifty-six engine boxes." "Fifty-six" is spelled correctly; I'm happy. Petrick would be the one to say "WHOA!"

Then we check those changes and start "fiddling" with the layout. Some articles end with space. In the past we've stuck art there to fill up the white space. That led to a book that looked a bit same. We might have a column with art at the bottom beside another column with art at the bottom with a "rinse and repeat" on the opposite page. We are trying to do something more visually interesting with our later books. Art is being used to break up the wall of text, to let your eyes rest as your brain absorbs information.

Once the art is in, then we go through again. Did the picture overlay some text? Did the text overly the art? Did something shift? Is the picture pixilated?  Each problem is flagged, fixed, and a replacement page is printed and checked.

Finally we create the table of contents. We will check this against actual titles on the page and verify the page numbers. A few books have an index and that gets carefully checked to verify it is "Jean's alphabetizing" and not the machine version. We will check publisher's data for accuracy and then for author and artist credits.

Then we have a finished book. Now it is ready to print, bind, ship, and be read by you. We hope you enjoy it!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

ADB, Inc. wishes its customers and friends a happy Fourth of July!

We will most likely be on short hours today as there are holiday events planned. If you need to contact us, please try on Monday.

In the meantime, for our friends, we leave you with these thoughts from The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Play Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

ADB is Rolling Along

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Things are moving along here at ADB, although not as quickly or evenly as we might wish. Still, progress is being made.

The Federation Commander Tactics Manual is going through some final checks and corrections, and should move to press very soon. The covers are printed and waiting to be wrapped around the book.

I am making progress on some Captain's Log articles, although not as much as I might wish as I find myself diverted often to checking orders and products being packed, and doing odds and ends to help with the Federation Commander Tactics Manual.

Jean Sexton has been involved largely with the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, along with SVC.

Leanna and Simone are doing their bits keeping all moving, and the dog is making sure we all know that a price will be paid if we do not keep him in dog treats and toys.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


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

1. Hans Kramer was a German four-star general and holder of the Knight's Cross who had been captured in Tunisia. He was in bad health, and the Allies arranged to send him home to Germany in spring 1944 (by way of the neutral Swedes) as a humanitarian gesture. (Such things have happened in history.) On the way to the Swedish boat, he was given a tour of the camps full of troops in southern England ready for D-Day. (He was told he was in eastern England and that the troops were ready to invade the Pas de Calais.) It was even arranged for him to meet General Patton (head of the fictitious First US Army Group) where he was entertained in a fictitious HQ festooned with maps of the Pas de Calais. On arriving home, he was debriefed and happily reported everything that the "careless Americans" had let him see.

2. The Allies tried hard to convince the Germans that the D-Day landings in France were to be part of three simultaneous invasions, including Norway and Greece. The fictitious 15th US Army and 4th British Army were set up in Scotland to be the army group aimed for Norway. Radio traffic, double agents, and recon planes allowed to slip through the British air defenses all confirmed that the troops were not only poised for the invasion but learning how to ski. US and British officers who had been told the invasion of Norway was a real thing were sent to Sweden to negotiate the use of Swedish territory for the invasion force to sweep southward into Denmark. The Germans believed it and kept 372,000 badly needed troops sitting around in Norway doing nothing until the war ended.

3. The original Allied deception plan called for another phony invasion, that being in southern France. An actor dressed up like General Montgomery was sent to Gibraltar to arrange to use the Spanish port of Barcelona as the base of operations for the invasion. The fascist Spanish quickly told the Germans, who were concerned over the supposed invasion until the actor got roaring drunk in public. (The Germans knew that Montgomery never drank alcohol.) Realizing they were being tricked, the Germans stripped southern France of troops, leaving only four divisions to oppose what was a real invasion, just two months later than D-Day. So while the deception failed to lure German troops to southern France, that turned out to be a good thing.

4. The Germans created the first experimental night-fighting tank battalions (understrength), consisting of Panthers with infrared gunsights and halftracks (with their own infrared driving equipment) carrying soldiers armed with SG44 assault rifles (with infrared gunsights called Vampir). One such battalion (part of the scratchbuilt Panzer Division Clausewitz) destroyed a US anti-tank battery and a British Comet tank company during night attacks in the spring of 1944. The other one, in Panzer Division Muncheburg, destroyed a Russian tank brigade on the Oder River.

5. In the dark days of 1942, Eisenhower (in charge of the war plans division covering the Pacific) sent $10 million to Australia for use in hiring smugglers to slip supplies to MacArthur's 70,000 trapped and starving troops in Bataan. The smugglers (paid in advance) took the supplies to neutral port, sold them, and pocketed the money.

6. MacArthur estimated that there would be one million US soldiers killed or wounded during the invasion of Japan. The Japanese people were expected to fight to the death, all those millions of them. (This was one reason for the atomic bombing of two cities. The Japanese did not know we were then out of bombs and would need months to produce more.) Another aspect of the invasion is that there were 410,000 allied prisoners of war (two thirds of them American, the rest British, Dutch, or Australian) in camps in Japan itself and we already knew that the camp commanders had been ordered to execute every prisoner on the day of the invasion.