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Friday, February 28, 2014

From the Star Fleet Academy Exam, Part 2

The whole thing is rather long, so I'll pull some questions each week until you have the whole thing. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

Public Speaking: 2500 drug-crazed (aren't they always?) Klingons are about to storm the classroom. Calm them and make them return to Klinshai. You may use any ancient language except Klingon, Latin, or Greek.

Biology: Create inorganic life. Estimate the differences in subsequent Romulan culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect of the Human English Parliamentary system of the 20th century. Prove your thesis.

Music: Write a piano concerto. Perform it with an Andorian organ and Vulcan lyre. You will find a piano under your seat.

Physics: Explain the nature of anti-matter. Evaluate the impact of mathematics on science.

More next week!

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, February 27, 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.

Wednesday, February 26, 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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Past Reflects the Present

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have told the story of the young lieutenant who brazenly challenged a sergeant to a tactical contest pitting the lieutenant's hopelessly outnumbered force against the sergeant's overwhelming force, and achieving a decisive victory.

I have also told the story of that young lieutenant, faced with a near mutiny when his sergeant refused to lead an attack, standing up and quietly saying to the assembled squad "let's go" and marching steadily towards the enemy and having the squad rise up and follow him.

There is, however, much between the lines of those two incidents.

One may have led to the other.

Everyone, when push comes to shove, would like to believe that they have "command presence." That combination of factors that makes men believe in them and follow them, sometimes despite themselves. It is not always something you have just because you have a "badge of authority" such as a second lieutenant's gold bar (in American Army rank). Often it is the impression the followers have of you based on all the things you have done since you appeared before them until that point you call on them to do something they do not want to do.

If you eliminate that earlier resounding victory, which the men in the squad personally witnessed. That vision of their own squad leader, given command of virtually the entire platoon, leading it into a devastating defeat against this lieutenant, would they have followed the lieutenant that morning in an attack on people their squad leader had assured them would "beat them up," i.e., physically assault them?

There are always going to be "unknown factors." The sergeant had inculcated fear in  his men, and the lieutenant called on them to rise above their fears and follow him.

Certainly the aftermath of that victory over the TOW section truly galvanized that squad, so much so that from that point it was the lieutenant that was trying to hold them back, to keep them from "advancing too far." One of the accomplishments of that squad would be the capture one of an opposing battalion's 4.2 inch mortars, complete with vehicle and crew.

If you go back to that singular battle of wills between the lieutenant and the sergeant, however. If that battle had gone wrong, would the lieutenant have ever been able to lead that squad, much less the rest of his platoon? Was it perhaps the combination of that previous victory over the sergeant, and the lieutenant's confidence and determination, the sheer assumption on his part (apparently in so far as the men were concerned) that they would follow him as opposed to staying with their sergeant, that won them over?

I can assure you, when the lieutenant turned from the squad after quietly saying "let's go" in the face of the sergeant's refusal to lead the attack, he in his own mind believed the men would not follow him, but that he would attack the enemy by himself.

I do not know who was more surprised. The lieutenant when the men rose and followed him, the sergeant when the men rose and followed him, or the men themselves.

Monday, February 24, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 February 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a grueling week of work on Captain's Log #48, running into the harder to do pages. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week: Star Fleet Battles Designer's Edition, Expansion #1.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48 most of the week, reaching a point that 118.5 of the 144 pages had been laid out. Steve found a moment to send a bunch of color ship backgrounds to the team doing the 3rd Generation SSDs for SFBOL.

Steven Petrick worked on the last missing parts of Captain's Log #48 and proofreading Captain's Log #48 pages.

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 #48.

Jean worked on Captain's Log #48 articles she had to write (she also compiled the Starline campaign ribbon lists), managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1998 friends), managed our Twitter feed (90 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #48, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 23, 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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

From the Star Fleet Academy Final Exam

The whole thing is rather long, so I'll pull some questions each week until you have the whole thing. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

History: Describe the history of the Hydran Monarchy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on the Lyran Democratic Republic, Gorn Confederation, ISC, and the trade of tbinium. Be brief, concise, and specific.

Medicine: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Saurian Brandy. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. NOTE: If your species does not have a veriform appendix, remove the least valuable organ of your body. Check with the instructor before performing this operation to insure it is a viable test.

Political Science: There is a red communicator on the desk beside you.Start the General War. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.

Epistemology: Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your stand.

More next week!

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, February 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!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Cell Phone Has Not Yet Replaced The Family Two-Way Radio

This is Steven Petrick posting.

If you are going to travel a long distance by road, and there is going to be more than one vehicle involved in the operation, it can be a good investment to purchase some small two-way radios.

A lot of people think these unnecessary in this era of cell phones, but actually a couple of radios can be a good investment for such a trip.

While if you get separated, cell phones are quite adequate, that is to say you can make contact and arrange a link up, their continuous use presents problems. You use up "minutes" and these cost money to replace, so you tend to not be in "continuous contact." And there is always the risk of being in a "dead zone" where the cell phone, or just your particular cell phone, will not operate. (SVC and I have encountered this phenomena on Origins trips when trying to call back to the office, there are some stretches of road where his cell phone cannot get a signal and mine can, and other stretches where the obverse is true.) A few radios with a five mile or so range gets around this quite handily.

When your convoy (remember, this is mostly about more than one vehicle moving in a given direction) has to exit the roadway, whether for fuel or food or a rest stop, sometimes getting back on the roadway with traffic can divide the march serial. On interstates, both (or all) vehicles can get on the roadway with (provided you do not have a near transition to a new interstate) and the lead vehicles simply need to travel slightly less than the speed limit. The "navigators" in the various vehicles can then simply call out the mile makers as they pass (going east to west, the mile makers will count down, going west to east they will count up). Thus each vehicle will know the distance between them until visual contact is regained.

Sure, you can do that with cell phones, but doing so requires making the call and maintaining an open line until the link up. Minding your time elements and batteries also requires you to "hang up" the cell phones until it is necessary to make another contact. With the radios, the communications net is always open  (as the batteries on the radios are usually good for a day or two of continuous use). Thus if an emergency comes up, no time is lost dialing, even if you have a ready set button, you just "push to talk." (Useful in our trip to Carolina as the nimbler lead vehicle was able to call back warnings of road hazards to the stodgy truck giving it the opportunity to move into another lane and avoid them, for example.)

Some simple signals can be worked out for limited visibility events. A case in point: after a momentary break between the two vehicles, the lead vehicle was confirmed by the trail asking for the lead vehicle to hit the left signal for one blink and then immediately hit the right signal for one blink. In the dark between towns and in the traffic, it was possible for the trail vehicle to have started following the wrong car. When you have one driver and no navigator trying to maintain operations and depending on the lead vehicle to get through intersections with other interstates in traffic, taking the wrong off ramp can be a real hazard (admittedly just meaning lost time and added miles). The "contact signal" confirmed that the trail vehicle was also still on the correct route. Taking the time and eyes off the road to use a cell phone in such traffic was not an option, but the handy little radio was more than up to that task, requiring no visual use to "push to talk."

When you dismount, take the radio with you and if you split up for any reason, you can still stay in contact, and the radio's contact is continuous and does not cost any more for "conference calls" with all members having one.

Tuesday, February 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.

Monday, February 17, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 February 2014

Steve Cole reports: 

This was the first week of intense work on Captain's Log #48, resulting in a project 50% complete with 70 pages sent to Jean for proofreading. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48 and not much else.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and not much else.

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 Captain's Log #48, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1987 friends), managed our Twitter feed (89 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on life and the world.
1. I think a lot of salt is wasted. I have never used a full packet of salt, so 3/4 of each packet gets wasted. (I actually keep the current partially opened packet on my bookshelf for the next time I eat in the office.) It upsets me when the clerk at the drive-up window gives me three or four packs of salt (which I asked for one) because she's doing that to everyone which means most people are throwing away all but one packet and most of that packet.
2. There is a restaurant I like going to, and the waitress always asks you if you want lemon for your tea. If you say yes, she brings  six or eight slices in a little cup when you're only going to use one or two. (I wonder if she wastes all those lemons because maybe once in the dim past she gave somebody two slices and got asked for more.) Why do lemons have to die for nothing?
3. I have been enjoying the REIGN television show about Mary Queen of Scots, but it leaves out a few facts. The English wanted her country and crown because France effectively controlled Scotland and the English considered that a threat. Mary had been in the French court for several years before the events of the TV show; she was not a new arrival. Mary didn't have to ask for French troops; there was a sizable French garrison already in Scotland. Mary was eventually executed by Elizabeth, but only because Mary just could not stop herself from trying one plot after another to size the English crown for herself.
4. I put salt on chocolate cake. Now, before you think I'm crazy, give it a try. I learned this on the Food Network. Salt and chocolate have a chemical reaction and the salt really enhances the flavor of the chocolate.
5. I was listening to Dave Ramsey (the get out of debt guy) the other day driving in. (I find him amusing as I got out of debt before he went bankrupt and saw the debt free light.) A mother called in. Her son had graduated from college nine months ago, but had yet to find a job. He had $100,000 in student loans and got a degree in philosophy. It was taking all of his earnings as a waiter (and a third of his parents' paychecks) to cover the loan payments. What's wrong with this picture? First, he got a stupid degree with no career prospects and paid way too much for it. Second, he apparently didn't ask Google "What jobs can I get with a philosophy degree?" as it did have some interesting suggestions. Third, the college was morally negligent to have signed this young man up for that much debt to get a degree that had no career prospects. Only the college benefited.

Saturday, February 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://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=ADB8000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

WebMom on Valentine's Day

WebMom writes:

Over the years I've fielded some questions, heard ideas, and gotten some "interesting" Valentine's Day presents from guys. Many were great, but some were disasters! I thought I'd share some of the successes, some of the failures, and some things I wish I had gotten.

Dear WebMom, I bought this really nifty electric weed-eater just for you!
Ummmm.... so you don't want to do that part of the yard work anymore and are trying to get me to do it? And I am supposed to like having more work added to what I do? Gentlemen, buying your lady a power tool that you want and that she has never expressed an interest in is a Bad Idea.

Dear WebMom, I made you this jewelry box because I noticed yours was getting really full.
Handmade presents are really nice, especially if you took the time to notice what high-end versions have and included some of the same features or noticed what they lacked and included those. I have a handmade wooden rack for my earrings and I love it dearly.

Dear WebMom, I know you are on a diet, but I just bought you this humongous box of chocolates because you like them and it won't bother your diet too much.
(sigh) If your loved one is on a diet, please don't do this. Every piece she eats is not helping and there are so many pieces of chocolate! Maybe try some of her favorite fruits and a couple of small individually wrapped, high-end chocolates that she probably wouldn't get for herself. She won't feel obligated to eat them all at once and will be happy that you were helping her and still wanted to give her a little something special. Or try getting her a gift certificate to her favorite store so she can buy something that will better fit the slimmer her (and can buy it in the future when she has reached her goal).

Dear WebMom, I bought you these scales for your bathroom.
Unless you like being in the doghouse, this one is a real no-no. It's basically coming across as a cowardly way of telling her that she's fat and you don't like it. Find some other time to discuss how much you love her and want her to be with you for a very long time and to be healthy.

Dear WebMom, I bought you this slinky nightie.

No, that is what you wanted to see ... try a gift certificate to her favorite clothing store, instead. There's no harm in you dropping a hint that you think she looks sexy in a slinky nightie, though (wink).

Dear WebMom, I bought you this really kewl game. (An hour later) Hey WebMom, can I borrow your really kewl game to play with the guys?
Unless you were lucky and married a Gamer Girl, then this is not a good present. Even if you married one, borrowing "her" present to play with the guys (and not inviting her) is really a Bad Idea. Try getting her something for her hobby or a gift certificate to the store that carries her favorite hobby supplies.

Dear WebMom, I bought you this vacuum cleaner.

Unless you have talked it over with your loved one and she agrees that she wants/needs some appliance, this is a Bad Idea. Even if she agrees that it will be her present, it never hurts to do something special for her -- maybe volunteer to do the vacuuming for her one weekend.

Dear WebMom, I want to take you out to eat for Valentine's Day. (Drives to favorite restaurant, orders huge meal.) WebMom, here's the bill.
No kidding, that really happened to me! If you are going to take your loved one out to eat, pay for it. Otherwise, try fixing something special at home. Sticking her with the bill for your gigantic meal out is rude and should land you in the doghouse where you will eat your gigantic meal alone and supplement it with cold kibble.

Dear WebMom, I thought you might like a "girls' night out" with your BF, so here's some money so you two can go out to dinner, maybe do some shopping, maybe do that pedicure thing you like so much.
Wow! That one would be a hit! Providing the opportunity of a break from a routine is so thoughtful.

Dear WebMom, I bought you these lovely hyacinths.
In theory, that would have been fine as flowers are always appreciated. However, that's when I found out I was allergic to them! (I'd never had them in a room 24/7 before, so I didn't know.) It was a memorable gift and thankfully one that was never repeated. Moral: If you know she's allergic to something, make sure you tell the florist to NOT include it in a bouquet. If you know she loves a particular flower or color, mention that to the florist. Or if you know she likes arranging her own flowers, try to pick what you know she likes.

Finally, Dear WebMom, what should I get for my guy? Men are so hard to buy for!
Well, if your guy showed you this blog, then he undoubtedly wants you to read this part. He'd love something from ADB, Inc. The best thing you can do is set the budget and turn him loose to buy what he wants!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The New Dog

This is Steven Petrick posting.

By now you are all no doubt aware that Jean Sexton has a new dog that she brings to the office. This dog is, to me, very obviously some kind of mutt with "chihuahua" being the dominant characteristic. Still, I find "wolf" to be an appropriate name because his coat and build scales up to "wolf." He may be small, but he does look very much like a grey wolf.

Unlike the previous dog, this one thinks all people are wonderful, and immediately accepts everyone. The only person he has shown any marked initial distrust for was the traditional foe of all dogs everywhere: The Mailman. Even that, however, may have just been that he could not see enough of the mailman to know he was a "people."

The dog is, like the previous one, a very happy animal, the major differences being the smaller size and that total trust in all people. It is very obvious that in his short life, no human has ever mistreated him to date. Thus he sees all people as a source of food, or petting, or playing. So far he has only been known to bark twice, and both times were at Michael Sparks's cat who was visiting the office. (To be fair, the cat did growl at him.)

He does not like to be left alone, and will whine if he is, i.e., when the office clears out for lunchtime. I know this because today I did not go to lunch and was "tormented" by his whining. However, once the others had been gone for an hour, I decided some of the whining might be his tiny bladder and took him for a quick walk. While he did have a bladder issue, when we got back and he had to go back into his carrier he began to whine even more. I suspect because this was a break in his routine, i.e., that once he gets let out of the carrier after lunch he does not have to go back into it.

It is nice to have a dog that does not bark at anyone walking by in the street, or whenever SVC walks down the hall, although this does not mean the previous dog is not missed, just that the quiet is appreciated.

We are all agreed, however, that the new dog is an excellent watchdog. We have no doubt that if someone breaks into the building, he will watch them enter, watch them pick up the company's property, and watch them walk off with it, all without making a sound.

The previous dog might have had to be bribed with a hamburger, this one can be bribed with kind words and petting.

Wednesday, February 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 have started an experiment to see if there is interest in Federation Commander 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 GURPS 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 through  Warehouse 23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Tuesday, February 11, 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:

Monday, February 10, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 February 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was not a great week, starting as it did with the passing and funeral of the beloved company watchdog Markie. The weather this week was awful, with snow forcing late starts and early closings the rest of the week. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48, dealt with the contractor completing the repairs from the storm a few months ago, sent Simone his part of Hailing Frequencies, did everything for Communique #98, and took a first look at the idea for the SFU Handbook.

Steven Petrick worked on things for Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Wolf applied for the job as ADB watchdog and was officially hired on Friday.

Jean worked on Captain's Log #48 and Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1973 friends), managed our Twitter feed (87 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #48 and Communique #98, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 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.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

In Memorium: Markie

Jean Sexton writes:

Some of you have heard that ADB had an "office dog" named Markie. He was a rescue dog, part dachshund, part spaniel.  He joined us on November 1, 2013.

Markie was a watchdog and let us know when anyone came in or even walked by. He was fiercely protective of me.

On January 25, things started going wrong. Markie got an upset stomach. He started to not drink any water, so he went to the vet. His nausea continued, even with medications to stop it. On February 1 he went in to the emergency clinic for surgery. No blockage was found. His case was a mystery.

The veterinarians there did their best for him. They presented his case online to board-certified veterinarians. The answer was dire: one of two things was wrong and both of them were invariably fatal. We let him go on Sunday evening.

Markie had a hard life before we found him. He was very frightened of people. Still, he had learned to amuse himself with toys, especially balls. His playing "soccer" made everyone laugh. He adored treats and would go to Steve Cole's office and always find something to mooch. Steven Petrick was one of Markie's favorites and he'd listen to Petrick telling him not to bark. Leanna was "Mommy Two" and always good for pats. Simone's only job was ball thrower as far as Markie was concerned. Mike was still a "minor bark at," but Markie was coming to accept him.

We all will miss him.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Write Right

See the fire from the D7
And the ship that is slith'ring
His ships sideslip away
Like the D7
I yearn to turn and "DirDam" my foes
I am waiting for the day ...

Not a sound from the players
Have they all gone to hotels?
I am proofing alone
In the lamplight
The proofread pages fall to my feet
And the Steves begin to moan.

All alone in the lamplight
I can smile at the old days
Words had capitals then
I remember the time when all the jargon was used
Let the memory live again

Every story
Seemed to have a semicolon missing ...
The Steves do mutter,
"Increase that gutter!
Our prose she is now dissing..."

I must wait for retirement
I must think of perfection
And I mustn't give in
When that day comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And perfection will begin

Burnt-out hulls of smoking ships
The ozone smell of photons
The Fed ship dies, another battle's over
Another day to proof on

Write right
It's so easy to write right
About your last ship fight
And not to use jargon
If you write right
I'll understand what happiness is

A new game has begun

Parody copyright (c) 2011 Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.

Thursday, February 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.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on the use of language.

1. I have, thousands of times, heard of people who were nonchalant, nondescript, nonplussed, or non compos mentis. I have, however, never heard of anyone being chalant, descript, plussed, or compos mentis. Has our society grown so negative that the positive versions of words are disappearing while the negative versions remain?

2. Have we forgotten about opposites? There are people who are wrathful, hateful, and vengeful but none are wrathless, hateless, or vengeless. We have people who are feckless, hapless, reckless, and ruthless, but there is no one who is feckful, hapful, reckful, or ruthful. And if pro and con are opposites, what's the opposite of progress?

3. 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.

4. No word annoys me more (when it's misused) than "decimated." The word means that ten percent of the group were killed. You might stretch the point to say that ten percent of some object or group of objects (perhaps houses) were destroyed. But one football team does not decimated another (not without breaking a few rules and laws and leaving dead bodies on the field).

5. Listen up, people. The word "strenGth" has a G in it! A G! It is not "strenth"! Same thing for lenGth.

6. The phrase "I'm just saying" has come into the language but many don't realize it's actual meaning. One guy on television said it was a magic spell to keep people from being upset about what they said. The real meaning is that it's short for "I'm just saying what we all know is true." So when you say something that upsets someone, don't say "I'm just saying" unless you know what you said that upset them was pure fact.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Death of Editors

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I continue to be amazed at how bad editing is getting in tomes that I peruse.

One book I am currently reading includes, among other errors, a map of the Russian Front which includes "EAST RUSSIA." As this part of Russia is north of Poland, it is pretty clear to most that it is missing a "P."

This book, and its sister tome, both frequently discuss tactical operations with maps for reference. Except that they frequently talk about maneuvers around particular villages, or hills, which are not on the maps, so they are worthless in following the action.

Another book I am reading compares to armored vehicles and calls on the reader to accept the author's conclusion based on one historical contest between the two vehicles. Problem is that the historical contest played entirely to the strengths of one of the two vehicles and minimized its weaknesses.

I find sentences that are missing one word, which completely changes the meaning. You can see the error because all of the rest of the paragraph leading up to that sentence has been leading you the other way. (Caveat, the last blog I posted was originally missing the word "not" in the second to the last sentence, which also changed the meaning, but we did go in and edit it to correct that.)

Books I read have more and more misspellings, in some cases paragraphs that end without ending (there is no final punctuation mark, the text simply stops and a new paragraph starts), among other foibles.

I have commented on this editing thing before. I mentioned a book that was the last in a series where an important meeting is held to discuss strategy, and one of the attendees is not only the nominal leader of the bad guys (I did go back and check and compare the names), but was already dead at the time of the meeting (had been dead for about a week).

I used to enjoy reading, but more and more it gives me a headache.

Monday, February 03, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 26 January - 1 February 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of work on Captain's Log #48. The weather this week was cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We enjoyed a visit from customer Robert Diamond.

New on e23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week: Asteroid Zero-Four.

Steve Cole worked on the fiction story for Captain's Log #48 (he hates being forced to create fiction on command and insists on taking whatever time he needs to make it worth reading).

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,965 friends), managed our Twitter feed (87 followers), commanded the Rangers, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #48, took care of customers, and did some marketing. Markie was sick all week, and had stomach surgery on Saturday.

Sunday, February 02, 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.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Nine Months and Counting

Jean Sexton muses:

As I sit here I marvel at the changes that I have seen in the last nine months. A bit back I was summing up "last year" in response to what Facebook thought was important in my life (I didn't agree with all their picks). A friend told me I should make some of those life milestones. So here is a look at how I grew during the last nine months.

I retired from a job that I held for 30 years. I thought I would be glad to go, but I was changing a routine to which I had become accustomed. Change can be hard and this one proved to be. Who was I if I were not a librarian? I was about to find out; a person shouldn't really be defined by a job. I could be so much more than what I was.

I packed up and left a region where I had lived for 30 years and the state where I was born. I knew the land, the people, the weather like the back of my hand. I left behind many good friends. However, I knew that I would learn more about the Panhandle and grow to love this land as well. Still, I never knew I would miss rain as much as I do.

I arrived in Amarillo, Texas with a brand-new full-time job. I had an apartment, but no assembled bed, so I stayed with the Coles for almost three weeks. It became time to leave my temporary nest.

All the bed parts were found and I moved into my apartment. This was the first time that I had the ability to decorate according to what I wanted. Before I was either struggling and making do with my parents' cast-offs, I was pleasing someone else, or I was living in a house that wasn't really mine to do with as I pleased. Now I have things that I have accumulated over the years and I am not worried if someone will make fun of my unicorn collection or my eclectic taste in art. Some are things that I have had since my first apartment, which adds a continuity. I slowly am becoming more self-reliant.

I settled into work and we got out Captain's Log #47 in record time. We went to Origins Game Fair and saw many old friends and made some new ones. It was really the first time I had been part of the company on an official outing. I even had my own vender's badge. It felt like a rite of passage into the company. I added more and more responsibilities to my job -- the Rangers, con support, and more marketing duties.

I went on vacation with my coworkers. I saw things I had never seen before and which are seared on my soul. The sun setting on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains was breathtaking. Riding in the Rockies was so different from my sedate Appalachians. These jagged mountains demanded my attention and got it. It refreshed my spirit.

Markie Dog Sexton bounced his way into my sedate, dignified, tidy life. He needed someone to love him and I needed someone to be there, too. His toys are strewn through the apartment until I pick them up (somehow "Markie, pick your toys up" doesn't have the effect of the toys being picked up). There's nothing dignified about a game of keep away. Who can be sedate when a little dog is wriggling in your lap? He has made me far less sedentary as I go on walks with him. I am becoming more healthy due to those walks.

Throughout this I am remembering that life isn't about all the "stuff you have." It is about friends and family. It is about caring and sharing and not hoarding. It is about living, not merely existing. 

So as I wind up these nine months, I feel somehow that I am having a second chance to build a life. Not many people get such a clear chance to change and grow. I count myself fortunate that I do. What will this new life bring? I don't know, but I intend to find out.