about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Reading and Books and Choices

Jean Sexton muses:

I have been disturbed by some statistics that I've been made aware of. These show that most people don't read once educators don't require them to do so. To me that sounds so sad. To have the capability to read and to not use it for enjoyment is something I don't understand. 

Once I realized I could read books other than those assigned at school (early in first grade), I read voraciously. I read all my children's books. I read my mother's books from her childhood. I read everything I could check out of the library. I read books about Star Trek and found a list of science fiction authors. I was hooked! I read everything I could find and bought every science fiction book that showed up in my local grocery store (the primary source of books in my little hometown).

When I was in high school, one of my teachers introduced me to a company that sold books at a discount to students. I bought more books and discovered J.R.R. Tolkien and Roger Zelazny along with the great three SF writers: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. I had a hard time because my personal library was limited to a single bookcase.

When I got my first apartment, I filled it with cheap bookcases and put my books in double-faced (think of library bookcases). I didn't have much floor space after that! A friend helped me by building a couple of bookcases that were designed to hold paperbacks and I maxed them out. I had hit heaven -- my hometown had a bookstore! And there was the Science Fiction Book Club. I reserved some bookcases for those larger books. I discovered other genres and added those books as well.

When I moved out to a house, I added even more books. I had over 3,000 books, not counting sheet music. When it came time to plan to move to Texas, I had to make decisions. Did I want to move furniture, clothes, dishes, and other necessities of life, or did I want to move books? I had to give up something and it became books. Children's picture books went to the library so that many young ones would enjoy them through the years. If I could replace the entire series on Kindle, I put the books up for grabs. I whittled out about a thousand books.

When I got to Amarillo, I was pleased. I had two bookcases in my office which would hold my working collection of Star Fleet Universe reference books and various role-playing books I needed for reference. I had two bookcases that my grandfather made my mother and that she gave to me. I had a hutch that had been my original bookcase. I had a lawyer's bookcase that belonged to my grandmother. Surely everything would fit!

Nope! Not a chance! So I whittled down more books that could be replaced by Kindle books, no matter how expensive or if it left a series partially in paper and partially as ebooks. I said farewell to hundreds of  books -- and still more books languished in boxes. I bought a bedroom suite and included a bookcase, but that still wasn't enough. I bought a large bookcase with glassed-in doors. Finally my books would fit, albeit three deep on many of the shelves.

I love books. I love how they feel, how they smell, the feeling of satisfaction as I progress through them. I love my autographed books, knowing that I met the author and that the autograph is personalized for me. (Those are all in the lawyer's bookcase.) I love the places and times that books take me, the characters I meet, the things I learn. The latter set of qualities to me are the "essence" of the book. While I lose the tactile portion of the book when I read on my tablet, I still have the essence. The lit "book" gives me the feeling of illicitly reading with a flashlight under the covers of my bed. So I will be satisfied with my electronic books and continue to expand my library and my mind.

I do challenge you to read something for fun this year. Both Goodreads and LibraryThing have challenges for reading books should you feel compelled to keep track of your reading. Whether you track it or not, read!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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, Jean Sexton 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 Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

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

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

Friday, May 29, 2015


51. By the time the Harriers get to Range Zero you will recognize them as Howlers.

52. Since the enemy did not have a copy of your plan, he could not oblige you by walking into your trap. And since your force was bought based on your plan, your plan isn't going to work with the ships you bought.

53. If you overwhelm an Orion with drones, you will discover that he could afford to buy a cloak.

54. Sending your really cool loophole tactic to ADB is the best way to get the rules changed to block it.

55. The ADD that missed was the one targeted on the type-IV.

56. The more you need to find the rule, the better it's hidden in the rulebook.

57. Congratulations on destroying all of the enemy's plasma launchers. Too bad he anchored you seven impulses later.

58. If you can Hit & Run the enemy, he can do it to you.

59. All ships are underpowered except for the ones that are under-gunned.

60. Those strange maneuvers of the enemy just led you across a nuclear space mine.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Weather Event

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Last night was locally interesting, depending on where you lived.

Looking at the weather radar, a town south of Canyon was pummeled by the weather in that for more than a hour or so the pattern appeared stalled. That is to say you could see the weather moving into the town's location, but then breaking up and dissipating as it tried to move north of the town. This continued for over an hour (and was in place before I saw the radar), and as that cell seemed stalled, other storms appeared to be moving past Canyon from the south to east.

For a while it seemed as if Canyon would not be hit. Looking out my front window, I could see a "light show," that is lots of lightning strikes, going on beginning in the south, and moving to the east heading north.

It did not last.

A cell finally seemed to move up I-27 (as if following the road) until it hit Canyon.

The initial rain was fairly heavy, then got heavier, and then got heavier yet.

Heavy as in hail.

I am sure many of you have gone through a hailstorm before, as have I (I can recall a significant one in my youth in Florida for example). This, however, was noisier than anything I can remember. As in I could not even hear the television above the background noise of the impacts on the roof of my apartment unless I seriously jacked up the volume on the set. The bombardment also lasted longer than I can remember any previous hailstorm going on. And it was not the first hailstorm that had hit Canyon since I have been here, but it was most definitely the noisiest one I could recall. When it finally moved on, there was not a layer of hailstones, but the angle of my front door had a collection of them more than two inches high and a foot long (driven there by the wind).

From Canyon, it is about six miles north to where the Coles live. The storm arrived there, but the rain was apparently not as driven, and the hail was less severe (it may have been passing east of them on the track). Ten miles further north, and the storm hit Amarillo, where Jean said there was no hail, but enough rain to cause flooding problems and damage in her apartment complex. Perhaps four miles further north, and our offices do not appear to have been affected by all this.

Still, it was an unusual weather event for all of us, and none of us are displeased that none of the reported tornadoes that touched down during this period was any closer than 30 miles to any of us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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, May 26, 2015


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that he discovered about the English alphabet.

1. J is the most recent addition, being only a few centuries old. It's really just a funny form of "I" but then so is "Y." Consider saying these words: jagged, iagged, yagged. They aren't that different, are they? They all basically start from eh-agged.

2. U and V and W were the same letter two thousand years ago, which is why Roman monuments are spelled funny (MARCVS) and US coins have TRVST on them. U was the vowel version, V was the consonant, and W was really just two "U" letters creating the sound we know as "W".

3. The ampersand has been considered a letter of the alphabet at various times in history, coming between Y and Z. It's a combination of E+T and "et" is Latin for "and." The reason we say "X, Y, and Z" is because it used to be "X, Y, &, Z."

4. Other than CH, there really isn't much use for C, and the Germans have discarded it altogether except for proper names and CH. For that matter, we could replace every "Q" with a K and nobody would notice. Remember when you were taught that QU is pronounced KW? Remember when I said that W was just a funny way of saying U?

5. Not even all of Europe uses the same version of the Latin alphabet that we use. The Spanish alphabet has four extra letters: CH, double R, double L, and two versions of N. The Swedish alphabet has three extras (two extra versions of A and one of O). Same thing for Norway, but one of the As is different from Swedish. The Russians have 33 letters, some of which Saint Cyrill created from his own artistic fancy to cover sounds he thought he heard. (The Russians had no written alphabet before he created one.)

6. English used to have a letter called "thorn" that was a combined "TH" thing. The word "ye" as in "Ye Old Game Shoppe" is actually "thorn+E" or "the." People a few centuries ago would look at that sign and pronounce it as "The Old Game Shoppe" and ask you what "ye" meant.

7. Actually, English used to have 36 or more letters, since it was (in the Middle Ages) a combination of the Runic alphabet and the Latin alphabet. A lot of Runic letters stuck around for centuries until they were gradually replaced with the equivalent Latin letter. Thorn (#6 above) was the last one to die.

Monday, May 25, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 17-23 May 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week we continued working on current projects. The weather this week was wet, with constant rain. It got so bad we had to leave early some days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Thursday was the annual company picnic.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThruRPG, and Wargame Vault this week was JagdPanther #14.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, Captain's Log #51, fiction, and art for the Klingon Master Starship Book. He also found a moment to correct and update some Wall of Honor pages and to walk as much as the weather allowed.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #51.

The 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with one new entry.

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 the text catalog update, updated the list of updated products, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,613 friends), managed our Twitter feed (149 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

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, May 23, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on surprising and little known parts of military history.

1. Just before the atomic bombs fell on Japan, wheels were in motion in Washington, D.C. to promote five-star General of the Army MacArthur to the "six-star" rank of General of the Armies (previously held only by Black Jack Pershing during World War I). The idea was to end the bickering between MacArthur and five-star Fleet Admiral Nimitz over who was going to command the invasion of Japan. It should be noted that George Washington was retroactively promoted to General of the Armies long after his death. There is endless debate over whether the General of the Armies and General of the Army ranks were supposed to be the same thing and somebody just mistyped it.

2. Days before the Operation Torch landings in French North Africa, US Army Major General Mark Clark slipped ashore on a secret mission. While nothing went wrong and some things went right, this could have been a disaster that changed the war. Clark had actually written the plan for Operation Torch, and if the French captured him and wanted to oppose the landings, he might well have been tortured into revealing everything. It gets worse. Clark was one of a tiny number of people who knew that the British had broken the German codes. If the French had captured Clark and handed him over to the German Gestapo, he would no doubt have revealed the secret, changing just about everything in World War II from that day forward.

3. German paratrooper officers used purple parachutes in the first two years of the war so that their men could find them on the landing fields. The German parachute harness made it easy for a soldier to fire his weapon on the way to the ground but gave him no ability to steer the parachute away from a bad landing spot.

4. Hitler's trademark narrow mustache was actually the way most German soldiers wore their mustaches in World War One, so as to better fit their gas masks. After the war, soldiers returning to civilian life let their mustaches grow to traditional width. Hitler kept his narrow to say "I served on the front lines" as he was an actual hero (having won both versions of the Iron Cross). So his trademark mustache was a political trademark.

5. During the bloody campaign in Italy, General Mark Clark ordered that two dozen majors and colonels (officers so good that they would be the generals in the next war) relieved from duty and sent home to training commands so they would not be killed.

Friday, May 22, 2015


41. The drone you did not lab was the big one.

42. You will never have enough phasers in arc for the target, but your best will always be in arc for incoming fire.

43. Never mind getting to Range 4; your photons will miss anyway.

44. It's too late to anchor him at Range 2; don't you wish you had known that it would have worked?

45. You will always be short one weasel.

46. If you only take one internal while making an ESG overrun, it will be a drone hit.

47. If the Hydran reaches Range 1, the overloads are suicide level.

48. A narrow salvo is your best way to increase the odds of a miss to 100%.

49. You will never break down when a breakdown wouldn't matter.

50. That cargo PF is really a death rider.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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/).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Rains Came

This is Steven Petrick posting.

With apologies to our customers to the west, we have had an extremely wet spring thus far.

With the rains have come some unusual local sights.

One of the walks I took recently was found the streets of Canyon, Texas, literally flooded. At the end of one street there was sufficient current flowing that, while I was not in any real danger of being swept off my feet I could definitely feel the tug. Rain had come down much faster than the existing drainage arrangements could move it away, so much so that even though there was only a light rain still falling when I began my walk, water was still racing across the streets (mostly from north to south) in sheets.

Today in Amarillo we found multiple flooded intersections and at least one car stalled as a result.

The playa lake just to the southeast of Amarillo that most of us pass on our way in is almost as full as we have ever seen it. (in the 25 years I have been here I can recall seeing that area even more flooded than it is now at least once). And our predicted weather is for even more rain in the next seven days (all the coming weekend is currently forecast for rain).

Last weekend the rains knocked out the power at the Coles; this morning I woke to find my alarm clock flashing at me, a sure sign of a power outage as a slept. Thing is, I woke up initially at about 0610, and took the time to get out of bed and look at the morning weather radar. Seeing the rain coming, I went ahead and moved a few things to my car that I did not want to have rained on, including reading the morning paper and putting it in the car, before going back to bed for another couple of  hours sleep. This means that the power outage occurred between 0640 and 0858. I really did not think the weather approaching had looked bad enough to cause an outage.

Even so, when I went back to bed it was a case, as I have so often noted, of the joys of being able to go to sleep in a warm, dry, cave as the rain came down outside.

Unfortunately, by 0930 I had to be on the road through relatively heavy downpours and having to watch my fellow drivers carefully. Fortunately I-27 (at least from Canyon into Amarillo) is fairly well banked and there are not many places where water pools on the roadway. (Watch out on the off and on ramps, however.) So while much of the trip was slower (cars traveling abreast as much as 20 miles an hour below the speed limit, neither willing to pass the other and open up the highway, kind of annoying), I had no real difficulty getting into town.

I apparently got ahead of the weather during the drive, as SVC encountered rains so heavy he considered stopping until they passed, except that by that time he was already almost to the office.

Jean is of course (as we have come to expect) just laughing at us because to her this is just a normal sunny(?!?) day in North Carolina.

Monday, May 18, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 10-16 May 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that half of the staff came home from the Wolf trip with colds and struggled to get anything done. The weather this week was wet, with rain many days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Federation Commander Briefing #2 Ship Pack F.

Steve Cole worked on catching up, getting over his cold, and updating the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #51.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late. The new mold company told us that their mold cutter quit and nothing will happen until they find a replacement.

 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 Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,603 friends), managed our Twitter feed (148 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

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.

Friday, May 15, 2015


31. Labs fail on a die roll of 1, and phasers on a die roll of 6. No matter how you try, you will assign the wrong crewman to each system.

32. If you bought enough drones to overwhelm his defenses, he bought a rack of T-Bombs.

33. No matter how deftly you dance in your D7, one successful Fed HET followed by four "1"s is all it takes to get killed.

34. The more power your ship has, the more it will cost to move. You will never get ahead, so you might as well stay in your frigate and keep your expectations low.

35. The worst ship to be in is the biggest ship the enemy fleet can kill in one volley.

36. If you overload, the enemy will dance. If you load standards, he will charge. You can't win; he has ESP.

37. The one time you have to have a specific die roll is the one time you will not get it. That number will turn up the next time you absolutely must avoid that result.

38. There is no such thing as a friendly mine.

39. If you can't remember the size you set the mine for, just check the size of the friendly unit about to enter the detection range.

40. The enemy always knows which torpedo is the pseudo. He has ESP, remember?

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Victory By Error

This is Steven Petrick posting.

In World War II the United States expended the resources to create five "airborne" divisions, and created enough separate airborne elements for at least another two divisions. Three of these divisions (and a large slice of the separate elements) conducted operations in the European theater (17th, 82nd, 101st), one division (and a smaller slice of the separate elements) were committed to the Pacific theater (11th). One division (13th) and a smaller slice of the separate elements never saw action. Even with this tremendous investment in airborne forces, there were never enough transports (C-47s etc.) to lift all of them at one time (many planned operations by the 11th division in the Pacific were cancelled due to the lack of transports).

Yet all of it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of German airborne operations.

The United States Army was impressed by the accomplishments of the Germans, particularly the seizure of Crete by airborne forces alone.

What we were unaware of was how close the Germans had come to failing on Crete, and how much their success was due less to the capabilities of the German airborne division (supplemented by the 5th Mountain division), than to the failures at all levels of the commanders of the forces of the United Kingdom on Crete.

Had we known how badly the German paratroopers were chewed up on Crete, we might not have continued building our own Airborne force.

This, however, would have had possibly disastrous consequences.

While the first American Airborne operations in North Africa were pure farce (almost laughable except for the lives lost), and Sicily was its own private nightmare for airborne operations, without the ability to jump in troops at a critical moment the Germans might have succeeded in destroying the landing at Salerno. The failure of Salerno would have seen the British held further south of Rome than historically, and have called into question the concept of a major landing in Europe.

Even if "Operation Overlord" went forward, without the airborne divisions landing behind Utah beach, the Germans would have been far less confused and could have focused on the initial landings more effectively.

Yet, we only had all of those airborne assets because we drew the wrong lessons, out of lack of knowledge, about what happened on Crete.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


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:

Monday, May 11, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 3-9 May 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was the week of the spring trip to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, where Chef Steve Cole prepared a dinner of heart, liver, and kidney for wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and a fox. 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 was Star Fleet Battles: Playtest Module E2.

Steve Cole (before the trip) worked on Wall of Honor updates, Communique #113, F&E Minor Empires, and the Deluxe version of A Call to Arms: Star Fleet -1.2.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #51 and the Klingon Master Starship Book.

The 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late. Latest word is that the "cutter" at the new mold company suddenly quit and a new one has to be hired before the molds will be ready.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, worked on Hailing Frequencies, sank pirates, and did some graphics.

Jean worked on getting E2 up and providing information for Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,589 friends), managed our Twitter feed (147 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #113 and the Klingon Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Vacations and Writing and Unexpected Events

Jean Sexton muses:

This was supposed to be written and posted by Sunday. Yet it is in reality Tuesday now and this will be backdated to fill the hole on Sunday. What happened?

Well, vacation happened. On Thursday the Coles, Wolf, and I left on a mini-vacation. We went to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Candy Kitchen, New Mexico. That is up in the mountains north of I-40 -- the nearest grocery store is over 50 miles away. The wolves get an enrichment of a meal with organ meat Steve brings and chops up for them. I wanted to enjoy trees and quiet and the peace of nature. I couldn't find anything to write in the blog before we left, but I just knew I would be inspired to write a masterpiece out there.

Nature found me, all right. I got a cold which became worse due to the high elevation of 7,400 feet. (As a comparison, Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in mainland eastern North America, is 6,699 feet.) This cold knocked the stuffing out of me. No long walks. No playing in the snow. (Yes, it did snow up there while we were there.) No communing with nature, unless you count coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes. No inspiration for the blog.

Writing isn't easy for me. Steve sits in front of a keyboard and words fly from his fingertips. Me, I sit and notice that the keys for A, S, D, C, V, and M are worn clean and F and L are heading that way. I pick up my keyboard and shake it. Dust falls out, not words. I clean up the dust and check the screen and no words have miraculously appeared. I knew that writing when I was ill would be a disaster: "I'm sick. My world is coughing. I am eating chicken noodle soup. Bye," doesn't sound interesting unless you are the sufferer with a sore throat, stuffy head, and woozy thoughts. At least my head was clear enough to figure that out.

So now you know why there was no blog on Sunday, but there is a blog now backdated to Sunday. Your mind didn't trick you. You aren't having memory issues. The power of the computer gives me the power to "time-travel" to Sunday and change the past, except I confessed that I did it. Ah well, there is enough cold left in my mind to boggle at the thought and to hope I haven't changed history somehow.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download backgrounds and covers with Star Fleet Universe art. We have art that will work on Facebook, iOS7 iPhones, Android devices, and computers. You will also find art you can use as binder spine cards.

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.

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.

Friday, May 08, 2015


21. Friendly fire isn't friendly, which is why it's illegal.

22. Tractors are weapons too.

23. The best plan can be ruined by the worst dice.

24. The worst plan can be saved by the best dice.

25. Transporters are weapons, too.

26. If you are one hex from firing position against an Andro, his Displacement Device is armed.

27. If your ADDs can fire at the Stingers, it's too late to bother firing.

28. Firing at the enemy invites him to overrun you.

29. If you loaded your G-rack with type-IVs, the enemy will show up in a D6D.

30. Whatever you thought that enemy shuttle was, you were wrong.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Things continue

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Work continues apace on various projects.

Reports are coming in still on things to be corrected in the Klingon Master Starship Book, and sometimes as I peruse a bit of it, something hits me that should have been done before. An example is created by the (now) three different Klingon carrier pods (P-H5, P-V7, P-M11), three different tugs (Tug-A/T7, Tug-B/T6, B10T), and three different light tactical transports (since their D5G and DWG are also LTTs), which makes for 27 different carrier tugs (and that is ignoring cases like a Tug-A with a P-M11 pod and a P-B4 pod).

At least (so far) none of the checkers has found a problem with the new "Carrier Escort and Fighter" tables. Fully integrating those and trying to look more closely at what escorts are available when and in what numbers, and also allowing for new developments in doctrine (the E4V also being the G4V, and requiring an escort as an E4V, but not requiring buy might have an escort as a G4V for example).

As I am waiting on reports, I have started gathering the various parts for the Romulan Master Starship Book. This does not mean that it will be the next book, but it seems like it is a good idea to take some time to gather all the parts of the different empires in one place for future progress. (Maybe the Seltorians will be next . . . The Paravians and Carnivons would certainly be the easiest to do just now, the Vudar and Jindarians not much harder. Maybe the Frax would be acceptable. I am not looking forward to the Orions because of all the different Cartels, and so on.)

I am also doing odds and ends for the next Captain's Log. In some ways, parts of it are making me ill. People who submitted battle group set ups, but have not sent in their tactics yet (or asked for an extension) despite the deadline be passed. Also I usually try to send the tactics back out to the authors after I have formatted their submission. For some reason this time around everyone, it seems, who has submitted a battle group has taken the formatted text I sent them for review and commented "I have made a few corrections." This is driving me crazy as it increases the workload tremendously. Please do not get me wrong, corrections is precisely the reason I send their formatted text back to them. I am not perfect, I can (and have) misspelled words, or not gotten the tactical point they were trying to make and my editing changed what was intended. So, yes, that does need correction. The problem is that they are not perfect either, and by sending me the whole document back with the casual note that they did a few edits and corrections, I am forced to re-edit the whole document from start. The problem is that each time it goes through the process, new mistakes creep in. Jean Sexton has decreed that any number greater than nine has to use numerals, and any number less than 10 has to be spelled out. And not all of our submitters know this, and use numbers in their edits, which I have to read to find. Then there are the standard human typos ("their" instead of "there" or vice versa, "for" instead of "four," and so on). So I cannot just shrug when someone announces they "made a few corrections," I have to re-edit the whole document because I have no idea what was changed, but am responsible for everyone's typos.

I know some would say that turnabout is fair play, i.e., I did not send them a notice of what I changed in their original prose, but I am not making a few "minor corrections." I usually wind up making major corrections to fit "our" style for the article.

It would help a lot, if "minor corrections" are made, to mark the correction so that it can be seen. Colorizing whatever you correct, or at least underscoring what you changed so that I can find the change without having to re-read the entire document. It would probably (the way it is going this time) save me more than a day's work not having to re-edit every article looking for minor changes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

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.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that came to mind.

1. Women's lib did not mean that guys could stop being gentlemen. Giving women equality doesn't mean men can't open doors for them or let them go first in line.

2. You are the only person responsible for your own happiness, but are you really the kind of person who should be held responsible for anything?

3. There are three basic reasons that someone hates you: they see you as a threat, they hate themselves, or they want to be you (or at least, in your job).

4. In the last 15 years half of the world's giraffe population has been wiped out by native hunters who suddenly realized that the creatures are stupid, easy to kill, and a walking butcher store. Wild populations have dropped from 140,000 to 80,000. In another 15 years they could be extinct in the wild.

5. I was walking the dog on a Saturday in early May when I found a license plate laying in the street. I was taught long ago that license plates are important, so I noted the location, carried it home, and called the police, who sent an officer to pick it up and have me fill out a report. No end of things might have happened to cause it to be left there (some good, some criminal) and in any event if I had left it someone else might have picked it up and used it. I will never know if that thing led to a major breakthrough in a critical case or was just some random bit of road junk (the police have no reason to tell me what they found out and I won't ask since it's none of my business and it might make me look guilty of something) but I was proud to be a good citizen for the day.

Monday, May 04, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 26 April - 2 May 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we scheduled for Steve Cole to work on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet but he defied the schedule and kept working on Federation & Empire. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week is SFB Module X1R.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week are SFB Module X1R and Captain's Log #12.

Steve Cole worked on Federation & Empires Minor Empires and the new countersheets, but found moments to do blogs, update the last SIT (the ISC), did another 12 people for the Wall of Honor, and walked 4.75 miles, the most in one week in many years.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #51.

The 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with seven 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 updating the text catalog, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,587 friends), managed our Twitter feed (144 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, did the quarterly cleaning up of the BBS, Worked on Hailing Frequencies, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

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, May 02, 2015

In Search of a Destiny!

Jean Sexton muses:

May 2, 2013 isn't a day that many people remember, I suspect. I will, because it was a watershed day for me. I left a place I had lived for over 16 years, a job I had for over 29 years, a state I had lived in for over half a century and headed west. I was in search of my destiny and myself.

But what was my destiny? Why was I searching for it? Would I know it if I found it? Who was I really? Was I defined by my job? Was I defined by my location? Was I defined by my family? Where was I going? These were and are valid questions.

I am not sure that a person ever finds his destiny as long as he is living. "Destiny" has the same roots as "destination." To me, life is a journey. I am forever traveling that road and learning from it. Sometimes that path loops around for a while, but shaking up the path is a good way to continue to find new ways, learn new things, and to grow as a person. I had been on that circling path for a long while. If I didn't do something drastic, I would be drawn back into that whirlpool, spinning along, coasting in the quiet spots, finding turbulence in the same spots. Leaving familiar territory, but having friends near was a good way to find a new path.

But why? I had become both comfortable and yet unhappy on the path I was circling along. I knew what to expect each day. I knew what was expected of me. And yet, where I lived was dangerous -- in fact one of the most dangerous places in the United States. Just because I understood that where I lived was likely to be broken into once a year didn't make it safe. Just because I expected it didn't mean that was the life I was meant to live. I needed to find a place that was safer, a job that was challenging, and to do those far enough away that I couldn't go back to the easy, familiar path.

My job had become who I was in so many ways. I was a librarian -- a career I had wanted since I was about 10 years old. For so many years I was going to be a librarian when I grew up, studying to become a librarian, being a librarian. It was dumb luck, good fortune, call it what you will that provided a possible job where the "marketing" was being absolutely honest with the customers. Throughout my life, honesty has been something I am good at, much to the dismay of some (tact was something that I had to learn). Now my skill with words and honesty had an outlet quite different from anything I had imagined. It was and is a new challenge.

I am still shaped by where I came from and by my family. On a trip, you need to define a starting point. "Go 25 miles south" has an entirely destination when you start in Key West, Florida from when you start in Amarillo, Texas. In the former one, you'd best either be a world-class swimmer or have a good boat. In the latter, you are still on dry land, in the Palo Duro Canyon. For me, that starting point is my family and the town where I grew up and so many people helped shape my beliefs and values. Those shape who I am and guide who I want to be.

So on that fateful day in May, I turned out of that roundabout and set off to Texas. I had help on that -- friends who came over and helped me pack up my things for a quick exit from a potentially dangerous situation, Steve Cole and Steven Petrick who helped on the drive from North Carolina to Texas (Petrick drove the U-Haul with most of my stuff), and the anchor team of Leanna Cole and Michael Sparks who hauled everything I had shipped to Texas over to my waiting apartment. I appreciated and appreciate that help.

So now I have spent two years in Amarillo. I have learned more about this job. It is constantly in flux as we all learn to better utilize my talents. I am learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities. I am slowly learning more about my new home, its history and its geography. I feel safe for the first time in years.

So what is my destiny? I don't really know. What is my destination? I am not sure. I know I want to help people, to bring joy into this life, to be happy. I invite you to join me and see how this all unfolds. Maybe you will find your destiny, too.

Friday, May 01, 2015


11. The question the enemy just asked the judge has nothing to do with his attack plan. Unless it does.

12. Critical hits are the game's way of suggesting that you take a break.

13. If you have the enemy where you want him, you just walked into a trap.

14. Never taunt the enemy; maybe he wasn't planning on fighting you.

15. Any maneuver you make might convince the enemy to fire at you, including doing nothing.

16. Build defenses around your base that the enemy cannot break into, and you won't be able to break out.

17. Never get into a battle with an ally who is braver than you are.

18. If you are short of energy, weapons, and shuttles, you are in the combat zone.

19. When you have secured the star system, don't forget to let the enemy know.

20. Never forget that your ship was built by the lowest bidder.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway