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Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


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

The P-51 Mustang was clearly the best fighter of World War II. No other aircraft comes close. The British are fond of saying "and it was a British design" but that's just not the case. Here's the story.

North American was trying to get into the business of selling combat aircraft to the US military, but older and bigger companies had all the contracts. The British came to the US and asked to buy ground-attack fighters.  (The British had, for all practical purposes, no ground-attack aircraft in 1940 and were embarrassed that pretty much everybody else did.) The US military leadership said that all of our production was spoken for (by them). Then the US government remembered North American and suggested that the British to go to them.

North American proudly proclaims that they designed and built the first prototype in only 102 days. The reality (rarely mentioned in public) was that North American had several designs already finished, but no customers for them. When the British showed up, North American grabbed the design that was closest to what the British wanted, made minor changes (adding bomb racks), and produced the first prototype in the storied 102 days. (It did not actually fly until 45 days later. The 102-day prototype was missing a few internal parts that September day in 1940.)

The P-51A used an American engine that wasn't very good for high-altitude work, but would be good enough for the low-altitude job the British wanted it for. North American asked for a license to build British engines that were good for high-altitude work. The British (seeing no reason for high-altitude engines but happy to collect the licensing fees and the lavish praise of their superior engine) promptly handed over the designs. With the superior high-altitude engines in hand, North American then offered the P-51D to the US Army Air Forces as the long-range escort that would make bombing Germany a practical business model. The US Army Air Forces had, by that point, realized that unescorted daytime bombing formations were a very expensive proposition involving lots of lost aircraft and lost aircrew. The P-51D provided the missing element that made daytime bombing successful. (Well, sort of successful. Fighters did not improve the accuracy of bombing, which was lucky to put one bomb in 10 into the targeted factory.)

And so, my British friends, thanks for the engine that won the air war. Consider that payback for World War I, when the US built no fighter planes but provided the French and British with superb engines that greatly improved their fighters.

Monday, September 28, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-26 September 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week for a change of pace. The weather this week was much cooler than the predicted 90s. With new filters in place, the spam storm died and Steve Cole received about 50 per day.

New on Warehouse23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the Federation Commander Scenario Log. Jean added Star Fleet Times #21-#25 to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault; it had been on W23 for a long time.

Steve Cole took a break from Federation & Empire while waiting on Fighter Operations 2015 to receive public comments and finished the FC Scenario Log, allowing Jean to upload it. He wrote a bunch of blogs for Jean's stockpile and did a bunch of art for SFBOL3G. Then Steve did the rest of the art for the Klingon Master Starship Book, including dozens of X-ships and Y-ships that never had art before. (He sent some of these to Jean for upload.) Steve went back to walking every day but didn't push it as he rebuilds his recovered knees, usually doing only 1/4 mile but managing a half mile twice.

Steven Petrick worked on the last few items for the Klingon Master Starship Book and inserted the art. He took a break from all things Master Starship Book and started updating the SFB Module C1 SSD book, doing over half of it.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries including the first from Taiwan.

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 2,771 friends), managed our Twitter feed (160 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, checked another round of proofreading changes on the Klingon Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


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

1. One day in late July I got word from the die cutters that our F&E counters should arrive about 21 August. I posted this wonderful news on the BBS and mused openly about which each of the product involved would appear. An hour later I pointed out this post to Jean and suggested that she clean it up and post it to the network of fansites and Facebook pages and game boards. She remarked that I should have talked with her about what to post before posting anything, should not have given specific dates (even as clearly labeled guesses) for product releases because "stuff happens" (it did) and "nobody remembers the disclaimer, only the promise you didn't keep." She was right.

2. Amarillo has an annual convention for fantasy, science fiction, anime, and cosplay. This year, they included gaming for the first time. We went and walked around to see if next year it might be worthwhile to try to have gaming events and a sales booth there. Jean and Leanna thought everything looked good for that; I thought it looked like a dubious venue. (First, most people outside of the gaming room probably would not be interested in our products. Second, everyone in the gaming room was playing a game they brought with them, and the ones I talked with were playing people they knew. None showed any interest in trying a game they had never tried before.) But as the motto of some state lottery says: "You never know, it might work." We don't have to rent a car or a hotel room, the booths are cheap, and if it's a waste of time we can just go back to the office and find our normal work waiting for us. (Experiments in Denver, Dallas, and Tulsa all cost at least a thousand dollars. All of them turned into a waste of money and time.) For the cost, the Amarillo show is worth a try. From my considerable experience, however, I have found very few conventions worth the trip. (Fantasy or science fiction conventions with some gaming in a side room rank first on the list of conventions I avoid.) But then, how do you rate a convention's success? By sales dollars? Well, some of those dollars would show up in the web shopping cart anyway, but others are truly new customers. You can get a gut feeling about it, or keep tedious track of it, but I have never seen the "new customers found" quotient to reach 1/3 of the sales. We went to Origins partly because there was enough new money to pay the cost, and we got to "build the community" by meeting with and firing up the customers. (Sadly, Origins was ruined for us by the date changes and our customers voted with their feet to not go there any more. Those customers still buy from us on-line, so it's the convention, not the products, that are the issue there.) My hope with Ama-Con 2016 is that we find some new local playtesters.

3. Someone sent me a note the other day saying that our products were "way overpriced." I found this curious since our prices are at (or mostly below) the prices of similar products from other companies. Our miniatures, for one example, are well under the going rate for the size and scale. If somebody wanted to make a case for this they would need to send me a comparison between one of our products and the prices of four or five similar products by other companies.

4. I heard somebody say that "Steve Cole is mean because he won't allow Alpha and Omega Octants to mix." This was news to me because I have never blocked or refused such a thing. Alpha and Omega are so far apart geographically that they historically never did mix, so it's hard to do any kind of historical product. We have done plenty of non-historical stuff. I just don't get this gripe. I mean, if you want to mix Alpha and Omega on your own table, do you really think I'm going to get an email alert and send you an order to stop? Really?

5. A friend sent me an idea to improve quality control the other day. As it happened (and as he suspected) we had used it for years. Even so, I told him that I appreciated the idea and that since he had no way of knowing what we do or don't do behind the scenes, it's never a bad thing to suggest a useful idea to a friend. There are no stupid questions, and I've come to think there may not be any stupid suggestions. There may be some that we already know and others that don't apply but they all are useful to someone.
 6. Someone asked the other day when Merchants of the Federation would be put on the schedule. This is a game that was offered to us, but it's expensive to print ($60,000) and is a market (train games) we have never sold into and know nothing about and have no track record in. I have no idea if train game players would be interested in a spaceship version of a train game, and frankly no one in the office knows enough about train games to even tell if the design sent to us actually works. (Frankly, if I can't blow up the train, I'm not interested in playing a train game.) A train game like this would be an extremely high-risk venture. That sounds perfect for Kickstarter BUT it would take 200 man-hours of key staff time to launch a Kickstarter program and even more time to manage one. (If we thought that was a good idea, I'd do it for Tribbles vs. Klingons first.) At this point, that time is better spent on non-Kickstarter products.

Friday, September 25, 2015


From Captain's Log #12:

Hydran proverb: Your enemy is only as strong as his weakest shield.

Orion proverb: While money can't buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.

Klingon proverb: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, prepare to die.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What is Going On

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Klingon Master Starship Book is currently waiting on Jean Sexton completing her last read through and demands and for changes that only she understands (I do not, honestly, what she wants at this late juncture is all entirely magic to me, and she may have to make the changes herself because I just do not understand her reasoning). While this is going on, SVC is even now at work trying to complete the last of a long line of requested graphics for the book. However, as previously noted, were I to be so uncouth as to mysteriously vanish (not likely to happen . . . but then where is Judge Crater?) the book could easily be finished without me.

With the Klingon book on the ways, the Romulan Master Starship Book is, as noted, assembled. The first section of it has gone out to the checkers, and the first reports have been received and incorporated. The book is at least all in one place, so it would be fairly easy for someone to pick up the pieces and complete it. (I have a feeling I may be moving myself to my own level of obsolescence.) Other than sending out the sections and incorporating the reports, getting Jean Sexton to read it, and getting the graphics, it is done.

I do not know, at this juncture, which book will be next.

I have been working on and off on various Captain's Log #51 projects. None are as yet as complete as I would like them to be. The battle group articles are done, for example, but I have not yet formally written up the scenario (I keep putting it off for some reason I cannot really fathom).

I have been handed another project that is both tedious and time consuming, but does fall under my bailiwick, and have been battering it for the last few days. I cannot really say more about it. I hope to have part of it finished by Friday, but we will see.

Tuesday, September 22, 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/).

Monday, September 21, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 September 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we posted the PDF of Fighter Operations 2015 and took care of some odds and ends that had been left undone. The weather this week was hot, often in the 90s, although Saturday was cooler. The spam storm dipped sharply as new filters were applied but within 72 hours was back to 100-200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the preliminary PDF of Fighter Operations 2015.  New to DriveThru RPG and  Wargame Vault was the Federation Commander Battle Tugs Ship Card Pack.
Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations 2015, Federation Commander Scenario Log, and odds and ends.

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

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries and an update.

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 2,765 friends), managed our Twitter feed (158 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Fighter Operations 2015, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 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!

Saturday, September 19, 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.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Galactic Phone Booth, pt. 3

From Captain's Log #12:

How do you get 30 WYNs into a telephone booth?
Tell them its safer than an auxiliary cruiser.

How do you get 30 ISC beings into a telephone booth?
Tell them someone wants to negotiate peace.

How do you get 30 LDR troops into a telephone booth?
Put this sign on top: VOTING BOOTH.

How do you get 30 Seltorians into a telephone booth?
Tell them there is a Tholian hiding inside.

How do you get 30 FRAX into a telephone booth?
Don't build the booth. Just imagine one.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on surefire weapons of military history that turned out to be horrible ideas.
1. Battlecruisers: The British invented these things in 1906. They were the size of battleships and had the guns of battleships, but had half of the armor. The point was to gain speed. The ships had three missions: First, they could hunt down marauding enemy cruisers, which were faster than battleships but could never fight battleship guns. This actually worked, but there were only two German heavy cruisers and one battlecruiser at large at the start of World War I. Second, they made super dandy commerce raiders since they could outfight anything that could catch them. Third, they could scout ahead of the battle fleet and find the enemy battleships. Fourth, they were big enough and mean enough to fight their way through the enemy screen of cruisers and destroyers. Fifth, they could lead the battle line and because they were faster they could force the enemy to turn to avoid having the battlecruisers turn across their bow. This turned out to be the only real job the battlecruisers had, and they were horrible at it (three of them blew up at Jutland playing that game). That thin armor meant that battlecruisers really needed to stay away from battleships, but they were too expensive to leave out of the fight.
2. American tank destroyers in WWII: Tank destroyers were traditionally last year's tank chassis with a bigger gun than this year's tank, often at the cost of armor, a rotating turret, or something else. The Germans and Russians made their assault guns work, but these had heavy frontal armor. The US was the one that got it wrong, putting a heavy tank-killing cannon on a Sherman chassis with half of the Sherman's totally inadequate armor. The whole idea was just wrong, and the US should never have done it. Instead, they needed a vehicle with heavier armor, or even better, a really good tank (with a high velocity gun and armor at least 50% thicker than the Sherman). The Russians and Germans did what they did because they could not build real tanks fast enough. The Americans, with limitless production power, should have just skipped tank destroyers and built a real tank. So the failure here is not the tank destroyer but the American idea of fast tanks that would avoid fighting German tanks and fast tank destroyers than would sneak around and kill German tanks before the Germans spotted the tank destroyer and killed it. (The Germans had learned that their unarmored Marder tank destroyers didn't survive in combat and switched to using StuG3s and Hetzers, which had frontal armor.)
3. Twin-engine fighters: Several nations built these with the idea that they would have longer range, heavier firepower, and would be very useful in killing or escorting bombers. The problem was that they didn't maneuver all that well, and single-engine fighters could kill them all too easily. They had some merit as bomber-killers in situations where single-engine fighters were not around (i.e., at night) and most of them ended up as night fighters. The best of the twin-engine long-range fighters was the American P-38, which had major firepower, extreme gunnery range (since the guns were all in the nose and did not have to be sighted to cross at some point in the front of the aircraft), and horsepower out the wazoo. Dogfighting was a bad idea but at least they had the power to get out of any fight they could not win.
4. Gliders: When airborne operations were envisioned, gliders were thought to be a quick and cheap way to reinforce the air landing. Troops landing in gliders would all be in one place with their leaders and would be able to get right to work doing whatever it was the airborne landing was supposed to do. (Paratroopers would be scattered all over and form up in whatever temporary groups they could and would thus be far less effective.) Even better, glider troops were easier to train than paratroopers, and did not expect higher pay. Gliders even worked on some small-scale operations like Eban Emael and Pegasus Bridge. The problem was that gliders had to have a fairly flat spot the size of a football field to land in. After the first couple of successful airborne operations (by the Germans) everyone figured out that just planting a few telephone poles into the middle of fields would wreck the gliders and cause those troops more casualties than their parachutist brothers. The whole idea of gliders was dropped after WWII and even the heavy equipment that gliders we needed to land was dropped by new larger parachutes.
5. Strategic bombing of populations: The British, Germans, and Americans all loved strategic bombing, and cities were easier to hit than factories. (American "precision daylight bombing" was lucky to get one bomb out of ten into the actual factory being bombed.) The theory was that a population made homeless would demand that their government end the war. (This theory came from an Italian WWI fighter ace named Douhet. He wrote a book theorizing that in future wars strategic bombing would force the enemy to surrender before the ground armies met in battle. This would save lives by avoiding the bloodbath of World War I trench fighting. Nice theory but it never worked.) The British, German, and Japanese populations were defiant to the end, despite the fact that the British night bombers and American B-29s had run out of German and Japanese cities worth burning to the ground. If the British planes had gone after industrial targets, the war might have ended sooner, as American attacks on fuel refineries had very nearly shut down the German war machine. The Japanese economy was so decentralized that there were no targets worth bombing by July 1945 but military production continued and enough food was produced to keep the people alive (if not healthy). Post-war claims by the US Air Forces that the Japanese would have surrendered by November without an invasion or a nuclear bomb are just not consistent with the facts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yet Another Progress Report

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Most of the reviewers of the Klingon Master Starship Book have reported in that they have no further reports to make. As such, the book awaits the completion of Jean Sexton's review and the last few graphics that SVC has to create. It is otherwise in a state that, were I to suddenly disappear on some clandestine operation that the company would disavow, then the book could easily be completed without me.

I have become redundant to its publication, which is a good thing.

As the Klingon Master Starship Book is effectively a closed chapter, the Romulan Master Starship Book is moving to center stage (in terms of getting the books done). In consultation with SVC, the reviewers having stated they have no more reports to make on the Klingon Master Starship Book, the assembled Romulan book has been broken down into components (because there were few existing graphics, the book was originally done as just two component parts, the "General Units" and "everything else"). The first of these components, at the request of one of the reviewers the Romulan General War era fighters, has been sent to the reviewers. The reviewer thought it best to do the fighters first as this would impact many other units in the other files, i.e., when a given fighter (or bomber) becomes available has to be correctly input into the various carriers, bases, and ground bases.

The major issue with the Romulans will, of course, be their early years units, which requires a very different format from that of just about every other empire. As not all Romulan ships have cloaking devices, this had to be accounted for in the general format, and some Romulan units do not have seeking weapons, requiring a reminder about seeking weapon control ratings.

The Romulan book is, however, complete for review and when the Klingon book is finished, SVC will hopefully be able to start doing graphics for the various Romulan ships (I suspect he will start with converting Klingon ships to KRs, then move on to either the Eagles or the Hawks).

At this juncture, I suspect the Romulan Master Starship Book will be available early in 2016, assuming no major issues crop up and there are not too many interruptions by other things needing to be done on the schedule.

Tuesday, September 15, 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.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 September 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we scheduled for finalizing Fighter Operations 2015. The weather this week was cooler, getting down to the 70s by week's end. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week is the sixth Battlewagon article.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week are the Battlewagon article and the F&E scenario The Hurricane.

Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations 15 (FO15) and did Communique.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #51, the Klingon Master Starship Book, and proofreading Communique/Hailing Frequencies. Steven Petrick and Jean Sexton got Platinum Hat 2015 up and running.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two 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 Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,761 friends), managed our Twitter feed (159 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS and FC Forum, managed the blog feed, proofread FO15 and Communique #117, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

South to Canyon!

Jean Sexton writes:

Just down the road from Amarillo is Canyon. It is home to several things that I know I would enjoy. The outdoor drama Texas! is a seasonal event. It only takes place in the summer. As with most Paul Green dramas, there is dancing and singing and a painless look at history. After the show there are fireworks and the dancing waters. It is well worth visiting.

Texas! is held in the Palo Duro Canyon, second only to the Grand Canyon. It has a road that travels by many of the sights, so it is an easy way to see the canyon. Over 70 years ago, workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps made access to the State Park possible. Only recently have four of the five "low-water" crossings been turned into bridges. There are all sorts of things to see in the park. Flowers and plants abound on the canyon floor and along the waterway. There are many birds that call the canyon home. There is even the Palo Duro mouse which is eight inches long, counting its four inch tail!

For an indoors adventure there is the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. It is the largest history museum in Texas. From paleontology to exploring a life-sized pioneer town, this museum has lots of historical items. There are things to be learned about the petroleum industry that is prevalent in the Panhandle. There is a gallery of Native American art and another of textiles. A history buff could spend all day in the museum.

I'll look at more things to explore the next time I blog. 

Saturday, September 12, 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.

Friday, September 11, 2015


On this day, ADB is taking time to remember those who died in the attacks, those who died preventing another plane from being used as a weapon, and those who died trying to save lives. On this day, we are taking time to remember all those who have died trying to prevent another attack upon this country. On this day, we are taking time to thank someone who now voluntarily stands between us and harm's way.

Remember 9/11.

Galactic Phone Booth, pt. 2

From Captain's Log #12:

How do you get 30 Tholians into a telephone booth?
Put a web around it and a Romulan out the outside.

How do you get 30 Orions into a telephone booth?
Tell them there's a profit in it.

How do you get 30 Hydrans into a telephone booth?
Tell them its a new fighter with six Gatlings.

How do you get 30 Andros into a telephone booth?
That's called an ASP, not a phone booth, silly.

How do you get 30 Lyrans into a telephone booth?
Tell them there are 30 Kzintis in it.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, September 10, 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:

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Happy 49th Birthday!

To Star Trek. Thanks for giving us dreams.

All the World on a Table

Nicholas Mihalas writes:

I am a hero, a villain, destroyer, and creator of worlds. I have the advantage of many lives lived in one -- many deaths at once as well. I can travel through time and space, yet I am the same as you. This is possible through only one means: games. Not the ones you see on a screen or the running in the field type, but ones of the mind and the table.

Stardate 92947.73, the U.S.S Nautilus is patrolling sector 147 of the Klingon-Federation border -- or more simply put, my living room. While flying at Warp 3 another ship was detected: Klingons. Pulling out of warp, both ships were seeing each other, not at war, but tensions were high nonetheless. "Photons fully loaded!" shouted an engineer from the bellows of the ship; it was time to move. It was flung through the emptiness by warp engines powered by the core. The front shield was at full, time to face our enemy as they charged against us. Turning at the last moment their disruptors hit the forward right shield; it was not the time for us to fire though. Photons overloading, there was minor damage to cargo and labs the screen said. Executing a high energy turn of 180° (stressing the engines while doing so) busted a warp cell in the lower core.

No time. The enemy fired its rear phasers at the forward shield, resulting in minor damage. Our photons were full to bursting with gamma rays produced by their tiny warp engines as they rocketed toward the enemy. As they pierced the sternward shield, our dice began to roll, destroying and debilitating weapons, engines, hull, teleporters, tractors, and the all too precious command deck. With no more captain the Klingon ship limped away, defeated. I let it go, a sort of understanding between captains. Let them run so that you may run from the next loss.

I stood up and shook my dad's hand; our game was a good one and my first victory. That was when I realized how beautiful the game was. No electronics, no complicated rules, yet every game left me with gratification, whether win or loss. A headache, too, it continues to leave me with that. The fight was won today but tomorrow was a whole new tale, a new world, and a new set of rules.


Nicholas just started playing Federation Commander this summer and he loves it. Going into his second year of high school, he wrote this as a paper for English about what he did this summer. His dad suggested sharing it with us.

Monday, September 07, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 30 August - 5 September 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was the week SVC really focused on getting Fighter Operations finished and handed over to the proofreader (Jean). The weather this week was in the 80s. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day, often under 20 as new filters blocked more of it.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Star Fleet Battles Commander's Edition, Supplement #1.    
Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations, Hailing Frequencies, and other projects.

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

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries and an update.

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 2,753 friends), managed our Twitter feed (160 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Klingon Master Starship Book and Fighter Operations, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Heading West to Tucumcari!

Jean Sexton plans:

I'm thinking about a day trip in the fall and I think I may go to Tucumcari, New Mexico. It isn't that far from Amarillo and I can drive there, see a few sights, get a nice meal, and head back home. So what is there to see heading west?

There is the Cadillac Ranch which I covered earlier as part of Amarillo's Route 66 interests. What is more interesting to me is Glenrio. This town straddles the border of New Mexico and Texas. Eventually Route 66 made its way there and the town blossomed. Since Deaf Smith County in Texas was dry, liquor was sold on the New Mexico side. Since the taxes on gasoline were higher in New Mexico, gas was sold on the Texas side. In the 1950s a couple of buildings were built that showed Art Moderne influences. In 1975, the town's prosperity came to a crashing halt as Route 66 moved to I-40, bypassing Glenrio. However in 2007, the town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Glenrio Historic District includes the old Route 66 roadbed and 17 abandoned buildings. I won't be able to drive through to New Mexico, though; New Mexico dug up their side of Route 66 so it wouldn't need maintenance. So I'll need to go back to I-40 to continue on to Tucumcari.

In Tucumcari, you are back on the old Route 66. Murals throughout town celebrate that heritage and there's even a New Mexico Route 66 Museum. But I love dinosaurs and so the Mesalands Community College's Dinosaur Museum draws me to it. There are displays and interactive features. The things I am looking forward are the bronze casts of the dinosaur bones. I love tangible items as they make what I am imagining real to me.

Next time I blog: fun things to do in Amarillo itself.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Galactic Phone Booth, pt. 1

From Captain's Log #12:

How do you get 30 Feds into a telephone booth?
Tell them there's a new life form to talk to.

How do you get 30 Klingons into a telephone booth?

Tell them it's Earth.

How do you get 30 Romulans into a telephone booth?
Install a cloak on it.

How do you get 30 Kzintis into a telephone booth?
Tell them there's something to eat in it.

How do you get 30 Gorns into a telephone booth?
You don't. You don't even try.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Old Films are Time Capsules

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Last night I watched a couple of old "propaganda" films. These were films made for the United States Military to support our own war effort. Like a lot of old films, they were interesting time capsules about America back then. I wonder how much things have changed.

One of the films was about the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This had some interest in what revealed of what the makers thought of the general knowledge of America's young men at that time.

The film extolled the Soviet Union as a peaceful land of plenty, where all of the various ethnic groups lived in harmony and were devoted to the nation as a whole. The film went out of its way to essentially say that the Soviet Union was not militarized at the time of the German invasion, but had to retool its industries for the war. It made absolute no mention of the Soviet occupation of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. No mention was made of the fact that the Soviet Union was allied with Germany in the invasion of Poland. No mention of the Soviet invasion of Finland.

Was the typical American that much in the dark about how militarized the Soviet Union was? That lacking in knowledge of the aggressive acts of the Soviets?

I cannot blame them for not having much knowledge of what was going on in the Soviet Union in terms of how its government was treating its minorities (you can look at how well they all are getting along since the Soviet Union went out of business and just how eager the Ukrainians as an example are to become subservient to Russia once more).

Another film discussed the German invasion of France, and until that film I honestly did not know that in May of 1940 the Germans had 30 armored divisions (actually, ten) and that all of their divisions were motorized (never happened, even in 1940 the infantry divisions used a lot of horses to move supplies and the troops mostly walked).

Of more amusement was the "Warner Brothers" contribution to the war effort, a series of roughly four minute long cartoons about "Private SNAFU," the worst soldier in the United States Army. They showed four of these (purportedly there were 24 of them), one of which introduced the character, one of which showed the character encountering "booby traps" in North Africa (emphasis on "boobs"), another showing  him as a target for "Malaria Mike" a.k.a. A. Mos Quito, and the last having a wish fulfilled that made him a super hero (where his incompetence leads him to almost dropping a bomb on Congress when he thought he was bombing Berlin).

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Steve Cole gives us his thoughts on King Tut:

The best-known Egyptian pharaoh is one of the more minor ones, King Tut-ankh-amum. His fame stems from the accident that his tomb was the only one in the Valley of the Kings that wasn't emptied out (mostly by later Egyptian governments) in antiquity. There are a lot of interesting questions about King Tut, and a lot of things that don't make sense. It seems that every year brings us another TV documentary with yet another theory on this or that aspect of his life. And of course every new documentary must say that it has found new evidence that changes everything (even if they found nothing new) just to get a place on the television schedule.
Here is my theory, with some notes on proof and other theories. Let's start with what's known: He was born sometime around 1345BC. (Egyptian dates are anything but precise and our entire timeline may be very wrong, but we'll go with that.) He took the throne at age 9 and died about age 20. He was one of the last kings of the 18th Dynasty. He died without living children (two daughters were stillborn) and the throne passed to non-royals. He was preceded in death by Smenkare, who was presumably his older half-brother. (One theory with tenuous evidence is that Smenkare was Queen Nefertiti.) Tut was (DNA tests prove) the son of Akhenaten and one of his sisters (her mummy is known as "the younger lady"). We know Tut married a sister or half sister named Ankhesenatun. (Akhenaten was the heretic king who changed Egypt to a new monotheist religion as part of a power play against the priesthood of Amun-Ra, who had too much land, money, and power. Akhenaten ignored foreign policy and wasted time and money on insane building projects to glorify his new god, the Aten, or sun disk.) After about three years on the throne, Tut changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun (and Ankhesenaten changed hers to Ankhesenamun) reflecting a return to the old religion. We know that General Horemheb (commander of the army) was the official heir, but that when Tut died the prime minister Ay grabbed power before Horemheb got home from the then-current war in Syria.
The first mystery is how Tut died. We know he had birth defects (the result of at least four generations of kings marrying their sisters) including a club foot (all of his canes were in his tomb) and that he had malaria and other diseases. He had a seriously broken leg that went septic just before his death and probably killed him. There was once thought to be evidence that he had been hit on the head by an assassin but later X-rays proved this to be untrue. There is one theory that the extensive damage to his skeleton (and many missing bones) means he was run over by a chariot, but the missing bones (and missing heart) are more likely to have been carried away by tomb robbers during World War II who wanted the necklace around his neck, the scarab inside the heart, and the gold and jewels in the mummy wrappings. Personally, I am going with the theory that he was a sick kid waiting for an injury serious enough to kill him, and that it didn't take much. That and the World War II robbery.
The second mystery is why he is in such a tiny tomb in such a non-prestigious location (on the valley floor). Here, I believe (as some historians do) that Ay was buried in Tut's tomb and that Tut was put into the tiny tomb awarded to Ay for a lifetime of work (as a senior official for several pharaohs).
The third mystery is why Tut's burial was rushed and sloppy compared to other kings. Here I have a theory I have never specifically heard on television or seen in a book. We know that the new king could not take office until the old king was buried, and that Egyptian burial rites took at least 70 days. With a dispatch rider on the way to Horemheb's headquarters in Syria (and Horemheb on his way back to become pharaoh) Ay (in charge of the funeral) rushed things as fast as he could. Tut's mummy is the only one that is charred, and that can happen if the steps of the mummification process are rushed and the wet resins aren't allowed to dry before the linseed oil is applied. When Tut was buried (three weeks early) Ay could say "Oh, well, since Horemheb isn't here I will just have to take the throne myself." (It's not like somebody could check Horemheb's page on Facebook to see if he was on the way home, or dead in combat, or just didn't want to be king.)
Once Horemheb arrived a few days too late (thinking he still had a few spare days) he knew that it would take a civil war to oust Ay, but that at age 70 Ay couldn't last long and had no living children. We do know that Ay named Horemheb as his successor (or at least we know that Horemheb said Ay did that.) We do know that Horemheb later tried to wipe out the records of Ay and Tutankhamun and claim he had been pharaoh since Smenkare died, or since Akhenaten died, or maybe since Amenhotep-III died. There is no wine label dated longer than Horemheb's 14th year, but there are some records in which Horemheb claimed to have been pharoah a lot longer.
The final mystery (why the tomb survived without being robbed) is the easiest. When found, it was under several feet of rock and silt from numerous flash floods of the Valley of the Kings. (That's why no king wanted to be buried on the valley floor, leaving that unwanted spot for the loyal bureaucrat Ay so he could be close to the pharaohs he served. That would have been a rare honor. Perhaps Ay talked an 11-year-old king into thinking this was a good idea?)