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Monday, August 31, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23-29 August 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Fighter Operations. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week was the Advanced Missions Rulebook.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were SFB Commander's Edition Update #2, Star Fleet Times #16-20, and the Advanced Missions Rulebook.

Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations, the Klingon Master Starship Book, and other projects. Steve and Leanna took two days off to drive to Weatherford to pick up their new daughter-in-law, Misca Cat Bengal, a new companion for the lonely Ramses Cat Bengal.

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

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with five 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 the sixth Battlewagon article, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,741 friends), managed our Twitter feed (159 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, updated the Product Update List and Text Catalog, proofread the Klingon Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 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.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

On Route 66 and Cadillacs and Steaks

Jean Sexton muses:

Sometimes we get visitors in Amarillo. Of course, we are excited to show them the business, from entry to printing plant to warehouse. But what else is there in Amarillo? Over the next couple of months I'll be looking at some of the fun things to do in the area.

Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles and then to Santa Monica. It was created in 1926 and was officially decertified in 1985 when the interstate system took over the pathway, bypassing the cities and towns along the way. Still, there are maps that show how to follow the old path. Part of that goes through Amarillo. Along the 6th Street Historic District there are all sorts of boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants with something for nearly every traveler.

Cadillac Ranch inspired the Cadillac Range mountains in Cars. These 10 Cadillac cars, each buried halfway in the dirt of the field, display their fin art for all to see traveling west of Amarillo. Decorated with multiple layers of paints, this public art is often redecorated by people traveling by.

And then there is the Big Texas Steak Ranch. Have you seen Tex Dinoco in Cars?  He was inspired by the big stretch limousines at this restaurant. Probably most famous for the 72 ounce "eat it all in one hour and it is free" steak, the Big Texan is an over-the-top view of Texas.

There are many more things to see and do, but these are right at Amarillo and on Route 66. Stay tuned for the next post I write!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Gerrold's Laws of Infernal Dynamics

1. Any ship in motion will always be headed in the wrong direction.

2. Any ship at rest will always be in the wrong place.

3. The energy required to change either one of these states will always be more than you can afford to expend, but never so much as to make the task totally impossible.

(c) 1993 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #12. Thanks to Tom Gondolfi.

Thursday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Steven Petrick is Working On

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Not much to report on ongoing projects.

Most of the graphics for the Klingon Master Star Ship Book are done, but some still need to be done.

Line item reports on errors are still showing up and being dealt with as they appear. Recently a significant gaff was found and fixed. That gaff is in regards to "Anarchist" ships. While SSDs for these ships have appeared, most are simply "what if so and so empire converted a ship it captured from such and such empire" and not formally published. As most Anarchist articles are general guidelines despite a few published SSDs, we do not normally include those ships. The exceptions are generally those "formally published" or for which there is a "real history." Thus, of course, the Hydran book included the original Anarchist ship, the D7H Anarchist. Just as obviously a Tholian book will include the TK5 Exile, an Orion book the OK6 Conquest, and a WYN book would include several different ships of Klingon, Kzinti, and Lyran manufacture (plus some others).

So, what was the gaff that showed up at this late date? Way back in Captain's Log #19 the "Drone Ranger" was published as part of an "Anarchist" article in which Hydran ships were converted to Klingon technology. The Drone Ranger, however, was defined as a "real ship" and was given the name Maelstorm (improperly spelled Malestorm in the article). While there is no published scenario involving the ship, its background led to it playing a role in the fiction story in Captain's Log #36, albeit as a background supporting character. It was,  however, in a role specifically mentioned in its write up (supporting the Seltorian Tribunal against the Tholians).

So at this juncture the ship's description had to be inserted into the Klingon Master Star Ship Book and updated to the standard thereof. This has been done. And an errata item for the Ranger in the Hydran Master Star Ship Book has been generated for a future reprinting that will include this ship as a variant of the Ranger.

The Romulan Master Star Ship Book continues to be updated with elements that appear in the Klingon Master Star Ship Book that are appropriate to it.

I am also working on a scenario file for Captain's Log #51.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Monday, August 24, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 August 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of significant progress. The Federation & Empire counters arrived, restoring the F&E Boxed Set, F&E Advanced Operations, and F&E Reinforcements to stock. We also moved our shopping cart to a new host, upgraded the software, and added the new items. Fans began buying the new counters. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were Captain's Log #14 and SFB Commander's Edition Update #2.

Steve Cole worked on the Fighter Operations 2015 rulebook, completing the changes and sending the whole thing to the staff. Steve's injuries (from his accident last week) kept him from exercising much, but he managed to make a quarter mile every day.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #51 and the Klingon Master Starship Book (which would be finished except that Steve Cole was too busy with FO15 to create the Early Years and X-ship art). Steven Petrick proofread FO15 in a bid to move that project forward and out of the way. He made some updates to Romulan Master Starship Book but that book remains mostly on hold as the staff focuses on the final fixes of Klingon Master Starship Book.  

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 and some graphics.

Jean won the "Battle of the Fighter Hyphens" against the Steves, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,722 friends), managed our Twitter feed (156 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread (About Federation & Empire, Klingon Master Starship Book, Fighter Operations 2015), took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 23, 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, August 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/).

Friday, August 21, 2015

Elle Magazine Interviews SVC

Ok, not really. Leanna saw some TV show about Elle magazine (which is about ladies’ fashions) and ran out to buy a copy. I flipped through it and noticed an interview with some dress designer, and thought that it would be a hoot to answer those questions.

Other than yourself, who are your favorite designers?
That’s a tough question, because I haven’t played very many games in the last 10 years. I have to say that I still respect the work Jim Dunnigan did decades ago. Of the modern designers, I would say that the Siadek brothers and their Battlestations game are a favorite, and that Ken Burnside’s 3d game system is truly elegant (even if 3d games are basically unplayable due to complexity).

If you could come back as a wargame (dress), what game would it be?
The Federation Commander equivalent of F&E, with plastic spaceship toys.

If you could come back as a military leader (model), who would it be?
Somebody really awful. Maybe Simon Bucker or Gideon Pillow. That way, I couldn’t do worse.

Favorite color?
Royal blue.

Favorite junk food?
Brownies. Chocolate. Cherry fried pies.

What are you most vain about?
I don’t know that I am vain. I certainly don’t care much about my appearance, my hair, or my weight.

What are you most shy about?
I cannot think of anything.

Who are your fantasy poker-night buddies?
General Heinz Guderian, Crazy Horse, General Robert E. Lee, and Genghis Khan. Lee always wins because he’s ariverboat gambler at heart.

Fantasy celebrity one-night stand?
Dianna Rigg.

Favorite place to play a game?
In a college dorm in Baltimore at Origins 1976.

Favorite game you did not design?

Last book you read?
War for the Union, by Allan Nevins. It’s a very different civil war book. The battles are barely mentioned. The book is all about politics, economics, and social changes.

I serve Isis and Ramses.

What's for breakfast?
Aunt Jemima microwave french toast. McDonald’s (biscuits and gravy, or bacon-egg-cheese biscuit). The country breakfast at the Bowling Alley.

At age 7, you wanted to be?
A soldier. Or maybe a fighter pilot.

What do you find easiest to forgive?
Betrayal. Being stabbed in the back.

What do you find impossible to forgive?
Being lied about.

Do you have any superstitions?
If I spill salt, I throw some over my shoulder.

Favorite place to shop?
I’m a guy. I don’t shop much. Maybe an Army Navy store.

Whose wallet would you like to steal?
Nobody’s. I don’t steal.

Whose diary would you most like to read?
Bill Clinton’s.

If you were an inventor, what would you want to invent?
Cold Fusion, so I could end the energy crisis.

Who is your favorite furniture designer?
No idea.

A blue Cobalt named Spitfire.

What was your childhood nickname?
Birdman. I saw a picture of a basketball game in which somebody stretched out his arms and legs to block another player. I tried that in a second grade game and people thought I was an idiot.

When and where are you happiest?
In uniform with an M16 rifle in my hand.

Who is your best friend?
Best male friend is Petrick. Best female friend is Leanna. If wives don’t count, then Jean.

Who is your worst enemy?
I don’t know that I have one any more. All of them seem to have gotten tired of losing and went away.

What piece of art would you most like to own?
Something very, very expensive so I could sell it.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Don’t really have one. Somewhere with mountains.

What is your most treasured possession?
I cannot say I have one. It’s all stuff, it’s all replaceable. Even family stuff is just stuff somebody is going to have to give away or sell in a garage sale after I die.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
Horatio Hornblower.

Who are your favorite musicians?
Mason Williams. Neil Diamond.

If you were not a game designer, what would you rather be?
A soldier, or an archaeologist, or a paleontologist.

What current trends would you like to see disappear?

Favorite trend of all time?
Hexes and die cut counters.

Worst trend of all time?
Collectible card games.

Thursday, August 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!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Federation & Empire Countersheets Are Here!

Jean Sexton reports:

Great news! The F&E countersheets have come in and many products are back in stock.
We are finally able to offer the boxed set of Federation & Empire with the bases sheet. While you didn't need the bases sheet to play the game, many people thought it was convenient.

You can find the boxed set at your friendly local game store or order directly from ADB: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=5006&Category_Code= 

Did you order a copy of Federation & Empire while we had it discounted for the bases sheet? Do you want the bases countersheet now? You can order it directly from ADB: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=5006-8&Category_Code=

 Have you been wanting to add Advanced Operations to your game shelf? It is now back in stock and can be ordered from your local game store. If they don't carry it, then you can order it directly from ADB: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=3209&Category_Code=

The new N+O sheet that goes in Advanced Operations is also available directly from ADB. We think you will like the new sheet as it now has 280 counters: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=3209-3&Category_Code=

That N+O sheet is also in Federation & Empire Reinforcements. That can be ordered from your local game store or bought directly from ADB: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=3201&Category_Code=

Another new countersheet is the I+J countersheet that is included in Fighter Operations. We are still working on updating that rulebook, but you can get a head start and order the new countersheet (with 280 counters) directly from ADB (and have them all ready to go when the new rulebook hits the shelves!): http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=3203-8&Category_Code=

Just remember to Play On!

Tuesday, August 18, 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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 August 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 250 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week was the SFB Module C5 Rulebook.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were the C5 Rulebook and the Federation Commander Orion Pirates Ship Card Pack #1.

Steve Cole worked on art for the Klingon Master Starship Book and worked on Communique, Hailing Frequencies, the free "About F&E" book, and F&E Fighter Operations 2015. Steve and Wolf walked a total of five miles. Steve suffered a serious fall on Saturday but was back at his desk by Monday.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #51, the Klingon Master Starship Book, the Romulan Master Starship Book, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with eight new entries and three updates.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and fixed the problem with SVC's email.

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 2,705 friends), managed our Twitter feed (157 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread (Communique, Hailing Frequencies, KMSSB, About F&E, and F&EFO-15), took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on being "the uncle of the bride" at the wedding of Leanna's niece.

Amy's wedding was at her parents' country house, in a big tent. About a hundred guests were there all afternoon, wandering around, chatting, waiting for the ceremony, listening to the music, enjoying the catered BBQ, and so forth.

Amy only had a few relatives there (parents, Leanna and myself, her brother and sister-in-law, three from her mother's family). Her parents were all kinds of busy (Susie with the food, Hank with getting the electrical system ready for the ceremony and the band) so I decided to get busy and help. I haven't been to that many weddings in my lifetime (two aunts, a few cousins, one friend) but I have seen enough reality television shows to know that there are things to be done. One of them is for some close relative of the bride to greet the guests, so I assigned myself that job because nobody else was doing it. It wasn't hard to do (actually, it was kind of fun). I just walked up to a guest (or small group of them) and said "Hello. I'm Amy's uncle, Steve. And you are?" After their answer, if they didn't keep the conversation going, I would fall back on "I'm an engineer. What do you do?" A few minutes chat with each guest and I felt comfortable with moving on. I even chatted with the caterers and musicians. Hank seemed pleased with my help because he was far busier with electrical issues than he had expected to be, and I really took a load off of him.

I found myself amazed at how much fun it all was. I had rarely done anything like that. (I'm usually a stay in the corner kind of guy, but I was forced to learn to chat with strangers at game conventions.) By all accounts, the guests felt good about a personal conversation with a close relative of the bride, and I even found a few people (including an engineer, an Army officer, and an electronics technician) that I could have seriously interesting conversations with.

When I got home, I wondered if "uncle of the bride" is actually "a thing" in the real world. It turns out that it is. Sometimes the uncle of the bride has to stand in for an absent father, or walk the younger daughter down the aisle if sisters are having a double wedding. Most often, however, the uncle of the bride is the primary assistant to the father of the bride, taking on some of his duties if the job is too time consuming. Depending on which job the father of the bride wants (greeting guests or behind-the-scenes logistics) the uncle of the bride (who might be the father of the bride's brother or brother-in-law) can reduce the stress by half and make the day enjoyable for everyone.

Besides, if I hadn't been greeting guests, I would have just been reading a book in the corner.

Saturday, August 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.

Friday, August 14, 2015


Written by Frank McLaughlin

Revenge is a dish best served cold.-Klingon proverb

"Gentlemen, it is good to be back in power," Chairman Torrance announced to his cabinet. Long-suffering Unionists like himself, they all agreed wholeheartedly. The election of November Y188 had thrown the Federalists out on their collective ears or other body parts, and had restored the natural order of things, control of the Federation by the Union Party.

The Unionists were well into their fourth term in office when the Klingons came over the border in Y171, and had remained in power until the elections of November Y174. The attempt to end the War (and preserve the Union Party's grip on power) had collapsed at Olsen's Reach, and the Federalists had won power in a landslide, denying Baranov his second term. For the last decade, the Unionists could only wring their hands in frustration (or in shame, as the Federalists saw it) while the Federal Party "won the war" (anyone knew that the Union Party would have won it just as quickly - and at lower cost!) and blamed the intelligence failures that led to the Klingon surprise attack on the Unionists.

But the War was over, and the Federal Party Line wasn't playing to the crowds on Aldebaran - or anywhere else. The Federalists had warned of ISC encroachment, but the Unionists had correctly shown the voters that the ISC was doing them a favor by keeping former enemies (and future friends!) at bay while each nation came to its senses and restored a progressive government unlikely to start wars by building a bloated military that would, sooner or later, have to be used. The Federalists had railed against no end of threats, from the Andromedans (who were a mystery, but only a minor annoyance) to the Xorkaelians (who had not raided Federation territory in years and might never return). Federal Party claims that the Klingons and Romulans were still threats did not resonate with voters, who were attracted to Union Party promises of a peace dividend. Demobilizing half of Star Fleet had been Torrance's first executive order, having come into office as a "New Unionist" who would take a realistic view of actual military needs.

The "New Unionist" label did not sit well on the Old Unionists of Torrance's cabinet. They were, in fact, firmly committed to their old policies of social reform, and were already using their majority in the Council to ram through a platform that raised taxes, reduced the war debt, diverted most of the military's budget to civilian programs, and launched a dozen new spending initiatives, all designed to help "the citizens" (and the Union Party). But what really irked them all was that they had to call themselves "New Unionists" to escape the blame for the General War, for the Klingon invasion not being detected in time, and for the initial defeats suffered by the military and those billions of citizens who spent the next decade under Klingon or Romulan occupation.

But that was going to change.

"I have a matter that I need to bring to your attention," the newly-appointed head of the GIA said. He had considered bringing this matter up privately to Chairman Torrance, and morally he should have, but Torrance really was a "New Unionist" and just might have decided to let the past stay buried in the past. The Old Unionists on his cabinet (selected for him by a "search committee" of party loyalists) could be trusted to bring the matter under the intense light of public scrutiny, where it could do the Old Unionists the most good. Most of those on the cabinet were the under-secretaries of Chairman Buckner's pre-war cabinet, and remained friends with their former bosses. Those former bosses were denied their proper role as "Elder Statesmen" due to the shame of their failures in Y171-Y174. Remaining under the mantle of disgrace, the Old Unionists were never invited to the Sunday morning trivideo programs, nor did they get their well-deserved sinecures on corporate boards and academic campuses.

"What's up?" Torrance asked. "Did you finally find a way to use the Roswell files to our advantage?"

That brought a chuckle around the table. Every administration to come to power for the last three centuries had been briefed on the long-buried secrets of their predecessors, and everyone here had seen those files when their party last came to power. The fact that the Roswell File had never been revealed to the public was due to the inability of any party in power to devise a way that its release could be used against the other party.

"No, not that," the GIA Director responded, "although I do have a team working on an idea or two." More chuckles around the table. Everyone had heard that one before. "What I found was this." He produced a stack of papers and passed them to his colleagues, who quickly circulated them. The document was brief and everyone had read it within a couple of minutes.

"If Star Fleet could just add engines to their existing ships, why didn't they?" the Minister for Agriculture asked.

"Sounds like all of the spare engines were stored at the forward bases," the Minister for Education responded. "They must have been destroyed or captured in the first assault."

"At least this explains why that first assault focused on our bases," the Minister for Defense theorized. "I had wondered why they didn't attack the mobile fleet elements first and pick off the bases afterwards. Now it all makes sense."

"Poppycock!" the Minister for Natural Resources snorted. "Listen, I am an engineer, and I can tell you that the ships were never designed for this kind of conversion. It just won't work."

"Why not?" the Minister for Justice asked. "Standard parts. It seems simple enough, and didn't we do that anyway with the NCA and the FFB? And anyway, I thought you were a mechanical engineer, not a warp field engineer."

"But I do understand the technology, and you don't, you twit!" the Minister for Natural Resources spluttered. "Let me explain. The warp field dynamics..." It took him all of ninety seconds to leave even the most technologically astute of his colleagues behind. Chairman Torrance shut him down after another minute.

"Obviously, this is a matter that deserves a full investigation," he said. "Did the military lie to the government about what it could do, or was the military so incompetent that it placed all of the parts for these conversions in the most vulnerable bases?" Left unsaid was the obvious - the General War, the surprise attack, and the initial defeats, had been the fault of either military incompetence or military fraud, but most definitely not of the Union Party.

"We need a blue ribbon commission to find out!" the Minister for Justice exclaimed. Everyone quickly agreed, knowing that their retired bosses from the Buckner Administration would get jobs on that panel. All except the retired defense minister and the retired head of the GIA, who could not take part (since the board members must be unbiased!) but who would be vindicated either way. An entire generation of Old Unionists would be restored to public favor at a stroke. All of them would be full professors and on several corporate boards within the year and, when the current cabinet retired, there would be jobs on idyllic university campuses (with plenty of golf trips for corporate board meetings) for them as well.

"That's not the best part of it," the Minister for Commerce noted. "Did anyone happen to read the list of names of the officers who prepared and signed this report?"

"I ran a check on the flag officers who signed it," the head of the GIA reported, "but they all died during the war."

"Read further. Down at the end. Lieutenant Commander - that's pretty low down, right? - Carstairs. Jonathan P. Carstairs."

"Oh my God," the Minister for Justice gasped. "Carstairs? That Carstairs?" Everybody at the table knew that Fleet Admiral Jonathan P. Carstairs, hero of Ribinax, was the name being spoken about as the next Federal Party candidate for Chairman.

"Yep, it's him," the Treasury Minister reported, holding up his PDA to show the entry from Who's Who. "He was on the Threat Board from Y160 through Y162." Things would change indeed.

(c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 13, 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, August 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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Size Matters, So Does Interest, Make It Unusual

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When creating a scenario, it is tempting to go for the large major fleet action.

The problem with such large scenarios is playability.

Even a Hydran fleet composed of a Paladin, Lord Bishop, 2xDragoons, Apache, 2xTartar, Warrior, 2xKnight (the medium cruisers and destroyers are formed into a battlegroup allowing one extra ship to be used), 2xCuirassier, and a New Scout Cruiser is going to have more than 27 Stinger fighters to keep track of.

That is 27 units that you have to move when called on to move, remember which are under erratic maneuvers, and which dropped erratic maneuver to fire weapons, which had to use a chaff pack to decoy enemy drones and whether or not the delay between then and when they can fire their weapons has passed. Which ones changed speed, and when can they change speed again. Which ones have satisfied their turn modes, and which can sideslip this turn and which cannot. Which ones are carrying two pods, which are carrying one pod, and which have no pods; not to mention what kinds of pods. Which are within reach of a platform that can lend them electronic warfare, and which ones have moved beyond the reach of lent electronic warfare. Which ones have fired one fusion charge, and which ones have fired both. Which ones fired two pulses of phaser-G at a drone, and which still have all four pulses left. Which ones are undamaged, and which ones will be crippled by another damage point. Which ones used a high energy turn already during the current turn, and which ones still can.

All that in addition to keeping track of what the 13 ships in the fleet are doing (and trying to figure out what the enemy is doing).

Large scenarios can look good, but they generally cannot be played by a pair of players over a long weekend to a conclusion (and you do not want to think what this Hydran fleet would like in terms of fighters if the ships were all their fusion/fighter counterparts, i.e., the number of fighters to track would more than double).

So when designing a scenario, look for something that is small enough to be enjoyable, and try to make it interesting. Special tasks (covered by special rules) beyond the norm of just get in there and destroy something.

But when creating those special tasks, keep in mind the capabilities. Requiring ship "A" to capture ships "B" is all well and good, but you need to consider if ship "A" actually has a chance to accomplish your special task of capture. If ship "A" has the same number of boarding parties as ship "B," and only one transporter, it is unlikely it will be able to accomplish the task.

And do not always fixate on the real warships. Think about the options the other ships give you for fights. Perhaps a battle between mining interests in Kzinti space, involving armed freighters, mining freighters, skiffs, and free traders could be interesting. Yes, it is a kind of "civil war" but the two sides might not be really serious (i.e., crippled merchant ships would be required to disengage rather than fight to the death because the owners do not want to lose their ships). Maybe the whole battle is an attack on and defense of a prospecting platform which the attacker wants to capture (balance the forces here).

Use your imagination, keep it small enough to be playable in an evening, and use things that players seldom get a chance to see in a small hard fought battle.

Monday, August 10, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 August 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects. The weather this week was hot. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 250 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week were the B&W and the color SSD books for SFB Module C5 - The Magellanic Cloud.

Steve Cole worked on art for the Klingon Master Starship Book, Communique, Hailing Frequencies, and on F&E Fighter Operations 2015. Steve and Wolf walked a total of five miles.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain’s Log #51, the Klingon Master Starship Book, the Romulan Master Starship Book, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies.

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, worked on Hailing Frequencies, and some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,688 friends), managed our Twitter feed (154 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Klingon Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 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.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

On Accidents and Leases and Doctor Who

Jean Sexton muses:

I am a klutz. Always have been; always will be. I can walk into table corners, stub my toe on the most innocuous pieces of furniture, turn my ankle on flat ground, and trip at the drop of a hat. I try to use handrails on stairs because my doctor ordered it. And I have to admit that that the more I walk Wolf, the less klutzy I seem to get.

Still, on Tuesday I tripped on the curb while I was crossing the street. The city had put down a mix of tar and gravel to repave the street; I wanted to avoid that. So instead of crossing at the base of handicapped ramp, I was to the side. One foot cleared the sloping pavement; the other did not. Embarrassingly I fell flat on my face. One knee was badly scraped. I used my right arm (of course) to break my fall.

What I took away from the experience was the kindness of people. Yes, many people drove by, but one lady stopped to find out if I were okay. She offered to turn around and drive me back to work, even though she was obviously going somewhere. At work, I was fussed over and finally sent home with orders to stay at home the following day, too. The next day, Steve Cole picked up Wolf and took him to work so I wouldn't have to walk him and further hurt my sore knee.

The fall meant I didn't get by the management office of the apartment complex where I live. I needed to get a copy of my lease, especially with the change in management companies. I was reminded by friends to always, always, always get a copy of any legal document you sign. It had never been an issue in the past, so I thought maybe they were going to mail it to me. No, they didn't and weren't. I was told it was such a long document that they didn't usually print it out for the person anymore. I'll know to ask next time. I'll pick it up on Monday. That way I can refresh my memory of the rules I agreed to obey.

A while back I ordered back seasons of Doctor Who. Where I lived before, I didn't have access to the channel the show was on.  When it was added to the lineup, I wanted to catch up and watch. My plan failed. The landlord watched my DVDs when I was out of town and then didn't want to watch them again. As he was home more than I and there was only one television, that meant I didn't get to watch them. With my enforced rest, I decided now was the time.

I had fallen in love with Doctor Who back in the 1980s when the local PBS re-broadcast them on weekend afternoons. I loved the Fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker. His wild hair and long scarf tickled me. The humor made me laugh. I hoped that the new series would also make me laugh. It did. I binge watched the first season. I can see just why so many episodes were nominated for Hugo Awards. I have started the second season.

I like the subtle humor and the drama in the stories. What I really like is returning to my science fiction roots. I have read and watched so much fantasy lately that I had moved away from science fiction, except for the Star Fleet Universe. It is sad that I had to fall to find my roots, but I am glad I did find them. And my lease says nothing about having a TARDIS materialize, so long as no one stays more than seven days. So Doctor, feel free to drop in!

Friday, August 07, 2015

ARROW by Jeff Wile

I shot an arrow in the air, where it lands, I know not where.

The music playing in the background was one of those retro-avant-garde things popular with the younger people.

There were many people celebrating the end of the year 160 and the start of the new year 161 in the offices of the United Federation of Planets, Diplomatic Affairs Division. For reasons lost to history, Star Fleet referred to this organization as "foggy bottom".

At the center of attention was a young appointee, the assistant deputy head of Klingon affairs. One reason for the enthusiastic party was his impending promotion to be the Deputy Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. He was speaking loudly as the champagne did the talking. "...and those paranoid cowboys over at Star Fleet would believe anything we send them, just so long as it feeds their delusions that the Klingons are likely to invade any minute!"

The response, a thundering roar fueled by Napoleon brandy, encouraged him to continue. Soon, everyone was chiming in and one of the secretaries was typing it all into a file that would be enjoyed again and again over the coming weeks. But as the amounts of intoxicating and mind-altering substances increased prodigiously, logic and consistency retreated at an equal pace. A complete recitation of the dialog is neither needed or necessary to understand the events as they transpired, but each "estimation" of what the Klingons were likely to do was even more absurd, and even more hilarious, than the previous one.

As the party dragged on, several of the staffers assisted the secretary in turning the humorous memo into a full-blown political Threat Assessment. Fueled by good humor, everyone made an effort to out-do their peers in thinking of yet more preposterous theories of what the Klingons were doing, might do, would think about doing, or would do if they thought of it. The latest Klingon five-year plan for increased food production was accepted not as the grandly optimistic lie that it always was, but as a clever understatement of true production. Vague intelligence reports about a new faster drone were extrapolated into hard data that drones capable of warp-six were already in service. Tenuous estimates of the new "fighter shuttle" designs were rewritten as solid reports on small craft able to exceed warp four and smash cruisers with a single volley from half a squadron. The barest hint of a new Klingon "war cruiser" design was presented as a ship with more firepower than a C6 dreadnought. Most ominous of all, the new Treaty of Smarba that had brought the Romulans into the modern military era was expanded to include secret Klingon efforts to buy alliances with the Gorns and Kzintis in exchange for slices of the soon to be conquered United Federation of Planets.

The final act of the last lucid member of the group, as he was falling into unconsciousness, resulted in the transmission of the document to Star Fleet. It could be argued that this transmission was accidental in as much as the direct cause of the offending keystroke was the author's head striking the computer workstation as gravity over came his ability to remain vertical.

Star Fleet, being composed of individuals with more logic (and a better grasp of the intelligence reports) than the diplomats, quickly realized that the "threat assessment" was a joke. While cleverly written and almost plausible in any of its elements, the overall effect was one grand laugh riot. The efforts of individual diplomats to exceed each other in the absurdities of their assessments had produced an effort that had, after three centuries of literary failure, eclipsed that of the Harvard Lampoon's infamous parodies. The other historical event related to the incident was that the Diplomatic Corps had, for the first time ever, actually sent a document that impressed Star Fleet (even if not in the way intended).

Star Fleet was legally obliged by the Federation Charter to respond to any threat assessment sent by the Diplomatic Corps. Any department run by people of normal intelligence and disposition (e.g., Agriculture, Finance, Natural Resources) would have simply laughed at the Threat Assessment and shredded it. But Star Fleet was composed of individuals who had both a wicked sense of humor and a mindset to never allow themselves to be upstaged, bested, or defeated. As Star Fleet is fond of saying, in war you don't get points for coming in second. In Anything.

The challenge of the Diplomatic Corps would have to be met, and not simply met but exceeded in both cleverness and absurdity. Star Fleet was obliged to produce (without the advantage of being intoxicated) a "Response Plan" that was even more absurd, and yet at the same time was even more plausible, than the Threat Assessment. This was a considerable challenge, and time was of the essence. They could not take months to craft a reply; they had at most a day, perhaps even just a few hours. Star Fleet, being comprised of Academy graduates who (for the most part) held engineering degrees, knew that new ship designs and new weapons technologies were a decade away and could not be used as part of the Response Plan. Besides, it would never do to expose actual secret programs (even to the Diplomatic Corps) and doing so would lack both cleverness and the proper amount of absurdity. They considered simply announcing plans to build a thousand new ships, or to activate hundreds of non-existent mothballed ships, but they had to concede among themselves that even the diplomats would know how many ships could be built and how many were in storage. After all, the Diplomatic Corps continually complained about how much money was spent on ships, shipyards, and mothball storage of "unnecessary surplus" ships.

After much discussion, Star Fleet officers hit upon the idea of a massive fleet-wide refit of all classes, including the dreadnought, cruiser, destroyer, scout, and even the lowly transport tug. Noting that all of these classes used the same engines and that a handful of these standard engines were stockpiled for "maintenance float" (a fact the Diplomatic Corps complained of during budget conferences), Star Fleet's response plan was the essence of simplicity, and simplicity is the greatest virtue to which any military plan can aspire. The officers charged with meeting the challenge of crafting an absurd but plausible reply announced that the original designs of those ships allowed all of them to be given an extra engine with a few days at any convenient base. The dreadnought would then have four engines, the cruiser and tug (as well as the blueprint NCL) would have three, and the destroyer and scout would have two. In effect, every ship in the fleet would grow to the next larger size (destroyers into cruisers, cruisers into dreadnoughts, and dreadnoughts into battleships) over a long holiday weekend. To provide a little extra creativity, plans were included to weld two old light cruisers together, bottom to bottom, to produce a ship equal to any dreadnought in the galaxy. Vague references were included about adding missile racks to every ship.

The Response Plan was then forwarded back to the Diplomatic Corps, which (unable to grasp that the military had a sense of humor) assumed it to be accurate. The plan was forwarded to the newly-promoted Deputy Ambassador to Klinshai, who adopted a firm posture with the Klingons, convinced of Star Fleet's power. For the next decade, the Diplomatic Corps conducted their relations with the Klingons based on the theory that Star Fleet could double its combat power in a week should any diplomatic miscalculation result in unintended Klingon aggression.

The Klingons intercepted a copy of the Response Plan and were not entirely sure what to make of it. Some felt it was accurate, while others felt it was disinformation. No Klingon could imagine that a mere joke would be sent using government bandwidth.

The Klingons could not take the risk that the report was real. Billions of credits were poured into high-risk weapons programs such as the stasis field generator, high-speed drones, and the B10 battleship. When the Romulans offered mauler technology for ridiculous prices, the Klingons had no choice but to buy it, even if it meant they could not afford cloaking devices as well.

From Captain's Log #28 (c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Klingon Master Starship Book Coming Closer to Launch

This is Steven Petrick posting.

SVC has been working on getting the graphics completed, and as he does so the book comes closer and closer to completion.

So far, all of the "Early General War" units, with the exception of the National Guard ships, have been completed, as well as the fighters and fast patrol ships. This includes the General Units (bases, auxiliaries, civilian ships).

What remains to be done in the graphics is the Early Years ships (and general units), which includes the National Guard ships, and the advanced technology ships (and general units).

Further, Jean Sexton has proof read through the sections of published ships, ships in Captain's Log, and is currently about half-way through the fighters and bombers section.

Jean still needs to read the Marines, Fast Patrol Ships, Early Years, Advanced Technology, and General Sections.

And of course I am still begging the staffers to search the files for problems (and am grateful for any reports I receive, I would rather not find myself with embarrassing typos or ship descriptions that conflict).

Once this book is complete, the Romulan book will be sent out. It has not been sitting idle, but as some items have been reported by the staff or found by Jean that apply to it, these items are fixed. The book is already in better shape than the Klingon book was when it was sent out as a result, although that nagging problem with every empire having some differences in information that is in the format keeps cropping up.

The Gorns and Orions will both have line items "Federation Reporting name" which does not occur in the Klingon, Romulan, or Hydran formats when those books are done as an example.

All the empires are the same, except where they are different, and figuring out where their differences go in the format is part of the problem in doing the books.

Probably the most time consuming thing to get the Romulan book out is going to be graphics, as currently there are almost none in the whole draft, but SVC has an existing graphics file we can start from when the time comes.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the Star Fleet Universe.

1. We recently noticed on the BBS some customers discussing a new type of freighter. I remarked that the idea was obvious, had been thought of by us before anyone else had seen the ship that inspired the idea, and that we had never printed it because it had no real function in the game other than being a target (the game has all of those it needs) and that players would resent being "forced to pay for it." (Hundreds of the ship probably exist in the universe.) One player asked if we could do a whole book of such "ships that players don't want to buy" and sell it as a PDF. I explained that this was impractical. It would take as much work as a book of ships that players did want to buy, so we'd be canceling a product that would sell well to print a product that will sell maybe 10% as many copies. I mean, really, just say "book of ships that players don't want to buy" out loud and you realize the situation. Steven Petrick added that there are only two of us Steves here in the company to do any such book so wise choices must be made as to which book we do.

2. I found myself last June, as many creative people do, wandering from project to project without getting anything finished. Recognizing my failure, I called a board meeting, explained the problem, and requested that they help me design a plan to focus my efforts. It took an hour (and had to be revised when we realized that we had left out my part of one product) but it looked good. The first thing to do was to send the Federation & Empire counters to press, which involved a lot of game design and graphic design. Now I am taking a few days to do the graphics for the Klingon Master Starship Book (the project we forgot when writing the plan) because that art was all that remained between three months of Steven Petrick's hard work and putting the book on sale.

3. We had something of a fiasco in July. After the Federation & Empire staff spent April, May, and June checking the four F&E countersheets, I sent them to press. When we got the proofs back, we found that the die cutter had faithfully done exactly what we sent, but that the files we sent included dozens of mistakes nobody had caught. A crash program in four very intense days did the sheets over again and resubmitted them to the printer (who charged us $309 extra to do them over and delayed the entire job two weeks). Everybody was frustrated and upset. I set out to discover what went wrong and how to prevent it in future. What I found was shocking (beyond the fact that the F&E staff had done their worst job of checking counters in history, a shock in itself). When I originally did two of the sheets, I got frustrated with the way the staff redid the SIT charts, which made it very difficult to find a specific ship. Instead, I "guessed" the backside factors and told the staff to fix them. Putting incorrect information into the sheet was just asking for problems, so in future any "guess" will just be "000" so it is obvious that it is a placeholder. Jean also helped me find a way to quickly produce a SIT that I can use more efficiently. (You can't sort the existing SITs without crashing; they're too big and contain unstable elements from the staff's attempt to do SITs for me. What we can do is delete any column not related to the counters then alphabetize everything that's left.) The night before the counters went to press the first time, Steven Petrick and Jean Sexton had given them "a quick glance" and found several mistakes. I should have taken this as a sign that the F&E staff had not done the job and rechecked everything, but instead I took this as a sign that Steve and Jean had caught everything. I will interpret that sign correctly in future. We also noted that there were identical counters all over the sheet, and the far-flung copies often got missed when we corrected the main group. In future, all counters of a given type will be in one group (because I will put the counters in alphabetical order, which makes also it easier to fix things the staff finds). While I gave the staff three tries at the counters, I only gave Steve and Jean one. In future, they'll check the updated sheets after each round of staff checks, which will give me a read on how good a job the staff is doing.