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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Some Thoughts on Ship Design

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When looking at adding a ship to the game, look at other ships of the same category (if there are any . . . someone might come up with something entirely new that needs to be added) and see what such ships should generally have.

But also check the rules if the ship type has special rules.

You might decide to create a scout, and perhaps all you need is special sensors. After all, the Klingon D5S simply has special sensors replacing the disruptors. But go deeper than that. The D5S while looking good as a "Cruiser sized combat scout" has a significant deficiency: (G24.27) Gathering Information. It is not as good as a Federation NSC because it has only two lab boxes and cannot use two of its special sensors for that function while the Federation NSC (and many other war cruiser scouts) can. Yes, there are other war cruiser scouts that share the D5S's limitation. But if you are converting a ship of any type to be a scout, look at the rules on special sensors and consider if you should tweak some other aspect of the ship, maybe reduce something else to add a few extra labs.

Then there are minesweepers. Minesweeping can be done in two ways, with seeking weapons or with phasers (yes, you can fire other direct-fire weapons at mines . . . but that is pretty much like sweeping mines by running over them). If the empire you are creating the minesweeper for does not have seeking weapons (other than suicide shuttles), then you are going to be using phasers to do the job. So read the rules for sweeping with phasers and know that even if your minesweeper has a dozen phaser-Gs, it cannot sweep more mines in a turn than it has tractor beams (M8.11). In such a case it might be worth giving up some of those phasers for a few extra tractor beams so that you might be able to sweep more mines in a particularly dense minefield.

Troop ships look easy, replace a few things with barracks boxes and you are good to go, right? Not really. You need to make sure you have enough transporters to land the troops, and to land Ground Combat Vehicles. A shuttle bay large enough to accommodate a heavy transport shuttle is nice to land bulk items that cannot be landed by transporter and are too big to be carried by a non-heavy transport shuttle. And do not just think about "landing." Think about "extraction under fire." It is not nice to leave the Marines behind when things go south, and sometimes there is something on the planet that the Marines are fighting to hold a perimeter while the heavy transport shuttle lands and takes off with the big object (whatever it may be). Also you want labs (hospital facilities to treat your wounded troops) and cargo (to carry extra goodies to support the troops). Remember, the typical "warship troop ship" is generally called a "commando ship" because they are most often used for raids when the typical warships do not have enough troops or transporters to get the job done. And typically they do not have shuttle bays to support getting captured material up from the raid site, so the "commando ship" has to be able to do the job . . . and get out of dodge.

So, when you are considering a design, check the rules and look at how other empires do the job. And if you are onto something new, try to look at it from all sides.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Do You Decide What to Make an eBook?

Jean Sexton answers:

This is a simple question with a complicated answer. There are certain books that are a shoo-in for becoming an ebook. Games, magazines, and modules that are out of print are good choices. Some of the early Task Force Games products came to ADB. It would never be cost effective to print the special counters or the maps of those -- not that many are sold and that would mean hiking the price, meaning even fewer would sell. For some people who have fond memories of the games, a PDF is enough to restore those. An ambitious player could piece together the maps and make his counters from those images.

Early issues of Captain's Log were printed off-site. When we ran out of copies, they became out of print. Accidents happen to collections be they floods, mold, or a drink overturned. A PDF gives people a safe way to read an old issue (no fingerprints on those dark covers) or a space-saving replacement. The same is true of the original Prime Directive rules and modules. Star Fleet Battles Module D3 is another such title.

A special subset of those are the earlier versions of Star Fleet Battles. Some people like those versions, even if there are issues with some of the rules. We try to give them PDFs to read and play if they want.

Another category of going up first are the items that are "free." The print versions of some of them have a nominal charge to cover the printing and cost of assembly. These include many issues of the Captain's Log Supplementary File. Since they walk you through the main issue, it lets a reader make an informed decision about purchasing the issue described. The same is true of other of our free books. They describe Federation & Empire, Federation Commander, or Prime Directive.


The "Master" series for Star Fleet Battles and the "Reference" series for Federation Commander have been easy decisions to put up as ebooks. They are useful away from the gaming table, easily searchable by keyword, and easily carried around as an ebook. (The Master Rulebook for Star Fleet Battles is pretty large to take to a casual game.)

Another easy decision were the ship card packs for Federation Commander. The company doesn't have a mass production capable color printer, so the only inexpensive way to get these to players is as an ebook. People who have crossed over to SFB from Federation Commander have clamored for color SSDs. For the same reason as the ship card packs, those are only available as ebooks. Compilation products from Captain's Log such as the Scenario Log for Federation Commander and the Compendiums for Federation & Empire are also easy decisions.

What is hard are the Star Fleet Battles rulebooks and modules. We put up an old version of the SSDs in Basic Set and immediately got bad reviews. They didn't have all of the notes and information ("Crawford boxes") that the players today have come to expect. Those negative reviews hurt the company's image and we had to dedicate time to updating that product. That experience led us to decide to only release "modern" modules or older editions that have been updated. We held off on releasing rulebooks as PDFs to see if piracy of the SSDs would be rampant. They weren't heavily pirated, so we are releasing the rulebooks slowly.

A lot of thought goes into what we release and when. It's a slow process, but we are updating the descriptions of the titles and not flooding the market. Watch us continue to grow our ebook collection.

Monday, June 27, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 June 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was hot. It took an all-hands effort to release the new Klingon D7K, the first 2450 miniature.
Steve Cole worked mostly on Federation Admiral, reaching the end of chapter 7 (page 87) which was sent to Jay. Jean and Steven Petrick have read and marked the first 10 pages, so next week Steve C will work on those fixes and on getting more pages ready for them to read. Jay reported on the first 20 pages and on Chapter 6. Steve C also did ship art for the Romulan Master Starship Book and for SFBOL3G. Steve survived a minor but uncomfortable operation to destroy a kidney stone.
Steven Petrick worked on the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 update, the Romulan Master Starship Book, Federation Admiral proofreading and consistency evaluation, and the new miniatures.
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 the shopping cart, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3145 friends), managed our Twitter feed (194 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Federation Admiral, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

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, June 25, 2016

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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Top 10 Questions a Captain Never Wants to Ask during a Battle, pt. 1

Thanks to Geoff Chard.

1. If you didn't put the drones in the scatterpack, where did you put them?

2. You loaded the photons with WHAT instead of antimatter?

3. Why is the cook leading the Marines?

4. You did WHAT to the warp engines?

5. If the pilots are still on the ship, who is flying the fighters?

Captain's Log #18 (c) 1999, Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Coming of the Exterminator

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I lost most of today because I needed to be at my apartment for the pest control visit.

I know there is little likelihood that the pest control person or the apartment manager would abscond with anything from my apartment. But the fact is that I am responsible for my own property, and I need to be the one who makes sure the door is secured. Particularly since some of the property is capable of misuse. That is a minimum level of security, i.e., at least someone has to violate the locks. At it is I sometimes speak to my neighbors about security violations (the guy in #10 bothers me as he has on several occasions gone to sleep with his door standing open; he insists that he closed it but the door sometimes fails to latch).

So I had to standby until it came the turn of my apartment for the pest control visit.

The visit only lasts a few minutes. Perhaps 10, maybe 15. For that I was waiting from 0900 hrs until almost 1400 hrs.

Tonight, when I get home, I have the joy of moving all of my furnishings back against the wall (and of course I spent a good part of last night moving all of my furnishings away from the wall in preparation for this visit).

You would think that mine would be one of the first apartments visited, being #3, but the process starts from the neighboring complex, and actually counts down rather than up. So mine is one of the last three in the complex I am in that gets a visit.

Well, it is done for another year. But the upshot is that the day has been almost totally used up by this annual rite.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:

1. REEFER, a heavy coat of medium length, comes from the old days of sail ships. Midshipmen (cadets hoping to become officers) were given the dangerous duty of working the highest sails as a test of character. (Every sailor knew that every officer had "taken in the reefs" of the top sails as a young man and thus as brave, steady, and physically fit.) Officers wore a long coat which was impractical for reefing sales. Sailors wore a short peacoat (named from the Dutch word pij which means wool.) Midshipmen wore "reefing jackets" which were longer than pea coats and shorter than officer coats.

2. REMORA, a fish that attaches itself to boats or sharks by means of a suction cup on its head, comes from the Latin word for "delayer" because ancient mariners thought these fish slowed down their sailboats.

3. REMORSE, the feeling of regret we have when we did something bad or stupid that turned out negatively, comes to us from the Latin remordeo, which means "to bite again."

4. REQUIEM, a song or dirge for the dead, typical funeral music, comes from the Latin word for "rest." It is the first word of the Roman Catholic prayer for the dead: "Rest eternal give to them oh Lord."

5. RETALIATE, to strike back against someone who injured you, comes from the Latin "re" (again) and talis (back). It was originally used in the sense "The same to you, jerk!" in response to a verbal insult. It later became a legal term meaning "to give back what was taken" which meant to punish someone according to the injury he caused. (If you stole something, you had to give back the same value. If you injured someone, you were given a similar injury. If you killed someone, then you were killed.) When it first came into English about 1650 it was used to mean "To give you what you gave me" but in the sense of business or trade (yielding the word "retail").

6. REYNARD is simply a name, and would not even be on this list except for how it came to be. Sometime around 1100 it was made up as the name of a fox in a book of simple tales of animals similar to Aesop's Fables or Uncle Remus. No one today uses Reynard to refer to a fox, although it may be why the name was chosen for a rather clever and unpredictable police captain on a current television show. This entry would not even be here except to note that the bear in the stories was named Bruin, an ape in one story was named Moneke, and the lion was named Nobel, three name-words that the unknown author made up for his stories. Bruin is now an alternative word for bear, monkey is a generic term for the lesser cousins of true apes, and noble has become a descriptive adjective which certainly applies to lions among many others.

7. RHUBARB, a theoretically edible plant sometimes baked in pies with lots of sugar, was known to the ancient Greeks as rha. It grew along the Volga which the Greeks considered barbarian lands, and was known as rha barbar.

8. RIGMAROLE, which today means a jumble of unconnected things that one has to go through to get the relatively simply thing you actually want. It began in the 1300s as the "ragman", a list of tasks that the foreman or sergeant needed to assign to his workers or soldiers. Once the boss wrote on the list who had been assigned each job, it became the ragman roll.

9. RIVAL, someone who competes with us for the same object or resource, comes from the Latin rivus or river. Two men who lived on the same stream were called rivalis and it was expected that they would always be arguing about how to share the use of the water. The term easily came to the current meaning. Any two men who argued about sharing any resource were thus "rivalii" in Latin and rivals in English.

10. ROAD, a pathway between two villages wide enough for a wagon, comes to us from the same place as "rode," that is, to ride a horse or wagon. Both words were in Old English as "rad" or rather, were the same word. In time, the English took to spelling it separately as "road" and "rode" to denote what he was doing and where he was doing it. In Scotland, the word was pronounced and later spelled as "raid" but had the same meaning. The trick was that Scotland didn't have a lot of horses and anyone riding a horse down the road was probably a foreigner (or a local nobleman) who had come into the country to steal things (or collect taxes). Thus, the same Old English word "rad" is now three words. Actually, four, since "inroad" meaning "to push into someone else's territory" comes from the same place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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, June 20, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 June 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was hot.

 New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was the Federation Commander: Romulan Ship Card Pack #3.


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (first pass reached page 78), art for the Romulan Master Starship Book, images for SFBOL3G, a new fiction lead story ("the Andro story"),and a new fiction short story ("the ISC story"); wrote a blog; and discussed ISC minis with Metal Express.

Steven Petrick worked on the SFB Module C2 update, the Romulan Master Starship Book, and Captain's Log #52 (monster, battle groups) and proofread the Darwin story.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries and some updates.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, shopping cart fixes, and finished the Wall of Honor update.

ean worked on the shopping cart transition, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,128 friends), managed our Twitter feed (193 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Federation Admiral and a fiction story, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

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, June 18, 2016

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, June 17, 2016

The Mouse Hunt at OK Corral

by Ramses Bengal

OK corral ... OK corral.
There the rodent pack ... made its last attack.
OK corral.
Oh my tuna bowl must I ... give up the hunt
Or take the chance of losing you to others?
Duty calls, my tail's against the wall.
There are no more words to say,
Before I hunt my prey ... my prey
More food ... more food ...
I need more food.
Pop a can let it pour
I'll still ask for more
At the mouse hunt at OK corral.

When the human obeys, we'll all eat our prey,
At the mouse hunt at OK corral.
Boot Hill, Boot Hill,
So cold, so still,
There they lay side by side
The rodents who died
In the mouse hunt at OK corral
The mouse hunt at OK corral.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Past and the Present

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Star Fleet Battles has been around for a long time. It has continued to grow in a number of ways, and this is not without problems.

Historical scenarios have been part of the game's history, not just as a game, but as part of its background. Scenarios are, however, frequently products of the time they were originally written in.

This can haunt us because things that are common knowledge now were not even thought of back then.

A scenario written in 1988 about an attack on an Andromedan Satellite Base could not ask if that base might have mobile weapons platforms, or power absorber mines available to counter the attacker's plasma torpedoes, much less the availability of the temporal elevator.

By the same token, an Andromedan preparing to defend that base might not be aware that the fighters in the attacking force are remotely controlled, making them effectively command controlled scatter packs able to release all of their drones on command (albeit the attacker had better check his control channels before overloading them with more drones than they can handle). (There is, of course, also the possibility of mega-packs.)

Thus a quick scenario about a Federation CVL with six F-18C fighters might not be an easy win over an Andromedan Satellite Base taking only a few turns. The base commander will go up the elevator, reducing the photons to only being able to fire as standard loads (proximity would be available) and greatly inhibiting the use of the ship's phaser-1s. The total direct-fire strength of the CVL (including its shuttles and fighters) would reach 46 points (assuming straight ones were rolled), but is more likely to average about 10 points on turns when the photons are fired. Because the base can sit at level 9 as long as it wants.

It is actually worse, because ECCM cannot be self-lent, but ECM can, so the base might have and edge of four points of ECM (six generated, one point to power a special sensor, and four points lent to itself), which means the maximum damage a phaser-1 can score it only one point, the phaser-3s cannot score any damage, and only proximity fuse photons can hit, reducing direct fire damage to a maximum of only 12 points (assuming both photons hit and all four phaser-1s rolled 1).

Barring reinforcement, however, the CVL will win this scenario by judicious use of drones.

By spreading out the drone launches (so that a T-bomb cannot be dropped down the shaft to get a lot of them) the CVL can destroy the Satellite Base even at the top of the shaft. Timing the base's rotation rate, the Andromedan player can fire his weapons as they come into arc at appropriate ranges. The eight phaser-2s might kill (on average) seven type-I drones. The second special sensor might be used to kill two drones (on average) but would need to be used before it was blinded. The six tractor-repulsors would kill six drones. But the Federation ship and its fighters can launch nine drones a turn for four turns (assuming they are all type-Is, if the drones in the drone racks are type-IV the rate only lasts for two turns). And the Federation ship and its fighters can start launching drones near the end of Turn #X, and continue launching drones at the start of Turn #X+1 so that during one Turn the Base must deal with 18 drones. (And as noted, it has to watch ones coming from the drone racks on the CVL as they might be type-IVs, so hit those with the special sensor and Tractor-Repulsors). Short of that carefully timed T-bomb drop, at least two drones will get through, but since F-18C fighters cannot launch type-IVs those two will only do 24 points of damage (plus another 12 points from the effects of the elevator), and the power absorbers can hold 60 at reinforced levels.

Right now, things look pretty good for the Andromedan do they not? It is going to take the Federation a few turns to start doing real damage.

But the Federation has a few tricks.

One trick is the special rails on the fighters. 10% of the initial loading can be type-III drone frames. That puts enough type-III drone frames available to fully load the six fighters special rails with them (since the carrier has 250 spaces of drones for its fighters). Under (R1.F9) the fighters can each launch both of these drones in a single turn. Better, because of their long range and special targeting the fighters (once you take the time to switch out the type-I drones on the rails and put on the type-III drones) could launch these drones near the end of Turn #X at long range. Follow them (along with the ship) to closer range and launch type-I drones to follow them near the end of Turn #X+1 but at a range where the fighters now have lock-on to the base, and then during the start of Turn #X+2 launch their second drones. And of course the CVL can be doing the same thing (having replaced one drone in each drone rack with a type-III drone). Thus on one turn the Andromedan base would have to deal with 15 type-III drones (two from each fighter and three from the ship) and 18 type-I drones (two from each fighter and six from the ship) for a total of 33 drones arranged to arrive one drone per impulse.

The base's two T-bombs might kill six of the drones (one on its level, one above its level, one below its level). The eight phaser-2s might kill eight drones (not rolling a six a single time in eight shots). The six tractor-repulsors will kill six drones. And both special sensors working in the counter drone role might kill six more drones. But that is only 26 drones out of 33 (and is a best case scenario). Seven drones minimum will hit scoring 84 points of damage to which is added another 12 from the effects of the elevator for 96 points plus the effects of direct-fire (because the base is not able to use a special sensor for ECM) which will probably get you somewhat close to 110 points.

So on Turn #X+4 the base will only have its phasers available for defense, no T-bombs, Tractor repulsors cycling, special sensors blinded by the weapons fire, and the attackers can launch nine more drones, one of which will definitely hit (meaning a minimum of 24 points of damage because of the elevator effects at level 9.

The base will take time to destroy you think.

But not if the fighters are remotely controlled. If they are, then on Turn #X+4 they face not nine drones, but 15 drones, because each remotely controlled fighter can control two drones in its own right and can launch any or all of their drones, so instead of just six drones the fighters will launch 12.

The base might manage to use (G25.4) to get an extra T-bomb or two before the end, but the CVL would probably deploy scatter packs as part of this turn as well.

For the Federation, a bloodless victory, albeit time consuming. Turn #1 the deck crews start removing type-I drones from the drone rails. Turn #2 continue. Turn #3 strike the drones below decks. Turn #4 bring the type-IIIs up from storage. Turn #5 load the type-III drones. Note that two fighters would already have the type-III drones leaving six deck crews to work on four fighters, and the CVL being a carrier it might have bought extra deck crews so that two can work on each fighter. While this is happening the drone racks are adjusted. But it will still take about 10 turns total to destroy the base. Ten long turns when something might arrive to save the base.

And this all assumes the base had no minefield of any kind, and while they would be relatively easy to kill, no mobile weapons platforms which would also need to be disposed.

Star Fleet Battles has grown and become more complex with more options, for both side.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Start Your Company Right

Steve Cole writes:
 When I was young, there was an expression common among engineers and businessmen, "She grew like Topsy." This referred to Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin, but has come to mean anything grew faster and differently than expected. It refers to a business or project which is disorganized and out of control but which got to that point by steps that seemed logical at the time but never envisioned the way things might grow.
When I started my company, I never imagined that it would be in business 40 years later and would have a shopping cart with 1200 product items (including spare parts and so forth) from 10 different product lines. The structure, organization, and foundation were never created, and the company grew to the point that I spend a few minutes each day just trying to find something we have but nobody can remember where it is.
Every now and then over those four decades we realized the lack of organization of some element of the business without seeing that the entire business was operating on the principle of chaos. In each case, I reverse engineered the organization that should have been there to start with, and took time away from creating new products to force that organization into being. (Examples include an index of questions we have answered, a list of Star Fleet Battles scenarios converted into Federation Commander, a list of Star Fleet Battles ships converted into Federation Commander, and a complete index of every item in every issue of Captain's Log.) Now, I have at long last realized that it's not the parts of my business and game universe that lack organization, but the whole thing. If I could get the time machine to work I'd go back to 1979 and give myself some advice that would save me a ton of time later. Until that happens, maybe I can make all of your businesses more efficient by telling you the secrets I have discovered, unveiled, or perceived.
1. Establish a protocol for file names. Most of the lost time is spent looking for something in the computer, but nobody can remember the file name for it. Since there was never a protocol to create file names, we end up trying dozens of possible combinations in the hard disk search program to see if maybe it turns up. Remember that any given product might have dozens of files (cover, chapters of the rulebook, maps, charts, other components, press release, catalog entry, etc.) For example, the cover for SFB Module C1 New Worlds I might be any of these: C1, C1cover, cover-C1, New Worlds One cover, SFBC1NW1, or dozens of other combinations. (Part of the problem is that the proper product name is too long for the file name field in some software.) Just last week, we needed to find the covers for three new products which the graphics lady had done the week before, but she was off that day and the three file names were not part of any pattern. (Each had been cloned from the layout of another cover, and those covers all started with different filename formats.) I would recommend something that includes the product line (e.g., SFB for Star Fleet Battles), the product, and just to be crazy, the stock number.
2. Index things. In fact, index everything. Our magazine always has a page devoted to Q&A and FAQ stuff, but nobody kept track of what had been done before, so we often answered the same question twice (and rarely with different answers). It's not that hard to just copy the text into one big word processor file and run a simple search for keywords to see if we ever answered that question before.
3. A sub-element of the indexing thing (since almost everything I will mention could be handled by establishing and maintaining some kind of index) is a gazetteer listing every planet (and other specific location) we created in our universe. This includes what hex of the strategic game map it is in, what product it is in, and a few notes.
4. Probably the first index I ever created was the Timeline of the Universe, a year-by-year listing of anything and everything that happened (with a source code, such as a scenario number or product name.) Later, I expanded this into a "history book" of my game universe. While it's not finished, it has made research much more efficient. I just set up a (very large) book file, and every time we do a new product I copy any calendar-date information (e.g., a key event) into the page of the history book for that year (some years are 20 pages long). So now if I vaguely remember that the Kzintis sent a fleet to Gorn space for a few years I can find the information I need and with a little extra effort I made sure it is keyed to the original product. So, for example, the introductory historical paragraph for all 1136 scenarios is on the page for the year of each paragraph in the history book.
5. Something I did that has paid major dividends is to set up a book called "Art Gallery Album" and to put into this book every piece of art we have ever had created. There are a couple of thousand of them (and I'm about to divide the book I into different kinds of pictures) since I've been doing this 40 years. But now if I need to find that picture I vaguely remember of a Klingon Marine using a knife on somebody I do not have to flip through a couple of hundred products looking for it; I just turn to the Klingon pages of the Art Gallery Album (Volume 2, People). This also works swell when I finish a product and flip through it filling up the empty spots with random clip art. (Because I have four tactical spaceship games, a strategic space game, a ground combat game, and three -- soon to be six -- RPG systems, all of which sell to different audiences, I can buy one piece of art and use it in every product line -- if I can find it.) This thing is not complete and I'm still hunting down older products on dusty backup disks to copy the art from them, but it's a start. In some cases, a given item might not be the art itself but the file name of a major document containing a lot of graphics (such as the deck plans file for the dozen or so ships we actually have deck plans for).
6. Long ago, I established the FLAP list (finish like a pro) which gives me a checklist (for every product) of all the indexes, catalogs, web pages, and so forth that I need to update. Lately we started the SLAP list (Start Like A Pro) that includes all of the stuff that delays products if I forget to do it far enough ahead of time.)
7. You need an archive of every product you ever did. Every time you do a product, the FLAP list should say "get two copies and put one in Archive Box #1 and the other in Archive Box #2." You'll be glad some day you have these. Store them off site in the attic of your home and somebody else's home. When you reach retirement age you can auction them on Ebay to pay for your dream trip around the world.
8. While you're at it, buy a bookcase and some of those stand-up magazine file boxes and keep one copy of every product you ever did in your office. This is handy for a quick reference, but as you inevitably notice typos and things you could improve, mark them (go ahead, just write on the page with your pen) and when it is time to reprint any given product be sure to check the office file copy for things you should fix. I printed a few sheets of 30-up mailing labels that say "Error Record Copy" and mark the books so people know what they are when they find them in the conference room and put them back on my bookshelf.
Everything you do in your company (which you expect to be successful and stay in business for decades) needs to be organized in a way you can find it later. Start from the start to be able to find that stuff 18 years later when you're on deadline and really need it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 June 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on new projects. We did release Hailing Frequencies and Communique #126 a day early.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #21.


Steve Cole finished the Captain's Log #51 FLAP list (although Simone won't have all the Wall of Honor updates posted until next week), did some other projects (including missing shopping cart text and graphics), caught up the administrative backlog, reviewed a possible novel, and started work on Fed Admiral campaign book.

Steven Petrick worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, the Captain's Log #52 monster and battle group articles, and other projects.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 10 new entries and four updates.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did shopping cart updates and sent the two newsletters.

Jean worked on updating the shopping cart, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,127 friends), managed our Twitter feed (193 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread various things, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

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 are expanding into Kindle books through Amazon. Our first book, For the Glory of the Empire, was released there recently; more will follow. 

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.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Dale writes:

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

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/backgrounds.shtml.

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into downloadable art, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Friday, June 10, 2016


“What the…?” said the first of them to wake up.

Who are you people?” said the second, a man.

“What is this place?” said the third, a woman.

“Wait a minute,” said the first, a man. “I just woke up. I have no memory of this place, who I am, who you all are, or what we’re doing here. Is it the same for all of you?”

The others at the conference table readily agreed.

“Well, then…” the first said. “We have to assume that we’ve been gassed or hypnotized or somehow had our memories wiped. Before we do anything, we need to figure out who we are. We might be in danger.”

“Is it even possible to wipe someone’s memory but leave them the power of speech?” one of the women asked.

“Only on television,” one of the men answered.

“Obviously, it happened to us,” the first said, “so let’s work on the theory that it is possible. We could be in serious danger. We need to assemble whatever information we can.”

“I remember that we’re in Amarillo, Texas, but not the year,” said the man at the end of the table. The woman beside him pointed at the calendar on the wall. “Same for everybody?” Heads nodded and a few random facts were agreed.

“To figure this out, we have to be able to talk to and about each other,” the first said.

“You’re at the head of the table,” the second one said. “You must be the boss.”

“We don’t know that,” the third one said.

“Ok, then he’s ‘Ace’ and I’m ‘Deuce’,” the second man said. “You’re Trey,” he said to the third one, the woman to his right. “Nice hair, by the way.”

“Thanks, but stay focused.”

“You’re Quad,” Deuce said to the man at the end of the table. “You’re Cinco,” Deuce said to the younger female diagonally across the table. “That makes you Sex,” he said to the woman across the table from him.

“Sex? Really?” she said, kicking Deuce under the table. “Rewind and try again.”

“Sixty?” Deuce suggested, only to get another kick in his knee. “Ok, you’re Hex.” No kick resulted, so they moved on.

“Anybody know anything else about us?” Ace asked.

“I have a wedding ring,” Quad said.

“So do I,” Cinco said. “But all of you are too old to be married to me. I mean, really.”

“I know I’m married, but not to whom,” Trey said.

“What’s this?” Deuce said, grabbing a file folder than had been laying on the table. Going through it, he said to the group: “Good news, bad news. I know who we all are, but we’re not very nice people.” He passed out the six pieces of paper from the file. “I appear to be an Arab terrorist named Ibn Kouskous. I am a chemical engineer and make poison gas bombs.”

“I seem to be an arms dealer named Lana Tigress,” said Trey. “I wonder what the profit margin is on gas bombs?”

“I am a Chechen commando,” Ace said. “My name is Abu Tofu, the Lion of Kandahar.”

“Low Rider Robert,” Quad said. “I seem to be part of a biker gang and I have a cool motorcycle. I wonder if it’s outside?”

“Felicity Ingenue,” Cinco said. “It says I’m a college girl who flew overseas to join some kind of terrorist army called ‘Waswas.’ That can’t be right. I know I graduated from college.”

“So did I,” Hex said. “Anybody else graduate?” Everybody raised their hand.

“My name is Elizabeth Tudor,” Hex said. “I am apparently some kind of assassin. Anybody see a knife around here, a narrow one about this long? And … wait a minute, isn’t tofu some kind of food? And so is cous cous!”

“Wait,” Cinco said,” I have a degree in math. How did I end up in a motorcycle gang?”

“Does anybody know what ‘RPG’ means at the bottom of these pages?” Cinco asked.

“Rocket-propelled grenade,” Ace and Deuce answered in unison.

“Maybe. Let me check my computer,” Hex said as she got up and headed for what was clearly the front of the building, given the opaque glass door and windows. She stopped. “How did I know where my office is?”

“Muscle memory?” Trey suggested. Hex moved on to her office. Quad checked outside but found no motorcycle. Ace headed for the back of the building to find a restroom.

“I am going to look around,” Deuce said, getting up and heading toward the back. He passed a large office with extensive woodwork, a small kitchen, then entered another office where he found an assault rifle and a sub-machinegun. He checked the drawers and found dog treats and chocolate. Returning to the conference table, he presented his finds to Ace.

“Airsoft,” Ace responded. “Some terrorist you are.” Ace brandished the heavy bronze sword he found in another office. “Lion of Kandahar, that’s real enough.”

“Neither one of you is a terrorist,” Hex said, returning to the table. She was not alone. A small dog was trailing along behind her. “I guess he’s mine,” she said. “He was in my office with the door shut. Tag says ‘Wolf’ and that turned out to be his name. I know it’s my office because my fingers remembered the password on the computer.”

“How do you know that’s his name?” Trey asked.

“How do you know I’m not a terrorist?” Deuce asked.

“Social media,” Hex said. “First off, RPG means ‘role-playing game’ so that isn’t really us, just characters in a game we were about to play. We’re actually the owners and employees of a game publishing company.”

She handed around printed pages showing contact information on the website that identified everyone at the table. Trey, headed for the big fancy office, hit Deuce in back of the head and said: “That’s for general principles, hubby.”

“Great,” Deuce said. “I’m married to a stranger, and I’m head of the company and chief designer. We have six ... seven ... eight product lines about which I know absolutely nothing. How are we supposed to make a living from this?”

“Can we run a company we know nothing about?” Ace asked.

“If we spin it right,” Hex said. When others looked at her aghast she explained, “I’m the marketing director. Apparently I know how to spin anything.”

“Only answer the emails you have to,” Trey said. “And check for emails from that person or on that subject to fake an answer. Nobody needs to find out that we don’t remember what we’re doing or what any of these games mean. There’s plenty of money in the bank to keep going to until we figure this out.”

“Speaking of games,” Quad said as he wheeled in a cart loaded with various books.

“My God, are those the rulebooks to the eight product lines?” Deuce asked.

“No, these are just the rulebooks to the first one,” Quad said. “It seems to have about 5,000 pages of rules, charts, scenarios, annexes, and rules changes. Let me go get the other cart. Those other seven product lines’ rulebooks vary from about 50 pages to well over a thousand.”

“Good grief,” Trey said. “What idiot created a game with this many rules?” Ace and Deuce pointed at each other, then grinned and muttered something about muscle memory.

“There is no way you two can fake your way through a game system with this many rules,” Hex said.

“And the rulebooks are so ... ugly,” Cinco said.

“Then there’s just one thing to do,” Trey said. “We’re going to design games with shorter rulebooks!”

Everyone agreed that was the direction to go.

© 2016 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. First appeared in Captain's Log #51.

Thursday, June 09, 2016


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, June 08, 2016

Singing the Shopping Cart Blues

Jean Sexton writes:

There comes a time in any software's life that without a major overhaul, it becomes dated in style. Either the major overhaul or new software will have a learning curve for the users and for the admins of a site.

We had started hearing that our old shopping cart (which is in some ways a massively complicated software package) was looking "tired" and "dated." It didn't handle mobile devices well. It did lovely lists of items with itsy-bitsy thumbnails of the pictures. (Of course, those thumbnails got even tinier on a smartphone.) It was time to move -- a complicated process for us. We didn't have just a few items or even just a few product lines. We had 14 categories! Those 14 categories had 56 subcategories! We had thousands of items to redo.

Changing software packages is never easy, it seems. Of course, the manufacturers don't want to lose you, so nothing is going to be a straightforward move, not even the banner for the cart. We started doing the research in February and moving in March. An outside person helped us make the gross move and set up information. From March until the end of May, we ran a dual system with the new cart hidden from view.

New banner designed by Simone Pike

Leanna did a lot of the behind the scenes work to make the items show up where customers would expect them and to make the items have the same options as before (bound, unbound, hole-punched or not). When Leanna had her stroke, that put us a week behind -- and our deadline for moving or paying for another three months of dual carts did not change. We asked a few trusted shoppers to try out the cart and report any bugs. And I worried because we had just done promos for three brand new titles. Now my links probably wouldn't work. (We subsequently got the outside contractor to make it so they didn't go off into the Never-Never Land of 404, but landed on the main page of the new shopping cart.)

Then came The Day. At that point, we were hearing not all items had pictures and text. Of course, not all of them had pictures and text on the old cart, but we were worried -- what if they did have them? Leanna was busy dealing with over-arching problems so Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, and I divided up the universe and checked every single item. We found a few items that didn't make the transition, a couple that had been deactivated (because we didn't sell them anymore) that had come back to life, and some missing text for categories. I coordinated the reports and Simone pulled the pictures and text for the items from the old cart.

At the same time we were dealing with customer questions. Their information was supposed to be transferred, but that didn't happen very well. So we immediately got the word out and changed the shopping cart information to reflect that. The mobile site is different from the main site, so we depended upon our customers to let us know of glitches (we have "stupid" phones and my tablet reads as a computer, not a mobile device).

Now we are at least back to where we were with a list of improvements to be made over time. What would we do differently? Not let Leanna have a stroke two weeks before a hard deadline is the biggest thing. Not release three products shortly before a changeover so that the design team would be able to help sooner, the marketing director wouldn't be worried about obsolete promotional material, and the sales director wouldn't be swamped with orders on top of dealing with getting the new shopping cart ready. Give the test shoppers a bit more of a lead to check things out.

What did we do right? Getting an outside contractor who was familiar with both software packages to do the primary transfer and to fill in blanks from one cart to another. (He also handled forwarding the old cart URLs to the new shopping cart front page.) Making a list of the priority changes that needed to be made for the website. All chipping in even if it "isn't in the job description" to make sure the cart was as good as it could be. Getting the word out on social media and having the fan pages pick it up. Having a designated person to handle all inquiries so that the same information came out everywhere.

If you are ever in the situation of making such a major change, be aware that not everything will go smoothly. Have a plan for dealing with the cart and any problems that crop up, with information and its distribution, and for helping customers. Then you won't be singing the new shopping cart blues.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

What Steven Petrick is Working On in Early June of 16

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Work continues apace on the Romulan Master Starship Book.

The new Romulan ship descriptions that appeared in Captain's Log #51 have been added to the Captain's Log section and this has been sent out for re-check by the staff.

SVC believes he will have time in the coming month to finish the Romulan ship graphics. Except for the new ships that were in Captain's Log #51, and a complete listing of the "general units" graphics that still needs to be completed, plus any alibi errors that pop up on finished graphics, this should be doable by the end of the month (fingers crossed here).

Captain's Log #52 is not being ignored.

Work on the Monster Article is going ahead, and as with previous monster articles things about the monster that were not known before are being discovered. Shuttles can actually land on this one for example!

The battle groups topics have started, and a good selection of battle group proposals have been made, but as usual the nature of the battle group mission will be revealed later this month.

I am pleading for new tactics. All of the tactics topics are open for those with creative new ideas. Whether Command Notes (Federation Commander), Term Papers (Star Fleet Battles), Tactical Notes (Federation & Empire), Assault Notes (Star Fleet Marines), Conquest Notes (SFB Galactic Conquest), Force Notes (Star Fleet Battle Force), or Call Out Notes (A Call To Arms: Star Fleet), all are open, so submit yours!

The Lyran Master Starship Book has had a lot of effort put into it. It needs a rationalization of the fighters the Lyrans will use. Seems obvious that fighters which the Klingons only produced a few of would not enter into Lyran service, which creates some problems with simply moving the available Klingon fighters into Lyan service. There is also the issue of whether or not the Lyran Democratic Republic will be included with the Lyrans (I am working on them with this view, but it may be decided to combine the Lyran Democratic Republic with some other minor empires into one book by themselves). I am also toying with issues regarding the Lyran Democratic General Units, since they are nominally covered by a single (R14.xx) rule, but when that rule was written there were not as many general units. Expanding that rule might be too much. Reducing to a cross reference and have two separate (R1.0) sections could be seen as a bad idea. Reducing it to a cross reference and simply adding an LDR line after each Lyran version may not work either, but seems perhaps the simplest (especially if both empires are combined in one book).

Monday, June 06, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 May - 4 June 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we shipped mail orders for Captain's Log #51, Federation & Empire Minor Empires, and A Call to Arms: Star FLeet 1.2-Deluxe. The design team wrapped up their work on those products and began serious work on the next round. Much of the week was spent on the transition to the new shopping cart, as there a thousand items to check and thousands of links to change to the new cart. We worked straight thought Memorial Day because of the massive workload of three new product shipments and the 31 May deadline to move the shopping cart. We released a Star Fleet Alert about the new cart.



Steve Cole finished Communique #126, Hailing Frequencies, and the FLAP list for the new products (Gazetteer, FC Ship Chart, FC Scenario Index, large print edition). He completed all of the personal pages for the Wall of Honor done but only the first few of the 40 multiple-person pages. He wrote some blogs and did everything for Communique. He got to start work on Federation Admiral.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Romulan Master Starship Book, and other projects.

Leanna shipped orders for the new products and worked on the new shopping cart.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics, but spent most of her time on the new shopping cart. She did get the FLAP stuff uploaded and 12 Wall of Honor pages, but lacks over 60 more pages there.

Jean worked on the shopping cart, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,116 friends), managed our Twitter feed (190 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #126, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

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, June 04, 2016

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.