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Friday, September 30, 2016

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 1)

You think that drones are free. They must be, since you launch the whole rack every turn and it automatically reloads.

You think PFTs come with free PFs.

You think scouts can only use one of their sensors at a time.

You think that photons are seeking weapons.

You think that the word "varies" on the photon overload table means you roll two dice to determine the damage.

-- Thanks to Dennis Bergendorf, Steven Petrick, Matthew Francois, David Beeson, Donald Miller, Daniel Zimmerman, Dennis Capone.

(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #24

Thursday, September 29, 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, September 28, 2016

Differences in Empires Strikes Again

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Formatting, formatting, formatting.

You would think the formats would make doing the Master Starship Books easier to do.

The problem is that each empire (at least so far) has something different, which requires modifying the format to include that difference.

But at least the "General Units" will all follow a standard unchanging format, right?

Well . . . no.

The Klingons differ from the Federation because the security stations needed to be accounted for. Standard freighters and skiffs for example, do not have security stations, and not all large merchant vessels do either. And of course the Hydrans needed to account for the fighters, which means keeping track of the progression of fighters [unlike just nothing that "Weapon #3 is phaser-3s," you have to note that it was Stinger-1s (or Stinger-1Fs) from Y# to Y#, then Stinger-2s (or Stinger-2Fs from Y# and so on]. And the Romulans require separate listings for Early Years bases used only by themselves.

So the Lyrans are not going to be that hard, when the Lyrans are done it will be easy to do the Lyran Democratic Republic, right?

Well . . . no. The Lyran Democratic Republic has a pretty tightly defined history, and whereas you can pretty vaguely say that some particular unit in Lyran service started getting refits in Y#, and all units of that type had the refit by Y#, in the Lyran Democratic Republic's case you often have specific numbers of ships. There were two (2) Large Q-Ships, so the term "the refit was general in Y# does not apply. It is (in this case) one ship got the refit in Y#, the second got the refit in Y#, or both ships got the refit in Y#.

The upshot is that unlike the General Units section in the previous books, the Lyran Democratic Republic General Units require short expositions in many cases.



Tuesday, September 27, 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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 September 2016

Steve Cole reports:

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

New on DriveThru RPG, DriveThru Fiction, and Wargame Vault this week is the "pay what you want" short story "Women of the Zombie Apocalypse."


Steve Cole spent most of the week catching up on months of admin backlog, but made progress on Federation Admiral, Captain's Log #52, Federation Card Pack #4, SFU Secret Book #1, and other projects. Steve and Jean took a moment to turn a conversation into a non-SFU zombie story and post it to the PDF download sites.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52 battle groups, Master Starship Books (Romulan, Lyran, LDR), and did quality checks on production and outgoing orders.

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 zombie story, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,230 friends), managed our Twitter feed (202 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Steve Cole ponders a few things about dinosaurs he thought he would share. This is by no means a systematic or even organized list, but it is a lot of things most people don't realize.
1. Most of what we "know" is a really a collection of guesses (that hold water) by large numbers of scientists. Somebody proposes an idea and if a lot of other scientists think it's probably right then it moves into the "fact" category. Actual hard "prove it in court" facts are few and far between. We know from the bones that a T-rex was 40 feet long, but there is a lot of dispute about whether those bones supported five, six, or eight tons of body. What we "know" changes over time. When I went to school in the 50s and 60s, we all "knew" that dinosaurs were stupid, slow, and cold-blooded. Now, we "know" that lots of dinosaurs were smart, fast, and warm-blooded.
2. There is no "Dinosaur Board" which rules on what is and what is not a fact; there is no "Dinosaur Election" wherein scientists vote what is and isn't a fact. There is only an ever-flowing consensus of a lot of opinions. What makes it worse is that dinosaur scientists are not in the habit of starting sentences with "My own theory is..." but instead just state their own theory as an established fact. There is the ICZN, which controls animal names so that no two scientists use the same name for different critters. (One dinosaur scientist had to add a letter to the name he picked for his discovery because another scientist had used that name for a beetle.) Often, a dinosaur gets a name based on one bone or one tooth. Sometimes, one scientist finds part of a dinosaur and another scientist finds a different part of another individual of that species, and nobody realizes that the two are the same until somebody finds another specimen which includes overlapping parts of both. The earliest one named becomes the official name. China doesn't recognize non-Chinese names and is constantly giving new names to well-known species. But at least half of dinosaurs are known from a single individual and usually even that is not complete.
3. Lots of things that people think are dinosaurs really aren't. Pterodactyls, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, mososaurs, turtles, coelacanth fish, and alligators are sometimes called dinosaurs, but they're separate groups of unrelated animals.
4. One of the most important questions (which cannot be answered) is what the air was like during the dinosaur era. Most scientists think that the oxygen content was higher (up to 30%) than it is now (about 21%). Evidence for this is questionable. Air pockets in amber may or may not reflect original air, and calculations based on animal size and activity start with information that cannot be accurately ascertained.
5. The dinosaurs occupied three consecutive but very different time periods of Earth's history. In the oldest (Triassic) the dinosaurs were just one of several kinds of animals fighting for domination. The Jurassic was a very wet lush jungle environment. The Cretaceous was the last period and was much dryer. T-Rex was one of the last dinosaur species and is closer to us in time than to Stegosaurus, the one with the triangular plates down his back. (Speaking of Stegosaurus, at least one scientist originally thought that the triangular plates were horizontal and that the dino could glide from high places.)
6. We all know that a big rock fell out of the sky, landed in Mexico, and killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (i.e., the extinction level event). Except maybe that didn't really do it. The Deccan volcanoes in Indian went off for a few million years and really messed up the planet. Maybe the big rock caused the volcanoes, or maybe the big rock fell as the last of the volcano-ruined dinosaurs were trying to stay alive one more day. The big rock (Chixalub Crater) really messed up North America (which was covered in a shower of red-hot rocks and burned to the ground) but that didn't kill dinosaurs in Asia, Africa, and the random smattering of islands that was Europe. Any dinosaurs there had to have died from either a cometary winter type event or from those volcanoes in India.
7. Speaking of extinction events, the one at the end of the Cretaceous (the dino killing rock from the sky one 65 million years ago) was just the last of at least five. The End of the Permian extinction event was the worst, and allowed the dinosaurs to rise up and take over from (wait for it) the mammals that ruled before the dinosaurs. The Triassic and Jurassic both ended in major extinction events. Some of these may have been caused by big meteor impacts, but some may have been caused by supernova stars that exploded and killed most of life on Earth.
8. A lot of dinosaur research goes into figuring out the family try of the dinosaurs. Not long after dinosaurs first appeared in South America 235 million years ago, the tribe split into the two groups. The lizard-hipped group includes all of the meat eaters, the birds, the sauropods (Brontosaurus and so forth), and the pro-sauropods (which are kinda halfway between the meat eaters and the brontocritters (which split into four types that nobody can make sense of). The bird-hipped dinosaurs (which are not the ancestor of birds) included the iguanodons (which evolved into duckbills in the Jurassic and crested duckbills in the Cretaceous), the stegosaurs of the Jurassic which were the ancestors of the armored ankylosaurs of the Cretaceous, the various horn-faced dinosaurs leading to the final species (Triceratops), the boneheads, and a few smaller groups.
9. Fossil bones are not the only thing we have to go on. We have trackways (which can in theory give some idea of animal speed, even if no one knows if the speed of that dinosaur on that day was his maximum). We also have coprolites (fossil dino dung) which give some idea of what they ate (although connecting any given item to a species of dinosaur is hard to do). We have "skin impressions" (sort of like fossils) and "dinosaur mummies" (the entire dinosaur turned into stone, which provides only very limited detail about internal organs).
10. The names non-scientists know dinosaurs by are in fact the genera (general) name, not the species (specific) name. Consider that lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, and cougars are all "panthera" while lions are "panther leo" and tigers are "panthera tigris." Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Brontosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus are all genera names, not species names. While we're mentioning lions and tigers, the way scientists evaluate dinosaur skeletons is limited by the fact nobody has seen a living dinosaur (other than a bird, which is a dinosaur descendant). Let's say you gave a dinosaur scientist four skeletons (male tiger, female tiger, male lion, female lion). The scientist would not be able to see the lion's mane or the tiger's stripes and could go only by the bones. Evaluating the four skeletons, a modern scientist would 90% of the time put the two females in one species and the two males in the other, all four being in the same genera.

Saturday, September 24, 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.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why My Hair is Thinning

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I need to start making notes to myself. Sometimes between episodes of having to post, I come up with an idea for something to say, but when I am actually here, I cannot recall what they were and wind up staring at the computer screen with my usual blank expression (of course, everyone here would tell you my expression is usually blank even when I am not staring at a computer screen).

Jean is slowly reaching the end of proofing the Romulan Master Starship Book. I managed to transfer the text files to a different computer, so while I am concerned with the formatting (word never seems to be the same length on different computers) the biggest problem seem like it will be getting the files to PDF at all (this computer does not seem to want to PDF any word files . . . it will read PDFs, but will not convert word to PDF). I might have to move to another computer for the PDFs, and that may require reformatting everything (yet again) to accomplish that.

The thing about PDFs is that it creates another "error path." Things "jump." By that I mean something that fits a column suddenly moves one line (the last one of course) to the next column, which cascades all through the section (and sometimes all through the book). So the graphic that fit on the bottom right column of Page #9 is forced to the top of the left column of Page #10, leaving a large white space, which has to be filled by moving text that was below the Ship graphic to above the ship graphic. And I wind up fighting that all through the book before a final PDF can be done.

So it is finish the book with everything formatted and do a PDF.

Check PDF for jumps.

Go back to the book and manually move things around to fix the jumps, and do a new PDF.

Check the new PDF for jumps, and repeat until you finally have a PDF with no cases of large white spaces (caused by jumping graphics caused by jumping text) and no cases where two ship descriptions (or a title bar and ship description) have run together with no separating line and so.

Only then can you verify all of the page numbers (did all this checking result in a section formerly ending on Page #21 now ending on Page #22, requiring that the next section start on Page #23 instead of Page #22) and verify the table of contents.

It is no wonder my hair is thinning.

Wednesday, September 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/).

Tuesday, September 20, 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!

Monday, September 19, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 September 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was very nice.

New on Warehouse23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week were Cerberus and the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 rulebook and SSD book (the latter in both B&W and color). 


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral, blogs, demotivationals, Captain's Log #52, and took a rare three-day weekend with Leanna in order to celebrate their 39th anniversary.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, Romulan Master Starship Book, Module C3 update, proofreading Federation Admiral, and other projects.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,224 friends), managed our Twitter feed (202 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Romulan Master Starship Book,, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

On Clutter and Memories and Downsizing

Jean Sexton muses:

Wherever I have lived, I have had "stuff." I like unicorns, dragons, and other mythological creatures and people have given me art, stuffed toys, and figurines of them over the years. I like shells and minerals, so I have those as well. Cats, dogs, frogs, and bears all have room in my home.

Some folks ask, "Why do you have all this clutter?" The answer is that to me it isn't clutter; it is memories made tangible. My unicorns were mostly from my father with a few that either I picked up or others gave me. My Chowan football was caught for me by my father. Later he caught a basketball to go with it. A huge chunk of petrified wood reminds me of Robeson County, whence it came. My marble darning eggs came from an old country store in Burnsville, North Carolina. A panda bear plate was a thank you from a class I worked with at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. My white buffalo came as a present after my mother traveled to South Dakota. A beaten-up orange squeeze ball was Markie's favorite toy.

Memories can be quite strong at times and I never know what can trigger them. Sometimes it is a smell. The smell of fresh-cut grass takes me back to my childhood when my mother sighed over the grass-green soles of my bare feet. Popcorn can take me back to a Sunday evening watching TV with my parents and brother. Music can take me back to listening to songs with either my mother or my father. Recently I reviewed some CDs by Peter, Paul & Mary; my strongest memories were listening to them with my father. Since I inherited most of his CDs, I can go back to those days easily. A touch of cool, moist wind reminds me of my North Carolina mountains near Lansing.

The trick with memories is to not to lose yourself completely to them and to forget to make new memories. I try out new musical groups and performers and add them to my list of "good music." Lindsey Stirling, Peter Hollens, and Jordan Smith have all made the recent cut. Hamilton and Bright Star have been added to my CDs of musicals.  My travels continue, albeit a bit less frequently. When I travel, I try to pick up something small to remember the good times I am having. I even have some dried purple flowers that were in an arrangement that good friends sent me while I was in the hospital. The stay wasn't fun, but their kindness deserves remembrance.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to turn loose of an item. I finally gave up the lampshade that my grandmother had made. It was a Tiffany-style swag light and I had it hanging in the den where I lived in North Carolina. I kept it for three years in Amarillo. It was in a box because I couldn't find a place to hang it where it wouldn't either scream, "LOOK AT ME!!!!" or block sight-lines to some art that I really like. So I told its story to a young couple I know who understand art and handmade items. Now it will start a new set of memories and a new set of stories will grow up around it. The fact that it will live on long after I am gone makes me happy. That's the kind of downsizing I think is best.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No-Limit Klingon Hold-'Em for Star Fleet Battle Force

The latest poker craze, as we all know from watching the Travel Channel, is "No Limit Texas Hold-'em", a game where everybody has two cards and uses these with five "pool" cards face up on the table to build their hand. The game is popular because it is possible (although hardly easy) to calculate the percentages of winning or losing a given hand.
It is possible to play a variant of this game using the cards from Star Fleet Battle Force.
No-Limit Klingon Hold-'em is based on the same basic concept. Everybody has two ship cards; the weapon cards are then dealt in the center of the table and the winner is the player who can launch the most powerful attack using those cards and his two ships. Not knowing what ships others have makes the odds harder to calculate, but that is just what makes it fun.

To prepare for No-Limit Klingon Hold-'em, take a standard deck from Star Fleet Battle Force. Put the 36 ship cards in one stack (some players discard the six or twelve smallest ships; some discard all of the carriers) and set aside the Player Order cards which are not used at all. From the Action Deck, remove and set aside the following cards:
    Damage Control
    Erratic Maneuvers
    Reinforce Shields
    Tractor Beam
    PF Flotilla
    Planet-Based Fighters
    Klingon Mutiny
    Prime Team
    Legendary Engineer
    Legendary Gunner
    Wild Weasel
    Electronic Counter-Measures
    Electronic Counter-Counter Measures
    Organian Ceasefire

Each player starts with a stack of chips. It isn't important how many chips you use as long as every player has the same number. Around 50-200 chips is probably a good amount, but you can use whatever chips or other tokens you have. A typical set of poker chips includes three or four colors, so if you designate these as one, five, ten, and twenty-five Credits, it should be possible for everyone to have a good pile to start with.

The Dealer duty rotates clockwise between players. The player who is the current dealer could actually deal the cards, or you could have a non-playing dealer handle the cards while the player who is the honorary rotating dealer is designated by a special marker or token known as "the sun." A player who is "on the sun" is the nominal dealer, even if a neutral dealer is actually handling the cards.

For each hand, the player to the right of "the sun" makes a small blind bet (before cards are dealt). If each player has 200 Credits, then five Credits would be about right for the "small cloaked bet". The player "on the sun" then makes a bet equal to double this amount - the "large cloaked bet" -- and then either deals the cards or signals to the neutral dealer to do so. When each player is eliminated, the amount of the "small cloaked bet" is increased by an amount equal to its original size. After the first player is eliminated, the "small cloaked bet" would raise to 10, and to 15 after the second player is eliminated. The "large cloaked bet" is always double the size of the "small cloaked bet".

Play begins when the dealer hands out the ship cards. He shuffles the Shipyard Deck and deals each player two cards, face down, one at a time. The players then examine their own cards (but obviously not those of their opponents). The player to the left of "the sun" then either matches the "large cloaked bet" or "disengages" by discarding his ships. Players who "disengage" are out of that hand but (if they still have chips) will be in the next hand.
Each player may "call" the current bet, "disengage", or "raise". No player can make more than two raises in each round. Betting continues until all players have matched (and not raised) the current high bet or have "disengaged".

The Lock-On is next. The dealer shuffles the Action Deck and deals three cards face down in the center of the table, then turns them all over (with a flourish). The act of turning the cards over is known as "the Lock-On". Players then examine the three dealt cards and compare them to their ships and see if they have a good match of weapons to ships. (Hint: If, at this point, none of the dealt weapons match either of your ships, you probably want to "disengage" unless maybe you are holding a ship with a plasma-R and one of the exposed cards is an enveloper.) Players then, in turn starting to the left of the "sun" and proceeding clockwise, place bets. Each player can either match the current high bet, raise the bet, or "disengage". No player can make more than two raises in this round. Betting continues until all players have matched (and not raised) the current high bet or have "disengaged".

The HET (High Energy Turn) is the next step. The dealer takes the Action Deck, discards the top card, and then turns over the next card and places it beside the three cards of the HET. Another round of betting (as above) ensues.

The Overrun is the final step. The dealer against takes the Action Deck, discards the top card, then turns over the next card and places it with the three cards of the HET. Another (final) round of betting (as above) ensues.

The winner of each hand is the player who can assemble from his two ships and the five weapons/action cards the strongest attack. Each ship can use any of the cards (and both ships can use cards), but each card can only be used by one of each player's ships and a given ship can only use as many cards as there are weapons. For example, if a player had one Klingon D7 (with two disruptors) and one Romulan SparrowHawk (which has no disruptors) and five disruptor cards were placed in the center of the table, he could use the two biggest disruptor cards but the other three would be wasted. In such an unusual case, victory would probably go to a player who had two disruptor-armed ships.
The overload, scatter-pack, and enveloper cards double one weapons card of the relevant type, but there must be a card for them to double for them to be effective. For example, if one of the five pool cards is an Enveloper but no plasma torpedo cards are in the pool, then the Enveloper is meaningless.
Carriers (if used) count each fighter symbol as six attack points and do not need a card to launch an attack. Because of this, some players remove the carriers from the deck. Cloak and web symbols have no function, and range limits (a major factor in Star Fleet Battle Force) are ignored.
 If you're holding a pair of frigates, you need two heavy weapons, two phasers, and a double card to have a 50-50 chance!

from Captain's Log #28, Copyright ADB, Inc. 2004

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Mystery of the Loaded "Unloaded Gun"

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There is a plot line that has been used several times where in a bad guy (I cannot recall a case where a good guy is the receiving person) is handed a supposedly unloaded automatic pistol and begins shooting people.

I have always been dumbfounded by this.

There are numerous flaws in this.

One is that you should never hand an automatic to someone that has a clip/magazine in it to start with.

But there is also the problem that a fully loaded magazine is a noticeable weight. And it changes the balance of the pistol noticeably when you handle it.

The upshot is that any police officer, bailiff, deputy, or soldier familiar with pistols would notice those two facts before they handed the weapon over.

And a weapon in an "evidence bag" is not going to have a clip/magazine in it at all. If it did, that alone would be a major signal that something is not right. The weapon would never have been put into an evidence bag in that condition.

But the plot of an "unloaded automatic" being handed to someone by someone who should know the difference between the feel of an empty weapon and a loaded weapon has been used quite often in the entertainment industry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on game design: Back when I wrote my book on How to Run a Game Publishing Company I left the chapter on how to design games more or less blank. I just could not get a handle on how to teach what to me was just a natural observation and analysis of the facts combined with a bit of art in producing a way to simulate the result. Over time, I have accumulated a few examples of good game design practices. (This is a continuation of Random Thoughts #270.)

6. When I wrote my article for the Zones of Control book by MIT Press, I noted that the key decision in designing a game is the comparison of range of weapons, rate of fire, and movement speed. For example, in Star Fleet Battles ships can fire quite a distance but to actually score damaging hits you had to be within four hexes, while the ships move around 20-24 hexes per turn. Weapons (for the most part) fire once per turn. In SFB this created  a very dynamic game of maneuver. A friend of mine tried to do his own Trek game and had speeds of about eight per turn and effective weapons ranges of 15. His system wasn't workable because there was no maneuver. Anywhere you went, the enemy could seriously damage you before you got where you were going. Back in the 60s and 70s I played a lot of Avalon Hill land games. Those units (often divisions or larger land units) had a range of one, a speed of four, and could attack once per turn (after the movement phase, not during it).
7. You have to limit the impact of luck without eliminating it. Recently I compared two game designs. In one case, a single d6 die roll might destroy anywhere from 20% to 35% of the enemy. In the other, that same die roll might destroy 10% to 60% of the enemy. Obviously, the second is going to be far more luck dependent. Luck is an element of pure games (such as poker when there are a few dozen possibilities for the next card and only a few of those cards will get you a full house) but not of simulations. Lucky die rolls that change the whole game make for unsatisfying experiences as the gamers think it was the die roll, not their skill or strategy, that decided the outcome. It is far better to limit luck. A phaser-3 at short range has a 5/6 chance of killing a standard drone, but there are always other things you can do to stop the drone you did not kill (they just come at a cost).
8. Someone asked me once why the SFB damage resolution system is so long and labor intensive. You roll two dice for each damage point (and a major attack can have 100 of which 60 penetrate the reinforced shields) and look it up on a chart, including "one time per volley" hits and things you ran out of and had to go to the next column. My answer was "it is part of how I build drama" which is part of what made the game so popular.
9. Fifty years ago, my mother watched a soap opera called As the World Turns. She found a board game based on the show (well, not really) and gave it to my brother and me one Christmas. Home from school during winter snows, we sat down to play it. In the game (which I barely remember but there is a nice description on BoardGame Geek) there are a bunch of customs seals of various costs, which the players buy somehow. You roll a die and move some spaces to another city on a path around the world and pay whoever holds the customs seal for that city. You can also draw random cards, go off course, and other things can happen. After playing the game four times in a couple of hours, we realized that there was never a decision that the players made. You just did whatever the die or the card said. "I was only following orders!" (At the end of the game came the only decision: you could avoid ending the game if you thought you were not the player with the most money, but as you didn't know what others had, this was a guess.) We realized that we were not playing the game, the game was playing us. This is a problem with some game designs. A very good friend came to me at Origins with a great game idea. ADB could, he theorized, spend a ton of money having custom poker chips made with pictures of starships. When it was your turn, you stood one of your ships up on edge and flicked it with your finger. It would spin and dance and eventually fall flat. If you were pointed at a target you could (he theorized) shoot at it by some damage system I would have to invent. The problem I saw was it was all random chance. There was no such thing as a skill to flick the chip in just the right way that it would move behind the enemy flagship and fall down facing it. What targets you had available were purely up to chance. I said I didn't print games that play the customers but games that the customers played.
10. I use a lot of techniques in my games for creating game mechanics, trying to keep costs down for me and my customers. Obviously, we use six-sided dice, and avoid trying to use any other type. I pioneered the concept of "running totals" where you roll a die every turn and when the total reaches a certain point something happens. I like using a pack of playing cards and a chart to generate random events rather than trying to sell people a deck of special cards. Everybody has a pack of cards in the house.

Monday, September 12, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 September 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of problems. Steve Cole's computer was down almost all week and Jean was sick in bed almost all week, but we still got Communique #129 and Hailing Frequencies out on time. The big news was about the Federation Commander: Lost Empire Preview. The weather this week was cooler.


Steve Cole took a well-deserved rest until his computer was fixed, then went into a burst of activity finishing Communique and Hailing Frequencies.

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

 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 created some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,217 friends), managed our Twitter feed (200 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Romulan Master Starship Book and Communique #129, wrote her parts of Hailing Frequencies, took care of customers, did some marketing and was going to upload the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 PDFs but got sick.

Sunday, September 11, 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, September 10, 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:

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Top 10 Things Every Captain Wants to Hear, pt. 2

5. Headquarters says we have one ensign too many and you should pick one to send back.
4. Ed McMahon is here with a check for you.
3. Aliens just kidnapped Ensign what's-his-name.
2. Headquarters says to report back for leave and a refit.
1. Ensign what's-his-name is repairing the airlock.

(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #24

Thursday, September 08, 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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Do I Carry a Mark?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have been out of the service for more than two and a half decades.

Despite, that it seems that its presence still adheres.

Not too long ago I came up on a pair of individuals who were blocking the aisle of the supermarket. They were moving, not stationary, but being on both sides of their cart I could not get past them. I was not in any real hurry (no urgent rush), but wanted to get where I needed to be, i.e., finish this task and move on.

So I resorted to a very polite "pardon me" just to get their attention that someone wanted pass them.

They turned, looked at me for barely a second, and literally "snapped to."

Once I was passed them, one of them asked if I had been in the Army.

Not the only time that has happened.

Not too long ago I, as is my habit, stopped to hold a door for a lady coming up behind me.

As she went through the door, she complimented me on my "uniform" before doing a double take and realizing that I was in shorts and sandals.

There was an even more recent incident.

Standing in line at the grocery store on a later date I saw an individual with his "Vietnam Veteran" hat. He looked at me gave a "sort of salute," which I returned. He looked again and rendered a more formal salute, at which point I "snapped to" and rendered a formal and correct salute. At which point he came across the lines to ask me about my service.

I cannot, myself, point to it. I tend to think of myself as simply "short, fat, and ugly" (recently adding "balding" to the list). And, yes, I have almost always kept my hair relatively short compared to the norm (but have never, except for the mandatory haircut at jump school, had "white walls"), and mostly I am clean shave except for the mustache which is generally kept "in regulation" (e.g., not exceeding the corners of my mouth).

But somehow it often seems that strangers, who do not know me, recognize that I have spent time in the Army, and not just that I spent time, but that I had rank.

Tuesday, September 06, 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.

Monday, September 05, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 28 August - 3 September 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on several projects. 
New on DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #23.

Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral, ship graphics for the Romulan Master Starship Book, ship graphics for SFBOL3G, Star Fleet Stalingrad, the Star Fleet Universe history book, Hailing Frequencies, Communique, and graphics for Jean to post.

Steven Petrick worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, Lyran Master Starship Book, Captain's Log #52 battlegroups, Federation Admiral, and the Star Fleet Battles Module C3 update.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, prepared for Hailing Frequencies, and worked on some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,211 friends), managed our Twitter feed (198 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Federation Admiral and the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

On Walking

Jean Sexton muses:

I read Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" and it worries me. When Wolf and I walk, we rarely see anyone young or middle-aged walking. I see people take their dogs to potty in a tiny area and once finished, they head directly back in. Sometimes I see joggers when I go to and from work. I rarely see people just walking, except one of my neighbors who seems to wander a lot. Isn't it odd that I sometimes wonder if he has a reason for walking so much? True, I am walking to stay healthy. But as I walk, I look at my world and try to see it. I do walk to my mailbox and back. It seems most people drive there.

I guess it is like sitting outside. I see a few people who do so to smoke. But most steps and patios remain empty; some patios have no chairs. A few people sit outside (I can think of three apartments with people who sit just to sit -- and two of those have families not originally from the US).

I walk past these apartments and in some, I can see the flickering light that shows they are watching TV. I wonder, do they even know how good it feels in the evening? I didn't remember until I had dogs to remind me of what I knew as a child. And I admit, back in southeastern North Carolina where I lived, there were so many mosquitoes and biting flies it was unpleasant to be outside in the evening. Fire ants made roadside walking hazardous. Some of the reasons I love Amarillo are there are practically no mosquitoes and no fire ants and there are plenty of sidewalks. With the lower humidity in the summer, the temperature usually moderates by late evening.

So on the next pleasant evening, I challenge you to walk for just a bit if you can do so safely. Take time to look at the world and really see it. Sit on your steps and watch the clouds go by or see the stars. You might be surprised by the peacefulness you find.

Saturday, September 03, 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.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Top 10 Things Every Captain Wants to Hear, pt. 1

10. The ISC are asking for political asylum.
9. I think we left Ensign what's-his-name on that last planet.
8. They just invented a new medal for you.
7. Ensign what's-his-name has requested a transfer.
6. The errata says we get two extra APRs.

(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #24

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Is Petrick Just Sitting Around Twiddling His Thumbs?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Romulan Master Starship Book is moving along. SVC has created the Romulan X-ship graphics, and will begin working on the General Units graphics.

Jean has read most of the book and is currently working through the main units file.

And I am making all of the fixes and inserting the graphics and still pleading for reports.

There have been some reports on the Lyran Master Starship Book, and SVC has created all of the placeholder graphics so that we can get a rough idea of the page count.

It has been decided that the Lyran Democratic Republic will have their own book.

I have finished the updates to the Module C2 books.

I am working on things for Captain's Log #52, mostly the battle group tactics submissions of late.

I am also currently finding files for the Star Fleet Universe History for SVC.

I am also working on a couple of assigned projects that I cannot talk about.