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Monday, October 31, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23-29 October 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

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

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was War of the Worlds, an old Task Force Games product.


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral, Merchants of the Federation, new ship card packs for Federation Commander, Captain's Log #52, and other projects (blogs, demotivationals). He helped to resolve some final items on the Romulan Master Starship Book. Steve feels much better and has worked up to walking half a mile a day.

Steven Petrick worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, Star Fleet Battles Module C3  update, and Captain's Log #52. He was gone to the space launch complex in Khazakistan on a secret mission for a couple of days.

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

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date despite being out with a cold for a few days.

 Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,334 friends), managed our Twitter feed (205 followers), dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, commanded the Rangers, proofread Federation Commander Klingon Ship Card Pack #4, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 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.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Master Starship Books Continue to March

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Romulan Master Starship Book will probably be released in November. Almost all of the graphics are inserted (SVC has done the last two ship graphics, but keeps forgetting to give them to me to put into the book). Jean has done another major edit and these fixes have been incorporated. None of the outside proofers have provided any new line items. So I am down to a couple of things that I need SVC, as the grand coordinator of all things Star Fleet Universe to decide.

The Lyran Master Starship Book is out, but I probably need to do a new draft for review.

The Lyran Democratic Master Starship Book is pretty much in the same shape as the Lyran book, although I have a few things I want to look at.

I have started working on the Kzinti Master Starship Book. I have finished a draft of everything, but the Publisher's Information, and General Units.

I think if I were to "vanish" that it would be pretty easy for someone to step into my place and finish those three books. (I am not planning to "vanish" but commenting on how good I think the status of those books is at this juncture).

I am not sure what the next Master Starship Book will be.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Secret Order of the "F" and the "E"

MEMO: June 22, 2013
From: FBI SAIC, Columbus OH
To: Director of Homeland Security
Re: Suspected Terrorist Group "Order of the 'F' and the 'E'"

    The following are the transcripts of the listening devices planted in the designated meeting room of the target hotel.

Sound of knocking on door.
Voice #1: "Who is there?" [FBI Note: Data comparison with military recordings identifies this voice as a renegade colonel who left the Air Force under curious circumstances and has been involved with this terrorist group for some years.]
Voice #2: "Me ... Ted ... a friend ... Oh, yeah, I forgot ... a new brother in the order of the 'F' and the 'E' asks for entry into the conclave." [FBI Note: Data comparison with court transcripts identifies Voice #2 as a lawyer from Dallas, Texas. Further analysis of archives indicates that while this group has existed for years they did not begin using the name "the F and the E" until the last year.]
Voice #1: "Did you bring refreshments?"
Voice #2: "I found this bag of stale Fritos in my car." [FBI Note: The meaning of this codeword is unclear at this time.]
Voice #1: "Enter, brother."
Voice #2: "Sorry, I had trouble finding this place. It's not listed in the program."
Voice #1: "Of course it isn't. We're not part of that bunch at the convention center." [FBI Note: Reference unclear.]
Voice #3: "You mean they threw us out for 'treason' after last year when you had to go do your own thing and take us with you." [FBI Note: Keyword "treason" resulted in this conversation being pulled from the Echelon Intercept Database for further analysis.]
Voice #4: "Hey, we had a better time last year than ever before. No hassles, no rules, lower cost ..."
Voice #3: "No food court, no dealer hall, no seminars, no new products, and he didn't even show up."
Voice #1: "Stop complaining. They threw us out."
Voice #5: "Not technically. We could have come here."
Voice #1: "Not me, and not most of us. Most of us had kids in school and could not be here after they changed the schedule." [FBI Note: The phrase "kids in school" is thought to mean "terrorists in training camp." The reference to a change in schedule may be why no terrorist attack was detected during the previous 12 months. Twenty-three field agents are digging into that.]
Voice #4: "You weren't followed, were you?"
Voice #2: "No, I went through the Puffing Billy room to make sure I lost any tail in the crowd. [FBI Note: The phrase "Puffing Billy room" is thought to refer to a nearby Amtrack station. Fifteen field agents are now checking that facility for any suspicious devices.]
Voice #1: "Now that Brother Ted is here, can we get going?"
Voice #3: "That's gonna be kinda hard after the fuzz confiscated all of our counters." [FBI Note: The term "fuzz" refers to law enforcement. The meaning of "counters" may refer to dangerous radiological materials or perhaps drugs.]
Voice #4: "Yeah, some idiot had to haul his cartload of counters right past the registration desk. Those Gamma goons said that they were prohibited because of last year's incident." [FBI Note: The term "goon" is a clear reference to prison guards. Based on this, the Greek letter "gamma" is thought to refer to the Federal supermax prison at Marion, Illinois. This part of the conversation is thought to refer to a failed attempt to smuggle contraband to terrorist suspects imprisoned at Marion.]
Voice #1: "They had no right to take my counters. The US Constitution doesn't allow them to do that." [FBI Note: Another reference to "counters" which may refer to radiological devices intended to cause a mass-casualty event, i.e., a "dirty bomb." It is well known that terrorist groups try to use their "constitutional rights" to subvert the needs for reasonable homeland security requirements.]
Voice #6: "I think I got this worked out. The peanuts are the clinks. The raisins are the Feds. The candy corn are the furballs, and the Hershey's kisses are the rockheads." [FBI Note: Analysis of these codewords is ongoing. The "Feds" are obviously Federal law enforcement agencies. The term "clinks" may refer to prison guards.]
Voice #7: "What about the gorns and roms?" [FBI Note: The term "roms" may refer to the Romney campaign staff, but this is unclear. No one has identified what a "gorn" is. The only reference in the database is to one episode of a 1960s television show and obviously irrelevant.]
Voice #6: "We won't get around to them for a week. We can find something in the meantime."
Voice #8: "You mean I can find something in the meantime. You already used all my snacks for counters. Why don't you use Ted's stale Fritos for the snakes?" [FBI Note: The term "snakes" is unclear but may relate to the Israeli codeword "viper" which means "nerve gas."]
Sound of knocking on door.
Voice #4: "Cheeze it, the Gamma goons!"
Voice #5: "Ted, you were followed, you idiot!"
Voice #3: "Hide the maps!"
Voice #1: "Calm down, everyone! ... Who is there?"
Voice #9: "The Mentor, a friend to the order." [FBI Note: This codename is thought to refer to a native-born American terrorist suspect with former connections to military intelligence and a radical Texas-based militia group.]
Voice #1: "Enter, Mentor."
Voice #9: "Sorry for the delay. Jean would not let me out of the booth while the media was hanging around. She sent brownies." [FBI Note: "Jean" has been identified as a college professor from the southeastern US whom even liberal colleagues refer to as "radical." The term "booth" may refer to a secret terrorist headquarters. It is thought that "media" may refer to Homeland Security agents. The term "brownie" clearly refers to marijuana.]
Voice #3: "He brought counters!"
Voice #6: "Real ones?"
Voice #9: "I am a river to my people."  [FBI Note: This phrase is commonly used by Middle Eastern warlords who spread a small portion of the money collected from bribes and other corrupt activities to the population to maintain loyalty. Refer to Anthony Quinn in the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" for an example.]
Voice #3: "He brought seltorians!"  [FBI Note: Other references to "seltorians" as "bugs" may mean this is code for electronic listening devices.]
Voice #9: "Just got them from the printer."  [FBI Note: The term "printer" is possibly a reference to an organized crime group that sells weapons and explosives to terrorist groups on a "no questions asked" basis.]
Voice #1: "Did you bring rules for the seltorians?" [FBI Note: The term "rules" refers to detailed plans for an attack.]
Voice #9: "Nah, I figured we'd just wing it."

This group obviously poses a clear and present danger to the American people. The immediate arrest of the entire group is suggested at the earliest opportunity.

Captain's Log #46 (c) 2013 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, October 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Doing "It" Fast or Right

Jean Sexton muses:

Many of you know I was a librarian before coming to work at Amarillo Design Bureau. I always wanted to be a librarian; in fact since I can remember, I always put my books in order by author's last name. Collecting up books to read seems to be an occupational hazard. I like science fiction and fantasy which many libraries don't have in the quantity that I read. So I bought them and kept them tidily in order by the author's last name. Other genres I enjoy (mysteries, suspense, and many more) were treated similarly.

When it came time for me to pack my things to go to storage for a later move, I packed them by genre and by author. I found out I had over 3000 titles. Looking at things realistically, I knew I had to either move books and practically nothing else or I had to prune. The date for my move was looming over me, so I started pruning quickly -- any book that I could get as an ebook or any series that I could replace as ebooks had to find a home. I repacked the boxes, but they were no longer neatly in order. With space and time an issue, something had to give and it was the order. We did manage to fit well over 2000 books in the moving van.

When I moved into my apartment, reality hit. Where were these books going to live? And could I live with having only books? I became ruthless. If I could possibly replace a book with an ebook (whether or not everything in the series were replaceable), then I added it to my wish list and gave it away. This still left me with over 1600 books to deal with. When I finished putting books in four and then five bookcases (and two more at work), I had over 700 books still in boxes. What was I going to do?

The answer was obvious. I bought another bookcase. This was a massive affair with two glass doors that would protect the books. If I paid attention to size, I could fit two rows of paperbacks on each shelf and have room for my hardbacks in front of them. This is where I chose to do things fast again. There was no real room to sort out my books, so I settled for getting them into the bookcase.

I paid for it over the next two years. If some ebook I had in paper went on sale, I would try to replace it. Of course, I would want to pull the paper version and rehome it. But where was it? I had no clue except it was in the "study bookcase" somewhere in the 768 volumes.

So this weekend I decided to fix the mess. All the books were pulled out and sorted appropriately by type, subject, and by the initial of the author's last name. Knowing that the bookcase had to be heavier on the bottom (and thus emptier shelves needed to be toward the top), I had to work backward from "Z" to "A." Praise be for my shifting books skills honed back in my library days. Five hours later, my books were off the floor and properly in order.

The moral of the story for me seems to be that there are times you have to do things "quick and dirty," but you'll pay a price for it later. At some less harried point, consider going back and doing it "right." In the long run, it will probably save you time and effort.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on the game publishing industry in general and ADB in particular.
1. The most dangerous thing any small businessman can allow to take hold is the idea that if something can be done, then it should be done. Lots of things can be done, but there will never be time to do everything and the ones that are the least useful or productive may have to be at the end of the line.
2. We use a system where we stock only one rigid game box (the white one used for Star Fleet Battles, Federation Commander, and other games) and print different full-color sleeves that wrap around it. That way, we don't have to invest money printing the stocking large quantities of boxes (which gets expensive if the game in question does not sell through).
3. Someone recently tried to order Starline 2500 Fed CAs, noticed they were not on the shopping cart, and asked when they would return. Normally Leanna would handle such queries but she was out of the office that day and rather than leave the customer waiting I looked into the matter myself with the help of Warehouse Manager Mike Sparks. The answer seemed interesting enough that I repeated it here for you all to see. We have a lot of items in the inventory, some of which (including all of the miniatures) we get from outside vendors. All of those miniatures are handled in this way. Mike checks the inventory on any given ship whenever he pulls some for an order, and checks the entire inventory every week. Once a week, he orders a restock of anything we are low on. Normally, the restock arrives before we sell the last of the stock, but sometimes there is a surge of sales of one item and sometimes the casting house takes longer to produce and ship our orders. If any item runs out of stock, the company policy is to deactivate it on the shopping cart because we do not take orders for things we don't have. (Books ship to the wholesalers a week before mail orders ship so we have the books in stock when we take pre-orders for them. In some cases we might be out of a print-on-demand book but since we can print new copies in an hour we do not deactivate those on the cart.) This is what happened when we sold out of Starline 2500 Fed CAs; we deactivated it even though we had already ordered more. As it happened, the customer inquiry came in on the same day as the new shipment but it took a day to quality inspect the ships and reactivate them on the cart.
4. Someone asked when we could turn the Starline 2500 Fed CB into a Starline 2450 miniature. We could do that any time. The trick is to do it without losing money. The up-front costs of the ship include the 3d printing, a master mold, and production molds, then the metal-and-time cost for each ship. That's a good example of a difficult ship to do as it has a saucer, secondary hull, and a pair of engines. The casting house will insist on creating three molds (the pair of engines will go into one mold). Here's why. You could physically fit all three pieces in one mold, but the problem is that some pieces spin better at different speeds and/or temperatures. Doing it in one mold makes the job of the casting house much harder as they have to balance the situation so that they can get good parts of all four types. Then it gets worse. Over time, mold cavities break down and cannot be used, but the overall mold still can be. So when the mold has used about 50% of its life, two or three out of 12 cavities no longer work so to make 120 parts takes not 10 spins but 12+. (The number of cavities varies depending on part size; the secondary hull might fit 24 in a mold, the saucer only eight.) If all of the parts are in one mold, then one of the parts will burn out before the other parts. So when they cast a brand new family mold they get four complete ships. When they cast a mold with 50% of its life left, they get two ships and leftover parts that can only be melted down. This means that the casting house that wanted to make 100 ships out of a family mold used to need 25 spins and now needs 50, and has a bucket of parts to be melted back down. This takes up a lot of extra time, electricity, and natural gas, increasing the costs to the casting house.  So they quite rightly refuse to do the ship without doing at least three molds. That's a significant extra cost for ADB, meaning we have to sell more ships before we make any profit. It could take from 40-100 ships just to break even on the up-front costs. Some ships sell many times that number, while others never reach that number.
5. We are trying to become more efficient. When Jean remarked that she wanted Steve Cole to get busy turning out new ePacks of Federation Commander ship cards (because he had a hundred cards in the file and it would be "not that much work" to make the packs) he remarked that it was a lot of work because of the need to create the counters. While explaining to someone else about why the counters are such a time-consuming project, Steve thought of a way to simplify the process. (What took so long was searching through existing ePacks looking for a counter with the same base hull type that he could modify, then fighting through the fact that over the years the formats had evolved and every counter had to be virtually done over.) He took two hours and copied every counter ever done for FC into a single file, then took two more hours to bring one counter for each base hull up to the current 8-16 standard. When he needed to do the very first Federation Commander counters for the Carnivons and Paravians he didn't have to start from blank paper, but could start with an existing file format and just replace the ship with one from Star fleet Battles Module C6. While doing the two new ship cards for that pack, Steve Cole took an hour to assemble a master document with all Federation Commander movement cost tables, so it will be easier in the future to find the one he wants. (He only has to look in one place now.)

6. While trying to find just the right piece of interior art for Federation Admiral Steve took a few hours to create a document with all of the people art published since 2002. He had earlier created a similar document with all of the ship art. This makes it much easier to find just the right piece of art for any space. It's easier to find what you need in one big file than in a lot of little files scattered all over the hard disk.

Monday, October 24, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 October 2016

Steve Cole reports:

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

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, Federation Admiral, Merchants of the Federation, Star Fleet History, art for the Romulan Master Starship Book, blogs, and Lyran fast ships issue,

Steven Petrick worked on Master Starship Books (Kzinti, Lyran, Romulan) 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 and some graphics.

Jean took off much of the week to spend time with her mother, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,317 friends), managed our Twitter feed (204 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread more of the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 23, 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.

Saturday, October 22, 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/).

Friday, October 21, 2016

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 4)

You mark batteries destroyed when you use the power.

The only time your ship generates ECM is when it tumbles, which is amazingly often.

You avoid hexes with ships in them because you're afraid you're going to hit them.

You think a phaser-4 does less damage than a phaser-3 since the phaser-3 does less than the phaser-2 and the phaser-2 does less than the phaser-1.

Flying an unrefitted Federation DD, you order the photons to full overload.

-- 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, October 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!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Master Starship Books Continue to Advance

This is Steven Petrick posting.

While waiting on the Romulan Master Starship Book to finish (I am having regrets about a marketing decision that I championed to include four new ships in the book, and their SSDs in Captain's Log #52 which has suddenly exploded into a major headache), I have run ahead and worked on the Lyran Master Starship Book, and it is currently out for review. Even so, I may need to send new copies of it out to the reviewers as items have turned up that I missed going through the first time that the reviewers have not caught as of yet (according to my reports file).

Building up to the Lyran Master Starship Book was the question of whether or not the Lyran Democratic Republic would be included as part of that book. This would have had problems to be resolved as the Lyran Democratic Republic has both a shorter history, fewer over all ships, and not only makes a (comparatively) larger use of General Units, but has specific variances involving them. The upshot was that while the material was gathered at the same time as the Lyrans, a decision was finally taken to do them as a separate book, which made doing their General Units much simpler. So not only is the Lyran Master Starship Book largely done but for reports and graphics, the Lyran Democratic Republic Master Starship Book is largely in the same shape.

With the above three books in their condition, I have assembled the pieces and parts for the Kzinti Master Starship Book. I am currently missing pretty much all of the graphics (I do not even have placeholder graphics to get a feel of page count) and a piece of "people art" for the Kzintis. And of course there are other things that need to be found and done for the book.

Tuesday, October 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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

This Week at ADB: 9-15 October 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was mild. On Thursday, three of us took a field trip to Capulin Volcano doing research for a future game. On Friday, three of us attended the annual National Championships of Cowboy Mounted Shooting, doing research for a future game.

Upload problems at W23 kept us from adding any PDFs to the stores this week. We did upload the new Hailing Frequencies and Communique.

Steve Cole worked on CL52, Federation Admiral, Merchants of the Federation, blogs, art for the Romulan MSSB, Communique, Hailing Frequencies, and other projects.

Steve Petrick worked on the Romulan MSSB, the Lyran MSSB, preliminary work on the Kzinti MSSB, CL52, quality control, HF, Communique, 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. She uploaded Communique and sent out Hailing Frequencies.

Jean spent most of the week with her visiting mother, Carol. Earlier in the week, she worked on Merchants of the Federation, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3287 friends), managed our Twitter feed (203 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Romulan MSSB, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On Waiting, Practicing Patience, and Making Choices

Jean Sexton muses:

I'm only human. I hate waiting as much as the next person. I try to alleviate my boredom by reading, but I cannot get too deeply into the book lest they finally call my name and I miss it. So I read a bit, check on the status, read a bit, check, rinse and repeat until it is my turn.

Honestly, I haven't much in-born patience. I have to work at it. I want things to be done now (including the appointment I am waiting for). Still, I have had a new perspective since last year. I remind myself that my planned surgery took much longer than the schedule allowed. And then there was the emergency surgery where my doctor saved my life. Both of those messed up his schedule, I feel sure. He was either late for the next surgery or appointment. And if things go as normal on that sort of day, the lateness snowballed. Maybe I am that person who is being held up today. Maybe it was so he could help someone else. And I remind myself that if I am patient and don't complain, then I'm not holding anyone up even more.

So I make the choice to practice patience and to wait. I am glad I can drive myself now because for three months, waiting meant that two people at ADB were waiting: me and the person driving me. And I had a lot of appointments. I am choosing to not get upset or to fuss at people who cannot change the fact that things are behind.

The result is that I smile at the person who is helping me and that seems to brighten their day that I am sure is stressful. I feel less stressed myself. And I think that makes the world a little better.

Saturday, October 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.

Friday, October 14, 2016

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 3)

When the enemy rolled a "tractor" hit, you marked all of your tractors as destroyed.

When you doubled the left warp engine on your Orion Raider, you marked the whole engine destroyed.

You bought a whole Kzinti carrier fleet and then found out five minutes before the game that fighters and drone speed upgrades are not free.

You laughed at the Andromedan ship, since it did not have shields, and ordered your entire Marine force to transport over and capture it.

You agreed to fight the Tholians and told them to lay whatever web they wanted around their base After all, that traps them inside, right?

-- 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, October 13, 2016

Dog Sitter for a Day

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have had the office to myself (but for the dog) much of the day.

The dog is not happy about this, as I will not give him treats. I leave that to Jean who claims she is using the giving of treats to train the dog (rewarding so called "good behavior") and SVC (who admits that he just wants to make sure the dog is devoted to him).

The dog's loneliness has reached a point that he has figured out that if I am working at the computer that faces the wall of my office, there is room for him to sleep on my lap (or at least pretend to sleep, I think I make enough noise working on the computer to keep him awake).

While this may sound like a good deal for both of us, it is for neither of us.

I need to move around enough to check references, and often that means standing up, but even if a reference is open on my desk, the dog is disturbed when I lean over to check it. There are also visits to the facilities, checking orders and product that Mike has pulled, answering the phone and . . . well suffice to say the dog is not really happy in my lap because I cannot sit still.

I do, however, gain the advantage that as long as he is back in my office, he is not in Jean's office raising a ruckus when someone walks by the door, or he sees a UPS, FEDEX, or US Mail vehicle.

And, of course, I do have to get up and take him for walks.

However, for today, we have a form of "detente".

Wednesday, October 12, 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:

Tuesday, October 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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2 -8 October 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was nice, tending to cool by week's end.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #24. It is also available on Warehouse 23.


Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52 articles, finishing the last art for Romulan Master Starship Book, blogs, demotivationals, Hailing Frequencies and Communique for next week, and other projects. In a shocking development, Steve cleaned the trash out of the back seat of his car.

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

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

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics and worked on Hailing Frequencies for next week.

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,261 friends), managed our Twitter feed (202 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique and the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, October 09, 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.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

On Reading, Learning, and Writing Reviews

Jean Sexton muses:

I'm pretty eclectic in what I read. According to LibraryThing, I have well over 100 tags or subject headings on my books. It lists my most frequently used book tags as fantasy, science fiction, mystery, RPGs, adventure, and cookbooks. This year I've also read graphic novels, Westerns, and romantic suspense novels and short stories as well as a child's book on astronomy and and a collection of essays on wargaming. Basically, if it sounds interesting, I'll give it a whirl. Doing so keeps my mind engaged and I learn information. I also wanted to read books outside of work-related products.

In 2012, I started participating in some reading challenges. As my life got more straightened out, I moved from reading a book every other week to a book a week, more or less. I moved from just recording my information on LibraryThing to Goodreads with their yearly reading challenge. I started moving from "I read this book and liked this aspect," to writing reviews of the book. If I liked the book, I would suggest categories of people who might like it, too. I think it hearkens back to my librarian days and some of the "reader's guides" sort of books. The ratings I give books are usually high because I choose most of my reading material carefully. Sometimes I get a recommendation and the book doesn't work for me, but that is rare.

A friend read some of my notes on the books and suggested writing "real" reviews so I started posting reviews on Amazon. I started in the four millions on reviewer ranking. Slowly I am working my way up the ranks with a goal of someday being in the top 10,000 reviewers. The hazards of being a proofreader is that if a book is filled with typos (including a correctly spelled, but incorrect word), then I get annoyed at the author for not hiring a competent editor. Nothing gets my goat quicker than to read "You armor isn't on right," or "Here is you bed." Once or twice, I mutter and move on; combine that with more frequent uses and even more errors, and I start growling. In the five years I've been doing this, I've only given up on one book.

My reviews are not designed to retell the story. My philosophy is that the publisher's blurb is enough of a teaser to draw a reader in and the reader doesn't need me to tell the story over again. In fact, I get annoyed at reviews that summarize the book -- let me find out what happens on my own! I try to tell people what I liked about the book (good story, excellent use of language, or interesting characters), what might be cons (typos, graphic sex or violence, or unlikable main characters), and if they need to start at the beginning of a series of books to understand what happens in a later volume.

I've started moving into reviewing other items I purchase on Amazon. After reading reviews that are five-star reviews that read merely "Excellent," I decided I could do better than that. Some of my reviews have moved up to become "featured" reviews, so I think I'm doing something right. True, sometimes I buy esoteric things and my review defaults to featured. Still, I look at other reviews and try to learn from what people with years of experience cover.

So from books to music to videos to everyday items, I am enjoying telling people what I think about them. Since my collections pre-date Amazon, not everything shows up as a "verified purchase" (and sometimes I buy locally so I can put my hands on something to see if it suits me), but I have decided to share my experiences. It's a fun hobby and forces me to summarize my thoughts and feelings. I ponder if I love something, like it, or it is merely okay.

I'd like to urge people to review books and music they like, especially if it is an independent creator on Amazon. It helps the item move up in the list if it is good. If someone has made a mistake and thought he created the Best Book Ever when it desperately needs an editor, then you can let people know. I've seen one author who actually got her Kindle book edited due to feedback, so your opinions are heard.

Now I've spent a while writing this -- time to go forth and write a review!

Friday, October 07, 2016

You Are So Bad at SFB that... (pt. 2)

You think that whenever you turn mode comes up you can turn any direction you want.

You think that you can only turn on impulses evenly divisible by your turn mode number.

You accepted an easy battle with your 600-point fleet against a Klingon police ship on an open map. Then he avoided you for two turns and disengaged. 

You thought you had to buy two new batteries every turn.

You thought you had to ram your ship into the planet killer.

-- 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, October 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.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:
1. ROAM, to wander over a wide area, derives from the city of Rome and the wandering paths that pilgrims to the city took during the Middle Ages. The French have romier, the Spanish have romero, and the Italians have romeo which all mean the same thing -- a wanderer.
2. ROBE, an old word for clothing and now a word for cloak or a housecoat, was the word referring to the cape or cloak that a traveler wore to protect himself from the weather. The French people from 1100-1500 were notoriously destitute, poor, and starving, and English travelers through France often remarked that robbing travelers was a significant part of the economy. When setting upon a victim, the thieves would pick up the bottom edge of the traveler's cloak and flip it over his head, blinding him and making him an easy victim. Thus, thieves were called robbers because they used the traveler's robe in this way. An alert traveler might be able to escape with his money and goods by leaving his cloak behind. To the poverty-stricken French peasants, the cloak was as valuable as the purse because it provided warmth and shelter.
3. ROSTRUM, a platform for a speaker or politician to address a crowd, commemorates a battle in Roman history in 338BC (long before Rome was a major power). The citizens of Antium (now Anzio) were pirates and often preyed on Roman ships. The Romans had enough of it and one of the two Consuls (Maenius) was sent to the city at the head of an army and fleet to attack from both sides. He utterly destroyed their military (and pirate) power. He brought home as trophies the bronze ram-prows of the six major pirate ships. There had been a speaking platform in the forum for some decades, and Maenius directed that these six ram-prows be attached to this platform so that all future crowds would be reminded of the power of Rome when listening to their leaders. The platform became known as "the beaks" since the Antillan ram-prows were shaped like the beaks of huge birds. In Latin, the plural form of beaks is "rostra" and by the time of the Roman Empire all speaking platforms were called by that term. The English (with little skill and no interest in proper Latin conjugation) called any speaking platform a rostrum.
4. RUBBER, the flexible material that makes tires, beach balls, and erasers, was unknown until Columbus brought some home from his second voyage. No one could think of much to do with "elastic gum" (although some use was made in weatherproof tarps and capes) until 1790 when it was accidentally discovered to be just swell for erasing (rubbing out) pencil marks. It was thereafter known as "Indian rubber".
5. SABOTAGE, the malicious damage of the property of an employer or a government, comes from the French word for "shoe' which is sabot. French children wore wooden shoes in the early 1800s, and eventually figured out that if they didn't like what their teacher was teaching, they could simply all clack their shoes until the annoying noise got him to change the subject. The term "sabotage" then appeared meaning a minor distraction intended to force the authorities to change their positions. In 1887 the main French labor union adopted sabotage as a weapon of their collective bargaining strategy. If the employers did not give them better pay or conditions, workers would poor sand into gears, cut drive belts on machinery, accidentally damage or lose tools, spoil food, ruin products being shipped, or other things. Sabotage quickly became a strategy use by occupied nations to drive out their conquerors.
6. SACRAMENT means sacred oath, and was originally applied to that oath that each Roman soldier swore at the start of his enlistment and at the start of each campaign. (This practice began long before Christ and lasted over a thousand years.) Over time, it was applied to other solemn oaths and acts, such as the beginnings of a judicial trial. Christian writers about 250 AD were looking for a Roman word that meant the same as the Greek "mysterion" which applied to the various holy religious rituals and oaths of the time, and that usage continued long after the fall of Rome.
 7. SACRIFICE, to give up something valuable to obtain an equal or different achievement, comes from two Latin words, sacer (sacred) and facio (to make). Thus, the original meaning was "to make it sacred" and referred to the ritual cleaning needed to make an animal pure before it was given to the temple. In earlier times when health codes did not exist, a farmer might eat his own livestock but to sell it in the market required that it be cleaned and certified as disease free so that tainted meat or produce did not cause widespread sickness.

8. SACRILEGE, a violation of something sacred, comes from two Latin word: sacer (sacred) and lego (to pick up). It originally referred to people (usually the desperate poor) who stole food items that the middle class citizens had presented to the temple as food for the gods (and priests).

9. SALARY, a payment made at stated intervals for service rendered (as opposed to wages which were paid at the end of each work day based on what was actually done) derives from the word for salt. Roman soldiers were given "basic pay" but also got certain additional payments based on where they were stationed, such as extra money for warm clothing in cold areas. As the price of salt varied widely and salt was a necessity, soldiers (and other government officials) got a separate payment of "salt money" to cover this cost. In time, the term came to apply to the entire payment for all services. It is noted that modern US soldiers use the old Roman system, with "base pay" plus various allowances for uniforms, housing, food, travel, and other expenses (sometimes varying with where the service member is stationed).

10. SALTCELLAR is an old word (hardly used since our grandparent's time) for a container of salt. These days, we use "salt shaker" for the same thing. In the Middle Ages, a noble holding a party would have salt shakers are the part of the table where he and honored visitors sat "above the salt" while everyone else at "below the salt" and had to eat their food with only whatever seasoning the kitchen staff had added.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Master Starship Books March On

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Jean has finished reading the Romulan Master Starship Book, all of her fixes have been incorporated. SVC has finished the first round of graphics, and what remains is the alibi graphics (the graphics that looked good, then we found an error, and in one case a graphic we have never previously needed, but need for the Romulans and kept not noticing it).

Reports are coming in on the Lyran Master Starship Book, and the first graphics request file has been generated and given to SVC. We are trying a new format for the graphics requests in hopes of getting them done faster.

The draft for the Lyran Democratic Republic Master Starship Book has been completed. Hopefully the graphics for it will be simpler since they largely follow the Lyran ships. As noted, the General Units for this empire has significant variation because their were fewer of them and a lot of known history.

Currently, there is consideration of doing either the Gorn Master Starship Book, or the Kzinti Master Starship Book as the next projects, but which book will be next has not actually been selected.

Monday, October 03, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25 September - 1 October 2016

Steve Cole reports:

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

New on Warehouse 23, Wargame Vault, and DriveThru RPG this week was the Star Fleet Universe Coloring Book #1 and Federation Commander Federation Ship Card Pack #4.



Steve Cole worked on the coloring book, art for the Romulan Master Starship Book (he finished the last of it but some art done earlier needs minor fixes), Federation Commander Federation Ship Card Pack #4, Captain's Log #52, blogs, and other projects. He did quality checks on 700 map panels. Stephen and Leanna took a rare day off and binge-watched all 10 episodes of the new season of LONGMIRE.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52 (battlegroups), Master Starship books (line items for Romulans and Lyrans; work on LDR, inserting the last Romulan art), checking shipments and did quality control on product packing.

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 coloring book, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,245 friends), managed our Twitter feed (203 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, October 02, 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.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Steve Cole describes 10 things you didn't know about the Battle of the Bulge (the big German attack on 16 December 1944):
1. Everyone knows about the big German tank attack in the Battle of the Bulge. Few know that this attack involved 40,000 horses. These were not horse cavalry, but draft horses pulling artillery and supply wagons. Most of the German Army of World War II used horses. (That is why the Germans never used poison gas; they could not protect their horses from retaliation.) More German soldiers knew how to take care of a horse than drive a truck. There were not enough trucks and not enough gasoline to mechanize the entire German Army.
2. In mid-December of 1944, the Allied code breakers detected a flurry of weather reports from German submarines in the north Atlantic, but had no idea why the Germans had suddenly developed such an interest in the weather. The Germans wanted to pick a time with a week of cloudy skies (that would ground the feared Allied fighter-bombers). The way weather works in Europe, what is going on in Spitzbergen and Iceland today is what will be happening in Luxembourg five days later.
3. The German attack wasn't that big. While there were three "armies" involved, they were barely at half strength. The 5th and 6th Panzer Armies had four tank divisions and two infantry divisions each. The 7th Army had only four infantry divisions and a couple of dozen assault guns (like tanks but smaller and the guns were in fixed housings, not turrets). All of the divisions were stuffed full of untrained replacements transferred from the Navy and Luftwaffe or 17 year old draftees. The biggest problem was the shortage of engineers to build bridges, since it was impossible to go a dozen miles in the Ardennes without crossing a significant river.
4. The Germans decided to use paratroops to create an "airborne carpet" for the tanks. While the Allies had employed 36 battalions of paratroops and glider troops (plus nine battalions of parachute artillery) at Arnhem (where the idea failed) the Germans could only scrape up one battalion (800 volunteers, half of whom had jumped out of an airplane a few years earlier, half of whom had never jumped). They picked a likely spot (a key crossroads on a hill) as the target. Three hundred of the paratroops managed to land somewhere near that point, but after waiting three days for tank troops who never arrived, those men tried to sneak back to Germany and only half of them made it. Of the other 500, about half landed behind German lines by mistake or never jumped at all, and the rest were scattered over such a wide area that the Allies became convinced that an entire division of crack paratroopers had jumped over every critical point in the Ardennes. As happened at Normandy, the botched parachute landing caused more good by confusing the enemy than by actually capturing something important.
5. The Germans had blasted their way through a screen of light French troops in 1940 over the same road network in the same forest, but this time, there were Americans there. The Americans were mostly newly arrived troops or new replacements in burned out divisions, and 80% of them had never seen battle before the German attack. (By this point in the war, the cannon company and anti-tank company of each regiment had found their weapons useless and were deployed as extra infantry.) The Americans were too untrained to execute a fighting withdrawal. Their communications system (consisting of telephone wires as they were short of radios) was shot up the first hour of the attack. About all the Americans could do was dig in and hang on out of sheer stubbornness. (One platoon of 18 men, a recon unit not line infantry, held up an entire parachute regiment for an entire day, virtually destroying one of its battalions.) That turned out to be just exactly the right thing to do, as it blocked the German troops from their fast breakthrough and jammed the road networks. That gave time for troops from north and south of the German assault to attack sideways and stop the breakthrough.
6. Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to assemble a strike force of more than 1,000 fighters for a major operation, but didn't tell them what the operation was. (He was obsessed with keeping the attack a secret.) The Luftwaffe assumed that this was to be the long-awaited "day the American bombers die" that had been planned, so they deployed and trained their fighters for that mission. Two days before the attack, Hitler finally told them that their mission was to sweep the skies over the Ardennes forest and then attack Allied airfields to destroy the Allied fighter-bombers. Because the Army waited for bad weather to ground the Allied planes, the German planes could not launch their attack until a week later. They destroyed 305 planes on the ground and damaged 200, but killed only 35 allied airmen. The planes were replaced within days, so the German attack had no effect. The Germans, however, lost 324 pilots, many of them veterans who had been flying for years but had not done ground attacks since 1941. This destroyed the cream of what was left of the Luftwaffe.
7. Otto Skorzeny was told to create the 150th Panzer Brigade of English-speaking Germans wearing American uniforms and driving captured vehicles. Their mission was to drive through American lines and seize any bridge over the Meuse river they could find intact. While this was a bold idea, in reality there were very few Germans who spoke American-English, and only a half dozen captured American armored vehicles. In the end, Skorzeny sent 44 soldiers (in US uniforms) in 11 captured jeeps through American lines, of which 36 men in nine jeeps came home a week later. (The others were caught or killed. Most of Skorzeny's troops were used as a conventional tank brigade.) The tiny number of troops, however, was magnified by American panic until there was an English-speaking German behind every tree. (American records note over 300 "Germans in US uniforms" were executed.) Units set up checkpoints and arrested hundreds of Americans (including General Omar Bradley), causing more fear and confusion. (American soldiers shot the tires out of British Field Marshal Montgomery's staff car when he refused to answer questions about Disney characters.) None of the Americans knew the official passwords so they resorted to asking questions like "Who won the World Series?" and "What is the capital of Illinois?" but lots of American soldiers were not baseball fans or had no idea what city was the capital of distant states they had never visited. (The man who arrested Omar Bradley thought that Chicago was the capital of Illinois and arrested the general for giving the correct answer of Springfield.) Troops from all over the US were wandering around the battlefield, and some of them assumed that any accent from another part of the US must be how a German sounds when he's trying to speak English.
8. Everyone knows the story of the 101st Airborne (the "Screaming Eagles") who held out in Bastogne for two weeks, delaying the German offensive by blocking key parts of the road net. The 101st didn't act alone. There was a brigade of the 9th Armored Division in Bastogne (although it had been badly shot up before the 101st arrived) and a brigade of the 10th Armored Division as well. There were also several battalions of extra artillery. Bastogne had been a corps headquarters and had fairly extensive stockpiles of supplies except for medical supplies and artillery ammunition. Most of what was parachuted into the city was those two items, along with a number of surgeons since the 101st's own medical unit was captured by Germans before it could reach the scene. The rival 82nd Airborne Division very nearly underwent a similar siege at Saint Vith but Field Marshal Montgomery (who had taken command of US troops north of the breakthrough) ordered them to pull back to avoid being surrounded.
9. One of the forgotten units involved in the battle was the Canadian "9th Forestry Company" composed of lumberjacks. They spent the fall of 1944 and spring of 1945 in the Ardennes (which was a huge forest) cutting down trees to feed US Army Corps of Engineers sawmills that provided lumber for the entire Allied invasion force of seven field armies (US, British, Canadian, and French). The Canadians were only too happy to join the battle. They spread out in small teams, chopping down huge trees and dropping them across dozens of roads that the Germans wanted to use. It took only minutes to drop a tree, but it could take hours for the Germans to call forward (on jammed roads) special engineers with explosives and tools to get the trees out of the road. This slowed the Germans down, and in battle, moving slowly is the way to fail. (There were apparently several other Canadian forestry companies but only one of them is mentioned in any book I have, and I have a lot of books about the Battle of the Bulge.)
10. The only British unit to take part in the battle was the 29th Armored Brigade. (Several British divisions were moved to the area and blocked the Meuse River, which the Germans never reached.) How this unit came to join the battle is an interesting story. The unit had been in combat for months and had worn out their Sherman tanks. They were scheduled to receive new Sherman-Firefly tanks with better guns and better armor, but the problem was that the trains to the British sector were overworked delivering food and ammunition. The simple answer was for the 29th Armored Brigade to drive its worn-out tanks to a rail depot in the American sector and pick up the tanks there and drive them back to the British sector. The brigade was at the depot waiting for the trainloads of new tanks when the battle started, so they quickly mounted their old worn-out tanks (which they had parked in neat rows so they could be given to the French) and drove the relatively short distance to the battle. Speaking of British Field Marshal Montgomery: when he took command of the US troops north of the breakthrough, he sent a special liaison unit to 1st Army headquarters to make nice with the Yanks and ensure that everyone played on the same team. Montgomery hand-picked for his liaison to the US 1st Army a lieutenant-colonel who "just happened" to be the famous actor David Niven. The Americans were so busy asking for his autograph that they didn't resent taking orders from the British. Niven was accompanied by a plucky young driver who hoped to someday have an acting career. That man's name was Peter Ustinov.