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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on game design:

Back when I wrote my book 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.
1. Start with just how complicated you want the game to be. Game designers speak in terms of playability vs. realism, but what that really means is how much work the player has to do, how many options the player gets to pick from, and how long the game takes to play. I once designed a World War II game that involved no map, no counters, just one die roll. If you roll a "1" or a "2" the Germans win. If you roll a "4" or "5" or "6" the Allies win. A die roll of "3" means a negotiated peace. This actually is more accurate in predicting the outcome than most games, takes about five seconds to play, but isn't much fun. You have to decide what the playing time is going to be (three hours max, two is better), then include enough options to make the game interesting and just enough workload to make the system function.
2. There was a civil war game once where every regiment had two counters, one giving the unit, the other the number of men present in factors of 100. So in theory you said these three units are attacking that one unit. You pick up each unit to check the strength counter below it and multiply the strength times the number on the counter (which reflects the kind of weapons they had, and 80% of units had the same rifle), then add the three regiments together, roll a die, look up a number on a chart, multiply that number times the total for the three regiments, and that is how many strength points (hundreds of soldiers) eliminated from the target. That is, frankly, more than enough work, but that wasn't all. You could attack units two, three, or four hexes away, and the number on the unit counter has to be adjusted for range based on another chart and the kind of rifles carried. By this point, nobody remembered the original math. The game was very detailed and very accurate, but without a computer (not available in that decade) there was no practical way to play it without using a sheet of scratch paper for every attack. The playing time to resolve one single turn (there were a lot of regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia) was several hours.
3. There was a game I loved (but haven't seen in years -- I don't even remember the title) which involved the attacks by Panzer Gruppe Two and Three on the road to Moscow in 1941. The map covered a chunk of Russia from Brest-Litovsk to Minsk to Smolensk. The problem was that the map edges rested on open plains, not on any terrain features, and (in theory) you could keep outflanking the enemy by moving farther and farther from the center. The game worked, however, because all of the Russian reinforcements (and there were a lot of those) arrived on the railroad from Moscow (at railroad speeds, not dirt road speeds), which meant that they were in the central core of the map. Thanks to the fast-moving panzers of the two German generals (Guderian and Hoth) there was no way for a Russian unit to get anywhere near the edge of the map before a German tank unit caught it and killed it. This kept the battle in the center of the map and the game worked brilliantly.
4. Ever play Spades? Nullo (take no tricks but score 100 points, some call it "Nil") exists for a reason, and not just because someone with a terrible hand will at least have something they can try. No, the reason nullo is there is to give you a chance to score a hundred points even when your hand is NOT terrible. (Maybe you want to catch up when the opponents are ahead. Maybe you want to get ahead. Maybe you're 120 points from a win and combined with any decent hand by your partner you can win the game in one hand rather than risking a longer game.) Called "aggressive nullo" this is bidding nullo when you could easily bid two, or three, or four tricks. You can try this when you can "bury" a high card under lower ones. Say you have four hearts: A, 7, 6, 3. Normally that would be one winning trick to bid. But if you bid nullo you can toss the lower cards when opponents play face cards and eventually ruff the ace when your partner can trump it for you. If you get rid of your highest spade in the allowed exchange with your partner and only have one or two winning cards (aces and kings) which you can bury, you can rack up a big score. (Nullo also totally screws up the battle plan of your opponents who bid 8 total tricks.) If you don't have a spade over about 7, you can keep two or three spades (it's dangerous to keep four) and exchange an ace in a series like this: A, Q, 7, 4. Your partner should know that if you gave him the Ace of diamonds it means you have another diamond face card so he needs to lead that ace back as soon as possible and let you get rid of the queen. Now, this digression into tactics for a card game is here not to help you win at cards but to show you that Nullo is really a game design feature which you (maybe) did not recognize.
5. Why does American football include the option to kick a field goal? To create a dynamic choice. If the opponent has to defend against a third-down pass and a run up-the-center to position the ball for the field goal, his job is harder. Why is there an "extra point kick" in the game? So two field goals are not quite as good as a touchdown. Why is there a two-point conversion? To give you a dynamic choice that confuses the enemy defenders and makes the granularity of the scoring system something you can work around. All of those are game design features, not just interesting quirks.

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 21-27 August 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on several projects. The weather this week was around 70F and often cloudy.

New on Warehouse23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the Federation Commander:  Lost Empires Preview Ship Card Pack.

Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (all of Chapter 3 has gone to Jean), ship graphics for the Romulan Master Starship Book, ship graphics for SFBOL3G, Star Fleet Stalingrad, blogs, and graphics for Jean to post.

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

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries.

 Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,195 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, August 28, 2016

On Balancing and Cooking and Working

Jean Sexton muses:

Sometimes I think that life is a balancing act. How much can I do of this activity and still have time to do what I need to do? How much can I eat and still stay healthy? How little can I eat and still stay healthy? How much can I spend on "fun things" and still have for the necessities of life (and paying off medical bills is one of those necessities)? Balance, balance, balance seems to be the theme of my life now.

Cooking is one of those things where I must find balance. So many of my recipes are old ones and designed for a family of four where everyone is working hard. Some of my recipes are "add this ingredient until it looks right." Some recipes can only be cut down so far. Once you reach "one egg" you cannot really divide it any further. So to stay healthy, I am having to learn to trim back what I make. Can I make one potato's worth of potato salad? If I cannot trim the recipe any further, can I freeze it or give some of it away? It's a hard thing to rethink and health-wise I cannot afford to just eat all of the extras.

Working is another place where I am trying to find balance. All of my professional life I have worked far more than 40 hours a week. In North Carolina, I often ate at my desk (which I could do as I was salaried). If I had set a goal I needed to meet, I'd work until I met it. Sometimes I would start a project and look up to find I'd just worked 12 hours. Now that I had my brush with the Angel of Death, I want to try to have a life. But it is hard to break the habits of so many years. I am trying to take off at a reasonable hour so that I can eat at an earlier time than I have been (that also helps with my sleep). I am trying to take walks so that I can keep getting healthier. I am trying to let people tell me about problems rather than searching them them out at night. I've been reviewing more on review sites (a new-ish hobby) so I have more to do outside of work. And yes, I find myself fixing food rather than heating up a frozen meal.

So where is the balance point? I'm not sure. But I will keep hunting for the right point for me.

Saturday, August 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.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Hey, Klingon look at me. Do you fear what you see?
You ain't seen the best of me yet.
Give me time I'll make you regret this war.

When you invaded here, you thought I'd quake in fear.
How's that working out for you, guy?
How many of your men had to die?

[Chorus] Remember my game! War!
I'm gonna fight forever. I'm gonna teach you to cry.
My fleet is coming together. Klingons will see me and die. War!
I'm gonna send you to heaven. Light up your ship like a flame. War!
I'm gonna fight forever. Klingons will faint at my name.
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender,
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender!

Hey, Klingon fear my might, 'cause I can make it right.
You can shoot with all that you got,
Give me hell, I'm over the top of you.

Hey, Klingon I am tough, and you don't have enough.
I'll pound your ship 'til it breaks,
Ooo, I got what it takes.

[Chorus] Remember my game! War!
I'm gonna fight forever. I'm gonna teach you to cry.
My fleet is coming together. Klingons will see me and die. War!
I'm gonna send you to heaven. Light up your ship like a flame. War!
I'm gonna fight forever. Klingons will faint at my name.
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender,
Surrender, Surrender, Surrender, Surrender!

(Our apologies to the Broadway musical Fame)

(c) Stephen Cole and Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Steve Cole notes things that came to his mind.
1. I have tried the computerized ordering system at McDonald's and found it awkwardly designed and hard to use. Going screen by screen, page by page, is just not needed. Why did they not just have everything (with smaller pictures) on one screen (sized so the whole thing shows, no scrolling) and you just move your hand past row upon row of ingredients, tapping the ones you wanted? Some items of the current system are only found by scrolling down the page to off-screen items, and nothing tells you there IS an off-screen portion of the page. Trying to replace $15 per hour minimum wage kids is one thing, but making it harder for the customers is not a good plan.
2. I read a lot of books. I have, for many years, always had a book in the bathroom that I was reading a few pages at a time. Any convenient scrap of paper, or a formal bookmark, or one of those advertising cards torn from a magazine would serve as a bookmark. It was, however, always difficult to remember just exactly where on the two facing pages I had stopped. The idea of always stopping at the bottom of the left page had an appeal, but often there were people waiting for me, or that wasn't a good place to stop. Recently, I hit upon a solution. I drew a small mark on the backside of my current bookmark, and as I put the book away at the end of each visit, I turned the bookmark so that the mark was facing the page I had stopped on and was lined up with the actual place I stopped. This had made it very easy to pick up where I left off rather than re-reading or missing part of the book.
3. I love the show Ice Road Truckers, but I wonder about something. They send trucks with various loads up these ice roads to remote communities. Each community gets various loads over the three months that the roads are open. The drama on the show happens when the trucks break down in the middle of nowhere, too far north for satellite phones to work. It seems to me that a more efficient way would be to plan ahead and get a bunch of loads going to one community and send them all in a convoy. I'd send every truck in my company to the same place, maybe 20 minutes apart. The last truck might be a wrecker truck carrying a mechanic and a medic. If anybody has a problem the next truck is right behind him. If a truck totally breaks down, we can swap loads out. The company's senior driver would be in the mix and able to make command decisions. I'm not sure I wouldn't send a pickup truck 24 hours ahead just to make sure the road is open. (The drivers seem to rely on rumors and gossip to find out if a road is actually available for use.) Under their current system every community gets a load or two each week; under my system they'd get all their loads at once and some community would be last on the list (and probably getting cranky about waiting that long) but I might pick the communities for convoy service that are the most profitable and efficient for me and let the other companies take the harder to reach places.

Wednesday, August 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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

People See Things As They Are Predisposed To

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I am very, very annoying to Jean.

I just do not see the world the way she does.

Jean sees pretty buildings. Lovely vegetation. Awesome vistas.

I see avenues of approach. Concealment. Fields of fire.

What I see is all crowded together and overlaid by time.

That wide boulevard does not present much of an obstacle for marching a cohort of Roman heavy infantry in mass to contact, and poses no difficulties in employing their pilums before the shock.

That wide boulevard is a kill zone for machineguns firing diagonally across from both sides effectively dividing any advance east to west or west to east, but would be a true kill zone if the advance was north to south or south to north.

In the mid 1800s, a battery of guns would be difficult to employ versus enemy marksmen (because to be effective in such a street scene it would be too close and exposed to fire). In the early 1900s guns would make movement difficult, and trenches connecting the houses would be needed. By 1945, the trenches would need overhead cover to protect from proximity fuzed munitions. By the late 1900s improved conventional munitions would make even the houses poor protection from artillery fires without significant internal reinforcement.

In one direction, where is the best place to site a machinegun. In another time, is there a good position for a ballista (the tops of some of the mid-sized buildings, perhaps, but the ground is mostly too low to find good firing positions).

Even driving outside of town, would that hill make a good TOW position, something the TOW can move into position, shoot, hit the target, and then get out of dodge to a new position before shells begin landing? Natural ditches channel not just armored vehicles, but dismounted troops (whether armed with swords and bucklers, or rifles and bayonets) away from some locations and canalize them into possible kill zones.

A flower bed is a minor impediment to my stolid Roman foot soldiers, by my modern soldiers will have to take care that it might be strewn with a few mines.

All that being said, can I even appreciate art? Well . . . a lot of "modern art" not at all, but "Scotland Forever" appeals to me. And were I to ever win the lottery, I would commission a painting for a wall of my house of "Thunderchild" showing the ship ablaze as she rams one of the Martian war machines, with the smoking shattered remains of the one her guns got nearby.

But even at Origins I tended to think of  how to fight in the building, and the differences time has made. Grenade launchers and portable anti-armor weapons complicate defenses that were much simpler before the start of World War I.

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 August 2016

Steve Cole reports: This was a week of steady progress on many projects. The weather this week was not as hot as it had been.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #42. Also released were its color SSDs pack. New for DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was the Captain's Log #42 Supplement.


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (sending the intelligence and diplomatic sections to Jean), art for SFBOL3G, art for the Romulan Master Starship Book, art for Lyran Master Starship Book, the scenarios for Communique #129 and #130, spent a few minutes on something he calls "Star Fleet Stalingrad" (nobody knows what it is), and other projects.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52 (battlegroups), the Romulan Master Starship Book, and the Lyran Master Starship Book.

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

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Since Mike and his family were on vacation, sending orders was suspended for the week.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on pasta recipes, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,188 friends), managed our Twitter feed (197 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread parts of the Romulan Master Starship Book and Federation Admiral, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 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/).

Saturday, August 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!

Friday, August 19, 2016


Steve Cole evaluates the top ten snack foods found in the ADB offices.
1. Cake: It seems somebody is always bringing in a cake to celebrate something or other. The best of the snack food, this is unpredictable, in that it arrives at random intervals rather than being found when I'm hungry. Even worse, the only way to get a piece is to sit at the conference table and make small talk with employees I was trying to avoid.
2. Pepperoni: One of the meat flavored snacks, this has a unique taste, perhaps because it is low fat. Curiously, this is the only meat-flavored snack I am allowed to feed the dog.
3. Styrofoam soaked in salty butter: Steven Petrick buys bags of this stuff at the convenience store on the corner. It says it's made from corn syrup but I am not so sure. It tastes just like it sounds, but hey, butter is good.
4. Cookies: the convenience store makes these huge six-inch home-made cookies in several flavors. (How can they be home-made if they cook them in the store?) Anyway, the only problem with these is if I want one I have to walk four blocks to get it, and then I have to bring back cookies for everyone in the office.
5. Milk bon-bons: I always thought that bon-bons were some kind of confectionery thing like candy, but Jean insists that these are good for my teeth. They seem crunchier than cashews and even drier than peanut butter. Jean at least allows me to feed them to the dog.
6. Leftover candy bars: At the trade show every year, we get bushels of these things, so I always take the time to hide some all over my office in various drawers and files. An hour or two of searching almost always turns up one of them, some of them from last year, some from years earlier. I even found one in a box of old JagdPanthers and it was still good (despite turning green).
7. Peanut butter cookies: These are small and come in a big bag. They're dry but tasty. There is a picture of a dog on the bag which may be why Jean thinks they're safe to feed to Wolf, but she insists on feeding them to him herself.
8. Pre-cooked microwave bacon: Leanna bought me a box of this stuff, and said I could microwave it a few strips at a time. I ate the whole box (12 strips) without microwaving it. I mean, it says "pre-cooked" right on the box and who cares if it's warm or not?
9. Mighty-Minis: These things I found behind the sofa are marked "M&M" so I'm guessing about the name. They seem to have a hard shell surrounding a dab of chocolate. They're one of my favorites but actually finding them is more difficult than it ought to be. Too bad they aren't in stores. I have to wait for the next crop to grow in some dusty out of the way place.
10. Cookie crumbs. Wolf gave me this idea. My desk is always covered in small crumbs of various things I ate days ago, and he would always lick them up. Why share with the dog when I can scoop them up and eat them myself?

Steve's various snacks!

Thursday, August 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Stress, The Wolf, and Walking

Jean Sexton muses:

I tend to be a worrier. My mother always says that if I didn't have something to worry about, I'd worry about having nothing to worry about. I know that worrying causes stress and stress isn't good for me, so now I also worry about worrying. While my blood pressure is low enough that I don't worry about high blood pressure (in fact, if it is anything, it is too low -- oh no! another thing to worry about) what I do is stress eat and that is certainly not good for me. So I am trying to reduce the amount of worry and stress in my life.

The Wolf helps with that. While sometimes he is a source of worry (mostly when his little tummy gets upset and he's sick), mostly he helps cut down on my stress. How can I worry when he's inviting me to get down on the floor and play with him? And patting his soft fur is really relaxing. When he ferociously attacks a toy and shakes it to death, I can't help but laugh. Then there are the times when he gets the "zoomies" and charges madly through the apartment, ending up panting in front of me, a doggy grin on his face.

One of my doctors told me that the best way to deal with stress is to walk it out. The most important way that Wolf helps with stress is by encouraging me to do that walking. If we follow a set pattern around and through the apartment complex, it is about three-quarters of a mile. The walk to the mailbox and back is two-tenths of a mile on the direct route and a quarter mile if we take the long way. There's a square of apartment buildings that is about a tenth of a mile to walk around. And Wolf knows all those paths. At night, he'll tell me he absolutely, positively must go on a walk right now. So, what do I do? Walk him, of course!

If it is cool enough, we go on our "long walk" of three-quarters of a mile, Wolf trotting out so that he has plenty of time to stop and sniff anything important while I catch up and pass him. Anytime I want to take a shortcut, I look at him trotting along on his short legs and wearing his fur coat. I tell myself if Wolf can do it, I can do it. There's one place that sometimes I am sorely tempted to head home at times. By the time I reach that point, Wolf has whipped around the corner and is headed out on the last leg of the long walk. At that point, I sigh and I go with him.

The end result is that I'm slowly building up stamina. In January, I started by not being able to do much other than go around my building dragging my oxygen and being unassisted by a walker. I increased to two buildings, and then three, finally losing the oxygen. I managed to walk the tenth of a mile to the mailbox and back, but was exhausted for the rest of the day. Now Wolf and I do that for our morning walks on nice days and I don't notice it much.

I suddenly realized I wasn't tired after our long walk when Wolf tricked me. He insisted on a long walk and took a shortcut across a U-shaped part of our walk. I thought "My goodness!" and walked with him. I knew I wouldn't be tired with a shorter walk. However, when we got to our door's walkway, he kept going! We walked around the square of four buildings -- twice as long as the omitted parts of the "U." When we got back to the apartment, I wasn't tired. My blood pressure was a little high for me, but didn't even count as high blood pressure. So walking out stress has helped both my physical and mental health.

With any luck I'll be around for a long time, bringing you more news about the Star Fleet Universe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Minimal Available Force, Maximum Aggression

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Army has a saying about tactics, the clean version is simply that "everyone has one."

SVC was reading a book recently, and commented that he had found a general who thought like I do. That is to say that he has noted that I have a tendency to have a reserve, and the more stretched a line I am required to hold, the more likely that the reserve will be a larger percentage of my available force.

While I much prefer to hold a stable line, with solid interlocking fields of fire, my line may (because of a lack of resources or too much ground to cover) become little more than a security line. To detect the enemy attack, and allow me to maneuver the reserve (the bulk of my available firepower) to counter-attack, or take up a stronger blocking position to turn an enemy thrust back.

The security line, if terrain allows, might consist of strong points/resistance nests that will expect to be bypassed by the attacker, but prevent the attacker from bringing up supplies while the reserve attacks to destroy the penetration and restore the line.

I am not given to (within the limits of my ability to maneuver) static defense. I want to maneuver, to bring the maximum firepower to bear against an attack, not disperse all of my forces over a line and allow it to be thus destroyed in detail. I want to tear at the attacker's flanks with the maximum force I can bring to bear, not let him gobble up my forces in penny packets over an extended front.

Sometimes that means the reserve will have to make multiple attacks versus different penetrations, and that means knowing the terrain well to identify the critical attack that must be turned back first. And it means preparing the battle, selecting the positions from which the enemy's attacking force will be attacked by fire but will protect my own forces from his return fire.

I prefer to be the aggressor, and even in defense the enemy may choose the time and place of his initial attack, but I will prepare the battlefield such that I can choose the place, if not the time, where my counter attack will be delivered by analyzing where the enemy may attack, and where I can best counter that thrust.

Monday, August 15, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 August 2016

Steve Cole reports: This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was hot, often over 90F. We released Communique #128 and Hailing Frequencies on the 9th.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThruRPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the Star Fleet Battles Module R4 Rulebook. (The R4 SSD Book was uploaded earlier.)


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (sent chapter 2 and the first few pages of chapter 3 to the staff), the Federation Commander Lost Empires Ship Card Pack (sent to the staff), Communique for September, and other projects. He created master resource files for Federation Commander counters, Federation Commander turn modes and movement costs, and people art, which will save much time later.

Steven Petrick worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, the Lyran Master Starship Book (which went to the staff this week), the Captain's Log #52 battlegroups and other articles,

 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 worked on some graphics.

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,184 friends), managed our Twitter feed (196 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread various things (the Romulan Master Starship Book, the Federation Commander Lost Empires Ship Card Pack), took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 14, 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.

Saturday, August 13, 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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Does the Captain Know?

You're so hot ... flying free,
I'm so green that you won't take a chance on a noob like me.
That's something you couldn't see.
There's that look ... in your eyes,
I can read in your face that you want to fly into the wild.
But, Sir, I'm more than a child!

So can I fly with you, Major? Seek a little danger?
Does the Captain know that you've launched?
And I can follow your leader,
Keep up with your speeder.
Does the Captain know that you've launched?

You're the leader (You're the leader)
Better show me speed,
That's no way to lead,
Does the Captain know?
You're the leader (You're the leader)
Try to take it fast.
I won't be the last.
Does the Captain know?

I can see ... what you want,
But you think I'm too young to be flying on that kind of run,
So maybe I'm not the one.
You've got moves, I like your style,
And I know what you think when you give me
    a flash of your smile (smile)
But, sir I'm more than a child!

So can I fly with you, Major? Seek a little danger?
Does the Captain know that you've launched?
And I can follow your leader,
Keep up with your speeder.
Does the Captain know that you've launched?

You're the leader (You're the leader)
Better show me speed,
that's no way to lead.
Does the Captain know?
You're the leader (You're the leader)
Try to take it fast.
I won't be the last.
Does the Captain know?

So I can fly with you, Major? Seek a little danger?
Does the Captain know that we've launched?
And I will follow your leader,
Keep up with your speeder.
Does the Captain know that we've launched?
Apologies to Abba: Does your mother know?

(c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Write A Scenario

This is Steven Petrick posting.

We are always looking for new scenarios. And the game background provides many hints and clues to things that supposedly happened, but for which no scenario exists. Most of these are relatively small incidents involving a few ships, some are larger.

We have invited players to find these incidents and create scenarios, but the reaction has been for the incidents to be found, and then I am requested to create the scenario.

I do (regrettably) write a lot of scenarios (or at least I have), but it is not always possible to drop everything I am doing to develop a scenario someone wants from scratch. There are other jobs around the office here that I need to be working on.

Yes, when I scenario is submitted I still have to sit down and go through checking the background. And, yes, sometimes players have ideas that simply will not mesh with Star Fleet Universe background, and yes, sometimes a scenario can work in Federation Commander and not work at all in Star Fleet Battles (and vice versa), but both game systems need scenarios. Submit a scenario and if it is a good one, but the background does not work, I will probably try to adjust the background to make it work.

But sometimes there is just nothing that can be done, such as creating a scenario that absolutely requires that certain ships be present (we are not talking "named ships" but ship types), and one of the ships is simply not in service in that year (not even as a prototype) or was the only one of its type and was destroyed in an earlier year, or the two empires simply could not meet in that year (a Gorn cruiser encounters a Lyran cruiser on the border of Hydran space is just not workable, but it might be possible to twist the background to have them encounter each other on the edge of Tholian space by setting the scenario during Operation Nutcracker . . . but that would be a stretch since the Lyrans historically did not support that operation, and the set up was to have a Hydran ship intervene in the fight).

But check the ship descriptions for incidents for which there is no scenario, or if you are creative, check the general universe background and build something that would be an interesting fight. Do not ignore terrain as a means to make it interesting. Consider mixing terrain situations (nothing says an ion storm cannot be raging in an asteroid field).

Wednesday, August 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:

Tuesday, August 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.

Monday, August 08, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 31 July - 6 August 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was in the 90s although it did rain on Friday. We  had a full board staff meeting to discuss future plans and needed reprints, and celebrated the third birthday of Wolf.

New on Warehouse23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the game Operation Pegasus.


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (playtesting the combat system and doing the first draft of the tech tier tree), Communique #128, quality control checks of miniatures, and Federation Commander Fighters Attack. Steve and Jean spoke with several prospective RPG authors about the next game system for Prime Directive.

Steven Petrick finished the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 update. He worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book, battlegroups for Captain's Log #52, checked the packing of new products, helped do quality control on a large shipment of miniatures, and other projects.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with six new entries and one update.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, did quality checks on a new batch of miniatures, and rebuilt the inventory.

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,176 friends), managed our Twitter feed (195 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread SFB Module C2 and Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

On Anniversaries, Birthdays, and Living

Jean Sexton muses:

August is an interesting and challenging month for me. There are a lot of memories and events tied to the month.

August 2014 is when I started driving the U.S.S. Arctic Wolf on a regular basis. When I got it, I had owned Baby Car for 14 years. The old car had averaged well over 30,000 miles a year during its early life. Now my car had 8078 miles on it and I added 3827.4 of those during its second year. (Some of the reason it is so low is due to its not being driven much while I was ill or restricted from driving after the seizure I had in December.) I love the Arctic Wolf for knocking about town, its primary use.

Anniversaries come in both good and bad. While it was the month of my parents' wedding anniversary, it is also the month when my father passed away. I know I was fortunate to have my father for as long as I did, but there are times when I selfishly wish he were still here. I hope that I embody the lessons he tried to teach me about living my life both honorably and kindly.

Some of the sorrow each year is now mitigated by celebrating Wolf's birthday. Wolf always gets a cake (well, his people do), toys, clothes (harness, collar, and leash), a bed (to replace the most worn-out one), and other needed items. It is a way for people at the office to celebrate together and that is always a good thing.

 Wolf's birthday cake in 2016.

For me, August is also a celebration of being alive. Back in 2009, it was the start of a process that would ultimately determine that I did not have breast cancer. In 2015, it was the start of a process that would determine that I did have endometrial cancer and would remove it completely.

The outcome: I am alive and flourishing. I can celebrate the good, mourn the sad, and most importantly share it all with you. I share with you because many of you have been there all the time that I have been part of the Star Fleet Universe. You've supported me when the bad things happened and rejoiced with me when the news was good. And that is just part of why I love this company so much -- the terrific people who happen to play our games.

Saturday, August 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.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Star Fleet Marine

Give me a mission, give me a gun, give me a chance to survive.
I'm just a poor grunt in the battle line. My God, I'll probably die.
My mother and father, and all of my friends,
All said goodbye to my face.
I've got the armor, and I've got the gun, I'm not a charity case.
I'll fight those hard fights, impossible odds,
Keeping my back to the wall.
If it costs me my life just to reach for my dream,
Well, I'm proud to be a Star Fleet Marine.

Give me an order that I can't refuse; Give me a fight I can't win.
This is my last time in the battle line, so like it or not, I'll take theŠ
Hard fights, impossible odds, keeping my back to the wall.
If it costs me my life just to reach for my dream,
Well, I'm proud to be a Star Fleet Marine.

Keeping my mind in a better place, while death's a heartbeat away.
Combat can be all I that heard that it was,
I close my eyes and I pray.
I'll fight those hard fights, impossible odds,
Keeping my back to the wall.
If it costs me my life just to reach for my dream,
Well, I'm proud to be a Star Fleet Marine.

I'll fight those hard fights, impossible odds,
Keeping my back to the wall.
If it costs me my life just to reach for my dream,
Well, I'm proud to be a Star Fleet Marine.
Got to be in Star Fleet. Proud to be a Star Fleet Marine

Apologies to Styx ("Blue Collar Man").

(c) by Stephen V. Cole and Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

On Barbecue and Watermelon and Hometowns

Jean Sexton muses:

Until I moved to Amarillo in 2013, I had lived all my life in eastern North Carolina. Almost half of that was in the town of Murfreesboro in northeastern North Carolina, about 60 miles south of Norfolk. The rest of it was in Robeson County in southeastern North Carolina. Those years shaped my tastes.

To me, barbecue is made from pulled pork, basted in a vinegar-based sauce. Eastern North Carolina doesn't waste any meat as it is lightly smoked over either hickory or oak (or a combination). Pulled, chopped, or minced, the meat is a tasty complement to coleslaw, boiled potatoes, and hush puppies.

Pork Fest 2006

Watermelon was always a special treat. My Dad and I loved it. Mom would sigh and make room in the fridge for the huge melon. She encouraged us to eat it, hoping to free up the space sooner rather than later. She was happy when they came out with the round ones because Dad and I could finish it in one sitting. I was happy to find bowls filled with pre-cut chunks -- less mess to clean up. When Dad passed away, one of our neighbors brought slices over and all I could think was I wished Dad were there to share it. The first bite of the season that I take is always for him.

Murfreesboro has a lot of history and festivals throughout the year. One of those is the Pork Fest where teams compete for best barbecue and best presentation. After the judging, the different meats are all minced up and served up. Yummm! The other festival (going on right now) is the Watermelon Festival. There are lots of things to do including (you guessed it) eating watermelon.

My hometown has much to draw my thoughts to it: history (it was a King's Landing), cultural activities via Chowan University (then Chowan College), and a peaceful way of life. I'm not blind to its problems (it is 60 miles from a major population center with large hospitals and even further to an easily accessible airport), bu some days I find my mind dreaming of a long-ago past when summers were spent at the pool and Sunday afternoons the children played while the fathers played tennis and our mothers chatted with each other.

Now it is time for me to make memories in my new hometown. Some are great: time spent with friends and pets. Those are the ones I hope to remember as I get older. I hope you also find time to make some memories to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 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.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Foodie and Grumpy Season Two (c) 2016 ADB, Inc.

 EPISODE #1 (Part 3)

F: Okay, out of all of this mess, what can you make? How many meals?

G: Well, I can microwave the ravioli for one night, eat the soup the next night...

F: Do you heat it on the stove or in a microwave?

G: Heat? I just open the can and eat it with a spoon.

F: Sigh. Go on. How many more meals?

G: Well, I have the two TV dinners. They even have vegetables in them.

F: That's four meals, but mashed potatoes and tatter-tots aren't a vegetable. Pity that when the milk went bad you couldn't eat the corn flakes. With some fresh strawberries and non-sugar sweetener they could make a meal.

G: Oh, I eat the corn flakes as a snack. I haven't added milk since I was a kid, and strawberries would go bad before I even got started on the box.

F: What else do you have?

G: Pork & beans, two cans, that's meals five and six.

F: You have them by themselves?

G: Of course not, I have them with chips. Do you think I'm a heathen?

F: Moving along. You're up to six meals.

G: Pity I'm out of microwave popcorn.

F: Thank goodness for small bits of salvation.

G: Spaghetti makes seven.

F: Don't tell me you eat it out of the can?

G: Sometimes, but I usually make meat balls with it.

F: Out of what? A mix of ground pork and ground beef with three or four suitable spices, browned in a skillet?

G: No, I cut each Vienna sausage into three pieces. That gives me twenty-one ball-shaped pieces of meat. I mix them in a paper bowl with the spaghetti out of the can and microwave it for two minutes.

F: While I find both ingredients disgusting, at least you cooked something that wasn't out of a single can.

G: I've been known to add a can of chicken to a can of chicken and dumplings. Even a few peas, sometimes.

F: Careful, you're in serious danger of winning a culinary award for creativity.

G: You think so? Thanks! Anyway, I could boil some water and make the Ramen noodles. Two cups of them is supper for me. Then I can microwave the macaroni. That's nine meals. And I can make a ham and cheese sandwich for 10.

F: Please don't eat the ham. I don't want to have to break in a new partner.

G: Okay, but I can toast some bread, then put it and the cheese into the microwave for a few seconds and make  a grilled cheese sandwich. So, how did I do?

F: I would rate this an epic fail. Really, there's no flavor, not much nutrition, nothing healthy. You can do a lot better, and it's not that hard.

G: I'm all ears. I don't mind fresh food, but there's just one of me. It goes bad before I can finish it, or I have to eat the same thing three nights in a row.

F. Well, I can see your challenge. There are some things you can do there. Buy a smaller bottle of milk, for one. I bet you are buying the same size bottle your mother sent you to the store for a decade ago.

G. Come to think of it, yes.

F: Buy TV dinners that come with peas and carrots, not potatoes.

G: Okay, I can do that.

F: For another, check the dates on everything once a week. If something is going to go past its date in the next week, eat it before then. When you buy a loaf of bread, divide it into groups of four or six slices and freeze them in quart-size freezer bags. Thaw one out when you finish another. And eat some vegetables.

G: How? I don't want a whole can of peas & carrots with a whole can of ravioli.

F: Buy some small Tupperware bowls about the size of half of a can. Then buy some canned vegetables, like peas, green beans, mixed vegetables, or corn. When you open a can of veggies, put half of it into a container and have it a couple of days later with a can of meat, or better, half a can of meat. I'm not trying to fatten you up. Half a can of two different things is better for you than a whole can of one thing.

G: Unless I eat the same thing two nights in a row, I'll never keep track of the leftovers.

F: You have a normal-sized refrigerator and only one person using it. Use one shelf to organize things. Put the food for the next three meals into groups on that shelf. If you open a can of fruit or vegetables then put the other half of it with the third future meal. When something is getting close to its date, put it in line to eat tomorrow. And if your mother gives you something left over, put it in line and eat it before you forget about it. And don't forget to call her and thank her. She's probably providing you the best meal of your week.

G: Thanks for all the advice.

Monday, August 01, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 July 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on many products. Sunday was the last day of AMA-Con. The weather this week was hot, often reaching 100F.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was the LDR ship card pack for Federation Commander.


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral (playtesting of the combat system started), ship graphics for the Romulan Master Starship Book, and other projects.

Steven Petrick finished the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 update, and worked on Captain's Log #52 and the
Romulan Master Starship Book.
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 AMA-Con, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,168 friends), managed our Twitter feed (197 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread SFB Module C2, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Security Director Ramses Cole Bengal transferred to the Black Fleet on Thursday, surrounded by the ADB staff. He is sorely missed.