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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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, January 30, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 January 2017

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week ranged from very cold to moderately coolish. We posted photos of the new Starline 2425 freighters about to enter production.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week were the Star Fleet Battles: Module M - Star Fleet Marines rulebook and SSD (in both color and B&W).

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

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52 (Federation Commander scenarios, proposals board, ships, other articles), blogs, graphics for the Lyran Master Starship Book, the ship for Communique #132, and other projects

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Lyran Master Starship Book, the Star Fleet Battles: Module C3 update, quality control of assembly and shipping, final tweeks on the Star Fleet Battles: Module M update, and the LDR 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.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a rabid giraffe and two kangaroos.

Jean worked on the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3595 friends), managed our Twitter feed (212 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #52, took care of customers, uploaded Module M, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Role-Playing Games and Experience and Writing

Jean Sexton muses:

I didn't encounter role-playing games (RPGs) until I was in college. There I ran into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition). I couldn't believe how much fun it was. I was delighted to find there were more flavors: RuneQuest and GURPS were so detailed and with GURPS I could play any time or place I could imagine. Then there were the superhero games (Champions and Superworld) and the spy games (Top Secret and James Bond 007), not to mention horror (Call of Cthulhu). I met cyberpunk through Shadowrun. Finally I met Traveller and had the ineffable experience of having my character die before I could even play her! I loved my trike in Car Wars. One of the last games I played was Deadlands and that was my introduction to steampunk.

I loved the worlds that these games created. And there were the places that I could visit: ElfQuest and its supplements, Thieves World, and Greyhawk. I loved the Citybook generic books that I could add into my games and the rich interactions that were included.

When I started proofreading at ADB, they quickly found out about my RPG background and handed over the Prime Directive RPG line to me. They made it sound so easy. Little did I know that my work was cut out for me. They made it sound like I could change a few lines in a book and all would be well for it to move over to another RPG. There is so much more involved as I learned over time. As time passed, I started asking questions: If the Bargantines are genetically Klingons, but with different conditioning, why do we have them chewing cud? Are the Vudar really amphibious, or are they rather just good swimmers? Just how long is a Phelan? As I gained experience, I learned that good answers needed to be given to make the games more accurately reflect what was known in the universe.

Writing has always been difficult for me to produce to order. If I am passionate about something, words flow effortlessly. Assignments are much harder. Assignments that must fit into known facts are even harder for me. However, I also want to keep promises. Long ago we promised the Prime Directive PD20 Modern players that one day they would have the species we cut for space reasons. I finally decided to try a proof of concept: could an RPG book be done in Word on a PC rather than in PageMaker on a Mac. The best way to do this was a limited size book and the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement was born. It's been a challenge to look at what we have in GURPS and the original Prime Directive books, ask questions ("Is this really true?" and  sometimes "Which is true?"), and get that expressed in PD20M terms. Still, I have enjoyed it and I think it is preparing me for the Traveller Prime Directive series. I'm hoping that with the experience in writing and layout in in the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, I'll be ready for the longer book.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

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, January 27, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q8

8. What do you mean "you're not sure" whether you launched the real or the pseudo plasma torpedoes?

Sir, does it make a difference? I thought both were designed to chase the pesky Gorns away while we engaged the cloaking device. Didn't you read the manufacturer's latest disclaimers?

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where the Lyran Master Starship Book is

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Progress has been made on the Lyran Master Starship Book, which will help in moving the Lyran Democratic Republic Master Starship Book through the system faster when its time comes because many of the graphics are pretty close to the same.

The specific progress is that while line items are still coming in on the book, SVC has completed the graphics for all of the Lyran ships in Modules C1, J2, K, R3, R5, R6, R7, R8, R9, R10, X1, and X1R.

The graphics for the General Units used by the Lyrans have not been converted as of yet, and we still need to do the graphics for the Lyran ships found in Module R11 and R12, and Modules Y1, Y2, and Y3, as well as the Captain's Log ships. Then the Lyran PFs and Interceptors will need to be done. At that point, we will have to decide if we want to do just a few Klingon Fighters for "color" in the Lyran fighter section since they pretty much just use Klingon fighters and bombers. (Perhaps one Z-2 graphic before the mention of Z-2s, and one Z-V graphic, and one Z-Y graphic and maybe one ZB graphic?)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Steve Cole ponders laws we really need.
1. Starting with the next model year, all cars produced and/or sold in the USA must have the gas cap on the driver's side. It will be a few years before almost all cars are that way, but when we get that far it will be easier to get gas because everyone will be pulling up to the pumps from the same side.
2. There shall be no more television shows that start or stop a minute or two before or after the hour. Everything can start and stop on the hour so that our DVRs can record back-to-back shows on different networks. The last 15 seconds of one hour and the first 15 seconds of the next hour must not include programing, only commercials or announcements.
3. No more re-runs shall be posted on DVR menus as new shows, and that specifically includes marathons. Adding a few comments in subtitles or 15 seconds of new video doesn't make a re-run a new show.
4. No network will "call" the election for any given state until the polls close in every state. To make that easier, voting in every state will end at 9pm Eastern time (6pm in California) on election day. I do realize that Alaska and Hawaii will stop voting around lunch time. (Early voting eliminates the idea that people have to stop after work to vote. They can stop after work during the early voting period, which can run as late in any non-election evenings as the state wants.)
5. Starting with the next model year, the windshield wiper controls of every new car made in America (or imported) must work the same way. The manufacturers can get together and figure out what the rule will be. On my car, you move the lever up to turn it on and down to get one quick sweep. On my wife's car, it's just the opposite.
6. During election season, every all-news network must have one prime time hour without any election coverage. That way, people can find out what else is going on in the world. They can coordinate to all do this on different hours.
 7. No file-sharing site can post a document for download until it has done a simple search to see if the document has a copyright notice on it, or is essentially the same as a commercial publication. A simple Google search will do. If "Star Fleet Battles" comes up as a retail website, then it's a sure bet that anything marked "Star Fleet Battles" is under copyright. If that means that file sharing sites have to have a human check every document, then so be it.

8. Starting with the next model year, the cup holders on all cars (which are designed for cans, not for the 44 ounce cups actually used) will be 1.5 inches apart so that the aforementioned cups will fit.

9. Reality TV shows will stop wasting 10 minutes of each episode giving us a preview of what will happen after the next commercial or what happened before the last commercial. They have miles of videotape and can better use the time showing us some new story line.

10. Local television stations may not put weather maps or weather warnings in the corner of the screen more than 30 seconds between any two commercials (and all of that in one block). I am tired of being unable to see the show because there is a map (telling me it's going to rain) and a list of the counties where I need to roll up my car windows.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is 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.

Monday, January 23, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 January 2017

Steve Cole reports:
This was a week of steady work on current projects. The weather this week was mild.
Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, blogs, the new ship for Communique #134, a new pack of ship cards for upload to the PDF stores, and other projects
Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Lyran Master Starship Book, quality control assembly and shipping, and the LDR 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.
Wolf guarded the office, chasing away bikers and skateboarders.
Jean worked on the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,548 friends), managed our Twitter feed (212 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

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, January 21, 2017

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, January 20, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q7

7. If you're not using the UIM to aim the disruptors, what are you using it for?

To aim the drones. Isn't that why it was installed?

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Steve Cole's thoughts on military history:

1. On June 1, 1940, thousands of British, French, Polish, and Norwegian troops held the Norwegian city of Narvik, the port from which 50% of Germany's iron ore was loaded. (No irion, no steel; no steel, no tanks.) The German troops in the area had been defeated and pushed back along the railway line to Sweden. Even after France surrendered, there would have been nothing Germany could do to take back the port, and it would have taken a year or two to build new rail lines in Sweden to move the iron ore to Baltic ports. Then, suddenly, the British pulled their troops (and the Poles) out, abandoning the port to the Germans. World War II might have ended much sooner if Germany had only half as much steel to build weapons.

2. Before World War II, Japanese children were taught that civilization began in the mountains of central Japan (not in India or Mesopotamia). Soldiers of the divine emperor had, the children were taught, spread out across all of Asia and Europe, turning hunter-gathers into civilized people who farmed the land and built cities. (Attila and the Huns were said to have been ethnic Japanese and one of the divine emperor's armies. Japanese teachers were vague on the date all this happened since none of their historical data points held together.) Plague (centuries after Attila) caused the collapse of the far-flung Japanese empire and the Japanese of World War II were only restoring what was the Emperor's territory by historical right.

3. In late 1941 and early 1942, the US Navy was able to read only bits and pieces of Japanese coded messages, but this included the address block that said who sent the message and for whom it was intended. This "traffic analysis" provided a wealth of data on where the Japanese would make their big push. The codebreakers (Magic) were able to tell Admiral Nimitz that the Japanese fleet had moved into the Indian Ocean, giving the American aircraft carriers under Admiral Halsey a chance to launch some nuisance raids on Japanese islands closer to Hawaii. After the first raid, the codebreakers noticed that the Japanese radio bases became very active, and the codebreakers gained a valuable "map" of all of the Japanese bases (and their radio addresses). Nimitz and Halsey were only too happy to "poke" the Japanese base network, generating more copies of Japanese messages Thanks to these raids, they had a lot of messages (which they knew were about the US attacks) which allowed them to crack the code in time to prepare for the Battle of Midway.

Monday, January 16, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 January 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects. We released Hailing Frequencies and Communique on schedule on the 10th. The weather this week was cold, with snow and ice on Saturday.

 The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 9 new entries and 3 updates.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, Communique, Hailing Frequencies, blogs (four sent to Jean's file), graphics for Jean's Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement project, and other projects. He received his new Nissan Rogue and spent a day figuring out what all the buttons did.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the two newsletters, the Lyran Master Starship Book, quality control of assembly and shipping, and the LDR Master Starship Book.

 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 the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, managed our page on Facebook (which exceeded 3,500 friends this week at 3,519), managed our Twitter feed (209 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Lyran Master Starship Book, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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, January 14, 2017


Steve Cole's thoughts on the game industry in general and on ADB in particular.

1. I often have people offer to do something for ADB, some kind of research or rules writing or indexing or something. Sometimes, the answer is that it would take more time to check what they did than to just do it myself. (An example here are the Ship Information Tables for F&E, which I refuse to allow the staff to edit or maintain because I would never be able to tell if they changed something and I know those guys and they want to change things I do not want them changing, like the conversion costs of escorts.) The response to my comment is often "Then if you can do it faster than checking the one I did, go do it, now." But the problem is that there are only so many hours in the day and I already evaluated the priorities and decided that something else is more important.

2. Recently, someone noted a minor one-character typo in an FC ship in an E-pack. He modified the PDF and sent me the revised ship for me to share. I appreciate the enthusiasm but it's always less time for me to fix it myself than to check to see if someone else fixed it correctly. That's just the nature of the beast. Because, some years ago, one person tried to sneak his personal "improvements" into the ship when "fixing" one minor item, we cannot release to the customers any "official" ship done outside unless we check every single character and box. That's a couple of hours of work compared to a minute to fix the typo and spin up a new PDF. It's a darn shame that one person so many years ago created this mess but the months I spent fixing that problem aren't an experience that I can risk repeating. So if you see a mistake in a published PDF (or any published Federation Commander ship) let me know and I'll fix it. The same thing applies to any official document, from an F&E SIT to the SFB Sequence of Play. We need to fix the master archive file not use a file someone else modified. The fix won't appear until the next reprint or reload, but it will get taken care of.

3. Recently, we were working on Captain's Log #52, and I turned to the new tactical papers for one of our games. One of these was marked "part one of three" and I asked Steven Petrick where the other two parts were. He said they had never been sent in. I told him to contact the author and get them, as I would not print a "part one" of anything without having the entire thing in hand. There are several reasons for this, but mostly we want to be sure we can finish what we start. As it happened, the paper was found to contain many flaws, and the only email address for the author was invalid. As no one had heard from him for 18 months, we had no choice but to put his paper into the reserve file. The way it is written it need the other two parts, and it cannot be turned into a stand alone article as the whole thing sets up the situation for part two. This applies to everything. We cannot start something unless we know we can finish it. If we're doing it then finishing it is just a matter of managing the "to do list", but something that depends on an outside author must be "controlled" (i.e., finished) before it starts.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q6

6. "What do you mean 'he went to the bathroom'?"

Sir, I didn't say the Tractor Chief left his post. The warning labels didn't say the system was vulnerable to leaks ...

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

An Update of Sorts

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

A little over a year ago it was noted that I found myself near a pair of very, very young kittens whose mother had apparently abandoned them (more probably something had happened to her).

Those two have now grown into cats, and have been spayed and had all of their shots. This I  have financed since I bear some responsibility for their still being in the world.

I have not seen them since they had developed into bumbling little cats, and then only briefly. I am quite aware that from their point of view I literally have no meaning or purpose. I may be the person who carried them in from the threatening weather, and been the first person to successfully stick a bottle in their little mouths so that their stomaches could be filled, but I am not a constant presence in their lives.

It does sadden me to some extent that I did not get to see them grow up, and have chances to play with them. I am,  however, glad that they are leading happier lives than the one their mother probably never knew.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


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:

Monday, January 09, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 January 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects: Captain's Log #52, Lyran Master Starship Book, Prime Directive PD20M Modern Supplement.

The weather this week was cold; it snowed on Friday.

New this week on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was Stellar Shadow Journal #1. It was already on Warehouse 23.


Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, ship graphics for the Lyran Master Starship Book, graphics for Prime Directive PD20M Modern Supplement, blogs, Communique #133 (the new ship and scenario), Hailing Frequencies for January 2017, and other projects. He spent time working out production issues on die-cut counters and new Starline miniatures. (The master mold for the new big freighters arrived at the casting house.)

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Lyran Master Starship Book, quality control assembly and shipping, and the LDR Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, preliminary work on Hailing Frequencies, and some graphics.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away two bobcats and a Siberian lynx.

Jean worked on the Prime Directive PD20M Modern Supplement; managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3493 friends); worked with the Ranger page on Facebook; managed our Twitter feed (208 followers); commanded the Rangers; dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS and Forum; managed the blog feed; proofread Captain's Log #52Communique #133, and the Lyran Master Starship Book; wrote her parts of the Hailing Frequencies for January 2017; took care of customers; uploaded PDFs; and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

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, January 07, 2017

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, January 06, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q5

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

Sir, the pilots and engineers got into a bit of a disagreement over who required more training and more bravery, so in order to prove who it was, the two groups dared each other to exchange jobs for this battle.

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, January 05, 2017

On Closing Yet Another Year, Changes, and Sameness

Jean Sexton muses:

Another year's end has come and a new year has started. I find that it is a good time to take stock of the world and see what has come and gone during the span -- sort of a mental inventory of my life. That way I can make plans to do better in the coming year. I invite you to walk through the year’s end review with me.

Looking back over 2016, I see so many changes in and to my life. I realize that still having my life is a miracle and a gift from God, so I am trying to live more wisely and kindly. For me that can be a challenge as I have a temper and can be impatient.

This was a year when I tried to focus on my health, more than anything else. I still feel a bit selfish over that, but I remind myself that if I don’t, I cannot contribute to the world around me. It meant working on patience as I struggled to make progress and wanted things to just happen and to happen faster. While I started the year in the hospital in ICU, I did make steady progress. I moved to a regular part of the hospital, and finally got sent home on oxygen 24/7. I had multiple doctors’ visits each week. A big step was coming off of daytime oxygen early in February. That was after it was determined that I had a complex case of sleep apnea and got a CPAP to help me keep breathing. The very next day we found out that I wasn’t making fluid around my lungs anymore. By the end of March I could drive again and then I finally came off the oxygen completely. By year’s end, I was a one-year cancer survivor and over 30 pounds lighter.

That also meant I spent more time walking. I’ve slowly built my endurance back up to walking for about 30 minutes at a time without being unreasonably tired. I’ve tried to eat food that would be healthier for me. That meant cutting out my beloved sweet tea completely and all caffeine after about 2:00 pm. Sodas are a rarity for me now.

Some of this means I cannot work as much as I did. Time is spent walking and preparing food. I still have more doctors’ visits than I like. I am trying to cut down on the stress that was in my life. Wolf benefits from all this time. He likes walking and petting him reduces my stress. He’s been such a companion this year.

Still, I did get some things done. For the Glory of the Empire got out as a Kindle book. I got the Prime Directive PD20M Supplement started. It is proving to be challenging to reconcile what was written in the original PD One RPG books and the GURPS books. Still it is fun and I get to put a little more background into the species. I spent a lot of time proofreading and marketing. The big project was going to AmaCon which saw our return to having a booth at a convention.

I had fun this year reading books from new (to me) writers and some old friends. I had a goal of reading 50 books and I read 84 books, not counting one I just couldn’t finish. (I proofread enough at work; I don’t need to read a book littered with poorly edited prose and improbable situations.) My heart is saddened by the realization that many people actually don’t read for pleasure after they’ve finished school.

I listened to lots of good music, culminating in seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the first time. Music makes me so happy. I’m glad that I also get to see musicals performed in the area, from Broadway tours to local productions. I no longer have to haul my oxygen tank along as I did when I went to see Annie in January, here in Amarillo. By November, when I saw Elf: The Musical, I could actually walk down the steps to the front of the theater unaided.

I continued to review on Amazon and slowly moved closer to the ranks of their “Top Reviewers.” Finally, near the end of the year I showed up in the top 10,000 (out of over 45 million!). It has been fun on a personal level. Most of the time I buy books and music I’m pretty sure I will like, so I end up giving things a good review. I enjoyed reading two books that were sort of work related. Zones of Control focused on wargames; Cinema and Sorcery examined sword and sorcery (broadly defined) films.

I have rejoiced to have friends both near and far. Without the Coles and Steven Petrick, so much of the beginning of the year would have been nearly impossible. Two of my friends helped watch Wolf while I was hospitalized and continued to help walk him when I was on oxygen and fairly weak. Simone stayed with him a couple of evenings when I had sleep apnea appointments. Facebook friends offered encouragement when I struggled and rejoiced with me at each bit of good news. I am so lucky that my mother and brother are not just family, but friends, as they encouraged me each step of the way.

So where am I now? I am so happy to be alive as I might well not have been. I am enjoying better health. I have stayed connected with far-flung friends and added some new ones. I have companionship and a walking companion in Wolf. I have a job I enjoy and which needs more focus on it in the coming year. I have a hobby I enjoy.

I think in my inventory I have found health, challenges, joy, and friendship. I have hope that my future will continue to be bright. And I hope that each of you find positivity in your own life inventory.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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, January 03, 2017


Steve Cole writes:

    Karl von Clauswitz, the Prussian general who wrote the classic book On War, said that the weather can only be guessed at. How well did I guess on 1 Jan 2016 what would happen during that year? Well, a Major League baseball player would be proud of a 0.518 batting average, but I really wanted to do better. Let's look at my predictions as I further predict what will happen in 2017.
I predicted that we would get Captain's Log #51 out (we did) and would have Captain's Log #52 "during the winter" which should happen in January (2 for 2). I'll go ahead and predict Captain's Log #53 for next summer and Captain's Log #54 for winter a year from now.
I predicted that Communique and Hailing Frequencies would come out on time every time (it did, 2 for 2, total 4 for 4) and that we'd have a steady flow of new PDFs uploaded to the stores (we did at least two a month, more often three and sometimes four, so I'm scoring that one as done, 5 for 5). We should easily do that all again.
For Starline my predictions went awry. There was only one new ship (the 2450 D7K, basically a 2500 D7 rescaled for 3788) with two new big freighters at the casting house. (The mold company's predictions for master mold delivery didn't hold up, but overall this area counts as 2 for 5, bring us to 7 out of 10.) Two new 2500s are nearly ready to be turned into solid objects, so I predict four ships (Klingon HF5, Romulan SaberHawk, Jumbo Freighter, Heavy Freighter) for early in 2017. The gunboats didn't happen but if the CGI sculptor delivers them in 2017 we will get them released. We have plans for the 2500 Klingon B10 that may surprise a few people.
I did correctly predict that A Call to Arms: Star Fleet-1.2 would be finalized, and both the final basic version and the final Deluxe version were released. Book 2.1 wasn't completed by the outside designer due to continued playtesting to get the release right the first time (1 out of 2), but when he gets it to us we'll release it (prediction: 2017 for the basic version PDF, but I really think we'll be entirely done with Book 2).
The outside designer for Starmada decided that he needed to do something else before finishing Rumors of Wars (which did not see release in 2016, 0 for 1, total so far 8 out of 13) and when he gets a book to us we will print it (I will predict 2017).
Jean Sexton did get our paperback anthology For the Glory of the Empire onto Kindle but further books have yet to appear. (Score 1 for 3, total so far 9 out of 15. I'll predict at least one of those for 2017.) Jean's marketing and proofreading duties distracted her from design duties. Traveller did not happen; we should have had at least two books and the PD20M Supplemental File (score 0 for 3, total 9 out of 18). I predict one Traveller book (but I really think two) and the PD20M Supplemental File for 2017.
Steven P. Petrick predicted release of the Romulan Master Starship Book and Star Fleet Battles Module X2; he actually released the Romulan Master Starship Book and would have released the Lyrans if he could have gotten the art. Score that one as one for two (10 out of 20 overall). For 2017, I will predict he releases three books, two of which will be the Lyran and LDR Master Starship Books. The third
probably will be X2 but we'll see how that goes; he might do the Gorn and Kzinti Master Starship Books instead.
For my (Stephen V. Cole) own part, I was scheduled to lay out several other people's books (already in the scorecard), and to release F&E Minor Empires and the Revised F&E Fighter Operations, as well as the new counters for bases and Advanced Operations, all of which happened (but the revised F&E Planetary Operations did not). The Federation Admiral Campaign Manual is still in design (the unpredicted need to scrap and replace the original author's combat system derailed the product) and work on Federation Commander Fighters Attack frankly never started. Overall, I will score myself four out of seven (total 14 out of 27). For 2017, I can safely predict I will finish Federation Admiral and Fighters Attack, and vaguely predict two other projects I will tell you about another time.

Monday, January 02, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25-31 December 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was the last week of the year and by tradition and practicality we spent most of it on bookkeeping, paperwork, tax forms, royalty reports, and year-end accounting.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52 (articles, Federation Commander ground combat including tanks and ships), blogs, strategic planning, and year-end reports.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Lyran Master Starship Book, quality control for  inventory restock, and the LDR Master Starship Book. This involved a lot of negotiations over LDR shipyard capacity and Lyran fast ships with the F&E Staff.

Leanna did year-end accounting.

Mike checked, counted, and verified the inventory.

Simone spent the week with her new husband.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away two serial killers, a herd of giraffes, and a cantankerous zebra. (Note the trophies behind him.)


Jean worked on the PD20M Supplemental File, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,483 friends), managed our Twitter feed (208 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Lyran and LDR Master Starship Books and parts of Captain's Log #52, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

We at ADB send you our best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year (be sure you eat those black-eyed peas)!

Make it happy. Make it fun. Keep it safe. Play more games!