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Tuesday, February 28, 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, February 27, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 February 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects.

The weather this week was cool, often in the 40Fs.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two updates.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, blogs, production plans for new 2500s, 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 a herd of jackrabbits.   

Jean worked on GURPS PD2, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,678 friends), managed our Twitter feed (220 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, planned a marketing effort for new 2500 miniatures, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 26, 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.

Saturday, February 25, 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.

Friday, February 24, 2017


There you sit,
Working hard, a smirk on your lips, lips, lips.
Pulling legs,
Cheeky boss,
I’m coming for you, you, you.

Feelin’ that you’re smart
Within your mind.
This can’t go on.
One leg of mine … is too long.

I am… gonna hurt you
Wipe that … smirk right off you.
One Gibbs… will remind you
How I felt
When you pulled on my leg
If you… do not feel it,
I will… soon repeat it.
You know, I don’t like it,
When you joke,
And when you pull my leg.

Phony books…
Sent the Fralli to doom, doom, doom
Distance is…
No longer safety for you, you, you.

If you must tease… I’ll hurt you bad.
You’ll never sit in peace,
Take care my boss,
Or Gibbs you get.

I am… gonna hurt you
Wipe that … smirk right off you.
One Gibbs… will remind you
How I felt
When you pulled on my leg
If you… do not feel it,
I will… soon repeat it.
You know, I don’t like it,
When you joke,
And when you pull my leg.

You still pull my leg
I really don’t get it
And if you do it again
My Gibbs will not miss
No - No - No

Apologies to Journey.
Filksong copyright (c) 2013 ADB, Inc

Thursday, February 23, 2017

War is Confusing

This is Steven Petrick posting.

A little something that allegedly happened during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944.

A company of American troops was cut off by the German advance and was trying to slip back to American lines. The company came to a bridge, the only way across the river blocking their movement. The bridge,  however, had already been captured by the Germans who had posted security on it. Attacking the security on the bridge would alert other German forces nearby. So the American company was stuck.

They decided on a bold ruse.

The company formed up in column on the road (out of sight of the bridge guards initially), placing a man that, while an American soldier, had grown up with parents who were immigrants from Germany and had spoken German in his own home.

The company marched on the bridge at sling arms (their weapons slung over their shoulders rather than held in their hands) while the the German "officer" called "Cadence" in German.

Despite the American uniforms and helmets, the company marched down and across the bridge unchallenged by the German guards. (Whom, I guess it is possible, were more interested in trying to keep warm than really paying attention to the marching column.)

This is one of those things where we have the American side of the story, but you kind of wish you could have also had the German side of the story. (Maybe the Germans were aware that there was no "help" nearby and went along with the "ruse" rather than get themselves killed fighting heavily outnumbered with little cover?)

As you read about the Battle of the Bulge you can find several instances of columns of German troops marching into American lines and being shot to pieces before they could break column. And it is entirely possible that other groups of Americans tried similar ruses, which simply just did not work out (either no one survived, or no one who did survive thought to tell of the failed attempt).

It is one of those things that most histories we read on the American involvement in combat are told from the American point of view. Often we do not know what was really going on in the enemy's camp. Sometimes what we think is not necessarily what "really happened."

An example in North Africa after "Operation Torch" saw an American force sent to seize a pass. The Americans attacked the pass most of the day, and near the end of the day a heavy mortar platoon arrived and began shelling the enemy positions, and the enemy withdrew. The Americans decided that the intervention of the heavy mortars were what had won the battle, precipitating the enemy withdraw. But, "on the other side of the hill," the enemy thought they had "won," because their retreat had not been caused by the mortars shelling them, but because their orders had been to hold the pass for a period of time only to delay the American advance, and then fall back to a new line.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Steve Cole ponders things that famous people never said, and other things that they did say but nobody understands.

 1. "Let them eat cake!" Supposedly, French Queen Marie Antoinette said this when told that the people (holding a festive riot in the city) had run out of rye bread. What she actually said was "Let them eat wheat bread" which she didn¹t realize was more expensive and hard to get. (Her not realizing this was proof that she was out of touch.) The other problem is that it was another princess who said this when Marie was 10 years old and not even in France and the revolution had not even started.

2. "I can see Russia from my house!" While 75% of Americans think Sarah Palin said this (and that it proves she was stupid or a liar) she never said any such thing. An actress on Saturday Night Live said it while making fun of her.

3. "I am a citizen of Berlin!" Sorry, Jack Kennedy never said this. His phrase was badly mis-translated into German (Ich bin ein Berliner) and when translated back into English actually meant "I am a pastry filled with fruit." What his staff meant him to say was "Ich bin ein Berlinisher."

4. Astronaut Neil Armstrong said "That's one small step for man," then hesitated before saying "one giant leap for mankind." The problem is that he left out the word "a" in the first half. The two pauses are when he realized his mistake and was mentally trying to find a way to fix it without starting over. Since his foot was already on the Moon there was really no going back.

5. President Richard Nixon did indeed say "I am not a crook" and most Americans think that since he apparently was involved in a few things (discussing whether to have the FBI investigate political enemies, deleting 18 minutes of tape, covering up a third-rate burglary) he must perforce be a liar. He was actually talking about rumors that $10,000 in cash found with the body of Dorothy Hunt (killed in a plane crash) was some kind of payoff. (Mrs. Hunt was the wife of one of the Watergate burglars. The burglars were looking for the list of prostitutes which the Democrats provided to big money donors, not secret campaign plans.)

Tuesday, February 21, 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/).

Monday, February 20, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 February 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on Captain¹s Log #52.

The weather this week was typical of Amarillo, with a snow storm on Tuesday and decent weather the rest of the week..

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #26 (it was already on Warehouse 23). 

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, blogs, 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 and bought a new Nissan Rogue nearly identical to Stephen¹s.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a mountain lion.

Jean worked on the revision of GURPS Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,661 friends), managed our Twitter feed (217 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 PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 19, 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!

Saturday, February 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.

Friday, February 17, 2017


That Jean Sexton could be doing if she were not working at ADB.

10. Teaching a course in creative writing a the local prison entitled "Prose & Cons."

9. NASA's new director of orbital food preparation.

8. Producer of a new TV show called "Menu Makeover" where she shows failing restaurants that customers don¹t' care about dining room décor but about interesting food that is prepared well.

7. Chief proofreader for Facebook.

6. Running a gourmet restaurant called "The Peppered Onion" which the Steves never visit.

5. Managing a dog daycare service complete with gourmet dog meals and adventure trail walks with two guys named Steve and the official Lead Dog Wolf.

4. Professional book review writer, including a list of the typos and other errors in each book.

3. Training marketing directors in how to "manage the narrative by managing your boss's access to the Internet."

2. Running a tavern called "The Oxford Comma."

1. Twitter editor for Donald Trump, in control of the "send" button.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Progress on Some Projects

This  is Steven Petrick posting.

Work continues apace on getting Captain's Log #52 done. It should be released by the end of this month at the latest if all goes well.

The Lyran Master Starship Book is still receiving reports, most of which are minor edits rather than gross errors. An example being some rule number references for some ships in the "Early Years Section" that were missing the "Y," i.e., a reference to the Warp-Refitted Dreadnought was given as (R11.14) instead of (YR11.14).

Wednesday, February 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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Steve Cole ponders thoughts on dinosaurs:
1. The Morrison Formation is a large geological area including the current Colorado plateau. Scientists have found more turtles and crocodiles (150 total specimens) in the east and north than in the south and west, indicating that during dinosaur times, those areas were wetter, perhaps mostly swamp. These eastern and northern areas have relatively greater abundance of limestone and mudstone, things that are created in oceans and swamps.
2. There is a large impact crater in Ukraine known as the Boltysh structure. It dates from (best guess) a few thousand years before the Chicxulub crater, although geological dates are squishy and it could be anywhere within a million years either way (in a similar orbit and just hit a few loops around the solar system earlier or later) or even on the same day (fragment of the same asteroid). This impact has not been adequately studied so far.
3. During the dinosaur period (the Mesozoic, which includes the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) the earth was rotating faster and days were shorter, around 22 hours at the start of the Triassic (385 days in a year) and 23 at the end of the Cretaceous (375 days in a year). The year lasted about the same number of hours but had more and shorter days.
4. Birds don¹t use lungs like mammals do. In a mammal, there is one pipe into the lung, and air flows alternately in and out by way of that one pipe. In a bird, air is taken all the way down and put into the bottom of the lungs, then flows up and out a separate pathway, so the airflow only goes one direction. This is more efficient and without this (and a lot of other bio-engineering) birds could not fly. Apparently, meat-eating dinosaurs and saraupods (the biggest ones, like Brontosaurus) did the same thing. It gets better. Birds, meat-eating dinosaurs, and sauropods had hollow spaces in some of their bones, and these were actually part of the air circulation system.
5. Dinosaurs come in two types: bird-hips (stegosaurus, duckbill, triceratops) and lizard-hips (birds, meat-eaters, and sauropods). This is defined by the shape of the bones in their hips.
6. One relatively new field of the study of dinosaurs is brain endocasts. These are castings made from the empty skulls of dinosaurs (or any animal) to create a rough model of the brain. This has become much easier since scans and 3d model technology allows this to be done without destroying the invaluable skull. Scientists are, often, able to identify major brain structures (fore-brain, mid-brain, hind-brain). Comparing this to existing animals yields important clues into the intelligence and behavior of the dinosaur. It is often possible to identify the areas linked to sight and to smell, and the relative size of these areas indicates how the animal hunted (or avoided being hunted).
7. A new study of the later years of dinosaurs (just a few million years before the big rock hit Mexico) shows the appearance of new species of large snakes and large birds which preyed on dinosaur eggs. This probably does not mean that egg thieves were the cause of dinosaur extinction, but it is unclear what it does mean beyond the later times of the dinosaur era having new threats and dangers.
8. One way we learn more about dinosaurs is trackways. These happen when a dinosaur walks across a muddy flat area just before a sandstorm or volcanic ash cover everything up. The trick is, unless you find the dead dinosaur at the end of the tracks, you really have no idea which species made them. (We have never found the aforementioned dead dinosaur, but scientists continue to hope.) Dinosaur fossils rarely have any skin or tissue left, so footprint identification is a matter of which skeletal foot is close. Consider also that we might logically know as little as 1/3 of all the dinosaur genera that ever lived, so the tracks you find might not connect to any known dinosaur. Tracks can be measured but it's hard to tell what speed the dinosaur was going when he made the tracks, but there are mathematical guesses. This probably results in the normal walking speed, not the fastest running speed, but at least in theory we'd know from the shape of the tracks if the dinosaur was running.
9. THE LOST WORLD by Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by some huge fossil dinosaur teeth he saw. Funny thing is, these were later identified correctly as crocodile teeth. (Crocodiles back there were three times the current size.)

10. You might assume that the south pole was always cold, but during the Cretaceous it was covered with open forests and a rich diversity of dinosaur types and sizes, including some not found anywhere else.

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 February 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects. The weather this week was fairly nice.

We released Hailing Frequencies and Communique #134 on the 10th, on schedule again.

New on DriveThru RPG this week was Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement.


The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, blogs, and other projects. (He was sick Monday with a norovirus but recovered.)

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, worked on Hailing Frequencies, and did some graphics.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a Tasmanian Devil who was looking for his Wallaby. We all celebrated the 3rd anniversary of Wolf¹s joining the ADB staff.

Jean worked on Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement fixes (mostly minor), managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,632 friends), managed our Twitter feed (216 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #52 and Communique #133, worked on Hailing Frequencies, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 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.

Saturday, February 11, 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:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q10

10. "You're using one of the seeking weapon control channels to steal pay TV?

Sir, we need the fire control and tracking computers to unscramble it so that seemed like the easiest way to feel them the signal. If you'd prefer, the engineers can probably rig up a secondary antenna in the next hour...

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

Thursday, February 09, 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.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Game Design Lesson From "Jutland"

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the grandfathers of Star Fleet Battles is an old game by Avalon Hill called "Jutland" about the largest naval engagement of the first world war.

When I first picked up a copy of this game, I promptly returned it to the store because it had no "gameboard" (by design). It was in essence a kind of "miniatures" game in that your cardboard playing pieces actually maneuvered on the floor which took the place of open water, and I was just not interested.

After much more gaming experience I actually did pick up a copy.

The problem in one sense was that I did have a lot more gaming experience, and that led to the game quickly being broken.

The Germans could maneuver their columns to do the "battle turn away" maneuver, and their destroyer flotillas could lay "smoke."

The British could do neither of these things.

Battles eventually devolved down to the Germans laying smoke, forming a line, waiting until the heads of the British columns came through the smoke, blazing away, then turning away while the destroyers laid smoke again. Repeating the maneuver again and again.

The only thing the British could do (in order to avoid being destroyed in detail by constantly coming through the smoke screens) was not engage, i.e., the games became stalemates.

Obviously, historically, this was not the case. Laying smoke while effective was not that effective, and while the battle turn away was something the Germans had repeatedly trained for (and why they were able to use it to disengage from the British historically), it would not have worked in conjunction with smoke as effectively as it did in the game. It becomes one of those things that you wonder why the playtesters did not spot it and do something to fix it before the game was published.

Now, German destroyers laying smoke screens was an optional/advanced rule, but it probably needed something to limit it, perhaps limiting the number of times an individual German destroyer flotilla could "make smoke," which would allow the British in turn to simply not penetrate any such smoke cloud, but maneuver away and allow it to dissipate. That would at least have forced the Germans in turn to only use it to mask a maneuver or cover damaged ships.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

About the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Suppement

Jean Sexton writes:

Back in 2008 I was tapped to become the head of Amarillo Design Bureau's roleplaying line. I played RPGs and I could edit; everyone felt confident I could do this! We had already published a book based on the Third Edition Player's Handbook (v 3.5) published by Wizards of the Coast. Converting it to be compatible with d20 Modern would surely be easy-peasy.

It went fairly well, except we had to do some things a bit differently. The one thing I inherited was that 20 species that had appeared in GURPS Prime Directive had been left out of the d20 compatible version and thus were omitted from the PD20 Modern version. We knew that the players would be able to get six of those in the Federation and Klingon sourcebooks. Those came out in 2009 and 2010. (GURPS Federation came out in 2011; Romulans PD20 Modern,  in 2012.) We didn't realize that outside writers wouldn't tackle the other empire books anytime soon.

When I moved to Amarillo in 2013, we hoped I'd be able to tackle more RPG projects. Things happened, culminating in winter 2015-2016 when I became deathly ill and then had to recover. In all that time, the Prime Directive PD20 Modern players had been patiently waiting for their "missing" species. A spot of time opened up in my schedule and I thought I could tackle a new project: providing those species and doing it on a PC rather than a Mac. If I could write the book and have it appear professional, then that would open up a path to doing Traveller Prime Directive in a program I found more friendly than PageMaker.

So the Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement was born. I thought about what I might want as both a player and a gamemaster and added in weapons charts and an index to make it easier to find information. I wanted it to be consistent with the universe, so I dug into stories and books, including the original Prime Directive books. Inconsistencies and questions arose. Were the Vudar amphibious (nothing in their Star Fleet Battles history suggested that) or simply good swimmers? How intelligent is a Seltorian Queen? Did Q'Naabians need ammonia or chlorine? All of these needed answers and that meant getting Steve Cole's input.

I thought all was well until one of our fact checkers, Ryan Opel, spotted a problem that went back to 2002 when Prime Directive was being created. It was stated the the USS Magellan had found the Deians in Y150. Based on the hull number and the production dates, there was a brand new issue: the Magellan hadn't been built yet in Y150. It took some research, but we found that it was actually the USS Darwin on that mission. It had been built, its mission was exploration, and it wasn't doing some other thing at that time. This is just another shining feather in the Darwin's cap.

So now you, the players, have what you have asked for and some extras. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed ferreting out the information.

Monday, February 06, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 January - 5 February 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects.

 New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Federation Commander: Romulan Ship Card Pack #4.


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

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #52, blogs, Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, and other projects. He talked with a potential source for short-run die cutting. After recovering from a minor injury, Steve resumed his daily walks with Wolf.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, the Lyran Master Starship Book, Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, quality control for product 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 the cover for Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away two kangaroos and a wallaby, which apparently he could tell apart.

Jean worked on Prime Directive PD20 Modern Supplement, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,617 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 PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 05, 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.

Saturday, February 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.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q9

9. "You're using the SFG to keep the vegetables fresh?"

Well, since we can only move at 0.5c with them on and it will take 4321 years to reach Klinshai, we needed to keep them fresh.

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

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Writing Fiction is a Challenge

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Writing is a difficult task for many people. You see this often enough in TV series (and even movies) where characters will do things that "help the plot" but make no sense as an action by the character or to the character's thought processes.

A recent example in "Supergirl" on the CW.

The Jimmy Olsen character has adopted the role of a masked vigilante (Guardian), placing his life at risk. Supergirl berates him for doing so, because she has superpowers and he does not, so it is foolish of him to take the risks he is taking.

The problem is that Supergirl's adopted sister is also without superpowers, and regularly confronts not just the more mundane and normal villains that "Guardian" has usually fought, but villains of Supergirl's level of power.

Why is Supergirl not forcing her sister to quit?

Further, why is Supergirl not showing concern for all of the other normal humans in the organization to which her adopted sister belongs who also face these dangers (many of them being mere "spear carriers"  regularly winding up dead in such confrontations and the Supergirl character is never affected by their deaths emotionally).

That latter is a continuing meme in such shows. Uniformed people die, whether soldiers, police, or members of some security organization, and there is no remorse, but a civilian on the street is harmed and the hero is all broken up by it.

Even so, please note that this is about how difficult a task writing is. Any author brings his own prejudices and pre-conceptions to what words are placed on the page, and getting past those (allowing a more realistic view of the protagonist to the individuals around them in the created world) can be very difficult. We try to keep an eye on those things when fiction is submitted to us for publication.

And of course the emotional part of writing is beyond my personal skill set, but even so I tend to recognize it when it is missing from someone else's writing, or from the plot of a TV show or movie.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts on business in America.
1. Recently, one of our employees went by a certain small business we buy things from to pick up something. The owner had been bored and had entered every one of his customers in a state website listing unclaimed money. He found that Yahoo owed us $109 for something Vanessa did 10 years ago. We all thought that this was something very nice for him to as a service for his customers. (Anyone running a business might do this for their customers. It costs you little money (just time) and might make a customer very happy.) Leanna claimed the money, then just for fun, started entering our names and the names of my late parents and brother and (shazam) found $800 that someone owed my father. Every state has a different database and I bet you can find them on Google easily enough, but make a note and check it every year. A little surprise Christmas bonus can make your holidays happy.
2. A lesson on negotiations. On the television show Sister Wives, one of the daughters (Madison) was getting married in June (the episode was filmed in May and aired in December). Another daughter (Mykelti) got engaged and wanted to get married in August (so she and Tony could live together during the fall semester of college). The parents didn¹t want her to get married that soon because (1) the couple hadn¹t known each other long enough, (2) there wasn¹t time to work up a wedding given they were busy with Madison¹s wedding, and (3) they couldn¹t afford a nice wedding that soon after Madison¹s. After some negotiation, Mykelti agreed to wait until December if the parents would pay for a nicer wedding and the honeymoon. The parents said they agreed but would work out the details later. Warning! Working it out later (i.e., after August) leaves Mykelti no bargaining power. What the parents should have done was to tell Mykelti she could have budget X in August or budget X+Y in December and let her choose. Mykelti should then have countered that she would wait for December in exchange for the specific budget offered plus a specific amount of money to contribute to the honeymoon. There is nothing to stop the parents (now) from taking the honeymoon money out of the unstated budget they would have offered for December.
3. Over the last few months, we had an increasing number of problems with our burglar alarm system. The company sent repair guys out here who declared the problem fixed, but as it kept happening we warned all of them that we were unhappy and likely to change companies when the contract expired. We got no answer and assumed that the company did not care; in fact the repair people (and the dispatchers who got the false alarms) never told their boss. We considered calling the boss directly, but for several reasons (busy, didn't think it would work, didn¹t want to have an argument) we did not. Out of desperation, we paid to change to a new (slightly more expensive) company, ending a seven-year relationship with the first company (by a formal letter). When that first company's boss heard he had lost a customer, he investigated, found the problem, and fixed it, but it was too late; the new system was already being installed. I had a very nice (and mutually sad) conversation with the first company, and we agreed that his repair and dispatch people should have reported the problem months earlier, and that I should have called him directly rather than just assuming that his employees were telling him the situation.