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Saturday, June 30, 2007

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. Nick Blank does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, and Mike Filsinger for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Jeff Laikind in charge of the overall game system and the Ship Information Tables, or without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) keeping the scenarios updated and coherent.

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 who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Scott Tenhoff, Chris Fant, and Stewart Frazier (the F&E staff); Jean Sexton (Director of Proofreading and Product Professionalization), John Berg (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, 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.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Module T-2000, Judge's Ruling #6, states that 'All players are expected to engage the enemy aggressively throughout the game.'

The practice of "cruise around at low speed with overloaded weapons and reinforced shields, waiting for the enemy to make a mistake or impale himself on your weapons" is non-aggression. Judges have avoiding ruling on this before because there was not (nor can there be) any hard-and-fast numerical definition of what is and is not a legitimate tactic. Basically, waiting for the enemy to do something stupid is non-aggression, and everybody knows it, and it will no longer be tolerated.

Judges are expected to use their judgment. They may not be able to give a legal definition of non-aggression, but they know it when they see it. I may not be able to give them a legal definition of non-aggression, but I expect them to recognize it and deal with it. I trust their judgment, and I expect them to use it.

In future, if your opponent is (in your opinion) obviously stalling, waiting for you to attack him, call a judge at the end of a turn. If the judge agrees, he will issue a warning. (If the player who is warned disputes the warning, he can call for a triumvirate to confirm or lift the warning.) If the tactic continues for one more turn, the judge may end the game immediately and declare the other player the winner. (If the player who is ruled against disputes the ruling, he can call for a triumvirate to confirm the ruling or allow the game to continue.)

If the practice is repeated at a later time (after a few turns of normall aggressive play), the judge may repeat the procedure (warn, and rule against at the end of the next turn, both subject to triumviate review). If it happens a third time, the judge may end the game immediately (subject to triumvirate review).

This "attack aggressively at speed four" nonsense happened in a game last night, at in several games at the last Origins. It will NOT be tolerated in future.

I am going to post this multiple places to be sure it is widely distributed.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


We left Amarillo about 10:30 Tuesday, quickly discovered Leanna had left her purse in her office, stopped at the state tourist place to get maps of Dallas and waited while our partner brought it to us.
Smooth sailing for the next four hours, then we ran into an area where heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday had flooded the highway. State police and sheriffs had traffic backed up for miles, allowing one car at a time to try to get through an area 100 yards across and ten inches deep. Wreckers were pulling out stalled cars. Then we came upon a second such area, and a third. We spent over an hour going about 10 miles through the previously-unknown Texas Puddle District. This dumped us into Fort Worth at rush hour, made worse by a blinding rain storm which had traffic at a standstill. It took us almost two hours to cover a distance I have previously driveni n 30 minutes. We finally stopped at a restaurant a few minutes from the hotel, had a nice dinner, walked through the adajcent mall, and went on to the hotel. While at the mall, I decided to call the office (8:30 at night) just to say hello, only to learn that the printer and die cutter had been trying to contact me for hours (bad cell phone reception in thunderstorms) regarding another undiscovered problem with the die cutting job. A quick call to the home of the broker told the tale; the sheets were a half inch too small to go through the equipment that would have done the entire job in two hours. But they had a backup plan.

Wednesday morning, we got up, packed up, and went over to the printer. After a tour of the plant, we drove almost an hour across Dallas to a competing printer who had other kinds of equipment and could do the job, but it would take 3-4 days. Fortunately, we did not need the entire print run, just enough of it to get to Origins, which meant die-cutting about 1/3 of about half of the sheets. We left to go to the Zoo, but that plan got rained out, so we tried to go shopping, and couldn't get to the mall we wanted to go to because flooding had closed some roads. We finally went back to the die cutter and napped on their sofa. At 5pm, the required quantity was in the car and we left, right smal into rush hour, and right smack into another thunderstorm. Two hours later, we had covered 20 miles of interstate highway and gave up, getting out at an exit and walking into a restaurant (drenched from the 30 feet we had to run from car to door). We had a nice dinner and finally started on home, but heavy rains had traffic at a crawl. It took another hour to make it the last 20 miles out of Dallas-Fort Worth. Then it was smooth sailing. Except it wasn't. Constant rain kept the top speed down, and it was dark enough Leanna could not legally drive (bad night vision). I had been driving all day (and most of the day before). I was sleepy and sore. We made it home at 1:30am, safely. I had to drive the whole way but we took lots of stops for me to wash my face, drink and eat, and walk around.

Thursday (this morning) we turned in the leased vehicle after unloading the counters. Now we just have to do a week of getting ready for Origins in 4 days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

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. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus we already have Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. 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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Steve Cole writes: Leanna and I are leaving this morning for Dallas. Tomorrow morning, we will go to the die cutting company and watch them cut the counters for R11, FC-Battleships Attack, Omega Five, and other things. We will pick up the first few boxes and head home.

Press checks like this are good and bad. It's a trip to "the big city" and we do plan to hit a mall or two and the zoo. But I didn't want to prepare for the grueling 20-hour drive to Origins with a relaxing 14-hour drive to Dallas. Oh well.

Being there will be good. I will gain valuable experience in understanding the technology, get a better product by telling them "this one is good, this one is dumpster bait", build a long-term relationship with a company I hope will be doing excellent work for us for years to come.

The products are moving along. As you know, the covers and maps and ship cards are here. We started printing rulebooks for FCBA and both rulebooks and ship books for R11 yesterday. We will be printing R11 books all of today and tomorrow and most of Thursday.

See you when I get back.

Monday, June 25, 2007


GOOD: The Battleships Attack rulebook is finished and we will start printing as soon as the Kyocera technician finishes tuning the machine. (Update on that: a part on Kate is "damaged" -- it works but there is a mark on every page. So the technician is going to swap this part with the same part on Paula, and get Kate -- who has a higher print speed -- fully operational.) Petrick says that the final R11 reports are "no big deal" and his books will be done by this afternoon.

BAD: The counters won't be cut until Wednesday. So Leanna and I will drive to Dallas (actually, to Grand Praire) tomorrow (Tuesday), then be at the cutting place Wednesday morning and perhaps home before dark. We can start packing and shrinkwrapping games Thursday. I just love preparing for a grueling 20-hour drive to Origins by starting with a 14-hour drive to Dallas and back, but that is what it takes.

NOT SO BAD: With the products "done", Petrick and I can start making serious progress on the final list of things to do to prepare for Origins. Leanna has most of her part of the list done. There are still over 90 items on the list, a few of which take an hour but most of which take a few minutes.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

As the graphics (on the web sites and in the products) continue to here at ADB, Inc., I am learning about new things every day, and drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list.

We are in the middle of making serious changes to both websites (the legacy site now has a new front page, site map, and index), and you are welcome to not just comment on my changes, but suggest changes, and check the changes I make.

Here is my e-mail: graphics@StarFleetGames.com or you can comment on either forum.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Origins Scenario 2007: The Whirlwind

We have a lot to do before we get in the car and drive to Origins in a little more than 9 days, and it's going to get more complex than it had to be.

The covers for the two new products (SFB R11 and FC Battleships) are here.
The ship cards for FCBA are here.
The hard-panel asteroid maps for FCBA are here.
The rulebook for FCBA is finished, and will be tweaked Monday morning and printed.
The ship book for R11 is finished, but tweaking will continue for days.
The rulebook for R11 is finished, but tweaking will continue for days.
The counters were due here Monday night at 10pm. They won't be on time, but we have several extra days. I just didn't want to spend them chasing counters due to somebody else's mistakes.

The counters are (as you know) printed on paper, shipped to Dallas (450 miles away), glued to chipboard, and then "die cut" into sheets of playing pieces. The plan had been for Leanna and I to get in the car about 3pm today, drive to Dallas, get a hotel, spend Sunday at the zoo and doing some shopping, then go by the die cutter Monday morning, personally supervise the cutting, pick up the first few boxes, and drive home, arriving not later than 10pm. We would then walk into the office at 9am on Tuesday, start printing rulebooks, and start assembling games.

Alas, it won't be that easy.

Vicky, our broker at the printer, scheduled to print the counters on 23x35 paper, and had the die cutter order 24x36 chipboard. That's how it works; the chipboard has to be a tad bigger. Somebody in the print shop, not knowing the significance, decided that the 23x35 press was busy and moved the job to the 26x40 press without asking Vicky (who would have put a stop to it). [Printers do this all the time for their convenience. No big deal, at least, it would not have been if they had trimmed the resulting paper down to 23x35 or just used 23x35 paper to start with.] So when the sheets arrived in Dallas, they won't fit on the chipboard. The die cutter does not have a cutter big enough to handle the sheets, so instead of gluing them last Friday, he will have to put them on a truck Monday morning, drive them to a place an hour away, wait around there until it is convenient for that company to cut the sheets down to 23x35, then return to his shop. That may or may not leave enough time to glue the sheets on Monday. If they get the sheets back by mid-day Monday, they will start gluing and call me. Leanna and I will then drop everything and go out to the car and leave for Dallas (we'll already be packed), getting there 7 hours later, and being at the die cutter Tuesday morning, and home with counters Tuesday night (losing one day, plus a day of shopping). If they do not get the stuff in time, they will call me Tuesday morning and tell me to come down Tuesday and watch the cutting on Wednesday and be home Wednesday night. Unless something ELSE goes wrong. If I don't drive to Dallas, there is no guarantee we will have counters (or new products) at all for Origins.

Given nothing else to do, I'd just go down to Dallas and have a longer "vacation" before coming home. But being gone from the office Tuesday and possibly Wednesday is a serious chunk of "not cool". It means I have to finish work before I leave that would be done better after I should have gotten back.

The current plan is to walk in here at 9am Monday, read the final FCBA reports (which were always due then), fix that rulebook, and start it printing by noon. It will take one day to print all of the FCBA rulebooks for the first shipments. Steve P should be ready to print the R11-SSD book (which will take two days) Tuesday morning, and the rulebook by a few hours after I get back (whether that it Wednesday morning or Thursday morning; the theory is for me to take a full draft on the drive and give it to him when I get back). We want to have all the printing done (or at least most of it) by Friday since if the machines break over the weekend we cannot ship the products until they are fixed on Monday. Which gets icky if they cannot be fixed quickly. We print on pre-release weekend all the time, but this one is too critical to roll the dice.

Beyond that, there are all the other things to do to get ready for Origins (99 items on the "to do list" like stuff for the booth and tournament and buying snacks for the trip and buying some new shorts and loading the car, which is more complex since Leanna decided to rent a larger vehicle which will not be available for loading until 3 hours before we leave for the trip) and of course running the business, chasing flame wars, and so forth.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Federation Commander Play-by-Email

FRANK BROOKS WRITES: Federation Commander Play-by-Email

Playing Federation Commander by Email 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.

The basic gist of the Federation Commander Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that 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 Federation Commander 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 of Federation Commander. Moderating a Federation Commander PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the Federation Commander rules.

While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (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 Federation Commander PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Ramses

Today is the birthday of our Chief of Security, Ramses. He's enjoying a quiet day off, snoozing in the garden, looking forward to his traditional all-you-can-eat birthday dinner of "saltcrunch" (cocktail shrimp) this evening.

Ramses is eight years old. He joined the ADB, Inc., team in August 1999, replacing Blackie, who had been our security chief for the previous 17 years.

Ramses is a Bengal Cat, a cross-breed between Felis Bengalensis (South Asian Leopard Cat) and Egyptian Mau, a spotted showcat. Bengal Cats are bred for cat shows, but Ramses was judged "not gold medal class" and sold to us as a pet. Ramses is 1/8 wild and only four generations out of the jungle. He can jump eight feet straight up and can jump a ten-foot clear span. On his most recent rabbit hunt, he closed from more than 10 feet behind the rabbit to just barely out of reach in a matter of seconds, lost a little ground when the rabbit made a 90-degree turn that Ramses could not match, and was still within a foot (more than 50 feet later) when the rabbit escaped through a hole in the neighbor's hedge that Ramses could not fit through (not in a hurry, anyway).

Ramses is a big cat, at 15 pounds. He looks like a bulldog wearing a cat suit. His arms and legs are heavily muscled, and he walks like a tiger. He dwarfs his big sister Isis, who weighs only 9 pounds, cannot jump as far or high, but is faster at a dead run.

Bengals shows us what God intended cats to be, the full-color version of the black-and-white copies that 5,000 years of human breeding made housecats into. Bengals are loving lap cats, until they see a rodent (or another cat, or a bird, or anything moving) at which point its "game on" and an explosion of feline motion. When he was a young kitten, Ramses actually stalked a cow, not realizing how far away it was or how big it was. Ramses insists on having his share of Leanna's Sunday Dinner presented to him uncooked. (Isis, a proper lady, insists on her meat being cooked.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


June19th is always a special day in Texas. It was on this day in 1865 that word reached Texas that the Civil War was over. (This happened when Union ships docked in Galveston.) Yes, strange as it is, it took two months for word to spread, only 141 years ago. There were not a lot of telegraph wires west of the Mississippi (and what there were had been destroyed by the war). I'm sure some travelers had told the tale, but when Yankee ships dock in a Confederate port and unload occupation troops, that kind of brings reality to the rumor. General Granger's Order #3 officially ended slavery in Texas, and freed the last slaves in the US.

The day is celebrated in Texas mostly by those of African descent, since it means the end of slavery, which is of course something worth celebrating. It's a perfectly good excuse for family parties, picnics, and there is always some kind of celebration on this day in a municiple park of just about every city in Texas. Other Texans more or less ignore the day (or treat it as some kind of embarrassment), since it simply means "we lost the war, oh well..."

The part of Texas I live in was Yankee territory during the Civil War (the only non-Indians up here were some cavalry patrols and a couple of buffalo hunter camps). Which doesn't mean there aren't a lot of Confederation flags around the place (including the flag of my high school until it was changed in the 70s).

Regardless of who lost the war, or why it was fought, or who won and who lost, the end of slavery in the United States is a Good Thing(tm), and everyone should join Texans in celebrating it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How to find opponents

STEVE COLE WRITES: Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four wargamers 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, and works much better, and you have a lot of ways to do it. For best results, do all of them.

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-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out of somebody near you has signed in.

You can go to the forum and find the area where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations and let people know you'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.)

Feel free to go to your local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of Federation Commander (or any of our games) and "grown your own" opponents. If anybody already plays the game you demo, they'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.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to our Legacy site and look for the button that says Player Resources. Under that menu is a link for Starlist. 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 five thousand 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 your 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.

The original web site has a bulletin board system and the 8th item on the main menu is "seeking opponents". 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.

Many of those on Starlist and StarFleetGames.com/discus will be players of Star Fleet Battles, but most of those can be convinced to play Federation Commander. Indeed, over half of the names on Starlist are people who quit playing Star Fleet Battles for lack of opponents (or because SFB was too complex for them or their opponents) and most of those are ready recruits for the faster cleaner Federation Commander game system.

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see the links list on our site).

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 cards who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online and play Federation Commander on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $4 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.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A quiet Sunday

Steve Cole & Steve Petrick stopped by the office to check Email and the BBS and clean up a few odd files and projects. We're trying not to get involved in anything other than the final rulebook work on R11 and FCBA. We're both writing the last bits, doing the last reports, and proofreading each other's work. We don't plan to work more than a couple of hours, as we need to get to the point of leaving for Origin two weeks from tomorrow without being totally strung out.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The First Day of Origins

STEVE COLE REPORTS: We had the official "first meeting about Origins" today. It's been an agenda item at a dozen previous meetings, and a lot of stuff has been done about it, but this was the official "first meeting". Of course, the first "day" of Origins is 5 July, and a lot of stuff will be going on during 4 July and some even on 3 July, and people are already playing electronic on-line tournament games. And come to think of it, we had extensive origins planning meetings on 1 May and back in January and a week after Origins 06. So "first day of Origins" is a concept easy to define but hard to nail down.

Years ago (1999), we made a list of things to do for Origins (and a separate list of things to take to it). Being military-trained, after Origins was over, we had an "after action review", updated and revised the lists, and filed them away for next year. Every year, we have a meeting after Origins to update and revise the lists, and another meeting in January and another about 1 May. When the official count-down begins (today, for this year) the "final" revision to the list is printed out and handed to everybody involved. That happened today. Whenever anybody has extra time (and we all MAKE time every day) we do some of the stuff on the list. (The list is broken down by when it can be and has to be done. Some things cannot be done until literally 5 minutes before we drive out, others earlier that day, others the Saturday before, others the week before, others any old time.) We have scheduled the afternoon of 20 June to "do all we can to shorten the list". Such a specific schedule is needed because about 1/3 of the list cannot be done by a single person, but requires a team of two or more people, and everybody has to clear Wednesday afternoon so that whatever pair or triad of people we need is available. All of us have already done some of the stuff on our personal lists, and will do more and more as we move forward.

This year is shaping up to be a good one at the show. We have an experienced team and hot new products. It's also shaping up to be one of the easiest years, since we are about two weeks ahead of schedule. Not time to burn, but time to do things right, and time to do things that normally wouldn't get done (like full nights of sleep). This is due in no small part to Vanessa forcing us to do pages of CL35, pages of R11, pages of FCBA, months ago. We always wanted to run the company that way, and always knew how. The problem is that there was no "boss" to decide where the priorities were. (I am of course the boss, but I also have other jobs such as customer support and deal making and running the company. It is just too easy for somebody to argue with me that I need to put aside game design "just for today" (this happens every day) and do some non-design stuff. Since I was "the boss" who had to decide the argument between "the designer" (me) and the person wanting to rob the designer to pay the other problem, there was nobody to argue in favor of the designer (me) and it was too easy for the boss to get talked into assigning the designer non-priority items. Vanessa, bless her heart, agreed to pretend to be a total bitch (which took some effort as she was really a sweet person, but she watched DEVIL WEARS PRADA for a point of reference), and we agreed to pretend that we were actually afraid of her. (That part didn't take much doing, we WERE afraid of her. I still cringe whenever I hear high-heeled shoes.) So, every day and every week, "doing pages for Vanessa" came FIRST because she blew a fit if we did not fulfill her quota. (She might have been pretending, we were never sure, which is a good thing.) The result was that CL35 (the best issue ever) got done on time instead of late, and the two weeks every previous issue has been late (and the week it took to catch up after two weeks of 16-hour overtime days) is why we're ON schedule instead of behind it right now. So, once again, God Bless Vanessa. We needed somebody to pretend to be a total bitch and she took up the challenge. Now if we can just get her to drop by once a week and threaten us, we should stay on schedule.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Free stuff for Fed Commander players

STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of part of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (enough to play a few battles). Go to our Legacy site (www.StarFleetGames.com/fc) and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:

o The free First Missions packet (demo version of Federation Commander).

o Turn gauges and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.

o Sample ship cards.

o Wallpaper of game covers.

o Frequently asked questions.

o Information for Retailers.

o The original theatrical trailer (OK, not that, but it WAS the original flyer handed out at trade shows).

o Notes from the game designer (SVC) on what parts of the older game Star Fleet Battles we decided to include in Federation Commander.

But that's just a start. If you join the Commander's Circle, which is free, you can download the monthly Communique which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of Federation Commander players looking for new opponents (you!).

Thursday, June 14, 2007


GRAPHICS DIRECTOR MATT COOPER WRITES: My wife and I were at the park near our house at 11:15pm and on our way home, when I noticed a really bright light in the sky. It was a bright white light (with a slight yellow tint). I thought it was an approaching aircraft with its landing lights on, so we parked and watched it for a while. The light didn’t move as expected, instead it just hung in there in the sky so we decided to drive in it's direction. The light seemed to go from very bright to dim and back again. This wasn't the normal 'twinkle' of a star, it was much slower, and the light was not pulsing in a normal interval.

We drove west towards the light. While driving we started thinking that it was Mars, but this thing was too big to be a planet. When we parked, I found a tower with red lights about a mile away to use as a point of reference, and the light we had been tracking was much higher than the top red light of the tower (the white light was further away than the tower, yet it was bigger and brighter than the lights on the tower). Over the course of 30 minutes, the white light moved lower and lower (We could not see the light moving, but comparing it to the point of reference, we could tell it had moved). It would get so faint that it would 'disappear' from our sight and then seconds later be back at full brightness. We saw a plane go by and when the plane got near the light, the light completely vanished. About 45 seconds later the light was back. By 12:00am, the light was below the lowest light on the tower (there were 4 lights). It seemed like it was getting further away, flying in a West NorthWest direction. All of the sudden, it was gone. It came back, as small as a pinprick and it could hardly be seen. Then it was gone, for good this time. We waited a few more minutes and didn't see it so we drove home.

We are convinced it was not a planet, and the light was too big and bright to be an airplane. What do you think it could have been?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Report it to the police!

Steve Cole and Steve Petrick report: Last night, a female friend of the corporate family had an incident with a gentleman who appeared at her home, acted suspiciously, asked questions that made no sense, and asked her to lock up her dog so they could talk more. She told him to leave and made it clear that the dog was staying right where he was, in between her and him.

When she mentioned the incident to us in an Email this morning, we both told her to write down everything she could remember, call the police, and give the report to them. (We told her to do this three separate times and then compare the details and give the cops the most complete data she could, down to what kind of watch he was wearing, clothes he was wearing, car he was driving, specific phrases he used.) Everybody who has any encounter with somebody seriously suspicious should do this.

Sure, the cops are not going to "do" anything, not right now. They cannot go roust every 30 year old male in the county and put all 37,000 of them in a line up.

What they CAN do and presumably will do is file the report electronically and sometime, sooner or later, this guy will be in enough reports by enough women that data mining will link the cases. If you have six women attacked and/or threatened, and three of them all mention the same wrist watch, then you know those three cases are related. If you can then match the car that one of the wrist watch women reported to the other reports, the cops will know that all six are the same guy. Then they can take ALL of the details from ALL of the reports, including details only one woman mentioned, and build a much better picture of who needs to be in that line up.

Modern technology has seriously reduced the crime rate. Give the cops the information to build the case. If the police don't take you seriously, send the report to the FBI and the state police and the county sheriff.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cafe Press

Graphics Director Matthew Cooper writes:

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. CafePress creates and sells products with your designs. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and I have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, Coffee Mugs, Ornaments, Mousepads, etc.


If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on CafePress to buy, Let me know , I will set it up for you!

And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!


Monday, June 11, 2007


Steve Cole Reports: Funny how calmly things are when we got our work done early and aren't in crisis management mode.

The Booklet binder is broken, but we don't need it this week so there was plenty of time for the mechanic we call to come fix it.

I needed to change the Battleships countersheet to match some of the scenario changes that the playtesters wanted, but we have several extra days so no problem.

I have 12 pages of Module R11 on my desk for proofreading which I haven't had time to get to, but we are more than a week ahead, so no need for panic.

The other game company that is "gang running" their stuff with ours is late getting their p art of the gang run in, but our part of the project is done and we have a day or two to wait for them.

It's good to be ahead of schedule. Things that cause blind panic on a tight schedule are no big deal when you got done far enough ahead to take a deep breath and do them right.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Federation Commander Wallpaper

Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download Federation Commander Wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@starfleetgames.com and I will get it set up for you.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Moving Ahead

STEVE COLE REPORTS: The die cut counters (Battleships Attack, Module R11 Support Ships, Omega Five, and some reprints) have gone to the printer; we're waiting for proof copies now. I just now talked to the printer, who just talked to the die cutter, and we're on track to have those on time.

Matt did the covers for R11 and Battleships Attack yesterday, and they'll go to press Monday (two weeks early).

The ship cards for Battleships Attack are finished and should go to press Monday, a week early.

The rulebook for Battleships Attack is 16 pages, and I have finished the first seven and sent them to proofreading. I have the scenarios from the testers and just need to format them. I might need another scenario or two to fill in the last two pages. Petrick is working on the rulebook for R11, and gave the the Romulans (chapter 4) last night. I have already proofread the general units, Federation, and Klingons and give them back to him.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Federation Commander MySpace!

Federation Commander brings you...Federation Commander MySpace!

Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. has a MySpace page! Be our friend and find us! Make comments, and see what's going on with Amarillo Design from another side! Our MySpace page is ran by Matthew (the Graphics Director) so you will get different interaction with Amarillo Design Bureau than you have in the past.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Time to Reflect

Sixty-three years ago on this day thousands of men arrived in a region of France already soaked with the blood of history. They came not to conquer, but to liberate Europe from the nightmare that was Nazi Germany. It is safe to say that none of them could possibly have imagined that their country would set such a task before them. Yet, whether draftee or volunteer, a youth who had never thought of the military as a life choice or a veteran of the last war, the overwhelming majority moved forward to accomplish the task they had been set. Whether landing in the fields behind the beaches in a night filled with the sights of tracers and exploding flak, or struggling onto a beach swept by machinegun and shellfire, they pressed on. They endured the full horrors that war can deliver, saw their friend's lives torn from their bodies and had no time to morn them. On a beach code-named Omaha the First and Twenty-ninth Infantry Divisions met the heaviest and most organized resistance and suffered the greatest ill luck when nearly all the supporting armor that was to help them on the beach succumbed to the waves. The issue on that beach was in doubt, and its failure would have imperiled the entire invasion. At first they could just cling to the beach, but as the tide rose, they moved forward with it. Despite what was happening around them, they did not panic and attempt to force their way onto the arriving landing craft bringing more troops to flee. They did not try to signal the defenders that they were willing to give up, that they had found the task set them too hard. They bled, and many of them died, but in the end they did what had been asked of them. The moved forward. They broke the defense. They demonstrated why authors have since called them our "Greatest Generation".

So as you enjoy your day, remember that others have paid for your right to enjoy it with their blood and pain. Remember also that others are even now, today, spending their blood that you can continue to enjoy your own life in the spirit of those who stormed the Normandy Coast sixty-three years ago.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

On Track ... so far

The countersheets for Battleships Attack and SFB-R11 are done and will go to press tomorrow. Plenty of time to get them back for Origins.

The covers for the two products should be done in a few days.

The FCBA ship cards are finished and will go to press about Monday.

That means everything except the rulebooks will be "out of our hands" and "waiting for the printer" within a week.

And the rulebooks are going to get a major push next week. We may just finish everything two weeks early.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Many people do not know that you can play Federation Commander on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, http://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.

This successful operation has now been expanded to include Federation Commander!

Now you can play with real live human 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 $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the Federation Commander Game System 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 on-line 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.

So come to www.sfbonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new Fed Commander aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Make someone smile

If every one of us, every day, made somebody else smile, made them a little happier for a moment in some way, the world would be a better place. It's one of the reasons that I "waste time" every day doing some "customer request" to create something (or just find something in the file and send it to him).

On the way in to work today, I stopped at the quickie mart where I always stop. A young lady, maybe 22 years old, was in line ahead of me at checkout. Since my wife started making me watch PROJECT RUNWAY I have paid more attention to women around me, and have had a deeper understanding of how much effort it takes women to look good. Leanna and I have discussed the details of this, as the subject mystifies men. (We don't even try, we just put out stuff in our pockets and go out into the world.) This young lady was not dressed in any spectacular way (jeans and a t-shirt, typical of a Sunday afternoon in America). She was on her way from somewhere to somewhere else, perhaps to visit friends, and stopped for a soft drink. What I noticed was her hair. It was not "done" just "wash, dry, and go" but it was obviously very well cared for. Having gotten comfortable with approaching and complimenting women not known to me, I simply said "Miss, I'm not hitting on you, but somebody has to tell you that your hair is really great." She burst into a smile, giggled, looked embarrassed, and did everything that young women do instinctively to be cute, charming, and real. She thanked me for the compliment, and said that she really appreciated my taking a moment to let her know that somebody liked the way she looked. (Who knows, maybe her boyfriend doesn't spend enough time adoring her?) She laughed and went on her way, apparently a little happier than when she walked in, not that she looked unhappy.

I must also mention that, earlier this morning via TIVO, I had watched the season finale of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, and as those of you who watch the show know, Eva Langoria got married. I was annoyed that she had piled her glorious hair on top of her head, and had to stop the disc and ask Leanna "What moron convinced you women that putting your hair up like that is glamorous? It's ugly and stupid. You women take as much time and trouble on your hair as we guys do on our cars. Show it off!"

Leanna said I just didn't understand.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday at ADB

Leanna, Steve Petrick, and I are down here working, as we are virtually every Saturday.

Leanna is still processing mail orders. Major bunch of them all week. Crazy, but VERY welcome.

Petrick is working on SFB Module R11, and seems to think that when I quit stalling (i.e., finish the blog post) that I'm going to come in there and make some decisions for him. He's in charge of SFB now (has been for over a year) but still defers to me in some decisions (and gripes that I continue to make "universe" decisions that impact "his" game system). I had worked out the list of SSDs to include in pairs (players like both sides of one sheet of paper to be the same race) but I put all the pods (lots of them in R11) on six pages, and he spread them out throughout the book, so now we have odd pages all over the place and I either have to combine them, eliminate ships, or add ships. That, and I invented the "workboat" (a war-surplus civilianized gunboat) for use by RPG types and those have to go into R11 as well.

In theory, my day consists of doing the countersheet graphics for two products, which is a full eight-hour day, a day I won't start before 3pm. I got into the office late and exhausted (because Leanna thought this was the perfect morning to finish putting the paving stones into her new patio, the one by the gazebo, as opposed to the other patio, the one by the house). So I had to take a couple of hours to rest, and then lunch, and now I'm too full to work but Petrick says he's not staying down here to midnight doing his job just because I wouldn't get around to doing my job on time. He's got a legitimate complaint. Annoyingly, when he leaves, I'll have to continue doing counters (press deadlines are just ugly things that don't move) and won't have time to do more enjoyable things like customer-requested projects.

But whatever, bills to pay and pages to write before I sleep.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Crunch Time

It's June 1st. The next four weeks are the busiest, most stressful, and most important of the entire year.

In about a week, the die-cut counters for FC: Battleships Attack and for SFB Module R11 will go to press. That should be 5 or 6 June. Which means I better get busy doing the graphics for them. I had to spend all of the day doing the R11 Master Ship Chart because the data on the R11 counters comes from that chart. Petrick actually does all that stuff, but I have to punch in the data because if he ever learns Excel, he won't need me at all.

A week after that, the laminated ship cards for FC:BA will to press. Fortunately, those are finished, and could go to press today but I'm letting the playtesters have another ten days. They'll go to press about 12 or 13 June.

A week later, the covers for FC:BA and SFB:R11 go to press. That should be easy. We have the art and Matt has done the layouts. I just have to write the 100 or so words of hype to go on the covers. Say 20 June.

In the final days of June, we'll use our high-capacity laser engines to print the rulebooks for those two products.

Everything will land on the dock about 27 June, allowing us to pack both games over the weekend.

On 2 July, we'll ship the two products to the wholesales about 4:30 and at 5:00 I'll be driving out of the parking lot a truckload of games and Steve Petrick (who will grouch for the first hour until we get to Shamrock for supper and he gets to drive, since he hates to "not drive"). We'll get to Tulsa about midnight and get a good night's sleep. Tuesday 3 July is the best day of the entire year, a quiet 10-hour drive through green countryside on nice interstate highways, with great BBQ at Missouri Mile Marker 163 (on I44) at Sweetwater. Last year, Petrick and I got to have lunch with some Bulgarian officers in the US for training. I never thought I'd see that. Maybe in 10 years we'll be having lunch at the same place with North Koreans? Or Iranians?

It's gotta be an intense month. If you want SVC or SPP to do something, and it's not for Origins, be prepared for a memo saying your request is in "The 10 July File".