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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Beware the Disengenuous

This is Steven Petrick writing.

Let me preface this by noting that this problem is not limited to one party, I am only using this as a recent example of the problem.

Senator Kennedy has announced that the U.S. imprisoned a Japanese Soldier for 15 years for "waterboarding". This was all he had to say about the man, and thus it stands as a loud and vigorous condemnation of the U.S. for our "double standard", that we would imprison someone for this and use it ourselves.

The thing is, if you actually went to Google, entered the man's name and the word "torture", you would find that he was not imprisoned for the stated crime. The charges under which he was tried were:

Striking prisoners with his open hand.

Striking prisoners with his closed fist.

Kicking prisoners.

Striking prisoners with a club.

Burning prisoners with cigarettes.

Water Torture.

Strapping prisoners to a stretcher and suspending them upside down.

Stealing Red Cross supplies.

The charges did not combine the use of stretcher and "water torture" as Kennedy did, but I will assume that one of his aids researched the matter and determined that it was so. The obverse would be to assume that no research was done and the water torture actually bore no similarity to waterboarding.

Further it should be noted that the actions of this man were not done for the purposes of gaining information, but simply reflected both his own personal saddism and the general saddism towards non-Japanese that was endemic in Japan's military in that time period.

Thus Kennedy is saying that none of the other charges against the man mattered, and his sentence was only about his use of waterboarding, something that he may not have actually employed.

But it makes good political theater even if it is, at best, a half truth (saying that his imprisonment was only about waterboarding). But, in essence, Kennedy is implying that burning men with cigarettes and beating them with clubs, both far more likely to produce permanent physical harm, are far less serious than waterboarding.

Sadly, we have to watch all of our political leaders (whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent, or some other party) as they all depend on us not to look too closely at their words and the "facts" they present to us to support their views. And sadly, we cannot depend on the media to do "due diligence", or no paper or newscast would have reported Kennedy's words without itself having first researched his "facts" to see if he was playing fast and loose and reported those facts alongside the Senator's words.

Tuesday, October 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, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, 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, and Chris Fant (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.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting the Word Out

Steven Paul Petrick Writes:

Star Fleet Battles has been in publication for nearly three decades now. Almost any gamer of a certain age is likely have to been a player, or to at least have been aware of, the game. Its very age, however, is often a problem. As most tactical boardgames only remain on the market a few years, most players assume that Star Fleet Battles must be out of print. Part of the problem is, of course, the general competition for "shelf space". While Star Fleet Battles (and its new companion Federation Commander) still has a market, store owners are looking for "the next big thing". In short, they are constantly putting new things on their shelves hopping for the next Magic: The Gathering craze. As shelf space is limited, older games that are still selling tend to get pushed to the back. The result is an "out of sight out of mind" effect reinforcing the idea that the game is "out of print".

An example of that occurred yet again this weekend.

SVC and Leanna went to visit a wolf preserve. While they were there, conversation with the keepers got around, somehow, to Star Trek, and then to Star Fleet Battles. And one of the keepers was a former player who thought the game was out of print. (We have, in fact, just received an order for Basic Set from him.)

There are doubtless numbers of people out there who would play Star Fleet Battles, if they only knew that it was still in publication, but getting the word out will always be a problem.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Game Balance

Steven Paul Petrick writes:

Balance is one of the hardest things to factor into a game design. Without balance, there is little point in playing. Balance can be many things, from giving both players exactly the same type of combat unit on an absolutely level field, to allowing one side a greater power but giving the weaker side a victory condition that he can achieve if he plays well. It is often a matter of scale.

Designing the basics of a system is often easier than creating the balance to make it playable. This is because players are often not balanced (and no, I am not making a joke about sanity). Every player has a different level of skill. Some are better at maneuver than others. Some are simply driven to drive forward no matter the consequences. Consider the game of chess. A flat board with two identical opposing armies, but one has "the initiative", i.e., White moves first and from his first move has control of the action until he makes a mistake. (Make no bones about it, if white loses the initiative it is because the player has made a mistake.) The first move allows White to control the center of the board, and black is reacting to White and trying to avoid being pinned while looking for White to make a mistake so that he can take the initiative.

So how do you find balance. Particularly in a game like SFB where as much as possible you want diversity. Ships to have differing weapons and capabilities, but also be representative of the race that defines their characteristics.

And do not forget the players who bring their own characteristics. A Lyran player once expressed the thought that if the Kzinti Frigates had only slow drones, he could beat a squadron of three Kzinti Frigates with three Lyran frigates in a fight set in Y155. The Kzinti accepted the challenge, and use the weapon the Lyran had overlooked (three times as many transporters and larger marine complements). The battle ended with the two surviving Lyran Frigates fleeing the field. While the Lyrans had greater direct-firepower, the Kzintis capitalized on their advantages and won the battle.


Saturday, October 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 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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Old Captain's Logs

Steven Petrick writes:

Captain's Log was never intended to be kept continuously in publication. Each issue was intended to be a stand-alone, and once sold-out to be no longer available.

With the instigation of "self-publishing", we have decided we could make the older issues available again for those that wanted them, but then ran into a problem (what does not run into a problem?). The earlier issues were done with computer programs that have been upgraded several times since, and the upgraded programs cannot read the original program.

Not only that, but the older version of the programs will not run on the newer computers, and old computers cannot run the newer versions of the program. After several experiments (involving trying to scan copies of the books), we have started a system of taking the oldest computer we have, opening the files and updating them to a newest program the computer can handle. Then we transfer the files to a new computer, and starting with the oldest program the new computers can handle, we update the files to the newer program.

At each step, if we miss something before the file is saved, we have to go all the way back to start and begin again.

It is time-consuming and laborious, but soon the older issues will be available again, although they will have simple paper covers rather than color cardstock covers (there is not enough of a demand to cover the cost of reprinting the cardstock covers).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

There Were These Things Called "Honor" And "Integrity"

This is Steven Petrick Writing.

What are these things?

They are not showy things, but rather the things that define an individual.

They show up in the small things one does.

One game of Star Fleet Battles I played had me commanding a Klingon dreadnought while my opponent commanded a Gorn Dreadnought. It was an absolutely glorious battle. My opponent's ship was utterly destroyed and he failed to score a single internal on my ship. At the time I kept my Energy Allocation Forms in plastic protectors and recorded my data with an alcohol pen. With the battle over, I looked down on my EAF with the eraser poised to clean it off and noticed that I had never, ever, allocated for shields. This meant that not only had I been scoring damage on shields that I had not paid for, but that every turn I had had four extra points of power to spend. It would have been a simple matter to erase the form and forever conceal what had happened from my opponent. Instead, I placed the form back on the table, reached across and grabbed my opponent's hand and congratulated him on his victory.

At one point I drew money out of an ATM. When I counted the funds withdrawn (a habit from being a pay disbursement officer in Korea), I found the machine had given me $5.00 more than I had requested. There was no way the bank would have ever known where that $5.00 had disappeared to. But I drove to the bank, turned the $5.00 in, and reported that the ATM might have a problem that needed fixing.

Not to long ago I had dinner at a barbecue place that SVC and I frequent. While talking to the operator and paying for my meal I handed him a $10.00 bill, and handed me back a $10.00 bill and some loose change. I could have just walked off, but I pointed out that I had paid with a $10.00 bill and handed the money back.

Those are me.

But I can also point to Robert Patterson. Someone I rarely met (a convention here and there) and mostly only knew from the internet. I got dragged into a game of Star Fleet Battles "for money" once. I was there because the other players had, on finding out that I was allergic to some foods, gone to a different restaurant than the one they had all wanted to go to just so I would not be eating alone. Something I tried to convince them would be okay as I was quite used to it. They, having insisted that I could not eat alone while I was with them, I felt obligated and when they needed a sixth person for the "money game", I entered out of that sense of obligation, though I personally detest gambling. The game had reached the point where the winner was going to be sorted out in short order, when Robert noted an error on his Energy Allocation form. The $100.00 entry fee was not money that Robert would not notice missing, but having found the error he still stood up and eliminated himself from the game.

Honor and integrity are not grand gestures in public forums made by individuals who are trying to gain your vote. They are the things we do when there is no one watching that define us as individuals, and what makes a civilization work. As these things are removed from the body politic, the society, and the civilization, decline.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

As the graphics (on the website and in the products) continue to improve here at ADB, Inc., I am learning about new things every day. It seems that I drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list, so your help in finding things for me to do would be appreciated.

We have merged the two websites. The combined site now has a new front page, site map, and index, making it a lot harder to use. You are welcome to comment on my changes, but more importantly, please suggest changes, and check the changes I make.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Loose Nukes

Stephen V. Cole writes:

In a recent incident, the US Air Force mislaid six nuclear weapons for about a day. It happened like this. There is a stockpile of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles at Minor AFB, North Dakota. As these are no longer wanted, the idea is to remove the nuclear warheads, install empty warheads, load the missiles on a B-52, fly them to Barksdale Louisiana, and dismantle the missiles there. The warheads are then shipped by truck or train to a disassembly plant.

The easiest way to move the missiles is by using the B-52s which were designed to carry them. To do this, you have to either leave the warhead on board (not considered the preferable way to do things) or replace it with an empty warhead (to avoid the aerodynamic drag).

Somehow, the paperwork got confused and six missiles that had not been de-fanged got into the wrong stockpile, made it past dozens of USAF personnel who never imagined they would need to check every cruise missile that went by since the warhead removal crews were in charge of that (all the while being unguarded, something required for nuclear weapons), and got onto a bomber. When they arrived in Barksdale, the missiles were set aside (unguarded) and a few hours later a team of technicians assigned to start the disassembly process noticed that the warheads were intact. They called up the chain of command, guards were sent down to protect the missiles, and the warheads were removed and sent to the disassembly plant.

The big deal is that leaving nuclear weapons unguarded is a really bad idea since somebody might steal one, or just set the thing off. Now, detonating a nuclear weapon is a very complex thing involving a serial combination lock with a couple of dozen digits, but given a week, a machine shop, and some luck, you might be able to remove all of the safety systems and get straight to the detonators. Maybe. One might assume that the real danger was very slight, since Al Qaeda probably doesn't have a spy in Barksdale checking these deactivated missiles "just in case" a real warhead slips through. If the warheads had gone undetected for a longer period of time, the odds of something happening might be assumed to increase. There is also the danger that personnel or the public might have been accidentally exposed to nuclear radiation. In an inflight emergency, the crew might have thought nothing of jettisoning the weapons, since "they had no warheads". While they would not have detonated in such a case, the warheads might have been damaged by their impact with the ground to create a radiation contamination hazard.

Several officers and sergeants lost their jobs. Over 100 lost their security clearances. Some may face court-martial for this embarrassing mistake.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Computer Problems and Fame

This is Steven Petrick posting.

We normally post using an PC which we call "Jack", but this post is being made from my office computer, "Klingon Empire". Jack, it seems, has developed a problem. Whenever you start it, it simply goes into a continuous start up loop.

So I am posting off of my office computer. We normally do not do this because there are apparently some connections between Macintosh computers and the blog system that do not work very well. We can get here, it just takes a bit more effort on our part.

I had intended, today, to talk about "fame".

In brief, there are probably very few who have come through the American school system who are not aware of General U.S. Grant, and General R.E. Lee, the two most notable commanders (one North, the other South) of the American Civil War.

Grant's fame rests ultimately on the simple fact that he could not admit to defeat as a General (although his private life was very much a disaster, and his Presidency not much better). He could be beaten, but he would always advance again. This ultimately led to his being paired off against General Lee, whose fame rests principally on his accomplishments with an Army that was always out numbered. Until Grant came along, Lee was always able to administer a significant defeat on the Union forces opposed to him, which would percipitate a withdrawal northwards. Grant would not withdraw. No matter how much Lee succeeded in bloodying the Army of the Potomac, Grant would simply slip around Lee's flank and continue advancing.

The battle between these two titans tends to draw the most interest.

Union General Sherman is remembered for his "March to the Sea", but how many remember that his opponent on his was Confederate General Joe Johnston?

Of course, not all Confederate Generals were born in the South. General Pemberton, who tried to hold Vicksburg was northern born, and if he is remembered at all is remembered as the man who surrendered Vicksburg to Grant.

Not all Union Generals were born in the North either. Consider General Thomas, who would be ostracized from his Virginia family for choosing the North over the South. How many of you remember "The Rock of Chickamauga"? When, after Union General Rosecrans fled the field at the battle of Chickamauga, it was Thomas who held Snodgrass Hill and prevented Confederate General Bragg from converting his tactical victory into a complete smashing success.

Thomas would go on to virtually destroy Hood's Confederate Army outside of Nashville (admittedly he was helped in this by Hood's desperate hope that Thomas' attack would be a failure allowing Hood to then counterattack and take the city).

But how many remember Thomas? In fact, but for Grant's participation in some actions in that theater (Forts Donelson and Henry, Shiloh, Vicksburg, the relief of Chatanooga) the Armies and Generals who fought in the west are largely forgotten (Like Union Generals Buell and Rosecrans, or Confederate Generals Bragg and Beauregard). The battles were no less critical, the men fought no less hard, but to this day fame rests principally on Lee and Grant, and the rest are forgotten.

Sunday, October 21, 2007



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.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Considerations of Game Design

This is Steven Petrick writing.

When designing games, one of the factors you have to take into account is not just consistency, but playability. If your game is set in the past, most of the strengths and weaknesses of various weapons and tactics are known, as are their interactions against each other. If your game is set in an imaginary future using technologies beyond anything that are currently in use (such as phasers), you have some liberty to establish a consistent damage pattern. The danger is that you will not see that some things are, by their nature, going to be necessary but not able to be consistent. You might like to keep the range of something down (as was done in the Omega Octant in Star Fleet Battles). The problem is that bases do not have the ability to maneuver. Thus if you take the attitude that the heavy weapons on bases (perhaps of only a few races) are going to be restricted to 30 hexes range you have essentially made the base largely useless (it cannot affect the battle), and worse simply a target for destruction by some races. In Omega the Souldra can launch Dark Matter Torpedoes from 30 hexes range, and can maneuver such that they will only enter range 30 long enough to launch them with all of their shield blocks on that shield facing.

You have to look at such situations, and perhaps from a play balance perspective, while you might think it would be best that the weapons on the base be "consistent" with the range and damage output you consider appropriate for that technology, it might be necessary to tweak it up a little better (both in damage output and range) to make up for the fact that the base cannot maneuver and has to be able to support a battle at ranges that normal ships can only dream of.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Facing a Moment

This is Steven Petrick writing.

Most of us in our lives, if we are lucky, will never face a moment when we get to actually find out what we would do if critical situation.

Back in the late 1980s, myself and two gaming buddies were the object of an attempt by nine gentlemen to redress the economic imbalance of the world by transferring the contents of our wallets to theirs. To bolster the justness of their argument that said contents were rightfully theirs they had an assortment of baseball bats and tire irons. Further, they did not intend for us to come to any permanent harm, they simply did not mind if, in the course of the transaction, permanent harm came to us. This they demonstrated by opening the discussion with a baseball bat, used in a full overhead swing with maximum acceleration, against the head of one of my buddies without any prior warning, such as a simple "stand and deliver" as often attributed to such individuals in the days of yore.

What do you do in such a situation?

When the festivities opened I was actually in a position such that I could take off, running full out, and escape all harm. An obviously perfectly sensible and rational thing to do. I mean, the odds were already worse than three-to-one (given the "argument enhancers" possessed by the other side), and clearly the telling points already being delivered to my comrade's unprotected brain-housing group only served to further worsen those odds. After all, what was he to me? At that juncture, other than the fact that he was one of the guys I gamed with, I honestly did not even know his name much less anything else about him.

In that instant of time, with no opportunity to plan, being perfectly knowledgeable of the odds, with a clear escape path before me, and no strong connection or obligation to either of the other two involved in this "discussion", I chose to attack the man attempting to pulverize the skull of someone I did not even know by name, but knew was on "my side".

I cannot, to this day, claim that I really thought it through, or that the decision was rational, or that I had any belief in our chances to win. I reacted. And even at that there was a finite interval of delay as that baseball bat landed several times before my own entry into the discussion distracted the wielder from the object of his attention, and focused it on me.

Having entered the fray, as it were, my primary focus then became to avoid being damaged as much as possible while looking for an opportunity to make my own "telling comment" and avoiding being trapped. Sadly, this led to a mis-step.

The "field of discussion" was a parking lot, and one of its features were speed bumps, and one of these tripped me.

My going down at that juncture gave the baseball bat wielder the opportunity to move in for a telling exchange, which he took full advantage of as one of his cohorts also closed in.

At this juncture my situation was both completely defensive and completely hopeless. The thought occurred to me that perhaps if I offered them my wallet they might desist from further discussion. The thought occurred, but it was immediately rejected in my own mind. No offer on my part was made, rather a calmness and acceptance came. I was going to die that night, but I was not going to surrender. Even so I tried to find some opportunity to strike back.

The opportunity came.

Suddenly both of the aggressors currently focused on me backed up, just a few steps. The cause was that the other man in our little group had seen my predicament, and managed to break clear briefly of those around him and move to my aid. This gave me the opportunity to regain my feet, and I seized it, and immediately, despite the pounding I had just taken (adrenaline is a powerful thing), attempted once more to swing over to the offensive. I was, however, again held at bay by the other side's tools.

At this juncture the third member of our little group staggered back to his feet. The nine gentlemen now saw the three of us on our feet, and gathered in a group.

I considered the odds still bad, reviewed the situation, and decided that if two of us were to escape, one of us was going to have to act as a "rear guard". Our first man was a civilian and thus someone I was duty bound to protect, and in any case had been the subject of several blows to the skull by a baseball bat. The other man, I outranked as he was also a soldier, but unlike me he had a wife. I made my decision, and further decided that since the rear guard was likely to be severely beaten, if not killed outright, that I needed for them to not be burdened with guilt. So I instructed them to "go for help". The young soldier, on hearing this, stared at me, so I repeated the instruction, but this time in "command voice". I did not say "that's an order", but I put it into my tone and inflection, and he reacted.

We would later learn that the civilian remembered literally nothing from the point the first blow landed on his head. He was operating entirely on auto-pilot, and when the soldier went for help, he went with him. He would eventually wake up in a hospital.

I then turned to make what I believed was going to be my "last stand", in a God-forsaken parking lot in Columbus, Georgia.

For whatever reason, as I stood there, the nine gentlemen decided that they had done enough, and chose to fade into the dark, leaving me holding an empty field.

John Nellums, the man I chose to come to the aid of, recovered from the incident. Maybe if I had done nothing he would have recovered, maybe the fact that I attacked the bat wielder, stopping the rain of blows he was delivering, was a decisive element in saving his life. I do not know, and do not want to know. I was, and am, just glad he was okay, and glad that I finally learned his name that night. Despite my own injuries, which were admittedly less severe, I would not report for medical treatment until I knew he was going to be okay. Joe Oliver, the other soldier in the event, came out of the incident unharmed, but told me that he had stayed to fight because of my personal example, a statement that simultaneously filled me with quiet pride, and quiet horror that any man would risk his own life based on my actions. It was, and is, not a level of trust I think anyone should have in me.

After the civilian doctors told me John Nellums was going to be okay, I reported to my Brigade's Staff Duty Officer on the incident so that the Brigade Commander would not be surprised if the Post Commander called him when my name showed up on the morning Police Report. (I do not know if that call was ever made, but it is not uncommon for police reports to elicit such phone calls even though I was a victim and not a protagonist.) Only then did I go to the Army Hospital to have my own injuries checked out, which had become increasingly apparent while I was awaiting the report on John Nellums in the civilian hospital as the Adrenaline surge was purged from my system.

Thursday, October 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 website 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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Napoleon was said to ask of prospective Generals: "Is he lucky?" That serves as a good indication of the fact that it is often said that battles, and indeed wars, are won by the side that makes the fewest mistakes.

Consider the battle of "The Cowpens" during the American Revolutionary War. The action had reached a climax with the British Regulars commanded by Banastre Tarelton engaged in a stand-up knock down fight with Daniel Morgan's last line of defense, Continental Regulars. Suddenly, the Continentals turned their backs to the British and began to march off. Seeing this movement, the British thought the Colonists were beaten, and broke ranks to pursue the retreating troops. The reality was that a mistake had occurred, and order to adjust their position had been mistakenly understood as to require a displacement of the whole line further to the rear. The continentals, as Regulars with firm discipline, were executing the command even though under fire. They were not fleeing the fight. When ordered to halt, turn about and recommence firing on the British troops, they did so, unleashing a devastating close range volley on the pursuing the English troops. This threw the English troops into confusion, and worse, with their own ranks broken in order to purse the retreating troops, they could not respond to the volleys now being leveled at them by the Continentals. It was at this critical moment that the reformed Colonial militia charged their flank, and the Continentals themselves were ordered to fix bayonets and charge.

Had the British ranks not been broken, they might well have been able to refuse a flank to the Militia and continued the firefight with the continentals through to a successful conclusion (numbers of troops on both sides were about even with a slight edge going to the British). The battle, quite literally, may have turned on the mistaken order for the Continentals to displace to the rear, for it was this movement that disrupted the British line and laid them open to destruction.

This is hardly the only case of a battle being decided by a mistake.

At Chickamagua during the American Civil War, the Confederates under Braxton Bragg achieved a staggering success in breaking through the Union Line of General Rosecrans. While it is possible that charging Confederate Column (Commanded by General Longstreet) might have achieved a breakthrough on its own, its great success was due to Rosecrans being advised that there was a "gap" in his line. Rosecrans chose to cover this reported gap by having a division change its position. The reality was that there was no "gap", until Rosecrans created one by ordering the division's displacement, creating a gap directly in front of where Longstreet's corps (on loan from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia) would attack.

While the two examples are both rooted in American History, there are many others. All nations have won and lost battles based on a mistake. Even the Battle of Hastings hinged to a great extent on Harold's militia breaking ranks to pursue what they thought was William's defeated troops, only to find themselves in perfect position to be ridden down by William's cavalry. The thinning of Harold's defensive wall by these local actions ultimately created the weakness that allowed William to break Harold's defenses.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"No Such Thing as a Good War, or a Bad Peace"

One of the most common means of scoring points in a discussion is to cite a quote by someone of some repute that supports the position.

For example, if one were totally opposed to the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might cite Benjamin Franklin's quote:

"There is no such thing as a good war, or a bad peace."

Here is one of the founding fathers emphatically stating that getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan under any conditions is the right thing to do. War is bad and any peace is good, right?

This gets you into a disconnect because Benjamin Franklin did all he could to keep the Revolutionary War going. He opposed any peace with Britain short of independence for the 13 colonies. How could he have done so if he believed there was no such thing as a bad peace?

The simple fact is that Franklin said a lot of things in his life, and what he thought and where he stood on things depended to a great extent on just where he was in his life at that time.

He certainly did not regret the founding of the United States of America nor did he ever declare the Revolutionary War as one that should not have been fought to its final conclusion.

Franklin uttered his famous quote about good war and bad peace at the end of the French and Indian War in 1755. Twenty years later his stance on pushing the Revolutionary War to a successful conclusion in defiance of peace offers by the Crown would demonstrate conclusively that he did not think all wars wrong, that sometimes it was right to fight, and sometimes a peace short of victory is a bad peace.

The upshot is that if someone throws a quote at you, ask him or her if they are aware of the circumstances of the quote (and if you are going to use a quote, be certain you know its context as well). Not every quote has the exact meaning that the quoter believes.

Even Ghandi, the man of peace, is known to have said that his movement worked because England was a nation of laws, and against a less law abiding nation violence would have been necessary to gain India's independence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!

STEVE COLE WRITES: 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). Go to 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 Wallpapers 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 (Steve Cole) 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 Communiqué which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

High and Low English, A Legacy of Hastings

Jean Sexton Writes:

Have you ever wondered why we eat "beef", but raise cows? Or have you questioned why we dine on "pork" and wrinkle our noses at the smell of pigs?

The answers lie back on this day in 1066, when William the Conqueror and the Normans defeated the English (then known as Saxons) in the Battle of Hastings.

Anglo-Saxon-based Old English was the language of England and Old French was spoken in France. Now the world was turned topsy-turvy. The French ruled England and the nobility needed to speak the language of the winners.

Most of the time, when people choose to emulate someone, they choose to copy people in a higher social strata. So the nobility dined on buef, porc, mouton, and venison (our beef, pork, mutton, and venison). Peasants raised cou, picga (or pigge), and sceap (or sheep), while der lived in the wodes (the nobility hunted in the forest).

As you can see, a military action (the Battle of Hastings) had a great and lasting influence on our culture and speech. Thanks to that battle, we have a language that is rich in word choice (forest/woods, royal/kingly, honor/worth, and mansion/house, for example).

Who would ever have expected October 14, 1066 to be so important?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy 232nd Birthday!

Jean Sexton Writes:

"Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportional number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible dispatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruise eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expense, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expense."

This resolution, passed by the Continental Congress on October 13, 1775, marks the establishment of the Continental Navy.

During the Revolutionary war, the Navy grew to more than 50 armed ships. These ships took British vessels as prizes (forcing Britain to defend her convoys), transported diplomats to Europe, and returned with needed munitions. The U.S. Navy carries on the proud tradition of the Continental Navy.

While the Navy birthday is primarily a celebration for those who are serving or have served in the Navy and their families, why don't we make a sailor's day and wish our Navy a hearty "Happy Birthday!"

(Thanks to the Department of the Navy's Naval Historical Center's website for providing much of the information!)

Friday, October 12, 2007


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. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will set it up for you! Email me at: graphics@StarFleetGames.com

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ADB Continues to Move Ahead

Jean Sexton Writes:

SVC and Leanna have hit the road with a new product in hand called Star Fleet Journal #1. They're attending the Trek Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma and wanted to have something new for the con.

The Star Fleet Journal #1 is a collection of five Klingon-themed stories with new introductions that help place the stories in their historical context. The introductions also help fans of the Star Trek Universe understand new aspects found in the Star Fleet Universe. These are lead-ins to five scenarios for Federation Commander. The stock number for Star Fleet Journal #1 is 2201 and the list price is $9.95

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Stephen V. Cole writes:

On Monday Night Football, 8 October, the Dallas Cowboys had a bad night, but still pulled the game out, winning by a field goal in the last two seconds. The quarterback, perhaps looking ahead to next week's game with New England, had five interceptions and a fumble, and nearly lost to a third-rate Buffalo team. Dallas has now reached 5-0, reminding me of the old Dallas Cowboys of the past, when superbowl games were the norm.

The victory was a tribute to TEAMWORK, and the Dallas Quarterback correctly and passionately gave credit to his team for covering up his mistakes. It would have been so easy for members of the Dallas Cowboys to have said "Well, after that idiot threw that many interceptions, we might as well quit trying and just sleep through the rest of the game." But they did not. They kept playing a solid game, held Buffalo within reach, and delivered when the time was "do or die". The rookie field goal kicker put a super-long shot through the uprights (twice, due to that goofy "call time out as the ball is snapped" nonsense) and the game was won.

When any member of the team is having a bad day, it means that the rest of the team needs to do better, not give up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


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.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reality versus Game Reality.

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things about games is that your own knowledge of "reality" can intrude and make playing the game very difficult until you can figure out the "game reality".

An example was the original tactical game "Panzerblitz", which became known euphemistically as "Panzerbush".

In the game, any unit that was in a "woods hex" could fire on anything that it could see (i.e., anything not in another woods hex or behind such a hex, or behind a hill or in a town or etc.). But NOTHING could shoot at a unit in a woods hex unless it was directly adjacent. The game made no allowance for things like "return fire" at a hex where the enemy was shooting at you from, much less putting "searching" or "suppressive" fire on such hexes.

When I first got Panzerblitz my then most constant opponent, Jeffrey Sagor, was constantly pounding the heck out of my Russian troops. This happened scenario after scenario, until we came to the one where I "cracked". I could not stand being picked off by the German guns anymore, and by Stalin, I was going to kill at least some Germans. So I massed all of my T-34 tanks and charged, expecting to be shot to pieces but hoping to destroy at least some of the German units.

The Germans fled (at least those that could).

It was only then that I realized that the game was won by essentially putting more targets into the enemy's kill zone than the enemy could kill. Rushing a stack of two 88mm batteries with six companies of T-34s would perhaps cost me up to four companies of the tanks, but the 88mms would be destroyed (and there was a good chance that I would actually only have one company destroyed, and at least a chance that I would lose none of them). But if I rushed the 88mms with six companies, I was guaranteed to kill them even if they were in a woods hex.

So flank attacks worked (massing my forces to hit one flank of the enemy so that less of his total firepower could be used to repel that attack allowing me to roll up his line), and given enough force a frontal attack would work. All was right with the world.

Then a new game, "Squad Leader" was released. By this time I was so fixated on the tactics I used in "Panzerblitz" that in the first game of "Squad Leader" I ever played I calmly sent 121 Russian Guards to attack a building held by just 31 Germanskis. "Squad Leader", however, had figure out that there was this thing called "Grazing fire", and I found I now had 121 dead Russian Guards in the streets. Something that brought the exclamation from my lips "Machineguns work!" (The rules for machine guns in all the previous tactical games I had played made them pretty much nothing more than a rifle that did more damage with its one shot than other rifles. In "Sqaud Leader" the ability of a machinegun to hit more than one hex in its line of fire created the "interlocking fields of fire" that made them so dangerous in real life. It was the most impressive thing about squad leader that you could actually lay out a defense based on machineguns and their fields of fire. In that, its "game reality" for how tactics worked was closer to "reality" than "Panzerblitz" had been.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A difference between a game and reality

This is Steven Petrick Writing.

One of the things you can encounter with people who have no practical experience with what a game is presenting is that they tend to assume that the game is in fact how things work in "the real world". This can get you someone who has never in his life been in the military discussing how easy it would be to run an armored division through the Balkans, because he has done it in the game he played (I am not making that up). The actual difficulties of the logistics needed to do that is not something the speaker had any cognizance of. The game he played simply assumes the logistics for moving a division are there, it does not make allowance for the simple fact that the logistics themselves have to be moved up.

Further, a bridge that easily supported the 40 ton tanks of World War II will not support a modern 60 ton M1 Abrams tank. That means time lost trying to find a place you put up a floating bridge, and in a mountainous region like the Balkans that is a lot harder to do. The result was that when the U.S. Military did send an "armored division" into the Balkans, it was weeks, not days, to accomplish the task. Sites for military floating bridges had to be found, roads connecting those sites to the main road network had to be built, and banks along the river at the bridging site had to be heavily reinforced with gravel.

Moving a real military unit is simply not the same thing as pushing a cardboard counter or drawing a line of advance on your computer game terminal that you want the unit to advance along.

Games also often simply have rules that allow you to do something and assume that the game will largely follow history. Players will of course break those assumptions in very short order. I was dragged into a game of "War in Europe" in about 1940. The Soviets had decided to attack the Germans once they attacked France. The British had decided to directly invade Italy from Africa. You can imagine what a mess that made of things for the Germans, and it was not helped that the German "players" were not as familiar with the game system as the Allied "players". I came in, and after studying the "political rules" of the game, developed a counter-offensive for the Germans. The game system assumed that Iraq would revolt as it did historically (really doubtful they would have if the Germans and Italians were in the state they were in when I joined the game). The Allies were ignoring it as it had no direct "game effect". What it did have was "base" effect.

Under the rules of the game, the Germans could launch a two division amphibious assault anywhere in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. The Allies Invasions of Poland and Rumania and Italy had given the Germans a lot of "political points".

So I invaded Greece, and sent ten divisions to finish the conquest of Norway, and formed two reserve Panzer Armies, one near Turkey (ostensibly to prevent the Soviets from capturing Ploesti again), and one in the South of France.

Once Greece was overrun, my plan was to finish Norway (the last Norwegian division could only be destroyed by being forced to retreat into Finland or Sweden, and under the game rules it was going to take ten divisions to accomplish that, strange as it may seem, even though technically that division had no system of supply since all the rest of Norway was "occupied").

Then: German Airborne Troops would fly out of Iraq and seize the Suez Canal and Alexandria. More Airborne troops would fly out Greece and Crete and seize Tobruk and Malta. More Airborne troops would drop directly into London, and two German divisions would land by amphibious assault directly into Leningrad. The result of all this (coming down to a 33% chance of failure if the British Home Guard managed to retake London, i.e., if they rolled a 1 or a 2 at London, the plan would fail) would be that Turkey and Spain would join the war on the side of the Axis. One Panzer Army would then race down the Turkish Rail net and break into the Soviet major Oil areas in the Caucasus, while another Panzer Army Stormed down through Spain and took Gibraltar, cutting off all supply links for the British Armies in Italy. This was all possible due the huge deficit of Political Points the Allies had given the Axis by their actions, and none of it was something they were prepared to deal with.

The point of course is that anyone can see that this had nothing to do with "reality", but was it not a magnificent strategic plan for a game?

Saturday, October 06, 2007


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 28 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 last 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 as 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 on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Training Never Stops

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things that is difficult to get across to people is that you do not train a soldier once, and that is it. Much like a football team (or any other sports team) the soldier has to constantly practice his/her skills so that when the time for "the big game" comes he can perform at an optimum level.

And this never stops.

Any soldier who enters the military can expect to be trained continuously simply because, as in sports, new items will enter the inventory and new "plays" will be developed. In the combat arms the new plays are tactics to overcome changes in the enemy's tactics that are themselves adjustments to the changes made in our tactics.

The only constant when it comes to tactics is change. While some things remain constant (i.e., the high ground is an advantage), others change (the interval between moving men must be reduced under conditions of lowered visibility).

Every Private is trying to learn the job of his Sergeant, and every Sergeant is trying to learn the job of the next ranking Sergeant (just as every officer is trying to learn the job of the next ranking officer).

What can really seem odd is that if a unit is going to be in a fixed position for a prolonged time, training will continue. You have to make sure that your junior enlisted men know how to use the range card on the machinegun. Because even if the machinegun's crew is not injured by enemy action, it could happen that the enemy might attack while the primary crew of the machinegun is away having dental treatment, and someone has to man that gun. New men coming into the unit (perhaps as replacements for men who have finished their tours and are being rotated home, or men who have been promoted to new jobs) have to taught local Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as part of integrating them into the unit.

No one should go into the military with the idea that once he completes his basic he will have no more training.

And no politician should think of soldiers or other members of the military as simply a bunch of people sitting around (during times of peace) getting "paid to do nothing" or "part of the welfare system". Effective soldiers (and airmen, Marines, and Sailors) are constantly being trained so that when the time comes (and even they hope that it never will) they can be as effective as possible in the defense of those who disparage them for having made the choice to defend their country.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Trained Versus The Untrained

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the Printers started crinkling the edge of almost every sheet of paper that came out of the main hopper. The repairman showed up, looked at the damage, and noting that there was some toner on the edges of the sheets that were crinkled, decided that the problem was in the finisher near the top. He spent a certain amount of time and effort trying fix the problem, but was rushed because he had a business meeting at his office.

As he was explaining what he had done and how this had not fixed the problem, I reminded him that the problem had started in the lower tray, which had had a feed problem that had been fixed the day before. That it seemed to me that the this simply indicated that the previous problem had not been fully fixed. After a moment, he ran a test sheet from the #1 tray, which came out pristine. He then realized that the toner was not a sign of the problem, but that the crinkled sheets were stripping off toner as they passed due to being higher (where they were crinkled) than a flat sheet.

Sometimes the problem is more obvious to the untrained observer than it is to the trained repairman.

The Printer has now been fixed.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents, any time you like, 24 hours per day.

Eight 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.

This successful operation has now been 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 $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 FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Historical Perceptions

This is Steven Petrick writing once more.

I thought I would return to the issue once more on how the presentation of information can shade perceptions.

The History Channel's presentation of Custer's Last Stand reinforced its view of how poorly the troopers in the Seventh Cavalry were trained by noting that more than 250 troopers were killed by the American Indians, whereas there are only 50 American Indians buried there. The History Channel's presenters were unable to see the dichotomy of what they were saying. That the troopers were so poorly trained that they only managed to kill one Native American for every five of them that fell. However, the obverse is that the troopers were so well trained that every Native American they hit was killed outright.

The thing you have to understand is that the fight was a GUN BATTLE until near the end. In a gun battle there are typically two to four wounded men for every one man killed. If 50 Native Americans were killed, it means that somewhere between 100 and 200 were wounded. While 50 were buried on the battlefield, there is no accounting for the number of Native American wounded that subsequently died as they withdrew their camp.

The reason there are more than 250 dead Seventh Cavalry troopers is because the Native Americans, as per their custom, slaughtered the wounded, but this is carefully danced around in the History Channel presentation. After all, these two notes interfere with the presentation of the Native American Plains Tribes as the greatest warriors in history.

The above is not to say, by the way, that the Native Americans were not justified in trying to keep what was theirs. Whether it was the Seminoles, or the Aztecs, or the Incas, or the Apaches, or the Huron, or the Sioux, they had the right to defend themselves from European encroachment. Just as the different tribes and nations made war on each other to defend what each considered its own, or to take lands and property from each other. Europeans did not bring war to the Americas, but they did bring more advanced technology and better organization for waging war, and yes more virulent diseases.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Women and the "I'm a Guy Syndrome"

This is Steven Petrick Writing.

There is an article in today's paper talking about the trouble a female chess master is having gaining acceptance.

Shows how little things have changed.

When I was a kid, my father taught me to play chess. He explained the rules, and showed them to me, and then never, ever, let me win. This despite the fact that I would (according to my relatives) pretty much throw a tantrum when I lost. My dad, however, knew that I would be back, and his refusal to let me win was eventually rewarded with my beating him, and also with my learning to accept defeat in a good game graciously.

At that time, there were three "girls next door". This at the age where not much attention was paid to that fact. There were, however, some unspoken rules of masculinity that had somehow been inculcated.

There were a lot of games that were played with the Girls next door (one on either side of us, and one directly behind us). The board games available were Parcheesi, and Monopoly, and of course there was croquette. But eventually other games were released of a more "military" bend. ("Battlecry" about the American Civil War, "Dogfight" set in the skies of World War I, and "Broadside" set in the naval era of the War of 1812, being three of a set of four, the fourth I cannot recall the name of, but involved World War II action versus the Japanese.)

Having become quite good at chess, the game of the four I was most interested in was Broadside. Since (unlike the other three) there was no element of chance (i.e., no random die roll), but it was all skill. Your ships were things to be sacrificed to achieve the victory (either sink the four merchantmen in the harbor, or protect them, depending on your side).

One day I got to play that game against one of the "Girls Next Door". (It saddens me to admit that I only remember the name of one of them, and really should have remembered the name of this one as she was, honestly, the most "interesting" of the three to me . . . perhaps because she would play "Broadside".)

And I found myself LOSING. And this was embarrassing beyond my ability to comprehend.

I could not lose to a girl. This could not happen. It must not happen. Was she that good? Had I perhaps not been playing as well as I could?

Truth to tell, somehow I pulled the game out, winning literally with my last ship with its last sail managing to sink the last merchantman before she could maneuver one of her remaining ships to get the final "broadside" on me. And, no, she did not let me win.

Older now, I find my interest in a female opponent is one of trying to see if there is some "difference" in the way they play compared to the males I have faced. I am old enough now that, if the lady across the board gains a well earned victory, handing me a defeat, it does not make me feel somehow threatened. (At least no more so than if another guy is the one that pounded me to chutney.)

Now, through the benefit of my years and my experience, I can face such a loss, and at the end extend my hand to congratulate the victor, and ask only "what took you so long to get here?"

I honestly look forward to the day the "Captain's Hat" is won by a woman.