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Friday, November 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.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Stephen V. Cole Posts:

A lot of things happened today, 29 November, some of minor historical significance (the French defeated the Flemings in the Battle of Westrozebeke in 1382, for example), others of statistical note (the US submarine Archerfish sank the Japanese carrier Shinano on this date in 1944; at 70,000 tons, this was the largest ship ever sunk by a submarine). There were battles in the American Civil War on this miserably cold date in 1861, 1863, and 1864. (You'd have thought they'd have stayed in their camps where it was warm.) In 1887, the US signed a treaty with the kingdom of Hawaii to gain rights to build a naval base in Pearl Harbor, and on this date in 1941, the Army placed its forces in Hawaii on permanent alert against an imminent Japanese attack. The first Army-Navy game was held on this date in 1890 (Navy won, which was annoying since the game was played at West Point, the Army Academy) and many more Army-Navy games have been held over the years on this date, including 1941 when the Navy again won. Some events have had lasting significance. The UN vote to partition Palestine and create Israel on this date in 1947 has created a conflict that has continued for the sixty subsequent years. On this date in 1949, the Nationalist Chinese officially abandoned China and retreated to Taiwan, creating another one of those decades-long conflicts that could turn into a major war any time. For that matter, the first underground nuclear test (on this date in 1951) heralded a long period of such blasts by several countries. History is a collection of good and bad days, and this was both, like any other day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Building project update

Steve Cole Reports:

Our project to build a new home for ADB Inc. has made progress. Yesterday, the surveyors completed the new survey of the land. It's funny, but every time a piece of land changes hands, a new survey has to be done, finding all of the corners and boundaries, just to make sure the previous surveyors didn't screw up, and to make sure that in the years since the last survey, somebody didn't build something on the land you are buying. In our case, the surveyors "found" a 40-foot cargo container on the land we are buying. (We knew it was there, just not exactly where it was in relation to the border). We should have the actual survey drawing by tomorrow. Also yesterday, the City of Amarillo green-lighted the project, allowing us to run Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., in a zone for "general retail" even though we're not a retail business. We are a strange company (according to the building codes) in that we're not really an office (we have too much storage), not really a warehouse (we don't have trucks coming and going all day), not really a manufacturer (what we manufacture is mostly laser printing and the assembly of parts made somewhere else), not really a print shop (we don't have noisy printing presses with chemical solvents), not really a photocopy shop (we don't have the public walk in and ask for copies). They finally decided that we were okay since whatever the heck we are, we were not doing anything to annoy the neighbors.

Tuesday, November 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.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Value of Life Partnership

Steve Cole reports:

I nearly died at 4am Thanksgiving morning, choking on a wad of post-nasal drip (crud, snot, gunk, whatever you want to call it) from my cold. I had woken up a few minutes before, apparently because I was having trouble breathing, and went to the den to see if I could fall back asleep in my recliner. After only a minute there, I was choking and going into a blind panic, hyperventilating (well, I would have been if any air had been moving in or out). The whole thing struck me as slightly absurd; after everything I have done and been through, to die in my own recliner choking on my own snot was just not the way I expected to leave this Earth. Part of me knew that I didn't need to panic. All I had to do was sit up, blow my nose, and go get a drink of diet soda to clear my throat, but the panic factor was rising as fast as the sublime absurdity of the situation. As I was trying to get to my feet, I felt hands on my shoulders. My beloved wife, Leanna, had woken up due to the racket I was making and could tell what that I was choking. (She thought, at first, that I had been eating something that got stuck.) Knowing that I was not alone, the panic disappeared and all I had to do was, as the tiny remaining calm part of my brain always knew, blow my nose and get a swig of something with enough bite to clear the gunk. By the time I was done with the first step, Leanna was there with a glass of Diet Mountain Dew and some kind of cold pill which kicked in a half-hour later and let me get back to sleep. I am, once more, so very glad that I do not live alone, and so very glad that I have spent the last 30 years working hard at convincing Leanna not to give up on me and move out. Marriage is, to be sure, how God intended humans to live, and I really do not understand why anyone would not want to live in that holy estate, and work to achieve it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Games and Reality

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I got into "boardgaming" as soon as I could. My introduction to the existence of these games was a neighbor of a friend of mine who had two games, Tactics II and Waterloo, by Avalon Hill. I can say that my introduction was not pleasant (I was very young, not even a teenager yet, and my opponent was in his mid to late teens). I was quite soundly thrashed in the three games I got to play (one game of the first, two games of the latter). But I went on from there to get as many games as I could (Afrika Korps, Blitzkrieg, 1914, U-boat, Jutland, Luftwaffe, Stalingrad, and others just from Avalon Hill, my first game from Strategy and Tactics Magazine after I discovered it was Winter War, and I collected quite a few of their games as well.

But as the saying goes, the best revenge is served cold.

Many years later I met the man who had introduced me to board games again. And we sat down to play Avalon Hill's Gettysburg (the original version).

I was much older, wiser, and experienced by then, so much so that my opponent resigned in the middle of the game. Sadly, as noted, the game was not real life, and I had beaten him not by "superior tactics" but by "playing a game". I did not try to fight his Confederate forces, but retreated before them, letting him occupy Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill and most of Cemetery Ridge. Because as I retreated, his forces were more spread out, and mine became increasingly concentrated. When my artillery reserve arrived, there was no choice for him but to also retreat to mass his own forces. With the whole Army of the Potomac on the field, and already flanking Cemetery and Seminary ridges, there was no good defensive position on the map that the Army of Northern Virgina could take up, and any attempt to attack would simply allow the Army of the Potomac to overlap his flanks and roll up his line.

As a game, it was a victory. In games, you can do things that a real world force could never do (I once had a friend who tried, in a game of Luftwaffe, to redeploy the entire Allied Air Forces to the Russian Front by launching all of the Allied Bombers and fighters from Italy. Let's not discuss how it would have been possible for the Allies to supply all those aircraft, much less how they would have managed to sneak all of them from England to Italy in 1943 without the Germans noticing.

You can learn a lot about how and why battles are fought from a game, but always remember that it is a game, and games often simplify very complex issues for the sake of playability.

Saturday, November 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.

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Fourth Jump

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Hearkening back to the halcyon days of my youth when I attended the Fort Benning, Georgia, Airborne School during the Summer of '78 between my Junior and Senior years is the brief tale of the fourth of my five jumps.

During the ground portion of the training the instructors seek to teach you what it will be like to jump from a perfectly good airplane and trust your life to a parachute packed by people you do not know. They also teach you a number of things to do if something does "go wrong". Like (as mentioned in my first jump) running into someone else's parachute.

One of these is a constant admonition what, once you feel that opening "shock" (and it is not that bad, at least it was not for me) of your main deploying you are to immediately go into the "let up" position. This involves raising your arms from your reserve parachute on your chest so that your hands can grasp the risers to allow you some control of the parachute's direction, but also to enable you to throw your head back and look up at the deployed parachute to see if anything is wrong with it. Various possible malfunctions are described by the instructors and what to do in each case. I actually had cause to use one of these brief blocks of instruction during my third jump, and for me it was automatic by that time.

In this particular case (recalling that this was my fourth jump, and not the third), I observed that, yes, I had a good canopy and proceeded to the next step in the sequence of the jump, i.e., looking around for fellow jumpers to avoid running into them, or to adopt the bounce off formula (something I never needed to do).

There I was, with 27 other parachutists floating towards the ground, when suddenly I heard a megaphone from the ground repeating over and over: "The jumper, with the malfunction. Pull your reserve." This was not said with any urgency, but it was repeated several times. The command having registered, I again threw my head back and examined my parachute. It was round, with a hole in the middle (the one that was supposed to be there to let the air out and keep the chute from gyrating uncontrollably), no tears, no fouled lines. Having completed this second survey, I concluded, and actually thought the words to myself: "He can't mean me."

There were twenty eight of us up there in that stick, and twenty-four either made a conscious decision "better safe than sorry", or simply "panicked" assuming that it had to be them, and pulled their reserves, making a total of twenty-five popped reserves as the Jumper with the malfunction, who had apparently failed to recognize that his or her chute had failed in some manner but had pulled the reserve in response to the command.

Of the twenty-eight student jumpers, only three trusted their training enough to believe that they could tell the difference between a good and a bad parachute canopy. Maybe that was not entirely true (maybe there was something we three were not yet aware of), but we had checked our deployed chutes, and rechecked them in response to the command from the ground, and saw nothing wrong with our parachutes, and in keeping with the instructions from the instructors not to deploy the reserves if we did not "have to", we did not. Probably the other 25 students got a good talking to (the one with the malfunction for failing to figure out he had a problem on his own, the others for not realizing that there was nothing wrong with their own chutes and creating extra unnecessary work for the riggers), but that was a block of instruction I was perfectly happy to have avoided.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is a day set aside by the government of the United States for the people to give thanks. Not every American citizen will "give thanks" today because of their own individual choices, the overwhelming majority will.

Whether you choose to give thanks or not, at the very least take a little time to consider that even on this holiday, there are hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens who are hard at work providing you the safety and security to give thanks, or choose not to.

I do not just mean the soldiers who, even on this day, may be "outside the wire" conducting patrols to find those whose ultimate goals are inimical to our way of life, but also the firemen sitting in their stations awaiting, even on this day, the call to save lives and property. The Law Enforcement Officers who, even today, must patrol our streets. The Doctors and Nurses who continue to treat the ill and the injured, and the paramedics waiting by their ambulances and medevac helicopters to spring to the rescue.

The vast majority of us are safe and secure because a small minority is constantly on guard to keep us so. Yes, they are paid to provide us this service, but do not forget that even though they are paid, they volunteered and chose their lives that others could have their turkey and dressing in the blissful ignorance that the world is full of dangers waiting to strike at any moment.

So, while you give thanks for the bounty of your table, the joy of your family, the blessings of your and their good health, take a moment to also offer thanks to those who, behind the scenes, are the shield that makes it all possible.

Wednesday, November 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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Board Game Geek Report

Steve Cole Reports: We had been wanting to attend the Board Game Geek Convention in Dallas for two years, ever since our then-Marketing Director Ken Burnside told us how great a show it would be for us. I mean, we publish boardgames, right? We couldn't make it due to schedule conflicts in 2005 or 2006, and almost canceled this year due to the recent problems (the death of my mother and others) but were determined to go.

We had a pleasant drive down on Wednesday the 14th, although Mapquest does leave something to be desired. Trying to read the last six short-order turns in the dark while moving without missing a turn was a challenge, but we got there. The convention people were incredibly nice, helped us get better tables arranged in a better way.

We got up Thursday, got to the booth, finished set up, and were ready for business at noon when the dealer area opened. Right then, we knew something was different about BGGC. There was no "rush to the dealer room" as there has been at every convention we have ever been to. Seems "everybody knew" (except us) that BGGC was not a big "selling" show; the people were just there to play games, not to buy them. There wasn't even much interest in seeing new games or trying a demo of a game. After a couple of hours, we walked around and noticed that the term "boardgame" means different things to different people. To BGGC, we don't sell boardgames; we sell wargames, which people at BGGC aren't interested in. To us, the "board" games played at BGGC were not board games at all, but hobby games, parlor games, and family games. By mid-afternoon, we were talking about pulling out and going home, and by the end of the day we had decided to do so. There just was no point in staying. Very few there were interested in what we had to sell, and we didn't even see any games we wanted to play. So, Friday morning, we packed up and went home. It was a pleasant drive on a good road and we got home safely.

Don't get me wrong. BGGC is a great convention (if you like Settlers of Catan and "German" games a lot, I mean, really, a whole lot), and it is run very well by really nice people. It's just not a convention for anything other than "German" games and it's not a convention where you can expect to sell much, just "show" things.

Addendum by Steven Petrick:

Sorry there was no Blog yesterday. I was home ill.

Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Card Game

This is Steven Petrick Reporting.

While SVC and I were visiting Board Game Geek, we had the opportunity to play a hand of Star Fleet Battle Force. We do not get such opportunities often.

The random draw of the cards put into SVC's hands a two DNs (Klingon and Tholian), a Gorn DD, a Klingon Carrier, and a Federation Frigate.

My own hand gave me a Klingon D7 (Joy, my own ship, the Thunderchild), the Orion BR and LR, a Gorn BC, and a Tholian CW.

Given his heavy reliance on disruptors (three ships), I concentrated on stripping away his plasma and photon capabilities first. SVC, despite the heavy hitting potential he had, found it difficult to eliminate my key ship (the BR, which could use almost any weapon cards), but managed to drive me into moving it into reserve (he missed killing it by one damage point).

I managed to eliminate his Gorn BC and Federation FF, but found myself in a desperate struggle to against his surviving ships. Twice, when I thought I had his carrier, he pulled the "Disengage card" and saved it (that was what I got for trying to foul up his hands with the Organian ceasefire card, which I wound up pulling twice). But I finally destroyed it, and picked off the Tholian. At this juncture, SVC broke my heart by playing the Klingon Mutiny card and stealing the Thunderchild for his own, leaving me the Orion BR, not quite completely repaired.

Things looked grim, as SVC now had the Klingon DN and the D7, but I had a card I had held since the battle began in my reserve hand (which I did not lose when the Organian ceasefire was played), and called up a reinforcement. (Another Gorn ship joined my hand, but I do not remember what ship it was.)

With SVC's hand now limited to phasers, drones, and disruptors, I was able to capitalize on the BR's jack of all trades weapons suite (and a few lucky card draws, like an overload card and a photon card with a few phasers to eliminate the C8, and a plasma-S card and an enveloping card to stop his attempt to destroy one of my ships with the PF card), after which the Treacherous Thunderchild did not last long.

It would be nice to able to play games more often than we do, but we put most of our time into trying to design things for the game and write things (or tweak things others have written) for Captain's Log.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dallas Trip (Board Game Geek)

This is Steven Petrick reporting.

SVC and I made it to Dallas for Board Game Geek.

The drive was a pleasant one, although we had a running concern about tire pressure. The vehicle has a warning light that comes on if the tire pressure is not right. The problem is (we went back to the rental agency and asked) once it comes on, it stays on until it is reset. And there is no easy way to reset it. (Just inflating the tires has no effect on resetting it.) We did definitely have one tire that was low (passenger side front) to start with, but we inflated all the tires to be sure. We then checked the tires with a tire guage at every stop. If the right front has a leak, it is a very slow one, and we will keep an eye on it.

Other than that, the drive was easy until we got to Dallas. Our instructions put us on 114 East. An odd road that repeatedly changes character, going all the way from a four lane dual divided down to a two-lane normal street with traffic going both ways. It does this several times over the distance we drove it in Dallas. Probably a lot easier for the Dallas Denziens to drive than it is for us Amarillo guys who had never seen it before. The last two or three miles to the turn off to take us to our destination were interesting from the standpoint that we were still moving at a good clip, while the west bound traffic was at a complete standstill. We may have passed an accident site or construction site without noticing it in our concentration to avoid being hit by the drivers in our own lanes of traffic, but I doubt it (sure we would have seen the flashing lights of police or construction).

In any case, we got here safe and sound, coordinated with Vickie of Board Game Geek to get our booth area established, and got a good night's sleep. So on with the show!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Training Exercise

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Back when I was a cadet, I took part in several leadership training exercises. A particular one involved a patrol that had to make contact with friendly guerrillas to conduct an operation. While en route, we encountered and eliminated a sniper. When we then made contact with the guerrillas, the patrol leader and his second went out to talk to the leader of the guerrillas and his second. It was then revealed that the sniper we had eliminated was one of the guerrillas. The second in command of the guerrillas became "emotional" as the sniper was his brother. He pulled his weapon and shot the patrol leader.

At this juncture, I was with the main body of the patrol (all of them my fellow cadets, as were the patrol leader and his second, the guerrillas were played by the senior cadets). I was NOMINALLY the fourth in line of command for the patrol, but had been picked by the patrol leader to be the "point man" and had not had anyone specifically assigned to me as a team or element.

As we all watched what was going on, my own mind had already reached the "he is going to shoot our guys" decision, but that is one of those things that is impossible to prove until it happens. So if I shot, there would be no way to determine if I was right or wrong. The real world is like that, by the way.

The Guerrilla second shot our patrol leader.

Instantly the mass of cadets opened fire on the two guerrillas and charged into the clearing after the rest of the guerrillas.

All that is, except for me.

I was NOT going into that clearing. My mind had now switched over to "trap".

But I utterly failed to try to restrain my fellow cadets, because I was not specifically in charge of any of them, and the third in command was leading the charge.

I waited. And sure enough, a machine-gun opened up from our left flank, raking the clearing where the patrol was now exposed in the open.

It was then I moved, tracking the machine-gun's location by sound and skirting the edge of the clearing until I could flank the gun and take it out.

While I failed on a number of levels (I should have tried to exercise authority, but at that point I was still more loner than anything else and the idea that I was a "sergeant" did not really sink in. I should have tried to get the third in command to not charge, I should have tried to rally some of the cadets to me and held them from charging the clearing, I should have done a number of things), what I had done caught the attention of both the senior cadets and the cadre. Of all the cadets, I had not entered the clearing. And I had not fled or hidden, or simply remained where I was, I had acted. Of all the cadets, I had pieced together what was about to happen, and had actually developed a plan, on the fly, rather than simply charging to my front at the visible enemy. I had gone to the decisive point (the machine-gun), and had assaulted it from the rear. And I had accomplished this without any of the "guerrillas" seeing me until I attacked the gun from its blind side, which ended the exercise.

The scenario was still a disaster (the patrol would have sustained heavy casualties), but in most cases where this training scenario was run, none of the cadets would think ahead. The scenario was designed to teach the cadets to do that by luring them into a trap. I had not been lured, but had seen the trap and acted decisively to break it.

But I had failed to lead, and that was the thing the Cadre and the senior cadets wanted to fix.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time and Creation

Steve Cole reports: In any given day, I have:
Creative time: this is the time available for creating new products. Sometimes, it goes into creating something that few people want because sometimes priorities tend to get set by who complains the most or asks the nicest.
Administrative time: running the company, answering email, making deals, telling artists what to do, getting print quotes, talking to staffers about what they are doing for future projects, talking to Jean about BBS stuff, marketing (don't do enough of that), deleting spam, maintenance, etc.
Interruptions: things that aren't scheduled but won't wait. Like the time the hot water heater exploded.
Wasted time: things that didn't need doing but took time anyway. Sometimes my bad judgment, sometimes just bad luck.
Personal time: errands, business, mother's estate, etc.
Entertainment time: not much of that, maybe two hours of TV a night and we record an average of four hours.
Sleep: I just don't sleep much at my age and it's over-rated anyway.
These are all fighting each other for their share of the total amount of time available in any given day. I constantly rob one to pay another. After robbing personal time, entertainment time, and sleep time as much as possible, the all important creative time becomes the bank account that pays all the other bills. This is the thing about the game business. We're all game designers who couldn't get anybody else to print our games and as such we started our own companies.
To get products out the door means maximizing creative time, that is to say, avoiding the inevitable problem of other kinds of time eating into creative time, and avoiding creative time being diverted into fun creative tasks that do not get products out the door (say, writing rules for somebody's campaign, which is why I refuse to do so, as this benefits only a few people).
One problem is that administration time is still needed even if I miss a day of work. Whatever time this takes (two or three hours per day) has to be done every day, even if I'm not here. So if I miss a day, on the next day, I have to make up the missed "admin time" and that comes out of "creative time". When I missed an entire month, I didn't get to do much creative stuff because every day had a backlog of admin stuff. One solution is to delegate as much of this as possible. Jean now runs the BBS and Petrick does the blog. Sometimes creative stuff forces it's way to the head of the pile; I had to stop everything and do FC ship cards last week because we were about to run out of some of them, so that constituted an interruption.
Sometimes, "admin" time expands astronomically, such as buying the new building. We've never done anything like this, but the clock is ticking (our current lease runs out in 89 days and we must have most of the move done in the next 58 days). This is taking at least an hour a day, and sometimes five or six hours, all of which comes out of "creative time".
Personal time, entertainment time, and sleep never rob other categories. They just get robbed, and they've been robbed too much for too long. I've got to spend time on the house and on Leanna, both of which have had critical maintenance neglected for years.
Wasted time is always annoying. Sometimes I spend an hour on the phone trying to make something happen and it doesn't happen. Recently, Leanna talked me into spending five days going to a trade show to sell almost nothing (a failure I predicted but hoped my prediction was wrong). Sometimes I get wrapped up in arguments (e.g., the GPA policy mess). I wasted a lot of time after mom died staring into space because I was holding everything inside instead of letting it go. After a month of that, I started having really bizarre dreams and went to grief counseling which made the nightmares stop. Different people have different ideas of what is wasted time. Those who don't play RPGs consider time I spend editing RPGs to be wasted, for example.
Interruptions are unavoidable, but worse, cannot be scheduled. When I tell someone "I will have created that by 3pm tomorrow" I cannot schedule in extra time that my Aunt drops by, the time the water heater explodes, the time that the warehouse crew has to have me make a decision about something, the time a wholesaler calls to ask a question, time to handle flamewars, the time I'm sick, the time a relative dies, and time lost because the "d" on my keyboard sticks (gotta take more creative time away to fix that, and soon), the time that... well, you see.

Monday, November 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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today marks the 89th year since the "War to End All Wars", better known as the First World War, reached a cessation of hostilities. As before it, wars continued to break out (why we now call it simply "World War I"), and some continued despite the armistice.

Continued despite the armistice?


While seldom mentioned in most American History Classes, American Soldiers were sent to safeguard supplies that had been sent to Czarist Russia before it capitulated, and to assist in the transfer of released prisoners from Siberia to Europe. These men were still doing that mission more than a year after the fighting in Europe stopped. They were the first to see the "New Soviet Man" in combat, and the first to see the excesses of the Commissars to make sure the "New Soviet Man" would do his duty.

These American Soldiers did their duty in the frozen wastes around Murmansk (which would become the destination of American Lend Lease supplies to the Soviet Union in World War II) and along the Trans-Siberian rail road. In the end, their political masters decided that the effort was not worth pursuing, and they were recalled home.

There were no ticker-tape parades down Broadway for these men, some of whom lay to this day in those frozen lands.

It would be well to remember that not all Americans who served are recognized for their service. Indeed, even after the Korean War "ended", American soldiers (and soldiers of our Allies) continued to be killed in skirmishes launched by the North Korean regime for years after, even during the Vietnam conflict Americans were being killed in the DMZ between North and South Korea. They were not big splashy events, just a few men here and a few men there.

When a war ends, the fighting does not necessarily completely stop, and some of those men and women who wear your country's uniform may continue to fight to keep that peace that the politicians have agreed to.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scenario Design

This is Steven Petrick writing.

Many people assume that all you have to do to create a scenario is take some ships from opposing sides and you are done.

The problem is that that scenario has basically already been written (if you two ships opposing each other, you just play the generic "duel" scenario, if squadrons or a fleet, you just play the generic "fleet action" scenario). To really create a scenario you need to find something that makes it different.

Now, many of these might seem to have already been done (small ship versus big ship for example) by defining an objective that one side can accomplish if played well, or if the other side plays poorly. An example might be a light cruiser trying to rescue colonists from a planet and escape while a heavy cruiser tries to keep it from doing so. While the scenario exists (as a historical scenario), there are many variations of the small ship versus large ship that can be created if you use your imagination.

For example, there is a scenario written for a "civil war" (one of the Kzinti civil wars) in which the largest escort present suddenly attacks the other ships. Special scenario rules put restrictions on the activities of the other ships in the convoy to reflect the shock of an attack completely out of the blue, and an objective that the "traitor ship" player can accomplish.

Other options might be to combine some terrain effects to create a relatively unique combat environment. For example, there are a lot of engagements in Asteroid Fields, but there does not currently exist a battle in an asteroid field during an Ion Storm. Or perhaps having two forces confront each other in a nebula, and that part of the nebula is also an asteroid field (add the random movement caused by the nebula to the risk of running into a big rock . . .).

Terrain is not the only place to go. Special circumstances have shown up before (a failure of some system on one ship, that might be determined randomly in advance, or how about on both ships determined randomly before the battle begins), and can be used to make other fights interesting.

Even so, there is always the problem of balance. It is not enough to create a scenario in which one side will launch a 100 or so drones as the first step of the scenario, and this represents the first use of some new technology (no one will want to play that scenario as tracking that many drones and then the counter drones and other systems is just too tedious in and of itself). While the background may support such a scenario, it is just not going to be something that anyone will actually play.

It can be fun to create scenario mismatches (like having an advanced technology ship somehow get sent to the past and face off with a fleet of Early Years ships . . . this can be something like the old "Ogre" games. (You know, the ones where a Bolo Mark V controlled by one player as his only unit goes up against the other player with his two dozen or so tanks, GEVs, mobile infantry, and artillery units . . . grinding them under its treads and smothering them under its infinite repeaters and . . . well, you get the idea.) Such a thing need not be "historical", but could be stated as something that was done as an academy exercise, teaching a group of command candidates how to deal with a nightmare scenario.

While most monsters pretty much come under the rubric of "been there, done that", there are things that could be done with them [either operating under (SG9.0) A Very Special Ally", or as a third component of the fight, perhaps randomly firing on both sides].

So use your imagination, keep an eye on balance, and try to find something new to propose as a scenario idea. Sometimes an idea that proves unworkable for one race or group of races can be completely workable for another race or group of races. As an example, suggesting a "mutiny" on a Federation Starship is almost certain to be rejected out of hand, but given the internal political structure of the Kzintis and Lyrans . . . such a mutiny might occur for a variety of reasons. (Yes, the Klingons can have a mutiny too, but that is just too easy.) A mutiny on a Gorn, ISC, or Tholian ship is pretty unlikely given their racial backgrounds, and the general galactic background makes a mutiny on an Andromedan ship something no one would ever know about (if it was possible at all). But there are still quite a few races where if you needed to start your scenario background with a mutiny, you could have one.

Lots of ideas out there, just be consistent with what the game background allows, but within that stricture, try to think outside of the box of a simple one on one duel or a huge slug-fest.

Friday, November 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.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Leaders and Followers

This is Steven Petrick posting.

This is an observation of my own, based on my own life experiences, so take it for what it is worth.

I have found that the difference in a leader and a follower can pretty much be what the man thinks of a problem.

To put it in simple terms when confronted by a machine gun nest . . .

The private thinks to himself: I am going to knock out that machine gun.

The sergeant thinks to himself: We have to knock out that machine gun.

The lieutenant thinks to himself: Does this machine gun impede our mission? Can I bypass it, or must we knock it out? Can company or higher support us in taking out the machine gun, or are we on our own?

The private, however brave and motivated, only considers that the machine gun must be knocked out.

The sergeant also recognizes that the machine gun must be knocked out, but he considers how to employ the men he is responsible for to do the task.

The lieutenant has to keep the overall mission in mind. Can he afford to be delayed to try to get around the machine gun, or must he risk casualties to destroy the machine gun because he cannot afford the delay to get around it. Even trying to get around the gun could risk casualties that might be avoided if he took the time to destroy the gun with a methodical attack, but a methodical attack may delay him too long to reach his objective. Can he afford to detach a squad, or a fire team, to try to keep the gun suppressed while he takes the rest of the unit to the main objective?

In a war movie, told from the point of view of the private, the officer can be made to seem like an idiot for not helping the private to destroy the gun, but the officer has a lot more things to consider than just that gun, and if the gun is not in a position to keep him from accomplishing a task, he may decide to by pass it.

You see this scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan where the Captain, on finding a some dead American paratroopers, decides to attack the German machine gun, even though his men point out that they can by pass it. The attack costs him the life of his medic. Was he right to make the attack? In all honesty, no. He endangered his primary mission (whatever you think about saving Private Ryan) to attack an objective of no immediate importance and lost a valuable asset to his detachment (the medic) in doing so. Of course, it was also critical to the plot in that the German position just happened to have a map that showed the German plan to attack the town where Ryan was located. Tom Hanks did play that scene very well in that as you watch the film, consider his character's reaction almost immediately after he looked at the map. He knew then that if he went to the village he would not be leaving it without a battle. Because part of leadership is knowing when your original orders are no longer your primary concern. Hank's character already knew the town was going to be attacked, and when he saw how little was there, he recognized that the bridge had to be held if possible, and adding his team was the only choice. So when Ryan refused to leave, rather than grabbing him and making him go (to save the lives of his men even if it meant the rest of the GIs in the town would probably be killed), he agreed to stay and fight.

Abandoning his primary mission because the holding the bridge was more important is part of what being an officer is. Judgment and initiative. Had Hank's character been killed attacking the machine gun, the outcome would probably have been that the Sergeant would have simply taken Ryan and left the town. The sergeant character was portrayed as a good NCO (he took care of his men, and his officer, could handle a fight and move people in it, but did not really think of the larger picture outside of his orders.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Great Motivator

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the greatest motivators in life is fear, those circumstances that can send that charge of adrenaline racing into your system and enable you to do things beyond your normal limits.

An example occurred one day while I was in the Army. I was attending the Infantry Mortar Platoon Officer's Course at Fort Benning. On this particular day we were doing "direct lay", i.e., firing the mortar over open sights at a target we could actually see down range. We had just scored a direct hit (we heard the metal on metal contact of the round impacting), but the round was a dud and did not detonate. So we attempted to re-shoot on the same firing data because we wanted to see a round actually detonate on, or inside of, the old APC hulk that was our target.

My position on the team was gunner, which meant I was on my knees, facing towards the target, looking through the sight and keeping the bubbles level (so that the gun would fire accurately). The assistant gunner dropped three rounds down the tube in rapid succession, the first two of which went "bang", but the third round went "tunk".

As I was thinking to myself "That did not sound right", the third round rose up out of the muzzle of the weapon, then "hovered" (I swear I saw it just kind of floating there for a few seconds, even though I know this is impossible), then turned nose down and fell to the earth about three feet in front of the tube (about three feet six inches from me).

This was an 81mm mortar round, which means that it has bursting radius for causing casualties of about 35 meters, and I am just over a meter from it.

At the time this happened there was an old Sergeant First Class standing about ten meters behind the gun, and as soon as he saw what had happened he started running to the rear. In very short order he reached the bleachers that were about 50 meters behind the gun line (as you might imagine, as people became aware of the situation there was an expanding ripple of people fleeing from the site, i.e., the gun crews of the adjacent guns also ran, and people on the guns adjacent to them and so on).

As to fear being a motivator. I started from a kneeling position facing the round, but when the Sergeant reached the bleachers, he found me there looking back at him, and he swore no one had passed him while he was running for the bleachers.

Fear is a great motivator. I have probably never run so fast in my life before, and probably since, that one day.

The round did prove to be a complete dud (EOD blew it up in place later that day), but it put an end to that day's training.

And we never got to see if either of the other two rounds we fired before that exciting few seconds detonated on or in the APC hulk. We were much more focused on trying to get a good 35 meters away from that last round to think about anything else.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


SPECIAL NOTE FROM Steven Petrick on Today's Blog Confusion: Due to some posting difficulties last night, we thought yesterday's post did not go through. At some point, it did, and I failed to check this morning when I resent it, and again it seemed not to go through. This post is now provided in place of it and we apologize for the problem.


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.

JEAN SEXTON ADDS: Today is Election Day in the United States. As citizens of the United States, we choose our leaders. This is both a right and a responsibility. At ADB, Inc., we are not pushing you to vote for a particular candidate, a particular stance, a particular belief. We are urging you to vote. Vote as your conscience dictates and do your duty as a citizen.

As my father says, "If you don't vote, you have NO right to complain about anything that happens. You gave up that right when you didn't exercise your responsibility and vote."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Star Cars

This is Steven Petrick posting.

A discussion started about having what amounted to "star cars" (actually the reference being used was "system hopper") for use by role players.

The design concept was essentially a (for those of you that remember) small vehicle like that used by George Jetson in the cartoon series The Jetsons. Supposedly this was something that was needed for roleplaying.

This is just not an idea that I can support. And frankly none of the statements made by its champions could ever quite get past why the existing shuttles are not already adequate.

There are a lot of questions that come up.

George Jetson had access to a technology that pretty much let him put all of his camping gear and several days change of clothes into the vehicle (as an example), but technology in the Star Fleet Universe is not that advanced. Also, very few adventuring parties that I am aware of have only four people, and if they did, where would they put all of their equipment?

Once you get around to those concepts, a "space sedan" or "Space Coupe" simply does not make much sense. Nor is such a vehicle of any real value at a newly established colony.

Does not mean the idea is dead, but it is not one I can support. The idea of a four seat vehicle that exists for the sole purpose of just moving three people(a pilot and three passengers) and very little else from a planet's surface to a station on another planet somewhere else in the system simply does not strike me as efficient.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What is That Worth?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

In designing things that are made of other things, you run into the conundrum that things are not worth the same thing in different combinations.

In Star Fleet Battles, for example, many people assume that the combat BPV of a scout is not affected by the cost of the Special Sensors.

This is not so.

The thing is that a Special Sensor in order to be fully operational needs to have a least one dedicated lab box to perform some functions. So a small scout, like the Klingon E4S, is not assessed full value for its two special sensors because it has only one "lab" box (and that is a control box that is performing the function).

But that one is probably esoteric.

Consider "hull" boxes. Surely you would think that a hull box is a hull box is a hull box. Not so. "Center Hull" boxes are far better (the famous Hydran "seventh shield"). If you do not think so, consider that there are players who honestly believed that Gorn BCs were larger (in terms of internal volume) than Federation CAs. They are not, but the fact that you have to destroy every hull box (16 of them) on a Gorn BC before you can start crunching on the things that really matter makes them seem larger because the Fed CA will start losing interesting things after losing only four Aft Hull boxes.

How about a phaser? A phaser that can only fire into a 120 degree arc (most of them) is not as valuable as an identical phaser that can fire into a 180 degree arc (and thus able to fight behind four shields rather than three).

Adding a few cargo boxes to a design does not matter much (seven is the most common result of a two-die roll). But having a lot of cargo pads that seven row, and can help keep the ship from blowing up as all cargo must be destroyed before an excess damage hit can destroy the unit.

A single impulse engine box is pretty standard, but on a ship with a movement cost of less than one, any additional impulse boxes are really only "APRs", as using them for their other function (like erratic maneuvers) costs too much energy. (A movement cost 1/3rd ship still has to use six impulse engines to do erratic maneuvers, something it could normally do at a cost of two warp power). On the other hand, ships with a movement cost of more than one gain a tactical benefit from using a point of impulse to move (saving a fraction to a full point of power). The saving it more if they use impulse for erratic maneuvers. Ships are not always moving speed 31. So impulse power is not a simple "adding an extra point of impulse increases BPV by precisely this amount regardless of the unit you are adding it to" item.

The upshot is that BPV is not a straight progression of "Ten hull boxes, four lab boxes, 12 warp, and four phasers" or what have you. There are a lot of a other factors that weigh into the cost of a unit.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


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

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.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Game Design Facets

Steven Petrick Posts:

Currently on the discussion board is a proposal for a "hopper", a small unit that (as described) would amount to a family sedan (four passenger car including a driver). This finally led to a proposal that the combat version of the unit would have no space combat capability (although it could fly in space), but would have a ground combat capability of one point, be destroyed by one point of ground combat damage (three points in space combat), and would have a BPV cost of 0.5.

The problem here is that, right now that ground combat potential and BPV cost are exactly the same as the cost of a standard boarding party. (One point of offensive potential, destroyed by one point of damage, BPV cost of 0.5.)

Does this matter?

Yes, because it completely changes all of the dynamics of ground combat in Star Fleet Battles as they currently exist.

Right now if you were planning to defend a planet you would have to make the assumption that the enemy is not going to attack unless he can gain "space superiority". What this means is that he is going to eliminate the greater portion of your ability to move ground troops from one part of the planet to another. In Star Fleet Battles this means he eliminates your transporters (drives off your ships and destroys any of your ground bases that have them). This then allows him to land his own troops to attack each of your defending positions one at a time. He has the initiative, can choose which position to attack, and can mass all of his available combat power against each position as he goes. The defender will have minimum ability to combat this (whatever transporters have survived, and using shuttle convoys to try to move some troops before the attacker destroys them all).

But if all of the defender's "ground troops" are "self mobile", i.e., able to fly from one hexside of the planet to another, he does not have to defend any one hexside but can simply mass all of his 'troops' on one hexside, wait for the enemy to begin his landing, and then fly the entire force to that hexside to attack the attackers troops before they can all be landed. Operating the Hoppers in "shuttle convoys" to make them effectively immune to being stopped by enemy ships.

In essence, if the proposed "combat hopper" were adopted, the marine boarding party would be reduced to near extinction as part of a planetary defense force. Planets would be garrisoned by masses of combat hoppers and marines would only appear as the landing forces, with the mobility edge going completely over to the defender.

So the proposal could be made, but there needed to be far more consideration of the design interaction problem.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Operations Security

This is Steven Petrick Writing.

You may have heard the term "operations security" and maybe you think it does not apply to you as a mere gamer.

Think again.

While I was at Fort Benning, I had a battle with an opponent flying a Hydran Dreadnought. I was operating two D5 hulls backed by an F5 Scout. After some maneuver, I finally decided the time was ripe for an attack run. Confident that my opponent (who was, after all, a little less experienced than I was) would be taken completely off guard.

As I lunged in, he met me with a full round of overloaded hellbores and fusion beams. I was actually quite angry and believed at first that he was cheating. But when I asked him how he could have possibly anticipated that I would attack then, he responded "you launched drones last turn". Inexperienced he might have been, but he HAD been paying attention and HAD learned the pattern of my operations. Rather than have my drones destroyed in penny packets, I try to mass them, so I had developed the habit of launching a spread of drones on the turn before I made an attack, so I could launch more drones on the way in. This would tie up my enemy's phasers.

He had caught me.

It was an important lesson, and I learned to occasionally launch a couple of drones when I was not going to attack, simply to confuse my opponents about what I was really up to.

Operations Security. Look over your own operations and consider what your enemy may know about you.