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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lawyers: Foes and Friends, Enemies and Allies

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Everyone knows that when a lawyer shows up, it means trouble, and everyone knows that the only (legal) counter to a lawyer is another lawyer.

The fact is that our system of laws and legalities has become so complicated that sooner or later all of us are going to need a lawyer (as noted, to defend ourselves from someone else's lawyer).

Does not mean that all lawyers are bad people intent on making a living by discovering any legal means by which to extract wealth from otherwise honest people (there are such, but few occupational specialties do not have some who work for "the dark side of the force" so to speak), whether directly or indirectly (a sizable fraction of what you pay to purchase almost any product these days is actually part of paying off previous class action judgments, building up the war-chests of companies to face the next class action lawsuit, and modifications to materials as a result of class action lawsuits . . . like that label on every plastic cover over your dry-cleaning that reminds you that the plastic is not a toy but could cause suffocation). Each item is just a small teeny, tiny, insignificant amount, but you pay it for everything you buy, including the services of employees at a McDonalds so that it does add up to a significant part of your overall cost of living. It has been slavered on a bit at a time over decades so you do not notice it, but it is there. It has other indirect costs as, as malpractice insurance has gone up, more and more doctors have left the profession, leaving fewer of them who charge more for their services, and so on. Other effects on health costs are that a company trying to bring a new drug has to build the possible cost of litigation (does not mean that there have not been bad drugs released, if you think not, just google thalidomide for an example of the horrors that a drug approved by the FDA can cause). Lawyers who do class action lawsuits have, however, become infamous for "shopping for juries" (there is an area in Alabama where the locals do not grasp that the money a corporation pays to settle a lawsuit comes back as increased prices on the products, so lawyers looking for a good class-action settlement, read "profit", will do whatever they can to have the court in that area as the venue for their litigation). That is, of course, when they are not shopping for a judge (whether liberal lawyers looking for a liberal judge to rule in their favor, or conservative lawyers looking for a conservative judge for the same reason).

That last brings up the problem of judges gradually accruing to themselves the powers of government, but none of the responsibilities, rather than being the impartial servants of the law they are supposed to be. Maybe I will remark on that another time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on FEDERATION COMMANDER. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, 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. Mark Tutton does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures at a cost that barely covers his costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Time To Catch Up Is At Hand

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I am now the only one in the office, and probably will be until sometime Monday next week. Mike Sparks has no time left to work in the office tomorrow, and only was here an hour and a half today. I am looking forward to the time by myself . . . the REAL time by myself. I have been so involved in processing orders, going to the post office, and other odds and ends that I have wound up with little time to do as much of my own work as I need. So this weekend I will get to play catch up. At least I will not have too many other people asking for some of my time to review their work (to be fair, I take up other's time asking them to review my work.).

It is not a vacation by any stretch, but at least it will be quiet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Wreck of the Enron Fitzgerald

Written and (c) 2002 by Stephen V Cole with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot

The Legend lives on from the SEC on down
of the scandal they call Enronscrewedme.
The stink it is said, rivals that of the dead
when the skies of the market turn gloomy.
While the load of debt soars, twenty-nine billion bucks more,
than the whole corporation weighs empty,
The business it's said is now deader than dead,
when the debts of the market come early.

Enron was the pride of America's snide
insiders who trade in the business.
As the big traders go, it was bigger than most,
with a board and accountants with finesse.
Concluding some terms, with a couple of gas firms,
they gambled in telecom bandwidth,
And later that year when the deal hit the tank
would it be the whole loss they'd be caught with?

The buzz in the press made a tattle tale sound
and the rumors flew up to the ceilin'.
And every man knew as the chairman did too
'twas the witch of bankruptcy come stealin'.
The buyout came late and the profit had to wait,
when the third quarter re-ports came crashin'.
When October came it was India in pain,
In the face of a balance sheet slashin'.

When 401s fell, the whole board sent a note saying
employees, you cannot just cash out.
In November and then, a partnership caved in,
and the chairman said "we need a bailout".
The Chairman wired in, he had lawyers coming in
and the Board it was true was in peril.
And later that night, when his stock sank out of sight,
came the wreck of the Enron Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the friends of Bush go
when bankruptcy turns dollars to pennies?
The pundits all said, they'd have gotten ahead,
if they'd got 15 billion from Cheney.
They might have sold out or have been subsidized.
They may have gone broke making payoffs.
All that remains are the faces and the names,
of employees now facing huge layoffs.

Wall Street rolls, the SEC sings,
in the halls of their Washington mansions.
Employees can scream at the directors' schemes.
The bonds and the stock are wall paper.
And farther below, their stock portfolios
will take in what the courtrooms will send them.
The lawyers all go as reporters all know
where the gales of bankruptcy will take them.

In a musty old hall down at Justice they prayed,
in the employees' meetings that followed.
The exchange bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times
for each billion that Enron had squandered.
The Legend comes down from the SEC on down
of the scandal they call Enronscrewedme.
The stink it is said, rivals that of the dead,
when the skies of the market turn gloomy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dragon Con Detachment Departs

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

SVC and Leanna are off to Dragon Con and Mike Sparks and I, as the rear detachment, have a lot of things to try to get done. Not just the day to day things, but additional tasks including continued effort on existing tasks that can then be E-mailed to Jean Sexton to be taken to SVC.

It is going to be a long week or so, but frankly I am looking forward to it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Preparing for SVC and Leanna's Departure

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC and Leanna will be leaving town tomorrow (26 Aug 08), and Michael Sparks and I will be left to try to keep the place running.

This is always a fun thing, as there are a lot of things to be done, and fewer people to do them.

Not only will I be trying to make headway on Module Y2, but I will also be processing orders, being the only person Jean Sexton can refer board problems to (and trying to keep more of an eye on the board than usual), plus answer E-mail and all the other tasks that have to be done.

It is going to be a very busy week here. A time when you would think I would be able to get more work done with fewer distractions, but there are actually MORE distractions when SVC and Leanna are out of town.

Ah well, that is what I get paid the big bucks for (GRIN).

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

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

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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Balancing Weapons

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Balancing weapons in a game system can be a tricky business. While weapon "A" might have similar damage output to weapon "B", weapon "A" may be designed to have another tactical limitation.

Photon torpedoes are pretty much equivalent to disruptors in damage output, for example, but they require two turns to arm whereas the disruptor can fire every turn. Fusion beams can be pretty devastating at close range, but are pretty weak at long range and have the firing rate of photon torpedoes, even if they require only half the energy a photon torpedo needs to fire their shot ever other turn, and the same power a disuptor needs to fire a shot every turn.

Every weapon needs to bring something to the game. A weapon, for example that can fire every turn, but if you do not fire it on a turn, you can add more power to it the next turn. If you do not fire it then, you can add even more power on the third turn making it a pretty horrendous weapon. The problem is your opponent knows you have not fired it the two preceding turns, and knows that it cannot be held, and if he does not let you get into a good firing aspect, you have to dump all of the power as the weapon cannot be held ready, and cannot be armed a fourth turn. Which may leave you with weak version of the weapon when your opponent closes in to hit you with his faster firing, or holdable, weapons.

Make sure you are fully aware of how a given weapon operates and test your tactics before concluding that the weapon is too powerful, or too weak.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Risks Should Not Be Taken

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We have made another transit to "the Gulag", gaining more space in the warehouse. We did two turns of the truck, mostly because while the truck probably would have held everything we had to take, we need to have space in the truck to use a pallet jack to move the pallets into position to for the lift gate to lower them.

We had two "moderate risk" moves (full sized pallets of which the load on one end was removed leaving the weight on the remaining end to ride the lift gate while the unloaded end was steadied by ground personnel), and one "high risk" move that all of us agree should NOT have been done. We had all come to the conclusion that the pallet should have been broken down in the truck (it had arrived already packed in the truck), but as the "Incident Report" would have said (had "failure" occurred, which thankfully it did not) "Supervision failed at all levels". (Worst case, the report would have said "The casualty occurred as a result of the failure of supervision at all levels.") The pallet was too big, and while the load was comparatively light, it was too much to risk moving the way it was moved.

Yes, we got it down, and "nobody died", and nothing was broken, but none of us should have allowed that maneuver to be made. All of us knew the correct thing to do was to break down that pallet, but we all stood by and let the truck driver maneuver that pallet into the high risk position, with none of saying stop, but each doing his part to try to keep the pallet under control as it made its way from the truck to the ground.

It was entirely possible that the pallet could have "gone over", and two of us might have had, at minimum broken legs (all four of them), at worse . . . death from fractured skulls as a result of being forced into uncontrolled backward falls to the pavement under the weight of the pallet.

NEVER EVER let a desire to avoid work (and that is what it came down to, none of us wanted to do the work to tear down and rebuild that pallet) make you risk your life. In the long run, it will become a habit that will get you badly injured, if not killed. Be safe, not just for yourself, but for those you are supervising.

Thursday, August 21, 2008



Playing FEDERATION COMMANDER by Email is an alternative to playing Face-to-Face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

The basic gist of the FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via Email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "Sitrep" (Situation Report) to the players via Email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game of FEDERATION COMMANDER. Moderating a FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the FEDERATION COMMANDER rules.

While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Luck in Hindsight

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Yesterday we spent a chunk of the day making the first shift of material from the warehouse to the off site storage facility.

In hindsight, we had incredibly good luck in this move.

To begin, it rained fairly heavily Sunday and through most of Sunday night. Rain continued off and on Monday, and remained mostly overcast, which kept temperatures down.

Shifting cargo is a lot easier to do when it is in the 70s Fahrenheit than in the high 90s or low 100s.

The truck arrived late, happening to arrive at the warehouse during one of the periods when no precipitation was falling.

We got the cargo loaded and reached the off-site with no trouble. Opening the door, a new stroke of luck. The rain on Sunday had created puddles inside which let us immediately identify where the leaks were. The puddles remained because it was too cool outside for them to have evaporated before we got there. This allowed us to adjust our plan to use the space to optimize avoiding the leaks.

Better, we headed back to get a tarp to cover the products we were storing, and by the time we got back it had started raining yet again, just enough to verify exactly where the leaks were and that nothing we had was under them, but not bad enough to cause us any discomfort.

We could not have had better weather for the operation if we had tailor made it.

We are stuck with the leaks, but they are not going to be significant problems. We are very lucky that it was raining when we occupied the site, as if it had not been, we might have stuck pallets in places where the water would have gotten to them in the intervening period.

This is luck in hindsight.

Monday, August 18, 2008

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.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Quiet Sunday

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is a quiet day in the office. Both SVC and I are working on doing a few odds and ends that keep things going. I did all of the line item reports that had been submitted for ongoing projects (do not be impressed, there were not that many of them) for example.

It has been raining off and on all day, and both of us appreciate both the rain (which the area has needed) and the cooler weather (unusual for this area this time of year). SVC's felines, on the other hand, are "not amused" since they do not like being out in the rain and resent being cooped up. All that energy and no real room to burn it off.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Communication Failures

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I have said this before, and find it is something that needs saying again.

E-mail, blogs, discussion boards, these are all PRINTED communications nodes. The text is readable (albeit all of us have little foibles where we miss a key or in the rush type "there" instead of "their" or other goofs), but important elements of "human communication" are not. Tone, expression, gesture, are all missing.

Take as an example Charles Chapel (to whom I mean no affront). He proposed a new idea for ESGs, and not being all that familiar with me and my method of expression in the printed prose (ten years in the Army, not to mention seven years of Catholic School is going to have an impact) apparently decided that I was being deliberately . . . something. The result is that though I have sent him a couple of additional missives on his idea (things that would have to be worked out), I have not heard back from him.

This is sad, as in a more normal environment (say on a sunny day in the local McDonalds) we could have sat across from one another with a map, a few counters (to demonstrate placement and firing directions) the appropriate existing rules (not just the ESG rules per se, but other rules) and hashed out the idea more.

Thing is, I wanted to hash it out more, if for nothing else as a learning exercise. I regret that I have apparently driven Charles off without getting his input and ideas for how to deal with the problems. Does not mean the idea would have been adopted, but it could have made an interesting article at the very least looking at a concept, the problems with it, and the possible solutions.

Friday, August 15, 2008

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!).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Memory Fails, So Check What You Know

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the problems with finding "off site storage" is that we are talking about moving entire pallets weighing half a ton or more. For the sake of efficiency, we want to move these as "units", and not as piece parts. That is to say we want to load a pallet with its stack of goods onto a truck, drive it to the new location, and then move the pallet and its stack of goods as a complete unit into the new storage site.

The problem is that all of the sites available to us have a ledge (some more than one), about an inch in height that has to be crossed. Those of you have operated pallet jacks as opposed to a forklift know what this means, but in simple terms: You are NOT getting a pallet jack with a loaded pallet on it over that little bump.

The obvious thing is to get a ramp that the pallet jack can use to ascend over the bump, the problem is that such ramps (called docking plates) are usually designed to use at a dock, and have cleats under them that are higher than the bump.

Simple solution; take the cleats off. Ah, but our docking plate's cleats are welded on, so we will have to find one that we can remove the cleats from. They only cost $500.00. Too bad ours has them welded on. Yep, yes sir. We all know that the kleats are welded on.

We all knew it, but we finally decided to go look anyway.

At least that is $500.00 we are not spending.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cover Art Scenarios

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

We did not do a cover scenario for Module Omega #5 (doing cover scenarios for product covers is, truthfully, a fairly recent idea). Several people have offered to do one, which is not a problem, but things break down if they do not take the time to really "look" at the cover, or perhaps do not know what they are seeing.

This is not taking fault with them, but only trying to point out that to do a scenario to match the cover is a lot more than just a cursory thing.

The Andromedan ship is clearly a Dominator hull, but it cannot be, as one player suggested, a "Demon" variant of the Dominator. The reason is that the ship is clearly armed with five phaser-2-FHs (lots of Dominator variants have that), but it is also obviously armed with at least four heavy Tractor-Repulsor Beams (you can see the Right Side Mount and the forward half mounts are clearly visible). That means it cannot be a Demon since that ship has only one FH mounted Tractor Repulsor beam.

Another item is that there are six Koligahr PFs. Since the standard for a Koligahr Fast Patrol Ship tender is to only carry five, that means the sixth one has to be accounted for in some way. (Another ship not visible on screen, perhaps a base on the moon/large asteroid in the background?) The Koligahr ship in the middle of the scene (behind the Dominator) is clearly a Koligahr PFT (special sensors are visible and it has the right number of "bubbles", no other current Koligahr ship has that many bubbles and two special sensors). So there is another Koligahr unit of some sort present.

The Measron forces are also obviously incomplete (not all of them are on screen). Four PFs are visible (the standard for a PF flotilla of that empire) as well as a PFT, but coming on scene from the lower right is a spread of three tachyon missiles. Where did they come from? They are too close and too tightly grouped to have been launched by the PFs that are visible. The PFT could not have launched them, so there is some other Measron unit also present. Further, there are very few Measron units that are able to launch a spread of three missiles in such a tight grouping.

Lastly, the Dominator is a "mothership", but no "satellite ships" are visible. They might be engaged "off screen" with the the other Koligahr and Measron units (see above), or perhaps destroyed.

The scene, after all, does not represent the "start" of the battle, it is some point during the battle, perhaps just before the Koligahr and Measrons delivered the decisive strike (there are nine PFs, three tachyon missiles, and two small PFTs in close proximity to a Dominator that has some damage, meaning its panel banks might be in pretty bad shape).

A scenario can be created, but there are quite a few things that need to be accounted for, including balance (no fun playing if one side will simply lose).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Stephen V. COle 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 try to set it up for you! Email me at: Design@starfleetgames.com

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Space Problem Continues to Worsen

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We are again looking at ways to alleviate conditions in our warehouse. The problem, as has been noted, is that we have outgrown it. We are in a situation where the back-stock takes up so much space it is very difficult to accept any new items (but we have to), and the crowding makes it difficult for anyone to get around in the warehouse.

It is beginning to look like the Tunnels of Cu Chi, with Michael Sparks being our "tunnel rat" (the only one of us small enough to get into the constricted spaces to do things).

We spent much of this afternoon investigating "satellite storage", i.e., storage facilities which we can rent and then store back-stock. Even if that will create disruption and possible delay in the product schedule. The thought on our part is that we are heading for a crash where we will finally have things arriving, and just not be able to accept them, even though we need them, for lack of space.

We need to deal with the problem now, while we still have some maneuvering room in the warehouse, rather than waiting for the point that it becomes completely impossible to do anything in an organized manner.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Oh For Technical Experts!

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There are trailers and commercials running for the new "Death Race" movie. Anyone near me will notice as the trailers/commercials run that I will "wince" while they are running.


Because I just cannot understand why even simple errors are allowed into films. If they are pretending it is real for the purpose of the film, please do not refer to .30 CALIBER weapons as "30 millimeter" weapons. No one could look at the bore of the purported weapon and make the mistake that is being made in this scene, endlessly repeated. How difficult is it to find out that the weapons are .30 caliber mini-guns (if you want to use the word "millimeter", then say "7.62 millimeter"). As you can see from that last parenthetical, a 30 millimeter weapon would have a bore nearly four times the size of a ".30 caliber" weapon, and the bores of those weapons are quite plainly a lot less than an inch and a quarter in size.

Of course, then there is "Monster Ark", which asks us to accept that a creature that is able to shrug off a direct hit from a light anti-tank weapon would possibly NOT hang around and kill everyone in the group that woke him up if they are firing M16s at him. But down the road he very nearly wipes out a larger group of people armed with AK-47s. It was the singular thing that I found annoying about the plot. If the monster is invincible to merely human (rather than divine) weapons, there is no logical reason for it not to have hung around the camp where it was first awakened until it had killed everyone. But it is central to the plot that it does not. Worse, since it did not seem to like being hit by bullets or small anti-armor rounds, I wound up not convinced that a 120mm hyper-velocity depleted uranium round from an M1 main gun would not have put paid the creature without divine intervention. It spent way to much time acting like bullets at least stung it, and ran off after being hit by a LAW round, for me to believe modern weapons would not have put it down. Its actions were inconsistent.

Lack of consistency is, however, often a problem I have with Hollywood plot lines.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

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


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

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Voice From Out of the Past

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Also got another phone call from a player stunned to learn that we were still publishing. He said the last thing he had bought from us was back in 1994, and was looking forward to teaching his kids (one at least ten) how to play. It is always nice to hear from old players who still have an interest in the game, and we always welcome new blood into the gaming system. He commented how his kids were actually interested in the game and were going through his 1990 version of the rulebook to get started.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Game Development: An ESG proposal

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One recent proposal for a direct-fire option for the ESG in Star Fleet Battles serves as an example of unforeseen problems with rules interactions.

The general concept was that the normal rules for ESGs would operate except as modified by the ability to use the system in direct-fire mode.

This sounds simple enough, but here are a few issues that would have to be resolved (if the decision was made to allow this).

What happens if two ESG ships fire their ESGs at a single target on the same impulse? The normal rules for ESG fields would say that the two ship's systems interfere with and (to the extent they are equal) cancel each other out without damaging the target. But what if the ESGs in direct fire mode are hitting different shields, or even coming from directly opposite sides of the target?

You might say "Well obviously the Lyran player would have to not fire one ship's ESGs on that impulse, it is just a coordination problem", but it is not. Lyrans fight Civil Wars, and it is possible (even without the appearance of an LDR ship, or a WYN or Orion ship with an ESG in its option mounts) to appear in three way battle where no one is allied. So the question would have to be answered.

Then there is the "what if the ship is the target of an ESG in direct-fire mode and a Hydran Hellbore on the same impulse?"

What if the line of fire of a ESG ship A crosses the line of fire of ESG ship B? This could happen as both ESG ships might be trying to exploit down facing shields on different targets (Ship A fires its ESG through its #2 shield at Target B, while ship C is firing its ESG through its #6 shield at target D). The same essential question has to be answered for a hellbore being fired on the same impulse that happens to cross the line of fire of the ESG pulse.

This is all in part because the proposal is to allow the ESG to operate normally (hit every target in the hexes it is fired across up to its maximum range of three hexes subject to whether or not enough damage points remain after striking closer targets to affect the more distant ones), which means that it is a "barrier" to other things that it normally interacts with.

It was the designer's intent that this would just be "a rule", thus requiring no changes to the existing SSDs. In that, he was partly right as such a change to how ESGs operate, even if only a new "option" would actually cause one change to the SSDs: It would increase the ship's BPVs.

The problem is that allowing targeted use of the ESG would make the Lyran ships far more powerful, particularly because many of the defenses normally available to a ship, and particularly squadrons and fleets, fighting a Lyran force with such a capability would be gone. (Hard to launch shuttles or roll mines out of the hatch to reduce the damage if you do not know the ESG is going to be burst at you). And the more focused salvos would result in greater damage to individual ships. (A weapon that "does not miss" that cannot even be countered by electronic warfare. Sure, he has to get to range three to hit you with a burst at all, but there are seldom circumstances where ships are moving every impulse, and that makes it possible for two or three different Lyran ships to pound one specific target ship over several impulses with a guaranteed 15 points of damage per ESG as the proposal does not reduce the damage the ESG does at any given range. That forces the defender to stack his ships to avoid them being crushed by this effect.)

It is not just a matter of having ideas, the operational and tactical considerations as well as the rules interactions have to be worked out.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


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.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Wish for Victory

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There is nothing special about today, but I thought I would take a moment to extend my thanks to every member of the U.S. armed forces, and those of our active allies, who are serving or have served in the ongoing war on terror. I deeply regret and apologize for my own personal absence from the field and deeply wish that I could have been there to help you all shoulder the burden. No matter what is said in effort to prevent you from gaining a victory in this war that you have all worked so hard to attain, you have my own support and belief not just in the cause in which you serve, but in your own personal desire to see that victory attained.

The above are just words, no matter how heartfelt on my part. I should be there, should have been there. Do not believe that there are not people here, in the U.S., that are praying for your success. That we are not hurt by every loss you suffer, that we do not wish the job could be done safely and that all of you would return home whole and healthy. War has never been that way, and never will be. We mourn your losses, feel sorrow for your pain, but we believe in you and the goal.

Do not let the nattering class destroy your morale or convince you that the goal is not one worth attaining.

Remember that South Korea was not a democracy after World War II, but Service men fought, and died, there, and today it is a vibrant democracy. Things can change. It takes time, blood, and tears, but it does happen.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Real Enemies

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Hollywood likes to make a lot of movies about U.S. soldiers acting against the U.S. government to impose a dictatorship. There are a lot of films in that genre.

I have no doubt that there are a few individuals in the U.S. Military that might entertain such notions.

I also have no doubt that as long as the members of the U.S. Military are generally drawn from intelligent and educated people the chances of this are vanishingly small (and not because Hollywood is so frequently warning us of all the evil men in the U.S. Military).

Partly I think this because U.S. Military men do not swear unquestioning obedience to the President, or to Congress, or even to the increasingly powerful Supreme Court.

Even member of the U.S. Military, whether Active, Guard, or Reserve, and whether Air Force, Army, or Marines, begins his service by taking an oath. That oath states:

"I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

(The National Guard also swears fealty to their individual states)

Note that the oath requires the service member to obey the orders of the President and the officers appoints over him or her "according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice". This requires the service member to obey LAWFUL orders. Quite literally, the President could order American Soldiers to seize Congress, and they would be lawfully bound to disobey what constitutes an illegal order. Because the oath is to "support and defend the Constitution", and overturning Congress by force of arms would be a violation of that oath.

If anyone ever tries to change the oath to one of allegiance to a single person or group of persons, like oaths of personal loyalty to Congress (much less a sitting President) that would be a point of worry.

But the real threats to the Constitution are the schools failing to teach what the Constitution is (frightening that some people are commissioned or enlisted who grew up here and have never, ever, read the Constitution themselves). And an increasing attitude amongst some that oaths should be broken whenever it is convenient to do so. [Like a sitting President giving false testimony under oath, or sitting Congressmen enacting legislation that is in violation of the Constitution they also swore to protect and defend), or a Supreme Court (which also swore to protect and defend the Constitution) that wants to rule on Constitutional issues based on foreign law.]

Sunday, August 03, 2008


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.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Improbable is Sometimes Reality

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Sometimes real life incidents seem completely improbable.

Consider the recent rescue of a number of high profile kidnap victims held by Colombian Rebel/Narcotics Cartel FARC.

The story goes that the Colombian intelligence agency, capitalizing on the death of FARC's founding leader and lots of recent heavy casualties among its other leadership, sent a message from one new leader to another. This was possible because the two new leaders had never met. The message instructed the junior of the two leaders to take the prisoners to a location and place them on helicopters to be flown to a new secure site.

The order was obeyed, and after the helicopters were boarded, the guards of the prisoners found themselves prisoners of Colombian security troops.

It will make a neat movie sometime, no matter how improbable it will seem.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Mummy

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I went to see the third "Mummy" installment. To be fair, Jet Lee is one of the actors I generally enjoy watching so he was a draw, but the overall tone of the film as more "knock-down drag-out brawl" rather than horror was the larger plus.

I do not like "horror films". I sometimes express this as I think "Alien" is a lousy film, but I enjoy "Aliens" because it, too, was a knock-down drag-out brawl.

A lot of the computer animation was very good. While the Yetis did not really, really look real, they did seamlessly mesh with the action.

Perhaps my single biggest gripe about the film was bulk of the "living henchmen" (the guys armed with rifles and other "modern accouterments", about a company of troops, in the final battle. They just "vanished". Even if one can accept the Emperor's troops turning to ceramic dust and blowing away, and the ancient undead opposing force finally collapsing to dust and blowing away, these guys should still have been present (along with a crashed and burning airplane and a few other things).

Overall, personally, I like the film, and honestly do hope that there will be yet another sequel, even if they have to find another new Mummy to fight (rather than facing the original for a third time or facing Jet Lee for a second time).