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Tuesday, September 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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Will There Be An Attack in October?

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Currently there is a buzz going around that a warning of an imminent attack in the United States was issued to by Al Qaida in August. Supposedly this attack will take place early in October (7 October seems to be the date in question).

One has to wonder what Al Qaida is trying to accomplish by posting such a message (if it is indeed a real message from Al Qaida, hard to tell).

Is it an effort to simply hurt Americans for the sake of hurting and killing infidels. (And creating "accidental martyrs" of any Moslems that are caught in the line of fire, at least any that Al Qaida defines as true Moslems. To Al Qaida, a Moslem that does not practice the Wahhabi form is just another Infidel, but one that can be dealt with after the Christian and other non-Moslem infidels have been reduced to their proper roles of servitude to Islam.)

Or is it an effort to "influence the American elections?"

Or is it all just the natterings of an insane fuhrer in his command bunker under Reichstag in Berl . . . oh . . . sorry, wrong war.

Of course the point to that one remains.

All we can do is wait and see, and perhaps be a little more vigilant about our surroundings. This can be difficult. It is after all pretty easy for me to feel relatively safe and secure. Al Qaida has not launched an attack on the U.S. heartland yet, and even this more recent E-mail is read as being directed against D.C. and NYC yet again. So easy for me to not be any more concerned about waking up on 7 Oct to see . . . what?

Still, any citizen should take a few moments to consider their surroundings, whether they are in NYC or D.C. Take a moment and ask if even the most "normal" happenstance is not really normal. Is the repair crew really a repair crew?

And do not fixate on "middle-eastern" men, remember that there have been tales of Al Qaida recruiting "European Muslims" for several years now, and of course quite a few middle-eastern men can pass as Hispanic, and there are quite a few African Moslems.

So all of us should take some time to look at our surroundings, look for things and people that seem out of place, but do not get paranoid, and above all remember that the the Al Qaida operative, if he or they exist, can be Caucasian, African, Hispanic, or middle-eastern in appearance. Do not give the out of place a past just because the people you see "look like me". Al Qaida has had seven years to try to gather the resources for another attack, do not assume it will be the same as the last.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the shows I enjoy watching and try not to miss is NCIS. Yet, there are episodes that I have never seen all the way through.

Take the episode where Tony DiNozo is hit with Anthrax. I have never seen the opening scene where this happens. There was a momentary blackout when it aired locally, and I was out of town when it was rebroadcast. Just recently USA announced an NCIS marathon and mentioned the specific hour they would run that episode, but somewhere along the way they changed their collective programming minds and ran the Brendan Fraser movie "The Mummy Returns" instead.

Just this past week the episode of NCIS started on time, but somehow my elderly brain had programmed the VCR with the right time and date, except that I had also entered the date as the channel, so I did not get the episode on tape (I arrived home after it started and discovered the error. So I asked Leanna if I could borrow their tape. But the tape she lent me was an hour of "Survivor Gabon" (I generally despise most "reality tv" shows, and "survivor" is high on the list of those I will not watch).

It would seem I am cursed to never see some thing. (I missed, for example, the first half hour of the third season of "Lost", and while they are running it on Sci Fi, I just cannot work up enough interest to catch the episode I missed after all this time).

Ah well . . . life will go on.

Saturday, September 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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Progress on Winding Up Module Y2

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Progress continues on Module Y2, the expansion of the early years. I am still slightly ahead of the schedule I set myself (deliberately setting a much earlier draft completion date than publication date so that I would have time for "distractions", and distractions of late have come hot and heavy).

Right now, a lot of it is tedium. The checkers have all the SSDs, the scenarios, the ship descriptions, and all those parts of the annexes that are not included in the Master Ship Chart and the Master Fighter Chart. I am working my way through the Master Ship Chart now. It is the most tedious thing left to do (by comparison the Master Fighter Chart will be a snap as there are only two fighters and just a bunch of shuttles to be listed).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's On TV?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

It seems most of us are not pleased with what comes out of hollywood. But Hollywood has no real reason to care since, as long as they all spew more or less the same drek, what are we going to do? Read a book? Don't make them laugh.

The upshot is that most of what we get, and will continue to get, is reflections on the thoughts of Hollywood.

I gave "Knight Rider" a chance (I watched the made for TV movie and the first episode), and to be fair I never watched the original although I did watch some of the copycats that usually dispensed with the car talking and being artificially intelligent. But this has already passed my tolerance for inane background plots. I probably will not watch it any further.

I have watched "Fringe", but frankly I do not find any of the characters likable and the creepy doctor is just a hair too creepy for my tastes. Plus I dislike the constant championing of addictive drugs. I am seriously considering dropping it.

I watched "The Mentalist", and while I frequently find "Psyche" annoying when the main character goes into his Schtick, I really, really, REALLY dislike the arrogance of the main character in "The Mentalist". And, frankly, I get enough of the Hollywood desire for God to go away because he interferes with their fun in too many other shows. At least in "Bones" there is a balance between Brennan who does not believe, and Booth who does, but in the Mentalist the counter point to his flat denial is . . . such a light weight as to not be taken seriously (and clearly this was intended).

Even in "Bones" I am a little put off by everyone's still being supportive of the kid, by the way, although on the whole I have always enjoyed the ensemble cast on that show.

I am glad to see new episodes of NCIS, and it continues to hold up, although the idea of sticking Gibbs with three people as his new crew, at least one of whom might be a spy, and expecting him to figure it out by not telling him was more than a little much. I am sorry that the DiNozo replacement was "killed", I like the actor generally (I remember when he had the starring role in "Seven Days") and would have liked to have had him added to team.

"The Shield" is winding down to its end, and SVC and I wonder if, after the final episode, there is enough there to continue the series. Detective Wagenbach and Billings, and Claudette and some of the other secondary characters seem worth continuing no matter what happens to "The Strike Team". SVC and I also tend to think it would be a neat idea if one or more of the survivors of the Strike Team (at the end) turned up on "In Plain Sight" for an episode . . . as "clients".

Probably that will not happen.

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Peace Racket

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

First, an apology that there was no post yesterday. I fear that enough was going on that it just slipped my mind that I had not pushed Eric and Mike out of the way so I could use the one computer in the office that will allow me to post blogs when I headed home.

The fault is mine.

As to today's post. I got an interesting E-mail that about "the peace racket". Their rallying cry is that "If you would have peace, prepare for peace". Sounds like a nice idea, and they are diligently at work to try to convince people to give it a try.

Makes me wonder if they lock their doors at night. After all: "If you would be safe from being robbed, then act like you will not be robbed" is exactly the same thing as "If you would have peace, prepare for peace."

People who have these ideas believe themselves geniuses and that they have a fundamental understanding of what people are really like. They tend not to realize that they have their comfortable lives by the luck of the draw (they were born in countries that have a rule of law rather than a rule of the strongman).

They live in a world of dichotomy. They believe fervently that all that is necessary to end war is to go to those who would wage it and have an open and heartfelt conversation, because obviously the people who would wage war are just like them but misunderstood. Everything can be settled by a good talk and reasoned compromise.

The dichotomy? Well, while they believe that everyone else obviously thinks like them at bottom and thus talking with racist mass murders (like the rulers of Sudan) would get them to stop, talking to their fellow citizen who looks at them like they are crazy and not living in the real world is because their fellow citizen does not think like they do.

They want it both ways . . . no, they do not want it both ways, they actually hold the two competing thoughts simultaneously and do not see the dichotomy for what it is: they are self-deluded.

Not all of them are self-deluded, of course. Some of them simply have a personal agenda to see the success of a particular political view and the destruction of things they hate and are willing to use this subterfuge to accomplish it.

If you would have peace, prepare for war is the way life works. You want to avoid being robbed? Then you have a security system for your home, you lock your car, you try to stay where there is light, and you do not wander down dark alleys, and you try to remain alert to your surroundings. You have prepared yourself not to be robbed by taking proactive steps to avoid being robbed.

But in neither case does the threat go away. If you are prepared for war, your enemy may never attack you openly because he would be hurt. If your nation is not, then it is an easy mark to be mugged and robbed, just as you would be if you are not prepared to not be robbed.

Sunday, September 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.

Saturday, September 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.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why One Playtester/Reviewer Cannot Say No

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

When you are getting reports on a product in development, one of the things to be aware of is that the people reporting often see the game only from "their own point of view". Thus, if the reporter would "never use such a ship", it inherently means to the reporter that the ship should be thrown out and replaced with something "He" would use.

The thing is that ships are added because someone thought they would be useful to them in the way they play the game. There is no real way to tell if in a group of ten players all ten play exactly the way the reporting person plays, or if all ten of them do not play that way.

Local tactics influence things on local levels.

Thus a player (to take a gross example) who never uses electronic warfare has no use for scouts and would have any new scout immediately ejected from the game. To him, everyone plays the way he plays, i.e., they do not use electronic warfare, therefore no one needs scouts.

Another player may reject bases for the same basic reason. He never does an attack on a fixed position, and never defends them, so he does not want any new races to "waste pages" on things like battle stations and base stations. The problem is that other players play campaigns where the bases are necessary to the prosecution (defending and destroying as well as conducting campaign repairs and supply operations) to their game play.

The list goes on. The basic thing though is that we do not publish ships willy-nilly. We get requests for them. Some players just want an improvement to a ship (like better survey cruiser so his race can compete better in the survey captain's campaign, or a hypothetical survey ship just to be able to compete at all).

The upshot is that no one player is allowed to say "I would not use this, therefore no one else would". We do listen if the reporter can explain why the other player who wants the ship is wrong and it will not work the way he wants it to. But most such reports tend to come from the blind angle of "I would not use this ship, therefore no one will."

Thursday, September 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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Money-Laundering by Public Figures

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things that constantly annoys me is the statement that this or that public figure cannot be held accountable for giving money to some organization because the money that figure gave was for a "specific purpose".

If you look at the situation you get things like:

"Yes, the XYZ Organization supported the rebel/counter rebels forces in country A, but the money Senator so and so, or congressmen such and such, gave was only for college scholarships and was all spent there."

If you dig deeper, and supposedly our ever vigilant members of the media are supposed to do this, but often cannot be bothered, you will find the following:

The XYZ organization has a college scholarship fund. But the XYZ organization also has an opportunity or other need to sudden give the rebel/counter rebel force it supports a large infusion of cash.

So they go to the public figures, ask for the money, pretty much telling them what they need it for. The public figure provides the money, then the XYZ organization simply applies the public figure/s money as the money for the scholarship fund, while it transfers the funds to the rebel/counter rebel group.

The upshot is that the public figure HAS given his or her money, knowingly, to the rebel/counter rebel force, but has "plausible deny-ability" because, after all, the money they gave was for the scholarships. Therefore they are not supporting the rebel/counter-rebel force and cannot in any way be held accountable for the fact that the XYZ organization is supporting the force.

The fact is that they are, because if they had not given the money, the organization would have been forced to cancel its scholarship funds, or choose not to give money to buy guns and explosives and other goodies to the force it supports.

The public figure can then run for office with the good feeling that he/she has supported the cause but blandly tell the American People that his/her contributions are "only used to support scholarships".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Last Trip to Prison

Steve Cole writes:

Prison being no fun, many prisoners have no desire for a second trip, but 80% of released convicts go back. Some of them are just career criminals and the three-strike law should put a stop to that nonsense, but many just have a hard time making a new start outside. I happened to see a National Geographic show last night on a convict who served 14 years (his second trip) and didn't want to go back for life. (I realize that all 50 states have slightly different systems, and not all states have exactly the same failures.)

1. He got a junior college degree while behind bars. Good for him. Good that California had such a system. Every state should. I'd rather inmates be hitting the books than the weight machines.

2. First thing he had to do was go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a new driver's license. Why isn't there a system to issue these to prisoners during their last days behind bars?

3. He found that somebody else had gotten a driver's license in his name (fraudulently). Why did not DMV have his file flagged "this guy is in prison" to prevent this?

4. It took him 91 days to find a job because people would not hire ex-convicts is they could avoid it. Perhaps the state could give a $100 tax break to employers who hire an ex-con who graduated from junior college while behind bars? Reward the guys who really are trying to turn their lives around!

Monday, September 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!).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ADB Makes Progress on New Items

Steve Cole writes:

We're finishing a series of new products right now, and everybody is working around the clock.

Federation Commander: Orion Attack is the next in the series. It will have new pirate ships and new police ships for the Gorns, Romulans, Lyrans, and Hydrans. The new Orion ships include the Battle Raider, Double Raider, War Destroyer, Battlecruiser, Heavy Battle Cruiser, Slaver, and Free Traitor. Entirely new concepts include the commercial platform, defense satellites, and planetary defense monitor ship.

Prime Directive d20 Modern: Many think we should have done PD20 with the modern rules in the first place. (We do, too, now. At the time, the fact that there were 10 times as many d20-fantasy core rulebooks in print as d20 modern rulebooks in print made that look like the way to go, but those players won't play non-fantasy.) Jean Sexton has been cracking the whip on the writer (Jonathan Thompson), the layout guy (Mike Sparks), and the universe background guru (Steve Cole).

Booster Pack #21 will make its long-delayed debut with new ships for the Lyrans and WYNs. Booster Packs #22, #23, and #24 will come out earlier than could normally be expected, with added ships for the Orions including the heavy cruiser, OK6 captured Klingon cruiser, and the Nightmare of Orion (dreadnought).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Star Spangled Banner

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There is much happening in the world today, much happened today in the past. It was on this day that the event that would lead to out National Anthem occurred. The British forces, fresh from their successful capture, and burning, of our capitol, began their bombardment of Fort McHenry.

On one of the English ships was Francis Scott Key, there to negotiate the exchange of American prisoners held by the British. From the deck of a ship he witnessed the bombardment of which he would write.

His poem would not become our Anthem for nearly a 100 years (strange as it may sound). Indeed, prior to its adoption the music most commonly considered to be a "national anthem" was "Hail Columbia".

There are today some who want the National Anthem changed. The "Star Spangled Banner" is, they say, too violent to represent America.

However, America is nothing if it is not about courage. Not just the courage to face a foe, but to face life every day, to meet every challenge, whether offered by whims of chance that may see a hurricane or other natural disaster strike, or a blow swung by a terrorist from a clear sky. Courage must always be a part of the national character, and that is what the Star Spangled Banner is about.

Friday, September 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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eleven September

Jean Sexton Writes:

It has been seven years since September 11, 2001.

It has been seven years since the Pentagon was attacked.

It has been seven years since the skyline of New York City was altered forever.

It has been seven years since the sick feeling of watching people choose to die by leaping from the buildings rather than wait for the fire to reach them.

It has been seven years since people wondered if their loved ones were going to escape.

It has been seven years since emergency services personnel gave their lives trying to save others.

It has been seven years since we wondered if more attacks were planned for that day.

It has been seven years since a planeload of people chose to take their fate into their own hands and prevented a plane from crashing into the Capitol.

Do you remember it?

If you are an American and you remember it, then honor those memories by voting and taking part in governing the United States.

Vote your conscience.

You owe it to your nation. You owe it to those who died that day. You owe it to those who now fight and those who stand ready to do so in order that you have the right to freely vote as our Constitution allows.

But today, take a few moments to remember 9/11 and the families who have holes in their lives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Playtesters and Changes

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the fun things about getting playtest reports is that some playtesters assume the mere fact that you have asked for their input gives them ca rte Blanche to have anything in the module being tested changed to reflect their personal point of view. Never mind if it is not the viewpoint of the designer, or that other playtesters do not agree with them, they have spoken and thus it must be.

We cannot do Star Fleet Battles (or Federation Commander, or Federation and Empire, or any other games efficiently without the help of the playtesters, and we try to listen to what they have to say. We generally are not going to make a change based on just one person's opinion (unless he makes a really good case) but will take what a person asks to others for their input as well. We do this to try to avoid mistakes as much as we can.

Two recent examples. One playtester insisted that some weapons on a given ship were wrong. Based on just his say-so we did not make a change. Eventually he came back with a reasoned statement why he had to be correct. This was such a compelling statement that it literally did become obvious that a mistake in the design of the ship had been made, and it was corrected.

In another case, a playtester insisted over and over that something had to be, but finally issued a flat statement that the reason he wanted what he wanted was, in fact, based on a non-operable rule. The playtester and the designer had been talking past each other (playtester using a non-relevant rule, designer using the relevant rule), and neither knew why the other was so adamant until the playtester submitted his detailed rationale of why X had to be Y. No change was made in this case, but it highlights why, other than obvious things (like misspelled words or a weapon with an obvious LS firing arc being listed as RS or etc.) changes are not made without a good reason being presented.

Tuesday, September 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.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Steve Cole writes:

Many American zoos have Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). These large lizards arrive in the US about a foot long and grow about a foot a year in length, eventually reaching the maximum size of ten feet. There are about 5,000 of these huge lizards on five islands in Indonesia. These animals are endangered, and it is possible that there are only 350 females who are capable of reproduction. It is unclear if the population is in decline or holding stable.

Komodos reach maximum size of 10 feet in about 12-15 years, but live up to 40-50 years. The problem is that the older males (those over 35) cannot fight the younger males for food and slowly starve, or become dangerous as they walk into villages looking for garbage or small animals or (rarely) children and old people and bodies in cemeteries.

Rather than letting these old males die of starvation, Indonesia should export THEM (instead of babies) to the US and other rich zoos around the world. The huge old males could then live out their lives in dignity, lasting much longer alone in a large pen with free food than they would in the wild. This would give people around the world a view of the true magnificence of these "dragons", would benefit the old fellows, and would eliminate a dangerous problem in the islands.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Batteries and Ship Design

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One thing you can be certain of, people do not see things the same way you do. This comes up in all sorts of different ways.

To take a game, player A sees a ship with a lot of batteries, and what flashes through his mind are all the options having that much reserve power might give him.

Player B sees the same ship, and becomes concerned that trying to find enough power to refill those batteries and keep moving and fighting his ship may be a problem, and it would be better if some of the batteries were something else.

Both are right, but when you are balancing the ship you have to figure out which is "more right".

Reserve power is a very powerful rule in Star Fleet Battles, a rule that must be learned and employed carefully. But it depends on your ability to "cycle" the batteries, i.e., to put power in and take power out, such that the ship can maintain operations and not come to a screeching halt in the middle of a fight because it needs to recharge the batteries.

A good example of that is the Juggernaut monster. It seems unstoppable, until you realize that its strength relies in a deep battery deck, and once that is drained the monster has a hard time keeping its speed up and fighting its enemies. A careful player controlling the Juggernaut is loathe to use a full alpha strike, because refilling the batteries will make him vulnerable to attacks on his rear, i.e., deprive him of the ability to maneuver.

Another thing to consider is that batteries are relatively early hits in the Damage Allocation System once a ship's forward hull is destroyed. This makes ships with forward hull more inclined to dump any reserve power they have to reinforce a facing shield, losing the ability to use the power later but preserving the batteries themselves by minimizing damage to them. This fact allows Federation ships to ride out fairly heavy initial damage, and retain the tactical flexibility of reserve power (also the Gorn double and triple bubble ships, and the Hydrans are very good at this), but Klingon ships are likely to lose the ability to use reserve power after relatively light damage (typical D7 or D6 will lose its batteries between 15 and 23 internals), placing significant handicaps on them later in the battle.

Saturday, September 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.

Friday, September 05, 2008

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Things have settled back into the daily grind. SVC is working to get Orion Attack finished, Mike Sparks is working to get Prime Directive D-20 Modern done, and Leanna has finished cleaning up the (thankfully few) messes I made while handling orders. (I do not work with the accounting software often enough to intuitively remember everything and am constantly checking my own work which makes it slow, even so I sometimes miss doing a TAB command or get distracted by a phone call and forget where I was in processing an order.)

So, for now it looks as though all is right with the world (in other words, we are waiting for the next visit by Mrs. Murphy's Darling Little Boy who always seems to appear just when things seem to be running smoothly).

Thursday, September 04, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The election is about two months out. So here once again is my big election speech:


I do not care who you vote for as long as you vote as honestly as you can, i.e., not waste your vote by writing in Mickey Mouse or some equally impossible candidate.

You may resent the choices we have come down to, but at least vote to put the one you believe is likely to do the least harm.

It is your obligation as a citizen, one of very few that is asked of you individually by society at large. So overcome your self-centered view of the world for one day and exercise your franchise.

Do not vote Democrat because you are a Democrat. Do not vote Republican because you are a Republican. Same goes for Libertarians and other political stripes.

Vote for the person you either believe is the best person for the job, and if neither meets that criteria, vote for the person that you think will do the least harm until we can do this again in four years. Yes, I have said neither, because the sad truth is that no one but the candidates from the two major parties has a chance of winning. You might feel good casting your ballot for neither of them, but yours might have been the deciding ballot between the two of them which just means you threw your vote away. I am not happy about that, but it is the truth as things stand in the electoral process of our Republic.

No, I am NOT going to ask you to vote for (or vote against) anyone specific. I am not electioneering. How I will cast my ballot is my own business, just as how you cast yours is your own business.

I am going to ask you to vote, as I have done.

Wednesday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Time for the Warehouse

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC and Leanna are currently driving through the rains of Gustav in Arkansas. The rains are heavy enough that they have decided to call a halt when they reach Fort Smith and drive on in the morning.

That gives me one more day to try to get the warehouse squared away.

While a nice idea that I would work on it while they were away, the number of hours that Mike Sparks had available after getting SVC and Leanna out the door to go to Dragon Con did not leave any hours for him to really work in the warehouse. Today might have been good, but there were quite a few orders over the weekend, including two distributor orders, which all had to be processed and packed and shipped out today. Again not leaving much time.

But tomorrow is another day, and finally some time can be used to try to set he warehouse right.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the first day of September, set aside by act of Congress as a day to celebrate the underpinnings of the American society, that is the worker. Be he an office manager, accountant, engineer, plumber, technician, mechanic, assembly line worker, cowpuncher, or any other of a plethora of occupations, it is his labors that allow our society to exist.

The soldier may safe guard the nation, but it is the workers who create the wealth and standard of living we enjoy in this nation, and tools with which the soldier defends it.