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Monday, August 31, 2009

Just Add This One Tiny Item

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the nightmares facing a game with thousands of pages of SSDs is the idea of adding something new. The person wanting the new thing may be convinced that it is a simple thing that his computer can do in seconds. The problem is that a lot of SSDs are very, very crowded already. Adding the new piece of information can result in having to move things all over the SSD to make the space for the new item to fit. In some cases the only solution is to "shrink" the SSD (most SSDs are reduced by 64%, the most crowded with the biggest ships are often reduced by 52%). So sometimes an SSD that used to be 64% has to be reduced to 60% to add a net item. Sometimes an SSD that was 60% is pushed to 56%, and sometimes 56% is pushed to 52%. We do not, currently, go any smaller than 52% (So you never see a Star Base on just one sheet of paper). Once you have shrunk an SSD to fit the new piece of information, you then have to spread out not just enough space for the new piece of information, but the entire SSD (so that it is not surrounded by massive borders of white). Dealing with this gives me a headache and lots of stress, most because I am trying to avoid shrinking the SSDs as I think the players prefer them to be the larger size (easier to read, easier to mark off boxes for damage, etc.). But I have to do what I can.

It is not just a case that an SSD for a Police Cutter has just oodles of room to add a new piece of data, which might require just slightly nudging one small thing to make the room, it is matter that a Carrier is already very crowded, and adding that information may leave you know choice but to shrink the SSD, which as noted means a lot more work (spreading things back out on the now wider sheet).

So, yes, at the end of a day of hammering things I can be pretty badly drained.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Late Shift

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

It is Saturday Night, and of course I am here at the office working. But do not cry too many tears for me, I had a hard time getting to sleep Friday Night, and slept until about 1030 hrs. So I needed to be here to help make up for the time I lost.

SVC suspects he will be in the office most of tomorrow, and I will be here some of the day as well since my current little project is not done, it just keeps mushrooming more and more out of control. At least when it is done I will have the satisfaction of a job completed.

More time needs to be spent on Captain's Log #40 than has been spent on it so far. I am far, far, far behind the schedule I set for myself. Perhaps I will get some things done while SVC and Leanna are out of town. We shall see how much time Rambo and Isis make available to me, and how hard they try to keep me around to take care of them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Year is Two-Thirds Gone

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

In just a few more days we will have finished the eighth month of the year. In short, two-thirds of 2009 will be over and done with. One might think that things would start to wind down just a little bit, but as happens every year we keep revving up to try to get more done. SVC has a full plate of things to do for Federation Commander, Federation & Empire, Roleplaying products, excursions into other game systems, and of course Star Fleet Battles.

Mike Sparks is working on checking in a new shipment of miniatures.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leading with Your Right is the Standard

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Watch how your opponent plays the game. Most of us unconsciously fall into patterns. These patterns are, naturally enough, based on what has worked before. So we keep doing them. The result is that we are frequently setting ourselves up for a bloody nose if we do not consciously make an effort to do something different, to break pattern, in order to keep our opponent from getting inside our decision cycles.

Anyone who watched me play tactical games would notice that I had a very strong tendency to "jab left, then swing right". In essence, poke at my opponent's right flank (jabbing left) in order to lure him into committing reserves and focusing his attention there) then suddenly roll to the opposite flank to deliver a hammer blow. In one sense playing at being a "magician", i.e., watch my left hand because the real action is going on where my right hand is.

I had an advantage in that while that was my normal tendency, I also had a tendency to look over an opponent's position to see if I saw an exploitable weakness that would not require me to make the diversionary attack. Sometimes I would attack "right up the middle" because I saw such an exploitable hole (sometimes I would actually make my main effort against my opponent's right flank if I saw real weakness there).

But the jab to the left (in tactical games) was almost something you could predict, and if you were playing me, you could literally depend on my major assault probably landing somewhere on your own left flank (and so marshal your reserves to look like they were moving to your right flank, but positioning them to move rapidly to your left).

This is not actually all that unusual. Most of us are right-handed, and from the time of the ancient Greek Phalanx to the present, there is a strong tendency to make the strongest attack with the right flank. Most Greek Phalanxes, according to what Historians have been able to discover, put their best troops on the right. This often resulted in the best troops of each opposing phalanx hitting the worst troops those on the left) of the opposing phalanx. Whichever side's worst troops gave way first before the opposing side's best pretty much lost the battle.

But, some of the ancient commanders figured this out, and in some of the more famous victories (of the battles fought with phalanxes) reversed the normal order, putting their own best troops on their left, and crushing the enemy's best troops.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More on TerrorWerks

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Getting ready to go into Terrorwerks at Origins with a life spent learning to be a soldier meant that a lot of things were going through my mind. Too many things in the limited time I had to try to get them all done. My "security team" showed up, and all there was time to do was run a fast evaluation (look at them and decide how I thought they would work), divide the three "unknowns" into teams with my two knowns (SVC and myself), assign the them missions (forward security-room clearing, rear-security mob-herding), and then begin explaining to the advance team how I wanted that handled.

There were concerns. SVC had told me about his experience the previous year, but nothing about this year, so I had to improvise based on what I knew about the previous year from his stories, and a reasonable assumption that things might have changed. For example, just because SVC did not encounter booby traps the previous year did not mean that they would not be employed this year (it would not be hard to do), and my own training says in a MOUT operation to watch out for these. So, yes, I wasted some time (ultimately) in taking a brief few seconds to warn the security teams to be on the watch for such things and not to just grab things that looked useful without looking them over carefully.

I was really worried about ammo supply and rate of fire. We were briefed on the number of rounds the pistols had, but then four of the five pistols were found to be inoperative and were replaced by "shotguns" (much, much lower rate of fire compared to the pistols) and no one would tell me how many shots the shotguns had. I had the remaining pistol, and that meant that I was the "rapid fire" weapon in the group (and yes, there were two occasions when I moved that pistol forward and cleared out Zombie nests that were blocking our movement). But I was concerned about the shotgun ammo supply until we could discard them (a concern that was probably wasted, but I could not know that going in).

Much of the success was do to the three unknowns actually taking direction quite well. They all stayed with their teams and held their ground when it was necessary to do so, and none of them wandered off on their own. That was why the Zombies were held off.

Getting to the Sheriff's office did require literally using one of the non-combatants to hold a door so that the Zombies could not get in that room to hit us as we crossed the open area to the Sheriff's office. Once the main body had moved I could throw the executive at the Sheriff's office (start him dashing to it) and keep the rear security myself for a little bit. We got there with no casualties.

It was hard avoiding trying to take the offensive when we got the PS90s (where you could see there was plenty of ammo to start with), but I had non-combatants that had to be protected and gotten out, and it would have been too risky to divide the force to a small guard unit and search and destroy unit.

While I figured out pretty quickly that there were only two teams of Zombies, there were also obviously an infinite number of Zombies. If we "killed" a team, it would simply re-appear, and if both teams attacked the Sheriff's Office at once while I was off with the other team, they might have managed to break in.

The Zombies clearly had some coordination going, i.e., one team would attack from one direction, and after a bit the second team would attack from another direction, hoping that the first attack had distracted the defenders and allowing them to "break in". That is why you have to keep security in all directions as best you can. And also why I thought of the pistol as my reserve of rapid firepower if I needed it.

Monday, August 24, 2009


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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some of My Thoughts

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Much has been said about the reformation of the American Medical System.

The only thing I am certain of is that the proposed efficiencies of allowing the government to control all medical care will not happen.

One of the continuing problems we have, whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is in power, is that they never stop finding new things to spend money on. One of the reasons neither President Clinton or the Republican Congress during the 1990s will ever be well thought of by me is that they had the best chance to start dealing with the national debt. Instead, the used the increases in Tax income in that period to initiate new spending. Now, when we as a nation are in trouble, the current administration and congress are not content with trying to cut spending, and try to start reducing the debt, they are still looking for more new spending.

Another thing you should do is go back and look at what various programs were supposed to cost when they were proposed. Even after adjusting for inflation, the costs of all those social programs has grown out of control at an accelerating rate.

So, no, I am not in favor of allowing the government to administer health care. I am not in favor of adding an enormous new bureaucracy and all of the government paychecks that will need to be covered by taxes to the already bloated government infrastructure.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Module G3A has Gone To Press

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Module G3A has gone to press, and is even now on the printers.

As always, there were some last minute problems found that had to be fixed, many of those buried surprises from when the documents that made up Module G3A were first created, sometimes years earlier. Word programs change and older files sometimes bring coding with them that does not work with a new version (an example, one document was done with set column lengths, but when brought into the new version, the columns were changed to make one wider than the other causing the page count to explode).

But we would not be where we are if not for the input of dedicated players.

Friday, August 21, 2009


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.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Birthday of Gene Roddenberry

Jean Sexton writes:

Eighty-eight years ago today Gene Roddenberry was born. He lived through the Great Depression in the 1930s and flew combat missions in World War II. Then he created Star Trek, a franchise that survives to this day. The original series aired from 1965-1969 and the animated series ran from 1973-1974.

But in 1979, Star Trek was shown in re-runs only. Steve Cole, a college student, was playing a naval combat game while watching Star Trek re-runs between engineering school and supper time. He became inspired to produce Star Fleet Battles. The game was licensed via Franz Joseph Designs and Paramount. Amarillo Design Bureau created new history, new starships, new empires, and new technologies to fuel the expanding Star Fleet Universe. It wasn't until 1987 when The Next Generation started that the histories of the universes started to diverge. Of course, with the new movie, we know that divergent timelines are possible. However, our Star Fleet Universe has stayed true to our original timeline; no "rebooting" history for us!

Since 1979, we've expanded into strategic games (Federation & Empire), card games (Star Fleet Battle Force), and roleplaying games (Prime Directive). To accommodate today's more hectic schedules (that for some include a spouse, children, and even grandchildren!), we've created the faster playing Federation Commander. Starline 2400 has minis that support our tactical games. And now we are preparing to release Star Fleet Armada, a campaign version of Federation Commander.

With Romulans, Klingons, Hydrans, Vudar, Lyrans, the diversity of the Inter-Stellar Concordium, and so many more species and empires, we've created a universe as rich as one can imagine. Yet it all began with the idea from Gene Roddenberry that he would create a "Wagon Train to the Stars". Without that spark, no doubt the games that Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. has created and will create would look much different.

So, now we take a moment to remember the birthday of Gene Roddenberry.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

New next fall on the Discovery Channel! The ultimate Iron Man competition! Each team will begin on a Bering Sea crab boat. After catching 100,000 pounds of crab, each boat will go to the ice pack, transfer the crab to a truck, and drive the truck over the pack ice to Alaska. Once there, they will use the crab claws to chop down a tree, and use a helicopter to drop the tree in front of a Japanese whaling ship on its way home from the Antarctic whaling season. Sig Hansen hosts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't be Complacent

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Osama Bin-Laden is still out there. He exists, it seems today, more as figurehead than real boogieman. His continued existence beyond the power of the "Great Satan" to harm is perhaps at the current time his greatest threat to the non-Muslims around the globe. In that, he does indeed remain a threat because this alone can say "see, they can be defeated".

However, even if tomorrow we learn that Osama bin-Laden is dead, we cannot be complacent. Someone will pick up his mantle. We cannot know if that someone will be a Mussolini to bin-Laden's Hitler, or a Stalin. Even if bin-Laden is dead, we cannot stop this conflict, unless we wish another 9/11/01 in our near future, until those who would carry terrorism beyond their own borders are imprisoned, or better yet dead.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

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!).

Friday, August 14, 2009


A guest blog by Michael Grafton:

I wrote a story for Captain's Log, the chronicle of the Star Fleet Universe, and I am writing others because I want to tell stories. I thought I'd present some of my rather limited insights into the process.

1. Have an idea. Yes, you may present the greatest tactical genius in history, but if there is no interesting thing about the people (aliens are people, too), event, or process, then the story won't scan.

2. Remember that your characters don't have your omniscient knowledge. They will have foibles, plans that fail, distractions, and everything else. Good captains are masters of adapting to what they see and having the flexibility to win despite the other captain not being a moron.

3. Don't expect to become instantly rich and famous. You should be writing because of a desire to write.

4. Remember to check the SFU history first. While ADB has excellent editors that are keen on making sure that you aren't violating the rules of history, try to make it easier for them. I know I messed up at least a bit (OK a huge thing), but they caught it. Because nothing is more humiliating that getting email ragging on your story because you violated the continuity of the universe.

5. Your submission is just that. You are asking the Steves to accept your writings into a scheme, history, and game system that they have spent literally decades on. So don't get too teary if they change something.

6. It's not your firstborn child. Let it go.

7. Be different.

8. And finally, remember that while SFB and the SFU is about combat between ships, it is the characters on those ships and the background of the combat that make the difference between whether we care or don't. Even people on "the dark side" have reasons for what they do, why they do it, and such. Not all Lyrans are insane cannibals under some random noble's crazed whims. Not all Klingons have goatees or long to torture their crews in the booth. The "good guys" sometimes lose. For that matter, not all Orions are pirates!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The General's Haircut

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Last night I watched "Leverage". While I find many of the plots unbelievable on their face, most of them do not go near one of my beloved background points.

Last night, they did.

I do not care how critical it may be to the plot, no one who has been in the U.S. military long enough to make First Lieutenant, or Captain, or senior NCO, is going to see a three star general with Timothy Hutton's haircut and not start asking questions. Generals do not get to be Generals by having "non-regulation hair", nor do they remain generals very long, particularly around the Pentagon, with non-Regulation hair.

It SCREAMS "There is something wrong here". And Hutton's character may have tried to sound like what he thought a General would sound like (i.e., what the scriptwriters thought), but it was so "off" that combined with his haircut there would have been a net closing around him from the start.

I do not have a problem that no one would have heard of the General, even a three star, there are quite a few of them (and Lord Knows I deliberately avoided looking too closely at his "uniform", but at that I was noticing things that were "wrong" for a three-star).

It pretty much wrecked any hope of a "suspension of disbelief" on my part, even though I liked the basic plot of getting at one of those oh-so-smug reporters.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your store when to expect new products.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


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 10, 2009

Hollywood Still Propagandizes for the Left

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I watched "In Plain Sight" last night, and saw once again the triumph of communism and socialism in Hollywood.

This the 2000s, and there are not really any right wing dictatorships in South America or Central America, particularly not ones with significant labor unrest and the assassination of labor leaders. But the episode established that a the U.S. is protecting a Socialist Labor Leader working against and "Right Wing" dictator in a Latin American country.

If they wanted to be current, they might have had the labor leader come from Ecuador, or Venezuella, or Cuba. Ah, but those are left-wing dictators (well . . . to be fair Chavez and the president of Ecuador have not sealed the deal yet, they and the left-wing president another Latin American state recently in the news for getting himself booted out for trying to change the laws to keep himself in power) are all left-wing. Hollywood cannot say back things about left-wing leaders. Or anyone who is left, only members of the right can be evil. So much so that I have no doubt (for what I saw in the episode) that it will be revealed that the U.S. State Department was trying to sell out the Left-Wing Labor leader so she could be assassinated.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


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.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

G.I. Joe Film is a No-Go For Me

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I went to see the new "G.I. Joe" movie. Overall I would say what can be done with computer effects these days is pretty amazing, but other than that . . . well, I want my money and time back.

Part of it was the how silly everything was. The idea that these massive complexes could be constructed, and nobody noticed (whether it was the secret lair of the Joes in Egypt, or the secret lair of Cobra under the polar ice cap) was just one example. The other was the silliness of the existence of the advanced technologies possessed by the Joes and Cobra that made an absolute mockery of anything owned by anyone who was not part of the Joes or Cobra.

And, of course, the usual poor writing and poorly thought out plot points.

I mean, seriously, if the Joes were over-watching the vehicle convoy in case it was attacked, how could they have been so incompetent that they were not able to intervene in the attack on the convoy until everyone in it was dead except the two guys who would eventually join the Joes? I mean, this is not a case of a convoy that ten clicks down the road when you get a message they are under attack by an enemy force, this is you have your force airborne and nearby, but they do not arrive until attackers have destroyed the convoy's air cover, shot up the ground vehicles, landed their own assault element, killed everyone (except the two future Joes), and secured the object of their assault and are in the process of pulling out.

If I had been one of the two survivors and the General had told me they had suspected the convoy would be attacked and arranged their own cover, I would have punched him on the spot and take the court martial. His incompetence just got everyone in my platoon (except my good buddy) killed.

Oh, and by the way, our technology could not touch the ONE (1) Aircraft they sent to attack our convoy. It shed the cannon shells our AH-64 Apache hit it with like it was nothing but spitballs, and shot down the missiles our AH-64 fired at it, not to mention the ADA missiles one of our vehicles fired at it. Blew our vehicles all over the road, AND landed the assault element that killed the 20 some guys that survived the initial attack, while just shrugging off the bullets they were firing.

In all, it was pretty disappointing to me, plot-wise, and only worth seeing for the computer-generated effects.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Rest of the Story

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I grew up and was mostly taught that during the American Civil War Confederate Cavalry was superior to Union Cavalry in the first few years of the war simply because the Confederates were better horsemen. This was just one of those "accepted wisdoms". Thus the Union horsemen were totally unable to match J.E.B. Stuart's riders when they rode around the Army of the Potomac before the "Seven Days Battles". Nor were they able to stand up to the Confederate cavalry in skirmishes.

While it was the accepted wisdom, somewhere about the time I reached my mid-20s the accepted wisdom had begun to bother me. Something just had to be wrong. While much was made about the idea that Southern boys spent more time in the saddle, and would ride to the hounds (chasing foxes), that was largely the pastime of the landed aristocracy of the South. Northern boys also came from farms and spent time riding on a par with the majority of the Southern small farmers, and the majority of both spent little time riding at all. The townsfolk of both sides certainly spent little time in the saddle.

The upshot was that something was clearly wrong. The "human material" out of which both sides would build their cavalry units was not different enough to account for the differences in capabilities. Further, both drew their officers from a common pool of instruction and basic tactical doctrine, and both seemed equally motivated for the causes they were fighting for (Union versus State's Rights).

Something else had to be going on.

Something was.

The major fault was a difference in doctrine, and a failure of foresight.

The Union leadership had drawn the conclusion that the state of weapons at the start of the war was such that Cavalry would be ineffective in its historical roles. Close, but no cigar as the saying goes. The rifled musket, rifled cannons, and brass cannons were certainly leading the way to Horse Cavalry's removal from the field (although this process would not be complete until after World War II). The upshot of this visionary decision was that the Union actually stopped recruiting Cavalry regiments during the first year of the Civil War. This led to the South actually having more cavalry regiments than the Union had on any given battle field, and left Union armies with insufficient Cavalry for screening its flanks and blunting the operations of Confederate Cavalry.

The difference in doctrine was that the Confederacy (particularly in its most successful army under its most famous Cavalry commander) consolidated its cavalry under one commander almost from the start of the war, while in the North, most Cavalry regiments were either independent organizations or were sub elements of nominally "infantry" brigades. The result was a further dilution of the already understrength (as percentage of all arms) Cavalry forces.

The upshot was that for most of the first year and half of the Civil War Union Cavalry was consistently and hopelessly outnumbered (even though Union Cavalry regiments were authorized more troops than the opposing Confederate regiments) by its Confederate counterparts, and even when near equal numbers might be present, the divided command relationship prevented real cooperation.

When the Union began organizing additional regiments of cavalry and consolidating them into Brigade and Division formations, the ascendancy of Confederate Cavalry soon faded from the scene even before the privations imposed on Confederate troops laid them even further low.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

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 lasted 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 was 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.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I was watching an old episode of Deadliest Catch last night. One of the crab boats sank, leaving the crew of six floating in arctic waters that will kill a man in ten minutes. (An insulated survival suit gives you a few hours, a lifeboat gives you a day or so.) Several crab boats (which are "ships" about a hundred feet long) stopped making money to search the area, along with the state police boat and the Coast Guard. It's risky enough being out there to make money (another man died later that same day not many miles away) without risking your life to look for somebody who probably has about a one percent chance of being alive when you find him.

This reminded me of many similar events. You have all heard stories of the US in Vietnam and Korea, when several planes were shot down trying to find one downed pilot. You have probably all read the first chapter of Starship Troopers in which the ship captain does some very dangerous maneuvers to pick up the boatload of Marines rocketing up from the planet. You ask yourself "Why not just cut your losses." I learned why not in the military. It's not about THIS time. It's about NEXT time. Would any fisherman ever take a job on a dangerous Bering Sea crab boat if he knew that the last poor fool who fell overboard was left to drown when nobody took time away from making money to look for him? Would any pilot fly over enemy territory if he knew that the last pilot who was shot down was left to be hacked to death by irate farmers for scattering bombs over their country? Would any starship trooper climb into his drop pod if he knew that on the last mission the captain would not take the risk to save an entire platoon of 40 men?

It's never about THIS time. It's always about NEXT time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Me Grinding an Axe (sorry)

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I see quite a few movies, within Genre's that appeal to me, but they are often painful to watch. Too often the purported histories are twisted out of "truth". I find that increasingly painful, mostly because I keep running into people, college students, who think that what is shown on the big screen as "history" must be fact.

So students are not aware that Islam came to most of the regions it now holds sway over not by missionaries preaching a faith, but by conquest and forced conversion. By the destruction of the symbols of other faiths, conversion of non-Muslim houses of worship into Muslim houses of worship. North Africa was Christian, so were the Balkans and Turkey, before the coming of the Green Flag. Most of the college kids I meet are convinced that those places simply always were Muslim, even as the Romans and Pharoahs marched around, and that Christians, and Jews, should stay out of them.

Thus I meet college kids who believe that the United States was responsible for training the Japanese Army because that is what "The Last Samurai" taught them.

Thus I meet college kids who believe that the Texicans committed atrocities at San Jacinto, but are utterly unaware that there was even a skirmish at Goliad.

Thus I meet these people who believe the 54th Massachusetts was formed mostly of "escaped slaves" rather than mostly from freemen living in Northern States. (Much less that the Regimental Sergeant Major played by Morgan Freeman, as well as the Lieutenant Colonel played by Cary Elwes, both historically survived the attack on Battery Wagner . . . Most people who see the film believe the regiment was the only unit that attacked Battery Wagner because they will not read the minor text mention at the end, and that the regiment was wiped out to the last man because of the final cannon scene. The film really should have shown something of the regiment's retreat. There was no shame in it, the other regiments involved in the attack also retreated.)

The list of things that are in movies that are just wrong is disturbing at least in part because it is twisting the way people vote, and having a major impact on the future of the country, and not for the best.

That is not to say that I think Hollywood should be turning out "rah rah pro-America propaganda films", but the films that do come from Hollywood should at least be truthful (with the "real truth" and not "a truth" or "the truth as it should be" or any of number of other balderdashisms Hollywood likes to use) about real historical facts and events. Or be more straightforward about their built-in agendas.

If they decide to pretend Israel does not exist, they need to at least be upfront and admit that they did it in hopes of making more money from Muslim countries (which I am pretty sure is the real reason there was no mention of Israel in "Transformers II").

Monday, August 03, 2009


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.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

We use a system called the FLAP LIST.
FLAP = Finish Like A Professional

We have a Word document which lists everything that does (or might) need to be done after a product is finished. Things like "update the GGIC catalog file" and "put it on the shopping cart" and "send the press release" and "send the review copies" and of course "pay the artists and writers" and "send the emails to those getting free copies because they proofed or playtested so they can request them."

We duplicate the basic list and create a unique document for each new release. Some steps do not apply to some products, but those are easy to delete. If a particular product forces the creation of one more thing to check or do, we add that to the permanent FLAP list since just maybe it will apply to a future product.

This has kept us out of no end of trouble.

The concept started because (due to my intense and intimate discourse with my customers, who literally know everything from the time of day I finished a product to what I had for lunch) there were customers who wanted product B done who started bombarding me with emails the second that Product A was finished. It was so easy to get fired up about the new project and leave key steps of the old project unfinished. So, now, my customers are trained not to bombard me about the next project until the FLAP list is finished for the current project.

This avoids having artists and writers politely nag me when I forget to pay them. I never forget to pay them because of the FLAP list. The guys at GGIC love my FLAP list since they know they can ask me for the updated Excel file any hour of any day and it will already be up to date, so I don't have to stop working and update it and send it to them.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Steve Cole recently sent this memo to a group of other game publishers who were discussing the issues of dealing with writers and artists, paying them on time, and negotiating what "control" the writer and artist would have over the development process and over future uses of the work.

1. I, for one, pay artists and writers on time. Always have. My wife runs the money around here, and we have never ordered a printing job, or a piece of art, or a writing project, without having the money in the bank. At the end of the month, the bills are paid. Sometimes I get paid late, but no artist gets paid late. (I watched a good friend run his game publishing company into the ground, taking his full paycheck every month and finally just closing the doors, turning off the phone, and walking away with tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid bills and worse: unpaid taxes. Actually, i watched two good friends with two different companies do that. Wait a minute, three, but the third one wasn't really much of a friend.)

2. I'm lucky. I have more artists begging for work than I can ever employ. If one of them is demanding or hard to work with or does silly things like "lock" his draft art so I cannot "steal" it, or demands some strange form of compensation or control over my future product development or anything other than work for hire, I just go to the next guy on the list.

3. Writers. I'd love to pay writers if they would actually write. I've been waiting four years for five different writers to deliver one particular project (my content, a licensed RPG system) and so far, nobody finished the job, or even got a good start on it before flaking out.

4. Everybody who runs a game company is an artist, a gamer, an entrepreneur, who had to become a businessman (a good one or a bad one) just to get his stuff published. I'm lucky in that my engineering degree came with a few random semesters of business law for engineers, accounting for engineers, business administration for engineers, and so forth, but even at that, I actually took a couple of night courses at the junior college, attended a series of seminars at the local Small Business Development Center, and (gasp!) went down to the bookstore of the local college and bought a textbook on business and a textbook on marketing, put them in my bathroom, and read them cover to cover. Twice. Read a book now and then people; it would do you all a world of good.