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Saturday, July 31, 2010

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, Jonathan Thompson and Jean Sexton for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, 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. Bob Pomroy 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, Thomas Mathews, 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); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

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

Friday, July 30, 2010


Where are those friendly ships, they seem so hard to call.
I try to search for them, but have you lost them all?
What ever happened to our fleet? I search on and on.
It used to be so close; it used to be so strong.

So if you're near me, Captain, can't you hear me S.O.S.?
The ship you gave me, nothing else can save it. S.O.S.!
If you're gone, how can I even try to hang on?
If you're gone, while I try, how can I carry on?

You seem so far away, but you were cruising near.
You make my hope to live, but I will die, I fear.
I really tried to make it out. I failed escape, I fear.
What happened to our fleet? It used to be so near.

If you're gone, how can I even try to hang on?
If you're gone, while I try, how can I carry on?

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Steve Cole muses wistfully:

I joked recently that the main reason I kept ADB going was so that, one day, Paramount would realize that they should put me in charge of Star Trek. I honestly think I'd do a better job.

For one thing, I'd listen to the fans a lot more, and not to industry insiders. For another, I'd keep the writing of each series and each episode (and each book and comic book) consistent with the established background.

I'd start by creating a new series called STAR TREK: PRIME DIRECTIVE. This would be a small prime team (an ensemble cast of six characters, plus the cranky retired Star Fleet captain who drives around the small starship they use to get from place to place. This solves the silliness of sending the bridge crew down to explore the planet, negotiate the treaty, cure the plague, and spy on the Klingons.

A year or two later, I'd start a second series, and a year or two after that, a third. I'd want to keep two (preferably three) on the air all the time. (Think CSI or Law and Order.) One of these would be STAR TREK: KLINGONS since I like Klingons. Another would be STAR TREK: THE EVIL EMPIRE about the mirror universe, where Shatner would be the Emperor of Earth and Spock would be his "good guy nemesis" running the rebellion.

The key to success would be quality writing. Frankly, the writers that we use in Captain's Log do better stories than the ones we saw on DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. I wouldn't have the characters "get in touch with their feelings" and I'd bring some military common sense to the scripts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Design Perspective on Module Y3

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the differences in doing Module Y3 from a lot of other modules is that some of the ships are based on miniatures from another game system. This allows those players who are interested in miniatures for their battles to acquire them without waiting for us to produce them.

This, however, creates a challenge in that rather than an SSD being created and then a miniature commissioned, the reverse is the case.

So while the SSD will, ultimately, be the usual assemblage of tables and boxes, the outline for the ship must be created from scratch and configured to contain the system boxes in the right combination to produce an interesting combat unit.

This applies to each of the member states of the Inter-Stellar Concordium, each of which is gaining a warp-driven dreadnought in this product.

Further, what is done with these ships needs to take into account what has gone before. A Korlivalar warp-driven dreadnought has to be balanced to face off with not just a Prohoulite warp-driven dreadnought (or a Q'Naabian task force), but also to take part in conjectural clashes with a Terran warp-refitted dreadnought or a squadron of Lyran warp-refitted ships.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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 pages on MySpace and Facebook exist for that reason as well. We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Monday, July 26, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 July 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was hot, although rain on Saturday provided some much needed relief. The Spam Storm stayed relatively calm, with only about 300-400 per day.

The week always starts with Jean's memo about what we're doing for blogs this week.

Steve Cole finished up the back covers for Squadron Boxes #28, #29, and #30 just in time to ship them. He continued a project to move everybody on the Honor Scroll to the Medal Wall; by the end of the week, everybody A-through-L with two or more ribbons had been done. He finished the CL#41 Supplemental File (while Jean and Steven Petrick proofread it). He did three pages of CL#42, cleaned up and opened the R14 topic, did the Frax ship for the September Communique, and worked on the Battlestations project. Customer service Wednesday was busy: he sent Jean more pictures for our page on Facebook, helped somebody sell some old stuff on Ebay, and sent more FC play aids to Joel to upload. He injured his foot on Monday (but this had stopped hurting by Thursday) but was sick during Friday and Saturday, and while in the office, didn't get much done on those days.

Steven Petrick continued to focus on SFB Module Y3 (40 of the 100 SSDs are now done; Y3 is due for release in September.

Mail orders remain strong, keeping Mike and Leanna busy. Leanna got the quarterly accounting and royalty statements done. Mike checked in more shipments of miniatures.
Joel continued working on the website (the August issue of Hailing Frequencies is already done, but of course hasn't been released).

The Wednesday staff meeting was a busy one. The first order of business was to change the meetings from Wednesday and Saturday to Tuesday and Friday, so Joel can be there (he doesn't work Saturdays). SVC renewed the old idea of giving everyone a specific assignment, then reviewing these at the next meeting. Leanna decided that the SupFiles will no longer be free downloads but will be on e23 and the shopping cart for $5, which will at least allow us to spend some billable hours adding cooler stuff there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

E Pluribus Unum

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The new pennies for 2010 are in circulation. I just saw my first one earlier this month, and spoke with SVC about them briefly. The new penny replaces the Lincoln memorial with a shield and centers the motto on that side above the shield and in larger type then was used on previous pennies.

I am not the only person who has just seen one of the new pennies.

I was in a fast food store in Canyon, Texas, waiting to get my order. Canyon is a college town, and two young men near me were clearly college students. One of them was looking through his change, and happened upon one of the new pennies, it probably caught his eye because it was shiny and the shield was different from what he normally saw on the back of a penny. Seeing the motto, he commented to his friend about the "mistake", and wondered how many pennies with the miss-spelling were in circulation. I am guessing that after a decade or so of living, somehow he had never previously "read" a penny. His friend, however, agreed that the gibberish letters were a funny mistake and wondered what the words were supposed to have been.

I took that moment to interrupt and explain that it was not a misspelling, but the Latin words "E Pluribus Unum", meaning "out of many, one".

The two young lads, college students mind you, looked at me. The friend then said "What language is that? Mexican?"

I was stunned for a moment, so I did not reply immediately. As I finally opened my mouth to respond that Latin was the language of ancient Rome and that it is common to use it to express mottos, the young man holding the change (apparently the more introspective and deeper thinker of the two) revealed that he had been thinking about the motto for the last few seconds when he said (or words to this effect):

"I get it. It means it takes many pennies to make a dollar."

I was, at that point, struck speechless. Utterly dumbfounded.

At that point the two were called over to get their orders, so the conversation did not continue, but I felt very much like banging my head against the wall.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


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.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Listen to the ships blow. Watch the drones rise.
Run under their guns... Damn your plan, damn your lies!
And if we don't take them down, We can never fight here again;
I can still hear you saying, we'd quickly kill their base.
And if we don't take them down, We can never fight here again;
I can still hear you saying, we'd quickly kill their base.

Listen to the ships blow. Here they come in the night.
Run under their guns ... Damn your plan; damn your lies.
Target the starbase, Damn the ships; damn the drones!

And if we don't take them down, We can never fight here again;
I can still hear you saying, we'd quickly kill their base.
And if we don't take them down, We can never fight here again;
I can still hear you saying, we'd quickly kill their base.
And if we don't take them down, We can never fight here again;
I can still hear you saying, we'd quickly kill their base.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

If Congress does nothing (good or bad) all of us Americans will see tax increases next year. Well, shucks, somebody has to pay for this mess, but the higher taxes will impact economic recovery.

The 2001+2003 tax cuts will expire, causing income tax rates to increase, giving all of us an income tax bill that is 10% or more higher. The marriage penalty returns, and the child tax credit will be cut in half. Also, inheritance taxes (currently zero) go back to 55% (on estates over a million) next year (within reach of two homes and an IRA). Capital gains tax will also jump back to old levels, and it was this cut that propelled the stock market to the previous high. Taxes on dividends will more than double.

The health care thing is loaded with new taxes. Health savings accounts and other ways to pay medical costs with pre-tax dollars go away. Flexible spending accounts will be capped at $2500 for the first time, and that hits parents of special needs kids very hard.

Small business will be hit by new rules preventing equipment purchases from being expensed, requiring them to be depreciated over many years. Alternative minimum taxes will get worse, hitting 48 million families instead of just four million. Lots of new business taxes will suddenly appear, and a lot of old deductions and credits will go away. Teachers can no longer deduct expenses for classroom supplies. Tuition deductions go away. Charitable deductions from IRAs will be disallowed.

Oh, and the cost of the medical insurance that your employer gives you for free is now taxable income. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



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 http://www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


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.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 July 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was warm (80-100F) but cloudy skies early in the week, and rain later in the week, made that bearable. The Spam Storm stayed relatively calm, with only about 400 per day.

Steve Cole re-established his plan for doing marketing on Monday (working on Café Press, following up on old leads, adding stores to the database), customer requests on Wednesday (updating medal records, sending the FC fighter stuff to the playtest section of the Commander's Circle, rejecting a proposed new weapon, adding a requested ship name), and deals and contracts on Friday (working on the Battlestations project). He also managed to do almost everything for Communique #56, packed more bags of plastic starship parts, got the CL#41 Supplemental File finished and sent to Jean, and updated the FC scenario database.

Steve Petrick reports that 16 of the Module Y3 SSDs are done.

Leanna and Mike were buried under monstrous mail orders, but managed to get them all shipped (what company can't use the money?). Mike was getting the minis inventory up to date so we can restock before the Bruce (who casts the ships) goes on six weeks of vacation.

Joel uploaded a bunch of stuff to the website. He and Jean decided to shut down the old MySpace page, as there was no reason (and not enough resources) to maintain it.

Jean continued finishing PD Feds. We checked the covers we had in the warehouse and found them so full of mistakes that we threw them away and printed new ones.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

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 "grow 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 eighth 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 $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Steve Cole reports:

I started in this industry back in 1974 or so, publishing a magazine called JagdPanther and a bunch of games. We shut that company down in early 1977 because it was never designed to make money and we were tired of doing it.

Two years later, my former JagdPanther partner and I were talking, and thought we could make a go of a game company. Several things caused this conversation, one of the most important being the introduction of "pocket games" to the market. These seemed easier and cheaper to produce, and an exciting new kind of product. We did some research, and made some plans. We wanted very much to sell only to wholesalers, not by mail order, to keep the workload down.

After a few years of that, my partner and I had been increasingly at odds. We just had very different ideas of how to run the company. (His was was doing everything as soon as possible, even if this meant taking on a lot of debt. My way was to have no debt at all, not spend money we didn't already have, and delay projects until we could afford them.) Neither one of us was right or wrong, but the business styles were so different that we just could not keep muddling the company through. It was like those two Roman generals fighting Hanibal and taking turns commanding the army to march in opposite directions. So we agreed to divide the company into two parts. He kept the publishing company, and I took the game design part (and the copyrights to Star Fleet Battles).

I selected the name Amarillo Design Bureau because I lived in Amarillo, and because the Soviets called their aviation companies "design bureaus" because the government owned them all but kept them separate so they would compete against each other and make better airplanes. That may have been a mistake, since lots of people think that the company is either Armadillo Design Bureau or Emerald Design Bureau. Considering that my good friend Steve Jackson named his company after himself, I should have called it Steve Cole Games as that way my company would be as big as his!

I ran ADB as a private company from 1983 to 1998, then incorporated it in January 1999 so it has been ADB, Inc., since that time.

Looking back, there was a moment when I could have bought him out and had all of TFG for myself. It is one of my deepest regrets that I did not do this, as I would have avoided the decisions that cause the financial collapse of two subsequent administrations of Task Force Games. (My previous partner, and the guys from England who ran the company from 1990-1996, both carried a lot of debt and then couldn't survive a hickup in the market.) I look at all of the money that those two administrations wasted on stuff I warned them not to do, and think wistfully of how much money I'd have if I had been running TFG for the last 30 years. Of course, I know a lot more about running a publishing company today than I knew back then, so maybe I'd have made some mistakes of my own. I know I've made about six "five thousand dollar mistakes" in the last ten years, and wish I had that money back.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Guide me now, Captain, here as I am.
Let me fight, and die, and understand.
War is hunger is the fire I breathe;
Battle's a banquet on which we feed.

Come on now, try and understand,
The way I feel under your command.
Take my hand, as the ship descends,
They can't hurt us now, can't hurt us now, can't hurt us now.

Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.
Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.

Have I a doubt, Captain, when I'm alone.
Fear is a death in a heavy drone.
War is an angel, covered in blood.
Here in our heart 'til the victory comes.

Come on now, try and understand,
The way I feel under your command.
Take my hand, as the ship descends,
They can't hurt us now, can't hurt us now, can't hurt us now.

Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.
Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.

With death we sleep,
with doubt the vicious circle turns, and burns.
Without you, oh I cannot fight,
forgive the bloodlust burning.
I believe it's time to fight and die,
so lead me now, lead me now, lead me now.

Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.
Because the might belongs to warriors,
Therefore the right belongs to us.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, July 15, 2010

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 Communique which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Cycle Continues

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Things here are in a kind of good news/bad news mode.

The good news is that we our products remain in some demand.

The bad news is that we are somewhat pressed to meet the demand, which takes time away from working on new products.

For insurance reasons, only myself, SVC, and Leanna can operate the trimmer. So as Mike Sparks binds books for our customers (whether and individual or a distributor) I have to leave my own design work and stand before the trimmer.

We have a lot of "raw material" (reams of paper and cardboard, stacks of published covers and counters, and etc.) that we convert into product. However, most of that raw material only becomes product when someone trims the books. None of those books appear, however, unless the design staff can sit at their computers and create them.

There is always this critical division in a small company (of any sort). We have to design products, but we also have to keep providing our older products so that newer customers can get what they need to explore the whole of the Star Fleet Universe. And, yes, sometimes players need to replace parts that have worn out or been destroyed by acts of God or simple human error.

So some "design time" is constantly being diverted to trying to "refill the ammo bins", which in turn requires more time to be allocated to do the next product in anticipation of the time that will be lost restocking products that have been sold.

It is a continuous cycle, and not one to complain about (I am not complaining here). Without the demands from our customers, we would not be in business at all, so serving them is one of our highest priorities. It is just that the highest priority (serving the customers) applies both to restocking, and creating new products that are interesting and fun.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Steve Cole writes:

In a time too long past, a thousand times a thousand would have begged to fly that ship. Now, there is only Norrin Radd.


Once upon a time, we had over a hundred SFB scenarios in the file, and over the years we steadily sent them through playtesting, editing, and publication. Now, the file is, well, hardly empty, but a lot less thick. This has been aggravated by our efforts, in response to player demand, to include more scenarios in Captain's Log, which in the past has had as few as three.

People want their "name in the book" but keep sending in new ships. We get about four or five new ship proposals for every new scenario submission, and we print more scenarios than we do ships. If you want your name in the book, your best route is through scenarios, not ship designs.

At one point, the scenario file got so thin that Steven P. Petrick was spotted going through Federation Commander scenarios looking for things he could convert to Star Fleet Battles.

Holy Irony, Batman!

There has never been a better time than right now to submit new SFB scenarios. Scenarios for the Early Years, Middle Years, General War, Andromedan War, Magellanics, and Omega are wanted and welcome, as well as generic scenarios reflecting common and timeless battles. We even want "party scenarios" where you forget the history and just have a good time.


Why do players, desperate for a publication notch on the handle of their phaser pistol, send in endless new ships (each of which is only a box or two different from existing ships, or violates long-established and well-known design rules) instead of new scenarios? We don't know.

Theories abound.

Scenarios are harder to write, at least, harder to write correctly, but then, so are the ship designs that actually pass muster and get published. Scenarios have to fit the timeline, and follow the rules, but then, so do ships. Research is key, and everything you need to know (ship name indexes, scenario formats, and the timeline) are on the website for free. The Input Guides have further information.

Some say they don't know how. You know how to design a ship but not how to write a scenario? Come on! The players of Star Fleet Battles are the most intelligent gamers out there. You can do this! Just give it a shot!

Some just don't want to. Fair enough, but if you want to become a published contributor to the Star Fleet Universe, your best chance for that is by writing a scenario!

Some fear rejection, but this fear of rejection doesn't seem to stop them from designing new ships.

We just don't buy it. There's no reason that the best gamers around cannot write endless scenarios.


Well, when we write scenarios, we get ideas and inspiration from a lot of places.

Read a history book or a history magazine (or watch the History Channel) and adapt a famous battle to SFB.

Read the existing scenarios and fiction and ask yourself "What happens next?" or even "What happened before?"

Go look up the Principles of War and see if you can reflect one or two of them in a scenario.

Look at the new ships in Module R11 (or Captain's Log or Module R12) and write a scenario that uses them.

Ideas are all around you. Open your mind and let yourself see them. Then turn them into scenarios and send them in!

Monday, July 12, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 4-10 July 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather was agreeable this week, being cooler than usual. We had clouds on several days, and a lot of rain on Wednesday night (enough to cause what we call "flooding" which is where fourteen inches of water at the bottom of an overpass cause cars to stall out, resulting in the Amarillo version of "high water rescues"). The Spam Storm has really calmed down, averaging 400 per day.

Last week, while SVC was sick and not paying a lot of attention to what was going on, Leanna and Mike had one of their largest printing-and-shipping weeks in the last three years, and they wanted that noted in the blog. This week, SVC and Leanna felt better and were back at work.

SVC finished the CL#41 FLAP LIST (the list of things to do when we finish a product), updating the Captain's Log index, the FC Master Ship Chart, the FC Scenario Database, and other such documents. He did Communique (including two entirely new ships) and wrote the Star Fleet Alerts announcing the fall schedule and the new miniatures to the trade. He also did the first pass at the F&E SIT for the new ships in SFB Module R12, and did the FLAP LIST for FC: War and Peace and SFB Module R12. This included updating the FC Master Ship Chart and FC Scenario Database, the online catalogs, the GGIC catalog listing, and other such documents.

Steven Petrick caught up from the Origins Blackout time and got to work on SFB Module Y3. He also settled the controversial issues of Tactical Maneuvers and Superstacks, deciding that there would be no changes and that SVC didn't need to go starting trouble in SFB-land in the future.

Leanna and Mike launched into a heavy week of mail order shipments. There were so many orders coming in that they did not catch up until Thursday!

Joel helped Mike, but also did a bunch of website updates.

Jean continued to proofread, work on Prime Directive, and keep our page on Facebook growing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


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

Saturday, July 10, 2010


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.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Victories are made of this:
Get a hit and not a miss.
Travel through space and the seven rifts;
Everybody's gunning for someone.
Some of them want to shoot you.
Some of them want to get shot by you.
Some of them want to board you.
Some of them want to be board-ed.

I wanna board and attack you.
I wanna know what's inside you.
Keep your shields up, movin' on.
Keep your speed up, movin' on.
Keep your shields up, movin' on.
Keep your speed up, movin' on.
Keep your shields up, movin' on.
Keep your speed up, movin' on.
Movin' on!

Victories are made of this:
Get a hit and not a miss.
Travel through space and the seven rifts;
Everybody's gunning for someone.
Some of them want to shoot you.
Some of them want to get shot by you.
Some of them want to board you.
Some of them want to be board-ed.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, July 08, 2010


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.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Plentitude of Thankyous

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Origins 2010 is past, and I would like to use this opportunity to once again thank those individuals whose support make it possible.

For me, this of course starts with Mike Filsinger, Paul Franz, and Roger Rardain who help run the Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander tournaments, and who also run demos of our products. They also provided me assistance in running the classic scenario projects. And Paul Franz and Roger Rardain do the on-line parts of the Captain's Tournament, which would literally not be possible without them.

More importantly, as much as I try to look after them during Origins, they also look out for me. None of it would be possible without them.

Thanks guys.

I also need to thank Chuck Strong and Mike Curtis who ran the Federation & Empire events. They have done this for several years now, and it always seems to be successful.

Hope to see you guys next year.

I also need to thank Colleen Knipfer and Jean Sexton for helping SVC in the booth, and looking out for him. I cannot be everywhere, and am not as mobile as I once was, so it is a lot harder for me to get down to booth to check on SVC. But they can run the booth without him, and their aid is greatly appreciated.

My thanks to you both.

I need to give a special shout out to the Federation & Empire guys for helping us unload. Even with our never-before-achieved parking on the unloading ramp, we would never have gotten the van unloaded in the hour we were allocated without their help. These guys did almost all of the unloading in a single trip, saving us a lot of time and possible embarrassment by failing to get unloaded and clear of the ramp in our allowed time.

And to Colleen and Daniel Knipfer and Jean Sexton who stayed to help us loadout for the return trip I also owe thanks. We were again allocated just an hour, and with their help we made it, just barely. We started rolling just a minute before our loading time would have run out. (What Origins would have done had we overstayed our window for departure we do not know, but it was the first year they tried to schedule things so we must grant them some leeway for being on a learning curve.) And to Daniel Knipfer and Colleen Knipfer for escorting Jean to her car to start her on the way to her home.

My thanks to you all.

I also have to thank Daniel Knipfer for running the snack and soda situation. Thank you very much Dan, it was much appreciated.

I have to thank Roger Rardain and Jean Sexton (and anyone else involved) in the birthday cake surprise. I honestly cannot remember when I had real cake for my birthday, or the opportunity to share it (see what you all missed by not coming this year . . . GRIN). Thanks again.

I also need to thank our "ground crew", also known as that "damnable black gang below decks", Mike Sparks and Joel who got us deployed and on the road to Origins with everything we needed packed (well . . . okay . . . maybe we could have used a few more Kzinti NCAs, but that was not really their fault) to make the trip to Origins. Better, for helping Leanna keep things running smoothly while we were away.

I have to also thank the Origins people for trying their best to make Origins work. They are always trying new ideas to improve things.

My thanks also to Mike Curtis, Bill Stec, Patrick Doyle, Kentaro Watanabe, and SVC for putting up with my efforts to lead a squad in the Terrorwerks event. I regret that I was not 100 percent (I think by the time we hit it I was operating at somewhere around 75 to 80 percent, maybe lower). I think we would have done better had I been more alert.

And of course my thanks to our customers, whose support over the years has made this all possible.

And, believe it or not, my thanks to SVC's old van, which had to come out of semi-retirement after the rental car agency failed to provide us the van they promised, which successfully carried us to Origins and back.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


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.

Monday, July 05, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 June-3 July 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather was agreeable this week. Warm, with a touch of rain on Friday and Saturday.

Most of the week was consumed by post-Origins operations, getting the car unloaded, the returning inventory counted, the after action reports done, and the accounting finished. We reorganized the product load lists for 2011 so that Michael can pack half of the stuff a month ahead of time.

Steve Cole was sick with a cold most of the week (and got no real work done on future projects), and Leanna came down with it on Friday. Steven Petrick got some work done on SFB Module Y3 and other projects.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

On Independence Day

Jean Sexton writes:

Independence Day, July 4, is a day celebrated with parades, fireworks, cookouts, and time spent with families. We nearly take for granted our country and its independence. However, 234 years ago, it was a time of risks and fear. As a student of social history, I enjoy reading letters from people. Let's take a look at the letters from one of the most notable letter writers of that era, John Adams.

On July 3, 1776 Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

Yesterday, the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was nor will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony, "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and as such they have, and of Right ought to have, full power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which other States may rightfully do."

This is well and good as we all know that the resolution became reality. The colonies went to war against England. Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 17, 1781. The Treaty of Paris which officially ended the war was signed on September 3, 1783. Of course Adams did not know what the outcome would be. He had worries and confided them to Abigail:

It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting, and Distresses yet more dreadfull. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: It will inspire Us with many Virtues, which we have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy Us. The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals.

Today we face difficulties and afflictions. We are in the midst of a recession; people are losing jobs or being underemployed; pay cuts and layoffs abound. We have choices to make: we can wail our miseries to the sky or we can see if we can correct any errors, follies, and vices which have brought us to this condition.

It is a hard thing to consider during this celebration. Yet I have hope, as John Adams did. He also wrote:

Yet, through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day's Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

So let us go forth, with hope in our hearts and obey the rest of what Adams wrote about this day. "It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations, from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more."

Happy birthday to these United States.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


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 $6 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Deadly battle near a ... red sun.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I thought that my ship had some ... big guns.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.

I miss my starship and I feel so sad;
I guess my war is done.
Well she was the best ship that I ever had.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.

Robbin' convoys at a dead run.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I miss my starship and I miss my fun.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.

I miss my starship and I feel so sad;
I guess my war is done.
Well she was the best ship that I ever had.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.

I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn won.
I fought the Gorn and the Gorn Gorn Gorn Gorn won.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Steven Petrick reports:

The situation was an assault on a freighter to prevent it from hitting a populated planet.

I resisted trying to take control of the whole operation, and I do regret that. I focused on the team SVC invited to participate, these being SVC himself, Mike Curtis, Bill Stec, Kentaro Watanabe, and Patrick Doyle. SVC self-selected himself as the heavy weapons specialist, and I selected Curtis and Stec as shooters, Ken as medic, and Patrick as engineer.

We did not practice things, but we did talk a lot of stuff out before hand, and after reinforcing the need to watch their sectors several times after we got set, I felt confident that they would do so and guard each other's backs.

I found the entry flawed, as the two squads were sent in shoulder to shoulder. I thought it would have been better to send in the second squad first, if it is intended for it to hold the corridor, and after it established overwatch, to move the first squad through.

While organization was four shooters and a medic and engineer in a squad, it was pretty clear that the medic and engineer were not actually organic, and this created confusion as the "controllers" would wander off with these two personnel "at need" rather than asking the squad leader to send them.

Much of the first part of the exercise for second squad was just keeping the passageway locked down. This was hampered by "disappearing walls" late in the exercise, as the controllers would announce that an open area was a wall, but then a pirate would charge through that "wall". There was insufficient manpower to "take the offensive", in that expanding into adjoining rooms would have left the rear of the advancing troops unprotected. When the bridge was secure we should have been reinforced by two shooters from the first squad before we advanced into other rooms. This was necessary to keep the assault team from become over-extended and attacked from all sides.

We were ordered to take the engine room, and I did manhandle Mike and SVC into an assault stack before the door opened, and that seemed to work well in that even though the pirates were expecting us they were taken out quickly. Pat Doyle got the engines reprogrammed, and apparently surprised the gamemasters by how quickly he got it done.

Worst mistake was failing to secure the "engine room". We were ordered to pull back out of it, and it became the major point of attack by the pirates, using the (for want of a better term) "dummy hatch" as mobile cover, and advancing behind it.

My estimate is that there were five "mobile" pirates, as at one point there were three in the "engine room" (one on each side of the door, and one holding the "dummy hatch") while two others were attacking from the end of the opposite corridor. But it would have required a minimum of three shooters to do that (two in the engine room to control the two access points, and one outside to control the hallway entrance). That required three more shooters to control the rest of the ship. (One covering each of the two doors into the short corridor to the bridge, one covering the far hallway, and one covering the entrance/exit route.) As noted, over-extension was a problem as an attack could come from any direction.

We needed to retake the engine room, but could never get past the dummy hatch. (Sadly, only after I was "killed" did it dawn on me the solution was not to try to bash past it with an pirate holding it against you, but to get down and lift it since it was just empty boxes with little weight. With one man lifting and two shooters down low ready to take advantage we could have retaken the room and put an end to the pirates use of the dummy hatch.)

I found three spare magazines, and handed these out. I used up one of my own magazines, and reloaded one time, eventually handing my weapon off to SVC and taking the grenade launcher he had found that was down to one nuclear round from him.

I was "hit" several times, managing to get bandaged twice (this was a problem as my "squad medic" was taken from me and I had to go to the bridge to get the wound treated once). In one case I combined the need to get a wound fixed with escorting a POW to the bridge to consolidate prisoners (too risky to have Mike both guarding a prisoner and trying to cover his zone of fire).

I had one wound remaining near the end when one of the corporate guards went berserk and sprayed the hallway liberally with his weapon. I was hit four or five times by this spray of fire (wrong place at the wrong time). While my own team had not taken too many wounds (and I had given a spare first aid pouch to Ken earlier), one of the things I had heard in the rising babble (as first squad and the corporate types were increasingly roaming the hallway to no purpose I could discern) was that there were no more wound patches. I was unaware at that point that Ken was also "dead" (killed on the bridge I learned later). As it would have taken the contents of a full first aid kit to bring me "back to life", and the mission had been "accomplished", I decided to play "mortally wounded" rather than dead, and called on everyone to "get out". Kudos to Mike and Pat who both made efforts to drag me out, but at that point it would have been throwing good money after bad, the pirates would have got them while trying to drag my "deadweight". So I just kept reiterating that they should go, and they both did.

I had intended to fire the nuclear grenade when I heard the shuttle separate, creating a sort of "Hollywood ending. However, the trigger would not work, and as the pirates ran up and started "stabbing" me, I felt fair play would not allow me to further press the "mortally wounded" role and stopped messing with the grenade launcher.

While the pirates commented that we were "the best group yet" (referring to all of the participants), I take that with a major grain of salt. I suspect strongly that they say that of every group because, after all, they want people to come back, and making them feel good about themselves, no matter how badly they performed, is a reasonable business model. And of course I discovered that some of our participants had been pirates themselves in earlier rounds, although they may not have been aware of all the tasks that were to have been accomplished.