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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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 Andy Vancil 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. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

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, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, 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.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here:

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, February 27, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 February 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week, and serious progress is being made on many projects. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #20.

New on DriveThru RPG: Jean's free RPG booklet (over 900 downloads!)

Steve Cole worked on fiction and other items for Captain's Log #45, Project E, Project T, the updated company organization chart, Reinforcements Attack, Mongoose quality control, a Star Fleet Alert for next week, ACTASF errata, Communique #75, updated the Federation Commander Master Ship Chart, and the Captain's Log #44 FLAP list. He posted the first status sheet for Captain's Log #45.

Steven Petrick worked on research for an SVC story, rules questions, research for other fiction authors, Nicozian primer, Seltorian class history, Captain's Log #45 tactics and monster article.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, scanned the ancient SFB pocket edition for upload to e23, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,126 friends), proofread the first pages of Captain's Log #45 and a Star Fleet Alert, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wanted a blog that was actually about the company.

1. Jean wanted us to create two pages of advertising for the two main RPG systems. (These were to be included in that RPG intro pack she did to explain the universe to new customers.) I basically blew a fit, since I am overloaded with things to do, hate doing marketing, and I get stuck with writing all of the advertising because nobody else seems to know how. Jean understood my situation, and decided to sneak one by using the old Rock Soup system. She told Joel to create "rough draft" advertising pages using the copy from the shopping cart. She cleverly thought that once it was shown to me, I'd start marking all over it, take charge of it, and it would get finished. Well, it worked, but perhaps not the way she expected. Joel did what he could, and brought it to me. Rather than taking over the project as Jean assumed I would, I explained to Joel that I was going to teach him how to do ad copy. (That way, I'll have someone to delegate this stuff to.) It took Joel five trips back and forth to my office with updated drafts, but we made it work. I would show him a problem and discuss how to fix it, he'd go take his best shot (he's actually pretty smart), and then I'd discuss with him ways to do it better. I guess I'm just getting too old, but I was calm and tutorial during the process. I figured out that it was easier to give Joel inadequate instructions and then show him how to fix the result than to lay out the instructions so fully that I had basically done all of the work. I had him write some new copy to fill in one item, and told him to "go find some art" to fill some blank spots. He found some art, but the four pieces of art came from three different places, and didn't look good together. I pointed this out to him, and suggested that since Xander Fulton keeps bombarding us with all kinds of art, that maybe he could find four Xander graphics that would work and would actually look like a matched set. That is just what happened! In the end, the process took two hours, but only about 15 minutes of my time. I could have done it by myself in an hour, but after we worked our way through the first of the two pages Jean wanted done, Joel was able to whip up the second page by himself in only 10 minutes. So, I learned something. (If there is no one to delegate things to, invest the time in training someone.) Joel learned how to do ad copy, and learned a few tricks, tactics, and principles for building a creative ad. He stretched his skills and in the end did a better job than I could have, since he knew better than I did where to find all of the art pieces in his computer. Jean honed her skills at manipulating me (and others in the office) to get her goals accomplished.

2. I did four Federation Commander battle tug Ship Cards for Captain's Log #44. When we did the supplemental file, I did two more. Leanna was upset with me taking "billable hours" to create new pages for a supplemental file that is supposed to be only leftover material and designer notes. Then it struck me that six battle tug cards (which were black and white in the issue and supplement) would make a dandy e23 Ship Card pack, getting us at least a few dollars in actual revenue for the billable hours spent creating the last two.

3. Way back in 1973, I created a wargame magazine called JagdPanther. The first issue included three games (Cowpens about a battle in the American Revolution; Scrimmage IV about football; and MP44 which was a squad-level game that presaged Squad Leader and did it better). That was another time. The magazine pages are typed, the game counters are printed on paper (and drawn by hand!), and the map was (you guessed it) drawn by hand (using hex paper that I created from scratch on my drafting board with a T-square and a 60-degree triangle). Over the next three years, we got better and better, producing pages on an IBM Selectric typewriter (home computers did not yet exist), and doing the art with rub-on lettering and rub-on graphics. When that company closed in November 1976, I stuck my share of everything that was left into two boxes. (I have no idea if my partner kept his boxes, or if he even packed boxes to keep.) I got married in 1977 and Mother thoughtfully sent the boxes to my new home where Leanna helpfully hid them in the attic. Years later, in 1999, ADB incorporated and moved to its own offices, and Leanna gleefully shipped any box that looked like "wargame junk" to the new office (and out of her house). The boxes got put on a high shelf in the warehouse and forgotten. When we moved to the new office in January, 2010, the forgotten boxes went to the new warehouse. During all of those years, people would write or call at least once a month offering $100 per issue for my stock of JagdPanther magazines, but I refused (if only because I had no idea where the boxes even were). I saw copies of JagdPanther sell on eBay for anything from $3 to $165. I guess that just depended on someone who really wanted them noticing them appear. In January, 2012, yet another person asked if I could find the boxes because he desperately wanted a couple of pages from one of them. He hounded me enough that I agreed that I would ask Mike if anyone had seen the boxes. Mike said he knew where they were, and they showed up at the office a week later. On 3 February 2012, I dug through the boxes and found copies of all of the issues, and sorted out what seems to be 95% of the pages from JagdPanther #1 (missing the Cowpens map). I gave the pile of pages to Joel, scanned them into PDFs for upload to e23. The theory is that even if few buy a copy, once it's in electronic form, it will never die, and will never be lost to history. Anyway, we sold enough copies on the first day (8 February) to pay for Joel's time so I gave him the second copy to scan on 9 February and it is now uploaded on e23.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.
if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, February 24, 2012


41. The drone you did not lab was the big one.

42. You will never have enough phasers in arc for the target, but your best will always be in arc for incoming fire.

43. Never mind getting to Range 4; your photons will miss anyway.

44. It's too late to anchor him at Range 2; don't you wish you had known that it would have worked?

45. You will always be short one weasel.

46. If you only take one internal while making an ESG overrun, it will be a drone hit.

47. If the Hydran reaches Range 1, the overloads are suicide level.

48. A narrow salvo is your best way to increase the odds of a miss to 100%.

49. You will never break down when a breakdown wouldn't matter.

50. That cargo PF is really a death rider.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Rotten Thursday

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Today seemed like a good day, until I turned the key in my car's ignition.

The dashboard lit up, but the starter did nothing. Not even a clicking noise.

Okay, it is a standard transmission, and I have "push started" it before from the apartment parking lot.

Well, here is a new joy of getting older.

My legs are no longer as powerful as they once were. I literally found it impossible to push the car onto the road. I got three of the four wheels past the gutter, but no matter how I struggled I could not overcome enough of the car's inertia to get that fourth wheel clear and the car entirely on the roadway. Worse I found that my knees would buckle from the effort. No pain involved (except when I drove one of the knees into the pavement), but they just will not hold. The locking mechanisms are apparently completely gone (at least when they are put under strain).

So I can walk around okay (if I pay at least some attention, the left leg tends to drag a little and does not work properly when I am coming down stairs), but moving heavy objects is no longer in my repertoire of capabilities (and sadly I can remember when I was able to move an I-beam by myself less than a decade ago).

So after considerable struggle and time invested in it, I finally got the car back into the parking lot such that it was not going to be towed by the parking lot enforcers (the apartment complex owners have instituted rules that if the towing company they have hired finds your car over the yellow lines, they can tow it and you have to pay to get it out of their impound, among other possible infractions).

Now I look at the time, and have to call SVC (already past 0930 hours) to let him know I am "delayed." Then instead of push starting my car, I have to call a tow company on my own to take the car to the dealership ($75.00, but at least I am not physically injured). Then, I have to wait for the tow truck (enough time to read the newspaper). Ride with the tow truck to the dealership so that I can explain the problem, then wait for them to produce a ride to work (they know me and knew I was coming as I had called them, so there was only a few minutes wait). So I make it to the office near lunch time. SVC hands me a reading assignment, and that pretty much finished my morning.

This afternoon I wound up making the mail run (Leanna lent me her car), and then got a call that my car was ready to be picked up and got SVC to take me to the dealership. I spoke with the manager because, well since the car had to go in for this starter problem (turned out to just be a loose wire) I had asked them to check the brakes (there is a "shudder" when I brake at speeds in excess of 40 miles an hour). That turned out to be a two part problem. The first part as you might guess if you know anything about brake systems is that a brake disc had become warped, and that was easily resolved. The second problem is that the bushings on the arms have nearly worn out, and those will have to be replaced.

So there goes about $1,000.00 all told. I will have to drop the car off with them on Monday (27 Feb 12), but at least afterwards I can have renewed confidence in my brakes.

The upshot is that I have accomplished nothing more today than the reading assignment SVC gave me, a few rules questions answered on the fly (but still researched because I know where to look for the specific answers or knew the specific explanation), and this blog, literally nothing more (although SVC has just asked me to check a few ship cards he has created).

Maybe tomorrow will be better, but this has been a pretty thoroughly rotten Thursday. Even so, I know enough to be grateful that things are not worse. After all, it might have been raining . . . wait, we have not had a good rain in so long that might actually have been a good thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post 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.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system 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 FC or SFB 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. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (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 long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 February 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week with work continuing on new products. The weather this week was cool and often cold. We had snow on Sunday and rain on Saturday. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 300 per day. Most of us went to the mentor breakfast at the Amarillo Area Center for Advanced Learning.

New on e23 this week were the Vudar Ship Card ePack #1 and JagdPanther #2.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #45, Project E, and Project T. He updated the Tholian SIT, sent the Rom K7R to FCOL, did some new F&E counters, did a test that showed that the T map panels can be used for KRAG and RPGs, and did some other things. He discussed people figures and Lyrans with Mongoose and new products with Starmada. He took out a few minutes to do a flyer for his pastor's July fundraiser.

Steven Petrick worked on tactics and monster articles for Captain's Log #45 and the update for Module T2012. He helped Ryan Opel outline a future fiction story for Operation Red Dawn.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date, and reported that sales during 8-14 February were very strong.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,121 friends), proofread e23 blurbs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I was watching the new BERING SEA GOLD and saw that big dredge almost end up on the rocks. Where was the Coast Guard? You'd think with all of the dredges in that small area there some kind of small patrol boat would be there. I am fascinated by the way the town of Nome works. With no road connections to anywhere, every car in town had to be shipped in, and when worn out, nobody would pay to ship it to a stateside junkyard. So there are entire fields of junk cars that (apparently) anyone can go take parts from. This goes a long way to explain why all of those dredging boats look like something out of JUNKYARD WARS.

2. I was reading the new Tom Clancy novel LOCKED ON and once again, we have nuclear missiles targeted on (who knows what) with commandos crawling around trying to disarm them. Guys, it's not that hard. Get some kind of big anti-aircraft machinegun, park it half a kilometer away, and when the missile pops out of the silo, fill it full of holes. Sheesh, it's not rocket science! He dismisses using anti-aircraft missiles because the ICBM is too fast. Get a clue! It's not too fast in the first 60 seconds, so have the SAMs there as a backup.

3. The longest war? The Hundred Years War lasted 116 years and it the world's longest, single, named conflict. Some historians try to merge the three Punic Wars into one conflict which lasted 118 years, but that's arguable, as there were long intervals of peace between each pair of wars. But then, the Hundred Years War did not involve fighting every single day (or even every year) so take your pick. The shortest war was no doubt the Zanzibar War of 1896 which lasted less than an hour. (Various sources cite 45 and 54 minutes.) The British Royal Navy defeated the Sultan by smashing his palace to bits.

4. Military shoulder patches originated as tattoos on the arms of Roman soldiers identifying the legion (division) they served in. (These were originally intended to help identify deserters, but soon became a source of pride.)

5. I sat down one Sunday and watched all ten episodes of the fourth (and final) season of THE TUDORS about Henry VIII, the King of England with six wives. I think they could do a fifth season with Edward, another with Bloody Mary, and then more seasons with Elizabeth. I think they could even go back and do Henry VII. It's a good show, well written and well acted.

6. Napoleon took 187,000 horses with him on his invasion of Russia. Only 1,600 made it out alive.

7. There are still 23 million buried land mines left in Egypt from World War Two, denying people access to 22 percent of that country. Ok, it's mostly desert, and the cost of removing the mines would not be offset by any economic use of the land. One still wonders what will happen in a thousand years when archaeologists find that stuff. France laid over 11 million land mines in Algeria during the revolt there in 1954-1962 and took the minefield maps with them when they left. The Algerians continue to remove them at the rate of 10,000 per month (a million so far). Those mines were mostly laid in areas that have potential economic use and the Algerians want the land cleared.

8. Some 100,000 sailors in the British Royal Navy died during the Napoleonic Wars (1783-1815), but only 7% in combat. Some 80% died of sickness (lots of civilians died from sickness as well, infection was a major killer of all humans) and 13% from accidental drowning.

9. Bucky Katt says to never cover a judge by his book. You'll have to go read the cartoon to understand this, but let's say it involves a beach and someone being arrested and let it go at that.

10. The other day, Leanna had to go to three stores to find a box of her chosen hair care product. Upset, she checked Amazon, and found out that she could "subscribe" to that product. Amazon will now mail her a three-months supply every third month. What an incredible marketing concept! (I wonder if I could sign up some of our F&E customers for a regular shipment of new counters?)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

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 war gamers 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, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then 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 if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they'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.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'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. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. 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 a 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.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. 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.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

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 cars who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and 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.

Friday, February 17, 2012


31. Labs fail on a die roll of 1, and phasers on a die roll of 6. No matter how you try, you will assign the wrong crewman to each system.

32. If you bought enough drones to overwhelm his defenses, he bought a rack of T-Bombs.

33. No matter how deftly you dance in your D7, one successful Fed HET followed by four "1"s is all it takes to get killed.

34. The more power your ship has, the more it will cost to move. You will never get ahead, so you might as well stay in your frigate and keep your expectations low.

35. The worst ship to be in is the biggest ship the enemy fleet can kill in one volley.

36. If you overload, the enemy will dance. If you load standards, he will charge. You can't win; he has ESP.

37. The one time you have to have a specific die roll is the one time you will not get it. That number will turn up the next time you absolutely must avoid that result.

38. There is no such thing as a friendly mine.

39. If you can't remember the size you set the mine for, just check the size of the friendly unit about to enter the detection range.

40. The enemy always knows which torpedo is the pseudo. He has ESP, remember?

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing Fiction

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Writing fiction for Star Fleet Battles has one major stumbling block: The battle.

Lots of authors are able to write stories that pit characters together or against each other, but when it comes time to write about the clash of starships they run into difficulties.

Star Fleet Battles has very specific weapon capabilities even if the actual damage is somewhat abstract (which does leave some space for creative writing to explain why a phaser hit on the #2 shield destroyed a disruptor on the port engine or a drone rack in the rear hull). But a single volley of photons is rarely going to vaporize an enemy ship that has no previous battle damage.

The difficulty comes in describing the battle, inventing the Captain's orders and imagining the opposing ship's maneuvers.

If you are going to describe a battle, even when you already know the outcome, it is best to set up the counters and move the ships (with some fast Energy Allocation) in a manner that makes sense. Look at the damage that might be scored and consult the Damage Allocation Chart. Your battle might depend on something unusual, but do not make your story a travesty that is resolved by two points of damage that hit the D7 on each of two consecutive impulses in which all four results were snake-eyes (bridge, security, bridge, security) leading to the Klingon ship mutinying. Yes, if your story needs it you can have some good luck (we scored one point of damage which destroyed the enemy's last overloaded disruptor before he could fire it). But try to keep luck down to a low roar. Try to make your captain's opposition competent. Keep track of rates of fire (fiction stories where plasma-G torpedoes are launched as rapidly as disruptors can fire, even if the ship manages to avoid being destroyed, clearly have problems unless the enemy is some kind of monster).

And keep in mind that although they are fictional constructs, and some of them are already in your mind fated to die when you start writing, treat them with the respect of living beings and not cardboard cutouts. They too deserve their moment on the stage before the big exit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

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). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love in the 21st Century

Steve Cole thinks about love in the 21st Century:

Love is a wonderful thing, but you have to feed your love to make it grow. You have to work on your relationship/marriage to keep it healthy. Here are 10 ways, not necessarily the top 10, but 10 that work for me. Some of these are things that are for guys to do for their lady and some work both ways. You women may have to find creative replacements for the ones the guys are doing for you.

10. Do little things to lighten her load. Fill up her car with gas on a cold day. Keep your dirty laundry picked up and put in the basket. When she gets back from shopping, unloading the car is your job (and it's not over until you finish putting the stuff up.) When she takes your shirts out of the dryer, it's your job to be there and carry them to the closet. (By the way, it's probably a good idea to get her to teach you how to do laundry. Make written notes. When she's sick with a cold or something, you can do the laundry. Knowing you're preparing for such things makes her realize that you really do love her and really are a full partner in life.) Little pleasures are a good thing to do. When the alarm goes off, head for the kitchen to prepare her morning beverage (juice, coffee, soda, all those girls have something they want to drink first thing). When she jumps in the shower, throw her towel in the dryer so it's warm when she gets out. Wash her back.

9. Help her remember to carry her medication. Get her to give you a little ziplock bag with one spare day's pills in case she forgets. Skip your lunch to run home and get the pills she forgot. Ask her to help you organize your own medication so you never forget to take it. Don't make her hound you to go to the doctor for a checkup every year.

8. Sometimes, you gotta let her take you to a restaurant you don't like just to show her that her happiness is more important than your stomach. It's only one meal and you can sneak a snack from the quickie mart later.

7. Surprising her with some flowers is always fun. Doesn't have to be expensive. Sam's Club has some nice $5 bouquets. Girls like flowers. Girls like flowers given to them for no reason whatsoever. (Buy nice flowers when you have a reason.) When you pick up a snack, get her favorite too and leave it where she can find it.

6. Pick a quiet evening, turn off the television, and tell her "This is your chance to really discuss anything you've been wanting to discuss. You have my total attention." Trust me, she always has something she's been waiting for the right time to bring up.

5. Really listen to her and learn to pick up the clues as to what she wants. Explain to her that it's perfectly fine for her to just tell you what she wants or what she needs you to do instead of hinting about it. Find ways to reduce tension and conflict. (Buying a second remote for the TV so you both have one is a good idea.)

4. When you get a chance to take a day off (and she can't) spend the whole day doing things for her and surprise her that evening. Do some chores that she's been wanting done, buy her a present that you actually have to shop for, take her to her favorite place for lunch and pick up her favorite dinner to have ready at home. Something you haven't done has been irritating her and today is the perfect chance to take that issue off the table.

3. Never ever forget her birthday or your wedding anniversary, even if she says they don't matter. The ones that end in a zero need more than a nice dinner; they need a special something, maybe a night in a bed and breakfast.

2. Don't make her do her work alone. Sit down to pay bills with her at least every third time (it will do you good to know what's going on). Help her move furniture so she can vacuum. (Not going to kill you to grab the vacuum now and then and clean up around the cat's litterbox and food area.) Go to the grocery store with her, or maybe help her organize a standard grocery list and be responsible for checking the shelves and marking what is needed. When she's cooking and doesn't want you in her way, take out the trash or clean the litterbox or empty the dishwasher or clean up the clutter on the bar or set the table or something else to show you're working just as hard as she is and on things she thinks are important.

1. Put a ring on her finger, and if you already did that, reminder her that it was the best decision you ever made. And don't fall for the television thing of pulling the ring out of your pocket. Ask her to marry you and take her to the store and pick out her ring together. She's going to wear it every day for the rest of her life and ought to have a voice in picking it out.

Monday, February 13, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 February 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week. The design team resumed full-scale playtesting of Star Fleet Marines. The weather this week was cold with a light snow on Tuesday (and more on the 12th). The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. Mongoose continued to pursue plans to change the production system for 2500s and get more of them shipped.

New on e23 this week were JagdPanther #1, Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, and Jean's free introduction to SFU RPGs book. (For those who don't know, JagdPanther was a game magazine that Steve Cole ran from 1973-1976. It's been unavailable for decades but is now going on e23.)

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, Hailing Frequencies, Project T, Project E, Captain's Log #45; wrote four blogs for Jean's file (and the THIS WEEK blog); finished the Wall of Honor updates; reviewed ACTASF errata; and cleaned off his desk for the first time in months.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45 battle groups, R107 after action, E3 and E4 after action, revision to T2012, Captain's Log #45 monster article, Captain's Log #45 tactical notes of various types, and more.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, helped Mike, got the first JagdPanther onto e23 (and created a new JagdPanther page), and sent out Hailing Frequencies and Communique #74.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1114 friends), set up a new demos and conventions section of Hailing Frequencies, proofread Hailing Frequencies and Communique #74, and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23 and DriveThru RPG websites. So far on e23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way e23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and GURPS Prime Directive products We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale on e23. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG.

So check them out! Many people like the fact they can search our rulebooks for a keyword and find everything that pertains to that issue. Others like the fact they can carry around multiple books on one device. Some Ship Cards are available exclusively through e23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


21. Friendly fire isn't friendly, which is why it's illegal.

22. Tractors are weapons too.

23. The best plan can be ruined by the worst dice.

24. The worst plan can be saved by the best dice.

25. Transporters are weapons, too.

26. If you are one hex from firing position against an Andro, his Displacement Device is armed.

27. If your ADDs can fire at the Stingers, it's too late to bother firing.

28. Firing at the enemy invites him to overrun you.

29. If you loaded your G-rack with type-IVs, the enemy will show up in a D6D.

30. Whatever you thought that enemy shuttle was, you were wrong.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hailing Frequencies and Communique Released

Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and e23, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest 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.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Microcosm of the World

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Hard as it is to believe I have been working for Amarillo Design Bureau for more than 20 years, a little over 40% of my life. This does not count a few brief years when I was just a staffer while still on active duty.

During this time, Star Fleet Battles has continued to grow, adding not just new ships and new rules, but new empires with (in game terms) new technologies. There are a lot of creative people who have been involved in this, as can be seen by the recent releases of the Peladine (Jessica Orsini), Borak (Jeremy Gray), and Nicozians (Bruce Graw and Ken Burnside).

One of the things we have also seen is players who, for various reasons, drop out of the game eventually returning. By no means all of them, but as an example towards the end David Zimdars returned. David was, back in the early 1990s the senior Kzinti Staff officer (replacing Alan Gopin).

It seems, in the Star Fleet Universe, that if you wait around long enough, sooner or later everyone you know will show up again (sort of like the ubiquitous Paris Cafe).

The Star Fleet Universe is not limited to the confines of the United States, but has outposts in Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere around the world. With the various on-line games the reach of Gene Roddenberry's original vision is in a sense continued around the planet even when it is not representative on TV or the big screen. Stephen V. Cole's variation of Roddenberry's vision has brought us all together, whether as tactical gamers in Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander and the various online systems, role players in the Prime Directive series of role playing games, or masters of galactic empires in Federation & Empire or Galactic Conquest, we are all part of the Star Fleet Universe.

In that, we are a microcosm of the planet Earth.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


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 over 30 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, February 06, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 January - 5 February 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a normal week. The weather this week was cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. Captain's Log #45 is making good progress but we still don't have a usable piece of fiction.

New on e23 this week: Star Fleet Times (pack of issues #1 through #5), a searchable Captain's Log #1 PDF, and SFB Module R107 Nicozians. The e23 stuff is well in hand, with the Tuesday staff meeting picking a product and taking steps to have at least two ready to pick from next week.

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File (doing the two battle tugs), ad pages for Jean's RPG intro book, Project T, the JagdPanther e23 project, the Romulan SIT, and Hailing Frequencies for 10 Feb. He finished the Vudar Ship Card Pack so it's ready for e23 (probably 14 Feb). He finished the Wall of Honor update and is slowly generating the new larger format pages.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45 battle groups and the T2012 update.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,106 friends); proofread the Vudar Ship Card Pack, Captain's Log #44 Supplemental File, ads for her RPG intro book, and various advertising copy; and did some marketing.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of common words.

1. Caterpillar comes from the French chatepelose (hairy cat) which is what French children call fuzzy caterpillars.

2. Caucus, a political gathering, has a disputed meaning. It first came into use in 1736 in Boston, when certain influential citizens (including John Adams) would gather to discuss political situations and how they were going to influence the outcomes. Where they got the word, nobody knows for sure. Some think it comes from the Algonquin Indians, where caucawasu meant counselor. Others think it is a confusion of Caulker, since some of the original members were ship builders who were known as Caulkers because part of their industry was to caulk ships. It is known that there was a section of Boston known as West Corcus, although no one can find a record of Central Corcus or any other Corcus. Another theory is that it was the initials of six members, although one of the six men was 12 years old at the time (but it might have referred to the little known father of a better known city leader).

3. Chancellor, the highest official under a king, or another term for prime minister, comes from the Roman cancellarius, the usher who stood at the cancelli, the lattice railing that kept the general public at a distance from the officials of the court. The term quickly evolved from the lowliest of officials to the highest in the post-Roman empire German kingdoms, although no one knows why.

4. Chaperone, a married lady who sees to the virtue of a younger lady when she receives young gentleman callers, comes from the French chape, or hood. French nobles of the Middle Ages wore such a hood, and chaperone was simply a smaller version of the chape. English nobles adopted the hood in 1349, but discarded it two centuries later. Some noble ladies in England, Spain, and elsewhere had adopted the chaperone hood as a means of being demure, and the "having a chaperone" meant "having one of those old ladies who wears a chaperone" with you.

5. Chapel and Chaplain come from the old Frankish capella, a word for cloak. Saint Martin of Tours preformed many miracles during his lifetime, and many were credited to his intervention after his death in 400 AD. The oldest story of Saint Martin was that, while a young soldier, he had come across a beggar shivering in the cold. Martin used his sword to cut his cloak in half, giving half to the beggar. The half-cloak (which Martin carried with him until he retired from the army and became a monk, then a bishop) was preserved as a holy relic, and carried into battle by Frankish armies. While on campaign, the half-cloak relic was kept safe in a tent known as the capella tent, attended by priests known as the capellani. When French replaced Frankish, these terms became chapele and chapelain. Soldiers who were troubled would go to the chapele to pray in the presence of the holy half-cloak relic, and sometimes received spiritual advice and comfort from the chapelains. Priests had accompanied armies for centuries (doing this same duty) and the term gradually extended to any place one could go pray and to any priest who gave a soldier advice and comfort.

6. Chapter, a division of a book or a smaller group of a larger organization, comes from the Latin capitulum, which always meant a division of a book. The second meaning came because groups of priests or other religious people would, at their meetings, read a chapter of the bible. Particular chapters were used to set the tone for whatever business was to be conducted, and the equivalent of "standing committees" always read their favorite chapter. Hence, the term for a division of a book of the bible became the term for a smaller unit of a fraternity or other organization.

7. Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which means brotherly or neighborly love, or Christian love. Saint Jerome, who translated the bible from Greek into Latin in the fourth century, was uncomfortable translating the Greek word agape into the Latin amor (romantic love) and instead used caritas to avoid any sexual overtones. It's one short step from caritas to charity.

8. Chattel (and cattle and financial capital) all come from the Latin word capitale, which meant the portable property of an individual. For English peasants, this was mostly livestock. (They did not own the land they lived and worked on, but leased it from lords.) Over the years, the word evolved into all three meanings.

9. Chauffeur, a driver for a limousine, is the French word for fireman. It was originally applied to those who fed the fires of steam engines on ships (and later, trains).

10. Chauvinism actually referred to extreme hero worship before being used in the phrase "male chauvinist pig" to refer to any man who thought women should be subservient in society. It comes from Nicolas Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon's army who was wounded 17 times and spent his retirement telling everyone how great, glorious, bold, heroic, and just plain brilliant that Napoleon was. (As he has a hero's pension from the Army, he did not have to work, and was a fixture in the local tavern.) He had become an institution (and a laughingstock) in his village because he would speak of nothing other than his hero, Napoleon. Two French playwrights who were writing a play about Napoleon (La cocarde tricolore) included him as a character. The play was a smash hit and the character Chauvin became famous, and his name became the word for excessive hero worship. The feminist movement found the long-forgotten word and incorporated it (perhaps awkwardly) into their famous catchphrase.

Saturday, February 04, 2012


Many people do not know that you can play either STAR FLEET BATTLES or 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. It since 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 per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the STAR FLEET BATTLES/FEDERATION COMMANDER game systems 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.

We continue to develop FEDERATION & EMPIRE for an on-line environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. Players can even fly the FC Federation CA, FC Klingon D7, and the SFB Federation and Klingon tournament cruisers 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, February 03, 2012


11. The question the enemy just asked the judge has nothing to do with his attack plan. Unless it does.

12. Critical hits are the game's way of suggesting that you take a break.

13. If you have the enemy where you want him, you just walked into a trap.

14. Never taunt the enemy; maybe he wasn't planning on fighting you.

15. Any maneuver you make might convince the enemy to fire at you, including doing nothing.

16. Build defenses around your base that the enemy cannot break into, and you won't be able to break out.

17. Never get into a battle with an ally who is braver than you are.

18. If you are short of energy, weapons, and shuttles, you are in the combat zone.

19. When you have secured the star system, don't forget to let the enemy know.

20. Never forget that your ship was built by the lowest bidder.

-- Garth Getgen, Steve Cole, Steven Petrick, Larry Ramey, Kirk Spencer, Jessica Orsini, Ron Sonnek, Andy Vancil, Ben Moldovan, Mark Kuyper, Howard Berkey, Timothy Steeves-Walton, David Keyser, Oliver Dewey Upshaw, Carl Magnus-Carlsson, Kirk Spencer, Richard K. Glover, Jeff Zellerkraut, Andy Palmer, Sean Newton, Daniel Zimmerman, Jason Goodwin, Michael Sweet, Paul Stovel, John Sierra, John Sickels, Sandy Hemenway

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What is Not There is Mine to Assume in My Favor

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the problems one can have in a game is "the things not there."

An example of this turns up in the battle group article for the next Captain's Log (#45). The scenario for the article is (SH38.0) "Out of Time, Out of Luck" found in Module S1. Players are to try to retrieve "data crystals" from the surface of an airless planet before it is consumed by a black hole. The rules very specifically provide for recovering the data crystals by shuttle and transporter, and there are rules for landing on the planet as it wildly careens through space towards immolation.

Some players decided that the solution (since their ships could do so) was to land the ships on the planet in order to transfer more data crystals faster.

The original scenario includes two ships (Romulan King Eagles) able to land on the planet, but there is no specific mention of using them to do so, only a specific mention in the scenario's tactics of using the ships to fend off attackers while other ships not able to land on a planet use their transporters and shuttles to recover data crystals. Landing ships to do the task was apparently never part of the designer's concept.

Some players, however, make the assumption that they can land their ships right next to the sources of the data crystals and rapidly fill their ships available storage with as many crystals as they will hold.

They are making the assumption that obviously there are nice, big, flat, open spaces just sitting next to the data crystals where their ships can land (something not defined either way in the scenario because the author did not consider the concept). Further, that while the ships are clearly configured [as per (G25.0)] to receive cargo they can do so when landed on the planet. The problem here is an assumption that the there are adequate cargo handling facilities in place to move the data crystals on the ground (they are defined as both very large and very fragile) which again is not borne out by the scenario set up.

When the question was asked in the topic, I decided to allow at least some capability for a landed ship to receive crystals (obviously its shuttles would have a short trip not having to reach a ship in space but operating on the surface as an advantage already) and limited a landed ship to recovering only one such data crystal without taking off and landing again. (Otherwise the Andromedans would transport their satellite ships to the surface, fill them up, transport them back aboard their ships, empty them, and transport them back to the surface again, repeat.)

If the ruling was disagreed with, the time to disagree was after the ruling was made, not write the tactics assuming the ruling was wrong because your reading of the scenario says there is no rule that says you cannot land ships and load crystals, just as there was no rule saying you could.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Jean said I should do one entire blog talking about the company.

1. Like most game publishing companies, ADB Inc. was created a game designer who couldn't get anyone else to print his games. That game designer (me) had to learn how to run a business; many who could not have gone broke. It feels good when I actually get to design something, as opposed to running the company. I swear, there are entire days that I do nothing but handle whatever mess arrived in my email that morning.

2. We found termites in our warehouse, and they were trying to eat their way into a box of rulebooks. We moved the pallet and stamped out their mud tubes and they went away. The landlord got an estimate from an exterminator who wanted $1500 to kill them. The building is concrete, and being the dead of winter, the termites are all back in the ground. After I personally inspected the situation, I decided to buy a $20 bottle of termite killer and just go crazy with it, and have the likely areas of future infestations inspected at regular intervals. If the problem returns, we'll do what we have to do.

3. A bunch of guys who do a free RPG software package asked if they could include Prime Directive. The problem is that we cannot sublicense Paramount property, and it's anybody's guess if including it in a free RPG software generation package would actually violate that. (Don't expect an answer from Paramount.) The software guys offered to give us a software module for our website, which seems to be a way around the obstacles.

4. I'm actually working on a game (Project T) that will have the entire rules set on one 11x17 piece of paper (two pages of rules, one page of examples, one of page designer's notes). It's surprisingly refreshing to do a game that is so simple and uncluttered. I may do more of these. More later.

5. Jean's annual Christmas visits are usually dominated by one big project. This year it was supposed to be Traveller, but Jean wanted to get Romulans PD20M out of the way first, since she would eventually need it updated to do the fourth Traveller book. I argued against this, saying that Traveller would sell better and that Romulan Traveller was a year away and could be done next winter. Jean insisted that there would be time for both and I said that she should do Traveller first. But she convinced Leanna to let her do Romulans PD20M first, and (I was right!) it took the entire week, so nothing got done on Traveller. (Nor have any Traveller files appear in my email box since Jean got home.) Oh well, I can feel good about being right, and at least we have Romulans PD20M which might sell 10 percent as well as the first Traveller book. The lesson learned is for me to stick to my guns and trust my own judgement.

6. We really need to do a better job of marketing. Jean does a lot of really great stuff I don't know about at the trench level, but the important stuff (getting proper release information to wholesalers) is still not happening. Part of that is getting cover art on time (I'm waiting now for a cover that is six months late), part of it is getting the design far enough along that we can predict the price and release date. The wholesalers want 90 days notice, not because they need it but because the comic book industry does things that way. (The stores know that anything announced that far out won't happen anyway and they ignore it.)

7. Somebody noted the other day that a particular item had been posted on our page on Facebook before it was on the BBS or the website or the Forum. Others noted other items that were on the other locations before they were on our page on Facebook. It's just the luck of the draw. When I have an item that needs posting, I may post it on the BBS or I might send it to Joel to post there. Joel puts it on the website. Mike West or Jean might put it on the Forum, or maybe not. Jean will put it on our page on Facebook. Which one gets there first just depends. They all got it at the same time, but Joel only works a few hours each day, Jean has a real time job (and can only post things on our page on Facebook at intervals, so if she gets 10 pictures at once it may be three days before the last one gets posted, even if she was the first one to post one of the ten), and Mike West has a real job and posts stuff when he can. If the thing got sent from my desk when Joel was here, he likely got it posted first, but if I sent it to him after he left for the day, he won't post it until the next (business) day. There's no telling, and the odds of any one picture getting first on any one venue are totally random. Jean might get one picture of a new ship up first, but Joel will get all of them on the forum (and four selected ones on the 2500 page) before Jean gets many on our page on Facebook.

8. I often hear a gamer tell me "My retailer called the wholesaler who said ..." I want to hear these reports, but please understand that, while some of them are absolutely correct, many of them are incomplete or wrong. Everybody makes mistakes and nobody wants to admit they goofed, so there's every possibility that the story you got is wrong (whoever goofed is trying to shift the blame). More often, the story is incomplete or confused. Any retailer who just forgot to order the product you wanted is likely to blame this on the wholesaler forgetting to send it. (Any retailer who freely admits "I forgot" is certainly telling the truth and is a man you need to respect and support.) Any retailer telling you the wholesaler goofed, well, give him the benefit of the doubt. I have plenty of stories on file of wholesalers claiming "that is out of print" rather than admitting "we sold out and decided not to restock it." The wholesaler says that to keep the retailer from calling another wholesaler and spending money there.

9. I was updating the Wall of Honor recently, and someone asked if we could post larger versions of the pages to make them easier to read. We started doing that recently (1101 pixels instead of the old 793), but it will be the next time we update the pages (June) before this happens to most pages. Anyone who wants their page made larger can ask in the Wednesday Customer Service system. Anyone who wants to be emailed a 300dpi version of his page so he can have it professionally printed and framed can also ask in the Wednesday system.

10. It's only about 16 months until Jean Sexton is sitting at a desk up front full time the whole year. I cannot wait. Not only will we get more RPG products out, not only will she handle the marketing that isn't getting done, not only can she make proofreading changes to new products without bothering me, but she'll be another full-time multi-function worker who can grab any project I point her at and make it happen. Lots of stuff I'm not doing (or not doing well, or cannot even consider doing) will happen (or happen better). Jean works well with the group. The four of us designed T sitting around the dinner table, and Jean and Leanna worked together to write a cat detective story which I furiously committed to scraps of paper.