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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Steve Cole reports on the company and its year.

Truth to tell, this is the year I'd rather forget, but I'd rather think of it as the year that set up the best year we've ever had. The major injury to my leg (and the time lost on a big non-product project in the spring) cost us a lot of time, and the product schedule shows it, but I feel a lot better now. This year's products came in three batches:

THE LEFTOVERS: We started the year strong with a series of seven products that just didn't get finished in 2012: Reinforcements Attack, Boosters #34, #35, #36, Starmada Battleships Nova, Starmada Battles Admiral, and Captain's Log #46. You'd have thought that with that good a start, we'd have gone like gangbusters, and we planned to, until that slight misstep on a wet floor put me in a wheelchair for four months and restricted me to just a few hours a day in the office.

WHAT GOT DONE: This year didn't see a lot of new products done. We did manage to release SFB Module C6, Star Fleet Marines Last Stand, and Captain's Log #47. That's not nothing, and a lot of companies did a lot less this year. The time spent getting Jean Sexton out of the swamp she was in and into a new office in Amarillo was a good investment in the future, but the same amount of time invested in new products would have meant one or two more actually got done. Jean has, however, added a number of valuable if intangible elements to the company. This may be a good place to mention what a delight it has been to have Simone Pike at the graphics desk; she may be the biggest bright spot in the year.

WHAT DIDN'T GET DONE: This is the story of obstacles that arose (and while overcome, that took enough time to push them into next year.) Captain's Log #48 stalled when nobody sent in a publishable fiction story; I'm now working on a scary inside-the-ship combat tale about the most dangerous enemy who ever got on board. ACTASF, Starline 2500, and Traveller Prime Directive locked down under the ponderous weight of the Joint Venture approval process that has now been permanently streamlined, clearing the way for a flood of new products next year. (We also cleared the way to make the Starline 2500 line one we can be proud of.) Away Team Log is ready for press (the PDF was released in 2013) but wasn't big enough to release by itself. Tribbles vs. Klingons proved to be the biggest production challenge I have ever seen, but that was resolved and this is now being prepared for Kickstarter. Federation Master Starship Book is finished except for the graphics I was too mired in self-pity (over my permanently damaged knee) to do. No new ships for Starline 2400 were released but the first five for next year are being prepared by the CGI artists.

Maybe we should just call 2013 a rebuilding year? Nah, I don't like that, as nothing was broken. Wait, I have it, let's call it a Transformative Year. That works for me.

Monday, December 30, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-29 December 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of Christmas, when no office in America gets much done, and we were not much of an exception. The weather this week was varied, bitterly cold some days and very mild other days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We had several Christmas parties during the week. We did manage to actually get in a test on Tribbles vs. Klingons and continued to find minor glitches and better define the balance. The change to the cat rule meant he wasn't killing 15 tribbles per turn and we were running out of tribbles.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48, blogs, preparations for Tribbles, and various things to do with year-end accounting.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and the Federation Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She had minor surgery to remove her gall bladder on Friday and there were no problems.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, helped in the warehouse, and did some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which passed 1900 friends on Christmas Day and was at 1903 by week's end), managed our Twitter feed (83 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, dealt with public relations, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

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 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 online 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 retired 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 and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, 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.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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.

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Oops" Was Not the Word Used

Steven Petrick told this tale:

Damaged Orion pirate CR bores in and blows a Klingon D6 (already badly damaged) to pieces.

Orion player (smugly): "Good game."

Klingon player: "The game is not over yet."

Orion player: "All you have left is an empty scatter-pack and a manned shuttle; you have no chance since the drones from the scatter-pack have to go inert without guidance. Do we really need to play this out? I mean I can just blow up your shuttle next turn."

Klingon player: "Who says the drones are going inert?"

Orion player: "Even if the drones are self-guiding, they are more than eight hexes from my ship, so they do not have lock-on."

Klingon player: "No, they are not self-guiding."

Orion player (with puzzled look): "Well, if they are not self-guiding then they have to . . . That manned shuttle is an MRS, isn't it?"

Klingon player: "Yes."

Orion player: (unprintable)

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Stephen V. Cole remembers the Christmas times of his childhood.

I grew up in two large families and two sets of grandparents. My mother had three sisters (all with husbands and children) and my father had no end of cousins, plus a brother and sister and a great aunt and a great uncle, all of them with kids. The situation blended well, as my father's family always had "the big family thing" on Christmas Eve, when presents were passed out. As little kids, my brother and I could count on about a dozen presents from grandparents and my father's relatives. My mother's family opened presents in each household (from all the relatives), then had Christmas breakfast where the grandchildren all brought their new favorite toy. Christmas dinner alternated (as did Thanksgiving, in the opposite direction). We'd have big turkey dinners with one set of grandparents or the other at each holiday. At my father's parents, there were just Pappy, Frances, and the four of us, since the other relatives all had their own dinners. For my mother's family, dinner was the grandparents, the four sisters, the four husbands, and the eight grandchildren. That went on for many years.

Church was a minor part of it all, perhaps a quick stop there on the way to Christmas Eve. My family was Christian, but we read too many history books. We all knew that Christ was born in the spring and that Christmas was the birthday of a pagan god that had been absorbed into Christianity when the Romans merged all of the religions into one big one and called it Christianity. For us, Christmas was about family, not religion. When I hear someone say something about "the reason for the season" my reflexive answer is "Mithras? Really?" For my family, the big religious holiday is Easter, where family doesn't figure in and every household has a private day.

When my father's father passed away, that family came part at the seams, and nobody wanted to talk to each other or see each other at Christmas or at any other time. When my mother's parents passed away, things fragmented, but at least some of us got together every year. Indeed, the monthly family gatherings I had enjoyed since my earliest memories all died with Granddad. I miss those and it was a decade and more later that some of my cousins on that side started trying to bring what was left of the family back together a couple of times a year. That's been really good, as it's almost the only time I see them, and I wish we would see more of each other, but everyone is so busy. When I was growing up we all lived within a mile of Grandmother, but now the family is spread from 450 miles northwest to 250 miles south of Amarillo and the only relative in Amarillo is my only remaining aunt.

For the last five years, Christmas has resumed being something very family-special, and that's because of Jean. Her annual visits meant Leanna would actually fix a real Christmas dinner (with Jean's help), and Steve Petrick (we are closer than any brothers) would attend rather than eat alone (as he has no local family). This year we had parties for the six employees, and it felt once more like having a big family togetherness thing. I guess the lesson there is that if you lose something important to you, stop stewing in the grief and just build something good to replace it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Greetings from ADB

While we are glad that you are taking the time to read our blog, we hope you are able to spend this holiday with your friends and family. May you enjoy this day, and if it involves blowing up a starship or two, that's grand!

Happy Christmas from all of us here to all of you there.

Steve and Leanna Cole

Steven Petrick
Simone Pike
Jean Sexton
Michael Sparks
Isis, Ramses, and Markie

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

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've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Monday, December 23, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 December 2013

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady work as we tried to focus on new products instead of the impending Christmas holiday. The weather this week was somewhat warmer until Friday, when a major front hit and temperatures dropped like a rock, forcing us to close the office due to snow on Saturday. (Turned out not to be enough snow to matter but nobody wanted to risk being at the office if it did amount to more.) The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. The contractors finished the repairs to the roof from the hail storm last fall.

New on e23, Wargame Vault, and DriveThru RPG this week: Prochorovka-Armor at Kursk. 

New on DriveThru RPG: Klingon Armada Nova and Admiral editions.

New on Wargame Vault: Klingon Armada Nova and Admiral editions.

Steve Cole worked on Tribbles fiction, Captain's Log #48, the schedule of new ships for Communique in 2014, three Star Fleet Alerts, and new 2500s (the first three went to prototyping). He reviewed Tony L. Thomas's continuing A Call to Arms Star Fleet playtesting.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and the Federation Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, helped in the warehouse, and did some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive and the Tribbles launch plan, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1895 friends), managed our Twitter feed (83 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Star Fleet Alerts, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

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/).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

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!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Phasers Fire!

Warping space we go
In a trader that we bought
Our cash we hope to grow
Selling what we bought
Routes bring profits nigh
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to sell and fly
A trader shiny bright

Oh, phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it is to fight
A pirate ship they say
Phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it is to fight
A pirate ship they say

A day or two ago
We thought we’d make a run
To Texmex we would go
And have some jolly fun.
Our ship was laden high
Bad fortune was our lot
We went around some nebulae
By pirates we were caught.

Oh, phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it is to fight
A pirate ship they say
Phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it is to fight
A pirate ship they say

Our shields were falling fast
We thought we saw our doom
When a sudden blast
Lit up the entire room
A POL it had come by
And seen our sorry lot
It fired its weapons –- my, oh my
The pirates were upsot.

Oh, phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it was to fight
A pirate ship this day
Phaser-1s, phaser-3s
Fire them all THAT way!
Oh what fun it was to fight
A pirate ship this day 

filk (c) 2011 by Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On Cats and Dogs and Wishes

Jean Sexton muses:

When I lived at home with my parents we never had a pet. We traveled frequently and my parents said it wouldn't be fair to the dog to leave it behind. (Cats were never a possibility as my mother was scared of them.) However, the neighborhood was filled with cats and dogs and I played with all the ones deemed "friendly." As I got older and more responsible, I graduated to pet sitting when neighbors had to travel. I always saw how much the dogs missed their people. Cats were more forgiving, even the declawed cat that swatted my hand (hard!) as I put down her food.

When I graduated from college, I hadn't been living on my own three months before I had a kitten. Soon there were two. Then there were three. The three cats got my mother over her fear of cats. The first one was cute and adorable and left my mother alone. Lancelot started out more scared of her than she was of him -- how could she be afraid of him? Ursalet, a Persian, looked as though a handle should be screwed into her side and then she could be used to clean the floor. As my cats came and went, I loved them and didn't leave them alone more than a weekend.

When I moved to the country, I got dogs that were appropriate to the area. While my basset hound was stolen from her fenced-in half-acre yard, my boxer grew old and grey with me. After Ruggy was stolen, I swore I'd never have another outside dog other than the boxer. Then Ralph showed up, lost, scared, abused, and homeless. How could I turn him down?

My cats stayed inside and came over to be petted. My dogs played and did doggy things. I loved them all.

I had gotten most of my pets about the same time. I knew I was going to move to Texas and finding a place to stay with two large dogs and a little grey cat would be difficult. Then between the winter of 2011 and the winter of 2013, I lost all three of my pets. It tore at my heart. I hadn't been petless in nearly 30 years. When I made arrangements for my apartment, I made sure I could have some sort of pet.

From the time I arrived in Amarillo, I knew I wanted a dog. My apartment wasn't really good for leaving a cat alone as it could dart out the door when I came or went. Since the Coles agreed I could have a dog at work, that seemed perfect. Time passed. My apartment was tidy. But I was growing a little sadder as I went home to a perfectly neat, but empty apartment. Leanna noticed and informed everyone that I needed a dog NOW.

In October, Simone mentioned a dog they had at the SPCA that might be part collie or Shetland Sheep Dog or something. I hadn't really thought about adopting from there -- I thought I wanted a Sheltie or something similar. But browsing their site, I saw this adorable little dog named Markie. I went out there and was told he was very shy and nervous about people. Then he got in my lap, squirmed around to face me, and started to lick me. We chose each other and he came to live with me in November. He has some issues with trusting other people, but we are working on that.

For a single person, their pet ofttimes becomes their family. I am lucky in that Markie can come to work with me. But at night, when before my apartment was quiet and empty feeling, now it is filled with a busy little dog. He adores toys and he gets them to play with. He offers them to me to throw and then he gallops to get them back. He plays with balls and his little dextrous paws get them out of most places. If he can't get them out, he comes and gives me little puppy-dog eyes. I know that he needs my longer arms to reach the ball. There are times when he just wants to be held and told that he is loved. My home is no longer tidy. Markie doesn't always put his toys away. It is filled with love.

You can't be only about yourself with a pet. They have needs and those needs must be met. That means reaching out. For me, it means going on walks even if I don't want to.  ("I'm sorry Markie, I know you want a potty walk, but I'm too lazy," just doesn't cut it.)

I'm writing this as Markie lies snoozing on my foot and I listen to Christmas music. If I could make three wishes during this season, I think I would wish these:

That you enjoy an inner peace that shows in your life.

That you find happiness and joy during the coming year.

That you share that happiness and joy with those you love.

Markie would add that he hopes you have all the food, toys, and love that you need.

May your Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) be a happy one.

All the best,

Jean and Markie

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Find New 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-ins 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 5,000 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 online 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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Dog and Me

This is Steven Petrick posting:

By now most of you are aware that Jean Sexton has a dog. She brings this dog to the office every day. The dog is a "rescue dog," and from its demeanor has gone through some "rough patches." It tends to flinch when someone, even someone it has some trust for, reaches out to pet it suddenly. It has an "approach/avoidance" attitude towards people it has been around.

All that said, there is no question that having been rescued by Jean the dog loves her unconditionally.

I am, however, something of another sort.

I grew up around dogs. My family life always had dogs and cats for most of my life prior to entering the service. I was never a "dog person" however. The dogs in our family always congregated around my younger brother. I could pet them and talk to them, but they never followed me anywhere (if my younger brother left the house, whether he called the dogs or not, they would leave with him).

Jean's dog barked and growled at me when he first met me. I have never, to this day, given him a "treat" as have the other members of the company. Yet, in a few days he did a "submission ritual," that is to say he rolled over and exposed his belly to me.

I will not say that the dog and I are friends. He trusts me to let me pet him when he feels secure, but he will not come when I call (admittedly I call him "little dog" and not "Markie"), and generally was more friendly towards me initially than anyone other than Jean. He has gotten friendlier with everyone now, but still very much has that "approach/avoidance" attitude. He is more likely to approach a sitting person than a standing one.

I am pretty sure that in his own mind he does not think I am going to intentionally hurt him, but he is unsure of his own belief.

Jean and SVC have taken to claiming that he has decided that I am the "alpha male" in the office, which I consider to be them making a joke at my expense.

I offer to play with him, but have noted that if Jean is not around he tends to fall into a deep depression which I take is a fear on his part that Jean has abandoned him. I think he has real abandonment issues. He does not really explore the offices by himself, but keeps very close to Jean. He will chase balls, if Jean is part of the game or at least observing, but will not chase a ball I throw if Jean is not somewhere nearby.

He is a nice enough dog, and I certainly will not be party to hurting him "deliberately" (there is always a chance you are going to hurt a small animal unintentionally if it is underfoot), although Jean is a little concerned that I comment frequently on his being only "skin and bones" and not having enough meat on him for a good emergency ration.

But I also tell the dog that he "won the lottery" by having Jean rescue him, and while his life is far from perfect (whose is), he has plenty of food, toys, a warm and dry place to sleep, and someone who also loves him unconditionally in Jean Sexton.

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 December 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work, most of which was preparing for next year. The weather this week was steadily warmer. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. The contractor crew finally arrived to fix the roof on the building fixed (from the hail storm damage last fall). We launched our first-ever Christmas Sale, offering Star Fleet Battle Force for virtually half price.

New on DriveThru RPG and on Wargame Vault this week: Federation Space.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48, plans for next year, and the newsletters (Communique and Hailing Frequencies). He pushed forward on the Starline 2500 miniatures, ordering the Tholian TK5 and DN (and Orion BR) into prototypes (along with the first two new fancy 2400s), approved progress on the Jumbo freighter, discussed with Tony L. Thomas fixing the other Tholians, received revised Orion CA-BC-BCH designs and posted them for comment. Sadly, Bruce Graw reported that clear resin is simply not workable on the equipment he (or Mongoose) use.

 Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and the Federation Master Starship Book.

Tony L. Thomas completed a first draft of the A Call to Arms Star Fleet 1.2 rulebook, posted several draft rules, and managed playtesting of new drone rules.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics and sent out the newsletters a day early (on 9 Dec).

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive, researched the Kickstarter launch for Tribbles, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,885 friends), managed our Twitter feed (83 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS (deleting over a dozen fake people), managed the blog feed, proofread the newsletters, dealt with public relations, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

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
Want to introduce a friend to the Star Fleet  Universe? Try the free download of Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive and Roleplaying found here: http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=ADB8000

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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Holiday Sale


For the first time in ADB's history, we are having a holiday sale. We've decided to put Star Fleet Battle Force on sale for only $12 (nearly half price).


SFBF is the exciting card game of the SFB universe. 132 cards, dice, damage markers, rules. Relatively simple game with intense and intricate tactics. Cards have incredible full color. A melding of Star Fleet technology and a classic naval card game system. Ships are marked with various weapons; if you have a matching weapon card you can fire it at the enemy. Various defenses and attack bonuses apply. Advanced game mechanics allow some weapons to use several different cards (Plasma R can fire plasma S) and many weapons can be used defensively against some kinds of attacks. Special cards include legendary officers, Klingon mutiny, Organian ceasefire.

Shipping will be $5.80 for priority mail -- if you order other items, this may affect shipping costs.

Hurry! This offer ends December 20, 2013.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Twelve Turns of Fighting

On the first turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
A D7 with an E3.
(Darn Klingons, they start everything!)

On the second turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Two Kzinti drones
(Just because I said they looked like Lyrans?)
And a D7 with an E3.

On the third turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Three Sabre-tooths,
(Who told the Lyrans I said that about the Kzintis?!)
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the fourth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Four Frax subs,
(Drat, who let the simulator empires out?!)
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the fifth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Five Jind rock ships,
(My, they are BIG!)
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the sixth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Six Rangers raiding,
(Fighters, they got fighters! Lots and lots of fighters.)
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the seventh turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Seven scouts a-scouting,
(What's an "EW"?)
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the eighth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Eight Prime Teams spying,
(You can’t all be named Bond!)
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the ninth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Nine Selts to bug me,
(They brought how many Hives?!)
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the tenth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Ten Cands a-mauling,
(None of them are shocked? Oh drat!)
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the eleventh turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Eleven Vulture dreadnaughts,
(I figured they’d get here, eventually.)
Ten Cands a-mauling,
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

On the twelfth turn of fighting
My foes did send to me
Twelve Terminators,
(Great, just great. They’re here, too.)
Eleven Vulture dreadnaughts,
Ten Cands a-mauling,
Nine Selts to bug me,
Eight Prime Teams spying,
Seven scouts a-scouting,
Six Rangers raiding,
Five Jind rock ships,
Four Frax subs,
Three Sabre-tooths,
Two Kzinti drones,
And a D7 with an E3.

Fine! I surrender! (I don't seem to have any asteroid fields to whang them into.)

After all I’m facing
12 Terminators,
22 Vulture dreadnaughts,
30 Cands a-mauling,
36 buggy Selts,
40 Prime Teams,
42 Scouts (all doing their EW thing),
42 Rangers with all those fighters,
40 Jind rock ships (and they are huge!)
36 Sabre-tooths
30 Frax subs
22 Kzinti drones (and they keep getting faster)
12 D7s and E3s

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.
(Although this has been over-filked to the max, we hope you enjoy this holiday offering.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault 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. We have started offering general RPG books there as well as some of the general gaming materials that Steve Cole has written. We have started an experiment to see if there is interest in Federation Commander and Star Fleet Battles products on Wargame Vault.

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Solution Offered, But Is It Viable?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When reading history and the analysis of wars and campaigns one can often come across new ideas. At least they seem like new ideas if you have not heard of them previously. They can lead you to wonder why, since they seem obvious, the people back then did not use this obviously superior method of deploying their forces.

One I read just recently postulated that Great Britain could have defeated the American Revolution by simply blockading the colonial port cities and sailing up the various rivers to divide the colonies and starve them into submission.

Okay, maybe others have heard this, but I cannot recall having had this idea put forward previously. There seems, to me, some validity to this both because this was pretty much done to the South by the North in the American Civil War, and because West Point was originally occupied as a means of controlling the river below it.

I am, however, myself primarily a "land" officer. I think of rivers as both a system of "barriers" and as a means of moving supplies (both obstacle and road in effect). I understand the blockade concept for ports. I am obviously, therefore, missing something.

This concept of a naval blockade of the colonies by the British navy seems so obvious (as presented by the author), why was it not done? I have no real answer to this except to note that it was not done in any of the previous colonial wars either. There was no squadron of English ships blockading French access to Canada during the French and Indian War that I am aware of. Nor do I recall the British blockading various Spanish colonial ports when England was at war with Spain. Yes, the British navy did arrive and conquer Niuew Ansterdam (present day New York City), but that was not a blockade.

So, why did not the British blockade the colonies? Is it really possible the Admiralty and government were that inept (the writer certainly believes so). Or was there something else going on? I tend to favor the concept that there was some other factor that the author is not aware of or missing because of his own preconceptions, but since I do not really know for sure I cannot be certain.

The author himself made some mention that the Royal Navy needed to maintain enough ships in "home waters" so that it would not be possible for the French to launch an invasion. Taking advantage of weakness, but he did not seem to consider this as too big a deal.

Now, blockades are "resource intensive." You have to keep ships on station, which means keeping them supplied and having repair capability. (Storms can really mess up blockading ships for example.) So I am driven to wonder about the logistical support for such a blockade. While the Union Blockade of the Confederacy serves as a starting point, it has differences (mainly the need to supply coal to ships moving under steam rather than sail only). So, how many ships would be needed to establish a blockade, and how many garrisons would be needed to hold ports that could be used to shelter ships undergoing refurbishment on station? How many supply ships would need to be used to keep the blockade going, and would these require escorts to keep them from being attacked while making the crossing?

The British had ships operating all around the globe, and had a lot of things to be doing, how many ships could they afford to divert to the blockade mission and not in the course of doing so lose something else (say, India)?

I do not know the answer, but the Union was able to run a blockade of the Confederacy from this side of the Atlantic, how much more difficult would it have been for the British to do so From England as a home base, even if they were establishing supply depots on this side of the Atlantic?

Again, I do not know, but they do not seem to have blockaded the colonial ports of other empires in various wars (nor did the other empires seem to blockade the colonial ports of the English or other empires they were at war with). There has to be a reason this was not done (the norm was to send an expedition to seize the ports rather than blockade them, which is why many of the colonial islands changed hands during the various colonial wars before the American Revolution).

I just have to believe there was something else going on that made such a blockade solution non-viable. The logistics to support such a blockade, and the need to guard the home islands in addition to other operations seems the answer to me. I really do not know, but just saying the British were morons for not adopting the author's brilliant blockade strategy without a solid discussion of how it would have actually been carried out just makes me think the author is blowing smoke. He may believe his concept, but I do not regard the point as valid until I see the math. Just as I question the reasoning of another author who sought to prove the Union blockade failed because the south got roughly the same level of tonnage of supplies as it got before the blockade, a statement that may be true but overlooks the facts that that tonnage cost more and the South needed a lot more tonnage that it could not get because of the blockade.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


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.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Monday, December 09, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 December 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on many projects. The weather this week was moderate until Wednesday when it turned very cold, dropping to 9°F on Saturday. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was Captain's Log #33.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week is Captain's Log #47 Supplement.

Steve Cole worked on Communique and Hailing Frequencies, Traveller Prime Directive (reviewing things Mike West and Jean were doing), ACTASF (reviewing Tony L. Thomas's draft revisions to the rules), wrote some blogs, ordered a new production mold for the revised 2500 King Eagle, reviewed several ships (Orion DW, Tholian TK5, Tholian DN) and sent instructions to Mongoose to modify them (or in the case of the Klingon D7C set the design aside for later), looked for new 2500 stands, and investigated doing larger prestige scale miniatures.

Tony L. Thomas produced a better list of the changes needed for ACTASF1.2, revised all turn modes, damage scores, and shield ratings.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and the Federation Master Starship Book. He also proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies and wrote a blog.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller Prime Directive (psionics, Faz) and Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,871 friends), managed our Twitter feed (80 followers) and blogs, commanded the Rangers, dealt with the renewed spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique, dealt with public relations from the change in the Mongoose deal, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Simone Pike 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.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

How Not to Get into the Game Business

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 online discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Deck the Room

Deck the room with Petrick's judges
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hang them high with winks and nudges
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Vie we now for Gold Hat status
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
"Speed is life" is all that matters
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See our SVC before us
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
WebMom's here so we won't cuss
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If we do, we know what hits us
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Griswold Number Eight will find us
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away our games will fly
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Petrick to the booth will hie.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Origins, we all were here
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Farewell then, until next year
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Jean Sexton and ADB, Inc.
No judges were harmed in the creation of this filk.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sometimes the Guard Does What is Necessary

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I was reminded today of the things that can happen in roleplaying games.

I got brought into such games against my will. More as a matter of "this is what everyone else has decided we are going to do, and if you do not want to participate, you can go away and do something else" more than anything else. I preferred board games, or miniatures, or even chess, and had no interest in "roleplaying."

Over the years I have been involved in an "Empire of the Petal Throne" campaign, an "En Garde" campaign, a "Chivalry and Sorcery" campaign, a "Call of Cthulu" campaign, a "Traveler" campaign (or two), a "Twilight 2000" campaign, a "Boot Hill" Campaign (very, very brief), and perhaps one or two others I have long since forgotten.

In all of them I essentially "cheated." Whatever my character was, I essentially just did what I thought I would do were I actually in that situation.

When the "Chivalry and Sorcery" campaign started up, everyone was going to play a "knight," but I refused to do so, because I knew what knights really were and did not want to play a knight in essence pretending to be what most people think they were. So I was created as a "man at arms" assigned by "Lord Alerdyne" to protect his daughter, the "Lady Kara" who was a magic user who was traveling with this group of knights.

Things happened. Knights came, and went. Some were killed (player character died), some were badly injured in "jousts of honor" and crippled and a new character had to be created.

My man at arms, however, was always there. Surviving all manner of fights and garnering more glory than the knights. (My man at arms happened to be in a manor house that was attacked by Vikings when all the knights were away, and Lady Kara witnessed him rallying the defenders and repelling the attack.) I generally fought when I had to, and avoided fights when I could (while the knights could never avoid a challenge).

Down the road of the campaign my man at arms became a sergeant at arms, which was difficult as my character had no skill in horsemanship, having generally ridden a mule to keep up with Lady Kara's palfrey and the knights. Yet somehow I survived the one charge I was involved in, and again garnered great glory in doing so (the knight who originally ordered and led the charge had his horse trip and break the knight's leg, so I was seen as the leader of the charge when it hit the enemy line, there being no other knights present at the time).

It was however, medieval times, and the campaign reached a point where Kara's father died and she inherited the lands. At which time some of the local lords began pressuring her heavily to marry their sons (campaign master was doing this).

Obviously there was nothing I could do about this, but I spoke with the campaign designer about the neighboring fiefs.

One day, the son of one of the lords (call him Lord Moloch) caught a quarrel in his throat while he was making his normal rounds checking the fief. The point of the ambush did not allow his guards to immediately attack the crossbowman who had fired the quarrel, and the fletching of the quarrel was clearly of the design used by Lady Kara's fief. By the time the guards and trackers got to the site of the ambush, they found additional material clearly belonging to Lady Kara's people, and a fairly easy to follow trail leading back to Lady Kara's lands. However, when they crossed over into Lady Kara's lands, they found Lady Kara's sergeant at arms examining the body of a man he had "just killed" when he "resisted questioning." Lord Moloch's men found on the body of the man, dressed in Lady Kara's livery (the sergeant of arms had attempted to question him because he did not recognize him and knew everyone in Lady Kara's service and had seen him recovering a bundle) an item was found in the bundle that identified him as a member of Lord Twain's fief. Lord Moloch and Lord Twain did not necessarily hate each other, but both were pressuring Lady Kara to marry their sons. It was obvious that the man had killed Lord Moloch's son, making it look like Lady Kara had had it done, so that Lord Moloch would attack Lady Kara's fief in revenge, leaving her no choice but to marry Lord Twain's son so that Lord Twain could help Lady Kara defend her holdings that were now part of his son's inheritance. It would look like Lady Kara's plan was to assassinate the sons of those attempting to pressure her into marriage so that she did not have to marry, at least for a time. She was known to be an "adventuress,"  having traveled around with a band of knights and been involved in various incidents, so of course such a plot was possible for her (Lord Moloch thought that was Lord Twain's reasoning).

So the two most powerful fiefs that were pressuring Lady Kara "went to war" with each other, even though Lord Twain professed ignorance of any such plot.

I never learned the name of the serf I murdered to set up the incident, but my job was to protect Lady Kara, and she did not need to know how I went about my duties. And I was a "man at arms" and very good with a crossbow, which most of the knights could not use as it was a "cowardly weapon."

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Steve Cole's thoughts on the worst mistake the Germans made during World War II, in no particular order.
1. The failure to destroy the British Army at Dunkirk, which might well have caused the fall of the Churchill government and resulted in a peace agreement.
2. The delay in invading Russia. The invasion should have started in April and might well have taken Moscow had that been the case. Would that have caused the collapse of Stalin's government? Arguable, but without the Moscow rail hub and industry, it would have been very hard to keep going. To this we can add the failure to capture Leningrad, which can be entirely traced to the inadequate commanders assigned to Army Group North. Ok, the best guys (Guderian and Hoth) went toward Moscow, but surely somebody better could have been found for the northern job.
3. Expecting the Japanese to keep Russia's Siberian army pinned down. The Japanese had their own priorities and did not even try, but anyone could have seen that Russia would have temporarily abandoned Siberia to save Moscow. If the Germans had an adequate bomber, they could have constantly wrecked the rail lines east of Moscow.
4. The failure to mobilize German industry. Germany was still on a civilian economy (manufacturing pianos and furniture) in 1942. It should have gone to a full wartime economy in 1939, which would have put more tanks, guns, and trucks into German divisions. Just building trucks (most of the Germany Army's supplies and artillery were pulled by horses!) would have improved the Army immeasurably.
5. Going into Russia as a conqueror, not a liberator. To be sure, Hitler did not want to liberate Russia but to conquer it, but as the price of winning, he could have accepted a future Russian state (dominated by Germany).
6. The Holocaust: All of that effort spent murdering Jews (instead of drafting them into the Army) could have been better spent fighting the Russians.
7. The failure to build jets. Germany had flying jet fighters in 1939 but did not accelerate production because Hitler thought the war would be over before they were needed. Try running that bombing campaign against thousands of Me262s flown by the cream of the Luftwaffe. To this we can add the failure to build a heavy bomber and the insistence that the medium bombers be configured as dive bombers (which added weight and reduced their speed and payload.) We can forgive the failure to realize that the Me110 was dead meat in a dogfight as nobody else figured out that heavy fighters don't work until it was proven in combat.
8. The failure to build a Navy. Germany could never match Britain in battleships and should not have tried. All of the money and steel and manpower than went into the four battleships they did build would have produced a few dozen U-boats which proved far more effective in controlling the Atlantic. (The Germans could be forgiven the failure to understand the aircraft would make the surface warship raider obsolete by 1941.)
9. Badly wasted manpower. Surplus troops in the Luftwaffe were formed into worthless light infantry divisions instead of being fed into existing Army divisions are replacements. The hand-picked high-quality soldiers in the SS could have served in the Army in their SS uniforms.
10. Declaring war on the USA. Japan hit Pearl Harbor and then insisted that Germany join them because of their defense pact. Huh? Hitler should have said "You didn't pin down the Siberians, so I don't owe you any favors." Keeping the US out of Europe for an extra year might have given him space to win the war.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Play Online

Many people do not know that you can play either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander online in real time against live opponents.

Ten 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 online 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 online environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

Monday, December 02, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 November 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was this week of the Thanksgiving holiday, but we actually got a lot of progress made. The weather this week was very cold at the start by shirtsleeve warm by Saturday. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week: Captain's Log #1.

Steve Cole worked on the Starline 2500s, Captain's Log #48, ACTASF, Traveller Prime Directive, and other projects.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48 and on the Federation Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Traveller PD, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,861 friends), managed our Twitter feed (78 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS (which she seemed to have finally defeated on Friday by blocking spammer IPs), managed the blog feed, dealt with public relations from the change in the Mongoose deal (including paying off the Mongoose Infantry), took care of customers, and did some marketing.

The Friendly Takeover (tm) of the Joint Venture product lines continued to move forward. Matthew gave good advice on Traveller PD. We have a solid project definition for the changes to ACTASF (including active discussions of turn modes, fast ships, and special actions). The first new 2500 (Klingon B10) was formally ordered and progress was made on the second one (Orion BR) and on the revised Kzinti NCA. Certain 2400s that work fine for the 2500 series were rebranded 2425 and will be sold to both markets.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


Steve Cole responds to Jean's request for a blog about the various product lines and what to expect in 2014.

1. Star Fleet Battles: The next year may see us doing several parts of the Master Starship book.

2. Federation & Empire: We will do a new minor empires product and a revised Fighter Operations early in 2014.

3. Federation Commander: I think we need to do the Tactics Manual and maybe the scenario or ship book.

4. Starline 2400: We'll do a few new ships (not many are actually needed) and upgrade others to more detailed designs.

5. Starline 2500: We want to focus on getting the A Call to Arms Star Fleet Book One ships finished and some new ships done. The relaunch will be in early spring but is more of a process than a single event.

6. Starline 2425: These are generic units that work for both Starline 2400 and Starline 2500, including the existing freighters, bases, shuttles, auxiliaries, monsters, fighters, and seeking weapons. We'll fill in a few missing pieces here. It's complicated by the need to bring new units into Federation Commander, Starmada, and A Call to Arms Star Fleet.

7. Star Fleet Marines: I'm working on a third module but I am not sure if we will release it next year.

8. Captain's Log: Two issues (May and Nov) as always. Captain's Log #48 will come out in January but it's a 2013 issue, so the fact we'll actually do three is just an artifact of scheduling.

9. Prime Directive: I want to see Jean and Mike West get the Traveller Prime Directive core book and at least one empire book out next year. Away Team Log will happen in early 2014.

10. A Call to Arms Star Fleet: Expect the revised Book 1.2 in the first half of next year. After that, we're not sure if we want to do another book or a series of smaller supplements.

11. Starmada: I think we can expect Daniel to produce another book, but it hasn't been decided if he will focus on new empires (Paravians and Carnivons) or a grab bag of new ships or maybe something fun like carriers and fighters.

12. Tribbles vs. Klingons will be on Kickstarter early next year. Assuming it works, we want to do at least one more "few rules but lots of toys" game before the year is out.