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Monday, March 31, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23-29 March 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Two new PDF products dropped out of spacewarp this week, a color version of the Star Fleet Battles tournament SSDs and the Federation Commander Magellanic Playtest Pack. Both will be uploaded during April.

Nothing new on w23 this week while they reorganize.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was the Federation & Empire 2010 Rulebook.

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #48 FLAP list, the Wall of Honor update, Communique and Hailing Frequencies, and other things. All individual pages for the Wall of Honor have been updated (some aren't posted yet) and the first eight of about 40 multiperson pages were updated.

Steven Petrick worked on the update for the Advanced Missions SSD book and the Federation Master Starship Book (which got moving after the two Steves figured out a more efficient way to do the art, which is all that's left to do). Steven also helped two fiction authors get their stories moving forward.

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 Hailing Frequencies and Traveller Prime Directive, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2043 friends), managed our Twitter feed (97 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Wall of Honor pages, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with over 40 states cross-checked, about 100 duplicate or obsolete entries deleted, 26 new entries, and 30 emails sent to older entries.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

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, March 29, 2014

On The Wolf, Enemies, and Tactics, or, Ten Lessons from The Wolf

Jean Sexton muses:

The Wolf, a long-haired Chihuahua, is very different in many ways from any dog I have ever had before. I am learning a lot from him, as well as getting healthier by walking more. In the office he is busy wrapping us all around his little paws. It is good for us as he generally reduces stress levels. However, on his walks I am learning more about how he perceives and interacts with the world.

The Wolf has enemies on his daily rounds. The Deadly Duo of Dachshunds, The Yorkie behind the Fence, The Yorkies in the Yard, The Laundromat Dog, Public Enemy #2 (a large, tuxedo cat), and the Bullies are all regulars. Lessons learned include:

1. If the dogs (the Bullies in this case) are behind a fence, they are stuck there. You don't have to fight, especially since they don't have anything you want. Mark your territory, bark enough they know you are tough, and leave.

2. What was an empty fence last week may not be empty today. (Public Enemy #2 and The Yorkie behind the Fence have both surprised him this week.) Be ready to withdraw if the force has a better position and equal or better firepower.

3. The odds of two against one, especially if the two are each bigger than you, are not good odds. That doesn't keep you from showing the flag by barking.

4. Stay alert. That empty yard might have Yorkies sleeping in the bushes.

5. If you've seen Public Enemy #2 under a vehicle, remember to check it on your next pass by it; he might have returned.

6. Just because Public Enemy #2 was under a vehicle doesn't mean he is still there two hours later.

7. Look up! Public Enemy #2 might be over your head on the stairs.

8. Just because there is a Neutral Zone (the street) doesn't mean the enemy won't cross it.

9. Think big! If you only bark at safe targets (those smaller than you), you will be limited to barking at bugs.

10. If you do challenge a big dog, it doesn't hurt to have a safe port to retreat to. However, make sure the larger target knows you are retreating under duress.

Friday, March 28, 2014



404: While the source is lost to history, this means "no clue." It might be used to describe a senior officer ("The Captain is 404") or to answer a question ("The Klingon deployment is 404").

Adminisphere: The layer of organization including theater headquarters and political leadership. Orders and policies originating in the Adminisphere are for all practical purposes irrelevant to the current situation.

Asymmetrical Dominance: Attacking the enemy's weakest element with our most expendable type of unit.

Back-Stop: What you will do when your plan inevitably collapses. This is designed to convince headquarters that all is well and they should leave you alone. Usually this means assigning a unit that is busy doing something else the task of covering your failure if it happens (e.g., and if a few Klingon raiders slip through our lines, the police can round them up). Simply because someone (i.e., the Scapegoat) has been assigned to fix your mistake means that your plan can be allowed to go forward.

Bells & Whistles: Added features to a system, plan, starship, or presentation that don't accomplish anything but which sound good to people who don't understand the real technologies or issues. This is taken to mean adding enough features to a plan or mission that nobody will notice it won't work anyway.

Blamestorming: Officers in a higher headquarters discussing why a mission failed and who will get the blame. The selected Scapegoat must be someone who lacks any powerful friends or embarrassing dirt on senior officers.

Canine-Equestrian Theater: While the original derivation is lost to history, the term means to give a presentation to a higher headquarters (or visiting political dignitaries) including Bells & Whistles and/or Cheese sufficient to confuse them into thinking that you have everything under control.

Captaincy Pay: The bump in salary that mid-grade officers receive when leaving Star Fleet to work for Federation Express.

CEM: Career-ending move, such as failing to follow orders or discussing civilian pay scales where your commander can hear.

Cheese: Unnecessary but tasty details added to a briefing to keep the senior commander or visiting political dignitaries in the audience from realizing that the briefing doesn't make sense.

Cheesecon Five: The highest level of alert that visiting political dignitaries will be attending the next briefing and you need to load up the presentation with cheese.

Cluster: Gathering of military forces from several commands and/or allies with no one really in overall command.

(c) 2014 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. 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: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Future Viewed Darkly

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things I have encountered over the years is a call for the military to remove a sitting president. Goes all the way back to my high school years, so please do not take this as an assault on the current occupant.

I have always taken such comments in a negative light. If the military ever removes a sitting president, then the Republic, and the Constitution that is its founding document, would be dead. No future president could sit his seat without fear of being removed by the military. No sitting president could claim to be representative of the people as his office would be his solely because of the bayonets of the military.

However, I grew up and was educated in a different time. People of my Cohort who chose to serve generally had some education about the Constitution. This is important, because all of us, whether officer or enlisted, swear to "support and defend the Constitution." Yes, we also swear to obey the "lawful orders" of our superiors.

Of late, I have become increasingly disturbed that the Constitution is no longer taught, at least in so far as I can discover. I question college students fairly regularly, as I have noted before, and nearly unanimously they admit to having never had any course of instruction about the Constitution. The few that have mostly are those whose parents insisted they read it.

This very much frightens me for the future.

How can you raise your right hand and swear to "support and defend" a document you know almost nothing about save what you might have gleaned from news reports and entertainment? If you know nothing about what you are to "support and defend," then ultimately you are just swearing to obey "the lawful orders" of your superiors. You have, however, no basis to determine if those orders are "lawful" in the sense of defending the Constitution.

I very much fear that a day will come when a president (and again, I am not pointing a finger at the current occupant, I am "looking into future darkly) orders the military to arrest Congress, and they will do so because they believe it is a "lawful order."

When that day comes,  no matter how much the "trappings" of the Republic remain and are extolled, the Republic will truly be dead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on the case studies he sees in numerous business shows on TV.

1. If you own a business and you watch X-factor, American Idol, and The Voice but don't watch Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible, Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue, Tabitha Takes Over, or On the Rocks, you're doing it wrong and your business is not all it could be. Owning a business includes the obligation to continually improve your knowledge of business and make your own business better.

2. In one case study, a guy bought a bar then inconveniently died and left his wife (who knew nothing about the bar business) trying to run it because it was her late husband's dream to own a bar. She had worked at the bar (having quit a great job to help her husband's business). She should have realized that she didn't know how to keep the business going and put it up for sale. Instead, she ran it herself (without a clue what she was doing) and ran up huge debts. If she wanted to keep owning the bar she should have hired an experienced manager and gone to the effort to learn the bar business. The TV expert convinced her to promote an employee who was certainly capable, but in the end had no choice but to leave the clueless owner in charge because she was too deep in debt to sell the place. Also, and I'm just saying this, a successful bar may be the wrong legacy to leave two daughters.

3. A mature professional couple invested their savings to buy a restaurant for their son (who loved the restaurant business and had actually graduated from culinary school). The restaurant wasn't making money, so mom and dad started working there nights and weekends. They constantly bombarded their son with their ideas of what he was doing wrong, and would not let him change the décor (which no one but his mother liked) or the menu. To be sure, the son didn't have the experience to run a restaurant on his own, but the parents had no clue what he should be doing. The son lost interest and cooked lackluster food, so business got worse and worse and the parents kept pumping in money. The parents would have done better to hire an experienced manager to make the son run it right.

4. Some years ago, I was in a fast food burger place. Their system at the time (since changed) was to have racks of burgers ready on the shelf and just hand them to customers as they ordered. If the burgers got 45 minutes old without selling, they were thrown away. At various intervals, somebody in the back would make another tray of 24 burgers. I ordered mine and noticed three burgers of that type on the shelf, but I was not handed one. Asking, I was told that the lady in line ahead of me had ordered four, and when the new tray of 24 appeared they would give her the three on the shelf and one new one, then give me (and another customer who ordered after me) new ones. I pointed out that the lady who had ordered four would not wait one minute longer if we were handed the existing burgers, as the tray of 24 would more than cover her order. The manager told me to mind my own business and wait my turn, that the corporate rules were that I could not be served until the customer ahead of me was. I tried to point out the logic but was told to be quiet. There was quite some delay with the new tray of burgers, and the timer dinged that the three on the shelf had to be discarded. The manger then decided to hand them to the single-burger customers, but we refused, saying we could have eaten those burgers when they were fresh but would now wait for new ones. The manger got quite upset that we would not accept the now-stale burgers, and certainly did not want to hear that a lack of common sense was the problem, not our attitude.

5. Twenty years ago, there was a little store a short distance from my house, where I worked. I'd go down there to get BBQ and snacks. (It's still there but the new owners don't have BBQ any more. Pity.) There was a rack for snack pies, and the truck driver from the bakery showed up every Tuesday to place 36 pies (six each of six flavors) on that rack. I noticed that the six cherry pies sold that day, nothing sold on Wednesday, and over the rest of the week a few pies of non-cherry flavors (lemon, apricot, peach, chocolate, apple) would be grudgingly accepted by desperate customers. Most customers simply went to a different store (of another chain that bought from another bakery) two miles away, costing the little local store a lot of business. I had gotten to know the owner and together we tracked pie sales, then confronted the bakery truck driver, telling him to leave 26 cherry pies and two each of the other flavors. He refused, saying that the bakery gave him equal numbers of pies because they made equal numbers of pieces because their supplier brought them equal numbers of five-gallon buckets of fruit filling. The system was designed to produce an equal number, and that would be what we got, so we should buy the other flavors. The owner of the store did not renew his bakery contract, switching to the other bakery that (being smarter) had experimented to find out what people wanted to buy (66% cherry, 20% apple, and a few of the others) and had adjusted their entire logistical chain to produce that many. The store was quickly selling over 100 pies a week instead of less than 30, and had more business in general as local people now switched back to the local store.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 16-22 March 2014

Steve Cole writes:

This was the week we printed Captain's Log #48 and Away Team Log and shipped them to wholesalers. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 was the free Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was the free Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File.

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #48 FLAP list, doing things like the large print edition, schedule page, the Supplemental File, Text Catalog, update list, indexes, and Wall of Honor updates. Steve and Jean spent nearly two hours on Talkshoe.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions SSD book update, and helped proofread things for the Captain's Log #48 FLAP list. Steve had to deal with the agony of the government forcing him to convert his phone lines to digital, but in the process his phone bill was reduced by 2/3 and he got free internet at home.

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 publicizing new releases, the $10 sale of Captain's Log #22-29 (good through May 15) and the Talkshoe appearance; managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2040 friends) and our Twitter feed (95 followers); commanded the Rangers; dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS; managed the blog feed (including writing one); wrote some of and proofread all of Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File; took care of customers; and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

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/).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Prayer to the Marketing Director by SVC

Jean, who art Marketing Director,
We tremble at your name.

Your schedule set,
Your will be met,
In Game Trade as it is in Previews.

Give us this day, our daily tasks,
Forgive us not our failures,
And forgive not outside designers who fail to deliver their RPG books on time.

Let us not fall into stagnation,
But make us deliver the products.

For thine is the schedule,
and the marketing plan,
and the Profit,
forever and ever.

(c) 2011 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On Captain's Log #48, Away Team Log, and Marketing

Jean Sexton writes:

Once upon a time I dreamed a dream that when a product was being printed that I could take a breather. Once upon a time I believed in unicorns and the Easter Bunny, too.

Captain's Log #48 saw me writing more than I have ever done for any other issue. I have contributed an article on writing (the Input Guide) for years. I've made suggestions about updating the "Communications" section. For the last bit I have contributed to the Conquest Note pool. At times a Federation Commander scenario that I contributed has made it. However, I have taken on more responsibilities and Steve Cole is (finally) delegating more.

We have started a column that reports on the activities and promotions of our Rangers. As Ranger Commandant I maintain the database of Rangers and their status. I am proud that some of our Rangers are getting promoted because of their hard work and diversity of experience. I'd like to encourage others to join this group and spread the word about our games.

We also are revitalizing our battle groups. As the Battle Group Facilitator, I try to encourage groups to form and report. We'd love to see a dozen formal groups by the end of the year.

For this issue, I encouraged Steve Cole to write a light-hearted story about tribbles and Klingons. He worked in a space battle. Reading the story, I realized he worked in a lot of information about promotions in the Klingon Empire and the relationship between border worlds and the military.

Away Team Log has had a long wait to see print. This was created last summer, but had to wait until we printed covers for another product -- Captain's Log #48 in this case. I used to think that covers were printed individually. In our case they are printed three to a sheet. The tiny spot of "waste" we filled with a small poster to promote SFU games.

So now that these products are printed, I can take a day off, right? Well, no. People have to know they exist or else we'll be housing the covers forever! We've sent out Star Fleet Alerts forever. These are PDFs announcing the release of products. We've always announced it on the BBS and FC Forum. Since we started our page on Facebook, I've announced it there. I'm branching out to fan pages on our games. There's only one problem -- we are announcing it to known customers only. I want our company to grow.

That means I am reaching out to other websites. BoardGameGeek is great for wargames. I could use people to help me field questions that will be popping up there. I'm also reaching out to Starship Combat News. Neither of those is appropriate for Prime Directive announcements. I'm starting to reach out to sites like RPGNews, RPGsite, and RPG.net. Each location has rules specific to the site. Some places don't allow outside links. Some want tailored posts.

So my days of taking a deep breath and resting on my laurels are done. I push forward and get the news out promptly. Even then I can't sit back -- those announcements must be monitored and any questions answered.

Is it a lot of work? Yes. People sometimes ask questions that have been answered a dozen times. Still, to them, the questions are new and need answers. It takes time to do all of this and time is not unlimited in a small company.

Is it rewarding? Yes. I am happy in my new job. I look forward to doing it for many years to come.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-15 March 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we finally received the Captain's Log #48 cover art and sent the covers to press, and we sent Hailing Frequencies out and posted Communique #99. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week: Federation Commander Reference Rulebook and Captain's Log #2.

Steve Cole worked on the Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File, the article for the MIT book on wargaming, quality checking for Starline 2400 and 2500 minis, sent 50+ pieces of ship art to the SFBOL 3rd Generation project, worked on the cover for Captain's Log #48, ordered production of two new Starline 2500 minis, did a Star Fleet Alert, and wrote a blog.

Steven Petrick worked mostly on the Advanced Missions SSD book update, but also worked on Hailing Frequencies, the Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File, quality checking for Starline 2400 and 2500 minis, worked on the big secret announcement for Communique #100, and did a blog.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, worked on the cover for Captain's Log #48, and worked on some graphics.

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies and Communique, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2035 friends), managed our Twitter feed (95 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS and the disaster on the w23 download site, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File and revised Advanced Missions SSDs, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:
1. MONSTER began as the Latin word monstro, meaning "to warn about" or "to point out." We see this in the English word demonstration, meaning something done to illustrate or prove a point. Monstro was used in association with evil portents from the gods, which always meant that really bad things were coming. Monstrum then became the thing itself, being something abnormally large that caused fear.
2. MORPHINE, a powerful pain killer, comes from the Latin Morpheus, the god of dreams (which later writers confused with Somnus, the god of sleep, except that Graedo-Roman mythology had no god of dreams. The poet Ovid invented the new god of dreams about 3AD in order to use him as a plot device. At that time the old Graeco-Roman gods were barely remembered and worshiped mostly in government-declared celebrations. (The people had moved on to worship Mithras, Jesus, Isis, or others.)
3. MORTGAGE comes from two French words meaning dead pledge. It referred (then as now) to money borrowed with land as the security. If the borrower paid the loan the pledge was then said to be dead, and if the borrower died without paying the loan the land was confiscated on his death.
4. MOUNTEBANK, a dishonest person who tricks and cheats others, comes from the Italian words meaning "to mount the bench." Traveling entertainers would bring a bench with them so they could stand on it and be seen by the crowd. Since bankers also used benches (banks in Italian) to conduct their business, a banker who "put on a show" to lure gullible people into worthless investments was given the derisive name intended for clowns, jugglers, or others of that type.
5. MUGWUMP variously means an independent person, or someone who could not make up his mind. It comes from the Algonquin Indian term "mukquomp" which meant a great man or a chief other than the head chief of a tribe. It was used when translating the Holy Bible for the American Indians to read as it was the closest approximation for "duke" which is itself an approximation of an ancient word for a nobleman next in line below a king. It was derisively used in 1884 to label those Republicans who supported the Democratic Party candidate for President (and were his margin of victory). Republicans said these men were "too good" vote for the Republican nominee, but the Mugwumps adopted the name as a badge of honor saying they were great enough to make up their own minds. Contrary to the Harvard Lampoon it has nothing to do with those who serve beer.
6. MUSCLE, the flesh of an animal that pulls bones and thus creates motion, comes from Latin and was adopted by most European languages. To the Romans it meant "the little mice" because the rippling muscles of an athlete looked like a pack of small mice under the skin making the body move. The Romans used the same term to refer to a particular bivalve sea creature eaten as a great delicacy, and that comes to us as MUSSEL.
7. MUSEUM, a collection of art or other exhibits, is based on the nine Roman "muses" who inspired human creativity. Shrines to the muses became the place where artists, poets, or others gathered to discuss and display their works.
8. MUSKET, an old firearm, comes from a time when each kind of firearm was named for an animal. Musket was the French term for the Sparrow Hawk, and the French words for hawk and falcon applied to larger firearms. (Dragon was used for a type of cannon.) The original French word came into English as the name for the mosquito, a stinging insect, and some today think that the original word musket meant a mosquito, or a tiny stinging insect.
9. MYSTERY, an unknown thing (or a story about an unknown thing) comes to use from the Greek mysterion, which referred to the secret and hidden rituals of a religious or other group. Such rites and practices were conducted behind closed doors or at night so that non-members did not learn them.
10. NABOB, a disgustingly rich person who gets anything he wants and feels compelled to declare his opinions on everything (expecting them to be instantly accepted because, well, he's rich and gets anything he wants) originated as the Arabic word "na'ib" which was adapted by the east Indians as "nawwab" which in either case meant "deputy". These were local Indians used by the Mogul Dynasty and British Empire to run provinces and towns of India. Because of their power and corruption, the typical nabob managed to become very rich while in office.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

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://www.warehouse23.com/products/introduction-to-the-star-fleet-universe-prime-directive-and-roleplaying

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 downloadable art for your computer and iPhone 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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

From the Star Fleet Academy Exam, Part the Last

These are the final questions from the exam. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

Engineering: The disassembled pieces of an M-class starfreighter are under your desk. There are construction plans and specifications printed in ancient Lyran. Assemble the ship, register, and take the ship on its space trials. Insure that you use the proper Federation painting scheme before registry.

Economics: Develop a realistic plan for the economic domination of the Romulan Empire. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, warp theory, and phaser efficiency. Outline a method from all possible points of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

General Knowledge: Describe this in detail. Be objective and specific.

Politics: Using any arm of the military services, except Star Fleet, adapt a political means for dealing with a full-scale ISC invasion of Federation space. Include a complete list of all of your cabinet members and their dossiers.

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Star-Crossed" Review

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have been trying to watch "Star-Crossed." I intended to watch at least the first episode, as my general feeling was that the series was going to be "teen-angst with aliens" rather than anything else.

Well, it is "teen-angst with aliens" but something more as well.

Unfortunately, so far the something more is not well thought out.

While we are assured (so far) that all of the aliens arrived on one night on one (monster) ship that "crash landed," this simply cannot be the case.

Somehow some of the aliens escaped the crash and managed to disappear into society, eluding detection to get into some sensitive jobs.

Are you ready to believe that the aliens managed to become some of the people guarding the aliens? Can you really believe any federal uniformed service trusted with such a task is not going to be doing medical exams of the people it puts into service? The problem is the "alien" aspect where these men are going to be working. The risk of exposure to "exotic" alien diseases and general contact with aliens means you are going to be tracking the health of such men (and women) closely. How is one of the aliens going to survive such scrutiny? And this is inevitable.

And gets us into how did the aliens know "American," much less enough American Idiom/slang to pass as citizens? Or how did they know where to go to contact people to get false documents that would enable them to get into security work? This is not the same thing as an undocumented worker from elsewhere in the world entering the U.S. through the various systems that provide such assistance (including false social security cards).

All this happens in less than 10 years? The list of implausibilities needed for the just crashed aliens that slipped away from the wreck to infiltrate society in Modern American (as in "today") so that in 2024 they are able to have achieved some critical conditions is just one of the things that blows the "willing suspension of disbelief" circuits.

The show might have helped win me over if it had not immediately delved into the "the aliens are superior to humans" trope. (Alien blood combined with an Earth plant that they can modify is a cure for cancer, and the aliens know this but humans do not).

I am not sure how many more episodes of this I am going to watch. I have seen three, but literally have not found the motivation to watch the fourth and do not know if I will bother to record the fifth.

I will also comment that I normally am not much of a critic on actors as I normally do not feel I have the right or skill to do such, but some of the performance of the lead alien character has hit even me as "wooden."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the  Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault websites. So far on Warehouse 23, 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 Warehouse 23 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).

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.

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 through the various venders. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

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  Warehouse 23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


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 a new ship, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Monday, March 10, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 March 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week; Captain's Log #48 was still on hold as the artist struggled to finish the cover. The weather this week was not bad for this time of year but was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

As Warehouse 23 has yet to solve its problems, nothing was uploaded. New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Alien Armada (both Admiral and Nova editions) for Starmada.

Steve Cole worked on Hailing Frequencies and Communique, fiction for Captain's Log #49, an essay for a book on wargaming by MIT press, Captain's Log #48 Supplemental File, and did 54 color backgrounds for SFBOL 3rd generation ship descriptions.

Steven Petrick started work on the Advanced Missions SSD book revision so in a month or two it can be uploaded.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. Leanna, Jean, and Steve Cole drove 120 miles to Lubbock to see the penguin exhibit and the prairie dog town.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics, including updating the look for Captain's Log. She also began the search for her first real-world job.

Jean worked on getting the Captain's Log #48 cover, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2023 friends), managed our Twitter feed (94 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download backgrounds and covers for Facebook with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/backgrounds.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. We even have backgrounds for the iOS7 iPhone.

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

Saturday, March 08, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on the biggest mistakes the Allies made during World War II (in chronological order).
1. The failure to take seriously that war was coming: The British and French disarmament movements of the 1920s had left an opening for Hitler, which the rearmament programs of the 1930s were not enough to overcome. One can include here the failure to give the Germans an equitable peace at Versailles. (Instead, the French insisted on crippling reparations and on ignoring Wilson's 14 points which were the basis of the armistice. The Germans felt betrayed, and they were.)
2. The failure to attack Germany in September 1939: The French were just not ready for a war and used as an excuse inflated reports of lots of German troops on their border. Even the unprepared French could probably have hurt the Germans enough to force them to stop the war. One might argue that they should have been prepared as the primary cause of war is not being strong enough to guard your border against the nasty neighbor who wants to steal your stuff.
3. Getting surprised by the attack through the Ardennes in May 1940: The French just assumed that the Germans were going around the north end of the forest, probably because they captured a set of real German plans saying that was the plan. The Germans, who knew the plans had been captured, reluctantly switched to what had been their backup plan.
4. America's delay in adopting a convoy system: This let the German submarines have their "happy time" on the US coast. In the end, it cost hundreds of ships and thousands of lives.
5. The War with Japan: US economic pressure on Japan backfired, and the US just assumed that they were so powerful that the Japanese would be idiots to attack. Well, the US failed to take the next step in the thought process: If Japan cannot beat the US in the war the US expects, what else might Japan do, perhaps a surprise attack to wipe out the US fleet? So, in the end, we lost most of the fleet and the Philippines, and of course the British lost a couple of battleships off Malaya.
6. The Raid on Dieppe: This was a disaster of an attempt to raid the French coast and experiment with amphibious warfare. Hindsight would show it was never going to work, but maybe they had to try it to realize it. No lessons were learned that should not have been obvious ahead of time.
7. The failure to break out after the Anzio landings: The Allies were scared when their Salerno landing almost failed and decided to "go slow" in the Anzio invasion, making sure everything was in place before moving. The problem is that in war, the slow guy finishes dead, and the Germans had time to move troops to contain the beachhead. Had the troops moved out to their original objectives, Anzio would have been a brilliant success.
8. Island hopping: The US Navy and Marines insisted on attacking the most heavily defended Japanese-held islands so as to seize existing bases. The Army landed where the Japanese were not and quickly built new bases, then bombed and blockaded the Japanese bases into irrelevance. Very few of the islands the Navy took were not close to empty islands they could have taken far more easily.
9. The Normandy Invasion: The invasion itself worked, but there were several key failures that almost added up to disaster. The airborne drops were scattered badly, and the troops could have been trained how to handle such a situation instead of being told that everything was going to be swell and entire battalions would quickly assemble and attack their targets. The aerial bombardment was completely wasted due to bad weather; nobody had the sense to call off the wasted attacks. The overly ambitious schedule shoved too many men onto crowded beaches, and the exhausted troops stopped moving inland halfway to their objectives. (Omaha was a mess because of Allied intelligence failures, but not really a mistake and even with that the defenses cracked in 12 hours.) Nobody planned ahead for the hedgerow country (despite a hundred thousand British tourists who had seen it before the war). The British just would not spend the casualties needed to break out of the bottle at Caen and flubbed plans to take it on the first day. Once Patton broke out, the British would not close the Argentan-Falaise gap and would not allow the Americans to close it, allowing 100,000 German troops to escape (and keep the war going months longer). For that matter, the trap could have been much bigger if Eisenhower had seen Patton's vision and let him run for Paris and follow the Seine to the ocean, trapping the entire German western army group.
10. The failure to keep the German troops on Dutch islands trapped there. By refusing to drive forward a few more miles, the Allied troops left the gate open for another 100,000 German troops to escape and form a new defense line. Not pushing those British tanks a few extra miles lengthened the war by months.
11. Market-Garden: This insane plan to use paratroops to open a highway into Germany could never have worked. It was the wrong route (crossing several major rivers). There were other, more direct routes.
12. The American failure to deploy an adequate tank: It was very late in the war before the latest versions of the Sherman equaled the versions of the Mark-IV that the Germans had two years earlier. By the time the improved Shermans were available, Panthers and Tigers made them obsolete (and flaming wrecks). And let's not assume that any of the British tanks were any good either.
13. The American replacement system, which sent green troops directly into front-line foxholes: The Americans had too far to go (and that ocean in the way) to use the European system of building a lot of divisions and rotating them into and out of combat. The Americans devised a system where a division spent months in the front line, absorbing green replacements every day. The new guys never had a chance to learn the basic tricks to avoid getting killed, and casualties were horrendous. A system that could have been done was to have every soldier spend his first two days in the division at a replacement battalion where a veteran from the squad he will be assigned to comes back and shows him how to stay alive until he learns the rest of the nasty job of infantryman. Then the replacement goes forward with his new buddy.
14. The failure of the US Army to provide a proper squad machinegun: The US Army was in love with its Browning Automatic Rifle which was a really swell automatic rifle but could not match the firepower of the German MG34 and MG42. (The British Bren was no better.) A German squad was built around their machinegun; the American squad was a mass of (superior) riflemen. Captured MG34s could have been copied and issued to US troops. The US rifle squad did not have its own machinegun until the 1990s. For that matter, Americans never did adopt or employ mortars with the passion that the Germans did.
15. Eisenhower's attempt to keep both Montgomery and Patton happy and moving forward by dividing the supplies between them instead of picking one. (Patton had an easier route with fewer rivers to cross, and a history for attacking while Montgomery had a habit of insisting on months of preparation for any attack.) The failure to clear the Scheld estuary and open the port of Antwerp caused the supply problems. At least Eisenhower kept Montgomery and Patton from attacking each other!
The Minor Mistakes: The US failure to adopt British armored carrier flight decks would have saved ships and lives. Strategic bombing had some impact (it needed more focus) but the area bombing campaign against civilians and major cities was a waste of time and allied lives. (London was bombed more often than Berlin and its people never broke and stormed Parliament. Why did the Allies think the Germans could be bombed into getting rid of Hitler?) Bombing Monte Casino was a mistake. (The Germans never used it as a fortress -- until it was reduced to a pile of rubble.) The Allies could not imagine that Hitler could launch an offensive (the Battle of the Bulge) at so late a date (Dec 1945).

Friday, March 07, 2014

From the Star Fleet Academy Exam, Part 3

The whole thing is rather long, so I'll pull some questions each week until you have the whole thing. Keep it under wraps or they'll change it!

Instructions: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately. If you finish early, turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.

Psychology: Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rhameses II, J'hrai the Bzornian, and Saurek. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the genocide of all known life forms. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Philosophy: Sketch the development of Vulcan thought and estimate its significance. Compare it with the development of engineering theory of Earth's 12th century.

Strategy and Tactics: Describe a method of infiltrating a single PF flotilla into the heart of Klingon space and rendering a B10 and all of its escorts inoperable. You may plan for a single escort for your flotilla, but no tender is available.

We'll wrap this up next week!

From Captain's Log #12, c1993.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

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.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Those Unplanned Moments

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Life is a series of events, most of which are not planned but simply happen. We are impacted by the actions of strangers, and in this age of mass world wide 24 hour news cycles the actions of strangers have more consequence. That is to say that a tsunami hitting in Indonesia or Japan or Alaska has no direct bearing on my life, but the news makes it immediate.

There are other things.

Not too many years ago SVC lent me a book to read. At one point I found the characters having a meeting in Moscow where they discussed the statue of "Iron Felix" standing before the KGB building. The thing was, between the time SVC had read the book and I had started reading the book, the good citizens of Moscow had torn that statue down.

At another time I called SVC to discuss the coup in Moscow. SVC berated me for calling him at that hour of the night to discuss a scene in the book, noting it could surely wait until the morrow. I then had to stop him and say: "No. There is a coup going on in Moscow right now!" Yes, the book's story had a coup in Moscow, and was written more than a year a earlier, and it just happened that between SVC finishing the book and lending it to, my own reading speed, a coup happened for real (this was in the 1990s).

Another incident not related to the book, but related to the news cycle, and during Gulf War I (operation Desert Storm) involved the launching of SCUD missiles at Israel. At one point a missile was reported on its way to Tel Aviv, and an American reporter climbed onto the roof of a building (rather than intelligently taking cover) to report on it. As I looked at the TV screen I could not help a sarcastic comment about bad things (actually, about that particular SCUD having a tactical nuclear device), and the screen suddenly went dark. The home office had lost the connection to the reporter. You can probably imagine the scare thoughts that passed through my mind at that point, as in "yes, it was a nuke."

Life is full of little unexpected moments. Some of the more familiar are the taxi driver who winds up having to help deliver a baby in the back of his cab. Or the office worker who dives into the freezing Potomac to rescue badly injured people from a plane crash. Those are larger incidents, but bear in mind that in your day to day life there are always going to be little unplanned events.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

On Ten Months, New Pets, and Different Paths

Jean Sexton muses:

Ten months ago I entered Texas. It is still a wonder to me to leave the city of Amarillo and go out into the country. There is so much sky and the land is so flat. And then there is the weather -- I've seen more snow than I have for the last four winters -- in fact, the last snow that I had in North Carolina was in January, 2011. I still get teased about the snow (and the fact that schools would close in North Carolina) and how much I enjoy it. That's okay -- I tease them back about dry creek beds that claim to be rivers.

I've been working in the office at ADB for ten months. We are settling into a routine which is productive. I handle the social media, answer the phone, work on Traveller, manage our outreach programs, and try to make sure things run smoothly. If you read "This Week," you find that the list of things I have done each week is quite long. I enjoy all the duties and try to make sure they are balanced. Is it what I expected? No, not quite, but I am growing into what the company needs me to be. I am also growing in my personal life.

When I first moved out and got my own apartment, within three months I had a cat. From that point on, I always had at least one pet. When I first started contemplating moving to Amarillo, I had two large dogs, two indoor cats, and one cat that lived outdoors by his choice, with the option to be in the carport when the weather was bad. Here Kitty Kitty and Merlin passed away long before I would move. But between the end of 2011 and the start of 2013, I lost all my remaining pets. My landlord had two cats that I could visit and play with as did the Coles, so I didn't start having "pet withdrawal" until I moved into my apartment. Even then, I stayed busy unpacking the essentials until the end of the summer, so the emptiness of the apartment didn't affect me until then. You've heard the story of Markie, my floppy-eared, stubby-legged, brave little dog. After he passed so unexpectedly, my apartment echoed with the sound of silence. Then The Wolf waltzed into my life and the life of ADB. Who would have thought a long-haired chihuahua would wrap everyone around his tiny little paws?

The Wolf is a very social dog. After everyone has arrived, the front door is locked so Wolf cannot slip out. Then he visits people throughout the building. He usually isn't too obtrusive. He comes in, looks to see if you will notice him (and pick him up and pat him), and, if you are too busy, he moves on. I have noticed that everyone in the office talks to him, pets him, and carries him around. I think that he helps reduce stress at the office. Wolf follows anyone walking; he may be a seeking weapon. He has a small number of toys which he "kills" with great glee.He's a great mascot for a gaming company.

Sometimes a person walks a different path than was expected. Nowhere in my plans in college did I think I would work for a gaming company. I was a librarian with gaming as a hobby. None of my plans included marketing, although I did some of that at the library. I never thought my top three skills on LinkedIn would be blogging, creative writing, and copy editing. I thought I would live and die in North Carolina.

However, sometimes an opportunity presents itself and you must stretch your wings and fly, not follow the carefully laid-out path you envisioned for your life. Maybe there are more rough winds ahead for me; I don't know. I do know that I will continue to fly and soar to a new destiny.

Monday, March 03, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 23 February - 1 March 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of final work, including fixes and edits, on Captain's Log #48. The weather this week was cool. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week: Captain's Log #34.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #48.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #48.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics. She also helped assemble some books for restock orders.

Jean worked on Captain's Log #48, managed our page on Facebook (which passed 2000 friends), managed our Twitter feed (92 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

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.

Saturday, March 01, 2014


Steve Cole debunks ten popular myths.
1. Myth: The US and USSR had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world seven times.
Truth: This number is based on a calculation that involves dropping the most effective bomb on the biggest target, counting the projected casualties, dividing that number into the total population, then comparing this to the total mega-tonnage on hand. It made sense when the total US arsenal might kill 20% of the Russia population, but never worked for larger numbers because you ran out of big easy targets. In reality, there were never enough bombs to kill everybody once because there are so many people living in small groups in remote areas. To be sure, a post-nuclear world would be pretty awful and the living would envy the dead.
2. Myth: The US won the American Revolution wearing buckskin and hiding behind rocks and trees shooting at the stupid British wearing bright red coats and standing in a straight line.
Truth: This myth seems to have originated in a Bill Cosby comedy routine. The US won wearing bright blue coats and standing in a straight line; we just learned how to shoot faster, the French helped, and the British had an ocean in the way of their Army.
3. Myth: Hitler was the greatest mass murderer of all time.
Truth: Stalin and Mao killed more people, and mostly their own people, and Pol Pot was not that far behind. Tamerlane was no slouch at mass murder, and Genghis used the terror of his few mass murders to win bloodless battles. Anyway, the Black Death killed a lot more people.
4. Myth: Hitler was a complete military moron.
Truth: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. He did agree to give the Panzer generals their own divisions instead of (as other nations did) giving most the tanks to the infantry. He did want to put missile-firing helicopters into panzer divisions, something the smartest tank generals in the world told him was insane but is now a major part of armored warfare. Hitler's orders to "never retreat" made sense given that the Germans had only rarely trained to do so. He could also do better art than most people can.
5. Myth: The US Army was defeated in the Vietnam War.
Truth: The US Army won every major (and most of the minor) battles. When the US left, the military situation was stable, and remained so until the US Congress cut off funds to support South Vietnam. Except for Congress cutting off the money, South Vietnam would still be free.
6. Myth: The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves during the Civil War.
Truth: It actually did not free those in states which had not seceded, such as Maryland, and of course had no effect on slaves in areas not under control of the Union Army.
7. Myth: Everyone was killed in the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Truth: Actually, about 2/3 of the troops returned unharmed. The charge captured the Russian cannons (the wrong ones, but war is confusing) but foundered in the mass of Russian cavalry behind the guns.
8. Myth: The US military paid $432 each for hundreds of $8 hammers and $800 for hundreds of $12 toilet seats.
Truth: The Pentagon's auditing software spotted a typographic error resulting in a bill of $432 for a hammer. The invoice was corrected and the Pentagon paid $8 for that hammer and hundreds of other hammers. The "toilet seat" was actually a fiber-glass panel four feet wide which covered a toilet assembly in an aircraft. As it had to be custom made in small numbers, that was a fair price for custom work of that type and equal to similar civilian purchases. (Every cartoon showing Defense Secretary Weinberger standing around holding a toilet seat with an $800 price tag as just an outright lie. Beware taking political cartoons as fact.)
9. Myth: In war, it always takes 3-to-1 superiority to pull off a successful attack.
Truth: The success of an attack depends on many factors, and history is full of attacks at higher odds that failed and attacks at lower odds that succeeded. For example, Lee's attack on the Second Day at Gettysburg was at 1:1 odds and succeeded in driving the Union back half a mile and wrecking two entire corps. But for one brigadier general who forgot to attack, the south would have won that battle and destroyed about half of the Union Army of the Potomac.
10. Myth: Captain Bligh (of the HMS Bounty) was an incompetent officer and a masochist, causing his sailors to mutiny. After the mutiny, he died in disgrace.
Truth: He was a very competent officer, honored by Nelson (Bligh commanded a ship of the line by then), who retired as a vice-admiral. Bligh's crew on the Bounty was just rotten and lazy and wanted to stay in the tropics. (To be fair, who could blame them?) He completed one of the most remarkable feats of navigation and seamanship in history (traveling over 1,000 miles in an open boat to bring the non-mutinous crewmen to safety).