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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

Steve Cole reports:
We had a plan for 2014, which was a list of the products we planned to do and the order in which they would be done. The problem was that everything took longer than expected and any prediction of when a given item would get done (the month, not the sequence) went out the window with those renowned Texas Panhandle winds. As General von Clausewitz once said: "In war, everything is simple, but the simple things are very hard." What was hard was learning to improve the quality of our products. For all of the jokes about "Only a professor of English grammar would care about that typo," the reality is that to expand the company beyond the elite uber-gamers means doing books to the standard of the real book industry, not the garage game industry.
We actually had several lists of products. The Main List is the one everybody talks about and the most frustrating. We will get to that later.
The Captain's Log List simply said that every time we finished a product from the Main List we would decide if it was time to stop working on that Main List and do a Captain's Log. When we finally finished A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book 1.2 we decided it was time for Captain's Log #50, but by then it was early December so that issue will come out in January, probably very late in January because of the continuing dearth of publishable fiction. At least Captain's Log #49 was a superb issue and since Captain's Log #48 came out four months late (in March of 2014) we not only did two issues this year but any publication date for Captain's Log #50 before the Ides of March will be an improvement!
The Starline List was derailed by outside contractors who simply didn't bother doing their jobs and a lingering design flaw that refused to be fixed. Everything that happened was for 2500s; the new 2400s are still waiting in line behind 2500s that didn't happen on schedule. In March we released the revised 2500 King Eagle but ultimately decided that the original was better. We also converted the 2500 Kzinti DN from resin to metal. Then, attention turned to Master Mold One, with eight ships (five Orions and three Tholians). The problem was that the company doing the prototypes simply failed to do them. Mongoose had to search for a new vendor and then wait weeks for ships, delaying the whole thing three months. Then the mold was made and masters were sent to us for approval. We had a master sculptor try (again) to fix the defective 2500 Tholian PC, DD, and CA designs, but in the end, only the DD survived the molding process and once anybody saw it they realized that it had been scaled way too big, so that whole empire needs to be done over. [Given the under-scale 2400s we may ultimately scrap those and do a new Starline 2425 series (designed to work with both the Starline 2500 and 2400 series) of all of the Tholians and Neo-Tholians.] The five Orions (DW, BR, CA, BC, BCH) survived every step of the process and reached the hands of gamers over the summer, but the market for 2500s seemed to show little interest in the pirates. Then we began work on Master Mold Two, but we had to wait months for the prototypes and then more months for the molds. (The mold company that our casting house uses is very convenient and reasonable in cost, but has a tendency to just close up shop for weeks at a time without warning. We have asked the casting house to find a new mold maker.) Once the mold arrived with four new 2500s and the first 2450 (a 2500 ship rescaled to 2450), things went off the rails again. The 2500 Vulture broke under stress (despite over-designed wings that should have worked) and the 2450 Klingon D7K masters revealed a design flaw that meant it had to be done over from scratch. The other three ships (Klingon SD7, Orion DN, Kzinti NCA) survived and will be released early next year. Work on the 2425 jumbo freighter, more 2450s, the heavy war destroyers, and other new ships remains in line, waiting for other things to move forward.
The original plan did not have a Gary Carney List but he produced two great books: a revised Federation Commander Omega Playtest Rulebook and the new Federation Commander Magellanic Playtest Pack. His products were inserted into the List out of their turn, but arrived so nearly perfect that nobody minded. They did not delay anything else more than a day or two.
Let's not forget that the Communique List released a dozen new Federation Commander ships and a dozen new Federation Commander scenarios. Ever if we didn't get paid for those, they were products and play-value material for the customers. (Remember that everything the company does takes at least some "Steve Time" and even this blog cost most of a day of work on actual products.)
The Main List proved that the Friction of War still exists in the business world. The Federation Commander Tactics Manual, SFB Federation Master Starship Book, and SFB Hydran Master Starship Book all took twice as long as expected as we had to keep re-re-re-proofreading them to get all of the mistakes out. As Jean Sexton says, "First you move the mountains, then the boulders, then the rocks, then the pebbles, then the sand, and finally the dust." Her point is that the bigger mistakes almost always hide smaller mistakes and corrections of mistakes create more mistakes, so one round of proofreading doesn't get things done. Curiously, the product Jean did by herself (Prime Directive: Away Team Log) sailed through quite easily. Maybe she knows a secret?
One could argue (as we did for decades) that a book full of trivial mistakes today is better for the company than a book without mistakes that takes two extra months and wipes another new book entirely off the schedule. The reality is that doing sloppy books limits the potential market as less intense gamers actually expect a book without misspelled words and with rules that don't take a three-judge panel to interpret. While this new attitude did cost us three or four new products during 2014, it produced better products with better sales, and we're getting the hang of doing nearly perfect books in the time we once did fairly sloppy ones. As Jean Sexton said: "You wouldn't spend so much time fixing your mistakes if you learned how to do a book with fewer mistakes. Now quit whining and start learning."
After a break in the Main List to release Captain's Log #49, work resumed but quickly fell off the rails again. The already finished Master Starship Books consumed more time as mistakes in the PDF versions were found and fixed. It was our first experience with having to do more work on a finished product, but nobody suspected that it was not going to be the last. Jean's efforts to work on the Traveller Prime Directive RPG books ran into issues in the published books that won't be resolved until next year. We could have done the new Starmada books but were so busy that we simply forgot to send needed source materials to Daniel Kast; at least he's working on those now. Tribbles vs. Klingons never happened because "the bar" for a successful Kickstarter program (requiring graphics, videos, and a lot of other bells and whistles) climbed higher and higher faster than we could pursue it.
Steve Cole sat down after finishing Captain's Log #49 to "simply do the layout" for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book 1.2 and ran into a highway paved with molten tar and literally spent half of the year on that book. The layout project that could not possibly have taken more than three weeks actually took over 10 as many rules had to be edited and clarified. (This is no fault of the designer, Tony L. Thomas, who was doing his first published book and had not yet mastered the nuances of rules-writing to control the efforts of alpha-gamers to make starships do things impossible under the laws of the universe. He also had to learn that five different ways of typing the same game-speak term was not as good as picking the best way to do something and standardizing on that one. Jean has been teaching the two Steves the same lesson all year.) We then began what should have been a week of proofreading and corrections, which turned into six weeks as Drill Sergeant Jean proclaimed: "You're going to fix it again and again and again until you fix it the right way." Once the book was actually published and Steve Cole thought he could move on to Captain's Log #50, we learned (again) the ancient proverb: "A thousand gamers will see in a weekend what a dozen playtesters did not see in year." Because of the "public relations" importance of ACTASF-1.2, we had to arrange the system to release the PDF three months before printing any paper books, and spent six weeks fixing pebbles, sand, and dust in a book that was already finished. (This became time that was not spent on Captain's Log #50.) This was a very expensive command decision, and one we felt we had to take. The original hardback ACTASF book was so full of problems (rules, universe, format, style sheets, and typos) that the choice was clear: either show good faith by delivering a "very nearly perfect" book (we will release Revision D within days and Revision E at the end of January) or give up on the whole project. Not only do the long-suffering ACTASF players deserve a better book than we have ever done before, but the whole point of ACTASF was to break into new market for faster-playing games suitable for a much wider audience. We also need to start doing every book to this improved standard.
So in the end, not enough got done in 2014, but we learned valuable lessons in project management and product quality that will serve us well into the future. We must write the books to a higher standard before they are proofread, get control over non-performing miniatures vendors, and better leverage outside designers.

Tuesday, December 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, Jean Sexton 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 Lucky Coleman (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.

Monday, December 29, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 21-27 December 2014

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of parties and gatherings. The weather this week was cold. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the SFB Module R4 color SSD book.  

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault  this week were Revision C of A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book 1.2 and the SFB Module R4 B&W SSD book, .

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet and Captain's Log #50 and caught up on various things.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #50.

The Starline 2500 project scored with masters, but two of the five were ruined.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with five new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone took the week off due to bad weather and family obligations..

Jean worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book 1.2C, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2436 friends), managed our Twitter feed (over 100 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread For The Glory of the Empire, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Closing another Year, Changes, and Sameness

Jean Sexton muses:

Another year's end is in sight. I find that it is a good time to take stock of the world and see what has come and gone during the span -- sort of a mental inventory of my life. I invite you to walk through it with me.

This is the first full year I have spent in Amarillo. I saw more snowfalls here than I did in several previous years combined. I found there are things I miss: my gardens; my family and friends back in North Carolina; and the easy flow of academic life marked by semesters, new students (and their old questions which were new to them), and the unexpected question from which I learned something new. I gained decorating and furnishing my apartment, more frequent communication with my family, new friends in Amarillo, and the energy of a small business. I kept in touch with "new things" through young friends both here and on Facebook. I explored my tastes in music discovering musicians on YouTube and then supporting them by purchasing their music. (For once I seem to be "hip" again with enjoying Peter Hollens, The Piano Guys, Pentatonix, Lindsey Stirling, and so many young, talented artists.)

My job continues to evolve. I have taken on more and more marketing tasks. The list of items on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault continues to expand. I am exploring new venues for getting ADB's name out there. Proofreading continues to take my attention as we put out new titles. We have two new ventures: A Call to Arms: Star Fleet and the Master Starship books. Both of those are introducing us to new people. I am very excited about what I do and its potentials.

Cars come and cars go. I gave up my 14-year-old Corolla and gained a new Corolla. I found I am not driving nearly as much as I was. In 21 weeks I haven't averaged 100 miles a week. At that rate the U.S.S. Arctic Wolf will last me forever unless killed by outside forces.

Pets are harder to lose. Markie meant so very much to me; when he got deathly ill and I had to let him go, I mourned greatly. But sometimes from great pain comes joy. The Wolf entered my life and has my heart in his paws. I am having to learn to be in control though, so he can relax and be a pet, not the pack leader. Still, I have been glad he was with me when strange people started to approach and he warned them off.

So where am I now? I am content in my life in many ways. I am enjoying my quiet life. The wonders of the internet let me connect with far-flung friends. I have a home I am proud of. I have a reliable car. I have companionship (and Wolf won't let me mope long when I do get down). I have a job I enjoy.

I think in my inventory I have found happiness, contentment, challenges, joy, and friendship. I have hope that my future will continue to be bright. And I hope that each of you find positivity in your own life inventory.

Saturday, December 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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Season One Synopsis of the FOODIE AND GRUMPY SHOW.

Episode 1: Foodie Jean encourages Grumpy Steve to try Olive Garden. Grumpy Steve points out that 80% of the menu items would kill him. Foodie Jean explains what each dish is and how even someone with severe and extensive allergies can enjoy fine dining by careful menu selection and a frank conversation with the waiter. Foodie Jean gets the waiter to consult the chef and selects seafood Alfredo for Grumpy Steve, who pronounces the experience one he hopes to see repeated.

Episode 2: Foodie Jean tries a new menu item at Saltgrass, and declares it to be wonderful. Grumpy Steve complains that the waitress keeps refilling his tea (which he had sweetened just the way he wanted it) and snatching dirty silverware out of his hand to replace it with identical but clean silverware that he's just going to stick back into the same food. Grumpy Steve is reduced to tears by the waitress, but when she asks him what's wrong, his calm and plaintive answer reduces her to tears. Foodie Jean says Grumpy Steve was mean to the waitress.

Episode 3: Foodie Jean convinces Grumpy Steve to take her to a Chinese buffet. Grumpy Steve is known to describe Asian food as "dog vomit" and fears running into his allergies in pots of "stir fried junk" that he cannot identify. Foodie Jean convinces him that with over 100 different choices on nine buffet counters he won't starve and might actually find something he likes. She suggests that there has to be a pot or two of American food as this would only be good business. Grumpy Steve relents and goes along. Foodie Jean walks him past every counter, explaining dishes he cannot pronounce and guiding him away from toxic items. Steve finds more than enough to eat, and learns that the orange sweet and sour sauce is actually quite delicious. While there are only about 20 items he can eat out of over 100 (and fewer that he will eat), and many of those are (like any buffet) something that would be at home in a high school cafeteria, a few items are surprisingly good, and being able to have as much salmon as he can scoop up makes Grumpy Steve into Happy Steve.

Episode 4: Foodie Jean takes Grumpy Steve to a restaurant he used to visit every week, but grew tired of. Foodie Jean points out that it is easy to grow tired of a place if you always order the same one menu item. Grumpy Steve says that he has to do that, because it's too hard to figure out if he is allergic to a dish from the menu listing. Foodie Jean suggests that Grumpy Steve order something new, while she orders the item he has eaten 12 times in a row. She promises to trade plates with Grumpy Steve if he doesn't like what he gets, or if it turns out to be allergy toxic. She helps him review the menu and select some likely choices, and he gets lucky and finds a new dish that he has never tried before but which he greatly enjoys. Foodie Jean complains bitterly that the dish Steve traditionally orders is boring and plain and proceeds to liven it up with a selection of items from the condiment counter.

Episode 5: Foodie Jean challenges Grumpy Steve to a cook-off. He must prepare something she finds interesting, while she will prepare for him a new dish (being careful to avoid the items he is allergic to). Grumpy Steve dumps a can of spaghetti into a bowl along with a can of Vienna sausages that he cut into smaller pieces, then microwaves it. Foodie Jean disqualifies the dish based on a newly revealed "no microwave" rule. Grumpy Steve then makes his famous chicken stew, including a can of chicken and dumplings, a foil pack of extra chicken chunks, and half a can of peas and diced carrots, all stirred together in a saucepan over a low flame. Jean pronounces this "edible, but only barely" and suggests that it could be improved with a few spices. Foodie Jean asks for a desert and side dish, so Grumpy Steve opens a can of fruit cocktail and divides it into two bowls. Foodie Jean says "No fair, you must transform the canned food" so Grumpy Steve sprinkles pepper on one bowl and cinnamon on the other. Foodie Jean's offering to Steve is the pork chops he is known to love, served over rice with a mixture of apples and raisins. She also offers a side salad with several vegetables he is known to not be allergic to, and a cherry pie made from scratch with freshly picked fruit.
Episode 6: Foodie Jean encourages Grumpy Steve to try a different Italian restaurant. Grumpy Steve says that they should keep going to Olive Garden, since he knows what he can eat there, even if he orders exactly the same thing every time. Foodie Jean checks out a dozen websites and tells Grumpy Steve to try one called Eddie's. Grumpy Steve says he would rather go to Olive Garden where he knows what he will get, but Foodie Jean says if he will take a tiny risk of getting a bad meal they might find something better. She promises to stop at McDonald's on the way back to the office if Grumpy Steve gets a bad meal. Eddie's turns out to be a one-off local restaurant owned by the chef who uses his grandmother's recipes. The Alfredo sauce (just about the only Italian sauce that Grumpy Steve's allergies will tolerate) turns out to be far superior to Olive Garden. The manager explains that Chef Eddie made the Alfredo sauce in Grumpy Steve's bowl about five minutes after the waitress took the order. Grumpy Steve is convinced that Eddie's is a great place to eat, but is not convinced that taking risks needs to be a significant part of his life. Foodie Jean (big surprise) pronounced the chicken parmigiana to be far superior at the chef-owned restaurant compared to Olive Garden but wants to alternate the two "since each tastes good in its own way" and Grumpy Steve agrees.

Episode 7: Grumpy Steve surprises Foodie Jean by suggesting they try a different Chinese buffet. Adventurous Foodie Jean agrees. At the new Chinese buffet, Grumpy Steve finds a bigger selection of American food and delicious things called sugar-biscuits. Foodie Jean is less successful, hating everything without trying it, then (with a deep sigh) trying the wonton soup, which she pronounces good enough to return for. After Foodie Jean finishes a bowl of wonton soup, Grumpy Steve turns the tables and encourages her to try something else, and Foodie Jean (realizing the turnabout is fair play) agrees to try the sweet and sour chicken over vegetable fried rice, which she discovers is very good "for a buffet."

Episode 8: Foodie Jean convinces Grumpy Steve to actually eat Chinese food. After surveying all available items, she determines that the only Chinese food that won't kill him is plain white rice, sweet and sour sauce, and the fried chicken nuggets. Grumpy Steve pronounces this delicious and experiments by replacing the chicken with salmon or beef brisket. Foodie Jean is horrified at the idea of sweet and sour brisket.

Episode 9: Grumpy Steve drags Foodie Jean (kicking and screaming) to an American buffet, where she discovers the only fried chicken in town that suits her taste. She also discovers that the selection of vegetables at this buffet varies day-to-day, but that the planned menu is available online.

Episode 10: Grumpy Steve drags Foodie Jean (kicking and screaming) to a local convenience store, determined to show her that decent food can be had there. After surveying the microwave hamburgers, week-old factory-made sandwiches, and fat-filled hotdogs, Foodie Jean buys a dozen eggs, some ham, string cheese, and a can of pineapple. Returning to the office, Foodie Jean whips up a delicious omelet that even Grumpy Steve declares delicious.

Episode 11: Foodie Jean and Grumpy Steve go to a local diner which has a variety of offerings they both like. Foodie Jean orders an omelet with onions and peppers, but the cook is out sick and his replacement serves the omelet with the onions and peppers almost uncooked. The smell of the uncooked (toxic) vegetables drives Grumpy Steve into a toxic shock coma and he is evacuated by ambulance. Foodie Jean says "more for me!" and reaches for Grumpy Steve's plate, looks at it, then puts it back down. She later prepares chicken soup with onions and peppers and takes it to him in the hospital, but an armed guard confiscates the soup before allowing her into Grumpy Steve's room.

Episode 12. Foodie Jean cooks the traditional holiday feast, but Grumpy Steve's idea of tradition is very different from hers so he cooks his own version at the same time. Foodie Jean offers a roast turkey with 17 different spices and herbs rubbed into the bird and stuffing made with onions, celery, and cranberries. Grumpy Steve microwaves some turkey lunchmeat. Foodie Jean cooks an elaborate gravy including giblets, onion powder, and home-churned butter; Grumpy Steve microwaves a can of chicken soup and stirs in some flour, then strains out the lumps with the thing he once used to make hash-brown potatoes. Foodie Jean makes a side dish of deviled eggs including sweet apple vinegar, mustard, real egg mayonnaise, and pickle relish. Grumpy Steve takes his half of the hardboiled eggs, mixes the yolks with salad dressing and mustard, then scoops this back into the egg whites with his pocket knife. Foodie Jean makes the traditional green bean casserole including bacon, cream of celery soup, and French fried onions. Grumpy Steve opens a can of green beans and sticks in a fork. Foodie Jean whips up mashed potatoes using cream and roasted garlic. Grumpy Steve shakes a packet of instant mashed potatoes into a bowl of milk and microwaves it. Needing bread, Foodie Jean cooks orange-cranberry muffins, while Grumpy Steve finds some leftover hotdog buns and wedges them into the toaster. Foodie Jean prepares a delicious fruit salad including pineapple bits, pears, maraschino cherries, mandarin oranges, sour cream, and miniature marshmallows. Grumpy Steve opens a can of fruit cocktail and sticks in a spoon. Foodie Jean prepares cranberry sauce including whole berries, orange juice, sliced oranges, and sugar. Grumpy Steve opens a can of jellied cranberry sauce and sticks in a spoon. Foodie Jean cooks a pecan pie including brandy, chocolate, and hand-whipped cream. Grumpy Steve opens a box of Little Debbie Brownies.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Taking a Little Holiday

We at ADB want to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that whatever holiday you celebrate was/is/will be filled with family and love.

We are taking off today to be with family and will spend Boxing Day (the 26th) with friends. We will be back in the office on Saturday.

While we will be taking orders, we are going to wait until the start of the new year to ship them. That will allow Leanna time to close out our fiscal year. Of course our ebooks will be available immediately.

Merry Christmas from

Leanna Cole
Stephen Cole
Ramses Cat Cole
Steven Petrick
Simone Pike
Jean Sexton
Wolf Dog Sexton
 Michael Sparks

Wednesday, December 24, 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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Remember Those Who Serve

This is Steven Petrick posting.

It is the season of friends and family. Most of us would wish that it was that season all year round, but it cannot be. Worse, even as we gather with those of our own circles, men and women are still in Harm's way seeking to keep those who would change the world in ways most of us would abhor at a distance.

As you gather with friends and family, remember that during this time the police, fire departments, EMTs, and yes soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guards are out there, often in unpleasant weather and many of them among complete strangers, providing you with the opportunity to enjoy the season.

So take some time to give a thought to all those who have chosen a life of service that you might enjoy friends and family.

Monday, December 22, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 December 2014

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a quiet week of steady work. The weather this week was cool. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was the Omega Master Rulebook.

Steve Cole worked on the final fixes to A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 Revision C.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #50.

The Starline 2500 project showed signs of live as we got word that Master Mold Two would arrive shortly.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 1 new entries.

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 the Kindle version of For the Glory of the Empire, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2433 friends), managed our Twitter feed (over 100 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 Revision C, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 21, 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/).

Saturday, December 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!

Friday, December 19, 2014


1. If you didn't put the drones in the scatter-pack, where did you put them?

2. You loaded the photons with WHAT, instead of anti-matter?

3. Why is the cook leading the Marines?

4. You did what to the warp engines?

5. If the pilots are still on the ship, who is flying the fighters?

6. What do you mean "he went to the bathroom"?

7. If you're not using the UIM to aim the disruptors, then what are you using it for?

8. What do you mean "you're not sure" whether you launched the real or the pseudo plasma torpedoes?

9. You're using the stasis field generator to keep the vegetables fresh?

10. You're using one of the seeking weapons control channels to steal pay TV ?

Thanks to Geoff Gard. This originally appeared in Captain's Log #18. (c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, December 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sublight Squadrons Win Using the Rules

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Games give us opportunities to find solutions. The game mechanics and situation can place us in a difficult situation where success on the surface appears illusory at best. This gives us, however, an opportunity to work within the game's framework to find solutions.

Romulan sublight ships are obviously severely handicapped when facing warp powered ships. So much so that victory seems unlikely. Winning with them takes more thought and patience and you have to optimize the rules affecting them.

The fact that they move so slow makes it difficult for an opponent to gain and retain a lock-on if they are cloaked. However, that does not mean the opponent cannot simply fire without a lock-on to gradually wear away the sublight ship's defenses. Given the long range of the plasma-R torpedo, the opponent may be forced to operate at fast speeds in order to fire and "get out of dodge" before the long range plasma-R can catch him. He also has the advantage that the Romulan sublight ships are designed for "offensive" use rather than defensive, at least in space. All of the weapons on the Eagles, Hawks, and Snipes are designed to fire forward, there is not much to protect the vulnerable tails of these ships.

There is also nothing that keeps you from operating a few ships in a squadron of sublight Romulans in reverse. Whether moving not at all, or their maximum speed of one, has no effect on their ability to move one hex a turn by impulse power.

There is also the fact that they can hold off on moving at all until almost the end of a given turn. They should always, in battle, use only reserve impulse power to move. Whether that movement is a sublight tactical maneuver, or actually leaving the hex will depend on the enemy's operations. In the interim, it is somewhat harder to get a lock-on on a cloaked ship that is at Speed Zero most of the turn, except at most the four impulses at the end of a turn, and retaining a lock-on gained is problematic at such speeds, especially if you are fleeing from a Romulan plasma torpedo meaning you are opening the range.

No, this is not going to help in a duel situation. Lone sublight ships are extremely disadvantaged and one can imagine many a Romulan picket ship lost to raiders. But Romulan sublight squadrons can still prevail over small groups of enemy ships by optimizing the advantages the rules give them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Steve Cole ponders the curious origins of interesting words:

1. PARAPHERNALIA, any sort of miscellaneous baggage or equipment carried by an individual, comes from the Greek para (beside) and phero (that which was bought). It originally referred to the personal property of a bride which did not become the property of her husband; it was separate from her dowry.

2. PARASITE, some person or other animal who lives entirely off the resources of someone else, is from the Greek para (beside) and sitos (food). Originally it was not derogatory and was used to refer to priests who existed from the donations of their flock. Later the term applied to guests at dinner (who were expected to flatter the host if they wanted to be invited back).

3. PARIAH, someone who is outcast, comes from an Indian word parai, which referred to workers who spent all day beating a drum to control the pace of work by other workers. When the Aryans invaded India about 2,000BC, they subjugate the dark-skinned natives and reduced them to the lowest caste, which were called pariahs not because they beat a drum all day but because they worked in low level drudgery. The British, hearing (and not completely understanding) the term used it to refer to anyone who had been cast out or banished.

4. PATROL, which means to walk around an area checking for trouble, comes from the Old French word patouiller which meant "to dabble in the mud." Later French soldiers assigned to walk around the outside of the camp to prevent anyone from approaching adopted the term, and the British (who copied many French military terms) copied and shortened it to patrol.

5. PATTER, a word used by the English (but rarely if at all by the Americans) to be babble or mindless recitation comes from the Latin pater (father). Peasants in the middle and dark ages recited their Latin prayers without knowing what the words meant; the the pater noster (our father, or the Lord's Prayer) was the most common of those.

6. PAVILION, once an elaborate tent and now often a public building where exhibitions are held, comes from the French papilio, which means butterfly. The French used that term because tents used by the officers and nobles were often of brightly colored cloth. Over time it passed into English.

7. PECULIAR, which today means strange or odd, comes from the Latin peculiaris, which originally referred to the cattle owned by a farmer. Over time, peculiaris began to refer to all of the wealth (and then to all of the possessions) of a farmer, worker, or soldier. Something you owned was "peculiar to you." Unusual creatures or cultures were said to have peculiarities, that is, attributes unique to them.

8. PEDAGOG, which technically means a schoolteacher but is often used today for "know it all," comes from the Greek and meant "leader of boys." A rich family would assign a specific slave the duty of caring for the sons, guarding (perhaps herding) them as they went outside of the house (perhaps to the gym or some other outing). Over time, it became highly desirable to buy a slave for this duty who was an educated man captured in battle, and he was expected to be more of a teacher and guide than a mere nanny.

9. PEN, PENCIL, now the most common writing instruments, would appear to be derived from a common root, but they are not, and their similarity is only coincidence. Pens came from goose quills, which were called Penna in Latin. Pencils were originally the finest of brushes used by artists, and peniculus was the Latin word for "little tail."

10. PERSON, which today means a unique human, comes from the Latin persona, which means mask. (It is easy to see how the modern word persona derives.) Greek actors always wore masks with unique exaggerated features so that those members of the audience in the most distant seats could tell who they were. Thus, in every play you saw, a particular mask (used over and over) was always a 40-year-old father, while a different mask was always a sickly boy, another was always the god Apollo, and so forth.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 December 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work. The weather this week was cool (40F-50F). The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week was JagdPanther #11.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were JagdPanther #11, Captain's Log #9, and Federation Commander Briefing #2 Pack B.

Steve Cole worked on the line items for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2C.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #50.

The Starline 2500 project marched in place, waiting for masters that should have been here a month ago. We're as fed up with the mold-making company as you are.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with six new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory. Mike got both Steves to help him do quality control checks on a new shipment of Starline 2400 miniatures. The casting house did a great job and there were less than 20 bad ones out of over 1000 pieces.

Simone did website updates, sent out Hailing Frequencies, uploaded Communique #108, and did some graphics including glorious comets.

Jean worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2C, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to almost 2400 friends), managed our Twitter feed (over 100 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread For the Glory of the Empire, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 14, 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.

Saturday, December 13, 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 are also listing Federation Commander, Federation & Empire, 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 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 as PDFs. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fusion Beams

This week we have a guest filker, James Everett.

This is based on the AC/DC song TNT

Fusion Beams
hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
see me ride out of the starbase
on your color viewing screen
out for all that I can get
if you know what I mean
Stingers to the left of me
and Stingers to the right
ain't got no phaser
ain't got no knife
don't you start no fight
'cause I've got Fusion Beams I'm outa sight
(Fusion Beams) and I'll win the fight
(Fusion Beams) I'm an overload
(Fusion Beams) watch him explode

I'm dirty mean and mighty unclean
I'm a wanted man
Lyran enemy number one
so lock on your Gatling
and lock on for life
raise up your shields
and run for your life
the man is back in space
so don't you mess me 'round
'cause I've got Fusion Beams I'm outa sight
(Fusion Beams) and I'll win the fight
(Fusion Beams) I'm an overload
(Fusion Beams) watch him explode

Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
I'm outa sight
Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
and I'll win the fight,
Fusion Beams (hey, hey, hey)
I'm an overload
(Fusion Beams)
watch him explode
by James Everett

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life Continues at ADB

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have, of late, done a few SSDs for the next Captain's Log, one requested by a player and several selected by SVC.

I try to always have something going for the next Captain's Log, in hopes of being far enough ahead that I am not crushed in the final week of doing it.

I am working on another project, not one I enjoy doing as it is heavy on editing, and has a number of background issues that need untangling.

I could use some new scenarios for Captain's Log, and it would be nice to have some new term papers, tactical notes, command notes, and etc. for the issue.

We have a "Victory at" article wrapped up, but we have a lot of blank spaces still to fill. A tactics article on some empire that does not have one yet would be nice.

One of the things about reading history is you can always come across things that remind you that the troubles with today's bureaucracy and politicians are not really anything new. The stupidity and double dealing and protecting of "turf" that plagues so much of our government today were well established even in the 1800s when the country was not yet 100 years old. I can assure you that it is quite depressing to see the same problems now more than 200 years later and no solution to them has been found.

Wednesday, December 10, 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 ebook, 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:

Tuesday, December 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 with Star Fleet Universe art. We have art that will work on Facebook, iOS7 iPhones, Android devices, and computers. You will also find art you can use as binder spine cards.

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.

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.

Monday, December 08, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 30 November - 6 December 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week to get a good start on new projects (the Klingon Master Starship Book and the Kindle version of For the Glory of the Empire). The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Because Warehouse 23 was going to be down part of the week, we didn't add anything new online.       

Steve Cole worked on line items for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2B-C. He also worked on
Steven Petrick worked mostly on the Klingon Master Starship Manual, but also did work on Communique and Hailing Frequencies.

The Staline 2500 project continues to wait for Master Mold Two. The Starlist Update Project moved forward with 2 new entries and one updates. The SFBOL 3rd Generation update has reached 584 ship descriptions.

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 For the Glory of the Empire, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,831friends), managed our Twitter feed (125 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

On Holidays and Stress and Playing

Wolf Dog Sexton thinks:

Holidays are pretty hard on dogs and even on our hated cat enemies. Our humans run around putting up strange things and fussing if we try to smell the things or taste them. Cats even climb the indoor trees and the humans get mad if the tree falls over. (We dogs would never put our feet on the trunks and sort of push them a little bit.) Then the humans put really cool-looking boxes on the floor and expect us to never, ever chew on them or lick them, even if we can smell good things inside. And cats get cat toys on the boxes, but are expected to never play with their toys.

Some of this leads to stress for our humans. In addition, they seem to get stressed if there are not enough boxes or too many boxes. If we offend one of the sacred rules made by our people, then we get yelled at, too. (My Mom doesn't yell at me, but then I try to be a very good dog and not chew on things except my toys and antlers.) What makes me sad is that some humans exile their dogs and cats to outside when they get tired of their furkids. Sometimes I hear dogs crying on a balcony; sometimes I see cats skulking in the bushes or under cars. True, I bark at the cats, but that is because they belong inside with their people. I feel sorry for them when it gets really cold; I start shivering and they probably are, too. All we really want is to be with our humans.

Playing makes me feel better. It gets me tired and then I sleep. But while we are playing, I am happy. When I play, my Mom laughs and that makes me even happier and I play harder. Maybe, if we all played (people with their cats and people with their dogs and people with their people), we would all be happier during the holidays. So I challenge you to play. Play hard. Laugh hard. Enjoy and love the pets (and humans) in your life. If you do, maybe you will be less stressed.

So why are you still reading this? Go and play!!

Saturday, December 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.

Friday, December 05, 2014

I Shot the Klingon

I shot the Klingon, but I didn’t shoot no Romulan.
Oh, no, no
I shot the Klingon, but I didn’t shoot no Romulan.
Ooh, ooh, ooh Yeah

All around my home starbase,
They’re tryin’ to run me down, yeah.
They say they want to blow me up really
For the killing of a Romulan, for the life of a Romulan.
But I say, oh, now, now...

Oh, I shot the Klingon, but I swear it was in self defense.
Ooh, ooh, ooh I said, I shot the Klingon, Oh Lord
And they say it is a act of war offense, Ooh, ooh, ooh, Hear this.

Klingon Kagan always hated me, For what I don’t know.
Ev’ry time I colonize. He said, “Bomb it before it grows.”
He said, “Bomb them before they grow.”

And so, oh, now, now, Read it in sub-space.


Starships came my way one day, And I started out of town, yeah!
All of a sudden I saw Klingon Kagan.
Aiming to shoot me down.
So I shot, I shot, I shot him down.
And I say, if I am guilty I will pay.

I shot the Klingon, but I swear it was in self defense
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Where was the Romulan?
I said I shot the Klingon but I swear it was in self defense

T-bombs had the better of me,
And what is to be must be.
Ev’ry day the battle a-go-a well.
One day the bottom a-go drop out.
One day the bottom a-go drop out.
I say, I, I, ...


Filk written by Stephen V. Cole. Appeared in Captain's Log #35. (c) 2007

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What to Blog, What to Blog, What to Blog

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have no idea how many times I have had to sit down and write a blog. I know that each time it becomes harder and harder to do. I do not want to repeat myself (and, yes, I am aware that the preceding is in essence repeating myself as I have complained about the trouble with coming up with something to say before). However each time I sit down to do so my mind draws a blank.

I am never sure if I can actually talk about a current project. Sometimes they are "secret" because we do not want them to be expected until we are sure we are going to do them. Sometimes they are works in progress and I can indulge, but I do not know for sure if what I am currently doing falls into what category. I do not, you see, generally care. It is a task assigned and I work on it until it is finished. I do not work on projects because they are great for me, I do them for you guys and gals, so no matter what it is, I always try to do the best I can.

I have spoken about most of the stories in my own life that I thought might be of interest to others, but I am pretty much out of such stories (as noted, I do not wish to repeat myself). This has helped me to see just how "boring" my life has been. And it has been. Sure, there have been moments of personal fear in the moment, but fear does not in and of itself make a pedestrian crisis something of real moment, i.e., it is still boring because the incident itself is pedestrian even if life-threatening.

Sigh, not much of a blog.

Wednesday, December 03, 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.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Steve Cole ponders how old he feels.

I am 63 and the world I knew growing up was not the world I now find myself in. I grew up in a world without internet, email, cell phones, digital cameras, cable TV, computers smaller than a truck, video recorders, or Walmart.

1. I grew up in a house with one phone in a town (over 100,000 people) where nobody even knew anybody with two phones in their house. The first time I visited somebody else's house and the kids had their own separate phone was when I was about 20. Same for having two phones in different parts of the house that rang on the same line. Long-distance phone calls were still rare and expensive things when I was 25, and people would talk for days about a long-distance call they received.

2. I was born with two television channels and barely old enough to be aware of the world when the third channel appeared. At the time I didn't really realize that there were such things at channels; mother just turned on the TV for me when she wanted to, and sometimes I'd change the channel for myself. I was married and 28 years old when a fourth channel appeared and you had to have a special antenna to get it (and that antenna worked only some of the time.) That's about the same time that VHS recorders showed up for $1500 each (which today would be about $5000). Cable came along when I was 30 and suddenly we had 15 channels but 11 of them only had reruns of stuff I had seen before.

3. I grew up always carrying a dime to make an emergency phone call, and there were pay phones on every block. As a teenager I saw a movie about somebody who had been on a deserted island long enough to think phone calls were still a nickel, and my dad said that was before I was born. I remember when phone calls jumped to a quarter and a lot of people were upset. I remember seeing the first bag phone on a soap opera when I was about 27 years old.

4. I was married and working a full time job (and almost 30) when 90% of restaurants and stores would not take credit cards, and gas stations all had their own separate credit cards. And credit cards were all done in a machine that embossed the raised lettering into carbon paper and had to be physically taken to the bank. Since I worked as a construction engineer out of town most of the time I had to either carry a week of cash with me or open an account at a local bank near each construction site.

5. I was born and grew up before pistol permits. A few people carried a concealed firearm, a few did open carry, and most did not carry one at all. People working "out in the country" (e.g., oilfield construction) almost always carried a 22LR "snake gun" (and used it for rattlesnakes at least once a week). It wasn't actually legal but the cops didn't bother you about it, even if they saw it. You drove around with it lying on the seat (putting it under the seat when you parked and got out of the car). The "policy" was that if cops saw you with a gun on the seat of your car they assumed you were taking it to be cleaned, or picking it up from being cleaned, or were going to or from the firing range. Only if they caught you with a gun on three consecutive days did anybody warn you not to carry it, and nobody knew anybody that happened to. There were some construction sites with so many snakes that somebody (usually me) had to carry a pistol all day long like a cowboy.

6. Inflation is a crazy thing. When I got married in 1977 you could buy a decent plate lunch for $3 at any café in town, and you tipped the waitress a quarter. When I was about 12 you could get a hamburger at any of several fast food places for a dime; it went up to a quarter when I was in college.

7. When I was in college you had to spend an hour at a card puncher to run a relatively minor equation on a computer. I was working as an engineer when our department got the first desktop computer anyone had seen. It came with a full time computer programmer and each engineer had to write programs to calculate anything (like how much pressure a pipeline needed to move this much natural gas that many miles). All of the engineers had one tape for our programs, and we had to sign up days in advance for an hour of time to do calculations. We did word processing by running a simple math program and then typing in our text as "comment lines" which had to be retyped by a clerk-typist on a magnetic card typewriter.
 8. When I was a kid I played anywhere I wanted and when I was a teenager I rode my bike all over town. If I got lost or my bike had a flat tire, I could knock on the door of any house and the housewife would call my parents to come and get me. Nobody's mother worked outside of her home; my own mother gave up her nursing career when she got pregnant with me. Few girls went to college when I was 10; when I was 20 virtually all of the girls in college were there just to find husbands. Boys went to college to get jobs. Nobody had heard of student loans until I was 21. Only kids with rich parents got liberal arts degrees.

9. Teachers were mostly women who took a decade off from work after they became pregnant for the first time. They went back to teaching (some of them) only when their own children were in school. I was 11 when I saw the first male teacher (math) and 13 when I saw any more (gym coach, the music and art teacher, and more math teachers).

10. Just about everybody around me had a father who had been in the military for World War II and almost every home I visited had a little framed box of medals and campaign ribbons. Even the younger teachers talked about their fathers being in World War II.

Monday, December 01, 2014

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was a de-stress week, as we enjoyed the holiday and made steady progress on new projects. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. Our internet router burned out causing pandemonium until it was replaced the next day.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 Revision C, graphics for SFBOL3G, other projects, sales copy for JagdPanthers, and walked Wolf almost every day.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book.

The 2500 project continues to wait for the new master mold that should have been ready by now.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries.

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 created the first "Dangerous Blogs" cartoon for Jean to post.

Jean worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 Revision C, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,372 friends), managed our Twitter feed (124 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, did some marketing, and cooked a splendid holiday dinner for Leanna and the Steves.