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Thursday, April 30, 2015

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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Where is the Klingon Master Starship Book?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Klingon Master Starship Book is scheduled as the next entry in the Master Starship Book series. Including all of the extant "real" ship descriptions from all published products and issues of Captain's Log (excluding Captain's Log #28). By real I mean that anything that appeared in a Stellar Shadows product is not regarded as part of the actual canon, but material in Captain's Log is, as well as other game modules.

The editing of this book went into a more intensive review of Klingon carrier escorts (the few ADWs are more restricted, the single E5E appears in only a single carrier table, among other fixes) and of the deployment of Klingon fighters. The article in Captain's Log #25 required considerable contemplation, and the data on how fighters flow through the system was carefully considered.

Currently all of the text is in the hands of staffers who are checking for mistakes, and who may take issue with some of the decisions on fighter deployments. These will be considered and fixed, along with any other mistakes they find. We hope to make this as good a product as we can. Jean Sexton has already been seen sharpening her purple pens in preparation for eviscerating the text looking for things she finds objectionable and threatening extreme pain if one of her pens happens to run out of ink while she is perusing the text.

Ship graphics are the other issue, and the initial list of graphics that must be created has been generated. SVC has already gone through the process of setting a specific scale (necessary due to the existence of the B11 super battleship). Some day, when we do the Seltorians, the Hive Ship graphic will probably simply take up one entire column of its own due to the scale issue.

In any case, a complete draft can now be considered to exist, but pending graphics and found errors that will need fixing, I cannot make a prediction on a release date.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Steve Cole reports on his health, and health in general.
Over the last few months I have undergone a serious change (for the good) in my medical situation, and it just got a lot better in the last two months. Let me tell you the story and maybe it will encourage others.
About a dozen years ago, a dear friend of mine died, and my wife decided that I needed to see a doctor regularly (instead of once a decade). This was the doctor who retired recently. He discovered all of my health issues, gave me some pills, and they quickly came under control, but weight loss just did not happen. This was partly because the medication I was taking was notoriously resistant to losing weight, and partly because I was busy and didn't take time to exercise. Two years ago in February I broke my leg and a year later I had reached a point where my (severely limited) ability to walk was as good as it was going to get. This sent me into a serious depression as I knew there would be no more vacations as I couldn't walk well enough to see or do anything. I had resolved myself to the idea that the inevitable was only a few years away.
Late last year my doctor of many years retired and I was lucky enough to have Leanna's doctor take over my care. As I am diabetic, grossly overweight, have high blood pressure and a weak heart, there is a certain amount of care to be taken. To hear the new doctor tell it, the retired doctor should have been doing a lot more. I was skeptical at first (being suspicious of doctors who are always looking for something else to bill your insurance for) but she quickly convinced me.
I have been seriously overweight for a very long time. At one point nearly 20 years ago (when I weighed a lot less and was still seriously overweight) Steve Petrick and I took to walking a mile every day, and the weight steadily dropped away. Then a business crisis messed up everything and all the weight came back as I used food to deal with stress. I stopped walking at work more. A few years later, we started walking a mile a day again, but the weight stayed the same due to the medication and the broken leg two years ago brought that to a stop.
The new doctor quickly changed my treatment to another medication which would allow me to lose weight if I gave it some serious effort. (Moral of that story, if you have taken the same medication for a decade and it has caused problems, just maybe some drug company invented something new and maybe your doctor could find out about it.) I started to feel a lot better (she found a vitamin deficiency which she fixed and that helped, but finishing ACTASF-1.2 and "Day of the Dragon" helped even more) and with the encouragement of the doctor (as well as Leanna and Jean) I began to walk more.
A lot more. Wolf is always ready to accompany me. I was walking a quarter mile three or four times a week at the first of this year, but that quickly went to seven times a week and then each walk (Wolf and I visit a variety of parks in rotation) began to stretch longer and longer. I checked a map and was able to find interesting routes and paths to explore. The daily walk (excepting bad weather) usually stretched to half a mile, and some of them to a mile, then the Saturday walk reached a mile and a half (with a plan to extend it half a mile every month).
Wolf was adamantly opposed to any idea of skipping a walk now and then (I could always find an excuse), and I found that I wasn't really losing any work since the walks cleared my head, removed my stress, and gave me a chance to think through some game design and business issues. (Moral of that story: everybody needs to exercise, walking is one of the best exercises around, and God invented dogs just for this purpose.) The fresh air and sunshine helped, too.
Suddenly I was walking four or more miles a week and honestly thinking that maybe I could walk a 10K course a year from now. (I need a goal.) I was shocked to step on the scale for the first time in two months and discover 10 missing pounds. This unexpected weight loss, and the positive reinforcement from friends and family (and the doctor) elevated my mood. I even noticed that I was walking confidently instead of carefully placing each step of my damaged left leg (in constant fear of falling down). My left leg is now much stronger and I don't even notice that the bones don't work the way the original design envisioned. Leanna and Jean have noticed that even after walking a mile and a half, I go back to work instead of taking a nap on the sofa (which I did only a year ago after walking a quarter mile).
Suddenly, my future is not a steady decline into that good night, but a reasonable expectation that it will get a lot better and fairly soon. Just doing what I'm doing, in two years I can get down to what would be considered a normal weight for a man my age. That could mean that instead of doing less and less each year, I could do more and more. Losing a hundred pounds will (perhaps) end my diabetes and high blood pressure. (The old doctor said I was: "a type-3 diabetic, just too darn fat." The new doctor admits there is some truth to this unscientific diagnosis.) Medical science supports the theory that serious weight loss by a fat person will reduce or eliminate blood sugar issues. Losing the weight will mean fewer pills, more energy, vacations I had long abandoned any hope of enjoying (Hawaii in 2016, I need a goal), and living to the age at which my parents died (at least 15 years from now, 30 years in the case of my grandfather). That's enough time to find something important to accomplish, and far too long to sit in front of a television and wait for the inevitable. Everyone around me is delighted by the new (and far more productive) attitude. If you'll excuse me now, I need to go take a walk and figure out how to handle those fighter factors in F&E.

Monday, April 27, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 April 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we scheduled for work on Federation & Empire, which worked out well as F&E Director of Staff Chuck Strong stopped by for three days while on his vacation. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. On Saturday, Warehouse Manager Mike Sparks got married to his lovely bride Wakana.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Federation & Empire Compendium Part 3. New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was Captain's Log #11.

Steve Cole worked on F&E stuff almost exclusively, but walked every day except Saturday. This did include some updated SITs, but mostly focused on Minor Empires. Steve also had a doctor checkup which came back with excellent bloodwork and other reports.

Steven Petrick worked on some F&E stuff but mostly focused on the Klingon Master Starship Book and Captain's Log #51.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late, but there was hopeful news.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries and two updates.

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 ACTASF ship roster card packs, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,583 friends), managed our Twitter feed (144 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread some of Minor Empires, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

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.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

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.

Friday, April 24, 2015


1. If the enemy is in overload range, so are you.

2. Seeking weapons have the right of way.

3. Don't fly the only unique ship in the squadron, it just makes you the most interesting target.

4. There is always a rule you have forgotten.

5. The open path to the enemy planet is mined.

6. Shuttles should try to look non-threatening; they might not want to waste a phaser.

7. Rated aces are predictable and dangerous; new players are unpredictable and even more dangerous.

8. The decisive point of the battle will come at one of two points: a. your weapons aren't recycled or b. you're out of power.

9. Stay with your squadron; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at.

10. If you can't remember if he has something armed or ready, he does.

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

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scars and Mysteries

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Like most people, I have over the years collected many scars. Most tell stories as reminders of various incidents of my life, as do the scars of most people.

The small scar above my right eye tells a tale of a future almost lost. A fall on a lawn sprinkler that came within a half inch of destroying my right eye while I was yet a child. Without that eye, my whole life would have been very different from that point. Joining the Army (or any military organization) would have been closed to me from that point. That would probably have affected my reading habits (I read history and military type science fiction as part of becoming knowledgeable about things military, tactics and stratagems and such). Without my right eye, would I have been as aggressive my day to day play which would have had long term impacts on my health. Would my peers in school or day to day life have acted towards me in ways that might have changed my personality?

That scar reminds me of how a little incident can have life-altering implications.

On the back of my left hand is a small scar about a half-inch long immediately above the knuckle of my left Pinky (as in slashing right across it). That scar serves to remind me that I survived an attack by knife-wielding opponent who meant to do me serious harm. I no longer remember what it felt like to have my life in peril from such an assault, but the scar reminds me that it happened, and that I did survive.

Scars on my kneecaps, a reminder of my worst motorcycle accident. A scar on the inside of my right ankle, all that reminds me of the car accident that came close to leaving me an orphan. Another scar near that one, a curious incident with a hatchet. One behind my right ear . . . well there are several others with stories that can be told.

But there are also scars that have no memory attached to them. There is a small scar more than an inch long between one of my shoulders and my chest. It is there, but I have no memory of how I got it. Another scar I encountered one day is on the outside of my left ankle. It is more than an inch long running along the upper edge of the ankle bone, and again there is no memory associated with it, I simply noticed it one day, and even then it was obviously long ago healed. Those are mysteries.

Some of these scars come with their own emotional content, and of course there are other scars in my life that are purely emotional, leaving no blemish on my skin to show their existence.

Every scar, though, should have a story, and some of my visible ones do not.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Visitation of Chuck Strong

Jean Sexton writes:

Steve Cole is trying to rotate through working on various products so they all get "Steve time." When Chuck Strong, head of the Federation & Empire department, said he'd like to drop by, this week became F&E Week. Steve worked on the draft of a new product titled Minor Empires. This introduces the Lyran Democratic Republic, the Vudar Enclave, and the Seltorian Tribunal as players in F&E. They may be only a thorn in the side of the major empires, but what a thorn they can be! We are also working on updating the Fighter Operations rulebook to the new standards.

The really great thing about a visit like this is the immediacy of feedback. Steve Cole can find out what Chuck and his staff meant when they wrote something. Chuck can get Steven Petrick to work with him and solve problems so that F&E reflects the root database found in Star Fleet Battles. Chuck can see all my purple marks and find out if there is a consistent problem. What can take weeks over the phone and by email takes hours.

A slight obstacle to Chuck's visit was The Wolf who decided to repel the boarder. After the judicious application of treats, The Wolf decided that Chuck was a Good Person. (In fact, as I type, The Wolf has abandoned me to spend time with this marvelous person.)

Steve and I met with Chuck to discuss the timeline and priorities of work for his visit. Poor Chuck got to see the Purple Pen of Perdition in action as I caught a rule number issue. Together, Steve Cole, Chuck Strong, and I are working out a format for long scenarios.

What was accomplished?
Six Ship Information Tables (SITs) were updated.
A decision was made to make the SITs more easily accessible.
Two-step conversions for the Romulan Heavy Hawks were fixed.
Seltorian production issues were resolved.
A clear path for getting Minor Empires finished has been laid out.

We at ADB truly appreciate Chuck's taking time on his trip to stop by and work so closely with us. His dedication and hard work are respected by us.

Chuck, safe travels as you continue your trip! And thanks for the visitation!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

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

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

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 April 2015

Steve Cole reports: This was the week we scheduled for work on the upcoming Federation & Empire expansions. The weather this week was mild. The spam storm remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week JagdPanther #13.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book 1.2E, revised ACTASF ship roster packs for the Gorns, Kzintis, and Orions, and JagdPanther #13.

Steve Cole worked on the four F&E countersheets, uploaded a revised Gorn and Tholian SIT, and did the first draft on the the Minor Empires rulebook. He finished ACTASF-1.2E. He continued his exercise program, walking 4.5 total miles with Drillmaster Wolf. He did the first nine pictures (out of 150) for Petrick's Klingon Master Starship Book and finished the individual pages for the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and elements of Captain's Log #51.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are months late. The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries. SFBOL reports that 1/4 of all ship descriptions are now 3G.

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 PDF uploads, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,580 friends), managed our Twitter feed (145 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread a draft of Minor Empires for F&E and various ACTASF ship roster card packs, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

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!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

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.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Weasel 0.01
Wild Weasel 0.75
Rabid Weasel 0.00
Legendary Accountant (fixes EAF errors) 10.00
Tractor 0.50
John Deere Tractor 7.00
Red Self-Destruct Button 0.01
Safety Catch for Red Button 9.99
Flashing Lights and Siren 0.10
Motion Simulator for Bridge 1.00
Appeal to Game Designer for Rules Change 25.00
Rules Lawyer to Argue for You 15.00

-- Originated by Mark Kuyper; additional suggestions by: Jeremy B. Williams,
Steven Petrick, David Crew, Maik Hennebach, Eric Stork, Andrew Harding, F.
Michael Miller, Tom Carroll, found in Captain's Log #20.

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Where Does Command Presence Come From

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There is something called "command presence." You often find this in reading about famous people in military history, although it also seems to apply in other realms, such as business and politics. It is one of those things that some people simply seem to have, and in some cases some people can be taught to have it, or at least to act as if someone in authority over them has it.

I am myself unsure what exactly it is, and on any given day I would not consider myself to have it, but there are those odd moments when it would seem that I (to borrow a phrase) "stepped up."

You can find in out blogs a discussion of a time when I and two friends were accosted by nine gentlemen who sought redress of the economic imbalance by transferring the contents of our pockets to their pockets. In the press of that moment, I seemed to have some "command presence." I will not revisit it here.

In another case I was put in charge of a firing range for machineguns in Korea. It was early Summer and conditions were already very dry. Thus as part of the range a detachment had to be set down behind the impact berm to deal with any brush fires that a tracer round might set.

At one point at the end of a round of firing I noted that a .50 tracer had rebounded off the berm and flown to the left, landing among the brush on the hillside and igniting a fire. So I casually picked up the radio handset, contacted the detachment and asked the Sergeant in charge if he thought they could handle the fire. The Sergeant assured me that he could. Still, as officer in charge I decided to send reinforcements.

Having dispatched the reinforcements I turned my attention to machinegun that had jammed in this last round of firing, no longer concerned about the fire. The Sergeant had assured me the fire could be dealt with, and with the reinforcements all should be well.

Of course, it was not.

While I was preoccupied with trying to figure out what was wrong with the weapon one of the other soldiers tapped me on the shoulder saying "sir." I looked up inquiringly, and he simply pointed in the direction of the hillside, which I now noted was a mass of flames.

Things happened very quickly from that point. I was aware that if the fire crested the hill, it would sweep down on the South Korean village on the other side. In short order I attempted radio contact with the Sergeant in charge of the fire detail, and got no response, ordered someone to contact the fire department on post, call company to alert the commander to the situation (he would then call battalion if he thought it necessary), divided my current "command" into a new detachment to go fight the fire and a security detachment to remain with the guns and the ammunition, led them to the truck and was charging towards the fire. A fast choice having been made as to where "I" needed to be to place my "command influence." The critical tasks being to protect the guns from theft (it would be bad to put out the fire only to find someone had seen all the soldiers leave the guns sitting on the range and steal them, unlikely but possible, which was why I needed a detachment to secure them), or take charge of fighting the fire. I decided the latter was the critical element (that South Korea village, if hit by a wall of fire started by U.S. soldiers, would be making a lot of damage claims, not to mention people who might be injured or even killed). That fear of the fire reaching the village was why I could not wait for the fire truck to arrive.

Driving forward we passed the vehicle that had been taken by the first detachment, obviously where they had stopped and dismounted, but there was no one in sight, and still no radio contact with the initial force.

Getting as close to the flames as we could, I dismounted my new force and led them in a wild rush up the side of the hill. This worked better than I could have hoped as the men wound up spread out behind me in a "fighting line" on the flank of the fire. This allowed me to call on the men to start fighting the fire, blocking it from spreading further, and one man had passed me and was trying to stop its final advance to the top of the hill.

Things got desperate for a bit. Then out of the smoke and encroaching dark a voice, one of my soldiers, cried out that it was hopeless and we should get out.

From somewhere I found the voice to call out, telling my men to stand their ground that we almost had it under control. Almost immediately after that the wind blew what seemed a solid sheet of flame into my face (did not quite burn me, but it got very warm), knocking me back for a second, but I pushed back in, and then it was over. Suddenly the fire was out all along the line.

The "Command Presence." In the midst of this, with one man suddenly fanning incipient panic and calling for a retreat, the group as a whole held their ground because I had ordered them too. They could not see me (I could not see them, so I am pretty sure they could not see me). I was, at that juncture, just a voice and a tone of command. They all stayed that extra minute on the line that stopped the fire because the officer had commanded it be done in the face of a real, remorseless, and unfeeling enemy.

Did the command presence come from me, or from their having been trained to obey?

The fire truck arrived after the fire had been put out and stayed to suppress hotspots to keep the fire from reigniting, and I made contact with my two missing detachment who, fortunately for me, had all been on the fire's opposite flank as it had been advancing up the side of the hill, so we had hit both its flanks simultaneously.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on business in America.

1. If the only source of information about something is the guy trying to sell it to you, stop and check somewhere else.

2. If a salesman you do not know says that the contract has to be signed today, and you cannot have until tomorrow to think about it, tell him "no thanks."

3. Never, ever, sign a contract with a person or company until you have spent 10 minutes trying to find them on Google.

4. A major hailstorm will damage every roof in town, resulting in an influx of out-of-town roofing contractors. Deal with the established in-town contractors because you will be able find them a year later when the roof leaks.

5. If a contractor you have never dealt with offers to repair the damage for less than the insurance settlement, leaving you with cash in your pocket, find another contractor. If on the other hand he offers to do the job for the exact number on the insurance adjuster report, make sure he didn't leave off some expensive item that really needs to be fixed.

6. If you have some service contractor who has raised your rate every year, call him up and say you are a new customer and ask him what his rate is. If it's lower than you are paying, demand that your rate be reduced to that number.

7. If someone you have a contract with says that the contract must now be modified (in his favor) because of new government regulations, check things out first. Ask friends who also use this contractor and friends who use another contractor, ask the government, run the situation past Google, and insist on time to look into it. If the contractor continues to insist in your acceptance of a contract modification in his favor, tell him you will have to rebid the entire contract and are getting quotes from his competitors.

8. If you sell a major asset to someone you don't know (at least not very well) in exchange for future payments, figure out what happens if he doesn't pay. Does he have anything the courts can seize for you to pay the bill? If he offers you collateral (say a piece of real estate) get an attorney and a title company to file a lien on the collateral and find out if the buyer actually owns the property, if it is worth the amount you will be owed, and does it already have liens from someone else?

9. Someone asks to borrow money from you saying that he is good for the debt because he has some asset, tell him to bring the asset to you for safe keeping (and make sure it is actually his asset) before loaning the money, and by all means, put everything in writing and make him sign it. And seriously, are you a bank? Why are you loaning money to flaky people? For that matter, why are you loaning money to anyone who isn't a blood relative. (If they're good for the money, a bank or credit card company will make the loan.)

10. Never sign a contract for something you weren't looking for on the day it was presented to you by a high-pressure salesman you have never met before.

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 April 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we scheduled for work on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Revision E. The weather this week was warm. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Federation Commander: Briefing #2 Ship Card Pack E.

Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet (Revision E needs a day of hard copy checking by Jean before it is posted), Hailing Frequencies and Communique #112, the revised Kzinti and Gorn SITs, and the revised bases SIT. Steve continued his exercise program, walking (with Wolf) over four miles including a one-mile walk on Friday and 1.5 miles (the longest in years) on Saturday. He dabbled on the Star Fleet Universe History book, wrote ad copy for JagdPanther #13, and updated 17 pages for the Wall of Honor.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #51, Klingon Master Starship Book, and other projects.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are three months late.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with seven new entries and two updates.

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 FLAP list (text catalog, update list), managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2575 friends), managed our Twitter feed (140 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread and made changes to A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

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.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


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:

Friday, April 10, 2015


Romulan Ale (per bottle) 0.10
Romulan Ale (per case) 1.00
Orion Slave Girl 5.00
Orion Slave Boy 0.05
Twin Klingon Female Warriors 0.02
Legendary Blonde Female Yeoman 9.00
Presents for LBFY 11.00
Go-Go Boots for Female Crewmembers 1.00
Custom-written theme song for your ship 4.00
Stereo system to play theme song 1.00
Automatic Taunting Module for drones 1.00
Legendary Cook (recaptures boarded ship) 14.00

-- Originated by Mark Kuyper; additional suggestions by: Jeremy B. Williams,
Steven Petrick, David Crew, Maik Hennebach, Eric Stork, Andrew Harding, F.
Michael Miller, Tom Carroll, found in Captain's Log #20.

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

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.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

What Ifs and Unintended Consequences

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the advantages we have is that we can look back on history and ask ourselves "what if." One of the most common "what ifs" is of course "If you could go back in time and kill baby Adolf Hitler, would you?" I have answered that one recently on our board.

The problem with playing "what if" is that as a merely "mind exercise" it overlooks the "law of unintended consequences."

Reading a lot of science fiction I often come across those in stories. One posited a time traveler crushing a seed. What effect could that have? When he returned to his "present" he found that the Native Americans built ships and invaded and overran Europe.

To return to Hitler, remember that he came to power in part due to Germany's defeat in World War I. Maybe we do not need to kill baby Hitler, maybe we need to kill baby Gavrilo Princip as I mentioned in a topic on the board. In 1914 young Mr. Princip shot and killed Archduke Ferdinand which was the triggering event that set off World War I. In truth, Europe was very much a powder keg waiting for a triggering event, and removing Mr Princip would perhaps have delayed the start, or someone else would simply have acted at the same time in his stead (he was not the only assassin that day, merely the one that succeeded).

Suppose instead go a little further back and eliminate the baby Otto von Bismark. Without the Iron Chancellor it is possible that Germany might not have been unified, the Franco-Prussian War might not have occurred. Without that, Kaiser Wilhelm may not have been Kaiser (emperor) of the Germans, but merely Koenig (King) of Prussia, and would not have begun a Naval Arms Race with England since Prussia alone could not match England's industrial ship building might. This in turn would cause England and France not to ally but remain in competition with each other, and perhaps World War I does not happen (or is perhaps a very different war).

Maybe we could go back and kill the baby Karl Marx. Or perhaps baby V. I. Lenin, or Stalin? The question is always whether things would in fact be better, the same, or worse.

If I had the option to go back in time and try to change something, anything at all, I probably would not out of fear that as bad as some things are in the present, they could potentially be very, very much worse with a relatively small change snowballing through the unintended consequences that we just cannot see.

Even intervening to prevent the sinking of the Titanic could have disastrous consequences down the road. Maybe someone on that ship would have been the American Hitler during the Great Depression (for an example of that, read "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis, although his protagonists have no relationship to the Titanic, I just note that saving lives on the Titanic could have "unintended consequences").

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.

1. Somebody recently contacted us asking for permission to sell T-shirts with our images and pay us a royalty. We aren't allowed to do that (it's called sub-licensing) by the Paramount Agreement under which we operate. In theory he could make shirts and send them to us and we could sell them and mail him a check for his share (which would probably be bigger than our share) but that isn't really practical as he'd have to stock us with several of each size. Anyway, we've sold T-shirts before and they don't sell all that well.

2. It's been fun working with Tony L. Thomas, who did his first published design with ACTASF-1.2. Tony has had to learn (as all game designers do) that there is no such thing as a stupid question. (Even if the question IS stupid, telling the customer that his question is stupid is likely to lose you a customer, maybe more than one.) Sometimes the designer is answering a legitimate question, or pointing out something the rules don't cover (or on which they are not clear). This generates errata, but with the PDF process (which we have never really used before) fixing the book is easy. Sometimes answering a picky question is closing a door to picky proofreaders who know better but delight in finding a "mistake." At least if you fix it, you won't have to answer it again, and fixing it is usually less work than answering it three times. Besides, it makes people feel more valuable and involved, which is good for everyone. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but the rule has just enough wiggle room to allow some aggressive player to push an obviously incorrect answer. You have to cover those questions so that one player doesn't abuse the game (and other players) as those other players might well quit playing (and buying).

3. The most valuable thing ADB has is "Steve Cole time" and we just invested four months of it in ACTASF-1.2A/B/C/D. Was it worth it? Not so far; the revenue to date won't cover my paycheck for 10% of that. So why did we it? Because we always thought that ACTASF could be something really great, and "politically" we need to show a company commitment to doing a truly outstanding game. There is also the matter that while hard core gamers are forgiving of typos, the more casual gamers are turned off by sloppy editing. Since the whole point of ACTASF was to reach a broader audience of gamers (which means getting outside of the hard core) it was worth it.

4. ACTASF requires some "cut-out comet terrain pieces" which we promised to upload (as they could be used with the miniatures version of any game). Reminded of this promise during the proofreading process, I tasked Simone with creating some comets. She created a few, and I wanted changes made (which she did) but I told her to upload both versions and let the players take their pick. It should be noted that comets are actually fairly boring things (muddy white smears on a black background) but I decided to have Simone make ours very colorful just because color is pretty. Simone also suggested that she put a starfield behind (and showing through) the comet to make it more like space, and we agreed that this made them much nicer, but (again) told her to upload the original versions as well since some players might not have the same taste in comets as we do.

5. Somebody asked me the other day why we have the system where you can post certain items of your own creation if you mark them "Submitted to and copyright 2015 ADB, Inc." There are numerous reasons, but mostly to protect what we (and you) have created. Given the laws on derivative copyrights you aren't losing anything doing it our way because you don't have the right to actually publish it as a real for-profit product anyway (nor can you give it away). If we gave permission (or turned a blind eye) to people to post such things without copyright, some unscrupulous person could just download all of that stuff and (claiming we gave de facto permission) publish it as a legal for-profit product (which would get us in hot water with our license). We grant the "permission in trade for copyright" because we have done more than most other publishers to promote creativity among players who want to become designers.

Monday, April 06, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 March - 4 April 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week that we shipped Captain's Log #50 to wholesalers and gamers. The weather this week was cool. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse23, Wargame Vault, and DriveThru RPG this week were Captain's Log #39, Captain's Log #39 Color SSDs, SFB Module R12, and Captain's Log #50 Supplemental File.

Steve Cole worked on the FLAP list for Captain's Log #50 (finishing it including the Supplemental File and the Large Print Edition), updated three SITs for Federation & Empire (Federation, Klingon, Romulan), sent Jean a blog, and dabbled on his SFU History Book. Steve really outdid himself with the walking (accompanied by Wolf) including his longest walk in years (1.25 miles) for a total of just over four miles!

Steven Petrick worked on the Klingon Master Starship Book and his parts of Captain's Log #51. (He walks two miles every night.)

The Starline2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are three months late.

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.

Jean worked on the text catalog, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,568 friends), managed our Twitter feed (136 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #50 Supplemental File and the Large Print Edition, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

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.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

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.

Friday, April 03, 2015


Spiffy Captain's Uniform 0.25
Spiffy Admiral's Uniform 0.50
Used (but mendable) Red Security Shirt 0.05
Expendable Red Shirt Body Guard 1.00
Slightly Used Agonizer Booth 0.10
New Agonizer Booth 0.25
Tribbles 0.01
Silver Platter (for enemy captain's head) 1.00
Gold Platter (for enemy captain's head) 5.00
Replace Drone Warhead with Tribbles 0.25

-Originated by Mark Kuyper; additional suggestions by: Jeremy B Williams,
Steve Petrick, David Crew, Maik Hennebach, Eric Stork, Andrew Harding, F
Michael Miller, Tom Carroll, found in Captain's Log #20.

(c) copyright by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Filling a Hole I Did Not Know Was There

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I learned to jump out of airplanes while still a cadet. I did so, as I have noted before, because I wished to be in the infantry and was quite willing to jump from aircraft, repel from helicopters, or lumber forward through the surf to "close with and destroy the enemy."

Even so, my knowledge of previous airborne operations was rather limited.

I knew about the drops in the European theater (to include the German descent on Crete), but not a lot about the various failed operations conducted by the Soviet Union (for example). I knew there had been combat drops in the Pacific theater, and that the Japanese had done some, but I honestly thought that the Americans had only done one (on Corregidor).

Well, I finally reached the point in the stack of books I have to read where I am going to read a series of books on airborne operations once more. With malice aforethought I picked the book on Pacific airborne operations. The first thing I learned is that there were a total of a dozen airborne operations of note (these being the ones where parachutes were used, and the number of troops committed were there to "seize and hold" at a bare minimum, i.e. they were not simple raids.

Of these the Imperial Japanese conducted nearly half of them, five in number.

I was, until today, dimly aware that the Japanese had their own airborne units, and had conducted some kind of airborne operation in the early days of the war after Pearl Harbor (the Japanese had been at war longer than that, so for them it was not really the "early days of the war" which is why I reference Pearl Harbor). Turns out they conducted three airborne operations in 1942. My dim awareness of this was pretty much limited to a mention in some game somewhere of Japanese airborne units. This book is the first time I will actually get some data on what they were doing.

The last Japanese airborne operations were two years later in 1944. Again, I was dimly aware of this from a mention of it in another book I had read recently. Oddly enough, the book in question was on the operations of American Artillery Spotter Planes, which covered their operations all through World War II. Which may point to a larger weakness in my knowledge of ground operations in the Philippines from 1944 to the end of the war.

Still, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the 11th airborne division (apparently), or elements thereof (or perhaps the Marine airborne battalion will be mentioned), conducted not less than seven airborne operations, of which the only one I was aware of was Corregidor. Up to this point, except for Corregidor, my impression was that the 11th Airborne pretty much (except for Corregidor) operated as a normal infantry division in the Pacific theater (I have read of its troops being used to conduct amphibious assaults for example rather than airborne assaults).

I am looking forward to this book (I have just started reading about the first Japanese parachute drop in the Dutch East Indies in January of 42) as it will be a look at things that happened in World War II, a war I tend to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable about, that I know very little about.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


Steve Cole ponders 10 more ways that World War II might have turned out very differently. (See Random Thoughts #213 for the first 10 and #217 for the second 10.)

1. The US might never have developed a nuclear bomb. Maybe they (like the Germans) decided it was impossible? Maybe they were still trying to get it to work and ran out of time? Anyway, an invasion of Japan (given the lessons of Okinawa) would have been a very expensive undertaking with at least a million dead American soldiers and sailors. And that invasion only envisioned capturing 1/3 of Kyushu and the area around Tokyo, assuming that this alone would force the Japanese to surrender. Given the Japanese mindset, that is just not all that certain. The US might have found that the invasion of Kyushu was so expensive (in lives) that no invasion of Tokyo followed. They might have captured Tokyo at such a terrible price that there would have been no will to spend another million lives capturing the rest of the country.

2. There were so many attempts to assassinate Hitler that any of them could have had a major impact, but all of them would have been resolved in two ways. Himmler would have taken power in a bloody internal battle and fought to the end like Hitler did. Alternatively, relatively sane generals might have taken power and tried to negotiate a peace. The German fantasy of peace with the US and Britain so they could keep fighting Russia wasn't likely to happen, nor was it likely that the Russians would have agreed to any result that left Germany intact. FDR had already declared the goal was "unconditional surrender" which to the Germans meant that Germany would cease to exist as a nation.

3. Stalin might not have purged his military during 1937-39 and had a competent officer corps to keep his Army from falling apart during the first weeks of the German invasion.

4. FDR might have been less friendly to Russia. Justly criticized for being soft on communism, FDR had the idea that if we treated Joe Stalin nicely and shipped him as much aid as we could that he would stop murdering his own people and give up plans to occupy half of Europe. (This policy has never worked toward any of the communist dictatorships.) FDR might have held back on aid and let the Germans and Russians kill as many of each other as possible, then agreed to British plans to invade the Balkans and keep the Russians out of Eastern Europe. FDR could have put conditions on aid to Russia (such as allowing freedom of religion or promising an independent Poland) but refused to do so.

5. Stalin might have believed everyone who kept telling him that Hitler would attack in 1941. Stalin was so anxious to avoid (or at least delay) a war with Germany that he forbade any preparation for it out of fear it would provoke one.

6. Stalin might have left the pre-1939 border defenses (pillboxes, bunkers, and other defensive lines) intact, rather than ordering them blown up or dismantled. This would have provided a stronger second defense line against Operation Barbarossa.

7. The British could have been more aggressive. While Montgomery is often criticized for his lack of aggression, it was actually not his fault. British government policy was to hold down British casualties (by taking more time to assemble supplies and bombard the Germans with artillery) and British units simply never displayed the kind of aggressive tactics that the Germans, Russians, and Americans used (with the sole exception of O'Conner's brilliant African operation). The failure of the British Army and Montgomery to take Caen on D-Day, to close the Argentan-Falaise gap, to close the German escape routes from the Scheldt Estuary, and to rescue the paratroops at Arnhem are all examples of a lack of aggression that ended up costing more casualties than they saved. Montgomery's crossing of the Rhine in 1945 was grossly overproduced; the Americans had already crossed the Rhine on the run at several locations.
8. Stalin might have not been such a paranoid maniac and not murdered most of his own generals in 1937-1939, giving his army competent leadership during the first six months of the German invasion.

9. Hitler might have gambled by concentrating his offensive during the initial invasion of Russia in the northern half of the front, leaving the southern half to follow along as it could. Without the diversion of Guderian's tanks to the south to trap a huge number of Russian troops, the Germans might have reached and taken Moscow and Leningrad before the Russian troops in the south could have been redeployed.

10. Hitler might have stripped other theaters to concentrate more firepower for the initial invasion of Russia. He just didn't have enough troops. Faced with a choice (July 1941) of grabbing Moscow or encircling the southern half of the Russian Army, he simply lacked "one more field army" that could have allowed him to do both. When he made the final push for Moscow (September 1941) he had to strip units from the Leningrad front (leaving that city uncaptured) when one extra field army would have done the trick. There were plenty of divisions doing more or less nothing on occupation duty in France and other countries.