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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thanne Longen Folk to Goon on Pilgrimages

Jean Sexton writes:

I usually visit Amarillo over the Christmas and New Years holidays and then meet up with the Steves in June at the Origins Gamefair. However, this year ADB decided to not attend Origins because most of our customers couldn't attend either due to the date change. That left me with some time to consider a second visit to Amarillo. While April was impractical for my pilgrimage, May was looking just right.

Girding up my loins, I set off on another bus trip to Amarillo. The goal: get Traveller: Prime Directive as close to done as practical. The flash drive with all the files Mike West had sent traveled with me. The TPD Team was already warned about this very intensive time and they would prove invaluable.

We knew that when I got in on Sunday the 20th that I would be pretty tired from the long bus trip, so we planned to do something fun -- go and see the annular eclipse. We had originally thought we'd travel to Lubbock, but it looked cloudy that way. SVC made the command decision that we'd go to Clovis, New Mexico instead. So, I got to visit New Mexico for the second time in my life, went farther west than I have ever been, and got to see the annular eclipse. Events like this bring a sense of wonder and awe to me and put me in the frame of mind to work on science fiction projects.

Adapting the SFU to a gaming system is always a challenge. A phaser-I has 100 charges in GURPS PD, in Prime Directive d20, in PD20M, and in Traveller Prime Directive. That means that the weapons native to the gaming system may not play well with those of the SFU and we trust that the GMs/Referees will be able to tell which ones would break playing in the SFU or limit those to an "alien treasure trove." Some games describe a species from toe to head (GURPS) while others provide the color text and some hard guidelines with the GM to make sure that the character stays true to the game. All of that must be taken into account while doing the game translation. After eight long days (12+ hours), I feel confident that we've pulled it off. Mike lacks a chapter and some data points of having the base book done. I'm pretty sure it will be good since Matthew Sprange is on the TPD Team.

I will confess it wasn't all nose-to-the-grindstone time. The Steves and Leanna wanted me to see that Texas wasn't brown yearlong and to give me encouragement that I'd be able to garden there as I have done in North Carolina. Each day on the way to work and coming from dinner, there would be a detour into the residential areas so I could see gardens. Steve and Leanna even took me to a nursery so I could talk to the people there and get a handle on what will grow in Texas. I fell in love with Mexican feather grass. My gardening books on Texas gardens and plants along with my new gardening hat remain in Amarillo, ready for me to rejoin them someday.

Steve and Leanna also took me to see an arena football game. I love football, having gone to my first game when I was two months old. However, at some point I think I became a jinx -- about 90% of the time if I root for a team, it loses. The poor Amarillo Venom team didn't stand a chance in light of that superpower. Their kicker couldn't kick worth a flip and their quarterback even gave the opposing team a safety. It was a heartbreaking loss -- only one point difference. I do have a Venom hair ribbon now and I will endeavor not to yell myself hoarse at future games (I think SVC found my enthusiasm amusing)!

At Origins, we have traditionally celebrated the "Steves' and Jean's birthdays" since they fall in the space of four days in June. We decided to move that up and had cake and presents one afternoon. We all enjoyed that, although we missed sharing our cake with all of our friends at Origins Gamefair.

We did take an afternoon to watch Battleship. I always have that "willing suspension of disbelief" and loved the movie. However, it was fun to listen to the Steves analyze it afterwards as they know more about military culture than I ever will. It was nice to know that all of us teared up at the exact some spot in the movie.

I took some time (as did SVC and Leanna) to work with Joel on his job search. I proofread his resume and made a few suggestions. The last time I saw him, we were sending him forth to job hunt and he looked ready to join the workforce. I think he was heartened by the fact that I had worked as a waitress before getting a job in my chosen career -- one that has lasted nearly 30 years. As I channeled my mother (Oh! The Horror!) I reminded him that his goal right now was to get a job that put money in his pocket to pay the rent, eat, and get essentials. Once he had that, then he'd have time to find a job in his field. I hope that someone sees the jewel that he is and takes him on.

In so many ways it hurt to pack up my office on Monday. The book still lacked some of being through and I wanted it finished, so I feel I failed on some level. I handed over the flowers that had graced my desk all week to Leanna. A laptop and some reference books are packed away for my return in December. I wish I had been able to play the prototype Tribbles vs. Klingons, but we all proved too busy to do that. Looking at "my office," now all empty, made me realize how much I would miss it for seven long months.

As is usual, it is the people who make this trip special. From Leanna who made sure I had a wonderful place to stay to SVC who kicked into high gear and laid out most of Traveller PD to Steven Petrick who made sure I never had to open a door or touch a chair to Mike Sparks who made the internet connections work and packaged up my stuff for return to Joel who salvaged a picture of the eclipse, all the the people at ADB made my stay there wonderful. Many people on Facebook and the BBS were there to encourage me and to sympathize when things got rough. Warren Mathews even showed up in Atlanta when I was stuck there for six hours and brought food and snacks and company for over three of those hours.

Perhaps it is overly sentimental, but it is the people who make this job so special to me. Thank you for all the support you have shown as well as the patience you have exhibited. In return, I'll continue to try to give you all the products you want and deserve as well as a fun place to visit via the BBS, FC Forum, and our page on Facebook.

Tomorrow I will return to my evenings of working on TPD. Keep tuned for more news.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson and Jean Sexton for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peace is a Relative Term

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Yesterday was a day set aside to remember those who have served our nation in times of travail. I cannot say in times of conflict because that is not true. Almost every day of our nation's history we have been served by the members of our armed forces in conflicts when the political body thought we were at peace.

Whether it was members of our nascent Marine Corps being clandestinely landed on the coast of Florida to conduct operations designed to destabilize the Spanish colonial government in the early 1800s, or serving to protect our interests in South America in the 1900s, or trudging through the North African desert in pursuit of our policy against the Barbary pirates.

Whether it was members of our Air Forces clandestinely dropping supplies to anti-communist groups in South East Asia, or patrolling the limits of the Iron Curtain.

Whether, with peace declared at the end of the "Great War" it was forgotten elements of the Army guarding supplies in the frozen north of the nascent Soviet Union or the on the far eastern interior of that nation, or patrolling the DMZ in Korea after the cease-fire had been declared.

Whether they faced Native American tribes defending their own way of life from the encroaching plow, spade and panning tools of American citizens determined to claim the west.

Many men and some women have given their lives during times of "peace." Some due to acts of aggression (two officers killed by North Koreans while on a tree trimming operation), or large scale tragedy (the plane crash at Gander, Newfoundland) when returning home from a mission completed (which can also encompass the Sultana disaster).

Most Americans do not realize that those that protect them cannot rest their vigilance even in times of "peace." We will always have enemies out there, and will always rely on the valor and steadfastness of those who strive to keep harm and war's devastation from our shores, often at the cost of life or limb.

So do not remember them just on Memorial Day. On any given day a member of the U.S. Armed forces may be facing enemy action, even though the politicians will tell you we are at "peace."

Monday, May 28, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-26 May 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of Jean's first spring visit (which replaced her Origins trip). The weather this week was very nice. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week are the original boxed SFB rulebook and the three expansions for it.

Jean Sexton was here all week, and worked on Traveller, completing most of the conversion of the PD20M core book to a Traveller core book. (We may decide to expand that by another 100 pages of deck plans and campaigns, material that will go into Final Frontier for the other systems.) We also manage to pack a lot of fun for Jean into the trip, including a drive to Clovis to see the eclipse, an arena football game, a birthday party, lots of driving tours of the area, a trip to a local greenhouse for information on plants that grow here, and more. Jean also managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,211 friends).

Steve Cole worked mostly in a support role for Jean's Traveller project, but did a few other things including a Captain's Log article.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45 and sent the R2 SSD book update to the staff for review.

Leanna Cole kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

Joel Shutts did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike. Mostly, Joel looked for a new real world job with the help of SVC, Leanna, and Jean.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random Thoughts #92

Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wants more blogs about the company.

1. Playtesting is no fun, a fact that I always knew but learned again when testing Marines. We were not having fun testing Marines; it was serious work. We have to make extensive records, keep track of die rolls (after you roll four 11s you don't get another 11 until you have one full set of 36 rolls), make notes to fix rules, answer questions that never came up, back up and do the turn over again after discovering a stupid tactic, discuss every tactic and every move with each other, try one attack three different ways, calculate odds, etc. No, playtesting is NOT fun which is why we have so @#$%&! much trouble getting anyone to actually do it. Lots of people sign up to do playtesting, but few of them actually turn in a single report (and most of those never do a second one).

2. I got an email from someone doing an "indie star trek game" who wanted to license the SFB game system. This baffles me. First, why would I license my game system to someone doing a product in direct competition? Second, if he doesn't have a Paramount contract, why am I going to get Paramount mad at me for facilitating someone ripping them off? I just don't "get" some of these emails. Anyway, after a couple of emails I sent his emails to Paramount and they explained to him why his plan was not a good idea.

3. Crump's Law of Marketing: Birds of a feather flock together, and all of your turkeys will come home to roost. (A company with a history of doing games of a certain subject -- fantasy, World War II, science fiction -- will tend to attract gamers of that genre. If you do a horrible game, everyone who ever considers buying a game from your company will remember that awful one you did and want to be assured that this is not another awful game.)

4. Cole's Law of Marketing: Three things sell a game: the title or subject, the cover art, and the last game that the customer bought from your company. (Establish a track record of doing great products and you're well on the way to selling more products.)

5. Burnside's Law: Everything we do is marketing, and marketing never stops. (Your website, newsletter, convention appearances, tournament support, and visits to other websites are all part of your marketing campaign.)

6. David Crump's Integrated Marketing Theory: Every product needs to help sell every other product. (First, make every product a great product. Second, include ads in products for other products. Third, include variants in one product that require use of rules or units found in other products.)

7. Leanna's Law of Component Purchasing: Try to use something that some vastly larger company is already making in huge quantities for some other use. That saves the tooling and start up costs and you can buy them cheap because the other company already made millions of them (example: the little red damage markers in Star Fleet Battle Force).

8. Richard Cole's Law: Buy things (if you can) from people who buy things from you. If nobody you do business with sells what you need, buy it in your home town. If you cannot do that, at least buy it in your home state. Don't buy foreign goods if Americans made an equal product. Not only is the shipping cost lower, but it keeps the money circulating closer to home.

9. Avoid employing horse holders after you got rid of the horses. (At the start of World War II, it was noted that artillery units that had fought in World War I still had the soldiers assigned to hold the horses standing 50 yards behind the guns even though the horses had been replaced by trucks.)

10. Cole's observation: Once a year, you need to have a rambling hour-long conversation with each vendor about nothing in particular because something will come up in conversation that neither of you would ever have thought to bring up on purpose.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Elle Magazine Interviews SVC

Ok, not really. Leanna saw some TV show about Elle magazine (which is about ladies’ fashions) and ran out to buy a copy. I flipped through it and noticed an interview with some dress designer, and thought that it would be a hoot to answer those questions.

Other than yourself, who are your favorite designers?
That’s a tough question, because I haven’t played very many games in the last 10 years. I have to say that I still respect the work Jim Dunnigan did decades ago. Of the modern designers, I would say that the Siadek brothers and their Battlestations game are a favorite, and that Ken Burnside’s 3d game system is truly elegant (even if 3d games are basically unplayable due to complexity).

If you could come back as a wargame (dress), what game would it be?
The Federation Commander equivalent of F&E, with plastic spaceship toys.

If you could come back as a military leader (model), who would it be?
Somebody really awful. Maybe Simon Bucker or Gideon Pillow. That way, I couldn’t do worse.

Favorite color?
Royal blue.

Favorite junk food?
Brownies. Chocolate. Cherry fried pies.

What are you most vain about?
I don’t know that I am vain. I certainly don’t care much about my appearance, my hair, or my weight.

What are you most shy about?
I cannot think of anything.

Who are your fantasy poker-night buddies?
General Heinz Guderian, Crazy Horse, General Robert E. Lee, and Genghis Khan. Lee always wins because he’s ariverboat gambler at heart.

Fantasy celebrity one-night stand?
Dianna Rigg.

Favorite place to play a game?
In a college dorm in Baltimore at Origins 1976.

Favorite game you did not design?

Last book you read?
War for the Union, by Allan Nevins. It’s a very different civil war book. The battles are barely mentioned. The book is all about politics, economics, and social changes.

I serve Isis and Ramses.

What's for breakfast?
Aunt Jemima microwave french toast. McDonald’s (biscuits and gravy, or bacon-egg-cheese biscuit). The country breakfast at the Bowling Alley.

At age 7, you wanted to be?
A soldier. Or maybe a fighter pilot.

What do you find easiest to forgive?
Betrayal. Being stabbed in the back.

What do you find impossible to forgive?
Being lied about.

Do you have any superstitions?
If I spill salt, I throw some over my shoulder.

Favorite place to shop?
I’m a guy. I don’t shop much. Maybe an Army Navy store.

Whose wallet would you like to steal?
Nobody’s. I don’t steal.

Whose diary would you most like to read?
Bill Clinton’s.

If you were an inventor, what would you want to invent?
Cold Fusion, so I could end the energy crisis.

Who is your favorite furniture designer?
No idea.

A blue Cobalt named Spitfire.

What was your childhood nickname?
Birdman. I saw a picture of a basketball game in which somebody stretched out his arms and legs to block another player. I tried that in a second grade game and people thought I was an idiot.

When and where are you happiest?
In uniform with an M16 rifle in my hand.

Who is your best friend?
Best male friend is Petrick. Best female friend is Leanna. If wives don’t count, then Jean.

Who is your worst enemy?
I don’t know that I have one any more. All of them seem to have gotten tired of losing and went away.

What piece of art would you most like to own?
Something very, very expensive so I could sell it.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Don’t really have one. Somewhere with mountains.

What is your most treasured possession?
I cannot say I have one. It’s all stuff, it’s all replaceable. Even family stuff is just stuff somebody is going to have to give away or sell in a garage sale after I die.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
Horatio Hornblower.

Who are your favorite musicians?
Mason Williams. Neil Diamond.

If you were not a game designer, what would you rather be?
A soldier, or an archaeologist, or a paleontologist.

What current trends would you like to see disappear?

Favorite trend of all time?
Hexes and die cut counters.

Worst trend of all time?
Collectible card games.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Join Us on Facebook!

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

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

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

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Car Continued

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Today I had the sad task of cleaning out my old car. Removing the sticker from the left front windshield that must be turned into the apartment complex's parking control office, but I cannot get one for the new car until the tags arrive.

For the final time I have cleaned out the glove box and the trunk, removed cassette tapes from the cassette tape rack, and emptied the ashtray (just books of stamps in there since I do not smoke).

The stuff in the trunk was mostly "emergency" material (my air pump to blow up a tire, wrenches, flashlights, coveralls, sleeping bag, etc.) and has all now been moved to the new car.

Were I serving on the Titanic (or any doomed ship for that matter, assuming I was on the bridge and knew the ship was doomed), my last act would be to move the engine telegraph to "finished with engines" before I left. So it is with my old Honda.

I have closed out its final log book, noting the date and miles when it died, and simply that the car is now dead. I have given one key to the dealership in case they need to move it (cannot have the steering lock, which would happen without a key in the ignition), but have retained the "daily use" key (the one I used almost every day, which is obvious by how worn it is) as a keepsake with the log book. Silly, I know, but the 1987 Honda Accord LXi has been a part of my life since I bought it in 1987, and it is hard to let it go. As I have noted before, were I to win the lottery even now, I would pay to have it rebuilt rather than let it go, but that is not an option.

The people at the dealership know me (I have been a steady customer since early 1990, have always talked to them and treated them as people, and became fixed in their minds when, very early in the relationship, I came to see them to complain that a bill for services was too low (yes, too LOW). I am too honest not to pay for work that was done. Pete was getting ready to have an argument with me because at first he thought that I was complaining about being over-billed, and was surprised when I explained that the bill did not include a service that the car was supposed to receive. A check showed the work had been done. I got along very well with them from that point on over the years, the car would not have lasted as long as it did without their extra effort and input.

Well . . . now I am back to square one. The new dealership does not know me [and truth be told I would like to take the new car to the old (Honda) dealership to maintain that relationship], and I do not know them. So far, however, they do seem to be doing alright by me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 May 2012

Steve Cole reports;

This was a low-stress week, but a lot of work got done. The weather this week was mild (occasionally hot). The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: Module T2012.

Steve Cole worked on Secret Project E, Secret Project S, blogs for Jean's file, ACTASF errata, revamping the front page of the website, Captain's Log #45, CTA Journal plans, plans for the Traveller Prime Directive core book, info Adam needed to do covers, Tribbles vs. Klingons, did descriptions for four old products going on e23, and sent the weekly business memos. Mongoose is looking into turning our anthologies into Kindle Books.

Steven Petrick bought a new car (his beloved Honda died last week at the age of 25), and worked mostly on the revision and update to the Module R2 SSD Book. He also did some work on Captain's Log #45.

Leanna processed orders (sales this week were incredibly good) and kept the accounting up to date.

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

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,199 friends), proofread sales blurbs, did some marketing, and began her fifth journey to Amarillo. (She moves here permanently in May 2013.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Find Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

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

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

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town, or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a star trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their Email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Written by Frank McLaughlin

Revenge is a dish best served cold.-Klingon proverb

"Gentlemen, it is good to be back in power," Chairman Torrance announced to his cabinet. Long-suffering Unionists like himself, they all agreed wholeheartedly. The election of November Y188 had thrown the Federalists out on their collective ears or other body parts, and had restored the natural order of things, control of the Federation by the Union Party.

The Unionists were well into their fourth term in office when the Klingons came over the border in Y171, and had remained in power until the elections of November Y174. The attempt to end the War (and preserve the Union Party's grip on power) had collapsed at Olsen's Reach, and the Federalists had won power in a landslide, denying Baranov his second term. For the last decade, the Unionists could only wring their hands in frustration (or in shame, as the Federalists saw it) while the Federal Party "won the war" (anyone knew that the Union Party would have won it just as quickly - and at lower cost!) and blamed the intelligence failures that led to the Klingon surprise attack on the Unionists.

But the War was over, and the Federal Party Line wasn't playing to the crowds on Aldebaran - or anywhere else. The Federalists had warned of ISC encroachment, but the Unionists had correctly shown the voters that the ISC was doing them a favor by keeping former enemies (and future friends!) at bay while each nation came to its senses and restored a progressive government unlikely to start wars by building a bloated military that would, sooner or later, have to be used. The Federalists had railed against no end of threats, from the Andromedans (who were a mystery, but only a minor annoyance) to the Xorkaelians (who had not raided Federation territory in years and might never return). Federal Party claims that the Klingons and Romulans were still threats did not resonate with voters, who were attracted to Union Party promises of a peace dividend. Demobilizing half of Star Fleet had been Torrance's first executive order, having come into office as a "New Unionist" who would take a realistic view of actual military needs.

The "New Unionist" label did not sit well on the Old Unionists of Torrance's cabinet. They were, in fact, firmly committed to their old policies of social reform, and were already using their majority in the Council to ram through a platform that raised taxes, reduced the war debt, diverted most of the military's budget to civilian programs, and launched a dozen new spending initiatives, all designed to help "the citizens" (and the Union Party). But what really irked them all was that they had to call themselves "New Unionists" to escape the blame for the General War, for the Klingon invasion not being detected in time, and for the initial defeats suffered by the military and those billions of citizens who spent the next decade under Klingon or Romulan occupation.

But that was going to change.

"I have a matter that I need to bring to your attention," the newly-appointed head of the GIA said. He had considered bringing this matter up privately to Chairman Torrance, and morally he should have, but Torrance really was a "New Unionist" and just might have decided to let the past stay buried in the past. The Old Unionists on his cabinet (selected for him by a "search committee" of party loyalists) could be trusted to bring the matter under the intense light of public scrutiny, where it could do the Old Unionists the most good. Most of those on the cabinet were the under-secretaries of Chairman Buckner's pre-war cabinet, and remained friends with their former bosses. Those former bosses were denied their proper role as "Elder Statesmen" due to the shame of their failures in Y171-Y174. Remaining under the mantle of disgrace, the Old Unionists were never invited to the Sunday morning trivideo programs, nor did they get their well-deserved sinecures on corporate boards and academic campuses.

"What's up?" Torrance asked. "Did you finally find a way to use the Roswell files to our advantage?"

That brought a chuckle around the table. Every administration to come to power for the last three centuries had been briefed on the long-buried secrets of their predecessors, and everyone here had seen those files when their party last came to power. The fact that the Roswell File had never been revealed to the public was due to the inability of any party in power to devise a way that its release could be used against the other party.

"No, not that," the GIA Director responded, "although I do have a team working on an idea or two." More chuckles around the table. Everyone had heard that one before. "What I found was this." He produced a stack of papers and passed them to his colleagues, who quickly circulated them. The document was brief and everyone had read it within a couple of minutes.

"If Star Fleet could just add engines to their existing ships, why didn't they?" the Minister for Agriculture asked.

"Sounds like all of the spare engines were stored at the forward bases," the Minister for Education responded. "They must have been destroyed or captured in the first assault."

"At least this explains why that first assault focused on our bases," the Minister for Defense theorized. "I had wondered why they didn't attack the mobile fleet elements first and pick off the bases afterwards. Now it all makes sense."

"Poppycock!" the Minister for Natural Resources snorted. "Listen, I am an engineer, and I can tell you that the ships were never designed for this kind of conversion. It just won't work."

"Why not?" the Minister for Justice asked. "Standard parts. It seems simple enough, and didn't we do that anyway with the NCA and the FFB? And anyway, I thought you were a mechanical engineer, not a warp field engineer."

"But I do understand the technology, and you don't, you twit!" the Minister for Natural Resources spluttered. "Let me explain. The warp field dynamics..." It took him all of ninety seconds to leave even the most technologically astute of his colleagues behind. Chairman Torrance shut him down after another minute.

"Obviously, this is a matter that deserves a full investigation," he said. "Did the military lie to the government about what it could do, or was the military so incompetent that it placed all of the parts for these conversions in the most vulnerable bases?" Left unsaid was the obvious - the General War, the surprise attack, and the initial defeats, had been the fault of either military incompetence or military fraud, but most definitely not of the Union Party.

"We need a blue ribbon commission to find out!" the Minister for Justice exclaimed. Everyone quickly agreed, knowing that their retired bosses from the Buckner Administration would get jobs on that panel. All except the retired defense minister and the retired head of the GIA, who could not take part (since the board members must be unbiased!) but who would be vindicated either way. An entire generation of Old Unionists would be restored to public favor at a stroke. All of them would be full professors and on several corporate boards within the year and, when the current cabinet retired, there would be jobs on idyllic university campuses (with plenty of golf trips for corporate board meetings) for them as well.

"That's not the best part of it," the Minister for Commerce noted. "Did anyone happen to read the list of names of the officers who prepared and signed this report?"

"I ran a check on the flag officers who signed it," the head of the GIA reported, "but they all died during the war."

"Read further. Down at the end. Lieutenant Commander - that's pretty low down, right? - Carstairs. Jonathan P. Carstairs."

"Oh my God," the Minister for Justice gasped. "Carstairs? That Carstairs?" Everybody at the table knew that Fleet Admiral Jonathan P. Carstairs, hero of Ribinax, was the name being spoken about as the next Federal Party candidate for Chairman.

"Yep, it's him," the Treasury Minister reported, holding up his PDA to show the entry from Who's Who. "He was on the Threat Board from Y160 through Y162." Things would change indeed.

(c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ADB does RPGs

Steve Cole writes:

Back in 1979, two gamers (Stephen V. Cole and Allen D. Eldridge) started a game company called Task Force Games. One of their first games was a board game called Star Fleet Battles, based on the Original Series of Star Trek
. (The game was legal under a license from Franz Joseph Designs. Later, Paramount also gave TFG a license to use some Star Trek elements.) The two talked frequently about doing an RPG based on Star Fleet Battles, but never actually did.

In 1983, Task Force Games was divided into two companies. Allen D. Eldridge owned Task Force Games, which was incorporated, and Stephen V. Cole started Amarillo Design Bureau. ADB owned the copyrights to Star Fleet Battles and other games of the Star Fleet Universe; Task Force Games had the publication rights. Plans for a Star Fleet RPG continued to go nowhere, but Task Force Games did publish several one-off RPGS including Supervillains. There was also a series of RPG books called Central Casting and one called Traps which were published by TFG.

Allen Eldridge sold the company to some investors in California, and they published the first Prime Directive RPG (based on Star Trek) in 1993, based on a new RPG system they wrote (no doubt borrowing bits and pieces from other RPGs, as all game designers do). TFG published three expansions/supplements to this game: Prime Adventures #1, Uprising, and the UFP (Federation) Sourcebook. They also published dozens of board game products done by ADB. Sadly, TFG died in the late 1990s.

Amarillo Design Bureau became incorporated in 1999 and bought out some parts of TFG, and transformed itself from a design company to a publishing company. They remain in business to this day, doing dozens of boardgame products, a card game, a line of starship miniatures, and the re-launched Prime Directive series. It was the philosophy of ADB to not invent a new RPG engine, but to license existing engines. They got a license for GURPS and did three books for GURPS 3rd edition (Prime Directive, Module Prime Alpha, and Klingons). Later, they did a GURPS 4th edition version of Prime Directive and Klingons, and did new GURPS books titled Romulans and Federation. They have also done a d20-based version of three of the books and a d20-modern-based version of the four books. Their theory is to do more books (titles such as Tholians, Final Frontier, and Orion Pirates are in development) as well versions of their books for as many other game systems as they can. The problem is that the people who own and run ADB, Inc., are not RPG players and have no experience with the RPG engines they want to use, so they hire outside contractors to do the conversions of the books. Most of these outside contractors have been slow to deliver manuscripts. Given the problems they had editing the d20 books, they hired Jean Sexton, a professional editor and proofreader who is familiar with many RPGs to manage the projects, but progress is slow, yielding two or three books per year. The company would love to publish 10 or 12 a year, but the limitation is in getting them properly written and expertly edited.

ADB is branching out to launch a line of Traveller:Prime Directive books. The first book to be converted will be the core rulebook, of course, but the other sourcebooks should follow regularly. Keep an eye out for further developments as we will keep everyone apprised of our progress. If you want to read more about the Star Fleet Universe, check out our Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive & Roleplaying. It is available for free from e23 (http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=ADB8000) and from DriveThru RPG (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/99676/Introduction-to-the-Star-Fleet-Universe%3A-Prime-Directive-and-Roleplaying).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The New Car

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

While I have been trying to focus on my assigned tasks, the loss of my car and the hunt for a suitable replacement has been a disruption, costing time and energy. The hunt for a replacement is over, and for better or worse the replacement car has been purchased as of today.

This is, however, one of those "teachable moments."

While the dealership assured us that they conducted a "101 point inspection" of the vehicle, we still sought and received permission to take the car to another mechanic. Whatever inspection the dealership's mechanics told the salesmen they did, they apparently did not check various fluids, much less one of the major filters. These items added up to nearly $400.00 in work to be done. And of course, if you had accepted the car without having this checked, not only would you have that as an added bill to what you paid for the car, but any additional damage these contaminated fluids might have caused to the vehicle.

This does not mean that all salesmen are evil or will deliberately try to trick you, but that you as the buyer also need to do "due diligence" when you are planning on a purchase.

The car is, of course, a compromise on what I really wanted, but at this time really seemed too good a deal to pass up. It does not get the mileage I am used to (and wanted), but is reasonably close. One of the major issues is all of the "bells and whistles" it comes with compared to my previous car. It is going to take me considerable time to learn how to use all of these, and I suspect that many I will not use often enough to remember how to use them at need. It is also, sadly, an automatic transmission rather than a standard, so I will begin to lose my standard driving skills and habits in the coming months and years.

It does have a much roomier interior, which will of necessity impose new driving challenges (by definition that larger interior means it is a little wider than my older car, which will mean issues with parking it).

At least there is room in the trunk for more than one body, actually more than two, but four would probably be pushing it (still have to remember to line it with disposable plastic . . . darn those CSI guys).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

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

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 May 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a de-stressing week for the design team at ADB, with the party to celebrate Joel's graduation from college on Wednesday, the company picnic on Thursday and Steve Cole taking vacation days on Friday and Saturday (including the spring trip to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary). The weather this week was cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. Stephen and Leanna Cole celebrated the 35th anniversary of the day they became engaged.

We shut down the office Thursday and attended the annual business-to-business trade show, doing some networking, helping the Kyocera dealer, and collecting 28 shopping bags of office supplies, chocolate, water bottles, and other swag. Returning to the office, we divided up the chocolate (saving some for Jean and Joel) and packed up most of the office supplies and water bottles for the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.

Nothing new went to e23 this week because Leanna was buried in orders and accounting (except for Thursday).

Steve Cole finished Communique, worked on deckplans for Traveller, and worked on Tribbles vs. Klingons, which had been unveiled as the Secret Project T.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45 and the update of R2.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

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

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

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,192 friends), proofread Communique and Hailing Frequencies, dealt with some upsetting crank phone calls, and did some marketing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself what he would do with a lottery prize of several hundred million dollars.

1. Call my local business lawyer and have the money deposited to a charitable foundation. That foundation would pay me a salary (say $5K a month) to run it. Yes, folks, I fully intend to spend the rest of my life giving away 99% of the money. That, to me, sounds like the most fun I could use it for. (With that income, I can give some of my own nest egg money to my relatives, since I cannot give them money from the charity.) I will give Petrick and Jean ADB and a couple of million as I have to handle all of that money.

2. My biggest project will be to buy a square mile of land on I-40 somewhere within a few miles of Amarillo. On this, I will build a self-sustaining wildlife sanctuary (basically a big zoo) but this "theme park" will also have a full-scale recreation of Stonehenge and the Alamo and maybe a small-size pyramid. It will also have a hotel, gift shop, and restaurant. I will put half of the money into this project (including a trust fund that pays money for operations every year) so that I'll never have to solicit donors or host fundraisers. The park should easily pay for itself in ticket sales and pump loads of tourist dollars into the Amarillo economy while educating people that the private ownership of exotic wild animals is a bad idea.

3. I will become a huge benefactor to other wildlife sanctuary parks around the US and supporter of political moves to prevent unqualified people from keeping exotic pets (such as tigers) in conditions that are not humane. I will ask the other sanctuaries to give me a few of their lions, tigers, wolves, and other animals so that I'm fully stocked on day one and they will have a spare enclosure or two should they need to take in another animal in an emergency. I will pay to move Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary from where they are (nobody can find them) to a new location on I-40 where they can attract enough paying visitors that they'll never have any more trouble with funding.

4. The foundation will pay to have Dave Ramsey come to Amarillo and put on his Get out of Debt and EntreLeadership seminars, and to have a private lunch with me and Leanna.

5. The foundation will give $10,000 a year to a particular faith-based social action group that Chaplain Denton supports and another $10,000 to a faith-based group that he helps run.

6. The foundation will give a $150,000 grant to a small business in Amarillo every year (maybe split it between two or three), selecting one of the applicants from the local Enterprize grant that ADB won a few years ago.

7. The foundation will set up a scholarship in my father's name at my old university for an ROTC cadet taking military engineering. The foundation will send a check to that ROTC department every semester so that no cadet has to pay for the training fund. I will set up a scholarship in my brother's name at his old college (WTAMU) for a graduate student in psychology. I will set up a scholarship in my mother's name at the local school of nursing. I will set up a scholarship in Jean's name at UNC Pembroke so that the library staff there never forget her.

8. I want to fund someone to perform all four Wagner operas in English so I can watch them. I will also throw an annual $10,000 endowment to the local community theater group.

9. I will pass out some $10,000 checks to a few relatives of mine and Leanna's. Family is family.

10. I will give $10,000 to the surviving spouse of any Amarillo-based law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

ARROW by Jeff Wile

I shot an arrow in the air, where it lands, I know not where.

The music playing in the background was one of those retro-avant-garde things popular with the younger people.

There were many people celebrating the end of the year 160 and the start of the new year 161 in the offices of the United Federation of Planets, Diplomatic Affairs Division. For reasons lost to history, Star Fleet referred to this organization as "foggy bottom".

At the center of attention was a young appointee, the assistant deputy head of Klingon affairs. One reason for the enthusiastic party was his impending promotion to be the Deputy Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. He was speaking loudly as the champagne did the talking. "...and those paranoid cowboys over at Star Fleet would believe anything we send them, just so long as it feeds their delusions that the Klingons are likely to invade any minute!"

The response, a thundering roar fueled by Napoleon brandy, encouraged him to continue. Soon, everyone was chiming in and one of the secretaries was typing it all into a file that would be enjoyed again and again over the coming weeks. But as the amounts of intoxicating and mind-altering substances increased prodigiously, logic and consistency retreated at an equal pace. A complete recitation of the dialog is neither needed or necessary to understand the events as they transpired, but each "estimation" of what the Klingons were likely to do was even more absurd, and even more hilarious, than the previous one.

As the party dragged on, several of the staffers assisted the secretary in turning the humorous memo into a full-blown political Threat Assessment. Fueled by good humor, everyone made an effort to out-do their peers in thinking of yet more preposterous theories of what the Klingons were doing, might do, would think about doing, or would do if they thought of it. The latest Klingon five-year plan for increased food production was accepted not as the grandly optimistic lie that it always was, but as a clever understatement of true production. Vague intelligence reports about a new faster drone were extrapolated into hard data that drones capable of warp-six were already in service. Tenuous estimates of the new "fighter shuttle" designs were rewritten as solid reports on small craft able to exceed warp four and smash cruisers with a single volley from half a squadron. The barest hint of a new Klingon "war cruiser" design was presented as a ship with more firepower than a C6 dreadnought. Most ominous of all, the new Treaty of Smarba that had brought the Romulans into the modern military era was expanded to include secret Klingon efforts to buy alliances with the Gorns and Kzintis in exchange for slices of the soon to be conquered United Federation of Planets.

The final act of the last lucid member of the group, as he was falling into unconsciousness, resulted in the transmission of the document to Star Fleet. It could be argued that this transmission was accidental in as much as the direct cause of the offending keystroke was the author's head striking the computer workstation as gravity over came his ability to remain vertical.

Star Fleet, being composed of individuals with more logic (and a better grasp of the intelligence reports) than the diplomats, quickly realized that the "threat assessment" was a joke. While cleverly written and almost plausible in any of its elements, the overall effect was one grand laugh riot. The efforts of individual diplomats to exceed each other in the absurdities of their assessments had produced an effort that had, after three centuries of literary failure, eclipsed that of the Harvard Lampoon's infamous parodies. The other historical event related to the incident was that the Diplomatic Corps had, for the first time ever, actually sent a document that impressed Star Fleet (even if not in the way intended).

Star Fleet was legally obliged by the Federation Charter to respond to any threat assessment sent by the Diplomatic Corps. Any department run by people of normal intelligence and disposition (e.g., Agriculture, Finance, Natural Resources) would have simply laughed at the Threat Assessment and shredded it. But Star Fleet was composed of individuals who had both a wicked sense of humor and a mindset to never allow themselves to be upstaged, bested, or defeated. As Star Fleet is fond of saying, in war you don't get points for coming in second. In Anything.

The challenge of the Diplomatic Corps would have to be met, and not simply met but exceeded in both cleverness and absurdity. Star Fleet was obliged to produce (without the advantage of being intoxicated) a "Response Plan" that was even more absurd, and yet at the same time was even more plausible, than the Threat Assessment. This was a considerable challenge, and time was of the essence. They could not take months to craft a reply; they had at most a day, perhaps even just a few hours. Star Fleet, being comprised of Academy graduates who (for the most part) held engineering degrees, knew that new ship designs and new weapons technologies were a decade away and could not be used as part of the Response Plan. Besides, it would never do to expose actual secret programs (even to the Diplomatic Corps) and doing so would lack both cleverness and the proper amount of absurdity. They considered simply announcing plans to build a thousand new ships, or to activate hundreds of non-existent mothballed ships, but they had to concede among themselves that even the diplomats would know how many ships could be built and how many were in storage. After all, the Diplomatic Corps continually complained about how much money was spent on ships, shipyards, and mothball storage of "unnecessary surplus" ships.

After much discussion, Star Fleet officers hit upon the idea of a massive fleet-wide refit of all classes, including the dreadnought, cruiser, destroyer, scout, and even the lowly transport tug. Noting that all of these classes used the same engines and that a handful of these standard engines were stockpiled for "maintenance float" (a fact the Diplomatic Corps complained of during budget conferences), Star Fleet's response plan was the essence of simplicity, and simplicity is the greatest virtue to which any military plan can aspire. The officers charged with meeting the challenge of crafting an absurd but plausible reply announced that the original designs of those ships allowed all of them to be given an extra engine with a few days at any convenient base. The dreadnought would then have four engines, the cruiser and tug (as well as the blueprint NCL) would have three, and the destroyer and scout would have two. In effect, every ship in the fleet would grow to the next larger size (destroyers into cruisers, cruisers into dreadnoughts, and dreadnoughts into battleships) over a long holiday weekend. To provide a little extra creativity, plans were included to weld two old light cruisers together, bottom to bottom, to produce a ship equal to any dreadnought in the galaxy. Vague references were included about adding missile racks to every ship.

The Response Plan was then forwarded back to the Diplomatic Corps, which (unable to grasp that the military had a sense of humor) assumed it to be accurate. The plan was forwarded to the newly-promoted Deputy Ambassador to Klinshai, who adopted a firm posture with the Klingons, convinced of Star Fleet's power. For the next decade, the Diplomatic Corps conducted their relations with the Klingons based on the theory that Star Fleet could double its combat power in a week should any diplomatic miscalculation result in unintended Klingon aggression.

The Klingons intercepted a copy of the Response Plan and were not entirely sure what to make of it. Some felt it was accurate, while others felt it was disinformation. No Klingon could imagine that a mere joke would be sent using government bandwidth.

The Klingons could not take the risk that the report was real. Billions of credits were poured into high-risk weapons programs such as the stasis field generator, high-speed drones, and the B10 battleship. When the Romulans offered mauler technology for ridiculous prices, the Klingons had no choice but to buy it, even if it meant they could not afford cloaking devices as well.

From Captain's Log #28 (c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Steve Cole reports:

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

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Tribbles vs. Klingons

I fear no enemy, but tribbles give me the creeps.--Admiral Kauldblud

The Klingon battlecruiser Ruthless is on combat patrol when a carton of tribbles loaded on board by traitorous crewmen erupts in Cargo Hold Number Two. Tribbles quickly consume the stockpile of food in the compartment, then break out through air ducts, wiring conduits, and plumbing drains into other compartments, seeking something else to eat. Their numbers multiply as they consume each ration pack they find. Panic ensues, and the crew stampedes out of the three lowest decks by way of the transporters, maintenance shafts, and turbolifts. The captain, outraged by the cowardice of his crew, orders the Marines to storm their way into the lower decks and "Kill everything!" but only a few minutes later the deadly and fearless Klingon Imperial Marines retreat in blind panic, having abandoned most of their weapons and equipment. "Send us to the gadolinium mines if you will!" says one Marine sergeant major, "but I will not return to face those ... those THINGS." The captain, with only minutes before the Secret Police report the mutiny to higher commands and tribbles pouring out of the food replicators, calls for volunteers: "Promotions, medals, and transfer to guard a retirement colony await those who rid my ship of this pestilence!" he declares. Meanwhile, a pet cat brought aboard by a crewmen heads into the bowels of the ship on his own self-appointed mission of death.

Tribbles vs. Klingons is a fast-playing game for two-to-six players. The game rules are only three pages long (which may seem strange because my last "simplified" game has over 500 pages). The playing boards show the lower decks of a Klingon battlecruiser. Cast pewter warriors represent the players and the cat. Miniature balls of innocent fluff represent the tribbles. Die-cut playing pieces represent the weapons and other equipment left behind by terrified crewmen and panic-stricken Marines. Random cards allow you to send your rival warriors in the wrong direction, or provide them with weapons, or order them to chat with the secret police. An option allows players to play a "cooperative game" where the goal is to win as a team, not rinky-dink your rivals out of the battle space so you can claim all of the medals.

We plan to launch this game on Kickstarter sometime in late May or June, and release it this fall. If we raise enough money, the game will be improved with more and better maps, more and better playing pieces, and (of course) more tribbles! The plan is, obviously, to produce a game that interests a wider audience of more casual gamers. We always wanted to do a "beer & pretzel" game and this is it.

You can find out more about this exciting new game at http://www.starfleetgames.com/Tribbles.shtml

Monday, May 07, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 April - 5 May 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week we finished and shipped Star Fleet Marines: Assault, Nova Starmada, T2012, and Romulans PD20M. As this was the first new product release of the year, the wholesalers all did restocks which meant huge shipments going out the door. The weather this week was quite warm, reach 90F most afternoons. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. We are all looking forward to unveiling Secret Project T next week and to Jean's visit on 20 May. Jay W's attempt to find us a joint venture partner for his train game finally came to naught and we're going to put that on Kickstarter this fall. We received our new Kyocera 9540 printer (Ziva, which replaced Samantha).

New on e23 this week was Star Fleet Times #16-#20.

Steve Cole worked on the final parts of Marines, the Marines FLAP list, the Mongoose ACTASF errata (finally fixing the Klingon C8 phasers), finished Communique #77, reorganized the new ship requests for Federation Commander, some work on Secret Project T, and did a blog about Marines. Stephen and Leanna continued to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their whirlwind courtship including the first time she cooked dinner for him (pork chops, which she cooked again to celebrate). Stephen's injuries continue to heal. His ribs are only sore and while his left arm cannot carry or pull any weight it does function well enough to drive. A full recovery is expected. Stephen's weekly hour-long phone chat with Matthew covering errata, stock shipments, MegaKlingons (e.g., D17), and quality control.

Steven Petrick worked on Marines, the Victory article for Captain's Log #45 and the R2 update. Steven discussed with SVC a new on-line tournament for stock war cruisers and SVC discussed with him which ISC ship to use to fill the point gap in Federation Commander.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and did all of the quarterly reports, despite handling the massive orders.

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

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike. Joel graduates next week and has taken some time to look for a real job but may have to settle for two or three part time jobs due to the bad economy.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1,182 friends), proofread Marines, geared up for Kickstarter, packed for her trip, and did so
me marketing.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

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

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. In a recent conversation, the old adage came up that the best solution is a time machine to go back and tell the people who made the decision that they were wrong. This led me to think about what would happen if there really were a time machine and we really could send someone back to tell people in the past about the wrong decisions they made. Who would decide what was wrong? Could you believe someone from the future with friendly advise that might be self-serving to his political faction? Who would control the time machine? Would President Obama decide that electing Reagan in 1980 was wrong? Would President Bush decide that electing Jimmy Carter in 1976 was wrong? Would everybody agree that FDR creating social security was wrong? Would anybody disagree that the European welfare state was a bad idea? Could someone tell Paramount that canceling Star Trek TOS after the third season was wrong? Could I go tell the creators of LOST to just not bother if they were going to end it the way they did? It gets worse. Every time some agency in the future decides to change the past, a time-quake is going to move forward to your time with unpredictable results. What happens if the decision-making body gets it wrong and destroys the country by accident? Would those decision-makers wake up in prison under a dictatorial government or foreign (or alien) occupation?

2. I love Bigfoot, and I really hope he's real. I'm unable, however, to accept any of the evidence as convincing. (We really need a body, dead or alive. I'm concerned, however, that anybody who shoots a Bigfoot is actually shooting some joker in a monkey suit.) It seems to me that the Bigfoot researchers are too interested in selling books. (Do they sell books to fund research or do they sell books so they do not have to go get real jobs?) The researchers just seem so very willing to accept more or less anything as evidence, from video footage that could be anything (or a hoax) to footprints (so easily faked) or strange noises in the night or merely the fact that the area they're looking around in is the kind of place Sasquatch would hang out if there were such things. The researchers talk about Bigfoot behavior as if it was an established scientific body of knowledge, not a bunch of legends, lore, and wishful thinking. It seems that a lot of eyewitnesses just want their time on television. When you tell a roomful of Bigfoot fans that you're going to a particular place that night to listen for Bigfoot howls, it is any mystery why you always hear some? If I won the lottery and funded a Bigfoot hunt, would the Bigfoot researchers show up because they think they finally have a legitimate chance to find him, or because they all get a paid vacation from their real life jobs? (It was shocking to see the pop-up windows on reruns of Finding Bigfoot which totally refuted whatever the guy on screen said.) I would think if you wanted to find Bigfoot (and if he's out there) that you could do so. You'd just get some hikers and backpackers to go hang a couple of hundred trail cameras around a hotspot area and sooner or later you'd get lucky.

3. AMC raised its rates and our local cable provider announced they would drop AMC. In response, AMC ran ads asking people in Amarillo to call the cable company and demand that AMC be kept (and did not mention the rate increase in the ads). The cable company eventually settled with AMC, but I never heard what they agreed to pay.

4. I read O'Reilly's book KILLING LINCOLN and found it, well, pretty light in weight, more like an article in a history magazine than a serious work of scholarly research. It's not really so much a history book as a spy novel, and some of the mysteries it brings up were long since settled (but the actual information was left out). I guess if it gets more people interested in history, that's all right, but I really wonder if Bill didn't just do it for the million dollars.
5. Lady Gaga does a song called EDGE OF GLORY which I really like. It's not just a good beat (always a requirement if you want me to like a song) but it could be anything you wanted, from someone putting their feelings on the line and asking if their love is returned, to the gold-mining guys in Alaska, to a soldier wondering if he'll be a hero or a zero in his first battle, to a businessman wondering if his new product is really going to be a hit. We're all waiting for the moment of truth.
6. We heard about THE HUNGER GAMES on business television, and it sounded intriguing. Leanna downloaded it to her Kindle, read a couple of chapters, and went to bed. I picked it up, read a few pages, then finished the entire book at 4:39am. Cannot really say that I enjoyed it, but I found it compelling and impossible to put down. Same with book 2. And Book 3.
7. I was watching the GOLD RUSH aftershow, and they were joking about "gold mining for dummies." Given how many people watch GOLD RUSH (the #1 rated cable show) I would think that you could sell a hundred thousand copies of Gold Mining for Dummies, even if only two or three of those readers actually tried to do it. Illustrating the book with photos of the Hoffman's and stories of their mistakes would give a great tie-in and make money for everybody.
8. I got my Cavalry & Armor Journal (a US Army publication) and the feature story was "Enabling Operational Adaptability" so I knew the republic was doomed. Then I found an article containing the term "disciplined initiative" and cried.

Friday, May 04, 2012


In previous installments of this series as found in various Captain's Logs, we presented the class histories of some of the most famous Federation old-series destroyers in Star Fleet. Their tales of valor and glory, of missions accomplished and victories won, of worlds explored and civilizations contacted reflect the highest standards of the Star Fleet. Destroyer crews were, it would appear from those earlier entries (particularly Part 2 and the DDG sub-class), the hand-picked elite of the best space navy in the galaxy.

USS AMAZON: Crewed entirely by Alpha-Centaurans, this ship was known as a hellcat in combat. The captain once told a Klingon admiral: "You just don't get it, do you?"

USS FRISBEE: Apparently another ship resulting from incomplete database records of obscure terms, this ship disappeared in Y165 after suffering a breakdown during a high energy turn (the warp engine was torn completely away from the hull) and tumbling out of control. It was last seen in the jaws of a large space monster which literally ran away with the ship.

USS TITANIC: Destroyed by the impact of an uncharted comet during its maiden cruise. The ship was considered so invulnerable to damage that it had no internal air-tight doors.

(c) Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Play On-Line

Many people do not know that you can play either STAR FLEET BATTLES or FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the STAR FLEET BATTLES/FEDERATION COMMANDER game systems as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

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

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. Players can even fly the FC Federation CA, FC Klingon D7, and the SFB Federation and Klingon tournament cruisers as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.