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There were times I wondered if I'd ever live to see the day.



Friggin' WOW.

ADB just put the Star Fleet Battles Master Rulebook up for sale in electronic format.

So it joins their already available rule sets for:
Federation and Empire
Federation Commander demo kit
Klingon Armada (based off the Starmada rules)
Romulan Armada (ditto)
etc

That's just...that's AWESOME! And with a monster ~500 page manual like that, the ability to carry it around on a digital device (helllloooo iPad) to do full-text search and stuff...just...it's amazing.

Combined with that SFB Online client (and related FedCom Online), it's now entirely possible to play pretty big parts of their catalog entirely digitally. No physical board really required at all.

Mindblowing, even.

More publishers need to get on board with this! *COUGH* Avalanche Press *COUGH*
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Re: Has Hell frozen over? Star Fleet Battles, Fed & Empire, etc in PDF format??
Problem is, the PDF rulebook costs as much as the physical book. Certainly not an industry standard for eBooks. I love the gesture, but... it lacks the proper luster at the moment.
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One of the things I've enjoyed most about the Starmada ports.
Getting them all in PDF from the start. Shame on the price, but worth getting in this format to encourage this kind of product from ADB.
 
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patton1138 wrote:
Problem is, the PDF rulebook costs as much as the physical book. Certainly not an industry standard for eBooks. I love the gesture, but... it lacks the proper luster at the moment.


Why wouldn't it, though? I mean, the printing cost of the rulebook is only a few cents, you can buy it direct from them at that price, so there isn't any distributor cost or anything like that in the original book cost...all the price you are paying in it is for the content itself.

Since the content isn't different (well, normally - see below, though) between the two...?

And, of course, it's really quite a bit better this way:

It's actually an update of the rulebook that isn't available anywhere else (it's not in print, yet). Includes the Module F1 weapons and systems (Jindarians), and Module F2 weapons and systems (Vudar), the S0.0 to S8.0 rules (scenario setup details, weapons status, squadron guidelines, etc), R0.0 section, Module X1R (more X-ships weapons), Module Y2 (more Y-era weapons), etc. And all the graphics have been updated. That's a pretty big win. Definitely similar conceptually to what is already out there, but it's still something new that you can't buy in print, yet. EDIT: NOTE that this is no longer the case, the current print version of the rulebook IS this updated version. So if you insist on killing trees...

It *IS* cheaper, when you think about it. With the existing (print) rulebook, to get an update every year, that's another $50. Or downloading the errata files, yourself, and printing them out to insert them in the copy you have (which is [hours] * [your time's worth] cost). With the e23 version, you create an account and any updates to the rulebook that comes out...you automatically get for free as long as the publisher is putting out updates to that version. If it's a system you have been following for a while, that can amount to not insignificant savings (for reference, my group has bought the paper version at least twice already - revisions 5 years apart - so this would have already saved us $50 if this format had been available originally)

As noted, it's fully text searchable. With a 500 page rulebook, THAT'S A HUGE NEW FEATURE.
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XanderF wrote:
Why wouldn't it, though? I mean, the printing cost of the rulebook is only a few cents, you can buy it direct from them at that price, so there isn't any distributor cost or anything like that in the original book cost...all the price you are paying in it is for the content itself.


But like I said, it isn't industry standard. Go to Amazon and compare paperback prices to ebook prices. Or the same on B&N. Or anywhere, really. While I'm certain there are some, I can't think of a single scheme where you don't get some sort of discount for a 'digital-only' product in place of a physical copy.

Also, while the printing cost is cheap relative to the sale price, ask any wargame manufacturer, and I'm certain they'll tell you it's the portion of the operation that costs the most money. (I just did obtained a quick quote, and 50,000 copies of a 500 page book at 8.5x11 costs $9.40 per copy.)

Look, I don't mean to rain on your parade, but it's just something I'm not personally going to jump all over. To put it in terms of my own, I certainly wouldn't pay as much for a digital ASL rulebook as I would for a physical ASL rulebook.

Quote:
As noted, it's fully text searchable. With a 500 page rulebook, THAT'S A HUGE NEW FEATURE.


With a PDF file, I can do the same in about 60 seconds.
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patton1138 wrote:
XanderF wrote:
Why wouldn't it, though? I mean, the printing cost of the rulebook is only a few cents, you can buy it direct from them at that price, so there isn't any distributor cost or anything like that in the original book cost...all the price you are paying in it is for the content itself.


But like I said, it isn't industry standard. Go to Amazon and compare paperback prices to ebook prices. Or the same on B&N. Or anywhere, really. While I'm certain there are some, I can't think of a single scheme where you don't get some sort of discount for a 'digital-only' product in place of a physical copy.


The thing is, though, that Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc are all retailers, who buy from distributors, who buy from publishers. That's overhead, shelf stocking, and distribution cost worked into the price. Not to mention that the high resolution color ink on covers, in additional to hardbound covers, both substantially add to volume cost. ALL of that has to be factored into their pricing for 'print' books, but is simply not a factor for the 'digital' versions, so of course their 'digital' versions will be cheaper.

With the SFB Master Rulebook, you don't have any of that. You buy it direct from the publisher, they don't stock it - they just print you off a copy when you order it and ship it to you. No shelf cost, no distributor cost, no retailer overhead, etc. So there isn't any savings to be had, there.

patton1138 wrote:
Also, while the printing cost is cheap relative to the sale price, ask any wargame manufacturer, and I'm certain they'll tell you it's the portion of the operation that costs the most money. (I just did obtained a quick quote, and 50,000 copies of a 500 page book at 8.5x11 costs $9.40 per copy.)


Except, again, ADB is print-on-demand. They do their own printing, which substantially cuts down on this cost.

patton1138 wrote:
XanderF wrote:
As noted, it's fully text searchable. With a 500 page rulebook, THAT'S A HUGE NEW FEATURE.


With a PDF file, I can do the same in about 60 seconds.


Not sure I follow - this format *is* PDF. That's why I was excited about it...it's totally portable. Digital reader agnostic!
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Hell, if people'll pay the same for an electronic version,
more power to 'em. Given the reference nature of the text,
there are significant advantages to having it in a reader.
If the company doesn't have to pay the same printing and
delivery, what's it to the person who wants this format?
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calandale wrote:
Hell, if people'll pay the same for an electronic version,
more power to 'em. Given the reference nature of the text,
there are significant advantages to having it in a reader.
If the company doesn't have to pay the same printing and
delivery, what's it to the person who wants this format?


Shipping would be an added cost, anyway. The SFB Master Rulebook, bought direct from the publisher, is $50, plus shipping (usually something like $10).

Which makes that sort of the point.

If the cost to produce it isn't materially different (yes, paper, ink, and machine wear factors in, but it's not a big fraction of the $50 price); if the cost of the distributor doesn't have to be factored in; if the cost of the retailer doesn't have to be factored in...

...well, why would the price be different just because the format is different? It's the same content (at some point it will be, anyway - referring to the above, you actually get more, at the moment), just in a different format. Why would just changing the format and not much else change the price? That does not make sense.



Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!

Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense!

Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!
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That post devolved into insanity so perfectly. If I knew how to give GG, I'd give you some.

Paying full price for the .pdf sounds cool to me, in this case. I'd do it if I liked the game. In fact, this kind of makes me want to buy the game.
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XanderF wrote:


Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!

Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense!

Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!


Chewbacca wants to be able to abuse Ewoks.
He is guilty - but it's justifiable.
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coffee demon wrote:

Paying full price for the .pdf sounds cool to me, in this case. I'd do it if I liked the game. In fact, this kind of makes me want to buy the game.




Well, the question you gotta ask yourself is..."Do I like Star Trek?" and "Do I like defeating my opponents through sheer tactical genius?"

...if you answer 'Yes' to either of those questions, and are interested in an internally consistent, rich background, tactically deep game...

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As the topic slightly evolves (I hope you're okay with that)...

A couple questions:

- Is the master set rulebook all I need to play? If not, what else do I need? Is there a scenario package that I should get?

- Can you play the game on VASSAL? Or is there any way to play online? Do many players do that?
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coffee demon wrote:
As the topic slightly evolves (I hope you're okay with that)...

A couple questions:

- Is the master set rulebook all I need to play? If not, what else do I need? Is there a scenario package that I should get?


Hmmm. That's a good question. The short answer is "no" - the Master Rulebook really is *just* the rules. HOWEVER, see point #2:

coffee demon wrote:
- Can you play the game on VASSAL? Do many players do that?


Not on VASSAL, no, but it...actually, wait, I think you can, in fact. That's not the best way to do it, though, not by a long shot.

The game has its own client - in Java, so it's multi-platform - in SFB Online. And, yeah, a lot of people play. On popular game nights (say, Friday) when a tournament is running, there may be a dozen people in the lobby. It's true that there are certainly times when you won't find anyone just waiting around for a match, but it's an active community, at least 3 (or 4?) tournaments run every year online, so it's pretty easy to keep your hands full with scheduled matches.

NOW, per the above point...

For playing the game "IRL", you definitely need the 'Basic Set'. Just no way around that - it has the ship sheets, charts, maps, counters, etc. The basic rulebook is...basic, though. 'Basic Set' and the Master Rulebook will get you everything you need to play any other ship published pretty much anywhere for the game (save the weird new areas like other galaxies or whatnot...and even those, you'll usually have enough). Heck, you don't even really NEED the Master Rulebook, then - to try the system out, and still have a very complete (and fun!) game, 'Basic Set' really does stand on its own quite well.

HOWEVER, for playing 'online'...I'm thinking about this (someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I am)...the SFB Online client actually *has* all the charts built in. All the ship sheets you could possibly want. Counters, maps, etc. It occurs to me that, with the digital 'Master Rulebook' above, and an SFB Online account....you probably have all you need to play the game online.

About the only thing still missing is the sequence of play list...for tournament play, it's important (and about 6 pages, because it covers EVERY LITTLE THING that could possibly happen, and put it in order somewhere...most of it never comes up). This isn't strictly available in a digital format - but it's close. In print, you can get it either from the publisher directly (its a play aid), or as part of Module G3.

Now, note that there IS a digital version of Module YG3 - basically, the Module G3 for "the early years". The sequence of play changes very little for this period, so this digital download would actually work pretty well for any era. And, of course, if you ARE playing 'early years', then that's all you need, anyway.

So, yeah, that's a pretty long-winded answer.

Something else to consider - ADB has released a newer, high-production-values, streamlined-gameplay game designed to target the almost-SFB-audience, but more modern game style/production values in 'Federation Commander'. I, honestly, prefer SFB because it's "crunchier"...so much more detail...but FedCom is definitely a great game in its own right, and plays a lot like "SFB, but faster and simpler".
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I'm an ex-ASL player, so crunchy is good. Strange that the sequence of play comes in a module. Looks like about $200 to get into the game then, if I include the Basic Set, Master Rules and YG3..
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coffee demon wrote:
I'm an ex-ASL player, so crunchy is good. Strange that the sequence of play comes in a module. Looks like about $200 to get into the game then, if I include the Basic Set, Master Rules and YG3..


Well, I'd throw out one of two options:

- Get into the game in steps, pick up JUST 'Basic Set'. This is a solid option, as I'm rather a big fan of the ships and game play of this. It gets you all the play aids you need, charts, maps, counters, rules, ship R-sections (basically, class histories and such), a handful of pretty fun scenarios (a few rather clearly 'inspired by' Original Series Trek episodes), and a great selection of ships. Do you recall the Franz Joseph Technical Manual that came out back in the day, and is...well, still in print? All those Federation ships are in it, as are a representative set of Klingon, Romulan, Tholian, Gorn, Kzinti and Orion pirate ships. The Klingons end up with almost a full matching set of ships to the Federation, actually.

- Pick up the Master Rulebook, and Module G3 (print) or Module YG3 (electronic, should get you 90% of the way there) and an SFB Online subscription. This will be a *little* more expensive initially, but basically get you nearly everything there is in SFB. On the other hand, SFB Online is a paid subscription, so over the long run, it's more...but, then, if you do get SERIOUSLY into SFB, you'll probably want to pick up SFB Online, anyway, so maybe that's a wash.

Either of those options should be less than half of what you noted.
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Cool, thanks. 95% of my wargaming is done online these days, so option 2 sounds like the way to go.
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coffee demon wrote:
Cool, thanks. 95% of my wargaming is done online these days, so option 2 sounds like the way to go.


I kinda wish they'd put Module G3, proper, up on e23, of course. I'd love to have that digital. It's probably about twice the size of YG3, and includes a lot of 'late war' charts and stuff. More options for 'General War'-era Orion Pirates, bigger list of system repair costs, etc.

Depending on what you want, it's probably overall best to use G3 over YG3, I guess, but...no way to have that digitally. Yet. Engaging convince-o-rays towards the publisher!

BTW, there is also a HUGE support for the Star Fleet Universe online.

They have their 'History of the General War':
http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/general_war.htm

'Universe Timeline' (one of the best things about the whole Star Fleet Universe is how internally consistent it is with its history...it includes the General War, of course, but also a much wider range of time):
http://www.starfleetgames.com/documents/Timeline.pdf

...and 'alpha sector' map, 'east':
http://www.federationcommander.com/east_map.shtml

...and 'west':
http://www.federationcommander.com/west_map.shtml

There is even some demo stuff for Star Fleet Battles, to get you kind of a feel for what it's like/about:
http://www.starfleetgames.com/starfleetbattles.shtml
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He does speak the truth on "crunchier." I was a hard core SFB player back in the 80s (back when there were 3 volumes and I kept my Captain's Rulebooks in a single large 3-ring binders).

To me, the biggest difference in Fed Commander and SFB aren't the amount of rules (since I didn't use a lot of them (ex: Stasis Field Generators, Legendary Captains)), but rather, the on-the-fly decisions.

In SFB, you have to allocate all of your energy before you start moving (and if you are super hard core, even your movement is pre-planned). In FC, you plan your speed and build long-lead time weapons (that take more than 1 turn to build), and the rest of the energy is unallocated and used as needed. If you get into position, and can fire 3 disruptors and 4 phasers, you allocate the energy and fire. And any leftover energy charges the batteries back up.

It gives you more of a feel for the original Star Trek. It does play faster, also. And when it comes to playing fleet battles, unless you have about 20 hours (or so it seems), FC is the way to go. I played an 11 ship battle by myself in FC in a couple of hours. I have no idea how many weeks it would have taken me in SFB.

My buddies and I poured over the SFB rules like lawyers back in the day and spent hours on a simple one-on-one battle. I think we all agree that if FC had been around back then, we would have played probably 25 times more games.

It's different strokes for different folks. And ADB was smart to take the same core mechanic and create games for two different audiences.

I just wanted to give you another perspective.

You can go the Star Fleet website and download a free demo of both games and try them out. No matter which way you go, I think you'll be happy. It truly is an awesome system -- both of them, and what's funny is that you don't hear this phrase put with them often, but SFB was my original 'Gateway game' back in 1982 and FC was my Gateway game in 2008 when I re-discovered our hobby.
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Oh yeah, and I agree that if were still into SFB now, like I was then, I would gladly pay the full price for a downloadable copy of the master rules with free updates for life. That's the way to go.

Can you explain the e23? I have heard that mentioned as a place to download PDFs of SSDs and wondered what that was. I didn't see links on their website, but maybe I was looking in the wrong place.
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Thing with SFB is that it helps to play with a timer. It IS 'crunchy' such that, for example, any player, at ANY level of experience, can always make a "better move" the longer the time they spend on it. IE., a 1-second move vs one that takes 10-seconds to think through, every player at every level will have a difference in quality.

It's just that complex.

So playing it with a timer (or, at least, a group consensus on "DON'T OVERTHINK IT!" would do), IMHO, gets you more of that 'Star Trek' feel. You *know* you could do better if you had more time to think...but you don't. So you need a 'good enough' solution right away instead of the 'absolutely best' solution later...and the knowledge that this 'absolutely best' solution is *out* there...

It makes the style of play much...deeper.

But, as you say, FedCom is definitely a great game for letting you do much larger fleet actions. And it's not a trivial game, either - just not quite SFB complexity.
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airjudden wrote:
Oh yeah, and I agree that if were still into SFB now, like I was then, I would gladly pay the full price for a downloadable copy of the master rules with free updates for life. That's the way to go.

Can you explain the e23? I have heard that mentioned as a place to download PDFs of SSDs and wondered what that was. I didn't see links on their website, but maybe I was looking in the wrong place.


e23 is Steve Jackson Game's (of GURPS fame) digital distribution platform. Link here. You make an account there, and then you can 'buy' and download the PDFs of...whatever you want. Payment methods included credit card or Paypal. Then, you can always log back in at any later date, and check out your 'library'...all your historical purchases will be listed, there, and you can re-download them. Just PDFs! Totally portable! Too, if one of the items in your library is updated, you can download the update for free...it's the same path to the source file.

For reference, you can see all the stuff ADB currently has on e23, here:
http://e23.sjgames.com/credits.html?t=publisher&n=Amarillo%2...

...and you do buy it direct from e23, rather than ADB's online store. No copy protection, either, which is amazing. Steve Jackson Games and ADB are thus taking the 'trust your customers to be honest' approach. Commendable, IMHO, and definitely makes it VERY easy to port the documents over to...whatever format is most convenient to you. PC, Mac, Android, iPad, etc. Doesn't matter, it's just PDF, anything that can read those works perfectly.

EDIT: you use the term 'SSD', which is, AFAIK, SFB only. FedCom just calls them 'ship cards', right? There are not, to my knowledge, any SSDs on e23. Yet. I'm sure it's inevitable, but...none present, yet. There *are* FedCom ship cards from various add-on packs.

It's still very, very early in ADB getting onto the 'digital distribution' bandwagon. I don't think even 6 months, all told, since they put their first item up there?
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Not to completely hijack this thread but:

is there any good resources for learning FedCom/SFB ? I've seen the free PDF but even then I find the game rather daunting.

Btw, AFAICT FedCom is just SFB 2.0 right? Same basic game, just with the rules streamlined for faster play?
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XanderF wrote:
Thing with SFB is that it helps to play with a timer. It IS 'crunchy' such that, for example, any player, at ANY level of experience, can always make a "better move" the longer the time they spend on it. IE., a 1-second move vs one that takes 10-seconds to think through, every player at every level will have a difference in quality.

This sounds a lot like ASL to me as well. On one hand, I find it very attractive. But on the other hand, I'm starting to worry that SFB might suffer from the same problems as ASL does:

1) People who take the game too seriously. i.e. people get too competitive, trying to find the perfect moves, and get very frustrated if things don't go to plan. A feeling that fun takes second priority over winning (or playing right). I've had numerous online ASL opponents quit their game way before the game was decided because they got frustrated about bad luck / making a bad move. I've never had someone quit any other wargame like this.

2) As a result of point (1), people tend to take a long time to play a move. This doesn't matter so much when you're playing by email.... but it still makes a difference when I'm spitting off a turn in 20 minutes and the other guy is taking 2 hours to analyze and come up with an optimal choice.

Any thoughts on those things?

(I quit ASL a couple years ago for these two reasons. Sold all my stuff, never regretted it for a moment.)
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AngryStarAnarchy wrote:
Not to completely hijack this thread but:

is there any good resources for learning FedCom/SFB ? I've seen the free PDF but even then I find the game rather daunting.

Btw, AFAICT FedCom is just SFB 2.0 right? Same basic game, just with the rules streamlined for faster play?


Just to jump in, I downloaded the free Fed Com intro packages, and once you have setup and gone through the turn sequence a couple of times it's really straight forward. Well worth a go, don't be daunted!
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First, you guys have to calm down with all of the cool talk regarding SFB!

I just got into ASL, spending well over $200 a few months back to get the necessary rules, BV, Yanks, etc. My wallet, and wife, would explode if I got into another such detailed game.

However, that being said, I did own the SFB Basic Set at one point, long ago. At that time, it was too much game for me. I did get FedCom a few years back, and have played it once or twice and loved it! Truth be told, I'd have loved to get into the crunchier version, and maybe will one day.

I did not know that the Star Fleet Technical manual was still around. I lost my copy to either a flooding parents' basement or a said parents' garage sale in the mid-1980s. I think I'll have to get it again, now that I know it's available.

Anyhow, great discussion! Thanks for the topic...and for putting the bug (or is that a ceti eel?) in my ear...

Take care,
Hil
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