Thursday, July 31, 2014

A review of mimic miniatures

Last year I discovered an intriguing kickstarter campaign. The concept was simple. Backers would send in pictures of themselves. The company would scan the images and 3d print the resulting composite features onto one of their custom models. My wife and I collect minis, play lots of miniature games, and play RPGs that use character figures. The idea of playing games with truly personal avatars was an instant hit. We pledged $200 for 10 30mm figures. This was a significant commitment; but one that seemed in line with the product’s boutique niche.

I did some research and found that this was the project creator’s second attempt funding this concept. He had a mixed record in the gaming community—several over hyped ideas that were not as big as the marketing suggested, but in general he seemed on the up-and-up. The project generated a lot of noise between con appearances, fan referrals, and an aggressive marketing campaign by industry figures. Between that public presence and Rich’s prompt responses to our questions, I figured that the campaign had to be a genuine offering. MM closed October first, 2013 with 482 backers pledging $31,408 of the $5,000 goal. The tentative completion date was pegged for December—just in time for the holidays.

Months passed. We received updates regarding the production process, the challenge of scanning 400+ orders, and general delays. Needless to say, the Christmas deadline most backers had hoped for wasn’t met. This wasn’t entirely unexpected. Project creators often underestimate the amount of effort required to bring their ideas to fruition. This is particularly true for over-funded campaigns like MM. Backers didn’t have a lot of information at this point, but the communication frequency and content left us pretty sure that something was going on even if the train was behind schedule.

Then January turned into February which turned into March. Inconsistencies began to crop up in the increasingly scarce updates. Mimic Miniatures had the means to scan and upload our images but didn’t even have a cell phone camera to take pictures of the first run. MM declined to address several pointed backer comments and requests for clarification. Boardgame Geek, one of the premiere gaming forums, hosted dueling negative reviews while Rich claimed that MM was simply experiencing technical problems and would honor all pledges. My wife and I were told on three occasions that our minis were in the next run, would go out as soon as he got a new printer, and would be mailed in the next week or two.

Finally, models began to ship. We received our miniatures in June—six months after the expected completion date, but within tolerable kickstarter limits as such things go. The figures were supported on three sides by resin filaments which connected to smooth segments of the production material. I assume this was an artifact of the 3d printing process. In affect each figure came in its own personalized phone booth.


• The figures lacking helmets and hats clearly showed my jaw line and hair.

• The models were generally what we had ordered.


• Several of the models were sculpted in such a way as to leave no visible facial detail. There was no way to tell that the model represented a specific person.

• Eight of our ten models bore no specific resemblance to their subjects. This was in part due to the fact that MM used stock hair styles in the fulfillment process. It wasn’t that the models were bad per say; it was more that between an indeterminate hair style and lack of distinctive features the models had nothing to distinguish themselves.

• The sculpts lacked fine detail. Eye shape, small carried items, and mouths were either cursorily sculpted or not present at all.

• The figures were printed using a very brittle resin. Limbs and hand held items were exceedingly easy to break off through casual handling.

I give the project a C- over all. The communication was atrocious—no question. However, I got what I ordered. Customer service and delays aside, the transaction completed.

On the one hand, at 30mm scale, there’s only so much detail a model can hold. Picking an affordable printer, finding a printing medium that will stand up to table play while holding detail, and building a computer model to process the orders isn’t easy. Building a production cycle for thousands of individually customized figures is a labor worthy of Hercules. This project was a test run of a new business model. The campaign ended with a ruff manufacturing process in place. There were some major failures, but that’s what a test run is for.

On the other hand, there were three areas where MM could have done better without sticking it to backers. First, the wrong expectation was set from the beginning. Backers never got to see the unfinished product. The only images available to the public were professionally painted models. Had there been pictures of the newly printed sculpts, I feel backers would have been happier with their minis despite the excessive flash involved. Painted models do not give an accurate impression of material, sculpting, and printing quality. Rather, they unreasonably inflate the public’s expectations. A time lapse video showing a figure from image, to printing, to assembly, to painting, and finally to arrival on a gaming table would have acted as a marketing tool while giving backers clear and accurate expectations.

Second, the stated intent of this campaign was to put recognizable likenesses on miniatures. The expectation was that the associated sculpts were designed with that in mind. Several of the sculpts, the noble in my case, were built in such a way as to completely obscure facial detail. This is a fundamental design failure. All sculpts should have been designed to provide clear facial visibility even if the model was wearing a hat, helmet, hood…etc. Even excepting poor model design, 80% of our models could only vaguely be identified as their intended subject. I can’t count that as a win.

Third, the communication for this project was at best unintentionally misleading. At worst backers were shamelessly deceived on a regular basis. Deadlines and promises were broken without apology or follow up. Several claims were trotted out which were impossible to take seriously. Simple reasonable concerns were left unaddressed. What was said in public often didn’t hold water in private. Nobody likes to hear that their order has been delayed months past the advertized delivery date. However, people can be tolerant, provided they are treated with respect and deference. That didn’t happen and my impression of Rich suffered accordingly.

In conclusion, despite numerous communication issues, I received my backer rewards. The quality wasn’t up to the advertized standard—though given the nature of kickstarter I can forgive most of that. I am satisfied. That said, I am unlikely to do business with Rich Nelson or any of his associated ventures in the future.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts on PSorscha and a tactica

Note that the following are my opinions. Your mileage may vary. Feedback and heckling are welcome.

I have mixed feelings concerning PSorscha. On the one hand she’s a hell of an assassination threat. She’s fast, has a great feet, and definitely brings the noise. On the other hand, she’s a high defense squishy warcaster in a faction that favors beat stick melee powerhouses—and then there’s the matter of her older colder version. I can’t pick up her new model without remembering her younger days.

A decade ago a friend said he had a surprise for me. He pushed three models across my kitchen table…two red metal robots and an axe wielding ice queen. We spent the next few months slugging it out between my Khador and his Cygnar battle box. I fell in love with the Motherland when I took a sip of bourbon and said for the first time “Sorscha pops her feet and…” Sorscha wasn’t just defined by her feet; her feet made her the bar by which I measured all comers. She froze everything in her control area. Back then there was no way to shake stationary affects. She would walk up, pop feet, freeze everything within her control area regardless of line of sight, and use tempest to knock things down. Then she, the destroyer, a hand cannon, or possibly a raiser wind would drop on your caster. If you survived that, the next turn you stood there and did nothing. Then, with your pieces still knocked down, you’d watch while Sorscha’s entire army unloaded for a second turn—terminating your warcaster with extreme prejudice. It was the single most ball bustingly hard core feet in the game. Sorscha wasn’t just a faction defining model; she set the standard for bad ass. Khador dominated the Gencon national tournaments with variants on that strategy over and over again…feet, knock down, kill caster. She was so good that I felt bad playing her against all but my most competitive adversaries.

Now a days, freezing the enemy battle group is not as game breakingly harsh as it once was. The line of sight restriction and the ability to spend focus to unfreeze and stand up renders icy gaze powerful but tolerable—certainly you can’t expect 2+ rounds of uncontested action any more. Never the less, playing Sorscha in MKII feels like going back to your home town and finding out that the captain of the football team who used to give you swirlies, take your lunch money, and steal your girlfriend is now the guy manning the drive through window at McDonalds. You don’t want him back the way he was…but it steals the mythic proportions from your nostalgia.

Sorscha is still all about her feet—especially under 35 points. There are a couple reasons for this. First, she brings very little qualitative enhancement for her forces. Fog of war is nice, especially if you have camouflage, but it suffers from the double edged sword of affecting all models regardless of faction. PButcher and PVlad are fantastic casters because they can not only throw the opposing caster into the hurt locker with authority, they also offer excellent support spells—signs and portents, wind wall, full throttle, fury, and iron flesh. They make already good units amazing while simultaneously posing major threats on their own—and that’s not even taking their feets into account. Sorscha can set up attacks with freezing grip and tempest, but she doesn’t boost Khador’s specialties to epic levels or gloss over its weaknesses. Further, setting up those attacks requires her squishy 14 armor base to be dangerously forward. On average she’ll die to 2 attacks worth 45 boxes (essentially 2 unboosted P+S 15 hits.) The upshot is that there’s Sorscha and there’s her army. Outside her feet, the rest of your points are on their own.

Second, the ice queen is greedy. She wants to throw down wind rush, tempest, boosted hand cannon shots, multiple critical freeze generating reach attacks, and boundless charges at ridiculous distances. Every once in a while she’ll have a focus or two to throw at a jack or boundless charge a model; but those are the exceptions not the rule. She doesn’t “share” well.” So between her lack of support spells and a dearth of spare focus, her two defining characteristics are her feet and her speed—which is simply a vehicle for delivering the feet in the first place.

If you accept these limitations, PSorscha is actually a decent warcaster. She won’t be supporting a huge battle group; but then most of Khador’s warcasters prefer taking a single quality jack anyway. Khador has some excellent jack Martials—Sorscha likes delegating to them more than most is all. I prefer taking focus efficient jacks with her when not marshaling. Anything with free run/charge is helpful. The Kodiak is an excellent choice with free run, pathfinder, the ability to threaten massed infantry with vent steam, LOS blocking cloud affect, and a chain attack which auto triggers on her feet turn.

Sorscha operates best on the theory that the best defense is a strong offense. Her spells and mobility predispose her to a front line role. You can use wind rush to advance, act, and then retreat, but at some point you’re going to need to freeze/knock down something that will require her to extend into risky territory. Thus, she likes infantry that are independent, can make use of her feet turn, and that keep constant pressure on the enemy. The winter guard deathstar is an obvious candidate, but certainly not the only one. I like widow makers with marksman, gray lord outriders, gun carriage, MOW Kovnicks, man hunters, and the elf to start. These models force your opponent to either play defensively or take heavy casualties.

It’s tempting to build an all ranged, all melee, or similarly hyper focused force to maximize the benefit of icy gaze. This is a mistake—especially as point values increase. Skillful players will deploy in such a way as to limit Sorscha’s pre-feet movement and line of sight while maximizing counter charge lanes and fields of fire. You are better off building an army which does its own heavy lifting—using icy gaze to swing the tempo at key points, capitalize on an opponent’s error, or force your opponent into sub optimal model placement in order to minimize its impact. In this way the threat of icy gaze can be of more use than its execution—either your opponent deploys to minimize IG’s affect or they risk disproportionate losses.

So let’s talk about icy gaze. I think of Sorscha’s feet thusly. “Once per game, Sorscha can threaten up to 19 inches. At certain points in that movement she will make every enemy model within LOS and 12 inches easier to hit.” Some models are immune to cold. Models with focus/fury can shake off stationary. Some casters like Harkevich have spells that completely negate IG past your turn. Because of this I celebrate the games where Sorscha lets me run amok for two turns—but I don’t count on it. If Sorscha is popping her feet it’s because I’ve found an assassination lane or because doing so will let me permanently swing the correlation of forces in my favor. You use icy gaze to make sure victory is a foregone conclusion on your own turn or you don’t use it at all. In most cases the feet comes out to set up an assassination.

The process runs something like this:

1. I remind myself that I am in control of when the ice queen makes her move. Bating Sorscha is a time honored sport raised to an art form by experienced players. The longer you go without popping icy gaze, the more you want to. I start every turn asking myself, “can I win the game with Sorscha this turn?” If not, no feet.

2. I measure her control area. Sorscha’s charge range is 6 movement+3 charge+2 reach=1 inch less than her control radius. Any model completely within her control radius is within her reach.

3. I assess lines of sight, relative distances out to 19 inches, and difficult terrain. If completing an assassination charge is going to go through terrain then I’ll need to cast boundless charge. If I don’t start my turn with LOS to the opposing caster, then the rest of my army needs to make a road or I am going to need to use wind rush to reposition. If the target is outside my control radius, then I’ll need wind rush to put me in range. Note that the riskiest feet turn is one where you use wind rush and boundless charge. You’ll spend 2/3 of her focus getting to the target—seriously reducing her destructive output.

4. I use wind rush if necessary. If yes, then I check her control radius again. Even if she has to use boundless charge, her maximum range is 1 inch beyond her zone. Before committing to the charge I want to be absolutely sure that her target is in range.

5. Boundless charge if required. If not, charge.

6. Feet. Note that you always want to pop before the charge if it will catch more models in Sorscha’s LOS.

7. Attack. On average boosting damage is only worthwhile if your target is arm 17 or greater. Most of the time you’ll be better off buying extra attacks.

Sometimes you’ll need to set up another model, one of your jacks usually, because Sorscha doesn’t have the stromf to finish the job. It’s critically important that you figure out if you can get to the target on the assassination turn as well as if you can take them down once you get there. You need means and opportunity; because if you don’t finish the job on her feet turn, Sorscha is toast.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back in the saddle with Warmachine

It’s funny how things come full circle. Alternate worlds used to be the center of my gaming world. Thanks to a persistent outrider, I got suckered into their weekly GW sessions, eventually becoming one of the store regulars. That lasted for a couple years, until GW opened a store nearby and stole most of the action. Over time I drifted away from AW. I liked the store, the people, and the players; I just didn’t have much reason to visit. The only time I darkened their door was to pass a few minutes waiting for my number to be called at the haircuttery. Then a couple years ago MQ asked me to pair off for one of alternate worlds’s two headed giant tournaments. The experience was so much of a hit that we’ve been informally rocking the 2hg scene ever since. Back in May, while we were playing in a sealed tournament, I walked over to one of the miniature gaming tables between rounds. The store was hosting a once a month war machine/hordes league—the sound of which drew me as the moth to the proverbial flame. I spent my down time heckling, helping a newer player with the basics of fury management vs. focus, and basking in the aura of actual miniatures on the table.

The league manager encouraged me to come back and join the next round. I said, truthfully, that while I was interested, I hadn’t played a real game of warmahordes in almost seven years. Cherylkat and Corc had played a few sample matches with me, but nothing that left me feeling even mildly proficient. I felt self-conscious. I’ve kept up with the MKII rules in a general sense but my play skills have definitely lapsed. The League manager, a store employee by the name of Jason, pointed out that they had people who played their first game of warmahordes—ever in that month’s league. That took the sting out of my objection. I decided to give it a try. I’ve wanted to get back into miniature gaming for a while. Starting in a league within walking distance was as good an opportunity as I could have asked for.

I’ve spent the last two months reviewing the rules, getting my play kit together, and working with Deathquaker to get my army painted. I picked up a battle foam army transport. I collected a selection of counters, measuring tools, and objectives. I read strategy articles. Mostly I dreamed of the day when once again I would take to the field of honor.

July sixth, I hiked up the hill for my first day back on the wagon. When someone says “league” I imagine a group of 20+ players, some veteran, some learning, and some fresh behind the ears. AW’s league consists of about six players including the employee sponsor. I walked in and found that the only players were Jason and another new-guy who I had previously arranged to sell my ill-fated Vlad force. We paid our entry fee, concluded our business, and set up a 4x6 table for some battle box learning.

I have a lot of theoretical experience with the current rule set. While I haven’t played in years, I’ve kept up with the forums and releases. So, While I wasn’t the person to teach advance tactics, I felt qualified to walk Nate, the other player, through his first game. He opted for the standard Khador battle box—Sorcha, Destroyer, and Juggernaught. I took my default league starter, The Butcher, a decimator, and a Kodiak.

Game 1:

Given our lack of recent experience, we opted for a clear board with no terrain. This approach has drawbacks, but it lets you learn the basic mechanics without having to worry about lines of sight, difficult terrain, and deployment preference. It’s a good teaching method for a player’s first few games. Nate got the high roll and chose first turn. We set up in mirror configurations—with our casters an inch or two behind our jacks pushing the front edge of our deployment zones. I set up directly across from his forces—insuring that this would be a quick game.

Turn 1, we ran our jacks and cast upkeep spells. Turn 2, we took pot shots at each other. Turn 3, we engaged. Sorcha froze my army. Her battle group took some whacks at me but couldn’t make it to Butcher. Butcher stood up, unfroze himself, popped feet, charged Sorcha, and broke the ice queen with his first 5d6 damage roll. Game 1, butcher.

Game 2:

As this was supposed to be a learning experience, we decided to switch armies. Wielding the butcher is kind of like driving a SUV—you know you’re one of the biggest baddest things around. On the other hand, looking across the table at the butcher is a lot like standing on the third rail in front of an oncoming subway—you know damned well that if you don’t do something quick you’re going to take a whole lot of physics to the face.

We set up in more or less the same configuration as the previous game. I won the roll-off and went first. Round 1 and 2 went exactly the same as before. In this situation you are almost always going to run your jacks and cast your spells followed by a turn of pre-contact positioning. Turn 3, I did the math and found that butcher sitting at arm 22 with 4 focus camped was essentially unkillable unless sorcha punched way above the bell curve. I allocated 3 focus to my juggy, popped the butcher with a raiser wind and a boosted hand cannon shot and ended Sorcha’s activation. I activated the juggernaut, checked distance, and found I was just out of charge range. Nate allocated focus to his Kodiak, unfroze butcher, cast full throttle, popped his feet, and charged my poor juggy. The Kodiak unfroze, charged Sorcha, and crushed her like a beer can with its first attack. Game 2, Butcher.

My opponent had to leave at that point. We shook hands and agreed to face off in the next event. While we were playing, one of the customers walked around the table—asking questions and expressing interest. I offered to play a battle box game with him. I was happy to run a demo, especially since the only other potential opponent was Jason and he had a store to manage. The Demoee, Matt, selected the Cygnar box set as his preferred battle box after some lively discussion of faction characteristics. I returned my models to my deployment zone and prepared for war—again.

Game 3:

I love seeing an experienced strategist work their art on the field of honor. Matt hadn’t played warmachine before—but the man knew wargames. This was a long game—surprisingly so considering it was a demo. I cut my teeth back in MKI fighting Striker’s battle group back before escalation was published. I had no illusions that he was an easy mark. Striker isn’t the flashiest of the battle box casters. He is a solid all-round leader with a flexible toolbox and a balanced battle group. Sorcha has to either directly assassinate striker or attrition his battle group to the point where she can pin him down. Between knockdown, disruption, arm/def enhancement, snipe, ranged, melee—Striker covers all the bases.

Matt won the roll off and chose to go first. I set up off to the side—attempting to get Striker-and-CO to string out while wheeling to engage. That—didn’t work. Matt had clearly watched Sorcha pop her feet during my game with Nate and was wise to my plan. Matt advanced remorselessly, holding striker back behind his battle group while sniping with the charger.

What followed was a brutal back and forth. The charger hit Sorcha with a boosted shot while the ironclad and lancer mixed it up with the juggernaut. I feeted early trying to break his iron wall but rolled poorly on the subsequent damage. Matt did a great job using models to block charge lanes and LOS. I finally managed to maneuver a charge with Sorcha. She wind rushed, stepped up to the plate, boosted, and whiffed. I bought another attack, boosted, and whiffed again. I bought a third attack, boosted, and hit for less damage than I needed. Striker activated and administered final justice. Game 3, Striker.

These were fun games. Not only did I get three solid games under my belt; but both of my opponents walked away talking about buying additional models—good for the league and good for the store. I enjoyed the simple low-variable battle box format. It was a nice way to get my toes wet.

Things I learned:

1. I need to work on my positioning and threat range estimation. These are fundamental play skills—ones that I took for granted back when I was playing competitively. I used to do this kind of thing on auto pilot—making the right decisions without a lot of thought. Now I’ll have to pay a lot more attention to the basics.

2. Sorcha has evolved to a very different kind of caster than I used to play back in MKI. The ability to shake stationary and knockdown with focus (icy gaze and tempest) fundamentally changes the way she is played. I could write a tactica on the issue at this point. Suffice it to say that you don’t have 2+ rounds of free action any more. In battle box games, you need to pop the feet only when you’re making an assassination run. Sorcha has one round to make her move—meaning she can’t afford to squander her feet.

3. People say power 12 kills casters. Playing the beet stick faction, I haven’t run into that much…until now. Look at you little charger all grown up. The charger can kill Sorcha in one round with 2 moderate boosted shots. That plus snipe is terrifying.

4. The butcher has changed a lot since his original incarnation. He’s no longer a solo who happens to pull a jack or two along with him. He has, and I still can’t believe I’m saying this, become more of a support caster who just happens to be able to wreck face. I picked PButcher as my main caster namely due to his theme force—which looked like a good balanced vehicle to re-learn the game on. The more I read about him, play him, and see him played, the more I like him. The Butch finally has game as more than a 6 focus solo.

5. I’m going to spend some more time on boxed games. There was a time when battle box games were for demos. After playing three consecutive iterations of Khador, Cygnar, and a modified league build for butcher, I really like the changes PP has made to the boxed battle groups. I need more practice regardless, but the fact that there is now a real challenge to the process is nice.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Petty Things

I find myself second guessing my instincts lately. As our circle of friends has grown, matured, and evolved, it has become increasingly difficult to navigate the unspoken perils of social expectation. Some friends don’t play well with large groups. Some friends have issues with other friends. Some friends have kids. Some friends don’t drive. Some friends pay their own way. Some friends pay for nothing. Some people can be trusted to tactfully avoid complications. Some friends are nothing but drama. Some people want someone else to initiate contact. Other people will let you know if and when they want to share their valuable time. I used to think I was at least competent to handle my own social schedule—lately I’m not so sure.

Social obligation is the fine art of keeping relationships in balance. It’s not polite to talk about this sort of thing but everyone thinks about it. That couple always shorts their share when we eat out. That guy always makes us drive an extra hour to pick him up. We never get invited to that group’s poker night. She always invites herself to our private get togethers. I stopped trying to make everyone happy a long time ago. The truth is that my private life is my private life—socially or otherwise. I’m not required to invite everyone to everything, attend every event I hear about, or cater to everyone’s whims. That being said, part of good friendship is making sure the scales are balanced. Part of that comes from making sure that you are giving equal value in a relationship. Part of it is being tactful and considerate when planning events where select people are welcome. Part of it is also making sure that you aren’t putting your friends and family in a difficult position. Put that way it looks easy. Don’t screw your friends and family over.

Of course, such issues are rarely 100% within your control. It’s very easy to say or do something that makes perfect sense at the time but that ends up ticking people off later. So far, I’ve written off exactly one friendship in almost 40 years. The person in question exploited my naivety in a very personal and hurtful manner. It took them one really thoughtless moment to end everything. Most of the time though you can’t point to one single event and say “that’s the one, that’s where we went wrong.” You make a small error in judgment one day—then an acquaintance does something without thinking that pushes your buttons. It piles up bit by bit. The straw doesn’t break the camel’s back, but the hay bale will flatten the beast if you let it.

I suppose I take this more seriously in part because I rely on friends and family. The brunette and I take pride in our independence. We try to handle as much of our own upkeep as we can without assistance. Some things however, are simply easier with sighted help. Both of us have been in the uncomfortable position of having to ask friends, family, and coworkers to do something they clearly don’t want to do. Just like we’re not supposed to talk about the relative debt levels in a relationship you aren’t supposed to say no to a blind person. That particular convention sucks. At any given time the party on the other side says quite truthfully, that yes they’ll be happy to drive you to that appointment, help you go shopping, fill out your paperwork, go through your mail…etc. But ask for the third time in one week and it starts to feel less like a favor for a friend and more like using someone who can’t politely decline. When most of your social interactions come with a helping of accommodation in the first place, it makes you sensitive about taking advantage. Years ago, a friend would throw a party once a year. I think we were invited to the event more out of habit than anything else—a holdover from earlier days. The catch was that the event in question was held at the friends’ home which was many butt longs away. The host’s solution was to invite another friend of ours with the expectation that she would provide us transportation. This was a huge imposition for the driving friend—we weren’t anything close to on her way, the hosting friend wasn’t a really close friend to begin with, and there was a feeling of implied obligation in the invitation. The situation put us at odds with two people we respected. Not going to the party would slight one friend. Guilt tripping the other friend would have simply transferred the hurt feelings to a different party. When I first started with the bank some of my coworkers were asked to give me rides to and from work. Most of the time this practice was fine…until it wasn’t and a coworker couldn’t tell his friend that it wasn’t convenient to cart his sightless butt around every day. Experiences like this rammed the concept home to me that friendship is a two way street. I’m not paranoid about the balance of obligation exactly; but I am very aware of where the scales stand.

It’s tempting some times, especially if you’re in a pissy mood to begin with, to start assessing relationships on a transactional scale. How much drama does that person create for me? Do they mooch off me all the time? Do I owe them for the last range trip? In almost every case the brunette and I find that we end up on the owing end of that scale. We don’t sit down with a spreadsheet and tally our obligations every day. We are simply aware of the fact that part of being friends with us involves driving us places, reading things, and helping with certain visual activities. We understand that our friends take that as a given just like we accept their particular quirks. The issue being that lately I’ve seen a lot of little negative transactions that have put me in that pissy mood.

I don’t want to be that person who is always keeping score. You know who I’m talking about—the relative who knows who brought cups to the last three family dinners or the friend who remembers who gave Christmas presents last year and for what value. That’s a mean petty sort of life. Part of this comes down to the fact that I spend most of my life in balance. When I end up genuinely feeling like someone has crossed a line it really sticks in my craw. After that point I start amortizing every little thing. It’s hard to have fun when you live like that.

We went tubing with a group of friends and family recently. It was a really great experience. I haven’t been swimming in fresh water in forever. I really, really, love swimming in the outdoors. We had a few drinks, played around, and had about as close to a perfect day as you could ask for. Unfortunately before we got to the tubing part, there were delays, complications, and changes in schedule.” I spent about three hours pre-river in a really grumpy mood; not because I had that much to be grumpy about but because the process of having “fun” had become more complicated than it should have been. If I had just sat back, took a deep breath, turned up the music, and let it go, it all would have been fine. I didn’t—and for my sins I wasted a good three hours of my life and probably spread my annoyance to the other people in the car.

My point is that I need to stop sweating the petty things. I need to make sure my end of the scale is balanced and beyond that, try and let things go. Also, I need to start taking a few steps to minimize the aggravation in my life. To that end:

1. When planning an event I will be specific as to time, date, scope, who is invited, and who is not invited. Even if I think I know the answer I will clarify.

2. Wherever possible I will get the “who’s paying” discussion out of the way up front. This includes asking for separate checks and talking about who is paying for range time.

3. My response to invitations that I cannot accept is going to be that “Unfortunately I/we won’t be able to attend.” There will be no mention of money, contributing factors, or alternate plans.

4. I am going to start holding people accountable for doing and saying things that are clearly not appropriate when they make my life more difficult. Suffering in silence doesn’t help either of us. I can’t complain if I don’t give them the chance to correct the issue.

5. To the best of my ability I am going to try and be a polite person. If someone else has an issue with my choices, I won’t try and force the discussion. It’s up to them to talk to me—not the other way around.

Note: If you’re reading this and thinking that you are in any way responsible for this post, please be advised that you are mistaken. This raving discourse is the product of *many* small interactions with a variety of people over the last month—most of whom don’t even know I have a blog. I’m working things out—and you have nothing to worry about.