Space City Pinball League Season 4 Finals: The long, hard road

Shortly after the conclusion of week 8, league organizer Phil Grimaldi announced the final standings. I finished the regular season in 16th, good enough for a first-round bye in B division. Since I had already paid dues, I had little to risk by sticking around for finals (unlike earlier seasons where dues were collected on the day of the finals).

The games were organized into two banks: Big Buck Hunter, Spiderman (Vault Edition), and Domino’s in the first bank; Ghostbusters, The Hobbit, Kiss, and Medieval Madness (Remake) in the second bank. As luck would have it, I would be scheduled for the first bank for both of the rounds I played.

I had a few moments to clear my head with the first round bye. Phil went over the rules, and then I sat and waited for the quarterfinals to complete. My semifinals match would begin with Marc Gammons and Joe Cuellar who advanced from the quarterfinals, and Bryce Revnew who was seeded high enough for the other first-round bye in our group. We would begin on Domino’s.

I would like to start off by admitting I don’t particularly care for this game. Going in, I had literally zero confidence I could put up a score decent enough to win. But I was able to put up an amazing 19.2M+, completely dwarfing the other three scores (second place was Joe with 2.3M+). I was shocked, and considered the possibility that the game had malfunctioned. But the other players confirmed it was legitimate. It definitely did not feel like a dominating performance even though I made quite a few shots and started multiple multiball modes.

We would move on to Big Buck Hunter. I was completely unfamiliar with this game. I just sort of “winged it” and again put up a dominating score, this time 21.1M+ over Bryce’s second-place 6.2M+.

At this point I’ve clinched my finals berth and could theoretically have just plunged my balls on Spiderman. But I don’t play that way. I put up a 31.1M+ good enough for third, behind Bryce’s 50.0M+ and Marc’s 73.6M+ (Marc actually quit playing his ball early due to time constraints, so he could have easily passed 100M).

So the finals would begin with Marc, David Pollock, and Brian Goss. Again, I would start out on Domino’s, but this time I wouldn’t do nearly as well. I managed to finish in second place with a 1.463M+ ahead of Brian’s 1.412M+ and behind David’s 2.5M+.

The next game on Big Buck Hunter would pretty much knock me out of contention for first place. I managed a mere 3.2M+ behind everyone else, with Marc’s 4.1M+ good for third. The game was a disaster from the beginning. I couldn’t really get much going, unlike the previous game on this machine where everything just flowed and I got well into eight digits easily.

The last game on Spiderman wasn’t completely meaningless, though. It came down to the last ball. Marc’s score of 100.1M+ was daunting, but not completely insurmountable, and I still could have finished in second place were I able to score higher. I had, if I remember right, a score somewhere in the vicinity of 50M going into the third ball. I did well enough to finish with 68.4M+ but that was nowhere near enough to win. I would wind up in a tiebreaker with Brian Goss for third place, and we would play one final game on Big Buck Hunter to decide who took home the third place trophy.

I kept the lead all the way. Brian would have to beat 5,037,580 to win the tiebreaker game. He went into the third ball with somewhere around 2M and would only finish with 2,730,630 which was nowhere near enough. So I took home the B division third place trophy along with $30 (my $20 league dues back, plus $10 more) which is the first significant league or tournament victory I’ve been able to celebrate in a good long while.

In three seasons of league play (I did not play in the first season) I have yet to finish higher than B division. It’s good to finish the season with a trophy and some cash back in my pocket, though first place remains as elusive as ever, even in B division.

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 8: Wrapping it up with a bang

Finally getting around to finishing this up. Don’t worry, the following post about the finals will have more detail as will future posts, that I hope to finish up as they happen instead of weeks or months later going forward.

Games this week: Game of Thrones Premium, Ghostbusters, Kiss, Medieval Madness, Metallica, Spiderman, Star Trek. My group: Chris Gonzales, Brian Goss.

First game: Game of Thrones. If I remember right, I made an extra ball shot towards the end of this game that counted for points instead of awarding an extra ball (something like 10M or 15M). I wound up with a 16.1M+ good for second, Chris ran away with this one with 184M+. Three points after one game.

Second game: Kiss. I put up a 5.6M+ which is pretty good for me this game, it just wasn’t any good compared to Brian’s 24.4M+ and Chris’s 73.1M+. Four points after two games.

Third game: Metallica. 16.4M+ good for first. Nine points after three games, and I’m starting to feel better.

Fourth game: Spiderman. 26.0M+ again good for first. Fourteen points after four games.

Last game: Star Trek. 6,979,790 good for second. Chris puts up 7,041,990 to eek out first.

I think the good performance here was enough to move me into a first-round bye for B division finals. I’ll have to look into it closer to be sure, as the standings list I have doesn’t have all the tiebreakers.

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 7: Running out of cute subtitles

Real life has been taking over, so this is way late (three whole weeks after it happened). Better late than never, though. Since I’m a bit light on details this is going to be a relatively short with summaries and pictures.

Games this week: Game of Thrones (Premium), Ghostbusters (Premium), Kiss, Medieval Madness, Mustang, Spiderman (Vault Edition), and The Hobbit. My group: Lisa Shore, Mark Hernandez, and Matt Quantz (again). Chance of Matt setting Pirates of the Carribean to Spanish again during league play tonight: zero (thank goodness).

First game: Mustang. I put up a pretty lousy last place performance of 7.4M+, Matt ran away with this one with 43.5M+, Lisa took third with 14.2M+.

Second game: Spiderman VE. I take first with 19.4M+ ahead of Lisa’s 14.9M+ and the others.

Third game: Game of Thrones. I take first with 58.0M+ ahead of Matt’s 43.3M+ and the others. If I remember right I had a Blackwater Multiball which went well enough to give me the win.

Fourth game: Medieval Madness. I hated this game before, and I still do. Last place with a whopping 1.2M+; I needed to beat Lisa’s 4.4M+ to get third or better.

Fifth game: Kiss. I manage third with a 4,791,500 but Lisa eeks out a second with 4,840,370. Again, another game I seem to lay an egg on in league play every time I play it.

Total on the night: 14 standings points.

Getting a couple of first place finishes is good, but knowing I should have done better is a bit irksome.

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 6: Blasts from the past

After taking a brief break in weeks 4 and 5, I would return for week 6 with quite a welcome surprise or two. We would have, in the lineup, two older games that I am rather fond of: Shrek (Stern, 2008) and The Addams Family (Bally, 1992).

Both of these games have rather interesting back stories behind them. I’ll start with The Addams Family. This was the game that brought about the last great golden age of pinball from 1993 up to about 1999 or so, smashing the previous sales record of Bally’s Eight Ball from 1979. It was thus also the game that allowed Pat Lawlor to have near-complete creative control of his next game, Twilight Zone, a game he admits they never should have been allowed to make. (But which sold over 10,000 units anyway!) Alas, the wave wouldn’t last: in 1996 Premier Technologies, owners of the Gottlieb brand, went out of business, with WMS Industries, owners of the Williams and Bally brands, exiting the pinball business. (WMS also owned the Midway and Atari Games arcade video game brands which would also be folded about a year or so later.) Stern Pinball (recently divested from Sega), however, kept on cranking out games for the next decade until some other new companies started breathing new life into pinball.

Which brings us to Shrek. In 2007 Stern had a bunch of playfields and parts left over from the run of Family Guy, a game which for whatever reason didn’t sell well. Someone got an idea to take those figurative lemons, and make lemonade. That “lemonade” was Shrek, which admittedly is a much more fun theme than the original Family Guy. The Shrek pinball is empirical evidence that sometimes the theme makes all the difference between a game worth its weight in gold and the pinball equivalent of a donkey turd.

Anyway, enough waxing historical. The other games in the lineup, besides those two, were Mustang, Kiss, Domino’s Spectacular Pinball Adventure, Ghostbusters, and Wrestlemania (Pro). I would be grouped with Blake Dumesnil and Agustin Montes in a three-player group. And unfortunately, we would not get to actually play either Shrek nor The Addams Family in our five games, which was kind of a letdown.

We would begin the night playing Wrestlemania. While I was never a huge pro-wrestling fan, for some reason the theme doesn’t matter to me that much when playing this pinball. I didn’t have that great of a game, but it was good enough to eek out a first place with 18.3M+ to Blake’s 16.7M+. I did benefit from a brief Ref Knockout Multiball mode, and consistently plunged for bonus multiplier, which may well have made the difference in the final score.

Upward and onward to the Domino’s pin. This was the first time I got to play a game from Spooky Pinball, one of the newer manufacturers. The layout is decent, with a challenging plunger skill shot. When I first saw this game played on the Dead Flip stream on Twitch.tv, I noticed the skill shot had been valued at 1 million, which tended to unbalance the game. The code we played had it valued at a more reasonable 250,000. Again, I emerged in first place with 1.22M+ to Blake’s 790K. So I’m looking at 10 standings points after two games, and starting to feel pretty damn good.

The next game to open up for us would be Mustang. Despite having two rather terrible balls to start the game (I would wind up tilting the second to try to save, only to have the ball saver kick one right back out into play), I would still manage a decent 8.38M+ good for second to Blake’s 8.94M+, bringing me up to 13 standings points on the night with two more games to go.

Ghostbusters was up next, and Agustin had a surprise for us. After not really doing much in the first three games, he’d explode with a 126M+ score. I went into the third ball just trying to get back ahead of Blake’s 37.7M+, which I did. I’d sign off with 43.4M+ good for a second place, bringing me up to a whopping 16 standings points on the night with one more game left to go.

We would finish on Kiss. This is a game I’ve been notoriously lousy on in league play. Tonight was no different, I posted a 2.76M+ which I knew instantly would be good for no better than third. Still, only one third place out of five games isn’t terrible on the night, especially given I would wind up with 17 standings points, probably the best I’ve done in recent memory if not overall.

A note about Houston Arcade Expo

Yep, that announcement I had mentioned before? It’s about my attendance at Houston Arcade Expo this year, or to state it more accurately, my lack thereof. For many reasons I’m not going to publicize, I’ll be sitting out this one barring a miracle, but I will be using the time to regroup and hopefully make it to both Texas Pinball Festival and Houston Arcade Expo next year.

I’m disappointed but at the same time I know there are greater things ahead. Stay tuned.

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 3: English, [bleep], do you speak it?

Our league plays Monday nights. The Houston Texans were playing on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos. In case you missed it, they lost horribly. Was I any more ready for prime time?

Games: Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, Game of Thrones (Premium this time), Metallica, WWE Wrestlemania, Ghostbusters. Notice anything different? No Medieval Madness! No Kiss! (Good riddance to both, though if I can actually play it worth a damn I wouldn’t mind seeing Kiss come back in a later week.)

This week I would be grouped with Austin Knight (who pre-played his games, like I did in week 8 of season 2), Brian Foytik, and Matt Quantz, some of the better competition in this league. Due to Austin having pre-played his games, the score display photos will only show three-player games but I will note Austin’s scores below:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: 6,205,160
  • Game of Thrones: 107,087,350
  • Star Trek: 6,197,670 (not used)
  • Ghostbusters: 27,997,810
  • Metallica: 32,457,160
  • WWE Wrestlemania: 12,380,700 (not used)
  • Spiderman: 33,766,290

We would begin the night on Game of Thrones. This is a game I feel confident playing. This time, the bottom fell out, and I would manage a paltry 1.5M+. Not surprisingly, that’s good for dead last. One game, one standings point.

The next game: Ghostbusters. I had a reasonably good game, but was unable to take advantage of having super jackpot lit on the last ball. 32.3M+ good for second place to Matt’s 44.3M+, bringing me up to four standings points on the night.

Moving on: Metallica. This game usually does not give me the trouble it did tonight. 5.2M+ good for third place, with both Austin and Matt scoring way ahead of my performance (and Brian’s too for that matter). That’s six standings points.

Fourth game: Spiderman. I put up a rather disappointing 14.2M+. I got one ball locked and lock lit for another ball (or I might have had two balls locked, it was difficult to tell). Either way, another case where I wasn’t able to close the deal and wound up with a much lower score than I probably should have. Eight standings points so far with one game left to go…

And finally: Pirates of the Caribbean. This was at least one game Stern released with these screwball player-selectable dual language ROMs. So Matt does us all a huge favor (not!) and selects Spanish… which sticks for all three of us. Matt finds it hilarious; I am most definitely Not Amused, and I’m (for better or worse) the most Hispanic-looking guy in the bunch (though believe me, I identify as white, even if I’m a regular at Chipotle and Taco Cabana). I fall back on shooting for what’s flashing, but only manage 6.0M+. I fail to beat Austin’s score, which Matt and Brian both surpass easily. Nine standings points… kind of like the 9 points the Texans put up on the football scoreboard in Denver. Apparently I wasn’t any more ready for prime time than they were, with not a single first place finish the whole night.

Incidentally, this is an example of getting a good break from the game draw. Austin’s two unused scores were two of the three weakest performances out of the seven games (with the Pirates of the Caribbean score being the other one). I certainly would not be thrilled with a score well under 7M on Star Trek, and I know I can beat 12.38M+ on WWE Wrestlemania (especially Pro) with anything resembling decent luck and would not expect a score in that range to place any better than third realistically.

I will leave this post as the most recent post for a while, but I will have an announcement to make before the week is up. Stay tuned…

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 2: Night of the living dead plumb bobs

A bit late, I know, but a lot has been going on here… This describes the games and events of October 17.

I hoped to continue my good fortune from last week and maintain the momentum from my surprisingly good finish.

This week’s games were: Harley Davidson (Stern), Game of Thrones (Pro), Kiss, Ghostbusters, Medieval Madness, Star Trek, and Big Buck Hunter. This week I was drawn in a four-player group with Marc Gammons, Blake Dumensil, and Joe Cuellar, players I would describe as worthy competitors, though not the very strongest competition the league has to offer. Originally, we were scheduled to play Star Trek, Kiss, Medieval Madness, Ghostbusters, and Harley Davidson; due to some kind of issue with Harley Davidson (before we got to play on it), we would eventually play Game of Thrones in its place (more on that when I get to it).

And so it began. First game: Kiss. It seems like every time I play this game in league play, I do poorly. I spent most of the time waiting for Joe and Marc to put up 25.8M+ and 87.9M+ respectively. My paltry 3.0M+ is good for a nice big fat fourth (last) place. One game, one standings point…

Second game: Ghostbusters. Again, more time spent waiting for the other three players, while I squeak out a paltry 9.8M+. Really now… Two games, two standings points.

Third game: Medieval Madness. I’m just going to come right out and say it: I hate this damn game. It was a lousy game when it first game out, and the remake is just as bad. It’s even worse with a tilt bob set to one notch above “sneeze tilt.” I wind up rage-tilting after I tilt out all three balls just from light nudging. 894K. Last place again. Three games, three standings points.

Fourth game: Game of Thrones. This game was a little nicer to me on this night. I felt like 34.1M+ should have gotten me a little bit better than third place, but the only real contest wound up being Blake and Joe, with 96.8M+ and 95.4M+ respectively. Four games, five standings points.

Fifth game: Star Trek. Finally something goes my way. I bust loose with a 29.0M+ powered by a good multiball round, and the closest any other player can come is Marc with an 8.1M+. I wrap it up with 10 standings points, three less than week 1.

As unhappy as I was about this week, they have gone a bit worse, though 10 points is a likely drop week assuming I make the other weeks in the season. I did put up a moderately better score on Ghostbusters during warmups (106.9M+). As impressive as that was, it would have only been good for second place if I had come anywhere close to repeating it during league play.

As for the title, it seemed like every game was a bit more “tilty” than usual. But maybe it just seemed that way because I had to nudge more than I usually do to try to keep the ball alive… which really came first, the chicken or the egg?

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