Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 6: Crazy eight

Instead of burying the eventual outcome at the bottom, I’m going to go ahead and put it at the top. Given how well I did going into this week, it was a huge disappointment and a disaster to wind up with three third-place finishes and two fourth-place finishes.

But I’m still going to fill in some of the details for the morbidly curious. The games for tonight: Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy (turned off due to a malfunction before we could play it), Ghostbusters (the game that eventually replaced it in our assigned games), Iron Maiden, Houdini (which we did not play). My grouping: Rob Torres, Bryce Revnew, and John Carroll. I was fourth in the group, and that was the order (Rob always played after me, John before, and Bryce between them). And yeah, you can already see where this is going, given that Bryce has always been one of the better players in the league.

My scores, in order of play: 128.4M+ on Star Wars (fourth), 949.8M+ on Attack from Mars (third), 5.26M+ on Medieval Madness (third), 29.7M+ on Ghostbusters (fourth), and 14.6M+ on Iron Maiden (third). Rob and Bryce had all the first place finishes between them, with John taking second place in three out of five games.

Taking a look at how everyone else did, I’m seeing there aren’t many groups in which I could have been placed where I could have been expected to fare much better than I did. My Star Wars score might have been good for second in one other group but likely would have been last no matter what.

Winding up with a whopping eight standings points was really the last thing I expected. That was nowhere near enough to get it done, and well, my time at the top of the league standings was fun while it lasted. The good news is, I have still effectively clinched a spot in the A division playoffs, if for no other reason there are probably not enough first places to go around for enough other players to possibly all get 25 in both of the remaining two weeks, and I am still almost certainly going to get a seed in the top 5 in A division.

There is still a very slim chance I can get the #1 seed, but it would depend on things like both Phil Grimaldi choking pretty badly in both weeks 7 and 8 (or perhaps not showing up one of those two weeks) and my scoring 46 points combined between weeks 7 and 8. As an example of how unlikely that is, Phil’s lowest drop week ever in league history under the 5-3-2-1 scoring format was a 17 (Season 6, Week 7); until this season, the very concept that I’d do well enough for a 17 (or higher) to potentially be a drop week was laughable (but it almost happened this season).

I have a week to regroup before week 7, and I intend to make the best use of it that I possibly can.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 5: Arrival of the Maiden

Our story continues on yet another Monday night. The game lineup would be joined by the newly released Iron Maiden from Stern, alongside AC/DC, Attack from Mars, Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, Houdini, and Star Wars. (Basically, most of the same lineup from Week 4 with the absence of Spiderman and Medieval Madness.) My one warm-up game on Guardians of the Galaxy would end with a score of 206.0M+ good enough for grand champion. Yeah, I’d say that’s warmed up enough…

After a roll call of the players who had not paid their $20 dues for the season (many of them were players who showed up for only one or two weeks) and a reminder that the Memorial Day session would once again be on a Wednesday, the groups were assigned and play began. I was grouped with Craig Squires, Jared Eikhoff, and Charles Hoogner. Jared is new to the league, while Craig and Charles have been around for quite a bit. In seasons past I would have just assumed I’d skate to an easy 20+ point night; this season, I’ve learned I can never take anything for granted.

We would begin on AC/DC; I would play second behind Craig and ahead of Jared and Charles. During warmups, I had heard the lower playfield was not working. It wound up being a non-issue, thankfully. I would begin with a 3.7M+ first ball, good for an early second place. Craig would retake the lead on his second ball, and by the time my third ball came up, I would be staring down a 15.6M+ to 5.7M+ deficit–a rather large margin on this game. I did manage to get it done with the help of a well-played multiball mode (I think it was Album Multiball). I would sign off with 26.7M+ good for first place. So far, so good, with five standings points after one game.

Next up would be Ghostbusters. The same Ghostbusters I’ve grown to know and hate, with the ridonkulous video mode scoring. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I would play first. I did manage to get the video mode on the first ball, simply by letting the ball dead bounce into the right scoop (not a reliable feed, but apparently this works at least some of the time). However, I was dealt an impossible pattern of ghosts and finished the ball with only 16.0M+, which would be quickly dwarfed by Charles and his first-ball subtotal of what appears to be 44.5M+. (Another thing I hate about this game: getting the intermediate scores is difficult with still photography, I usually wind up taking video instead of trying to time the picture just right. Unfortunately, sometimes that video has clarity issues.) The scores would pretty much remain in this order and I would sign off with a 27.8M+ good for second behind Charles’s 46.3M+. At this point, I’m still thinking this is a good start with eight standings points after two games.

Next up would be Star Wars, and I would go third with the order rotating around to Charles in the first player spot. Charles and Craig would lead off with rather low-scoring balls (1.2M+ and 4.4M+) but I would not do any better posting a mere 2.6M+ good for a nominal early second place. By the time my turn came around again, though, Charles had run up a 158.6M+ score. I would do just well enough to stay in, jumping to 102.9M+. It would come back to me after Charles signed off with 182.9M+. I had a relatively short third ball, but somehow I was able to close the gap and jump back in front, finishing up with a 189.2M+. It definitely did not feel like an 86M+ ball when I was done; I think it was a TIE Fighter hurry-up and one of those infamous “mash the button” TIE Fighter modes that did it, with a decent bonus pushing me over the top. (Incidentally, Jared would improve to 167.3M+ for a not-so-distant third, which on any other night might well have been good enough for second or even first.) Thirteen standings points after three, and I’m definitely eclipsing the assumed droppable total of 14 from week 4.

Moving on, we got to play Iron Maiden. I had no idea what to expect with this game and I had read nothing about the strategy or ruleset. I simply decided to wing it, and it wound up showing through. I had 6.0M+ after ball 1 good for a nominal third place. By the time it got back around to me, though, I was trailing to an 11.5M+ from Jared as well as much higher scores from Charles and Craig. I would eventually sign off with 11.3M+, Jared with 15.2M+, Charles with 65.4M+ and Craig with 33.6M+. So I’m up to 14 standings points with one game to play…

We would end the night on Attack from Mars. There’s really not much to say about how this particular game went. The scoop was unreliable at best, often kicking balls dangerously close to the middle, with an insultingly sensitive tilt setting to boot. How Craig managed his 1.02B+ is anyone’s guess. I eeked out a second with 233.5M+ to Charles’s 232.7M+, but that’s not the big story here…

So far in my time in competitive pinball, I’ve kept a relatively good record when it comes to keeping my frustration under control and not abusing the machines. What I did after my third ball on Attack from Mars was an exception to say the least, and I’m only mentioning it here so other players can learn from it: Don’t smack the playfield glass with your hand like I did. Not only do you risk breaking the glass and incurring the justified wrath of the operator and tournament/league officials (including a game or even tournament forfeit), but worse, you can easily injure your hand, wrist, and/or fingers. In my case I had quite a few random dull and sharp pains in my right hand as recently as Thursday afternoon that were most likely a direct result of this. I don’t think there’s any lasting damage but that remains to be seen and felt. (Please don’t assume I’m proud of this just because I’m mentioning it, because I am most certainly not. My desire in this case is simply that others learn from my mistake and hopefully don’t repeat it.)

Fortunately for me, I did not incur any penalties besides a warning and my lucky second place score stood as the official result. I would finish the night with 17 standings points. I am still, for the moment, atop the overall league standings at 92 points, four points ahead of Erich Stinson, seven ahead of Jeff Mleynek, Phil Grimaldi, and Frankie Griffin (tied for third), and eight ahead of Tim Hood, with many other notables rounding out the top 16.

(Quick aside for the newer readers: I normally try to get posts up within 2-3 days after an event but sometimes real life happens and it takes a bit longer.)

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 4: Battle of the Q’s again

This week at the Space City Pinball League began with at least a couple of surprises. One, the photo booth is no longer at the bar, making room for an eighth game (we usually have seven, and it’s not that rare for a game to become unusable for league play during or before league play). Two, there was a very rare absence for Phil Grimaldi who just last week took over the first place overall ranking from yours truly. By no means would that guarantee I would finish the night back atop the standings, as the other players ranked immediately below me are quite capable of putting up 19 or higher or even 25.

Perhaps the biggest surprise would be that I’d be grouped with Matt Quantz for the first time since last season’s B division playoffs. Joining us would be Dylan Kennedy and Drew Schmid. The eight games in the lineup this week: AC/DC, Attack from Mars, Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, Houdini, Medieval Madness, Spiderman, and Star Wars.

We would begin the night’s play on Ghostbusters. I would be playing third in front of Matt and behind Dylan and Drew. It seems like everyone else had a decent game on this one except for me. I’ve spoken about how much I hate this game with the new code, though the video mode really didn’t factor into this one as much as it usually does. A score of 6.6M+ against any decent players just won’t get it done. I’m off to a pretty lousy start with a fourth place good for one standings point. (My apologies for the poor quality of the scoreboard picture on this one, I was having difficulty getting my phone’s camera to focus properly for some reason.)

Next up would be Spiderman, where I would be going first. I would do a bit better on this one, holding onto the lead up until Matt’s third ball. Matt was playing fourth and had 4.38M+ at the start of ball 3 after I had signed off with a 25.5M+. On Spiderman, 25.5M+ is not all that high of a score, so I’m not all that surprised that in the end, Matt was able to mount a comeback. He would sign off with 68.5M+ good for first place, with my 25.5M+ a rather distant second. Still, it’s a huge improvement over my stinker of a performance on Ghostbusters. That’s four standings points after two games.

Moving on, we would play on Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a pretty average game until I finally hit my groove during my second ball. I would wind up playing both Groot Multiball and Orb Multiball twice to get to 64.4M+ after ball 2 and 91.3M+ for the whole game. Even though that’s a pretty good score on this game, I was not about to count out Matt until he drained way too soon. Matt would sign off with 20.59M+, good for second place ahead of Dylan’s 20.27M+. Eight standings points after three rounds and there’s still some chance I can pull off a relatively decent week if I win out.

The next game would be Star Wars, and I would have the supposed advantage of playing fourth. My first ball was just crummy, with only 5.3M+. On this game, that’s almost nothing; by comparison, by the time action got back around to me, Matt had put up 533.1M+ and Dylan had put up 280.5M+. My second ball would go much better, putting me at least back within striking distance with 243.0M+. Matt and Dylan would have relative duds for a third ball, so I would only have to beat Dylan’s 310.7M+ for second and Matt’s 580.5M+ for first. Though I will admit the way my luck had been going, it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise for Matt to have put up over a billion. Anyway, I was only able to muster a 296.0M+ for a relatively close third place. That brings me up to eleven standings points on the night with one game remaining.

The final game would be Medieval Madness, and again I would be going fourth (the way the Matchplay software works, one game has the same player order twice over the course of a night in a four-player group, as the order is simply rotated for each game in turn, though we rarely play the games in the order Matchplay lists them). Matt had the lead from the beginning, putting up 6.1M+ on his first ball. Amazingly, my first ball was a whopping dud with a princely total of 421,320–less than both Dylan’s and Drew’s first-ball scores of 540,190 and 677,630. I would do somewhat better on my second ball, getting to 1.51M+ but I would face scores of 7.35M+, 1.50M+, and 3.53M+ from Matt, Dylan, and Drew respectively by the time I started ball 3. Right away, I was able to hit the castle shot to score a destroyed castle for 2M, and combined with a few other miscellaneous shots I would muster up enough points to sign off with 4.19M+, enough for second place and bringing me up to fourteen standings points on the night. Not exactly the most ambitious performance if I want to keep my first place in the overall standings.

The only thing perhaps more surprising than the rather smelly 14 I put up, would be Jeff Mleynek, who I was tied with for second at the start of the night, only managing 12 when a 15 would have put him in first place. Erich Stinson put up a 17, which is a relatively good performance and enough to move him into third in the overall standings. So, amazingly, I’m back at the top for the moment, and with plenty of time to psych myself up for week 5 as both this past Monday (4/23) and next (4/30) have Astros home games scheduled, meaning we don’t play again until May 7.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 3: Still in it to win it

So after a one-week break, we once again had our league night on Monday. With the return to Monday nights, a lot of familiar faces from the previous seasons returned that hadn’t been around for the first couple of weeks, which is a good thing. The game lineup this week was slightly different: AC/DC, Attack from Mars, Batman 66 (later taken out of the rotation due to technical problems), Ghostbusters, Houdini, Medieval Madness, and Star Wars.

This week, I would be playing in a group with Jamie Jenkins, Greg Thurmer, and David Pollock. Jamie and David, I’ve been grouped with several other times; both are skilled players and worthy opponents. Greg is apparently a relative newcomer to not just the league, but pinball tournaments in general, as I can’t find him on the IFPA player listing.

Before we got to playing, Erich made some announcements. He mentioned the incident last week with our group on Houdini. He didn’t mention names (including mine, but those who read my blog know it was me and the group I was in), but it is now established precedent that players are supposed to just let the ball drain in that situation. Hopefully, Houdini is done acting like it’s haunted, though.

The other major announcement is that instead of May 28, we will be playing on May 30 as the bar will not be open due to Memorial Day. Which is a huge relief, as I didn’t like having the regular season cut down to seven weeks last spring (and it also screws with the calculations for how many points one needs to make A division; the cutoff was 75 counting the best five weeks, and I can only roughly translate that to 90 for six weeks, with the reality that in other seasons with the best six of eight weeks, it’s been closer to 95 points).

And on to playing, we went. The first game of the night: Ghostbusters, complete with the ridiculous unbalancing video mode. I would be playing third behind David and Greg, and ahead of Jamie. The first ball wasn’t much of anything, I put up a whopping 872K+. By the time it got back to me for my ball 2, though, I was starting down scores of 7.5M+ and 4.6M+ from David and Greg, respectively. It only got worse on ball 3, with 30.1M+ and 17.7M+ from David and Greg, and 70.3M+ from Jamie. I was able to eek out a third place, signing off with 18.8M+ but I was rather dissatisfied. Two standings points for a third place is not how I want to start off the night.

We would next play on Attack from Mars, where I was hoping to fare a bit better.I played fourth, which gave me a bit more time to regroup and get down to actually winning games. The first ball was a dud for the first three players; Jamie led with 280M+ when my first turn came up. I would put up a good solid 1.01B+ and Jamie would only get to 606M+ when it came back to me. I would sign off with 1.54M+; I was still leading when my turn came up to play ball 3 and just plunged it (only because there were other groups waiting; I try to play out when I can). So, it’s now seven standings points after two games, and I’m feeling a lot better.

The galactic adventure would continue on Star Wars. I would be in the somewhat unfortunate position of playing first. Now, there are situations where I don’t mind playing first, and I have been known to select first player as I can just focus on doing my best without the distraction of other scores ahead of me. Well, my first ball wound up being a dud, 2.9M+ to Jamie’s 130M+ with the other scores higher but still well under the 10M mark. I’d get to second place after ball 2 but Jamie would start running away with it with 402M+. I would sign off with a respectable 206M+ good for second behind Jamie’s 515M+. Ten standings points after three games is pretty good, but ideally, I want at least twelve if not more.

We’d shift from the space-themed games to Houdini for our fourth game. I would be playing second. Greg would put up 5.6K+ for his first ball, a relatively low score on this game. I wouldn’t do much better with 6.4K+, good for third by the time it got back to me as Greg would get to 17.5K+ and David would run up 16.9K+. The second ball would go better, as I’d get the infamous reversed flippers multiball which I’d do rather well on, bumping me up to 47.6K+ but David would run up 141.8K+ which I’d need to beat to have any hope of winning. I’d break into six-digit territory but wind up short with 109.3K+. Still, second place isn’t terrible and it would put me at thirteen standings points on the night with one game left to go. (In perspective, averaging sixteen standings points per week has historically been good enough to get in at the bottom of A division.)

We would wrap up on Medieval Madness, where I would go fourth. Nobody playing ahead of me would break 1M on the first ball. The game had an awful right lean. But rather than complain about being handed lemons, I opened up Quinn’s Lemonade Stand and started serving it up. I’d jump out to an early lead with 2.3M+, noting the ramps were a lot easier to hit with the table being out of balance like this. The other adjustments were relatively elementary and the right outlane didn’t turn into the drain monster I’d otherwise expect. I’d get to exactly 6,105,000 after ball 2, which no other players were able to beat. I would try to play ball 3 but drain relatively quickly, signing off with a 6.5M+. Normally not a score I’d be proud of, but it was better than the other three on the board. I’d wrap up with eighteen standings points. A great performance, but would it be good enough to stay at the top of the standings?

Phil Grimaldi’s group would also conclude the night on Medieval Madness, and he only needed third place to tie me for first in the standings after putting up 20 standings points in the first four games (first place all the way across). I stuck around long enough to follow the game. Phil would sign off with 44.6M+ after the third ball, and one of the newer players, Guy Feemster, would make a valiant comeback attempt but wind up short with 35.1M+, with the other two players in the group posting scores under 6M. Guy put up a 16 last week, so it’s possible he is A division material as well and we just don’t know it yet. I’ve put up scores of the same caliber as the 35.1M+ on Medieval Madness in league/tournament play yet wound up busting out.

It was a fun two weeks at the top of the standings, but Phil’s amazing 25-point week now puts him in the lead by three points. I’m now tied for second with Jeff Mleynek, and still ahead of many other notable A division players from seasons past.

Tonight’s the last week we play in April; the next two Mondays are Astros home games, so after tonight we don’t play again until May 7. I’m looking forward to it; this is the most exciting season for me so far.