Space City Pinball League Season 5 Playoffs: A fitting finish?

How do I even begin this one?

The night began with high hopes. I got in a couple of decent games on Game of Thrones during warmups. My confidence was pretty low from weeks prior and needed a boost.

Since this is the playoffs, the grouping is completely different. Groups of four based on seeding, with three games in each round, top two out of each group advance to the next round until there are four left. Those four are the finalists and play one more round to determine the finishing order.

And so we began. I would be grouped with Billy Joyner, Nina Ruiz, and Ken Holmes. We would be playing on Star Trek, Spiderman, and Aerosmith.

Last week, I referred to my game on Star Trek as more like Star Wreck, and I was really looking to redeem myself. I usually do fairly well on this title but for some reason, this week I managed to post a really stinky score yet again: 3.9M+ when Nina’s 12.2M+ would be good enough for third place. Billy took first with 47.3M+. Another Star Wreck, it would appear to be.

Spiderman is another game I feel reasonably confident on. And I do a bit better: third place with 6.4M+, behind 10.8M+ from Nina and 11.0M+ from Ken. However, this is still a disaster, as it meant I would need to finish first place on Aerosmith to have any hope of advancing, and even then it was doubtful unless the other players finished in the “right” order.

My first two balls on Aerosmith were rather lacking. By the time my third ball comes up, Billy had posted a score in the 60M+ range (his final score was 64.9M+ but only because he plunged his final ball in the interest of time, having already won the game). Quite a bit goes right on the third ball: I get an incredibly lucky break when a ball passes the flippers but bounces off the area behind the left flipper back into play. I get multiball started (taking the sure thing of a three-ball multiball instead of going for more). I make a few shots. And then the bottom falls out; I lost two balls putting me back in single ball play, and then not too long after I lose the third ball. Final score: 15.7M+, nowhere near enough to take first place. As it turns out, first place would not even have helped me to advance (Ken had clinched third by the time my third ball came up).

I played in the consolation tournament, which went by very quickly given the format, a two-strikes elimination format (strike to any players not finishing in first). The first game was Ghostbusters against Craig Squires, Brian Foytik, and Frankie Griffin. I was the third player, putting up 21.6M+ which was only good for second to Craig’s 27.2M+ for strike one. Second game was The Walking Dead against Matt Quantz and Brian Foytik. I put up 16.1M+ which wasn’t enough to top Brian’s 24.1M+. I did get a reasonably good start during the second game and felt like I was in a position to possibly win going into ball 3, but it just didn’t happen. But, that was still strike two, so at that point, I was done.

So, there you have it. That’s the rather disappointing end of my season 5. The good news is there are at least a couple of weeks before the start of the next season for me to reflect on things.

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Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 7: Last chance to make a splash

I entered tonight’s match with a chance, however small, of making the A division finals. I was in 17th place by one point, though with others also able to improve their scores, I really needed my best performance to keep hope alive. This week’s grouping: Brian Foytik and Fred Revnew. This week’s games: Star Trek, Aerosmith, Game of Thrones, Kiss, Ghostbusters, (Medieval Madness, The Walking Dead).

The night would begin innocently enough on Star Trek. Fred ran up a mind-blowing score of 119.2M+, most of it coming on the first ball. Most of this came on the first ball. Realistically, once I came up to play ball 3 with Brian’s 51.3M+ behind me, I knew just getting a second place was going to be a challenge. I had 25.6M+ going into ball 3, and wound up with only 27.2M+, so my game of Star Trek was more like a Star Wreck. To boldly lay an egg where no man has laid an egg before… (Brian finished with 55.4M+.) One game done, one standings point. Not the start I wanted to say the least.

Next game: Kiss. I don’t even know what to say to this. Against a player like me, Brian’s 6.1M+ should not be good enough for second place. I have a history of doing terribly on this particular table, and tonight’s 4.0M+ was no exception. Fred, again, blew it up with an 87.1M+. Two games, two standings points, and it’s starting to look like I can “Kiss” my hopes goodbye.

On to Aerosmith. I had a relatively lousy score going into ball 3 (I didn’t record it, but I want to say it was under 1M) facing, again, higher scores from Fred and Brian (10.5M+ and 3.1M+ respectively). Hardly insurmountable scores, but my confidence was pretty low given what the night had brought so far. Fortunately, for once, I was able to pull off a clutch performance, scoring a massive 94.1M+ which was not that far from the lowest high score of 110M+ (which could have been higher had I not had the game end a bit early due to a stuck ball). That didn’t matter; what did was that I finally got a first place and kept hope alive for a bit longer. Three games, seven standings points.

The next game would be Game of Thrones. Fred put up a 1.117B+, with over 800M or so of that on the first two balls. Brian wound up putting up 137M+. I barely managed 4.8M+, as all three balls were pretty much a disaster (though I started to get things going on ball 3). Game of Thrones? More like Flushed Down the Thrones. Four games, eight standings points, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I needed at least a second place to keep any hope of making A division finals alive.

Finally, Ghostbusters. Our game was delayed due to an issue with the machine malfunctioning for the prior group (Blake Dumesnil, Erich Stinson, Lisa Shore, and Clay Harrison). Apparently right as our game on Game of Thrones ended, Ghostbusters had reset sometime during the third ball (and did not record the scores earned up to that point, showing instead the prior game’s final scoreboard). I’m not sure of the details on the ruling, as I didn’t follow it that closely, but fortunately, the machine didn’t reset when we played it. With a finish of 10.7M+ next to Brian’s 55.4M+ and Fred’s 51.2M+, I would finish the night feeling, well, rather busted. I would replace my low score of nine points from week 4 with… nine points. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in math to see that that’s a gain of exactly zero.

I’m either 21st, 22nd, or 23rd depending on where the tiebreakers fall. I’m going to go ahead and return for the finals next week, even though I’m in B divison, again, as I still have a chance to improve upon last season’s B divison 3rd place finish. What’s particularly frustrating is that I look at the standings, and right above me in what shows as 19th place is Rob Torres. He only played the last four weeks (weeks 4, 5, 6, and 7), and finished with 71 standings points in four weeks above my 69 in my best five out of six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, Rob is a great player and a great guy, and I admire what he was able to pull off. At the same time, however, it reflects just how poorly this season wound up going for me.

Fortunately I have a few days to clear my head before next week’s finals. Comicpalooza at the George R. Brown Convention Center is this weekend and I will be staffing the Extra Life booth for a good chunk of the day Saturday. If you’re going to be there, feel free to come by and say hi.

Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 5: Quick, to the Batmobile

Again, running way behind on these, so these are going to be rather spartan.

Games: Aerosmith, Batman 66, Game of Thrones, Ghostbusters, The Walking Dead, (Star Trek). Grouping: Bryce Revnew, Blake Dumesnil, Rick Garcia.

First game: Game of Thrones. Second place with 19.8M+ behind Rick’s 34.3M+. Three standings points after one round.

Second game: Ghostbusters. Last place with 11.5M+ behind Blake’s third-place 24.0M+. Four standings points so far.

Third game: Aerosmith. I scored 12.76M+ which barely held up for second ahead of Bryce’s 12.66M+. Blake took first with 37.1M+. Seven standings points so far.

Fourth game: Batman 66. I completely dominated this one with 427.8M+, good for not only an easy first place ahead of Bryce’s 142.3M+, but for fourth on the all-time high score list. Twelve standings points so far.

Final game: The Walking Dead. Any other day 16.0M+ would be a relatively decent score, but today Bryce’s 17.2M+ was only good enough for third, meaning my score was last. Thirteen standings points on the night, not terrible but it easily could have been another night with eleven, ten, or even nine.

(Also included in the photo gallery: A panorama taken during warmups, a high score from a multi-arcade unit on the bar, and a selfie taken right after dominating on Batman 66.)

I wound up missing week 6, so the next post will be week 7 which just happened, and there’s actually a bit more detail in it.

Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 4: Welcome to the Bryce and Rob show

I’m way behind on these posts, so forgive me for being brief and not going into huge detail.

Games: Game of Thrones, Batman 66, Aerosmith, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, Medieval Madness, Ghostbusters. Grouping: Rob Torres and Bryce Revnew. As you may have guessed by the title, I didn’t do that well this week. Just how badly did I perform? Well, let’s see:

First game up: The Walking Dead. 15.3M+, ordinarily that might skate by for at least second in a three-player group. Not this week; Rob put up 39.4M+, and Bryce blew it open with a towering 97.9M+. That’s one game in last place.

Second game up: Aerosmith. How I managed to put up an embarrassingly bad 3.4M+ next to Bryce’s 71.5M+ and Rob’s 75.4M+ remains a mystery to me. That’s two games in last place.

Third game up: Star Trek. And I put up yet another stinkbomb. 6.8M+ with Rob posting a 63.2M+ and Bryce ringing up 76.3M+. That’s a third game in last place.

Fourth game up: Game of Thrones. Ordinarily 48.9M+ would be a decent score, but again Rob puts up 177.5M+ and Bryce rings up 225.4M+. (Rob accidentally started a fourth player on this game, which we just plunged off; this is why there is a fourth player in the picture on this one.) Four games, four last place finishes. Now, the best I can do on the night is nine standings points.

Last game of the night: Batman 66. At this point, given the above, I’m just playing for pride. I’ve done better than the 143.2M+ I put up, but it was enough as Bryce only managed 15.0M+, and Rob only a 29.3M+. The way things had gone the rest of the night I would not have expected that score to hold up. But I’ll take a first place finish anytime no matter how it comes; it was like an ice pack for my somewhat bruised ego. For some reason I just tend to dominate on this game, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

With nine standings points (four lasts, one first) it is highly likely this will wind up being one of my “drop weeks” (the five best weeks of the seven are counted, with the other two being dropped). Unless I wind up not being able to show up for either week 6 or 7, which at this point would kill most hope of me making A divison.

(It still felt damn good to win on Batman 66 though…)

Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 3: “Transforming” the lineup

Catching things up, as I have been swamped with Real Life™ and the like. This was from a couple of weeks ago so it’s going to be a bit light on details.

Games in the lineup: Aerosmith, Batman, Ghostbusters, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, The Walking Dead, Transformers. My grouping: Marc Gammons, Chris Dyer, and Johnathon Morlan (new player).

We would begin on Ghostbusters. I had a decent game, putting up a 25.7M+ that wound up holding up, with Chris’s 9.4M+ good for second place. I remember getting a fair amount of points from skill shots and modes but still not getting a multiball started. Still, first place is a good start. Five ranking points, one game down.

Second game: Ripley’s. As much as I’ve played this on Pinball Arcade on my tablet, I should be better at it. Somehow, playing on the real thing is a lot harder. I would put up a piddling 2.7M+ with Johnathon taking first with a 7.1M+ and Chris putting up a 6.1M+ good for second. So, seven ranking points after two games.

Third game: Aerosmith. I’d like to think 30.5M+ is a decent score. Next to Marc’s and Chris’s scores of 40.9M+ and 32.4M+ respectively, however, it’s just another ho-hum third place score. I’m now at nine ranking points after three games.

Fourth game: Transformers. It’s pretty much mediocrity across the board. My 5.09M+ just happens to be a bit less than, again, Marc’s and Chris’s scores of 5.64M+ and 5.56M+. So two more ranking points from this game would bring me up to eleven on the night. Not that great…

We would finish the night on The Walking Dead. I got a pretty decent run going on this one, putting up a 12.5M+. The best anyone else did was Marc at 8.1M+ so I would wind up with another first place, bumping me to sixteen ranking points on the night. I’ve had better nights, of course, but this would help keep A division hopes alive for the time being.

Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 2: Earning my wings

This week brought yet another new game to our league: the recent Stern release Aerosmith. Like Batman ’66, this game also features a full-color LCD screen, though unlike the former title, the final score screen is just a faux dot-matrix LED readout. The playfield layout very closely resembles that of the new Kiss table that Stern released in the recent past. Not surprisingly, Kiss didn’t return to the lineup this week.

The game lineup in total: Aerosmith, Batman ’66, Star Trek, Medieval Madness, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, and Wrestlemania LE (spinning disk in upper playfield and upper flipper). I would be grouped with Brian Foytik, William Thornton, and Nathan Guerrero.

The night would start off, appropriately enough, on Aerosmith. I would play third in the playing order. Surprisingly, I would wind up with 36.0M+ which easily could have been higher had I actually played multiball instead of aborting it and trying to lock another ball. Brian would post a 46.1M+ knocking me down to second place, but starting off with three standings points is a pretty good beginning to the night.

Next up would be Star Trek. This was a relatively low-scoring game, and my 8.6M+ ahead of William’s 8.0M+ would be good enough for a first place. It came down to the 2X bonus multiplier (my bonus unmultiplied was right around 650K). So two games, eight standings points. I’m starting to feel really good.

We would move on to Wrestlemania. I’m not that fond of the LE, as most of my success was on the Pro version. Still, even with the spinning disk in the ring, this is a fun game to play. I put up 20.3M+, William once again took first with a 42.5M+. Three games played, eleven standings points so far. For once I feel like I’m really in the groove.

The fourth game of the night would be Game of Thrones. Once I amassed 142.0M+, mostly from a Blackwater Multiball that went rather well, I figured I was in a pretty good spot. It came down to William who was only able to put up 71.6M+ as the fourth player, though I was a bit nervous for a while because this tends to be a very high-scoring game in the hands of a true wizard. Four games, 16 standings points with a shot at a possible 21 (out of 25).

Finally, it came time to play Batman ’66. I’m really starting to like this game, though making certain shots can be really hard. I never started multiball despite having locks lit through most of ball 2 and all of ball 3. However, I still managed to amass a 91.4M+, down a bit from last week but still good enough to take first place again over Nathan’s 78.3M+. So I would finish with 21 standings points, a personal record and more than enough to keep hope alive of making the A division finals this time.

I hung around a bit to play a couple more games. It’s funny how I can put up 52.8M+ on Star Trek after league play is over. Still, I’m quite happy after the outcome of tonight’s games. I am hoping this is the start of a trend. Looking over last season’s results, consistent 18s or higher through the remaining weeks should be enough to get me a first-round bye in A division, while consistent 15s should be enough to make it into A division without having to worry about tiebreakers. Those are just estimates based on the past, and everything could change. But if I’m able to put up 18 or better from here on out, I will likely make one of the top 8 seeds. Here’s to continued success.

Space City Pinball League Season 5 Week 1: Same Bat-place, new Bat-game

I arrived at Eighteen Twenty Lounge ready to begin a new season in my favorite pinball league. Admittedly, earlier in the day, my mind was filled with thoughts of the ending of last season, and the long fight just to win third place in B division. I tried to clear my head as best I could, but the determination I have this season to at least qualify for A division is quite palpable.

Originally, Phil Grimaldi had announced that groups would be redrawn after every round to try and balance out the games. On further reflection, it was discovered that would take way too long. (Eighteen Twenty Lounge has room for only seven pinball machines to be brought in, which is 28 players considering each machine can support four-player games. This means that every player over that 28 is going to be waiting for an open machine at the start of the night, which already can take quite a while with 40+ players or three full four-player groups over that 28. With the redrawing of groups, the first group that finishes is going to have to wait for a different machine to open up and two or three other players to be paired with. This would easily add another 30 minutes to an hour of waiting time to an already strained schedule. Add to this things like smoke breaks and the rush to close out tabs at shift change, and you can see how this is a recipe for league nights that drag on until damn near midnight.)

What Phil was able to do, however, was talk with the people who run matchplay.events to put an option in the software to balance out the group drawings, such that players would not be grouped with each other more than once unless there was just no other choice. I like this solution and it solves most of the same problems as redrawing groups after each game without devolving into a gooey, time-consuming mess.

The same 5-3-2-1 standings points scheme from previous seasons applies: 5 for first, 3 for second, 2 for third, 1 for last. League dues have changed from previous seasons: $2 per night, payable either in advance or each night on arrival. I don’t mind this arrangement at all as the coin drop alone, if Charles (owner of Joystix and Eighteen Twenty Lounge) was to set up the games for coin play, could easily be $5 ($1 per play) for just the league games let alone practice games. It also beats having to come up with $15 or $20 at once.

So, on with the show. I would be grouped with Matt Quantz, Bryan Buckley, and Craig Squires. Matt and Bryan are returning from multiple previous seasons and I’ve been grouped with them multiple times in previous league nights. Craig, on the other hand, only started playing in the league last season, though he has been playing the monthly tournaments at The Game Preserve (which I haven’t been able to for a variety of reasons mentioned previously). The lineup would be: Kiss, Terminator 3, Game of Thrones, Spider-Man (Vault Edition), Medieval Madness (Remake), Ghostbusters, and as you might have been able to guess by the title, Batman ’66, the most recent release from Stern.

Our first game would take a while to be assigned to us, but eventually, we got to play Spider-Man. I had a lackluster first ball but wound up putting up a quite respectable 53.9M+ by the end of the game. The way the game had gone, I honestly thought that was going to hold up. Unfortunately, Matt had other plans and put up an 85.0M+ knocking me down to second. So I start off the night with a second place, and three standings points. Not too bad…

The second game would be on Batman ’66. I was quite intimidated by this thing when I first played it and wound up not having much of a first ball. This time, it was Craig who would wind up posting a 135.8M+ for me to try to beat. I had some 87.5M+ starting ball 3, so it wasn’t exactly out of the question. I would wind up with 121.8M+, quite a bit short but at least a respectable second place. Any other night, that might well have been good enough for first place, but not tonight. Six standings points, and on to the next game…

I’ve said enough in past posts about the disasters that seem to happen every time I play Kiss on league nights. Nobody reading this who has read any of my previous posts about how I seem to lay an egg every damn time I play Kiss on league nights should be surprised at all by the fact I could only manage a paltry 5.0M+ against a third place (Craig) of 11.5M+. The streak continues. One day, I’m going to master this thing and not choke during league play. Seven standings points, and on to game four.

Medieval Madness is another game I seem to not do that well at during league play. I put up a 9.6M+ during practice. That would have been good for second place had I been able to repeat it. Well, guess what, I wasn’t (able to repeat it). I’d sign off with a stinky 1.5M+ behind a third place (Matt) of 2.7M+. It was Craig who would wind up breaking this one wide open with a 39.1M+, so I would have been more than content with a second place. Eight standings points, meaning that unless I managed a miracle on the last game I probably would finish with only nine or ten on the night.

The night would finish with a game of Terminator 3. The playfield is reminiscent of the classic Terminator 2 pinball released in 1991. Both were designed by Steve Ritchie, so this isn’t too big of a surprise. I was a wizard on Terminator 2 back in the day, and I had played Terminator 3 a bit during the Pac-Man Fever night I blogged about last year. So I wasn’t a complete stranger to the game. Matt would run it up to 49.1M+, so I could forget about first place. (Due to a display issue we were playing on players 2 and 4 and just plunging off players 1 and 3.) I wound up with an 8.30M+ good enough for third ahead of Craig’s 7.29M+, so I’d finish up the night with 10 standings points.

I’ll be happy if I can play well enough in the remaining weeks that this week’s score can be dropped. However, it seems like I’ve always missed enough weeks that those weeks (the zeros) are the ones that wind up being dropped instead of an 8-, 9-, or 10-point week. It’s really disappointing to play two great games that were only good enough for second place like that. I do feel like my performance across the night was more of a 14-, 13-, or 12-point score than a 10-pointer. Not much I can do about it now, except play better next week (which, as I sit here writing this, is later tonight).

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