Space City Pinball League, Season 2 Week 3: Follow the yellow brick road?

Earlier in the day, I really looked forward to returning to pinball league night. I had missed week 2 due to illness (there were a couple of other reasons as well, but feeling ill was probably the overriding concern of mine). I had gotten the news that Wizard of Oz would be in the lineup. Indeed, I was able to get in a few games during the warmups, including one score of 287,992, also good for Yellow Brick Road Champ of 26 (I think? I didn’t get an actual picture with the score, silly me). I also got in a rather smashing 245.6M+ on Game of Thrones in warmups. Unfortunately, for the most part my good fortune did not carry over through to actual league play…

The announcements were started with the news that Wizard of Oz would not be in the lineup for league play due to it “acting strangely” during warmups. To be fair, the outhole kicker was taking multiple tries to put the ball in the plunger lane for whatever reason (weak or failing coil?) and there was a point where the game went down and would not boot back up. I suggested to leave it powered off for about five minutes and then turn it back on, which fixed that problem, but not the others. So the lineup wound up being KISS, Mustang, Game of Thrones (LE), Wrestlemania, and The Walking Dead.

I was in a three-player group this week with Bruce Hilty and Robert Clauson. I knew very little about either of my opponents going into this, so I was hopeful I would be able to put up a decent performance and get back toward the top of the standings.

Our first game was on KISS, which I had some familiarity with from the first week. Surprisingly, for whatever reason, I had just a decisively awful game. I would sign off with a 3.6M+. Bruce managed a somewhat better 7.8M+, while Robert would blow it up in multiball with a 62.5M+ good enough for first place.

I would do better on The Walking Dead. I certainly felt like I was in pretty good shape with 24.4M+ before Robert’s third ball, but it would only be good for second as Robert would barely eek out a first with a 26.8M+. Bruce posted a 16.5M+, which is not an awful score by any means, but would still only be good for third.

Moving on, the 245.6M+ I posted on Game of Thrones LE in warmups had me pretty confident going into our league game on the same machine. Unfortunately, confidence doesn’t mean a damn thing in the absence of execution when it matters. I would post a 3.9M+ which is just a putrid score compared to Bruce’s 36.2M+ and Robert’s 54.9M+.

The night was not over yet. Our next game was on Wrestlemania. I jumped out in front to a huge lead on ball 2 as I had the ramp shots back up to the ring dialed in and mastered the ring flippers. (This game uses two player-activated kickers as flippers, and they are a bit difficult to get the hang of for players new to this particular table.) I would wind up with 37.8M+, eeking out first place against Robert’s 36.2M+. Bruce posted a respectable 26.4M+ but again it was only good for third.

Finally, it was time for Mustang. Robert set the pace with a 56.3M+ that was just uncatchable barring a miracle from either me or Bruce. I did eek out second with a 27.6M+ and Bruce would again post a respectable score (24.7M+) only good enough for third.

I would finish the night with one first, two seconds, and two thirds, for a total of 13 league points. This is an improvement over week 1 where I only put up 10, but still a bit disappointing. The real disappointment is a personal record I’ve set for myself in tournament and league play, and it’s the biggest disparity between my best score on a machine in practice/warmups versus the actual tournament/league play itself. My league night score was 1.58% (about 1/63) of the highest score I was able to post during warmups. It’s supposed to be the other way around, of course. This is a record I hope I don’t beat any time soon.

I am starting to like Game of Thrones and Wrestlemania, and in general I am starting to warm up to the newer Stern games. For quite a long while, I still preferred the last Williams, Bally, and Gottlieb games over what Stern was producing. In fact, I am only now discovering great Gottlieb titles I had only read about on Usenet, that I really wish I had gotten a chance to play “back in the day.”

I’m not sure why I didn’t like Stern games, though I’m pretty sure bad memories of South Park (technically a Sega game, but it was no secret Stern was a continuation of Sega the way Sega’s pinball division was a continuation of Data East) didn’t help. There are still a few of the earlier titles from after the Stern takeover that I am not a huge fan of, and many of them I never really got to play; having two of the major manufacturers fold up shop did not do wonders for location pinball, not to mention the last two games from one of those manufacturers was using a completely new concept (Pinball 2000) that I am actually quite grateful never caught on. Imagine how much a Game of Thrones, KISS, Mustang, or Wrestlemania would suck being crammed into a Pinball 2000 cabinet.

Wizard of Oz was definitely fun to play. This wasn’t the first time I got to play a Wizard of Oz; that was, of course, the qualifier for the Houston Arcade Expo tournament (which see). I am still surprised I managed to post the score I did then, though I am glad I was able to beat it even if it counted for bupkis as far as league standings are concerned. I am glad we have Jersey Jack deciding to join what many declared a dead or dying business. Heck, I am glad we have other manufacturers who have decided to step up the plate. All we need now, are operators willing to take a chance on location pinball again (and the location owners and players to make it work).

(Before leaving, I did play some Ice Cold Beer and get a 1750; that is what the last picture is. I have done better than that, but I consider that score a highlight of the night.)