Space City Pinball League, Season 2 Week 4: Insert Tolkien to continue

The more astute observers will note this entry is two weeks after my entry about what happened in week 3. Due to weather-related concerns on March 8, week 4 was postponed until this week (March 15). It was well worth it, though, as we got to play the new game from Jersey Jack, The Hobbit. I had heard about this game and was genuinely excited for a chance to play it.

I had one chance to play The Hobbit during warmups; my other warmup games were on Wrestlemania (this time an LE) and The Walking Dead. Curiously, I wound up being in a group that did not play The Walking Dead during league play. My first game on The Hobbit wasn’t that great, so I’m glad my paltry score of 24,926 came during warmups. (Jersey Jack games are very low scoring, and unlike Stern games, score using the ones digit; the “free game” award on The Hobbit was at 190,000 at this point.) The other games in the lineup were Game of Thrones (LE), Star Trek (Pro), and Kiss (LE).

So, we would get down to business at 7:30pm. I would be grouped with Ruben (again), Robert (again), and Michael. We would start out out the night playing Kiss. This was another game where I really never got much of anything going. I would manage all of 3.3M+, good for fourth (last) next to Michael’s third-place 4.2M+, Ruben’s 5.0M+, and Robert’s amazing 29.8M+. Not a good start, to say the least.

The second game was on The Hobbit. Phil was running video of everyone playing The Hobbit (which is on YouTube now), so I was just a bit more nervous than usual. Surprisingly, I was able to settle into a groove and run up 90,457. A lot better than my warm-up game, but again Robert and Ruben were able to top it with scores of 184,261 and 115,184 respectively, so I would wind up in third. I honestly feel like I did better than my third-place finish would indicate. However, both Robert and Ruben were able to get multiball going whereas I was grinding out points from ordinary one-ball play. Had I been able to get a multiball going I might well have been able to pull out at least enough for second.

On we would move to Star Trek. I was able to stay in this game the whole way. I was facing Robert’s 13.0M+, Michael’s 14.0M+, and Ruben’s 22.4M+ with a score of 9.3M (I think, it was definitely between 9M and 10M). I got a reasonably good start to ball 3, but wound up signing off with a 11.3M+ which wasn’t good enough for anything higher than fourth (last). This is probably the most frustrating game of the night, as I had a legitimate chance to come in higher and I was not able to convert. I know I need to work on this as it’s only going to become even more frustrating to have this happen as the stakes get higher. So after this game, that’s a fourth, a third, and a fourth in a four-player group. Four standings points in three games.

Our fourth game of the night would be Wrestlemania. Having played the Pro version in week 3, I felt more confident about being able to put up a decent score and maybe turn the night around. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Again Robert and Ruben would finish in the top two slots with 32.3M+ and 8.4M+ respectively, and I would manage 7.6M+ good for third, saved only by Michael’s even worse score. Given my performance on the Pro version of Wrestlemania in week 3, this is disappointing but to be fair the LE version makes the wrestling ring much tougher with the spinning disc.

We would wrap up on Game of Thrones. Despite mistakenly picking the wrong house (I wanted Martell but wound up with Stark from accidentally hitting the button too soon) I would rack up a pretty solid 95.5M+, good for second behind Ruben’s 112.7M+. I was aided by a multiball where I hit quite a few jackpot shots (I originally wrote “just about everything but the kitchen sink” but that’s kind of exaggerating). This was also a winnable game at the end, but I couldn’t keep the ball in play long enough on the last ball to actually make it happen. This would bring me up to 9 standings points (more on that later).

I wrapped up the night with a round on Ice Cold Beer and a game of Ladybug on a multi-arcade unit, both also set on free play. I was too exhausted to play much else. I don’t think fatigue was a factor towards my lacking performance; my only second-place score of the night was the last game. If it were about fatigue I would have simply gotten worse as the night wore on, certainly not better.

Anyway, about the standings. If the league season were to end now, I would be in B division, 5 points from the cutoff for A division. Not a good spot. If I can make the remaining weeks and do better, it’s almost certain the 9 points from this week will be dropped from the final tally in favor of a higher score. (The two lowest scores are dropped, though I effectively have a zero for my week 2 score since I was unable to attend.) The margin for error here is more like a distinct lack thereof, if making A division is still part of my plans. Of course right now it is, but that could well change between now and the end of week 8.

Either way I feel I will be a better player for the experience. I wish a league like this had been around in Houston in the 1990s. For all I know, there was one and I just never knew about it, or they were targeting a slightly older demographic. (Most of the players in SCPL appear to be no younger than about 30. It is difficult to say when my pinball skills were at their peak, or even whether or not I have peaked. I definitely remember putting up some monster scores in my early to mid-20s though.)

I’m learning that league play is a different beast. It requires a lot more focus and consistency than tournament play. Winning a tournament just requires that you be the best player that one day; winning a league season requires one to be a reasonably good player week in and week out (well, in this case, at least 6 out of the 8 weeks of a season) and then to be the best player during the playoffs.

Four down, four to go… here’s hoping the last four weeks are good ones.

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