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

Catching things up, as I have been swamped with Real Lifeā„¢ 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).

A look ahead at Space City Pinball League Season 5 and other things

This is a bit later than I wanted to get this out there, since the new season begins later tonight (I’m writing this early Monday morning), but better late than never, as I’ve always said.

The three months since last season ended have given me a lot of time to think. I’m disappointed at having not been able to make it to any major tournaments outside of the league, not even Houston Arcade Expo. I have also not been able to play tournaments at The Game Preserve due mainly to transportation issues. I hope to play a lot more pinball this year (and maybe even take the big steps towards an arcade video game record, the actual namesake of this blog), but right now my focus is on the league.

Last season ended with a B division third-place trophy and the corresponding cash payout. Only qualifying for B division is, admittedly, somewhat of a disappointment. Third place is also a song that’s been played in the jukebox rather often. The goal, obviously, is A division, and first place. I do realize I’ve never qualified for A division in the Space City Pinball League, not even once.

To be fair, I feel like I have succeeded in one area I have traditionally not done that well in: socially, I’ve done a lot better in this league than in other similar endeavors I have been a part of. I’ll be honest, I’ve had problems with shyness and making new friends for quite a while. It was a problem I thought I had solved as recently as 2009, some eight years ago. Since then I’ve been a bit leery of trying to convince myself I’ve finally conquered this particular demon. It’s easier to be social when I’m “in my element” so to speak. Pinball has been “my element” since middle school. I’m lucky enough to have really gotten into pinball just as games like The Addams Family were about to be released. And I’m lucky enough today to be part of the first pinball league I’ve known to ever exist in Houston, with people who are not just great pinball players, but great people as well.

I’m looking forward to tonight. It’s going to be a great time for everyone.

Eighteen Twenty Lounge
1820 Franklin (at Hamilton), Houston, TX
76X6QJ5W+7V