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

Note: Due to recent events, Shawn no longer recommends participation in Space City Pinball League events until further notice. Please see this post for more information and the Bayou City Pinball League website for alternatives.

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 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).