Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 3: Still in it to win it

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

So after a one-week break, we once again had our league night on Monday. With the return to Monday nights, a lot of familiar faces from the previous seasons returned that hadn’t been around for the first couple of weeks, which is a good thing. The game lineup this week was slightly different: AC/DC, Attack from Mars, Batman 66 (later taken out of the rotation due to technical problems), Ghostbusters, Houdini, Medieval Madness, and Star Wars.

This week, I would be playing in a group with Jamie Jenkins, Greg Thurmer, and David Pollock. Jamie and David, I’ve been grouped with several other times; both are skilled players and worthy opponents. Greg is apparently a relative newcomer to not just the league, but pinball tournaments in general, as I can’t find him on the IFPA player listing.

Before we got to playing, Erich made some announcements. He mentioned the incident last week with our group on Houdini. He didn’t mention names (including mine, but those who read my blog know it was me and the group I was in), but it is now established precedent that players are supposed to just let the ball drain in that situation. Hopefully, Houdini is done acting like it’s haunted, though.

The other major announcement is that instead of May 28, we will be playing on May 30 as the bar will not be open due to Memorial Day. Which is a huge relief, as I didn’t like having the regular season cut down to seven weeks last spring (and it also screws with the calculations for how many points one needs to make A division; the cutoff was 75 counting the best five weeks, and I can only roughly translate that to 90 for six weeks, with the reality that in other seasons with the best six of eight weeks, it’s been closer to 95 points).

And on to playing, we went. The first game of the night: Ghostbusters, complete with the ridiculous unbalancing video mode. I would be playing third behind David and Greg, and ahead of Jamie. The first ball wasn’t much of anything, I put up a whopping 872K+. By the time it got back to me for my ball 2, though, I was starting down scores of 7.5M+ and 4.6M+ from David and Greg, respectively. It only got worse on ball 3, with 30.1M+ and 17.7M+ from David and Greg, and 70.3M+ from Jamie. I was able to eek out a third place, signing off with 18.8M+ but I was rather dissatisfied. Two standings points for a third place is not how I want to start off the night.

We would next play on Attack from Mars, where I was hoping to fare a bit better.I played fourth, which gave me a bit more time to regroup and get down to actually winning games. The first ball was a dud for the first three players; Jamie led with 280M+ when my first turn came up. I would put up a good solid 1.01B+ and Jamie would only get to 606M+ when it came back to me. I would sign off with 1.54M+; I was still leading when my turn came up to play ball 3 and just plunged it (only because there were other groups waiting; I try to play out when I can). So, it’s now seven standings points after two games, and I’m feeling a lot better.

The galactic adventure would continue on Star Wars. I would be in the somewhat unfortunate position of playing first. Now, there are situations where I don’t mind playing first, and I have been known to select first player as I can just focus on doing my best without the distraction of other scores ahead of me. Well, my first ball wound up being a dud, 2.9M+ to Jamie’s 130M+ with the other scores higher but still well under the 10M mark. I’d get to second place after ball 2 but Jamie would start running away with it with 402M+. I would sign off with a respectable 206M+ good for second behind Jamie’s 515M+. Ten standings points after three games is pretty good, but ideally, I want at least twelve if not more.

We’d shift from the space-themed games to Houdini for our fourth game. I would be playing second. Greg would put up 5.6K+ for his first ball, a relatively low score on this game. I wouldn’t do much better with 6.4K+, good for third by the time it got back to me as Greg would get to 17.5K+ and David would run up 16.9K+. The second ball would go better, as I’d get the infamous reversed flippers multiball which I’d do rather well on, bumping me up to 47.6K+ but David would run up 141.8K+ which I’d need to beat to have any hope of winning. I’d break into six-digit territory but wind up short with 109.3K+. Still, second place isn’t terrible and it would put me at thirteen standings points on the night with one game left to go. (In perspective, averaging sixteen standings points per week has historically been good enough to get in at the bottom of A division.)

We would wrap up on Medieval Madness, where I would go fourth. Nobody playing ahead of me would break 1M on the first ball. The game had an awful right lean. But rather than complain about being handed lemons, I opened up Quinn’s Lemonade Stand and started serving it up. I’d jump out to an early lead with 2.3M+, noting the ramps were a lot easier to hit with the table being out of balance like this. The other adjustments were relatively elementary and the right outlane didn’t turn into the drain monster I’d otherwise expect. I’d get to exactly 6,105,000 after ball 2, which no other players were able to beat. I would try to play ball 3 but drain relatively quickly, signing off with a 6.5M+. Normally not a score I’d be proud of, but it was better than the other three on the board. I’d wrap up with eighteen standings points. A great performance, but would it be good enough to stay at the top of the standings?

Phil Grimaldi’s group would also conclude the night on Medieval Madness, and he only needed third place to tie me for first in the standings after putting up 20 standings points in the first four games (first place all the way across). I stuck around long enough to follow the game. Phil would sign off with 44.6M+ after the third ball, and one of the newer players, Guy Feemster, would make a valiant comeback attempt but wind up short with 35.1M+, with the other two players in the group posting scores under 6M. Guy put up a 16 last week, so it’s possible he is A division material as well and we just don’t know it yet. I’ve put up scores of the same caliber as the 35.1M+ on Medieval Madness in league/tournament play yet wound up busting out.

It was a fun two weeks at the top of the standings, but Phil’s amazing 25-point week now puts him in the lead by three points. I’m now tied for second with Jeff Mleynek, and still ahead of many other notable A division players from seasons past.

Tonight’s the last week we play in April; the next two Mondays are Astros home games, so after tonight we don’t play again until May 7. I’m looking forward to it; this is the most exciting season for me so far.