Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 7: Oops, I did it again

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.

Before anyone asks, no, Stern didn’t release a Britney Spears pinball machine (though at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if at one point they did).

On one hand, the standings are pretty much set and so the matches are starting to bear less significance. On the other, every player has some room for improvement to try to grab the highest seed possible. As stated last week there was still a faint hope of my grabbing the #1 seed for the playoffs going into this week.

I would be grouped with Billy Joiner, Melvin Jiles, and Cory Westfahl. Cory is the only other player in the group who is set to wind up in the A division playoffs. The game lineup this week would consist of Ghostbusters, Metallica, Houdini, Star Wars, Iron Maiden, and AC/DC. Guardians of the Galaxy would be on the floor but not part of league play due to problems (again).

We would start off on Houdini. I had what I felt to be a pretty decent game, running up 140K+ on ball 1 for an early lead. Cory, however, leapfrogged into first after his ball 2 posting a score of 438K+, and even Billy was able to move into what would eventually be a second place finish with 169K+. I would have to settle for third with 160K+ after a very lacking ball 3.

The next game on Star Wars wouldn’t go any better. I never really had much of a chance on this one after ball 2 was done, though I did have an early lead after ball 1 (54.9M+ to Cory’s 51.7M+ with the other two players much further back). I would sign off with 74.5M+ behind Billy’s 84.7M+, Melvin’s 239.8M+, and Cory’s 406.8M+. So far, that’s three standings points after two games. Not good.

Things would improve slightly during our game on Iron Maiden. I would stay competitive after the first two balls with 10.0M+, staring down Billy’s final score of 14.0M+. I ran up quite a few points during a couple of different multiball modes for a total of 52.4M+, though Cory was able to put up an astounding 185.2M+ to take first. That would bring me up to six standings points after three games, and now all of a sudden there’s doubt that I’m even going to be able to beat last week’s eight-pointer.

Next up would be Ghostbusters, the object of much of my scorn for anyone who has read more than one of my previous posts. Predictably, the game starts off low-scoring, with a whopping 607K+ for me after the first ball, with no players breaking the 2M mark until ball 2. I wouldn’t break the 2M mark until ball 3, and the 65.2M+ I’d sign off with would only be good for third place. At least, no matter what, I’d improve upon the dreadful eight-pointer I put up last week.

And then we wind up the night on Metallica. This is where the controversy begins.

The first game we play, there’s an irregularity where during Cory’s first ball, two balls are shot into play, which he argues cost him a ball save. According to the rules that’s supposed to be normal course of play. Being the pillar of sportsmanship I can sometimes be, I catch Cory’s ball when he steps away from the machine not realizing the ball save was active. The ruling Erich makes is to time 15 seconds after Cory resumes play to see if he would still have gotten the ball save… and it turns out Cory loses the ball right at the 15-second mark so it’s inconclusive. Erich also says technically according to the rules I should have been DQ’d for interference (not that it matters at this stage in the night), especially considering we’ve been down that road before.

We wind up, by agreement, replaying the game from the beginning, which gives the short end of the stick to Melvin who had run up 11.1M+ on the first ball. Amazingly, I would wind up posting a 24.3M+, most of it coming on the third ball during an Electric Chair Multiball which went very well, and Cory would come in last with 3.2M+. Melvin still took second place (though it’s conceivable he would have taken first had Cory just played out the first game normally). Still, thirteen standings points on the night is low enough to be one of my two lowest nights, and worse, it now means I am stuck with the fourteen-pointer from week 6 which I had hoped to drop.

The long and short of it is I can now forget about the #1 seed, and it’s still possible I may drop to, say, the #5 or #6 seed (or lower). I’m trying not to think about that possibility, though. I can still improve 12 points to a total of 117 on the season (after dropping the two lowest scores of 8 and 13).

As the scores stand now, I’m tied with both Cory and Craig Squires for the #2 seed; Craig has the tiebreaker over both of us, but I have the tiebreaker over Cory so that effectively puts me at the #3 seed. Craig can clinch a higher seed than mine by simply scoring equal or better than my week 8 performance if we both put up a 14 or higher. Cory can score one point lower than I do this coming week and still clinch a higher seed as long as that’s at least a 15. A number of the players below us are in a similar situation regarding being able to potentially clinch a higher seed than I have, whatever that may be. It gets harder to figure out due to being able to drop two weeks, though based on what I’ve been able to figure out, the odds start to massively thin out when we look at players on the bubble for A division as of this week’s scores.

Looking back, given some of the crazy things that have happened, I’m amazed that I’ve lasted for a majority of the season in one of the top two spots in the standings. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not going to matter if I choke in the playoffs. It felt really good to win B division last time, but I know it will pale in comparison to the feeling of winning A division. (Incidentally, that feeling is something which, until now, only two other players have experienced in this league, both of them known as frequent tournament winners.)

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 6: Crazy eight

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.

Instead of burying the eventual outcome at the bottom, I’m going to go ahead and put it at the top. Given how well I did going into this week, it was a huge disappointment and a disaster to wind up with three third-place finishes and two fourth-place finishes.

But I’m still going to fill in some of the details for the morbidly curious. The games for tonight: Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy (turned off due to a malfunction before we could play it), Ghostbusters (the game that eventually replaced it in our assigned games), Iron Maiden, Houdini (which we did not play). My grouping: Rob Torres, Bryce Revnew, and John Carroll. I was fourth in the group, and that was the order (Rob always played after me, John before, and Bryce between them). And yeah, you can already see where this is going, given that Bryce has always been one of the better players in the league.

My scores, in order of play: 128.4M+ on Star Wars (fourth), 949.8M+ on Attack from Mars (third), 5.26M+ on Medieval Madness (third), 29.7M+ on Ghostbusters (fourth), and 14.6M+ on Iron Maiden (third). Rob and Bryce had all the first place finishes between them, with John taking second place in three out of five games.

Taking a look at how everyone else did, I’m seeing there aren’t many groups in which I could have been placed where I could have been expected to fare much better than I did. My Star Wars score might have been good for second in one other group but likely would have been last no matter what.

Winding up with a whopping eight standings points was really the last thing I expected. That was nowhere near enough to get it done, and well, my time at the top of the league standings was fun while it lasted. The good news is, I have still effectively clinched a spot in the A division playoffs, if for no other reason there are probably not enough first places to go around for enough other players to possibly all get 25 in both of the remaining two weeks, and I am still almost certainly going to get a seed in the top 5 in A division.

There is still a very slim chance I can get the #1 seed, but it would depend on things like both Phil Grimaldi choking pretty badly in both weeks 7 and 8 (or perhaps not showing up one of those two weeks) and my scoring 46 points combined between weeks 7 and 8. As an example of how unlikely that is, Phil’s lowest drop week ever in league history under the 5-3-2-1 scoring format was a 17 (Season 6, Week 7); until this season, the very concept that I’d do well enough for a 17 (or higher) to potentially be a drop week was laughable (but it almost happened this season).

I have a week to regroup before week 7, and I intend to make the best use of it that I possibly can.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 5: Arrival of the Maiden

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.

Our story continues on yet another Monday night. The game lineup would be joined by the newly released Iron Maiden from Stern, alongside AC/DC, Attack from Mars, Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, Houdini, and Star Wars. (Basically, most of the same lineup from Week 4 with the absence of Spiderman and Medieval Madness.) My one warm-up game on Guardians of the Galaxy would end with a score of 206.0M+ good enough for grand champion. Yeah, I’d say that’s warmed up enough…

After a roll call of the players who had not paid their $20 dues for the season (many of them were players who showed up for only one or two weeks) and a reminder that the Memorial Day session would once again be on a Wednesday, the groups were assigned and play began. I was grouped with Craig Squires, Jared Eikhoff, and Charles Hoogner. Jared is new to the league, while Craig and Charles have been around for quite a bit. In seasons past I would have just assumed I’d skate to an easy 20+ point night; this season, I’ve learned I can never take anything for granted.

We would begin on AC/DC; I would play second behind Craig and ahead of Jared and Charles. During warmups, I had heard the lower playfield was not working. It wound up being a non-issue, thankfully. I would begin with a 3.7M+ first ball, good for an early second place. Craig would retake the lead on his second ball, and by the time my third ball came up, I would be staring down a 15.6M+ to 5.7M+ deficit–a rather large margin on this game. I did manage to get it done with the help of a well-played multiball mode (I think it was Album Multiball). I would sign off with 26.7M+ good for first place. So far, so good, with five standings points after one game.

Next up would be Ghostbusters. The same Ghostbusters I’ve grown to know and hate, with the ridonkulous video mode scoring. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I would play first. I did manage to get the video mode on the first ball, simply by letting the ball dead bounce into the right scoop (not a reliable feed, but apparently this works at least some of the time). However, I was dealt an impossible pattern of ghosts and finished the ball with only 16.0M+, which would be quickly dwarfed by Charles and his first-ball subtotal of what appears to be 44.5M+. (Another thing I hate about this game: getting the intermediate scores is difficult with still photography, I usually wind up taking video instead of trying to time the picture just right. Unfortunately, sometimes that video has clarity issues.) The scores would pretty much remain in this order and I would sign off with a 27.8M+ good for second behind Charles’s 46.3M+. At this point, I’m still thinking this is a good start with eight standings points after two games.

Next up would be Star Wars, and I would go third with the order rotating around to Charles in the first player spot. Charles and Craig would lead off with rather low-scoring balls (1.2M+ and 4.4M+) but I would not do any better posting a mere 2.6M+ good for a nominal early second place. By the time my turn came around again, though, Charles had run up a 158.6M+ score. I would do just well enough to stay in, jumping to 102.9M+. It would come back to me after Charles signed off with 182.9M+. I had a relatively short third ball, but somehow I was able to close the gap and jump back in front, finishing up with a 189.2M+. It definitely did not feel like an 86M+ ball when I was done; I think it was a TIE Fighter hurry-up and one of those infamous “mash the button” TIE Fighter modes that did it, with a decent bonus pushing me over the top. (Incidentally, Jared would improve to 167.3M+ for a not-so-distant third, which on any other night might well have been good enough for second or even first.) Thirteen standings points after three, and I’m definitely eclipsing the assumed droppable total of 14 from week 4.

Moving on, we got to play Iron Maiden. I had no idea what to expect with this game and I had read nothing about the strategy or ruleset. I simply decided to wing it, and it wound up showing through. I had 6.0M+ after ball 1 good for a nominal third place. By the time it got back around to me, though, I was trailing to an 11.5M+ from Jared as well as much higher scores from Charles and Craig. I would eventually sign off with 11.3M+, Jared with 15.2M+, Charles with 65.4M+ and Craig with 33.6M+. So I’m up to 14 standings points with one game to play…

We would end the night on Attack from Mars. There’s really not much to say about how this particular game went. The scoop was unreliable at best, often kicking balls dangerously close to the middle, with an insultingly sensitive tilt setting to boot. How Craig managed his 1.02B+ is anyone’s guess. I eeked out a second with 233.5M+ to Charles’s 232.7M+, but that’s not the big story here…

So far in my time in competitive pinball, I’ve kept a relatively good record when it comes to keeping my frustration under control and not abusing the machines. What I did after my third ball on Attack from Mars was an exception to say the least, and I’m only mentioning it here so other players can learn from it: Don’t smack the playfield glass with your hand like I did. Not only do you risk breaking the glass and incurring the justified wrath of the operator and tournament/league officials (including a game or even tournament forfeit), but worse, you can easily injure your hand, wrist, and/or fingers. In my case I had quite a few random dull and sharp pains in my right hand as recently as Thursday afternoon that were most likely a direct result of this. I don’t think there’s any lasting damage but that remains to be seen and felt. (Please don’t assume I’m proud of this just because I’m mentioning it, because I am most certainly not. My desire in this case is simply that others learn from my mistake and hopefully don’t repeat it.)

Fortunately for me, I did not incur any penalties besides a warning and my lucky second place score stood as the official result. I would finish the night with 17 standings points. I am still, for the moment, atop the overall league standings at 92 points, four points ahead of Erich Stinson, seven ahead of Jeff Mleynek, Phil Grimaldi, and Frankie Griffin (tied for third), and eight ahead of Tim Hood, with many other notables rounding out the top 16.

(Quick aside for the newer readers: I normally try to get posts up within 2-3 days after an event but sometimes real life happens and it takes a bit longer.)