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.)