Space City Pinball League Season 8 Week 1: Let’s start this party off with a bang

So in the time between the last season of Space City Pinball League and last night, the first night of the new season, a lot has transpired. I went to Las Vegas, primarily for a two-day face painting class, but I also squeezed in a visit to the Hoover Dam and The Pinball Hall of Fame. Last season’s league administrator, Erich Stinson, now has a new baby and thus would not be running this season. The Bat City Open, four Einstein’s Drainiacs tournaments, four monthly tournaments at The Game Preserve, and quite a few Three Strike Tuesday tournaments also took place between now and then, I haven’t kept up with exactly who has done what. After the end of last season, I found I had not been following pinball as closely as I had before, at least for the moment.

Phil Grimaldi would step in as acting league director in the absence of Chris Palis (on vacation). He announced that this would be a shortened “mini-season” due to scheduling issues: four weeks of regular season, then the playoffs the following week; two weeks played to be eligible for playoffs; one drop week for those who have played all four weeks. Standings point scoring has also changed to 7-5-3-1 for four-player games, 7-4-1 for three-player games. So a perfect night is now 35 instead of 25. I don’t mind the change but it does complicate comparing results across seasons.

Most of the regulars returned for this season, though there were a few new faces. The games we would be playing tonight: Ghostbusters, Metallica, Deadpool (a new release), Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars. I got in my warmup games on Metallica, during which Phil had to adjust the back legs of the game (I think it was set too shallow and they needed to come up a notch). For better or worse, it wouldn’t be in the games I played for league night. Definitely for the better, neither would Ghostbusters. That would leave (in the order played) Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Deadpool. I was grouped with Bryce Gilbert, Melvin Jiles, and Greg Thurnher. Greg is a new player, though he did not stay for the entire night and I’m not sure if he is going to return in future weeks.

And so we begin on Star Wars. Due to difficulties with Matchplay (the website through which the league is administrated) the player order was not rotated for each game. So, at least for the first couple of games, I would play fourth behind Bryce, Melvin, and Greg in that order. The game started off normally enough. with Bryce and Greg both putting up around 24M for the first ball, while Melvin didn’t quite break 2M. On the other hand, I really got it going with a 124M+ first ball, which would actually be enough to win the whole game by itself. I signed off with 196.8M+ well ahead of Melvin’s 112.6M+. One game, first place, seven standings points. So far, so good.

Next, we would face off on Guardians of the Galaxy. One of my favorite games released in the 2010s, because the shots were easy to learn and the basic strategy to high scores is to start Groot Multiball and keep the balls in play as long as possible. I got off to a rough start, only putting up some 1.5M+ on the first ball and barely crossing 4.2M+ after the second ball. By the time I stepped up to play ball 3, I was facing scores of 13.3M+ from Bryce and 41.7M+ from Melvin. (Greg left during his game; we plunged his second and third balls and he wound up with a lower score than mine by the start of ball 3.) I had locked two balls for Groot Multiball, so I felt like I had a fighting chance. Sure enough, I started Groot Multiball in short order and it was on. I didn’t get much chance to see my score but I felt like it went well. I looked up and saw I had passed Melvin’s score (by a good 2-3M; I had 44M+) before the bonus countdown had even started. I would sign off with 47.3M+, good for another first place. So I’m up to two first places good for fourteen standings points. So far this is pretty much the same script as last season’s first week.

We then moved on to Iron Maiden. For the last three games of the night, the order of play would change and I would go first, followed by Bryce, and then Melvin playing third. I really surprised myself here; I dominated this game from the beginning, setting the pace with a 26M+ first ball and never really letting go, signing off with 44.7M+ with the other two staying well within seven-digit territory. So with twenty-one standings points from three first-place finishes, this was so far the best start to a season since I began playing in the league (last season I got my first non-first-place finish in the third game of the night).

Game four would be AC/DC. The highlight of this game would be my second ball, during which I would score 22M+ with the aid of a stacked Album Multiball and Jam Multiball helping propel me to a 28.7M+ finish, again with both of the other two players staying in seven-digit land. On the verge of a perfect night, with one game left… I don’t know how to describe it. I’m a bit nervous but I’m happy with a performance which will land me at or near the top no matter what the final game brings.

That final game would be on the new release Deadpool, which I had never played before. However, if you flash back to the 2015 Houston Arcade Expo tournament, I put up at least a decent score on Wizard of Oz, which I had not played prior to the qualifying game. So I am not scared away by a brand new, never-before-seen game in the slightest. I would start off rather humbly with a 552K+ first ball next to scores of 10.0M+ and 10.6M+ by Bryce and Melvin respectively. I would sign off with a respectable but still quite beatable 34.6M+. Bryce signs off with 28.5M+ and I’m a bit more relieved, but Melvin still has to play. And unfortunately, I am still in search of the perfect night with all first-place finishes, as Melvin was able to run up a 46.4M+ good for his only first-place finish of the night. I would settle for a second place to cap the night, and a total of 32 standings points altogether.

It’s a bit disappointing to not have a perfect night, but overall I am pleased. In the season standings, I have a one-point lead over Phil Grimaldi and Fred Revnew who are tied at 31. The list goes on with Brad Berryman at 29, and three more at 27, and then going down to what we can only assume is the eventual A division bubble with four players tied at 23 for thirteenth through sixteenth.

This may be a shortened season, but it’s not going to be short on excitement. I can’t wait for next Monday.

A Tournament: Hope springs eternal

So, after a couple of weeks back from Las Vegas, the next tournament on the calendar was rather auspiciously titled “a tournament” on the IFPA calendar on June 30. Hosted by none other than Matt Quantz at his townhouse in northeastern Fort Bend County,

I approached this tournament with a different mindset than I usually do. Namely, I wanted to have fun while playing relatively good pinball and if that led to winning the tournament so be it. I was not as focused on winning as I normally would be.

The trip started innocuously enough with a trip to a newly opened Dunkin’ Donuts in the Heights. As part of their grand opening festivities, they hired a face painter. And of course, I could not resist. I went with a “Renaissance-festival style” eye mask.

And then it was on to the tournament. I got in a few warmup games, including a game or two on Fireball II which I had never gotten to play before. I’m a bit light on details, given that I didn’t even get around to starting this post until a good month after the tournament itself.

So I’ll skip most of the details, list the matches in the order played, and summarize the highlights of the qualifying round as I get to them.

Game 1: Dr. Dude, playing second grouped with Lisa Anderson, John Carroll, and Kevin Tooley. 1.1M+ good for third place; if I remember right I never get multiball started and never really have much of a chance.

Game 2: Diner, playing third grouped with Chris Palis, Emlile Budy, and Fred Revnew. 1.3M+ good for a close third place behind Fred (only 560K seperating first and third place).

Game 3: NASCAR, playing fourth grouped with Jeff Mleynek, Frankie Griffin, and Joe Cuellar. I’ve never had good luck on this game, but I managed to pile up 29.5M+. This was good for not only a first place, but it was more than double the other three players’ scores combined.

Game 4: Big Guns, playing third grouped with Chris Gonzales, Jack Revnew, and Elizabeth Dronet. 277K+ good for third place.

Game 5: Mata Hari, playing frist grouped with Ben Whittington, Chris Doyle, and William Thornton. 52K+ good for fourth. I should be better on this particular game since I have probably played it more than any other one title over the years. But, such is life.

Game 6: Taxi, playing second grouped with Annabeth Dronet, Marc Gammons, and Robert Byers. 846K+ for a rather distant third.

Game 7: Taxi, playing first grouped with Cory Wetfahl, Brian Foytik, and Matt Quantz. This game was interrupted after my third ball due to a circuit breaker tripping (the only time this happened during the tournament that I know of). Fortunately, I had a record of an intermediate score. Unfortunately, it was before I played my third ball, not after. The replayed third ball score wasn’t nearly as good. I wound up with 344K+ good to squeak into third place, not that it even mattered at this point in the qualifying round.

There was a short break and then it would be time for the elimination round. Since the qualifying rounds put me in B division (21 players outside of the top 8, of an original 31, excluding two players who could not stay) the elimination round was a two strikes tournament (third and fourth places got a strike for three- and four-player games, second place gets a strike for two-player games).

The elimination round went by rather quickly. There were only nine rounds in total and I would be eliminated after round 5. (Details to be written.)