All Articles by Shawn K. Quinn

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Space City Pinball League Season 8 Playoffs: One turkey of a finish

Another regular season, another A division finish. I had been looking forward to this day since this “mini-season” started just four short weeks prior. I made sure to eat well and leave with plenty of time to spare for a few warmup games.

I got the night started with four warmup games on Deadpool, the last of which was a solid 247M+. Not good enough to enter my initials, but good enough to get me in a confident, winning mood. The question remained, though, would it be enough to carry me through the entire playoff tournament?

As usual, 4-2-1-0 scoring with the two leaders from quarterfinals and semifinals advancing. Game lineup (not in order of play): Deadpool, Attack from Mars, Star Wars, AC/DC, Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Maiden, Metallica. This was pretty much the usual suspects. The quarterfinals would see me grouped with Fred Revnew, Elizabeth Dronet, and Jim Mueller, and we would be playing Attack from Mars, Star Wars, and AC/DC in that order. I would elect to play first in all games where I had the choice and would wind up playing in the leadoff spot across the entire tournament.

My first ball on Attack from Mars was a dud, with a puny 51.5M+ on a game where decent scores start at a billion. Not good. By the time it got back around to me for ball 2, I would be staring down a 1.37B+ from Elizabeth. A rather large margin, but not an insurmountable one. I proceeded to go to work. I would somehow manage to complete all the shots needed for Total Annihilation within the span of that one ball. Even though it was a relatively low scoring TA, I would see the lead with a 3.97B+ total, tacking on a few more points in a multiball on my third ball to sign off with 4.60B+, good for first place for 4 standings points. (I came within one shot of a second TA in one game, something I’ve never done on a real AFM machine that I can remember.)

My game on Star Wars was overall relatively low scoring. 54.4M+ is usually not a score I’m that proud of, but when two other players I’m up against score lower than that in the second game of a playoff tournament, I’ll gladly take it. At this point, it’s me with 6, Fred with 5, Elizabeth with 3, John with 0. John can’t advance and Elizabeth would need first place and hope Fred finishes no better than third.

I never really got much going on AC/DC. 5.9M+ would be good only for dead last, but John and Fred ran away with it in their respective games, enough to put Elizabeth back in third. I would advance to the semifinals with Fred. I’m starting to feel pretty darn good.

The semifinals would match me against Fred, Matt Quantz, and Cory Westfahl. We would play Ghostbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Maiden. I’ve gone on ad nauseam about Ghostbusters. I was disappointed to see it in the lineup when I arrived. I was hoping I could go the entire tournament without playing it. Now, I’m hoping I could make the ridiculous video mode on the skill shot enough times to put up a decent score.

To say the least, that didn’t happen. I put up an embarrassingly bad 3.4M+ with all three of the other players topping 100M. I’m just disgusted at this point, but I pull it together for the next game.

Right on cue, I start Guardians of the Galaxy with a rather lousy 3.5M+ ball. Cory puts up a 34.8M+ and Fred puts up a 7.8M+. (Matt put up a score very close to mine, basically a tie at this point, not really worth worrying about.) My second ball wouldn’t be much better, bumping me to only 5.1M+, behind everyone else but a particularly distant 50.6M+ from Fred. But this is Guardians of the Galaxy, and based on past experience, if I can get Groot Multiball started, I’m still in it. If I remember right I have either two balls locked or the second lock lit.

Well, I get Groot Multiball started. I concentrate on just keeping the balls in play and trying to make as many jackpot shots as I can. The next few minutes seem like a blur, but I finally get a chance to catch a glimpse the score counter after the bonus countdown: 82,279,870. Enough of a lead that I could feel like maybe it would hold up. Matt signs off with 11.4M+. Fred signs off with 56.0M+. Finally, Cory signs off with 45.8M+ and I have a first-place finish.

The semifinals would conclude with Iron Maiden. The standings are 4-4-3-3 with the 4s being Matt and I. Basically, a second place or better and I’m assured at least a tiebreaker; two points or more ahead of Matt (either a first place no matter what Matt does, or a second place with Matt finishing last) and I’m definitely in. I don’t really have much to brag about through the first two balls. I would start ball 3 with a 19.2M+ behind Fred’s 23.5M+ and Cory’s 53.8M+. The last thing I wanted was to deal with a tiebreaker after this nerve-racking round.

I would start a Warrior Multiball, good enough to rocket me up to 68.3M+ which would hold up for second place and assure me an advance to the finals. I was already assured my best ever finish just making it out of the quarterfinals, and now I am looking at finishing in the top four in league play for the first time ever.

Fred Revnew, Phil Grimaldi, and Bryce Revnew. AC/DC, Ghostbusters, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The opponents are not a big surprise. The games, on the other hand… left a bit to be desired. I had just played the latter two of these games and played the first in the quarterfinals.

There’s really not a whole lot to write about in these last three games, because it got pretty ugly pretty quickly. I would eke out a third place on AC/DC. I would finally make the video mode skill shot on Ghostbusters for once out of the six balls played, but it wouldn’t be enough to even eke out another third place. I’m still not mathematically eliminated from third place after that. I put up a decent score of 42.3M+, only to watch Bryce, the eventual winner of the tournament, rocket past it with a 744.1M+, with both Phil and Fred able to sign off with higher scores as well. So fourth overall it would be. Phil would once again finish third, with Fred taking second and for the first time in league history a father-son duo would finish first and second in two consecutive seasons. Not only this, but there’s another first of note: three different champions in three consecutive seasons. The last time that could have possibly happened was in season 3, the one after Preston Moncla (commuting from Beaumont!) won.

Honestly, after the three disappointing games of the final round, I was just glad for it to be over. That’s extremely out of character for me, and I don’t really even know why I felt that way. It could have been just fatigue. It didn’t feel normal to me in the moment, but maybe it is normal for how I am now versus how I would have reacted five, ten, or more years ago to a similar situation. Only time will tell.

I take some comfort in looking at the pattern of my playoff finishes thus far (post describing playoffs linked for ease of reference, where available):

  • Season 1: League DNP (N/A)
  • Season 2: B divison quarterfinal bust (25th)
  • Season 3: B division, playoffs DNP (32nd)
  • Season 4: B division 3rd place (15th)
  • Season 5: B division quarterfinal bust (29th)
  • Season 6: B division 1st place (17th)
  • Season 7: A division quarterfinal bust (15th)
  • Season 8: A division 4th place (4th)

If the past is any indication, I have at least a 2nd place finish to look forward to sometime in 2019. I believe the best is yet to come. I’ll have some more thoughts on the most recent season next week.

Space City Pinball League Season 8 Week 4: Barf bags are in the seat pocket in front of you

This week was relatively meaningless as far as I was concerned, at least as far as whether or not I would make it into A division versus B division. The only real question is how many under me would improve more than I would, or how much I would improve to move up. I almost considered sitting this week out but I was unhappy with the low seed I wound up at after last week and did not want to move down any further if I could possibly help it.

Like last week, there was an older game in the mix: Austin Powers. Like most of these old games, I had not a clue what I was doing on it, and decided to just wing it. More on that when I get to it.

The full game lineup: Star Wars, Metallica, Guardians of the Galaxy, Austin Powers, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Deadpool. In perhaps the best “luck of the draw” I would get all season, I was grouped in a three-player group with Chris Palis and Erich Stinson.

And so the night began on Metallica. I would be playing first for this game. As badly as I needed a good game to start off the night and make the most of my opportunity to advance, I was only able to put up 2.1M+. That’s just not going to get it done even if I’m playing against a couple of amateurs, which Chris and Erich are most definitely not.

So, on we went to Star Wars. I would once again play in the first player slot, and this time cruise to a 318M+ finish good for a solid victory, most of it on the third ball. It was a clutch performance I really needed as I was really starting to lose confidence after the first game, and even surpassed my 285M+ score on the same game in warmups.

Next up would be Austin Powers, where I would be “blessed” with the third player slot. I say that in quotes because I never really got much going on this one. This game is from the era where a lot of pinballs produced by Data East/Sega/Stern felt like playing “a pinball [game] made out of a sponge” as one poster to Usenet’s rec.games.pinball said once. I signed off with a puny 29.2M+ when both of the other scores were well over twice that.

Things were starting to go better during my next game on AC/DC, where I would play second behind Erich and in front of Chris. I was all in position to try and put a comeback together on ball 3, only to have a cannon shot bounce off the drop targets, straight into the right outlane. My reaction would have gotten me a warning for swearing at some of the larger tournaments.

So the situation going into the last game on Iron Maiden was as follows: I have 10 standings points and would need a first place to improve my overall total to 72 (making week 3 the drop week). Second (or third) would mean the 15 points from week 3 stands and the 14 (or 11) would be my final drop week. I am also sitting in 12th place, giving me the 12th seed (of 16) in the forthcoming A division playoff.

The game we played on Iron Maiden was not without its irregularities. Chris got a ball stuck, which ended prematurely. Erich then played his ball as normal but then had two balls to play in single ball mode for a considerable time (he thought he still had a multiball mode going). The ball ended when one of the two balls drained and then on my turn I had two balls served up. Phil Grimaldi, the acting league official (since Chris would have normally made this ruling were he not playing), came over to make his ruling. Erich was not penalized, however, Phil needed to play the first part of my ball in an attempt to drain the excess ball served to the plunger alley. As it turns out, he was not able to do so and I was awarded a consolation ball in addition to Chris.

At the start of the third ball, my score was a mere 16.5M+ to Chris’s 101.6M+ (with consolation ball pending, if necessary) and Erich’s 101.1M+ (final). In one of the most dramatic clutch performances of the season, I ran up the score to 145.2M+. Not only would Chris have to play his consolation ball after all, but there was also now a chance I would not need to play mine. Indeed, Chris barely put up around 6M, nowhere near enough to close the gap (I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of this score, so I am subbing in a portion of a screen grab from matchplay.events showing the final computed score).

It turns out the two points I gained from placing first on Iron Maiden did not affect my final standing (and thus seed for the playoffs), and I would still finish in 12th. (Had I choked and came in third again, however, I would have dropped to 13th behind Elizabeth Dronet.)

That brings us to the playoffs later tonight. The A division playoffs start at 6 pm, at the usual spot, Eighteen Twenty Lounge (1820 Franklin). If you are in the area, feel free to come on out and watch the excitement. It’s going to be a great time no matter who wins.

Space City Pinball League Season 8 Week 3: The bumpy ride continues

So here we are, the third week of a four-week mini-season. I really could use a good week here to stay as close to the top of the standings as possible. A nominal majority of the game lineup was the same (Deadpool, AC/DC, Metallica, and Star Wars); on the other hand, Pirates of the Carribean (new to league play), Guardians of the Galaxy, and CSI were swapped in for last week’s Ghostbusters, Iron Maiden, and Aerosmith.

I would be grouped with Marc Gammons, David Pollock, and Chris Gonzales. We would be assigned to Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Metallica, AC/DC, and CSI. At some point or another, I’ve put up relatively good scores on all of these, whether here in town on league nights, in casual play locally, or at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas during my trip there.

And so it would begin on Guardians of the Galaxy; I would play fourth, giving me what is commonly believed to be a nominal advantage. Both of my first two balls were lousy. I get to the point where I am able to start Groot Multiball to try to turn the game around and then… straight down the middle. Not the start I wanted. I would sign off with a paltry 6.4M+ not good for much of anything except last place.

Next up would be Metallica. I manage a decent score of 6.2M+ but Marc is playing behind me. He inches closer and closer, though he does rack up a couple of tilt warnings. Finally, I’m assuming I am dead as he crosses the 6M mark. And then he tilts, giving me a gift-wrapped second place behind David instead of the third place I would have expected.

We would continue on AC/DC, I would be playing second behind Chris. I would do well to eke out a second place finish here (16.9M+) ahead of Chris (16.6M+) and behind David (22.0M+). I had a good game, though not as good as the warmup game I played on this title. So far that’s eleven standings points across three games. I’m looking at either a miracle comeback to salvage a 25-point finish or a drop week.

Our fourth game would be CSI, where I would be playing first. I’m not sure what happened here, but the bottom fell out and I would barely eke out a third place (2.37M+) ahead of Chris (2.15M+). So much for eclipsing that great 204M+ score in Las Vegas. Oh, and that comeback I needed.

So we’d head into our game of Star Wars, and again I would have the first player slot. Not that it even matters at this point, but I wouldn’t get a whole lot of anything going here, finishing with a score of 80.6M+ which wouldn’t even be that good for a casual play score let alone league/tournament play.

Fifteen standings points in the new 7-5-3-1/7-4-1 scoring system is pretty much an assured drop week (it would have been 9 points under the old system). I’m still pretty much assured of an A division playoff spot assuming there are 16 openings (and it looks like there will be). Or, put another way, here is one possible scenario that would have to happen to push me to seventeenth or lower and B division (I may be leaving out a few players who could potentially do well enough to be part of the group to leapfrog me in theory, as it’s difficult to account for everyone):

  • I either don’t show up later tonight for week 4 or put up another 15 or worse;
  • Eight of the following happen:
    • Evan Kennedy puts up at least 18;
    • Chris Dyer puts up at least 21;
    • Matt Quantz puts up at least 21;
    • Melvin Jiles puts up at least 26;
    • Jack Revnew puts up at least 28;
    • Joe Cuellar puts up at least 29;
    • Marc Gammons puts up at least 29;
    • Jason Cortez puts up at least 31;
    • Tim Hood puts up at least 15;
    • Craig Squires puts up at least 19; and
  • At least eight of Craig, Evan, Chris, Matt, Melvin, Jack, Joe, Marc, and Jason are all grouped in separate groups. (Tim could theoretically put up 15 without a single first-place finish, so I exclude him from the list.)

If I put up a 19 or better, I’ve clinched A division for sure unless I’m missing something.

The best I can do is 90 standings points, by putting up a perfect 35. That might move me up as high as sixth, unless some players in the top five don’t show up tonight, in which case it could theoretically move me higher. It’s going to be a great night and a great finish to the regular season no matter what happens, though.

Space City Pinball League Season 8 Week 2: Fasten your seat belts and prepare for turbulence

Our story continues on another Monday night at Eighteen Twenty Lounge. Fresh off the relatively smooth sailing to a 32 point finish, our intrepid hero finds himself with a new week of league play, new opponents, and new challenges.

Okay, guess maybe I should cut the bovine excrement and get to the meat of the story. We had the same games as last week with the exception that Aerosmith replaced Guardians of the Galaxy. I got to play exactly one warm-up game on Deadpool, posting a 250M+ score good enough to make the high score list (but not grand champion, which starts at 300M by default on this title).

This week my opponents would be John Speights, Joe Cuellar, and Matt Quantz. All three I believe have been mentioned in prior posts. We would be playing, in order, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Ghostbusters, Metallica, and Deadpool.

One of my clutch performances last week was on Iron Maiden, so I was looking forward to playing it again this week. I would be taking the fourth player spot in this game, which is supposed to be advantageous. Joe would take a slight early lead with a 9.8M+ first ball, with the rest of us close together just under 4M. Joe would play the extra ball he won on his second ball as his third ball to thunder ahead with 237M+. Matt would wind up in a rather distant second with 111M+. John’s 30.7M+ would be good enough for third as I could not get anything of substance going, signing off with a disappointing 13.3M+. Not the start I wanted, to say the least.

Things would go a bit better on Aerosmith. After my second ball, I had two balls locked in the toy box towards multiball. I figured if I could start multiball there was a good chance I could win. I was staring down a 16.4M+ from Matt, with my own score sitting at 9.4M+, Meaning I would need to put up at least 7 million and change to have any chance to win. I got Toy Box Multiball started relatively early in the third ball. I was elated; I briefly considered aborting the multiball and trying to lock an additional ball (I had all six toy box locks lit), but decided against it, given I’ve been burned before. So a three-ball multiball it would be, and a good multiball it was, perhaps the best ever of the few games I have played on this title. I would sign off with a nice 56.9M+, not only good for first place but higher than the other three players’ scores combined. Two games down, eight standings points on the tally.

Next on the list would be Video Mode Chee– I mean, Ghostbusters. I still hate what this title has become with the last code update. This particular game on this particular night would more or less be decided by who did the best in the video mode. I’m sorry, but is this a video game league or a pinball league? Yeah, I know. Perhaps the worst part of it all is that Matt got a stuck ball, which had to be freed by Phil Grimaldi (acting as league official) playing my ball to get the stuck ball freed (we did not have keys to the games). On top of this, John lost the play of his ball due to the machine losing track of how many balls it had and kicking out two to the plunger. So at the end of all that, the three of us had to play a consolation ball (which, surprisingly, did not affect the eventual outcome of the game). I would finish in second place, bringing me up to 13 standings points on the night. Not awful, but still disappointing.

Again, things would go a bit better on the next game on the list, Metallica. I got an early Electric Chair Multiball that went very well. Between this and a Lady Justice mode stacked on top of it, I put up a 49.5M+ on the very first ball which was easily enough to win by itself as it turns out. I would eventually sign off with just over 80M, again more than the other three players’ scores combined. That would bump me to 20 standings points on the night with one game left to play.

We would wrap up on Deadpool. For some reason, I found myself unable to get much of anything going. I would sign off with a paltry 9.3M+, a far cry from the 250M+ I put up during warmups. Fortunately for me, John would manage to do even worse with a sub-3M finish, giving me a third-place finish to end the night.

A weekly total of twenty-three standings points is still enough to keep me near the top of the standings. My total of 55 through two weeks is good for third behind Phil Grimaldi (at 60) and Tim Hood (at 56). Barring a complete meltdown next week, I should easily clinch an A division seed again. The real question is if I can fight my way back up to the #1 seed. Of course, any seed higher than #4 (where I finished last season) would be an improvement.