Space City Pinball League Season 9 Week 2: It’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom

Upon my arrival at the bar this week, I was greeted by mostly the same lineup of pinball games and mostly the same people. There were a few new faces, and this week Attack from Mars was swapped in for Deadpool.

I would be originally grouped with Erich Stinson and Kevin Lypkie. After we played our first game, Wisdom Mbaluka would be added to our group (and due to an apparent quirk in Matchplay, he would be set to play fourth in the group in all games, with the three of us rotating order as originally scheduled).

We would begin on Ghostbusters. Again, everyone would miss the video mode shot, including me. This didn’t help me any. I would put up a measly 7.7M+ which was nowhere near good enough for second place (or third place, after Wisdom joined us). Okay, so it’s a last-place finish on Ghostbusters, a game I’ve grown to hate, big deal. That’s not too bad until…

Our next game would be Attack from Mars. There was some kind of issue with the saucer not registering at certain times, according to another player. I never ran into this issue; I did, however, have all kinds of problems with a stupidly bad left lean. I managed to put up 689M+, almost good enough to take third, except that Wisdom put up 720M+ on the last ball.

Moving on, it’s time to play Star Wars. I manage a pitiful 48.6M+ after blowing the skill shot twice. I’m not sure that would have helped. Actually keeping the ball in play for a decent amount of time so I could make some higher-scoring shots might have. Needless to say, my score was not in the least bit competitive with the others (Kevin put up 149M+ and they went up from there).

Would I do any better on Monster Bash? Again, this one went by rather quickly; my 2.4M+ was close, but again short of even third place. I tilted two balls trying to save a kickout that would just go straight down the middle. Erich supposedly tried to fix this before we began league play. I don’t doubt that he tried, but this game was not ready for league play and should not have been in the lineup. A mechanical issue combined with an overly sensitive tilt is an outright insult to a competitive player. The last time something like this happened, the result wasn’t pretty. By this point, I had already clinched a drop week for this week (technically, first place here and on the next game would have tied me with my week 1 score, but either way one of the 17s would be a drop week).

We would wrap up the night on Iron Maiden. Finally, during my third ball of this game, I would score enough to clinch at least third place. At least I didn’t go the whole night finishing last. My 39.8M+ was actually going to be good enough for second place when it was all done (there was little chance of catching Erich’s 93.7M+, though I did do the best I possibly could). That’s nine standings points on the night. I would be in a four-way tie for the worst score of the week.

While the situation is now a bit dire, I am not mathematically eliminated from A division yet. As a rough guide for what to expect will be enough for A division, the cutoff last season was 66 points. That’s 49 more points across two weeks (over the 17 from week 1), or second place all the way across in a four-player group. That may not hold true for this season, but the hole I’m in is a bit smaller than it appears. While I’m trying not to think about it, last season’s B division cutoff was 51 points, or an additional 34 points across the next two weeks (six third-place and four second-place finishes in a four-player group, or a similar performance). Certainly, that’s well within my capabilities, though B division is not where I want to wind up.

Interview with Steve Mays, etc

This is just a quick note, since it’ll be another day or two before I post about this week’s league night results, and I don’t want to bury this in the same post as a league night post. (Especially this week’s… oops, did I really type that out loud?)

Anyway, I was interviewed by blogger and fellow Mastodon user Steve Mays about pinball. I had casually mentioned this blog and it got his curiosity up. It was a good 45 minutes of conversation via phone call (he had originally said 10 to 15 minutes, but I had the whole afternoon open). I mention a lot of games in that interview

I also realized there’s a picture of me playing Goin’ Nuts at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas back in 2018 June that I had not posted previously (and that may well have been eaten by my mom’s phone had I waited too long to copy it over). I sent this to Steve for use with the interview/blog post, but I figured I may as well post it here too so it hopefully doesn’t get lost:

For those of you who do not know the history behind Goin’ Nuts: only 10 prototypes were made, and the game was never placed into production; this was apparently because Gottlieb’s executives thought it would be too expensive to make. I wouldn’t mind seeing Stern or Chicago Gaming make this game today, possibly with updated components and possibly a proper launch button instead of just using a countdown timer.

Space City Pinball League Season 9 Week 1: Leftover turkey?

This new season saw the return of many familiar faces and many familiar pinball machines. New to the league were The Beatles and the remake of Monster Bash; returning from prior appearances were Metallica, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Deadpool, and Iron Maiden.

I got to play The Beatles very briefly during warmups. It’s a very simple “street level” playfield design reminiscent of 1960s electromechanical (EM) games, with an EM scoring motif to match. The only feature really “modern” about it is multiball (and I do realize there were a handful of EM games that did feature multiball, but on the whole, I would think most players would consider multiball a feature most associated with the solid state and later era). I look forward to getting to play it in league play (hopefully, next week).

I say this because our group would wind up drawing the five games all returning from prior league weeks, with neither of the two “new” games. I would be grouped with Bryan Buckley, Tandy Lofland (a relatively new player who first played Season 8 Week 4), and Jeff Mleynek.

We would begin rather unassumingly on Metallica (I played first). All around it was a pretty low scoring game. I would put up a 3.1M+ second only to Bryan’s 3.5M+… until Jeff blows it wide open with a 34.8M+ pushing me down to third. This was a lousy game for everyone until Jeff’s third ball, but it’s really no excuse for laying an egg like this. So I start with a third-place finish and three standings points.

Next up was Ghostbusters (I played first again). The only good thing to happen during this game: none of the other three players got a video mode. Unfortunately, neither did I, finishing with 2.2M+ behind even Tandy’s third-place 2.3M+. Ugh. Really not the look I want to start the season: four standings points after two games (in a 7-5-3-1 scoring league).

The woeful inadequacy would only continue on Deadpool (I played fourth): 1.1M+ after two balls. I would squeak into third place with 20.3M+. Three games, seven standings points, and I have yet to finish any higher than third.

Next up would be Star Wars (I played second). Finally, things begin to turn around a bit, as I would sign off with 169.0M+ eeking just past Bryan’s 158.9M+, but still well short of Jeff’s 268.5M+. But hey, finally I finish in second for once, putting me up to twelve standings points.

We would finish the night’s contests on Iron Maiden (I played third). Again, Jeff runs away with it. I would post a halfway decent 11.7M+ (despite rage-tilting my third ball) good for second. That would make the sum total on the night seventeen standings points, just a shade better than third places all the way across.

For the first time in three seasons, I would begin a season failing to win a single game out of the five played.

Even as I sit here writing a blog post about this, I need to be ready to clear this out of my head tomorrow night and treat it like a whole new match. Which, in a manner of speaking, it is. There’s still a lot of season left at this point, and I need to make the most of it.

Space City Pinball League Season 9 Preseason: The excitement of a new year

So once again, the next season of our favorite pinball league is upon us. I haven’t kept up a whole lot with the tournaments that have happened between then and now, but there have not been too many. Most of them happened in the previous year and thus were for last year’s WPPR (World Pinball Player Ranking) points. This is the first time I can remember that a league season has started this close to the beginning of a calendar year, so it will be a unique experience trying to start the year off with a bang.

I am still on the fence about how much effort to put in towards making a serious run at the IFPA championships (state, then potentially North America and world should I keep winning). After last season, I certainly feel like anything is possible now; realistically, I had doubts about where my peak was going into the season, but I resolved to myself to just play my best and see where it got me. And it wound up getting me a lot closer to where I wanted to be than I expected. It was a heck of a ride, even if I wound up a bit short of where I really wanted to go.

Which brings me to another thing I’ve been thinking about: my intense competitive spirit, which has been both a huge strength and a huge weakness over the years. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the hunt for a championship that one forgets the purpose of playing in the league is to have fun. I certainly don’t want to be remembered as the guy that ruined the atmosphere and camaraderie. Being fiercely competitive but keeping it friendly and social is a difficult balance, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to have found at least some difficulty with this balancing act.

We are always looking for new players, dues are $10 but not collected until the second week of the season (it’s another mini-season with only four weeks of regular season before the playoffs).

Eighteen Twenty Lounge
1820 Franklin
Houston, Texas
76X6QJ5W+8W (what’s this?)
Regular season: 19:00 (7 p.m.); January 14, 21, 28; February 4; Playoffs: 18:00 (6 p.m.) February 18

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