Space City Pinball League Season 10 Week 1: Oktoberfest and Black Knight

New season, new games. Expected: the return of The Munsters, The Beatles, Deadpool, and the debut of Black Knight: Sword of Rage. Unexpected: the return of Star Trek and the debut of Oktoberfest (from American Pinball, the same company that brought us Houdini). WTF moment: the return of Ghostbusters (I seriously thought we were rid of that damn thing, but apparently not yet).

We had a total turnout of 50 players. There were a lot of familiar faces as well as a lot of new ones. My group consisted of one of the relatively new faces, Eric Heskett; one relatively familiar face, Chris Low; and one of the all-too familiar ones, Bryce Revnew. Of all the players in the league, why group me with someone likely to hand me crushing defeats across the entire night?

First up, we would play Black Knight: Sword of Rage. I didn’t get to play this game during warmups, so this would be my first time ever playing this game at all. The first ball would be kind only to Eric, who would start with 10.4M+ versus Chris and Bryce putting up 1.1M+ and my embarrassingly bad 380K+. It would come back around to me with 3.5M+, 11.5M+, and 9.2M+ for Chris, Eric, and Bryce respectively. I would have another dud ball and stay in the trailing spot with 2.4M+.

Chris would wrap up with a total of 4.4M+. Eric would then have another pretty good ball to finish with 22.1M+. That’s intimidating enough, but then Bryce runs it up to 55.3M+. So here I am realistically facing a third place, maybe a second if I’m lucky to start the season. So I start out making a few shots. I get my second balls locked for both Catapult Multiball and Triple Knights Challenge. Then I start Catapult Multiball. And then I stack Triple Knights Challenge on top of that, possibly even scoring an add-a-ball in the middle of it for a total of six balls in play. I’m just trying to keep everything in play and hit as many shots as I can in the process. It’s pure mayhem.

I finish the combined multiballs with a score in the 52M+ range, within striking distance of Bryce. I play on, starting a mode (I think Sandworms, but I’m not sure). I make a few shots, and then notice I’ve passed Bryce’s score. I would drain shortly thereafter and sign off with 60.4M+, good enough for first place in the game and high score #4. Not bad for a start of the new season.

On we go to Oktoberfest. I have pretty low expectations, given I’ve never played this game before. Somehow I manage to piece together a 75,096 just ahead of Eric’s 73,996 but well behind Bryce’s 153K+. I’ll take second place happily, though it does dash my hopes of possibly putting up a perfect night.

If only I could have done as well on Ghostbusters. I’m not even going to go into details, just that my final score was under 1M while Bryce ran away with it putting up 111M+, aided by the video mode skill shot that never timed out after what had to have been 20+ seconds, when mine would time out much sooner (his final score is basically what he got from two video modes and maybe a few million from some other miscellaneous shots). Stern, fix the code already. There’s no point in having a pinball table if one is able to put up 100M+ from playing the video mode twice straight off the skill shot.

Moving on, it’s time for Star Trek. I start off with a nice solid 22.4M+ first ball, good for what would turn out to be an insurmountable lead. I would sign off with 29.0M+, playing out my third ball even though I theoretically could have just plunged it. So far that’s 20 standings points after four games, a solid place with one game left to go.

That game would be The Munsters. I never got to play this one at the end of last season. Again, for a first time playing it, I feel like I did pretty damn good. I would run up quite a few points in Grandpa’s Laboratory (the lower playfield with the smaller balls), signing off with 6.7M+ when no other player scored even half that. So I’d wrap it up with 27 standings points, which would wind up being 6 points off of the lead, and in a four-way tie for 6th place in the young season.

More importantly than that was finishing ahead of a former league champion in three out of five games, one of those in a clutch come-from-behind situation on a game I was playing for the very first time. I’m disappointed that I cannot play next week and follow up that performance. I am looking forward to week 3, however, and the hope is alive that this is the season it all comes together.

Space City Pinball League Season 10 Preseason

So once again a new season of the league is upon us. It’s another mini-season of four weeks (due to baseball season conflicts, I am guessing). League nights will be June 3, 10, 17, 24, with playoffs on July 1.

Unlike previous seasons, I haven’t really been keeping up with who won what. Perhaps the most notable statistic in my brief research is that Fred Revnew winning last season is right in the middle of a bunch of tournament and league victories going back to 2018 August, with only three non-firsts in that string (7th place Texas Pinball League, 2nd place in SCPL 2018 winter season, and 5th place at a monthly tournament at The Game Preserve). His son Bryce, who won the prior season, has also had his share of success in recent tournaments, most notably taking 2nd in the Texas Pinball League playoffs this March. I’m not going to go further into the intricate details of who has been winning what, but suffice it to say I’m expecting the same level of competition in the league as in prior seasons.

I haven’t been able to play any other tournaments outside of the league. I already know, going into the season, that other commitments will keep me away from league night on June 10. That leaves three nights and zero margin for error. I toyed with the idea of skipping the season outright, or possibly showing up just for week 1 or week 4. As it is, I intend to play weeks 1, 3, 4, and the playoffs (assuming I qualify), and will try to play at least a couple more tournaments later in the summer. Depending on how I do in this league season and those tournaments, I may be re-evaluating my involvement with competitive pinball at the end of 2019. I intend to play in the 2019 fall/winter SCPL season assuming there is one (and I have no reason to assume there will not be).

Space City Pinball League Season 9 Playoffs: The world is upside down

During the two weeks between week 4 and playoff night, I anxiously kept an eye on the Facebook post where everyone confirmed their attendance. Indeed, everyone (except Chris Palis, who had previously announced he would not be able to attend) did confirm, though it took until the night before for the final A division confirmations.

I can’t honestly say I wanted to see that someone said they could not attend, as if I was in that situation (where I would not be able to attend the playoffs) I would be rather unhappy about it. It would have bumped me into A division, but it would have put an asterisk on the win if I was able to pull it off.

So the B division playoffs it would be. Having the 17th seed overall, which is the top seed qualifying for B division, I would have a bye through the quarterfinals. I would wait patiently to see who my opposition would be. One of the quarterfinal matches would go to a tiebreaker, and it wound up being John Speights winning the tiebreaker on Terminator 3 over Jeff Mleynek. In the other match John Carroll advanced easily with wins on The Munsters and Deadpool, despite a not-so-good performance on The Beatles.

And so the semifinals began. I would be facing off against Chris Gonzales, John Speights, and John Carroll. I chose first in the playing order.

The first game of the night would be on Indiana Jones (Bally). This was not a game I ever ran up very high scores on back in the day, nor is it a game I felt played to my strengths. Nevertheless, I plunged ball 1 and proceeded to make the most of it. I managed to lock two balls and make a few other shots, and in the process put up 18.4M+ after ball 1, good enough for a sizeable lead when it got back around to me for ball 2. I quickly made the third lock to start multiball. Then, somewhere I saw on the DMD something along the lines of “shoot right ramp for jackpot”. And so I did. I managed to have a really good ball and catapulted my score to 81.1M+. The next highest score was some 24.3M+. I would sign off with 90.0M+, but the relative dud on ball 3 didn’t really matter. One game down, one first place finish.

Next up was The Addams Family. This game was a bit closer, as I had a very small lead after ball 1 (18,743,200 to 18,183,050). I would wind up trailing going into ball 3 with 37.2M+, against the leader’s 47.9M+. I would get to 80.9M+ which would hold up for second, but it was surpassed by John Speights during his third ball.

So it’s 6-4-2-2 going into the last game of the round (I had 6, John Speights had 4, the oher two players had 2 each). Basically, the absolute worst case is that I’m looking at a tiebreaker game if I finish last and one of the players with 2 takes first.

The round would conclude with a game on AC/DC. This game started off well with a 8.5M+ first ball, then 11.3M+ after the second ball. Catching up to John Speights (playing second) proved to be futile, but I would take another second place with a total of 15.3M+ and advance to the finals.

Meanwhile, over in A division, lots of surprising (and not-so-surprising) results. Lisa Shore wound up busting out in the quarterfinals (not surprising) but she would finish ahead of Phil Grimaldi who would also bust out in the quarterfinals (surprising). Phil had only 2 points in a three-game 4-2-1-0 playoff, and this is the first time I am aware of in SCPL history that he’s busted out in the quarterfinals of an A division playoff.

As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, Bryce Revnew and David Pollock would play a tiebreaker to resolve a 7-6-6-2 tie to determine who would advance (Matt Quantz had the 7 and clinched an advance, Jason Cortez was the 2 and was eliminated). David posted a solid 95.3M+, and Bryce wound up coming up short with 51.3M+. So for a while we were one player away from seeing none of the four previous season’s A division finalists making the finals. I would have to look it up but I’m pretty sure that has never happened either (if only because Phil has been so consistent about at least making it to the finals if not winning outright).

Anyway, back to B division finals. The finals group would consist of me (obviously), John Speights, Jack Revnew, and Jason Cardenas. We would begin on The Beatles. This whole game wound up being a dud, and I would finish with 765K+ when the others all broke the million mark. I had a relatively decent third ball but I had fallen so far behind by that point that it was rather futile to catch up.

My luck would be much better on Deadpool. On my first ball I would amass 159.3M+, which as it turns out would have been enough to win easily by itself. I did run it up to 205.0M+ before signing off, which is not quite initial-entry territory but still a solid performance (not to be confused with one of the bathroom scenes of the Deadpool video game, mind you). Most importantly, this put me back in contention to possibly win B division for the second time. All I needed was a really good game on Iron Maiden and I had a shot…

…and of course, that’s nowhere near what happened. I had a dud of a first ball and never really recovered. My 24.3M+ would not only not be enough to win, it would not even be good enough for third place (in the game). Still, the 4 points from my first place on Deadpool were enough to put me in third overall in the finals. (Meanwhile, Fred Revnew did win A division… again.)

Honestly, the only thing I have to be truly happy about is the $17 cash prize (which I’m about to spend on face paints in a couple of days, but that’s another story). Once again, I feel like I’ve done an impression of the Houston Oilers from back in the day.

I know I’m a better player than my performance this season. But when will I be able to prove it?

Space City Pinball League Season 9 Week 4: Down to the wire

The high hopes of the previous week continued into this week. These mini-seasons go by fast, with one week taking the place of two. So this week would effectively be the same as weeks 7 and 8 of a full-length season, where there’s a bit of a playoff feel in the air as the regular season winds down.

And indeed, the A division hopes of yours truly continued to hang into balance as the evening began. I would be grouped with Jim Mueller, Frankie Griffin, and Nichole Buergers, playing fourth in the rotation after Nichole and before Jim. For a week where I would need every possible standings point to try to keep hope alive, this is the kind of group I would want to be in; none of my opponents are pushovers by any means, but none are as dangerous as the likes of Phil Grimaldi or either of the two elder Revnews (Fred and Bryce). We would play Attack from Mars, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Maiden, and Terminator 3. On the floor but not assigned to our group were The Beatles and Monster Bash. The former I lament not getting to play in league play again; the latter, I can take or leave.

We would begin on Iron Maiden, where I would play first (then Jim, then Frankie, then Nichole). I jumped out to a first-ball lead of 11.5M+ to Frankie’s 8.7M+, but my second ball was the one that really sealed the deal. I would lead 72.3M+ to (Frankie’s) 21.2M+ to start ball 3 before finally signing off with an uncatchable 97.7M+ (though Jim would wind up with second place with 64.4M+ leaving Frankie in a distant third). Having started with a solid first-place finish, as well as basically having clinched week 2 as drop week after only one game, I could relax a bit and not feel quite as pressured. But the night had barely begun…

Next up was Deadpool. Despite some pretty solid play, I was doing good just to stay out of last place. I was able to put up 26.9M+ but it would pale in comparison to Jim’s and Frankie’s scores of 68.1M+ and 66.1M+ respectively. Having a real stinker of a Mini Deadpool Multiball didn’t exactly help.

Our third game would be Terminator 3. Now Steve Ritchie did a good job with the Terminator 2 game design in the early 1990s, and he tried hard to replicate as much of the look and feel of that game while still offering something new. That said, the one thing I liked most about this game tonight was “at least it isn’t Ghostbusters.” Again, I’m doing good to hold off from finishing last; my 8.1M+ was good enough for squeaking ahead of Nichole’s 4.8M+ but still fell way behind Frankie’s 11.2M+.

The penultimate game of the evening was Guardians of the Galaxy, a game I felt confident I could do well on. Jim ran away with this one with a 209.3M+, though I’d finish with a respectable if insufficient 40.7M+. Still, second place is not bad given the two previous games.

Attack from Mars would be our finishing point. The real drama began during the third ball; Frankie got Total Annihilation but did not convert the opportunity for very many points, signing off with 1.506B+. I had two balls locked and a score of 943M+ (for a deficit of 563M) when I started my ball 3, so I felt there was hope. Once I started multiball, I felt the game was mine to win. I would surge ahead with an exciting multiball-fueled finish and sign off with 1.819B+. Not a great score, but good enough to put up the last seven of 25 standings points on the night.

Right after finishing this game, I would be tied for 15th place in the season standings, with the top 16 making A division. I hung around long enough for the other games to finish. I would wind up dropping a place and tied for 16th with Lisa Shore. And the way the tiebreakers work this season, Lisa has the tiebreaker over me. Meaning, barring a miracle (specifically, a player qualified for A division not being able to make it to the playoffs), I have missed the A division playoffs for the first time in three seasons. [Note: As of the day I’m posting this (Tuesday, February 12), there are at least three players in A division who have not confirmed their attendance for the playoffs.]

To be fair about it, Chris Palis, the league director, told me I’m not the first to get bitten by this tiebreaker rule (which I think has been around since Phil started the league, and which was probably copied from some other league’s rules), and that between that instance and this one, he will be reviewing the tiebreakers for next season, as the way he sees it, it’s like I’m being penalized for showing up for all four weeks.

I don’t know what should frustrate me more: the egg I laid in week 2, or the fact that finishing one place higher in any game where I did not come in first in weeks 1, 3, or 4 would have been enough to qualify me for A division. By the same token, having one of the close wins go the other way would have been enough to knock me out for sure.

I’m still going to do my best in the playoffs in two weeks, even if it’s B division. Granted, winning B division will be nothing new for me, and it’s certainly not the same prestigious honor of winning A division, but I owe it to myself to be able to walk back out of Eighteen Twenty Lounge knowing I played the best I possibly could. Either way, A division or B division, there’s still money at stake.

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