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 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 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.

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.

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