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.

Space City Pinball League Season 9 Week 3: Sayonara, Ghostbusters?

This week began with high hopes, but yet there was already a playoff elimination feel to the week, at least for me. There was little margin for error after the debacle of week 2. Every point matters from here on out, and could potentially mean the difference between A division, B division… or even missing the playoffs entirely.

I should mention earlier in the day I was feeling slightly ill and there was considerable doubt I would be feeling well enough to try to play by the time the evening rolled around. I went ahead and tried to play and it turned out to be a good thing I did. A 75.4M+ on Metallica during warmups told me all I needed to know about whether or not I was fit to play, and so the night began.

I would be grouped with Jason Cortez, Chris Palis, and Laurie Bender (I would play third in the rotation between Chris and Laurie). We would play, in order, Attack from Mars, Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Beatles, and Monster Bash. Also in the lineup, but not assigned to our group, were Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman. At long last, Ghostbusters would be missing from the lineup for once… good riddance, I say.

Our first game was Attack From Mars. I would begin my first ball facing 125.9M+ from Jason and 47.0M+ from Chris. I would get on the board early with a nice solid 775.9M+, good enough to hang onto the lead by the time ball 2 would come up. I would end ball 2 with a commanding lead of 1.21B+, which would be good enough to win (ball 3 only brought me up to 1.29B+). So the night begins with a first place finish and seven standings points, and one step closer to clinching week 2 as the drop week.

Moving on, the next game would be Metallica. After ball 1 the scores would be fairly close, but in the end Chris would run away with this one putting up a 24.4M+, with Jason also putting up a relatively high score of 10.8M+. It would take everything I had just to finish third with a final score of 8.0M+. This would bring me up to ten standings points with three games left to play.

Next up would be Iron Maiden. Ball 1 for me would be a real lemon with a paltry 279,650. The others would all have least decent scores of 4.5M+ to 16.5M+ for me to look back at as I began ball 2, which wouldn’t go much better. By the time my ball 3 came up I would have 3.5M+ and looking down at 42.0M+, 5.2M+, and 79.7M+ in order. I would sign off with 46.3M+ good for second place, bringing me up to fifteen standings points with two more games to play. It’s starting to look pretty good for the possibility of making A division after all.

We would move on to The Beatles. Going into my third ball, the scores were 903K+, 281K+ (me), 352M+, and 410M+. I would need everything to go right in ball 3 to have a chance to win. I would sign off with 1,043,790. Laurie had a threateningly close score as she drained and it came down to her bonus countdown as to whether or not she would take first place from me in the end. She would finish with 1,032,910–right around 11K short, which is a pretty small margin in this game. Jason would sign off with 557K+ sealing the deal. Here I stood with twenty-two standings points with one game left.

Monster Bash had a surprise in store. Laurie would finish ball 3 with 15.4M+. I would begin ball 3 with 4.4M+ already assured of second as both Jason and Chris had failed to catch up. I unfortunately wound up with a lemon for my third ball and finished with 5.3M+, but second place on this game brings me to a total of 27 standings points on the night and at least a nominal hope of finishing in the top 16 for A division. Nevertheless, I finished this week happy and in eager anticipation of what was to follow.

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.

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