European Pinball Championship 2017 - Borås, Sweden - 20-22/10/2017


Road trip time! I've always loved driving to tournaments, no matter how far away they are. The EPC being in Borås conveniently opened up the possibility to combine a mini-holiday into our tournament trip, so I took couple of extra days off the work and planned a route that took us to Borås over the Baltic sea. We crossed the ocean on two huge ferries, Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.

The E4 highway going across Sweden is still one of my favorite roads to drive!

We've spent a lot of time in Sweden this year! We've attended Borås pinball open twice and now thanks to a last minute change, we returned to Borås for the 3rd time as the plans to have EPC in Göteborg fell through.

I can only imagine the amount of work it took for the Pinballseye team to make this thing happen with relatively little warning before. Yet, as we arrived pretty much everything was in order.

There were multiple larger tournaments: the main tournament with modern games, classics tournament and teams tournament. Our story here starts with the teams tournaments.

Teams qualification

I decided to come check out the venue a bit early. Walking there, greeting the familiar faces and checking out the games I quickly learned I was part of Team Finland, our national team. I was pretty surprised as I didn't recall signing up to it, but I'm not complaining, more pinball to play!


Team Finland was Joonas, Marco, Olli-Mikko and yours truly this time.

The tournament format was team vs team, so that the teams were broken into two split teams. I teamed up with Joonas, with Olli-Mikko and Marco making the other group. This was points tournament, so winning a game earned the team one point. The teams with most points after playing against two opponent teams went to the playoffs.

Denmark

Our first game was Stern's Kiss. We agreed early on about the mode and strategy to go for. After a rather rocky start, we started gaining the danish team, but one missed flipper button later we lost our first game.

Our second game was Monster Bash. We kept building our game until the very end and played rather good multiball on our last ball, taking our first victory. It came very apparent to me that I should have played some of the free play games with Joonas before this. It wasn't until this game when we started to properly communicate and coordinate the game. I guess better late than never.

Italy

After first round Team Finland wasn't all smiles. Not that we'd smile in the first place. Apparently couple of other teams had won enough games to already qualify for the playoffs, so no matter what happened here, we were out. We did't want to give anything free to Team Italy, so even out of the game, we still went onto this round with our game faces on!

First game: Guns'n'Roses. We had already agreed on "Nothing but super pops". Oh man did that play beautifully! We eventually got the multiball, which we systematically just used to feed the bumpers. Easy win here!

Next, Williams Indiana Jones. We played as 2nd player and after getting our game on from the very first ball on, we didn't even have to play our last ball to win the Italian team 136M to their 30M.

Even with this sweet round we were out of the tournament, no can do.

Classics qualification

Classics tournament was score based, 4 entries per game on 3 games, 2 best entries meaningful. My games were Viking, Black Jack and Mata Hari.

I started out with Viking as I happen to own one! My target score was 1M and I got 480k on my first try, 1.1M on my second. The rest two weren't that good. This Viking had better flipper touch than my own game and hitting the inline drops was easy. Main strategy with Viking is to nail the drop targets at the beginning of each ball. They score 1-5k of bonus plus a multiplier. After you've gotten the drops, the stand-up target behind them is lit for special (25k in tournament mode) and 50k after that. But at the point where you have 5x bonus, it's better to go for the bonus collect instead.



After that I went to Black Jack. Target score here 400k. I played 3 games within 120-140k range, each with the same issue: I had trouble finding the right orbit and when I did, the saucer wasn't lit. Strategy for Black Jack is hitting the standup targets so the player's hand is better than dealers, then hitting the saucer on right to score a prize, which increases the multiplier. After high enough multiplier hit the spinner on left orbit to increase bonus.

I was meaning to play Mata Hari, but the game next to it was having issues and Christian was working on it, so I came back to it the next day.

I was a bit uncertain about getting my game on the next day, but thanks to getting a proper full night's sleep, things worked out quite nicely. The target score being 500k, I got 587k on my first game, then 308k on my second. I would have been perfectly happy with these scores, but I still had entries, so I kept on playing. The 3rd game was a total shitshow, but then the last game turned into a monster. I had 300k after first ball, when on my second ball a bumper cap came loose. I had to call an attendant to remove it from the playfield. Also had a brief discussion about how game usually goes into shit after a pause like this. But no, I got one decent ball after that, ending with 638k and my best score! It was also at that time the best score in the tournament. My strategy for Mata Hari was first getting the maximum bonus X from the center saucer, then very carefully raise the bonus by nailing the drop targets. The drop targets also score 50k when you get them all.

After I was done, I was leading the qualification. I was pretty happy with this, as many players had already played their entries, so I was pretty much guaranteed to be in the top-32 to qualify. I was hoping to be amongst the top-16 to have at least one bye.

Killing some time between games with Hyperball. I SO wanted to buy it from Christian, but no luck :)

Main qualification

The main qualification was head-to-head game against all the other players in the group. 16 players per group, 4 best qualified. That's a pretty harsh ratio, especially with this crowd! So, I played 15 games on mostly DMD-games, here's some hilights:

My very first game was against my old nemesis, Roni on No Fear with me as player 2. Roni had a rough start and when doing the flipper check-up before plunging, I noticed the upper right flipper didn't hold at all. Everything else worth playing in our group was being played, so we opted to wait for repairs and went it again. This time Roni got his game going on a bit better, but neither of us got anything noteworthy done. I stated by last ball with Roni in the lead for less than 100M. I switched my strategy on the fly from trying to get the Payback time into looping the left loop. Can't remember how many times I looped it exactly, but once I lost the ball, I was just past my opponent, plus the bonus on that. 530M to my 553M.

After Roni I went against his father Timo on Stern's Spider Man. Curious thing about Spider Man, I've seen so many ways to play it, but I've noticed methodical hammering of Sandman can often be enough, even when the opponent plays pretty good black suit multiball. And that's exactly what happened here: like in Jackbot, I had to take one risky shot to open the barrier by hitting the initial blinking and moving shot. It have pretty nice feeds afterwards so I could just hit Sandman, drop catch it and repeat. I won 33M to Timo's 24M.

Naturally each tournament has the mandatory oddball game. This happened in No Fear, when my opponent Helen pressed the start button instead of ball launch. The game didn't have restart disabled, so it restarted. IFPA ruling would be disqualifying the player, but it was judged to be restarted from the approximate scores the players agreed on. The restart happened when the scores were like my 800M to the other player's 300M, I won it, but it kind of bothered me a lot afterwards.

Some of my group's games during the qualification

From the oddball game to the mandatory "damn it was close!". I was playing Iron Man and my opponent was just behind me. I finished at 7333400 and after the bonus count my opponent had 7340820. He already congratulated me on the victory, but I insisted on taking a closer look!

Then there's the "fuck yeah" game. I went against Rich on Fun house. I put 10M on it on the first ball, much to the dismay of my opponent. He then spent 3 balls chasing me, while I got to 15M in the end. Rich finally found the trapdoor shot on his last ball and was closing me fast with Million+ shots, but drained at 11M. A close one!

After a day of playing, I was just one game short being finished with my qualification. I really don't want to know the overall position until I'm done, kind of helps me from having a last minute panic if I'm close to cut line. I had however calculated that I had won majority of my opponents, so I was somewhere in top-6, but needed to win the last game to be sure.


I went against another Finn, Perttu on Iron Man. I built my game completely on stacking the multiballs, which I finally did on my last ball, but had extraordinarily shitty luck hitting anything. I eventually drained with Perttu leading me 4M, so no can do. I was pretty bummed about this game, as I had everything set up for a clean victory and managed to suck at where I'm usually the best at: multiball. When Perttu learned this game was probably deciding game for me, he joked he would have let me win had he known. For reals, if I even suspected someone had done something to help me win a game, I'd immediately withdraw from the tournament.

Now that we were done, I calculated I had 10 wins out of 15 games I played, but the cutoff score wasn't clear until everyone finished playing. As more and more players finished their games, I approximated the cutoff line to be at 10 or 11 wins. Wow, could have really used that last win! In the end it was ... 10! So, I was in the main tournament playoffs!

But that's not all! After I was done, I checked out how my classics entry was doing. I was 4th. What the hell?! 4th?! I kind of expected 15th+ and I would have been happy to just fit the 32 qualifying, but 4th! That's a 2 bye position, my best ever big tournament qualification position AND since I qualified in the main tournament as well, my first ever time to qualify in both, main and classics in a major tournament! Holy crap, another career best in an EPC!



Classics play-offs

The classics playoffs were played the same day as the main tournament qualification, so it started rather late into Saturday. In addition to that, my 2 byes were eventually a curse in disguise as after a long day of playing I was already dozing off by the time 2 rounds had been played. After twiddling my thumbs for what felt like an eternity, I went against a German Jochen. We're not exactly strangers, having played together in many tournaments, and visited many bars in after-parties all over the world.

The playoffs in the early rounds were best 2 out of 3 games in a playoff bracket.

I was rather stressed out about this game before it even began. I was way beyond playing condition and the energy drink I very reluctantly drank before this didn't help at all.

We started out with Fathom. It wasn't all bad, we both hit 7-figure scores, played a lot of multiball and so forth. Jochen got this one in the end.

Next up was Black Jack. I couldn't get my A game going no matter how much I tried. The game was just reacting to my own mistakes and was an easy victory for Jochen. This put me back against the wall on the rest of the round as I now needed to win the next 3 games to stay in the game!

Been a while since I've seen classics I don't know the one sentence strategy for. Hot Dogging wasn't an exception there: spell the game's name, in-line drops for bonus X. I'm also very familiar with this particular game and know of its right outline issue, where a ball going through the ball lock area will go to the right outline unless you give it a slight nudge in the right spot. My game wasn't stellar, but I still got this one.

Next was Harlem Globetrotters. Now this is a game I'd really like to have at my own place, as I usually get pretty brutally beaten in it. This time was no exception either. Jochen managed to collect the upper center saucer again and again by nudging the game up when the ball hit the center bumper. Really beautiful work there! Unfortunate for me, this beautiful move got me out of the classics playoffs.


Round 3 was still pretty good, giving me a shared 24th position with several other players, including my countrymen Olli-Mikko and Joonas. Anyway, I was happy this day was finally over, so I could return to the hotel and fall into the bed face down.

At times people comment on my very negative expectations on certain situations. This is pretty good example of that. I have a rather delicate balance on sleep and mental state when it comes to be being able to give my best game, or even be able to play at all. I've played long enough to be able to tell when I'm clearly "out of the zone" and playing isn't fun any more. No amount of good luck wishes or telling to keep my chin up will ever fix that. I might win, but usually it's only because the opponent had even worse luck and I don't really consider myself a "winner" there. 

Main play-offs

Trying to stay awake with caffeine didn't do my any favors when it comes to getting a full night's sleep and I woke up more or less zombified for the main tournament play-offs.

The play-offs continued the same way as the qualification, so instead of play-offs bracket we were playing for number of wins, with 4 players out of each group going to the final bracket.

Some hilights from my games:

I met a player, who was the next player in IFPA ranking, Lars. I haven't had much luck with Stern's Ghostbusters lately. My game started real bad, I was after the Storage multiball, but couldn't get it going. My opponent got the multiball going, but didn't do much with it. I started my 3rd ball with around 5M behind him, got Super jackpot (lit?) from the Spirit guide and I just managed to squeeze past him.

I've gotten to play my share of Stern's Aerosmith, but couldn't do jack with the game when I went against my countryman Juuso. It was more of "are you seeing this shit" ball after ball. Juuso so deserved to win that one.

I played Ghostbusters again against Jeremy as player 2. I did nothing with my first ball, while Jeremy got into 9M by the time he finished his second. I got the Storage multiball going and played rather nice round of that, going to 60M. Jeremy got a rather harsh last ball and he drained at 11M so I didn't have to play my last ball.

In the end I already knew there'd be so many good players who racked up points and my mediocre show here didn't earn me a spot in the next round.


The outcome

I qualified in both, main and classics tournaments.

I got eliminated in round 1 of the main tournament, final position 44th out of 256 players.

I got eliminated in round 3 of the classics tournament, final posotion 24th out of 255 players.

Final thoughts

First of all, I'll have to tip my hat at the people behind the location. With delays and other issues, some players got really irated and trashed the tournament and the organizers pretty harshly at times. The EPC wasn't originally meant to be held here, that much I had gathered, but I only now learnt the whole story. In addition to having a major tournament in a "I can't do it, here, you have it" fashion, the organizers got shit like lots of volunteer scorekeepers and other personnel just not showing up without any warning.

All the games I played were in good condition and I didn't hear reports of any major issues, so props to the pinball mechanic(s) as well.

However, there's this strange hostility coming from the players I'd really like to address here. I noticed the trend years ago, but now it's really noticeable. So many players out there don't come to have fun playing pinball any more, they came to win and make WPPR points. Then they take out all their frustration and anger to the organizers and games. People yelling, pushing machines, cursing the venue owners when a game reboots or ball gets stuck. This is just plain wrong!

I love playing pinball, both for fun and in tournaments. But seeing someone going postal over their ruined game is just sad. I also find sad to witness the lack of good sportsmanship, which manifests itself as hostility against other players, talking down to them, deprecating other player's good game and so forth. Nothing listed here is specific to this venue or country, I've been seeing it elsewhere as well.

This really makes me long for the days when we had tournaments, where people actually laughed and had fun, instead of calculating if this position gives enough WPPR points to get past someone.

Anyway, until the next time.

Finnish Pinball Championship - Lahti, Finland - Ravintola Seiväs - 9-10/09/2017


The last Finnish Championships were held back in 1997. In later years the Finnish League has pretty much settled the question who's the best player at the time, not to mention the longest running independent tournament, Sörkka Pinball Open.

The free play area got the new Stern Star Wars!

The tournament had score based entry, 2 entries (both meaningful) on 6 random predetermined games. The games included 2 classics and 4 more modern games, ranging from 90s to 10s. 32 best players from qualification went to the playoffs, which where standard player vs player, best 3 out of 5 playoff bracket with 4 player final game.

My qualification games were: Attack from Mars, Count-down, Dolly Parton, Monster Bash, Shadow and The Twilight Zone. Save the AFM, I was really happy with the line-up. For some reason I've never felt comfortable with the AFM in tournaments and I had a really bad feeling about this one as well, especially since I'm familiar with this particular AFM.

As I was also a pinball mechanic in the tournament, I started my qualifying run by giving couple of the games some love and final tweaks before starting the grind.

Qualification

Since I knew what I was going to play, I had plenty of time to come up with proper score based qualifying strategies for them all. In the end, I think The Shadow was the only game where I considered something out of my normal approach. Unfortunately I don't have the scores for my qualifying games, I expected the online results to stay up until I get around writing this blog entry so I didn't take the usual pictures of my scores.

Attack from Mars

Very simple goal here: concentrate on the saucers. Kill first barrier with skillshot, second with stroke of luck, risk it for the third and flail for collecting the MARTIAN letters for Martian multiball. The main multiball is way too risky shot here compared to the jackpot value vs. saucer value later on.

My plans were scrapped pretty much from the start, I made an accidental shot to the stroke of luck and wasted my forcefield removal from there. I was devastated with the 600M from the first attempt and 1.2B from the second. Almost if I could see this one coming!

Count-down

This is purely a bonus game: build your bonus and more importantly - build the multiplier! The multiplier is tied to drop target colors and you need to get the drops in sequence to get that multiplier. Other than that, just keep the ball in the upper playfield with the small flippers in there.



I played two decent games, nothing too wonderful but I assume there's a lot of people who don't know about how the bonus behaves. I managed to get 5x bonus twice here.


Dolly Parton

Dolly is all about your first ball because the bonus is cumulative. With 5 ball game this is even more important! Depending on how the the spinner works (and what your opponent goes for!), one valid strategy here is getting the first drop down target and then just gunning for the spinner. However, since this was a score based qualifying round, I wanted to maximize the bonus multiplier and then just keep on collecting DOLLY + PARTON letters ad nauseam.

I got one pretty good game in there, I managed to collect virtually everything I wanted on the first ball and then just went for the multipliers and the spinner.


Monster Bash

My goal here is pretty straight forward: progress all the monsters so they're one shot from starting. Then start 'em all and start the Frankenstein's monster last, so it stops all timers and lets me work on them all during the multiball.

Tonza and Juha observing my MB qualification game.

I played a rather sweet game here, my only screwup was that the last shot to the bride missed and I started the multiball with all the monsters but bride. After the multiball I got the bride as well and played the Monster Bash mode. My second game wasn't as good, but it was far from a total disaster.


The Shadow

To be honest, I don't have that well polished plan for the Shadow. I've been told trying the inner loop combo is the way to go, but most of the time the multiballs and Vengeance are good enough.

I got the multiball going nicely on my first game, got the jackpot and also played some Khan multiball. The second game didn't work at all and I couldn't even get the main multiball running.



The Twilight Zone

I generally try to make the multiball ready, then start as many modes as possible, hoping to stack the ones that work well with random flailing, like having the Town square madness and all the clock modes running at the same time.

I had a pretty rough start, the second game worked a bit better when I decided to just try cashing out the multiball jackpots with the main multiball. Starting the multiball from 3rd ball lock, then cashing out the jackpot with the Powerball finally did the trick.


I played my qualification entries pretty early on, but I stayed afloat, easily staying over the cutoff-line at 32nd place. I spent rest of the day taking care of the technical issues in the games. Fortunately the games were in pretty decent shape and my services weren't needed so often, I even got to play the new Stern Star Wars in peace.


Playoffs

We returned to the crime scene the next day for more pinball action. One of yesterday's highlights was that my dad had also fought his way through the qualification and was still in the game when we went to head-to-head playoffs. The playoffs were "best 3 out of 5" on randomly chosen games. My first opponent was the Flipp organization headman himself, MRC.

The top-32 who qualified to the playoffs.

Round 1 - MRC

We started out with Fun House. I had some issues lining up my shots. MRC wasn't doing much better at that time and we were both around 1M after the 2nd ball. MRC finished his 3rd ball as player 1 at 1.5M, I was a bit behind at around 1.2M. I was one ball shy from the multiball, so I made the lock shot and played (a painfully short) multiball, that fortunately let me get past my opponent.

We proceeded to Monster Bash. I was somewhat afraid of what MRC would do, so instead of doing a proper build, I just smashed the multiball on my first ball. The game was really unforgiving for both of us and that multiball kept me in the lead until the very end. I ended up with 13.9M and MRC with 1.3M.

With 2 wins under my belt, I had the chance to win this round with a flawless victory. We got Mars Trek. Good thing I know this game, as MRC really put his game face on here. The leader changed on almost every ball, until MRC tilted his 5th ball when he was just 5k behind be and I didn't have to play my last ball.

3rd win and I cleared my way for the next round. Unfortunately my dad got eliminated on the first round.

Round 2 - MVJ

We started off with Fun House. It was very unforgiving for my opponent, good thing I had had the opportunity to play it at least once during the previous round. I played the main multiball twice on my first ball, reaching 9.8M for my 2nd ball. MVJ got another short ball on his 2nd ball and I played the multiball for the 3rd time, ending with 14.5M. He finally got his game face on for his last ball, getting to 2M but with my strong start I didn't have to play the last ball.

Next was AC/DC Pro. I was meaning to just play all three multiballs, but the pro version just feels a tad too bouncy for me. After two horrible balls (with my opponent getting pretty much the same) I finally got to play at least the Jam Multiball. It wasn't all bad and I ended with 14M. MVJ also played the Jam Multiball, but ended his last ball with 8M. Pretty disappointing game all-in-all.

We then went to play Mars Trek. Pretty Deja Vu-ish round, if you ask me. Mars Trek hated me from the very start and my opponent too way too easy looking victory over me with his 391k to my 205k. Blah.

Good thing we got the Twilight Zone for our next game. I had found the lock shot pretty easily during the qualification, so all I did was repeating light lock - lock ball. Multiball worked great and I got around 200M on my first ball. MVJ spent rest of the game chasing me, but in the end the numbers were 292M to 24M and it meant I won the whole round as well as this game.

Round 3 - JMW

Now I was just one round away from the end game. Losing here would mean going to the positions 5-8 game, to be played with just one machine as a 4 player game.

We started out with Iron Man. With a totally useless 1st ball, I got my game on for the second ball and played Iron Monger multiball. JMW didn't catch me any more and the game ended 8M to his 3M.

Next up ... you know it, Mars Trek. We actually had rather good game there. This was one of the games that ended up both players being perfectly okay with their scores, JMW was just better with his 451k to my 399k.

There's always the time for some random mystery game and this was Williams' LaserCue. I've never even seen this game and I've seen quite a few games. I had no idea what to do, so I quickly looked it up in Pintips. JMW appeared to be as lost as I was, but managed to barely beat me. I think I was like 1 or 2 droptargets short catching him!

Uh-oh, I was against the ropes now! I'd need to win the next 2 games or I was out. Deciding game was Cirqus Voltaire. I have nothing against Voltaire, but it was pretty tough for both of us, JMW managed to get the multiball running from defeating the 2nd Ring master while I was left couple of shots shy from it and ultimately lost.

That's it, I was out from the main game, with positions 5-8 game left.

Positions 5-8 game

This was a 4 player game for the said positions on Bally's Paragon. The game was in extremely punishing setup and was nothing but pure frustration for all of us. The only played who actually got his game on was JSZ, kudos to him. Everyone else ended with sub-100k scores, JSZ grinded respectable 782k.


I was 3rd in the game, which meant 7th position.

The outcome

I qualified as 13th out of 32 qualifying players. A total of 74 players participated.

I was eliminated in the second-to-last round and was ultimately 7th in the whole tournament.


Final thoughts

This was pretty well organized tournament all-in-all. I expected nothing less from pretty seasoned bunch of Finnish pinball hobbyists. I helped out as a mechanic, while Pilvi was helping out with the registration desk. This was the new Finnish pinball association, Flipp ry's very first tournament. Good job guys!

Now, this is not meant as a critique, but I was a bit puzzled by the tournament's name: The Finnish championship. I kind of understand the name back in the late 90s when we didn't have the league, but now proclaiming to be the "Finnish champion" just feels weird when the league exists and is way more challenging to win than just one single tournament. But enough of that.

I was very pleased to see so many early SS and EM games in the tournament! Maintaining EM games, especially for challenging environments like tournaments is a tough job, I tip my hat to whoever had serviced them before the tournament.

The location was excellent! Finland sorely misses a proper barcade and having the tournament in a sports bar was spot on! The only downside was that I was driving and couldn't get myself a cold one or two!


Until the next time.



Osaka Showdown - Osaka, Japan - Silverball Planet - 26/08/2017


I guess I could say that our trip to Japan was a product of VERY long term planning. I've been wanting to go there since late teens, but the very alien culture to us and not really knowing what to do there has always seemed to hold me back. Plus there's always been the next pinball tournament trip to sap my funds so the whole idea has been on the back burner for a long time.

Things were set in motion in 2014 when I met mr. Naruke at IFPA 11, Denver. Back then I hadn't met that many international players and got very curious about the fact that they did play pinball in Japan as well. In 2015 I met Tatsunori again at IFPA 12 in Sweden and this time I just asked him and the people with him about the pinball scene in Japan. Then in early 2017 our trip to California was postponed, so I decided it was time to make this Japan visit thing reality and take part in the Osaka Showdown, which is a monthly tournament in Osaka. This wasn't meant to be a super serious tournament trip, but more of a pinball themed tourist trip.


A memorable coincidence was how we found the arcade, the Silverball Planet completely by accident. We were just wandering around in downtown Osaka and stopped at Starbucks. It was at the ground floor of a mall, so after the coffee we went to check out what was there. The two floors we explored were mostly full of clothes stores so we decided to move on.

Just before stepping on the elevator, I noticed a peculiar escalator that did a 90 degree turn on the way up. Naturally I had to try it and once I was on the third floor the very first thing I saw was Stern's Star Trek in a store window. I went into the store and realized it wasn't a store at all, but the Silverball Planet itself! We spent rest of the evening there checking out the games. They had around 100 pins there, but out of those only 2 that I hadn't played before: Jetsons and Dominos, both Spooky Pinball's latest productions.

The Silverball Planet entrance

Playing for fun on Friday revealed something rather unexpected about the pins. The thing is, they were in excellent shape cleaning-wise, no ball tracks on the playfield, no burned out light bulbs, cabinets in decent shape and so forth, so you'd expect they'd play real nice. But the first issue that really caught my eye was the playfield rubbers. All the games except the really new ones that they had apparently gotten new in box had cracked rubbers everywhere. The worst part was the flipper rubbers that had almost zero bounce and they were really worn at the tip.

Many of the games had all the rubbers in this condition.

Also, many of the games had really weak flippers and many other mechanical issues, mostly related to worn out coil sleeves and other consumable parts. With several games in the lineup (like the Roller games) that have really steep ramps AND being able to make the ramp shots is the only way to progress in the game, I made a note to formulate a backup plan how to approach those games.

I tried talking to the repair guy, but he didn't speak English at all. When I tried to point out an issue in Sega's Twister, he just turned the machine off and gave me back the 100¥ coin I had put in it. Oh well, this might be EPC'14 in Italy all over again...

The trophy was a golden Coke bottle, how American :)

We played the Jetsons and Dominos, but like the previous Spooky's games, they did very little for me. The Jetsons was especially bland game with very simple looking playfield and otherwise boring gameplay. Dominos again was something that I assume looks good in the corporate HQ, where no one plays it but they can say there's a pinball machine with their brand out there.



The tournament itself had single stage and 4 rounds. Players where divided into 4 player groups, 2 players got eliminated in each round, until 4 were left for the final. Round scoring was pretty standard 4-2-1-0. I'm not sure how the 12 game league itself is scored or what the overall winner gets as a trophy.

Round 1

Games: Terminator 2, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Walking Dead
Tiebreaker: No Fear

We started out with Terminator 2 in a 4 player group. I had played this T2 before here and knew the flippers were going to be a problem. The flipper alignment was somehow odd, the all-important lock shot was extremely hard to make. After making a note of this, I concentrated on the skillshot timings and in the end, bulk of my 9M end score came out of just that. Only one player, Kyoichi, got the multiball going and he won the round with 30M. Sho made some extra points with the ramps and got 16M. Kazuto was left with just couple of skillshots and some random points for 6M. With 1 point this was a rather rocky start.

Still, I really loved how everyone reacted pretty strongly to what was going on in the game. It made playing feel like I was just flipping for fun with friends and not playing a super serious tournament!

Next up was the Creature. I had played this machine yesterday and learned to avoid the right ramp that had a really nasty feedback if the ball didn't sink in perfectly. I skillshotted KISS, then flailed around to get the multiball going. I found the monster, did the save shot but got a center drain from the jackpot shot. The next two balls didn't bring much else to the table, but I got to 82M which luckily was enough for my first 4 point game. Kyoichi got 52M, Sho 58M and Kazuto 24M.

Eyeballing the dead before starting

Last game unless tiebreaking was needed: The Walking Dead. I defaulted to my EPC'16 strategy and just grinded the Well walker. I have absolutely no idea what the others were going for, but before my last ball we all were around 5M or less. The game was damn unforgiving and had very short (if all!) ball saver. On my last ball I got the Well walker multiball running and I went from 5M to 28M, which easily gave me another 4 points. Kyoichi was last with 8M, Sho 3rd with 11M and I was sweating a bit when I saw Kazuto to follow up my lead with the Well walker on his last ball, but he drained at 22M.

Well, at least I wasn't out from the first round. Kyoichi and Sho tied and had to sort it out between themselves. My next group was ready, so I got to continue with round 2.

Round points: 1-4-4


Round 2

Games: Kiss (Stern), Roller Games, The Hobbit 
Tiebreaker: Funhouse

The second round started with Kiss. While the theme does very little for me, the Stern's variant of the game works for me. I really love the fact that this isn't one of those "grind multiball forever for useless jackpots as there's nothing else to it" games; the modes actually score pretty well and I find the shots rather satisfying to make, even the steepest ramp on the right. I started building the Demon multiball right from the start and got a center drain from the left lite lock target. The second ball wasn't any better, but I got the Starchild and Demon multiball both lit. Out of my competitors Yoshio didn't get much done and ended the game with 6M. I cashed in both multiballs for 62M but Yasumasa got his game face on and for the first time in my life I got to see the game's ending. He ended with around 350M for 4 points, where I had to settle for 2. Oh, and for some reason we didn't have the 4th player at all, apparently someone had wandered off and gotten disqualified or something?

Next up: Roller games. Now, I had played this earlier and realized it was going to be a real shitshow as a tournament game. As the ramp shot with the upper right flipper was really important, I risked it several times by looping the ball, then trying the ramp and hope for the best. And what do you know, the risk was enough this time, as even when I didn't play the multiball, my sad 3.6M score beat Yasumasa's 1.6M and Yoshio's 500k. 4 points. Roller games? More like Loller games!

Many of the new Sterns and Jersey Jacks were there as well.

I had high hopes for the Hobbit, but for a such a new game it had really mushy feeling flippers. After the first ball I realized this might end up to be a game of skill shotting, so I selected the LOCK shot for skill and gunned that. I got nothing done and while I was 2nd for a while, last ball left me with 37k and last. I did some quick calculations:

Since Yoshio had two 1 point games, it wouldn't matter any more even if he'd win this game. Yasumasa however got his act together on the last ball, played the multiball and won the game with 111k, Yoshio was 2nd with 64k. This round was what I had feared of since playing the first time: we might have to resort to skill shot points and really low hanging fruit to survive when more advanced features were limited by minor malfunctions or weak flippers. Anyway, Yasumasa and I went to round 3.

Rount points: 2-4-1


Round 3

Games: The Rolling Stones (Bally), The Hobbit
Tiebreaker: Terminator 2

I'm not perfectly sure why the amount of games got smaller and smaller as the game progressed; time limit, arcade's opening hours?

We started with the Rolling stones, but not without some minor drama: The play order was supposed to be Tatsunori-me-Kazuma, but for some reason Kazuma played my first ball. The country director was present and judged that I was moved from 2nd to 3rd player and we proceeded. I got a pretty good 1st ball going on. I racked up a nice bonus, then hit the bonus collect. I had over 100k after first ball, while the others got just one switch hit balls. Kazuma woke up on his 3rd ball and got up to 100k, but as I ended by 2nd ball at 150k, I didn't even have to play my last ball. Tatsunori again got really shit luck and was left with 16k.

Now, this is what really made me like Japan: even when the players got really raw deal at times, no one took their frustration out on the machines or kicked stuff over. Even when the day was nearing its end, it was nothing but pure gentleman play, with everyone having really good time. I really loved that in contrast to playing elsewhere.

Next up was the Hobbit again. I was so hoping I'd get to pop up the playfield and do a full flipper rebuild on this puppy! It just felt sad to have game this new play like this. Anyway, Tatsunori totally owned the round ending with 550k+ score. Me and Kazuma fought it out mostly at skillshot level, I got luckier. Pointwise I only needed Kazuma to be 2nd or worse to win the round and with him ending at 30k to my 32k, I won the round with 6 points, Tatsunori was 2nd with 5 points.

I assumed we were somewhere around quarter finals at this point, but what do you know, this was the semis. So, it'd appear my trip to Japan was rewarded with a place in the finals!

Round points: 4-2

Final

Games: Ghostbusters, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Kiss (Stern), The Rolling Stones (Bally)

The endgame was between yours truly, Yasumasa, Kyoichi and Tatsunori on 4 games.

We started off with Ghostbusters. Yasumasa put some good moves right from the start, where Kyoichi and I got to start with house balls. Nothing that spectacular happened with the second balls either, although Yasumasa got a nice lead and Tatsunori crossed 100M. Yasumasa ended his last ball at 129M and Kyoichi at 6.2M. I was bit behind him at around 4M so I needed to do some flailing not to be the last on this one. A lucky plunge let me take a stab at getting the jackpot from the left ramp and it sinked in. I then kept the ball rolling long enough to walk away with 7.9M. Meanwhile Tatsunori put on his game face and pounded a modest 954M on the game. I don't think I've ever actually seen this game being played that far, as I don't have access to it at home. So, one point.



Next the Creature. I had to go with the previous strategy of multiball. It worked okay, in all pretty decent game for this one, Kyoichi took the game with 176M, I was second with 55M, Tatsunori got 35M and Yasumasa 30M.

A quick calculation later getting to the podium was still a very doable feat, as we all were within 2-5 points range with 2 games still to be played.



I had played this Stern Kiss several games now and it played pretty nicely. Yet when I most needed the second place at minimum, Gene's wrath was on me (for listening to Metallica, no doubt about it!) and every single feedback from the ball lock hit the flipper tips enough for the ball to slow down just enough for the ball saver to expire before center drain. Talk about a lesson in futility. I gave up on that and went for the Starchild instead, but all I got was bit over 7M. Tatsunori pulled another monster game with 310M, Kyoichi 26M and Yasumasa 43M. 0 points and all of a sudden instead of going for the golden trophy, I was fighting not to be the last.

I had relatively high hopes for the last game, Bally's The Rolling Stones. The first ball was pretty weak for everyone and all of us in the final got to let out our own version of frustrated laughter. Then Kyoichi as player one started to draw a noticeable lead to others, while I got another house ball. Kyoichi's rage didn't end there, on his last ball he rolled the game over ending with bit over 1M points. Wow! Yasumasa ended with 190k and Tatsunori at 138k. I was at around 10k when my last ball started.

Drops and upper saucer all day, every day is probably the best approach here, I started the grind but a very unfortunate feedback from the drop targets gave me a center drain. I didn't even bother to look up when I was  playing, my only goal was Yasumasa's 190k. But no dice, 47k and no place on the podium today.

The outcome

I was 4th in the tournament. Official results.

Tatsunori got another Coke-bottle for his collection. Kyoichi on the left and Yasumasa on right.


Of Japan and Osaka

I've been reading up a lot about Japan in the past few years. I've also talked to a lot of people who've been there. Many of my American friends have told me about the huge culture shock, the locals basically running away when they went to greet them in open arms and so forth. I think the only real hurdle here was the language, but with Google Translate's point-and-translate I managed to decode anything from signs to items in stores. Speaking English was a bit hit'n'miss, almost always the message got through, but it was only the pinball folk with whom we had longer conversations.

There's this kind of tragicomic understanding between Finnish and Japanese people. First of all, both seem to favor being quiet to just saying something. Both nationalities are way too self-critical about their level of English, to the point of absurdity. And naturally, both nationalities open up nicely with some alcohol! The people I played with were all serious about pinball, but at the same time played for fun. This manifested as people cheering for others, even when they themselves were out of the game. I wish we had more of that in Finland.

I have no idea what's happening on the screen, but at least I've played some Pachinko...

Some people might remember that I have a Pachinko machine of my own at home. I wanted to try playing at an arcade and see what the more modern games looked like. That turned out to be a rather interesting experience. The minute I sat down, an attendant appeared and started explaining the game to me. I told him I'm familiar with the game itself, I was just checking what buttons this particular game had. He then went on to get me a game guide (in English, surprisingly!) and proceeded to point out the basics from there and kept hovering around, interrupting me every time I stopped for a second. Okay, then. By the way, I actually won about 3000 yen (~ 24€) but as I didn't bother to cash out the little balls, I just gambled them away.

Being from an arctic country, the +34c and high humidity was probably the worst part when we stepped off the nicely air conditioned A350 at Kansai International. Osaka itself was surprisingly clean place, taking account the fact that public trashcans were extremely rare. As this was a holiday trip, we also wandered around and checked out all kinds of tourist attractions, including the Osaka castle, animal themed cafeterias (I got to hold a real owl and play with kittens!), crazy big Japanese arcades and cruising the river Yodo. I need to come back some day and check out the place in Tokyo I heard about.

Until the next time!

Hello there, buddy!

Borås Pinball Classic Open 2017 - Borås - 10-12/03/2017


It's kind of funny how fast the Borås tournaments formed a habit for us. Inken, the proprietor has a vast collection of both; the very latest and classic games in excellent condition. We last visited the place last fall, but thanks to all the stress and being dead tired it turned out to be just a show of frustration and anger. Couple of Inken's pens might also gotten depressed and snapped themselves in half (a true story!) so as an act of penance I brought him a bagful of new ones and promised myself to take it a bit easier this time around.

As usual, the tournament had a classic and a modern side, classics being the main tournament and modern games the side. The classics was the usual score based qualification with 4 player games playoffs. The modern tournament again had a match play format qualification first time ever. The usual quickie tournament was also on.

We arrived very late on Friday night thanks to the strike at Helsinki-Vantaa airport. We almost missed the whole flight as it was cancelled. I just happened to be at the airport on Thursday when the cancelled flights were first announced and went to Finnair's service desk just for the laughs. They had couple of free spots on the evening flight to Göteborg and I was more than glad to switch to that flight. In the end the strike that caused over 100 flights to be cancelled only delayed us for around 4 hours.

I tried my luck with the quickie tournament, but couldn't do jack at that state of mind and decided to retire for the day.

Main classics tournament

The next day I started my grind with Bally's Eight Ball. Took some trying but I eventually found a sweet spot for plunging so the ball just reached the rightmost roll over lane, hit the upper right bumper, the 8-ball target and then came for an easy drop catch. After that it's just hitting the spinner. I also managed to collect all the pool balls for the 25k bonus, but unfortunately got it only on last ball. I got 191k, 75k and 193k. I thought I had done real bad, but after I logged onto the score keeping site I noticed I was 2nd best at that point.

Waiting for my chance to play Centaur I played Harlem Globetrotters. I originally didn't like it that much, but I'm slowly starting to warm up to it. Might even buy one some day. My go-to strategy of maximizing the bonus, then collecting the top saucer letters was bit hit'n'miss, I got 2 real bad games and one of 304k, which wasn't stellar but I had witnessed worse games on it that night.

Next I played Centaur. I wanted to do 4 locks, then play the full multiball but after finally having all 4 orbs collected and nailing the O-R-B-S droptargets in order with just S missing, I managed to miss the target and drain. Fuck-a-doodle-doo. I was aiming for 2-3M, but my best was 1.3M. Meh.

After the Centaur only Black Jack was left. I kinda like it. It has the same kind of a simple game charm as Eight Ball. Not much else to do, than hit the targets until player's hand was better than the dealer's, then collect the goodies from the right saucer. My best was 364k, which is far from my personal record or even expected score, but I'll take it over 5 digit scores I saw some players getting when the didn't know the game's rules.



Side tournament, modern games

The modern games side tournament was played as match play first time(?) this year. There were multiple groups and everyone within the group played against each other once. With 13 players in the group, every point counts. I started out with a horrible luck. Some of the highlights include a game in Fish Tales; I had the video mode lit since first ball, never managed to make the shot to start it. All shots that went up the left orbit were too weak to actually land into the hole on the top. Eventually my opponent drained at 16M when I was at 18M. He got angry and pushed the machine real hard, getting two warnings. I expected him to tilt but no, the machine counted the bonus and it was 2.5M. Sigh.

I played several games where my opponent was just flailing around and I just couldn't get any of the game objectives going. Probably the most frustrating way to lose. Towards the end I had pretty much lost my will to fight and finished rest of the games concentrating on making the ciders in the fridge disappear. I managed to squeeze in couple of memorable ones as well. One of my opponents picked Corvette. I put 600M on it on the first ball, got up to 1.6B on the second ball. I didn't have to play the 3rd ball, but I've rarely annihilated anyone quite that bad on Corvette. Among the victorious games were also the Monster Bash, No Good Gofers and Scared Stiff. I didn't dare to pick any games I own, I have too much baggage on them.

In the end I won 6 of the games and didn't even bother to check the score board.

Playing the side tournament against my dad.

Couple hours later one of my opponents came to shake my hand and said "you won the qualification, good job". I was like "dude, what?". And yes, 4 players had had 6 wins, but I had won all those 3 others in a head-to-head game, so I went to the playoffs from my group. What the hell?!

I think I'd prefer the Finnish league chart over this one

During the day I also finished the Quickie tournament which was goal based on 6 machines. Not much good came out of that.

Side tournament, playoffs

The side tournament qualification ended somewhere around 18:00. The playoffs started after 23:00. That was a rather long time to keep up the adrenaline. While waiting, I also took a closer look at Inken's dead Ghostbusters. The poor game had burned its 3rd node board in the 3 or so months it has been in use. Doesn't exactly convince me of Stern's Spike platform. I also really wanted to take some time and grind away the GB to finally build a good approach to it, but "No" says the man in Chicago.

Eventually I went against two Swedish players and one Dane, M_P, HBK and EGO. We were to play in 4 player groups, 1 player would continue to the final. The round scoring was 7-5-3-1.

I got to pick the first game and went with Tron. I recall I've done some board repair work on this specific game and it apparently paid me back with really good game. I played all the multiballs and was damn near of Sea of Simulation. In the end I got 69M, the closest other player had 21M and the rest were below 10M. So, 7 points for this one.

Feeling very confident with the good start, I got to start our next game, Congo. What a shit show that turned out to be! We had one player do over 2.2B on it, I was the last with 158M. I got like the shittiest bounces in the history of pinball, and always right after the ball saver had expired. 1 point.

Next up was Wrestlemania. Again I had a very clear strategy. Having grinded away Wrestlemania at Pinball Universe last month I knew to go for the Tag team right from the start and began to build it. But nothing went like I wanted it to do. The Tag team wasn't happening, so as a last ditch effort I started the referee multiball. That turned out to be a real flail-fest with zero good shots. Eventually I managed to put both balls up the opposite ramps. Except neither of the shots went up, the balls came screaming down, hit each other and JUMPED OVER THE FLIPPERS. My Danish opponent just looked at the whole thing in disbelief. I ended the game with 7.8M, which was the worst. The others were 60M-58M-25M, which is peanuts to what I managed to grind back in Germany. Sigh, 1 point.

The last game for us was Avatar. I think I had a theoretical chance to win, but only if we'd finish in a very specific order. I got the Ampsuit multiball running with very little effort, but managed to do a triple drain in some inexplicable stroke of bad luck. I got the Ampsuit running again on my second ball and I had locked the Link captive ball. Unfortunately one of the other players stole the ball and I had trouble putting another one up there during the multiball. I would have so needed the stacked multiballs there but no, you can't haz. In the end I was 3rd with 11M score and got 3 points.



No matter from what angle you look at it, this was pretty disastrous ending to an insane luck in the qualification and strong start in the playoff.


The outcome

I didn't qualify in the main tournament.

I qualified in the side tournament and got eliminated on the first round of playoffs.

I didn't qualify in the quickie tournament.


Watching planes land and take off at the Landvetter airport

IFPA Euro Circuit finals - Bünde, Germany - Pinball Universe - 11-12/02/2017



Time for this year's first tournament abroad. I was actually a bit surprised I was among the first ones to be offered position in the Euro Circuit final, in the end I was 29th out of 32 qualifying players, but with many players skipping the finals many players from 50th position and below got in.

The venue was bit of a wildcard. It was in a showroom of a largeish importer, but that was pretty much all we knew forehand. On Friday, after half a day of travelling and settling into our hotel, we learned of a shuttle service to the venue. We gladly took it and soon found ourselves in a huge warehouse in the middle of German countryside.

The entrance and Pinball Universe's Stern show room

Nothing however prepared us for what was inside! As I walked in, I noticed a roomful of latest Stern games, the brand new Aerosmith being among them! Also in the same room I found Stern's Batman 66, the first game to have their upgraded Spike 2.0 platform. For the rest of Friday night you couldn't separate us from the Spike 2.0 games with a crowbar.

After me and Marco had grinded the Batman for a while, we were joined
by a third player who showed us how it's done!

Both games made a good use of their large colorful TFT displays. Batman's software still had some rough edges and seemed to miss a lot of graphics as some of the modes seemed to have just placeholder graphics in place. Aerosmith was a bit more finished in that department, although I'm sure they're still in the process of adding stuff to it as well.



So, how do they play? Aerosmith is pretty much an upgraded Kiss in the terms of game play. Pick a song and try to finish the objectives before the time runs out. If you fail the mode, you can restart it and continue from the point where you left off. The game has cartoonish graphics, many with more or less humorous animations.

Aerosmith's 6 main modes. As you might guess, the titular song is being played during the mode.

The main multiball works like in Mustang - you can start the multiball after locking 3 balls, but you can abort the multiball start to lock additional 3 balls. The jackpot values grow as you lock more balls, making this rather interesting strategic point to the game. Oh, and the physical ball lock thing is great! An upkicker throws the ball into the open toy box. It was a bit unclear to me how the game behaves if majority of the balls are already in the toy box if other player with just 3 locks starts the multiball.

Marco getting his first fix of Aerosmith!

Batman 66 again reminds a lot of the Dark Knight. By default pretty much nothing is going on. You can select the mode by completing certain shots, then hitting the batphone to start the it. If the batphone isn't hit in time the mode is lost and you have to start from scratch. One really odd thing was that the main multiball isn't available if you don't have a mode running. The multiball seems to share the running mode's shots. The modes are finished after a certain number of shots are collected, litting a super jackpot in the Penguin scoop. The game featured several other Batman villains besides Joker, Cat woman, Penguin and Riddler, but attempting to play against the other villains just gave one of the main villains instead. I'll assume they'll add the remaining villains later on, as many of them are shown during the attraction mode as well.

I wish I had had time to dive into the service menus to snoop what else is new, but the games attracted a lot of attention and were rarely seen without a line forming behind the current player. Still, I'm welcoming the latest Stern platform with open arms and can't wait what else they have in store for us in the future.



I also got to play Rob Zombie, which is Spooky pinball's latest. I wasn't totally convinced with their first release (America's most haunted) and this was a bit more of the same. The game had all kinds of stuff going on, but to be honest felt like one of those games we made with "build a pinball machine" game kits back when we were kids. Except it said "fuck" a whole lotta more. I talked with the house mechanic for a long while and he had some really curious insights on the Spooky Pinball's games. Majority of the playfield moving mechanisms are driven with a stepper motors, but the game does not monitor them at all. Every time there's a stuck ball, the motor just burns. This is why they can't run the Spooky pinball's games without supervision. The manufacturer responded to a critique about the motors burning by putting a handful of stepper motors in the game's goodie bag. Right.



Speaking of rare games, I also got to play the Spiderman Home Edition. It's virtually a simplified version of a real pinball machine, with no coin mechs or too many moving parts on the playfield. The local mechanic told me it's also Spike based and pretty much everything in it used components from the real pinball machines.



Surprisingly it wasn't that bad a game. The flipper buttons felt a bit odd as they were closer to the lockdown bar than in a real pin, but other than that it played rather well and even had couple of modes. It had a large, low resolution RGB LED display with a lot of colorful animations running during the game. Still, I wouldn't pay $4995 for this when there's a whole lot of Stern's Spider-Mans out there for a lot less than that.

Other curiosities included The Pabst Cancrusher, which was just a re-themed Whoa! Nellie, America's Most Haunted (which I had already played in 2015 in Pittsburgh) and several Limited edition versions of Stern's latest games that I had never seen, including Wrestlemania's LE. It was just as horrible as the pro version I had played in Finland.

ECS finals

We returned to Pinball Universe on Saturday morning. The final was a 32 player double elimination bracket. The loser (or highest ranking player for the 1st game) could decide the game or position. On the winner's side the matches were best 4 out of 7 and best 3 out of 5 on the loser's side. The tournament area was a separate room from the new and reconditioned games areas and consisted mostly of modern Stern and Williams games. My first opponent was Swiss Levente Tregova.

The Battle-Zone waiting for players. See how straight the lines are!


Round 1

Being higher seeded, I got to pick the game and went with Dark Knight. I wanted to take the usual Joker+Scarecrow multiball combo, but couldn't find the Joker shot to save my life. Levente had pretty much similar experience and we both struggled until the second ball, where he finally managed to get both MBs going and got a 80M lead on me. I used my last ball to start Scarecrow and hope I can get enough lucky shots towards Joker to start it as well. Didn't happen, the game ended 16M to 93M to Levente.

Levente showing me how it's done on Batman.

Levente picked AC/DC Lucy and I picked 2nd player spot. Halfway my ball Levente interrupts me and says he's so sorry for screwing up. Took me a second to realize we had done this the wrong way. I was supposed to pick the game. Oh well, I had no complaints about AC/DC so we kept the game but switched pl. 1 and 2 around. I had couple of bad balls, but got at least something going on my 3rd. It wasn't enough and Levente won with his 55M to my 26M.

I decided to take a strategic turns towards less known Sterns and took the CSI. It would have been the right call, save my unbelievable bad luck! I got the Skull multiball running on my last ball, but managed to drain all the balls just after the ball save ended. Levente didn't appear to have a strategy for this game, but managed to flail around for 5.1M and beat my 2.9M. Oh dear.

I kept the same line and picked Roller Coaster Tycoon. Now, this piece of .. uh .. fine game is one the strongest Sterns for me among the other early games from the company. Little did that help when I couldn't do anything with it today, leaving me with my 4th loss and marking the end of my (short) time on the winner's side.

Round 1, losers' side

Getting eliminated right off the bat left me in a limbo for over 4 hours. I can't think of anything quite as damaging for my gaming state of mind than trying to be on stand-by for hours and hours. On the other hand, I got to grind the Aerosmith in peace as everyone else was still in the tournament area. I wasn't sure about the Aerosmith after our first try (I thought it was more of a re-themed Kiss), but playing it for hours convinced me it's an unique, solid game in making.

Finally Cayle George came looking for me and I was back in the game.
Cayle picked Dark Knight. I managed to combo Joker and Scarecrow and got up to 25M on my first ball, while Cayle got couple of unlucky balls in a row. He finally got the multiballs running on his last ball, but didn't catch me, so I didn't need to play my 3rd ball. 9M to 29M to me.

Cayle picked Tron as our next game. I had nothing on him on it and barely got the Lightcycle multiball going. Cayle won 86M to 12M.

It was time to have my revenge with an unexpected game pick, so I went with Roller Coaster Tycoon. We had less than stellar match on it, but I won 6M to Cayle's 5M, which let him to pick the next game.

He picked Creature from the Black Lagoon. Uh-oh. It was a total shitfest for me, with Cayle scoring 2 super jackpots on his first multiball. I eventually got the multiball running, but double drained right after finding the creature. 712M to 57M.

I picked the Sopranos next. I got a centre drain right off the bat from the boat ramp drop target. Cayle again nailed the multiball beautifully and even when I managed to crack the safe and collect several jackpots, my opponent didn't have to play his 3rd ball and won me 24M to 12M. This also meant I was out from the losers' side as well. I was happy I wasn't a total pushover for Cayle, but the whole tournament was a bit underwhelming.

Thanks to a very long wait between the games, I no longer had the time to take part in the high score game that was running parallel with the main tournament.


ECS Sunday tournament

The Sunday tournament was a head-to-head tournament in Swiss format. It was played for 16 rounds and for each round the computer matched the players with similar standing.

With a fresh start after yesterday's poor performance, I was hoping to do better but was way too tired for anything serious. Also, my feet were killing me.

I started off with a 3 loss streak, varying from my opponent totally handing me my ass to a crap luck loss with a minor difference in score. My first come-back was in Stern's Indiana Jones, when I finished the Last Crusade mode and played a pretty good multiball.

The Battle-Zone, now full of players

Some other good games included a round of very bouncy and fast Jackbot, where I scored up to 1.9B with multiballs, but blew 600M in Casino Run when I got 2 bombs in a row. My opponent had really crappy luck since ball one, but played a successful Casino Run and eventually went 75M past me with bonus on his last ball. Still, I was alright with that game.

I also played a game of Tron where neither of us got anything done and as a player 2 I was about to lose 6M to 2M, when I got the Light cycle multiball on my last ball and then flailed around for some random points just to get ahead of my opponent. Wasn't exactly my finest hour, but one of the very few wins that day.

Many games like the Iron Man were next to impossible with me being barely awake. In the end I won 6 games out of 16, which left me pretty much mentally crushed.


The outcome

I got eliminated on the first round of the main Euro circuit game.

I didn't have time to play the high score tournament on Saturday.

I won 6 out of 16 games in the Sunday tournament.


Of Bünde and the Pinball Universe Battle-Zone

Pinball Universe is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) pinball importers in Europe. They also manufacture all kinds of playfield protectors and other plastic modding parts. In addition to selling the latest Stern games, they also recondition older games.

Being at country side, many players had their doubts about the place. This was the first ever time the company had hosted a major tournament and according to the folks running the place, they had been thinking about the tournament for some time now. Before this they had never had a permanent tournament setup, but had now dedicated one part of their warehouse building for just that. They called the area Pinball Universe Battle-Zone.

The Finnish stereotype of German people is that they're very prompt and efficient. I think this stereotype was a spot on as every line of games was ridiculously straight and evenly placed. The games were well maintained and had very few issues during the tournament. Should any issues raise, they were taken care of immediately. The tournament fee of 120€ included drinks and meals. The fridges were methodically refilled and the food service was excellent. I'd say the Battle-Zone was put on the map after this tournament.

Only couple of things could use some attention the next time. The most obvious was the playoff for the main tournament, which lasted throughout the night. I recall I heard Cayle winning the tournament around 8 in the morning! I don't think my feet could have taken that long gaming session. The other thing might not be as obvious to the locals: the game language. I know most of the modern games by heart, so having the games in German didn't bother me too much. But the very latest ones were rather confusing as I had no idea what the on-screen prompts were asking me. I'd kind of understand using German if it was a local tournament for local people, but this was the Euro Circuit's final, which obviously had more foreign people around than locals. While it was nothing I couldn't overcome, this might be something to consider the next time.

In all, Pinball Universe's location is highly recommended for anyone who wants to play games that are in immaculate condition and see the very latest games.

Bünde again was a rather quiet small countryside town, with the basic facilities and not that much else. After we were done with the tournament me and Marco hit Düsseldorf to check out the German way of life.