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.

Reflections from the past two years

I replace my gaming shirt every 2 years and in the new year 2014-2015, it was time for my black gaming shirt to be put on display in our hall of [sh/f]ame at our arcade. That shirt had seen a lot, including my double Sörkka Pinball Open victories, Finnish league trophy positions and many more memorable moments.

Now it's time to retire this olive green one (with its signature yellow/black stripes!) and reminisce some of the highlights I experienced while wearing it through 2015 and 2016.

Let's start with a career highlight. After almost passing the qualification of IFPA11 world championship at Denver, I finally made it in IFPA12 at Borås. Man it felt good to be able to hold my ground against the Big Guys! 

In addition to the best game in my career, I also got to check out some classic Swedish fighter planes!
Then came the EPC 2015 in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium. I had feared what happened at IFPA was just a fluke, but qualifying and then actually going for 4 rounds in the play-offs resulted in another career best, being 21th in an European championship game. Belgium's EPC was probably also the best pinball tournament I've ever been to when it comes to the venue and organizing. 

Me and my dad, starting the tradition of long distance tournament travels together.

Not to forget the smaller tournaments, I actually got very few trophies this time around. One of the most memorable ones was winning Orivesi Pinball Open 2015 after phenomenally good playing through the day. I actually managed to play multiball in Wrestlemania for so long my hand started to cramp and I had to take a break before getting back to it.

Victory, by hard work. Also, the very last time I used those damned in-ear earphones.
2016 also helped me to cross of some of the European countries off my to-do -list. One of them was Poland where we played the EPC16. In addition to very nice venue in the middle of a huge shopping center, I pulled the best tournament in my career, being 7th in the main tournament. 

When in Poland...
Oh, and naturally the year wasn't complete without visiting the future US president's lair in New York...

On that trip I also attended to some minor tournaments, like PAPA and IFPA13.

It's almost comical how much I have travelled because of pinball in the late years. Then again, I'm just getting started, I still need to see so many places and countries, including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, many destinations in the US too. We shall see where I'll go this year.

Hungarian Pinball Open, Budapest, Hungary - 18-20/11/2016

With the past 2 tournaments ending pretty much into swearing (sorry folks, I was so bummed about the last Borås Open that I didn't even want to write about it), I wasn't really sure of what to expect of Hungary. To be honest, I don't even know why I originally signed up, the tournament's home pages looked a bit funky and there was very little information about the tournament's format or even where exactly it was being held. In addition to that, most of the information was made available on the Facebook only and the organisers somehow managed to get my dad on their announcement list.

I had hoped for a slot in Saturday's qualifications, but ended up in Friday's group. From what I pieced together, the qualification would be on sometime afternoon. I knew it would be a long day, but sounded like a doable feat, although the exact format was still a mystery. I had heard of score based qualification and then someone mentioned match play. Whatever it was, I just hoped to do a short qualification stint on Friday, sleep well and then rage on into the qualifications on Saturday.

I left Kouvola for a two hour drive towards Helsinki before 6 in the morning. I was met with other Finns heading for the same event, so I tagged along and we went to find our hotels and some lunch together in Budapest. Finding the actual tournament venue took a while as the signage was pretty much non-existing and I had probably missed most of the Facebook only updates on the venue changes. After some asking around, we finally made it.

The place itself was some sort of a concert hall, turned into a temporary arcade. Majority of the building was for the ongoing Arcadia game expo, which is what we first stumbled into.

The Arcadia expo area
We had been told that there would be a possibility of visiting the Budapest's pinball museum as well, but I found no further information on that anywhere. The museum however had something to do with this tournament as many of the games had the museum's fact sheets as backbox toppers.

Qualification, classics

We wandered around for some time, until we found a pretty discreetly marked "players only" door. Finally we also found someone, who had some time frame for the whole thing. The bad news was that the main qualification set to start at 19:00. The classics would again start at 16:00, so we'd have good time to warm up (or get super frustrated with) the classics tournament.

The classics area

The classics was a "pick 5 out of 20" type of a thing with score based qualification, 3 entries per game. All the entries had to be played at the same time (so it was a 3 player solo game), with all scores being meaningful.

I started with Captain Fantastic, which played real nice, but I got very little done on it, ending up with 37k, 32k and 13k.

Next I picked Space Time. I had high hopes for it, but even when I found the exact timing for the funnel, I completely failed to collect its value, for a highly disappointing 8k, 29k and 4k.

I scouted out for some possible rarer games and found Sexy Girl, which was Bally's Playboy re-themed and it had a window in the mid-playfield for a slide projector. Software-wise it played exactly the same as Playboy, which in theory should have materialised into some points. The center target was really dangerous and I had trouble making the grotto-shots stick. The ending scores were 95k, 34k and 13k.

I had never seen Stern's Iron maiden before (and sadly it had nothing to do with the band!), but it looked just so plain awesome I had to give it a try. It had pretty sweet layout and it was fun to play, save for the right flipper which had the tendency to stick at times. I set up all my 3 games for multiball, but failed to start it on any of them. Bummer! Still, totally sick graphics and awesome layout! 147k, 81k and 64k.

The maiden went straight to my #1 favorite classic Stern.

Seeing this was going nowhere, I gambled my last entry away with Gorgar. I tried setting it up for some glorious spinner action and actually managed to pull it off on one game. The other two were pretty bad at 89k and 86k, but the 660k ball was a welcome change to the pace.

With just one good ball in all 5 games, I knew I wouldn't have to worry about playing in the play-offs. At the same time I started getting even more worried about the actual main tournament in this playing condition.

Qualification, main tournament

We tried getting into the main tournament area when the time drew near, but were pretty unceremoniously told to get the hell out of there. After lots of waiting we were finally let in and it seemed like things were about to get real. Turns out there's some kind of unspecified problem and after half an hour of confusion it was announced that the tournament would restart at 20:00. Having been 14 hours up at that point I knew I was screwed.

The qualification format was two stages of match play, with 9 players from each group getting to the second match play session. The round scoring was 7-5-3-1.

I started out with White Water. I had severe issues with the upper right flipper and totally screwed up the multiball that could have gotten me my first 7 point round. Instead I had to settle for 42M and 3 points.

Round 2 was played on Transformers. I got very little done on it, but was in the lead until the very last ball. The game had constant issues with the ball lock and often gave out two balls. We were also one player short, which led to even further delays. 5 points.

Next round was on Hurricane. I somehow managed to totally mess up balls 1 and 2, being over 4M behind the others. I found the Hurricane ramp on my third ball and grinded 4.5M out of that for 3 points.

4th round was played on Stern's Star Trek. Player one, a local talent, dominated the game from the start and finished Vengeance on his last ball. I had two really crappy balls, until on the last ball I recovered and also finished Vengeance. Player 1 ended with 35.1 and I was at 33M when I drained. After the bonus count I lost the 1st place by just 60k! Damn! Still, 5 points.

At round 5 I already felt I was reaching my limits. I had to down couple of Red bulls earlier even when I had vowed to give up the energy drinks. Now even their effect was wearing out. Transformers was picked for the second time as Scared Stiff was out of order. We played a rather even round, with me leading the whole time. However I kicked it to a higher gear on my last ball, playing the second Megatron multiball and the Optimus prime right after that, pulling over 20M lead to the others for an easy 7 points. I also got to enter my initials for a 33M score and combo champion.

We got White Water again for the 6th round. Now I knew of the bad flipper and utilised the appropriate violence needed to make the shot. I aced the multiball after painfully short Whirlpool challenge, ending my 3rd ball with 150M when the others were at 40-60M. The 3rd player however pulled a one ball wonder for 330M and I had to settle for 5 points here.

We got the Hurricane again for the 7th round. I had wished we would have played all the games in our bank, but somehow we ended up repeating just the couple machines over and over again. The game was a total failure and I got 3 points only because we were a player short.

Speaking of a repeating pattern, round 8 was Transformers again. I was really dead tired and had trouble even trying to keep my eyes on the ball. I played Megatron multiball on my first ball for around 7M and had Optimus ready, but I spent the remaining balls trying the bash the poor Optimus prime without any success. Last player's bad luck was my only saving grace here for 3 points.

I was so glad round 8 was finally done and we'd get the hell outta there. But no, there was still one round to go! There are very few moments in my life where I'd say "no more" to a round of pinball, but this was finally it.

Round 9 was played on Stern's Star Trek. I got a really crappy first ball and ended up slap saving so hard the machine tilted. It went to next player's turn, gave a danger and then the software crashed. Lots of arguing ensued on how to proceed from here. It was judged as game restart with me playing one ball less than the others, with my score of 700k recorded. My second ball was almost as bad, and at that point the best score was 63M, with the others at 7M and 3M. I pulled a magic trick out of my ass and played a successful Vengeance and almost got the Klingon multiball running as well, ending with 22M for 5 points.

It took a while to see the results, but the cutoff line was at 43 points where I was at 39. To be honest, I was surprised to even be 12th in my group with such poor playing.

Qualification, pingolf

Is there such thing as "too much pinball"? For the first time in my life I sure felt that way after Friday's tournament and spent the Saturday just wandering around in Budapest. I wasn't even sure if I'd even bother to show up, but as I appeared to have paid the pingolf too, I joined Joonas there after Antti pestered us long enough if we were coming or not.

Normally pingolf is limited to a 2-3 pins, but here we had the whole golf course with 18 games! A total of 20 machines were made available, with 18 to pick from. Usually the games are set for 5+ balls and failing to reach the objectives with that amount of balls gives you an extra point in addition to the ball count. Here everything was set on 3 balls and the objectives were tiered so for example if the target score was 100k, you'd get 1-3 for reaching that with 1-3 balls. But if you didn't reach it, they'd give you 4 points for 80k at the end of game, 5 points for 70k and so forth.

Pingolf in progress. It was played in both, main and classics rooms.

I was in a bit hurry to do the whole 18 hole course as I only had 6 hours till my flight was to leave, but I managed to speed run it despite all the delays with the machines breaking, stuck balls and just plain old score keeping confusion. Much to my surprise I didn't totally suck. I finished majority of the games within 2-3 balls and only twice got 7 point penalty for not reaching the target score. I also got couple of hole-in-ones in there to balance it out. It was a shame that many of the games suffered from problems that would have been counted as a major malfunction.

I had to hit the road pretty much immediately after finishing my round of 18 games and I didn't get to see what my final score was. Apparently this tournament had no play-offs and I don't know what my final score was. Not sure if the scorekeepers knew either. I was 13th at the moment I left.

The outcome

I failed to qualify in the main tournament and classics.

The final standings:
  • 113th out of 236 players in the main tournament
  • 145th out of 204 players in the classics
  • 27th out of 151 players in the pingolf tournament

Of Hungary and the tournament

Finland and Hungary seem to have this odd thing about each other. Sure, our languages are in the same family, but unlike Estonian, I couldn't understand one word of Hungarian and I assume it was the same thing the other way around. Still, when I was zoned out, I had several instances of the "there's someone speaking Finnish nearby" feeling I get when I travel. For most of the time it turns out to be true. But the thing is, that Hungarian's intonation and some words do indeed sound like Finnish and I was relieved to hear I wasn't the only one who noticed this.

Other funny thing was everyone mistaking us for some other nationality. I don't know which nationality, but it tended to make people pretty cold towards us at first. For example, majority of the restaurants in the city center had doormen, who pretty aggressively tried to contact people and get them in. When I was walking in a near empty street segment, they all seemed to just plain ignore me. Then I went to check out the menu on one restaurant, which forced the doorman to contact me. The very first question was "were are you from?". When I told him I was a Finn, it was like a switch was flicked from "fuck you" to "you're my best buddy". "Oh FINLAND? Welcome, Welcome!" This very same effect was also seen during the tournament, but in a lesser form.

Budapest itself was really beautiful and I really enjoyed just wandering the whole Saturday and checking out places and stuff. The food was good too. I especially liked what was called "Hungarian flat bread", which reminded me of filled pita breads. They were made to order and you could pick what fillings you wanted in yours. Good stuff.

The tournament shared many themes with Poland. The #1 concern was the issues with the games. Majority of them were really apparent from the second I laid my hands on the game and flipped couple of times. I'll applaud the locals for fixing anything totally broken on site, but weak flippers were my nemesis during the whole tournament.

The other thing I'd like to point out is the signage. This tournament was advertised as "international" tournament. Yet we were really struggling to find anything in English. To be honest, majority of the information wasn't even available in Hungarian and we had to resort asking random organisers of when would this and that tournament begin, where would it be and should we check in somewhere etc. This was made even harder by the fact that many of the organisers didn't speak English at all, save "yes" and "no" and pointing at the other organisers.

There were several rules that weren't made clear to you before you broke them. For example, in the classics I had a bottle of juice in with a screw-on cap. I carried that with me when playing and put it under the game I was playing. Then all the sudden I get a lady yelling at me in Hungarian. I didn't understand what was the problem and that made her even angrier. In the end I realised they didn't allow any beverages in the tournament area. Fine, I left my bottle in the chillout area. Then in the next room people were walking with open beer bottles and that was perfectly okay, which brings us to the next point: standardised rules.

There appeared to be several "hard" and absolute rules, but those changed depending on the officials enforcing them. During the pingolf I asked a score keeper each time can I start. After 2nd time I got pretty annoyed reply in the lines of "JUST PLAY, OKAY?". Fine, I played the whole bank without asking to start. I moved onto the next bank, started a game and what do you know, the score keeper comes, grabs my arm and gets angry with me for starting the game on my own. Uh, okay?

The score keeping was really puzzling for me. For years now I've seen the score keepers using smartphones and tablets. Here people wrote the scores on pieces of copier paper and then handed us a copy of what was written down. Every now and then the pieces of paper were delivered to two score keepers typing them into an excel sheet, which again seemed to suffer from several problems (one which delayed the main game over an hour before we could even get started). At times they couldn't read what was written on the pieces of paper and asked to see our copy. I had like a 1cm thick stack of them in the end. And just as I suspected, later on I heard reports of numerous cases of missing scores. They also completely lost my pingolf results, which fortunately was sorted out swiftly once I reported it to IFPA.

We had several IFPA country directors present. I bet each of them would have had some kind of online score keeping system at hand.

And to prevent this from being just a rant, I must say I liked Hungary in general very much, especially the food! It was really easy getting around in the city as well and the airport was just a commuter train ride away from our hotel. The Arcadia expo was a welcome addition and I got to play some games that were totally new to me. Oh, and I finally got to play Heighway's Alien.

It ruled so hard even when it was still a prototype! I also loved the old computer expo and I see I wasn't the only old computer hobbyist around as my tablet's case with Commodore logo on it attracted a lot of attention. The venue itself was within a walking distance from out hotel and was spacious, plus it had toilets and other facilities in order. Bonus points for having a flat bread vendor in the courtyard!

I also met a guy from Israel. He might just be the country's only WPPR ranked player and he was excited beyond description about the whole tournament and pinball exhibition. We played Heighway's Full Throttle together for couple of hours and I demoed him some basic pinball wizardry. 

Playing with Israel's promise to the
pinball scene!

I'll be travelling a lot before this year is finished, but at this point I'm not quite sure of the next tournament I'll be attending to. So, until the next time.

Pelihelvetti Pinball Masters 2016 - Orivesi, Finland - Pelihelvetti arcade - 17/09/2016

Pelihelvetti Pinball Masters has been an annual tournament modelled after our own Kouvostoliitto Kickback Open tournament ever since 2015. With our calendars pretty much full we really didn't have time to participate the qualifications, but players attending to Oriveden Flipperikisa 2016 tournament were given the option to also try qualifying, so I took it back then and what do you know, I was 9th out of 16 qualifying players and since one player declined their place, so in the end I got one bye and would start the play-offs from the 2nd round.

Having played the EPC'16 tournament in Poland the previous weekend, I really could have used some downtime, especially after arriving home late on Monday-Tuesday night and going to work the next morning. I had a really bad feeling during the 3+ hour drive towards Orivesi.

The play-offs were best 3 out of 5, with 2 byes for top-4 and one bye for positions 5-8.

Play-offs, round 2

On my first round I went against the arcade proprietor's son, Topi. Looking at his scores in the qualifying machines I see he had done pretty well. He had started from the round 1 and fought his way up from there.

We started off with Grand Prix. After the first 10 seconds I knew I was SO fucked. I couldn't get anything done even when I had some idea of the game and its rules. No matter, I lost when Topi just flailed away when I tried to start modes and play them.

Next was Pirates Of The Caribbean. Starting off with a shitty game unfortunately tends to lead to a feedback loop with me, the next game going even worse. I couldn't get anything done in the Pirates either and we were neck to neck with around 2M right until the last ball, when I finally managed to kill my first ship, got the multiball running and grinded a bit over 10M out of that, ending up with 15M to Topi's 4M.

It's pretty rare for me to come across games I haven't played before, save the new games these days. Icarus was one of them. I had no idea what to do here and Pintips gave me nothing. Looking at the playfield I noticed the bonus was in 10k's and the 5 drop target bank on the left scored 5k + one bonus. I concentrated on those and by the 4th ball I was in 400k lead. Topi decided to lean onto the machine on his turn, pressing himself against the start button and reset the game. Slamtilting, resetting or other means to interrupt the game voids the game, so I won by default.

Up next was Metallica. I had extra shitty game here and me and Topi were tied at around 1M until my last ball, when I finally got the Sparky multiball running and pounded 17M out of that. This was the 3rd victory so the round went to me. Man, that was some joyless playing there.

Play-offs, round 3

On this round I went against the proprietor himself, Toni and we started off with Icarus. I actually registered on Pintips just to tip off people about the drop targets. They did their job quite well and I got a pretty clean victory over Toni with 749k against his 260k. The Icarus played pretty slow and it was probably the only game I felt comfortable playing so far.

Our next game was Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn't bother to do anything else but go for the ships. The game's flippers were in really odd angle and it made most of the center playfield shots really hard. I got one ship down and got enough points out of that so I didn't have to play my 3rd ball. With me having 10M and the game's owner 4.5M, we both agreed this was a really bad game for both of us.

Then off we went to Jackbot. Oh man was that even worse than the POTC! I tilted all my 3 balls and was left with 443M to Toni's 1.7B. Not much else to say here but fuck-a-doodle-doo.

Our first possibly deciding game was No Fear. The trend of getting nothing done continued and I was getting really super frustrated. I wasn't the only one doing real bad and after missing the super jackpot twice in a row, I ended my 3rd ball as the player 1 at 625M while Toni was at around 300M. I couldn't watch him play and paced back and forth, until I heard NF's bonus count sounds. Toni's last ball wasn't that long, but it was long enough to make that missing 300M. In the end he had 525M, so I won this round.

To be honest, I was rather bummed about the whole thing. I knew now I wouldn't going to see any good games from here on, only frustration and lucky wins. If this was a video game, this would have been the point where I just exited without saving.

Play-offs, round 4

On the 4th round I was pitted against another young promise, Markus. We started out with No Fear, that went a bit better than last time. I played the main multiball twice and scored the super jackpot on each round, winning this 2.1B to 308M.

Next was Wrestlemania. I still remember scoring 80M on this game back when it was new. Now I could make a single shot and ended with 4M to Markus' 9M. I seriously felt that my heart wasn't in this any more.

Then we played Stern's Kiss. Love gun multiball was easy to lit and worked pretty well. I still wouldn't mind getting some alone time with this game to check it out better, but 52M had to do for now. Markus had rough luck and the machine started to suffer the flipper coil overheating problem on my last ball, and Markus got his share of it too. After some discussion this was ruled as the platform's "feature" and I got to keep my score, winning this one after Markus ended with 6M.

Our 4th game was Scared Stiff. Markus played a really strong first ball, which after me missing both; extended coffin AND extended crate left me chasing him throughout my game. I was just couple of millions away, playing Stiff-o-Meter when I drained, only to see I ended up with 7.8M and Marcus was at 9.3M. Sigh.

Being tied now, the deciding game was Grand Prix. It sucked ass and gave me more SDTM drains from the start mode hole. I should have just closed my eyes and flailed around. I lost, which meant I was now playing the losers' side.

Play-offs, losers' side, round 5

While I still had a theoretical chance to be in the finals as this was a double bracket play-off, I had pretty much lost my will to fight at this point. I played Metallica and No Fear against Juha, who won both games fair and square.

I really can't think of many tournaments that have left me so empty and devastated. Sorry guys, but I couldn't even stay for the trophy ceremony and bailed out to have one extra depressing drive to home.

The outcome

I was 9th in the qualification, but because of one player declining their place, I got a bye.

I was 5th in the whole tournament, out of 85 players.

European Pinball Championship 2016 - Port Łódź, Łódź, Poland -8-11/09/2016

Funny thing about me and pinball; if my calculations are correct, I have now visited more countries to play pinball than just for a vacation. So I guess it was fitting for my first ever visit to Poland to be pinball related as well. Before this, I wasn't even aware that Poland had such a strong pinball scene as many of the near-by countries aren't even aware that pinball exists! This was also the very first time our whole team was travelling to an event outside Finland together. For a moment there I thought we all wouldn't make it as we had minor issues getting a cat sitter for our furballs, but fortunately my buddy Tomi stepped in and saved the day, so kudos to him!

What comes to travelling, the very first thing I noticed that the airplane we were flying had a rather odd seating layout. I'm more used to the 3+3 seating on Finnair's Airbusses and 2+2 on the Embraers, but this beast had 2+3 layout. Turned out we were flying the Sukhoi Superjet, a Russian made mini jet that the local tabloids had been going crazy over for the past month. For me it was a very interesting opportunity to see a completely new airplane model, especially one that's not usually seen in western countries. Speaking of Russia, after landing at Warsaw and checking out the city for a day, we found ourselves a train that reminded of us a lot of the old Soviet Union era trains.

From Russia Poland with love!

We arrived Łódź (which is pronounced something like "wuz") and promptly after checking into our hotel went to look for the tournament venue. Port Łódź is a gigantic shopping mall and we all agreed it was an excellent place for a pinball tournament. Everything you needed was right there and we had absolutely no need to wander off to downtown during the tournament weekend.

The main EPC tournament had a qualification that pretty much played out like the Finnish pinball league qualifications: each player in the group would play against other player, getting one point for winning. The pre-set amount of players with most wins would make it to the playoffs. In this case 4 best players would qualify. The playoffs again had the standard dual bracket system with players falling to the losers' side after first loss to an opponent, with the possibility of making a return to the finals. In addition to the main tournament, they had an 80s tournament with a 8 machine bank and couple of single game mini-tournament that had a Road Show with reversed flippers, High Speed II that was played with beer goggles on and Whoa Nellie as a set highscore game.

It was like a Finnish pinball league game - familiar faces everywhere!

Oh, and one remarkable detail was the amount of Finnish players in this tournament. We were easily the largest foreign group in this tournament!

80s tournament

I was hoping to play some warm-up games before getting serious, but majority of the free play machines were already starting to break. It was a shame, as I would have loved playing Big Guns, F14 and couple of others I haven't played in a long time. 

The 80s lineup was: Earthshaker, Cyclone, Funhouse, Fire!, Black Knight, Pinbot, Road Kings and Swords of Fury.

I sneaked in to get some reads, which led to crossing off Earthshaker and Cyclone right from the start. People complained about Funhouse, but it seemed okay, Fire! was being ... well, its annoying self, so I picked it as well. The original Pinbot is way too hit'n'miss game for me so I passed that and went for Road Kings and Swords of Fury instead. The latter I've last played at Nahkatehdas Arcade and couldn't recall what was the perfect approach to it.

I started with Fire!, going for the "start multiball and flail to win" strategy here. The flippers were however somewhat weak and while I got the multiball lit on my 2nd ball, I couldn't make the shot. Good thing I found the skillshot sweet spot and made some points with that. I barely got over 1M.

Giving some last minute tips to Petri on what to do with Fire! I hope he did better than I did.

Funhouse was a different beast all together. Despite other players cursing at it, it played well and I racked up some easy points with the quick multiball, ending up with 4.3M.

For the Road Kings I only wanted the multiball, but the ramp shot was too much for me with those weak flippers. 287k.

Getting my ass kicked at Road Kings. Very few Finns actually know this game.

Last I picked Swords of Fury, where my worse than mediocre playing just intensified and I ended the game with no multiball and no meaningful score either. 1.3M.

With the top 16 players going to the playoffs, I didn't have to worry about having to play any more of this tournament.

The side tournaments

I wanted to play Whoa Nellie, but there was a long line every time I had some spare time on my hands. Road Show had the reversed flippers tournament, crossing hands was forbitten. I tried but couldn't do much with it, ending with only 47M. I wanted to build my game around multiball, but couldn't get it started.

First time ever with the beer goggles!

High Speed II was played with the beer goggles on. I couldn't see jack from my normal playing stance. The only way I could play was putting my chin near the lockdown bar, which gave me pretty good visibility on the immediate flipper area. I made a lucky shot at the supercharger for 10M. Other than that, the game was more of a round of "shit, where did that come from?". My final score was 14M.

Main qualification

First thing to do arriving the scene the next day was to check out my group's line-up. We got Walking Dead pro, Terminator 2, World Cup Soccer, Scared Stiff, AC/DC pro, Metallica pro, Lethal Weapon 3, Lord of the Rings and the Twilight Zone as a spare game. At a glance everything seemed clean and all the lights worked, which was a good sign. This was a pretty good mix of Stern WhiteStar/SAM games and Williams WPCs, with the mandatory Data-East Ver 3 to break the pattern. I knew every one of these games and had at least somewhat working tournament strategy for each of them.

So now it was me against the others, with everyone wanting to grab those ever-important points!

The good...

I started off against Rafal Jodelko on Scared Stiff. I was nervous as hell, save my countryman Antti, all of these players were new to me and I hadn't had the time to look up if I was playing against Poland's top players or some random tourists. I went with my standard "play both multiballs, then do whatever's left for Stiff-O-Meter". I reached my goal on 2nd ball, but a nasty bounce cut my meter time short. The spider was super annoying in this one, the stepper motor didn't run smooth and I it took several attempts to get extended crate and coffin. I won with 12M to Rafal's 2.4M.

Rich Mallett was the highest IFPA ranking player in my group and we went off to slaughter some Zombies in the Walking Dead. Rich got over 10M on his first ball, where I failed to do anything and was left with less than 2M. While watching Rich play his 2nd ball I wondered if this would be the turning point where the ass whooping began. Rich evidently knew the game and I switched from careful game building into a panic Well Walker multiball approach on the fly. I started the Well Walker on my 2nd ball and pounded over 40M out of that, ending up with 47M. Rich ended with 47,600,430 on the display, against my 47,648,610, so I didn't need to play my last ball.

...the bad...

Next I went against Daniel Kaczmarek on World Cup Soccer. This was the first real bad playing game and the ramp shots were already impossible to make. I tried both once, getting such a nasty return that I immediately concentrated on what was available in the lower playfield. Daniel wasted his balls on attempting the ramps and by the last ball I had a bit over 200M and he had around 50M. I was super bummed about my lousy score and walked off to get some air. On my return my opponent was making a fuzz after draining the last ball. He complained that the left flipper was weak and the game was unfair to him.

At his request, I tried it and the left flipper was just as crappy as when I played. Then the officials tried it, our very own country director and everyone agreed the game played shit, but it seemed consistent, so the final result was written down. My opponent got real angry about it and steamed off somewhere. Then out of the blue it was judged as a void game and we had to rematch on the Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone played like shit and I got nothing done on it, losing the game 165M to Daniel's 189M. Well, that was fun. Not.

My next opponent was Konrad Maslowski on the World Cup Soccer again, but it was still being fixed so we played the replacement game. The Twilight Zone was just as crappy and I got couple of really annoying stuck balls on it. Konrad pulled a pretty good compensation power ball mania, ending up with 300M to my 150M. Awww bollocks.

...the meh...

On the 5th round I played Lord of the Rings against Lars Ovinder. The right ramp had a really surprising way of rejecting perfect shots and towards the end I concentrated on collecting the fellowship members instead for the multiball. Lars got to 13M on his 3rd ball and I was at 20M after my 2nd ball, so no need to play the last one. Still, I like the LOTR as a game and it was shame I couldn't play it to its full potential.

Round 6 was Denmark vs. Finland when I went head to head against Morten Petersen on the Terminator 2. I've really come to hate T2 as a tournament game when we get to play it without trying it out first. The ever-important cannon behaves a bit differently on each game, so I need at least one shot with it be able to aim with it properly. Unfortunately as a player 1 the opponent can get some good reads on how it behaves and can make the shot on the first try on his turn. This happened here and I was extra bummed about it. I lost 12M to Morten's 22M.

...the promising...

Next it was the mandatory Finland vs Finland match, when I went against Antti Peltonen on AC/DC pro. I've come to love the AC/DC LE, but the pro is just way too bouncy for me without all the drop targets. I went with the "ramps forever" strategy here with Rock'n Roll train playing. It worked quite well and I played a good multiball with 3x multiplier. Antti's last ball ended with 7.2M and I didn't have to play my 3rd ball as I was at 41M.

On the round 8 I returned to the Walking Dead against Jacek Wenda. I ditched all the fancy strategies for the quick'n'easy Well Walker multiball. I got it running on my 2nd ball but it wasn't anything special. My opponent had his streak of bad luck and I won 19M to his 2.6M.

Round 9 had another returning game when I went against Mateusz Gwizdala on Terminator 2. This time I knew the exact spot for the cannon and started the multiball within first 20 seconds of the game. I locked the balls, shot for the triple jackpot and it was pretty much there. As a second player I didn't have to play my 3rd ball, my opponent didn't get any jackpots although he did start the multiball and ended up with 14M against my 35M.

I wasn't sure how I was doing, but as I got my rage on now I didn't even want to know. I had a hunch I had a real good shot passing the qualification, but I didn't know how close I really was. At this point I had 6 points.

Round 9 was on Lord of the Rings again, against Piotr Andrzejewski. After playing the Fellowship of the Ring multiball I got greedy and started to gun for the Two Towers multiball. I got 2 balls locked but the nasty, nasty (hobbitses?) rejections resulted in ball lost every time. My opponent did nothing with his two first balls, staying under 2M, but woke up during the last ball and somehow managed to make the necessary locks for the Two Towers multiball. It wasn't enough and he lost 7.6M to my 17.7M.

...and the ugly.

This was the first time I actually checked out the situation. I had 7 points now and was most definitely in the top-6. If I'd win the next one, there would be absolutely no doubt I'd be in there. Someone passing me commented that I'd be playing against the tourist next. In this case the tourist was an older gentleman, trying to balance his camera bag on his shoulder while playing.

So, the round 11 was against Dariusz Mazurkiewicz on Data-East's "gem", Lethal Weapon 3. This guy had played little, if any pinball apparently. I witnessed him playing by flipping both flippers at the same time and many other telltale signs of a fresh pinball player. But now here's the irony: he just kept flailing and getting those random 1M and 5M shots. I had very clear goal here to go for the multiball, but my 2 first balls lasted literally seconds after the ball save. To add to the insult virtually all Data-East games lite the multiball for the last ball if the player hasn't played it by then. So, there I was, multiball lit, and my 3rd ball comes from the bumpers, hits a slingshot and goes out the right outlane. O-M-F-G. My opponent was jumping of joy and went on to a long monologue in Polish. Apparently this was his 2nd win in the tournament.

I was super nervous after this one. Had I win this one, it would have secured my place in the playoffs. Instead I stood there, biting my nails as the scorekeeper did the math to reveal a 5 way tie-break for the 2 remaining spots to qualify.

2 of those players were eliminated when they calculated wins and losses against the tie-breaking players, which left me, Antti Peltonen and Morten Petersen to fight for the 2 qualifying positions.

Tie-break for 2 qualifying positions

The game was World Cup Soccer. This was the exact same game that had broken down earlier and all I can say that it wasn't much better now "fixed". As the main ramps were completely unreachable now, we had to resort to scavenging what was left in the lower playfield. I did the goal on each ball start, got some free points from the TV hole and did some random flailing. I couldn't watch the others playing as this was just too damn nerve wrecking.

See? Totally not watching them play!

In the end I had 326M and as Morten ended in 131M, I knew I was in. Antti also did a good job and finished with 258M, meaning the two Finns in this group went to the playoffs. As a side note, the 3rd Finn to qualify was Marco Suvanto, congrats!

Catching up about today's events with the world champion himself.

Teams tournament

I teamed up with Olli-Mikko Ojamies and Joonas Haverinen as Team Finland. The qualification line-up was: Mustang, Johnny Mnemonic, Road Show and Wrestlemania.

Me and Joonas observing Olli-Mikko's play

I was really eager to play after I was done with my main game qualification tie-breaker, but after taking a short pause I realized I had very little to give for today. Olli-Mikko did the strategic thinking, Joonas pretty much cashed it in, especially in Mnemonic, on which we pulled our best game. We also did okay with Wrestlemania, where we got the #4 high score as well. Later on turns out it was enough and we were 8th, last place for qualifying. The competition attracted a lot of teams, especially when there was no limits on number of teams from a specific country. A total of 29 teams participated.

Teams tournament play-offs

After learning we had made it, turned out we were playing against the qualification winners, the Swedish team with no other than Jorian, Jörgen and Marcus.  

The play-offs continued the same way the qualification was played - each player played one ball and we all strategized together.

The first game was World Cup Soccer. This was different game than what I had played in my qualification group and had somewhat better flippers. We actually had a pretty well tied game going on until the very last ball, when Marcus finally got the multiball running and sealed their first win.

The second game was played on The Addams Family. I went in first and we gunned for the multiball. I started the game and beat the book case to enable the locks. The Swedish team got couple of good balls in and even Olli-Mikko's frantic last ball couldn't catch them.

So, today FIN-SWE was lost 0-2 and our final position was 8th. Still, not bad considering the competition!

Main play-offs

54 players had progressed from the qualifications to the play-offs. I was slightly bummed by the fact that the party organized for us happend during the Saturday-Sunday night, so anyone in their right mind about playing in the play-offs couldn't participate. From what I heard, the other Finnish players had a blast there.

Hanging out with Antti and getting my playlist ready for the first game.

The play-offs were delayed almost an hour by the 80s tournament play-offs, that shared some of the players playing also in the main tournament. Funny thing, these past 5 years I've been playing I've gotten to know most of the usual faces even when I can't remember their names. This was the case with my first opponent today as well.

Round 1, Daniele Baldan

We started of with Tales of the Arabian Nights. The lamp spinned quite nicely and I grinded the lightning lamp on my first ball when I was really just trying to get the locks lit. Funny thing about TOTAN, as it has no autoplunger, you lose all the locks between balls. I locked two balls on my first ball and managed to drain when I tried to make the genie shot. My opponent had a really short ball, like was my second. I drained my 3rd ball from the same spot as the first one and didn't play multiball, leaving me with 4.3M. Daniele chased me with his last ball, but couldn't get the multiball running either, ending with 3.4M.

Next was Metallica Pro. There's sensitive tilt, fascist sensitive tilt and then there's this. I tilted 3 balls within 20 seconds of play time. The game tilted even from my very gentle ball control nudging. Daniele just managed to last a bit longer and winning this with just a couple of mils. As a side note, his victory here gave him applauds from the Italian audience. Not sure if either of us really deserved that, but what the hell.

The deciding game was Bally's Corvette. From what I had observed earlier, the upper left flipper seemed a bit weak and the related ramp a surefire way to lose the ball. Once again I started as a player 1 and had a pretty good ball going. I got the multiball running pretty easily, but the ramp was just as bad as I had expected. No matter how hard the ball was going, it just wasn't going up there! I drained at 480M, which caused the Italian audience to furiously explain something to Daniele. I didn't get to see what he did, but he drained in just seconds after ball save. On my second ball I played the challenge mode. I'm still not 100% sure if you're meant to be able to progress the car by furiously pounding the flipper buttons, but it seemed to work on this game. Daniele had a bad second ball, just as was my 3rd ball. I ended up with 569M while he had less than 100M. He got something done on his 3rd ball, but played pretty aggressively and finally tilted the game just after getting over 200M. 

This meant I had won round 1 of the play-offs 2-1!

Round 2, Jan Anders Nilsson

We started out with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I see we both had the same general idea here. First the easy scoring modes, then some multiball to finish it off. Jan started with a good show of Move your car and drained. I again wasted two balls building the multiball and at the start my of last ball Jan was at 87M and I chased him from 30M. I got the multiball running ... searched the creature, found him from the left entrance, made the rescue shot and was totally ready to make the jackpot shot.

But then what the fuck, I got a stuck ball from the Snackbar return. I had to catch the other ball and call the referee. They took ages debugging the problem, which was really obvious; the plastic ramp that connected to the wire ramp coming from the upkicker was not properly secured. I argued with the referee about this for a while. They were VERY adamant about just getting the game to continue and not fix the issue. Fine, the other ball was put into the plunger lane and I continued off that, but got a center drain pretty quickly after that, draining at 51M. Great.


Still pissed off about the whole ordeal with the referees I started Game of Thrones pro. Now, GOT is one of those new games that I just haven't had enough time to explore. Good thing I got to play it for real couple of rounds few weeks earlier at Liseberg, because all I had to give here was to stack everything and cross my fingers.

I got the lock lit on my first ball, but drained pretty soon after that. Jan started a mode and immediately pulled a 100M lead. I locked the first ball and got second lock lit on my second ball, and soon drained afterwards. Now I was really getting desperate. Jan got to over 200M on his 2nd ball. Well, now was the sink or swim time for my strategy. I locked the second ball, and almost lost the ball soon after that. I stopped the game, aimed for the lock ramp and .... IT SINKED IN! I started to fight two houses and the Blackwater multiball. Oh, and I had House Martell selected so I could restart the multiball.

And what a frenzy it was! Everything was lit and the flow was beyound beautiful! Highly scoring shot after another, jackpot here, jackpot there, super jackpot! And when I drained the other ball in 2 ball game, I used the add-a-ball and pounded more of the same. Finally the multiball ended and I finally dared to look up to the screen. I had made 700M+ on this huge gamble. I played for a while after that, and with the bonus I ended up with 792M. I can only assume my two first balls had made Jan expect a pushover victory here, but now he was all the sudden chasing my almost 600M lead! He couldn't catch me and ended up his last (very short) ball at 224M. Man it felt good to enter my initials after an EPC class tournament game!

Next up was Dracula. To be honest, I was dreading this game. Seeing how many technical problems the 90s era games had had so far, I was super nervous as Dracula doesn't exactly have the best track record even when it's well maintained. And with this foreshadowing we started off the game.

My strategy here was greatly dependent on what Jan was going for. Had he shown your average everyday playing, I would have gone for stacking 2 multiballs. But had he pulled some wizard level tricks out of his ass, I would have needed all 3 multiballs at the same time. The game had constant issues. The first ball made Jan run away from the area swearing. My first ball started without one. The game tried to autoplunge an empty shooter lane, until a ball search made it pull a ball from some really unexpected place. I cradled the ball and asked the referee, but he insisted I keep on playing as there was nothing wrong now that I had a ball. Errmm, okay. I lost the first ball when building the castle locks. Jan's second ball wasn't much better and I switched from going to the multiball for some quick scoring from the right ramp instead. I pulled quite a good show from that, plus I played a good round of Rats as well so I had at least the rats ~ 15M score for my last ball as well in reserve. Jan's 3rd ball started with practically nothing lit for him. Now it only needed him to get a bit nervous and that was that. He went for the easy Mist multiball and .. no ball. He cradled the ball and called the referee over about having no ball on the Mist's magnet. The referee came over and said "the game is broken, play another one".

DUDE, WHAT THE SHIT?! So now that I'm finally in the lead, the fucking piece of shit is now "broken"? I was so furious I just wanted to play cow tipping with the machine before pouncing the referee. Shit dudes, you do NOT pull random rulings out of your ass in a situation like this! When in doubt, ask any of the numerous IFPA country directors present! My protest had no effect and we were told to play the spare game, which was The Flintstones.

Jan got very little done, I collected the CONCRETE letters for the multiball. Jan got a mode running for his second ball, while I completed the letter needed for multiball and was now one shot away from it, ending my 2nd ball at 132M after collecting the ramp combo. Jan's last ball was cut short and he ended his game with 68M, which meant I didn't have to play my last ball to win this round 2-1.

After shaking hands with my opponent I walked off to outside to cool down. That round was one damn roller coaster!

Round 3, Roberto Pedroni

Roberto's an old acquaintance from both, EPC'14 and IFPA11. I also knew this was the point in the tournament where the gloves come off as I was facing Italy's #2 player.

Our first game was Game of Thrones, which was the exact same game I had played on round 2. Roberto curiously ignored the multiball and went directly playing a mode, for which he got around 80M on his first ball. I started building my multiball approach, and got two locks on my first ball. Roberto doubled his score on the 2nd ball while I started the multiball with one mode running, and grinded 350M out of that, with the ball ending with 398M. I don't know if my sudden raise from the ashes after point-wise poor first ball caught him off his guard or what, but he played really nervously his last ball and ended it at 199M, so I didn't have to play my 3rd ball. Wow, this wasn't how I expected this to play out at all.

Next was Dirty Harry. At this point fellow Finns had started to gather up following what was going on. I got a tip that the Harry's left ramp was nearly impossible with powerless upper right flipper. Armed with this bit of info I started the game by loading the gun and making the ramp shop with it. This was the only "hard" star out of 5 needed to start the multiball. I played the multiball on my first ball, but didn't do much with it as I could only collect the right ramp jackpot. Roberto had a really crappy first ball, leaving him with just couple of millions. I played another multiball on my second ball, this time making the gun shot at the ramp getting that other jackpot as well. Roberto again got another dud ball. On my last ball I played the Warehouse mode. I made 100% of the shots I wanted, and could hit the warehouse from both left flipper, and backhanding from the right. I must've made like 200M+ on that mode alone, leaving me with 694M to Roberto's 20M when he started his last ball. But was he determined to catch me! He ended up playing multiball twice on his last ball. I have no idea how he made the ramp shot! I couldn't bear to watch as my heart rate was already at 157bpm! Finally he ended his ball and I returned just as the bonus count was finishing up. 382M. I had won this round 2-0.

I don't know which I was cheering at more; the fact that I won with a clean game or that the games actually held together long enough for me to win. Phew!

Round 4, Cayle George

Now we were getting real serious! Even if my game ended on this round, I was already at my personal best with EPC tournaments and now thinking of it, this was probably the best standing ever for me in a major tournament.

First up was Stern's Kiss. Cayle took the lead from the start. He made lighting the Love gun multiball look so damn easy; usually it took just one or two shots and then the ramp. After the 2nd balls he was at around 50M, which was still doable, but then went on to play a monster 3rd ball with 212M. Oh man, I couldn't do anything but sigh and start grinding. I played two Love gun multiballs on my last ball and had the Demon multiball ready, but made a center drain from a bad shot at it. 36M. Damned.

Next we played Scared Stiff. I went with my standard approach of trying to play both multiballs with the extension, but the stupid spider made getting the rewards so damn hard! I don't know if the stepper motor had some kind of an issue, but I often got something very different what I was expecting. I wish they had just turned the Spider off as I can time the compensation mode even better. Cayle had apparently the same strategy and we went pretty much head-to-head until the 3rd ball. I drained with the Stiff-O-Meter at 7, he played longer multiballs and won with 9M to my 8.5M.

So, it was my turn to be defeated 2 to 0. As this was double elimination bracket, I now went into the losers' side where we played only one game per round. Being dropped from the 4th round in the winner's side landed me onto the 6th round of losers' side.

Round 6, Losers' side, Sandor Varga

I went against Hungary's #3, Sandor Varga on the same Corvette I had played earlier. I was the player 1, but fortunately I already knew what to avoid here. I very carefully started the multiball and took the doable jackpot, completely ignoring the dangerous (and impossible ramp). My opponent had some hard time on his first ball, while I concentrated on the challenge modes from the 2nd ball on. I finished my 3rd ball with 703M while Sandor was under 50M. He did a very methodically played third ball, but tilted at 260M.

Whoa, if my calculations where correct, I was somewhere in the top-16 by now.

Round 7, Losers' side, Daniel Nowak

I was at the very end of Losers' side bracket at this point. One or two rounds and I could be back in action with the final. Being in the EPC finals? Now that sounds just plain scary!

I don't really know what to say about the game I played against Daniel on Stern's Kiss. This was the exact same Kiss where Cayle handed my my ass couple of rounds ago. I played a disappointingly mediocre game, while Daniel played a bit better.

Oh man I felt empty after that round. At the same time this was most likely the best tournament game-wise in my whole pinball career. Yet it left me with infinite what-if's had I beat Daniel, had I scored 500k more in the Scared Stiff against Cayle.

For a moment there we had some confusion about what my final standing would be. The guys on IRC theorised I was somewhere around 6 or 7. It turned out to be 7th in the end. 7 out of about 150 players. I guess it was okay after all.

Still ... what if?

The outcome

A personal record. That's what it was.

I was 7th out of 149 participated players in the main tournament.

I tanked the 80s tournament and was 57th out of 144 players.

I was part of Team Finland, that qualified in the team tournaments, being 8th of 29 teams. After the playoffs, we were 8th.

Official results

About my game strategies

After (and during!) the tournament, I got couple of comments and suggestions why not play like Bowen did in this video or someone else did in that video. Well, the thing is, that I very rarely bother to watch the game play videos. I find it kind of a shame that so many consider the gaming videos by the great players to be the truth set in stone. For most games I play, my strategy is often very different what the great ones would do. I almost always prefer multiball over high scoring single ball options and often go for the objectives that suit the strong points of my skills.

I don't mean to say you shouldn't watch the videos. Just don't build the game to get to the Lost In The Zone when you can win most of your opponents with a good round of multiball and couple of well played modes. Explore the games and do your own thing!

Of Poland and the tournament itself

To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect of Poland.  I was half-expecting the Soviet era run down buildings and so forth. Turns out at least Warsaw and Łódź were modern cities with everything (and more!) to keep us entertained during our stay.

The tournament location was excellent. The huge mall had all kinds of nice distractions for the times when we needed to take a break from playing. While there were some issues, mostly related to the general condition of the games and some questionable judgings, I was amazed how well things went, especially after I learned the whole show ran run by just 4 guys. Kudos to them!

For the future, my #1 suggestion would be rebuilding flippers on all the older games. This was a constant source of grief in both free play and tournament games. Weak flippers mean ramp shots were often impossible, which takes away fun out of most games. Put in those new coil sleeves, plungers and stoppers! It doesn't take more than 20 minutes per game. Also, when you have several IFPA country directors at your disposal, please consult them when issues and questions raise. EPC is a major tournament and pulling seemingly random judgements will be seen as favouritism.

Other than that, good job!

Oh, and a word of caution to all cider drinking people out there! The brands that are cider in Sweden and Finland, are actually beer in Poland!

It looks like cider, smells like cider, but it's
just flavored beer. Geez!