Pinball 48 Open - Mikkeli, Finland - Pinball 48 - 26/01/2018

It's been a while since I've played in Finland. After some persuasion from local players, I decided to give this weekend a go. The tournament itself was a double feature; Pinball 48 Open as a stand-alone tournament and Finnish pinball league's 2018 first game as a second tournament. I was more looking to use the Pinball 48 tournament as a warmup for the league game, getting to know the games and meet some of the pinheads I haven't seen in the past 2 or 3 years now.

The format was pretty much a mystery to me, from the description I assumed we'd be playing 3-4 player matchplay, but this turned out to be head-to-head mathcplay for 12 rounds, after which 12 best players went to playoffs, 4 best getting one bye.


The qualification had no big surprises in the line-up. I kind of expected to see Total Nuclear Annihilation there, but apparently it wasn't available yet for this side of the world. I started off with Gottlieb's Black Hole against ELP. It was tight as hell match, with me as player 1 only being barely ahead of my opponent and ending just 4k ahead when he finally drained. ELP didn't play the miniplayfield, so no bonus to worry about.

Next I played Guardians of the Galaxy against ESA. I've played it in Norway and the USA before, but still don't have one very clear strategy for it, save trying to keep a mode running and going for Groot and Orb multiballs. This worked for me here as well.

Got my share of the crappy matches as well. Bally's Star Trek is one of my classic Bally favorites, yet when I went against TMA, I couldn't get jack done. Here my #1 strategic shot is a bank shot from right flipper towards the droptargets on left midplayfield and repeat until I have at least 2x bonus. Then the right side horse shoe back to the plunger lane, collecting the bonus and again. While being a good strategy theory, I managed to drain in several really painfully embarrassing ways, like from a failed tap pass and a center drain from the rubber post next to the bonus collect horse shoe. It came to us as a surprise that it was set for 5 balls and since TMA was leading after I had finished my 3rd ball as a player 1, I already congratulated him on a fine victory, until he played his last ball just for fun and it suddenly went to 4th ball, especially when the score card said 3 balls. I collected myself and won the game with my remaining 2 balls.

Some just plain bad games managed to sneak their way in as well, like a round of Tommy I played against my arch nemesis RON or Revenge From Mars against OMO, where RFM is pretty strong game for me usually. Naturally there's the mandatory "lose a game you know to a person who says they've never played it before" round, that happened to me on Full Throttle.

On the 12th round my game was one of the last ones to begin and as I looked at the scores, I made a note that I was one point shy from being in the top-12 to be in the playoffs. My last game was on South Park against OPA. It started off as a usual shit storm game, I went with building modes, but after a couple of really unlucky bouncers I soon found myself being on my last ball with 15M and my opponent finishing his last ball for 95M. Quick analysis: I need multiball, stat! Next I need to finish at least one mode completely.

I started off by starting the main multiball from the toilet and making that shot I noticed the right ramp was actually pretty easy shot. The multiball got me nowhere and I was still at almost 60M short. I also had couple of close calls, that made me slide the machine and get me a warning or two. In the end I started hitting the right ramp methodically, starting the mode, completing it and kept going until I felt someone tap my should - "you're past me now". Phew, what a crap game! Then again, I felt this perverse need to actually buy South Park and play it for some time to actually get to know it better, one of my regular places used to have it, but the maintenance was so bad it was practically useless.

In the end I had 7 wins out of 12 rounds, which made me 9th and it was my ticked to the playoffs.


In the playoffs my first opponent was JAX and his higher qualification spot let him decide on the game. When he asked me "say yes or no", I kind of guessed he'd probably pick a game he has on his home line-up. Well, I'm not afraid of other player's home games, I have plenty of those myself, so I took on his challenge and it was Guardians of the Galaxy. I knew this was going to be tough. JAX was a champ and explained me the main points of the game, activating the lockbar button and right outlane ball save being the new items for me. Still no matter what, he brought this one home easily.

Next it was my pick and I went with Bally's Rolling Stones. This is a strong game for me, but for some reason I just couldn't nail the left orbit drop target to save my life and JAX got this one as well, making me lose my second game in a "best 2 out of 3" playoffs bracket. So out I went.

Positions 9-12 game

I was already packing my stuff, when I was pulled into a 9-12 game. It was on the only DIY Medieval Madness I've ever played. I played a very steady but rather boring round, playing the main and Madness multiballs on my second and reaching Royal madness on my last ball. I won my round easily, but 9th position wasn't really what I came here for.

The outcome

I qualified the main game as 9th out of 34 players.

I was eliminated on the first round of playoffs.

I was 9th at positions 9-12 game.

It Never Drains In Southern California - Banning, CA, USA - Museum of Pinball - 12-14/01/2018

We had actually planned on attending INDISC last year, but with new travelling restrictions to the US popping up daily, I felt a bit uneasy burning a lot of cash into flights that might end up being useless. On the more positive side, that decision gave us the trip to Osaka, so no complaints there. This year however we were a bit more trusting and the trip to California finally materialized.

This trip wasn't just all business. We had planned spending couple of days in Nevada, venturing into Arizona and possibly Utah as well. We also had plans to get a tolerable convertible sports car, as there would be lots of miles to cover.

Somewhere over the Greenland.

Everything was looking good, we boarded our flight from Helsinki to New York, with plans to have connecting flight to Los Angeles from there. An hour before arriving New York my Finnair app went haywire. For some reason it was showing I was to fly to Dallas the next morning instead of Los Angeles today. The flight from JFK to LAX had been cancelled couple of times that week and after we finally landed it was just as bad as we had feared. First of all me and Olli-Mikko were put on separate flights, with me going to LAX through Dallas the next morning from Laguardia and Olli-Mikko taking a direct flight from JFK somewhere around next afternoon. Since I had the hotels booked and Olli-Mikko had the car, this was rather inconvenient for both of us.

Sorry guys, no AA35 today!

Oneworld alliance had their service agent to meet us and for a moment everything looked good. Then they learned we weren't flying American Airways here, so end of service. We however did get a new set of tickets, with us on the same flight this time. The new flight was 22 hours from that point and there was no luxuries as free hotels from the airline for having our flight cancelled. We were told to go to the hotel service desk at the airport, where one very uninterested lady quoted us outrageous prices for hotels tonight. Olli-Mikko however found some dump near the airport and off we went to wait for a shuttle to the hotel.

Welcome to the sunny New York!

I had packed away my long undies on the plane, which turned out to be a very bad decision as New York had a lot more snow than Helsinki. Cold as hell too. I wasn't apparently the only one abandoned by the airlines and surprised by the weather; with us were people in shorts and summer clothes, freezing out there waiting for the hotel shuttles.

The hotel turned out to be a real gem. A gem as in "I didn't get killed in here, woohoo!". I was dead tired, hungry as hell and freezing when we finally entered the weed smelling dump. Some of the hilights of our room was the stolen fire alarm and a sign that reminded us that any item such as the clock radio etc. were all $120 a piece should they go missing. The AC was noisy as hell and the cold was radiating from the single glass sheet window. There was a huge gap in the wall where the AC unit was installed, leaking outside air in. A previous guest had plugged that hole with a plastic bag. Kudos to them.

The plastic bag kept us warm, as long as it didn't catch fire!

After checking the place for bed bugs, we set out to hit the local 7-11 for some grub. Before that I however needed my long undies back and taking off my pants the zipper made this odd creaking sound, before disintegrating. I stood there tired, hungry, cold and now torn pants in my hands not knowing if I should laugh or cry at that point. Since the other option was just my shorts, Olli-Mikko left out alone to find us something to eat and something to fix my pants with. He returned with one of those mini sewing kits and a baloney sandwich. After some head scratching, I tried refreshing my memory of sewing and hacked my pants enough to keep them in one piece, hopefully until tomorrow when I could switch to shorts.

Good thing I have at least passable sewing skills!

One badly slept night later we headed towards downtown for a T-mobile store. We were met with the same lack of interest as at the airport. They refused to sell me a data-only SIM and sold Olli-Mikko a rather expensive prepaid compared to what we normally got here in the states.

After that we were off to the airport again. This time we actually got to our flight and flew the most pimped out Airbus A321 I've ever seen. I've gotten used to the Finnair's very bare bones A320-series planes, but this thing had displays on the seats and all. I think this 6 hour flight was also the longest haul I've ever taken with a A320. I could get any sleep on the plane, being still pretty jetlagged. From the LAX we headed towards Hertz rental center, where we hit the first lucky break on this trip!

For some reason they didn't have the basic model of Chevrolet Camaro we were supposed to have, so they gave us the Camaro SS with 6.3L v8 engine. I just loved the pure excitement Olli-Mikko had over this car! This was definitely a big boys' dream toy!

Our wheels for this trip!

We were originally supposed to stay the first night in Los Angeles, but since we were over a day late at this point, we had to head out for Las Vegas to catch our time table and not lose another hotel reservation fee. I dozed off several times during the trip, waking up only after we were closing Las Vegas to put on the relevant sound track!

The next morning I headed out for a breakfast and to get myself the data SIM. While waiting the T-mobile store to open, I walked the strip from end to end, it was kind of surreal to see all the iconic casinos and hotels normally seen in movies and TV-series! I couldn't help myself taking a closer look at the ostentatious facades and true enough, all the stone and marble structures were either plastic or fibre glass. So much for that illusion.

Sure, it's all fake, but still, god damn!

I eventually wandered into the cellular carrier store and boy, did I get a different kind of service than in NY! I immediately attracted three sales persons, who made note of my phone, after which it was all "yes sir". While they were finishing paperwork for my SIM card, I had my own assistant showing me the latest headsets and other accessories. I know it's all artificial, but still, it was nice for someone to at least pretend to give a shit. I got what I wanted and we were ready for our next stop: the Pinball hall of fame!

Pinball Hall of Fame

I've been wanting to see Tim Arnold's place for a long time. One of the many reasons was that it housed the extremely rare Pinball Circus game, the only WPC platform pinball game I have never played before. 

Pinball Hall of Fame's facade was actually refreshingly honest one!

And here it is, the Pinball Circus! This Python Anghelo's oddball game never made it to production, but it sure is one of a kind! Now, anyone with even basic knowledge of pinball history is probably itching to know how it played. Let me tell you: like shit. This game is a one trick pony in a true sense of the expression: it has 4 level playfield, where you progress from a level to another by making one specific shot. No need to qualify your progression in any way, just shoot for the left ramp on the first level, ramp up to the second, another ramp to the third and through the Banzai Run-styled magnetic lift to the fourth level, where you need to defeat the clown by punching out his teeth, then make him eat the ball.

The brain clown is going to be in my nightmares for a long time!

Here's the main playfield. It's as wide as a normal pinball machine, but less than half the length. Your eyes aren't deceiving you, the flippers aren't lined up, which plays havoc for reflex slaps for sure. There's not much to do here score wise, except gun for the rather steep left ramp which leads you to...

The main playfield, or "ring 1".

...the ring 2! Now, I can guess many sharp-eyed readers are going to go like "hey, there's no targets or switches there at all!" and they're absolutely right! There's absolutely nothing to do here, except maybe spin the ball around in the "pinbo" loop, which doesn't really give you anything. If you drain here, you end up back in ring 1 and the only meaningful shot is for the ring 3. The ramp shot leads to the elephant, which raises the ball with its trunk onto a habirail.

The utterly useless Ring 2.

The next level actually has couple of stand-up targets and a loop to litting the video mode. I have no idea where the video mode actually is as this playfield has nothing to catch the ball. Litting the video mode however is completely optional and the only worthwhile shot here is for the ramp which leads to ring 4.

Ring 3 with at least something to do.

Next up is the last level and oh boy is it a nightmare! The lobotomized clown level starts with player movable habitrail, where you need to drop the ball at the right spot to select the jackpot's value. You'll be hammering the poor clown's teeth until they're all out and then one final shot for the jackpot. And as with other levels, draining leads to (via a very elaborate habitrail) back to ring 1.

Ring 4. This thing is going to haunt me in my nightmares for years to come!

After making the clown mouth shot you're awarded the jackpot and go back to the first ring. For someone with at least an average playing skills this game doesn't take too many tried to finish. There's some stuff, like making the right ramp on the first level that scores some points, but repeatedly finishing the last ring scores an obscene amount of points, making everything else pretty much pointless.

I can see why this mechanical nightmare didn't make it into production, but I'm glad nevertheless that I got to play it.

Hall of Fame has over 200 games to explore, including many rarities and prototypes. I had personally never seen the toy Transformers before and was glad to get that off my to-do -list!

This thing was sold as a toy for $1490. It sure looks like a toy, but it has real game's mechanics and it played surprisingly well. The sad part was that it wasn't obviously meant for long term use and talking to one of the pinball mechanics confirmed my suspicions, the game was mostly made to be ditched after any major component failed. Such a waste.

Another rarity we got to play was Gottlieb's Goin' Nuts. This is an oddball protype game, that begins with a multiball and plays normally as long as you have at least two balls in the play. After you're down to one, a count down begins after which you lose the flippers. The game object is to add seconds to the clock during multiball and try to restart the multiball when you're back to single ball play. 

Olli-Mikko goin' nuts with this thing.

We had very little expectations of the game, I have it on Pinball Arcade, but haven't played it much. As a two player game it however was rather entertaining, especially with so many last second multiball restarts. We got to play two rounds until it broke.

With 200 pins to play with, the day just disappeared and we headed towards Boulder city for our next stop on this trip: the Hoover dam. Before leaving we still did a last cruise through the strip. A 2017 convertible Camaro was pretty much spot on for that sort of activity. Then again, we saw so many other pony cars that we didn't exactly stand out from the crowd!

Hoover dam

While not exactly pinball related thing, I can't go on without having a word about American spirit that went into building this insanely cool engineering marvel. We originally meant just to stop for an hour or two, but ended up spending the most of the day with so many cool things to explore. 

Arizona side water intake towers and the nearly dry water reservoir.

I've heard about the drought in this area, but visiting the dam was the first time I could see it for my own eyes. In the picture above you can see the white line in the rock going to the horizon. The water is supposed to be up there. Water flow from the mountains to the water reservoir is slowing, which again is threatening both, water availability and power generation in the area.

We also got to see one of the four generator rooms. The dam has a total of 17 generators, split between Nevada and Arizona sides. The state line goes actually right between the middle of the dam, making this the first time I've walked between two states. Arizona was also the 12th state I've been to!

The size of this thing is really breath taking! Those little dots down there are cars!

After we were done with the dam, we headed out towards Banning in California. Next up was the main course: INDISC!

It Quite Often Drains In Southern California

Much to my surprise the hotel here actually had a semi-decent breakfast, which was a huge upgrade to having nothing at all or having individually packaged old donuts and stuff.

Banning's Museum of Pinball was located in rather rough looking neighbourhood, with half standing houses and abandoned cars littering the scene. The building itself was rather nondescript (pretty much like Pinball Hall of Fame was!), but seeing all the pinball related bumper stickers on the cars parked there we knew we were in the right place! 

The main event hall

The tournament had two series I was planning to attend: main tournament which was best score on 7 machines out of 14 and classic, which was best 5 out of 7. The tournament was pretty much a pump and dump: all the players had unlimited amount of entries within the time limit. The entries cost $20/7 (one "entry" here being a one play on one game). You could play just the minimum of 7 games, or play all 14 of them, all it mattered you had decent enough score in 7. The classics side worked the same way, except for fewer number of games.

Only your best score mattered in one game and you got points for having a score between 1st and 93th position. 1st position gave 100 points, 2nd 94, 3rd 91 and from there onwards 1 point less per position. So theoretically maximum qualification score would be 700 points for setting a high score on all your games.

The games in main were:

  • Junkyard
  • Game of Thrones
  • Robowar
  • Taxi
  • Monopoly
  • Total Nuclear Annihilation
  • Barb Wire
  • Pool Sharks
  • Lady Luck
  • Theatre of Magic
  • Metallica LE
  • Who Dunnit
  • Paragon
  • Dracula

The classics lineup:

  • Aztec
  • Eight Ball Deluxe
  • Magic
  • Monaco
  • Nine Ball
  • Star Light
  • Supersonic

I totally approved of these lineups! Choosing 7 games out of the main was a bit difficult, as I generally avoid playing well known games like 00/10's Sterns and WPCs. I wasn't sure about the very latest game here, Total Nuclear Annihilation as a tournament game, but I played it nevertheless because it looked so damn awesome! Just look at this thing!

This is so retro-80s I was pissing myself. It has a large TFT screen and 7-segment displays for scores and the on-screen graphics work really well for the theme. The playfield itself is rather barren, but the software seems to have lots of moving parts in it. It's also extremely fast playing game. The slingshots alone make me think about Ironman's Warmachine kicker, once you let the ball pick up speed you're in trouble with this one. I'd so love it spend a night with this thing, learning what's there to do!

But that's not all™! The Pinball Museum itself has a humble lineup of around 500 pins. That's right. 500.

The museum curator came to chat with us when we arrived and we got to have a private tour of some of the rare games out there. Naturally they had the original Big Bang Bar, but some really odd games as well, like EM versions of Evel Knievel and Blackjack, Gottlieb's Spirit, Alvin G games, two Williams Jousts and much, much more!

After playing some of the rarities at the museum, it was time to start the grind!

Qualification, main and classics

Total Nuclear Annihilation was too random for anything serious, so I just played it for fun. For more serious games, I picked Robowar, Lady luck, Who Dunnit, Taxi, Pool Sharks, Junk Yard, Monopoly, Paragon and Barb Wire.

After trying out TNA, I played Who Dunnit and got a mediocre score of 2.8B on it. I didn't think much of it, but in the end it was the 20th best score in the whole tournament and worth lots of points. I never played another round of it.

With closer to 200 players, things got pretty hectic at times!

After Who Dunnit I went to Junkyard. My target score was around 20M but after numerous attempts I never got there. My first try was 7.5M and the very last 11.4M, which got me 65 points and it was the weakest of the games that made it into my recorded scores. I came back to it near the closing time on Saturday, but managed to kill the fridge upkicker and the game had to be pulled off the lineup for repairs.

Robowar is a Gottlieb system 80b game that keeps on popping up in tournaments. For me there's a very simple strategy of immediately going for the left ramp to lock one ball, then hitting under the ramp to start the multiball and then just trying to hit the spinner. The spinner scores very well when it's lit. I started with a couple of near 1M games, and it wasn't untill saturday when I finally reached my target score of 5M+ with a 6.8M entry, netting me 85 points and being my best entry in the whole tournament.

I've played Lady Luck couple of times before and it's pretty much what the name promises. There's insane scores to be made, if you keep on knocking down the center drop targets, then the four joker stand-up targets behind them. You'll add a playfield scoring multiplier each time and after the 4th things get really interesting! I started with 276k and 724k, but towards the end on Saturday I finally beat my 1M target score with a 2.2M game for 80 points.

I love playing Taxi, but it never worked really well for me here. Most of my multiballs in it lasted for 10 seconds or less and I had to leave it at 3.2M game where I got the jackpot once. The game had modified software that maxed out the jackpot at 1.5M and started it with 1M.

The playfield displays were really cool thing to have. It was curious to see various strategies in each game.

I had high(er) hopes for Monopoly, but got very little done with it. All I had for it was to start the easy train multiball from the center ramp, then go for the main multiball. I however never got to get jackpots from the both at the same time and couldn't make an entry that would have mattered.

I played couple of rounds of Paragon, but it was more of a lesson of futility than real playing.

Barb Wire is a system 3 gem(?) that I haven't played that much. From what I know, it's more about starting modes and grinding them than anything else. I played couple of games on it during Saturday afternoon, getting 200M and 643M. Much to my surprise the latter was actually a decent one, although I was aiming for 1B on it. With 2 hours of game time left, I came back to it and started a serious grind. I managed to squeeze 5 games in, until I all the sudden couldn't add myself to the line any more. Turns out I had misunderstood the time table and the very last hour on Saturday was for the scorekeepers only. That was kind of a bummer, as I still had 6 entries left, almost $20 worth of games!

The classics was being played at the same time as the main tournament. I played couple of entries into them, but decided to concentrate on the main as I noticed I actually had a shot there.

Behind the scenes shot of the broadcast team!

During the day I also attended pingolf, which was played on the museum's side. It was completely score based, instead of objectives. After finishing the course near the closing time I was 3rd. Only the winner got a trophy.

When the time ran out, I was 53 points behind the cut line. This wasn't really that bad, I had 3 games: Taxi, Pool Sharks and Junkyard where I could have made easy points by just getting one game right on each.

However after the initial disappointment, I took a closer look at the divisions and realized I passed the division B qualification with flying colors, being 8th out of 16 to qualify!

Division B playoffs

I went against Mark Pawlak, David Taylor and Brian Krivonak in the first round on Monopoly, Total Nuclear Annihilation, Paragon and Dracula.

I had high hopes for Monopoly. It was very unforgiving machine, so getting the easy center ramp multiball could mean fighting for the first place. Monopoly however wasn't having any of that and I got two really embarrassing house balls, and one very short one, leaving me at 448k. David and Mark were close, but Brian put 5.1M on it easily. 0 points for this one, not exactly a great start.

Next up was Total Nuclear Annihilation. I had been watching people playing this game for some time now and I had learned you can steal locks, so getting that multiball running once you lock 'em is paramount. I started with a strong ball, locked two balls right from the get go and multiball on the first try. I repeated this feat on my second ball and was in an easy lead after that. Things only turned sour on the last ball, when I got to steal Brian's lock, locked another one myself and got a center drain from an attempt to start the multiball. Mark stole the locks and scored over 1M. I was left with 778k, David with 928k and Brian with 276k. 1 point here.

After the apocalyptic scenes of TNA we went to Paragon. I played a high risk game here, nothing but the multipliers for the first two balls. After the second ball the scores were all still at 50k or below, which made me look for less riskier options, so I started to gun for the passage next to right side drop targets. Couple of shots got in, and I ended my last ball with 92k for an easy win. 3 points.

Last was the Dracula. Mark was already in the next round with 2+4+2 points. I had 4 points, David 3 points and Brian 4 points, which meant this was a three way battle for that 2nd position and way to the second round. I knew this Dracula was really hard one, and I got very little done on it until the last ball. The others weren't doing that much better, but I only got the free Mist Multiball on my last ball. I was 3rd with my 32M and got 1 point.

Mark won the round with 7 points. I was last with 5 points, with David and Brian trying at 6 points. I could have so used at least one point from that Monopoly in the beginning!

Still, after the initial disappointment had mostly faded, the fact was that I had qualified in INDISC, which is after IFPA the second major tournament where I qualify.

The outcome

I was 35th out of 189 players in main tournament, 8th in Division B and qualified.

I didn't qualify in classics. 

I was 3rd in Pingolf, which wasn't WPPR ranked.

This is the first time ever I've walked away with an envelope in my playing history!

OMG! Cash! So worth after dropping $200+ on the entries!

Final thought

After we were done with Banning, we headed out to Long Beach in Los Angeles. We had absolutely nothing important on our agenda, just checking out places, bar hopping, cruising around with the roof down in Hollywood and so forth.

Our last hotel on this trip was Hyatt Regency and oh man was it something else compared to the crackhouse we spent the first night in. But don't just take my word for it!

First night's view

Last night's view
Long beach was such a beautiful area, but at the same time I was already starting to dread what was waiting for me back in Finland after leaving my car at the airport park for a week and a half.

In addition to bar hopping, we went to check out the Pacific ocean beach, where the water was still warm enough for a Finn to swim in!

Somewhere over there is Japan!
And as before, the trip wouldn't be complete without a dinner with out New Zealander friends, David, Fiona and of course the women's series winner, Danielle!

Since we had a street credible car for a Hollywood tour, we just had to go there on the final day! Got to see so many landmarks there, including the huge Hollywood sign (although from a distance), Kat Von D's place and many others.

All in all, this might have been the best pinball related holiday trip I've ever done before. Despite the pretty rough start, we still managed to squeeze so many things in and both yours truly and Olli-Mikko did alright in the tournament. So many rare pinball machines off my to-do -list as well. What's not to like?!

Until the next time!

P.S. My pants lasted back to Finland. Am I good or what?!

Oslo pinball club xmas tournament - Oslo, Norway - 9-10/12/2017

The year's coming to and end and it was time for the last tournament of this year. The Oslo pinball club has been on my to-do list for some time now, and we wholeheartedly accepted when we were invited for their Christmas tournament. After the grind at EPC, I had been hoping to just relax and play for just the fun of it. This small tournament seemed like a safe bet for that.

It was a Christmas tournament after all, so we came prepared!

This was a 2 day tournament, qualification on Saturday and playoffs on Sunday. We arrived on Friday so I'd get at least one good night's sleep before two days of playing. The next morning we set out to find the place and stepping off the bus we ran into familiar faces, who led the way to the pinball club.

The venue reminded me a lot of our own place, around 20 pins, from classics to DMD era and beyond. In one of the rooms they had a small kitchen and a large, cosy sofa in another. As a gamer I couldn't help noticing the nice selection of classic consoles as well!

The tournament format was match play for the qualification and playoffs being 4 player games with 7-5-3-1 scoring. The qualification was 7 rounds, the playoffs started with top-16 of qualification players, then eliminating 2 per group until 4 players were left for the final.

Main qualification

The mix of games was pretty optimal for me. Majority of the games I knew well, some of the classics that I didn't remember by heart were still pretty much "repeat this one shot until you drain". The two wild cards were the Stern Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. I had played the Star Wars before, but was a very long way of having a viable strategy for it. The other game again was a first time for me, but fortunately it was also new to other players as well, and its software was still pretty much work-in-progress, like sadly is the case with all the Stern games these days at release.

With 7 rounds and 3 games per round, I'm not going to analyze each game, but here's some of the hilights:

I got to play the Guardians of the galaxy on the first round. I left it with somewhat mixed feelings, the graphics and sound track were excellent, but the software felt really half-baked. The game itself played pretty much like all the late Stern games; select a mode, get to see the shots you're to make before hand and then just keep on nailing them. I never got to play the Groot-multiball because the lock mechanism didn't seem to work as expected.

I started the first round pretty strong by winning a game of High Speed II. I've come to dread it as it's often very hit'n'miss game for me in tournaments. The following rounds were pretty steady playing for me, even the crappiest of rounds rarely ended up with me getting just 1 point and if they did, I usually countered with 2 strong games afterwards.

I got to play more than my share of this Congo!

As the tournament went on, I found myself enjoying playing in a tournament first time in a very long time. Much of that goes to the general atmosphere in the place. Unlike in many other really serious tournaments, people here complimented each other on good games. 

Somewhere after the halfway we had a lunch. I'm so glad the organizers had food served at the arcade (and it was included in the ticket price!). The arcade was in the middle of an industrial area and I have no idea where else we would have found food, save ordering by phone.

Some games just seemed repeat for me over and over again, even when everything was randomized. Flintstones, High Speed II and Congo became very familiar to me. Congo is one of the games that I mostly like because how it plays, the theme does very little to me, going from meh to downright annoying. Still, it works pretty well as a tournament game, like it did here as well. The High Speed II was really fast and the ball was all over the place. Flintstones again ... was just being Flintstones. I didn't bother doing anything else but to gun for the multiball and super jackpot. That worked in surprising amount of times.

Pilvi leading her group in Indiana Jones

Towards the end I played a rather stellar round of Bally's Lost World. It was a 4 player game, where every player managed to play a really good game and we ended up within 9000 points of each other!

After a day of playing I was safely in the top-16, ending up as 9th. There was also a side tournament, which I probably shouldn't even have attended, but did and absolutely nothing came out of it as I was dead tired at that point and fell into the hotel bed face down as soon as we got back.

Main qualification results

Main play-offs

We returned the next day for the play-offs, which were 4 player games, 3 games per round. 2 best players from each group went to the next round, so with 16 players the final was 3rd round.

The play-offs are ready to begin.

Round 1, Quarter final

We had Pharaoh, Congo, Flintstones and Indiana Jones, with Ole, Emma and Morten playing with me. Save the Pharaoh, the two other games weren't exactly new to me after the qualification! I had played Pharaoh couple of times before this, but didn't really have a solid strategy for it. Pintips didn't help me much, so I just observed what the others did. It obviously had multiball, but I couldn't find the lower lock. Still, not a total loss and I took 3 points.

Trying to get some pointers from the score card

Next up was Congo. I got my game going from the get-go. I found the super skillshot easily and played the main multiball, Diamond hunt multiball and Ghost tribe multiball. Emma from our group commented that she had never seen the Ghost tribe multiball before. I've actually seen so many players completely ignoring the Jungle jackpot countdown, thinking it's a one shot thing, but instead it gives you a two ball multiball!

Next was Flintstones, where I barely got the multiball going, but still got at least 3 points.

Last game was Williams Indiana Jones. I got a decent multiball going on and played some modes, chasing Morten all the time, but not quite catching him in the end, 5 points.

After the last game I was tied with Morten, so we went to the semi-finals from this group.

Round 2, Semi-final

With 8 players left, half of the players here would go to the final! Getting this far had already exceeded my expectations of today's games as I'm not really a morning person. I went against Trenton, Magnus and Øyvind on Indiana Jones, Theatre of Magic, Sky Jump and Guardians of the Galaxy.

We started with the Indiana Jones, where I played a rather steady game, progressing as planned and staying in the lead through the whole game, for rather satisfying 7 points to begin the semi-final.

Theatre of Magic was still being played by another group, so we went to Sky Jump instead. It was a rather harsh single player EM game. I was the last player to go, so I knew the scores I was aiming for. Trenton started the game with a very nice run, Magnus again almost ended up with 5 house balls. I had a pretty shaky start and only got my game going with the last ball.

Sky jump is one of those EM games, where you have to very carefully build your game and then score insane amount of points for doing very little. It has a large drop target bank with two lights under each drop: 500pts and 10x. By default the targets are worth 50 points, which is jack here. Instead, you want to first complete the roll overs to get them all lit for 500 points. Then the middle bumper moves the 10x multiplier. Hit the 5000 point drop, move the multiplier, get another 5000. Easier said than done, but pretty neat rule set for an EM game. I got past Magnus in the end and got 3 points. Could have used more.

Next up Theatre of Magic. This was a very even game, everyone playing the multiball and I recall towards the end we all were within 200M of each other. I started my last ball with multiball lit (but no locks, thanks to the multiplayer lock rule). Locked 2 balls and then tilted the machine from a panic slap save. Aww crap, 1 point. This could really hurt.

Apparently I wasn't the only one new to GotG, as we got the room full of audience!

Last was Guardians of the Galaxy. Second time ever I get to play it in my life! I selected a mode that had couple of doable shots lit, then plunged. As I flipped to move the skillshot rollover lane, the mode changed! Now I had a mode where only one shot was lit and I spent two balls trying to make it. I only got it with my last ball (and it netted some points), but other than that it was still more of exploring the game than actually playing a tournament entry. Still, it was enough for 2nd position and 5 points.

After the round I looked at the points. Oh man, that Theatre of Magic screwup dropped me from the game. If I had caught the 3rd player, I would have tied with Øyvind for a tie-breaker game for a place in the finals.

The outcome

I qualified in the main tournament as 9th of 16 players to be qualified.

I was eliminated in the semi-final, and was 5th in the tournament.

I didn't qualify in the side tournament.

Final thoughts

It's been a while since I've attended a tournament that didn't have 100s of players and to be honest this was something I had been missing. This whole tournament was so light-hearted and fun, with people obviously playing because they like pinball and not because they needed to crush opponents to win WPPR points. It reminded me a lot of the Finnish pinball league from the early years, before it turned into way too serious. Still, this made me think about rejoining the league and see if I'd find any of that good old time spirit there.

Oslo Pinball club had a really nice collection of games, everything very well maintained. I was so glad to have accepted the invitation and hope to return with the whole Hopeakuula crew some day next year.

On our way back home our evening flight was delayed. While they announced that there was nothing wrong with the plane and the delays were just because of traffic, I couldn't help wondering why three maintenance guys were examining the #1 engine for almost an hour before we got on board...

Nevermind me. Just admiring the turbine here!

Until the next time.

R.I.P. my headset

Preparing for the upcoming INDISC game I was packing my stuff and noticed my headset had gotten damaged on our way back to Finland. Someone had crushed my backpack with a hard hand-luggage suitcase and killed the left hinge. I really hope I can either buy a new set or patch up these as having noise cancellation headphones has become pretty important part of my playing accessories. I used to play with those tiny in-ear headphones, but I had to crank up the volume to make the background noises disappear, often leaving me with ringing ears in the end of the day. With these I can  listen to music all day long without any negative effects. They're also wonderful on airplanes on 10+ hour flights.

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.


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.


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.