St. Michel Pinball Open / Rockpin - Mikkeli, Finland - Pinball 48 arcade - 26-27/08/2016

With the EPC 2016 drawing near, we decided to visit Mikkeli for St. Michel Pinball Open with the full Team Hopeakuula compliment. The tournament was a double feature, with the main tournament and an aptly named Rockpin side tournament, both with 40+ participating players. Having missed the grand opening of the Pinball 48 arcade, I was also curious to see the owner's, Mara's 3rd arcade in the Mikkeli region.

The two tournaments had similar-ish formats. The main tournament had point based qualification with 6 games, 2 tries per game, with 16 players going to the play-offs bracket. The Rockpin tournament again had a rather tough qualification, with just one try per game. The secound round was also point based, dropping the amount of players from 16 to 8, whom then would go on against each other in a standard bracket from round 3 on.

Games for the main qualification were: Medieval Madness, Attack from Mars, Mars Trek, Judge Dredd, Pinball Magic, and an unannounced mystery game, which turned out to be no less than Wizard Of Oz!

Rockpin's qualification games were: Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Rolling Stones (Stern), Tommy, Rolling Stones (Bally), Kiss (Bally), Dolly Parton and Kiss (Stern).

I found the very idea of having both Bally and Stern versions of both Rolling Stones and Kiss pretty epic! I don't know if it's sad or not, but I found I liked the original early SS Rolling Stones a lot more than the modern Stern variant.

Other than the games, it was was really nice to see all the usual suspects once again!

Qualification, Rockpin

I decided to use the Rockpin tournament's qualification as my warm-up session for the main tournament. I hit the nearby grocery store for a sixpack of long drinks and then started to grind away.

First up was Stern's Kiss. It was still a new game for many of the players, but I had played several of them both home and abroad by now. I still have no firm strategy for this game, save choosing the mode that lits all shots and then gunning for the multiball. That netted me a rather mediocre 49M, which left me wondering if the pin was offended as I listened to Metallica as I was playing it.

My personal soundtrack wasn't Kiss today.
Metallica was next to Kiss, so I gave Hetfield and buddies a go. The first thing I noticed was that it took forever to get the Sparky multiball going. I assumed originally it had higher difficulty setting, but I was later corrected that the magned made the ball jump so some shots didn't register. I did very little with Sparky, but I did manage to progress the Snake multiball to the point where it was lit and the Coffin multiball had two locks. After making the 2nd Coffin lock (this was the LE, so it made physical locks and had the super annoying hammer to block the mid-playfield), the game autoplunged, and it made an extremely nasty bounce straight to the left outlane. No ball save. Crap, I was only at 13M at that point.

Next up was Stern's revenge on British rock - The Rolling Stones. I observed several players getting their asses handed to them by this game. I played an extremely bland game of one multiball and one mode, ending with 10M. Much to my amazement it was still up there in the top scores. Go figure. As a comment on the game itself, I find the stage roaming Jagger pretty fitting toy for this game. I bet Mick does a full marathon on the stage in every live concert!

Now that the Stern games were out of the way, it was time for Bally's take on the iconic bands.

Bally's Kiss has always been the Kiss fans' wet dream. As a game I don't rank it that high in the early solid state Ballys. My only workable strategy for it was to plunge for the center lane and then hit the spinners hoping for more lucky center shots. While getting some reads on the game I couldn't help noticing how it brought the best out of most players - you could tell someone was playing Kiss from the constant string of swear words. I did okayish on it with 241k. I found the exact spot for the center lane on my 2nd ball and it also worked for my 3rd ball.

A quick glance at the score card before plunging!

I'm not quite sure what Dolly Parton was doing in the Rockpin line-up, but fine. This is one of the very first games that teached me the whole "there's usually only one worthy shot in early SS games" line of thinking. I'm kind of shamed to admit this, but I had forgotten what was this pony's one trick. All I could think of was "something something spinner". Fortunately RON was there to spoil it for me, Dolly needs one shot at the multiplier increasing drop targets, which lits the right orbit spinner. It goes away with 3x bonus, so go for 2x and then just repeat the right orbit ad nauseam. I managed to do this exactly once, ending with 35k. Still, it wasn't the worst score out there.

Don't worry guys, Dolly hated everyone equally.

Then it was The Rolling Stones again, this time the Bally variant. I had no idea what to do here and I just winged it. And it did show in the scoring department, ended the game with 45k.

Speaking of UK, next up was Tommy. I still consider Tommy the best pin Data-East ever made. Having had Tommy at our little hideout, I'm pretty familiar with it. Too bad that didn't materialize into a good score this time. My approach to Tommy is pretty much the same as to the Twilight Zone - start mode, light mode, start another, light another, flail to win. I got some modes running, but the two first balls were pretty useless. I started the pity multiball on my last ball, collected the jackpots but that didn't help much with all the failed modes before it. I ended the game at 215M.

Last in the line-up was GnR. I went with the poor man's jackpot-approach (super bumpers + axl 3-ball). I totally tanked the main multiball and was left with 425M. At first I thought it was a total loss, but seeing a surprising amount of sub-200M scores I was cautiously optimistic about it.

As the Rockpin tournament had no real time scoring system, I had no idea how I had done. I tried to spy on the paper score sheets, guestimating I was in top-16 in most of the games.

In the end I was 14th out of 16 players to qualify. I didn't think much of it, as like said before, this was just a warm-up. It wasn't until I wrote this blog entry when I realized the official scores got my GnR entry wrong. My 425M was interpreted as 42M. After some speculation, it turns out I would have been 9th, but as the 2nd round wasn't player vs player, my 9th position wouldn't have changed anything, nor would it have affected any other player meaningfully.

Qualification, St. Michel Pinball Open

As I arrived to the scene, OMO and MRA were already dominating the main tournament qualification. I observed the games briefly, noticing some important points, mainly the unknown EM game, Mars Trek, having a total facist tilt and Medieval Madness's moat upkicker feeding SDTM. I had big hopes for Wizard Of Oz, as I've played every variant out there and as far as I know, this was the first ever WoZ in Finland.

I started my games with Mars Trek. A total wild card game for me, but it played quite nice. I had no clue of what was the pony's one trick here, but as the bonus was in 10k's, I kept hitting the bonus increasing left orbit. My final score was 612k, which according to the score keeper was among the top scores for that night. I played another round, ending with 512k so the former score remained.

From there I continued to Medieval Madness. I guess I must be among the very few people who have totally gotten bored with the whole MM and AFM hype. Still, MM is a pretty solid tournament game, although I already dreaded the moat upkicker. On my first game I just smashed couple of castles and didn't even get any of the multiballs running. Bulk of the 13.1M I got was scored on the last ball, officially making it a (crappy) one ball wonder. On the second game I didn't even bother with going for the main multiball, and went for the trolls instead. I got the Troll multiball going, but didn't do much with it. I was extremely disappointed with my final result of 13.5M, but was surprised that very few playes had gotten to the 8 figure scores.

While I was there, I also made an attempt at Attack From Mars, which turned out to be a real shit show from the start. My second game didn't give me the multiball either, but at least I knocked down couple of saucers before draining at 1.4B. Blah, stupid Martians.

I had never seen Judge Dredd with a Color DMD before. It was kind of neat, although I didn't care too much of the fruit loops colored buildings in the attraction mode. I took my usual approach here, start with Blackout and then work up from there. Got couple of crappy bounces on my first game, which ended at 107M. I managed to tilt around 30M of bonuses on that. I played the second game a bit calmer, trapped the other ball to the left flipper and repeated the left ramp. It wasn't exactly a game I would have recorded on video, but the 226M was still among the best scores at that point.

Next up was Wizard of Oz. I had pretty clear goals here: start a Munchkin mode, stack multiballs, profit. The game however wasn't having any of that and I ended my first game at measly 37k. On the second game I at least got the main multiball going, but that was pretty much it. I couldn't find the right miniplayfield loop shot to save my life. The Crystal Ball shot was also seemingly impossible and I had to settle for 126k.

So far I've played all editions of WoZ. I last played this model in Pittsburgh.

With one game to go, I was already in the top-16. Naturally that would change tomorrow when rest of the players would come, but for now at least getting qualified looked pretty good. The last game for my qualification would be Capcom's Pinball Magic. I had ... well, less flattering memories of this game from past tournaments in Mikkeli. My approach for this game was just playing the multiball. The multiball can be started from just one lock, but it naturally gets better with 2 locked balls. This time the game played quite nicely and I got the multiball running on the first ball. It started out by knocking out one of the balls, but I cradled both remaining balls and then repeated "jackpot" and "raise/relite jackpot" shots. After the multiball I got in couple of the 10M advance magic level or whatever shots and ended up at around 200M. Even at that point I had the second best score, so I switched to a more relaxed mode of playing and as the 3rd ball drained, I was at 417M.

That pretty much blew everything else out of the water, so I didn't bother to play a second game on it at all. After the score was recorded, I was #1 in the qualification.

At that point I was dead tired and hungry as hell. We planned to hit a kebab joint on our way back to our hotel, but turns out none of the downtown places were open. I had to pull the local pizzeria/kebab place finding app, and according to that the nearest open place was on the other side of the town. So, we returned to the hotel, hungry. In addition to being hungry, my feet were killing me and my back hurt. This is how it feels to be out of warranty.

We returned to the arcade the next day. First thing I had to check was the main qualification rankings. Yup! I was still #1. We arrived at around 12:00 and the play-offs were scheduled from 18:00 on, so it was one long day of just hanging around. I tried to keep on playing the free play games, but there were so few of them. 5 hours later the scores were finally in, and while MRA was tied with me for the #1 position for a brief moment, in the end I was never dropped to #2. I was somewhat happy with the result.

Playoffs, Rockpin, Round 1

After sitting idle for over half a day, the playoffs were finally starting. The first round of Rockpin's playoffs played pretty much the same as the qualification, we had 4 pins to be played as single player games. The line-up was: Kiss (Bally), Rolling Stones (Stern), Metallica and Dolly Parton.

I was among the first players to have a go at Metallica. I had some good shot in there, but didn't exactly have a dream game. I estimated my 24M would be somewhere among the last places.

While playing Metallica, I kept the Rolling Stones on eye, witnessing several hardcore players getting their asses totally kicked by the ever roaming Jagger target. I played the same kind of useless round as in the qualification, scoring almost the exact (10M) same as back then. Thinking back the qualification scores, this might be an okay score.

Next I played Kiss. I wanted to get over 100k and I did it. Barely. If there's a better strategy for Kiss than "skillshot the center lane, go all out for the spinners", let me know. 138k.

Last it was Dolly Parton. I couldn't do squat with it, only hitting the lit spinner one time. This and Metallica might have tanked this attempt.

Much to my amazement the 24M on Metallica was actually 4th best on round 1, the game was really hard on even the other seasoned players. I was 6th on Kiss, ditto with Rolling Stones and 9th on Dolly Parton. Much to my amazement I was 4th in the round and among the 8 to qualify out of the 16 players in total.

Playoffs, Rockpin, Semi-final

The 2nd round switched to player vs player format, best 2 out of 3. I went against an old gaming buddy of mine, JSZ. I might have told this one earlier, but back in early 2000 I used to frequent a large service station cafeteria in Kotka. The place had a well stocked arcade, often with 6 to 8 pins. Every weekend I drove there with my buddies to remove that pesky JSZ from the high scores. And every time I came back, the APZ filled score lists were again changed to JSZ. We only met in face to face almost 10 years later in a pinball league game.

We started off with Stern's Kiss, with JSZ as player 1. Neither of us played the game that well, JSZ commented he was still learning the game, I had some kind of an idea at this point, but had the exact same problem with the Love Gun multiball as before. In the end JSZ played both multiballs and I only played the Demon multiball and lost.

Next up was ... Kiss, again. This time the Bally version. Having found the center shot really saved my bacon there and even when JSZ came close on his 3rd ball, I took this one home.

The deciding game was played on Bally's Rolling Stones. And what a show that was! JSZ started out with a poor ball, I did exactly same being within 1k from him. Our 2nd balls were both a bit better, but both were still well below 100k. JSZ got couple of good drop target shots on his last ball, ending up at around 110k. At that point my heart rate was at around 150bpm as I knew my spot in the final was just one ball away! It started good, I just wanted to hit the saucer to collect the bonus for some rather risk-free points. Instead I found the rubber post next to it and got a center drain. I ended up with at around 90k points. I might have made it if I had done the saucer shot. Well, damn.

Anyway, I was out of the Rockpin tournament and off to the positions 5-8 game. It was a real 'meh' class game against JAX, IDO and SUI (who was no-show) on GnR. JAX owned the game with 1.8B, I couldn't get anything done right and had to settle for 795M. In the end I was 2nd, thus getting the 6th place in the whole tournament. Blah.

Playoffs, St. Michel Pinball Open, Semi-final

Having 2 byes meant I would be starting the main tournament straight from the semi-finals. I actually got to play almost 7 and a half hours after arriving to the venue. The format was player vs player, best 3 out of 5. My opponent, IDO, had started straight from the bottom, raising up the ranks from the round 1. After a seemingly easy 1st round he got to play a fierce full 5 game round against JHQ and having won that he was now ready to challenge me.

The round started with Pinball Magic. I went with the same strategy as in the qualifications, multiball all the way. I had serious trouble getting the left ramp shot and even when I got some good shots from random flailing, I lost over 50M to IDO.

Next we drew Medieval Madness. I finished some of the orbit/ramp shots to have couple of madness multiballs lit, then used that to bash the castles. I avoided the moat as much as possible, while IDO got couple of really crappy bounces from it. I was around 30M with IDO around 15M at the end.

It's been a while when I've played the Wizard of Oz in a tournament against other player. I completely wasted my first two balls trying to get the crystall ball lit, and being over 100k behind IDO on my last ball I had to play the main multiball without stacking a mode with it. That was a desperate call that didn't work.

Next up was possibly deciding game for this round, on Super Straight. The abbreviation "SS" left me hoping it would have been Scared Stiff! The game itself was an EM clunker with me having no idea on how to approach it. We were pretty much tied till the end, but IDO won. This also meant the second time for today I got eliminated in the Semi-final. Can't say I was too happy with the outcome.

I played the 5-8th positions game against MRA, ESA and JAX. It was a total shitshow for me and being 3rd there just added to the huge disappointment. I was 7th in the whole tournament.

The outcome

I qualified in the main turnament as 1st and 14th in the Rockpin side tournament due to a clerical error, I would have been 9th otherwise. That would have not changed the playoffs games in any way.

I did a double faceplant in the quarter finals, getting eliminated in both tournaments in the last round.

I was 6th in Rockpin and 7th in the main tournament.

Official results

Also: fuck.

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