Hopeakuula Open 2014 - Hopeakuula association arcade, Kouvola - 13/12/2014

It was time for the last tournament event of the year for me. With the Finnish pinball league game, Kouvostoliitto Kickback Open finals and the Hopeakuula Open all within two months, it really felt the tournaments were piling up on us! The last week before the tournament was a bit rough on all of us, with some of us enjoying the flu and the rest trying to make all the arrangements and pin tune up happen before the set date.

The weather forecast did predict some snow, but after a unusually warm early winter, we got a month's quota of snow in just 12 hours. I had to ask the building superintendent to fire up the tractor so passenger cars had even a remote chance to park inside the fences. The snowing didn't end there and our street sign was completely covered in snow in just minutes.

The first few hours were very quiet. I kept the opening speech to a virtually empty arcade as majority of our long distance guests had notified us about being stuck in slow traffic somewhere along the way. The weather was taking a turn for even worse and I knew this would really cut down the amount of participants we'd get. Unfortunately I was correct.

One of the major annoyances before Kouvostoliitto Kickback finals was that our official tournament T-shirts were stuck somewhere between the USA and Finland. In the end, only one of the packages arrived, with the only hoodie ordered. I was so looking forward for selling the shirts now, but no. Maybe next we'll order the shirts before the tournament begins!

Anyway, Hopeakuula Open kept its original format's spirit: points based, single player qualification and four player games in the play-offs until the gold and bronze games. A minor change was to change the gold game to best 3 of 5 instead of 2 of 3 and an extra player selectable joker entry during the qualification. This year's line up brought 2 machines from the last year; Contact and Gladiators, and 2 new ones; Doctor Who and Mousin' Around. I was so stoked to get my recently finished Mousin' around into action, I had originally bought a machine with a rather worn playfield and had just finished the playfield swap last week.


After score keeping the few early players, I decided to play my entries. I started out with Gladiators, which is usually a strong game for me. The Gottlieb however thought otherwise and gave me two rather nasty center drains right from the start. Add a complete failure in the best scoring mode, The Catapult and I knew this was going nowhere, fast. Then finally on the 3rd ball I got my game face on for a short time and managed to get the double scoring on, and get the final mode lit. An unfortunate bounce from the post near the start mode-hole however abruptly ended my game at 162M. I tried again, but the long days from previous week started to get the better of me. Three house balls in a row were a clear sign I needed some doping to get my edge back.

I took it easy for a couple of hours and then returned to the games. I started off with the Doctor Who, where I took the "Doctor 6 + looping" route. I collected the Sonic boom twice and played a tolerable round of multiball, before ending up with 413M. I expected to see multiple 1B scores in this tournament, so I gave it another go, this time taking the "video mode for the doctors 1, 6 and 7, then ramp + multiball"-route, but only the last ball worked and I didn't get to cash out the Sonic boom. Still, way better than what I got done in Gladiators.

TJM and MPS warming up before the qualification

I then played one round of Mousin' Around. I got to the multiball, but didn't get the jackpot, which left me at 4.3M. I know many struggle getting over 1M, so this is not a total loss. I left the remaining game for later and proceeded to Contact.

Oh, and I thought I did bad on Gladiators! My first round of Contact gave me only 121k and the next one 131k. I managed to get all the bonuses up to 40k, but didn't get to cash out full bonus even once. It was obvious I'd use my joker on Contact. The joker game gave me 84k, which is the worst game I've played for ages. So much for the homefield advantage. For some time I hanged between 4th and 5th positions, until my Mousin' Around's 4 million was bested by two other players and I sticked to 5th place.

With over 3 hours of qualifying time left, I sat down for a while. My other half, VYV got her game going way better than I, taking her to 4th place and the bye position.

With little under 2 hours left, I finally felt I was in shape to play my last Mousin' around. I really love how the new playfield plays, and before I knew it, I had surpassed my original 4.3M score on my first ball. I collected one jackpot and by the time I drained my last ball I also had the million shot lit, at 8.4M Still, it was the 2nd best score in the game and I was back in the bye positions, and on the 2nd position of the whole qualification. Mission accomplished on that part.


It took a while for me to get back to playing. On the more positive note, we observed very few trouble with the pins. I guess the preventive maintenance schedule still does its job.

So, my playoffs began from the round 2, against TEN, JAX and TJM. I was pretty confident when the first picked machine was Contact. I can't play four bad games in a row, can I?

Well, apparently I can.That must've been one of the most frustrating games on Contact EVER! And it had to come at the time when I really, really needed the points. Even one point from this would have been appreciated, but no. 0 points.

Next one was Revenge from the Mars. Here I took my usual "Big-o-Beam" -approach. Many players skip the modes, hoping to score big on the multiball, but really, there are lots of points to be scored in the modes if they're done right. Finishing the Big-o-Beam with 4 ramp shots and a center shot gives over 30M. While not exactly a stellar score itself, it's still more than what you get by skipping the modes and trying to get something out of the multiball. RFM actually shows the multiball total in the end; it's rarely over 25M! This one went to me, 4 points and back in the game.

JAX observes me playing the RFM

I would have cheered internally on our next pick; The Twilight Zone, unless I hadn't had the nagging feeling this was going to go just like the Contact. I was actually there with the others, but then TJM pulled an excellent ball, getting over 100M lead over me. At that point I had calculated I wouldn't have to worry about the others, at that point the position 2 and 3 were between me and TJM. I had been eye balling the Powerball for some time and the 100M gap would have been nicely bridged by a successful Powerball mania. So, what did I do? I hit the god damned post between the Slot machine scoop and right orbit and got a center drain from that. That was pretty weak from me. This meant I was out of the game and in the positions 5-8 game.

Positions 5-8 game

Last game of the night. I went against TTV, JAX and IDO on Flash. It was almost as painful as the games had been so far. Being in the positions 3-4 most of the game my only strategy was to go for the Super flash. Couldn't get it and in the end I won JAX by the skin of my teeth, being 7th. What a let-down this day had been!

The guys hanging out as finals were played

The outcome

The last game of the season sure didn't end like the last year! It almost felt bad to hang up my 2013-2014 gaming shirt on my wall of shirts with this game as its last. Still, I had my moments during those year, especially in the 2013 season, plus the many countries I got to visit this year.

In Hopeakuula Open 2014 I was 2nd in the qualifying and 7th in the in the whole tournament.

While I wasn't that happy with my own playing, I was more than happy to notice that both of the junior regulars of our arcade, TTA and HOP both qualified. It was actually heart warming to see the joy when they both realized there were no more entries to be played and they were above the cut line! I'd also like to note TJM's games. He played strong, steady game the whole day, and won the very first trophy of his life with his 3rd place! Congratulations, you've earned it!

It was a great shame that the weather turned out to be what it was. We lost many of the local regulars and probably several of the long distance guests as well.

For me this is the last tournament this year, but I'm already looking forward for the PAPA tournament at Pitsburg in March 2015!

The winning trio: 3rd: TJM, 1st: JSZ, 2nd: OMO
Oh, and here's the mandatory timelapse video!

Finnish pinball league 2014, Game 6/6 -Nedi's pinball show room, Suinula - 29/11/2014

So, this is the end of Finnish pinball league season 2014. I guess I was dreading the night before the tournament more than the tournament itself as I'd need to be in 100% playing condition to take the #1 or #2 position in the qualification to get one bye, then get at least to the semi-finals to secure the bronze trophy.

As luck would have it, loading one pin from our arcade yesterday didn't completely ruin my back and I got a rare occurrence of good night's sleep. Driving towards Suinula I felt I could take on the world! Looking at the player roster I noticed my group had way more big names than the group B. I guess I would just need to put on the game face more often! We got all the usual elements of Finnish winter; when we left it was raining like hell, then 50 kilometers out it started snowing and after that we drove in a thick fog. Looking back I noticed we've always had rather peculiar weather when driving to the season final game.

We arrived early enough to try out the Stern's latest, Walking Dead's pro-model. I managed to play one and a half game of it before my group started playing. I can't say I have formed a solid opinion on it yet, the theme is a bit so-and-so for me and some of the game rules were a bit confusing at first. For example, the Well zombie has its own multiball, but it doesn't start when you collect all the W-E-L-L -letters. Instead they start to blink and the real multiball starts after 5 or 6 shots after that. Using the drop targets on the left as mode start switch made me completely ignore them at first. Still not sure how useful the modes are as I later managed to play 115M on a tournament game by just stacking the two main multiballs and grinding away everything that was lit.


As I and VYV were playing in the same group, we decided to play the family match first. As it was reminded to us, the players could pick a game should both players agree to it. As we were the very first to start playing, we picked Walking dead. From the very little I got to play it before the qualification start I had noticed the value of the skillshot and the fact that the Well zombie gave a multiball if hit enough times. I also noticed that hitting the prison enough times didn't start the multiball directly, but required to collect all the red arrows. My makeshift strategy was to advance the prison multiball to the point where it required all the main shots to start, then start the Well zombie and use the ball saver to collect the remaining shots to stack the multiball. I have to admit it worked better than I expected.

Making the #1 high score is always a good sign in a tournament game!

After bringing home the Walking dead, I played Centigrade 37 against MJS. What a highly disappointing game that was, out of the 5 balls I got to play maybe one tolerable ball and several house balls. MJS won the game without having to play his 5th ball to the end. My score was around 60k.

I got to play the Walking Dead again later on against TMA. This time I had severe trouble getting the multiballs running, I was nearly tied with TMA at only around 5M when the 3rd ball started, but then the game started rolling and I was quickly in 35M before double draining during the multiball. TMA also got his game on, but ultimately the game went for me.

My game against OMO was one of the nerve wreckers. I was silently chanting for a classics machine as I was sure to get my ass kicked on the modern ones. I drew Gottlieb's Joker Poker, which was just what the doctor ordered. We've had the pleasure of having Buck Rogers at our arcade this year, and it has teached me a lot about playing these extra slow classic machines. I managed to get the 5x bonus on four first balls, getting a good lead. It was enough to bring this one home, with almost 350k score.

I later on played a second round of Joker Poker against JSF, which was a way more even game. We both did quite good on it, playing neck and neck until the 5th ball. JSF managed to get ahead a bit, while I had one very close call with the right outlane, but I then managed to nail the 4 aces + joker and win this one. A good game!

My best game of the day was against MPS on Iron Man. I got to Do or die on my 1st ball, getting 25M from it and being at 75M after first ball. The following balls weren't that stellar, but I still got my second high score game for today!

There were also couple of less good ones too. One of those was against JAX on Metallica Premium. We did absolutely nothing on the machine, and our 3rd balls started with JAX leading with 4.5M, me being at 2.5M. JAX got just 1M on that ball, leaving me wonder what would be the most secure way to get 3M points. It was really nerve wrecking to combo the ramp shots, and every time I got the mysterly lit I gunned for it to get the 500k, but apparently this newer software version gives out random things even on the tournament mode. After what felt like forever of random flailing I finally went past the 5.5M and won the game, but it wasn't the proudest moment!

I played a similar game against NED as well on STTNG. I had played the game before against SUI and won with nearly 1B score, this time I drained my 3rd ball with just 150M! What was even more disturbing was that NED, the owner, was at 60M. I had already congratulated him for the easy win, but he drained just after the ballsaver had gone out, ending up with just a bit over 100M.

And I'm not even going to comment on my game against ASS (snicker) on the Scared Stiff, which ended 800k - 1.2M to my advantage!

Out of the three losses (of 13 games) JSZ beat me on Metallica Premium, although this time I actually got to play it for a while. AKI also took home a round of Star Trek LE, which was a pretty good show on his part!

Still, what can I say? Mission accomplished!


MPI was 5th in the Group A qualification and worked his way to the quarter-final with a clean 2-0 game against KUR. As I really needed to get to the semi-finals, MPI was literally standing between me and the trophies! MPI is one of the players who often spars with me during our downtime, so I knew this wasn't going to be a cakewalk.

Our opening game was 3rd round of Joker Poker for me today. The de-facto 5x bonus strategy worked nicely here, I didn't have to play my 5th ball.

Our next game was the Iron Man rehash. It wasn't until now when I realized they had switched to all-LED lighting on it and it had couple of visual differences, like how the 100-200-300-400k lights behave during Bogie. The game didn't start that well and after 2 balls we were both under 3M. I got the Iron monger up on my 3rd ball, but the second last hit before the multiball caused the magned to throw the ball right into the right outlane. MPI again had a better luck with it, and he played the multiball to ultimately win the game.

The deciding game was Stern's Mustang. We both got off to a good start, nothing stellar but after 2 balls we were within 500k of eachother at 37M. Then MPI pulled a monster ball, mostly playing modes pretty much perfectly and finally drained at 80M. So ... one ball left, 43M behind. No biggie.

As I found the modes too dangerous, I took the multiball route and played Drag race, then Gear shift and eventually Mustang multiball! The Mustang multiball was going nice, I had already collected the couple first single jackpots to light more and progress towards to super jackpot. But just then I lost one ball from the left and paid way too much attention to it, so I missed two balls heading towards the center drain. I slapped hard, but couldn't help it. I had absolutely no idea what my score was at that point. I knew I had cashed out some serious jackpots along the way. I had to watch all the multiball end animations, bonus count, the game over-text to finally see the outcome: 80M to 72M. And I was out.

I had three 3M jackpots lit at that time. Those three little jackpots would have been enough to win. I was so damn close!

Still, this is what I call a satisfying loss. I went head to head against a good player, we both pulled an excellent game when it was needed, but this time the opponent was just better. No excuses.

At this point I had no idea how close I was to silver or bronze trophy, but I knew it was just a matter of single points.

Positions 5-8 game

Normally I play the drop-outs game pretty half-heartedly, but I assumed I might still be in the game for at least for the bronze trophy!

The game was between me, RON, NED and OMO and we drew Centigrade 37.

Since this was a single player game, I just popped in the check the progress every now and then, taking a picture of the finished scores. RON got 93k, NED 60k and OMO 132k. I was a bit concerned at this point as my best at this game so far was 60k, and I still needed the points!

The game started just as bad as I had feared. After the 4th ball I had 30k points and the last ball didn't look that good. It started with the ball going through the lanes at right, then towards the right outlane, but I managed to nudge it back into the inlane. Then started the grinding, which didn't end until I was at 107k. I almost had OMO in my sights, but then I got an unfortunate feed from the bottom bumper and that was it. So, I was 2nd in the positions 5-8 game, which means 6th in the tournament.

The outcome

After a lot of anticipation, the league points were calculated and the season 2014 finals results announced. I was on the 5th place, with shared 32 points with the 4th place JSZ. I was just 2 points shy from the 3rd position, which went to JHQ with 34 points. Should I have beat MPI in the quarter final, I could have just plunged away all my balls in the semi-final and bronze game and still get the 3rd place in the total score. Reminds me of the 2011 season, when the very same happened to JHQ, whom I pushed to 4th position and took the bronze then, so I guess this was a fitting payback :-)

I'd really like to say I'm looking forward for the 2015 season, but I honestly don't know if I'll be returning to the league any more. While majority of the folks in the league are just wonderful, there are certain elements that I feel ruin the whole thing for me. Driving back home I realized this had gone past the point where attending the tournaments is no longer fun. I think this is the point where I thank everyone and tell you all to play well in the season 2015.

I'm not looking to burn any bridges or give up competitive pinball playing, but unless something really earth shattering happens, I won't be attending the next season. Our arcade will be however available for the league games in 2015, as promised.

Results of the 6th tournament
Final league results

Kouvostoliitto Kickback Open 2014 - Hopeakuula association arcade, Kouvola - 22/11/2014

The Kickback Open might just be a record setting tournament in many ways in Finland. First, it probably was the longest single tournament ever, lasting from early March into mid-November, getting over 2200 qualification entries from 47 players.

The funny thing is, that while at time it felt there wasn't much anything but Kickback Open in my life during that time, I actually got to play very little. And then all the sudden here we are - all 16 qualified players present, eager to get their hands on our laser engraved trophies! Well, it was time to bring to the end something we had set to motion.

Unique tournament needed unique trophies!


I remember very little about my qualification run. I did play game here and game there when I could, but I could never concentrate on playing as much as I would have liked. I avoided playing when no other players weren't present, the pinball folk in general are pretty honest, but I still wanted more than one extra pair of eyes to witness the games should I pull some kind of a monster game, or two.

My best in Apollo 13 was 3.2B, which in the end was 3rd best. It was a pretty standard game of doing the most critical modes right and then cashing out the 13 ball multiball jackpots. During the qualification I managed to pull multiple monster scores from invidual modes, like over 450M from Manual burn, when over steering the rocket on purpose.

I had feared that the Viking would turn into a drop target raping fest, but it was actually much more entertaining game-wise. Naturally the #1 objective was the get the 5X bonus, but it rarely came easy and then there was the whole business of trying to cash out the bonus. I believe my tap passing skills grew exponentially during this tournament all thanks to Viking! And like I suggested in the game introduction video, the best way to cash out the bonus (save draining the ball!) is to shoot the right orbit, let the ball come down, then shoot past the upper left bumper towards the collect bonus-hole and nudge the ball there. We saw multiple over 1M scores in Viking, mine was 1.2M and 5th best. I find it extremely satisfying hearing the three knocks when you get past 1M!

Judge Dredd was one surprising game. I hadn't realized how hard it is to most folks, and I expected to see multiple 1B scores. Instead my own best score of 422M, which I considered a rather bad score considering we're playing with extra balls, was still 3rd best. JD has the questionable track record of being the 2nd most troublesome machine to maintain in the tournament, as it blew multiple opto switches during the qualification.

Stellar Wars again was probably the #1 cause for player frustration. You could tell if someone was playing a tournament entry on it from all the F-words in the air! Where the other oldie in the Kickback line up, Viking was a rather fast machine, Stellar Wars was deceptively slow. Many players commented that at that rate the ball will never go down, yet trying to get a good tournament entry was at time extremely challenging! For me Stellar Wars has teached a valuable lesson on ball control - where the ball tracks in most modern machines are straight thanks to the fast moving ball, Stellar Wars gives a good example on how the physics work when the ball is moving extra slow. It takes a while to train your eye to see where the long arc-like track is going to take the ball and react in time. For many, it was "no, no, not there!", watching the ball taking an unfortunate hit from the left bumper and then taking a long trip over the playfield right into the right outlane. My best was 640k, which was 2nd best in the qualification. It was also the very last entry I played.

Then there's my personal favorite, Fish Tales. Many players actually reached the position where they could shoot for the super jackpots, yet very few actually scored it. I honestly expected to get way more than the 446M that ended up being my best, but in the end it was the 2nd best score out there. For the FT I had only one major goal: have the multiball as the next captive ball prize lit, and have the super jackpot lit. That way the first super jackpot would restart the ball saver and I'd get multiple free shots at the super jackpot. My record game was a bitter sweet one. I failed to get the extra ball from the video mode, got nothing from the multiple rock the boats I played, then all the sudden the super jackpot was lit and I had only two balls in the game, one in the bumpers and one cradled on the left. Fearing a bad feed from the bumpers I decided to flail away at the super jackpot, getting it on the first try, but also draining the ball from the right outlane. Then the other ball came screaming down from the bumpers, I slap saved it and accidentally hit the 2nd super jackpot, before draining it as well. Oh well.

Last, the Twilight Zone. I never tried any shortcuts, I just aimed to start a mode, then cash it out as good as I could. I got to over 1B only once, with my 2nd best entry just one shot shy from Lost in the Zone and ending up in 752M. My best was 1.6B, and it was nearing the 2nd Lost in the Zone.

It's kind of funny, in the end I wasn't #1 on any of the machines, but was still consistently enough in the top-3 that I managed to pull a 11 qualification point lead to the #2. I wonder what had happened if the bonus point table was in use this year! Still, I got 2 byes and was one of four players to begin right from the 3rd round, just one round before the semi-finals.


I have to admit I really dreaded this day. While I had the best possible starting point in the whole end-game, there was still one round where I could be eliminated in before the semi-finals. With the recent history of trouble with my back (that actually forced me to already skip one tournament), I was far from my peak playing condition.

Round 3

I started off from the round 3 with KML, IDO and TEN. We each would get our opponent from the previous rounds and would face each other only in the semi-final or final/bronze-game after that.

My opponent was JAX, who was one of two players playing only two full rounds in qualifications and still qualifying. From the very last position to qualify, JAX had then worked his way past the first round against MPS, the second round against JEP and was now playing against me for his place in the semi-finals.

We started off with the Twilight Zone, with me as 2nd player. JAX played his first ball for some time, but somehow managed only to score 15M points. I didn't do much better, but I did the skill shot and caught him just seconds after starting my first ball - the ball saver on the TZ is a real game changer!

I played couple of modes, nothing fancy but still got closer to 100M during my first ball. I accidentally played the multiball with just one lock, but at least got 2 jackpots out of it. I pointed out to JAX that the next ball in the gumball machine was the powerball. JAX then took it, but wasn't prepared to its speed and drained it. I was hoping there would be at least one ball in the lock so I could drain my first ball and get the power ball, but no. I got the locks lit and locked one ball, but drained soon after that, so JAX got the powerball. I suggested getting rid of it ASAP, which he did and got the powerball mania. Unfortunately he scored no jackpots out of it, and couldn't catch my 2nd ball score on his 3rd ball. First point for me.

Next up, Mousin' Around, me as player 1. My weapon of choice is the center ramp, which I hit hard. A bit over 10 loops on the first ball, 5 on the next one and another 5 on the last. I ended up with 2.5M, which was nothing special, but the face paced game gave some hard time to JAX, who was still to break first million on his 3rd ball. But then Mousin's dark side kicked in: the machine has a pity extra ball if the game time for the first two balls is especially low. JAX got the extra ball, played a round of multiball and got to bit over 2M. Without the extra ball this would have been it. JAX got the skillshot, worth 300k and while the extra ball didn't last too long, Mousin' Around's cumulative bonus was enough to get bridge the 200k gap. JAX took this one home.

JAX, starting to grind away his extra ball

The deciding game was Gladiators. I was metally high-fiving myself, as I consider this System 3 Gottlieb one of my strongest games. The game was very rude to JAX, who confessed he had no clue what was going on. I again went with my typical double-for-every-ball -strategy, but managed to drain the 2 first balls in record time. JAX had a bit better second ball, which took him to a slight lead, but then his 3rd ball was totally out of this world! He managed to start enough modes to hit the final mode, and even got one almost 100M shot to sink in there. He finally drained with almost 300M lead!

Time for a quick analyzation: next mode was the Catapult, I could grind at least 150M out of that. After the 3rd completed shot I'd also have double, after which I could play Cataclysm for 20+M a shot to catch him.

I started the Catapult from the skillshot, tap-passed three balls into the upper saucer, 50M a shot and went to double scoring. I then carefully started the next mode, which unfortunately wasn't the Cataclysm thanks to one extra bumper hit. I started Fire and ice instead, which lit all main shots for 10M. Well, that still worked for me, and I started to grind 'em away. I was contemplating whenever I should try to collect the right ramp as well, because of its rather nasty return near the right kicking target (which replace slingshots on this machine).

Well fuck-a-doodle-doo, the kicking target made a perfect left outlane shot, with me over 100M behind JAX. The very worst I had feared had happened, dropping me to the positions 5-8 game and getting JAX into the semi-finals.

I have to tip my hat to JAX, that was a real tough position he started from, and he kept his nerves calm and just kept on flipping towards the blinking lights. That gave him a devastating victory over someone who actually had a carefully planned strategy for the game. I always tell people to never give up, no matter who you're playing against, and this is a perfect example why. Way to go, JAX!

Positions 5-8 game

Having my goals set for any trophy position made the positions 5-8 game feel pretty underwhelming. However with a tournament of 47 players, with many big names taking part, several WPPR points were still for grabs, so after the round 3 had finished, I had to put on my game face once more.

I was playing against TTV, KML and VYV, two of which were 2 bye players. Out of the four 2 bye players only TEN managed to get to the semi-finals this time. 

The game was Judge Dredd, with me as player 4. Our first balls were pretty even, no one got anything that special going on. I got up to 60M or so, being a bit ahead of the others. My second ball was rather good, I managed to play couple of nice modes, but then almost center drained from a weak ramp shot. But what was even worse was that I managed to tilt the machine while slap saving from it! There went over 50M in mode scoring from the bonus!

TTV pulled a nice 150M lead on his last ball, KML and VYV couldn't catch him. At this point I was last, with about 10-15M behind both KML and VYV. I made the skill shot and looped the larger loop couple of times to catch them. After that TTV was in my sights. I noticed I was just one crime scene shy from the extra ball, so I made a rather risky shot at the left ramp. It however paid off and I got the extra ball lit. I drained soon after collecting it, ending up with a bit over 120M. TTV was still ahead of me, but I used the extra ball on modes, instead of the multiball which was 2 locks away, and managed to just pull myself past him. Phew!

The outcome

I was 1st in the qualification and 5th in the whole tournament. While I obviously aimed higher, I was relieved about the fact that this monster tournament was finally over and judging from the feedback we got after the event I'm pretty sure the Kickback will return in 2015, with a new line-up of qualification machines and even more epic end-game.

JAX, OMO and IDO, the Kickback champions!

Right now I'm just so damn happy to attend the next tournament, in which I have absolutely zero responsibility with maintaining the pins or running the show!

Final results:
End game

Danish Pinball Open - The Pinlab, Copenhagen, Denmark - 25/10/2014

Less than a week from the K15 Open I was on the road again. This time it was Denmark's turn to host the tournament. We actually almost visited the Pinlab in 2013 as a part of our trip across the Europe, but ended up missing their Wednesday game night. From what I heard later on, we would have seen the old Pinlab back then as this was the first DPO in their brand spanking new arcade. And what a place it was! Being used to seeing the cellars and old industrial buildings the new Pinlab was a welcome sight, although it's really the pins that make the arcade.

JAX, OMO and JOE checking out their qualification group pins.

The game format was the good old score based qualification with a quick player vs player first round of qualifications and then the IFPA-styled 4 player games where each round eliminates two of the players. The qualifications were played in four groups, where each group played two games on each machine and the best score was recorded. The players then had one joker attempt on a freely chosen machine in their group. 24 first qualifiers went to group A playoffs, 24 next to group B and the rest were sent packing.

My group was: Avatar, Creature from the black lagoon, Monster bash and the Twilight zone. Looking at the other groups, I was rather confident about the machines. Avatar was the only machine that had a tad too much randomness for my taste, but other than that it was a perfectly doable feat.


Arriving at the the Pinlab required a short walk from the nearest commuter train station. Still, it was enough to put my back into a world of hurt. After one round of the free play pins I had to give up and find the nearest pharmacy. The locals wouldn't sell any strong stuff but I scored myself a 20-pack of 200mg ibuprofen based painkillers which finally did the trick, but I was still far from optimal playing condition.

Back in Slovenia I heard that the "Swedish breakfast" is an Asperin
and a glass of water. Well, here's the Finnish breakfast.

I started out with the Avatar. I actually learned something new about the machine: the Ampsuit multiball doesn't have to be lit before stacking it with Link. Instead you can start it from the point where the barrier is down once you get Link multiball running. I'm not sure if that helped much, I took the Ampsuit barrier down and pounder the rest remaining shots after starting link. I still fell short from my average 30M+ scores on both tries, ending with a recorded score of 18M.

My first attempt at the Creature was a total failure. The next again did show some promise, I got big millions running but did nothing with it. I was just about to abandon all hope, when I finally got the multiball running on the second ball. Took 3 shots to complete the rescue and I also got the jackpot quite easily. Failing at the big millions however left me with a sub-200M score.

What an odd TZ. It had transparent flipper rubbers!

The Twilight zone again worked a bit better. It had no Powerball, so the first shot at the Gumball machine gave the emulated Powerball round with one shot to Powerball mania. My own TZ never gives a nice Slot machine feed, so I tend to forget how easily it can work on other TZ's. This one gave a nice, controlled bounce from the right flipper to left inlane and the right orbit was really hard to miss! On my better game I played a rather long, but jackpotless Powerball mania. As the right orbit was such an easy shot, I took the easy maxed out Gumball shot as often as I could. While it wasn't exactly a stellar score, I still was still happy with the 380M score, especially after witnessing several 50-100M games from others.

I spent some time getting some reads on the Monster bash. My fellow countryman JAX commented on the center hole that fed rather annoyingly straight on the slingshot. The machine had no rubber posts on the sides, so all vertical motion was a recipe for a disaster. I played two rather even rounds. They both aimed to get some modes running, then start the multiball, but the game played so out of control I spent the first balls on just trying to get the Frankenstein completed and started it as a stop gap measure on the last ball. At 30-something million I wasn't exactly celebrating the outcome, but then again it was way better than some of the worst ones I saw on it.

OMO playing the TZ. JOE getting some reads on the machines.

There was also a 50/50 side tournament played on Mustang and Taxi. My group played on Taxi. Not much to tell home about the game, two first balls were unceremoniously drained from the bumpers, the last ball I actually got to play enough to lock a ball but never got the multiball started.

After a long deliberation, I spent my joker game on Avatar. I played another rather bland Link-Ampsuit multiball and got to a bit over 20M. Still, it was a bit better than my original games on it. I later learned that I had actually made 2 points with the 1.2M better score!

In the end I watched my name slipping from the bye position of group A, then jumping between group B bye positions and group A last. I even saw myself out of the whole tournament, but it turned out just to be a glitch and was quickly fixed. After the rest of the scores were in, I was 3rd in the group B. Not being in the top dog fight was a real letdown for me and almost made me hope I would have been completely eliminated in the qualification.

After the qualification we finally go to eat. I had completely forgotten that there was a meal included in the ticket price! I've seen that couple of times, but it's usually something small and cheap. Well, not this time. The Danes really outdid themselves and offered us a real feast!

Food .... FOOD!

Quarter final, group B

Being in the top-8 of group B I got one bye and spent that time grinding away the free play machines. In the end I was put against three other players (I usually look up my opponent's names from the official score list, but as I can't find one online, I have no recollection on who I played against!) on Demolition man, Jackbot and Star Trek: the next generation.

Starting out with Demolition man, I was the 4th player. None of us got anything done on the first ball, couple of multiballs were seen on the 2nd ball but it wasn't until 3rd ball when one of my opponents pulled a nice streak of multiballs, getting to the Wasteland multiball. I still hadn't played a single multiball at that point, so things looked a bit grim, especially when I had spent the two first balls on trying to start even my first one! But then on my third ball I finally nailed it, and nailed it so well I played the museum multiball as well, got maximum freezes from the Computer and player a successful Wasteland as well, pulling myself from the last position to first much to the others' great dismay!

Thanks to my bullet dodging pull at Demoman, I was the first player on Jackbot. I found the short plunge on the first attempt, hit the visor one shot open spot and started the multiball. I made several attempts at super jackpot but failed. After draining the other ball I hit the visor shot again, playing a second multiball as well, finally draining after getting 750M on the clock! The others fumbled with the 'bot's harsh outlanes, while I player all modes except the slotmachine. I was still in a strong lead when my 3rd ball started, and I started multiball from the Slotmachine, getting to 1.5B. I finally drained after trying to start Casino run, and with the bonus I ended up with 1.8B. It was easily enough to also bring this game home, sealing my place in the semi final as I now had a lead none of the others could catch. 

Our last game, Star Trek: the next generation was more of just having fun with the game as I had already secured my place in the semi final. I however still had to play as my position was meaningful for the others. I started out by going after the multiball, which I finally had lit when my 2rd ball started. I have never actually thought about what happens when the multiball is already lit (the 3rd lock is open) at the ball start. Apparently the "lock ball" skill shot option just gives bonus multiplier instead. I played a good multiball, and then finished couple of modes as well. In the end I managed to keep a good distance to the others, winning my 3rd game as well, getting 12 points and getting to the semis.

Semi final, group B

On the Semi final I was playing on Creature from the black lagoon, No fear and AC/DC. The creature was the only pin I had played here. From the little what I had watched someone playing No fear, it was rather unforgiving with its outlanes. AC/DC again was a total mystery.

I played a rather unremarkable game on the Creature. It only took one jackpot to actually win it, but this time I managed to cash out the multi millions a bit further, ending up with 146M. Many of the others had just rough luck with the machine, the final scores ranging from 19 to 81M.

Next up was No fear. Apparently it was a new game for at least two players, who listened very closely when I explained the basic rules to them. I didn't bother with the modes and went with the multiball instead. My first ball was rather short, but it didn't drain before the super jackpot. This put a lot of pressure on the other players, who paced behind me during the whole ball! My 2nd and 3rd balls were rather useless, in retrospect I should have just gunned for 2nd round of multiball instead of getting greedy and going for the final mode by actually playing the modes and not just timing them out. In the end, one of the players who I coached actually managed to pull couple of successful super jackpots and got past me on his 3rd ball. Oh well, I still rather win by playing than by withholding information. I actually remember several games where I've lost as I've briefed my opponents about what they should do. Still, no regrets.

Last, we played the AC/DC. With 6 points, 1 or 2 points from this would be enough to get to the final, depending on how the others did. I trusted I'd eventually find the the left ramp, so I could keep on backhanding it to ramp to collect the Rock'n'roll Trains and advance Jam multiball. I played three rather unremarkable balls. No any major screwups, but then again, I only played the Jam multiball once and didn't manage to cash out too much from the Rock'n'roll Train. Being the player 2, after my 3rd ball the #1 player was 7 millions ahead of me and the two rest were way behind. When the player 3 drained at 8M I knew I wasn't the last, and was nervously pacing around, wondering if there was still some way the last player could change things. OMO assured me I'd be in the final nevertheless, and even when the player 4 pulled himself from the last position to first, I was still in the final. Phew!

Final, group B

I wasn't that excited about the group B final as I knew the real outcome would be just another who-cares-th position after everyone in the group A. Still, I was positively surprised they had gone all the way to have actual trophies even for the group B finalists! 

I like the shiny things!

The final machines drawn were Funhouse, Scared Stiff and Jackbot. Those might have been my picks even if I had gotten to choose them myself, so no complaints!

I was the player 1 on Funhouse, and boy was it a blast! The wind tunnel was at Quick multiball, so I deliberately short plunged and went for it ... except the ball bounced to the bumpers and went straight down the middle. The second ball wasn't much better: I was still after the Wind tunnel, but the ball bounced off the tunnel hole more times I could count ... and then straight down the middle. The others were struggling with the machine as well, I recall we all were within 1 to 2M range at that point.

Getting my ass handed to me on the Funhouse.

I decided I'd stop playing around and did a full plunge, flipped the ball into the alley to open the trapdoor, hoping to hit the trapdoor on the second pass. I hit the rubber post just above it instead and drained from the left at 1.1M. The best score was 4.5M, with the 3rd best being 1.8M. With that trap door shot made I could have been close! 0 points for this one.

Next up was Scared Stiff. This one didn't have the mechanical spider working, which is a kind of annoyance for me - I seem to have great trouble timing the wheel when it's in the compensation mode, emulation the spinning spider's position with the lights. I missed both, extended crate and extended coffin on the first try, but then finally got the extended coffin on my second ball. No one was completely dominating the game at that point, the leader had around 8M after his last ball, which was doable on just one Crate multiball. I tried getting the Double trouble for my last ball, but missed the damn thing. I then started the Crate multiball, and pounded a bit over 5M out of it, before draining. That would have been 10M if I had gotten the Double trouble like I intended. In the end, I was second and got 2 points. Still, now I once again have a shot at the trophies!

The Jackbot was surprisingly even game for all of us. I gave the super jackpot several attempts during my first multiball, but failed once again. Then I managed to accidentally collect the second multiball from the slot machine, which meant only 2 ball multiball instead of 3. I was on my 3rd ball when then second multiball ended, and I noticed I had only one mode to Casino run. I collected it and made a shot at the start mode hole. Instead of making it, I hit the leftmost visor target and center drained from that. My chance to winning this game suddenly turned into struggle for the positions 2 or 3. In the end I was 3rd, getting one point and being 4th in the final.

I don't know which irks me the most, the fact that this was 3rd time I've been on 4th position this year, or that while this was only group B final, I had still set myself a perfectly doable objective of bringing one of the trophies home and hitting the worst case scenario.

The outcome

I was 4th in group B and 28th in the whole tournament.

Fortunately this tournament wasn't the only reason I visited Denmark this time. I've actually been to Denmark twice before, but on both times I was travelling by a car and didn't have much time to stop to look around at the Copenhagen area. This time how ever I took 2 extra days and explored both Roskilde and Copenhagen area on foot. While I normally don't care much for the larger cities, I enjoyed my stay. I actually enjoyed it so much I'm planning on returning some day on summer just to look around more.

K15 Open - K15 arcade, Helsinki - 17-19/10/2014

K15 Open has become the local equivalent of the Stockholm Open during the past few years, attracting players not just from Sweden, but elsewhere in the Europe as well. With a large collection of pins and central, easy to access location I'm sure the event will keep on growing in the years to come.

This year the line up was: Cirqus Voltaire, Demolition man, Dirty Harry, Guns N' Roses, Iron Man, Metallica, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, Medieval Magness, Twilight Zone and X-men.

A PinGolf secondary tournament was to be played on AC/DC, Doctor Who and Monster Bash.

I took a while for me to select my tournament line-up. Voltaire and Demolition man are way too random for my comfort. Medieval Madness will probably attract too many tough players. In the end I was going back and forth between Ster Trek and Pirates of the Caribbean, ending up with the latter as I'm more familiar with its rules. GnR was my favourite of the line-up and I had high expectations of it. X-men was more of a wild card, it's one of those machines where I lack a controlled strategy and just grind away the multiballs, at times getting rather good scores.

It had been a tough week, but I was in rather good spirits driving towards Helsinki in a heavy, cold rain.

Yes, that ↑ qualifies as "good spirits" for me!


I played couple of warm-ups, but they didn't go that well. I then homed on to GnR and started my first qualification game. The game played beautifully and it looked damn good as well! The tilt was a bit on the sensitive side, but other than that the machine was a pleasure to play. I ended up with 691M, which was far from my goal but I was sure to return to it later on.

Metallica again was one of the one ball wonders. I played a rather good round of Electric chair multiball, getting about 25M and pretty much nothing after that on my 1st ball. The two following balls again we're totally useless, and I was left with 26M. Looking at the standings I noticed this had to be at least tolerable score, even when I couldn't see other players' scores at the time.

What comes to one ball wonders, Ironman was next in line. My two first first balls were pretty much total waste, with my 3rd ball starting out with just 700k. I actually stressed a bit that I'd have to record a sub-1M score on it! I got the Iron monger up on my 3rd ball, and at the same time War machine was lit. I started that, then Iron monger and later on played Bogey and Whiplash as well. While I drained before the really good scoring final modes, I was still happy with the 20.6M as I had witnessed several sub-10M scores while getting some reads on the machine.

I then gave Pirates of the Caribbean a try. I took my usual approach of just sinking the ships, but I soon came to regret picking the Pirates instead of Star Trek. The ship shot returned the ball so it at times hit the slingshots and required a slight nudge to break the slingshot loop. Much to my surprise this gave my two warnings at very slow pace and then tilt on my first attempt. This completely screwed my game play on it, and it became more of a game of luck than skill from there on. I ended up with 17.8M on my first attempt.

Last for me was the X-Men. My "play multiball, multiball and multiball" approach on it may be a bit on n00bish, but it generally gets me through when needed. On my first game I got 12.8M, on the next 12.9M and on my last 23.1M. None of them were anything to cheer about, but I bet it wasn't the worst score played on it either.

With 7 games played and at least one entry on each machine it was time to stop and analyse the situation a bit.

I got my worst qualification points from the Pirates of the Caribbean, as I expected, so that needed some extra rounds. The 26M on Metallica and 20.6M on Ironman had to do for now.

My next attempt at Pirates was a total failure. I managed to tilt all three balls, as each returned from the ship shot way out of control. After the second tilt I started to experiment nudging it as it was being released from the ship, but no, that went straight down the middle and I tilted the machine on a standard slap save. Outcome: 4M. Great.

The second attempt was pretty much ruined by my stiff and overly cautious play. 6M and last try at the machine. This probably ruined my chance to get at least one bye from the qualification.

I then gave Guns N' Roses another attempt. I took a completely different approach this time: I aimed combining super pops with multiball. My first attempt failed at 535M, but the second had a real chance of improving on my previous score. The next mode was Dizzy ball and the main multiball was one shot away from starting. Naturally I had to be greedy and try the left ramp, getting a center drain from it on my last ball and ending the game at 595M, so the original 691M score was my best.

In retrospect, the break between the two streaks of playing was a bad call. The energy drink's buzz wore off and the adrenaline rush had now turned into a head ache. I was just about to play Metallica again, when I counted my recorded scores and noticed my entry count wasn't up to date. Good thing I checked, as the next game would have been my 12th!

I played my PinGolf entries after that, but save a good try on Doctor Who, the rest went down the crapper.

We left Helsinki after my Pingolf entries, but not before we visited Klasu for a quick (4 hour!) run of AC/DC and Dracula. I kept the standings on eye while we played, and was sighed when I finally plunged below the 16th position that was the last one for at least one bye.

Pirates of the Caribbean haunted me the whole way driving back home in cold rain. I mentally whipped myself for not taking the Twilight Zone or Star Trek instead. I don't even know why I had overlooked the Twilight Zone in the first place. Another major failing was not to get some reads on the Pirates before playing the first game, I could have picked something else.

My final score card. See those scribbles beneath the entry numbers? That's my shorthand of how the games went, and was later used to reconstruct the event when writing this blog entry.

Could have, should have, aww crap. Well, at least I'm still in, and what I last saw, I'd be playing against KML on the first round tomorrow.


After a restless night I woke up feeling almost as beaten up as I was when going to sleep, except now I had a massive back ache once again. Apparently my lower back just can't handle long gaming sessions like yesterday was. I was actually so zoned out driving to Helsinki that I never noticed TTV and RON passing me on the highway, flashing the long beams and waving at me. I was just squeezing my cup of coffee and concentrating on staying on the road!

Apparently the standings did change a bit as one of the qualified players was a no-show. My opponent was no longer KML, but SAM. Oh well. Going against the old fox, it'd seem!

After couple of cans of energy drinks I actually felt somewhat alive again and managed to pull couple of satisfying warm-up games before we were called for a briefing on the play-offs.

Round 1

So, it was me against SAM and our first machine was the Twilight Zone. SAM was the lower qualified player so he got to start. I got off to a good start and played a good round of Power ball mania on my first ball. SAM had couple of crappy returns on his second ball, while I pounded enough balls into the gum ball machine to play another round of Power ball mania. I also found the lock shot quite nicely and played the main multiball, scoring 50M and 70M jackpots. I was at 550M after my second ball, while SAM was at bit over 100M. SAM's 3rd ball wasn't without drama! He made a left ramp shot that didn't quite sink in and he got a center drain from it. But much to our surprise it bounced right back and SAM was alert enough not to let it go to waste! He fought hard, but couldn't catch my 2nd ball score.

SAM grinding away his 3rd ball, just after pulling a stunning lazarus ball!

I was a bit nervous about the next drawn machine, but it turned out good; Metallica! I got to play the game I should have played in the qualification! On my 3rd ball I managed to play all 4 "normal" multiballs on one ball, and I finally drained at 95M. SAM again got nightmarish tour of how well Metallica's outlanes attract the ball!

Round 2

On the second round I went against Sweden's leading lady, YOO! The first machine we drew was Cirqus Voltaire. I was a bit hesitant about it, as my standard tournament strategy on it still revolves around attempting a massive cash-ins on the Ring master multiballs. I know high wire, arc and juggler would be more valuable, but on most CV's the Ring master shot is so easily repeatable that I can keep pounding it for a long time, easily racking up 20-30M on each multiball.

I was the lower qualifying player, so I got to start. For a split second there I considered on doing something more advanced, but then I just went with the Ring master. I did okay with the first multiball and drained my first ball with 11M. YOO again had rough luck and drained pretty much right after the ball saver was out. I continued with my proven strategy and got to 25M on my second ball. YOO locked balls on all the major multiballs and played the Ring master multiballs as well, but was still around 10M after her 2nd ball went down. With the Ring master done, I concentrated on the juggler on my 3rd ball, but it didn't go anywhere, leaving me with 26M. YOO again played both strike an arc and juggler, but even after watching her score many of those 2M jackpots, she still drained at 23M and didn't get past me with the bonus. This one was mine.

Next up was AC/DC. This machine ran the latest software, which makes the miniplayfield in Highway to hell pretty much useless. We talked about the rule changes briefly and agreed neither of us would be using Highway to hell in a tournament game anyway. I was however a bit surprised with YOO choosing Whole lotta rosie as the game mode. This was actually something I had experimented just yesterday and found it a perfectly valid approach when combined with a lot of multiball. I again went with the trusty Rock'n'roll train, as I've found backhanding the left ramp extremely easy on this machine. It worked again, and I backhanded it enough for the jam multiball, then collected a nice multi-million song jackpot and played a decent multiball (with multipliers!).

YOO also aimed for the multiball, but I assume she was after stacking Album and Jam multiballs. I played Album multiball on my second ball and managed to cash out virtually everything that was lit, again with multipliers. YOO was still to start a multiball when our 3rd balls started, and she nailed it pretty soon. Jam turned to 3 balls, then when those drained she restarted it with the VIP pass, but in the end she couldn't catch my rather good 2nd ball, so this one went to me as well.

Round 3

After defeating one world class player I knew this wouldn't get any easier. It didn't, my next opponent was Finland's #1, OMO. My only wish was that we wouldn't get any Williams machines, as I've found those to be the hardest in the K15 line-up. The newer Sterns again work out for me for some reason. And as I had featured, the first one was Medieval Madness.

I started with a total disaster ball. I attempted the super skillshot but failed the shot. Then when I finally made the castle shot, the drawbridge carefully positioned the ball so it'd go straight down the middle. I slap saved it directly into the lock, just to see the machine tilt right after!

OMO, playing his 1st ball.

OMO didn't do much better on the first ball, but progressed the dragon shot so Damsel madness was lit. On my second ball I missed made the super skillshot, but missed the damn castle and drained just after the ball saver was gone. And again, OMO got pretty much as bad luck as I did, but he managed to get some shots in and went to 2.5M while I was still under 1M. On my last ball I finally nailed the super skillshot, the first castle and drained pretty much after that to my great dismay. OMO was just a bit under one million behind me and for a second I held my breath to see what happens. He however made couple of good shots and if I remember correctly, finally started the Damsel madness multiball. My first defeat for the day.

The next machine made me groan again; we got the Demolition man. I played it couple of rounds during the warm-up and couldn't do much with it. Short story even shorter, I got the multiball lit on the first ball, then spent all three balls trying to start it, without luck. OMO played the multiball and didn't even break sweat.

My only regret was that I got my game on so well on the first rounds and it all ended with hopeless flailing like this. As this tournament uses the double elimination bracket, it means I'm now on the losers' side and playing one game sudden death until the end.

Losers' side, round 2

From here on I'd be playing against other players who've fallen from the main bracket, one game per round. My first opponent was TOP on the Twilight Zone.

He started out with a good ball, going to over 120M. I wasn't intimidated by such score just yet, but after I drained with literally nothing done I silently started to get a little afraid this'd go like the game against OMO. TOP's 2nd ball was just as bad as my first, and I matched his poor ball with a similar disaster of my own. TOP's 3rd ball also went pretty much to waste, leaving him at around 130M, while I was at no more than 20M. I took a little time out and evaluated the situation: I have absolutely nothing lit. No locked balls. Then again, I'm just one shot away from lighting the gumball machine and the next ball from there is the Power ball. Power ball mania could easily net me the remaining 100M.

So, I took a shot at the right ramp, but missed and it hit the rubber post and deflected to the piano instead. The Piano again gave me "Light gumball machine", which I gladly accepted. This TZ had a rather nice return from the slot machine scoop, so I just let the ball bounce to the left flipper and made the shot to the gumball machine.

I risked a bit by trying to do the same with the Power ball. It fortunately bounced just as nicely, but I missed the first shot to the gumball machine and after a quick slap save I made the piano shot from the right ramp. After I regained the ball control I didn't miss again and I started the Power ball mania. I didn't score any jackpots, but the couple shots to the gumball machine and 48M from the random flailing from the power ball mania were enough to bridge the remaining gap.

Losers' side, round 3

My next game was on Cirqus Voltaire once again, this time against AFX. For a second there it seemed like I'd be playing against YOO and I was feeling she might get her revenge for knocking her to the losers' side so early :)

Voltaire wasn't very kind to me on my first ball, but I still got the game rolling like I wanted. Then on a second ball I had to resort to a slide when the ball didn't go all the way up the ramp. Much to my surprise I pulled the lockdown bar off the machine! I've never put it back again quite as fast as I did now! I was told the coindoor interlock wasn't overridden, so they could lock it only after I drained this ball. AFX took even better lead on his 2nd ball and it was up to my 3rd ball to catch him and get past him. I was one shot away from the second Ring master multiball, when I drained from the right side. Man I hate CV's outlanes!

So, AFX took this one home, eliminating me from the tournament.


Today I shared 13th position with the other three players who were eliminated on this round. Considering how tough crowd I was playing in, I'll take the 13th position, but I just can't shake the feeling I could have done better, way better.

My favorite in this tournament was the Guns N' Roses! It's a machine I rarely get to play and I think it's to Tommy what the Twilight Zone is to Addams Family.

Until the next time, and congrats again, JSZ!

Finnish pinball league 2014, Game 5/6 - Hopeakuula association arcade, Kouvola - 04/10/2014

Like I always say, it's easy to participate a tournament hosted by someone else. While the whole idea of just having some people over to play some pinball sounds like a cakewalk, fine-tuning multiple machines to take 12+ hours of punishment, taking care of all the logistics involved and so forth suddenly turns into spending long days at the arcade while trying to juggle with work at the same time.

While I never question if it's worth it, I do acknowledge it takes its toll. I'd still like to remind everyone talking about me having an unfair advantage, that during the 5 years of our league, I've been eliminated in the qualifications 3 times; twice at my own place! But enough of that, just a reminder that since Hopeakuula now days has it's own blog, there will be an entry of how much goes on behind the scenes.

Much to my surprise we were pretty much on schedule and everything was set up by the time the first players arrived. My only gripe was that I was in the qualification group B, as I was already yawning by the time we hit 12 noon and there was still at least 3 hours to go before I got to play.


 The three hours however just flew past me, and while no bigger issues came up, there was always something minor to attend to. I started the energy drink diet about half an hour before the group A finished playing. Apparently I OD'd a bit, as the very first game against SRI on Stellar Wars was a total disaster on my behalf. I made a personal new low on it, with 1000 points on 1st ball!

Group A qualification

Fortunately I recovered from the dreaded 1st game loss quickly. There were more than one close call, like my game on Revenge From Mars against TTV. We were both struggling to get even past the first 3 modes. On draining his very last ball TTV had virtually everything lit; the normal multiball, the jump ramp to finish the last mode and start the bonus wave multiball and if I recall correctly, the martian multiball as well. I was still behind him. While he played, I was contemplating on how to catch his lead. While I could have gone for the ramps in Mars Kneeds Women-mode, I took the safest possible route of hitting the center over and over, finishing the last mode before bonus wave multiball.

Trying to catch TTV in Revenge From Mars.
I got to play Apollo 13 twice in the qualification. Probably the most memorable game was against JAV, who really got me against the ropes from the very start, by gunning for the multiball on his first ball, while my idea of milking the Manual burn backfired on my royally. On his 2nd ball JAV started another multiball and this time took it to the super jackpot. I was really after the 13 ball multiball, but as I had missed the ramp shot on my first ball, I did't risk going for the blastoff-letter combo and just went with the normal multiball. Catching JAV was still a tough nut as I was now in a position where I needed two super jackpots to get past him. One of the things I really dislike about Apollo's multiball is the lack of ball saver. That must have been one of the most controlled multiballs I've every played on Apollo! But I did it, I got two supers and took the game home. Phew!

Doctor Who was a bit of a wild card today. I lost my first game on it against MRC, and literally couldn't get anything done. It's one of those games where horizontal motion is a killer, and a ball caught between the slingshots need to be neutralized by nudging ASAP. My game with MRC was one of the first games I played today and I just didn't have the reflexes when I needed them. Then again later during the qualification I played it again against KGB and this time I was properly awake and in an adrenaline rush. I managed to pull couple of perfect Sonic booms, and it was enough to win the game.

In the end I won 11 of the played 14 games, being #1 of my group with three other players sharing the 2nd place with 9 wins. I honestly never expected to even qualify, not to talk about being the qualification groups #1.

Quarter final

My opponent in the quarter final was TTS, who was 5th on group B and had won LAH 2-0 on the first play offs round.

The first game drawn was Doctor Who, with me as the 2nd player. We didn't get off to a very good start. TTS drained his first ball at around 1M, I didn't get even that. By the 3rd ball I still had virtually nothing and TTS was at around 10M. There are lots of ways to make 10M in Doctor Who, but I had built myself a game based on 4X multiplier multiball. My 3rd ball started with the multiplier maxed out and the multiball lit. My heart almost stopped when my first attempt at the multiball start caused a center drain, but just within the ball saver's limit! The second one didn't miss, and after over 120M jackpot I took this one home.

Playing Doctor Who against TTS

We when continued on Mousin' Around. I was a bit nervous about playing Mousin' Around at this point, as it's brutally fast. I got off to a good start, collected almost all of the mouse trap-letters and on my 2nd ball I got to play the multiball. While I didn't get the jackpot (which I had built up to 3M at that point), I still got some points by repeating the major shots with two balls and advanced the bonus multiplier to 3x. The game was a bit rude to TTS, giving him couple of unnecessarily fast drains. My 3rd ball wasn't that good, but I was still over 4M ahead. TTS had a good last ball, but he couldn't catch me.

Semi final

OMO had literally fought his way up from the very bottom. His group had an amazing 5 player tie breaker for the last 2 qualification spots, which the played on Apollo 13. Then he won both KGB and ELP 2-1 on first play off rounds. Now he was challenging me for his place in the final!

We started off with the Twilight Zone. We both played a rather short 1st ball, being within 1M of each other. OMO's second ball was a rather good one, and I spent my last remaining balls catching him, but an unfortunate 2nd ball didn't help and while I had a game plan for my 3rd ball, it failed as I didn't get the power ball to play.

Our next game was Contact. I had to cool down for a second, as Contact is a game that really tests your nerves. I took a lead from the first ball on, and kept it till the end. It was one of the very rare games of Contact where I maxed each bonus and didn't lose a single ball because of the double flippers. I was damn proud of that round.

Watching OMO's play on RFM. KGB is also observing the game.

Then deciding game was drawn and it was Revenge From Mars. We took a rather different approaches to the game; OMO gunned for the multiballs, I concentrated on completing the highest scoring modes flawlessly. It was a tight match that wasn't settled until the last ball, but in the end I managed to catch OMO, who despite his good effort didn't manage to get to the multiball.


OJA was definitely one of today's stars. As a winner of group A qualifications (originally tied with ELP), he had dropped a fellow Kotka citizen TTV 2-0 in the quarter finals and sent MAR to the bronze game in the semi final with 2-1 score.

We started out the final with Flash. Neither of us got much done on the first ball, but on the second I managed to took a small lead. OJA responded to that by taking the 3x bonus on his last ball, and went to 120k while I was at 86k at the beginning of my last ball. I had already finished the 2 of 3 stages of the center drop target bank drops, so I only needed to get those drop targets twice to get the 50k super flash. I got the first set of drop targets down, but then an unfortunate bounce sent the ball screaming down the left outlane and my last ball ended with bit over 100k.

Next up was Who Dunnit. My play on it was nothing short of pitiful. On my 3 balls I got around 360M. OJA didn't do much better, but caught that on his last ball when he started Elevator madness. OJA almost lost this one, as he drained and then walked away and failed to notice the ball saver was still on! I had to give him a shout about it, and he just barely got back into play. Now I was really against the ropes!

Our 3rd game was Viking. It wasn't as tight as the previous ones, I got the bonus multiplier up from the start and kept on milking the bonus. OJA again got some rough luck and ultimately lost this one. Now I'd need two wins in a row to bring the whole tournament home.

Our 4th game, Buck Rogers started out good for me. I got especially strong 2nd ball, and was in good lead for a while. OJA started his last ball with over 40k behind me. He got couple of really close calls, but then drained with about 10k behind me. He gave the machine a quite rough push, but it didn't tilt. That was good for him, as he went past me with the bonus on his 3rd ball, winning the 3rd game and the whole tournament!

Congrats, OJA, that was some fine playing today!

The outcome

Today I was 2nd.

It hasn't been exactly a good season for me. With 4th, 10th, 13th, and 2nd place with one skipped tournament, there's no way I'm in the fight for the trophy positions.

The official results

Looks like I'm still in the game for silver and bronze. It's a shame gold isn't an option this year, as this is the last year the current glass orb trophies are given. I so wanted a bronze-silver-gold -combo of them!

The current totals results

The afterparty

Remember the last time we had a pinball league afterparty? Well, me neither because I don't think there's one in the recorded history!

As promised, we offered everyone present a full 2 entry round of Kickback Open. I'm glad so many staid behind to play and enjoy with us!

And here's a time lapse video of the whole 13 and half hours!