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