PAPA19 - PAPA HQ, Pittsburgh, PA, USA - 7-10/04/2016

Some of you folks might remember my less enthusiastic take on PAPA18 from last year, and I really can't say I would have participated if I wasn't already in the area for IFPA13. The whole PAPA format rubs me the wrong way; virtually unlimited entries, which naturally cost money combined with frustratingly unforgiving machine configurations just spell throwing money into the can every time you got a shitty start for your entry. I seriously considered on driving somewhere else, but then again not playing the machines meant the people playing against me in IFPA would have extra time to practice, plus many of my pinball buddies were around just for this tournament. So I ultimately decided to participate just for the laughs.

But before we get to PAPA, there's this trip's mandatory payload ahead! Last year I was more than bummed not getting to visit New York city, so this time I made sure we took 3 days off just to check the place out. Among first things, after checking out the Statue of liberty, I got to visit the Sunshine Laundromat!

I've heard so much about this place, but stepping in I felt a bit underwhelmed. They had about 5 pins and about a dozen washing machines there. However, walking past the entrance we found a door, which led to what could only be described as barcade, with around 20+ machines in 3 neat lines. But what really got my attention was the Big Bang Bar! I've been wanting to play one for ages and now there was one just couple of quarters away!

Me and OMO got ourselves pints and started to grind away. BBB however soon developed a plunger problem and we couldn't play it for more than couple of rounds. Still, I'd say it was one of the better Capcoms that I've played.

Some time later people started to gather and it turned out they had a league game starting there. We also met ZEN, whom I had met on my last trip to Pittsburgh. With the league game taking most of the games, we decided to move on. Although not before ZEN had us taste some of his extra spicy kale pizza!

Next we roamed to Jackbar, which according to the pinlocator had Jersey Jack's latest creation: The Hobbit. And surely enough, we found The Hobbit and a bar full of classic Williams games, plus couple of newer Sterns, including Game of Thrones LE.

I wish we had had more time with the Hobbit, but we managed to break the game on our third try. One of the Medieval Madness troll-like targets got a ball stuck, blocking the left ramp and making starting modes impossible. Oh well, I'll have to get back to this game later on.

After couple of tourist-y days in NY we hopped on a (rather beaten up) Bombardier mini-jet and flew to Pittsburgh. After settling into our accommodation, we went to check out what was brewing at PAPA HQ. We arrived a day before the PAPA tournament to see the circuit finals being played. I'm not much of a spectator sports fan, so I went to try out what the PAPA HQ had to offer, only to be joined by Danielle and Jochen! After an evening of playing just for the fun it was finally time to get serious.

After a night of drinking relaxing at Jukka's place, it was time to see what PAPA19 had in store for us!

I needed some doping to get the
morning started.

Qualification, division B

Like last year, I opted to go with division B, that was classified as intermediate division. It also had the handicap of not awarding WPPR points, so playing in it was just for the laughs and glory.

The lineup was: Demolition man, Flash Gordon, Dracula, The Simpsons pinball party, Terminator 3, Genesis, Corvette, X-men, Attack from Mars and Robocop.

My quick analysis was to immediately ditch Demolition man, Dracula and Attack from Mars from any serious attempts after getting some reads on them. Demoman's right ramp seemed pretty harsh with apparently weak flippers, Dracula had an average balltime of "where did it go? Oh... bonus count" and Attack from Mars rarely works for me. Then again, Dracula was so hard that virtually getting ANYTHING done on it guaranteed at least some points.

My first entry was Genesis, Robocop, Flash Gordon, Dracula and T3. Genesis turned out to be a bad call from the first ball. It had really weak flippers and making the all-important ramp shots was virtually impossible. Robocop again played pretty well and it was my first ever PAPA game that didn't completely frustrate me. This may or may not be public knowledge, but I've found Robo's spinner to be the most valuable thing in the game. Multiball is sketchy at best and I wouldn't base my game on the random 1M ramp shot either. But get all the 3 locks lit and it adds 3k to each spinner spin. This specific Robo had really powerful flippers, so grinding away the spinner with controlled shots seemed like a good approach to it. Rest of the games weren't anything to write home about, T3 was okayish, although turned out to be a one ball wonder.

On my second entry I kept Robo, Dracula and T3, adding Demolition man and Corvette. Corvette sucked harder than a vacuum cleaner and Demolition man was just as useless as I had expected after getting some reads on it.

With $15 a pop, I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep on playing this random games. After quick consultation and some serious persuasion from fellow players, I caved in bought two more entries.

I went all out with frustration and picked The Simpsons, Robocop, Genesis, X-men and Attack from Mars. The Robocop was my go-to game for steady scores, and it worked this time as well. The Simpsons turned out to be worse than I had expected and I barely got a multiball going on my last ball. Sure, it was better than for many that didn't even get that, but I can't say I was too happy with it. Genesis wasn't much better than with my first try, and X-men was pretty much the same. Attack from Mars surprised me with both main and Martian multiball, and may have been one of my best games so far.

For my last try I went with X-men, Robocop, Simpsons, T3 and Attack from Mars. Against the odds the first 4 games weren't half bad! It wasn't until Attack from Mars when I knew this entry was doomed, when I failed to get the multiball running. Still, this entry got me to 18th position at that point. Since this was still early in the tournament I knew I'd be happy not to be the last.

Qualification, Classics I

I didn't take part in the classics last year and I wasn't planning to do it this year either, but be that a mistake or some perk of being a foreigner, for some reason I had 2 paid classics entries on my account. Where the main game qualification lasted for 3 days, each day had their own, complete classics tournament with the playoffs being played at the end of each day. 

I found myself liking the classics way more than I had anticipated. With the main game the (virtually) unlimited time meant even my best could be dropped by other players with more money to throw away entries that started out bad. With classics you had to line up for the machines, which with this amount of players meant you often had time for 2-3 entries during the whole day. This made the whole thing a way more interesting. I also like the classics in the sense that most games have pretty clear goal with single shots being way more valuable than in the modern games.

I had time only for one classics entry for the day, so I picked Seawitch, Fast Draw, Super orbit and Hulk. Turns out the Seawitch played very well and I racked up almost 800k points on it. Fast Draw wasn't that fast after all, but it was still the weakest game in this entry. Super Orbit again turned out to be a monster game for me and I ended up with over 1M points on it, prompting some encouraging words from the people waiting to play.

It wasn't until that point when I realized this could be an entry that could get me in the playoffs!  It was all hanging from the last game: Hulk. And O-M-F-G! Hulk played better than I expected. My goal was 500k on it, and I ended my first ball with 300k! After the first ball I took a step back, switched to a less energetic playlist and plunged the ball. Watching the ball go up I noticed the flippers weren't working! Did it tilt it? No, the fucker crashed! It was also noticed by the players waiting for their turn and it was ruled to be played again. My 2nd attempt naturally was a total disaster, ending with 100k points, screw you-th position and I was out of the tournament. Fuck-a-doodle-doo.

Qualification, Classics II

After yesterday's close call I was sold on PAPA's classics. I got myself 2 extra entries in addition the one I still had as I only had time for one entry yesterday.

Walking the area I instantly noticed Snow Derby, which must my one of my all time favorite EM games with 2" flippers. Black Jack again was one of my era's Bally favorites, which meant I had to pick two random games to fill my entry. I picked Miss-o and Volley.

Snow Derby played beautifully, with spectator engaging score of over 6k! Blackjack again was a bit so-and-so and both Miss-o and Volley were total disasters.

I kept Snow Derby and Blackjack, but added Algar and Star Race to the combo. I started out with Algar, scoring jack and shit. But then Blackjack - every single shot just sank right where I needed them. It was so deeply satisfying to beat the dealer again, again and again. For a second there I was preparing to ask the spectators to note my score as I was about to roll the machine! I ended up with 800k+ and in the end it was the 2nd best score on that game in the whole qualification. Snow Derby was okayish with 4k score, but Star Race wrecked my entry with a mediocre score. Still, this was to be my best entry in Classics II.

I tried again, still keeping Snow Derby and Blackjack, but adding Lizard and X's and O's. I might have been more entertained by folding a $10 note into a little ship and watch it getting flushed down the toilet instead. Now that I think of it, yeah, that'd been way more entertaining.

In the end I didn't qualify in Classics II, but still I was 100 times more entertained than with the division B crapfest of a tournament.

Qualification, Split flipper

With David Peck in da house, it meant Team Almost Neighbours was there again! For those who haven't read about our earlier adventures, we teamed up in IFPA12 in Sweden and our underdog team beat many of the household names in splits.

I knew we were on the right track when the receptionist explained us the rules, ending with "it's like you two are married for this event, swapping splits partners is now allowed", which instantly prompted everything from a sausage fest to mutual admiration of each other's beards and so forth, until the receptionist just stared us with a bright red face.

Splits tournament was played on shared games with division C qualifiers and junior+senior qualifications, so the place was pretty crowded. Walking the lineup we immediately decided on having Target alpha and possibly Taxi on our entries, the rest we'd just have to try out.

First few entries were pretty hopeless, although we had our moment when we rolled Target alpha! We also had the marvelous idea of trying to get some easy points off Derby day, but that turned out to be rather futile attempt in that entry.

In our very final entry we played an okayish game of Skateball for 221k, mediocre round of Target alpha for 74k, Taxi 1.2M and Car Hop 5.8M. That Car Hop was a damn good game for us. We had tried it earlier, barely getting 1M on it. Then we decided to resort to industrial espionage and see what the Japanese guys were doing on it. And behold, there was one mode which lit the center captive ball for 1M. It was a very brief mode, but we hit it 4 very satisfying times out of 4 shots! Much to our surprise after that entry we were around positions 5 or 6, out of 8 qualifying.

I kept hitting the reload all night long, watching us to fall to 8th position, then 9th, back 8th and by the next morning we were still on 8th position, until the very last 30 minutes when we finally sank past the cutoff line. Still, being 9th out of the 60 world class teams, I think Team Almost Neighbours had absolutely no reason to sulk!

Except we could have been in the playoffs. Dammit.

Qualification, Classics III

Classics III was probably the hardest of them for me. I had only one sure pick game, the Alien Poker, the rest I would have to try out and see. 

I had time for 3 entries, and I tried games like Target pool, Meteor, Nitro Groundshaker, El Toro, Space Race and Old Coney Island. Turns out the Old Coney Island played pretty well and combined to a tolerable game of El Toro and Alien Poker it almost was enough. Then there was naturally the black sheep - Space Race that sank my otherwise pretty good round. Oh and in case you're wondering, the score sheet says Casanova instead of El Toro as Casanova was pulled from the lineup just minutes before the round started.

The outcome

Division B wasn't my thing and I didn't bother to play past the 4 futile attempts. I was 84/94.

Team Almost Neighbours was 9/60.

Talking to OMO later on, turns out the division A games were in pretty nice condition, unlike B's which often left much to hope for, especially when dropping $15 per entry on them. I'm considering on returning to PAPA next year only to play the classics, or maybe try an entry or two in division A.

Oh, and best of wishes to our latest pinball couple, Mr. Postman and Ms. Sweden <3

Until next week with IFPA13!

I ain't afraid of no ghost!

One more thing, the 3rd new pin I got to play during the PAPA tourney was Stern's Ghost Busters!

Say what you will, but I think this game totally owns its theme from the cabinet art to the DMD graphics and sounds!

The fist ever game on this newly unboxed machine. I was player #2.
The new game drew a lot of spectators when it was being set up, and we speculated on how narrow all the shots and ramps were. But in the end it played so damn well and had the Ghostbusters's spirit in it. We'll see how the software matures, but having been there when the Avengers was first unboxed, this felt like one of the most mature software for a long time.

The main ramp was a bit odd, as you can shoot it from two different points. A small gate half-way up however feeds the ball always the same way out. The saucer on the right mid playfield is rather entertaining and Slimer looked good when we played it with dimmed main lights.

Well, that's my 2cnt on the game.

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