European Pinball Championship 2017 - Borås, Sweden - 20-22/10/2017

Road trip time! I've always loved driving to tournaments, no matter how far away they are. The EPC being in Borås conveniently opened up the possibility to combine a mini-holiday into our tournament trip, so I took couple of extra days off the work and planned a route that took us to Borås over the Baltic sea. We crossed the ocean on two huge ferries, Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony.

The E4 highway going across Sweden is still one of my favorite roads to drive!

We've spent a lot of time in Sweden this year! We've attended Borås pinball open twice and now thanks to a last minute change, we returned to Borås for the 3rd time as the plans to have EPC in Göteborg fell through.

I can only imagine the amount of work it took for the Pinballseye team to make this thing happen with relatively little warning before. Yet, as we arrived pretty much everything was in order.

There were multiple larger tournaments: the main tournament with modern games, classics tournament and teams tournament. Our story here starts with the teams tournaments.

Teams qualification

I decided to come check out the venue a bit early. Walking there, greeting the familiar faces and checking out the games I quickly learned I was part of Team Finland, our national team. I was pretty surprised as I didn't recall signing up to it, but I'm not complaining, more pinball to play!

Team Finland was Joonas, Marco, Olli-Mikko and yours truly this time.

The tournament format was team vs team, so that the teams were broken into two split teams. I teamed up with Joonas, with Olli-Mikko and Marco making the other group. This was points tournament, so winning a game earned the team one point. The teams with most points after playing against two opponent teams went to the playoffs.


Our first game was Stern's Kiss. We agreed early on about the mode and strategy to go for. After a rather rocky start, we started gaining the danish team, but one missed flipper button later we lost our first game.

Our second game was Monster Bash. We kept building our game until the very end and played rather good multiball on our last ball, taking our first victory. It came very apparent to me that I should have played some of the free play games with Joonas before this. It wasn't until this game when we started to properly communicate and coordinate the game. I guess better late than never.


After first round Team Finland wasn't all smiles. Not that we'd smile in the first place. Apparently couple of other teams had won enough games to already qualify for the playoffs, so no matter what happened here, we were out. We did't want to give anything free to Team Italy, so even out of the game, we still went onto this round with our game faces on!

First game: Guns'n'Roses. We had already agreed on "Nothing but super pops". Oh man did that play beautifully! We eventually got the multiball, which we systematically just used to feed the bumpers. Easy win here!

Next, Williams Indiana Jones. We played as 2nd player and after getting our game on from the very first ball on, we didn't even have to play our last ball to win the Italian team 136M to their 30M.

Even with this sweet round we were out of the tournament, no can do.

Classics qualification

Classics tournament was score based, 4 entries per game on 3 games, 2 best entries meaningful. My games were Viking, Black Jack and Mata Hari.

I started out with Viking as I happen to own one! My target score was 1M and I got 480k on my first try, 1.1M on my second. The rest two weren't that good. This Viking had better flipper touch than my own game and hitting the inline drops was easy. Main strategy with Viking is to nail the drop targets at the beginning of each ball. They score 1-5k of bonus plus a multiplier. After you've gotten the drops, the stand-up target behind them is lit for special (25k in tournament mode) and 50k after that. But at the point where you have 5x bonus, it's better to go for the bonus collect instead.

After that I went to Black Jack. Target score here 400k. I played 3 games within 120-140k range, each with the same issue: I had trouble finding the right orbit and when I did, the saucer wasn't lit. Strategy for Black Jack is hitting the standup targets so the player's hand is better than dealers, then hitting the saucer on right to score a prize, which increases the multiplier. After high enough multiplier hit the spinner on left orbit to increase bonus.

I was meaning to play Mata Hari, but the game next to it was having issues and Christian was working on it, so I came back to it the next day.

I was a bit uncertain about getting my game on the next day, but thanks to getting a proper full night's sleep, things worked out quite nicely. The target score being 500k, I got 587k on my first game, then 308k on my second. I would have been perfectly happy with these scores, but I still had entries, so I kept on playing. The 3rd game was a total shitshow, but then the last game turned into a monster. I had 300k after first ball, when on my second ball a bumper cap came loose. I had to call an attendant to remove it from the playfield. Also had a brief discussion about how game usually goes into shit after a pause like this. But no, I got one decent ball after that, ending with 638k and my best score! It was also at that time the best score in the tournament. My strategy for Mata Hari was first getting the maximum bonus X from the center saucer, then very carefully raise the bonus by nailing the drop targets. The drop targets also score 50k when you get them all.

After I was done, I was leading the qualification. I was pretty happy with this, as many players had already played their entries, so I was pretty much guaranteed to be in the top-32 to qualify. I was hoping to be amongst the top-16 to have at least one bye.

Killing some time between games with Hyperball. I SO wanted to buy it from Christian, but no luck :)

Main qualification

The main qualification was head-to-head game against all the other players in the group. 16 players per group, 4 best qualified. That's a pretty harsh ratio, especially with this crowd! So, I played 15 games on mostly DMD-games, here's some hilights:

My very first game was against my old nemesis, Roni on No Fear with me as player 2. Roni had a rough start and when doing the flipper check-up before plunging, I noticed the upper right flipper didn't hold at all. Everything else worth playing in our group was being played, so we opted to wait for repairs and went it again. This time Roni got his game going on a bit better, but neither of us got anything noteworthy done. I stated by last ball with Roni in the lead for less than 100M. I switched my strategy on the fly from trying to get the Payback time into looping the left loop. Can't remember how many times I looped it exactly, but once I lost the ball, I was just past my opponent, plus the bonus on that. 530M to my 553M.

After Roni I went against his father Timo on Stern's Spider Man. Curious thing about Spider Man, I've seen so many ways to play it, but I've noticed methodical hammering of Sandman can often be enough, even when the opponent plays pretty good black suit multiball. And that's exactly what happened here: like in Jackbot, I had to take one risky shot to open the barrier by hitting the initial blinking and moving shot. It have pretty nice feeds afterwards so I could just hit Sandman, drop catch it and repeat. I won 33M to Timo's 24M.

Naturally each tournament has the mandatory oddball game. This happened in No Fear, when my opponent Helen pressed the start button instead of ball launch. The game didn't have restart disabled, so it restarted. IFPA ruling would be disqualifying the player, but it was judged to be restarted from the approximate scores the players agreed on. The restart happened when the scores were like my 800M to the other player's 300M, I won it, but it kind of bothered me a lot afterwards.

Some of my group's games during the qualification

From the oddball game to the mandatory "damn it was close!". I was playing Iron Man and my opponent was just behind me. I finished at 7333400 and after the bonus count my opponent had 7340820. He already congratulated me on the victory, but I insisted on taking a closer look!

Then there's the "fuck yeah" game. I went against Rich on Fun house. I put 10M on it on the first ball, much to the dismay of my opponent. He then spent 3 balls chasing me, while I got to 15M in the end. Rich finally found the trapdoor shot on his last ball and was closing me fast with Million+ shots, but drained at 11M. A close one!

After a day of playing, I was just one game short being finished with my qualification. I really don't want to know the overall position until I'm done, kind of helps me from having a last minute panic if I'm close to cut line. I had however calculated that I had won majority of my opponents, so I was somewhere in top-6, but needed to win the last game to be sure.

I went against another Finn, Perttu on Iron Man. I built my game completely on stacking the multiballs, which I finally did on my last ball, but had extraordinarily shitty luck hitting anything. I eventually drained with Perttu leading me 4M, so no can do. I was pretty bummed about this game, as I had everything set up for a clean victory and managed to suck at where I'm usually the best at: multiball. When Perttu learned this game was probably deciding game for me, he joked he would have let me win had he known. For reals, if I even suspected someone had done something to help me win a game, I'd immediately withdraw from the tournament.

Now that we were done, I calculated I had 10 wins out of 15 games I played, but the cutoff score wasn't clear until everyone finished playing. As more and more players finished their games, I approximated the cutoff line to be at 10 or 11 wins. Wow, could have really used that last win! In the end it was ... 10! So, I was in the main tournament playoffs!

But that's not all! After I was done, I checked out how my classics entry was doing. I was 4th. What the hell?! 4th?! I kind of expected 15th+ and I would have been happy to just fit the 32 qualifying, but 4th! That's a 2 bye position, my best ever big tournament qualification position AND since I qualified in the main tournament as well, my first ever time to qualify in both, main and classics in a major tournament! Holy crap, another career best in an EPC!

Classics play-offs

The classics playoffs were played the same day as the main tournament qualification, so it started rather late into Saturday. In addition to that, my 2 byes were eventually a curse in disguise as after a long day of playing I was already dozing off by the time 2 rounds had been played. After twiddling my thumbs for what felt like an eternity, I went against a German Jochen. We're not exactly strangers, having played together in many tournaments, and visited many bars in after-parties all over the world.

The playoffs in the early rounds were best 2 out of 3 games in a playoff bracket.

I was rather stressed out about this game before it even began. I was way beyond playing condition and the energy drink I very reluctantly drank before this didn't help at all.

We started out with Fathom. It wasn't all bad, we both hit 7-figure scores, played a lot of multiball and so forth. Jochen got this one in the end.

Next up was Black Jack. I couldn't get my A game going no matter how much I tried. The game was just reacting to my own mistakes and was an easy victory for Jochen. This put me back against the wall on the rest of the round as I now needed to win the next 3 games to stay in the game!

Been a while since I've seen classics I don't know the one sentence strategy for. Hot Dogging wasn't an exception there: spell the game's name, in-line drops for bonus X. I'm also very familiar with this particular game and know of its right outline issue, where a ball going through the ball lock area will go to the right outline unless you give it a slight nudge in the right spot. My game wasn't stellar, but I still got this one.

Next was Harlem Globetrotters. Now this is a game I'd really like to have at my own place, as I usually get pretty brutally beaten in it. This time was no exception either. Jochen managed to collect the upper center saucer again and again by nudging the game up when the ball hit the center bumper. Really beautiful work there! Unfortunate for me, this beautiful move got me out of the classics playoffs.

Round 3 was still pretty good, giving me a shared 24th position with several other players, including my countrymen Olli-Mikko and Joonas. Anyway, I was happy this day was finally over, so I could return to the hotel and fall into the bed face down.

At times people comment on my very negative expectations on certain situations. This is pretty good example of that. I have a rather delicate balance on sleep and mental state when it comes to be being able to give my best game, or even be able to play at all. I've played long enough to be able to tell when I'm clearly "out of the zone" and playing isn't fun any more. No amount of good luck wishes or telling to keep my chin up will ever fix that. I might win, but usually it's only because the opponent had even worse luck and I don't really consider myself a "winner" there. 

Main play-offs

Trying to stay awake with caffeine didn't do my any favors when it comes to getting a full night's sleep and I woke up more or less zombified for the main tournament play-offs.

The play-offs continued the same way as the qualification, so instead of play-offs bracket we were playing for number of wins, with 4 players out of each group going to the final bracket.

Some hilights from my games:

I met a player, who was the next player in IFPA ranking, Lars. I haven't had much luck with Stern's Ghostbusters lately. My game started real bad, I was after the Storage multiball, but couldn't get it going. My opponent got the multiball going, but didn't do much with it. I started my 3rd ball with around 5M behind him, got Super jackpot (lit?) from the Spirit guide and I just managed to squeeze past him.

I've gotten to play my share of Stern's Aerosmith, but couldn't do jack with the game when I went against my countryman Juuso. It was more of "are you seeing this shit" ball after ball. Juuso so deserved to win that one.

I played Ghostbusters again against Jeremy as player 2. I did nothing with my first ball, while Jeremy got into 9M by the time he finished his second. I got the Storage multiball going and played rather nice round of that, going to 60M. Jeremy got a rather harsh last ball and he drained at 11M so I didn't have to play my last ball.

In the end I already knew there'd be so many good players who racked up points and my mediocre show here didn't earn me a spot in the next round.

The outcome

I qualified in both, main and classics tournaments.

I got eliminated in round 1 of the main tournament, final position 44th out of 256 players.

I got eliminated in round 3 of the classics tournament, final posotion 24th out of 255 players.

Final thoughts

First of all, I'll have to tip my hat at the people behind the location. With delays and other issues, some players got really irated and trashed the tournament and the organizers pretty harshly at times. The EPC wasn't originally meant to be held here, that much I had gathered, but I only now learnt the whole story. In addition to having a major tournament in a "I can't do it, here, you have it" fashion, the organizers got shit like lots of volunteer scorekeepers and other personnel just not showing up without any warning.

All the games I played were in good condition and I didn't hear reports of any major issues, so props to the pinball mechanic(s) as well.

However, there's this strange hostility coming from the players I'd really like to address here. I noticed the trend years ago, but now it's really noticeable. So many players out there don't come to have fun playing pinball any more, they came to win and make WPPR points. Then they take out all their frustration and anger to the organizers and games. People yelling, pushing machines, cursing the venue owners when a game reboots or ball gets stuck. This is just plain wrong!

I love playing pinball, both for fun and in tournaments. But seeing someone going postal over their ruined game is just sad. I also find sad to witness the lack of good sportsmanship, which manifests itself as hostility against other players, talking down to them, deprecating other player's good game and so forth. Nothing listed here is specific to this venue or country, I've been seeing it elsewhere as well.

This really makes me long for the days when we had tournaments, where people actually laughed and had fun, instead of calculating if this position gives enough WPPR points to get past someone.

Anyway, until the next time.