European Pinball Championship 2018 - Tampere, Finland - 7-9/9/2018

I recall it's been 5-6 years since we first talked about the possibility of arranging the EPC some day. Many thought it was an impossible task: coordinating all the long distance transportation, trying to get all the fractions of the Finnish scene to play along and naturally finding a suitable place. Half a decade later the pieces just kind of fell together, so here it is: EPC 2018: Tampere.

The main tournament qualification format was score based, two entries on six randomly chosen machines. The classics had similar approach, but with four machines. Both games were meaningful. Playoffs again would be with double elimination bracket head to head matches, save the classics final, which was a four player game.

The main tournament area

My main games were: Tommy, Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Dirty Harry, Iron Man and Congo. No big surprises there, pretty steady line-up of mid-90s games and one modern Stern.

For the classics again I had: Count-Down, Road Kings, Special Force and Prospector. Now this was a lot tougher bunch as I only knew Prospector properly. I've played them all, but for the others I had no viable tournament strategy and couldn't find proper tutorials for them either.

The tournament has begun!

In addition to the main and classics tournaments, they had four games set for one ball games, including Houdini and Deadpool. I went to check out those two first, more of them later on.

Main qualification

I started my grind with Dirty Harry. Nothing too fancy here, the main multiball is really easy to start and if the gun works, it's also easy to get the first super jackpot as well. The game was a tad more bouncy than I had hoped for, but I still played a decent multiball and couple of modes for 431M total score. I had hoped I learned from the danger spots for my second game, but somehow managed to drain the first balls and playing a less satisfying multiball on my last ball for the total of 220M. 

I picked Congo next and boy was that fast. I can normally easily backhand the mystery hole but here I wasted a ball just to get the Diamond hunt multiball running. Afterwards the main multiball was a huge letdown and my first game ended with 290M. As with Dirty Harry, more methodical and careful second game resulted in even worse outcome and I didn't even get the main multiball going, 138M. Blah.

Congo was actually the game I was the highest hopes for. I had already planning ahead for my second normal multiball from GREY and more.

Staying with WPC games I then moved onto Monster Bash. I was building my game on a multiball where I'd have at least three character modes stacked onto it, so I prepared the Creature, Bride and Werewolf, all one shot from starting. Then I bashed the Frankenstein's monster open and aimed for the last Bride shot, only to miss it and to start the multiball accidentally. Argh! I didn play the modes later on, but it was only for a disappointing 39.7M. I did try again and this time started the multiball at the exact same spot, although this time the ball went up there after a slap save. And like earlier, my second game was a lot worse, 27.7M.

Medieval Madness was next to the Monster Bash, so I took it next. Again, nothing too fancy with the strategy here, start the multiballs, use them to bash the castles. This game however had really nice and strong flippers, both ramp shots took in even lazily aimed shots. I accidentally got into the super jackpot with the main multiball and got 34.8M on my first try. Getting to the super jackpot is an interesting thing as it lits all the major shots, so I played it again, but now concentrated on taking the five normal jackpot shots before going back to the castle bashing. That worked out beautifully! I usually keep the balls in orbits or ramps so I have a clear shot at the castle with one ball, now the balls also scored jackpots while staying off my face. 57.4M and #1 score!

I was a bit nervous about Tommy being in my line-up. My first game was a near-disaster, when my first game had two house balls in a row. I managed to save the game a bit when I took the third ball pity multiball and managed to cash it out for 180M. Next time I short plunged all the balls and played couple of pretty decent modes and a tolerable multiball for 563M. Got to enter my initials for that one!

After that all I had left was the Iron Man. And oh boy was it a rough ride. I was building my game to stack War Machine and Iron Monger multiballs. That didn't happen. Also this specific game had a really odd misfeature: if you accidentally made a dead-on center shot at the Iron Monger, the ball stopped between its legs and then unceremoniously came down just as dead center between the flippers. I gave it a couple of hard slaps, it was nowhere near enough to save it. My first game netted me 7.3M and the other even worse, 5.3M.

Save the Iron Man, I was cautiously satisfied with the qualification run. I was 4th in the qualification after that, but with so many big names still to play the next day I knew I wouldn't have to dream about being in the top 32 most likely.

After taking couple of minor repair gigs I moved onto the classics qualification.

Classics qualification

I've often done well in classics, so I had my hopes up, although classics may often end up in a lesson of dealing with extreme frustration. First up, Bally Special Force. I was somewhat happy I got this game as I have played this particular machine before. In addition to that, I also fixed this machine before the tournament began, so I knew it'd be in relatively good shape.

Special Force ended up being two extremely "meh" (extre-meh?) games, both around 450k. I know what had to be done but I couldn't even get the multiball running.

Next up was Count down. I actually got a pretty decent game on it at first, scoring 423k. Naturally the next game took a nose dive into a concrete with 72k. Still, it was first good game I had played in the classics so far.

After that I went onto get my ass handed to me at Prospector. Usually Laurel and Hardy work with me just fine but not today. With 5 balls, the 136k and 238k scores were just a disgrace and this game was the only game that netted me zero qualification points.

After this I had to break out my soldering iron and give couple of tournament games some love, including one very stubborn Fish Tales game (but I love Fish Tales, so I forgive it!) and came back to play my last game on Road Kings.

Road Kings is one of the mystery System 11 games for me. I've played it like only twice in my life, last time in Banning this year. Yet I had the basic strategy planned out: don't drain and shoot for the blinking lights. Well okay, it needs a more fleshed out version: it plays a bit like Mousin' Around - collect ROAD KINGS-standups to light locks, lock the balls, win the tournament. Some steps may be missing along the way.

I got it going pretty nicely on my first try, ending with 1M score that landed me in top-30. I expected more of the next game, but not much came out of that, 480k.

Looking at the qualification standings at that point I was nowhere near the cut line and there were still plenty of players to finish their entries.

TY-FFASI, like Data-East used to say.

Teams qualification

This year Team Finland was yours truly, JAX, SUI and JSZ. We joked in the beginning that our aim is to one-up the 2014 Italian EPC's bronze. I love playing teams, but it also gives me this annoying anxiousness about failing the team should the ball not bounce favorably on my turn. Every member of the team would play single full game against four competing team members, then we'd play one four ball game on another game where each team member would play one ball. My personal game was Party Zone and the team's four ball game again AC/DC.

My Party Zone was as bad as I had feared. You can make 6M on it with just doing three consecutive skill shots and not even touch the flippers, I was left with 1.7M with mere seconds of ball time. I felt I had let down my team.

JAX played 790M on Stern Star Wars, JSZ 260M on Doctor Who and SUI 1.4M on Taxi. Those all fit in top-4 on each game. My piece of crap entry was 13th.

We however got a somewhat decent entry in the AC/DC and much to our surprise we made the cut into the playoffs. Okay, I'll take it.

Teams playoffs

We continued with the same personal games in the playoffs, although this time I had given up with any fancy strategies with the Party Zone. I went with plain and simple "left ramp all day long" strategy and gunned 16M with that. It was almost enough for 2nd place, I lost to Germany's player by just 500k, but at least I scored 1 point for us, more than I did the last time.

I still felt a bit meh about it, until came the AC/DC and four ball game again. The ball finally started to bounce my way and I managed to pull a monster ball when I needed it, 90M, when the team total score was 106M.

Sweden won the round out of our group's two teams to get qualified, Germany was out, Finland tied with Belgium. But here's the kicker: The AC/DC score was the deciding thing should a playoff points tie happen. Belgium got 54M so my monster ball just dragged us out of the swamp and .. INTO THE DAMN FINAL OF THE WHOLE THING. WHAT THE HELL?!

Teams final

O-M-G. We joked about the final in the beginning but here we were, with possibility for any trophy position and naturally with the possibility of being 4th and go home in shame. The final played the exact same way as the previous rounds, we kept our personal games and AC/DC was the all-team effort. This was now a battle between Finland, Denmark, Sweden and USA.

To be honest, Party Zone was getting old fast at this point. I was after nothing else but skill shots and left ramp, although after some lucky flailing I got the 5M shot lit on my first ball and remained lit through the last ball. I just couldn't make the shot. I was left with 9.6M which was enough for 3rd place, that 5M shot would have taken me one position higher.

SUI had rough time with Taxi and was left with no points at all. JAX again dominated Star Wars with 1.4B score, beating the others by almost a billion! JSZ struggled on Doctor Who and was 3rd. Looking at the other teams I wasn't sure where we stood, we had one 1st place and two 3nd places, which meant we'd probably have to do very well on the AC/DC or we'd go home without a souvenir.

I was nervous as hell playing the AC/DC and couldn't get much done. JSZ however got his game face on and in the end Team Finland was #1 in the last game. But was it enough for bronze? We didn't have access to the up to date scores at that point and people were speculating where we would land, some even saying we could win the whole thing. In the end we got 8 points, Sweden got 10 and the Danish team 7, Team USA was out.

History was made once again, now Team Finland only needs to win the gold. Maybe the next time?

Main playoffs

After what had felt like an eternity, my personal games continued with the main tournament playoffs. I had great difficulties getting concentrated on my first game after Team Finland's stellar performance in teams tournaments. I was to go against Benjamin Gräbeldinger in a best 2 out of 3 round.

We started off with the Guardians of the Galaxy that was on the main stage. I felt really conflicted about this game, I kind of like it, but do I want to play it in a serious tournament without knowing proper strategy for it? How about no? I had nothing else for it, except take the arrow mode and hope for the best. 

We started off in relatively even as we both got house balls. Later on my opponent nailed several multiballs, some of them I hadn't even seen before. I gunned for the Groot multiball, played it but couldn't touch his 160M with my 26M. Meh.

Next up was a game that I knew: Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was a total back breaker, couldn't get anything done, it was not a good game for either of us, but my 32M was still half of his score in the end, so I all I could do was to admit defeat, find the nearest cliff and jump off. Well, mentally at least. Anyway, I was out from the first round in the main playoffs.

The outcome

I qualified in the main tournament, got eliminated on the first round of the playoffs and was 72nd out of 285 players.

I didn't qualify in classics.

I was part of Team Finland. 13 countries took part in the teams tournament, Team Finland was 2nd, which is a new record for the team.

I didn't qualify in the ladies tournament. The security guard said if I try again, they'll mace me. I'll wear a dress the next time.

Final thoughts

I had mixed feeling about the EPC being in Finland. Sure, first for Finland, a major step for our pinball scene, but EPC has been my annual European holiday to balance my trip to the USA or other long distance trips. Looks like my next European trip will be the Danish Pinball Open.

It was really curious to see that even after all the "It can't be anywhere else but Helsinki, people can't find there otherwise!" nay-sayers everyone found their way and managed to enjoy the city of Tampere, even when the downtown was in the middle of one of the largest roadworks in its history.

I finally got to play Houdini and Dead pool. Both of them were available for the public, but only as a part of "one ball" tournament. I gave it couple of tries, only to get some ball time. Still, 1€ per game felt a bit rip-offish. Houdini seemed to have all the parts to make a good game, yet it somehow managed to feel a bit too full of stuff. I especially didn't care much for the too narrow shots, even though I found them relatively easy. Dead pool I liked more, but the jury's still out whenever the software will be good when they actually release a bit more finished version.

Until the next time.

Rockpin and St. Michel Open - Mikkeli, Finland - Pinball 21 - 10-11/08/2018

The last time we played a tournament in this arcade when it was couple of block further down the street and was called Pinball 48. We've visited the new location several times during this summer now that it's open to the public. This time we had a double feature as while normally St. Michel Open and Rockpin were separate tournaments, this time they ran at the same time.

A total of 5 of us Kouvola region folks took part in the tournament: me, Pilvi, my parents and RIK, who made his debut to tournament playing in Sörkka.

Format for both qualifications were the same: score based, one try on pre-determined pins. Playoffs for best 24 players on each tournament, with a bit different brackets.

St. Michel's lineup was 9 rather random games: Pinball Magic, Cirqus Voltaire, Dr. Who, Johnny Mnemonic, Demolition Man, Monster Bash, Cleopatra, Sopranos and Barracora

Rockpin again has 12 music themed pins: Guns 'n Roses, Dolly Parton, Kiss (Stern), Aerosmith, Captain Fantastic, AD/DC Pro, Iron Maiden LE, Rolling Stones (Stern), Tommy, Kiss (Bally), Metallica and Rolling Stones (Bally).

Rockpin games on the left, St. Michel open on the right.

Qualification - Rockpin

I started out with Aerosmith, which was mediocre at best. I didn't dare to lock more than 3 balls for the main multiball and I think it was a good call considering how fast things went to hell in a hand basket. Metallica however made me appreciate the Aerosmith a bit more as I managed to play perhaps the worst game of my life in Metallica: 2.2M. It was just three balls of unbelievable frustration, where everything nearly caused a center drain and my very aggressive saves ended with always with out of control bad luck drains. Blah.

Documenting the Aerosmith disaster. RIK in the foreground.

Out of my Rockpin qualification games, definitely the worst besides Metallica were Bally's Rolling Stones and Bally's Kiss. In both got to experience the early solid state games' brutal side.

But I got in couple of decent ones as well. In Dolly Parton the standard approach of "Get spinner lit, repeat spinner shots as long as possible" worked really well and that earned me 3rd place score for the night. Guns 'n Roses worker better then I expected too. I got just below 700M on it, which I didn't consider that good of a game but it still was 3rd in the whole tournament so far. I did nothing but played all the multiball modes possible with super pops enabled and kept feeding all the balls back there.

Stern's Kiss was pretty meh game, where I played the Demon and Love Gun multiballs only to see it got me 4th.

After I was finished I was at somewhere around 20+.

Qualification - St. Michel Open

After being done with the Rockpin lineup, I moved to the other lineup and started with Barracora. I meant to go with the standard strategy of finishing the right side drops, then making the upper lock shot to have a spare ball. Well, easier said than done, I sure got the drops but couldn't get the right orbit shot to sink in strong enough to make the lock shot. Needless to say, I was rather unimpressed with the 200k final score I got.

I played several games I found similarly unimpressive, but many of them ranked there in the top, like the 600M something game I played on Johnny Mnemonic. Really, majority didn't go with 1B+ scores? It even played so nicely, although it was quite unforgiving. My game on the Demolition Man was similar, I did play couple of multiballs but did not expect to do so good by seeing the score alone.

Rest of Team Sovijärvi playing after the rush hour had finished.

Naturally some real bad games snuck in there as well. I know the Sopranos, but still couldn't somehow find the drop target to score more than one jackpot during the Stugots multiballs.

After being done with the games I went to look at the score boards and noticed I was 3rd. Whoa. Looking at my scores I noticed my Rockpin qualification was one pin short. Some investigation later it turned out to be Tommy.

Now, all I needed was one good game in Tommy. Okay, even a mediocre game would have sufficed. So what happens? Two completely useless balls and the pity multiball lit for my 3rd ball. I nailed it in the left side hole and took my hands off the game as a sign of relief that I'd finally at least got the multiball. But no, the game ejected the ball without starting the multiball. 

RIK was watching and he was just as amazed as I was about the whole thing. I've played a lot of Tommy and have never seen that to happen. But yeah, when I most needed a decent game, I got shit. That last game got me up to 9th position in the whole tournament for today. In the final scores I was now 4th in the St. Michel tournament.

24 players qualify so I most likely have a shot with my 4th place. Not sure about the Rockpin's 20th as about 20-30 players are yet to play tomorrow.

Monster bash didn't really like me. But don't worry MB, I still love you <3


In the end, I was 30th in Rockpin qualification which was pretty much what I had feared. Then again, in St. Michel Open I had lost only one position during the day and was 5th in the end, getting one bye so I'd start straight from round 2.

The playoffs were to be played player versus player, best three out of five. Higher ranked player would always be the second player and they could also decide the game from two randomly drawn options. My first opponent was SUI, who had swept his opponent 3-0 on round 1.

Round 2 - SUI

We started off with Demolition man. I had struggled with the Demoman earlier on when I visited this arcade's game nights, but now I got most of the main shots nailed down, even the annoying left orbit shot that was partially blocked by the upper left flipper. My first ball ended with a nasty drain from the right ramp, so I took the very easily repeatable center shot that often fed to left flipper and grinded about 300M of that from combos. How's that for methodical playing? I got the Fortress multiball going too, but not much came out of that. With SUI ending his 3rd ball at 291M, I didn't have to play my last ball having gone to 783M on my 2nd.

Next up was the Sopranos. SUI got the extra ball, which scores 10M with extra balls disabled. This is rather harshly unbalanced thing in my opinion and after that I had nothing else to do on my turn but to repeat the feat. On my second ball I started a rather crappy The Stugots multiball, where I drained just after the ball save. But I managed to make the fish shot, get an add-a-ball and get it going again. SUI ended his 3rd ball at 16.1M and I was at 18.5M so no need for 3rd ball for me.

The next and possibly deciding game for me was Gottlieb's Cleopatra. We were actually really even right until the 3rd ball, when I finally got the 5K target lit and nailed it multiple times. SUI ended his 5th ball at 41k and I had 75k on my 4th ball thus this round went to me 3-0.

Next up was another team K15 member, JSF, who had also swept through his first round 3-0, then 3-1 against our current league president, JAX.

Round 3 - JSF

Our first game was Monster Bash. I see we both had pretty much same strategy here, get couple of characters going on, then add multiball into the mix. I didn't dare to go for more than one character at a time and played the main multiball twice, once per ball. JSF finished his 3rd ball at 43M and I was at 53M after my 2nd so we went to the next game.

Next was the Demolition man again. I screwed up my first ball big time and noticed JSF went with all-multiball strategy here. I followed his lead and was at around 950M after my 2nd ball. JSF finished at 1.3B and my last ball started with Cryo Prison multiball lit, but I managed to goof if up and drained, finishing at 973M, evening the round to 1-1.

After the Demolition man we took on Capcom's Pinball Magic. I was a bit uncertain about this thing, I've played it many times before, but I'm still in a process of trying to figure out a viable tournament strategy for it. There are couple of things that I have figured out, like doing a full plunge on the first ball to collect the left orbit and free 10M (instead of 5M from the skill shot) and then just locking one ball for the Mini mayhem multiball.

We played it for what felt like an eternity. The flippers were getting weaker so the left ramp became harder and harder. Both did some crazy saves, but we didn't really get much done either. Ultimately I lost to JSF's 98M with my 80M. Pretty even match.

With JSF leading me 2 to 1, I had my back against the wall here, hoping for a break in the form of games that suit my playing style.

The next one was an interesting one. I can't remember what the option was, but the other game was Judge Dredd. I picked it just for the laughs, fearing playing someone else's Judge might be really harsh for me. I've played this arcade's JD before and it played so much slower than mine that I just couldn't make the shots. Oh, and for you people who haven't followed my adventures in owning pins, Judge Dredd was my very first pinball machine back in early 2000 and I still have it.

Much to my delight the Judge had its playfield freshly waxed and it played very close to mine. I found the big loop on the first try and collected 3-4 loop shots on both ball starts. I really didn't go for the multiball, but since the Blackout multiball already got the locks lit, I just played the main multiball as well. It was pretty meh, but I got one jackpot out of it. Out of the quick and dirty scoring modes, I went with Battle Tank and nailed the shots quick. JSF finished his 3rd ball with 65M and I was at 135M at that point, taking this game home and  making the 5th game the deciding for both of us.

The deciding game for this round was Cirqus Voltaire. It's a bit too random for my taste, especially when it comes to the oddball in/outlane thing, magnets and that plastic ball abomination on the left mid-playfield. What I had learned from the qualification was to pretty much ignore the orbits and left ramp, the ringmaster direct shot was surprisingly controllable so my "aim to 20M-something" strategy was just make the Ringmaster to feel sorry (s)he ever came out of that plastic mould.

This game was fighting to the last ball. JSF got ahead of me and ended his 3rd ball with 10.1M with me at around 6M and the second Ringmaster up but not open. The Ringmaster also made this really annoying rejects, I don't think I've ever seen that many different ways to miss the otherwise really wide shot! When the final shot sink in, I was still 3M behind and the first Ringmaster multiball with 250k jackpots isn't guaranteed to be that much of a success. Fortunately for me, it worked out this time and I could just let the ball drain.

What an epic battle, especially the Demolition man. My next opponent was OMO, who had started from round 2 like me, then swept his opponent 3-0 and did the same in round 3 as well. The problem was that he was also playing in Rockpin playoffs, so I had to sit idle for almost 2 hours. This is very often a problem for me as if I cool down, I can very rarely get my playing rage back on again afterwards.

Round 4, semifinal - OMO

We started off with Doctor Who, OMO's pick. The doctor hadn't been that favourable to me earlier today, but since both, me and OMO had had it as a home pin, this probably wasn't going to be an issue about knowing the rules. I was thinking about taking off with the Sonic boom but managed to drain after a very bad shot, ending with around 360k. I jokingly dared OMO to show me a worse start than that. Just moments later he ends his first ball with 310k. I didn't honestly know sub-1M scores were even possible on DW! I picked up from that pretty quickly and got the balls locked and miniplayfield up on my second ball, plus I got to my first Sonic boom. Too bad I only got one of the shots, but still, 40M. OMO had another really crappy ball in a row. I started my last ball with multiball and got up to 190M with that and playing more Sonic boom. OMO ended his ball at 2.1M. Whoa, what a rough start.

OMO's next pick was Pinball magic. I recall the other option was Cleopatra, can't be 100% sure. Anyways, I got a decent ball 1, where I got to over 100M. OMO tilted his first ball. My second ball was a real quickie, got nothing done. OMO also tilted his ball 2. I got absolutely nothing done on my 3rd ball and was left with 114M. OMO got some shots in, but tilted the game at 72M.

The last pick was The Sopranos. I immediately gun for the mystery for the extra ball and collect it for 10M. I also try playing the Stugots multiball, but nothing too good comes from that. OMO also went for the multiball, but got pretty crappy bounces. I end my last ball with 15.5M and nervously watch what my opponent is going to do. Another crappy bounce and the game ends at 4.5M.

Looks like I made it to the final.

While waiting for OMO to finish his earlier games, I chatted with RON and he told me he was also in the semifinals. We weren't going against eachother at that point, but I told him we'll just need to meet on the next round then. And here it was, the very final round of the already long day.


With RON being 3rd in the qualification, he got to choose the games. The first game was to be Cleopatra. We both had frustratingly short ball times, but I managed to get at least couple of matching bonus shots for each ball and slowly built myself a steady but not impossible to catch lead. It got a bit better towards the end, where I finally ended with 76k to RON's 21k.

I've played Cleopatra couple of times before in a tournament and it's pretty decent early solid state game. The very high risk, high value target after finishing the drops makes it interesting to see who's actually willing to risk that first or just going for the rollovers at the top first.

RON's next pick was Cirqus Voltaire. Again, I went with pretty much same strategy and it almost worked. When RON's 3rd ball was up, I was at 10.5 and he was at around 5-6M. He could have gone for the Ringmaster, but he had already 2 High wire locks, so he goes for that (with an insane risk knowing the shitty return from the ramp) and nails it. He takes it easily to 23M.

Next options are Judge Dredd and Demolition man. Ron goes for the latter. I get a really shitty first ball, while RON doesn't do much on his first one either. After that I just hit the zone. Left ramp just easily sinks. Light multiball from each claw and I go long enough to get super jackpots out of every multiball there is, twice in some, then finally the Demolition jackpot in the end. I finish my 3rd ball at 2.2B, RON starts his last one below 100M and plays a short ball.

All of a sudden winning the final is within my reach and I have 2 tries to make it!

The next game picked is the Sopranos, again.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. I get pretty crappy ball 1 with just 1.5M. RON plays his for some time, after getting a ball save probably milliseconds before it expires and goes up to 17M. At this point my only aim here is to get the extra ball score to catch up and play the multiball. The multiball comes first when I find the boat shot again. I go to 10M, when RON again plays a short ball and goes to 19M. Last ball. 9M to catch up. A lead to be made. Phew.

I get the extraball lit from the mystery and collect it. RON's lead bridged. Now I need to make my own. But pretty soon after that I get a shitty bounce, do couple rough saves and end up tilting the machine and end up with 21.6M. RON skillshots, 1M, then tries to make the orbit but fails and drains from the right at 20M. This one goes to me as well, making it my 3rd and last needed point for this round.

Rest of us watching how the Rockpin final goes down.

The outcome

I qualified 30th out of 55 players in the Rockpin tournament, 24 qualified.

I qualified 5th out of 57 players in the St. Michel Open tournament, 24 qualified. I received 1 bye.

I won St. Michel Open.

St. Michel Open winners: yours truly and bronze game winner JMW, RON had to catch a ride back home before the trophy ceremony.
Rockpin winners: Gold: JAX, silver: MQY, bronze: JMW

Final thoughs

Well, it could have gone worse. I was pretty bummed about my Rockpin qualification, especially when games I consider a nice match to my playing style (such as Metallica) just give me shit.

I especially loved the tight round 3 against JSF. It's just so rewarding to play, even if you lose games when both, you and your opponent are playing for real and not just reaping the fruits of other player's misfortune. Man it felt good to play at least one tournament this year, when I wasn't totally tired after a long work week.

There's still many tournaments to come before this year is dealt with, so I hopefully see you all at EPC, Tampere in 3 weeks.

Until then.

Pinball 48 Open - Mikkeli, Finland - Pinball 48 - 26/01/2018

It's been a while since I've played in Finland. After some persuasion from local players, I decided to give this weekend a go. The tournament itself was a double feature; Pinball 48 Open as a stand-alone tournament and Finnish pinball league's 2018 first game as a second tournament. I was more looking to use the Pinball 48 tournament as a warmup for the league game, getting to know the games and meet some of the pinheads I haven't seen in the past 2 or 3 years now.

The format was pretty much a mystery to me, from the description I assumed we'd be playing 3-4 player matchplay, but this turned out to be head-to-head mathcplay for 12 rounds, after which 12 best players went to playoffs, 4 best getting one bye.


The qualification had no big surprises in the line-up. I kind of expected to see Total Nuclear Annihilation there, but apparently it wasn't available yet for this side of the world. I started off with Gottlieb's Black Hole against ELP. It was tight as hell match, with me as player 1 only being barely ahead of my opponent and ending just 4k ahead when he finally drained. ELP didn't play the miniplayfield, so no bonus to worry about.

Next I played Guardians of the Galaxy against ESA. I've played it in Norway and the USA before, but still don't have one very clear strategy for it, save trying to keep a mode running and going for Groot and Orb multiballs. This worked for me here as well.

Got my share of the crappy matches as well. Bally's Star Trek is one of my classic Bally favorites, yet when I went against TMA, I couldn't get jack done. Here my #1 strategic shot is a bank shot from right flipper towards the droptargets on left midplayfield and repeat until I have at least 2x bonus. Then the right side horse shoe back to the plunger lane, collecting the bonus and again. While being a good strategy theory, I managed to drain in several really painfully embarrassing ways, like from a failed tap pass and a center drain from the rubber post next to the bonus collect horse shoe. It came to us as a surprise that it was set for 5 balls and since TMA was leading after I had finished my 3rd ball as a player 1, I already congratulated him on a fine victory, until he played his last ball just for fun and it suddenly went to 4th ball, especially when the score card said 3 balls. I collected myself and won the game with my remaining 2 balls.

Some just plain bad games managed to sneak their way in as well, like a round of Tommy I played against my arch nemesis RON or Revenge From Mars against OMO, where RFM is pretty strong game for me usually. Naturally there's the mandatory "lose a game you know to a person who says they've never played it before" round, that happened to me on Full Throttle.

On the 12th round my game was one of the last ones to begin and as I looked at the scores, I made a note that I was one point shy from being in the top-12 to be in the playoffs. My last game was on South Park against OPA. It started off as a usual shit storm game, I went with building modes, but after a couple of really unlucky bouncers I soon found myself being on my last ball with 15M and my opponent finishing his last ball for 95M. Quick analysis: I need multiball, stat! Next I need to finish at least one mode completely.

I started off by starting the main multiball from the toilet and making that shot I noticed the right ramp was actually pretty easy shot. The multiball got me nowhere and I was still at almost 60M short. I also had couple of close calls, that made me slide the machine and get me a warning or two. In the end I started hitting the right ramp methodically, starting the mode, completing it and kept going until I felt someone tap my should - "you're past me now". Phew, what a crap game! Then again, I felt this perverse need to actually buy South Park and play it for some time to actually get to know it better, one of my regular places used to have it, but the maintenance was so bad it was practically useless.

In the end I had 7 wins out of 12 rounds, which made me 9th and it was my ticked to the playoffs.


In the playoffs my first opponent was JAX and his higher qualification spot let him decide on the game. When he asked me "say yes or no", I kind of guessed he'd probably pick a game he has on his home line-up. Well, I'm not afraid of other player's home games, I have plenty of those myself, so I took on his challenge and it was Guardians of the Galaxy. I knew this was going to be tough. JAX was a champ and explained me the main points of the game, activating the lockbar button and right outlane ball save being the new items for me. Still no matter what, he brought this one home easily.

Next it was my pick and I went with Bally's Rolling Stones. This is a strong game for me, but for some reason I just couldn't nail the left orbit drop target to save my life and JAX got this one as well, making me lose my second game in a "best 2 out of 3" playoffs bracket. So out I went.

Positions 9-12 game

I was already packing my stuff, when I was pulled into a 9-12 game. It was on the only DIY Medieval Madness I've ever played. I played a very steady but rather boring round, playing the main and Madness multiballs on my second and reaching Royal madness on my last ball. I won my round easily, but 9th position wasn't really what I came here for.

The outcome

I qualified the main game as 9th out of 34 players.

I was eliminated on the first round of playoffs.

I was 9th at positions 9-12 game.

It Never Drains In Southern California - Banning, CA, USA - Museum of Pinball - 12-14/01/2018

We had actually planned on attending INDISC last year, but with new travelling restrictions to the US popping up daily, I felt a bit uneasy burning a lot of cash into flights that might end up being useless. On the more positive side, that decision gave us the trip to Osaka, so no complaints there. This year however we were a bit more trusting and the trip to California finally materialized.

This trip wasn't just all business. We had planned spending couple of days in Nevada, venturing into Arizona and possibly Utah as well. We also had plans to get a tolerable convertible sports car, as there would be lots of miles to cover.

Somewhere over the Greenland.

Everything was looking good, we boarded our flight from Helsinki to New York, with plans to have connecting flight to Los Angeles from there. An hour before arriving New York my Finnair app went haywire. For some reason it was showing I was to fly to Dallas the next morning instead of Los Angeles today. The flight from JFK to LAX had been cancelled couple of times that week and after we finally landed it was just as bad as we had feared. First of all me and Olli-Mikko were put on separate flights, with me going to LAX through Dallas the next morning from Laguardia and Olli-Mikko taking a direct flight from JFK somewhere around next afternoon. Since I had the hotels booked and Olli-Mikko had the car, this was rather inconvenient for both of us.

Sorry guys, no AA35 today!

Oneworld alliance had their service agent to meet us and for a moment everything looked good. Then they learned we weren't flying American Airways here, so end of service. We however did get a new set of tickets, with us on the same flight this time. The new flight was 22 hours from that point and there was no luxuries as free hotels from the airline for having our flight cancelled. We were told to go to the hotel service desk at the airport, where one very uninterested lady quoted us outrageous prices for hotels tonight. Olli-Mikko however found some dump near the airport and off we went to wait for a shuttle to the hotel.

Welcome to the sunny New York!

I had packed away my long undies on the plane, which turned out to be a very bad decision as New York had a lot more snow than Helsinki. Cold as hell too. I wasn't apparently the only one abandoned by the airlines and surprised by the weather; with us were people in shorts and summer clothes, freezing out there waiting for the hotel shuttles.

The hotel turned out to be a real gem. A gem as in "I didn't get killed in here, woohoo!". I was dead tired, hungry as hell and freezing when we finally entered the weed smelling dump. Some of the hilights of our room was the stolen fire alarm and a sign that reminded us that any item such as the clock radio etc. were all $120 a piece should they go missing. The AC was noisy as hell and the cold was radiating from the single glass sheet window. There was a huge gap in the wall where the AC unit was installed, leaking outside air in. A previous guest had plugged that hole with a plastic bag. Kudos to them.

The plastic bag kept us warm, as long as it didn't catch fire!

After checking the place for bed bugs, we set out to hit the local 7-11 for some grub. Before that I however needed my long undies back and taking off my pants the zipper made this odd creaking sound, before disintegrating. I stood there tired, hungry, cold and now torn pants in my hands not knowing if I should laugh or cry at that point. Since the other option was just my shorts, Olli-Mikko left out alone to find us something to eat and something to fix my pants with. He returned with one of those mini sewing kits and a baloney sandwich. After some head scratching, I tried refreshing my memory of sewing and hacked my pants enough to keep them in one piece, hopefully until tomorrow when I could switch to shorts.

Good thing I have at least passable sewing skills!

One badly slept night later we headed towards downtown for a T-mobile store. We were met with the same lack of interest as at the airport. They refused to sell me a data-only SIM and sold Olli-Mikko a rather expensive prepaid compared to what we normally got here in the states.

After that we were off to the airport again. This time we actually got to our flight and flew the most pimped out Airbus A321 I've ever seen. I've gotten used to the Finnair's very bare bones A320-series planes, but this thing had displays on the seats and all. I think this 6 hour flight was also the longest haul I've ever taken with a A320. I could get any sleep on the plane, being still pretty jetlagged. From the LAX we headed towards Hertz rental center, where we hit the first lucky break on this trip!

For some reason they didn't have the basic model of Chevrolet Camaro we were supposed to have, so they gave us the Camaro SS with 6.3L v8 engine. I just loved the pure excitement Olli-Mikko had over this car! This was definitely a big boys' dream toy!

Our wheels for this trip!

We were originally supposed to stay the first night in Los Angeles, but since we were over a day late at this point, we had to head out for Las Vegas to catch our time table and not lose another hotel reservation fee. I dozed off several times during the trip, waking up only after we were closing Las Vegas to put on the relevant sound track!

The next morning I headed out for a breakfast and to get myself the data SIM. While waiting the T-mobile store to open, I walked the strip from end to end, it was kind of surreal to see all the iconic casinos and hotels normally seen in movies and TV-series! I couldn't help myself taking a closer look at the ostentatious facades and true enough, all the stone and marble structures were either plastic or fibre glass. So much for that illusion.

Sure, it's all fake, but still, god damn!

I eventually wandered into the cellular carrier store and boy, did I get a different kind of service than in NY! I immediately attracted three sales persons, who made note of my phone, after which it was all "yes sir". While they were finishing paperwork for my SIM card, I had my own assistant showing me the latest headsets and other accessories. I know it's all artificial, but still, it was nice for someone to at least pretend to give a shit. I got what I wanted and we were ready for our next stop: the Pinball hall of fame!

Pinball Hall of Fame

I've been wanting to see Tim Arnold's place for a long time. One of the many reasons was that it housed the extremely rare Pinball Circus game, the only WPC platform pinball game I have never played before. 

Pinball Hall of Fame's facade was actually refreshingly honest one!

And here it is, the Pinball Circus! This Python Anghelo's oddball game never made it to production, but it sure is one of a kind! Now, anyone with even basic knowledge of pinball history is probably itching to know how it played. Let me tell you: like shit. This game is a one trick pony in a true sense of the expression: it has 4 level playfield, where you progress from a level to another by making one specific shot. No need to qualify your progression in any way, just shoot for the left ramp on the first level, ramp up to the second, another ramp to the third and through the Banzai Run-styled magnetic lift to the fourth level, where you need to defeat the clown by punching out his teeth, then make him eat the ball.

The brain clown is going to be in my nightmares for a long time!

Here's the main playfield. It's as wide as a normal pinball machine, but less than half the length. Your eyes aren't deceiving you, the flippers aren't lined up, which plays havoc for reflex slaps for sure. There's not much to do here score wise, except gun for the rather steep left ramp which leads you to...

The main playfield, or "ring 1".

...the ring 2! Now, I can guess many sharp-eyed readers are going to go like "hey, there's no targets or switches there at all!" and they're absolutely right! There's absolutely nothing to do here, except maybe spin the ball around in the "pinbo" loop, which doesn't really give you anything. If you drain here, you end up back in ring 1 and the only meaningful shot is for the ring 3. The ramp shot leads to the elephant, which raises the ball with its trunk onto a habirail.

The utterly useless Ring 2.

The next level actually has couple of stand-up targets and a loop to litting the video mode. I have no idea where the video mode actually is as this playfield has nothing to catch the ball. Litting the video mode however is completely optional and the only worthwhile shot here is for the ramp which leads to ring 4.

Ring 3 with at least something to do.

Next up is the last level and oh boy is it a nightmare! The lobotomized clown level starts with player movable habitrail, where you need to drop the ball at the right spot to select the jackpot's value. You'll be hammering the poor clown's teeth until they're all out and then one final shot for the jackpot. And as with other levels, draining leads to (via a very elaborate habitrail) back to ring 1.

Ring 4. This thing is going to haunt me in my nightmares for years to come!

After making the clown mouth shot you're awarded the jackpot and go back to the first ring. For someone with at least an average playing skills this game doesn't take too many tried to finish. There's some stuff, like making the right ramp on the first level that scores some points, but repeatedly finishing the last ring scores an obscene amount of points, making everything else pretty much pointless.

I can see why this mechanical nightmare didn't make it into production, but I'm glad nevertheless that I got to play it.

Hall of Fame has over 200 games to explore, including many rarities and prototypes. I had personally never seen the toy Transformers before and was glad to get that off my to-do -list!

This thing was sold as a toy for $1490. It sure looks like a toy, but it has real game's mechanics and it played surprisingly well. The sad part was that it wasn't obviously meant for long term use and talking to one of the pinball mechanics confirmed my suspicions, the game was mostly made to be ditched after any major component failed. Such a waste.

Another rarity we got to play was Gottlieb's Goin' Nuts. This is an oddball protype game, that begins with a multiball and plays normally as long as you have at least two balls in the play. After you're down to one, a count down begins after which you lose the flippers. The game object is to add seconds to the clock during multiball and try to restart the multiball when you're back to single ball play. 

Olli-Mikko goin' nuts with this thing.

We had very little expectations of the game, I have it on Pinball Arcade, but haven't played it much. As a two player game it however was rather entertaining, especially with so many last second multiball restarts. We got to play two rounds until it broke.

With 200 pins to play with, the day just disappeared and we headed towards Boulder city for our next stop on this trip: the Hoover dam. Before leaving we still did a last cruise through the strip. A 2017 convertible Camaro was pretty much spot on for that sort of activity. Then again, we saw so many other pony cars that we didn't exactly stand out from the crowd!

Hoover dam

While not exactly pinball related thing, I can't go on without having a word about American spirit that went into building this insanely cool engineering marvel. We originally meant just to stop for an hour or two, but ended up spending the most of the day with so many cool things to explore. 

Arizona side water intake towers and the nearly dry water reservoir.

I've heard about the drought in this area, but visiting the dam was the first time I could see it for my own eyes. In the picture above you can see the white line in the rock going to the horizon. The water is supposed to be up there. Water flow from the mountains to the water reservoir is slowing, which again is threatening both, water availability and power generation in the area.

We also got to see one of the four generator rooms. The dam has a total of 17 generators, split between Nevada and Arizona sides. The state line goes actually right between the middle of the dam, making this the first time I've walked between two states. Arizona was also the 12th state I've been to!

The size of this thing is really breath taking! Those little dots down there are cars!

After we were done with the dam, we headed out towards Banning in California. Next up was the main course: INDISC!

It Quite Often Drains In Southern California

Much to my surprise the hotel here actually had a semi-decent breakfast, which was a huge upgrade to having nothing at all or having individually packaged old donuts and stuff.

Banning's Museum of Pinball was located in rather rough looking neighbourhood, with half standing houses and abandoned cars littering the scene. The building itself was rather nondescript (pretty much like Pinball Hall of Fame was!), but seeing all the pinball related bumper stickers on the cars parked there we knew we were in the right place! 

The main event hall

The tournament had two series I was planning to attend: main tournament which was best score on 7 machines out of 14 and classic, which was best 5 out of 7. The tournament was pretty much a pump and dump: all the players had unlimited amount of entries within the time limit. The entries cost $20/7 (one "entry" here being a one play on one game). You could play just the minimum of 7 games, or play all 14 of them, all it mattered you had decent enough score in 7. The classics side worked the same way, except for fewer number of games.

Only your best score mattered in one game and you got points for having a score between 1st and 93th position. 1st position gave 100 points, 2nd 94, 3rd 91 and from there onwards 1 point less per position. So theoretically maximum qualification score would be 700 points for setting a high score on all your games.

The games in main were:

  • Junkyard
  • Game of Thrones
  • Robowar
  • Taxi
  • Monopoly
  • Total Nuclear Annihilation
  • Barb Wire
  • Pool Sharks
  • Lady Luck
  • Theatre of Magic
  • Metallica LE
  • Who Dunnit
  • Paragon
  • Dracula

The classics lineup:

  • Aztec
  • Eight Ball Deluxe
  • Magic
  • Monaco
  • Nine Ball
  • Star Light
  • Supersonic

I totally approved of these lineups! Choosing 7 games out of the main was a bit difficult, as I generally avoid playing well known games like 00/10's Sterns and WPCs. I wasn't sure about the very latest game here, Total Nuclear Annihilation as a tournament game, but I played it nevertheless because it looked so damn awesome! Just look at this thing!

This is so retro-80s I was pissing myself. It has a large TFT screen and 7-segment displays for scores and the on-screen graphics work really well for the theme. The playfield itself is rather barren, but the software seems to have lots of moving parts in it. It's also extremely fast playing game. The slingshots alone make me think about Ironman's Warmachine kicker, once you let the ball pick up speed you're in trouble with this one. I'd so love it spend a night with this thing, learning what's there to do!

But that's not all™! The Pinball Museum itself has a humble lineup of around 500 pins. That's right. 500.

The museum curator came to chat with us when we arrived and we got to have a private tour of some of the rare games out there. Naturally they had the original Big Bang Bar, but some really odd games as well, like EM versions of Evel Knievel and Blackjack, Gottlieb's Spirit, Alvin G games, two Williams Jousts and much, much more!

After playing some of the rarities at the museum, it was time to start the grind!

Qualification, main and classics

Total Nuclear Annihilation was too random for anything serious, so I just played it for fun. For more serious games, I picked Robowar, Lady luck, Who Dunnit, Taxi, Pool Sharks, Junk Yard, Monopoly, Paragon and Barb Wire.

After trying out TNA, I played Who Dunnit and got a mediocre score of 2.8B on it. I didn't think much of it, but in the end it was the 20th best score in the whole tournament and worth lots of points. I never played another round of it.

With closer to 200 players, things got pretty hectic at times!

After Who Dunnit I went to Junkyard. My target score was around 20M but after numerous attempts I never got there. My first try was 7.5M and the very last 11.4M, which got me 65 points and it was the weakest of the games that made it into my recorded scores. I came back to it near the closing time on Saturday, but managed to kill the fridge upkicker and the game had to be pulled off the lineup for repairs.

Robowar is a Gottlieb system 80b game that keeps on popping up in tournaments. For me there's a very simple strategy of immediately going for the left ramp to lock one ball, then hitting under the ramp to start the multiball and then just trying to hit the spinner. The spinner scores very well when it's lit. I started with a couple of near 1M games, and it wasn't untill saturday when I finally reached my target score of 5M+ with a 6.8M entry, netting me 85 points and being my best entry in the whole tournament.

I've played Lady Luck couple of times before and it's pretty much what the name promises. There's insane scores to be made, if you keep on knocking down the center drop targets, then the four joker stand-up targets behind them. You'll add a playfield scoring multiplier each time and after the 4th things get really interesting! I started with 276k and 724k, but towards the end on Saturday I finally beat my 1M target score with a 2.2M game for 80 points.

I love playing Taxi, but it never worked really well for me here. Most of my multiballs in it lasted for 10 seconds or less and I had to leave it at 3.2M game where I got the jackpot once. The game had modified software that maxed out the jackpot at 1.5M and started it with 1M.

The playfield displays were really cool thing to have. It was curious to see various strategies in each game.

I had high(er) hopes for Monopoly, but got very little done with it. All I had for it was to start the easy train multiball from the center ramp, then go for the main multiball. I however never got to get jackpots from the both at the same time and couldn't make an entry that would have mattered.

I played couple of rounds of Paragon, but it was more of a lesson of futility than real playing.

Barb Wire is a system 3 gem(?) that I haven't played that much. From what I know, it's more about starting modes and grinding them than anything else. I played couple of games on it during Saturday afternoon, getting 200M and 643M. Much to my surprise the latter was actually a decent one, although I was aiming for 1B on it. With 2 hours of game time left, I came back to it and started a serious grind. I managed to squeeze 5 games in, until I all the sudden couldn't add myself to the line any more. Turns out I had misunderstood the time table and the very last hour on Saturday was for the scorekeepers only. That was kind of a bummer, as I still had 6 entries left, almost $20 worth of games!

The classics was being played at the same time as the main tournament. I played couple of entries into them, but decided to concentrate on the main as I noticed I actually had a shot there.

Behind the scenes shot of the broadcast team!

During the day I also attended pingolf, which was played on the museum's side. It was completely score based, instead of objectives. After finishing the course near the closing time I was 3rd. Only the winner got a trophy.

When the time ran out, I was 53 points behind the cut line. This wasn't really that bad, I had 3 games: Taxi, Pool Sharks and Junkyard where I could have made easy points by just getting one game right on each.

However after the initial disappointment, I took a closer look at the divisions and realized I passed the division B qualification with flying colors, being 8th out of 16 to qualify!

Division B playoffs

I went against Mark Pawlak, David Taylor and Brian Krivonak in the first round on Monopoly, Total Nuclear Annihilation, Paragon and Dracula.

I had high hopes for Monopoly. It was very unforgiving machine, so getting the easy center ramp multiball could mean fighting for the first place. Monopoly however wasn't having any of that and I got two really embarrassing house balls, and one very short one, leaving me at 448k. David and Mark were close, but Brian put 5.1M on it easily. 0 points for this one, not exactly a great start.

Next up was Total Nuclear Annihilation. I had been watching people playing this game for some time now and I had learned you can steal locks, so getting that multiball running once you lock 'em is paramount. I started with a strong ball, locked two balls right from the get go and multiball on the first try. I repeated this feat on my second ball and was in an easy lead after that. Things only turned sour on the last ball, when I got to steal Brian's lock, locked another one myself and got a center drain from an attempt to start the multiball. Mark stole the locks and scored over 1M. I was left with 778k, David with 928k and Brian with 276k. 1 point here.

After the apocalyptic scenes of TNA we went to Paragon. I played a high risk game here, nothing but the multipliers for the first two balls. After the second ball the scores were all still at 50k or below, which made me look for less riskier options, so I started to gun for the passage next to right side drop targets. Couple of shots got in, and I ended my last ball with 92k for an easy win. 3 points.

Last was the Dracula. Mark was already in the next round with 2+4+2 points. I had 4 points, David 3 points and Brian 4 points, which meant this was a three way battle for that 2nd position and way to the second round. I knew this Dracula was really hard one, and I got very little done on it until the last ball. The others weren't doing that much better, but I only got the free Mist Multiball on my last ball. I was 3rd with my 32M and got 1 point.

Mark won the round with 7 points. I was last with 5 points, with David and Brian trying at 6 points. I could have so used at least one point from that Monopoly in the beginning!

Still, after the initial disappointment had mostly faded, the fact was that I had qualified in INDISC, which is after IFPA the second major tournament where I qualify.

The outcome

I was 35th out of 189 players in main tournament, 8th in Division B and qualified.

I didn't qualify in classics. 

I was 3rd in Pingolf, which wasn't WPPR ranked.

This is the first time ever I've walked away with an envelope in my playing history!

OMG! Cash! So worth after dropping $200+ on the entries!

Final thought

After we were done with Banning, we headed out to Long Beach in Los Angeles. We had absolutely nothing important on our agenda, just checking out places, bar hopping, cruising around with the roof down in Hollywood and so forth.

Our last hotel on this trip was Hyatt Regency and oh man was it something else compared to the crackhouse we spent the first night in. But don't just take my word for it!

First night's view

Last night's view
Long beach was such a beautiful area, but at the same time I was already starting to dread what was waiting for me back in Finland after leaving my car at the airport park for a week and a half.

In addition to bar hopping, we went to check out the Pacific ocean beach, where the water was still warm enough for a Finn to swim in!

Somewhere over there is Japan!
And as before, the trip wouldn't be complete without a dinner with out New Zealander friends, David, Fiona and of course the women's series winner, Danielle!

Since we had a street credible car for a Hollywood tour, we just had to go there on the final day! Got to see so many landmarks there, including the huge Hollywood sign (although from a distance), Kat Von D's place and many others.

All in all, this might have been the best pinball related holiday trip I've ever done before. Despite the pretty rough start, we still managed to squeeze so many things in and both yours truly and Olli-Mikko did alright in the tournament. So many rare pinball machines off my to-do -list as well. What's not to like?!

Until the next time!

P.S. My pants lasted back to Finland. Am I good or what?!