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

Playoffs

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.

Final

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.

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