So that was the main tournament. But there was a side. This had a format new to us, and the tournament organizer, and everyone as far as I can tell. It's called ``Amazing Race''. Everyone plays each pinball machine, in order, in the venue. But the lowest-place person is eliminated from the competition. As a result, you can't really go on to the next table until you've beaten somebody's score. In the first few rounds the lowest two scores were eliminated, making the wait just that much longer if you did poorly.
The first game was Freddy: A Nightmare On Elm Street. It was also the only game at the bowling alley withheld from competition. It's an unpopular game. By ``unpopular'' I mean ``actively hated in a way few things are''.
To say something nice about it, the game maybe adapted its licensed theme too well. The playfield is all dark and muddy and hard to make out. The dot matrix display is full of obscure animation. The rule set is hard to make out. The scoring seems to follow no logical pattern whatsoever. It's not a rare event to glance at the screen, notice your score is 25 million points, and then make one or two not-very-challenging shots and suddenly be at 55 million points. There are reports of a billion-point shot. What activates it? What collects it? No one has figured that out. That last is the thing which, more than anything else, gets the game ruled out for head-to-head play. A billion-point shot is potentially troublesome, but if it's open to all sufficiently skilled players it's hard to give a specific coherent objection. A billion-point shot that comes from no discernable trigger? That's too much chance in a game of skill. Also everyone really hates the game.
In short, though, the game's rules obey this obscure dream logic in which it's impossible to be sure what you want to do or why. But what would you expect in a game that's themed to A Nightmare On Elm Street? Obscure dream logic is exactly thematically appropriate. So I conclude that the game was the victim of its designers trying too hard to incorporate the theme into the game.
This was also the only game we could play while the main tournament was going on. There was a ``no practicing on main machines'' rule in effect. So people had the chance to stack up, play repeatedly, try to figure out the game's rules if it has any, all that. So perhaps my warming feelings toward it come from the contest equivalent of a very silly version of the Stockholm Syndrome, getting to like something just because that's the only game in town. But I did notice that the tilt warning noise was not just an irritating rapid-fire beeping, yet another unpleasant sound in a field of unpleasant sounds. It was an alarm clock noise. That must be by design, mustn't it?
We were allowed to use the scores from practicing on this as First Round Amazing Race scores. I had a strikingly good game, getting through most of the Nightmare modes, surely some kind of triumph. I believe I got a third of the way to a billion points, without hitting the billion-point shot wherever it might be. Being way above the bottom (or bottom-two) scores is as good as being just barely above it, of course, but it gave me some confidence heading into the next round. bunny_hugger had a lower score, one she thought safe, but that kept getting suddenly passed by people who did nothing we could make out. That wouldn't last. Two people got lower scores, and she was safely on the start of the Amazing Race, with as good a chance as anyone at winning one of the hot-air balloon trophies she had made.
Trivia: Richmond, Virginia,'s Tredegar Iron Works expanded from 700 workers in 1861 to 2,500 in January 1863, from rebel government contracts. Source: The Confederate Nation 1861 - 1865, Emory M Thomas.
Currently Reading: The Punic Wars, Adrian Goldsworthy.
PS: Reading the Comics, March 3, 2016: Let Popeye Do Mathematics Edition, and I mean the old-school Popeye from before he even started having always eaten spinach.