The second day of play was different. It felt different right away. Thursday, with everyone just playing to find what division they'd be in, was casual, chatty, easygoing. Friday, with everyone playing to make the finals, was ... well, it wasn't less chatty, really, or any less friendly. But there was a tension I could feel. We weren't playing just to do as well as we could. If we played better than three-quarters of everyone else, we'd go into the division finals. It added a little pressure to everything, and that made a subtle but real change to how it all felt.
My first group was on the set named ``Volans''. Our first game, per the tournament's assignment, was the early solid-state game. Gottlieb's 1980 Asteroid Annie and the Aliens. It's one I sort of knew from the Silverball Museum. It's space-and-poker theme, as surprisingly many games are. Also surprising, for a 1980 game, is that it's one-player. We would all have to take turns playing complete games. And I was going first. There's always an advantage going later in a group. You know better how well you have to score, and what you have to meet. Also you can learn about the game from other people's play and other people's mistakes. I would have no advantages of place; I could just do the best I could and make my own mistakes.
For example. Asteroid Annie has what I'm pretty sure are called suicide inlanes. Nearly every pinball machine has an inlane that's a vertical wire divider, and a diagonal feed towards the flipper, and finally the flipper. But some games, especially up to about 1980, have variations on that. For example some don't have that vertical diver going all the way down to the diagonal feed. Asteroid Annie is one of them. It's got a little gap on the right inlane. A ball rolling up the feed can keep on rolling and drop out of play.
Ah, but when would a ball roll up the feed and out of play? Not if it's coming down. It would only roll out of play if you had caught the ball on the flipper and let it roll up, so as to burn off unwanted speed. Catching a ball on the flipper and letting it roll up is a common thing to do. It's maybe the first expert pinball player skill you can achieve. It's so common to do that an experienced player will do it without thinking. For example, I did it without thinking, and in so doing lost my first ball. The ball could only die by my hand.
I would recover and even have a good third ball. But I'd only win if everyone else had a poor game, and they were all prepared against the suicide outlane I'd forgotten. Yes, it's one of PinTips's two pieces of advice on the game.
The modern-era game was one I don't know. New Stern's 2001 High Roller Casino, one of an estimated infinitely many games based on casino games. I remember the game as being fun. Also that I learned from watching my competitors about where to shoot so as to get the slot machine shot. This might not be the most important shot in the game, but it was one I could find. Finding something you can shoot and keeping going at it is not a bad strategy if you don't know what else to do. PinTips advises shooting the slot machine a lot, so, just as well there.
Our electromechanical game was Williams's 1972 Spanish Eyes. It's, as with many electromechanical games, single-player. And just look at the art. It's by Christian Marche, the same guy who did the art for our Tri-Zone game. Also more than a hundred other pinball tables of the 60s and 70s. This has to be his most stylized, abstract backglass ever. bunny_hugger envied the chance I'd had to play it. It's a freaky table, surprisingly hard, with the flippers separated by a huge gap and a pop bumper in-between them. You never see that outside the electromechanical game era. I didn't know just what to do, and didn't have PinTips, but I fell back on my standard electromechanical game rules. Flip as little as possible. Hit any sets of targets where you find them. Send the ball to the back of the playfield if you have no idea where to go next. I liked the game.
And the late solid-state game was Midway's 1991 The Party Zone. It has a dot-matrix display so technically ought to be a modern playfield, but it's got the sort of rules and feel of a late solid state game and putting together seventy exactly logically balanced sets of games is hard. Give them a break. Party Zone is also on Pinball Arcade. It's this fun, very silly thing. But it's not obvious what to shoot for most of the time, a common problem with late solid-state games. See what PinTips has to say. It's rather a mess even if you have the game in front of you. I got a good bounce into the Disc Jockey scoop and got my pick of one of four songs. I picked Pinball Wizard, because of course. And sure it's coincidence but with an eight-bit MIDI rendition of Pinball Wizard going I got playing a good sight better. I'm not saying this made the round, but it got my mood a needed boost.
I finished the round with 6 wins, 6 losses. Second-best in my pod. I'd thought if I could reliably play second-best I'd make finals. I would drop from 84th to 91st seeded. I needed some wins. bunny_hugger was on the set ``Lacerta'', including the games Dr Dude --- prequel to Party Zone --- and Wizard, the electromechanical game that often saves her nights at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum. Despite the appearance of a friend like that she had a poor round, going 4-8. She dropped from 106th seed to 135th.
Trivia: As Surveyor General of the Navy Board, from 1665, Samuel Pepys found the Royal Navy cost about £450,000 per year in peacetime. Parliament's entire annual grant to the king came to only £1.2 million, and the actual sum received was under two-thirds that. Source: To Rule The Waves: How The British Navy Shaped The Modern World, Arthur Herman.
Currently Reading: Discovering the Natural Laws: The Experimental Basis of Physics, Milton A Rothman.