austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Never sleeping

The Pinburgh event would be ten rounds. In each round a pod of four people play four games. The games represent the major eras of pinball: electromechanical (roughly, before the mid-70s), early solid-state (mid-70s to mid-80s), late solid-state (mid-80s to 1990), and modern/dot-matrix display (1991 to present). If you play Pinball Arcade --- and if you like pinball you should, if nothing else to learn rules and develop strategies --- you can have a taste of it. Play, say, Central Park or Big Shot for the electromechanical era. Xenon or Gorgar for early solid-state. Earthshaker or Diner for late solid-state. For the modern era, oh, Tales of the Arabian Nights or Road Show. The idea is that the best pinball player ought to be someone skilled in all the eras of pinball, and all the different kinds of games there are to play.

My first pod was put into a group of tables named ``Djulpan''. We were assigned together at random, as everyone was in the first two rounds, which makes it noteworthy that one of the people in the group was in my friend JIM's pinball league back home. Our first game was Jack-Bot, an old friend and one at our local league. Everyone else shot themselves in the foot trying to play clever. Jack-Bot has a ``valid playfield exploit'': if you plunge the ball extremely softly but keep control of it, you can make several shots without the game registering that the ball is in play, so you get extra time to play with the ball saver turned on. The catch is this requires knowing just how the specific table you're on works. Nobody had that; nobody's allowed to touch the machines except during their actual game. So everyone else fumbled away their first two balls. I just played like it was an ordinary game, and my mediocre score was enough to win that. Good start, albeit one helped by my opponents making a strategic error.

That was our modern-era game. The electromechanical game was Bally's 1968 Gator, on which we all raced to the bottom. Everyone who played the game called it one of the most impossibly cruel ones in the tournament. I liked it. The early-solid-state was Stern's 1980 Cheetah, which I've played at MJS's pole barn. So I knew something of what to do, and did tell what I knew to my competitors. It's an early solid state; hit banks of drop targets and the spinner when lit. The late solid state game was Williams's 1986 High Speed, a game I know well from Pinball Arcade but don't get to play much in person. But the layout is very similar to Getaway: High Speed II, one of the mainstays at our local league. I could do well enough there.

Though Pinburgh is a Professional And Amateur Pinball Association event it doesn't use PAPA-style scoring because of course. You just get points for however many people you beat on the game. So first place gets 3 points, second place 2, third place 1, last place 0. Unless, somehow, your group had only three people in it, in which case your 2/1/0 is multiplied by 1.5. And there were some groups of three people, despite this being the biggest pinball event of the year and people being literally on a waiting list: there were 684 competitors for the 700 possible spots. MWS got into a three-person group his first pod.

So I finished the first round with a total 5-7. Fair, could've been better. bunny_hugger had a rougher time, finishing her first round 4-8.

There was some down time before the second round; we had basically two and a quarter hours between rounds and that meant something like an hour of free time between rounds. This let me discover there was Wi-Fi, so I could check up on stuff on my iPod, but that the Wi-Fi wasn't very good. Competitive pinball may yet drive us to get smart phones.

Second round, for me. The game bank named Pleiades. The modern game was Attack From Mars, which everyone knows and can master. Somehow we didn't master it. Possibly they set it to play extra hard. Electromechanical game was Super Straight, a 1977 game from Segasa of Spain. (Which, yes, is late for an electromechanical but I guess older-style games were still being made overseas by then.) Hit standing targets, hit the spinner, hope for a good first plunge. Grand Lizard was the late solid state, a gift to me. I've played that a good number of times in Flint games. Plus it has a magna-save, a button to rescue balls going out the sides of the machine. I would do well on games with magna-saves. Early solid state Black Pyramid, where I found one thing to do and kept doing that. That thing was building bonuses. It was a good thing to do. I got through the round 6-6. I had visions of making B division float in my head. bunny_hugger's second round would be a little better for her, and she'd get a 5-7.

The first two rounds were assigned at random. From the third round on we'd be put preferentially up against people with similar standings, the better to spread out and break up ties. So if eight games can be said to distinguish skill level I was now starting to play people about my demonstrated level. I got a pretzel and a bottled water and a tip about how there were cheaper sodas in a vending machine outside the main hall.

Third round. The set called Lyra. Modern game, Williams's 1998 Monster Bash, an old familiar friend with lots of fun modes and great shots to score points and I came in last. Electromechanical game, Williams's 1976 Aztec, which I've played some. CST owns one, and he offered good advice on how to squeeze points fast out of it. I didn't have any balls last long enough to get points and I came in last and felt bad admitting that I couldn't take his advice. Late solid state game, Bally/Midway's 1988 Escape from the Lost World (unrelated to The Lost World that I played as warmup) with a really tricky but worthwhile upper playfield if you find some worthwhile shots. I didn't. Early solid state game, Gottlieb's 1981 Volcano, with a positively compelling four-tier ball lock hole on which I found nothing.

I would have a perfect round, zero wins and 12 losses. People who had rounds perfect the other way, 12 wins and 0 losses, would get t-shirts or plaques or something as well as their names announced at the start of the next round. (One person in my pod that round would go 11-1 and feel that keen heartbreak of doing nearly perfectly well.) Us perfect losers? We got to try consoling ourselves. bunny_hugger would have a much better round --- well, how could she not? --- but she had a great round by any count. 9-3. I finished the first three rounds 13 wins behind .500. She finished exactly at .500.

And now we would have a break. Some time to get lunch.

Trivia: The phrase ``slaves for fashion'', as escalves de la mode, first appeared in print in 1694, in the first edition of the French Academy's dictionary. ``Fashion Queens'' appeared in 1719. Source: The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Joan DeJean.

Currently Reading: DC Showcase Presents: Superman Family, Volume 1, Editors Robert Greenberger, Emily Ryan Lerner. You know, the various crime organizations in Silver Age Metropolis seem really poorly organized even considering they all end up arrested by Superman after crossing Jimmy Olsen. Of course that could be a matter of institutional experience; newbie crime bosses figure there's an opening in Metropolis while experienced ones know the environment just won't support it.

Tags: pinball, pinburgh

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