My first bank was on Set 71, named Lyra. Most of the banks are named for real stars. Some are named more fancifully: Tatooine, or Xyzzy, for example. Each bank holds one modern game, roughly the ones from 1991 to the present day; one electromechanical, roughly anything from before 1975; one early solid-state, a machine from about 1975 to 1984; one late solid-state, a machine from 1985 to 1991. To excel at Pinburgh you have to do well, or at least avoid doing badly, on all the kinds of pinball since we got out of the pure mechanical era.
Lyra is one of the three banks on stage, in the location for the A Division Finals set for Saturday. There's no actual prestige in playing on them outside the finals. But it feels like there should be. You're more visible than anyone else, and they already have the cameras set up and monitors showing the screens to anyone looking casually on. It's also more dangerous. The stage is less wobbly than it was the previous year. But it's still less stable than the cement floor of the convention center. There would be spurious tilt warnings, and even tilts, through the day until organizers add a strip of tape and prohibit anyone not playing from walking too close to the machines.
My first game for the first bank of the first day of the convention: The Hobbit. A Jersey Jack game. I'll take the hometown pride of it. It's a good omen. I do well on The Hobbit most anytime it comes up in leagues. I don't know this specific table, but that's all right. There's a lot of reasonably safe shots that would let me get a feel for what I need to do. The table has Lightning Flippers, shorter than the standard ones for the game, something a warning sign informs us about. The effect is to make the game a bit quicker, a bit tougher, certainly necessary things for a game that the best of the A Division would be playing in two days. I ... don't reach the blow-up moment I hope for, but I also don't do badly. I get a third-place finish, earning 1 win and 2 losses in my group of four.
The electromechanical game: Doodle Bug. It was the novelty delight of the last year's finals. Its gimmick is a captive ball, inset in the playfield; certain shots trigger a motor that sends the captive ball bouncing up and down for ten, or a hundred, or a thousand points each bounce. It's also a game for which it's impossible to hold the ball on the flippers, a mistake that dooms many players. Not me. I find the feel of the five-ball game, and come out of it the champion, earning three wins and zero losses for the round.
The early solid-state game is El Dorado: City of Gold, one of many remakes of the durable electromechanical El Dorado. It's a drop targets game: there's a bank of ten drop targets and a bank of five drop targets and just keep completing them. I never get traction on it, and go down to the lowest score possible. Zero wins, three losses. My total for the round so far: 4-5.
The late solid-state game is Phantom Of The Opera, which I don't remember ever playing before. There's some things it's obvious I can do, like, shoot the organ that eventually starts multiball. And, playing easily, not trying to move too fast, trapping and aiming, I come to a second-place finish. Someone on the last ball sneaks out from under me. I complete the cycle, racking up a first, a second, a third, and a fourth-place finish. My score for the round: 6 wins, 6 losses.
Same as everyone else did. Not all by getting a cycle. Someone got it with three second-place finishes (two wins each) and one fourth-place. Someone got one first-place and three third-place finishes. I forget what the last person got, but it's surely deducible from this information. We all are 6-6 after the first round, and joke that we could have just pretended to have played and saved ourselves all this time.
It's a joke and we all chuckle about this. It transpires, though, that there have been credible reports of players agreeing to declare they had a 6-6 round. At the end of the first day of play, when Pinburgh divides its players into the A, B, C, and D divisions, people with scores tied on the dividing line get put into the higher division. On the end of the second day people tied for the last playoff spots go to tiebreakers together. There is motivation, in these final rounds of the day, to negotiate a face-saving tie rather than play a game that might send one to oblivion right away. I had no idea and am shocked to learn this, and to learn of my naivete.
But nobody would throw the first round of the first day this way. And it's a good start. If I can keep on this pace I should end the day at 30 wins and 30 losses total, on the border between B Division and C Division. Good place to be.
bunny_hugger plays the first round on Set 41, Procyon. Surely a good omen there. The modern game is Theatre of Magic, an old familiar game she knows every rule to. The electromechanical is Hokus Pokus which who knows. The early solid-state is Genie, which she's played some but doesn't know well. The late solid-state is Sorcerer which she knows from the Wii Pinball Hall of Fame. She too emerges from the first round with a 6-6 record, although her group is not so perfectly balanced.
My perfectly mediocre play drops me from 255th seed to 398th, about where the dividing line between B and C division should be drawn. Hers drops her to only 354th. We're both really in this massive tie for 337th place, but they have to set seeding somehow and I don't know how they do it. We have about an hour free to wander around and try to catch friends and hear how they're doing before the second round starts.
Trivia: Three signers of the Declaration of Indepence lived to be over ninety years old. (John Adams, Charles Carroll, and William Ellery.) Source: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune Of The Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.
Currently Reading: Luna: Pittsburgh's Original Lost Kennywood, Brian Butko.