The lunch-or-dinner break came to a halt sometime around 6:15. The round was supposed to start then, it's just that for some reason they don't make announcements about the start of the game then. You just have to notice that people are moving to the tables and go along. It's sloppy stuff; bunny_hugger has been groused at by group-mates who don't see why she was two minutes late. Could be worse; I understand one of the top players bombed out of his position when he thought the lunch break ended at 6:30 and was ruled absent.
My bank is number 35, Eridanus. One of the women from my last round is in this one. We start with the modern game, Stern's 2005 Sopranos. Is the Jersey connection a good omen? Eh, who knows? I never saw the table much; for years it was one of only two Stern games at the Silverball Museum. But I never got into it and I don't even recognize the table. It has a local quirk. It's possible on the game to plunge the ball into play softly enough that the table doesn't know you've done it. You can start one multiball mode without the game ever ``validating the playfield'', starting the timer after which the ball-saver expires. Pinburgh has disqualified this by rigging up an automatic trigger; everybody shoots the ball in with the same force, hard enough the game knows you've done it. I fall back on my standard old-fashioned approach, trying to start modes and multiball together. It's good for second place. The woman I'd played with before marvels that I, too, am mortal.
The electromechanical game is Williams's 1975 Pat Hand, another card-themed game with Christian Marche artwork. It's a game of hitting the standing targets and hitting some rollover targets. And it's got a pair of bumpers just over the left flipper, where a kicker should be. I have a lot of fun on it, but get second place again.
The late-solid-state game is Gottleib's 1991 Surf 'N Safari, which I know from how it haunts eastside tournaments. We'd played it at Rollapalooza just a few weeks before. The frustrating thing is there's an obscured skill shot on the waterpark-themed game that awards a random prize. These prizes can be incredibly valuable, including fine things like multiball or completing the board that puts you in what passes for wizard mode. Is that disabled? We have such a hard time shooting it that maybe it was. I'm not sure any of us got that award. The goal of the table is repeat any of the major shots and then collect a big prize. I find where one of the ramps is and repeat that until I get multiball and even get a jackpot. I feel pretty good about this, but someone else has been watching me and is able to repeat my strategy. Another second place. Still: I already have six wins this match. No matter what happens I'm not having a bad round.
The early-solid-state game is Bally's 1981 Medusa. I know it a bit. It's one of those slightly over-complicated games of the era; you could suddenly do anything back then so designers did. There's an inner playfield with a small set of bumpers, there's zipper-flippres that slide in and out, there's a movable center post, a lot. And I have it. I have a good first ball. And a great second ball. I'm running away with the game and ... did my left flipper drop?
It's a curious thing. One of the common failures of pinball machines: a flipper sticks up. Often, hitting the button for the opposite flipper will make it drop again. This doesn't mean the flipper doesn't stick, but it does mean you can make it drop again. But it is an important malfunction. Did it happen? Or was I just not noticing my hand on the flipper button, a thing that's easy to do in the heat of the game when you aren't thinking anymore, just playing? ...
So I watch the flippers closely as other people play. If it isn't happening for them, then it's a fluke and I can take what's looking like a sure win with a clear conscience. It doesn't seem to be happening, but they're not doing well keeping the ball in play either. It ... and then the ball comes around to someone who is sure it's sticking, and calls over a tournament official for it.
The official asks whether this was happening for other people. It could make the difference whether the game gets stricken. A fluke affecting one player is minor; something hitting several people is major. I say what I knew: I thought it stuck at the end of my ball, but I wasn't sure. The woman I'd been with before said she thought I'd been keeping the left flipper up a lot but she hadn't been sure I wasn't just trapping a lot. The official talks about whether this might be worth striking the game after this. He's testing, it seems to me, whether the four of us think the malfunction deserves an extra ball as compensation for the obviously affected player or whether it should invalidate the game.
I swallow maybe three points and say, I'm comfortable moving to another table. I hope we don't. But with the flipper obviously sticking, and the evidence it has been, there's not a real choice. We're off to the bank of substitute tables and, per the judge's random number generator ... Clown, a 1985 table from Italian maker Zaccaria. I've played it some in simulation. On the real thing, at the VFW two months earlier, I'd rolled the table. We're seated behind a group that's playing its own substitute round. ... And waiting. And waiting. Clown breaks down. They can't fix it speedily. We get moved to another substitute table.
The replacement replacement table is Old Stern's 1979 Meteor. I know it. It's at MJS's pole barn. It used to be a mainstay at the Brighton Arcade. There's two paths for success, knocking down sets of drop targets or shooting the spinner. I can manage neither of these feats. I share the delightful trivia about the game being based on the Robert McCall advertising poster for the movie Meteor (which gets reviewed in Roger Ebert's I Hated Hated HATED This Movie). But I go to a pretty sad last-place finish.
I finish the round with 6 wins, 6 losses. I nurse my wounds, thinking of how it could have been 9-3, and feel greedy for that. It's not as though I could be more in first place (although, at that point, I didn't realize I had been in first place going into the round). I'm sitting at 36-12, two wins ahead of the three players tied for second.
bunny_hugger, on set 4, Sextans, has had a strong round, going 8-4. She moves from 12th place up to 9th. The weird game there is the late-solid-state Blackwater 100, a freak of a game where you have to launch three balls into play to start the game. Someone wins that table just by hitting the flippers wildly; trying to aim or something just brings ruin.
Trivia: Besides commanding the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes chose to take over the physical sciences in the field: surveying, astronomy, meteorology, and natural science. Source: Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Exploring Expedition, Nathaniel Philbrick.
Currently Reading: Under A Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894, Daniel James Brown.
PS: Reading the Comics, August 12, 2017: August 10 and 12 Edition, wrapping up last week's stuff.