austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Cruel winter chilled the bud and stole my flower too soon

So how was the tournament? Like many, a series of turns of fate. I started out great. First game was Elvira and the Party Monsters, a late-solid-state. Weak first ball, but by the second I remembered: oh yeah, I can steal the balls the other players locked for multiball. Even if I didn't get a jackpot, I'd have foiled their chances. This may sound vicious, but it is part of the strategy of a game like this that allows lock-stealing. So, I put up a monster second ball. Second game, Diner, was one of the couple games I'd played in practice beforehand. I learned one thing about it: if you could shoot the left ramp and repeat that shot you'd end up in a very good place. I couldn't repeat it, though, not until the last ball. And then I really had it, and came to winning on the final ball. Had a weaker third game, Eight Ball Deluxe, as I couldn't get my simple strategy on that --- shoot up the left orbit --- to work.

I was looking at a dreadful finish on Houdini: Master of Mystery, and then had another astounding third ball rally. I was able to combine a frenzy mode, where every shot is worth a respectable value, with a multiball, which means just what you'd think. And kept it going alive long enough to go from last place to first. And then faced my first great peril of the day: a round with bunny_hugger.

We'd so far played in separate groups. She had a great start on Hogdoggin', an early-solid-state with a skiing theme. She was facing doom on that and then realized it's a bonus-heavy game and overtook everyone. On Old Chicago, an electromechanical like one that used to be at Cedar Point, she took a strike but that's not bad. Next round was Attack From Mars, and she was playing with RLM, AJH, and KEC. It's a game that's extremely good to skilled, precise players like RLM and AJH. This time, it was better to bunny_hugger, whose score beat everyone else's combined. And then on Hit The Deck, an electromechanical that's a variation of the game Neptune (which was also at AJR's basement) she took second place again. So she was behind me, yes, but barely, when we went head-to-head for the first time.

People find it very funny when bunny_hugger and I are put head-to-head. You understand why. I've heard folks calling it ``homewrecker brackets''. bunny_hugger has the idea that I always beat her in tournaments, though, and it's hard putting her through that. It's true that I win more often than not, but it's not that imbalanced. Of the 60 events we'd been to this year, up to this point, she had beaten my standing 24 of them.

Well, we were on Title Fight, an early-90s Gottlieb game from the era when every Gottlieb game was a baffling thing. It's got a boxing theme. I gave my best advice, and she had a pretty good game. But the game also gave me an instant multiball, something Gottlieb games of that era were prone to do, and I collected a jackpot putting me way out in front. So she took a strike, but not because she played badly. I just had a lucky game. And we were through the homewrecker bracket and could face ... another homewrecker bracket. The two of us on Bram Stoker's Dracula, an early 90s game based on the movie. Oh, and AJR, who owns the game, was one of our opponents. There's two really good things to do on the game, shoot for the Bats bonus by making the left orbit a couple times, or shoot for the Rats bonus by shooting the right scoop several times. I was able to get Bats right away, and Rats eventually, and was looking ready to cream everyone. And then AJR went and on the last ball put up about 400 million points, doubling my own crazily good score. So I took a strike and bunny_hugger two. But after that second homewrecker bracket ... we did not have to face each other again. I went on to Barracora, an early-solid-state that I should have done all right on, and did not; I took two strikes for the first time in the tournament. bunny_hugger was put right back on Dracula, a demoralizing repeat. But she got second place, a respectable one strike.

This was when the dinner break came, and the fireworks, and some grousing from bunny_hugger about how I always show her up at these things. And, well, it's true that at that moment I was in first place among all the competitors. But she was in second place. And, I reassured her, I was going to fade in the second half of the day. I've been thinking hard about my tournament play and realized that when I get tired, I get tired bad.

So after dinner break --- and hour five of nearly continuous pinball play since I seemed to always be in the group that ended last --- I was up on Hotdoggin'. I knew a few things from practice games early and bunny_hugger's intelligence. I had a house ball ball one, not getting to touch the ball; and ball three I lost when it turned out this one lane did not always have this little metal post up to kick the ball back in play. I took another third place. All right. But then to Monster Bash, a game I know well but that so does everyone else who plays competitively. And in a group with AJR, too. I take a last place finish for the first time in the day. And on Neptune, on which I had nothing but good practice games, I put up a lousy play game. One more last-place finish. I've fallen precipitously out of first place. My next match is on Lord of the Rings, along with KEC and AJR, jr. I had played this in practice too, so I had already discovered some of the Extremely Hard Play options on it. So I wasn't thrown the way KEC seemed to be. My last ball, in fact, I just put together everything, with something like four multiballs and putting up a monster score. I take a first place finish, my first since the dinner break, and start to think maybe I'm going to make the final four after all. And KEC has a great game herself, finally, pulling into second place. Together we knock out AJR jr, who shouldn't be able to claim inexperience on the game. She's thrilled, and good for her. Finally we get to round 12, where I'm on Old Chicago with AJH and DAD, whom I played in five rounds so I was getting ready for a new face, and ... bunny_hugger again.

Since the dinner break she hadn't had any first-place finishes. But she hadn't been doing terribly either. She had a third-place on Dirty Harry, but that's a hard game if you haven't figured out three key shots. But she had a second-place finish on Neptune. A last place on Eight Ball Deluxe, when she just couldn't get the ball to behave. A second-place finish on Barracora, and that in a satisfying way. She went from a dismal score to good enough that AJH came back over to see whether his first-place finish was going to be beaten. It wasn't, but it was close. So that's how she and I were placed to play one another again.

Old Chicago is an electromechanical, with a weird layout that has no inlanes or feed to the flippers. And a great shot to collect the bonus anytime, except that you have to manage to get the ball in gently or it'll ricochet out and go in wild places. I never get the hang of it, this game, and take a last place finish. bunny_hugger takes third place, and by a whisker: one more skill shot and she'd have beaten out AJH. DAD, meanwhile, went from a distant last place to first on a great third ball rally.

And that knocked us both out. The same round, although since I took one more strike than did bunny_hugger I finished behind her. I ended up in a three-way tie for 12th place. She, in a two-way tie (with KEC, turns out) for 10th.

We stuck around to watch, as long as nobody was going to shoo us out. RLM would get knocked out the next round; AJH, one round after that. JMA after that and then PH. DAD after that. And finally there were three people left, each with fourteen strikes. One game would settle first through third place. The random draw of game: Bram Stoker's Dracula, because of course.

And it was an epic game. RC, who finished third, put up about 150 million points, by any measure a great game. AJR, who owns the game, put up just under 500 million points by the end of his third ball. MSS, the third player, came up to his third ball with about five million points. The only way he could possibly win would be to get Bats, and Rats, and each of the three big multiballs, and maybe do all of these several times over. And still he'd need luck.

So that's what he did.

MSS is a fantastic player, yes. But he also rattles, and when he gets rattled, he plays aggressively. And this will tilt games. Which is really catastrophic on Dracula, because the Bats and Rats awards are huge but are awarded as bonuses. So we were not just watching to see if he could possibly overcome RC's lead, never mind AJR's, but also whether he might be in that terrifying position of having enough points that with the bonus he'd win, if he didn't nudge a little bit too much and lose everything. Also listening from afar: MWS, whom bunny_hugger was texting with updates. MSS could, with a high enough finish in a valuable enough tournament, overtake MWS's position in the state rankings. But bunny_hugger had misunderstood this, and thought AJR was the threat to MWS's position. So besides the thrill of rooting for such an underdog she thought she was rallying to MWS's defence, and it was only after MSS won that she learned oh, no, that's the thing MWS would rather have not happened.

But what a thing to see happen. It's the best third-ball rally I can remember ever seeing. The only thing to compare it to was the Lansing League finals when CST, facing elimination by MWS, put up a billion points on Getaway on one ball. Getaway normally scores in the tens of millions; 200 million is a great game that will beat nearly all comers. But that was, I believe, a ball two that left MWS so beaten that even if he could ever have put up a billion points himself, he couldn't that day.

So after that just fantastic game done, and tournament ended, all we have to do is sit back and wait to see when the event posts, and what it does to the state rankings. I hadn't thought, at first, that the event could be worth all that much. But now realizing that it was 45 players, many of them highly valued (which increases the worth of the tournament), and that it went on as many rounds as it possibly could (also raising the tournament's worth) ... I'm not sure but I think it might be comparable to the charity tournament that MJS held back in November. Which gave the first-place finisher 28 points in the rankings. And which gave people hovering around 10th place four points, and those around 12th place three points. Too soon to say. Will know in a few days.

Trivia: William and Andrew Smith began making Smith Brothers Cough Drops --- one of the first trademarked products in the United States --- in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1847. Their logo is a portrait of the two. Source: Hershey: Milton S Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Michael D'Antonio.

Currently Reading: Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered, Peter S Wells.

PS: Let's see some more Meijer State Games of 2017.


We had possibly too much space for actual needs, and there wasn't much foot traffic going past. This had the side effect that the tournament lost out on potential general-public players who could have added their existence to the pinball event's ranking value.


bunny_hugger, on orange, hard at work buffing her scores on World Cup Soccer.


Meanwhile in the far corner, they were getting actual boxing under way. Notice the guy on the right has a ... title belt? Something, anyway, in his arms.

Tags: meijer state games, pinball

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