Back to Pinburgh. Round 7, the second of Friday's. I've got my collapsible chair now, clipped to my belt, worn as if it were a tail at a furry convention. I'm on bank 53, Xerotherm. It's also my first round playing any women; there's two in this group. Competitive pinball is trying to be more accepting of non-straight-white-guys but it's got a lot of social debt to overcome. bunny_hugger, in the lofty B Division, as on bank 17, Vouchment, and against only two players: Lyman Sheats's withdrawal leaves one of the forty groups each round short a person, and this time she's the beneficiary. MWS is on bank 68, Castor, another set that bunny_hugger has trailblazed.
The modern game: Stern's 2003 Terminator 3. The game has a gadget in the backbox, the RPG. It's a ping-pong ball that a spring-loaded ``cannon'' shoots at targets and if you're good at it, you can just light and play that all day instead of playing pinball. So there's a tournament-conditions sign that the RPG has been disabled. That's a shame since when you launch balls one and three you get the option to play that, and even if you can't play it perfectly (few can) it's still good points, and in tournament play that's likely to be the victory margin. I want to fall back on the reliable strategy of shoot the left orbits and collect awards, but I'm actually hitting alternating ramps. I don't like this strategy, but it's what's working, and I know better than to skip the game I am playing for the one I think I should. Then, though, the guy does shoot RPG and we learn what the RPG Disabled sign means. Instead of playing it the game just gives you a flat five million points. Or possibly ten million; the scoreboard gives contradictory information. Pretty sure it's five million points. With the rest of us puttering around ten million points, though, that suddenly becomes the thing to shoot for. I make RPG my target, and while I don't catch the other guy, I do get close and make a nice second-place finish. The women don't go for RPG, and I don't know why not.
The electromechanical: Bally's 1969 Gator. I know this as one of the first games I ever really flopped on at Pinburgh 2016. It's also a Zipper Flipper game, one that hitting the right targets will cause the flippers to move together in a way that, in principle, makes it impossible to center-drain unless you screw things up. None of us zips the flippers together. I take third place. The other guy takes first. The ``late solid state'' is Williams's 1993 White Water, which is actually an early dot-matrix-display or ``modern'' game, although it's got some late-solid-state feel to it. Particularly how it doesn't have a ball save; it just gives you the ball back if you don't score a single point on your plunge. The big scoring this game is starting a multiball and then shooting this side ramp that each of us tries and only the other guy ever gets a hang of, and he only slightly. My last ball I focus on nothing but starting multiball, and I make a good run for it, but finish about seven million points short of first place.
The early-solid-state is one of the rare six-player pinball games out there, Bally's 1978 The Six Million Dollar Man. The key to this game is to shoot the ball up to the scoop up top, and to complete the standing targets that spell out 5-0-0-0-0 for fifty thousand points. I keep coming close to that, and finish at 62,350 --- spoiling the other guy's perfect round, as he finished at 53,330. But one of the women does finish 5-0-0-0-0, bringing her score to 98,070, so she gets the real credit for spoiling the other guy's perfect round.
My round was ... not bad. 7-5, lifting my record to 36-48. I'm still in the hole, but I'm improving things, and my division seed's gone from 188th to ... 167th. OK, there's work to to do to get to the top forty. I'll need a great round --- well, I've had perfect rounds the past two Pinburghs --- or a couple good ones. And for the first time this Pinburgh I've gone a round without taking any last-place finishes. No first-place finishes either, but I figure if I can avoid any actually bad games I'll have the finish I need. bunny_hugger, playing Tron, Old Chicago, Corvette, and Cosmic Gunfight --- three games she knows plus Cosmic Gunfight --- finished with 7½ wins and 4½ losses. Finishing in the middle of a three-person group counts as 1½ wins and 1½ losses. That untidy ½ will annoy her until the end of the day, when she comes to appreciate it. Her record is now 40½-43½, and while her seed has risen from 197th she's only at 180th. She'll need at least one great round. MWS, playing Big Buck Hunter, Hot Tip, Phantom of the Opera, and Atilla the Hun, had an okay round, five wins and seven losses. This brings his record to 43-41 and he drops from 41st to 80th seed. He'll need some better-than-.500 rounds to get into finals.
Round eight, and the last one before our lunch break. I'm on bank 55, Zuccarino, with one of the women --- LE --- I played last round. As the day wears on we play people with more and more similar records and where I'm now the 167th seed, she's 170th. Also I overhear that she's from Toronto and can mention visiting Canada's Wonderland recently. This opens to the discovery that her parents live in the city opposite Port Huron, Michigan, and that she's played at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum and at the Chesterfield league, although not when we've had the chance to be there. Neat. We're also playing a kid who's dressed in suit and tie, a heck of a power move. It's easy to go up expecting a kid to be a walkover, but: if a kid is playing in Pinburgh it's because he is crazy into pinball, and with young reflexes and sharp eyes is going to cream you when you aren't expecting it. That said, he doesn't, possibly because he got rattled from a few bad balls.
Our first game is the modern one, Stern's 2017 Aerosmith. The game --- Stern's first with an LCD score screen rather than dot-matrix display --- appeared and quickly vanished from most venues because it is a drain monster. But I've played it just enough lately to get a reliable score on it. Plus I find the gentle skill shot that does all kinds of good things. Between that and a multiball I get 19.5 million points, a decent score for Pinburgh-tournament settings. And then LE comes up and beats me, taking first place.
Our electromechanical is Williams's 1968 Doozie, another zipper-flipper game. The goal here is to get the ball up top where it can light pop bumpers and stay busy there. Everyone else also finds the shot that drops the ball back into the plunger lane, from which it's easy to light more pop bumpers. I have a respectable enough 3,131 points, but everyone else has more. LE has 5,252 and takes first place. I don't think anybody zips the flippers together, which I think should earn us some kind of medal for playing the hard way.
Our late solid state game is Midway's 1990 Dr Dude and his Excellent Ray. It's a fun, silly game. Also part of my ridiculous two-player ``perfect'' round from Pinburgh 2018. LE says how she's been looking up the strategy guides for the game and can't figure where anything even is. I decide to be magnanimous. The ``I Chart'' thing is the skill shot, a timed shot: hitting this target in the back gives you 25, 50, 75, or a hundred thousand points and a strong plunge, shot at the right moment, gives you a hundred thousand points for sure. (The suited kid soft plunges, never getting near the target. Soft plunges are typically wise, since you want the pinball to move as slowly as possible most of the time, but this is an exception. Maybe he wasn't watching to see what the rest of us did.) You get multiball started by shooting a couple targets repeatedly and then up the ramp. That's all okay. She finishes with 1,375,790 points, good for second place. Me, I'm able to get one 1-2-3 reflex combination going, a shot that itself is good for a million points, and my 2,281,230 is my first first-place finish in two rounds. I've already got five wins; if I avoid coming in last on the final game, I'll have had a decent round.
The early-solid-state game is Gottlieb's 1980 Counterforce. This is, weirdly, an adaptation of Space Invaders to pinball form. You need to shoot a series of drop targets before a string of lights underneath each target indicates the corresponding alien has hit the ground. Other shots build up bonus points, which aliens hitting the ground steal back from you. It's a great, imaginative design, and a better adaptation of Space Invaders than the actual Space Invaders pinball game is. I'm the first player, and better, I have a crushingly good game, putting up something like a half-million points on the first ball and playing for what feels like forever. My next two balls are nowhere near that good, but it doesn't matter. Everyone else feels desperate, and plays shakily. I do too, balls two and three, but it doesn't matter. LE, with 277,830, takes second place. My 652,430 would beat everyone else's score combined. It's my first crushing, runaway win since the Wizard of Oz way back in round two.
It's a good round for me, eight wins and four losses. It brings my record to 44-52, and lifts my seed from 167th to 117th. I'll need more good rounds to make playoffs, but especially with the last two games I'm playing like a good player again. LE has a better round, going 10-2, launching from 170th seed to 81st. I won't play her again.
bunny_hugger on bank 11, Writproof, has played World Poker Tour (she knows it and hates it), Safari (quite familiar; has that thirsty ``Put Me In Your Tank'' Tiger that seems like a non sequitur to the younger set), Stargate (another modern game pretending to be a late solid state), and Force II. She has five wins, seven losses, which moves her record to 45½-50½. This barely moves her: her seed goes from 180th in the B Division to 181st. It's not impossible that she should make playoffs, but it'll require at least one great round. A perfect round, or an 11-win one, would save her. And she is at least playing the B Division people with the worst records, now. MWS, meanwhile, has gone 6-6 on bank 47, Sextans. This is Guardians of the Galaxy (and why was this Rocket Raccoon-featuring game not in Procyon?), El Toro, Shaq Attack (a game which delighted bunny_hugger with how baffling it is; the game keeps asking players questions that make no sense), and Eight Ball Deluxe (one of about 400 different games all named Eight Ball that we've played). It's moved his record to 49-47. His seed has drizzled from 80th in C to 81st in C. He also needs a good round, although not so desperately as bunny_hugger and I do.
It's time for lunch.
Trivia: In 1871 the British government levied a tax of ½d per dozen boxes of matches for sale, to help replace revenue lost from the abolition of sales of army officer commissions. Source: The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorous, John Emsley.
Currently Reading: Pogo Volume 5: Out Of This World At Home, Walt Kelly. Editors Mark Evanier, Eric Reynolds.
PS: Reading the Comics, August 30, 2019: The Ones Not Worth Mentioning Edition and you see where I have to figure this is a busy week if I'm posting something like this on a Monday.
PPS: So to pictures ... the next important thing in our lives was Penelope, the Californian rabbit we started out fostering, and soon adopted, and only had in our lives for the four months. So here's some of the pictures from those first days of her being here.
Look at this bunny palace, ready for the inhabiting! The hutch had been home to Columbo and Stephen and, years before that and before I was more than a remote Internet friend, The General. Here it's cleaned up and ready, with a pen area that was a wedding present, and a disposable rug that we got when Stephen was no longer reliable in his toilet habits, waiting for Penelope to join us for what we told ourselves would be just a month's fostering.
Penelope, in her carrier surrounded by her blankets, all very suspicious of these people who've taken her away from the shelter she'd been living at for years.
First steps! Penelope decides to give us a try.