October 30th, 2016

krazy koati

Be one of us

The tenth and final round of the second day of qualifying. Our last chance to make finals. Or to get one of those sweet perfect-round T-shirts that people with 12 wins got. My bank: ``Perseus''.

Modern game. Stern's 2008 game CSI, based on the show that threatened to just be everything CBS aired besides The Price Is Right. I had heard of it. I had never seen one, though, and had no idea what to do. But the game dates to a time when Stern Pinball was buying licenses possibly at random (they also put out games based on Monopoly, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and World Poker Tour for crying out loud) and designing them to appeal to casual players. So they don't have the fantastically deep subtle rule sets that combine to make monster killer scores if you know the secret. They play more like the transitional games from the late electromechanical and early modern eras. Light a multiball and collect it. How to light them? ... I take a guess and shoot for sets of targets. Some stand-up, some drop targets. The game goes very well for me indeed.

Early solid-state game. Bally's 1977 Happy Days Eight Ball. Look at the backglass and remember that companies were shockingly casual about their licensing in the 70s. This is one I don't really know, but the layout is easy to understand. It's one of the estimated four zillion pool-themed games. Hit the targets that correspond to balls. I get one house ball, rotten luck. And the lack of a left inlane is hard to get used to. But I feel all right about how it all turns out.

Late solid-state game. Data East's 1993 Rocky and Bullwinkle. It's an old sort-of friend. They had it at the Latham Circle Mall in the mid-90s, when I would take the campus bus from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I haven't been there in a long time. The Latham Circle Mall is gone. But I did play it a lot, if badly, back then. I knew a couple things you could start. I have skills now. I could do something like start the Snidely Whiplash buzzsaw hurryup, and I did. I could shoot the mystery scoop and get the score-doubler. I could get multiball --- pardon, Tri-Ball (``Multiball'' was trademarked to Bally/Williams at the time) --- going on purpose. I could hope that nobody else got the score-doubler mystery award. I could wonder why they allowed that on a tournament game. I could hope I'd get through a full round without any last-place finishes. I didn't, but I could hope with the best of them.

Electromechanical game. Bally's 1974 game Flicker. It's got a theme of remembering celluloid heroes. Laurel and Hardy are front and center on the backglass. W C Fields is there too. look close and you can find Al Jolson in blackface because ugh really, 70s? Really? But I looked at the playfield and saw something else. It had this nice pair of captive balls in circular tracks. It had this pretty slick circle target in the center, with a spinner on the very inside of the circle. It had a scoop up top --- and I realized. It's got the same layout as Bally's 1974 Boomerang, familiar from several classics banks in Fremont and Pinball At The Zoo.

I pointed this out to my competitors. They were willing to grant it was similar to Boomerang but insisted the center was different. Turns out that I was right: this is exactly the same playfield as Boomerang, just a different theme. Don't know why. Doesn't matter. I now knew exactly how to play it, and particularly knew to give the machine a tap on the side as the scoop up top kicked the ball out, to ward off unfair center drains. And I felt like a secret master of the pinball world for recognizing this resemblance.

For the round I got 7 wins and 5 losses altogether. This tied me for first place in our group with a fellow actually named Mad Mike Richardson and who knew? Great name. He, it turns out, was restricted to C Division or above, indicating in last year's Pinburgh he had done quite well indeed.

So for the day I would have a perfectly balanced record: 30 wins, 30 losses. I finished the Qualifying round of Pinburgh with a record of 58 wins, 62 losses. I would finish as part of the fifteen-way tie for 85th place in C Division. And it placed me 431st of all the 684 competitors at Pinburgh.

I'm not ashamed. I had some great games, some good games, and some games I'll be laughing about someday. And I finished 1.5 wins behind Roger Sharpe, the man who saved pinball. I could live with that.

bunny_hugger had a worse final round, despite playing one game --- late solid-state game Pinbot --- that she knew inside and out. She also had modern game Independence Day which I never even saw. Early solid-state game Alien Poker which she had at least seen at the Silverball Museum, though maybe not remembered or played. Electromechanical game Card Whiz which she would know from MJS's pole barn. She got only four wins, though, and eight losses.

Her second day was much worse than mine, and she finished Pinburgh with 52 wins, 68 losses, near the bottom of the B Division. But that still put her well up in the world; she finished 330th out of all 684 competitors. Top half!

We'd stay around a little, to catch friends and see who had good news, or who expected good news. But we were also beat, and we would retreat to our hotel room to rest, recuperate, sleep really hard. And console ourselves that at least we didn't have to get up too early tomorrow for finals. Or stick around late that night for tiebreakers. There's always consolations.

Trivia: Among the renovations to the Chicago Cubs' West Side Grounds ballpark for 1908 were 1200 baseball bats supporting the balustrades, ornamental piping topped with cast-iron baseballs, and dozens of bear cub casts. Players complained that ducks had nested in the visiting team's quarters over the winter. Source: Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, Cait Murphy.

Currently Reading: Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History, Charles H Kahn.