June 22nd, 2017

krazy koati

Bright and early for their daily races

For being knocked out after six rounds of electromechanical and early solid state games it wasn't actually all that early, compared to the normal open hour for the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Museum's open weekend. Thing to remember is the pace of rounds was set by whoever was the last group to finish any one round, and it's quite possible to play a long while even on the slow, unforgiving tables of that era. Especially when you have to start out with a search for the game since even with the map there were a lot of machines on hand. Still, it was early.

When we were here for the toy drive ahead of Christmas I used the chance to play all the electromechanical games on one long row of tables. This time I did a variant: I played every one of the woodrail games. These are electromechanical games, yes, mostly from the 1950s, with even more primitive gameplay and simpler rulesets and, really, deeper challenges. Many of them include vanished features like gobble holes, losing the rest of your ball in trade for a big pile of points. One, a baseball game, was even flipperless, with all the play being in good plunging and gentle nudging to send the ball down the lanes that scored hits or home runs, or at least avoiding those for strikes and outs.

And then there were other little tasks. MWS, once he was out of the tournament, wanted to play the Back To The Future pinball. Just long enough to get a multiball going. It's an early-90s Data East table. Those things are hard, with rules that are often bizarre and at least poorly playtested. It took him at least six games to lock three balls and get multiball started. MWS is a top-notch player, a credible choice to someday win the state championship. The game's a little off. The game didn't have rights to use Michael J Fox's face.

Another task I set myself: playing all the Zaccaria pinball tables. This was an Italian company, working in the late 70s and 80s. I've seen one of their games, Time Machine, at MJS's pole barn often enough. I've got a rather good pinball simulator app for my aged iPad that carries all(?) of the tables. But the actual machines? Almost impossible to find around here. And yet here they were. So we played all of them. One, playing with bunny_hugger, I even had a brilliant game on, once we got a stuck ball and flaky lock fixed. This game went so well that I actually rolled the seven-digit score counter, the first time I've ever done that on a game that had, like, LEDs. One of the few times I've ever done that. It turns out the Zaccaria tables have a brilliant way to handle a rollover like that. The last digit of a pinball game is nearly always zero, with 10 the minimum score. Once I rolled over, that last digit changed to a flashing 1. If we stick to the premise that 10 should be the smallest unit of scoring in a pinball game this is a brilliant way of getting an extra digit of score. I don't know what happens if you roll the score nine times. I couldn't live long enough to play a game that long.

They have a Tri Zone, much like we do, and I wanted to give it a try to see how badly I did on a different instance of the table I know so well. I did fine enough, but had a fluke event on the third ball when the game plunged two balls into the launch lane. Well, what to do? I plunged and did my best to keep them both going and later remembered: Tri Zone is not a multiball game. It shouldn't even have a second ball to put in the launch lane. The explanation: it turns out there's a mod available for Tri Zone that starts the third ball as a two-ball round, and the owner went for it. I didn't realize at the time why things were going odd in that way or I might have appreciated it more.

For all the time we did have, it wasn't enough time, and before we knew it we were among the last people there. bunny_hugger was in the last group playing anything, with GRV struggling mightily to teach her and MWS anything about Judge Dredd, whose baffling rules had crushed each of us in Pinball At The Zoo qualifying. They turned off the games and nearly all the lights around them. (I'd reached the final hour of 10 pm while playing Fathom or Seawitch or something, and quite well, thank you, so wasn't part of this pod.) And as we didn't get tickets for the other days (the shows sell out every time), that was it for us. Maybe for the year, maybe just until a charity event sometime later. Good day overall despite the contest disappointment.

Trivia: General Dwight Eisenhower sent a telegram of congratulations to Harry S Truman on his election in 1948, but did vote for Dewey. Source: Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, William Lee Miller.

Currently Reading: Archie, Volume 1, Mark Wait, Fiona Staples.

PS: Great Stuff By David Hilbert That I'll Never Finish Reading, but that's still important stuff.