The end of the third round of Pinburgh was our first long break. We had time between finishing our last game and starting the next round, yes, but that's an unpredictable span of time. This would be long enough to go have lunch. Meeting up with JTK and CVK and their relative and MWS we figured on going to Condado Taco. This is on the corner just between the convention center and our Drury hotel. It's one of those places where you get eight billion options to build some common enough food, and you check off what you want on a paper menu. It's rather good. We get there at least once, often several times, each Pinburgh. The catch is it's nearby and popular and apparently they didn't know that everybody from Pinburgh would go swarming out looking for food at about the same time. So we had a good wait. MWS decided to go back to his hotel room. He had peanut butter sandwiches.
We had good tacos, and were delighted by the chance to get here, because we didn't know the place was a chain and there's another one in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak. Which isn't convenient, but is much more accessible than Pittsburgh is. We spent the time trying to commisserate. As bad as my, and MWS's 14-22 record was, it was enormously better than CVK's. She had a poor first round, a lousy second, and an okay 6-6 third round, putting her at 10-26. This left her 964th among the thousand players of Pinburgh. bunny_hugger, sitting at 19-17, was in good shape and we were trying to reassure her, all she had to do was maintain and she'd be in B Division easily. A Division was in striking range. But all this paled before JTK, who'd gone 22-14 in the first three rounds. This put him at 203rd in Pinburgh. If he could keep to .500 the rest of the day he'd plausibly be in the A Division.
The lunch break ended at 6:15 --- not 6:30, something that trips people up --- and we got to the next games. I was on bank 75, Utterance. I was by the way in a group with Jon Stewart, not that one. We all refrained from making jokes based on how he had a name we'd heard of. The bank looks to be just what I need to recover. The modern game is Stern's AC/DC, which we have in Lansing and which I've recently learned how to play a reliably good, 50 million-point game. The electromechanical is Bally's 1975 Blue Chip, which has been floating around westside tournaments the past couple months and has been a reliable 300-to-500 thousand points. The late solid state is Williams's 1991 Terminator 2, which is actually a modern game, but it's one I learned when it first came out and never quite forgot. The early solid state is Old Stern's 1980 widebody game Big Game, which is your ordinary complete-the-drop-targets thing and that I've played some.
It starts well. AC/DC plays hard, but it is Pinburgh after all. And I'm able to get one (1) multiball going, getting me to 13 million points and first place. Blue Chip, now, this is in principle an easy game. There's two spinners. Two standing targets light them for a thousand points a spin. Once you've hit those, shoot the spinners. It's a very symmetrical playfield, so if the ball is on the left flipper, shoot the right spinner. If it's on the right flipper, shoot the left spinner. If only I had ever got the ball on a flipper. I get last place. Fine, then. Terminator 2. The strategy's simple; start a multiball and keep it going. If you can't start multiball, shoot alternating ramps. Or do what I do, which is nothing, and I take last place. I can still get a 6-6 round, if I can just win Big Game. I need to break out of this bad streak, so, I change things. Given a free choice I usually pick to play second, for not much reason; I just do. This time, I choose to go last. I say I need to watch other people, and it's true; I watch how the ball bounces, and how shots behave, for everyone else. But mostly I just want to break this streak. And I end the game with an anemic 74,870. This gets me third place.
It's another lousy round: four wins, eight losses, taking my record to 18-30. I'm 868th in Pinburgh, which I don't think is lower-ranked than my world position but is still pretty close. At this point I haven't even earned my guaranteed position in the D Division. Still, it's not all lost. A perfect round --- and remember I've had perfect rounds before --- would put me at 30-30, a respectable C Division placement. But a good round, like, 8-4, would do no more than put me high in D.
bunny_hugger has played bank 68, Castor. The modern game is Big Buck Hunter, themed to the video game, and one of the first pinball she ever noticed. She watches another player who knows that if you just hold the ball on the flipper, without shooting, eventually a deer target comes out, ready to be hit and to start a multiball. Because you waited patiently for the buck to show itself, you see. The electromechanical was Hot Tip, the late solid state Phantom of the Opera (a nearly incomprehensible game), and the early solid state Atilla the Hun, which she mastered by the approach of just hitting two of the three banks of drop targets. She had a mediocre round, going 6-6, but that is all that she needs to get into B at this point. Her 25-23 record moves her up to 385th in the tournament. MWS, on bank 6, Uterotubal and what kind of word is ``Uterotubal'' --- playing Jackbot, Jungle Queen, Earthshaker, and the early-solid-state Dracula --- has also gone 6-6, lifting his record to 20-28 and him to 807th in Pinburgh.
Round five. The one that'll decide what divisions we end up in. I'm guaranteed D, at least, and could theoretically make C. But the higher my score, the better, since whether you make finals depends on your cumulative score. (Except in the lowest, E division, where only Friday counts.) Our modern game is Williams's 1995 No Fear: Dangerous Sports, but I repeat myself to say that's a 1995 game. It has an extreme-sports theme, but I repeat myself again. I had a great game on this last year and remember roughly what to do: have lots of combo shots, where one shot leads to another and you ... repeat yourself a lot. I ... have an all right game, but so does another person. And one person has a great game. I take third place, which I do not need. The electromechanical game is Williams's 1966 Casanova, a two-player game. We've got to play in two groups of two people. I choose to play in the second group. A sign on the game warns that tilt-throughs are possible. This is when you tilt so hard that the still-swaying tilt bob causes the other player to get a tilt. Modern games (mostly) have the computer intelligence to not do that. Older games with simpler electronics don't. And, indeed, one of the players in the first round does tilt through, giving him an automatic last-place finish. (The other player, cheated of one ball, gets a compensation ball, its score added to the rest of his.) So that's a nice guarantee: unless I tilt through I can't do worse than third. (I don't know what happens if two people tilt through.) And it happens I have a fantastic game, everything coming together, for 3,118. The other person playing the second group puts up ... well, 2,946, uncomfortably close. But I have a first-place finish. I could yet get ten wins out of this round.
The late-solid-state game is Williams's 1985 table Sorcerer, which isn't all that late a game. It's one I've played mostly in virtual form, as bunny_hugger has it on the Wii and always cleans my clock on it. This time, the guy who'd gotten the compensation ball last game is cleaning everyone's clock, racking up 625,490 points. But I have a respectable game, getting 211,540, which looks good for second place ... until someone else finishes at 213,150. So I have another third-place finish. The early solid state game is Old Stern's 1977 Stingray, with a sea-diving theme. I feel really good on this, getting a good mix of its knock-the-drop-targets and its get-the-ball-in-the-scoop-up-top strategy. I'd probably have won, too, except the guy who had tilted through managed to earn an extra ball on one of the few games to have extra balls turned on. So I get second place.
The round was seven wins, five losses. It's in the right direction. If I had played at this pace last round and this I'd have earned my D position. But as it is, I have 25 wins, 35 losses, and I'm put into D by virtue of my restriction. I'm dropped in as 185th in the 200-player division. It could be worse; there's someone with a mere 22 wins restricted into D. But to get into finals I'll need a really strong Friday.
bunny_hugger had bank 24, Youthtide, full of games she knew she did not like. Spider-Man, which she plays enough in Fremont to hate. King Kool, electromechanical, with double flippers on each side that open up to let you drain your ball when you try to hold it. Tommy, which she's never known how to play. Haunted House, the three-level early solid state game, which fascinated her as a child but is a pain to play. Still, she had seven wins, five losses, improving her standing further. With her 32-28 record she's put into the B Division, 148th of the 200 in that division. It's a great placement --- she's automatically going to beat three-fifths of everyone in Pinburgh no matter what she does Friday --- but it does mean she's facing tougher players.
MWS, meanwhile, on bank 36, Zygotactic and what is that word even?, has played Big Hurt, Zig Zag, City Slicker, and Buck Rogers. Buck Rogers he's at least played before. (Seriously, I did a web search on 'zygotactic' and several of the top hits are just this particular Pinburgh bank being mentioned.) Big Hurt (Frank Thomas's Big Hurt, properly) he's heard of because that is everyone's nominee for most punishing pinball game. It's one of the small genre of baseball-themed pinball games. But it was made by Gottleib in the 90s, so the rules are weird, the modes are all basically luck to complete, and the scoring random. I had been complaining about it, based on my experience with it last year, and bunny_hugger had looked up the rules to see if anone knew whether there were rules. So she was able to give him some briefing. He has a good round, going 8-4 and lifting him to 28-32. It's a good recovery. The finish would put him in the upper half of D Division, but he's restricted to C and above, so he goes into that 189th of those 200 people.
JTK faded in his fourth round, going 3-9, and then had an okay 5-7 in his fifth round. He finished at 30-30, putting him into the C Division at 114th, just about the dead center of Pinburgh. CVK had a disappointing 4-8 fourth round and a 7-5 fifth round, bringing her record to 21-39. She's dropped into the E Division, and seeded 156 of those 200 players. But she's got as good a chance as anyone: in the bottommost division only your Friday play counts for playoff competition.
There's a crowd going out to a late dinner. bunny_hugger and I, stuffed with tacos from lunch, don't feel up to it, despite the risk of missing fun. Going back to our hotel room, and sleeping, seems like a better prospect. By the time we get back to the room we have our division assignments and even know our first banks for the morning.
I'm to be on bank 39, named Procyon. I like this as an omen. We'll be playing Game Of Thrones, Miss-O, Big Guns, and Cheetah; Miss-O, the electromechanical, is the only one of that set that I don't know how to play. I'm still smarting from that 2-10 finish in round three. But I feel pretty good going in to the second day of Pinburgh.
Trivia: The Lackawanna railroad ran no Sunday trains until 1899. Wags said its formal name of the M&E --- Morris & Essex --- actually meant the Methodist and Episcopal. Source: New Jersey: America's Main Road, John T Cunningham.
Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.
PS: Here's more parade stuff.
Finally! A picture of the lion where you can actually make it out.
The dragon facing down the ball on a stick that I think maybe represents the sun?
The middle of the Chinese dragon. I like that it has a view of a kid explaining this to another kid.