Fall Downtown Mall Silverball Crawl

On Saturday, Joe, Taylor and I went to Charlottesville to play in the Fall Downtown Mall Silverball Crawl.  This tournament was organized by Chris Newsome who organized the last tournament in Charlottesville.  The plan was to play in three locations – Miller’s Restaurant on the Downtown Mall, The Arena – ice skating rink on the Downtown Mall and West Main: A Virginia Restaurant.  The Arena usually has one pinball machine – Lord of the Rings.  The operator of Lord of the Rings brought No Fear, Spiderman and Big Buck Hunter to the arena to be played in the tournament.  The cool part was that he stayed and played in the tournament too.  West Main has a Junkyard machine and Miller’s has Game Show and Harley Davidson.

The day started with a side tournament at one at The Arena.  I think there were 14 or 16 people in the tournament.  The tournament was a knock out tournament played in groups of four.  After each game, the third and fourth place finishers received a strike.  Once you received two strikes, you were out of the tournament.  We got some games in on the side tournament before going to West Main for the main tournament to start at three.

The main tournament was a high score tournament.  For each machine, the tournament awarded a point for each person’s score you beat on that machine.  The first place score would receive 15 points and so on down the line.  You could play each machine twice and use the best score as your score for the tournament.

We ran into an organizational snag at West Main.  We had 16 people who needed to play two games each on one machine.  This ended up taking about two hours.  It was good to have a chance to get lunch at a good restaurant and hang around for a while, but it delayed the tournament more than was necessary.  For some guys, it was a good chance to rest up on the couch to conserve energy for the later rounds.  I know Chris discussed ways around this for next year’s tournament and I’m sure it will be a little more smooth next year.

Junkyard was my Kryptonite.  I could not get a score on it no matter what I tried.  I ended up in the last place position on Junkyard which had me sunk for tournament from the outset.Image

A few of us went back to the arena from West Main to start playing the machines there to continue the tournament.  The rest of the tournament went well and without much problem.  I think everyone was surprised at how long it took everyone to get in two qualifying games with only 16 people in the tournament.

We ended up scratching Miller’s from the tournament because it was going pretty late and the machines there are on the third floor which is a smoking floor.  No one protested the decision to scrap the third location as everyone was getting a little weary.

Eventually all the qualifying games were in and the top four and five through eight played in the finals.   Joe and Taylor were both in the 5 through eight group after Joe won the two way ninth place playoff.  Joe ended up sixth in the five through eight group with Taylor in seventh on No Fear.  If I remember right, Joe won by a few thousand points.  Joe and I really started to like No Fear with Taylor still on the fence about it.


Following the main tournament, we finished the side tournament.  I had played the first two rounds of the side tournament before heading to West Main and ended with no strikes.

I got a strike playing in a hard group against Bayless Rutheford, Chris Newsome and Joe Said on Spiderman.

I had to play Spiderman again and put up a miracle 72 million on my first ball.  Taylor gave me some game play advice on modes and multiball progression and starting which really helped.  I ended up ducking the strike in that game which left the side tournament to me and Joe Said.

Joe is a very good player with lots of experience in tournament pinball.  Joe had no strikes which meant that I would have to beat him twice to win the tournament.  I got lucky and beat Joe in our first game on Lord of the Rings.  Our second game ended up being No Fear.  My lucky run came to an end at this point.  Joe played well enough that he was able to plunge his third ball for the tournament win.


I saw some of the same guys from the previous Charlottesville tournament and met lots of nice people.  Just like in the previous tournament, there was a good sense of mutual enjoyment at having a chance to spend a day playing pinball with a bunch of people who also really like pinball.  The Arena is a good place for the tournament because there is plenty of space and beer and tvs.

We got home much later than expected, but had a very good time.  Thanks to Chris Newsome and Joe Said for organizing and hosting the tournament.  I am looking forward to playing next year.  I’m also looking forward to seeing most of you again at Taylor’s house for The Pin(t)s for Kids Tournament.

We learned on the way up that Joe Cummins is now a pinball owner.  Joe now has a Raven in the basement which is soon to be joined by many more..


Burn Out


I like pinball. At some point there was an infatuation that kept me playing or fixing to the wee hours of the morning. I’d lift the hood to tweak a switch because it seemed just a little too sensitive or worse not sensitive of enough. I’ve collected, restored and played my personal games for over 8 years now and I am frankly burned out. I have a project I can’t stay focused on and I rarely flip my games on unless I have friends over, what happened?

One thing that has been interesting, as I play more socially, is that I have a harder time getting into playing by myself. The hobby for me is now as much about talking and drinking  a beer as it is about playing. I have never been a very social person but now it seems that the hobby I could so selfishly delve into has lost its lonely luster that I could so readily lose myself in. I don’t think this is such a bad thing on a personal level but I’ve always been able to close the doors of my workshop and while away for hours doing the most mundane of task. Those task now just seem mundane.

With all of this being said I must say that the tentacles of this hobby are sticky and it is hard to break away from. The thought of ditching my pins has crossed my mind in the past and the creation of my charity tournaments was born from a need to do something with these social coffins that I had gathered in my basement. Sharing my hobby while raising money for a great cause seemed like a no brainer and has easily become the proudest thing I have done in this hobby. The pile of people that loaded into my basement to play really got me going again and I saw a new direction for my interest in the hobby.

Through the Pin(t)s for Kids tournaments and the RPL I got some of the love back as I found the sharing of my games to be as rewarding as playing them myself. Something about someone hitting a jackpot for the first time takes me back to the first time I lifted the playfield and took in the smell of stale cigarettes and beer that had seasoned my first pinball machine. Now that our second season of league is in full swing I seem to be looking for that smell again. Getting our league going has been great but now I need something new. I need something to re-spark the love I have for the hobby.

Hoping to find some of that love back this weekend as I am attending a semi-local tournament. The great thing about this hobby to me has always been the different aspects of it, whether that be the hunt of a new game or the accomplishment of a full restoration. Competitive play seems to be the avenue I have yet to truly explore. I obviously am playing in a league and have played in a few tournaments but I’ve never considered myself a player. I like to play well but I have the focus of my 3 yr old when it comes to competitive pinball. I have no expectations for this tournament other than to try to stay focused but also to have fun: to not take it too seriously but to not disappointment myself by not giving it my all.

Wish me luck.



Richmond Location Pinball

With the Charlottesville Pin Crawl coming up, I was thinking about location pinball in Richmond.  I thnk the only place we have with more than one machine is Putt Putt on Midlothian.  The last time I was there, they had a Rolling Stones and a Stern Indiana Jones.  There is a Lord of the Rings at the Ashland Skating Rink and South Park at the Lakeside Laundromat.  Both chuck e cheese locations have pins, but they are so poorly maintained that they don’t really count.  The Elvis at the River City diner is about as bad as the machines at chuck e. Cheese.  I’m sure I have forgotten or don’t know about a few.  If you know of one near Richmond, please post. 

Thinking about getting together at Putt putt to play a little.  Let me know if you are interested.

Charlottesville Knockout Tournament

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On Saturday, Mike O. and I played in a tournament in Charlottesville.  The tournament was held at the Lazy Parrot Backyard BBQ on Pantops Mountain.  A few things about the Lazy Parrott.  The owner is a pinball guy who took part in the tournament.  He usually has four machines at the restaurant.  Also, there are two Lazy Parrots in the same shopping center.  If you go to the Lazy Parrott and there are no pinball machines, you are in the wrong place.  I learned this the hard way when I was in Charlottesville the week before the tournament and went to the Lazy Parrott that is pinball free.

The tournament was played on these machines:  Star Trek the Next Generation, The Getaway, Funhouse, Metallica, Spiderman, Harley-Davidson, Party Zone, Nascar and No Good Gophers.  The tournament was a three strike tournament.  Each player who comes in third or fourth for a round receives a strike.  Once a player finishes in the bottom two of a four person group three times, he is out.

I think I counted a total of 19 players in the tournament.  I had met some of the players from Northern Virginia when a few of us played in the Fairfax Pinball Open last year.  There were some very good players there including the current number seven player in the world, Trent Augenstein.  Most of the players were friendly and welcoming.  The tournament was set up to encourage new players by waiving the entry for anyone who had not previously played in a pinball tournament.  The entry fee was $5 with an optional $20 sidepot for those who wanted to play for a little more money.

Four player groups were drawn at random, put in random order and sent to a random machine.  All this randomness ended up putting me on the machine The Getaway for my first three rounds.  I had seen the machine before and had some idea of the rules, but I had not played this machine prior to the our first round.  I was selected to go first in a group that included Mike O (who went last) and Trent, the current number 7 player in the world.

I struggled in the first round and received my first strike of the day.  One of the highlights of the day was Mike O. stepping up like a boss and taking down the number seven player in the world like it was just another day at the office.  Video to come.  Mike had it won before he even started his third ball.  When Mike finished, he stepped back from the machine and screamed, “That just happened!” in his best Ricky Bobby accent.  I think I was actually more excited about Mike’s win that he was.  Anyone who has met Mike knows he did not scream after winning, but that’s how I remember it.

As I kept grinding on The Getaway through rounds two and three, I finally manage to scrape out a win in round three against two of the Northern Virginia guys.  One of the Northern Virginia guys set the GC on The Getaway with over 300 million points.

My final game was on Star Trek the Next Generation.  I played with Kevin Stone, Justin and Phil.  All very nice guys who were friendly and gave me advice on how to play.  The game was relatively close between the four of us until Kevin and Justin started and scored in a couple of valuable modes.  Kevin was able to start the video mode for which he knew the pattern.  He told me the pattern afterwards and I am going to try to get there one of these days.  That was my fourth strike and booted me out of the tournament.

As the tournament played on, I got in some games on the machines that weren’t in use for the round.  I played games on each machine other than Nascar.  Nascar was in use for a separate high score tournament and was being played most of the time.

The tournament was a very good time and taught me some lessons for future tournaments.  I need to be able to warm up before the tournament starts.  Even if you know a machine pretty well, each machine is set up differently and I need to get a feel for how that machines is playing that day.  I also need a warm up to get the eyes and hands working together well.  I was running late from being out of town with my family and arrived at the tournament with just enough time to play one game of No Good Gophers before the tournament started.

I also need to know the rules of each machine.  As I watched the other players use specific strategies while I flailed around on The Getaway, I knew I should have taken the time to know the rules of the game.  I had played Stark Trek The Next Generation many times on the ipad and that knowledge of the rules and shots made me much more competitive than I was on the Getaway.

Thanks to the organizers for a great tournament.





About a month ago, I made a deal with a member of pinside.com to buy his Iron Man.  When I got it home, the GC (Grand Champion) score was 89,000,000.  I changed the settings on the game to make each multiball harder to achieve.  I started to feel pretty sure that I would not be able to reach the GC and would be stuck looking at the initials TAD for a while.  Iron Man has average scoring of 4 to 5 million per multiball.  Iron Man also has two very big scoring opportunities that are difficult to achieve.

Each time you complete a mode (multiball, shield, iron man) you light one of the Mark I-VI circles. The Mark circles stay lit from ball to ball.  Once you light all six, the center shot lights a mode called Jericho.  Jericho is a one ball mode in which all of the multiball and mode targets are worth 250,000 to start with values increasing with each shot.  There is also a reward for completion of each multiball and mode target which starts at 2,000,000 and increases.

The other scoring opportunity is Do or Die.  In order to light Do or Die, the player must complete all multiballs and modes in the same ball. Given the speed and difficulty of Iron Man, this is not an easy task.  Do or Die is a 35 million point countdown jackpot which is collected by shooting the center shot.

in the GC game, I started the third ball with War Machine and War Monger lit and about 14 million points.  I hit Do or Die for 29 million and hit 49 million during Jericho.

GC now says CCB.

Hey Look Waterskiers!

Fish Tales tutorial by the current PAPA Champion and master of the tutorial, Bowen Kerins.  The bluegrass music seems to make Fish Tales a love it or hate it game.  I love the music and the various callouts.  As Bowen notes in the video, there is so much music and sound in the game that there is a separate music theme that only comes up when you enter your initials for an achievement.

Bowen also refers to the fact that many tournament players don’t try to lock balls for multiball because it so often leads to a drain.  Instead, many tournament players focus on the boat ramp.  Unless you can reach the super jackpot in multiball, there are many easier ways to come up with similar scores.  My favorite quote is “multiball in Fish Tales frequently just flames out with nothing on the board.”

Lots of pinball diehards don’t like video modes where you stop playing pinball and play a video game on the DMD.  Fish Tales has to be an exception to this rule. I challenge you to not enjoy shooting torpedoes at boats and waterskiers.

World Cup Soccer ’94



The attraction to this game by kids may be why grown ups don’t clamor up to this table but once they play it and figure out how much there is to do and how fun it is you’ll find parents patiently waiting for their kids to finish that “one more game.” Both my daughters love this pin and I don’t blame them a bit.

WCS’94 was designed by arguably the most artistic of famous 90’s B/W designers, John Papuduik. His titles include Cirqus Voltaire, Theater of Magic and Tales of the Arabian Nights, all three of which are aesthetically breathtaking tables. I have played all of his games and have owned CV. I personally think WCS’94 is the best of the tables and only for the theme did it not reach the heights of his other games. Fortunately this lack of interest in the theme has kept the game in the “affordable” bracket for years and has allowed people to stumble upon the game which rarely happens with a title that cost 3-6 thousand dollars. At 1k the game is a steal for what it is and would be my recommended table for anyone wanting to enter the hobby.

My game was routed and is easily in the poorest shape of all my tables having a small  amount of playfield wear by the right flipper. If the wear indicates anything it is the substantiation that this is one of the funnest pins to just walk up to and play. Wear often indicates neglect but in this case I think it simply demonstrates the utter playability of the title.

In WCS’94 the goal is to travel through the host cities until eventually playing Germany in the finals. Shots award ticket stubs that in combination will award the chance to collect travel by hitting the left orbit. Completing the skill shots will light the opportunity to collect three cities so should never be taken lightly. There are ample opportunities to score big on this game and there are several stackable modes that can create huge bonuses so keep that play tight as to not tilt away those 100s of millions to put your game over the top.

My daughters love this game so I keep the settings relatively easy compared to my other tables. Hearing them scream out GOOOOAAALLLLL is one of my favorite moments in the game room. The one issue with my game I need to look into is that it has weak saucer kick outs. I think it is just a matter of swapping in some new coil sleeves but the game plays decently and getting under the hood is my least favorite thing to do. Eventually.

So if you are looking to get into the pin hobby and need a pin with lots of playability that won’t kill your wallet WCS94 would be my first choice. It has certainly created more than one new player in my house, young and old.


Game play video

Rule sheet





I bought this pin because my wife liked it at a pinball party we went to years ago. I am always looking for a table that will bring her to the dark side of pinball and this was my heroic attempt at doing just that, heroic in the sense that I added a table to the lineup that I could claim was a heroic attempt at bringing my wife to the dark side of pinball.

Monopoly was released by Stern Pinball in 2001. The game was designed by Pat Lawlor and of course utilizes one of the most iconic of board games as its theme. Theme integration is done very well as the player makes shots to advance their way around the play field.

The playfield seems very open but there is actually a lot to shoot for with four ramps, 6 pops, several saucers as well as a third rotating min-flipper. I don’t know what it is about this game but I really, really like it. I also think it makes for a great league or tourney table as the shots are very obvious and the game is very “playable” and by that I mean very responsive to nudges and passing. Strategy is pretty straight forward: advance around the board collecting all properties, once all properties are collected the wizard mode will begin which I believe is a timed, similar to the wizard modes in Twilight Zone and Safe Cracker.

I frankly have never sat down and read up on strategy for this game but there are  two MBs, one of which is the train MB which is accomplished by hitting a quick return wire ramp just above the left flipper. This ramp advances along the railroads in the game so after hitting it four times it starts a two ball MB. The main MB is achieved by use of a hard lock. Lock is lit once the player travels around the board game. Depending on the games difficulty both locks are available once the player passes go one time and then the right ramp is available to start the MB. Jackpot shots are accomplished by hitting the side ramp off of the upper right flipper.

Monopoly is certainly not a complicated game and with it’s iconic license it is probably one of the most approachable games in my lineup. There are certainly nuances to the rules that a seasoned player will enjoy exploring but the game is very “beatable” if the goal is to get to the wizard mode. Personally its is all about trying to bang out high scores more so than how “deep” you get into this table. Depth does not always equate to fun and Monopoly is certainly proof of that. Worth a couple of quarters in the wild.

rule sheet