March 10th was the fifth meeting of Season 4, and it seemed as though a lot of people were feeling a bit off their games and disappointed with their own performance. The absence once again of our beloved leader Matt P. (on a trip to visit family during Spring Break) as well as other regulars including the everpresent Mike S. (gone early to PAPA) may have contributed to an atmosphere that was rather subdued. Perhaps PAPA nerves were shadowing others; Alex and Chris were in attendance but getting ready to leave for PAPA in a few days. We did have a couple of new players (Corey and Tim) to help fill in the gaps and bring some energy to things.
The show must go on, however, and Aaron reprised his duties as Matt’s second, getting things organized and underway. Instead of the famous Sorting Hat or the newer computerized method of drawing groups for the night, Aaron hit on the clever idea of having everyone draw playing cards, and afterward announcing which cards went with which machine. Aaron once again sent people to move counterclockwise through the games, but this was quickly sent awry by at least one group thinking we were to move clockwise; for the rest of the night people ended up jumping on whatever table was free at the moment.
We had been scheduled to play Monster Bash, Junk Yard, The Simpsons Pinball Party, and Tales of the Arabian Nights. Prior to the start of play, I decided to practice starting Mosh Pit Multiball on Monster Bash and see how often I was successful. This was prompted by having it as a goal at a pingolf tourney, and realizing that it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought, especially if I focused all my efforts on it. It turned out that in several practice games at the Avenue prior to league play, I only failed to start it once, so I resolved to try that as a new strategy. Later I saw Chris trying out Monster Bash too and I told him, “I have a new strategy for this one: shoot up the middle.” He said, “Thanks, Heather, I can always rely on you.” If his voice had been any more laden with sarcasm, the words would have fallen and crashed through the glass.
During his practice game, Chris determined that the scoop was shooting down the middle all too often. He convinced Aaron that Monster Bash should be removed from the rotation. I was none too pleased by this and began, well, wailing might overstate it. I’d spent all my warmup time practicing that Mosh Pit Multiball! Alas, but Aaron’s word was law for the night and so the switch was made, Monster Bash for Attack from Mars.
I ended up in a group with Sam and Chris, starting out with Tales of the Arabian Nights. Chris urged us to hurry so we could get our game started while there was still light in the pinball alcove. This was definitely sage advice, since TotAN is the worst game to play when the room is dark. It makes you want to get out the glow sticks, as Matt P. once said. I had a really good ball one in which I got quite a lot of lamp spinning going and had a multiball with two jackpots, to the tune of eight-odd million. Sadly my next two balls only totaled about one million points between them and that was almost all my held bonus. Still, I started out the night with a bit of confidence, which was quickly dampened by a mediocre-to-bad Attack from Mars.
While we were playing Attack from Mars, a new player, Tim, arrived. He had come late to the league meeting but had been added to my group. While Chris and Sam played, I tried to show Tim the basics of pinball with a credit someone had left on The Walking Dead. Tim had just about never touched a pinball machine before and didn’t know the first things to do. Situations like that really trigger my teacher reflexes and I probably start over-helping sometimes. I just love giving people the guidance Joseph gave me when I was new, that helped me gradually understand the basic structure of pinball. Tim joined us when we got to The Simpsons Painful Party and didn’t do much worse than anyone else.
My group’s last game of the night was Junk Yard. I hadn’t played my first ball yet when suddenly I looked back from a conversation I was having with Joseph and saw that the game appeared to have reset. I asked what happened and was told Chris slam tilted it. The league rule for slam tilting is that the culprit takes 0 and everyone else replays the round. Chris walked off, and the remaining players along with a few bystanders discussed the unfairness of it.
I didn’t see it happen but I was told that he had certainly earned a tilt but it really should not have been a slam tilt. Jake suggested we should just pretend it didn’t happen and I said I would be fine with that, but Chris reappeared with quarters
he had presumably acquired from Aaron, dropped them into my hand, and said, “Have fun.” (UPDATE: Chris tells me that they were actually his own quarters, acquired from the change machine.) He then went upstairs to practice The Walking Dead (which he would be playing at PAPA that weekend). Presumably Chris will have to stop teasing Mike for slam tilting Junk Yard on a past league night (resulting in a new nickname for Mike, “King Kong”). Chris later said that although Junk Yard’s slam tilt is too sensitive, he also knows better and had earned his penalty. Now that is what my father would call “the sportsman’s way.”1
After league play was over, I dithered about whether I would go to the “after party” (the newly traditional visit to Theio’s) as I still wanted to play. It was relatively early, so Jake suggested we could go eat and still come back to play more. He had me at “play more pinball.” It was only a small group that assembled at Theio’s, perhaps our smallest yet. Jake, Sam, Mike, Greg, Joseph, and I made for a relatively sedate crowd this time. Afterward we returned to the Avenue and played a bit more before things broke up for the night.
That didn’t actually end League Night, though. Matt P. and Mike S. elected to play makeup games, and so they came back to the Avenue the following Tuesday. So did Aaron, Greg, Joseph, and I, though our own games were just for fun, as much as I would have liked to substitute my even better game of TotAN (11 million and a replay!). Joseph and I played with Mike, and Aaron and Greg played with Matt. Mike had some good games, but apparently Matt did even better. We were on different floors from him for most of it so I didn’t see what he did, but whatever it was, it earned him the top score for this league meeting. As Matt is frequently plagued by below-average games during league play, perhaps he’s hit on a new method: play his games when no one is looking.
Before he headed back home, Mike suggested we should play The Lord of the Rings, since the high score table had apparently been reset. During our game, I finished ball two somewhere in the 30 millions, and Mike remarked that I must be getting close to the high score table. Then I started to sweat. I started Return of the King multiball at the start of ball three, but hit only two jackpots. Then Destroy the Ring was lit. I have only gotten to the Destroy the Ring mode once (and didn’t last long in it). I knew that if I started it, I would be on track to get on the high score table. I shot at the ring… and I missed. Game over. The bonus counted up and I had fallen 1.5 million short of the 40 million needed for the #4 high score, and about half a million short of hitting a personal best. I was crushed… but it was getting late and glory would have to wait for another night. We said farewell to Mike (who was leaving) and the others (who were still playing) and headed home, concluding Bonus League Night.
That’s it for my epic League Night Update, just in time for a new league night in two days. I would be remiss to conclude, however, without commenting on an unprecedented event in league history. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, this is the first time in the history of the Lansing Pinball League that Chris has not been at the #1 position in the current rankings. Thanks in large part to his “slam tap,” Chris has relinquished his place to Alex, at least for now.
1Like most of the sayings my father used all the time when I was a kid, this one comes from a movie: The Wanderers.