can TD dictate strategy (playfield validation)?

Local monthly tournament at a location that has Soprano’s. The Tournament Director doesn’t like the fact that you can exploit playfield validation for getting to the boat multiball and wants to disallow that strategy. My opinion is that that’s how the game plays. If you don’t like that, then don’t use that game in the tournament.

Can the TD tell everyone they’re not allowed to play that way? This is an IFPA sanctioned tournament. What if he claims it’s due to long ball times?

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I agree with you. TD should just take the game out if he doesn’t like it. There’s a way to nerf that strategy though which I believe involves somehow connecting the boat with the outlane switch or something like that (I’m not a tech). Maybe he could look into that.

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We won’t be able to modify the game like that, though that’s a really interesting idea. Really curious what @pinwizj has to say about it. Specifically, where does the TDs power end?

I don’t think you can dictate strategy, no. If the game is unfit for tournament play, simply don’t play it. Otherwise if a game is included in the bank, the players all have the same ability to play it the same way and the field is level.

TD’s can really do whatever they want. It’s their choices that dictate the support they get from the players, and the building up or down of their reputation as an organizer.

It’s no different than not allowing people to trigger a ball search on Jokerz to easily lock balls. At some point you can argue ‘the game allows you to do this’, so ‘why can’t I do this’. Every TD (including myself as a TD using the IFPA/PAPA rules) make those kind of decisions all the time on what we personally allow or don’t allow. Some things fall on the ‘play on’ side of the line, and some things fall on the ‘you can’t do that’ side of the line for whatever arbitrary reasons (too difficult to enforce, too much of an advantage being gained, etc).

Currently we don’t have rules against exploiting invalid playfield opportunities, but TD’s are welcome to not allow it. The ability to enforce that rule and the intent of the player as to whether they were intentionally doing it or not falls on them.

A perfect example is Colin with the Whirlwind ball searching during the TPF final. That ball search allowed him to change the state of the ramp to his advantage. Did he intentionally induce a ball search? That falls on the TD watching the game, seeing what they see, and making that call (looking for chattering flippers or whatever as evidence of intent).


Thanks so much for the quick response, Josh.

I had a TD at an event I’ll not name say, no timing out the TAF power, where we did have game choice. Let me say I appreciated knowing that was the rule before I was choosing games!

It’s a slippery slope. I would advise your TD to pull the game entirely if he is concerned about long game times. Otherwise where does the limit end? No short plunging at all? You have to start each ball by plunging the rollovers? What about if the plunge bricks and comes straight to the flipper? Are you FORCED to shoot a non-drop-target non-boat shot? That sucks.


Yeah, I agree, and I keep telling him to just take the game out if he has a problem with it. I don’t like it because I’m not doing anything unintended. I’m plunging the ball and flipping, just like I’m supposed to. Timing out the power I can see as delaying the game. Even short plunging over and over again I get can be delaying, but I’m playing the game here. Is it my fault I keep hitting exactly the shots I want to? What if I just don’t like the way the game is dropping the ball out of the pops? Bah.

I agree with Josh. TD’s can pretty much do what they want.

Wel let a TD dictate what is and is not a stuck ball, if you can or can’t leave balls in the plunger lane during a multiball on games like pin bot (but im just playing the game!), wether or not you can play extra balls… the list goes on.

As noted by the OP, this is pretty annoying and lame on the TD’s part imo, but rules be rules. If you don’t like em, don’t play.

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I’m with you, @aobrien5. Even “delay of game” I think should be very sparingly ruled… the current PAPA/IFPA rules explicitly mention 30 seconds as the threshold for “delay”, and that’s more than enough time to allow The Power to timeout. There are plenty of other legitimate reasons to delay play, such as allowing the tilt bob to settle a bit after an aggressive move of the machine, or just mentally resetting.

My personal opinion is that, to the greatest extent possible, the machine itself should be the judge, jury, and executioner of a player’s actions. That’s what it’s designed to do. If a TD doesn’t feel the machine can fulfill that role satisfactorily, they can exclude the machine from their competition, but once it’s in, I feel that its rulings should be respected unless there is clear evidence that it’s malfunctioning. Anything that is known behavior of the game - even if the TD doesn’t like that behavior - is by definition not a “malfunction”.


This shouldn’t be considered disallowing a strategy. I think he’s free to make a game-specific rule, as long as it is enforceable.

Here’s an example in the rule book that eliminates an exploit: If a ball ends up in manual plunger lane in multiball (and in some games such as Pinbot this is even by design), you need to plunge it. One strategy is to shoot balls up the ramp till a ball is in plunger lane, then play 1-ball multiball. But that’s not allowed.

You can argue don’t use the machine because of an exploit that could detract from the tournament for various reason. I’d agree IF you’re running a major event where you can pick your machines from a large selection. However, many times TD’s are constrained by the location and the limited machines available. It is not desirable to eliminate such a machine because of a stupid reason. I have no problems with a TD mandating a certain rules, IF it is easy to enforce. E.g. to say “maximum 3 ball saves”. On 4th ball save, treat it like extra ball, plunge it and watch it drain. That’s not dictating strategy. That’s simply making a game-specific rule that IS enforceable.

What isn’t enforceable is something like on Theater-of-Magic, to say, “can’t shoot left loop more than 3 times in a row”. That would be crossing the line, because that’s not enforceable for a variety of reasons.


Yeah, I would actually be OK with a rule like that. It’s simple and enforceable.

No, except for specific things about intentional delay and intentional tilting. Play the game.

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I think the IFPA/PAPA needs to post a list of games and prohibit them from being used at IFPA sanctioned events unless specific software/hardware adjustments are made to make them competition ready (if that is possible). Unless the IFPA has a formal method of enforcing player behavior required by a TD I don’t think the IFPA should approve events where the TD can dictate strategy.

Here are some additional ideas, all that require work of course!

-Similar to how PAPA Circuit Events provide Circuit Points , IFPA events conforming to a stricter set of guidelines would award the participants (IFPA Circuit Points?) . If a TD has to put forth more energy,time, money to get different pins and set them up differently, those events should be rewarded with a better incentive. These guidelines would require the TD to not use specific machines in a ban list.

-Certain machines can be used but don’t count when calculating TGP %. This would require the TD to submit the list of machines used at the event. I think it would be cool to see after months which are the most used machines etc… This would require more work, resources on the database etc…

I’d love to help … Except I don’t agree with you at all :slightly_smiling:

If a TD wants to make decisions that change the strategy to a game, I think it’s perfectly fine.

Intentionally putting a ball hop on Eartshaker to make the center ramp not repeatable … Up to the TD and changes strategy for players.

Want to wire the right spot target on Kings of Steel so it registers a 10 point switch, vastly changing the strategy on that game … Go for it.

Want to put a post on Party Zone that knocks the ball off the left ramp … Go for it.

If a TD doesn’t want someone to take advantage of an invalid playfield, they can, and it’s up to them to enforce it by watching the game (no different then the examples of playing with a stuck ball, which any player can do if nobody is watching). Get caught, suffer the consequences.


I’m ok with software/hardware changes on a machine that is automatically enforced. I don’t think an event where the TD tries to dictate behavior which cannot be enforced should be counted as an IFPA sanctioned event.

A pinball tournament shouldn’t be about baby sitting and confrontations, its also impossible to enforce if the TD is competing in the event while the infraction is taking place.

For me, its simple I dont goto the events. :slightly_smiling:

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What I’m saying is those events are already existing.

“Plunge your extras, don’t play them” was always the rule at PAPA, was never enforced because TD’s weren’t watching, and YMMV for any player that chose to intentionally or unintentionally play their extra ball.

One of the first tournaments we ran years ago had a game where the jackpot value carried over, and we decided to adjust scores to a fixed jackpot amount anytime a player made it. My dad and Steve Epstein sat there and watched EVERY GAME PLAYED with a notebook and adjusted scores as needed.

If they wanted to run Sopranos with no invalid playfield play, and wanted to sit there and watch every game played, giving warnings to players as needed, bully for them.

Like you said, YOU are welcome to not participate in them, but to somehow say that the IFPA shouldn’t endorse these events, I think that does far more harm than good.


I’ve never set up a Sopranos before, but yellow or white rubbers, tight tilt, red spring on the shooter, and super-sensitive slings might reduce the amount of time that exploit adds to the tournament.

Or if the software allows, enable “flipper ball launch” and do something to disable the manual plunger…

Agree with those above about disallowing a strategy, for many reasons.

If the claim is that it’s causing long ball times, turn off the ball saver. Otherwise I don’t think it’s any of the TD’s business to dictate that players can’t use this exploit just because he doesn’t like it. As a player, I’d definitely feel weird about it. This is the kind of rule you can agree upon between buddies on casual games to keep things interesting, but it’s a little awkward for a real tournament.


Sounds like this is just a local monthly tournament. I don’t see any reason why we need to start talking about whitelisting particular machines. It’s hard enough finding people to run tournaments and have a decent number of good playing machines on hand.

At least the TD cares (and knows) enough to even mention the exploit in the first place. Do you think they’re doing it to dictate the game strategy, or to try and make the game more fair?

The IFPA endorses “TD dictated strategy” tournaments all the time: objective-based pin-golf events.