League Rulings Help - No Keys

I’m going to be hosting a league starting Wednesday and I just found out that we most likely will not have keys to the machines. I’m looking for some help figuring out what kind of rulings to make based on common situations.

The biggest one I can think of is stuck balls, but really it seems like anything that could happen during a match that makes the game unplayable…

The format is groups of 4 players, everyone gets points based on their finish (9,7,5,4) and the same group plays 5 games together each league night.

So what happens when a group is in the middle of a match and there’s a stuck ball that we can’t dislodge without tilting? Do they have to start a whole new game? Does it matter what ball they’re on?

Are there other common situations that I should be prepared for given that I won’t be able to get into the games and fix small issues??


Write down the scores before trying to free the stuck ball. Have player at the flipper buttons ready to play. If you tilt then it ended his ball prematurely. He will get another ball to play at the end of the game to add to his score.

Thanks. I also just found the PAPA tournament rules page and things seem to be described well enough in there to handle most situations and how to classify them as major or minor malfunctions.

ETA: http://www.ifpapinball.com/rules

If you’re playing in the wild with no key, then my vote is for “play on” — meaning that the player has to try to dislodge it themselves and risk tilting, or they can wait for a chase ball (if enabled). But on some games if the chase ball comes out and frees the stuck ball, when one of the two balls drains, it will kill the flippers and the ball remaining will drain (hopefully prior to kicking out the next one).

If the stuck ball is in a weird air-ball spot that no amount of nudging is going to free the ball, then hope that chase ball is enabled. If not, or if from an era where software didn’t compensate with chase balls, then no one is going to be able to continue playing that pin anyway – even after the player tilts it.

@joe 's FSPA rule set is based on not having key access to pins, and quite well developed over many years of running leagues.

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Is @joe’s rule set available online somewhere?

I believe it’s here but their website appears offline at the moment: http://www.fspazone.org/rules/current-fspa.html

Yep, that’s the correct URL for the FSPA rules. We’ve been having some hardware issues with the server lately so it dies occasionally. It’s online as of this writing.

I’m also working on a companion document to the FSPA rulebook that explains WHY the rulings are the way they are, including the different things we’ve tried over the years that aren’t necessarily visible in the current rules. The idea behind this document is to give some additional background information to league officials - regardless of whether they choose to use all, some, or none of the FSPA rules - based on our 20+ years of experience running leagues (and helping launch other leagues). I think a lot of the “WHY” of decisions is (necessarily) lost in rulebooks, be it the FSPA rulebook or the PAPA/IFPA rulebook or whatever, but I think that “WHY” can help league officials make better decisions. I expect to have a draft of this doc ready to post soon (currently called “Philosophy of the FSPA Rules”, but hopefully I’ll figure out a better name :slight_smile: ).

(Edit: just to be clear, this companion doc goes into much more than just malfunction rulings… it discusses stuff like public vs private locations, scoring systems, grouping schemes, etc…)


Hey @joe, I just read section 3.3 a couple of times, and I’m a bit confused. What happens in the case of a single Major Malfunction? It is pretty clear what happens if you get two of them, but what happens if you get only one? Do you play another ball and add to the score, or is a single MM just too bad?

By FSPA rules, a single major malfunction for a player in a game is just too bad, that’s pinball.

Not everyone loves this rule, but we instituted it to avoid having occasional malfunctions cause logjams in overall league play. (At many leagues, the number of machines approximately equals the number of groups, so smooth league play often relies on all groups moving along at roughly the same time.) Many leagues - especially evening leagues - are also under time pressure to finish pretty much on schedule: people may have to get home to tuck in the kids and get ready for work the next day, league may bump into the closing time of the location, etc. We also took into consideration that in a typical league season, a player might play around 150 balls, so the occasional major malfunction is (hopefully) not too impactful on the overall season.

If a league’s director believes their league doesn’t have any of the mentioned time constraints, or they just don’t like this rule, certainly feel free to not ignore the first major malfunction.