Overly brutal set-ups on tournament games


Forget using modern machines altogether as they all play long. EM’s and Woodrails should be used if long playing time is a concern.


Just too easy - so I won’t.

I think what the original point, that seems to have been lost with the ‘witty’ comments, is that sometimes games are set that hard that luck becomes MORE of a factor than usual.

In the majority of Classic competitions I have played they have been 5 ball. The thinking being that there is just too much chance of 3 house balls to make it a fair judge of skill as opposed to who plunges better.
The same argument is trying to be made here, I think.

Everyone accepts that pinball has an element of chance, otherwise ball times would last forever, whatever the machine.
What is annoying is when you play a game where it would make no difference how good a player you are due to the machine setup.

I recently played in a league played over 10 games- I would have won the meeting had it not been for the fact that not one of the balls I played touched a flipper on Fathom. The perfect storm, one down the left, one down the right and a SDTM. I finished last on that game, beaten buy 3 children under 8 - not a problem $h!t happens. (After the comp I had 10 more games where I just plunged - every single one of them beat my competition score :astonished:)
When that happens EVERY single time you play you’ve got to question whether or not it is a game of skill or not.


Have I missed the “play better” response yet…? :sweat_smile:


I think most people, myself included, would say that there are lots of games that aren’t well suited to tournament play. I run a clubhouse and leagues/tournaments where I have a lot of influence on the machines that make it into the lineup and how they get set up.

While I probably wouldn’t want to have a LOTR at the clubhouse on a regular basis because of how it would have to be set up, I’d have no problem bringing one in for any of the competitions we run. As always, I’d take a look at the overall skill level of the players who are competing before deciding how many software and hardware modifications would need to be made.

I take it as a positive that games like LOTR or SM can be made into reasonable tournament games for any level of competition. Contrast that with, say, Mario Andretti.


Play better is fine - Plunge better, less so.

Arena being the perfect example.
1 million pts for a skill shot. it takes about 20 minutes to score that much on a ball through normal play.


I am being mostly serious here. I would love if the standard was that ball starts on flipper. Unfortunately, time and risk of glass confetti makes this impractical.


I really laughed out loud when I read “glass confetti.” :smiley:

Part of what makes pinball comps interesting to watch is that there is an element of luck. If there weren’t any luck involved, there would be no point in competing, because the outcome would be known in advance: KME wins, period. No uncertainty here whatsoever…

In a way, pinball tournaments are a bit like horse races, or betting on football games, and similar. There is an element of gambling involved; otherwise, it wouldn’t be interesting. I do accept that.

But tip the balance too far towards luck, it’s no more interesting than craps, or two-up (very Australian), or rock-paper-scissors. I prefer a balance towards skill more than towards luck. I think it makes for more interesting competition for both players and spectators.

Regardless of what I think, how do we tell whether a particular tournament got the balance right or wrong? What can we learn from tournaments that we think got it wrong in order to avoid making the same mistakes going forward? How can I communicate to a TD that I think the balance has tipped too far (either way), by pointing at prior examples and wisdom?


Before Pinburgh, my Spidey was used at Expo and all post rubber was removed, black lightning flippers and medium difficult settings and the game STILL PLAYED LONG. While the scores were lower than a stock Spidey, they were still in 300m for qualifying. I lost to Jason in H2H with a 185m score.

It’s a case by case basis, but on games like Spidey, LOTR, etc that have crazy ball times – rubber is always getting removed. Typically I recommend that pick a tight tilt/sling approach or remove all the posts/change flippers approach. Doing both IMHO is overkill saps the last remaining fun out of playing.

Could we worse, try playing a 3-ball Whoe Nellie with outlane posts removed :frowning:


So what data do you bring to the discussion to support your claim that it’s gone too far? @pinwizj has shared some convincing data (results) that suggest that making high level tourney games harder doesn’t lead to a crap shoot or rock-paper-scissors outcome. Thus, I’d say those events haven’t gone too far.

I agree with the premise that making games “PAPA A Division tough” isn’t appropriate for novice/casual skill levels and environments. If possible, mine the data you can find from your local event: results from matchplay software, etc.

And when you do voice your opinion to the TD, I’d recommend the following: Don’t let it be the first thing you mention to the TD – instead, voice some appreciation, gratitude, and aspects of the event that you enjoyed. Second, put your opinion in the context of wanting to make the event “even better if…” rather than the context of "You screwed me because…"
Third, wait a week or so for the dust to have settled on the event – TD’s are already stressed out enough from holding the event, and deserve a chance to come up for air before complaints about game set ups.

One exception: if it’s a hair-trigger tilt during a match play phase, then bring it up, politely, after your match to have them see if it’s set too tight, in case they want to adjust it for future matches.


I was having a similar conversation with a friend yesterday about how poorly maintained machines impact different players differently and can lead to more random outcomes, or at least altering the distribution.

Things like busted out coil stops, oddly aligned flippers, weak return springs, Superbands, old hard rubbers. When you can’t dead bounce it impacts the player who is use to using it and has no impact on the beginner that always flips. It certainly advantages the beginner somewhat.


Here’s video from my semifinal Pinburgh round on that Spider-Man:


I think it’s fine for tournament play even when setup in the manner this game was (and sounds like your game was).

Spiderman doesn’t have a ton of side-to-side action that isn’t the fault of the player. Shots are typically feeding flippers in safely repeatedly ways.

Doc-Ock all day in this situation tests the players ability for accuracy, as well as the ability to how to handle the kickout return. Do you bail out and shoot left orbit or left ramp, or execute a post catch or rolling post pass to remain in control?

That kind of skill test easily separates the more skilled players from the less skilled players IMO. Any player that can’t execute that post catch or rolling post pass will see themselves as being “less lucky” than their opponents when an errant shot gets swallowed by an outlane.


I thought the doc ock metal guides were bent to make the shot tighter too lol. It seemed like they wanted to nerf the doc ock all day strategy but, it turned into who could could doc ock all day the best on this brutal SM.

Personally I think that you can make a game as hard as possible as long as the tilt is adjusted appropriately. If game setup is brutal, the tilt needs to be loose enough to make any nudges other than slide saves. What really sucks is when a game is setup really hard and you can’t make any moves without taking warnings or worse.


There was actually a pretty spirited debate back when the WPPR system was kicked off (so sometime in 2006), where there was a large contingent in Europe that felt any game without ramps were simply a “different game” . . . “not real pinball” . . . and shouldn’t be included by the IFPA in our world ranking system.

The checkers vs. chess argument was used quite frequently when describing classic vs. modern games. You would never change the ranking of a chess player if they lost on a game of checkers, and any player losing on one of these classic luck boxes should have their ranking impacted as if a “real game of pinball” had been played.

The debate is probably somewhere in the bowels of RGP2.


Honestly, watching Circuit Finals, it seemed like some of the classic sterns (classic luck boxes) had better odds than some of the moderns. I know I’ll take my odds of having a good ball on Galaxy over Aerosmith, even when set up stock.


I always thought there was a “pick two” triangle of game setups, and you should never pick all three without making damn sure it’s a good idea…

  1. Feather tilt
  2. Outlane posts removed
  3. Game software or other hardware modifications (lightning flippers, fat rubber posts, etc.)

If you pick 2 of the three, there’s still room for a player to showcase other skill sets. If you do all three, it becomes an accuracy contest, which is fine… if that’s what you want. If it’s a game in which accuracy doesn’t matter (such as some classic solid states, or some modern games like Metallica where you have to hit a certain deadly shot and try and survive), then I would at least leave one of the three pillars alone.


Is there video of this? A quick search didn’t turn up any footage from the 2016 Bat City Open.


I ran into that Spiderman last year at Pinburgh. It was playable; you just had to approach it very defensively. I chose to start Doc ock ASAP due to the setup (not even trying to start a mode), and used his ballsaver to bring in blacksuit. I managed to do this on ball 3 after losing balls 1 and 2 finding the DO shot. Just that was enough to win the game.

I don’t think this game was all luck. It has a plunger so you can choose to plunge to the lanes, or short plunge to get a good rollback down the right side to gain control on the LR flipper since the upper gate was gone. Short plunge, trap, backhand doc ock… all do-able, just need to execute.

It would be interesting to think outside the box on some games WRT difficulty. Completely bastardize a JJP game, set the tilt sensitive, but give the player 5 tilt warnings per game. Essentially guarantee them one good move for the game… maybe two if they’re careful.


Yep, one of the reasons players avoided Star Wars like the plague during Circuit Finals…and why Batman ‘66 got picked so many times, because it was really the only modern Stern you could actually kinda play. It was still SUPER tough, but imo the easiest out of the other modern games.


You all need to play a Prosac tourney game. All other setups are easy in comparison.


Pinburgh last year, Lethal Weapon 3. I stepped up to the machine as player 1, plunged (with a gun, so no option for controlled plunge), ball hits one of the bullet standups, rebounds to wide open right outlane, no ball saver, done. Absolutely nothing I could have done with no prior information about the machine.

This actually happened again to me on ball 3, but at least I tried to sidewall bump the machine off the standups to influence the bounce.