Overly brutal set-ups on tournament games


John Plunge has been known to sneak a win every so often on our Player 1/Player 3 IFPA matches :slight_smile:


I sometimes wonder if the “average game time” metric even means anything in a tournament setting. How much of that game time is spent waiting for tilt bobs to settle, for a player to come up and play, timing out modes, etc.


I’m not a programmer, but I don’t think time between balls (letting the tilt settle) affects average ball times and that average ball times is used to calculate average game times. Timing out modes does likely count, but the programmers are getting better at avoiding settings that encourage timing out modes lately.

6 minute average games in competition is huge, although to be fair he didn’t mention if that number came from the audits and he didn’t mention what pitch the game was set at. Has anyone tried 7 degrees or more on IMDN?


For regular matchplay with four-player groups, 20 minutes per round is a good, fast pace. Over 30 minutes can feel like it’s dragging. So, six actual minutes per game/per player + another 5-10 minutes of dawdling is 30-35 mins, maybe more with very skilled players – that definitely sounds too long.

As for the Iron Maiden settings, from what I saw on the stream, it looked fair to play, even though I’d probably be annoyed at the tilt personally. I expect that at a high-profile tournament, the games will play harder than they would on location. There’s a fine line between a tight tilt and an unfair tilt, and in my experience (thinking of PAPA and Pinburgh specifically) the games haven’t been overly brutal, even if I do flip them off after I drain :stuck_out_tongue:


That’s true, my number didn’t come from the audits. It was taking the length of qualifying in my launch party (3 hours), and dividing it by the number of attempts. Games were played as one player games and there was virtually no time between players, as there was an active and long queue for everything but the first 15 minutes or so.

However, a few days ago I looked at the audits…and Iron Maiden was at a 69 second average ball time for weeks 2 & 3 on location. This was with a factory setup (although I don’t know the pitch…that’s something I should measure). (Week 1 was longer, 79 seconds…but I put a lot of plays on it myself during off hours).

I just looked back at my past data. Out of 442 collections on modern Stern games not named Lord of the Rings, only 5 times have I seen a two week average ball time above 69 seconds.

TL;DR Aside from LOTR, Iron Maiden at factory outlanes & software settings is the longest playing modern Stern of the 14 I have operated.

So…you can see why it’s getting brutal setups in tournaments.


This is a little off topic but do you have a Spiderman or Sterntrek @ryanwanger? Sterntrek is about as bad a long player as the LOTR I op. Both have open outlanes with rubber. Sterntrek has the interesting audit gap in game time between games that acheive an EB and games that don’t.


I’ve got mine at what I’m guessing is a bit over 7… bubble level has the bubble a couple mms from the top. It plays much more difficult with no post adjustments other than the smaller rubber at the inlane/outlane. High scores so far with this setup (and fresh bouncier rubber) are in the 300s. Anything in the 200s is a good game. I think we only had a few people break 200 during the launch party so game times were perfect IMO. An average round on Maiden was 19 minutes. For comparison, Iron Man which I have setup to be a little more forgiving than usual, played at 18 minutes.

I also re-rubbered with some white rubber from Marco. HIGHLY reccomended if you’re up for it, and you should be as this is probably the easiest game I’ve ever re-rubbered, including classics and EMs. I think there is a total of 10 rings including the mini posts and nothing hard to get to really. The Stern rubber is almost gooey. There was black gunk from it already sticking to the flipper bats the night I took it out of the box and it felt like balls were sticking to the top of the slings and outlane posts sometimes.


I’ve had both at my main place, but they weren’t my machines (so I didn’t track the ball times). I believe ST was in the mid/low 60s, and I don’t remember SM (though I believe it was on the longer side…but not above 70).

My LOTR had outlane posts all the way up with no rubbers on them. For a while it had rubbers on the inlane/outlane dividers, but now it doesn’t (though I’m not sure how long it has been that way). The game has been out for a while though so the action is a little slower (which probably makes it play longer), so it is probably due for stronger flippers, newer rubbers, and I should probably rebuild the slings.

In 29 collections at the same location, LOTR ball times were between 60 and 78, with an average just above 70.


It’s interesting you mention your percentile score. Why does it matter what the actual score was? The only thing that matters in a tournament is how your score sits relative to your opponents. A brutal set up only shifts the score distribution down, but it is unlikely to change the relative position of players. Players will get screwed one way or another in the end, that’s the nature of pinball. The difficulty of the game set up only determines how quickly that happens. As always, the better players will still tend to rise to the top.


Not sure how much it accounts for things but I believe I read a post from Elwin where he stated removing the post on Maiden actually makes the game easier (at least the right side). Think it has to do with how it’s designed but I thought that was odd but figured I’d mention it.

Problem with Maiden and long ball times is once the player figures out that it is MUCH safer to not use the upper flippers their aren’t any risky shots anymore to progress in the game. It’s actually one of the reasons I’m hesitant to pull the trigger on this title even though i just sold a game to do so…


I dunno, personally it matters to me a great deal if I’m having fun or not. Overly brutal games aren’t fun.


This is where it gets tough for TD’s. I agree that playing an overly brutal game isn’t as much fun as playing a friendly playing game but sitting an hour to play your next qualifying game is far less fun (at least to me) so I’d rather side on the games being harder than to easy. Example being TPF this year. Sat qualifying wasn’t much fun at all as it was literally 45+ mins between games during qualifying. I think I waited 1.5 hours to play on a couple of modern games. Thank Goodness for Karl’s software to where you could queue up and go play on the show floor. If this was just a tournament only and not a show I would have pulled my hair out with boredom between games :frowning:

And no Colin, this isn’t an invitation to make the games harder :wink: I felt they played perfect for the event. Limited entry so not brutal hard but not exactly friendly either. I’ll label them as “playable”.


I think context matters here. TPF is a big draw, as are PAPA, Pinburgh, INDISC, NWPC, etc. It makes sense in those environments. It makes less sense for smaller shows or local tournaments. Format also matters, I’d be less inclined to go overly brutal in match play, but more forgiving of it in qualifying-type events. In match play I like to get beaten by skill rather than luck, and I can still feel like I played well and had fun even if I do lose.

You brought up a good point about other things to do while waiting to play. Shows have that advantage.

Locally our common TD’s seem to have hit a sweet spot of games that are fun to play, require skill, and don’t take forever to play unless someone is blowing it up, in which case everyone gets excited. I think as long as players are enjoying themselves, you can’t really go wrong.


A LOTR with the Pinball Life LOTR ‘special’ coils is a blast to play. You can hit the ring shot from either flipper even after a 45 minute game and even at 7 degrees pitch. It will increase ball times though, so slather the playfield with slippery wax and jack up the back legs after you upgrade the flippers. Your customers will both love and hate you at the same time. d;^)

I used to recommend my repair customers buy a digital level if they had more than one game. Now, I recommend anyone with even only one game get one. The apps aren’t horrible, but I’ve tested my level (linked below) against two others just like it and all three have been nails dead on. Self calibrating, just turn it on and measure. Accurate to within 1/10 of a degree. Measure pitch between the flippers as it can change as you go up the playfield.



I find the Pinguy app really useful. It talks, so it’s possible to be under the machine and make adjustments while the app announces the measurements. And it can store the settings for different machines and learn the glass angle for each of them. Once a machine has been calibrated from the playfield, it’s no longer necessary to remove the glass.


That Hobbit ruined my weekend and rocked my confidence in Pinburgh as a whole!