Pinball! Pinball! Pinball! Tournament report and format discussion


I’ve found that ~25% of the overall field is the right amount for the queue for a short-but-not-too-short wait between matches for the queued players.

IMO, having everyone in the queue move when the next person enters is overly complicated. Here’s what I do:

  • Add chairs for the queue area roughly in a circle.
  • Give a “totem” (usually a sweet wooden Pinball Co-op sign, but it just needs to be obvious and not too hard to hold) to the first person in line.
  • When Player X joins the queue, they identify Person Y via the totem and tell him/her which machine to join; then Player X sits it in the last position, wherever that is at the time; then Player Y hands the totem to Player Z (the next player in line) and Player Y joins the required game.

This last step seems complicated, but it all happens in about 5 seconds.


It was my first time running the format last night. We had 17 players and played for 3 hours. I followed all of @stevevt’s suggestions – well we didn’t do the totem at first, but added it in and it helped a lot.

We also implemented the two game suggestion from @coreyhulse. It worked well. We had one player who has done the format before give some concern at first, but once we started they never complained about it. I think it made it easier for first timers to grasp.

Thanks for all the tips in the thread. They definitely helped!


how did you track the matches? I am thinking to run this format soon and just checking on what software options people are doing. Thanks!


I used a google form with a winner and loser dropdowns. In the sheet that had the form results, I had a page that calculated the wins and losses and a page that auto-sorted those wins and losses into a current standings page.

I displayed that last page during the tournament on a monitor so people could see the current standings as we went.


Jeffrey you forgot to mention who won the event. Minor oversight I’m sure.




Just ran one of these at the new Emporium in SF and had a lot of fun. Lots of newbies turned out and we did the ‘stay on the machine for two matches’ variation which I thought was easier to implement. Went pretty smoothly overall and thanks to @fletchtb s Google Sheets skills I was able to run it pretty well utilizing a Google Form posting to his Google Sheet.

Other notes for future TDs to consider:

  • I like the “totem” idea and having a place designated for players to wait. We didn’t have quite a solid setup for that at my tourney, but chairs or something makes it easier for players to know where they are etc.
  • A previous time I ran it by taking a mini photo of each person on one of the Fuji Instax cameras and laying those on whichever machine people were on to show who was on which machine and that worked well but wasn’t able to do that for this one since I wasn’t sure what machines would be used up until tourney time
  • Wanna re-emphasize trying to pick faster playing games and/or games that play at similar lengths
  • having a TD plus one helper minimum is ideal - it’s quite hectic! We had 7-8 machines being played at a time with 2-4 people waiting - i think the 10-20% rule is good for # of players not playing vs total pool of players


Here is a generic version of the Google Form and Sheet that other TDs running this format can use for their own tournaments.

Feel free to enter some scores and look at the results on the spreadsheet. Thanks to @bondorew for helping me to simplify my original format.

Typically, I embed the Live Results and TGP tabs into a tournament website for all players to access, which may be a little cleaner than displaying the whole sheet via a projecter or monitor at the tournament site.

Google Form: Enter Results

Google Sheet to track display results: Score Sheet

Anyone is welcome to make copies of the Google Sheet for use in their own tournaments. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.



I’m considering this kind of format for a comp, it’ll be at someone’s house with no real area to “form an orderly queue”.

I’ve had some thoughts which may, or may not, make things easier.

Every machine has it’s own card with its name on.

Every player gets their own individual score card.
At the end of each match they fill in the pre-allocated boxes, machine played, opponent and if THEY win or lost along with their opponents witness signature.
When they leave the machine and join the queue (kitchen area) their scoresheet goes to the bottom of the pile, and the machine card goes to the bottom of another pile (just in case multiple games finish near the same time) and the person whose scoresheet is on the top retrieves their scoresheet and the next machine card and heads off to the appropriate machine.

That way scores are permanently recorded, and it’s the players responsibility to maintain their scoresheet correctly.
At the end of the allotted time they hand their scoresheet in and totals are calculated.

I’d like to run a bigger queue, maybe 5 or 6 people, for a few reasons.
Firstly as it’s the first time anyone will have seen a comp like this it’ll have more people not playing to help direct the clueless :wink:, as well as have more people to assist with breakdowns etc.
It’ll also give a bit more of a break as a lot of the players will be there as a social event as much as for the competition.
We have a few smokers and 'wanderers ’ who just won’t be able to be able to stay in the designated area.

If a player isn’t there when their name is called their scoresheet goes to the bottom of the pile.
This will allows players to take a temporary break if they want, without messing up the whole system. (Although it will be at their detriment due to lack of playing opportunity).

I can’t see any flaws in the above but happy for anyone to point then out to me ahead of the game.


I think the major flaw is that if someone has a high win percentage and it’s nearing the end of the tournament, it would benefit them to have their card set to the bottom. Also, as I previously mentioned, I strongly suspect that at one tournament of this format I attended, there were people who would deliberately take longer to report back if they saw the next person in the queue was a harder opponent. I think your system is only going to make that exploit easier. But if you trust your player base not to exploit either of these loopholes, then you might be fine.


With a queue of 5-6 players, and the queue being in a different room, I don’t see how anyone could predict who they’ll be up against (not that I think anyone would try and exploit things in such a way)

Position will be based on no. of wins, not %ge, so there’s no way to benefit it not playing, even if you think you’ll lose against a certain individual, if you could predict who they’d be.


OK, I missed that part. Ones I’ve played in used win percentage to try to avoid punishing people for playing (or being played at in) longer games.


Let us know how your method works out.


Will do.
This is the draft of the scorecard.
Comp should be taking place in Sept


Thanks! I might borrow your score card design if you don’t mind.


What do you think about giving the loser the option of staying on the machine or joining the que regardless of how many consecutive losses they have incurred? It would simplify the rules a bit and potentially perhaps help handicap the field a bit as well.

I guess it could break the tournament if a player were somehow allowed to camp out at a game they were dominating, but that would still be a tactical decision to be made by the loser(s).


I think it would complicate matters.

The way it works now, after the first round where players will be randomly drawn. (Player 1, Player 2 or Queue)

Player 1 moves to Player 2 on same machine
Player at front of queue joins machine as Player 1
Departing Player joins back of queue.

3 rules only- nothing can be simpler. :crossed_fingers:

Hopefully that’ll make it easier for people to follow.

PS. Help yourself to the card layout



Above are the results from the comp I ran on Saturday.

We had 17 players so decided to run with 7 machines (at once) and a queue of 3.
The starting machines were WhirlWind, Fathom, Paragon, Shadow, Banzai Run, FunHouse & Twilight Zone

We played for 90 minutes I the first session, then I took everyone’s score sheets and looked at which games had been played the most and least, as well as how many games individuals had played.
Fathom had 16 games, Paragon had 14, and Twilight had 8. The others all had between 9 & 11. So I pulled those 3 and replaced them with Fish Tales, Centaur and Addams.
The players who had the fewest games were placed as player 1 for the start of the second session, and those with the most joined the queue.

As can be seen from the table above, there was a very tight grouping of total number of games played, and with the exception of Tim who seemed to be playing the same people on the same games, everyone else got to play the majority of the games used.

I would also say that the people who made the final were pretty much who I would have predicted would make the final had the format been anything else.

The queuing system (see posts above with full details) using individual score sheets worked perfectly - despite the concern and confusion as I tried to explain the format, which none of us had ever seen before.

The games were all set to 4 balls (a hangover from a previous competition) so there is no doubt that had they been set to 3 we would have reached 25 games well within 4hrs.

There was initial concern that people needed to play their games quickly to be able to be in with a chance of playing the most games and thus winning. The people that did try and speed up their play suffered in the first session losing more than would have been expected. Those people who played their normal game benefitted.

Everyone who competed had nothing but praise for the format and are looking forward to playing it again.

A possible change would be, rather than playing to a time schedule, players could play until they have played a set no. of games. Once they have reached their quota they simply don’t join the queue. That would have the advantage of every person playing the exact same amount of games and take away any advantage/disadvantage of having a machine that played longer or shorter than the rest of the bank.

We played with a final (made up of the top 4 qualifiers), mainly because I had a worry that if someone had played more games on shorter playing machines they would have an advantage. It also follows a more recognised format of qualifying and finals that people could accept…
After looking at the data, it is clear that it wasn’t necessary. (It also means I wouldn’t have dropped from top qualifier to 3rd:grinning:)

The more rigid rules, (rather than players movements depending on whether they won or lost)
Players maintain their own score cards
**After a game: **
Player 1 becomes Player 2
Player 2 joins back of queue
Front of queue becomes Player 1.
Was very easy to understand by everyone


I like this idea, but if my math is right, this wouldn’t work if you had an odd number of players present for the competition.