Planning a Duckpinbowling event. Seeking advice.

Once I get my GB, I should have 11 machines available to play, so I plan on running a Duckpinbowling event.

My priorities for the event are:

  1. Fun
  2. Run in a timely manner (really this is tied to fun)
  3. Fair
  4. WPPRs

There are 3 things I am struggling with are:

  1. Play order
  2. Finals format.
  3. Frame 10 bonus balls

Start with the easy one (3). Is it better to play the same game again, or add in an eleventh machine?

I will have everyone play 10 frames against the field and advance some number (probably 50%) to the finals. I am not sure how to run the direct play component. I want to keep it pinbowling, so I need strikes and spares to matter. Don’t think we can play 10 frame elimination bracket. But Is running 3 frame matches bowling enough?

On play order I am struggling between 3 options (probably dependent on number of people).
A. Everyone plays in numerical order. Most waiting around. Maybe most fair (knowledge about your own game), maybe least fair (knowledge about others game)
B. Shotgun start, play any order. Least waiting. People play their strike balls before they know they have a strike. Maybe less fair.
C. Half people start on frame 1, half on frame 5. Like A but less waiting.

I will probably have other questions later, but I would love to hear opinions especially from people who have run these (e.g. @ClevelandPinball )

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What’s the rules for this format?

Short version. Every machine have a score objective (like score based pingolf). Progress towards that objective is how many pins you have hit down. So get it on ball 1, you get a strike. Ball 2 a spare. Duckpin bowling is 3 balls. Scores like bowling so strike adds score of next 2 balls to the frame, spare add score of next ball to the frame.

Pinbowling! talks about the format. I have been wanting to run one of these because it sounds fun and different.

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It was fun, and I’ll definitely be doing it again!

  • Regarding play order, here is the verbiage from our ruleset:
    “All groups will start simultaneously on a different game, which will be determined by tournament officials. The game they start on will be their 1st frame. Each machine will have a sign that indicates which game they should play as their next frame. When the entire group has completed a frame they may only move on to the game indicated. The games may not be played out of order.”

  • Make sure you have an easy way to explain bowling scoring so that all groups know how to keep score

  • Make sure you have someone available to double check that all scoring was calculated correctly.

  • On games with lock-stealing or other carry-over features (Radical!, in our case), play it as a 1-player game.

  • @jdelz, @poopdotcom, and @Caseman0202 are all very involved in fine-tuning the details of our events, and might have some constructive comments to add.

So all groups will have a different pin that will be their 10th frame (with it’s bonus ball(s) from strike/spare)? Everyone’s slate isn’t quite apples to apples, then, correct? Or is my logic flawed?

I think our biggest mistake was making the target scores too hard, as is commonly done in pingolf as well.

The best 10 game rounds were in the 180-190(?) range in bowling scores, which isn’t necessarily a great competitive bowling score. With lower targets across the board, we would have seen more strikes/spares and fewer open frames which would have resulted in more common “good” bowling scores in the 220-250 range.

Oh, there was a bit of a logjam with everyone playing the same machine as the 10th frame, but it was really fun to see players trying to close out their entry with three strikes on F-14! The logjam wasn’t even all that bad, as it gave people time to grab dinner or just take a break if they were advancing to finals.


To clarify, the 10th frame machine was set aside to be the same for everyone. We had groups of 4 (limit 36 players) each starting on the other 9 machines and moving one to the right, so they’d be relatively balanced in terms of play order.


Interesting. Right now I am pretty set on my head having everyone’s frame to machine be the same mapping. It just might be that some start on frame 5 without knowing the result of 3 and 4. I want the machines sorted in chronological order. Start on fireball, end on GB.

I see that last time you ran a second 10 frames as finals, any thought on 2016 version of playoffs with direct play?

I have also thought about making it 5 pin since I am Canadian. Can’t really think of anything that simulates the scoring of 5 pin.

I think we will probably do sets of three games in groups of four players (top two advance) with bowling scoring for finals to satisfy direct play, similar to how pingolf finals have evolved with the new IFPA requirements. With a three game round you can still get a turkey. Top seed would get to pick the three games and the order in which they’re played since it’s such a huge advantage to string your strikes/spares together in bowling scoring.

Last year with the 10 frame finals round, your qualifying score carried into playoffs and the two rounds were totaled for your final. Some players weren’t into it, but I think it rewarded strong play throughout the day, and we didn’t know how else to reward top qualifiers than to make their first round count for exactly what it was. Now with the direct play aspect, I think the game choice would be pretty huge in playoff round and incentivize top qualifying.

Ran the event last weekend and thought I would share how it went.

For starters people had fun. Got good feedback that the format was fun and people liked that it was a little different.

We had 13 people come out which was less than I had hoped for, and meant I needed to invoke the if less that 16 clause in my rules.

Setting objectives for a wide range of skills is hard. I think the score levels worked well for the finalists, but for the more casual players it just became pingolf because they never got strikes or spares. This is hard to balance because I don’t want the stronger players all getting 300. I also think non-linear scaling would be better so less experienced players are at least knocking a few pins down each ball. I think swiss seeded match play is still the best for mixed skill level.

I massively underestimated the time it would take to enter 30 scores per player after the rounds were over. I would have loved to be able to just take score sheets at face value, but there were mistakes. Having people enter the scores themselves after each round would be better, or if I had not played, I could have done it while they went.

It is hard to make rulings on malfunctions, especially when my group was more likely to notice issues. My DW started to get really spongy on the left flipper and my group noticed immediately. However it was still playable and did not cause loss of ball, so I felt I needed to leave it in. I would have loved to pull it and move to backup game, but that was not far to the other groups that played with it like that.

I like how the final went (group of 4, top seed choose 4 games, second seed chose order they are played). There we had good number of strikes and spares, close competition right until end.

Would I do it again. Maybe. If I do I will set non-linear objectives.

Given what the % strikes and % spares figures are for “typical league” bowlers, I’d use powers of two as a starting point and iterate from there. So, for instance, have 32M for a strike, 16M for a spare, and for partial counts, 8M is a 9-count, 4M is an 8-count, 2M is 7, 1M is 6, etc. [Scale that up or down as needed based on your players’ skill level.] That way, not only do more people at least get spares, fewer people get really low [and psychologically annoying] pin counts.