The Zombie Run tournament format. (Beta)

It’s an idea I am tossing around for a new tournament format. I’d like to bounce this idea around with more experienced tournament event planners, participants, and judges. I’d like to hear what you have to say!

It’s a 3 strikes and you’re out variant. The theme can be any type, but for this example we will use a “zombie” theme. The undead horde is out hunting for fresh meat and all the pinheads are running as fast as they can towards higher scores to leave the less fit players behind to their horrific tournament fate!

The results of the games will be recorded and the participants as the event progresses to make sure the win/loss record and the payout of the event is accurate. Each player puts in $10.- and matches of competitors are drawn from a random source.

For the first round of play everyone starts the round as “human” and plays a 3 ball game. If you lose thr first round, you are now a “bitten” player. Each “Human” who “outruns” his opponent receives $1.-

The second round of play. From this point on, byes are never given to “human” participants as running from the undead is tiresome work. Also, the more “infected” player, always goes first. If both competitors are the same (human vs. human, bitten vs. bitten, or zombie vs. zombie, a coin flip or to-sham-bo will determine order) All “bitten” players play 3 ball games. All “human” players play 2 ball games. If a “bitten” player loses they are now transformed into “Zombies”. Any player who turns a “human” to “bitten” receives $1.-. Any player who turns a “bitten” player into a “zombie” receives $2.-

The third round gets tougher for all players.
Zombies play 3 balls, but if are eliminated, are out of the tournament. Eliminating a zombie awards the opponent $3.-
Bitten players play 2 balls. As before, turning a bitten player into a zombie awards the winner of the match, $2.-
Human players play only 1 ball. As in the previous rounds, any player who turns a “human” to “bitten” receives $1.-.

Another detail to note is that if any player has to play fewer balls than their opponent. They get to play second in the order of play. The tournament continues when there is only one human pinhead left playing. The last “human” player wins the remaining pot of the tournament. If all humans during the last round are bit, there is a playoff (# of balls between 1-3 will be selected and agreed upon by the remaning humans, and the order will be coin flipped (ro-sham-bo’d) between all of the last humans for the prize.

Now my biggest concern has to do with tracking the players and the payout. For example, with 12 people playing and putting $10.- in, the undead payout should be for the wins. I also think that each round should pay out. This way scores-win/losses are not left to chance:

human to bit: (11 x $1.-) $11.-
bit to zombie: (up to 11 x 2) $22.-
Zombie to deadly dead: (up to 11 x $3.-) $33.-

That is a maximum of $66.- in undead payouts to the players of the tournament. This leaves at least $34.- to the survivor.

One of the reasons I’d like to do this kind of a format is that many of the tournaments that I play, there are many players who do play, but never see any money back from the events they participate in and they fall into disinterest, in some cases, leaving the pinball community altogether. This format also offers many less skilled players a double or triple opportunity to beat more skilled players. So, unless you go 0-3, you are going to win at least $1.-. I know this isn’t much, but for some players, it makes all the difference.

Any ideas, comments, criticisms and additions to this initial format are appreciated. I’m planning to break this out at Dory Hill, for a Saturday evening event. Should be fun!

Note to self: bring single dollar bills to the event… that would be a good idea. The undead don’t take kindly to not getting paid.

Nice idea. I like doing odd ball things like this. I should post up the Yankee swap format I came up with for our Christmas tournament last year.

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Yes, do tell.

If the tournament ends after everyone has lost at least one game and you’re seeding rounds randomly, it’s possible that you could finish after two rounds + a huge 16 human final.

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Random seeding also introduces possibilities where people could get randomly paired up with more “zombies” thus giving them opportunitIt’s to earn more money than other players.

Talking to an experienced tourney player last night, his first suggestion dealt with ball count consistency. For him it made sense that all “humans” only play 1 ball games. All “bitten” players play 2 ball games. And all “zombie” players play 3 ball games. Although I like the idea that the tournament becomes harder for the humans as it progresses, this format would still offer an even playing field for the human vs. human players and the like. It would also be quicker and most importantly, less complex and therefore less likely for players to make mistakes with. It may be a play-option to offer the players at the start of the event.

Any more thoughts?

What would you propose to choose for player matches instead of the random draw?

I will try to type it all tomorrow night after I finish entering in all the league scores for the week.

When you briefly explained this to me, my first thought was that it’s pretty hard to communicate the rules to all your players for anything more complicated than a double elimination bracket. So the burden of making sure that everyone is playing correctly is on the director - which might not be too hard given this format, since you’d have to personally announce the matchups anyway.

I think the change to “all humans only get 1 ball” makes it easier to explain to players, and makes for more consistent rules.

I’m not concerned about luck of the draw offering some people more opportunities to win money that others…the risk is that the match is harder to win (because your opponent has more balls).

I was skeptical at first, but I’m warming up to this format. I really like the idea of a bounty system…and generally dislike that most tournaments are so top-heavy with the payout structure…even worse than poker tournaments. (Which is why I have a flatter payout on the ones I run).

I would love to test this out sometime, though I think tonight is too last-minute. I’ll try and give a two sentence pitch to the players who register tonight to ask if they’d be interested in this format in the future.

I think the pitch would be something like: “Would you be interested in a $10 tournament where half of the money is paid out as bounties for eliminating players? You start with only one ball per match, but earn more as you get closer to being knocked out.”

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As soon as you lose your first game, your priorities shift. Heck, we may even see some people trying to lose a game once they have been “bitten” to go from a +1 ball advantage to a + 1-2 ball advantage when playing.

If you want to be really extreme…make it a 5 strike tournament, and set the games to 5 ball.


Do Humans and Bitten get to choose which of the three balls they get to play? Thinking of ball 3 benefits from DE pins, BSD’s pity Mist, etc.

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Wait, so once you lose one game, you can’t win the tournament anymore? What’s the point of playing after that?


I’d try it with inverse strike seeding. Pair all the people with the most strikes with the people with the least strikes.

This way staying human you are at an advantage for earning more money by elim. zombies, but you’re also at a disadvantage because you only have one ball.

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I agree with @Theguyoverthere, the tournament should continue until there is a sole survivor, human or not.

Sole Survivor is an interesting prospect and something that significantly alters the speed of the whole event. Another variant to the tourney rules for sure. It adds a bit more to the length as well as the strategy of the tourney. It also would mean that the better players would eventually have 3 ball games and the whole un-even-ness of this format would be negated. Let me think about that one for a while (i almost typed bit).

Sole Survivor would take the longest 10+ rounds.
The initial proposal would be somewhere in the middle with the first two rounds taking longer than the rest. However the goal of the tourney will have the biggest affect on how quickly this event takes. With the humans always playing 1 ball, bitten always playing 2 balls and zombies always playing 3 balls would be the fastest variant if the last human collects the pot.

Pitting the players on either end of the spectrum against each other is an interesting “evening” of the playfield even more and all though it would take a bit more work on the part of the tourney runners, is part of what this tournament is about, an imbalance to level the PF.

And yes, I agree, the more undead the player, the play-order is their rotting choice. The only time this would not be the case is when both players are at the same level of undeaded-ness.

One last addition to the ruleset. No biting allowed. I think that’s the best idea I have come up with so far.

I think that zombies are evil and vengeful by their very own nature. If you play well enough, you can still make more money than you put in to the tourney. It is even possible for a player to keep killing zombies the whole tourney and actually make even more money than the winner of the pot in the Sole Survivor format in a 20 round tourney. Not very likely, but it is possible.

No. First ball for the player is recorded. This keeps plunge scoring out of the picture.