You make the call: Auto-plunge after Tilt

This situation happened in our Seattle Monday Night Pinball league last night. I only heard about it after the fact, but was asked the question by one of the team captains. Due to the ambiguity, I’m curious what other TD’s would rule.

The situation: Player 1 tilted. As he stepped away from machine, next player’s ball got launched. Other player took over and kept playing, so they just played on. But supposed that player did not take over and the ball drained. What would be the ruling, considering the following.

The reason for the auto-plunge is unknown. Three possibilities were raised:
1- Switch misfired with ball in plunger lane, some machines will cause an auto-launch if that happens.
2- Previous player accidentally hit the launch button.
3- Tilt carried through as a danger warning, and some machines will cause an auto-launch if that happens.

If it’s case 1, then it’s a machine malfunction. So compensation ball.
If it’s case 2, then it’s player interference, a DQ.
If it’s case 3, then it’s ambiguous, because in this case, the IFPA rules say no consequences on first offense. But some machines will auto-launch the ball if there’s a danger warning. I think this should be a DQ (treated like a Tilt through), and the IFPA rules state, “Any player who tilts their own ball, which then results in a tilt warning given to the following player will not have any
consequences for the first offense.” needs to be modified to read, “Any player who tilts their own ball, which then results in a tilt warning given to the following player BUT DOES NOT CAUSE AN AUTO LAUNCH will not have any
consequences for the first offense. If the ball auto-launches, player DQ like a Tilt Through.”

So two questions,

  1. Do you agree with my interpretation of Case 3, that if that is shown to be the reason, then it’s a DQ?
  2. How would you determine which case it is, if the players call you over for a ruling and hypothesizing on what happened, because none of the players know for certain?

Since I wasn’t present, I didn’t have to make the ruling, but if I was there, one thought I had is let the player who tilted ball and maybe caused the subsequent auto-plunge, to finish their game, and that we would determine the cause at the end of the game, which could yield their game void if we determine they should be DQ’d. Then at end of the game, start a new game, and verify, does a tilt warning cause a ball launch. If it does, then highly likely that’s what happened, claim case 3, and player DQ’d. If that doesn’t cause auto-launch, and I have keys, then open machine and force a switch to fire. If ball does auto-fire, then assume machine malfunction, and player keeps their score. If it doesn’t auto-fire, then player must have hit the launch button, so DQ. If I didn’t have keys, I’d replace that step with lots of flipping and bumping machine to see if that can cause a misfire, if not, then yield answer is not a malfunction.

What would you do if faced with the above situation?

Easy. All you’d know is that the player’s ball was auto launched. They didn’t touch the game. They let it it drain, they get a comp ball.


If player takes over the ball, play on.

If they don’t, then it’s a compensation ball.

As the rules are written, it’s not a DQ. In fact, it explicitly states that there is no penalty. If the rules are ever modified to your suggestion, then it would be a DQ.

I wouldn’t want to be determining if the game auto plunged because of a tilt warning or because of some other potential issue. You wouldn’t be able to go back in time and figure out exactly why. Maybe a pop bumper registered one time and you can’t repeat it. Would be a terrible way to be DQ’d.


If this actually happened it’s just a verbals warning to the player that caused it.

Agreed. Now if you asked the player if they accidentally launched the next player’s ball and they say yes, I think you have to DQ them.

I’d go with case 1. You don’t know that the tilt carried over (based on your description) so the only thing I think you can do is rule it a major malfunction and compensate the player who lost their ball.


Just curious, was this on a game with a launch button?

@PAPA_Doug, thanks for your description. That makes sense if the reason is not known.

But here’s a follow-up question: What if this is a machine known to auto-plunge on a DANGER, and players and/or TD witnessed the DANGER warning on the next player. Would this be a DQ?

Two possible rules can apply: Tilt-Through rule, which basically says if the tilt causes loss of ball for the next player. The ‘loss of ball’ is key, because on a SS Stern where you tilt next player but they get ball back, it’s not a DQ. So would you agree this should be treated same as the Tilt Through rule and DQ? Or still apply the IFPA rule about a DANGER carrying over to next ball and no consequences for the player on first offense?

@jdelz, yes this game had a launch button, thus the player who had just tilted accidentally hitting launch button was also plausible, but nobody witnessed that and the player didn’t think they did.

I was mostly curious because I know that some 90s B/W games with launch buttons will put the ball in play when a danger happens like you asked about in your last post. It’s an interesting situation.

Also on Judge Dredd I’ve seen the next player’s ball launch if the prior player hit both flipper buttons to speed up their bonus count. It happened consistently and was confirmed to definitely not include the square buttons. Pretty weird

If the malfunction is known, and I’ve witnessed it before and it’s been confirmed before I would probably give the comp ball if the player didn’t take control, and give the warning through player a warning.

Then I’d pull the game or fix it unless it’s a feature. Not totally an expert on button launch games.

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Happened this way at pinburgh on Nightmare on Elm St to me - player tilted and then a danger to me which fired the auto plunger (I did not touch the machine for control).

Official ruling was just the warning for the ‘danger through’ and a comp ball with no other consequences.


seems odd for that game.

@DDP thanks for sharing that you’ve experienced it first hand.

This seems like an inconsistency in our rule set. The reason a Tilt Through is a DQ is because the actions of one player affected the subsequent player and prevented them from playing their ball. The fact that a Tilt Through on a Stern where you launch the ball and it gives it back to you is not a DQ, further emphasizes that rationale.

So on games with Danger warnings, the only reason it wasn’t a tilt through is because you got a warning. If that same machine had no warnings, or you got Danger-Danger-Tilt, it would be a tilt through. The reason the rule says not a DQ is because the next player is still able to play their ball.

So in the case where the tilt causes a Danger on the next player, and that in turn causes an auto-launch and ball draining, the machine is in the same situation as a Tilt-Through, where the next player is unable to play their ball. Why wouldn’t that be a DQ?

The reason this should not be a DQ has been explained above: you cannot say why the ball was plunged by the game (even if the TD witnessed a danger). It still could have been other factors (a playfield switch that triggered, or a sticky autoplunge button, or maybe other things I haven’t thought of).

I don’t think we should be looking for new ways to DQ people. As it is, a tilt through is something unfortunate that needs to be accounted for, but has been eliminated by the coding in modern games.


You never said tilt through before. You said only a tilt warning happening. That’s a warning to the player. A tilt through is always a DQ.

Because it wasn’t a tilt through. It was a warning through that happened to also launch the ball.

@chuckwurt, I am questioning why a Tilt to a warning that leads to next player’s loss of ball shouldn’t be treated as a Tilt Through. Both are current player tilting resulting in loss of ball for next player.

I think the difference here is that we know why the player after a full tilt through was unable to play their turn. Autolaunchers could be triggered by something other than a danger through.

Was it a pop bumper that fired causing the autolaunch? Was it a badly adjusted autolaunch button switch? Timed autolaunch turned on in settings? Is a a Sega you can’t turn flipper ball launch off on and the player actually launched their own ball?

I think the danger through that causes an autolaunch (or did that cause it?) adds in to many extra questions and variables to DQ the player who caused the warning through.