Monday, September 2, 2013

DTZ 5 nominated for the 2013 SPACE prize!

Friend of Drop Target and center-spread artist for issue five, Ryan Claytor, wrote in to say that Drop Target #5 has been nominated for the 2013 SPACE prize!  I attended SPACE (Small Press And Comics Expo) once many years ago (2002!?!) and had a great time.  It's an honor to be nominated for their festival prize!

It looks like a panel of judges will decide the winner, along with the exhibitors from the show back in April.  We'll let you know if they choose DTZ #5!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Regular Show Pinball!

Don't get too excited, faithful pinballers!  If only a machine would actually exist based on the Cartoon Network show, Regular Show.  Alas, there is none, but we can find sustenance in this pinball-themed variant cover from issue 2 of the comic book!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pinball Summer Part 1

Man oh man, I am SLIPPING in my old (27) age!  My girlfriend Tess and I went to York, Maine a month and half ago and it turned out to be a perfect day!  We got to see a lot of rad historical sites, we saw the ocean, we had an incredible dinner, and Tess found out that she got a full-time teaching job!  The only thing that would have made it better would have been pinball.  Oh wait, THERE WAS!

As if this day was orchestrated by the spirits of good fortune, an arcade with a respectable lineup seemed to coagulate from out of nowhere.  Pictured above, the Fun-O-Rama was aptly named!  There were some shooting games, racing games, classic arcade games, air hockey, and PINBALL!  The thing that captured my heart about Fun-O-Rama was that the split between games and redemption machines was 80/20 respectively.  This is tremendous improvement to the 50/50 split that you usually see at arcades.

Check out this lineup!  This is nothing to sneeze at!  Star Wars Trilogy, Theatre of Magic, Junkyard, Adams Family, Attack form Mars, and South Park(s) were all up and running!  Why there were TWO South Park machines is a tem-machine collection is beyond me, though.

Believe it or not, I easily spent the most time on the Star Wars Trilogy Machine.  I’ve played the Data East and Williams machines, and was enamored with the idea of getting some solid playtime on the third in the series.  It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst, either.  My first game was an embarrassing scramble, but that’s usually the case.  On the second game I got a replay and started getting the hang of the modes.

I was sooooo bummed that Championship Pub was down!  That game is one of my favorites!  I’m not surprised, though.  That game is so complicated that I’m sure it’s prone to mishaps.  Junkyard was really fun, and satisfying.  That center shot with the pinball-wrecking-ball reminded me of the randomizing ball in Circus Voltaire, or the lamp in Tales of the Arabian Knights, but obviously predated it.

Even though Barb Wire (??) and Championship Pub were down, there was still enough there for me to get some great play time in!  Tess was a real champ, and had some fun playing the classic arcade games.  Truth be told, I don’t find myself in Maine all that often, but is definitely a stop I’m willing to make if I’m anywhere near!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The calm before the pinball storm...

So right now Jon is at San Diego Comic Con, hanging out with the Stern guys, playing Metallica and having a blast.

Well, instead of heading straight back to Vermont when the convention wraps up, he is going to take a slight detour to come visit me up here in Oakland!

We are going to be playing A LOT of pinball, so I will do my best to take some photos along the way! We will also, of course, put our heads together about Drop Target issue 6 to get the ball rolling.

More soon!

Friday, July 19, 2013

John John's - Seattle, WA

I took a quick trip home to Seattle over the 4th of July weekend to see my family.  I was literally there for about 96 hours, so I didn't think I was going to have time for pinball on this trip.

One night after dinner though, my Dad was driving back to Capitol Hill to drop my sister back at her apartment when we went by this storefront window and my internal pinball alarm went CRAAAAZY:

To my astonishment, my father then pulled over right in front of this place, which he had planned all along.  The place is called John John's and they had a pretty nice selection of machines, including Star Wars: Episode 1 (no, I didn't beat it).

My sister and my mom were basically sitting around waiting for us, so my dad and I played a game of Medieval Madness (with a color DMD!) because he has some experience on that table.  I had a little trouble during multiball, getting three balls into the catapult, but the guy behind the counter took the glass off and fixed everything for me (without ending my multiball - props!)

There was a balcony upstairs, so I dashed up there to get this photo (there was also a Harlem Globetrotters machine way back in the corner).  The Hulk version of the Avengers machine was priced at 50 cents, so I played a quick game and got a replay, but had to leave it for the next guy (everyone was waiting for me).

It was super cool of my Dad to look this place up for me.  Next time I'm in Seattle, I will definitely spend some more time in here!  If you live in the area, check it out.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Feedback Issue 12 review of DTZ Issue 3

I always have a big stack of minicomics and zines that I need to read.  Some arrive in the mail and others I pick up at various comics shows around the country.  Recently I was working my way through the stack when I came across Feedback #12 by John Isaacson.

I've known John for a long time now through the zine scene and I have a bunch of different comics and zines by him.  Feedback is a great review zine.  Each spread is a review of a concert that John goes to - the left page is the flyer for the show and the right page is a page of comics.   In the back he also reviews records and zines, which is where I found John's review of Drop Target #3:

 Even better, in one of his review comics he plays some pinball, inspired by reading our zine!  This is what we're all about!!!

You can order a copy of Feedback #12 and all kinds of other cool stuff on John's site.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Headquarters Beercade - Chicago, IL

A few weeks ago I headed out to the midwest for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo.  As usual when I am on the road, I wanted to play some pinball.  Luckily one of my old students, Beth Hetland, did some homework beforehand, and said that Headquarters Beercade was the place to go.  So after the show on Saturday my friends and I got a quick meal and headed over.  Here's what it looks like from the outside:

They had these giant windows that were open to the street.  I took a glance inside, and I liked what I saw.  I was starting to get a feeling that this was going to be a good night of pinball.

The first real indicator that HQ Beercade was a quality place was these two dudes: Mark and Frank.  I guess they were technically bouncers, but really they were more like super friendly dudes who got us pumped about pinball while they checked our IDs.  "So how does this place work?" I asked.  "All the machines are on free play," they said.  I reached for my wallet, figuring that the cover price would be somewhere in the $10-$15 range, like many of the pinball museums and arcades around the country that use the free-play model.  They laughed at me, waved away my wallet and said "There's no cover charge.  Just go have fun!"  !!!???!?!?!!!

Head-spinning, I went inside and right off the bat I saw the second indicator that this was a quality pinhall.  BOOM!  Dedicated tech guy.  Not an overworked operator with a route all over the city.  One guy, who's job it is to keep these machines in good working order.  I can't remember any tech problems the whole night, so this guy obviously knows what he is doing!

The night we were there, they had an Avengers, and Avengers Pro, Baywatch, Attack From Mars, Indiana Jones (Williams), X-Men, Corvette, Star Wars: Episode One (!), Popeye Saves the World, Addams Family, Tales From the Crypt, Avatar, Playboy (Stern), Arabian Nights, Jurassic Park, T2, Guns N' Roses and the brand new Metallica game, which I hadn't even seen yet, so we played that first:

Honestly, the way most Stern games are priced out in the wild these days ($1 per credit, $2 for 3 credits) I can't get too deep into the gameplay because it's just too expensive, so this night I really focused on playing Avengers, X-Men and Metallica, because it didn't cost me a cent.  At some point Beth arrived with some other CCS alumni, including Dakota McFadzean (pictured below with Beth) and Melanie Gillman.  I feel obligated to point out that Beth, Melanie and Dakota are all past April Fog Memorial Scholarship recipients!!!

At one point I looked up from a game of Avengers, and realized that I recognized the guy playing pinball next to me.  At first I couldn't place him, and then I realized he works at Stern Pinball!  I remembered him from all those videos they have been posting about the making of the recent games, his name was Mike Kyzivat.  I told him that I was one of the Drop Target guys, we shook hands and then got back to playing pinball.

The only real downside to the night was that it was during the Stanley Cup finals, so they had the game on SUPER LOUD, which made it impossible to talk, or hear any of the music or sounds coming from the games.  I know the idea of this free-pinball business model is that I'd choose to come to this bar over the other ones because it has free pinball (and video games in the back - snore).  Then, while I played pinball, I'd drink a bunch of beer, and my hefty tab would outweigh the cost of the machines and their upkeep.  I hope that actually works, because it's a great bar, but personally I spent about three hours in there and didn't buy a single beer.  I don't think they were hurting though, because by the time we left the place was PACKED.  If I lived in Chicago I would visit this bar all the time, but early in the evening before things got too crazy.

Oh hey, I also got got a 184 Million on their SW:E1 machine, snagging the #1 high score.  Hopefully it will not be the last time I enter my initials at this bar.  Next time I visit Chicago, you'll know where to find me!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

PAPA World Championship Poster

Hello!  Normally, when I do work for the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, I have to wait a month or two until the event happens to let you guys know about it!  This poster I did for the 16th World Championships was released right away, though!  I'm super pumped!  I'm working on some more pinball goodies, so stay tuned.  Sorry I've been so incommunicado on the web, but there's too much fun stuff happening!  I went on a day trip to Maine the other week, and have some good Pin-venture stories for you all!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pinball is in my veins!

Steve Bissette sent this link my way a week or two ago, and I still can't get over it.  This is absolutely what I want to do with a pinball machine one of these days!  The idea of re-arting an EM machine is sooooo cool!  Check it out!!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Trying to beat SWE1

Last week I made yet another trip to Portland, Oregon for the International Comics Arts Forum.  Last time I was in Portland I played as many different pinball machines as I could, zigzagging all over town, racking up a few high scores along the way.  I approached this trip with pretty much the exact opposite strategy.  In four days, I only played one pinball machine: the Star Wars Episode One pinball 2000 machine at Ground Kontrol.

How I'm Spending My Lunch Breaks at ICAF

I'm sure many of you think I'm insane.  With the embarrassment of pinball riches that Ground Kontrol has to offer, let alone the rest of Portland, this was the only machine I played while I was in town???!  Well, those of you who have read Drop Target #1 know that this is the machine that Jon and I learned to play pinball on.  I am a devout Star Wars fan, I love the pinball 2000 technology, and I think this game is extremely fun to play.  And now that I've crossed the threshold into actually beating games (Medieval Madness, Championship Pub, Who Dunnit) I really, really, really want to beat this game.  I feel like it is the last test in my pinball training, and once that is complete I will be a "good" player.

As luck would have it, ICAF was just down the street from Ground Kontrol.  I had an hour and a half lunch break each day which allowed for a quick meal and then 2-4 games of SWE1.  After the conference each day I would go and play a few more games before heading off to get dinner with my Portland friends.  The SWE1 game at Ground Kontrol is currently in 99% perfect condition.  The only issue is the ball trough sticking a little bit when trying to put a ball into the shooter lane, but usually when I find this game on location it'll be totally trashed (center gate not working, pop bumpers out) so this was as good as it was going to get!

Using my new iPhone, I decided to keep track of every game of SWE1 that I played.  I noted my score, how many multiballs I played and then which "round" I died in.  The four ranks are: Jedi Youth, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, and Jedi Spirit.  So for example "died in the second round" means that I collected all four J-E-D-I letters in the first round, beat Darth Maul to achieve Jedi Youth status and then died while trying to collect the J-E-D-I letters in the second round.

Below you can see all of the compiled data from my 32 games.  The red line represents my scores, with the four points above the 150 million mark being my only high scores of the weekend:  155m (#1),  186.6m (GC), 186.4m (#1), 181m (#2).  The blue bars represent how far I got into a game, with a zero value meaning I died in the first round of J-E-D-I letters, a one value meaning I achieved Jedi Youth and then died in in the second round, two means Jedi Knight, three means Jedi Master, etc. etc.  Obviously, how far I got into the game has a direct correlation to the score.  The scores that are significantly higher than the game progress are explained by the number of multiballs played in a game, which was either zero, one or two (represented in green).

On my four best games I achieved Jedi Master rank which I don't believe I had ever done previously (though Jon had) and my "best" game (in terms of trying to beat the game) was the 181m game.  I died trying to secure the "D" in the last round of jedi letters - only one and a half modes away from achieving my goal!

Although I did not accomplish my goal of beating the game, I did have some serious strategy breakthroughs that I believe will lead to an eventual victory.  I'm going to lay them out below, but be forewarned!  I'm going to write assuming the reader knows this game inside and out.  If you don't, you can read a rule sheet here or SWE1 is the "Replay Review" machine in DTZ #1.

The big breakthrough I had was realizing that the center shot is extremely dangerous when the gate is down.  This sounds obvious, but there are lots of opportunities to strategically avoid the gated center shot, which definitely lead to longer, deeper games.  

For instance, in the first round, you can unlock and activate the projector without hitting the center shot.  In that round only, the two standup disc targets will also serve this purpose, so I just made ramp shots, which eventually clip one of these disc targets, because my shooting's not that accurate.  

This breakthrough made me realize that very few modes require a gated center shot (Jar Jar Juggling: 1, Ground Battle: 3, Hanger Escape: 1-3).  The rest of the modes do a great job of tempting you to use center shots when you really don't need to.  For example in the three Amidala shooting modes, the "easiest" shot is the center gate because you have a larger area that her gun is sliding across.  But it's dangerous!  Instead, I focused on ramps - it might have taken a bit longer to get the required number of shots, but it's far safer, with consistent returns.  The same is true of Podracing - there is often a flag at the gated center shot, but it's safer to shoot ramps, even if it means you have to clear a number of left and right turns before collecting another flag.  You get the idea - take this idea and run with it!  It'll definitely improve your game.

The other breakthrough I had was to use multiball as a way to help get through some of the more difficult modes.  When there is a risky shot, or a lot of things that need to be hit, why not have multiple balls bouncing around, so that you have some backup in case one of them drains?  I mostly used this technique on the Destroyer Droids mode, which is brutal.  You have to destroy six droids, and Amidala's gun is moving so erratically, it's really hard to hit.  So I'd lock one ball, start that mode and then lock the second ball.  Multiball runs during the mode, so I'd usually finish the mode just by knocking the balls around.  Even better, if I was able to catch a few balls, I could shoot for the target knowing that I had some backup balls in case of a drain.

Another idea that I really latched onto was the free C3PO awards.  Basically whenever I had the ball on my right flipper, I shot the left orbit to work towards the free Extra Ball and free J-E-D-I letter.  Once those were collected, the shot was dead to me (the next three awards are useless, and I don't really see myself ever getting to the sixth award, which is another Extra Ball).  Those little boosts definitely help out!

The last thing that really helped a lot me was more of a psychological breakthrough.  There are thirteen modes in SWE1; some of them are very easy, some are very hard.  But if you are going to beat the game, you are going to have to play them all. So while I played, I stopped cycling through the modes, trying to pick the "right" mode.  I just played whatever came up randomly.  Mentally I thought "At one point or another I have beaten all these modes, and I am going to have to beat them all right now, so I'll just take whatever comes at me."  

There are two exceptions:  1) Jar Jar Juggling has the ability to award an Extra Ball.  I always play this mode first, because if it goes well, and Jar Jar does give me an Extra Ball then somewhere deep inside I think, "This is going to be a good game!" which usually leads to better gameplay.  2) for the "I" at the end of the first round I always play Jedi Musical Chairs.  It has been my experience that you are much more likely to have a Jedi Letter award waiting for you in the first round, and there is a software bug that instantly ends the round when you collect the letter, thereby putting you directly into the lightsaber launch screen and giving you "J" in the next round.

SWE1 High Scores

On the second day I had a feeling I wasn't going to beat the game.  It's brutal playing the same machine over and over and over, with the goal of beating it.  My mind got kind of numb and it became hard to distinguish one game from the next.  I'm proud of the scores I put up, and I think I will be able to beat it someday, but I think it'll happen when I have more consistent access to the machine.  If I could play it an hour a day, I think I'd have it beat in a month.  Too bad I don't live in Portland!  The only SWE1 in the Bay Area is at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach, which is too far away and too expensive to play every day.

Oh well, it's good to have a goal.  I will beat it someday!  Oh yes, I will...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Drop Target issue two, second printing... sort of!

Well, it's official, the first printing of Drop Target #2 has SOLD OUT!  We will no longer make any more of the "version 1.0" books, which have white screenprinted ink on the orange cover stock, and a full-color 8.5" x 14" fold out center spread.  If you missed this issue, you still might be able to track down a copy from Portland Button Works or Pioneers Press.

Jon had some extra orange paper left over, so we will be offering a "version 1.5" which is basically the second printing with orange paper.  That means no screenprinting, a grayscale 8.5" x 11" center spread and a $4 cover price.  There are about twenty copies of these, and then we will go to a full-on "version 2.0" which will have white cover paper (similar to the second printing of DTZ #1).

Thanks everyone for scooping up these zines.  It's exciting to think that 400 copies are out there in the world being read and passed around.  We still have two more issues planned (#6 and #7) and then once all the first printings of all the issues sell out we will make a book collecting all the issues.  Onwards!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pinburgh Token

Happy Monday, faithful followers of the Silverball.  I just remembered yesterday that I never shared the token that I designed for Pinburgh 2013.  I had never done a coin before (which may surprise those of you who know of my unquenchable [semi-serious] love of gold), and I was really nervous about how the file would end up looking.  I was even more nervous when I sent a low res (72 dpi) jpeg of my coin design to my contact at PAPA and he said, "great, we'll use this!  no need to send a high-res file."  I have to admit that I was skeptical, but GEEZ, shows what I know!  Looks pretty good!

Pretty cool!  Guys!  Get out there and play pinball!  Support PAPA!

Friday, May 31, 2013


Good news, Dear Readers!  For various reasons, I finally broke down and bought an iPhone.  This means a few things for this blog:  1) I now have the Pinball Map app installed and will therefore be able to check out a lot more pinball machines when I am out and about walking around in the world.  2) I will be able to take better photos!  Here is a test photo that I took with the new phone, to give you some idea of the magnitude of this improvement:

This is a test!

Nice, right?  Of course, we'll have to see how it does in low light, but I still bet it'll be a thousand times better than my old LG.  Sorry for all those years of crappy cell phone photos!  

In closing, I'll just say that I was pleased to find "Pinball" listed as one of the default ringtones pre-loaded on the iPhone.  I wonder who the pinball fan is at Apple?  Also, it must be really hard to tell who's phone is ringing at big pinball events like PAPA or Pinburgh!  ;)

Monday, May 27, 2013

I love robots!

So, it was a normal day in ole Jon Chad land, and I thought that I would make a pinball playfield based on giant robots.  No specific genre or anything like that...just ROBOTS!  I tried coloring the playfield with colored pencils, which turned out to be a HUGE debacle:
So, it wasn't ONE WEEK after I finished this that I got my first glimpse of the trailer for Pacific Rim!  "What's that", I hear you cry.  Oh, nothing much, just the BEST MOVIE THAT WAS EVER MADE FROM MY WILDEST DREAMS.  Allow me, gentle reader, to educate you:

If there is a pinball god in PinHeaven, there NEEDS to be a machine made after this movie!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Free Gold Watch - the best pinhall in SF!

A few weeks ago my wife Claire had to pick up some new fabric from a shop in the famous Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco.  I needed an excuse to get out of the house (we both work at home), so I decided to come along with her.  Just as we were heading out the door, Claire (BLESS HER HEART) said, "We should check the pinball map!"

We pulled up the neighborhood on and saw that there was a location called "FREE GOLD WATCH" that supposedly had a ton of machines.  We tracked down their website, which had absolutely nothing about pinball on it.  "Well," I said, "we'll give it a shot!" 

We found the place without too much difficulty, and their sign revealed that it is a screen-printing shop that makes T-Shirts and posters and stuff.  Here you can see what it looks like from the outside, which is to say, not much.  BUT! Please note the little sign which reads "HOME TO THE MOST PINBALL MACHINES IN SF!"  As I crossed the street, I wasn't really sure how this little storefront was going to deliver on that promise, but luckily I was pleasantly surprised!

It turns out that the screen-printing shop is waaaay in the back, and the owners took a long hallway that leads from the street to the shop and turned it into an awesome lineup of pinball machines.  When we were there, they had all kinds of great machines like:  Demolition Man, Dirty Harry, Dr. Dude, Jokerz, Jurassic Park, Lethal Weapon 3, Pinbot, Space Shuttle, Terminator 2, Whirlwind, White Water and World Cup Soccer, plus a bunch of others.

Talk about a great lineup!  There were some games I knew really well, and a few that I had only played once or twice.  On the whole the machines were working great, with a few minor exceptions.  We didn't have a ton of time to play, so I pretty much just went down the line and played one of each game.  I think the craziest game I played was Dirty Harry (Williams 1995).  I was shocked to find that it was a very complex game, with a dot matrix display, lots of ramps and a deep ruleset.  It's hard to imagine now, but I love the thought that in 1995 Williams was willing to make a new pinball machine based on a movie series from twenty years prior.  If only that were still the case!

The only tragedy is that this place is a real hike from my house.  It takes about an hour of walking, BART and bus rides to get there.  Oh well, if I'm ever in that neighborhood again, you'll know where to find me!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


What more is there to say!?  PAPA has done an amazing job promoting and supporting pinball!  This Kickstarter project that they've started is almost over, and they have far exceeded their goal.  That is NO EXCUSE not to back this project!  Every penny is going to help PAPA put together more amazing livestreaming programming!

If you are a stern investor and need more convincing to part with your honestly earned lucre, consider this dashing shirt that you can get at the $50 level, designed my yours' truely!

High Score: Ground Kontrol - Portland, OR

My last two high scores both happened on the same day during a recent trip to Portland, Oregon.  I played A LOT of pinball on this trip to Portland and my poor wife Claire was being dragged along for all of this!  Actually, Claire really enjoys playing pinball, but not for as LONG as I do.  After an hour or two, she's pretty much done, whereas I can play all day.

Saturday and Sunday we were tabling at the Stumptown Comics Fest and then Sunday night after the show wrapped we went to dinner downtown.  We made a plan for Monday that involved some fun non-pinball related activities, including a trip to the famous Goodwill "bins" for Claire, so I knew I was wrapping up my PDX pinball marathon.

We made one last trip to Ground Kontrol, and I promised to only stay for about 20 minutes, so I had to choose wisely...  When you see the lineup of machines that GK has on hand, you probably won't agree with my choice, but Jon at least will understand.  I plunked my quarters in Star Wars: Episode I, the Pinball 2000 machine that he and I cut our pinball teeth on.

I was having a great game, maybe the best game of SW:E1 that I've ever played, but about halfway through the South Park machine next to mine broke down and two techs came in to see what was wrong with it.  I TRIED to concentrate on my game twice as hard, but they were yelling back and forth, and taking the glass off, and playing a FULL game without the glass (super loud!), arguing about whether or not to turn the machine off, putting the glass back on (bumping my arm!) etc. etc.  My concentration lapsed and my best ball came to an end.  I got right up to the J-E-D-I of the third round and only had to sink one center shot to start the Jedi Master round of Darth Maul (which I've only seen once, and can't even remember what it is!) but it was not meant to be.  My ball drained before I could cash it in.  

I still ended up with 137 million, which was good enough for the #3 High Score.  It was very frustrating to be ONE SHOT away from getting into that third Darth Maul round, which would have added five million points, and opened up the fourth and final "Jedi Spirit" round (WHICH I HAVE NEVER PLAYED), but I guess that's the sign of a great pinball machine, right?  It leaves you feeling like you gotta play ONE more game, that surely this time you'll make it to the end!

I hope these High Score posts have been fun.  I'll post more as I score them!  

Friday, May 17, 2013

High Score: Red Flag - Portland, OR

Only HOURS after my high score on WHO Dunnit, I got to enter my initials into another pinball machine in Portland, Oregon.  We had just eaten dinner, and we decided to play "connect the dots" using the pinball map app, trying to hit as many pinball machines as possible en route from the restaurant back to Greg's apartment.

After a few stops, we ended up at a bar called Red Flag which had a Creature From the Black Lagoon, the original Simpson's Pinball (Greg's favorite), Medieval Madness and an Attack From Mars.  I warmed up with a game of Medieval Madness.  I own this game, and mine is pretty much in perfect condition, so it's always a little painful to play a Medieval Madness on location, but in some ways it is a good way to get me honed in because I can't rely on my "home" timing and shot making.

After my warm up game (and really, I had been playing pinball ALL DAY, so I was pretty warmed up!) I moved over to the Attack From Mars.  I've seen this game played dozens of times by the world's best players in the PAPA videos, and the layout is very similar to Medieval Madness, so I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do on this machine.  Once again the pinball-reality wormhole opened and I played for what felt like forever.  I remember clearing all of the cities which was pretty cool and having some pretty successful multiballs, where I actually trapped and controlled the balls, which is new for me.  When all was said and done, I ended up with 14 billion which was the #2 score.

I had been playing for a LONG time, and when the last ball finally drained I realized that there was a guy with a beer who had been watching me for a while.  "DUDE!" he said, "that was an AMAZING game of pinball!"  I thanked him for the compliment as I wiped my sweaty brow and then plugged in my initials.  Two high scores in one day!  Two-fifths of a "cycle."  Definitely my best day of pinball ever... so far!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

High Score: Skyline Burgers - Portland, OR

On my recent trip to Portland, Oregon I got three high scores.  The first one was arguably some of the most fun I've ever had playing pinball.  

I was hanging out with my buddy Greg and we were killing time while our friend Liz was getting a tattoo in NE Portland.  Across the street from the tattoo parlor was a restaurant called Skyline Burgers, and because it's PORTLAND, they have three pinball machines in the back: Batman (Stern, 2008), Pirates of the Caribbean and WHO Dunnit.

Greg and I had played maybe three games of WHO Dunnit between the two of us in our entire lives, so we were coming to the game with fresh eyes.  To me, this is when pinball is at its most fun.  We played a number of games and were pointing things out to eachother as we learned them.  "Hit this shot when the phone is ringing" or "The jackpot is over here" etc. etc.

This game had a really neat feature which I had never seen before.  When you put in your money you could either select "beginner" which gave you two minutes of play with an unlimited ball saver or "advanced" which had regular three ball play.  Greg and I played a two player game of "beginner" which really helped us get to know the machine, and then we fired up a two player game of "advanced".

Again, I entered some sort of wormhole in reality, and I was hitting everything I needed to, and saving anything that looked like it was going out.  I locked in on the shots and eventually made it all the way through the wizard mode.  When I got to the victory lap, I really cleaned up, ending with 7.4 billion points, which was the #1 score.  

This was especially rewarding because ALL of the other high scores were by one person - NMM (I think?) So I was imagining this person coming in to play the next day and going "What?!  Who is ABL???"  This is why high scores are fun - you have to defend your turf!  

Friday, May 10, 2013

High Score: Elbo Room - San Francisco, CA

A couple of weeks after my high score at the Legionnaire, it was my pal Dave's 30th birthday so a bunch of us decided to meet up at the Elbo Room in San Francisco.  It's hard to see in this photo, but there is a tiny sign on the left, under the "cocktails" sign that says "PINBALL!"  This was my kind of place.

They had an interesting lineup, with some old Sega machines (Independence Day and Viper???) that I had never seen before, but sadly, a lot of these machines were beat up and not working well, including a Simpson's Pinball Party that was completely out of commission.  I spent most of my time playing Avatar and Iron Man, which were both working fairly well.

When Avatar first came out a few years back it was in a lot of PAPA videos, so I have logged a lot of time watching really good players attacking this machine.  I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to set up a solid multiball or two, and pretty early on in the night I grabbed the #3 high score with 35 million.  Not the highest score in the world, but Stern games are usually pretty low scoring, and anyway, I still felt cool plugging in my initials while other folks were flipping away on their machines.

In my next post I'll cover one of THREE high scores that I got on a recent trip to Portland, Oregon!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

High Score: Legionnaire Saloon - Oakland, CA

When Jon and I started playing pinball, we knew nothing.  Our skills have slowly improved and up until now, the most I've been able to brag about was getting a replay on various pinball machines. A replay feels pretty good - there is a certain endorphin rush that comes from causing that *KNOCK* out in public.  It lets people know that you have some idea what you are doing with a pinball machine.

At some point in the last few months, I leveled up, and now I'm actually getting High Scores, which feels about ten times as great as getting a replay.  Sure, I have "marked" machines in the past, but mostly in White River Junction, VT where Jon and I were generally the best players in town.  It feels like more of an accomplishment marking a machine in a larger city.  Over my next five posts I'm going to outline some of my recent high scores.

On the first Friday of every month, my wife Claire and I walk down a street fair on Telegraph Avenue that happens here in Oakland.  A few months back we saw a new bar pop up, which initially didn't even have a name on it, but it had one pinball machine in the back, can you spot the glow through the window?  I did!

When we came back the following month the bar had been named The Legionnaire Saloon and it now had three machines: Championship Pub, X-Men and  Scared Stiff.  We ordered a beer and put a few credits in on Championship Pub, which was working the best of the three machines.

As Claire and I played, I slowly started figuring out the ruleset and where the lock shots were, where the jackpots were, etc.  And then, on like my second or third game, a weird wormhole in reality opened up and I just couldn't drain.  I was saving everything, and hitting what I needed to hit.  I went through fighter after fighter and was figuring out objectives on the fly, like the strobing targets.  I ended up making it through the Wizard mode, and getting the #2 score on the machine with 129 million.  NES (who, as far as I can tell, is currently Oakland's best pinball player) had a Grand Champ of a billion, so I still have a lot to learn, but this still felt pretty great!

In my next post I'll cross the bay to play a little pinball in San Francisco!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 Portland Pinball report

Man, I had fun in Portland last weekend!  Now, I have mentioned before on this blog that Portland, Oregon is a pinball paradise and I'm here to tell you that this is more true than it has ever been.  Sure, Portland has some real A+ arcades like Ground Kontrol, and bars packed to the gills with pinball machines, like C-Bar, but I think the thing that makes Portland special is that every little nook and cranny of this city is filled with pinball.

We stayed with my buddy Greg while we were in town, and were hanging out a lot with our pal Liz.  Both of these friends have dutifully added the Pinball Map app to their smart phones, and a number of times on this trip we found ourselves at "Point A" (at breakfast for example) and then we had to get to "Point B" (back to Greg's apartment).  We'd pull up the Portland Pinball Map and look at what was open between here and there, and we'd hit as many machines as possible.  There are A LOT.

For an example, let's take Tiny's Espresso.  This coffee shop was open for us on Friday morning.  When we walked in, Pinball was not immediately evident, but I made my way through the main room into a weird back hallway and sure enough, there were two pinball machines tucked in a corner:

THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, PEOPLE!  How often when you are walking around in the world do you see a weird spot like this - a dead end at the top of a ramp platform with some empty space - and do you think "Man, you could fit like two pinball machines in there!"???  I think about this stuff ALL THE TIME, and as far as I can tell, Portland is the only city that hears these thoughts and/or WISHES and makes them come true!  Bars, coffee shops, laundry mats, restaurants - there are pinball machines everywhere!  This is how it should be.

I also tracked down the new Avengers machine to give it a try.  We found one at the Belmont Inn, with $1 per credit (ouch!) or $2 for three.  This feels especially steep when the machine is in a line with a bunch of other great machines which are priced at 50 cents per credit.  Do I have TWICE as much fun playing Avengers as Attack From Mars?  Definitely not.  I understand that there has been A LOT of inflation since Attack From Mars was released, and that it's a new machine, but the $1 price point definitely limited the number of games I played on that machine.

Anyway, it was fun!  The design feels very open while still having a few ramps.  That black widow ramp shot is pretty darn hard to hit!  Hulk multiball was really fun and I love having drop targets on a machine again!  Overall a challenging board that I'd like to spend more time with, if I could ever afford it.

I have a lot more pinball photos from my trip, but I think I'll spread them out into a few posts.  Now that the dust has settled from the DTZ #5 release, we should have some more time for blogging!  In conclusion: if you ever have an excuse to visit Portland, DO SO.  And don't forget to pack some quarters!