Originally published in Skill Shot 22, January 2012

Back in October, Stern’s latest release Transformers debuted with both a bang and a whimper. There were­ a total of five different launch parties and tournaments held locally, and from what we heard they were all well attended. The Seattle Waterfront Arcade, Seattle Pinball Museum, Dorky’s, Shorty’s, and the new Full Tilt Ice Cream in Ballard all held events during the last two weekends in October. It’s pretty cool that our region has enough interest in pinball to support all of these events (even attracting people from out of state), but there seems to be some stress involved with the moving of all these machines from one venue to another and hosting the tournaments in a timely and efficient manner.

The Launch Party at Shorty’s was the site of some anguish with two different start times published.  Some would-be participants were denied entry to the tournament even while they were waiting for their turn to play. Since we were not there, it’s not possible for us to know all the facts.  It seems that a combination of miscommunication, poor timing on a busy night, and perhaps some inattention on the part of the tournament officiators may have contributed to the hurt feelings and anger of some of the attendees. Since this was the first time Shorty’s has hosted a Stern launch party, we hope that won’t be the last and that lessons were learned by all involved. Hopefully any future launch parties will happen at a better time (for everyone). May we suggest a Sunday afternoon?

In less anguished news: Full Tilt Ice Cream in Ballard has finally opened after a summer of delays. They were able to squeak out an opening in time for the aforementioned Transformers launch with a few other pins (and free beer!). Because of their 10+ pins, Full Tilt Ballard has established itself as a hot spot for underage pinball players over the past months. Unfortunately they have also gained a somewhat shaky reputation as many of their pins are in less-than-perfect condition, sometimes breaking down within hours of being placed onsite. While older players may take this in stride (Space Age Amusements services all the Full Tilt locations), the youngsters seem to bristle at this because they don’t have as many venues to play. Welcome to pinball, kids!

Over in Fremont, Add-a-Ball Amusements has reopened as a pinball coffee shop/tavern, and is definitely not for kids. The scooter repair shop that once shared the space has been totally removed and replaced with a nice selection of tables and unique games such as an old-school soccer game. The pinball machines here are in great shape and include older games you won’t find anywhere else, such as Dragon Fist, Jumping Jack, and Mr. and Mrs. Pac-man. Plus — they are almost all 25 cents a game! Add-a-Ball’s face-lift seems to be a big hit. You should go there, have a beer and be sure to try the vending machine popcorn. Tasty!

The Seattle Pinball Museum also received a bit of a face-lift recently when they rearranged all the machines and added a row of tables and stools in the main room. The games are still in chronological order (except for Galactic Girl, for some reason) with the newest machines now closest to the front.  Pins like Flipper Football have been brought down from their upstairs Upper Playfield. The SPM has decided not to open the Upper Playfield daily and instead leave it as a place to hold private parties, which is probably for the best – although we won’t be able to play the pins up there very often. Still, it looks nice and it’s great how they are always working to improve their space. Nice!

Another nice happening was Shorty’s 14th Annual Pinball Tournament on November 5th. Originally planned as a two-day event, the tournament this year drew about half the number of players expected because Portland’s Cascadia Cup tournament was scheduled that same weekend. The Shorty’s tournament was able to go from start to finish all in one day, which ironically made it possible for players to go to both events if only they had known ahead of time. Hosted by Larry Reid, this Shorty’s Tournament was a mostly local affair.  It was a lot of fun! Shorty’s Avout seemed a little distracted by the reduced turnout, but maybe it was because he still hadn’t received his pre-ordered Transformers LE from Stern yet?  Many folks who don’t normally go far in these bigger tournaments did a lot better than usual, especially Selfick Ng-Simancas, who took 3rd despite wanting to leave early. Cheese Boat was crowned the highest-scoring woman and won her second PBR Toaster, while Sagel Frasier won the tournament after beating local pinball superstar Cayle George on The Rolling Stones.  Winning!

The Seattle Pinball League held three different tournaments since our last issue. October’s tournament was held in Ballard at Andrew Nunes’ house. After Cayle had to leave early it became a three-way battle for first on Wheel of Fortune between Kevin Birrell, Sagel, and Skill Shot’s Gordon Gordon. It was a nail-biter when Sagel almost knocked the pin off the wooden board supporting the game, but Kevin came away with the win.  Sagel did get the win at November’s tournament at Byron Raynz’s house in Renton. This created a controversy amongst some SPL members because: Kevin and Sagel were not members when they won; only the top sixteen players of the year advance to the December Finals; and it was previously decided that any tournament winner would automatically advance to the finals. Since a total of four “guests” won during the 2011 season, that meant there could potentially be four SPL members bumped from the Finals (although no one really expected Martin Ayub to travel from London to be there). While this created a lively debate about the SPL rules on Facebook, it ultimately didn’t matter much when Kevin was the only guest to attend the finals, and he had since become a member.

The SPL Finals were held in December at Rod Olsen’s house, and it was a fabulous end-of-the-year blowout! It was a competitive, fun, drunken extravaganza of pinball that not only had an exciting finals tournament but also featured side contests on Spider-man and an all Data East tournament. The Data East tourney was particularly cool because it had a variety of pins rarely seen around Seattle, including Phantom of the Opera and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Bobby Conover and Kayla Ellington officiated the main tournament and provided an overhead camera that allowed everyone to watch the action on a screen in another room. It was a really neat idea and very well done. Later that night, Kayla went on to win SPL’s Greatest Loser title.  11th-ranked Sean Burris was the surprise player of the day when he joined Cayle, Raymond Davidson, and Maka Honig in the top 4 showdown, but his skills didn’t take him any further as Raymond maintained third place and Maka beat Cayle to become the SPL 2011 Champion! Go Maka Go!

In other Seattle Pinball League news:  When Aaron Bendickson announced that he had joined the SPL board of directors on Facebook recently, tensions erupted and misunderstandings surfaced (again) about League rules and regulations. Our guess is that the disclaimer with some League members is because many local players are trying to increase their ranking points in anticipation of the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) World Championship that will be held in Seattle later this summer. At this exclusive event, only the top 150 ranked players are invited to participate, but as some of them won’t be able to make the trip to Seattle, the invitation will then extend to other players according to their ranking.  So the points obtained at SPL finals (and all other eligible tournaments) could determine whether or not someone is invited to the IFPA championship. Local players have the advantage of being included not only by their ranking but also the convenience of proximity to the event.  (For example, the last World Championship was held in Sweden, so Swedish players had a big advantage.) While it’s cool that pinball is taken seriously as a sport, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it is also something that is supposedly fun. So let’s not forget about the fun. Fun!

In other fun tournament news: On Halloween there was a Ballard Pinball Tournament where points could be obtained not only by winning matches but also by dressing up in costume, with an extra point awarded for costumes that matched one of the pins in play.  Julie Gray won the Best Costume award for her Dracula costume (Monster Bash) while Adam Bro-Bro Chesbrough went for a Medieval Madness look. Host Jawn Wakefield eventually took the win on Bobby’s tilt-happy pin.  Another holiday-themed contest was The Leftover Turney held at Mitch Anderson’s a few days after Thanksgiving. At this tournament you could get a few dollars taken off your registration fee by bringing some Thanksgiving Day leftovers.  Aaron Garberding ended up winning that one. Yum!

Seattle Pinball Museum held their last quarterly tournament of the year in December, hosted by Jeff Groper and attended by 23 contestants with at least that number of people just hanging around.  It’s always a merry time at the SPM, and even more so that night with all the Christmas decorations brightening up the space. Despite the seasoned local crowd, Todd Pelkin visiting from Tampa, FL won the event. The First Sunday Tournament at Shorty’s also continues, although there are no longer brunches since the departure of co-host and bartender Jawn.  Longtime host Paul Sonier still runs the monthly tournaments. He has also completed work on his Tourney Helper, an Android App for creating and running single-elimination pinball tournaments. If you have an Android you should check it out. Bridle Trails Pizza in Kirkland has also been holding regular tournaments, and apparently the machines are mostly from the owner’s own collection. The last event pulled a pretty good crowd and was won by Kevin. They will be IFPA-sanctioned this year, so we expect even more people to attend their next tournament. More Points!

Skill Shot created a new tournament format for Bernard’s birthday at Shorty’s, called King For A Day. It won’t get you IFPA points, but it could get you cool points (and a few dollars). It’s a fun way to play, and you can read about it elsewhere in this issue. Bernard’s birthday week was loads of fun with karaoke, zines, dinner with Claire and Headley, and a trip to Wallingford to play the non-tilty Elvira’s Party Monsters at The Grizzled Wizard and Henry’s broken Fire Ball. The best part was the addition of Theatre of Magic to the Skill Shot Office! Thanks, Rod! We were sad to see Xenon go, but we are excited to now have a Theatre of Magic! And also thanks to Ben Flaster for helping us move it in at such short notice.  Sorry, neighbors.

Did you go to one of the New Years Eve tournaments this year? The first one was a Round Robin tournament at Full Tilt in Ballard. It started at noon and was organized by Bobby Conover and Raymond Davidson as a way to get younger players involved in competitive pinball. Contestants came from as far away as Portland (points!) and included 5 under-21 players. The final match was a head-to-head battle on Attack From Mars between Cayle George, Noah Davis, Julie Gray and Kris Fast, with Cayle taking the win on the last ball of the game. Later that evening, Add-a-Ball Amusements hosted a single elimination head-to-head winner-take-all tournament that lasted until almost midnight. This contest had more casual players, highlighted by the fact that Skill Shot’s Gordon made it to the final match against a more seasoned Mitch Anderson on Bally’s Captain Fantastic. As Mitch is a Bally fanatic, it was a stunning upset when Gordon took the win at the end of game three amongst a cheering crowd. It was a heady victory that only goes to show that everyone has a chance to win and it only takes one ball.

Another addition to the Skill Shot Office is a 1955 Bally Gay Time backglass given to us by the Seattle Pinball Museum. Our last The One To Beat was Rolling Stones at SPM, but since no one was able to beat BMH’s grand champ score we are once again moving it, this time to the Whirlwind at Full Tilt in Ballard. Hopefully the score isn’t too high and we will see some competition for a new high score to print in our next issue. Nearly all of our Skill Shot t-shirts are sold out, with only a few of the larger sizes left. Expect to see a new t-shirt later in the year, most likely during the summer when we celebrate our 5-year anniversary! This will happen when Skill Shot 25 comes out, and we will probably have a big event at Shorty’s. Details to come! We would also like to thank everyone who came to help us fold our last issue at The Lookout. Once again we were able to get all of the issues folded in record time and we truly couldn’t get it done without your help. Awesome!

Check out our new and much improved database-driven Pinball List at www.skill-shot.com!  We also have all-ages pinball locations conveniently marked both in the zine and online.

Pinball Tidbits: The third Georgetown Tournament is returning after skipping last year. A fourth venue has been added to this year’s tournament, most likely The Mix * C.C. Attle’s on Capitol Hill has added 2 pinball machines to their game room and plans to add more in the near future. Don’t let some of those catty regulars scare you away, girls! * Dr Marten’s Store downtown has a Captain Fantastic set on free play, if you’re a customer. * There may be Sunday pinball brunch/tournaments again in the near future, possibly at Add-a-Ball? * The Unicorn is very close to opening Narwhal, their basement bar and pinball room. Apparently they want a lot of pins, but are having problems finding a vendor. Stay tuned. * Liberty House is sadly no more. Kevin Pittman and Jeff Groper are moving out in February and Groper is selling off a bunch of his pinball machines. Hopefully the broken ones! * Hula Hula in Queen Anne once again has pinball. That’s where the CSI from Hooverville went. * Stern’s next new pinball machine is AC/DC.  Its playfield is similar to Terminator 2 and it has a big ugly face in the middle of the playfield. Out Soon. * Farewell to Andrew Nunes and family, who moved to Australia this month. Andrew is a great asset to the Seattle Pinball Community and he will be missed. We at Skill Shot especially appreciated it when he held SPL tournaments on Sundays at his house because he knew that we usually work on Saturdays. You are a stand-up gentleman, sir, and we salute you!

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