The Bok-tapok Annual 2014 - Nastola / Bok-tapok’s home arcade

I guess there's a running joke of Josse Mielonen's tournaments - they seem to move from town to town each year. Originally in Kuopio, then in Heinola and now, as a combo breaker, for the second time in Nastola, although with a different name this time. I wish I could have attended the tournament in better circumstances; if the cats running around the whole night wasn't enough, I woke up with an agonizing lower backache. Why the hell it’s always something like this when I need a clear head and fast reflexes? Oh well, I stocked some energy drinks on our way, stopped at our arcade for my trophy receiving hat and indoor shoes and headed towards Nastola, which is roughly 40 minutes drive from Kouvola.

The qualification line-up this year was Ironman, Batman Dark Knight, Metallica, Stern’s Star Trek and AC/DC Pro. This was the very same Ironman, on which I won the final last year with a bit over 2M score. I did groan when I saw the AC/DC. I really love the game, but I’ve gotten used to the limited edition model with drop target targets. Back in Game Exchange at IFPA11 I finally got to play all the AC/DC variants, and the pro-model was a clear least favorite for me. Without the drop targets the game is way too bouncy for my taste. The Star Trek and Metallica were a spot-on, Batman again is a bit of a grinder game for me with too long ball times. It was a bit shame that no Williams/Bally machines made into this all modern Stern qualification line-up, I wouldn’t have complained if the Cirqus Voltaire had made it there.

We arrived over 2 hours after the qualification was officially opened, yet we were among the first ones to arrive. 

Qualification

I went straight to my old tormentor, the Ironman. Now, on the more positive side, I did beat the last year’s final’s score. Then again, I got 5.3M on my first and 6.6M on my second game, both which obviously weren’t going to take me anywhere. With the 3 entries per machine rule, I left the 3rd one for later.

Batman was next to the Ironman, so I played that next. I went for the de facto approach of stacking the Joker and Scarecrow. I had little trouble during my first and second balls, but nailed it on my 3rd and was left with 30.6M, which was enough for my at this point.

Moving on, I went to Metallica. I believe this was the very same Metallica we played 2 weeks ago in Mikkeli, and just like last time, I had trouble getting even then Electric chair multiball going. I spent two entries, getting 3.4M and 3.6M on it and needless to say, wasn’t very happy about it.

The Star Trek was a bit better, I cashed out Vengeance Battle nicely and was working on finishing my last mode when I drained. The 58M I got from it was good enough.

The last machine to play was AC/DC pro. It was just as bouncy as I had featured and my usual techniques like sweeping the left drop target bank enough times for the Album multiball just didn’t work at all. Nothing lit at the beginning of my 3rd ball made me to switch to Rock’n’roll Train and backhand the left ramp enough times and then start the multiball. Nothing fancy, but it wasn’t the 2M disappointment I had featured after my 2nd ball. Still, 19M … well duh.

So, with two entries left I had 3 machines on my replay-list: Ironman, Metallica and AC/DC. I dropped AC/DC because someone has to do worse than that, but then again in both, Ironman and Metallica I was probably the one doing worse than that on someone else’s list! This time on Metallica I took a highly controlled approach: shot at the electric chair, cradle the ball, repeat. It was rather boring for someone who prefers highly reactive gameplay, but I got the multiball on my first ball and even managed to keep it running for a while. I was satisfied with the 21.7M outcome.

I’ve always opted for the multiballs only in Ironman, but since I had the time, I had to watch Bowen’s tutorial again on my iPad. While I don’t expect to turn into a superhero player after watching a video, it did give me certain confidence and some ideas on how to build my last game. I took the same controlled playing style as with Metallica, advanced Bogey until it was one shot away from starting. Couple of missed shots had nailed the drone-targets along the way, and Warmachine multiball was also within my reach now. After it was lit, I pounded the Whiplash targets and when that was also one shot shy from starting, I started Bogey and Warmachine. From there on it was smooth sailing and while I didn’t exactly break the bank with my 22M score, it was way better than what I did begin with.

The game on Ironman really really made the adrenaline flow! It wasn’t however until half an hour later when my back suddenly reminded me of its existence in a form of sharp pain. I had felt it couple of times when doing hard nudges, but now when I tried to get up from the sofa, it felt I was just stabbed in the back. I was almost hoping I’d be eliminated in the qualification so I could just either go home, or grab one of the gin bottles in the nearby bar.

Quarterfinal

In the end I was 7th in the qualification. Being in the positions 1 to 4 didn’t score a bye, but gave the ability to choose the games for the group. My quarterfinal group was I A, JAX and JOO.

I A was in the top-4 in the qualification, so he got to choose machines. His first pick was AC/DC. Another groan, as this thing really needed constant hard nudges and my backache was getting even worse. I tried to repeat my qualification strategy, but it failed hard and left me with just one multiball. I A was in the lead with 33M, JOO was a 5M and JAX at 21M when I started my last ball from 3M. I was really after JAX’s 21M, which was completely doable with a good multiball with Rock’n’roll train and then collecting the song jackpot. I actually had at least 8M song jackpot ready after the multiball, but I just couldn’t collect enough FIRE-letters to activate the cannon, and was left with 7.8M and 1 point.
I anticipated I A would go with Sterns, and so he did and picked Star Trek as the next game. My second ball was rather good, and I was slowly catching I A, but on 3rd ball he just set his own standard and left the three of us to fight for the remaining points. JAX was better and I had to settle for another 1 point.

At this point I was in the danger of dropping out of the game. JAX has two 2 point games, while I had two 1 point games, so I’d need to win the next one, or at least get 2 points while JAX got 0 to even tie-break with him. A tall order, as I felt my game was going worse and worse as my backache progressed.

In a surprise move, I A picked Cirqus Voltaire as our last game. It was one of the free play machines during qualification, and I had had time to experiment on it. I rarely even bother with anything but the ringmaster on it in tournaments, and I had experimented on the ball return from ringmaster until I found relatively safe position to pound it. I had noticed that if I aimed at the left side, the ball got wedged between the head and the nearby post just enough to stop the motion, but not get the ball stuck there. I managed to repeat this shot with a fairly good success rate. I also noticed the ringmaster’s neck caused rejections from the ringmaster hole if shot right in the middle, so I found the right side a bit safer to aim. Once I got the multiball running, I kept pounding jackpot after another, and got to 30M during my 2nd ball. None of the others catched me during their 3rd ball, but JAX managed to push his way past I A, so after his last ball we were tied at 6 points.

Our machine and starting positions were randomized and, surprise surprise, we got to play the Cirqus again, JAX as player 1.

The second match was a lot harder than the first. JAX got a couple millions lead on his first ball, but I got the second ringmaster up and was one shot away from multiball. JAX’s second ball was short, and I started mine with easy multiball. While still on ball saver, the two balls looked like they’re going to double-drain, so I did a bit hard slap save, which much to the amazement of everyone around us, first gave two warnings and then tilt. I’ve seen other players push the machine rather hard with just one warning, and I managed to slap it to tilt. Woo-hoo! JAX played the first ringmaster multiball on his last ball, and got up to 14M, while I was still at 6. So, do-or-die once again. To be honest, I was secretly hoping JAX would bring this one home, as my playing condition deteriorated by the minute. On my 3rd ball I took the controlled approach to beat the ringmaster, start the 2nd ringmaster multiball and caught JAX pretty soon after that. 

Almost seeing stars every time I moved my back, I had very mixed feelings about this victory. I really hate myself for not being able to just give up in a situations like this. With the strong desire not to go home empty handed keeping me together, I feared things might not be pretty if someone trash talked me from here on.

Semifinal

My semifinal group was tough as nails. With I A, KGB and SAM as my opponents, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. As for some comfort, special thanks to Sari for the painkillers, those were probably the only thing keeping me in the game after the last round! I was once again seeded in a group with I A, but I think this time I call this an advantage. I A was probably going to pick three Sterns this time, after seeing what happened with the Cirqus Voltaire. I felt I had pretty good chances for a 2nd place, which was enough to get me into the final if we’d go with all-Stern line-up, especially as I had played them all and knew of their kinks by now.

As predicted, I A started his picks with a Stern - Star Trek. I A went again his own ways from the very beginning, I played couple mediocre balls, but then on the last one I managed to cash out two of the Vengeance modes. I drained at 62M and had no chance at I A’s 113M. 2nd place and 2 points out of that.

Next I A picked the Batman. I knew this was going to be one long game! After nearly half an hour of grinding, I A finished his last ball at 125M, KGB at 81M, SAM at 35M and I was at 34M at the beginning of my ball. I’d have to grind away almost 50M on one ball. Well, it’s not unheard of in Batman, and after some creative Scare crow bashing, I drained at 81M and the bonus took me to 84M. Another 2 points.

As SAM and KGB had both scored one point, it meant I A was at 8 points, I was at 4 and unless SAM or KGB managed to win the next game, I’d be in the final. I A’s last pick was AC/DC.

Once again I A built a good game from the beginning. KGB got to enjoy some of AC/DC’s crappier sides, while after the 2nd ball I A was around 20M, SAM at 13M, KGB at 4M and I at 25M. I had played the Album multiball already, and had the Jam multiball lit. I was confident I’d manage to get at least another 2nd place, perhaps even give I A run for his money. I A finished his 3rd ball at 60M, KGB at 8.8M but SAM pulled a rather nice multiball run and went to 33M. I wasn’t too worried, until I tried to make a Rock’n’roll train combo from the left ramp, but it didn’t sink in and came straight down the middle instead, ending my ball with a lit multiball and just 27M points. Still, that one point took me to a total of 5 points. SAM ended up with 3 points, KGB with 1 and that meant another groan by me as I started to feel extremely drained at this point, both physically and mentally.

Final

Meanwhile JHQ had swept away his group with a full 12 point score, RON again had to win a tie-break against LLL to get into the final.

We started out with the Star Trek, which kindly offered me with two house balls as starters. Others got their game on a bit better, and by the 3rd ball I was last with 700k while the other were in tens of millions. I switched to more controlled play mode (which I by the way hate, as I really love to keep the flow going!), started Vengeance multiball and made myself 25M before draining. I was 3rd at that point, with I A and RON ahead and JHQ behind me. JHQ however got his game on during his last ball, and left me with 4th position and 0 points. A rather sorry way to start the finals.

Next we returned to the AC/DC. After two balls with absolutely nothing archived, I decided to just go for the multiball. Then something very odd happened - I auto-plunged with the fire-button, the ball went into the jukebox hole as expected, but then … the jukebox somehow sent the ball to the right orbit, from where it ended up bouncing between the slingshots, just long enough for the ball saver to end and then out. You could say I was a bit pissed off that that point. Another game with 0 points.

I A and JHQ were both now at 6 points, so no matter what, I couldn’t catch them any more. My only chance was to either win or be 2nd (with RON getting 0 points) to be 3rd or tie-break him for the 3rd position. The last game was once again Batman.

On the first ball I tried building the Joker-Scarecrow-combo, but accidentally made the last Joker shot before getting the Scarecrow. Still, I used everything I got left and put 37M on one Joker multiball, and went to lead at that point. But that one multiball was the absolute last thing I had to give, and for rest of the time I was just pacing around, hoping the game just end. I had absolutely nothing to give on my 2nd and 3rd ball, and was completely devastated about the outcome.

This has been a rough day for me. Not only it felt like I had a knife on my lower back, I was playing with very little sleep and had downed a huge amount of energy drinks to stay awake. All that took its toll with the fact that I just had nothing more to give in the final. I had planned on staying for the night, but felt so emotionally unstable that I opted to just drive home.

At the moment I don’t know what to think of the upcoming Borås trip, just right now I feel so deflated and broken.

#nastola   #pinball  
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The Bok-tapok Annual 2014
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