TORNEO DE PINBALL DE BIAR 2016

Torneo de Pinball de Biar

Pinball News hadn’t visited a pinball tournament in Spain since the country hosted the European Pinball Championship in Madrid in 2012. So a return visit was long overdue and we were very happy to rectify this with a trip to the town of Biar, around 50km north of the south-eastern coastal city of Alicante.

Biar is a charming town located amongst a range of hills with plenty of classical Spanish architecture, culture and, thankfully, weather. We arrived on Friday afternoon and explored the back streets before enjoying some tapas and a local beer or two, and visiting the venue for the weekend’s competitive events.

The view over the rooftops to the castle
The view over the rooftops to the castle
Steps up the hill
Steps up the hill
The church in the town square
The church in the town square

The venue for the tournament was a large white-painted building on the south-eastern edge of town.

The venue for the tournament
The venue for the tournament
The entrance to the venue
The entrance to the venue
The view opposite
The view opposite

We were given a guided tour of the building, looking at the tournament areas and delving into the storage space at the back. In both we found some interesting original and Spanish-tailored pinball machines.

The weekend consisted of a modern tournament, a classics tournament and three side tournaments. Both the modern and classics tournaments were played on twelve machines, all of which needed to be played.

The first batch of main tournament machines
The first batch of modern tournament machines
The remaining main tournament machines
The remaining modern tournament machines
Classic tournament machines
Classic tournament machines
More classic tournament machines
More classic tournament machines

The machines used in both tournaments were as follows:

Modern Tournament   Classic Tournament
Spider-Man VE
Game of Thrones LE
The Walking Dead LE
Star Trek LE
The Simpsons Pinball Party
Monster Bash
Cirqus Voltaire
Pinball Magic
Metallica Premium
Stargate
Party Zone
Theatre of Magic
– 1 –
– 2 –
– 3 –
– 4 –
– 5 –
– 6 –
– 7 –
– 8 –
– 9 –
– 10 –
– 11 –
– 12 –
Top Racer
Genie
Dragon
El Dorado
The 30s
Running Horse
Luck Smile
Shamrock
Tasty Samba
300
Surfer
Big Brave

 

In the repair area we saw an unusual pinball from Jumaci of Madrid which had no backbox, used lamps to indicate the score, and featured outward-facing flippers.

An unusual game from Jumaci
An unusual game from Jumaci
You might recognise this backglass as Capt. Card
You might recognise this King Game as Gottlieb’s Capt. Card

Along with the tournament machines, there was also a bank of free-play practice games. These also featured some Spanish games not often seen outside of the country.

The bank of free-play machines
The bank of free-play machines
This guy looks well and truly check-mated
This guy looks well and truly check-mated
Bongor is a Spanish version of Gottlieb's Jungle King
Bongor is a Spanish version of Gottlieb’s Jungle King
Screech is an original Inder design
Screech is an original Inder design featuring an electronic score display but a score reel for the credits display
You have to wonder about the story behind this backglass
You have to wonder about the story behind this backglass

In addition to the machines there was also a parts table where common pinball spares could be purchased, and a high-quality table football (foosball) game which was priced at €1 per game.

The pinball parts table
The pinball parts table
Just in case anyone needed a break from pinball
Just in case anyone needed a break from pinball

Registration for the Torneo de Pinball de Biar cost €60 ($63.77 or £51.34) which included an individualised red tournament T-shirt complete with embroidered initials and country flag, a personal player card and a tournament poster.

Individual tournament packs for the competitors
Individual tournament packs for the competitors
Tournament posters
Tournament posters
The ceramic trophies for the various tournaments
The ceramic trophies for the various tournaments

Registration also got you a hearty breakfast of various types of breads topped with meats and sausages which was called cocas, all of which was accompanied by beer, soft drinks and water. Although we’d already eaten breakfast at the hotel the breakfast here looked too good not to sample.

Putting out the breakfast dishes
Putting out the breakfast dishes
The breakfast spread
The breakfast spread
The selection was delicious and enjoyed by everyone
The selection was delicious and enjoyed by everyone

In the unlikely possibility anyone was still hungry or thirsty, additional snacks and drinks were available at very reasonable prices at a bar next to the free-play machines.

The bar
The bar
The drinks and snacks on offer
The drinks and snacks on offer

Once breakfast was over it was time to start the serious business of the tournaments. Both the modern and classics ran in parallel, with players able to play their games in either as they wished as long as they completed them all by the close of qualifying at 8pm.

Players gather to hear the format and the rules
Players gather to hear the format and the rules

A magnetic board at the side of the entrance contained name plates for each of the twelve modern and twelve classic pinballs. Players could choose to play any of the machines. If the machine’s name plate was on the board it was available to play right away, otherwise they had to wait until the current game was over and the name plate was returned to the board.

The name plates of the twenty-four machines
The name plates of the twenty-four machines

To ensure each machine was only played once by each player, as the name plate was taken their score card was punched to show the machine had been chosen.

Each score card was punched as a machine was selected
Each score card was punched as a machine was selected
Qualifying in the classic and modern tournaments
Qualifying in the classic and modern tournaments
Individual machine scores were shown on monitors at the entrance to the tournament area
Individual machine scores were shown on monitors at the entrance to the tournament area

Officials started the games to make sure none were restarted by the players, and they also recorded scores on paper sheets – one sheet per machine – which were handed to the scoring desk when filled so the results could be entered into the computer system.

The crush at the entrance to the tournament area
The crush at the entrance to the tournament area

At times – and especially as competitors had played many of their games and were waiting for one of their final few to become available – the entrance to the tournament area became quite crowded, making it difficult to enter or leave or to access the magnetic name plates.

The tournament takes a break for lunch
The tournament takes a break for lunch

One thing you will quickly appreciate about Spanish tournaments – and Spain in general – is that food and drink play an important part in the overall enjoyment of life. This weekend was no different, and so it was that at 2pm everything stopped so all the players and organisers could decamp to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

filled crepes and a kind of savoury bread pudding followed the opening salad course
Filled crepes and a kind of savoury bread pudding followed the opening salad course

The lunch was an optional €20 extra but it seemed everyone signed-up for it. And why not? It consisted of five courses with all the beer or wine you wanted. A very civilised way to run a tournament.

Next came the squid
Next came the squid
A choice of entree was followed by a selection of deserts, all washed down with jugs of beer and bottles of local red wine
A choice of entree was followed by a selection of deserts, all washed down with jugs of beer and bottles of local red wine
Everyone back to the pinballs
Everyone back to the pinballs

Lunch took two-and-a-half hours, after which it was back to the pinball hall to resume the tournaments.

Qualifying on the classics machines
Qualifying on the classics machines

Because lunch took a little longer than expected, qualifying was extended by another thirty minutes to give everyone a chance to play all their games.

Likewise with the modern pinballs
Likewise with the modern pinballs
Standings in the modern tournament
Standings in the modern tournament

Overall standings were show on a projector screen in the dining area for the modern tournament and on a monitor on the bar for the classics.

The classics tournament positions
The classics tournament positions

In both tournaments the top twenty players qualified for Sunday’s play-offs, with the top four getting a bye through the first round.

The last qualifying games are played
The last modern qualifying games are played

Once the qualifying period for players was over, the organisers played their qualification games, meaning the final standings in the modern tournament weren’t known until later into the night.

The last few results are added
The last few results are added

That meant an anxious time for those players on the border of modern qualification as the final few results shuffled their standings up and down.

Time for dinner
Time for dinner

The tension was only partially relieved by the arrival of pizzas.

The final qualification results in the modern tournament are declared
The final qualification results in the modern tournament are declared

When all the results were in the computer the twenty who would continue on Sunday were revealed. Nineteen of the qualifiers were Spanish players and there was one UK player.

Of the twenty players who qualified for the classics tournament., eighteen were from Spain, one from Sweden and one from the UK.

With all the qualifiers decided, it was back to the hotel for us (although we did subsequently pop out for a little nightcap in the town square before retiring for the night).

Sunday saw the play-offs in both tournaments as well as a number of side tournaments.

Classics tournament play-offs
Classics tournament play-offs

In both tournaments, players in qualifying positions 5th-20th were put into four groups of four and played a single pre-selected machine. As long as they didn’t get the lowest score of the group they progressed to the second round. The lowest scorers in each of the four groups were out of the tournament.

Those remaining sixteen were joined by the top four qualifiers for the quarter-finals and split into another four groups of four. This time they played on two machines where points were awarded for position in the order 7-5-3-1. After both games had been played, the top two players in the group moved on to the next round – the semi-finals.

These eight again played in four-player groups, on this time they played on three machines with the same 7-5-3-1 points structure. The top two from both groups then moved on to the final.

The first Semi-final in the classics on Tasty Samba
The first semi-final in the classics on Tasty Samba
The second semi-final in the classics on El Dorado
The second semi-final in the classics on El Dorado

Rounds of the classic and modern play-offs alternated, although the classic reached the final four first.

The classics final came down to a three-game series between Raúl Abad, César Dubón, Rafael Masedo and Marc Vallés. As in the first play-off round, all four played the first game with the lowest scorer dropping out into fourth place overall.

The first game was played on Fantastic World which was added for the play-offs together with Fantastic World and Master Stroke. Marc was the lowest scorer here with 331,400.

The remaining three moved on to Dragon where Rafael’s third place score of 180,400 got him eliminated and gave him third place.

The last game of the final
The last game of the final

The final two of Raúl and César then played on Fireball to determine the winner and the runner-up.

First place in the classic tournament, César Dubón
First place in the classic tournament, César Dubón

Raúl set a target of 43,030 but César beat that and ended his game with a score of 45,830 to take first place.

Second place, Raúl Abad
Second place, Raúl Abad
Fourth place, Marc Vallés
Fourth place, Marc Vallés

Third placed Rafael Masedo had to leave before the awards were presented.

Classic Tournament Results
1  César Dubón
2  Raúl Abad
3  Rafael Masedo
4  Marc Vallés
5  Félix Yéboles
6  Carlos Javier Parra
7  Álvaro Vidal
8  Juan Carlos Durán
9  José Luis Martínez
10  Juan Antonio Martín
11  Magnus Lindström
12  Martin Ayub
13  Pablo Crespo Contreras
14  Gabriel Ortiz
15  Antonio Cerdanya
16  Carlos Toledano
17  Miguel Manzaneque
17  Julio Vicario
19  José Miguel Fuentes
20  José Casanova
21  Rubén de la Rosa
21  Antonio Hernández
23  David López
24  Jorge Villoria
25  Mariano Manzano
26  Antonio Sempere
26  Enrique Benavent
28  Luis Molina
29  Jorge López
30  Francisco Núñez
31  Elu Tortosa
32  Carlos Vicente
33  Pablo Crespo García
34  David Martínez
35  Jesús Garbín
36  Orlando González
37  Javier Núñez
38  Nicolai Troshinsky
39  Alejandro Yepes
40  Cristina Alonso
41  Alberto Lucerón
42  Begoña Motilla
43  José María Tortosa
44  José Manuel Richart
45  Miguel Barreal
46  Santiago Elices
47  Juan Luis Santos
48  David Mainwaring
49  Jesús Merino
50  Javier Torres
51  Valentín Camarena
52  Carlos Martos
53  Cristobal Hernández
54  David Pedreño
55  Ismael Reolid
56  José Joaquín Pérez
57  Daniel Rodríguez

 

In an unusual twist, any player who didn’t make the final four in either the classic or modern tournament was placed according to their qualifying position, regardless of how well they did in Sunday’s play-offs.

In the modern tournament the play-off rounds used the 7-5-3-1 points-based system until the final round which was played in the same format as the classic with one player being eliminated per game. There was a tie in one of the semi-finals for the last place in the final four which was decided by a one-ball game on Party Zone.

Party Zone was the first game of the final
Party Zone was the first game of the final

So the finalists in the modern tournament were Valentín Camarena, Gabriel Ortiz, Carlos Javier Parra and Julio Vicario. They began playing on Party Zone, but this proved the end of the final for Carlos Javier Parra who came fourth in that game and so fourth overall.

The second game was Metallica.

Game two of the modern final - Metallica
Game two of the modern final – Metallica

This time it was Gabriel Ortiz who came a cropper and took third place both in the game and overall.

Valentin playing in the last game of the final
Valentín playing in the last game of the final

That left Valentín Camarena and Julio Vicario to contest the final on the last game which was an Avengers LE which was added along with Getaway and Bride of Pinbot for the play-offs.

Julio plays his ball in the final
Julio plays his second ball in the final
Spectators behind the tournament desk
Spectators behind the tournament desk
Winner of the modern tournament, Julio Vicario
Winner of the modern tournament, Julio Vicario

Julio put up an impressive 67M score on his second ball to Valentín’s 11M, making quite a task for Valentín to catch him on the last ball. As it turned out he only got up to 17M before the ball drained and the final was over without Julio needing to play his third ball.

Second place, Valentín Camarena
Second place, Valentín Camarena
Fourth place, Carlos Javier Parra
Fourth place, Carlos Javier Parra

Third placed Gabriel Ortiz had to leave to catch his flight before the awards were presented.

Modern Tournament Results
1  Julio Vicario
2  Valentín Camarena
3  Gabriel Ortiz
4  Carlos Javier Parra
5  Santiago Elices
6  Rafael Masedo
7  Martin Ayub
8  Álvaro Vidal
9  César Dubón
10  Alberto Lucerón
11  Javier Núñez
12  Antonio Sempere
13  Raúl Abad
14  Pablo Crespo Contreras
15  Luis Molina
16  Juan Antonio Martín
17  Nicolai Troshinsky
18  Antonio Cerdanya
19  Carlos Vicente
20  José Manuel Richart
21  David Mainwaring
22  Félix Yéboles
23  Francisco Núñez
24  Magnus Lindström
25  Rubén de la Rosa
26  Jorge Villoria
26  Jorge López
28  Juan Carlos Durán
29  Pablo Crespo García
30  David López
31  Miguel Manzaneque
32  Elu Tortosa
33  Orlando González
34  Mariano Manzano
35  Jesús Merino
36  Marc Vallés
36  Antonio Hernández
38  Carlos Toledano
39  Juan Luis Santos
39  Enrique Benavent
41  Alejandro Yepes
42  José Luis Martínez
43  José María Tortosa
44  Miguel Barreal
45  Javier Torres
46  Begoña Motilla
47  David Martínez
48  Cristobal Hernández
49  Daniel Rodríguez
50  Ismael Reolid
51  José Casanova
52  Cristina Alonso
53  José Joaquín Pérez
54  Carlos Martos
55  Jesús Garbín
56  José Miguel Fuentes
57  David Pedreño

 

The split-flipper tournament
The split-flipper tournament

As we mentioned earlier, in addition to the two main tournaments there were three side tournaments. The first of these was a split-flipper competition on Dr Dude.

The three side-tournament machines
The three side-tournament machines

The second side-tournament was a crossed-hands competition on Whirlwind, while the final side-tournament used a Flintstones game with a cover over the playfield which only provided a small window above the flippers to see the ball.

Winner of the crossed-hands tournament, Raúl Abad
Winner of the crossed-hands tournament, Raúl Abad

The Flintstones competition was won by Pablo Crespo Contreras, the crossed-hands competition by Raúl Abad and the split-flipper by Álvaro Vidal and his son.

Winners of the split-flipper tournament, Alvaro Vidal and his son
Winners of the split-flipper tournament, Álvaro Vidal and his son

With all the awards presented, the Torneo de Pinball de Biar weekend came to an end.

Down by the waterline in Alicante
Down by the waterline in Alicante

We also had a flight home to catch, but not before a stop-off in Alicante to enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine and sample the local cuisine once more.

The sun was just starting to set
The sun was just starting to set

The relaxed atmosphere and schedule surrounding the Biar weekend was a refreshing change from the often frantic and hurried tournaments we have experienced elsewhere. Having most of the tournament machines as part of a fixed collection certainly makes things easier for the organisers.

The Biar modern tournament was also Spain’s nominated event for the IPFA European Championship Series, giving it added significance and bringing in a few non-Spanish players. Those who hadn’t played in the previous six Biar tournaments could have benefitted from more information regarding the tournament formats and the way the overall results were decided.

Nonetheless, the whole weekend had a uniquely Spanish feel of warmth – both social and temperate – which, despite the huge quantities of food consumed, left us hungry for more.

TIVOLI BOWLING LANES

Tivoli Bowl

The Tivoli Bowling Lanes are located in the lower level of the historic Tivoli building which was constructed in 1928. The building is located across from the Metra (commuter rail) station in the heart of the Downers Grove business district. It takes a sharp eye to find the entrance and a relatively long climb down stairs into the bowling alley area proper.

The bowling alley has been in the present location for nearly a decade, but has been steadily updated with modern equipment, a bar, a dining area and a game room that in recent years has included two pinball games.

I re-visited Tivoli Bowl in the early part of November 2016; I had some time on my hands before the doors opened for a screening at the Tivoli Theater of Eight Days A Week- The Touring Years which is a film directed by Ron Howard documenting the Beatles during the period 1965-1969.

Currently the Tivoli Bowl has Batman: The Dark Knight (Stern, 2008) and Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern, 2006) in the game room.

Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean
Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean

They are set to fifty cents per game or five games for two dollars. Both games accept quarters or dollar bills and both are set up for ‘tournament mode’ if the player so desires.

Only fifty cents a game
Only fifty cents a game

The pinball games had been relocated slightly from when I had last visited. This apparently was to accommodate some new games that were not there before. Unfortunately the pinballs are now directly under a very harsh florescent light fixture which casts a terrible glare right in the glass covering the lower third of the playfields. It takes quite a bit of concentration to “look beyond” the glare and see where the ball is at when in play. I felt that the glare makes accurate shooting quite difficult.

Batman, with lighting reflections
Batman, with lighting glare

Batman was in fair to good condition and I felt that the free game threshold was set so that an average player with some luck could win a game. Everything seemed to be working on the game with the possible exception that the right overhead ramp would randomly drop the ball in the playfield instead of the scoring gate for no apparent reason. The bumpers and rubber cushions seemed to be quite lively and allowed ‘saves’ that might otherwise had not been possible.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean was in only fair condition, having a quite dirty playfield and some features that seemed to be malfunctioning. I suffered stuck pinball syndrome a couple of times and discovered that the tilt mechanism was set quite generously; fortunate for me! Overall this game was more frustration than joy to play correctly because of the need for some basic maintenance.

The two pinballs at the Tivoli Bowl
The two pinballs at the Tivoli Bowl

In summary, I feel that the Tivoli Bowl game room is a decent place to pass some time waiting for a train or a movie to start.

Perhaps next visit I will have time for a pint to help me improve my game play?

SILVERBALL MUSEUM DELRAY BEACH

Silverball Museum in Delray Beach, Florida

We have paid several visits to the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey, dating back to the time before it moved to its current home on the boardwalk. So when we heard a second branch had opened in southern Florida on May 28th, we started planning our visit.

It took until October before we could jump on the Florida’s Turnpike and drive around two hours south from Orlando to Delray Beach on the east coast.

While the Asbury Park museum is highly visible with its seafront position, the Delray Beach location is in the city in an area with less footfall. Pinball fans will need to search out the Museum rather than simply stumbling across it.

The Silverball Museum in Delray Beach
The Silverball Museum in Delray Beach
The Museum's entrance
The Museum’s entrance

Walk through the entrance and the first thing you will encounter is the reception desk. It is here that entry to the Museum can be purchased, merchandise bought, and any questions you might have answered.

The reception desk
The reception desk

Entry to the museum is bought on a timed basis. At the time of writing, a 30-minute pass costs $7.50 (€6.73 / £6.00), while extending that to a full hour takes the price up to $10. $15 buys a half-day pass and $25 gets you all-day access. Kids aged four and under get in for free with a paying adult.

For locals there are several monthly payment pass options for $30, $50 or $100 which are also valid at the Asbury Park location.

Entry costs
Entry costs

If you need time to consider the options or just want to enjoy some refreshments then opposite the reception desk is a bar area.

The bar area
The bar area

The bar features stools reclaimed from the Howard Johnson cafe chain when they closed their locations. Behind the bar, the history of the chain is related on an illuminated sign.

The bar stools
The bar stools
The History of Howard Johnson
The History of Howard Johnson

The bar itself has a wider range of drinks, both on tap and in bottles in the two refrigerated display cases. They also have quite a wide range of food available in their menu.

Bottled beverages
Bottled beverages
Beers on tap
Beers on tap
Part of the food menu
Part of the food menu

But back to the Museum, and assuming you have purchased entry, you enter the collection to be met immediately by the older machines in the building – four woodrail games from Gottlieb and Williams.

The four pinballs at the front of the collection
The four pinballs at the front of the collection
Knock Out and Flipper from Gottlieb
Knock Out and Flipper from Gottlieb

As with most of the pinballs at the Museum, the woodrail games have information cards atop the backboxes as well as high score records in a number of categories.

Information and high score cards for each pinball
Information and high score cards for each pinball
Information and high score cards for each pinball
Information and high score cards for each pinball

The games on the main floor are then divided into six long rows. There is a strong leaning towards electromechanicals and early solid-state machines amongst the collection.

Gottlieb wedgehead games
Gottlieb wedgehead games
Electromechanical Bally four-players
Electromechanical Bally four-players
Gottlieb EM machines
Gottlieb EM machines
More Gottlieb EM machines
More Gottlieb EM machines

Many of the games have LEDs fitted which makes them appear much brighter than originally intended, but the warm white effect is more sympathetic to the original look than we have seen at some other locations. It also greatly helps the Museum’s techs since they don’t need to keep replacing burned-out lamps.

LED lighting in this Team One
LED lighting in this Team One
More electromechanical pinballs
More electromechanical pinballs
More wedgehead pinballs
More wedgehead pinballs

There are around a dozen dot-matrix games at the museum. At the time of our visit there was nothing there from the current decade, although since then two Jersey Jack Pinball titles – The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit – have been added.

Three Stern/Data East DMD titles
Three Stern/Data East DMD titles
Terminator 2 gets a new flipper coil
Terminator 2 gets a new flipper coil
Early and modern flipper games
Early and modern flipper games

It’s not all pinball though. On the far side of the hall from the modern pinballs is a row on mostly non-pinball arcade games, including bowlers, shooters, pitch-and-bats and video games.

Bowling and pitch-and-bat games
Bowling and pitch-and-bat games
Shooters and pitch-and-bat games
Shooters and pitch-and-bat games

Meanwhile, at the back of the hall is a row of skee ball games.

Eight skee ball games
Eight skee ball games
Eight skee ball games
Eight skee ball games

Behind the skee ball lanes is another small room with a couple more electronic pinballs and the bottom of a staircase which leads to the mezzanine level.

This way to more games
This way to more games
Harley Davidson and Monday Night Football
Harley Davidson and Monday Night Football
Up the stairs to the mezzanine level
Up the stairs to the mezzanine level

At the back of the hall on the mezzanine level are four more pinballs and a bunch of video games.

More pinball
More pinball
More video games
More video games

From the mezzanine you also get a great view of the main floor.

Looking down onto the main floor
Looking down onto the main floor

On the mezzanine level at the front of the building is a second bar and yet more games.

The mezzanine level at the front of the building
The mezzanine level at the front of the building

At the front, a large shuffleboard greets visitors to the bar area along with some exhibition games from pinball’s earliest days.

A long shuffleboard game
A long shuffleboard game
Look, but don't touch these early games
Look, but don’t touch these early games
The upper bar area
The upper bar area

To the left of the bar is another row of pinballs with some interesting examples, such as both Bally Kiss backglasses and a New York pinball which is a version of Spirit of 76 designed just for the New York market.

More pinballs next to the upstairs bar
More pinballs next to the upstairs bar
The regular and German Kiss backglasses
The regular and German Kiss backglasses
New York, an EM Evel Knievel and a Nugent
New York, EM Evel Knievel and Nugent

Here’s a complete list of the pinball machines set up to play at the Silverball Museum:

Abra ca Dabra
Addams Family, The
Ali*
Army Navy
Atlantis
Big Bang Bar
Black Hole
Capt. Fantastic
Centigrade 37
Central Park
Charlie’s Angels
Corvette
Diamond Jack
Dimension
Diner
Dixieland
El Dorado
Elvis
Evel Knievel
Fire Queen
Fireball
Flipper
Free Fall
Gemini
Getaway, The: High Speed 2
Gorgar*
Gridiron
Guns N’ Roses
Harley Davidson
Hearts and Spades
Hit the Deck
Hokus Pokus
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
Indianapolis 500
Joker Poker
Jumping Jack
King Pin
King Pin
Kiss
Kiss
Knock Out
Lucky Hand
Magic Town
Majorettes
Mata Hari
Monday Night Football
Monster Bash
Neptune
New York
North Star
Nugent
Pinball Magic
Playboy
Pleasure Isle
Pop-A-Card
Pro Pool
Roadshow: Red & Ted’s
Rock Star
Roto Pool
Royal Flush
Sing Along
Slick Chick
Space Mission
Spacelab
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Strange World
Subway
Surfers
Team One
Terminator 2
Theatre of Magic
TKO
Tommy: The Who’s
Wizard!
World Cup Soccer
World Fair
World Poker Tour
World Series
Inside the Silverball Museum
Inside the Silverball Museum

There’s no doubt the collection is skewed heavily towards what could be called the golden age of pinball – the ’60s and ’70s when Gottlieb alone were producing a new machine every month and selling around 40,000 pinballs a year.

That’s quite understandable. Those machines still represent how pinball is remembered by a large majority of the population, and provide an easy introduction into the game for new players.

Sing Along continues to entertain all ages after nearly fifty years
Sing Along continues to entertain all ages after nearly fifty years

The challenge is easily understood but difficult to achieve, and in an environment where your stay is timed and restricted, playing a 30-minute game of The Lord of the Rings is liable not to give great value-for-money. In addition, these classic games continue to inspire features and mechanisms in games designed today.

The Silverball Museum's slogan is 'Play the Classics'
The Silverball Museum’s slogan is ‘Play the Classics’

The Silverball Museum in Delray Beach is a must-visit location for any pinball fan either visiting or living in Florida, and it’s well worth the trip for out-of-state and international visitors too.

The next time we’re in Florida we’ll be back, and making plans to stay locally so we can enjoy everything the Silverball Museum has to offer over several days.

You can find out more about the Silverball Museum at Delray Beach, opening hours, and upcoming events and promotions on their website at silverballmuseum.com.

PLAY EXPO 2016

Northern Lights Pinball at Play Expo 2016

We are back in Manchester at the EventCity exhibition complex for the annual Play Expo gaming show.

EventCity in Manchester
EventCity in Manchester

Although the show didn’t open until the next day, we were here for the set-up so we can get a preview of what’s in store for the thousands of visitors who will line up outside the following morning.

With the public entrance closed, we headed round the back to the loading bays to get in.

The rear of EventCity - our way in
The rear of EventCity – our way in

Heading into the main hall we found work well underway on setting up the scores of pinballs expected at the show, as well as the thousands of square metres of games of all kinds.

The pinball zone at Play Expo
The pinball zone at Play Expo

The organisers of the pinball zone – Northern Lights Pinball – were expecting more than 100 pinballs, and with many machines already here they were confident of reaching that target.

Setting up machines
Setting up machines
There is a good mix of older and the very newest titles
There was a good mix of older and the very newest titles

The newest titles were there courtesy of Pinball Heaven who had the latest offerings from Stern, Jersey Jack and Chicago Gaming, as well as some restored games.

New Stern titles
New Stern Pinball titles
Jersey Jack Pinball's first two titles
Jersey Jack Pinball’s first two titles
The Medieval Madness remake alongside two restored games
The Medieval Madness remake alongside two high=end restored games

Heighway Pinball’s Full Throttle was also here.

Heighway Pinball obviously take their game servicing very seriously
Heighway Pinball obviously take their game servicing very seriously

Before it is allowed to be played, each machine has to be tested for electrical safety (PAT tested).

No shocking events here
No shocking events here

There was also a nice line-up of Gottlieb solid-state machines here, including several lesser-spotted varieties.

Gottlieb games
Gottlieb games
Tag Team Pinball - one you don't see at shows very often
Tag Team Pinball – one you don’t see at shows very often
We have more on this later, and in a separate article
We have more on this later, and in a separate article
The tombola is always a popular part of the show
The tombola is always a popular part of the show

As important as it is, the Pinball Zone is only a small part of Play Expo, so let’s have a quick look around the rest of the hall.

There are hundreds of PCs and older 8-bit computers for visitors to play
There are hundreds of PCs and older 8-bit computers for visitors to play
Don't throw those old tube TVs away - someone wants them
Don’t throw those old tube TVs away – someone wants them
Plenty more CRTs in the video game zone
Plenty more CRTs in the Video Game Zone
The pinball and video game zones sit side-by-side
The Pinball and Video Game (Arcade) Zones sit side-by-side
Look out, it's the cops - or is it?
Look out, it’s the cops – or is it?
Transformers fans will know the meaning of this slogan on the cop car
Transformers fans will know the meaning of this slogan on the cop car
We are assured this isn't showing the way to the toilets
We are assured this isn’t showing the way to the toilets
Elsewhere, food trucks are set up to cater to the masses
Elsewhere, food trucks are set up to cater to the masses
Gamer food aplenty tomorrow
Gamer food aplenty

The Play Expo show opened to the public at 10am on Saturday, and as usual there was a large crowd queueing outside eager to get through the doors.

The queue outside just before opening time
The queue outside just before opening time
The queue continues
The queue continues
The doors open and the first guests are admitted
The doors open and the first guests are admitted

It didn’t take long before the aisles between the pinball machines became crowded and all the machines were occupied.

The scene in the Pinball Zone
The scene in the Pinball Zone
The machines were soon fully occupied
The machines were soon fully occupied
The Nautilus EM machine had see-through panels on the cabinet and backbox sides
The Nautilus EM machine had see-through panels on the cabinet and backbox sides
The machines stood up to constant playing well, with very few casualties
The machines stood up to constant playing well, with very few casualties
The Pinball Heaven machines were especially popular
The Pinball Heaven machines were especially popular

Here’s the list of free play pinballs at the show:

Free Play Machines
4 Aces
AC/DC Pro
Addams Family, The
Addams Family, The
Aerobatics
Arena
Austin Powers
Avatar
Avengers, The
Baby Pac-Man
Barracora
Batman, Dark Knight
Batman, Dark Knight
Big House
Black Knight
Black Knight 2000
Black Knight 2000
Black Rose
Blackwater 100
Bone Busters
Bride of Pinbot – The Machine
Bride of Pinbot – The Machine
Centaur
Circus
Congo
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon
CSI
Deadly Weapon
Demolition Man
Diamond Lady
Dirty Harry
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Earthshaker!
Eight Ball Deluxe
Excalibur
Family Guy
Fireball
Fish Tales
Full Throttle
Funhouse
Funhouse
Game of Thrones Pro
Genesis
Getaway, The: High Speed 2
Ghostbusters Premium
Ghostbusters Pro
Godzilla
Gold Ball
Gorgar
Grand Lizard
Guns N’ Roses
Hobbit standard, The
Hollywood Heat
Indiana Jones (custom)
Indiana Jones (WMS)
Indianapolis 500
Iron Man
Jackbot
Johnny Mnemonic
Jokerz!
Judge Dredd
Kiss Pro
Last Action Hero
Lord of the Rings, The
Lord of the Rings, The
Medieval Madness Remake
Medusa
Metallica
Mousin’ Around
Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man*
Nautilus
NBA Fastbreak
Pinball Magic
Pinbot
Pirates of the Caribbean
Police Force
Police Force
Popeye Saves The Earth
Raven
Revenge from Mars
Revenge from Mars
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
Road Kings
Roadshow*
Robo War
Robocop
Robot
Rock
Rocky & Bullwinkle
Rollergames
Rolling Stones (Stern), The
Roto Pool
Scared Stiff
Sorcerer
Space Invaders
Space Station
Space Station
Spider-Man
Spirit
Spring Break
Star Trek Pro
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Wars (DE)
Star Wars (DE)
Swords of Fury
Tag Team Pinball
Terminator 2
Theatre of Magic
Twilight Zone
TX Sector
Walking Dead, The
Whitewater
Wizard of Oz 75th, The
Wizard of Oz standard, The
World Poker Tour
X-Files, The
X-Men Pro

There were three competition machines amongst the mix. A Shrek was the junior high score machine, with a No Good Gofers next to it performing the same role for the adult event. A William’s Heat Wave was used for the EM Challenge, where players vied to either achieve the day’s highest score, or raise the temperature high enough to ‘Blow Your Top’ and win a cash prize.

The junior, adult and EM competition machines
The junior, adult and EM competition machines
Tournament Machines
Heat Wave
No Good Gofers
Shrek

 

A new high score is recorded
A new high score is recorded

Further into the Pinball Zone, the machines were just as popular with a few parts vendors setting up their stalls.

No free machines in this row
No free machines in this row
The Scottish Pinball Association and Paisley Pinball were sharing a stand
The Scottish Pinball Association and Paisley Pinball were sharing a stand
Pinball Daze had a large stand with numerous assorted pinball parts
Pinball Daze had a large stand with numerous assorted pinball parts
The North-East Retro Gaming (NERG) team was there to promote their event
The North-East Retro Gaming (NERG) team was there to promote their event

Jim Askey had his Hacking Lab to show a customised Stern Indiana Jones running a version of the Williams Indiana Jones rules, his replacement Stern flasher boards, custom saucers for Revenge from Mars, as well as demonstration PCBs and assorted pinball parts.

Jim Askey at his Hacking Lab
Jim Askey at his Hacking Lab
Pinball Heaven also had a stand in addition to the games they brought
Pinball Heaven also had a stand in addition to the games they brought

Making a return after its first outing at last year’s show was the Addams Family Challenge shock chair. Players sit in the chair and use the control handles to flip the flippers, but achieving certain objectives produces unexpected results from the chair’s lighting and sound effects, shaker motors and smoke machine.

The Addams Family Shocker Challenge chair was back after last year's debut
The Addams Family Challenge shock chair was back after last year’s debut
The previous player really smoked the game
The previous player really smoked the game
There were several alternate translites seen in the games, including this Game of Thrones one
There were several alternate translites seen in the games, including this Game of Thrones one

The Northern Lights Pinball team use this event to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the charity was well represented at the show with their own stand.

The Teenage Cancer Trust stand
The Teenage Cancer Trust stand
They ran a competition to see if you could drop a parachuted toy soldier into one of the plastic cups
They ran a competition to see if you could drop a parachuted toy soldier into one of the plastic cups
It’s harder than it looks, but at least one player managed it

A predicted, the tombola stand was especially popular, with any ticket number ending in a 5 winning a prize. Tickets cost £1 for three, £5 for eighteen or £10 for forty.

The tombola stand
The tombola stand
The Pinball Zone
The Pinball Zone

You can take our exclusive Twelve Minute Tour of the Pinball Zone by clicking below, or by visiting the Pinball News YouTube channel.

While it was obviously our favourite bit, the Pinball Zone was a relatively small part of the overall Play Expo show.

The rest of the Play Expo show
The rest of the Play Expo show
The show floor plan with the Pinball Zone highlighted
The show floor plan with the Pinball Zone highlighted

So let’s have a quick look at some of the other stands and exhibits.

Right next door to the pinballs in other half of the Arcade Zone were the arcade video games.

Everything from sit-down to stand-up arcade video games
Everything from sit-down to stand-up arcade video games
It was an impressive display of videos
It was an impressive display of videos with some unusual titles

Not everything needs to have a power supply to be fun. Tabletop games were a popular part of the show.

Card, simulation and fantasy tabletop games were on sale and being played
Card, simulation and fantasy tabletop games were on sale and being played
Card games can be played anywhere you can find a flat surface
Card games can be played anywhere you can find a flat surface

However, if you could find a power outlet…

It was good to see youngsters stop sitting in front of the TV at home and come to the show to sit in front of the TV
It was good to see gamers stop sitting in front of the TV at home and come to the show to… err… sit in front of the TV
PC gaming appeals to all ages
PC gaming appeals to all ages
There was no shortage of PC games to try
There was no shortage of PC games to try
If you wanted to socially interact, there was a full Rock Band set-up
If you wanted to socially interact, there was a full Rock Band set-up
If you wanted to learn from the experts there were plenty of seminars to watch
If you wanted to learn from the experts there were plenty of seminars to watch
In another area they were relating the history of gaming
In another area they were relating the history of gaming
Virtual reality is a small but growing part of the show
Virtual reality is a small but growing part of the show
But it's still hard to look cool wearing these
But it’s still hard to look cool wearing these
Console gaming was well represented, such as this ring of X-Boxes
Console gaming was well represented, such as this ring of X-Boxes
There were also multiple rows of PS4 console games
There were also multiple rows of PS4 console games
It may be a retro title, but Battle Zone still had them queueing round the block
It may be a retro title, but Battle Zone still had them queueing round the block
Just as timeless was this little chap who roamed the show floor
Just as timeless was this little chap who roamed the show floor
Yet another retor theme, but this time Barracade had been joined by Bumblebee
Yet another retro theme, but this time Barricade had been joined by Bumblebee

Play Expo also featured an Education Zone, where college courses could be explored and gaming skills learned. One stand we especially appreciated was teaching visitors soldering skills – something often overlooked when everything seems to come pre-assembled with no user-fixable parts.

Learning soldering skills in the Education Zone
Learning soldering skills in the Education Zone
Training the next generation of Electrical Engineers?
Training the next generation of Electrical Engineers?

When it all got too much, there were several food stand at the front and back of the hall.

Lunch time
Lunch time
We thought Wicked Wraps & Kebabs had the longest queue, until...
We thought Wicked Wraps & Kebabs had the longest queue, until…
...the Longest Queue At The Show award went to the cash machine
…the Longest Queue At The Show award went to the cash machine

Needless to say, there were dozens of vendor stands selling everything from knives and swords to T-shirts, framed prints, plush toys, game discs and cartridges, retro consoles and character models.

Here are just a few of them.

Masses of T-shirts were available on multiple stands
Masses of T-shirts were available on multiple stands
See. Told you.
See. Told you.
If it was gaming or super-hero movie related you could probably find it here
If it was gaming or super-hero movie related you could probably find it here
Lots of fantasy artworks too
Lots of fantasy artworks too
If you thought your retro gaming console was worth a lot of money by now, it's not - there are loads of them around
If you thought your retro gaming console was worth a lot of money by now, it’s not – there are loads of them around
See. Told you.
See. Told you.
Pokemons need a cuddle too
Pokemons need a cuddle too

You can see all the stands and gaming areas in our Twenty Nine Minute Tour video below.

And that concludes our look at Play Expo 2016 and the Northern Lights Pinball’s collection of machines. The team raised an amazing grand total of £6,950.41 for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity.

Members of the NLP crew
Members of the NLP crew

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer scale of Play Expo and the number of different types of gaming on display, but at the end of the day this mantra still holds true…

Sage advice
Sage advice

ADDAMS FAMILY CHALLENGE CHAIR

The Addams Family Challenge chair

The story starts a few years back during a lull at work, while partaking in a favourite pastime; scouring Ebay looking for anything and everything – things I must have, things I don’t need and things I never even knew existed.

I usually start in the pinball section of course, but then I have to scour arcade machines too. This day I came across a large wooden chair resembling something out of an American prison. Think Stephen King’s The Green Mile. The chair was non-working, only a few miles away and, most importantly, cheap.

The more I looked at the pictures, the more I knew I had to have this ex-amusement machine. I didn’t care that it was a non-working example. It was super cool in just being a chair and would look great in any gameroom environment.

Having travelled far and wide to buy pinballs, the proximity of a few miles just over the bridge was telling me to get in the car and check it out.

It was being sold by an amusement specialist who had an array of ‘bandits’, boxing machines and all sorts of other arcade goodies. Sitting in the corner, covered in dirt ‘n dust, sat ‘The Original Shocker’.

This particular example had served its time on location at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach; well, that’s what its stickers said.

These were produced by a firm in the UK called Nova Productions. The company had gone bust, nobody fixed the circuit boards, and the story went that this chair donated its innards to help keep another game running. The chair had sacrificed itself for another. I had to have this chair.

The sellers were keen to let the Ebay auction run its course, and any cheeky offers had been quickly turned down. I went home and made by auction bid, crossed my fingers and hoped no one else wanted it.

Well, the arcade gods were on my side as not a single other bid was made, and we are talking a cheap opening price. When the auction ended the following week I won the chair, and then had to ‘fess-up at home to another crazy purchase.

The chair arrived and I placed it into deep storage at the back of my garage, under the usual knickknacks that live in everybody’s over-full garages. There had been no point turning it on as it was missing its motherboard. I thought I would do some more searching and see if I could find the missing parts, although if I was unsuccessful it still worked as a chair.

I shared my recent purchase with my friends at Northern Lights Pinball (NLP) to see if they could put out feelers to see if we could get the game back to life. I was even searching for non-working examples of the circuit boards as I have some very clever and resourceful friends.

Nothing seemed to be available. I even had a phone conversation with an operator who had three of these chairs – all in non-working condition. He didn’t have a good word to say about Nova Productions. He wished me well in my search but he wouldn’t sell me any of his non-working parts. This project could probably take some time.

At the time I also mentioned it to a programming friend a.k.a. Dr Pinball, who has had some success with his DMD Extender kit. He thought that it was quite likely that we could Raspberry Pi some life into it, but he was too busy at the moment.

Fast forward about eighteen months to 2015. The chair is still sitting in the back of my garage under even more junk and I get a text from my pinball friend Chris ‘ Poibug’ Williams. “Have you still got that electric chair?“, he asked.

The NLP think-tank had been having a meeting and were looking for novel ways to play pinball. They had already come up with playing a Flintstones using your feet on a dance mat and putting a Fish Tales side-by-side with its electronic counterpart on Pinball Arcade, with the real-world pinball played via a Playstation joypad.

Eh? Yes Chris.“, I replied. So with a month to go before the NLP held their annual show as part of the huge Play Expo event, four pinheads met in my garage to dig out the chair and come up with a cunning plan.

Our primary objective was to hook up the chair so that it could be used to control a real pinball machine. Which pinball? Well it was obvious and agreed unanimously that The Addams Family would be the perfect choice.

The secondary objective was that it would be interactive and, most importantly, FUN!

The first night was spent stripping the chair down and removing the parts to see what we had to work with and come up with a plan to move forward.

The team consisted of me (a.k.a. Mooseman) – an electrician and generally handy-with-a-tool kinda guy, Chris (a.k.a. Poibug) who is an aircraft technician with many years of pinball repairs and service under his belt, Paul Garner (a.k.a. Wizcat) who is a computer programmer, and David Robinson (a.k.a. Dr Pinball) – also a software wizard and DMD Extender designer. We would co-opt others to help as the project continued.

A little history about this kind of amusement is probably needed around now.

The idea of the original game was to sit in a very realistic-looking ‘Old Sparky’ type of electric chair. You put your coins into the machine and then hold on to the two protruding handles which, as the game progresses, will ‘shock’ you. The longer you hold, the more you are ‘shocked’, the louder it gets, the more lights come on, the meter rises ever higher and ultimately smoke is seen rising from your head.

It’s a very visual experience. Totally non-politically-correct, but a lot of fun. The punter isn’t really shocked though – it’s just an illusion of being shocked. The handles contain vibrating motors which oscillate at ever-increasing speeds.

Now, wouldn’t it be good if we could shock the person playing The Addams Family?

Having dismantled the two handles, David took them home to see if he could get them to vibrate and work out if switches could be added to control the flippers. In fact, we all went away with various tasks to find, build, or come-up with solutions to make the project work.

I stripped the chair down further and spent an age sanding it to remove its original ‘Shocker’ logo which was stained into the wood. That had to go and something better sourced.

My neighbour, Paul Glending, is a very talented graphic artist and so he was co-opted onto the team to graphically bling the project. He went away and designed the Addams Family Shocker Challenge decal, plotted and weeded it all, and fixed it in place in about a week.

The Addams Family Challenge artwork
The Addams Family Challenge artwork

Good news – both handle motors are in working condition and they vibrate. Bad news – we can only get them to operate at one speed. Good news – it’s the fastest, insane speed. There is also room in the handle to fit two small push button switches.

One of the two handles
One of the two handles

It’s looking like objective one – getting the chair to control the pinball – can be achieved Objective two’s interactivity now needs looking at.

It was decided that, as we had no motherboard, a substitute surrogate mother needed to be found. We settled on the Arduino microcontroller would be a likely candidate, but a board would need to be designed to add all the inputs and outputs we would like to have working on the chair. It was also decided that the DMD technology could be used to activate certain things interactively with the gameplay.

A Raspberry Pi is used on the DMD Extender and this could recognise when certain screens were on the display. The RPi could then tell the Arduino to do something about it. We now had a way to make the chair truly interactive.

The chair is not an ideal height from which to play, so we looked into increasing its height. A skilled woodworker would be needed, and so Darren Ball (a.k.a. Replicas) built us a platform to sit the chair upon to give the player a better viewing angle.

The Addams Family Challenge Chair on its base
The Addams Family Challenge Chair on its base

The chair’s transformation was now picking up momentum with the four of us meeting after work about twice a week and staying into the wee hours rebuilding and rewiring its various components.

The smoke machine was missing but after searching on the ‘net a model train smoke generator was found to be an exact replacement. This, and a servo motor to control the smoke fluid’s, flow were purchased.

The ammeter didn’t really measure amps but gave the illusion through the use of a servo. Another servo was purchased.

The Addams Family Challenge ammeter
The Addams Family Challenge ammeter

The lights were changed for lower-power but much brighter LEDs. The sound was to feed through to the chair’s three speakers, so an amplifier had to be found and fitted. Further strobe-type lighting was installed under the chair and an extra vibro motor fitted under the seat.

This chair is going to ROCK!

The Addams pinball was fitted with the Raspberry Pi, and this communicates with the Arduino in the chair via a Cat 5 network cable. The sound is channelled down a separate audio cable from the pinball to the chair.

Having got the individual components to work, getting them to all work together was a further challenge that had us scratching our collective heads as the deadline for the NLP show got nearer and nearer.

A few loose wires and a credit dot on the display played some part in the problems, but eventually a working one-of-a-kind Addams Family Shocker Challenge debuted at the 2015 Northern Lights Pinball Show, part of the Play Expo show at EventCity in Manchester.

The chair and game combo was a huge hit, with queues of people waiting to have a go. Screams and giggles could be heard from afar as players were shocked mid-concentration as they were trying to keep the ball alive. As it was so popular, a fundraising bucket was set up and donations collected to supplement the total raised for the worthy charity, Teenage Cancer Trust.

The chair lasted well into the first day of the show before losing its power supply. A spare was quickly found, fitted, and on with the fun.

On the Sunday, the second day of the show, one of the handles sadly stopped vibrating. As it was quite dark in the venue and there were lots of wires, it was decided to let the game continue to on to the end without a repair as it was still a great experience.

Fast forward another six months to 2016 and we decided to make some improvements to the chair.

The broken vibration motor was just a loose wire, but this must be eliminated and more smoke was needed, as the train unit wasn’t dramatic enough for us.

The Arduino motherboard was redesigned with Molex connectors incorporated, a new, bigger smoke machine was added along with extra strobe lighting to accentuate the smoke.

Inside the The Addams Family Challenge
Inside the The Addams Family Challenge
The main shaker motor
The main shaker motor
The new Molex connectors
The new Molex connectors

The chair is now up and running, and about to go to the NLP show for 2016.

Players at NLP 2016 show enjoying the chair
Players at NLP 2016 show enjoying the chair
Players at NLP 2016 show enjoying the chair
Players at NLP 2016 show enjoying the chair
Wednesday Addams gives the chair a try
Wednesday Addams gives the chair a try

Comments on the internet have been very positive, and people can’t wait to give it a go again.

Credits for the The Addams Family Challenge
Credits for the The Addams Family Challenge

CHURCHILL CABINET COMPANY TOUR

Chicago Cabinets

Prior to the start of Pinball Expo in October this year, Pinball News was fortunate enough to visit the Churchill Cabinet Company factory in the Chicago suburb of Cicero to see how they make many of the playfields, cabinets and backboxes used in modern pinball machines.

The Churchill Cabinet Company factory in Chicago
The Churchill Cabinet Company factory in Chicago

Our guide was Doug Skor who is Vice President of Business Development at the company, and he began by relating how the Churchill Cabinet Company began, as the name suggests, by being a furniture maker. The business changed as cheaper, mass-produced furniture became the norm and the video game business took off, requiring the manufacturing of thousands of arcade cabinets for companies such as Namco and Midway.

The video bubble burst, of course, but pinball has remained a steady business for the company, and they bought playfield maker Lenc-Smith from Williams in 1996. In fact the building we were visiting at 4616 W. 19th Street in Cicero was the former Lenc-Smith facility.

The Churchill Cabinet Company factory in Chicago
The Churchill Cabinet Company factory in Chicago

Churchill not only makes pinball and video game cabinets and playfields, they also sell a range of complete games under the Chicago Gaming Company brand. This includes the remake of the Medieval Madness pinball and the Arcade Legends video multi-game console.

Home to the Chicago Gaming Company as well
Home to the Chicago Gaming Company as well

The company’s core business of building cabinets and playfields hasn’t changed greatly over the years, and upon entering the building it is apparent not much has changed in the reception area either. The wallpaper, carpet and sofa could all bear witness to the rollercoaster fortunes of the coin-op business since the ’60s.

Walking into the factory we were immediately faced with numerous boxes of completed games awaiting shipment. Medieval Madness remakes made up the majority but there were Arcade Legends games as well, with everything – and this is a theme we shall return to throughout the factory – coated in a fine layer of wood dust.

Boxed completed games
Boxed completed games
Medieval Madness remakes
Medieval Madness remakes
Arcade Legends video games
Arcade Legends video games

Walk inside a little further and the view changes from complete games to assembled components and finally to the constituent parts.

Medieval Madness remake backboxes
Medieval Madness remake backboxes
Decals being applied to video game cabinets
Decals being applied to video game cabinets
Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga combo cabinets
Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga combo cabinets

Of course building the cabinets and backboxes for the Chicago Gaming machines are only a part of the company’s business. Making cabinets, backboxes or playfields for other game manufacturers such as Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball and Raw Thrills is the bulk of their work.

Stacks of pinball cabinets ready to ship to a local pinball manufacturer
Stacks of pinball cabinets ready to ship to a local pinball manufacturer

As we walk further through the factory – it’s quite deep – we pass the playfield and cabinet panel routing areas.

A Metallica playfield on the router
A Metallica Pro playfield on the router
Stern now use code names for their games - James is Metallica
Stern now use code names for their games – James is Metallica

One thing you quickly marvel at is the sheer quantity of plywood sheets around the factory – some plain, some cut and some routed.

Stacks and stacks of wood
Stacks and stacks of wood

Previously the interior of pinball cabinets would have been sprayed black – usually quite roughly – but they now have a black laminate which is etched away by the routing machine to improve adhesion when other wooden parts need to be glued to the panel. The outer face is treated and spray-painted wood as printed decals adhere better to that than to a laminate.

Stacks of cut video game cabinet sides and pinball bottom panels
Stacks of cut video game cabinet sides and pinball bottom panels
Where the bottom panels are made
Where the bottom panels are made
Pinball cabinet bottom panels
Pinball cabinet bottom panels
Just one stack of many
Just one stack of many

Pinball cabinet side panels are first cut from a larger sheet and then routed to produce the interlocking grooves, the flipper button holes, the screw holes and etched where mounting blocks will be glued and screwed to the side.

Cutting the side panels
Cutting the side panels
The side panels are routed on this machine
The side panels are routed on this machine
A finished side panel
A finished side panel
Front panels are produced in the same way
Front panels are produced in the same way
The it's time to put them all together
The it’s time to put them all together

The actual method of building a cabinet looks a little ramshackle but it’s a tried-and-tested technique which has produced countless tens of thousands of pinball games.

The front, back, bottom and side panels are glued and interlocked before going into a giant hydraulic cabinet press which applies pressure to form a complete and very solid base cabinet.

The cabinet press
The cabinet press

There are actually two cabinet presses here back-to-back, allowing two cabinets to be made at once.

The cabinet forming area
The cabinet forming area

The playfields, meanwhile, continue on a separate line.

Routing the playfields
Routing the playfields

Once they have been routed they are examined for any flaws in the wood or in the routing. This produces a surprising number of rejects, all of which are stored in the Churchill Cabinet Company factory, although Doug said they would one day get around to clearing them out.

Reject playfields
Reject playfields
Reject playfields going back to NBA, Elvis, Monopoly and Wheel of Fortune
Reject playfields going back to NBA, Elvis, Monopoly and Wheel of Fortune
Playfields for Transformers and Rolling Stones
Playfields for Transformers and Rolling Stones

If you are wondering where all this wood comes from, the factory stores large stocks of Russian Birch – a name given to the type of wood whether or not it comes from Russia.

Stocks of Russian Birch
Stocks of Russian Birch
Stocks of Russian Birch
Stocks of Russian Birch

Those playfields which pass muster move on to the inserts room where every insert is hand glued and knocked into position. Boxes and boxes of inserts from Northern Plastics form the walls of the insert room.

Boxes of inserts
Boxes of inserts
Inserting the inserts into a Metallica playfield
Inserting the inserts into a Metallica playfield
Affixing the inserts needs glue - lots of glue
Affixing the inserts needs glue – lots of glue
After and before
After and before
More insert-complete playfields
More insert-complete playfields
Doug with some insert-complete playfields
Doug with some insert-complete playfields

If there are any imperfections, the playfield is sanded to level everything before it move on to have artwork screen printed on it.

Sanding down a playfield
Sanding down a playfield

Once a playfield is checked and passed it moves on to the screen printing room where the individual inks are applied by hand, one-by-one.

The artwork is traditionally printed using a CMYK process which has additional layers added to print white or other specific colours not adequately reproduced by CYMK inks.

Each ink requires a separate screen to be made. A screen is a semi-porous sheet which allows the ink to pass through in varying amounts in specific areas. Churchill don’t make the screens themselves, so before a screen is used it is verified in the screens room.

Checking the screens
Checking the screens
The multiple screens for various games
The multiple screens for various games
Screens for Ghostbusters, The Walking Dead and Star Trek
The multiple screens for various games
A The Walking Dead playfield without the magenta ink
A The Walking Dead playfield without the magenta ink

Once the screens are approved, they are used to print playfields.

A Ghostbusters cyan screen is primed with ink
A Ghostbusters cyan screen is primed with ink
A Ghostbusters playfield with magenta and yellow ink is picked and placed under the screen
A Ghostbusters playfield printed with magenta and yellow ink is picked and placed under the screen
The ink squeegee is slid down the playfield
The ink squeegee bar is slid down the playfield to spread the ink
The freshly inked playfield is removed to dry
The freshly inked playfield is removed to dry
Drying racks for playfields
Drying racks for playfields
Medieval Madness playfields drying
Medieval Madness playfields drying

Once all the ink layers have been screen-printed and the inks have cured, the playfields head off to be clearcoated.

Ghostbusters playfields being clearcoated
Ghostbusters playfields being clearcoated

Due to the noxious fumes we weren’t allowed in the clearcoating area, but we could see the results which looked very impressive.

Clearcoated playfields drying in racks
Clearcoated playfields drying in racks

Once the playfield is checked an approved, it is labelled and put in a shipping rack for the journey to the pinball factory.

Finished playfields
Finished playfields

While we were visiting, some tests were taking place on different mixes of clearcoat. A Ghostbusters playfield had been cut in four (yes, we know) and different levels of clear were tried on each part.

There’s no question that before the clear layer is added, the finish of the playfield is very dull and lifeless. The clearcoat brings it alive, making the colours far more saturated and vibrant as well as providing protection to the artwork.

A Ghostbusters playfield cut in four
A Ghostbusters playfield cut in four
The four parts are sprayed with clearcoat
The four parts are sprayed with clearcoat

As we headed back to the front of the building and the end of our tour, we grabbed a few more pictures of cabinets being built at the factory.

More video cabinet sides with the ever-present wood dust
More video cabinet sides with the ever-present wood dust
Building video cabinets with The Wizard of Oz pinball cabinets in the back
Building video cabinets with The Wizard of Oz pinball cabinets in the back
Building Arcade Legends video cabinets
Building Arcade Legends video cabinets

Finally, we were expecting Chicago Gaming Company to announce their second ‘remake’ title at Pinball Expo, but for various reasons that announcement didn’t take place.

Building Arcade Legends video cabinets
Once final look at the Churchill Cabinet Company factory floor

Huge thanks to Doug for taking time out from his Pinball Expo preparations to show us around the factory and explain its inner workings.

To an outsider it might all seem slightly chaotic, but the company has been building cabinets, backboxes and playfields for decades and know their stuff. As we have seen with other companies, not having that kind of experience can lead to problems with the quality of the product.

Meanwhile Churchill Cabinet / Chicago Gaming seem very relaxed and confident about the future. After all, while new pinball entrants bring technological advances and novel game designs to the pinball-buying masses, every game needs a cabinet, a backbox and a playfield.

CHICAGO AREA PINBALL LEAGUE: SUMMER 2016

Chicago Area Pinball League

The Lake County IL ‘Meetup’ group hosted an informal pinball league during the Summer months of 2016.

The reason for forming this league was to elevate awareness of the locations that have pinball in the northern Chicago area, and also to enjoy an evening of fun with people who were interested in playing pinball.

There were a number of people who said “it has been years” since they had played pinball, and a few said that they were unaware that pinball games were still being manufactured.

There were in excess of 15 players who participated in this league, each participant receiving a ticket good for the drawing of a grand prize at the last event. The more events that they attended, the more tickets a player received.

The games and locations in the league were:

  • #1 March – The Addams Family at Lake Villa Public House (game now removed)
  • #2 April – Iron Man at R.J.’s Eatery, Lindenhurst
  • #3 May – Ghostbusters LE at Kristoff’s Entertainment Center, Round Lake
Ghostbusters LE
Ghostbusters LE at Kristoff’s Entertainment Center
  • #4 August – NASCAR at Lighthouse Miniature Golf, Waukegan
Keith putting the moves on NASCAR at Lighthouse Miniature Golf
Keith putting the moves on NASCAR at Lighthouse Miniature Golf
  • #5 September – The Simpsons Pinball Party at Bill’s Pizza Pub North, Grayslake
  • #6 October – Metallica at Kristoff’s Entertainment Center, Round Lake
Metallica at Kristof’s was a fun challenge
Metallica at Kristof’s was a fun challenge

At the end of each event, a small ‘fun’ prize was given for high score of the night. At the October game there was also swag from the 2016 Pinball Expo in Chicago.

The grand prize was awarded following the October game. The prize was a translite from the Stern Pinball game Star Trek autographed by Gary Stern. Many thanks to Stern Pinball for providing this prize!

Steve Zivilik was the 2016 grand prize winner- he has the Star Trek translite already framed and on display in his recreation room
Steve Zivilik was the 2016 grand prize winner- he has the Star Trek translite already framed and on display in his recreation room

Thanks to everyone who came out to participate and hopefully raise awareness of places to play pinball in the northern Chicago suburbs.

To be added to the Lake County Pinball League mailing list, please drop an e-mail to lakecountyraceway@gmail.com or for more information visit the host meetup page at facebook.com/LakeCountyDiveBarsandPubsMeetup.

AUSTRIAN PINBALL OPEN 2016

Austrian Pinball Open 2016

About one-and-a-half years have passed since Austria had a new premium place to play pinball. In the midst of rural Styria in southern Austria, a warehouse from local game machine distributor company Niegelhell became a pinball hotspot.

Around 100 machines were played during Austrian Pinball Open (APO) this year. Although the main hall is quite spacious, a lot of the machines were located in the upper floors of the building. You can read more about the Hall of Pinball-Fame here and should consider going there at least once.

Hanging out outside the Hall of Pinball-Fame
Hanging out outside the Hall of Pinball-Fame

This year was the biggest APO so far. Over 100 people took part in the main tournament while everyone also had the option of competing in a side tournament (free of charge) where a bunch of classic machines of the likes of Firepower or Space Station had to be played.

Prizes for the tournaments, sponsored by Jenna Muer
Prizes for the tournaments, sponsored by Jenna Muer

In addition to that, a warm-up tournament took place a day before (also free of charge), mostly catering for those who had a longer trip to the Hall of Pinball-Fame.

The tournament schedule projected on the big screen
The tournament schedule projected on the big screen
There were several screens showing the schedule and current results
There were several screens showing the schedule and current results

Speaking of longer trips, despite the somewhat hidden venue, the APO had an international appeal, with participants coming not just from Austria but also Germany, France, Slovenia, Croatia, Norway, Hungary, Italy and even Australia.

Training
Training
Playing and chatting
Playing and chatting

A major pinball tournament in Austria is always connected with the presentation of brand new machines. Last year, Full Throttle from Heighway Pinball was being shown and played, with Andrew Heighway also present at the tournament. This year, next to a Ghostbusters LE and a Full Throttle machine with a 27 inch display, a The Hobbit table was set up which served as the game for the grand final.

The machines and the organization of the tournament was provided by Styrian pinball club Flippnic, run by Sandra and Bernd Prucher, and the Austrian distributor companies Niegelhell (run by Siegfried Niegelhell) as well as RS Pinball run by Stefan Riedler, who was also in charge of hosting and presenting the tournament. There was also a raffle taking place with a great prize provided by distributor Niegelhell – a Johnny Mnemonic pinball machine.

RS Pinball advertising the newest pins
RS Pinball advertising the newest pins

With 108 people taking part, it wasn’t an easy task for the organizers to execute the APO smoothly and cater for every inconsistency and problem that arose during the tournament.

Stefan Riedler explaining the tournament details
Stefan Riedler explaining the tournament details
Sandra and Bernd Prucher preparing the tournament certificates
Sandra and Bernd Prucher preparing the tournament certificates

It was even more remarkable then that everything worked out really well. Players were competing under the Swiss system, spread over 17 rounds during the first day of the tournament. The best 48 players then qualified for the group phase.

Playing in the APO 2016
Playing in the APO 2016
Final ranking after Day 1
Final ranking after Day 1

On the second day, those 48 best players were put into six groups with eight players each. In each group, every player had to play each other player in his or her group. The four players who won the most points in each group then advanced to the finals.

The winners of the eight groups
The winners of the eight groups

The 24 best players of Austrian Pinball Open 2016 were:

APO 2016 Qualifiers
Roberto Pedroni
Arno Nöbl
Markus Stix
Ingo Götzhaber
Tormod Pettersen
Flavio Baddaria
Cesare Datri
Philippe Bocquet
Krisztián Szalai
Ales Rebec
Péter András Simon
Istvan Ruha
Andrej Rizner
Guiseppe Violante
David Schrittwieser
Marko Ritosa
Stefan Riedler
Istvan Szabo
Istvan Berecz
Zeljko Vasic
Tobias Wagemann
Roland Schwarz
Stefan Karlhuber
Sandor Varga

 

These qualifiers then moved on to the finals, playing within a single elimination system.

Many of those games were tough matches which is no big surprise given some very strong competitors like Markus Stix (rank 29), Roberto Pedroni (rank 43), Krisztián Szalai (rank 82) or Cesare Datri (rank 100) were flipping it out.

Roberto Pedroni was hoping to make pinball great again
Roberto Pedroni was hoping to make pinball great again

Three of those four top-100 players – Pedroni, Szalai and Stix – then also found each other in the grand final, and thus had once more successfully defended their great placements in the WPPR ranking.

But who would be the big winner?

Choosing the new The Hobbit game from Jersey Jack Pinball as the machine for the finals was an interesting choice. The game plays quite slowly and ramping up points means going the distance. A lot of endurance is needed to being able to constantly get those important multiballs that bring in the most points. With each ball, it is necessary to stay in the game much longer compared to many other pins.

There was a very suspenseful atmosphere within the hall. More and more bystanders gathered around the finalists to get a glimpse of this very important match.

The audience for the final
The audience for the final

Roberto Pedroni (player 1) fell behind pretty soon, losing his first ball very early on. Krisztián Szalai (player 2) managed to play a very consistent first ball, followed by Markus Stix (player 3) who couldn’t quite keep up with Krisztián.

Roberto Pedroni in the final
Roberto Pedroni in the final

The second ball was the deciding factor: Krisztián Szalai played astonishingly, racking up over a million points which is an exceptional achievement on the The Hobbit table. By the way: He played his very first game of The Hobbit in the finals! Can you imagine?

Krisztián Szalai in the final
Krisztián Szalai in the final

Krisztián’s third ball wasn’t quite so good but he still had a big lead over Markus Stix. While Markus played the last ball of APO 2016, the room was filled with even more excitement than before.

Markus Stix in the final
Markus Stix in the final

He showed incredible talent, strength and endurance during this ball and thus came close to Krisztián’s score. But finally Markus couldn’t help but drain the ball due to a misflip caused by a – very human – decrease in concentration and energy after two long days of playing competitive pinball.

The final scores
The final scores

So, the Austrian Pinball Open 2016 really had a memorable final game and generated a lot of happy and exciting moments. That is why the organizers are already busy preparing their next tournament.

The top three with the organisers
The top three with the organisers

Save the date: APO 2017 will take place from 15th to 17th of September.