Date: August 17th - 19th, 2012
Back for a third year at the same location, the UK Pinball Party promised the regular mix of around one hundred machines, a special guest, multiple tournaments and an awards dinner. Added to this were launches for the new Pinball Magazine and the unveiling by Heighway Pinball of two whitewoods for their upcoming Circe's Animal House game.
Although the venue was the same, the name had changed over the past year which caused a little confusion for those unfamiliar with the location. Formerly the Barcelo Daventry, the four-star hotel is now called the Daventry Court Hotel after it's takeover by Puma Hotels.
In most other respects though it was very familiar, with a large lobby and an adjoining bar area which became the congregation point for pinballers after a hard day working the flippers.
The UK Pinball Party was held in the main Danetree Suite which was down the corridor on the far right of the picture above. The suite can be divided into three separate rooms for smaller meetings and conferences, but the UK Pinball Party takes over all three and could possibly do with even more space.
Set up began Friday morning ahead of the official opening at 5pm. Over the course of six hours, an otherwise empty hall rapidly filled with pinball machines, vendor stands, electrical kit and the tournament equipment.
The UK Pinball Tournaments Team were back to run the main tournaments at the show in conjunction with Pinball News.
When a show is being set up time just vanishes, and before long it was 5pm and paying visitors were coming through the doors, arriving at the front desk where they were greeted by organiser Andrew Heighway and his family.
It is a tradition of the UK Pinball Party (and the UK Pinball Show which preceded it) to have a special guest from the world of pinball. This year it was game designer Mark Ritchie who was there with his wife Trudy, and was available to talk and sign autographs at Gary Flower's stand. Gary made the arrangements for Mark and Trudy to visit, and looked after them before and after the show.
Gary was selling assorted pinball paraphernalia but he was far from the only one selling items at the show.
Most visitors were soon greeted by Jonathan Joosten of Pinball Magazine who offered them a preview copy of his publication, or a copy of the real thing at a special show price.
This was the first time Jonathan had seen the finished product, as the bulk of the magazines were delivered to his home just after he had left for the show, making these show copies the first to be opened.
Also at the front of the hall was Pinball Mania, who were selling a wide selection of common pinball parts.
On the right side of the hall were two more vendors. The first was a new entrant to the UK parts market, Jon Melleney's 1StopPinball.
The final vendor at the UK Pinball Party was on the opposite side of the hall, and was Dave Willcox's Pinball Daze. Dave had a wide selection of parts and the two tables were certainly worthy of a rummage to see what gems he had in those piles of parts.
With vendors arranged around the outer edge of the hall, the central area was entirely given over to pinballs. Two long rows of back-to-back machines ran most of the length of the hall, with the tournaments area at the back and the tournament desk up on the stage.
Here's the full list of the 108 machines at the show on Sunday morning.
In addition to the pinballs, there were also a few video games which, like the pins, saw almost constant action all weekend.
Let's take a look around UK Pinball Party with our unique Three Minute Tour - a video walk around the show floor on Saturday afternoon, letting you experience the games, the vendors, the people and the sounds for yourself.
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With a hall packed full of pinball machines and video machines all throwing off masses of heat on one of the hottest days of the year, it was another type of machine which was probably the most popular of all.
If cold water didn't cut it for you, during the show there was a second bar open in the main hall, while the Fuel Bar located in the lobby also served tea and coffee, and sold a selection of snacks.
Being a business-class hotel, premium prices were charged for drinks and food. However, Andrew Heighway had arranged a number of discounted products for show visitors, including pints of Carlsberg larger, bitter and soft drinks for £2.80 ($4.43, €3.54). Being the UK, these were full 20oz pints of course.
You wouldn't want to drink too much though, or you might start seeing funny green men.
Dan Bradford donned this excellent Martian suit as the result of a bet, after getting through the qualifying round of the UK Pinball Open for the first time.
As the heat reached its peak on Saturday afternoon, there was a brief interruption to the show when the power went out. Several attempts to diagnose the problem didn't fully cure it, so a number of machines were left off for the rest of the afternoon while the tournaments continued and the cause of the fault was investigated.
Once the show closed at 8pm, a small team spent their time working out why the power tripped so the problem could be resolved in time for Sunday's session.
If the heat in the hall (or inside a costume) was too much, there was a patio area opposite the show hall where visitors could relax or take a stroll around the gardens.
This year's show was extra special as it followed the announcement made here in Pinball News of UK Pinball Party organiser Andrew Heighway's plans to make pinball machines in the UK.
So this year, at midday on Saturday, two whitewood's of Heighway Pinball's first machine - Circe's Animal House - were presented to an audience who assembled in the lobby. In addition to the two whitewood, several members of the Heighway Pinball team were also in attendance and introduced to the crowd.
The two covered whitewood machines were wheeled into the lobby.
Each showed something different, and they would be revealed after a brief introduction from Martin Ayub and Andrew Heighway.
After recounting why he started the company and what motivated him to want to build pinball machines, Andrew together with game designer Dave Sanders removed the covers and revealed the two whitewoods.
The two cabinets were showcasing the two different versions of the game expected to be produced. On the right is the playfield we showed you in our previous Circe's Animal House article while the backglass features the Jackass characters also featured in that article.
The cabinet on the left was demonstrating a new type of display which will be an option in place of the in-playfield LCD and offers a host of new possibilities.
Instead of a regular playfield glass, the playfield is covered by a glass sandwich, with tempered glass top and bottom covering a transparent LCD panel between. This allows full colour animations to appear inside the playfield glass, which means they can be positioned anywhere over the playfield. Scores can be placed over the apron, explosions over pop bumpers, arrows can appear indicating shots or targets to hit, and playfield art can animate without compromising the playfield design.
Additionally, the playfield glass sandwich can be touch-sensitive, allowing keyboards to be displayed for user names and records, status displays to pop-up on demand, and the possibility of interactive rules presentations, as well as providing easy access to the more mundane operator menus.
At present, there are just two downsides to the LCD playfield glass - the fact it's not totally transparent in the clear areas, producing a fine mesh effect, and how the playfield is effectively the LCD panel's backlight, which in turn demands much more light on the playfield in order to see the LCD panel's output.
Andrew also revealed details of his modular approach to pinball manufacturing, seeing operators purchasing a base cabinet which can remain in a location, as new games are installed as necessary.
To this end, the base cabinet and game packages will be sold separately. The cabinet contains illuminated transparent side panels, so new artwork can be easily installed. This artwork will come as part of the game kit, along with the new playfield, a translite and game software.
Once the whitewoods had been revealed and their features explained, guests were invited to come up and see the transparent LCD panel for themselves, as well as flip the populated whitewood with the in-playfield LCD panel window.
If the presentation in the lobby was a unique feature of this year's UK Pinball Party, a rather more regular feature is the Saturday evening guest dinner. For the first year of the Party, the dinner was held downstairs in the CATS suite. Last year it moved upstairs to the main restaurant, but this year it was back in the CATS suite which is a better, more atmospheric location.
The guest of honour Mark Ritchie was there with his wife Trudy, and would be giving a presentation later in the evening.
While guests were enjoying their dinner, the team investigating the earlier electrical problems worked away in the hall, missing their dinner.
In recognition of their sacrifice, a collection was made from dinner guests which raised over £160 for the team to have a few drinks later in the evening. In a typically selfless move, they agreed to have just one drink and donate the rest of the collection to charity.
Back downstairs, once dinner had been served and cleared away, the first of the announcements took place.
After Andrew welcomed everyone, the microphone passed to Franck Bona who told guests about his upcoming Ch'ti Tournament which will be held in France this October.
Then Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub introduced Pinball Magazine's publisher Jonathan Joosten, who told the audience a little about his new magazine, what led him to publish it, and the people he met in creating the content.
He then presented complimentary copies to two of the magazine's contributors, show special guest Mark Ritchie and Gary Flower.
Next came a couple of video presentations. First was a showing of the latest Jersey Jack Pinball preview, demonstrating the RGB lighting effects in The Wizard of Oz.
Next came a video from 2009's special guest and UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Ritchie.
Steve has some special guests in his video, including Lyman Sheats, John Borg and Lonnie Ropp.
The next section of the evening's schedule brought this year's inductees into the UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame began in 2008 and has so far inducted John Trudeau, Martin Ayub, Andy Netherwood, Steve Ritchie, Gary Flower, Nick Bennett, Dennis Nordman, Gary Stern, Mark Squires, Jack Guarnieri, Jay Stafford and Will Barber. Tonight three more names would be added to that list.
The first new entrant was the weekend's special guest, Mark Ritchie, who was presented with his award and certificate by Andrew.
The second new member was introduced by Gary Flower.
Gary revealed that the second inductee would be a posthumous one - the pinball legend Steve Kordek, who died at the start of this year, age 100.
To collect the award on Steve's family's behalf was Mark Ritchie's wife Trudy, who worked at Williams as Steve's secretary. She told the audience about working with Steve and what an incredibly kind and generous man he was.
The Hall of Fame inductions are decided by Andrew Heighway, Gary Flower and Martin Ayub, but the final inductee was selected without any discussion as Martin and Gary had already jointly agreed it.
Consequently, the third inductee into the UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame for 2012 was UK Pinball Party organiser and head of the newest pinball manufacturing company, Heighway Pinball, Andrew Heighway. He was presented with his award by Martin.
Then it was time for Mark Ritchie's presentation. Mark sat with Gary and showed a number of pictures from his pinball career, telling stories of how he first started working for Atari on their pinball assembly line, how his many games came to be created, how the themes such as Fish Tales and Indiana Jones were introduced and stories about his time setting up Capcom Pinball.
Mark also spoke about the project to re-make his Kingpin game. He explained how he had been in contact with Illinois Pinball's Gene Cunningham when the plans were first announced, but had heard nothing since.
You can hear Mark's full presentation by using the player below or by downloading the MP3 to your computer and playing it there.
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The dinner began late and it was after midnight when it finally ended. Those still keen to keep the night going returned to the Fuel Bar upstairs, while others headed for their rooms. It is traditional for many to try to stay up all night, but this was curtailed when the bar disappointingly closed around 2:30am. Even so, a poker game managed to keep going until 4am.
On Sunday, several awards were presented to recognise the best games of the show. The Best DMD Machine award, sponsored by Pinball News, was awarded to the Indiana Jones restored and brought to the show by Stan Simpson.
The Best Pre-DMD award sponsored by Pinball Mania went, fittingly in this Olympic year of London 2012, to the Jeutel Olympic Games brought to the Party all the way from France by Fabian Basalt.
The Pinball Heaven-sponsored Best Restoration award was won by John Bateson for his Black Knight 2000.
Finally, the Best in Show award sponsored by Pingame Journal went to Terry Sullivan for allowing his selection of new Stern machines such as Iron Man, Avatar and Spider-Man to be enjoyed by visitors to the show.
As usual, there was a range of competitive events held over the course of the three days, starting with Friday evening's UK Pinball Team Tournament, run by Matt Vince.
Machines for the various UK Pinball tournaments were arranged in an arc around the stage, with the tournament desk for registration and ticket sales located on the stage so it didn't take up any valuable floor space.
Two projector screens were located on the stage either side of the desk, with two additional monitors on a table in front of the desk. The projectors showed overall rankings, while the monitors showed specific machine or match scores.
There were two desktop PCs running the tournament scoring system, each with four monitor outputs, a couple of laptops and seven Dell handheld PDAs which were used to record scores over a private wi-fi network. The computer kit was running off an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) which would prove its worth later in the weekend.
Rather later than the scheduled start time of 7pm, the first rounds of the Team Tournament began.
16 teams of 4 players had pre-registered for the event. Each team was ranked based on its members WPPR points and put into a group with 3 other teams. Each team played a 2-player head-to-head 4-ball game against each other team in their group, with each team member playing 1 of their 4 balls.
The winning team in each match earned 5 points, so after playing the other 3 teams in the group, the maximum number of points possible was 15. Two teams managed to win all their matches - The Creatures from the North and Pinheads R Us.
As well as the head-to-head matches, each team also had to play an allocated 'bonus machine' which each team in the same group also played. This was again a 4-ball game with each player playing one ball, but the game could be played at any time during the qualifying period. The highest scoring team in the group earned 9 points, the second highest 5 points and the third highest 2 points.
The top team from each group went into a final, which, due to the delayed start, became a single 4-player 4-ball game with each team member playing one ball. Only Pinheads R Us managed to earn the maximum 24 points. They were joined in the final by The Creatures from the North, Yorkshire Puddings and Surrey Pinball.
The machine for the final was drawn at random and was machine number 2 - The Shadow.
After the first ball, Surrey Pinball had a strong lead with their score of 273M, over the Yorkshire Pudding's 65M in second place, with The Creatures from the North on 7.5M and Pinheads R Us on 6.7M.
Surrey Pinball in the player two position continued to build their score, finishing their game with a total of 424M, beating Yorkshire Pudding with their 127M. But The Creatures from the North were coming up on the rails, going into their last ball with 308M and needing another 117M points to take the lead. Pinheads R Us were in fourth place on 48M with their last ball still to play.
While Will Dutton managed to boost his team's score, it wasn't quite enough to take the lead, finishing on 374M.
Pinheads R Us would need to increase their score by 800% to take first place, and unfortunately it wasn't to be, as an early drain brought the Team Tournament to an end with Surrey Pinball as the winners.
So the results were:
Mark Ritchie presented the medals, certificates and trophies to the teams.
The Team Tournament finished around 10pm on Friday evening. Twelve hours later, the same area and (mostly) the same machines were in use for the UK Pinball Open. One machine arrived just to late to be used on Friday, but The Addams Family was slotted in on Saturday morning, replacing the Scared Stiff which returned to the free play area.
An overhead camera and vertical LCD screen was set up on the 14th machine - Cirqus Voltaire - so spectators could see the action more clearly.
96 players were pre-registered for the UK Pinball Open through the tournaments section of the show website. Entry cost £10, but pre-registrants received a 25% discount and guaranteed their place in the tournament. Additional on-the-day registrations might be offered, but it depended on machines being free and time being available. As it turned out, everyone who put their name on the waiting list was able to play.
The format for the UK Pinball Open run by Richard Wade was largely unchanged from previous years. In the qualifying round, competitors could choose any 6 machines from the 14 available, and play a single 3-ball game on each. All the scores on each machine were ranked, with 100 points awarded to the player with the top score and a decreasing number of points for lower places. The total of a player's ranking points from the six games formed their total score and gave them their overall position in the qualifying round.
The top 24 players would qualify for the A Division play-offs. The next 16 qualified for the B Division play-offs, unless a player had won a major tournament or league, or was in the IFPA world top 250, in which case they couldn't play in the B Division and the next player down the rankings took their place.
In a surprise move, a feature not used since the UK hosted the EPC in 2009 was re-introduced - the joker card. The joker allowed a player to replay one of their six games in an attempt to improve their position. If their second game was better, they took that score. If it was worse, their original score stood.
For some, the joker card proved to be a life-saver. One player, for example, was languishing in 38th place after his six games and wouldn't qualify. However, he replayed his Congo game with the joker card and got the second best score of the day, moving him up into a qualifying position.
No more qualifying games were allowed after 4pm. Show organiser Andrew Heighway who had been busy throughout the day, just managed to start his last game on the dot of 4pm by abandoning the game he was on and jumping onto the adjacent machine.
The machines used in the UK Pinball Open were Iron Man (IM), The Shadow (TS), WMS Indiana Jones (IJ), Stern Indiana Jones (IJ4), The Addams Family (TAF), The Flintstones (F), Congo (C), Avatar (AV), The Simpsons Pinball Party (TSPP), Goldeneye (GE), Indianapolis 500 (I500), High Speed 2- The Getaway (HS2), Fish Tales (FT) and Cirqus Voltaire (CV).
When all the scores were in, the positions in the qualifying round were as follows:
Because some players (marked *) are excluded from playing the B Division, all positions below 24th place are the final standings. Those ranked 1st to 24th will had their final positions determined by the A Division play-offs and finals.
The top 24 players went into the A Division play-offs , which consisted of 4 rounds of 2-player games played on different machines with different partners. As in the qualifying round, it wasn't important whether a player beat his partner since all the scores on all machines were ranked and ranking points awarded depending how well a player's score ranked.
Before each round, both players were given 30 seconds of warm-up time, in case the machine wasn't one they chose in the qualifying round. This gave them the chance to determine tilt sensitivity and get a feel for the game.
The top 8 players from the play-offs would go into the two semi finals. The results were as follows:
Meanwhile, on the two machines at the end of the row (Fish Tales and Cirqus Voltaire), the B Division play-offs were taking place. 4 groups of 4 players played a 4-player game on their allocated machine, where the top two players from each game would progress into the semi-finals.
The final eight in the B Division were:
The two A Division semi-final machines were again drawn at random with players ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th on the first machine - Avatar, and the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th ranked players on the second machine - High Speed 2 - The Getaway.
The results were:
After a problem with Fish Tales, the B Division semi-finals were played on Cirqus Voltaire and Monster Bash, where the results were:
The A Division final was all ready to go, with the machine drawn at random. Iron Man was the machine selected, so as soon as the overhead camera and TV had been moved, the final began.
Choice of play position was determined by the players' play-off qualification positions. As a result, Matt Vince was first to play, followed by Nick Marshall, Nicolas Linqué and Martin Ayub last.
None of the players got off to a good start, with Iron Man playing fast and mean with a tight tilt setting. Nicolas did best with Nick and Matt a little way behind and Martin last. The second ball provided little progress for any player with the order unchanged.
Matt finished his third and final ball on 3,880,740 which was behind Nicolas's score. Nick couldn't quite catch Matt and ended on 3,290,010. Nicolas got to play for just a little longer than the others and brought his total up to 7,789,440 - twice the nearest challenger. Martin was last to play and stood in last place.
He had a reasonable last ball, but when the Iron Monger grabbed the ball and flung it straight between the flippers, the final was over and Martin's total had reached 5,719,650 for second place.
In the 5th-8th place play-off held on The Addams Family, Peter Blakemore beat Franck Bona into 6th place, with Phil Dixon and David Dutton in 7th and 8th respectively.
The B Division final was played on a Corvette machine where, in a reversal of fortune, Belgium's Joël Wozniak, who qualified for the B Division in 41st place only because Andrew Heighway had previous tournament wins, ended up winning. In second place was Phillip Eaton who was running the B Division play-offs, third was Sweden's Michael Mattsson, while fourth was Mike Kindler.
Trophies, medals, certificates and cash prizes were presented by Mark Ritchie.
Then came the B Division awards.
While the Open was taking place in the main tournament area, two additional competitions were being held.
The first was just to one side of the main area and was the UK Pinball Kids Tournament run by Martyn Raison. This was a straight high score competition held on a Monster Bash machine, which ran during the same hours as the Open's qualifying - 10am until 4pm.
The Kids Tournament is always popular and this year was no exception, with 24 players keeping the Monster Bash busy all day with regular queues to play.
Each play cost just £0.50 (€0.62, $0.80) and there were trophies, certificates and medals for the top three scorers. Separate Kids Tournaments were held on Saturday and Sunday to ensure those visiting for just one day still had a chance to compete.
When 4pm rolled around, those still waiting were allowed to play their games before the results were announced and trophies awarded.
Once again, Mark Ritchie presented the awards.
The other competitive event was a newcomer to the UK Pinball Party, although it had previously been held at the South Coast Slam in April and last November as part of the Northern Light Pinball section of Replay Expo in Blackpool.
The NBA Challenge used two linked NBA Fastbreak machines to play head-to-head timed games. 30 competitors were pre-registered and formed into 6 groups of 5. Each player was affiliated with one of the NBA teams and played all the other teams in their group once.
The NBA Challenge team were located at the front of the hall next to the main entrance. Apart from running the competition, they were also selling discounted tickets to their next appearance at the Replay Expo event in Manchester this October.
Players who won enough of their matches went through to the final round which took the same format.
In the final it was Adam Thomson who was triumphant and took first place, ahead of William Dutton and Adam Bona. Medals, certificates and cash prizes were presented by sponsor Pinball Mania's Andy Netherwood.
The UK Pinball Party might have been open for fewer hours on Sunday, but there were still several tournaments for the adults and for the kids.
The Kids Tournament machine had changed and now a Stern Indiana Jones was the challenge for junior players.
There were fewer players on Sunday, but the tournament was just as popular with constant queues to play and win those trophies.
Over in the main tournament area, there were two events taking place. Eight classic machines had been brought into the arena to replace the Open machines. These eight formed the UK Pinball Classic tournament, run by Peter Blakemore.
The eight machines in use were: Lucky Fruit, Haunted House, Space Hawks, Spirit, Farfalla, Fire Mountain, Rollergames and Pink Panther. Entry cost £1 per game and each player could buy up to 10 entries. In previous years there had been no limit on the number of entries but it was felt to be fairer if everyone had the same maximum number of attempts to qualify.
Qualification ran from 10am until 3pm, at which point the top scorers on each of the eight machines would go into the two semi-finals. Each player could only qualify on one machine, so if the same player came top on more than one machine, the one on which they had the greatest lead over the second placed player was the one which qualified them, and their score on the other machine would be deleted, moving everyone else up a place.
The eight qualifiers were:
In the two semi-finals which followed, one was played on Lucky Fruit and the other on Pink Panther. The top two from each would go through to the final.
As soon as the semi-finals were over, the final began.
The final was played on Space Hawks, with the overhead camera giving spectators a good view of the playfield.
Greg took and early lead and, despite a spirited comeback by Will, Greg never looked likely to be caught, and duly won the final.
Trophies, certificates, medals and cash prizes were presented by UK Pinball Classic head, Peter Blakemore.
This year the UK Pinball Classic was sharing floor space with the finals of the UK Pinball League.
Each year, players across the UK compete in five regional leagues as part of the UK Pinball League. At the end of the League year, the top players from each region qualify for the national final held at the UK Pinball Party. In previous years it had been held in a separate side room, but this year it was brought onto the main floor alongside the Classic tournament.
Five machines were used - The Flintstones, Indianapolis 500, Spider-Man, Guns 'N Roses and Tron - and the format was the same as a regular League meeting where everyone plays each machine once, and the scores are all ranked to give everyone an overall final score.
In a closely contested final, the 2009 and 2010 winner Martin Ayub took the title once again, by a single point from fellow Surrey Pinball team member Matt Vince, with Stan Simpson in third and Craig Pullen fourth.
Trophies, medals and certificates were handed out by UK Pinball League coordinator Greg Mott.
Greg then presented the trophies and certificates to the top players in each region.
While we're on the subject of young players, the awards for the Sunday edition of the UK Pinball Kids Tournament were made once all the games had been completed and the results declared.
The competitors' top scores were as follows:
The awards were made by head of the Kids Tournament, Martyn Raison.
Once all the tournaments were over, the process of tearing down the machines began as the show drew to a close. Any machine still playable was played until the bitter end, but eventually the electrical power was switched off, giving way to the power of ratchet straps and socket spanners.
By 7:30pm, the vans were all loaded and on their way home, with just the last few machines pushed against the outer walls as the only visible reminder there had been a pinball show here for the previous two days.
© Pinball News 2012