UK PINBALL SHOW 2006
Photography by Keith Hartwell / Pinball News
Last year saw the launch of a new pinball show in the United Kingdom. The UK Pinball Show was held at Aston Villa Football Club in the city of Birmingham in the heart of the English midlands and brought pinball collectors and fans to play over 140 games.
This year the show was once again sponsored by Nokia and returned to Aston Villa on the 22nd and 23rd July to try to recreate the success of the first event. Could the momentum continue, or was the first show just a flash in the pan? Let's find out.
Initial signs were promising. Once again, show organiser Nick from Pinballers Anonymous had been collecting pinball machines from people's homes in the weeks before and loading them into two of these 45 foot trailers. That meant collectors who wanted to bring more games than they could transport had a solution without hiring a van. Stan Simpson also collected games from their owners and brought them along, even sleeping in the back of his truck amongst the machines to keep them safe.
There was additional set-up time from 7pm to 11pm on Friday evening to avoid the mad Saturday morning rush but as the machines were unloaded, the hours flew by it was soon time to vacate the hall and retire to the hotel bar until the early hours of the morning.
By 7am many people were back to continue the set-up, ready for the 10am opening. The games were arranged in the centre in rows running the length of the hall with vendors around the outside, while one end of the room was dedicated to the competition area.
One of the biggest potential nightmares of the last show - the power to the games and vendors - was well organised by Andrew Harris and Film & TV Services which meant finding adequate power rarely became an issue.
Electrical safety testing of games began during the set-up period by a team led by Phil Docker. Several problems were uncovered and rectified before the public were allowed in.
The whole lobby area had been refurbished and redesigned to make it brighter and more spacious. Phil Docker's motorised Dalek took centre stage when it was not roaming the hall exterminating those without valid tickets.
Williams Amusements were exhibiting their range of pinballs, jukeboxes and video games in one half of the lobby...
...while the other side was occupied by Sam Leisure with their air hockey tables, pool tables and table football games.
Entry to the show cost £7.50 for one day or £10 for both days and it ran from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.
By the time the show began it was clear that the number of games had not just matched last year, but had surpassed it.
There were 172 games set up - 166 in the main hall and another 6 in the lobby.
Here's the full list of games in alphabetical order with multiple games shown in brackets:
50/50, Addams Family (5), A-Go-Go, Alien Poker, Apollo 13, Attack From Mars (3), Austin Powers, Back to the Future, Bad Girls, Balls-A-Poppin, Batman (Data East), Black Knight 2000, Black Rose, Blackwater 100, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Bride of Pinbot, Bumper, Centaur, Champion Pub, Cirqus Voltaire (3), Corvette (3), Cue Ball Wizard, Deluxe Baseball, Demolition Man, Disk Jockey, Dr Dude, Dr Who (2), Earthshaker (3), Elvira & the Party Monsters, F-14 Tomcat, Fan-Tas-Tic, Fathom, Festival, Fish Tales (5), Flash Gordon, Freddy - A Nightmare on Elm Street, Funhouse (3), Gilligan's Island, Gorgar (2), Guns n Roses (2), High Speed 2 - The Getaway (6), Hook (2), Hurricane (2), Hyperball, Independence Day, Indiana Jones (5), Jackbot (2), Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd (2), Jungle Lord, Junkyard, Jurassic Park (2), Kiss, Laser Wars, Lord of the Rings, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Medieval Madness (2), Medusa, Middle Earth, Millionaire, Monster Bash (2), NASCAR (2), Night Moves, No Fear (2), No Good Gofers (2), North Star, Pacman Pinball, Paragon, Party Zone (2), Phantom of the Opera, Pinball Magic, Playboy (Data East), Playboy (Stern), Pool Sharks, Popeye Saves The Earth, Radical, Revenge From Mars (2), Road Show (3), Rollercoaster Tycoon, Rollergames, Scared Stiff (3), Secret Service, Shadow (3), Silverball Mania, Solar Fire, Space Shuttle, Space Station, Star Trek - The Next Generation (2), Star Trek (Data East), Star Wars (Data East) (2), Star Wars Episode 1, Starship Troopers, Strange Science, Swords of Fury, Tales of the Arabian Nights (2), Taxi, Terminator 2 (2), Theatre of Magic (3), Time Fantasy, Tommy (2). Totem, Twilight Zone (4), Vector, Whitewater (2), Who Dunnit?, World Cup Soccer (3), World Poker Tour (2) , Xenon (3).
Not only were there more games than before but the variety was vastly increased. The previous year's collection was dominated by 1990s Williams/Bally games but this year there were many more unusual and rarely-seen machines allowing visitors to make new discoveries of their own.
Sixteen of these games formed a special "Pinball Thru The Ages" display designed by Chris Williams to show significant games, times or features in the development of the game from Bumper all the way through to NASCAR.
To fit in this number of games, the large spaces between rows had to be sharply reduced but I think everyone was happy to sacrifice a bit of space to see this many games in the hall.
There were 17 vendors at the show selling a wide range of games, spares, magazine subscriptions, pachinkos, organisation membership and jewellery
The vendors at the show were: Pinball Resurrection, Gazza's Pinballs, AJ Pinball, Pinball Palace, Pinball Owners Association, Pinballs To Go, Pachinko World, Clint's Amusements, Jamma+, Retro Fusion, Juke of Shrewsbury, Gary Flower, Pinballers Anonymous, Virgin Cosmetics, L'Automatico, Pinball Heaven, Sam Leisure and Williams Amusements.
Pachinko world were selling these games for just £99 while a short distance away Pinball Palace were exhibiting this Party Zone game.
It's unusual because it's running without a single Bally board in the backbox. They are all PinLED replacements, from the CPU board through to the dot matrix display.
It wasn't all silver ball action though. Jamma+ and Retro Fusion brought arcade video games and the assorted games in the lobby all provided a good variety of game play if your flipper fingers started to flag.
At the other end of the hall was the Pinball News competition area.
Last year we ran the first Pinball News High Score Competition and it was so successful we brought it back for both days of this year's show.
The format is a simple one designed to encourage everyone to take part. There are four games in the main competition - World Poker Tour, Monster Bash, Cirqus Voltaire and Xenon - plus a separate kids' competition on Party Zone. Games were provided by Pinballers Anonymous, Lee Fensom, London Pinball, Mark Squires and Aid Cooper.
The aim is to simply get the highest score of the day on any of the four main games during the qualifying period. The four highest scorers then went into a grand final played at the end of the day on a mystery machine. For the Kids' Competition, the highest scorer was declared the winner at the end of qualifying. Prizes were awarded for the all the finalists and the top four kids.
Entry to the High Score Competition cost £1 for a ticket to play and there was a big screen showing progress throughout the qualifying, so players knew the scores they had to beat. Display software was by Christina Staines and Mike Parkins while Mike and Pinball News Editor Martin Ayub were the competition officials taking scores and sorting out problems. Martin was also the overall Competition Director.
All money taken went to the show's chosen charity In Kind Direct.
Players could buy as many tickets as they wanted and all tickets also went into a prize draw at the end of the day, so even if you didn't qualify you still had a good chance to win a prize.
There were only two minor hiccups. The World Poker Tour endless multi-ball bug was discovered but the players very graciously depowered the machine to clear it and started a new game.
There was also the all-too-familiar smell of burning coil as the Xenon developed a fault before blowing a fuse.
Fortunately, with the assistance of David Ainslie, owner Mark Squires brought it back to life within minutes, replacing a fuse, coil and driver transistor with minimal disruption. Good job chaps.
On Saturday, the qualifying period ended at 4:30pm by which time Frank Zieger had come top on World Poker Tour, Martin Hotze had done the same on Monster Bash, Richard Jobling has triumphed on Cirqus Voltaire and Albert Medaillon was the master of Xenon.
After a break to set up the final game - NASCAR - the grand final took place with a video feed of the upper playfield and scores projected on the big screen for the assembled crowd.
In a close battle it was Martin who triumphed to take first place with Frank second, Albert third and Richard fourth.
1st place - Martin Hötze
Besides the trophy, Martin took away a bunch of prizes topped off with a brand new top-of-the-range N71 flip phone from Nokia, sponsors of the UK Pinball Show. Runners-up took away flyer prize packs, pinball mugs, translites, T-shirts, £25 vouchers for Pinball Mania and PC sound cards.
The competition also scored World Pinball Player Rankings points and received certificates confirming their points.
In the Kids' Competition it was a good win for Christian Newbold who won a wrist TV also from Nokia presented by Nick from Pinballers Anonymous and Martin Ayub from Pinball News.
1st place - Christian Newbold
Addition prizes included translites, toys, mugs, chocolates, posters, cordless computer mice, pen radios and headphones. Prizes were generously donated by Mark Squires from Nokia, Pete Clare from Creative, Todd Andersen from Pinball Renaissance, Lloyd Olson from SS Billiards, Julian Hepworth, Chris Williams, Phil Dixon, Andrew Hannay and Martin Ayub from Pinball News.
But, with this being a bigger and better show, the High Score Competition wasn't the only tournament.
Saturday also saw the Pinball News Team Competition where teams of four players from around the UK and from Germany competed for the top prize and title of Team Champions. The idea came out of a recent trip to the European Pinball Championship in Munich and a discussion about promoting regional competitions in the UK.
A number of regional qualifiers were held to decide several of the teams while others wanting to compete could form a team on the day or join one of the other teams needing extra members. Entry cost £4 per team of four with proceeds going to the show charity.
Teams were split into two pools (A & B) and played a 4-player game on each of the 3 competition machines in their pool. Each player's score was ranked against all the other scores on that game and they were awarded ranking points. The ranking points for all 4 players in the team were totalled to provide a team ranking. The top two ranked teams went through to the next round.
Teams and games in each pool were:
Eddie Mole was in charge of the Team Competition with Phillip Eaton (above) providing the computer software and systems.
Two large screen monitors showed the progress - one displaying the top teams and players while the other showed a detailed breakdown of each player's score and ranking.
By the end of round one, the Brummie Ball Bangers, the North East team, the Yorkshire Flippers and the South West Stiffs had made it through to the second round.
Here are the results from round one:
The winners were the Brummie Ball Bangers and the South West Stiff who went forward to the final while the losing teams took part in a 3rd/4th place playoff.
Both the 3rd/4th place playoff and the final took the form of a best-of-5-games where each game was set to 2-players 4-balls and each team member played one ball per game. Each team could choose a machine to play and to add some more excitement, a mystery game was added to the mix as the third (and possibly deciding) machine.
It had been wrapped up in a black bag covered in question marks all through the competition and was only revealed and set up for the final so nobody could find one elsewhere in the hall and practice. It turned out to be a Stern Playboy.
In the 3rd/4th place playoffs, the North-East team sadly were a member down and struggled against the full strength Yorkshire Flippers who won three straight games to take 3rd place.
The final was a different matter with the first game on Getaway going very narrowly to the South West. The second on Scared Stiff went quite comfortably (and appropriately) to the Stiffs with the Brummies clawing one back by taking the third game on the Playboy.
With it 2-1 to the Stiffs, the next game on Fish Tales went fairly easily to the Brummie team leaving the deciding game to be played out on Totem.
With everything down to the last ball and the show officially having closed for the day, the South West Stiffs grabbed victory by 230,910 to 109,430.
Congratulation to Pinball News Team Competition Champions, the South West Stiffs - Graham Keeble, Greg Mott, Tony Fitzgerald and Eddie Mole. As Eddie was in charge of the Team Competition, games were chosen and arranged by the Competition Director, Martin without Eddie's knowledge to make it totally fair.
Prizes were; trophies from Pinballers Anonymous, signed flyers & art from Steve Padgett, pinball badges from James Francis, Bally mugs from Dave Rolfe, Ukranian vodka from Chris Williams and certificates from Eddie Mole.
Competition games supplied by Martin Ayub, Pinballers Anonymous, Mike Parkins, John Blakeley and Lee Fensom. Technical support came from Andy Netherwood of Pinball Mania and stewarding was by Helen Thurson, Keith Donaldson, Tony Fitzgerald and David
A large pile of prizes donated by Philips Electronics and Sony including electric shavers, blenders, trimmers, a CD player and electric toothbrushes went to competitors with winning tickets. All tickets not selected went into the next day's draw for another chance to win.
With that, Saturday's proceedings drew to a close and it was time to leave and head back to the hotel.
After a few beers, a curry, some poker and some more beers (plus a little sleep) it was soon time to be back at Aston Villa to clear up the previous day's mess and start a new mess for Sunday.
For me, it also gave me the chance to set up my Scared Stiff properly. I'd meant to do this last year but didn't have the time so this was the first opportunity to dress it up for the show.
None of the games from the previous day seemed to have been removed and there were very few casualties requiring attention.
Show technician Andy Netherwood from Pinball Mania was working tirelessly throughout the two days fixing faults on machines as they were reported - not just broken wires or stuck switches but board repairs too and all without charge.
So Sunday continued much like the previous day with a good number of visitors anxious to enjoy the games, buy parts and try to win some prizes.
On the second day of the show there was no Team Competition but there was a new High Score Competition held on the same games as before but with a new mystery finals game. A new Kids' Competition also started on the Party Zone.
The show closed at 4pm so the competition's qualifying round finished at 2:45 with the final to be held at about 3pm. Of course, the last minute rush to use those tickets meant these times slipped a little but before long we had the finals line-up of Holger Wuttke (World Poker Tour), The previous day's champion Martin Hötze (Monster Bash), Sean Rowe (Cirqus Voltaire) and yesterday's finalist Albert Medaillon (Xenon).
The game chosen for the final was Lord of the Rings supplied by Pinball Heaven.
Holger went first and by the end of ball one had established a leading score of 3,174,380 to Sean's 1,299,440, Albert's 204,000 and Martin's 155,800.
Holger maintained his lead throughout ending up the winner on 9,630,810, more than double the leading challenger Sean with Albert third and Martin fourth. He took away a new Nokia N71 mobile phone along with a bunch of other goodies including a translite from Pinball Renaissance, a flyer pack and of course, the trophy.
1st place - Holger Wuttke
Runners-up won more flyer packs, translites, cameras, a £25 voucher for Pinball Mania, Nokia sunglasses and a Nokia travel bag.
The Kid's competition also saw a winner with a score double that of his nearest rival.
Jordan Rowe scored over 30 million to take first place ahead of Sam Trigg, Tim Raison and Jayne Raison. Jordan took away a Wrist TV from Nokia, a translite and note block. Runners-up prizes included note blocks, A Nokia football, translites and posters.
1st place - Jordan Rowe
Despite running for one hour less, the lack of a Team Competition meant the High Score Competition saw more plays and took more money on Sunday that on Saturday.
Saturday's games had 146 plays and Sunday added another 210 which together with the money from the Team Competition totalled £403 for In-Kind Direct. That compares with £178 raised last year for Mencap.
Awards were then given, the first to Mark Squires of show sponsors Nokia by Nick for making the whole event financially possible for the past two shows. He received a bottle of 1966 champagne signed by the surviving members of England's 1966 World Cup winning squad, numbered 1 of 1966 bottles.
And then an award went to Lee Fensom for making it logistically possible.
Lee had a star named after him and received the certificate of ownership.
Sunday's events closed with another prize draw which resulted in another batch of electrical prizes from Philips, B&W Speakers, translites from Stern Pinball and flyer frames from Pinballers Anonymous being given away to the lucky recipients.
And so at a little after 4pm the show closed to the public and the teardown began.
What had taken seven hours to put together on Friday night and Saturday morning was pulled apart and packed away in under three.
By 7pm this was all that was left of the UK's biggest pinball show ever.
Looking back, despite the extra time to set up, everything seemed incredibly rushed over the two days of the show. The planned events all took longer than expected and a few didn't manage to happen at all due to lack of time but hopefully everyone managed to enjoy themselves and squeeze in plenty of pinball playing.
Everyone seemed to agree the standard of food available was down to the level expected at a football ground but at least something was available this year. A decent caterer could make a fortune though.
So the impossible happened. The UK Pinball Show managed to be bigger and better than last year in just about every way. But how long can that continue?
Organisers say the show will not be returning to Villa Park next year but they do hope to bring it back in a different form and have some great ideas to discuss.
We will, of course, bring you news of what they decide.