Date: 18th-21st November, 2021
Location: Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center, 366 Main St Sturbridge, MA 01566, USA

The final leg of our 2021 US tour brings us to the town of Sturbridge, around an hour’s drive west of Boston. The Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center is the venue for the Pintastic Pinball & Game Room Expo, hereafter just called Pintastic.

The entrance to the show
The entrance to the show

The Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center is a complex of buildings housing the reception, the pavilions, a pool, numerous accommodation blocks, multiple conference rooms and at least two large show halls.

The hotel end of the complex
The hotel end of the complex

The complex has seen multiple expansions over the years, so there is a mix of styles across some of the different blocks.

Here’s a look around a few of these areas.

The hotel's reception area
The hotel’s reception area
The corridor from reception to the pavilions area
The corridor from reception to the pavilions area
The pavilions
The pavilions
The pool area
The pool area

Pintastic has been running since 2015 and has a large team working in the months leading up to the show on its many different aspects, such as the free play machines, the vendors, the seminars, the publicity, the website, the logistics and so on.

For the free play machines they have built a custom game registration, check-in, game information and fault tracking system called MyFlipR which allows game bringers to register their machines, have them tracked as they are brought into the building and have any faults which develop logged against them for the maintenance crew to address.

The entrance for the free play machines
The entrance for the free play machines
The machine registration team at the show
The machine registration team at the show
One of the machine signs with a link to its details page, sale price and contact number
One of the machine signs with a link to its details page, sale price and contact number

Thursday

We arrived at Thursday lunchtime as the Free Play Room was being set up ready for the public opening at 6pm.

The Free Play Room
The Free Play Room
Some of the machines in the Free Play Room during set-up on Thursday
Some of the machines in the Free Play Room during set-up on Thursday
Some of the machines in the Free Play Room during set-up on Thursday
Some of the machines in the Free Play Room during set-up on Thursday
The central aisle will be filled with more machines later
The central aisle will be filled with more machines later

At the far end of the building, the Vendor Hall was also being readied, although that room doesn’t open to the public until Friday at 11am.

The Vendor Hall during set-up on Thursday
The Vendor Hall during set-up on Thursday
The Vendor Hall during set-up on Thursday
The Vendor Hall during set-up on Thursday
The main tournament takes place in the Vendor Hall too
The main tournament takes place in the Vendor Hall too

Here’s the list of the 63 pinballs set up in the Vendor Hall by lunchtime on Saturday:

Vendor Hall
Addams Family, The
Aerosmith
Aerosmith
Aerosmith
Avengers, The: Infinity Quest
Avengers, The: Infinity Quest
Avengers, The: Infinity Quest
Avengers, The: Infinity Quest
Aztec
Baywatch
Cactus Canyon remake
Cue
Demolition Man
Domino
Elvira & the Party Monsters
Flipper Clown
Godzilla (Premium)
Godzilla (Premium)
Godzilla (Premium)
Godzilla (Premium)
Godzilla (Premium)
Godzilla (Pro)
Godzilla (Pro)
Godzilla (Pro)
Godzilla (Pro)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy
Gulfstream
Guns N’ Roses (Limited Edition, JJP)
Halloween
Hercules
Hot Wheels
Houdini
Judge Dredd
Jurassic Park (Stern)
Last Action Hero
Led Zeppelin (Premium)
Led Zeppelin (Pro)
Legends of Valhalla
Legends of Valhalla
Metallica
No Fear
Operation Thunder
Pinball Magic
Riverboat Gambler
Roadshow, Red & Ted’s
Simpsons Pinball Party, The
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Wars (Pro)
Star Wars Pin (Comic Art)
Star Wars Premium
Stranger Things
Tales from the Crypt
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Stern)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Stern)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Stern)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Stern)
The Mandalorian
Transporter: The Rescue
Volcano
Whitewater
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

There is a separate custom-built Seminars Room of which we will see more a little later, once the first seminar begins at 7pm today.

In addition, a special Extra Ball Lounge is available to guests who purchase a limited edition pass when registering. These sold out quickly, so only a small number of guests and event staff will get to play these games.

The Extra Ball Lounge
The Extra Ball Lounge

Here’s a list of the 23 pinballs set up to play in the Extra Ball Lounge:

Extra Ball Lounge
AC/DC (Luci)
Attack from Mars
Bride of Pinbot, The Machine:
Cirqus Voltaire
Congo
Dialed In!
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Full Throttle
Guns ‘N Roses (DE)
Guns ‘N Roses (JJP, LE)
Houdini
Indianapolis 500
Metallica (Pro)
Monster Bash
Shadow, The
Shadow, The
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Theatre of Magic*
Twilight Zone
Walking Dead, The
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
WWF Royal Rumble
* indicates machine was not working or switched off when we made this list

There are various signs and banners in the corridors detailing the weekend’s tournaments, rules of pinball etiquette and various designs for the Pintastic logo from famed pinball artists.

Play nicely
Play nicely
The tournaments schedule
The tournaments schedule
The 2016 show logo by John Youssi
The 2016 show logo by John Youssi
The 2017 show logo by Zombie Yeti
The 2017 show logo by Zombie Yeti
The 2018 show logo by Christopher Franchi
The 2018 show logo by Christopher Franchi
The 2019 show logo by Joel de Guzman
The 2019 show logo by Joel de Guzman

The Free Play Room opened to the public at 6pm, although there were more games being brought in throughout the evening.

6pm and time for the Free Play Room to officially open
6pm and time for the Free Play Room to officially open
Still plenty more machines arriving outside
Still plenty more machines arriving outside

Here’s a list of the 113 pinballs set up to play in the Free Play Room on Saturday lunchtime:

Free Play Room
2001
Addams Family, The
Alien Poker
Amigo
Atlantis
Beatles: Beatlemania Pinball, The (Gold)
Big Guns
Black Hole
Bobby Orr’s Power Play
Bonanza
Carribean Cruise, Point Blank
Casino
Club House
Corvette
Count-Down
Cyclone*
Dancing Lady
Domino
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Drop-A-Card
Duotron
Earthshaker!
Elvira’s House of Horrors (LE)
Embryon
Fire
Fire Queen
Fireball
Fireball
Fireball Classic
Firepower*
Flash
Flash Gordon
Flight 2000
Flipper Clown
Gladiators
Gorgar
Gorgar
Gorgar
Grand Lizard
Grand Lizard
Grand Slam
Guns ‘N Roses (JJP, Standard)
Hollywood Heat
Hot Hand
Hot Shot
Hurricane
Hurricane
Jackbot
Jungle Queen
Jurassic Park (DE)
Kewpie Doll
Knockout*
Laser War
Lethal Weapon 3
Liberty Bell
Lost in Space
Mars: God of War
Mata Hari
Melody
Metallica (Pro)
Meteor
Motordome
Mousin’ Around!
NASCAR*
New York
Oh Yeah!
Out of Sight
Phantom of the Opera*
Pinbot
Pinbot
Pincraft
Poker
Red Baron
Rick and Morty
Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International
Robo War
Rock Lives!
Seawitch
Shaq Attaq
Shaq Attaq
Sharkey’s Shootout
Simpsons Pinball Party, The
Simpsons, The
Sing Along
Skateball*
Soccer
Solar City
Solar Fire
Sonic Spinball
Sorcerer
South Park
Space Station
Speak Easy
Spy Hunter*
Star Trek (Bally)
Star Trek (Bally)
Star Trek (Bally)*
Star Wars (Pro)
Star Wars Trilogy
Star Wars: Episode 1
Stars
Street Fighter II
Superman
Team One
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Time Warp
Twilight Zone
Volcano
Wiggler, The
Wild Fyre
World Poker Tour
WWF Royal Rumble
X-Files, The
* indicates machine was not working or switched off when we made this list

The first of the show’s seminars began at 7pm when Levi Nayman hosted a talk and demonstration on how to do commentary for live streaming of pinball matches.

Levi Nayman
Levi Nayman

To illustrate his points, several matches were played on an Attack from Mars pinball which were streamed and had live commentary added. The first saw Bowen Kerins play against Mitch Curtis.

Commentating on the Attack from Mars match
Commentating on the Attack from Mars match
Bowen and Mitch play for a prize pot of $3
Bowen and Mitch play for a prize pot of $3

The Free Play Room stayed open until 2am and reopens on Friday at 10am, with the Vendor Hall also opening at 10am on Friday.

Friday

There were still more games arriving in the Free Play Room and others being worked on as the doors opened to the public at 10am. More are expected until around 1pm according to the organisers.

Setting up and adjusting the games as the doors open
Setting up and adjusting the games as the doors open
10am and the Free Play Room is officially open
10am and the Free Play Room is officially open

Meanwhile, the first of the days presentations was starting in the Seminars Room.

Tasker Smith, a Technical Instructor at MIT spoke about the concept of flow states and how they can be channelled to improve your gameplay and get into ‘the zone’.

Tasker Smith
Tasker Smith

He explained how, when a flow state is achieved, a person will experience a narrowing of their focus, how they become immersed in what’s happening now, will have a reduced sense of self-awareness, a distorted sense of time passing and achieve exceptional performance. He went on to describe the conditions and techniques players can use to take advantage of this state.

Tasker's Flow States seminar
Tasker’s Flow States seminar

Later in the afternoon the seminars resumed at 2pm when Mike Minchew presented his seminar about pinball flyer collecting.

Mike Minchew
Mike Minchew

Mike spoke about the way flyers evolved over the years and how the quality of their printing and production can be used to determine the relative financial positions of various companies. He also held regular quiz questions, distributing prize packs of flyers to those with the correct answers.

Mike talking about how flyers helped build the pinball industry
Mike talking about how flyers helped build the pinball industry

After Mike, Jersey Jack Pinball game designer, Eric Meunier, presented his story of the making of the Guns ‘N Roses pinball.

Eric Meunier
Eric Meunier

Accompanied by a Collectors Edition model, Eric related stories about the creation of assorted elements which go to make up the game, including the collaboration with the band and Slash in particular, the recording of the voice calls, getting approval to use certain music tracks, how the cabinet and display artwork was created, the evolution of the playfield layout and getting sound effects which matched the pitch of the track currently playing.

Eric with a Guns 'N Roses machine
Eric with a Guns ‘N Roses machine

Jersey Jack Pinball’s latest recruit to the game designer team is Mark Seiden who came from the work of homebrew games. Mark joined the panel for the next seminar which was hosted by Jillian Haffner and was all about the best ways and the pitfalls of creating your own homebrew custom machine.

The homebrew pinball discussion panel
The homebrew pinball discussion panel

All those on the panel had created their own custom game and shared their tip about the best operating system to use in order to programme it, what type of wood to use for the playfield and the best way to prototype a whitewood playfield before committing to the design.

The final seminar for Friday bean at 7pm when TNT Amusements head, Todd Tuckey brought along for of his crew to provide buying advice when purchasing a game, and how to spot a lemon.

Todd Tuckey
Todd Tuckey

After showing numerous examples of seemingly trashed games which had been brought to him for repair and refurbishment, he said the most import part of any machine when it came to condition is the cabinet, as that reveals how the game had been kept and maintained over the years.

The T.N.T. crew
The T.N.T. crew

Severe water damage might make the game beyond economic repair. After that, the condition of the boards and the playfield were both major indicators and give a good idea how much any repair or restoration will cost, assuming the parts are still available.

Todd’s talk, like all those taking place this weekend are planned to be released to watch on YouTube or similar soon after the show.

Saturday

There were plenty more seminars on Saturday starting at 9:30am with David Marston hosting a Breaking News section where several speakers were invited to update speakers on their latest news.

David Marston
David Marston

The topics included a new Delaware Pinball Collective club, the latest from Daniel Spolar on the Project Pinball charity’s work installing pinball machines in children’s hospitals, and a discussion on the latest trends in coin-op seen at the recent IAAPA show in Orlando from a panel including David Fix of American Pinball and Martin Ayub of Pinball News.

Then at 11am, pinball artist Kevin O’Connor was interviewed by David Marston about Kevin’s career creating art for numerous pinball games over the past 40+ years starting with his first game, Galaxy Ranger.

Kevin O'Connor and David Marston
Kevin O’Connor and David Marston

Kevin told how he had been working on point-of-sale marketing material before applying for a job at an undisclosed coin-op company which turned out to be Bally. There, he was recruited by Paul Faris for the firm’s new art department. He stayed there for fifteen years after which he did work for Data East, Williams/Bally/Midway, Bromley and most recently, Stern.

Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O’Connor

Kevin spoke about and showed pictures of many of his projects including many famous titles such as Kiss (both Bally and Stern), Strikes and Spares, Silverball Mania, Playboy and Monster Bash.

After Kevin, Stern Pinball’s newest recruit, Marketing Manager Michael Grant spoke about his journey in pinball, how he get into the business working in Marketing at American Pinball before recently moving over to Stern.

Michael Grant
Michael Grant

Michael also talked about the Stern Army initiative and how it helps boost location play, and the Stern Insider Connected system, what it currently and how it is going to grow to offer greater rewards and functionality.

The director of the Arcade Dreams documentary, Zach Weddington, was due to speak next, but he was unable to attend due to filming commitments. He did, however, send a special video message and new material he has been shooting.

Zach Weddington send a message to the Pintastic audience
Zach Weddington send a message to the Pintastic audience

A little later, Ryan White of Chicago Gaming updated the audience on the latest news about the company’s latest release, the Cactus Canyon remake.

Ryan White
Ryan White

Chicago Gaming recently announced a SE Plus edition of the game, which is like the standard version but adds the interactive topper which had previously only been available on the Limited Edition which sold out almost immediately it was announced.

After Ryan, Martin Ayub of Pinball News joined David Marston on the stage for a discussion on how and why Pinball News began, comparing the state of the pinball industry then (2000) and now.

Martin Ayub
Martin Ayub

Next, David Fix of American Pinball talked about their latest game, Legends of Valhalla.

David Fix
David Fix

David spoke about how the company changes once parent company Aimtron appointed David to run American Pinball, bringing in a bunch of new recruits and running a series of promotion initiatives, including a special advertorial Legends of Valhalla edition of the PinGame Journal which was sent out to all current and previous subscribers, and making sure the game was available to play in a handful of locations in the US as soon as it was officially announced.

We took the opportunity of a break between seminars to shoot our Pinball News Twenty-One Minute Tour video, showing you all the halls, the games, the vendors, and everything else at Pintastic 2021. Here it is:

There was an autograph session held in the Seminars Room at 5pm where many of Pintastic’s special guests greeted guests and signed flyers, artwork or other promotional items.

The Autograph Session
The Autograph Session

The special guests present were Brian Soares and Reby Hardy of the Ferris Bueller custom pinball conversion, Joel de Guzman, Eric Meunier, Jack Guarnieri, Kevin O’Connor, John Borg, David Fix, Todd Tuckey and Frank Lindenmuth.

Brian and Reby
Brian and Reby
Eric, Jack and Kevin
Eric, Jack and Kevin

The final seminar of Pintastic 2021 was a fireside chat with Pinball News Editor Martin Ayub interviewing Jersey Jack Pinball founder, Jack Guarnieri.

Before the chat began though, Jack invited everyone to enjoy some of the pizza he had arranged to be delivered.

Pizza for everyone at the fireside chat
Pizza for everyone at the fireside chat

Because this reporter was interviewing Jack and not able to take photographs, here’s one we took right before the fireside chat began.

Jack Guarnieri with John Borg and Kevin O'Connor
Jack Guarnieri with John Borg and Kevin O’Connor

The interview covered the founding of Pinball Sale – Jack’s machine sales business – the creation of Jersey Jack Pinball, the development of the first title, The Wizard of Oz, how investors were brought in to support the company’s finances, the move of the manufacturing and development to the new facility in Elk Grove Village, the previous and future growth of the home buyer sector and the large pipeline of future game compared to the relatively sedate release schedule.

Jersey Jack Pinball’s current title is Guns ‘N Roses, so after the seminars were over the GnR tribute band Welcome to the Jungle played many of the groups famous tracks in the pavilions area of the hotel to a large and appreciative audience.

The Guns 'N Roses tribute band
Welcome to the Jungle, the Guns ‘N Roses tribute band
The band drew a large crowd
The band drew a large crowd
Welcome to the Jungle band members
Welcome to the Jungle band members
Welcome to the Jungle band members
Welcome to the Jungle band members
Welcome to the Jungle band members
Welcome to the Jungle band members

Also taking place in on Saturday evening was the final of the main tournament at Pintastic, the Silverball Rumble.

The final took place between Mitchell Curtis and Zachary Frey. It was a best-of-five final which came down to the final fifth game on Total Nuclear Annihilation after both player had won two game.

Mitch started, completing his three balls for a 1.4M total. However, when Zachary was on his final ball, the lower playfield insert lighting and ball saver timer stopped working. After an initial repair, the last ball restarted only for the fault to recur.

Problems with the game on the last ball of the final
Problems with the game on the last ball of the final

Eventually the game was repaired and the last ball could continue, but Zachary couldn’t catch Mitchell’s total, giving Mitchell the win. Zachary was second, Joe Lemire was third and Anna Wolk fourth. All four won trophies and sizeable cash prizes with over $1,000 going to the winner. The presentations were made by Jim Swain from The Sanctum.

Silverball Rumble winner, Mitchell Curtis
Silverball Rumble winner, Mitchell Curtis
Second place, Zachary Frey
Second place, Zahcary Frey
Third place, Joe Lemire
Third place, Joe Lemire
Fourth place, Anna Wolk
Fourth place, Anna Wolk

The final took place in the Vendor Hall after it had closed to the public at 9pm. It was being torn down as the tournament reached its conclusion.

Tearing down the stands in the Vendor Hall
Tearing down the stands in the Vendor Hall

Sunday

Although the Vendor Hall had now closed, the Free Play Room was open to the public from 10am on Sunday for continued play until 4pm. A fair number of machines had been removed or we not working by Sunday, but there were still plenty more for guests to enjoy.

Quite a number of machines had been removed by Sunday morning
Quite a number of machines had been removed by Sunday morning
Quite a few gaps in the rows
Quite a few gaps in the rows
Still a good number of machines to play though
Still a good number of machines to play though
More machines to play between 10am and 4pm
More machines to play between 10am and 4pm

Meanwhile, in the Clubs Room the SilverBelle Brawl women’s tournament was taking place, starting with three hours of Flip Frenzy qualifying.

These were the twenty machines set up in the Club Room:

Club Room
24
Alien Poker
Asteroid Annie & the Aliens
Charlie’s Angels
Deadpool
F-14: Tomcat
Foxy Lady
Grand Prix (Williams)
Houdini
Jacks Open
Lethal Weapon 3
Lord of the Rings, The
Lost World
NBA Fastbreak
Panthera
Sharp Shooter 2
Spider-Man
Target Pool
Time Fantasy
X-Men (Wolverine LE)
Qualifying in the Silverbelle Brawl
Qualifying in the SilverBelle Brawl
Qualifying in the Silverbelle Brawl
Qualifying in the SilverBelle Brawl

Once the qualifying was over, the names of top four players who would advance to the finals were announced.

The final four are announced
The final four are announced

The four finalists were Jody Stahlman, Zoe Vrabel, Stephanie Guida and Jade Ang, and they would be playing Time Fantasy, Deadpool and NBA Fastbreak using a 7-5-3-1 points system for first to fourth.

The final begins on Time Fantasy
The final begins on Time Fantasy

Jade won on Time Fantasy, with Zoe second, Stephanie was third and Jody fourth. On Deadpool it was a win for Zoe with Jody second, Jade third and Stephanie fourth.

Going into the final game, NBA Fastbreak, it looked like a battle between Zoe (12pts) and Jade (10pts) for the win, with Jody on 6pts and Stephanie on 4pts. In the end, Stephanie won, Jody was second, Zoe third and Jade fourth which meant Zoe had won overall with a total of 15 points but all the others were tied on 11 points, resulting in a tie-breaker game in Charlie’s Angels.

In that tie-breaker, Stephanie was the winner giving her second overall, Jade was second for overall third place, while Jody was third to take fourth place.

Jody (4th), Jade (3rd), Stephanie (2nd) and Zoe (1st)
Jody (4th), Jade (3rd), Stephanie (2nd) and Zoe (1st)

With the SilverBelle Brawl decided we end our coverage of Pintastic 2021. We hope you enjoyed it. A big thanks to show organisers Gabe and David for making our first visit to Sturbridge and Pintastic such a fun time.

Pintastic will be back at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center in 2022 with a return to its usual June dates. Check the Pintastic website for the confirmed dates, to buy advance tickets and to book accommodation.

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