NOTE: All dates are subject to change. We will cancel any meeting in the event of extreme weather, or if the meeting conflicts with a major event at Minute Maid Park. Notifications will be communicated on facebook and via the email subscription.
This document will cover the general overview of the Space City Pinball League to be held at Joystix. Special thanks to Joystix, who has graciously volunteered to host the league and provide the pinball machines. Also, thanks to the CPL, FSPA and PPL as these rules are modified from their originals. Any rulings not covered in this document will refer to the PAPA World Champion Official Rules, available at http://papa.org/learning-center/players-guide/?target=competition-rules
Quick Reference for rulings: http://www.spacecitypinball.com/downloads/quick_rules.pdf
Current standings can be viewed at https://matchplay.events/app/series/156
The Space City Pinball League (SCPL) rules provide a format for running a friendly league competition for pinball players of all skill levels. These rules are designed for leagues of any number of players, playing on five machines at a single location. Competition is designed to be exciting down to the last ball of every game, and playoff spots are often not decided until the final ball has drained. The nature of the SCPL league system allows players of all skill levels to play in a single league which is fun and competitive for everyone.
The schedule currently consists of an 8 week schedule and one playoff date. Please refer to the calendar for upcoming meets. During each meet, players will be placed in groups and play multiplayer games. Players will earn points based on their finishing position on each game (i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th). Points accumulated throughout the season will determine qualification/seeding in the playoffs. A players 6 best week scores will determine their seeding. Only players that compete in 4 regular season meets will be eligible to play in the playoffs.
1.1 League Officials
In these rules, SLO stands for Senior League Official. For situations requiring an immediate decision or rule interpretation, this refers to the highest-ranking league official present who is not directly affected by the decision. In particular, rulings of malfunctions or interference should be deferred to an uninvolved official. In other cases, it refers to any appropriate league officer.
The order of rank for league officers should a dispute on a ruling arise is under section 1.3
1.2 Discretion of League Officials
These rules are a guide. At times situations will arise that aren’t specifically covered by these rules. In these cases, the SLO should make a decision in the spirit of the rules. This decision shall be documented for later reference, and be applied consistently should the situation arise again.
Additionally, the SLO of a league may choose to override specific rules in this guide if he/she deems that such modifications are beneficial for that particular league.
1.3 Definition of League Officials
League officials will perform all league tasks such as scheduling, collecting dues, communications to league members, making rule changes and scorekeeping.
Senior League Officer: Phil Grimaldi
Deputy Officer: Erich Stinson
Marketing/Communications Officer: Matt Quantz
Marketing/Communications Officer: Ruben Zepeda
Commissioner: Marc Gammons
Rank of league officials is determined by their consecutive amount of time as a league official. Current league officials in order of rank are: Phil Grimaldi, Eric Stinson, Matt Quantz, Ruben Zepeda.
Rank of league officials will only be used in the event of a tie to cast the tiebreaking vote.
2. Attendance, Tardiness, and Personal Conduct
The League Officers must set a complete schedule before league play begins. Dates will be decided upon, however locations may change. League players are encouraged to attend every week, but 100% attendance is not required. You can miss two weeks of the season without any penalty to your score (see the scoring section for details.)
2.1 Start Time
Any non-league games in progress by league players at league start time are immediately halted. Players join their assigned group and begin league play immediately.
2.2 Placement of Tardy Players
A tardy player will not be allowed to play. However, we recognize that Houston is not the easiest city to travel in. If you are planning to attend but may be a few minutes late, please contact the SLO.
If a player does not show up on league night for any given week, that player will be given a score of zero.
2.4 Inclement Conditions
The SLO may cancel a league night, due to inclement weather or other inclement conditions, particularly if travel conditions are deemed unsafe for players. The SLO is responsible to notify all players if it is deemed that a league night cannot be held as scheduled. A makeup date will be scheduled for all players affected by the League Officials.
Extra time may be allotted for tardiness in the event of inclement conditions at the SLO’s discretion.
2.7 League Cancellation
If a location should close down during league play, if less than two games have been played by any group, the match shall be cancelled and not recorded. If two or more games have been played by all groups, then scores will be recorded only for those games played by all groups. (Other games will be recorded as forfeits; these forfeits will not count toward individual player forfeit totals.) Missing games will be rescheduled by the League Officials.
2.8 New players
New league players are welcome to join the league at any time!
2.9 Personal Conduct
All players are expected to conduct themselves in a polite and sensitive manner. SCPL is first and foremost an inclusive organization. Outbursts and offensive language are not acceptable. Derogatory speech towards any age/race/gender/person is not acceptable. Any overtly aggressive behavior that any SLO determines to be inappropriate is not acceptable.
Players who exhibit any of the above behavior may be subject to a warning by an SLO. If a player receives two warnings in a night, they will receive zeros on all games for that night and will be asked to leave. Any further infraction will result in that player being banned from that season of league. Further infractions will result in a permanent ban.
3. Machine Play Rules – General
3.1 Extra Balls
One extra ball per game is allowed in league play unless declared before play begins by the SLO. If a player earns more than one extra ball, they must plunge it and let it drain without flipping.
When a player is required to plunge an extra ball, the player may touch the machine to set up a skill shot before launching the ball. Once the ball is set into motion, the player may no longer touch the machine. If the ball is returned to a launcher lane that requires a manual plunge (e.g. by a ball saver), the player may re-plunge the ball.
If a plunged extra ball becomes stuck somewhere on the machine, the player may attempt to nudge the machine to free the ball. If nudging fails to free the ball, and there is no operator present to free the ball, the player (or SLO) will be required to tilt the game in an attempt to free the ball. No compensation is provided in this event, nor is it considered a major malfunction.
Buy-ins for extra balls are not allowed.
3.2 Replays and Specials
No award is given for credits earned by replays or specials during league play. If a machine awards extra balls for replays or specials, they are played as prescribed in section 3.1
Pinball machines are complex assemblies that can exhibit many unintended behaviors during play. To keep league play on track and prevent excessive focus on minor glitches, only a major machine malfunction can affect league play. A major malfunction is one that results in a loss of a playable turn that is not a normal part of the game (i.e. premature loss of turn). A “playable turn” includes the player’s current turn at play, and any other balls that the player is entitled to play. This does not include “unallowable” extra balls. Note that an active multiball is part of the “current turn at play” and therefore a major malfunction during multiball is only counted once.
In disputed situations, the SLO shall decide whether or not a malfunction is considered major.
The following are examples of major malfunctions:
- A player is forced to tilt the ball in an attempt to dislodge a stuck ball (unless it is an unallowable extra ball).
- A turn ends prematurely (i.e. with 1 or more balls in play as in multi-ball). A ball is auto-plunged or otherwise shot into play prematurely.
The following examples would not be considered major malfunctions:
- A player tilts away a stuck ball when it was not clearly necessary.
- A multiball round ends prematurely but does not result in loss of turn.
- A ball goes airborne and drains.
- A lit kickback fails to kick the ball back into play.
- A ball saver fails to work.
- A player tilts another player’s ball. (This is Interference.)
- If a problem with a machine is announced to league players by the SLO before league play is started, then that problem is not considered a major malfunction even if the result is loss of ball in play.
- A game kicks 2 balls into the shooter lane and the turn ends when one drains. A switch intermittently not registering.
When a major malfunction occurs, it is the player’s responsibility to notify the SLO, calmly and promptly. If the SLO agrees that the incident is a major malfunction, the player will be provided with one additional ball of play at the beginning of a new game, after the current game has been completed. No attempt will be made to re-establish the state of the machine at the time of the major malfunction. The player’s total score on the additional ball of play will be added to his or her previous score, and the new game will be terminated.
At the request of the player, if and only if a tournament official approves, the major malfunction may instead be handled as follows. The current game will be terminated and the score recorded. A new game will be started, and after the appropriate number of balls have been played in the new game, the new score will be added to the old score to determine the player’s total score, and the new game will be terminated. This approach is functionally similar to the previous paragraph, but may afford different strategic opportunities to the player. In no event will a player be allowed to abuse this rule through intentionally seeking a major malfunction.
If a major malfunction occurs early in the play of the first ball by the first player, tournament officials may rule that the current game is voided and the score discarded. Machine repairs may be attempted and the player(s) will restart their play without needing to track the previous score.
In the event that two or more major malfunctions take place during the same game the game may be declared unplayable by the SLO.
Under certain specific conditions, a major malfunction may be declined by the player. This must be approved by the tournament official, and must not result in a situation which provides an unfair advantage to the player.
The SLO can declare a machine unplayable at any time if it is not functioning properly and the resulting malfunction(s) will, in his estimation, impair the ability of players to obtain fair scores. If the first ball played by all players result in major malfunctions, or if play cannot be continued on a machine for any reason, the machine is automatically declared unplayable for the rest of the meet, or until the machine is repaired. In these cases, the entire game is replayed immediately on a machine designated by the SLO who is not involved in the affected match.
Catastrophic malfunctions such as slam tilt, total machine failure, fire due to overheated components, main processor halts, and similar events are handled on a case by case basis, using the malfunction rules described above if possible. Frequently, catastrophic malfunctions will invalidate all scores for that group on that machine. However, depending on when the malfunction occurs, the scores as played may stand if so decided by the SLO (e.g. catastrophic malfunctions on the last ball of the game). Any recorded scores on the machine at the time of failure will be used if the machine is brought back into service and affected players replay, or players accept agreed-upon scores.
It is recommended that the league prepare a maintenance sheet on which is noted any malfunctions that are found on the various machines during league play. This list should be passed on to the site’s management to assist in the proper maintenance of the machines.
3.4 Positive Malfunctions
If a malfunction causes a player to receive an exceptionally unfair advantage over the other players, and there is no reasonable way to avoid it, then the game is stopped and a new game is started either on the same or a different machine at the SLO‘s discretion. If a positive malfunction can be avoided (such as the awarding of extra points by repeated tapping of a flipper button), then this behavior shall be reported to the SLO and shall be avoided during subsequent league play. At the discretion of the SLO, the game may be replayed if it is felt that an unfair advantage was already gained by one or more players due to the malfunction. In this situation, the SLO may also rule that completed scores on the game are to be discarded. It is the responsibility of all members of a group to ensure that positive malfunctions are not abused.
Note that a one ball “multiball” is not considered to be an exceptionally unfair advantage nor is a missing tilt assembly.
3.5 Game play Promptness
When a player’s turn comes up in a league match, he is expected to begin play promptly. If a league player does not begin play in a reasonable amount of time (usually but not always two minutes), the SLO may plunge the ball for him, and the player may not play the ball.
3.6 Practice Games
Once league play starts, a player may not play or practice games that he is scheduled to play later in that match. Practice games are allowed on machines that a player is not scheduled to play during that match, if it does not interfere with league play by his own or other groups. Practice games must be ended immediately if a league group is ready to begin a scheduled game on that machine.
In general, random distractions that occur during league play (including minor physical bumps) are considered normal play conditions and no allowances are made for the effects of such distractions on a player’s game.
3.8 Non-League Players
League players do not take precedence over other customers at the establishment. Having a non-league customer play your ball is considered a distraction and not interference; control of the ball should be regained as quickly and politely as possible. Close attention should be paid by league players to their game in progress to guard against this situation.
3.9 Machine Abuse
Tilt sensors are employed to determine what constitutes unduly rough handling of each machine, within the parameters of normal play. Abusive handling such as punching, kicking, lifting, tipping, or rocking a machine, or hitting the glass in any way, is grounds for a warning and possible disqualification of game or ejection from the league, at the discretion of SLOs.
4. Illegal actions
4.1 Playing Own Unallowable Extra Ball
If a player nudges, flips, or otherwise plays his own unallowable extra ball, he must stop as soon as the error is recognized, and must plunge his next “allowable” ball without playing. If the error occurs on or after the player’s last “allowable” ball, his/her final machine score is reduced by 25%.
4.2 Playing Opponent’s Ball
The violator shall attempt to trap the ball(s) on a flipper as soon as the error is realized. The violator is punished by receiving a zero score for that game. It is your responsibility to know what player you are. If you are unsure consult your score sheet.
If the affected ball was an unallowable extra ball, there is no additional compensation for the victim. Otherwise, the victim may choose one of two options: continue playing the erroneously plunged ball (if control can be recovered) or drain the plunged ball and play an additional ball through a new game. The player must announce a decision to all players in the group before play resumes. The deciding player is responsible for ensuring that the next player does not begin play before a decision is announced. If he allows the game to continue without announcing a decision, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue the game and play an additional ball
If a player does get disqualified from a game, their position in the game is considered open. Any interference caused by player error (for example, tilt throughs or accidentally playing out of turn) in that position will have no additional consequences to the offending player. Any activity played in that open position will be considered void.
Interference in another player’s game is not tolerated. Interference includes (but isn’t limited to) intentional slam tilts, tilting an opponent’s ball, or nudging the machine during another player’s ball, even if the action does not cause the victim to lose the ball. It also includes intentional distraction of a player during his play. Talking or coaching is not considered interference, unless the player at the machine specifically requests that he not be talked to during play.
If a player interferes with another player, causing a drain and/or loss of turn, the victim of the interference may either replay the entire game, or continue the game and play one (1) additional ball to replace the interfered ball (using either an earned, normally unallowable extra ball or a buy-in ball). If the next player starts play with no decision announced, the victim is presumed to wish to continue his game. The interfering player is required to pay for the replayed game or the buy-in ball, even if there are credits on the machine.
Interference is a serious violation of league play rules, and a penalty will be assessed on the violator.
4.4 Slam Tilts
A slam tilt is one caused by an aggressive and excessive shove of the machine, or by an attempted bang back or death save, and is considered illegal. The violator will receive a zero score for that game.
4.5 Serious Violations of League Rules
Serious violations are those so designated in these rules, as well as any conduct by a player that the SLO determines to be exceptionally detrimental to the league.
Serious violations are cumulative over an entire season, not just one match. For these violations, the following penalties are assessed:
- First and second offense: Forfeit the current game with a machine score of zero.
If the violator’s group does not have a “current” game in progress, this penalty will be assessed against the game of the current match for which the violator has the highest league points. If there is more than one such game, the last such game of the match will be penalized.
- Third offense: Forfeit of all games in the current match with machine scores of zero.
Behavior which causes a player to be ejected from the establishment by the management will be penalized as an automatic third offense, even if it occurs before or after league play. If the violator’s group does not have a “current” match in progress, the match chronologically closest to the violation will be penalized.
- Fourth offense: Forfeit of season. The player’s scores are wiped, and the player will be suspended from the league.
Violence of any kind against fellow players, vandalism of pinball machines or other property will be penalized as an automatic fourth offense.
4.6 Not Starting the Proper Number of Games
If too many games are started inadvertently, balls for the extra games are plunged but not played. If too few games are started, additional games are started, if possible, so that the number of games on the machine matches the number of players in the group. If the proper number of games cannot be started by the above means for some reason, the game is ended immediately and a replay of the machine by all players commences. The player responsible for the wrong number of games being credited (usually player 1) pays the cost of the restart.
4.7 Death saves and Bang backs
Death saves and bang backs (“biffs”) are techniques used by some players to return a ball back into play that has already gone down an outlane or otherwise drained. These techniques are not allowed in SCPL league play. A player that successfully performs a death save or bang back will receive a machine score of zero on that game, and must plunge any remaining balls without playing them. However, it is allowable for the ball to bounce back into play of its own accord (most common on Gottlieb games and newer Stern games).
Although these techniques are illegal in league play, because these maneuvers do not interfere with any other player’s game, performing a death save or bang back is not considered a serious violation of league rules as defined in section 4.5.
Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. The SCPL rules are designed to deal fairly with this fact, to encourage people to control themselves, and to compensate for various mishaps that might occur during play. On the other hand, violation of any rules with the clear intent of preventing another player from fairly playing the machine or of unfairly increasing one’s own score can only be described as cheating, and is not tolerated. Penalty for cheating will be determined by league officials based on the severity of the offense.
It is each player’s responsibility to be sure that their machine scores are recorded correctly on the score sheet as each game is finished. Any possible scoring errors should be brought to the attention of the scorekeeper (either the group member who recorded the scores or the Senior League Official) as soon as possible. Once notified of a possible error, the scorekeeper shall contact all the players in the affected group to determine their recollection of the scoring. If all players are in agreement, then the scoring will be corrected. However, if all players in the group do not concur with the reported error, then the scores as written on the score sheet shall stand.
5.1 Player Groups
All of the player’s names who are in attendance at the recorded start time of a league night will be seeded according to their league ranking, and will be placed into 3 or 4 player groups. 2 player groups will not be used unless absolutely necessary.
Points available are based on the size of your group:
2 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 1 points
3 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 3 points
3rd – 1 points
4 player group
1st – 5 points
2nd – 3 points
3rd – 2 point
4th – 1 points
If a player does not compete in a match, either due to showing up late or leaving early, that player will receive a score of 0 for that game and the game will be scored by the number of people who played in the game.
5.3 League Standings and Dropped Scores.
Your weekly points are added to your season total every week. As a means of evening the play field for players unable to attend every week, all players will have their lowest two scores from the season dropped from their final standings.
6. Machine Selection and Play Order
For the first game of a match the first player plays first, the second player plays second, and so one. For the second game of the match, the second player plays 1st, the third players plays second, and so on. This rotation continues for each player.
NOTE: No machine may be chosen to be played twice unless there are less than 4 playable machines at a location. If there are two of the same title at a location, only one may be selected on any group.
6.1 Machine Play Order
After machines and order are selected the group should begin play on their first machine chosen, if that machine is occupied they should move onto the 2nd chosen machine.
6.2 Machine Replacement Selection
If a machine should become unplayable during league play, a replacement machine must be designated by the SLO, subject to as many of the following constraints as possible.
The replacement machine:
- Should be in good working order.
- Should not be already scheduled for play by the affected group.
- Should be chosen to minimize group backlogs.
7.1 Playoff Divisions
To provide a fair chance for players of all skill levels to compete in the playoffs, the league is separated into playoff divisions based on league size. Leagues with 8 or fewer players will consist of a single division. Leagues having over 9 players will be divided into two divisions (A and B), with A Division containing the top-ranked players. Leagues having more than 22 players will be divided into three divisions (A, B and C). The chart following this section further explains division breakdowns.
Division qualification is determined by each player’s total points at the end of the season. Grouping is done based on final season standings.
All players who do not qualify for the A, B, or C Divisions will be put into D Division. The D division will be a three strikes tournament
Division determination and breakdown is finalized after the final week of the season.
7.2 Awarding Playoff Spots
All league players that participate in at least 50% of the matches are eligible to play in the playoffs. How many players are grouped into each division will depend on the number of eligible players (see chart below). There must be at least 8 players in the “remainder” in order for there to be a playoffs for that division.
Players will be grouped into playoff divisions based on their overall point total in the regular season. The highest totals will be A division, below that will be B division (if necessary) and C division following that (if necessary)
|Players per division|
|Eligible League Players||A qualifiers||B qualifiers||C qualifiers||D qualifiers|
|0 – 9||All players||0||0||0|
|10 – 17||8 players||remainder||0||0|
|18 – 25||12||remainder||0||0|
|26 – 33||12||12||remainder||0|
|34 – 50||16||16||remainder||0|
|51 – ??||16||16||16 – Remainder in D||0|
The winner of each final match is named Division Champion for the season.
7.3 Playoff Format
Any division consisting of 8 or more players will be split into two groups and have one semi final round before the finals.
Any division consisting of 12 or more players will have two semi final rounds before the finals.
Any division consisting of 16 or more players will have two semi final rounds before the finals.
The exception to these rules is D Division.
2 players from each group will advance to the next round. Playoff seeding is determined by the final season standings throughout the playoffs. The top seeded player will have choice of order for all games.
7.4 Ties in Playoff Qualification
If there is a tie in divisional standings based on total league points, the tie is first broken by the average score for the weeks played by each player. If the tie is still unresolved, the next tiebreaker will be the highest single week score. The third tie breaker will be the 2nd highest single week score attained by the player. Tiebreaking will continue in this fashion (3rd highest week score, 4th highest, and so on) until rank has been determined.
7.5 Playoff Scoring
Playoff scoring will be 4 points for 1st, 2 for 2nd, 1 for 3rd and 0 for 4th place.
In each round, two players with the highest point totals from that round in each 4 player group, will advance to the next round.
7.6 Playoff Machine Selection
For playoffs, selection of game bank is random.
7.7 Ties in Playoff Results
If two or more players are tied in points after the semi final or final has been played, then a one game playoff has to occur to break the tie. The machine choice, or order, will be given to the highest regular season ranked player followed by 2nd, 3rd, etc.
7.8 Tardy or Missing from Playoffs
Players are required to sign in for playoffs at a designated time. The SLO may choose to delay playoffs for a reasonable amount of time if a player is tardy.
7.9 Attendance Restrictions
Players who have attended less than four of the regular season meets are not eligible for playoffs
It costs $2 per meet to play in the league. The League Commissioner or SLO may collect dues from any league player. All dues must be paid in full before the player is allowed to play in a league match.
All league dues will be spent on league activities.
8.3 Use of League Funds
The expenditures for league per season are listed below. Percentages are approximate.
80% will be spent on payouts.
That 80% is divided as such:
40% to A Division
30% to B Division
20% to C Division
10% to D Division
If there are not enough players for a division, the percentage of payouts that would go to that division will be added to the A-Division.
Within divisions 40% – 30% – 20% – 10% will be the payouts for positions 1-4.
The remaining 20% will be spent on the trophies/plaques/certificates and other discretionary spending (e.g., poster printing).