IntroductionThe Philly Pinball Club (PPC) rules provide a format for running a friendly and fun league competition for pinball players of all skill levels. These rules are designed for leagues of any number of players, playing on four or more machines at a single location. The nature of the league system allows players of all skill levels to play while being fun and competitive for everyone. Please keep in mind that the primary goal of PPC is to provide a fun pinball environment.
The schedule consists of 8 weekly sessions, and a playoff final. A player’s adjusted league score is the total of their six highest session scores. This allows any player to miss two sessions without impacting their score, while players who attend all sessions may drop their weakest results. Any missed week receives a score of zero.
These rules allow maximum flexibility to fit some competitive pinball in around everyone’s schedule.
Special thanks to the New England Pinball League, Pittsburgh Pinball League, the Free State Pinball Association, the IFPA and the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, as these rules are modified from their originals.
Club officials make decisions on rule interpretation. If possible, rulings of malfunctions or interference should be deferred to an official that is not directly involved in the game. Club officials collect dues and player information. They are responsible for starting league nights on time and entering scores into the scorekeeping site within a reasonable time. At least one Club Official must be present at each club meeting. Club officials are eligible to play in the league. See Section 8 for more information about Club officials and their duties.
Discretion of Club Officials
These rules are a guide. At times, situations will arise that aren't specifically covered by these rules. In these cases, club officials will make decisions in the spirit of the rules. These decisions may be documented for later reference and applied consistently should the situation arise again in the same season.
AttendanceClub Officials will set a schedule before league play begins. League players are encouraged to attend every week, but 100% attendance is not required. In order to qualify for Finals a player must play at least 4 sessions.
A specific start time for league will be announced in advance. Any games in progress by league players at league start time shall be promptly halted. Players are to join their assigned group and begin league play immediately.
Players who arrive after play has begun may still enter play for the week, providing there are three-player groups with games left to be played. The tardy player will be assigned to the group containing the fewest number of players that has the most games remaining. The tardy player will receive a last-place finish for all missed games.
A tardy player may not enter into a game already in progress (the first ball has been plunged).
Players who leave before play has finished will receive a last-place finish for all missed games.
If a player does not show up to any for league night in a given week, that player will be given a score of zero for the week.
Club Officials may cancel a league night, due to inclement weather or other conditions, particularly if travel may be unsafe for players. Club Officials are 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. Extra time may be allotted for tardiness in the event of inclement conditions at Club Officials’ discretion.
Machine Play Rules
If a league player does not begin their turn in a reasonable amount of time (two minutes), other players may plunge the ball for them, and the player may not play the ball. If a machine has an auto-plunge, and it activates, no other player may attempt to save the ball.
Once league play starts, a player should not play or practice pinball games. They should remain with their group. If they must leave they should inform another player in their group.
League players do not take precedence over other pinball players. A non-league player may accidentally play your ball: this is considered a distraction, not interference or a malfunction. If this happens, regain control of the ball as quickly and politely as possible. Pay attention to your game and this won’t happen. If a non- league player is playing on a machine, politely wait for the game to be free.
Rulings shall be made by Club Officials, which any person(s) designated as officials. Any designated official or site administrator is excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects their actual or potential standing as a player. Such persons may also be recused where their decision affects a close friend or family member, at the discretion of other Club Officials. If a ruling can’t be made from rules here within, admins can refer to PAPA/IFPA official rules for clarification. The acting PPC official will always act in the best interest, and in the spirit of pinball.
Extra Balls / Bonus Balls
Unless otherwise announced, players may play one extra ball per game. Any additional earned extra ball will be plunged, not played. When a player plunges an extra ball, they 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, non-valid playfield), the player may re-plunge the ball.
After you plunge 3 times and the playfield doesn’t validate due to a switch not being hit (such as on Addams Family), you must give a single flipper hit (on the fly, no trapping), just to hit a switch to validate the playfield and complete the extra ball. If the machine awards a timed bonus ball, you may play it out until the ball ends. Ball saves are allowed. In some cases, a machine may state “extra ball” or “shoot again” for a ball save; these ball saves (such as F-14 Tomcat’s Flight Insurance) are allowed. The simplest way to tell if a ball has ended is whether or not an end-of-ball bonus has been awarded.
Players should be aware of whether they have earned an extra ball and not walk away from a machine until it has been plunged. If the next player plunges the previous player’s ball there is no penalty for that player. They should allow the ball to drain as soon as the mistake is recognized.
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 plunged. Groups should “feed the bird” with the appropriate number of tokens if there are credits on the machine at the start of the game.
The club has adopted the PAPA/IFPA rules on malfunctions, which can be viewed here in all their glory. However, due to the limitations that Club Officials have in regard to machine maintenance and upkeep, these following rules may be adapted to reasonably allow continuation of play without providing undue competitive advantage (such that it would reduce the enjoyment for other players).
Bad Stuff / Player ErrorsA player error is any player action, purposeful or accidental, which affects the normal play or outcome of a game in progress.
Playing an Extra Ball
Club rules allow players to play one extra ball per game. Do not step away from the game if you have an extra ball. If the next player plunges your ball, by mistake, there is no penalty for them and no compensation for you. The player should drain their opponent’s ball as soon as mistake is realized.
Playing an Opponent's Ball
If you play someone else’s ball (other than extra ball) you will receive 0 points for the game. Attempt to trap the ball as soon as possible.
The correct player may choose one of two options: continue playing the ball (if control can be recovered), or drain the ball and play an additional ball, either through an extra ball or in a new game.
Interference includes (but isn't limited to) tilting an opponent's ball or nudging the machine during another player's ball. It also includes intentional distraction of a player during his play.
Talking to or coaching of any player at the machine during a game, in any round, is not allowed. Informing a player that there are too many or too few games entered into the machine will not be penalized as coaching.
If a player interferes with another player, causing a drain and/or loss of turn, the active player will be awarded an extra ball at the conclusion of the game. Intentional interference is a serious violation of league play rules and repeated fouls could result in expulsion from the league.
Accidental interference is regrettable but can happen. Any player or non-player who accidentally interferes with the play of any league game will be warned. If the interference was sufficient to cause the loss of ball, this will be treated as a major malfunction. If the interference terminated play for all players (for example, tripping over a power cord and pulling it from the wall), the game will be restarted.
Club Officials will be the sole determiners of what constitutes interference and whether or not it is accidental or deliberate.
Slam Tilts / Overly Aggressive Tilting
A slam tilt is caused by an aggressive and excessive shove of the machine, or by an attempted bang back or death save, and is considered illegal. The offending player will receive a zero score for that game. For other players whose games are incomplete, the game will be replayed.
Not Starting the Proper Number of Players
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 players on the machine must complete their entire game, at which time the remaining players will play their entire game.
Death Saves and Bang Backs
Techniques known as “death saves” and “bang backs” are sometimes employed by certain advanced players. Because of the effectiveness of these techniques varies from machine to machine, and because of the risk of injury to player or damage to the machine, these techniques are banned from play. In the event that a drained ball bounces back into play without deliberate player action, such as in the case of a “lazarus”, this is considered the mechanical nature of pinball and the ball may be played.
Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. 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. The penalty for cheating will be determined by Club Officials based on the severity of the offense.
Waiting Your Turn
When playing at an arcade / barcade / or other commercial location, league players DO NOT take precedence over other customers. If they are playing a game we do not have the right to kick them off. Simply wait (within reason) or pick a new game.
Serious Violations of League Rules
Serious violations such as slam tilts, interference, and other “bad stuff” listed above 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 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 session with machine scores of zero. Behavior which causes a player to be ejected from the location hosting any league session will be penalized as an automatic third offense, even if it occurs before or after league play.
Fourth offense: Forfeit of season. The player's scores are wiped, and the player will be suspended from the league for the season. Jeopardizing the safety of fellow players, theft, and vandalism of pinball machines or other property will be penalized as an automatic fourth offense.
Immediate suspension from the PPC: Violence of any kind against fellow players is not tolerated, during league play or otherwise. Anyone found to have violated this rule will be permanently removed as a member of the PPC.
It is each player's responsibility to be sure that the machine name and earned points are correctly recorded on the score sheet.
Player Groups and Group Selection
All players who are in attendance at league start time will be randomly assigned to 3- and 4-player groups. A 5-player group will not be used unless there are exactly five players.
Ideally, all groups will have 4 players. When the number of players is not a multiple of 4, one through three 3-player groups will be assigned. For example, if there are 15 players, the group sizes will be 4, 4, 4, and 3. If there are 17 players, the group sizes will be 4, 4, 3, 3, and 3. When assigning players to groups, 4-player groups will be assigned first.
Groups will be assigned randomly.
Game Selection and Play Order
The first player assigned in each group gets first choice of “game or position.” They can choose which machine will be played or the order in which they will play. The next player assigned in the group gets second choice and so on.
After the first game, order is based on reverse finishing order of the game just completed.
If the location has four or more machines, a machine may not be chosen twice in the same group.
In each game, a player scores points for their finish against their opponents. The winner of a game gets 7 points, and last place gets 1 point. Specific points available depend on the size of the group:
1st = 7 points
2nd = 4 points
3rd = 1 points
1st = 7 points
2nd = 5 points
3rd = 3 points
4th = 1 points
5-player group (rare)
1st = 7 points
2nd = 5 points
3rd = 4 points
4th = 3 points
5th = 1 points
The maximum number of points a player can earn in a session is 28.
In the rare case where two or more players have tied for machine score, a one ball match will be played on the same machine to break the tie. If after one ball there is still a tie another ball will be played.
League Standings and Dropped Scores
Each player’s total weekly points are added to their season total every week. All players will have their lowest two scores from the season dropped from their final standings, this is the adjusted score. The adjusted score is what determines your overall league standing.
League standings will be updated and posted each week.
Finals And Qualification
Each player must play at least 2 weekly sessions in order to qualify for finals.
Finals will be played as a 5-strike progressive strikes format. Groups of 4 players will be formed based on seeding determined by the final league standings. Highest seed player in each group will have first choice (game or position) for the first game. Thereafter, choice will be granted in reverse finishing order (1 st place chooses last). First place will receive 0 strikes, last place will receive 2 strikes, any players in between will receive 1 strike. After receiving 5-strikes, a player is eliminated from A division. Groups will be redrawn after each round in a Swiss grouping method. At the end of the 5 th round of play, any eliminated players will begin the B division format, which will follow a similar format, but for 3-strikes.
Ties in Finals Qualification
If a tie in total adjusted league points would determine either eligibility for or seeding in finals, these ties will be broken based on each player’s best weeks. The tie is first broken by the player’s highest single week score. If the tie is still unresolved, the next tiebreaker will be the next highest single week score, and so on. If a tie still exists for finals eligibility, a single randomly-chosen game will be played to break the tie.
If there is a tie that affects only seeding in a division, the tie is first broken by the player’s highest single week score. If the tie is still unresolved, the next tiebreaker will be the next highest single week score, and so on. If a tie still exists, a dice roll with the higher numbers will be the higher seeds.
Tardy to Finals
Tardy players (who already informed admins of their lateness), will have all balls in their games plunged until they arrive. They will not be able re-join their round until the start of a new game. They cannot participate in a game if Player 1’s Ball 1 has been plunged.
Once you are assigned to a group, there will be no further practice on games.
DuesLeague dues are $20 per season.
100% of league dues are used to fund league fees, awards and swag. Club Officials collect dues from players. Be a pal and pay early. All dues must be paid before participating in finals.
David Schumeister has put together some one-page rulesheets for each game at Barcade with strategies and tips for league play!
You can download a PDF here, and we'll have reference copies available at meetups.