Vintage Flipper World (Ann Arbor Pinball Museum)

Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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So this weekend I attended the first ever Vintage Flipper World (VFW) event in Ann Arbor Michigan and figured I would post some pictures from the event. This was an absolutely fantastic event for any pinball fan to attend. Initially I heard about VFW on Kickstarter where they were looking to open up a pinball museum but needed a new roof for the building. I kicked in some money and so did a bunch of other people and by the end it basically doubled its goal. So off they went in fixing up the place and moving about 200 pinball machines in the building.

They eventually put together their first event but wanted to do something a bit different than the other expos. Basically sell limited tickets so there wouldn't be overcrowding. And not run tournaments where you could only play the machines if you paid. I've been to a few events now and typically the ratio is something like 15:1 of people to pinball machines. So basically the most popular and latest pins have constant lines. Meaning if you want to play you have to wait a few minutes to do so. VFW largely eliminated that issue with the limited ticket sales. The Friday night ratio was like 1:10 of people to pinball machines - unheard of. And Saturday was more like 1:1 which is amazing in it self for an event like this.

So I got myself tickets for Friday and Saturday (Sunday was open too but had to head back) and made the 5 hour trek from Chicago to Ann Arbor.

Being used to the city and suburbia it was a bit of a shock to turn on a dirt road that didn't have any street lights.



But it wasn't too long until VFW came in to view.



A friendly crew in orange shirts were outside to point you to where to park. And as I said the ratio of people to pins were small and the few cars that were in the "lot" confirmed that.



Behind this door, of this unassuming building, awaits a pinball players dream.

You can see the "SOLD OUT" sign at the top of the door frame.



It looks like I can only post 4 images per thread so will have to break this up in to multiple posts.
 
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Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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And we're in. Just rows and rows of pinball machines. Each of them organized by year and type of machine.

So here you have a row of all the Williams/Bally WPC pinball machines. So you got stuff like Indiana Jones, The Shadow, No Fear, Congo, Revenge from Mars, a tricked out Creature from the Black Lagoon with the hologram replaced by a neat video monitor, and yes Addams Family with a color DMD. Plus so many more.



Then you got a row with one side of Classic Stern m200 solidstate pinballs (Flight 2000, Star Gazer, Meteor and even Orbitor 1, etc). And on the other side you got Bally Solidstate -17 & -35 pinballs (Fathom, Flash Gordon, Xenon, Nitro Ground Shaker, etc.)



Another row and on the left you got a mix of Willams solidstate System3-7 (Firepower, Black Knight, Jungle Lord, Solar Fire, etc) and Williams/Bally System9, Sys11, 6803 pinball machines (Diner, Police Force, Space Station, F14 Tomcat, etc). On the right side are a mix of the 70s EM machines (Fireball, Captain Fantastic, Abra Ca Dabra, etc).



And a final row where the left has a mix of Dataeast/Sega/Stern 1987-present pinball machines (Lord of the Rings, Tales from the Crypt, Apollo 13, Terminator 3, etc), and Gottlieb System1, Sys80, Sys3 pinball machines (Black Hole, Haunted House, Spirit, Pinball Pool, etc).

On the right side are a bunch of 60s EMs (Hurdy Gurdy, Slick Chick, Target Pool, etc) mixed in with a few of the 70s EMs.

 

Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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As you can see plenty of games are open. Games like Iron Man and Spider Man constantly have people playing them at other expos and you would have to wait. On Friday I could go over to those at any time and no one would be playing. And it would always shock me to finish a game on one of those newer Sterns and turn around and no one would be there waiting. Ok....I'll play another game!

But actually one of the first games I went to play was Algar. This is a rare pinball game, about 350 made, is the bastard sequel to Gorgar.



The layout of the table is nothing like Gorgar and is kinda doing its own thing. Its a mish mash of ideas that are thrown together. It doesn't work but I kept playing it all the same. It was just such an odd pin and somewhat addicting trying to get a groove going while playing. I never got in that groove but I can say I had fun playing it.



Hey this table looks familiar!

It's the 4-player version of Big Shot. I of course had to play it a few times but did no where as good as I did in TPA. It's still a fun and challenging game in both real life and in TPA.

Keeping Hot Shot company is Four Million BC, which is actually a very fun EM that has a multiball mode. Would highly recommend playing that one if you ever get the chance.



In the back room there were even more pinball machines with some oddities in there including Joust and this upright pinball machine Still Crazy. There were about 500 of these made so its also pretty rare to come across.

Basically you need to get the ball from the bottom of the table to this "bucket" at the top of the table. Balls start rolling at the bottom of the table and you need to use the flippers to pop the ball up to the next level table where there's another flipper waiting. There's basically four levels you have to get the balls through and it takes a lot of hand-eye coordination as the balls keep getting fed to you. It takes a bit getting use to, and I got a few balls in the bucket at the top, but its more of a novelty game which is why I can see they didn't make a lot.

 
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Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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Still in that back room was a Safe Cracker. I've only played the Visual Pinball version so had a bit of experience with it but this was a whole other animal playing it in person. First of all this game is so FAST. The smaller table means the ball bangs around so quick. But that speed made it so much fun. And Multiball is crazy fun when you get that going. A lot of keeping those balls in play is just instinct since the balls are moving so fast - and don't even think of trying to trap the balls during multiball with the tiny flippers.

I kept going back to it since I was having a blast. And even with the time limit in place it wasn't a big deal. You could win additional time. I had a few games that went on for quite awhile.

I really hope this one makes it to TPA.



Yet in the same small backroom you had some more fantastic pins. On Friday I don't think many people found this back room. Each time I went there were only a handful of people. So I got to play like four games in a row of Star Trek and still no one was waiting. Pretty incredible.

Banzai Run I spent a lot of time playing too since I never played that in person. It was pretty fun and would love that to make to TPA too.



And if I move the camera over a little to the left there are these tables.

The main table I came to play was Big Bang Bar. This is a rare table from Capcom that was later reproduced in limited quantities (this is one of the reproductions I believe #133). The table looks great, has a fantastic theme, great audio/visuals and plays really well. Again like I said on Friday no one in the back room so I would play this a few times, go off play some other stuff, then come back and no one would be around so play a few more games. Couldn't beat that experience.

The problem was I SUCK at this game. I had one game where I got through three of the modes but couldn't get much going otherwise. I had such a hard time hitting that single ramp which starts all the modes. Ugh. Frustrating, but still had such a blast playing.



I'll post some more pictures later. There were so many pins I hadn't played before and quite a few I fell in love with playing for the first time.
 
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Zombie Aladdin

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Did you play Baby Pac-Man? I saw it in one of those photos. I like to hear other people's opinions on that game because it's such a weird one.
 

Shaneus

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That's amazing! This was the event that Clay Harrell put on, wasn't it?

So jealous. Glad you got to play a BBB, too... one of the reasons I flew from Australia to Texas Pinball Festival was to play it, but it was an auction item that was never switched on. FFS.
 
N

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Did you play Baby Pac-Man? I saw it in one of those photos. I like to hear other people's opinions on that game because it's such a weird one.

Haven't played it since the 80s, from what I remember it was on par with Granny and the Gators or Caveman for how it played.

The pin part was cramped and the video portion was meh compared to the full video game versions; pac-man or toobin'.

They are all interesting for the different play strategies, and the integration of different play thinking but overall not a hugely challenging experience. There is some nostalgia for the games perhaps.
 

Zombie Aladdin

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All right. I enjoy Baby Pac-Man and play it every now and then as there's a machine I have easy access to and costs a quarter a game. I know it's a divisive game and a rather unique one, hence why I like to hear what other people have to say about it.

Looking at Algar, I think The Pinball Arcade should eventually have a digital one. It wouldn't be a high priority though.
 

Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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Did you play Baby Pac-Man? I saw it in one of those photos. I like to hear other people's opinions on that game because it's such a weird one.

No I didn't play it. I had played it back in the 80's and didn't even care for it then. But then recently again at another show and it still didn't do anything. I like both Pac Man and pinball but it just doesn't do anything for me. The pinball portion is just too basic to be fun and the Pac Man portion is just Pac Man. Would have been nice if they did something a bit more complicated with the pin ball portion and did like a Jr Pac Man version for the arcade portion.

So for me its more of curiosity like Orbitor 1 or Varkon. When I first saw those I really wanted to play them but don't feel compelled to play them again if there are other tables around I haven't or really want to play.
 

Crawley

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That's amazing! This was the event that Clay Harrell put on, wasn't it?

So jealous. Glad you got to play a BBB, too... one of the reasons I flew from Australia to Texas Pinball Festival was to play it, but it was an auction item that was never switched on. FFS.

Well that sucks about it not being playable at the Texas show. I would have been pretty upset to make a trip like that and not get to try it at least.

But yes this was Clay's event.
 

Crawley

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So one thing I should mention about this show is that just about all the machines were in immaculate condition. It looked like the rings and flipper rubbers were new on each machine. The bumpers were strong. The playfields were fast. And this was on all the machines from EMs to current. The upkeep made a huge difference in how these games played.

To give an example at the Midwest Gaming Classic there were 3 different High Speed tables. I played each of them. And each of them were very slow playing. I figured Farsight got it wrong with their version of High Speed since it played so fast. But at VFW there was also a High Speed and I played it. It was so much faster than the three MGC tables. Basically night and day. It wasn't quite as speedy as TPA but pretty damn close to that. I'll chalk it up to the TPA version playing like a "new in the box" table.

Same goes with each of the EM tables. I do the Tom Taylor tour at MGC where he has like 300 machines, mostly EMs, but they are not as well maintained. Most of the tables the ball rolls around sluggishly. And when a sling goes off it kinda just does a light push to the ball. Here the balls had some speed to them and they were really popping off the slings and bumpers.

So it was great to play these tables that were close to that new in the box condition.

But speaking of great tables I found I love The Shadow table. I hadn't played it before and this was one of my "I gotta go back" to machines to play. The table layout is interesting and it has this nice little mini-playfield where you get to play a pong type game. Just entertaining all around.

I also played a lot of The Getaway which I do hope they get in TPA at some point. Lots of fun.



And how about this? The top 3 winners from the Classic Stern Poll side-by-side.

Both Catacomb and Seawitch were quite a bit of fun to play and hope at some point they make it to TPA as well.



Now these were kinda interesting. Woodrail pinball machines from the 50s. There were about 20 of these and neat to play and were bit a similar. If you look at Dragonette at the center of the table you can see a few trap holes there. This is the first time I've encountered them on a machine before. Basically if the ball falls in one of those traps that ball is over. Its basically the same as draining but you get a few extra points. When you start a new game any balls in there drop down in to the bottom of the table so they can be used for the next game. So that isn't set up for any type of multiball lock.

I can see adding traps like that on modern machines would piss a lot of people off.



This is a close up of the Nine Sisters table. It kinda had an interesting feature of a kicker lane. When the ball would head down one of those lanes the ball would be kicked in to that metal loop and then back in to the game. It was so unexpected to come across a kick back on a 50s pin.

You can also see I hit each one of those annoying ball traps. Argh!

And the other odd thing is the single flipper. Although you had buttons on either side to control it.

 
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Crawley

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In the back room again there's this western gun fight game they had. Basically you stand at the post and have to leave the gun in the holster there. The cabinet opens and there's this animatronic robot with a cowboy hat that's challenging you to a duel. When he says "Draw!" you have to pull the gun from the holster and hit a target on his chest.



He's not quite a Westworld quality robot but he gets the job done. Managed to get two out of three hits my first go.



One of the vendors (Pinball Life?) brought a Wizard of Oz for people to play. Typically the WOZ machines have long lines at expos. On Friday you could go up to it regularly and there wouldn't be anyone playing. I played a few games in a row then without anyone waiting. And even on Saturday it was only a one or two person wait.

I hadn't played WOZ since the initial release. They made some improvements in the code and the general illumination, which was my biggest issue with the table, since then. So it was nice playing it in a well lit room with the new code. I didn't feel like I was being blinded by the LEDs and thought the game played really well. If I was at the show for a third day I could see myself going back to this one quite a bit.

You can also see here a Skee Ball and a mini-bowling game which were pretty popular later on Saturday for groups of people to play.



Hmm. I think I saw at least one person in the forums wanting one of these tables in TPA. Or maybe I misread.

 

Crawley

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Mar 25, 2013
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So another thing I should mention is that the staff for this show was fantastic. I'm not sure how many total staff was on hand but it was a lot - orange shirts everywhere. Outside and inside it was easy enough to grab a staff member to help out when a ball would get stuck, or lost, or any problem arose. Although I think one time I might have grabbed a guy who just happened to be in an orange shirt but he was more than happy to help!

If there was a major issue the staff would pretty much be on the machine in an instant getting it back up and running in no time at all. At one point while I was playing the wood rail machines I smelled something funny. One of the staff members noticed the smell too and it was like a Code 9 went off. The guy was like "grab so-and-so quick!". And he was going up and down the line of wood rails smelling each of them to figure out which machine was running hot. Was great to see the enthusasim and the seriousness they took their roles.

The downtime for any machines was negligible. Machines that were turned off were back on when I would circle back alter. And the team was proactive by going around and adding credits to machines that didn't have free-to-play options.

Plus they were friendly to boot. When I drove off to get some lunch one of the attendants took the time to wave goodbye as I was leaving. Then someone else waved a greeting when I pulled back in later. It was a little thing but made the experience enjoyable.

So high praise to the staff at this event. A great bunch of people.



I'll post some more stuff later. Including a few tables that would need the Pinball After Dark app if they were to be digitized. A shot of a table I hadn't played before but fell in love with (it isn't a current machine). And an informal poll of what the most popular tables were.
 
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Buzz1126

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Crawley, great pic of Bally's Eight Ball...yes, that's my favorite table! I helped out on KS as well, glad to do so, too. Glad to see the results, you've taken some great shots. Can't wait to see more!
 

Shaneus

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Well that sucks about it not being playable at the Texas show. I would have been pretty upset to make a trip like that and not get to try it at least.

But yes this was Clay's event.
Not upset, but disappointed. Sucks that I couldn't give it a go, but I blame the auction company (Fun! Amusements) who are notorious for overpricing stuff on eBay as well. I was more surprised that it was mentioned on the TPF website as being there (and assumed playable) but wasn't.

Quick question: Were there any cocktail/tabletop cabs at Clay's?
 

Crawley

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So there were a couple of tables that probably wouldn't be allow in TPA due to the backglass. Three of those tables were back-to-back.

They were all early 80s pinball tables and were just ok. Although I did love the robotic voice on Lightning which sounds like the one from the old arcade game Bezerk.



But even some of the old EMs have a bit of risqué bits on the backglass.

Ok, that's actually not the original backglass.



And as I mentioned Friday was all kinds of awesome as you could go up to just about any machine and start playing without having to wait.



So here's the machine I fell in love with at the show - Solar Fire.

It's basically an updated version of Black Knight with a few differences in both the upper-lower level. It still has the magna save, although you can have up to 3 saves charged, and a drain shield that you can activate too which helps keep the game going. The theme looks like a bastardized version of Battlestar Galactica meets Buck Rogers but I was kinda digging it. I never cared much for Black Knight but for some reason Solar Fire, and Grand Lizard which shares a similar layout, are so much fun to play. Hoping one of these makes it in to TPA at some point.

 
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Crawley

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Devils Dare stands out visually with its orange and red theme. And the game itself wasn't too bad. But I noticed something odd on the table.



Lets just take a closer look here...



Here are two Zaccaria tables represented. Those that have the Zaccaria app on iOS will certainly be familiar with these two tables.

At least one person didn't expect the bonus timed ball after the 3rd drain as I found one ball sitting in the plunger lane on Farfalla.



Another popular table in the polls. Guess Earthshaker will be coming at some point. I had fun playing it and look forward to it whenever it comes out.

When I went up to play BK2K I felt pretty confident. I had never played it in real life but I was good at it on TPA. And I knew the rules of it well. But boy did I suck. In TPA I could make the upper loop a few times in a row no problem. Here I could make a single loop then would miss the ball completely. I felt terrible too as I trigger RANSOM in my first game and totally blew the multiball.

One thing about moving from TPA to the real table is it takes a few games to acclimate. Once I had a few games on it I felt much more comfortable and had better games. But still couldn't hit that loop more than the one time.

 

Crawley

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Given the immaculate condition of all the tables I was hunting around trying all the TPA tables I could. I was getting worried I couldn't find El Dorado until I found Gold Strike which is yet another El Dorado clone. So now I've played El Dorado, El Dorado City of Gold, Solar City, and Target Alpha by going to various shows. The only version I haven't played of El Dorado is the Canada Dry version.

In any case this played fantastic and without the annoying "drum" sounds we get on the TPA version. It also played slightly different where the drop targets would stay down between balls. So it made for a much easier scoring table. But still required accuracy with hitting the targets. So just another great skill based EM game.



So that's about it but the last informal most popular table poll pictures that I'll post tomorrow.

But I will mention one last thing. For all the complaining about game ending bugs in TPA the real tables have quite a few bugs too. Here's a list of what I ran in to at the show - and these were tables that were in fantastic condition:

- Blackwater 100 - Ball got stuck on a post that I couldn't nudge out. Had to slide off the table glass to get the ball and reset the post.
- Blackwater 100 - During multiball a ball got stuck somewhere under one of the elevated playfield. Staff had to raise the pin up to hunt for the ball.
- Police Force - During multiball it didn't kick out one of the balls and promptly forgot about it. When my third ball drained there was still a ball sitting in the plunger lane.
- Various games - Balls would get stuck and I would have to tilt the machine to get the ball unstuck
- Various games - Hitting a drop target would not always register
- Strange Science - The ball hopped over the slings and in to the outlane draining. Although that hop was pretty damn cool!

So if TPA is really recreating these tables it really needs to add more buggy behavior. ;))
 
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