Date: April 25th - 27th 2008
Location: Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Golden, Colorado, USA.

At the foot of the Rockies, under the clear blue Colorado skies, we're at the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown 2008 show in Golden.

The venue
The exhibit hall - venue for the show

The venue for the show was the Exhibit Hall at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The location is a good one providing plenty of space while being only a short drive away from masses of shops and restaurants along Colfax Avenue and in the Colorado Mills retail park.

Registration desk

Entrance to the show cost $15 per day or $30 for all three days. The opening to the public was at midday on Friday but we got in to take some pictures of the setting up.

Games being set up
The setting up is under way

More machines
Some more of the machines being set up

The tournament area
Two of the six tournament machines during set-up

History of Pinball exhibit
The History Of Pinball exhibit

The Illinois Pin Ball stand
Illinois Pinball's playfields

The main desk
The registration and sales desk

The tournament trophies
The trophies for the tournaments

The stage
The stage featuring banners with show designs from previous years

At midday the show opened and the public began filling the aisles and enjoying the machines.

The kids were enjoying Shrek
The kids were enjoying Shrek while next to it was a Jolly Park and Family Guy

Games at the show
Some of the games in the hall

Players enjoying the games
Players enjoying the games

When everything had been set up on Friday, these were the games available to play:

Attack From Mars Nitro Groundshaker
Attack From Mars Old Chicago
Austin Powers Pharaoh
Back To The Future* Pinball Pool
Black Knight Pinbot
Breakshot Pirates Of The Caribbean
Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball Pro-Football
Centaur Roadshow
Centigrade 37 Rollercoaster Tycoon
Cirqus Voltaire Royal Guard
Congo Safecracker
Congo Solar City
Crescendo Solar Fire
Defender South Park
Demolition Man Space Invaders
Demolition Man Space Station
Dungeons & Dragons Spider-Man
Eight Ball Deluxe Spirit of '76
Embryon Star Trek - The Next Generation
Fathom Star Trek - The Next Generation
Fireball Strikes And Spares
Fireball Classic Super Mario Brothers
Fish Tales Swords Of Fury
Flash Tales Of The Arabian Nights
Flash Gordon Tales Of The Arabian Nights
Funhouse Target Alpha
Hang Glider Terminator 2*
Hurricane The Addams Family
Johnny Mnemonic The Champion Pub
Joust The Champion Pub
Judge Dredd The Shadow
Jungle Lord Theatre Of Magic
Jungle Lord* Time Fantasy
Jungle Queen Tommy
Junkyard Top Score
Lite-A-Card Trident
Lost In Space Twilight Zone
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein Viper Night Drivin'
Medieval Madness Viper Night Drivin'*
Medieval Madness Voltan
Medieval Madness Whirlwind*
Medusa World Cup Soccer
Monster Bash Xenon

Machines marked with * were depowered when the list was drawn up.

In addition there were 3 Wheel Of Fortune and 3 Spider-Man machines for the tournaments - making a total of 94 pinball games - and the following video games: Alpha 1, Centipede, Defender, Dunk Shot, Megatouch, 2 x Ms Pac-Man, Pac-Man and Zaxxon.

Some of the machines were in the general play area while others were at vendor's booths.

Games at the show
Some of The Coin Drops Here's machines

Zone Out Pins
The Zoned Out Pins stand

Kim Mitchell's Zoned Out Pins stall had this modified game designed to help wheelchair users play pinball. The mirror simply attached to the backbox and could be easily moved to a different game. The playfield was reversed through the mirror, with the flippers at the top which made for interesting gameplay.

Modified game for disabled players
Zoned Out Pins' mod

His booth included a number of beautiful examples of classic games - such as Pinball Pool, Centigrade 37 and Hang Glider - several of which won Best In Show awards.

Next door Kevin and Carole Carroll had another six machines from their collection while also selling t-shirts and caps for their Lyons Classic Pinball establishment.

Lyons Classic Pinball
Lyons Classic Pinball's stand

Action Amusements
Action Pinball & Amusements

For Amusement Only
For Amusement Only setting up their stand

There were a number of tournaments held at the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown. On the opening day there was a Team Tournament in the early evening run using a single-elimination system. The winners of this were Eden Stamm and Adam Lefkoff who each received a trophy.

On Saturday the Kids Tournament was won by Jeffry Rakes who repeated his win in 2007 to collect this year's trophy.

Jeffry Rakes, winner of the Kids Tournament
Jeffry Rakes, winner of the Kids Tournament

Later on Saturday there were two more single-elimination competitions - an Electro-Mechanical Tournament where the winner was Neil Shatz and later in the evening was the Quick Draw Tournament which was won by Derek Fugate.

Sunday brought the Parent-Kid Tournament where the honours and the trophy went to Charlie & Benedetto Cusumano.

Across all three days players could attempt to qualify for the Open Tournament. There were two banks of three machines - 3 Wheel Of Fortune and 3 Spider-Man games.

Players in the tournament
Players in the tournament qualifying round

Each attempt cost $6 and bought you two games on your chosen machine. Players recorded their scores on Spider-Man and Wheel Of Fortune and were ranked with the top score on each machine earning 20 points down to the 20th earning 1 point. A player's ranking points on the two machines were added together to give them their total points and the top 16 ranked players qualified for the play-offs.

The tournament desk
At the tournament desk

The qualifiers for the playoff's were:

  • Josh Sharpe
  • Keith Elwin
  • Cayle George
  • Donavan Stepp
  • Kevin McCarthy
  • Derek Fugate
  • Neil Shatz
  • Adam Lefkoff
  • Greg Davis
  • Brian Shepherd
  • Don Brownback
  • Jeff R
  • Brian Dominy
  • Jeff Knight
  • Dean Grover
  • Mateo Leyba
  • Lyman Sheats

Players in the play-offs
Players in the play-offs

In the match between the two hitherto unbeaten players - Josh and Neil, it was Neil who took the honours and makes it into the final.  Josh went on the meet the winner of the match in the loser category between Keith, and the winner of the match currently underway between Donavan and Jeff. Donavan won that game which left him, Josh, Neil and Keith still in the running.

Due to time pressures (the show closed an hour ago), the four remaining players agreed to decide the trophy honours in a single 4-player match on Wheel Of Fortune.

After ball 1 is over, Neil took a narrow lead, but scores were all below 3M and there was still everything to play for.

On the second ball, Keith boosted his score to 19M but it is Josh who started trip multiball and racked up 36M while Neil was close behind in third place on 18M with one ball each to go.

Keith was unable to increase is score by much and finished on 20M.  Donavan did likewise and ended in fourth with 6M.  Josh put in a similar performance on his last ball to end on 38M, leaving Neil as the only one who could catch him.

And catch him he did, passing the 40M mark before he stopped play as the winner.

So Neil Shatz wins the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown Open Tournament playoff.

Winner Neil Shatz
Main tournament winner Neil Shatz

The four finalists
The four finalists - Neil, Josh, Keith and Donavan

While all this was taking place in the main hall, there were a series of mini-seminars taking place in Conference Room B in another part of the building, away from the noise of the show.

The four "Pin Chats" covered a range of subjects with the first at 11am on Saturday featuring John Balogh talking about repairing Bally-Williams boards.

John Balogh
John Balogh's Pin Chat

John began by explaining how he has been working on pinball machines for 20 years and now owns a bowling alley and 20-30 games.

After covering cleaning and lubrication tips for EM machines, he distributed schematic diagrams for Williams WPC system and explained how the different boards are arranged in the backbox.

He continued by describing the most common faults found in WPC games such as failed fuses, bridges and transistors, the solutions, and where to get the parts needed.

The next Pin Chat began at 1pm and featured Illinois Pinball's Gene Cunningham.

Gene Cunningham
Gene Cunningham's Pin Chat

Gene began by talking about how the Pinball 2000 glass is made, the problems that can occur during manufacture and the differences between the first and second quality glass he has for sale.

He then moved on to his proposed plan to build new Capcom Kingpin games. In order for the project to move ahead, Gene said he needs 150 orders to move ahead and start a run of 175-180 games including prototypes. So far he has 116 orders for the $8000 machines (existing Big Bang Bar owners get a $500 discount and the chance to buy a particular serial number machine).

Unlike Big Bang Bar, Gene has not been able to acquire an original machine to reverse engineer. There are only about 8 Kingpin games in existence and with the last one selling for $25,000, his offer of $10,000 to disassemble, copy the various parts and reassemble their machine has not found any takers.

Exactly how the unique parts will be made, therefore, remains unclear. However, work is progressing on the wiring loom and re-making the electronic boards which will use mostly the same electronics as the originals except for those components which are now obsolete, where replacements will be used but they will be made to look like the original design. Gene said he has two companies working on the boards which he estimates will cost $600-$700 a set.

Also unlike the Big Bang Bar, the Kingpin machines will be RoHS-compliant and so can be bought by European collectors. Regular machines will feature black trim but the prototypes will have gold-coloured siderails, legs and lock bar.

He estimated a lead time of 3-4 months from initial payment to completion of the first machine.

Looking further afield, Gene speculated on the project he would like to tackle after Kingpin. Beyond Big Bang Bar and Kingpin, Capcom had a number of other prototype games in development. Red Line Fever was a motor racing pinball game by Greg Kmiec which got as far as the whitewood stage. After that was Carousel and an x-rated game by Python Anghelo and Brian Hansen called Zingy Bingy.

Gene said he wanted to create a motor cycle themed game and has ideas for ramps and spinning discs although it wasn't clear whether he wanted to use Red Line Fever as the basis for that game.

Later in the day at 3pm it was the turn of Kevin Ryan to hold his Pin Chat entitled Frugal Playfield Repair.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan's Pin Chat

Kevin showed the assembled group how he repaint playfields where the original artwork has worn away or flaked off.

He began with a set of enamel paints bought at a local art supply store. These kits typically include gold and silver paints which he suggested should be thrown away as they are never used on playfields. He also said to dispose of the cheap brush and buy some proper brushes with pointed tips. For black paint he said to always use gloss and never matt black.

Kevin said he prefers enamel paints since they keep the same colour as the dry unlike acrylics which darken, and acrylics also need to be sanded when dry and sealed with a water thin super glue before being sanded again before they can be used. He suggested using enamel instead and then protecting the area either with wax or with self-adhesive 1mm-thick mylar.

The basics Kevin said were needed included Naphtha for degreasing and cleaning, kitchen towels and enamel thinner for diluting the colours and cleaning the brushes. In addition, he suggested using 70%-90% rubbing alcohol and magic eraser blocks to remove ball swirls although care should be takes since the magic eraser blocks are mildly abrasive and can remove paint if you're not careful.

To demonstrate how easily enamel paint could be removed if a mistake was made or the the colour match wasn't quite right, Kevin poured the unwanted silver paint onto his example playfield and then removed it using the kitchen towels and Naphtha

Kevin working on a playfield
Kevin pouring silver enamel paint onto a playfield

He showed how to mix the correct yellow colour needed to retouch an area he had previously damaged. Black lines were repainted and the sharp edges restored with a Q-Tip dipped in Naphtha

The important point Kevin wanted to get across was how playfield restoration is not difficult but it does take time and patience to get it right.

The final Pin Chat took place on Sunday afternoon when Jess Askey spoke about his Internet Pinball Serial Number Database project.

Jeff Askey
Jess Askey's Pin Chat

The aim of the project is to collect serial numbers and specific details about pinball machines all around the world. From this data, all kinds of interesting information can be extracted including production numbers, when various changes were made during the production run, how many prototypes were made and much more.

The collection of serial numbers began with the Serial Number Project at the Pinball Pasture but now those 7,500 records have been incorporated into Jess's database to bring the total to more than 10,000 entries.

Jess hopes those who maintain owner's lists will incorporate his data into their site and vice-versa so the information can be spread across more than one site, should the owners list disappear.

He demonstrated how the information is presented and how game owners can add their machines to the list, creating custom fields for special features as required.

And so we bring our coverage of the 2008 Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown to a close. Running a show like this is never an easy task but Dan and Holly Nikolich along with their families ran their fifth show very professionally and ensured everyone enjoyed themselves.

Pinball News Three Minute Tour

You've read about the show but now you can see it for yourself with our exclusive Pinball News Three Minute Tour. Simply click on the play button below for a walk around the show floor.

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