League Rules

1. Introduction
The Buffalo Pinball League rules (BPL) rules are based on the Toronto Pinball League (ToPL), Free State Pinball Association (FSPA) and Bay Area Pinball Association (BAPA) league rules, with modifications based on variable attendance and skill levels. These rules are designed for leagues consisting of three people up to an unlimited number of players, playing on six machines at a single location. Scoring is based on how well one does relative to players of similar ability. The nature of the BPL league system allows players of all skill levels to play in a single league that is fun and competitive for everyone.

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 is: League President, League Vice President, League Statistician, League Treasurer and League Social Media.

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.

1.3. Season
A single season of league play consists of eight, once-a-month meets taking place from September through April, with playoffs and end of the year party in May.

2. Attendance and Lateness
League nights occur the 3rd Saturday of each month beginning in September. Occasionally the night may be moved to accommodate other pinball events a large number of league players may be attending (such as the Allentown Pinfest). In the event of a moved night, all league members will be notified in advance of the change. The night will start at 5pm with one hour of practice followed by the official matches of the evening beginning at 6pm. League players are expected to attend all matches of the season.

2.1. Start Time
Any games in progress by league players at league start time are immediately halted at SLO’s discretion. Players join their assigned group and begin league play immediately, starting at 6pm.

2.2. Unannounced Lateness
If a player arrives late unannounced, the SLO will attempt to place the player in their designated group if possible. If that is not possible and play has already started, then the player may be excluded from that month’s play.

2.3. Announced Lateness
If a player gives advance notification of possible lateness, the SLO will delay the group the player should be in for a short period of time, at his discretion, which is no longer than 30 minutes from beginning of play (essentially 6:30pm, unless play has started late for some reason).

2.4. Guests
Non-BPL members are allowed to attend the event (at the hosts discretion), but may not play the machines during official league play.

3. Machine Play Rules —General

3.1. Extra Balls
On all machines, extra balls must be plunged and not played normally. These are referred to as “unallowable” or “plunged” balls in this document.

Whenever possible, the host of the night’s event is asked to turn off all extra balls on the machines.

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 NOT shake or nudge the machine, or touch the flippers.  A violation of this will result in a loss on that machine.

3.1.1. Ball Save
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.  Some machines will give infinite ball saves (e.g. Tales of the Arabian Nights). In that case, the player is forced to flip once in order to hit any switch and end the cycle. The choice of aim and timing is up to the player.

3.1.2. Stuck Extra Balls
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.

3.1.3. 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 the Ball Save section.

3.2. Malfunctions
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 ball in play that is not a normal part of the game (i.e. premature loss of turn). 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; see section Ball Save).
  • A turn ends prematurely (i.e. with 1 or more balls in play).
  • 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.

If a major malfunction occurs to a player during the course of a game, the player has two options: at the end of the ball on which the malfunction occurred, he may either continue the game as is, or request that all players in his group end the current game and replay the entire round. The player must request a decision from the SLO prior to any players in the group start playing their next ball. The requesting 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, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue playing the game. If the game is replayed, the second (replay) score becomes his score on that game, regardless of whether it is better or worse than his previous effort.

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.

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.

3.3. 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. 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.

3.4. Gameplay 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, the SLO may plunge the ball for him, and the player may not play the ball. (Note: a player is allowed a minute or two to let the tilt bob settle before starting his turn)

3.5. Practice Games
Once league play starts, a player may not 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.

3.6. Distractions
In general, random distractions that occur during league play (including minor physical unintended bumps) are considered normal play conditions and no allowances are made for the effects of such distractions on a player’s game.

4. Illegal actions

 4.1. Playing Own Unallowable Extra Ball
If a player nudges, flips, or otherwise plays his own unallowable extra ball, he takes a loss on that table.

This does not apply in cases where a player must flip once to avoid “infinite ball saves.” (See Ball Save)

4.2. Playing Opponent’s Ball
The violator will take a loss on that machine. The victim whose ball was illegally played gets the option of restarting his entire turn (see below).

4.3. Interference
Interference in another player’s game is not tolerated. Interference includes 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.

An intentional slam tilt is one caused by an aggressive and excessive shove of the machine, or by an attempted bangback or deathsave. Any other slam tilt is considered accidental. All slam tilts are handled as catastrophic malfunctions.

If a player interferes with another player, causing a drain and/or loss of turn, the victim of the interference may request to replay the entire game. If the next player starts play with no decision announced, the victim is presumed to wish to continue his game.

Interference is considered a serious violation of league play rules, and a penalty is attached. 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 (0).
  • Third offense: Forfeit of all games in the current match with machine scores of zero (0).
  • 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.

4.4. 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.

4.5. Out of Order Playing
Players must take their turn on all machines in the correct player order as determined by the scoresheet. If a player’s turn is incorrectly played by another group member, the group may take one of two actions: the incorrect order can be maintained for the remaining duration of the game if the order sequence occurs from the beginning of the game, or all play must halt and the game restarted with all players in the correct order based on the scoresheet. If the group decides to continue play, the order must be corrected on the scoresheet to avoid confusion later while recording the totals.

If the event occurs after ball one has been played, the player who plays out of turn will take a 0 for that round, and the player whose ball was incorrectly played gets to replay their entire turn.

4.6. Deathsaves and Bangbacks
Deathsaves and bangbacks (“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 BPL play. A player that successfully performs a deathsave or bangback will receive a machine score of zero (0) 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).

Since these maneuvers do not interfere with any other player’s game, performing a deathsave or bangback is not considered a serious violation of league rules.

4.7. Cheating
Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. The BPL 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. Cheating will result in the player’s immediate suspension from the league.

5. Player Grouping—Non-Playoff Matches

Players are arranged into random groups of three or four. A match consists of six games played on six different machines (if possible) during a single meet. All games are played in multiplayer mode (players alternate turns and scores are displayed simultaneously on the machine) unless the game allows other players to “steal” locked balls for multiball (e.g. Taxi, Rollergames) – such games will be announced at the beginning of the night. At the end of each match, scores are recorded for the purpose of awarding an overall season winner.

5.1. Group Size

If the number of players is a multiple of 4, players will be arranged in groups of 4.

If the number of players is not a multiple of 4, players are arranged into as many groups of 4 players as possible, with remaining groups having 3 players.

6. Scoring

It is each player’s responsibility to be sure that their machine scores are recorded correctly on the scoresheet as each game is finished. In order to avoid errors, scores must include commas to separate thousands, millions, etc. Any possible scoring errors should be brought to the attention of the SLO as soon as possible. Once notified of a possible error, the SLO 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 scoresheet shall stand.

6.1. Game Points

During the first half of the season, all players are competing against each other.  Game points are awarded by comparing your score on a particular game against the score of all other players attending that particular league night, playing that particular game.  Players are awarded 1 point per game, plus a point for each player’s score they beat. For example, suppose there are 26 players at a league night and one of the games for the evening is Iron Man.  The player with the top score on Iron Man, will be awarded 26 points for that game (1 point + 25points because he/she beat 25 people).

Any ties in machine score will be resolved by a one-ball playoff between the affected players on the same machine. If this playoff does not resolve the tie, additional balls will be played until the tie is broken.

7. Machine Selection and Play Order

Machines for the evening will be chosen by the host. For league play, all players will play the same 6 machines, one time each. Groups of players (up to 4) will be randomly chosen. The first player randomly chosen picks the first game played for his/her group. Player order for the first game is the order in which names were randomly selected for the group (which will be written on a score sheet by a league official).

For remaining games, the person with the lowest score in the previous game picks the next game as well as the position they will play in (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th). Remaining positions are chosen by the next lowest scorer, and so on.

8. Playoffs and Divisions

At the start of the season, players will either be “A” or “B” players.  This is decided by the mean IFPA ranking (half will be “A” and the other half will be “B”).  Despite having an “A” or “B” designation, all players are competing against each other. Players will still be randomly grouped for the night which could mean a mixture of A and B players in a group together.

To discourage “sandbagging”, the prize money for the “A” division will be twice as much as the prize money for the “B” division.  All players will receive IFPA rankings at the end of the season. The top place finisher for the “B” division will be considered the lowest ranked player in the “A” division.

The top finisher of “A” at the end of the regular season will receive $40 and the top finisher for “B” at the end of the regular season will receive $20.  This is designed to reward finishing at the top of the league at the end of the season before the playoffs begin.

8.1. Playoffs

At the end of the season, the top 4 people in the “A” division and the top 4 people in the “B” division will go to the playoffs which will be held on a separate night to determine the final places in each division. Should a member of the “B” division place in the top 4 overall rankings of the season, they will be given the option to compete in the “A” division finals. The format for the playoff night is match play, with a group of 4 people playing on 4 different machines.  Scoring is 3, 2, 1, 0. The result at the end of the night will determine final league standings.

The host location for the playoff night will be determined by the league officials and occur the 2nd or 3rd Saturday in May. Preference is given to hosts not involved in the playoffs. If there is a neutral party who is not in the league and is available to host, that would be the preferred choice.

For those who didn’t make the playoffs, a single round elimination tournament will be held during the playoff/end of the season party. The winner of that tournament will have his league fee waived for the following season.

8.2. Playoff Order and Machine Selection

Unlike the regular season, all machine choices for the evening will be selected by the top player in “A” for “A”, and the top player of “B”, for “B”.  Play order will follow the rules of regular season play, with the following exception: for the first game of the evening, play order is chosen by the top ranked player, followed by the 2nd, then 3rd.  For the next three games, order is choose as it was during regular season play.

9. Attendance

Players in the league are expected to attend all events, but it’s understandable that there might be a night that’s not possible for a player to be there.   As such, each player’s lowest score will be dropped after the first half of the season (league nights 1-4). This allows the flexibility of missing a night, while at the same time rewards players for attending all nights.  Additionally, a player’s lowest score during the second half of the season (league nights 5-8) will be dropped as well.

If a player misses more than 3 league nights per season, that player will be waitlisted for next year’s season.

10. Dues

Dues for the BPL are $50 for non-hosts.  All money collected from dues, with exception of $15 from each player, will go towards trophies and prize money.  Hosts are not expected to provide food at the meet up. The $15 from each player that will not used for trophies and prize money will be used as in the following way:  $5 will go to a misc fund to be used as needed and $10 will go to the hosts and be equally divided among them.

To officially have a spot in the league, dues must be paid.  League acceptance is on a first-come, first-served basis. The BPL is limited to 26 players.

Players participating in previous seasons in good standing are automatically in the league again, provided they pay their dues before August 1st, 2021.

For 2021, all players need to show proof that they are have the COVID-19 vaccination by emailing buffalopinball@gmail.com when signing up for league.

11. Hosting

Without the generosity of league members being willing to host a night in their home, the BPL would not be possible.  Members are expected to be respectful while attending league night.

11.1 Hosting Responsibilities

Hosts are expected to have their machines running 100% correctly.  The machines are expected to be clean, light bulbs working, and rubbers in good condition.  Any known, unavoidable machine malfunctions must be disclosed to all before league play begins.

Hosts are not expected to provide food or beverages during league night.

Attending members are encouraged to BYOB.

4 thoughts on “League Rules

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