Remote Pinball League Description and Rules

The Remote Pinball League (RPL) is an idea that popped into my head recently. It implements a new concept in pinball competition – players play their own games in their own homes remote to one another in scheduled competition. This page explains the philosophy behind the RPL and documents the intended rules for the league (subject to change).


I play in the Toronto Pinball League (TOPL) and it's great to get together with a bunch of pinheads every week to play the latest and greatest of the new electronic games. However, I also enjoy playing my older electromechanical games at home in my basement. But there's no where that you can play these games competitively. Hence the idea of the RPL.


The goals of the RPL are to:


General Description of Operation

The intention is that the league will be formed with a fixed number of people who register with me ahead of time. A schedule will be drawn up specifying a series of Remote Pinball Battles (RPBs), featuring play between two members. Those players will play their own games in their own homes, send their scores to me, and a winner decided. Points are awarded and standings maintained. At the end of the "regular season", there will be playoffs to decide the RPL champion. The actual scoring system is discussed in detail below.

The underlying premise and foundation of everything is that EVERYONE MUST BE HONEST! Obviously, when playing remotely, anyone can report any score they like. This however, is a league without prizes, so there is no material motivation to cheat. I really believe that pinball collectors can be honest enough to follow the rules contained here within, and that this won't be a problem.

How to rate scores from different games? The main part of the registration process will be to play 15 games on the machine designated by that person to be their "league" machine. Those scores will be used to initialize a baseline average (sort of a handicap) for that player. Players' scores during competition will be based on a scale of 1000, relative to that average. In other words, the better you perform compared to your historical average, the higher your league score will be. Examples will be provided below to make this clearer.

So while the goal of a player is to simply beat their remote competition each week, they are also trying to beat their average (as the point awards below will show).

Detailed Rules of the RPL

Who the League Is Open For

The league is open to anyone who has access to at least one EM pinball machine for weekly play (more on that below), and is willing to abide by the (simple) rules. Generally this includes owners of EM flipper pinball machines made from 1947-1979. Having email access is pretty well mandatory also.

What Games Are Allowed For Use

Generally, EM flipper pinballs from 1947-1979 can be used. Note that most EM production stopped in 1977, although Gottlieb continued to make some models up to about 1979. Here are the exceptions:

Machines should support the awarding of specials, since winning specials is a major objective with many/most EM games. Specials are incorporated into RPL scoring calculations also. We have allowed people without specials support in their games to play however, so it is not absolutely mandatory.

Games should be on 4 legs and leveled. Glass on at all times! The games should also be working properly, with no serious (or hopefully even minor) malfunctions. What is most important though is that the state of the game should not be altered over the course of the schedule.

For example, a game with a dead pop bumper will probably yield lower scores than if it is fully working. If it gets fixed mid-way in the schedule, then the players' scores will most certainly start rising. This is bad and would result in a resetting of the players' baseline average score at my discretion.

So the chosen game should be solid, with no repairs or enhancements planned over the schedule.

It may be possible to allow players to register more than one game for play, but for now we will stick with one machine only.

The Registration Process

People interested in joining the RPL should email me with their intention to join. Each person who has joined should then designate a game of theirs as their league machine, and provide me with the following information:

Specifically, what I need from you each is an email with the following information:


email address

game being registered (name and a year code if there are several of the same name)

tilt ball in play only? ("yes" or "no")

specials? ("yes" or "no")

<score 1> <number of specials won 1>

<score 2> <number of specials won 2>


<score 15> <number of specials won 15>

If you can keep the information in the above format, it allows me to parse it easily with some program code.


Terry Cumming

Kings & Queens


347 0

568 2

1193 0

(11 scores/specials)

262 0

The 15 games you record should be consecutive games played on the machine, although not necessarily in one session (since 15 is a lot). They should be played from the machine being powered up.

Once the membership is finalized a schedule can be made up and the Remote Pinball Battles started.

Battle Scoring

Each week, members will be paired off for their battle. Each will play 5 consecutive games from power-up on their designated games, and record the scores. They will also record how many specials were awarded in each game. After their games are played, they should email me the results.

The best score of the 5 will used against their average to determine their "league score". An average league score being 1,000. This score will be compared to their weekly opponents' league score. The winner gets 2 points in the standings and the loser gets 0. In the rare case of a tie, each receives 1 point.

The second part of the calculations is to compare the average of the 5 scores to the players' baseline average. If they exceed that, they get another point in the standings.

Thus a winner can get 2 or 3 points and a loser 0 or 1. Two points for defeating the competition and 1 point for beating your average. All 5 games count.

Specials earned during play will also be used to augment the best score of the 5. Each week the players' stats will be reviewed to see how many specials they have won to date. The number of bonus points per special will then be recalculated to be used for the next week's play. So for example one week winning a special may earn you 100 points, but the next week possible only 67.

A maximum of 200 bonus points will be awarded in any one game. So for example, if player 1's specials were worth 100 points each they could count up to 2 (2 * 100 = 200). If player 2's specials were worth only 33 points, they could count 6 specials to get 198 points. If they won a 7th special in a game, they would hit the 200 point cap.

During registration and weekly game battles, specials will be tallied in addition to scores. The values assigned for specials will be based on the realtive number of specials won in previous games. The actual values will be based on the number of people in the league for a particular season. For example, in the first season there were 6 people with games that awarded specials. The two people with the fewest specials won would get 100 points per special. The next two would get 67 and the next 2 (who won the most specials in the past), 33 points each.

Some games hand out specials like candy at Hallowe'en while others are quite stingy. Hence the need for crudely compensating for this in the scoring system. It adds a little spice to the game play I feel.


An example should clarify the scoring set up. We have:

Bob and Charles oppose each other in a battle. Bob plays 5 games on his Sure Shot and averages 92,660, 1 special, with a best game of 114,560 (0 specials). Charlie averages 2,380,000 with 3 specials on his Quintette, with a best of 3,490,000 (all 3 specials in that game).

Bob's best/Bob's baseline average * 1000 = 114560/81340 * 1000 = 1408

Charlie's best/Charlie's baseline average * 1000 = 3490000/2140000 = 1630. Charlie also had 3 specials in that game, although only 2 count for best game scoring (because he hit the maximum of 200 points). Therefore Charlie's total score is:

1630 + 200 = 1830.

Charlie wins the battle for 2 points 1830 to 1408. Both Bob and Charlie broke their baseline average, so they both get a bonus point.

Charlie scores 3 points total, and Bob 1.

Bob's new average is now 84,660 per game, with 5 specials in 20 games.

Charlie's new average is now 2,200,000 with 4 specials.

The points awarded per special for the next battles is recalculated. In this instance the values remained the same (100 for Charlie and 50 for Bob).

The Match Feature

In the future: Every week, a random number from 0-9 will be picked. Players whose low digit of their league score matches it will get a point in the standings. Hey – it's pinball! So if the match number is 7 and your league score is 897, you would get a point.

Not currently implemented in the scoring program!

Which Games To Count

Again, determining which 5 games to count for battle scores boils down to the honesty of the participants. The rule here is, decide in your mind that you are playing your match, power up the game and count the first 5 games played. No warm-ups or practices allowed. That makes it simple.


Tilts are important to know about because older games end the game on a tilt, while later EM's only disqualify the ball in play. In order to be fair, if a match pits a ball-only tilt machine against a game-over tilt machine, tilting any ball ends the game whether the machine supports ball-only tilts or not. If it is known that both contestants' games have ball-only tilts prior to the start of the game, this rule can be relaxed. This info. Should be provided with registration.

Disallowed Strategies

The cunning RPL player could do some things to improve their chances of scoring points in the standings. I think they should be disallowed (so as not force others to adopt the same strategies in order to remain competitive). These rules are subject to review (the mob rules).

The one strategy that comes to mind is this: you are playing your 5th game of 5 in a battle, and you have already met your objective in your mind (e.g. you've already had a super game and/or you've scored enough points to beat your average). You could cleverly just drain your remaining balls (or tilt) in order to reduce your final total and hence keep your average from rising too much. This would provide a slight benefit for the next week's battle.

This strategy is not allowed. The whole RPL concept is based on HONESTY, and this is just one more area where you have to be honest.

I should point out that in a recent battle, I tilted my machine early in the 5th game, thus ending up with a low score. However, I was trying hard to get a good score (hadn't yet beat my average). That is not a problem because my intentions were honest (honest).

The bottom line is to play every game hard and go for a high score.

Thanks to Bob Clark for alerting me to this strategy.


The actual playoff format will be determined based on the number of players in the league. Not all will make the playoffs, although most will (I like NHL playoffs <g>).

For example, if 16 people registered, the top 4 in the standings could get a first round bye, while the next 8 would playoff in a best 2 of 3 format. Then the 8 remaining would have 3 rounds to decide the champion. The final could be a 3 of 5 series.

If You Are Interested In Joining

Send me an email. You will be notified when the next season will begin.


The rules and concepts and terms presented here are © Terry Cumming, 1998.