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Free State Pinball Association Single Player Rules
Free State Pinball Association
Singles League Rules
The Free State Pinball Association (FSPA) league rules are designed for 16
players or less in a 10 to 14 week singles format. The rules can be
modified to support greater then 16 players or other play formats. Each
regular season match consists of four games and lasts for roughly two
Two divisions of players advance to seperate semi-final/final rounds. One
division ranks players by score and the other by improvement so that
players of all skill levels have a chance at winning one or the other
division. In addition, the rules are designed so that competition at all
levels is fun and exciting.
The cost of league play is the cost of the games played, typically 50 cents
per game. Prizes and any other charges are determined individually by the
leagues. The Howies League season consists of an 11 week (one match per
week) regular season and one day of playoffs.
Registered players are presumed to be playing unless the President receives
notification from them on or before noon of game day, indicating that they
will not be able to play or will arrive late. Notifications are not
accepted more then one week in advance. Players may send email or call the
President but any such message must be received by the deadline. If you
have an unreliable or slow email system it is recommend that you notify the
President by phone.
If a player reports that they will not be able to play, or will be late,
but indicates so after the deadline, they are still presumed to be coming
and all rules apply as if they were expected to arrive. If a player says
that they will not be playing, but does show up, they can not play that
week (in the league - they can play practice games).
2/2 Start Time
Matches start promptly at 7:30pm on game day. Any practice games in
progress at the start time are immediately halted. Players join their
assigned group and begin league play immediately.
2/3 Late Arrival
If a player from a group is late the rest of the group begins play at
7:30pm as usual. If the late player arrives before their first turn
begins, they may join in. However, the current player is not required to
stop play in order to let the late player buy in. If the late player
arrives after their playing position is passed, or if by the current player
finishing their ball the late players first turn is passed (i.e. if the
late player is the last player in the group and the current player is the
next to last player), then the late player forfeits their first game and
receives a score of zero. The late player may begin play with the next
game. Any missed games are are not included when determining the grouping
rank, or for the played games total (see section 4).
2/4 Win By Forfeit
If one or more players of a group are late such that only one player from
the group is ready to start, that player receives a win by forfeit and
receives points equal to the maximum points achieved on the first game of
all other groups. If the late player(s) do not arrive by 8:00pm the ready
player wins the second game by forfeit as well. If the late players(s) do
not arrive by 8:30pm, the ready player wins the match by forfeit and
receives the maximum of the final scores of all other players, regardless
of when the late player(s) arrive.
2/5 Forfeit Of Season
If a player is late, or an unexpected no-show to 6 games in any
combination, they automatically forfeit the season, their season scores are
wiped, and they may not play in the league again until the next season
begins. Note that it is easy to avoid this fate - if 8 hours before game
time you are unsure of when or if you will arrive you should notify the
President that you will not show, rather then be late or an unexpected
An exception to this rule is if the lateness or unexpected no-show is the
result of an emergency and if the resulting penalty would result in a
forfeit of season. In this case the league President will decide whether
the situation was an emergency. If it is found to be an emergency the
missed games will not count toward the players missed game total. Note
that if the penalty would not immediately result in a forfeit of season
then no such evaluation is made - the missed games are added to the players
total missed games. Work related delays are not considered "emergencies".
2/6 Announcing Lateness
If a player notifies the league President by 12 noon game day that they
will arrive no more then 15 minutes late, then players from their group
will wait up to fifteen minutes before beginning play. If the player does
not arrive in 15 minutes or less, the other players begin play, or a win by
forfeit is awarded, as appropriate.
If a player will be more then 15 minutes late they should also notify the
President, however, players from their group will not wait for them to
arrive and any missed games are counted in their missed games total.
3. Player Grouping And Game Selection
3/1 Player Grouping
Players are pre-grouped based on the "intent to play" notifications the
President has received (see 2/1). Grouping is based on the number of
players expected to show, and each players "relative grouping rank" (see
4/3). The groupings will be sent to all players via email no more then 8
hours before game time. Players without email may call the President ahead
of time to find out what group they are in, or may wait until game time to
The rules are designed to place players of similar ability into roughly the
same group. However, for variety, and to avoid having one player stuck as
the "bottom" player of a group for an extended period of time, the
orderings are slightly juggled.
The following table indicates how players are grouped given a number of
players expected to show (from 2 to 16) and the players relative grouping
# of playrs Grouping
2-4: All in one group
5: group 1 1, 2
group 2 3, 4, 5
6: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 6
7: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 6, 7
8: group 1 1, 2, 3, 5
group 2 4, 6, 7, 8
9: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 7
group 3 6, 8, 9
10: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 7
group 3 6, 8, 9, 10
11: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 6, 8
group 3 7, 9, 10, 11
12: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 7
group 3 6, 8, 10
group 4 9, 11, 12
13: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 7
group 3 6, 8, 10
group 4 9, 11, 12, 13
14: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 7
group 3 6, 8, 9, 11
group 4 10, 12, 13, 14
15: group 1 1, 2, 4
group 2 3, 5, 6, 8
group 3 7, 9, 10, 12
group 4 11, 13, 14, 15
16: group 1 1, 2, 3, 5
group 2 4, 6, 7, 9
group 3 8, 10, 11, 13
group 4 12, 14, 15, 16
3/2 Game Selection
Games are chosen for play by the players with the bottom four totals of the
previous week only. The 4th from the bottom player chooses first. Then
the 3rd from the bottom, then 2nd from bottom and finally the bottom
player. For the first week of play, 4 games are chosen randomly. For the
purpose of determining who picks and in what order, players who missed
games in the previous week are presumed to have scored 2 points on each of
the missed games.
Game picks are made 15 minutes before game time. If a player with a pick
is not there, or not ready to pick at that time then the next player above
the initial four is given the pick. If they are missing then the next
higher player makes the pick, and so forth.
3/3 Game Play Order
After games are selected the groups begin play on the games in order from
left to right (as on the score sheet, not as physically located). The
first group starts on the leftmost game. The 2nd group starts on the next
game over, etc. When a group finishes a game they move to the next game to
the right (clockwise) on the score sheet. If another group is playing the
game the moving group must wait for the other group to finish. Groups may
not skip games.
3/4 Individual Play Order
Order of play on a game within each group is determined by player
selection. For the first game of the night the play order is picked by
players in reverse order from their grouping ranks. For subsequent games
players pick play position in reverse order of how they finished on the
Late players are presumed to want to play in the position closest to last
that they can get when their turn to pick would have arisen. For instance,
in a 4 player group if the late player would have had 3rd choice, and the
first two players chose to play last and next to last respectively, then
the late player is presumed to select to be the second player. For
subsequent games, for the purpose of picking play order only, they are
presumed to have gotten a score on the previous game that would have given
them the same play order pick for the next game.
4. Scoring & Ranks
The FSPA rules are designed to act as a natural handicap system. Players
only compete against the players in their group, not against all other
players. Regular season results are determined by total points collected
by each player ("Overall Rank"), but because players may not show up for
the same number of games in the season the groupings are determined based
on players average points per game ("Grouping Rank"). This avoids grouping
a player in too low a group if they miss some games.
4/1 Game Scoring
Every game is worth season points. At the completion of a players game
their score is noted on the score sheet. The bottom three digits of their
score are dropped (not rounded) for ease of notation (and to make computers
happy). After all players in the group complete their games, season points
are given to each player depending on the size of the group, as follows:
Four Player Group: the first place player is given 3 points, the second
place player gets 2, third place gets 1 and fourth gets 0 points. Two
bonus points are then allocated. If the first place players score is
greater then the combined scores of the second and third place players,
then the first place player gets an extra point. If not then the 3rd place
player gets an extra point. If the second place players score is greater
then the combined scores of 3rd and 4th place, then they receive a bonus
point, otherwise the bonus point goes to the 4th place player.
Three Player Group: the first place player is given 3 points, the second
place player gets 2 and third place gets 0 points. One bonus point is then
allocated. If the first place players score is greater then the combined
scores of the second and third place players, then the first place player
gets an extra point. If not then third place gets an extra point.
Two Player Group: the first place player is given 3 points, the second
place player gets 0 points. One bonus point is then allocated. If the
first place player gets three times the second place players score, they
get the bonus point, otherwise the second place player gets the point.
The purpose of the bonus points is to give a reward to players that achieve
a decisive victory, and to give the lower players a point if they prevent a
4/2 Overall Rank
"Overall Ranking" is based on total points accumulated by each player. At
the end of the season one high week and one low week are dropped from each
players scores and players are then ranked by these values. Overall
ranking is used to determine who makes it into division "A" of the playoffs
(see Section 6).
4/3 Grouping Rank
Players are also ranked, for the purpose of grouping players, by average
points per game. For example, if after two weeks a player has played in 8
games and scored 3, 1, 4, 0, 0, 2, 1 and 1 points respectively in those
games, their average points per game is 12/8 = 1.5. After all players
average points per game are calculated the players are ranked from highest
to lowest average. This gives the "grouping rank".
Prior to game time the "relative grouping rank" is determined for each
player. This is simply the ordering of the averages of the players who
have announced that they will be playing that week. This relative ranking
is used to determine what group each player is in (see section 3).
For the first week of the season the grouping rank is determined randomly
for each player. Players who begin the season late (2nd or subsequent
weeks) are presumed to have an average points per game of 2. If that
average ties a player who has an established average, for the purpose of
grouping, the late starter is presumed to have the higher average. If more
then one late starter starts in the same week, their grouping ranks
relative to each other are determined randomly.
4/4 Improvement Score & Rank
"Improvement score" and "improvement rank" are determined starting after the
5th week of the regular season. All players start with an initial
"improvement score" of zero. After each subsequent week of play, a players
improvement score is adjusted by adding or subtracting the number of
positions their overall ranking changed from the previous week.
For example, if in the 9th week of competition a player has a current
improvement score of -1 and as a result of that nights competition they
move up 2 positions in the overall rankings, then their improvement score
becomes -1 + 2 = +1. If in the next week they drop back 1 position then
their new improvement score is +1 - 1 = 0. Ordering players by their
improvement scores gives the "Improvement Ranking".
Note that lower rung players have more positions to potentially climb to by
seasons end, thus they have the greatest potential final improvement score
and the best chance to qualify as one of the top 4 most improved players.
Final improvement rankings determine who makes it into division "B" of the
playoffs (see section 6).
4/5 Rank Ties
If there is a tie for improvement ranking, the tie is broken by overall
If there is a tie for either overall ranking or grouping ranking, the tie
is broken as follows:
1. Total number of games played.
2. Average grouping.
3. Overall normals.
4. Random selection.
The average grouping is the average group that the player was placed into
where the top group is group 1, the next group down is group 2, then 3 and
finally 4. For this comparison the player with the lower average grouping
is ranked higher.
The overall normal is a comparison of each player against every other
player, instead of only comparing the player to the other players in their
group. This ensures that the overall higher skilled player is placed into
a higher grouping.
5. Miscellaneous Rules
5/1 Extra Balls
In 5 balls per game machines no extra balls are played. If a player earns
an extra ball they may plunge the ball and go for a plunger skill shot, but
may not touch the machine in any way after the ball is plunged. The player
may touch the flippers before plunging the ball in order to set up for a
skill shot, etc. In 3 balls per game machines one extra ball can be
played. Any extra balls beyond that must be plunged.
If a player mistakenly plays an extra ball (meaning they hit either or both
flippers, or bump the machine at any time during the extra ball, except as
noted above), they must stop playing as soon as the error is recognized and
they may not play their next ball. If they are on their last ball then
their final score is calculated as 80% of their total score.
If a player is recognized to be playing an extra ball, is clearly told so,
and does not stop playing the ball within 10 seconds, they receive a 0 for
the entire game instead of only losing the next ball.
If during the course of a game two "significant" malfunctions occur to a
player, then at the end of the ball on which the 2nd malfunction occurred
they have the option to either continue the game as is, or to end their
current game and replay the game after everyone else in the group has
finished. They must announce their decision to all players in their group.
The decision must be made before the next player starts their ball. The
deciding player is responsible for ensuring that the next player does not
start their ball before they make the decision. If they allow the next
player to begin their ball then it is presumed that they wish to continue
The score of the replay becomes their score on that game regardless of
whether it is better or worse then their previous effort. The rest of
their group waits for the player to finish the replay before starting their
A "significant malfunction" is one that results in an unfair loss of ball
in play (i.e. premature loss of turn) and that is not a normal part of the
game. If it is unclear if a malfunction is "significant" or "unfair", the
league President makes the decision. The following are examples of
- a player is forced to tilt the ball in an attempt to dislodge a stuck
- a turn ends prematurely (i.e. with 1 or more balls in play).
- a lit kickback fails to kick the ball back into play, resulting in
loss of turn.
- a ball saver fails to work, resulting in loss of turn.
The following are not examples of significant malfunctions:
- a player tilts away a ball that is stuck when it was clearly
- a multiball round ends prematurely but does not result in loss of
ball in play.
- a ball goes airborne and down the drain.
- a switch fails to register, but does not directly result in loss of
- a lit kickback fails to work during multiball, but doesnŐt result in
loss of turn.
- a ball saver fails to work during mulitball, but doesnŐt result in
loss of turn.
If a problem with a machine is known before the game is started (for
example a kickback that is known to be non-working or flaky), then when
that feature fails to work it isn't considered a significant malfunction
even if the result is loss of ball in play. If a malfunction forces a game
to be aborted for all players, the players may vote to either replay on the
same machine, or on a different machine.
5/3 Positive Malfunctions
If a malfunction causes a player to receive an exceptionally unfair
advantage over the other players, and there is no logical way to avoid it,
then the game is stopped and a new game is started on a different machine.
The league President decides which game to play on and whether the
malfunction gave an exceptionally unfair advantage. If the player tries
not to take advantage of the problem once it is discovered, and it is then
determined that there is a way to easily avoid it, then the game may
continue with all players agreeing to avoid the problem (see 5/4).
5/4 Problem Machines
If a machine has mechanical failures on a regular basis that affect the
completion or outcome of games, the league President may choose to disallow
the game as a choice in future competitions until it is apparent the
problems have been resolved.
If the problem is easily avoidable the league President may instead choose
to invoke a special rule for that game. For example, if the top left
upkicker in GottleibŐs Stargate is weak, it can cause Battle mode to become
unfairly valuable for some players, and not for others. When that mode
begins the ball is fed to the left flipper and since Gottleib games have
insta-catch flippers, a rule can be invoked stating that all players must
hold the ball until the Battle mode is over.
If a problem with a machine is known, but it is decided to play on the game
anyway without any special rules, then the problem is accepted as part of
the game and can not be considered a malfunction.
In general, random distractions that occur during league play are
considered normal play conditions. However, if an FSPA player is
determined to have intentionally tried to distract another player, the
guilty player forfeits the game. If the infraction is commited a second
time in the season by the same player, they forfeit the game and all
remaining games of that match, and must sit out the next week. If it
happens a third time the player forfeits their season (see 2/5).
5/6 Slam Tilts
If a player intentionally slam tilts a machine they automatically forfeit
the current game. The other players scores are noted (if possible) and
then they replay the game. They keep the score that is higher. If the
slam tilting player does it again any time during the season they forfeit
the game and all remaining games of that match, and must sit out the next
week. If a player intentionally slam tilts three times in a season, they
forfeit their season (see 2/5).
An intentional slam tilt is any intentional use of "significant" force that
results in a slam tilt. If it is unclear if a slam tilt was intentional,
or that the use of force was "significant", then the league President
decides if it was or was not.
5/7 Death Saves And Bang Backs
Death saves and bang backs are not allowed in FSPA league play. A player
that successfully performs a death save or bang back forfeits their score
on that game. However, it is OK if the ball bounces back into play of its
own accord (most common on Gottleib games).
5/8 Other Infractions
If a player tilts away another players ball, the player gets a zero for the
game and the player whose ball was tilted gets the option to replay the
game or continue the game. They must make this decision before letting the
next player start their ball. If the next player starts their ball then it
is presumed that the player wanted to continue. If they continue the game
and collect an extra ball they are allowed to play it. If they do not
collect an extra ball by games end they are allowed to buy one ball (if
possible) at the tilting players expense. The tilting player must pay for
the credit even if there are credits on the machine.
If a player plays out of turn (plays someone elses ball) they receive the
same penalty as for playing an extra ball unintentionally. The players
whose ball was misplayed gets the option to continue the game or replay it.
They must make this decision before letting the next player start their
ball. If the next player starts their ball then it is presumed that the
player wanted to continue. If they continue they can keep any points
earned during the misplayed ball. In addition, if they, as a result of the
mistake, lost a ball and choose to continue, they can play an earned extra
ball or use one buy-in at the offending players expense. The tilting
player must pay for the credit even if there are credits on the machine.
FSPA players do not have priority over non-FSPA players. If a non-FSPA
player is playing a game and your group is ready to begin play, you must
first wait a period of time to see if they leave on their own accord. If
you choose to encourage them to move to another game you must be extremely
polite and must offer to buy any credits they have on the game, and/or give
them leftover credits from the game you just left. In general, however, it
is prefered that you wait for the non-FSPA player to finish on their own
unless it is absolutely neccessary. If a player asks a non-FSPA player to
leave a game, but does so in an unpolite fashion, they forfeit the week.
If this happens twice in a season the player forfeits their season.
These latter rules are neccessary since if customers start to complain
about us to the management we may not be able to continue the league at the
5/9 Practice Games During League Play
If for any reason an FSPA player is playing a practice game while league
play is in progress, they are required to end their game immediately if a
group is ready to begin play on that machine. The group should not change
their next game if an FSPA player is playing a practice game on it. They
should kick the practicing player off.
If a player is playing a practice game while their own group is in league
play and their turn comes up in the league game, they have 30 seconds to
begin play of the ball. If they do not start in 30 seconds they lose that
ball and one of the other players plunges the ball for them.
Non-FSPA members may play as a "visitor" in the league if they notify the
President of their desire to play at least 24 hours in advance. However,
if 4, 8 or 16 FSPA players indicate that they will play that week, no
visitor is allowed. A visitors score is recorded on the score sheet, but
does not affect the points given to FSPA players. I.e., if a visitor is
placed in a group of 3, making it a group of 4, the scoring for that group
remains as if there were only 3 players. Visitors are placed into a group
after FSPA player groupings are determined so that a visitor does not bump
a player up or down. They are placed into the lowest group with less then
No visitor may play in the FSPAĘmore then 3 times in one season. They may
join the league for the next season, or if the season is no more then two
weeks old they may join the current season, with the previous weeks counted
as missed weeks.
There arenŐt any except as noted. This is a dictatorship! :-) However,
the role of the league President is to make decisions that benefit the
league as a whole. In general for anything that requires a decision, the
decision is made by the league President, or by the highest ranking FSPA
At the end of the regular season 8 players move on to the playoffs in two
divisions: the 4 players with the best "overall rankings" and the 4 "most
improved" players. In this document they will be referred to as the "A"
and "B" playoff divisions respectively.
6/1 Playoff Divisions
The "A" division is based on "overall ranking". I.e., it is based on the
total score of all matches during the season, minus the highest and lowest
scoring weeks for each player (see section 4/2). The top 4
players in overall ranking play in the "A" division.
The "B" division is based on "improvement ranking". I.e., it is based on
the difference between a players final overall ranking and their overall
ranking after the 5th week (see section 4/4). The
top 4 players in improvement ranking play in the "B" division.
A player can not play in both "A" and "B" divisions. If a player qualifies
for both "A" and "B" divisions, they play in the "A" division and the next
highest "improvement rank" player moves into the bottom of the "B"
division. Both A and B divisions use the same semi-finals and finals rules
to determine the results in each category.
The four players in each division play round-robin one-on-one games against
each of the other players that qualified for the division. The scoring
used for 2-player games in the regular season is in effect. I.e. 3pts go
to the winner of a game and 1 bonus point goes to the winner in case of a
decisive victory, or to the loser if not a decisive victory (see section
The schedule is as follows where "1st" = player who finished first in the
divisions rankings; "2nd" = player who finished second in the divisions
Game 1: 1st vs. 4th, 1st picks machine and who starts
2nd vs. 3rd, 2nd picks machine and who starts
Game 2: 1st vs. 3rd, 1st picks machine and who starts
2nd vs. 4th, 2nd picks machine and who starts
Game 3: 1st vs. 2nd, 1st picks machine and who starts
3rd vs. 4rd, 3rd picks machine and who starts
Note the advantage given to the players who finish higher in the standings.
The player that is ranked first in the division always picks which machine
to play on, and the order to play in.
Selection of games in the semi-finals is restricted as follows:
- The player who chooses the machine may not pick a machine that they
already played in the round. It doesn't matter, though, if the other
player has already played the machine.
- Since both divisions play simultaneously and two machines are selected
each game, per division, the same machine must not be picked more than
once at a time. For Game 1 the machines are picked in the following
1. A division 1st place picks machine
2. B division 1st place picks machine
3. A division 2nd place picks machine
4. B division 2nd place picks machine
- For subsequent games, players from one division can pick from the games
currently not in use by the other division. The only exception is if
the other division is playing a game that is already on the 2nd
player's ball 4 or later, in which case they may choose to wait for the
machine. Within a division the higher ranked player always picks
The total points after 3 games (a maximum of 12) will determine the two
players who move on to the finals for each division.
In case of a 2-way tie: The match involving the two tied players will be
used to break the tie.
In case of a 3-way tie: The games involving the player not tied will be
dropped, and the score re-computed. If there remains a 2-player tie, use
the above 2-way tie breaker.
If after the above, or in case of a 4-way tie, there remains a tie, then a
one-game sudden death will be played among the players who are tied. The
highest ranked tied player picks the game, but it cannot be a game that
he/she played before in the round. Play order is selected by starting
Two players from the semi-finals move on to the finals. "1st" and "2nd" now
refer to the players' positions in the semi-finals and not their initial
The finals are a race to 9 points using 2-player scoring. It takes a
minimum of 3 games and a maximum of 5 games to reach a total of 9 points or
more. The first player to reach 9 points is the winner.
The 1st place player of the semi-finals picks the order to play the machines
at the location. Games are played only if neccessary, but all games are
ordered in case one or more games malfunctions. If a machine breaks down,
that machine is skipped. If all usuable machines have been played and
neither player has reached 9 points then they return to the first machine
and continue in the same order.
The 1st place player picks the play-order for the first game. For all
subsequent games, the loser of the previous game picks the play-order.
Since length of games cannot be predicted, be prepared to play as late as
11pm should you make the finals. Note that individual games should be
shorter then regular season games because semi-final and final games are
all two player.
Prizes are determined by the league, but at a minimum the winner of each
division receives a trophy or plaque for their accomplishment. Any
additional prizes are awarded such that the order (by "value") that they
are given is: winner of "A" division; winner of "B" division, 2nd place
player of "A" division, 2nd place player of "B" division, etc. If there
are still more prizes available after awarding the finals and semi-finals
participants, the remaining prizes are distributed to the other players in
order of overall ranking. The league President determines what constitutes
a "prize" and what relative "value" a particular prize has.
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