Attention local pinball wizards: There’s a new league in Cincinnati.
The Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition Pinball League will wrap up its inaugural run May 5, enjoying a successful premiere with 36 registered players. (The finals will be held May 26.)
The league has been a long time coming, says Jesse Baker, owner and operator of Arcade Legacy. While the spring season is nearly over, the next season will start in late September. Registration costs $15, which goes toward International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) fees and cash payouts for top scorers.
The league has three skill tiers — A, B and C — and Baker says that in the first week, participants will be grouped by their initial scores, which are compiled through a series of 10 games.
“In each division, there’s a money payout and a prize payout. The top three in each division get a percentage of the league fees and there’s a trophy for the winners of each division,” Baker says. “Even the lower-skilled players have a chance to win money and a trophy because you only play with the people in your division.”
For the next seven weeks, participants play several games in a group of four people competing in three rounds with the goal of claiming the high score. Every week, participants play the same game. Depending on if you win or lose, players can move up or down in their rankings.
Unlike a bowling league, where you have to schedule around a specific night to play with your team, the pinball league allows you to come in to Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition in Northside any day of the week and play at your own pace. A staff member will verify your score and enter it into the official lists. Of course, some people plan it so they can play with their team.
“A league is good for getting into pinball because it’s lower pressure,” Baker says. “You don’t have to play with other people, you can just play by yourself, put your scores up and see how you do against your opponents.”
One of the season’s highest-scoring league members is Tony Behr, a dental ceramist and fine arts professional by trade. (Behr is in the “A” divison.)
“For someone in my position the league has gone very well,” Behr says. “I have a very busy lifestyle and I cannot make it to as many tournaments as I would like to. Tournaments were the only means I had to be involved with competitive pinball.”
This league, he says, has allowed him to attend on a weekly basis since it revolves around participants’ personal schedules — a detail that he calls a “major game changer.”
“It has also added another great way for the community of players to get together and share their love of pinball,” he says.
Behr’s current favorite pinball machine is Deadpool, inspired by Marvel’s infamous “Merc with a Mouth” and the 2016 Ryan Reynolds film of the same name.
Arcade Legacy’s Baker is a bit of a pinball whiz himself, ranked as the 143rd best pinball player on the planet, according to the IFPA, which serves as the official governing body for pinball as a competitive sport. Ever since Baker was a boy, he played the silver ball, but only in the past three years has he started to compete in officially sanctioned IFPA tournaments.
One of Baker’s favorite machines, a game called Road Show, is played by his local league.
“It’s a construction game, which right off the bat is probably not all that exciting sounding to most people,” he says.
In the game, you move across the United States. In the middle, there’s a map with different cities, each with different goals.
As a pinball expert, Baker has the credentials to give pretty good advice to anyone about how to succeed in the game. For starters, know the rules.
“You can get up there and you can flip around and get a few points, but you’re not going to get too far,” he says. “You have to know the right sequence of shots, that’s a huge battle. Then there’s having to aim — that’s not something someone can really teach you. You just have to stand there and practice it.”
If you’re interested in signing up for next season’s league, be sure to follow Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition on Facebook. If you’d like to get some practice in, they also hold tournaments every second Saturday and the last Friday of every month.
For more information on how to join Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition’s Pinball League, visit facebook.com/albaredition.