London Pinball Championships 2015 at The Pipeline

On Saturday I made my way to London for my first ever pinball tournament: the London Pinball Championships 2015 at The Pipeline. As Home Leisure Direct was one of this year’s sponsors I’ve been liaising with the organisers in the preceding months, so it was great to finally see the event come together.


When I arrived, I was surprised at how many machines the bar was filled with; I’d visited The Pipeline late last year to check out their pinball machines and was happy to see 5 or 6 machines in use, which is a rare sight. On Saturday, the place was brimming with machines throughout the whole bar. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Pipeline Practice Machines

The main floor was divided into two tournament areas and two practice areas, with a third competing section and a row of practice pins in the basement, all set to freeplay. Before registration there was time for a few games on the designated practice machines and to mingle with some other players. It was great to see some friendly faces from the Pinball Madness league I go to near Weston-super-Mare and it was good to catch up with Craig Pullen, who is also sponsored by Home Leisure Direct.

Everyone received goody-bags on registration containing their player’s badge, a branded mug, a branded t-shirt, a slip to vote on the best machine in each category (going through to a prize draw) and a free beer token, among promotional material for new machines and advertisers.


The pinball machines eligible for tournament play were grouped into three era categories: Classic, Golden and Modern. Players were free to choose 5 different machines in each category to play one game on (three balls) with the scores going towards points to achieve a ranking against every other player in the championship.

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Scoreboards

Modern Pinball Machines

Games Drawn: AC/DC Premium, Family Guy, Iron Man, Metallica, The Simpsons, Spider-Man, Star Trek LE, Terminator 3, The Walking Dead LE and World Poker Tour. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Modern Era

Contestants were divided up into three groups to try their hand at each set of machines. My group started on the Modern machines, which was good news to me as most of my practice is during my lunch break in the Home Leisure Direct showrooms, where the newest pinball models are usually on display.

For my first game I picked Star Trek LE. The Pro version is a favourite of mine in the HLD showroom. In fact I was holding strong as Grand Champion until Craig informed me at the tournament that he’d thrashed my high score while visiting our showrooms to present some How to Play videos.

The next machine I tried was Spider-Man, another favourite of mine. I only managed to get a fraction of my personal high score, but despite this the model at the show was in nice condition and was a lot of fun to play. 

The next two games I played were Iron Man and Terminator 3, before taking on The Walking Dead as my final game. This was a dangerous move as it’s a very tough game, but I was hoping to get the upper hand against other players who might not know it as well as other games. Needless to say, my game was done and dusted in a matter of seconds and made for a speedy end to my first session.

Classic/Vintage Pinball Machines

Games Drawn: F14 Tomcat, Devil’s Dare, Eightball Deluxe, Flash, Meteor, Rollergames, Swords of Fury, Taxi, Playboy, Operation Thunder, Class of 1812, Victory.

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Classic Era Machines

The next round for my group was the Classic era pinball machines. I’d never come across most of the games, so I started with  the only game I did know, which was Eightball Deluxe. I then moved on to other Classic machines at random, hoping to them on the spot. 

I played Meteor, Playboy and F14 Tomcat, which were all really fun games to play and finished the round with Flash, which I scored 11th best on by the end of the day (my biggest bragging right of the competition!).

I enjoyed the Classic round as it was really different to the modern games I’m used to playing, and it was overall my best scoring round by the end of the day. 

Golden Era Pinball Machines

Games Drawn: Batman Forever, Congo, Jack-bot, Judge Dredd, Jurrasic Park, Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Scared Stiff, Terminator 2 and Twister. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Golden Era

My group’s last round was the Golden age pinball machines. From the list published on the  London Pinball website, I was hoping Attack From Mars and Twilight Zone would come up, as I’ve had most experience on them. Unfortunately they weren't selected for tournament play that day so I picked the few games I’d played on before (except Medieval Madness as this has been a bad game for me in the past). 

Despite these tactics I had a quite bad round. After some pretty terrible games on Scared Stiff, Monster Bash and Terminator 2, I took a punt on two games I hadn’t played before: Jurassic Park and Congo. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Some Golden Era Machines

I thought Jurassic Park was really fun to try out and I managed to keep the ball in play long enough to explore some of the main features. Luckily someone had given me a hint to watch out for the kick back which is a classic ball drainer on that game, which certainly saved me a couple of balls. 

Congo seemed to be a testing game for a lot of players that day, but I still enjoyed my game even though it was very short-lived! 

Wrapping Up

The whole event finished about 8pm with the final scores and trophy giving. The top 48 players went through to the finals the following day.

As for my personal ranking, I was positioned 89 out of 117 by the time all the scores were in. I was happy with this considering that it was my first tournament and that I’d met the one goal I’d set myself – not to finish last!

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Scoreboard

High Score Competition

The only pay-to-play game was a new Stern Wrestle Mania pinball machine which was picked as the High Score Competition machine, where a portion of the money goes to the player who managed to achieve the highest score on it by the end of the day. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Highscore Competition on Wrestle Mania

I’d played Wrestle Mania at the EAG show earlier this year, but it was the first opportunity for many players to try out this new game from Stern. There were mixed opinions of Wrestle Mania as players tried to work out the highest scoring shots and grappled with the unique wrestling ring feature positioned on the back of the play field.

At the close of play on Saturday, Martin Ayub had managed to keep his place as Grand Champion all afternoon and received a trophy and prize money - given away by me as a representative of Home Leisure Direct.

The Event

Overall I had great fun at the tournament. There was a good range of machines (including a lot of highly rated games) to play in both the competition and practice areas that were in great condition generally.

Apart from one area being a bit squashed when queuing for machines, the layout was good. I especially liked that there was plenty of room in the competitive play areas, which I find really helps me to engross myself in the game.

Everyone was really friendly and the organisers and stewards were helpful and positive throughout the day despite being exhausted, I’m sure. Credit to whoever set up the pins in the basement! There was a friendly atmosphere between the players too, which was especially nice for me as a rookie visiting the event solo and made all the difference to my enjoyment of the day. 

London Pinball Championships 2015 - Practice Machines in the Pipeline Basement

It would be great to hear your thoughts on the event in the comment box below if you were at the London Pinball Championships at the weekend, especially if you have some information on the outcome of Sunday’s final. I’d love to see your photos of the weekend too – anyone catch a shot of me with my game-face on? 

Written By: Abi Ponton

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