The Toronto Pinball League (ToPL) rules are based on the Professional Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA), International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) and Free State Pinball Association (FSPA) official 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 four machines at a single location. Scoring is based on how well one does relative to players of similar ability. The nature of the ToPL 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 member agreed on by the SLOs as qualified to make a ruling. The order of rank for league officials is President, Scorekeeper, Treasurer, and then other qualified member. Please keep in mind that the SLO team are also players, if you need a specific ruling on something and a SLO is currently playing a league match, find a SLO who isn’t playing currently or wait until the SLO has finished his current turn.
The league president is responsible for overseeing the operations of the league, and ensuring that all other SLOs are fulfilling their responsibilities.
The scorekeeper is responsible for running regular league meets and playoff tournaments, and for maintaining and enforcing the league rules. He is also responsible for providing a regular account of the league standings.
The treasurer is responsible for collecting money at regular league meetings, tournaments, and other events, both for ongoing league fees and for host fees. He is also responsible for any payments the league is responsible for, including the disbursement of prizes, host fees, and other league expenses. The treasurer will provide a detailed accounting of all money passing through the league, including regular league fees and any special events associated with ToPL, at minimum once per season.
Elections are carried out by secret ballot online every two calendar years, and correspond with the nearest end of season playoffs. The current SLOs are responsible for appointing a Chief Returning Officer (CRO) to oversee the election. The CRO may not run for an elected position, but may be a current elected SLO should they decide not to run for another elected position or term. The CRO will notify all league members that an election is due at least three weeks before the playoffs of the season the election is happening in. Potential candidates for President, Scorekeeper, or Treasurer will need to make their intent to run for an elected position known no later than one week before the election date, after which voting will be open for a minimum of four days before the playoffs. Members may choose to proxy their votes to another eligible member if they so choose.
Any member who has a valid percentage for either of the two seasons directly preceding the election may vote, and may choose to run for any of the elected positions. Members may not run for more than one position in the same election. There are no limits on the number of terms one member may serve in a position, either consecutively or non-consecutively.
1.4. Removal of an SLO
If a situation arises where an SLO is found to be grossly incompetent, corrupt, or otherwise unfit to continue to perform their function, league membership may force their early removal. A petition signed by 50% of the current or prior season’s active members (i.e. members with valid percentages) presented to the other SLOs will trigger an immediate referendum on removal of the SLO. This will be carried out in the same manner as a regular election, albeit with one of the other SLOs acting as the CRO. The SLO will be removed from their position in the case of a vote in favour of removal by 2/3 of the eligible voters. Should this occur, the remaining SLOs will take over the removed SLO’s duties until a suitable replacement can be found via a byelection. Byelections proceed in the same manner as a regular election, with the exception that the CRO may choose to condense the timeframes in the interest of filling the vacancy more quickly.
If there is less than three months remaining in the current term, the remaining SLOs may choose to appoint a league member to fill a vacancy instead of holding a byelection, however every effort should be made to keep three SLOs active at all times.
If a situation arises where an SLO voluntarily resigns, then the provisions above for a byelection will apply.
1.5. 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.
Rulings shall be made by any member of SLO Team. Any designated official is excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects his or her actual or potential standing as a player. Such persons may also be recused where their decision affects a close friend or family member, at the discretion of other SLO’s. Final authority for any ruling, including rulings that contradict or vacate anything written in this document or in other TOPL materials, rests with the President of the Toronto Pinball League. TOPL accepts all feedback and constructive criticism, including player complaints, without reservations. However, please recognize that TOPL strives to be fair even in the most difficult situations. Complaints will be taken seriously, ruled upon, and considered resolved. There is to be no whining.
A single season of league play consists of a number of weeks, customarily 15, which may be non-continuous due to holidays or expected large-scale absenteeism. At the end of the season, a one day playoff tournament will be selected and league members will compete for the title of TOPL Champion.
While players are generally expected to attend all 15 weeks of a season, this may not always be possible, so when calculating scores (both total points and percentage), a player’s lowest three weekly scores will be dropped, whether they are zero (absent) or nonzero.
2. Regular League Nights
For a regular league night, players are arranged into groups of three or four, based on the number of people in attendance. Players are placed in groups based on the score they received at the last recorded league night they attended. All new players who have never played in the league before are given a default median score of 10 for seeding purposes.
A match consists of four games, played on four different machines (if possible) during a single meet. All games are played in multiplayer mode, where players alternate turns and scores are displayed simultaneously on the machine. If a machine does not allow the required number of players to play simultaneously, or if an SLO indicates that a game should be played one player at a time, the order on the score sheet should still be followed, with the maximum number of players completing their full games in sequence. At the end of each match, scores are recorded for the purpose of awarding an overall season winner, and to determine the group ranking for the next league night.
2.1. Start Time
Any practice 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.
2.2. Singing In
It is a player’s responsibility to find the sign in sheet and place either a ✓or X beside their name. If a player does not sign in, they may not be eligible to play in league that night.
The sign in sheet will be located in as convenient a place as possible at each location. It will always be in the same area as the machines, on a flat surface so that people can sign themselves in. Announcements of league meets may contain additional instructions for signing in, including contingencies for players running late, and cutoff times for the start of play. These will be considered supplements to these rules.
2.3. 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. The lower-ranked groups will get 4 players.
Ranking is based on the final score from each player’s previous week. This allows movement between skill level groups on a weekly basis.
2.4. 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, they will be placed in the next available group. This may put the player in a group of higher skill. If play has already started and the SLO determines the player’s arrival would unduly disturb group distribution, the player may be excluded from that week’s play.
If a player arrives after his group begins play, the player may join the game in progress if possible. Joining the game is permitted if the machine permits it, and the last player of the group has not finished their first ball. Adding players should be done so as not to disturb the person currently playing. If unable to join the game in progress, the late player will receive a score of zero (0) for that game.
2.5. Announced Lateness
If a player gives advance notification of possible lateness, the SLO will place the player in the appropriate group prior to beginning play. If a player arrives after his group begins play, the player may join the game in progress if possible. Joining the game is permitted if the machine permits it, and the last player of the group has not finished their first ball. Adding players should be done so as not to disturb the person currently playing. If unable to join the game in progress, the late player will receive a score of zero (0) for that game.
2.6. Leaving early
If a player needs to leave a meet early, they will receive a score of zero on any games for which they are absent, unless alternate arrangements are agreed on by the remainder of the group and the SLO (for example, allowing a player to play ahead of their group and record their scores separately).
2.7. Median Player
When a group consists of three players, the fourth player position will be scored as the Median Player, consisting of the Median score from all groups for that specific machine. Players are then assigned points based on their relation to both group players and the Median Player.
If any player ties the Median score, the player will be deemed the winner over the Median.
2.8. Playing Order
Player order is determined by the scoresheet and player ranking. Player order changes for each machine. Every week, each player (in a 4-player group) will have a chance of playing first, second, third, and fourth. In a 3-player group, each player will have a chance of playing first, second, and third, and one position will be repeated.
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.
3.1. Game Points
The player scoring highest, second, third, and fourth on a machine will respectively receive 4, 3, 2, and 1 game points. (In 3-player groups, one of these awards will go to the virtual Median player.) The number of points available per player for the meet, which is the total number of points awarded for all 4 games played combined, ranges from 4 to 16, assuming no player receives a 0.
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.
Game points are one measure of a player’s ability, one that depends both on their ability and their attendance record: of two equally-able players, the one attending the most weeks will have a higher season score. This serves as incentive to attend league nights as regularly as possible.
3.2. Calculating the Median Score
3.2.1. Odd number
If the total number of players present is odd, the Median score is the middle player’s, when ranked from highest to lowest.
For example, if there are 9 players, the Median will be the 5th player’s score, and the top 5 players will be deemed as having beaten the Median score.
3.2.2. Even number
If the total number of players present is even, the Median score is the average of the two middle players, when ranked from highest to lowest.
For example, if there are 8 players, the Median will be the average of the 4th and 5th players’ scores, and the top 4 players will be deemed as having beaten the Median score.
Percentage is the calculation that is used by the league to better determine a player’s skill level. Only the weeks that a player attends league are counted toward his/her percentage. All weeks a player attends, including the 3 dropped weeks, are included in the percentage calculation.
The percentage is used for a few things in the league, a players’ percentage is used to determine the winner of the most improved award and a players percentage is also used to determine that a player has attended enough weeks to be eligible to participate in the playoffs without further fees required.
This measure is independent of the number of weeks played. Weekly scores can vary from 4 to 16 points; this is applied to a zero-to-100 (percent) scale. The average of a player’s percent scores for the season is what we call their percentage. Note that for percentage calculations, scores are transformed from a 4-16 point scale to a 0-12 point one. This is done since the minimum score a player can get is 4/16, which should not automatically give the player 25%.
A player must attend at least 5 meets per season for their percentage to be valid.
3.4 Lifetime Percentage
A player’s lifetime percentage is calculated based on the last 90 weeks we have in the system for the player, and it is used to handicap players for overall point totals. Based on the lifetime percentage, a per-week adjustment is applied to the players’ scores:
0% – 30% – 6 points
30% – 40% – 5 points
40% – 45% – 4 points
45% – 50% – 3 points
50% – 55% – 2 points
55% – 60% – 1 point
4. Machine Selection and Play Order
For each meet, machines are selected by the scorekeeper in a quasi-random fashion. This allows for the machine selections to take into consideration proximity, repetition between weeks, and unique, new, or soon to leave games. If there are four or fewer groups, all groups will play the same machines. For meets with more than four groups, more machines will be added in order to spread groups out onto more machines and speed up play, such that at least four groups play each game. If possible, with more than four groups, the number of machines in play equals the number of groups.
4.1. Machine Play Order
After machines are selected, each group begins play on the first machine on their list. When a group finishes a game, they move to the next available machine. After the first machine of the night, games do not have to be played in the order indicated on the score sheet.
4.2. Machine Replacement Selection
If a machine should become unplayable during league play, a replacement machine must be designated by the SLO, subject to as many of the following constraints as possible.
The replacement machine:
- Should be in good working order.
- Should not be already scheduled for play by the affected group.
- Should not be scheduled to be played by another group in the affected round.
- Should be chosen to minimize group backlogs.
Groups that have already completed play on the unplayable machine will retain the scores from that machine. If a replacement machines is used, and no other groups are able to play on the replacement machine, that group will not be eligible to receive a high score on that machine for the night.
The TOPL playoff system is a match play tournament which consists of two-player, single game matches. Advantage (selection of play order) is given for total points during the regular season,
The playoffs are open to everyone. Anyone and everyone are welcome at playoffs. Fees for playoffs are as follows:
- Any player who has paid the league fees for the season has free entry into the playoffs
- The fee for a player who has paid the league fees, but does not have a valid percentage is $20
- The entry fee for anyone who has no valid percentage and has not paid league fees is $50.
There is also a location fee of $15 that all guests including spectators must pay to the host for opening their home to the league. This fee is separate from the playoffs fee.
5.2. Playoff Divisions
There are two playoff divisions: A and B. The B division will only be available to players with a valid percentage for the current season. The minimum people required to run a B division is 6. The existence of a B division also assumes that the minimum required people of 8 has been met in the A division.
The match play round has players from both divisions playing each other for the duration of match play. Once match play is done, the playoff rounds are determined from the top scores of each division’s players, and prizes are awarded accordingly.
5.3. Division Eligibility
The following restrictions apply to the B division of play only. The A division is an open division and anyone is eligible to participate assuming they have paid the required fees.
- Any player that has placed in either second or third in the A division may not enter the B division for a period of 9 seasons from their most recent A division placing.
- Any player that has won the A division may not enter the B division for a period of 15 seasons from their most recent A division win.
- Any player who has won the B division may not participate in the B division the following season. After entering A the following season if the player does not place in either first, second or third they will then be allowed to enter the B division the next season.
- In the event that the landscape of TOPL has changed to a point that a player who has previously placed first, second or third in the A division is no longer able to compete at a reasonable level in the A division, at the discretion of the SLO the player may request to be allowed to play in the B division before the above time restrictions expire.
- At the discretion of the SLOs, a player may be required to play in the A division based on previous performance in tournaments or leagues other the ones associated with TOPL.
5.4. Playoff Format and Machine Selection
The format of the playoffs is that of match play.
Using a piece of software, players are matched up against each other and a game is selected at random via the software.
Order of who goes first and who goes second will be decided by the player with the highest season score. This is to reward our players who make it out week after week and have earned a score that allows them this choice.
Once the software has generated the pairings players should report to their machines as quickly as possible. Order of play will then be determined by the higher season score player and then play can commence.
At the end of the game, the player who has won must record the results into the software. The actual final score is of no consequence, they one thing that matters is who has won and who has lost.
Once all players have completed playing in that round, new pairings will be generated and play will continue as listed above.
The software will do its best to ensure that no 2 players play each other twice unless all other players have been played and that you do not play the same machine twice.
There are instances where the software does need a player to play the same machine twice but those are few and far between.
This format works best the faster people play as it means more rounds can be played, so please make sure you are prompt in reporting who has one.
The player who wins will have 1 point added to their total and the losing player will not receive a point.
In the event that there are an odd number of players in the playoffs, a “Joker” will be added into the system to give a bye to a player in that round. The player matched against the “Joker” will get a point for the round.
5.5. Late Arrival
Players who arrive after match play has started may still enter at the start of the next round, but will not receive any handicap/compensation for missed rounds.
The finals will be for the top 4 or top 8 depending on attendance; this will be decided on and announced before the start of playoffs. Typically 8 players will compete for the finals in the A division if there is no B division run, or if there are at least 24 players in the A division.
In the event there are 8 players taken into the final 1 – 4 will playoffs against each other and 5 – 8 will play off against each other. No player in either group can go higher or lower than their current ranking restriction. Within these groups, selection of play order is still dictated by overall season score, regardless of the relative position within a group. This not only rewards season play, but minimizes the number of tiebreaker rounds needed to establish finals play order.
Players will play on 4 machines; an attempt will be made to have 1 EM, 1 SS, 1 Early DMD and 1 modern DMD machine if the location allows it. Game selection will be made by a SLO at random from a selection of machines available at the location that the SLO Team deems as “Tournament Worthy” machines.
There will be no repeat selections for the final, unless the location does not have enough machines to accommodate a 4 game final.
Players will receive points in the same form as the qualifying period as wins and losses. So the points for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th on each game will be 3, 2, 1, and 0.
In the event of a tie after the finals have completed a single round, a winner take all match will happen between all the affected parties. A single game will be selected by the SLO team and order of play for the tie will be chosen by the highest qualifier from the qualification round.
Each division (A and B) will hold its own finals, separate from the other division. The top 4 or 8 players in each division win cash prizes, number of payouts will be determined by attendance. The A division winner gets custody of the playoffs trophy. The cash prizes are determined on the day of the playoffs, as they depend on how much money the league holds after paying for food & drink, and the number of players who opt to move from B to A.
Each player will be assigned a value from their league fees. That value will follow the player regardless of what division they end up playing in. The prize pool will be the total amount of each players’ value in their given division. The value of each player may change from season to season depending on the administrative costs of the league during a given season.
Players who have paid their league fees and who do not show up to playoffs will have their value split between the two divisions based on the percentage of players in each division. So if 70% of the players are in the A division and 30% are in the B division the value will be split 70/30 between the divisions.
- Example: The current value for a player for the given season is $18. There are 20 people in the A division and 5 people in the B division. The A Division will have $360 prize pool based on the number of players and the B division will have $90.
- Example 2: The current value for a player for the give season is $15. There are 10 people in the A division and 10 people in the B division. The A division prize pool will be $150 and the B division Prize pool will be $150.
For a 4 player payout, the prize pool is divided proportionally in a 50/25/15/10 split, rounded to the nearest five dollar increment. For an 8 player payout, the split is 30/18/15/12/10/7.5/5/2.5.
6. Fees and Dues
6.1. Season Fee
The league treasurer will collect the season fee at the beginning of each season. Fees are set at $30 for the season, which covers league operating expenses, food for the playoffs, and tournament prizes. Players must pay the season fee to compete in any regular league meets.
6.2. Occasional Players
If a player does not wish to pay the $30 to join the league, they can pay $10 to play for a single week. This money helps to finance the league, and to cover league expenses. Players can pay this fee as many times as they want, and convert to a full season member at any time, however weeks paid as an occasional player do not build credit towards the $30 season fee. While an occasional player can still earn points and score a percentage, weekly fees do not count towards the playoffs.
6.3. Host fee
When playing at non-arcade locations where machines are set on free play, a $10 location fee is also charged. This money goes directly to the host, to compensate them for the time, effort, and parts required to keep the machines in league-ready shape.
6.4. Playoff fee
Any member who has paid the $30 season fee at any regular league night is granted free entry into the playoffs. Non-members are welcome at the playoffs, but they will be charged a $50 entry fee.
Host fees for the playoffs are $15, based on the longer playing time.
At locations where games are not set to free play, players will pay for all of their own games.
A fully paid league member may usually bring 1 guest who does not participate in league play, and does not need to pay the league fees. These guests should be limited to spouses/significant others, immediate family, or children. Although guests are not responsible for the league fees, they are responsible for the location fees. Please be sure to notify the Treasurer that someone is a guest, and not liable for the full fees. Guests are also allowed at the discretion of the host, and we ask that you respect the hosts’ wishes if they do not want extra people in their homes.
6.7. First Timers
For players who would like to try out the league for the very first time, league fees will be waived. The player will still be responsible for the host fee. No exceptions will be made for time between visits.
7. Machine Play Rules —General
7.1. 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.
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 shake or nudge the machine, and is allowed one single flip. The player may opt not to flip at all if he wishes not to. Beyond the single flip and shaking or nudging the machine, no other interaction with an extra ball is permitted. This includes video modes, multiballs, shooter buttons, extra cabinet buttons (e.g. FIRE button on ACDC/Star Trek), or any other game features.
7.1.1. 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. If the player has used his single flip on the current extra ball, he cannot flip again on a ball save. Conversely, if the player has not yet flipped, he may do so on a ball save.
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.
7.1.2. 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.
7.2. Consolation balls
In the event that a ruling by an SLO results in a player needing to play a consolation ball, the following rules apply:
- If the player has earned, or has the potential to earn one or more extra balls, he may choose to play one of them at any point in the game.
- In cases where machines are set to more balls than are customary (e.g. a 3 ball game set to 4 balls for a tournament), the fourth ball may be played.
- Once the game is completed, the player may play a single ball on a new game and have the score of this ball added to the score from the previous game. Note that the state of the machine (modes etc) will not be reset to a state that the player was in during the previous game.
Note that if the game allows a “buy in” feature for an extra ball, the player may not use this feature to continue at the end of their game. This is because this often awards extra bonuses to a player that would result in an unfair advantage, e.g. free mode or multiball starts.
7.3. 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.
The unique charm of pinball lies, in large part, in the physical nature of the game. Unfortunately, this means that unusual events and outright malfunctions cannot be prevented, nor can they be perfectly compensated for. TOPL attempts to strike a balance between compensating for malfunctions and accepting the physical nature of the game.
In certain cases, malfunctions will be dealt with more strictly during playoff rounds than during league nights, at the discretion of the SLO
7.4.1. Minor Malfunctions
A minor malfunction is any incident without external cause which deviates from the normal course of gameplay, without directly causing a player’s loss of turn and without providing any player a significant advantage over others. A minor malfunction is considered part of normal play. Tournament officials shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage; in the event that such an advantage is obtained, refer to “Beneficial Malfunctions”.
A minor malfunction that occurs repeatedly, to the extent that it is markedly affecting play of the machine, may be considered a major malfunction at the sole discretion of tournament officials.
The following examples would be considered minor 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.)
- Minor game features not working as intended (e.g. a single switch not scoring in a context such that the majority of the game can still be played)
- Feature lights not working
7.4.2. Major Malfunctions
A major malfunction is a gameplay problem with a machine that results in the premature loss of ball in play in a fashion that is not a normal feature of the machine’s gameplay. These may be unusual one-time events, or they may indicate a recurring problem that will need to be addressed by technicians.
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.
- Game resets
- The bonus count begins while the ball is still in play. This can happen if, for example, the machine loses track of how many balls are in the drain trough.
- A lit kickback fails to return the ball to play, ending the player’s turn. This does not apply to other ball saving devices such as timed ball savers, ball traps, or gates.
- Major game features not working that significantly impact gameplay.
- A flipper ceases to function
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.
Any malfunction that results in the loss of one or more balls during multiball play, without losing all balls so as to end the player’s turn, will only be considered a minor malfunction. Loss of Tilt warnings, without loss of ball, shall not be considered a major malfunction. Loss of any lit feature, running mode, or other gameplay specifics, shall not be considered a major malfunction.
When a major malfunction occurs, it is the player’s responsibility to notify the SLO, calmly and promptly. If the SLO agrees that the incident is a major malfunction, the player will be provided with a consolation ball. The player’s total score on the additional ball of play will be added to his or her previous score, and the new game will be terminated.
At the request of the player, if and only if a SLO approves, the major malfunction may instead be handled as follows. The current game will be terminated and the score recorded. A new game will be started, and after the appropriate number of balls have been played in the new game, the new score will be added to the old score to determine the player’s total score, and the new game will be terminated. This approach is functionally similar to the previous paragraph, but may afford different strategic opportunities to the player. In no event will a player be allowed to abuse this rule through intentionally seeking a major malfunction.
If a major malfunction occurs early in the play of the first ball by the first player, tournament officials may rule that the current game is voided and the scores discarded. Machine repairs will be attempted and the player(s) will restart their play without needing to track the previous score.
In the event that two or more major malfunctions take place during the same game, the current scores of the player(s) will be recorded, and the game terminated. Once the machine has been repaired, players will be provided additional ball(s) of play on a new game, as necessary to provide the correct number of balls of play for each player. Alternatively, SLO may choose to allow the affected player(s) to replay the game from scratch, and the higher score for each player will be recorded as his or her official score, except in any case where the original score was unfairly improved by the malfunction or was significantly increased during attempts to investigate or cure the malfunction. In the event that a recurring major malfunction cannot suitably be repaired, the failure must be treated as a catastrophic malfunction.
Under certain specific conditions, a major malfunction may be declined by the player. This must be approved by the SLO, and must not result in a situation which provides an unfair advantage to the player. 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.
7.4.3. Catastrophic malfunctions
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.
It is recommended that the league prepare a maintenance sheet on which is noted any malfunctions that are found on the various machines during league play. This list should be passed on to the site’s management to assist in the proper maintenance of the machines.
7.4.4. Beneficial Malfunctions
Any malfunction which provides at least one player with a significant advantage over any other player competing on that machine is known as a beneficial malfunction. SLO shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage.
Any beneficial malfunction which results in a player being able to continue play of a ball that normally should have ended is normally allowed once per game. Examples of this would include an unexpected software ball save, a ball that bounces back into play without player action, or a ball that comes to rest on an unlit kickback in the outlane (which will lead to a ball search, kicking the ball back into play). Any such behavior shall not be allowed if it repeats, meaning that tournament officials may require players to allow the repeatedly-saved ball to drain, or play on the machine may be terminated in accordance with catastrophic malfunction rules, at which point repairs may be attempted.
Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and SLO can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage. If the beneficial malfunction has been specifically avoided by the player, it is unlikely that a penalty is necessary. If any player score(s) are voided, the affected player(s) may then replay the game after the other players have finished, and the new score(s) are used for the affected player(s).
Examples of beneficial malfunctions would include a jackpot switch that registers when a different target is hit, a valuable switch that scores repeatedly without the ball contacting it, a failed Tilt sensor, or a ball stuck during multiball (See also “Stuck Balls”).
Any situation which indicates the presence of a beneficial malfunction should be brought to the attention of the SLO promptly. Any player who intentionally takes advantage of a significant beneficial malfunction may be given a warning and/or have his or her affected score interrupted and disqualified by the SLO. It is the responsibility of all members of a group to ensure that positive malfunctions are not abused.
7.5. Stuck Balls
During the course of play, it is possible for one or more balls to become stuck on a playfield feature, usually after becoming airborne. If this happens during single ball play, the player must wait for automatic ball searches to occur. The expiration of any timed feature during this period is not considered a malfunction.
If the stuck ball has not been freed after four such searches, or if the machine is not performing searches for some reason, the player must alert an SLO. The player must remain alert and at the machine, as he is responsible for the ball if it becomes freed at any point. In the event that a “chase” ball is served into the game, the player is responsible for continuing play, and a suitable malfunction will only be ruled if the machine is unable to function normally from this point forward.
An SLO may initially choose to try to free the stuck ball through judicious nudging, tapping, etc. The player must remain ready to resume play at the machine during this attempt. If actions by the official result in a Tilt, this will be treated as a malfunction and a consolation ball will be awarded. If the official frees the ball but the player does not successfully continue play, this is normal play (the fault of the player). Loss of Tilt warnings due to tournament official nudging is considered normal play.
If the SLO is unable to free the stuck ball, the machine will be opened, and the stuck ball removed and placed, according to the player’s choice, in either the plunger lane, or on either upraised flipper, with the flipper button held by the player. In the case of older machines with electromechanical scoring, the option of placing the ball in the plunger lane will not be available, unless the flipper configuration somehow prevents holding balls elsewhere. In the case of newer machines with lockout coils, upraised flippers may not be possible while the machine is open, so the plunger lane will be preferred.
At the SLO’s discretion, or as a result of freeing the ball, the ball may be placed in another location, so long as it is possible to resume normal play once the machine has been closed. If more than one ball is stuck, each freed ball will be placed according to the rules above, although possibly in multiple locations.
If the ball is inadvertently freed while the machine is open and drains without the player regaining complete control (stopped on a flipper), this will be treated as a malfunction and the player will be awarded a consolation ball. If the machine cannot be opened successfully, or if opening or closing the machine terminates the game(s) in progress for any reason, this will be treated as a catastrophic malfunction. If the ball is freed and the machine closed without the player’s loss of ball, play continues as normal.
Any player who chooses to shake or bump the machine in order to free a stuck ball does so at his own risk. No allowance will be made for a player who tilts while attempting to free a stuck ball, whether or not SLOs are present.
If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance. A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and intentionally taking advantage may result in a penalty. Please note specifically that a ball ending up in the plunger lane during multiball on a machine where there is no autoplunger (or where the autoplunger for some reason refuses to fire) counts as a stuck ball. See “Beneficial Malfunctions” for further details.
Any player who misuses a game feature in order to intentionally trap a ball during a multiball mode, such as holding in the plunger in order to defeat the autoplunger, may be given a warning and/or have his or her affected entry interrupted and disqualified by SLO.
In situations where a ball is trapped in a way that it can be released through player action other than shaking or bumping – for example, a ball at rest underneath a flipper which the player controls – this is not deemed to be a stuck ball. Balls trapped in this fashion during multiball modes are not generally considered to be a rules violation, although the ruling will depend on the exact machine and situation.
Any ball that comes to rest in an outlane, where any portion of the ball is below the outlane post, is not deemed a stuck ball. In these instances, players will have the option of attempting to free the ball themselves or to ask a tournament official to place the ball in the drain for them.
7.6. Multiple balls in single ball play
If a game puts multiple balls into play when not in a multiball (for example through a faulty physical lock or ball trough), the player should immediately attempt to drain one of the balls and return to single ball play. If this ends their turn prematurely, the player can play a consolation ball.
7.7. 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.
7.8. 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.
In general, random distractions that occur during league play (including minor physical bumps) are considered normal play conditions and no allowances are made for the effects of such distractions on a player’s game.
7.10. Non-League Players
League players do not take precedence over other customers at the establishment. Having a non-league customer play your ball is considered a distraction and not interference; control of the ball should be regained as quickly and politely as possible. Close attention should be paid by league players to their game in progress to guard against this situation.
8. Illegal actions
8.1. Playing Own Unallowable Extra Ball
If a player nudges, flips, or otherwise plays his own unallowable extra ball beyond the allowed single flip, he must stop as soon as the error is recognized. The other group members may request a game restart if the amount of play time and scoring of said ball is deemed excessive by the SLO.
If a player intentionally plays an extra ball in an attempt to improve his score in the hope that the other groups members don’t notice, will fall under the realm of cheating and will be dealt with as such.
This does not apply in cases where a player must flip once to avoid “infinite ball saves.”
8.2. Playing Opponent’s Ball
The violator shall attempt to trap the ball(s) on a flipper as soon as the error is realized. On the second or greater offense (per meet), the violator receives a machine score of zero (0) for the game.
If the affected ball was an unallowable extra ball, there is no additional compensation for the victim. Otherwise, the victim may choose one of three options: continue playing the erroneously plunged ball (if control can be recovered), play a single extra ball (Consolation ball), or replay the entire game. The player must request a decision from all players in the group before play resumes. 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 without announcing his request, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue the game and play an additional ball. 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 rest of the group waits for the player to finish the replayed game before starting their next game.
Any player who plays out of turn deliberately in order to employ this rule will be disqualified entirely.
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. The interfering player is required to pay for the replayed, even if there are credits on the machine.
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).
Behavior which causes a player to be ejected from the establishment by the management will be penalized as an automatic third offense, even if it occurs before or after league play.
- 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.
8.4. 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. The player responsible for the wrong number of games being credited (who pressed the credit button) pays the cost of the restart.
8.5. 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.
8.6. 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 can significantly damage machines, and are therefore not allowed in TOPL league play. A player that attempts to perform 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.
8.7. Unallowable Practice Games
While players are allowed to play other games while waiting to play league games during regular season nights or playoffs, players are prohibited from practicing on known tournament games in advance of competing on them. This can give a player an unfair advantage, and knowingly breaking this rule is considered cheating.
8.8. Delay of play
Players are responsible for making sure they are at their assigned machine when it is their turn to play. If a player cannot be found when it is their turn to play, an SLO may decide to plunge the player’s ball for them if the player’s absence results in an overall delay of tournament play. If a machine has an “auto launch” feature, absentee players will not be compensated for loss of balls if they are not present to play them.
Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. The ToPL 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.
9. Prizes and awards
9.1. Replay Prize
A replay award is a free entry into the next TOPL season, which waives the player’s league fees. A player may only earn one replay in a season. A replay must be used in the next season that the player chooses to play in, although they may choose to save their replay for a future season if they are unable to play. Replay awards expire after three TOPL seasons or one calendar year, whichever is shorter. A replay award is considered equivalent to having paid the league fees in the first week of the season, and does not grant a player a valid percentage if the replay is used at a season playoffs.
9.2. Season Champion
The player who has the highest overall point total for the season will be awarded the season champion trophy, and will be granted a replay. The overall point total takes all weeks of the season into account, whether or not a player attended, except for the lowest three scores being dropped.
9.3. Most Improved
The most improved award is based on improvements in a players’ percentage. The current season’s percentage is compared against the average of the past two seasons. The player with the largest improvement wins the most improved award, which grants a replay. For the purposes of this award, a valid percentage must be based on at least 7 weeks. A player must have two valid previous percentages to be considered for this award. Percentages may have been earned in any of the last six TOPL seasons or two calendar years (whichever is longer), and do not need to be consecutive.
9.4. World Pinball Player Ranking (WPPR) points
The WPPR system is administered by the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA http://www.ifpapinball.com/), and is intended to rank players worldwide based on tournament results. Both the regular TOPL season and the playoff tournaments are awarded WPPR points independently. Points for the regular season are divided among all players based on point totals for the season. Points for the playoffs are awarded to A division players based on their rankings. As a closed division, the B division is not eligible for WPPR points.
10. TOPL locations (private)
With the general lack of public locations to play pinball in the GTA, most TOPL events are held at members’ homes. Details such as start/end times, address, and additional house rules will be posted on the private calendar and in the emails sent to league members before the event. Any house rules provided by hosts should be treated the same as any rules in this document. Regardless of location, members must respect a host’s machines, and excessive roughness, banging on the glass, kicking machines, and vandalism will not be tolerated. Members must also be respectful of our hosts ability to maintain their machines, and should report issues using a problem posting form, or in person in a respectful, non-accusatory manner. Members who abuse these rules can, at the request of the host, or at the discretion of at least two SLOs, be asked to leave the premises, and will also receive a zero on all games for the event. Repeated offenses will result in suspension from the league.