House Party: How to Play Game of Thrones
by Kevin Birrell
When Stern announced the Game of Thrones pinball machine, people went absolutely berserk. It’s the perfect license, right? For once, Stern was going to release a game based on an interesting current property, unlike AC/DC, KISS, and Metallica! As it turns out, the theme wasn’t even the most exciting part; after the first few times people played the game at Chicago’s Pinball Expo, word quickly spread that the game had much more substantial rules and code than any other Stern game in recent history at launch. Indeed, Dwight Sullivan and the rest of the software team at Stern should be commended for the excellent job they’ve done with Game of Thrones. Typically, it’s not the case that there are multiple viable strategies for a given pinball machine. When there are, sometimes the game ends up feeling like a linear grind-fest where you might as well replace all scoring values with a shot counter. Game of Thrones manages to avoid this by having great risk/reward scenarios all over the place, resulting in a game where you are never completely safe and there is always something exciting to shoot for that doesn’t feel like “work”.
Right at the start of the game you can choose from six different houses (Baratheon, Tyrell, Martell, Lannister, Greyjoy, and Stark) to play. Each house provides a different advantage for the rest of the game: House Martell will give you an add a ball during multiball once per ball, while House Baratheon will increase the value of Battle for the Wall Multiball. The most interesting of these choices, however, is House Greyjoy. Unlike the other houses, Greyjoy does not give you any immediate reward. Instead, whenever you beat another house’s mode while playing as Greyjoy, you steal that house’s ability! This doesn’t come for free — when you play as Greyjoy, every mode will have additional purple-colored shots that you have to hit as well as each mode’s regular shots. For some modes, this isn’t a big deal as the extra shots don’t really force you to go out of your way to do anything abnormal. For other houses (especially Stark), these extra shots make completing their modes extremely difficult! Additionally, when playing as Greyjoy you can’t stack two house modes at once like you can when playing as any other house. This sounds like a big deal, but in my experience it very rarely matters.
With this knowledge in mind, you should make one of the following choices:
– If you don’t think you will be able to finish Martell and Tyrell during regular gameplay, pick Tyrell. Tyrell gives you the ability to increase your combo shot multiplier by simply rolling over a lit player-controllable inlane, allowing you to practically make all of your shots at anywhere from 3x-5x value!
– If you are confident about your skills and you think you can finish both Tyrell and Martell, pick Greyjoy! Having more than one house’s special ability is incredibly overpowered, so if you can make it happen, go for it!
During gameplay, you can light each house’s mode by shooting the shot that matches their color 3 times. It then can be started at the center ramp shot. If you have more than one mode lit and are not playing as Greyjoy, you can choose to start two modes “in alliance” at the same time. This is only beneficial if you’re about to start a multiball. Otherwise, you’re probably better off focusing on one mode at a time as most of the modes are pretty tricky to finish, even on their own!
If you choose Tyrell, you’ll probably want to take a stab at Stark as quickly as you can. It’s a fairly easy mode when not playing as Greyjoy, and it can have a juicy payoff if played right! During this mode, you can shoot either the center or right ramp (the center is vastly preferable) to advance the mode collect value (Arya’s “kill list”). After 3 shots, the orbits are lit to collect the mode value and finish it. Of course, you don’t have to finish the mode at this point. Keep shooting the ramps to build the mode value up to a whopping *75 million* which can be multiplied through good use of the inlane combo multiplier builders to 5×75M for a whopping 375 million!
If you choose Greyjoy, your immediate goals should be to finish Tyrell, Baratheon, and Lannister in that order. Tyrell is important because of the inlane combo multipliers, but is fairly difficult to finish, so definitely try to stack it with Blackwater Multiball (which is lit by shooting the Tyrell mode start targets for each lock). Lannister is also good to stack with a multiball since it requires hits on the dangerous targets between ramps/orbits to light the mode’s main shots. Baratheon should be easy enough to finish in 4 shots without multiball (left orbit, center ramp as Greyjoy, dragon, then target bank to collect value).
No matter who you choose, don’t forget about the Battering Ram shot. It is the super jackpot during Blackwater MB, and also lights and starts playfield multipliers throughout the game, like the bell in AC/DC. Taking pot-shots at the ram during any multiball is seldom a bad idea, since there’s almost always something that can benefit from having a 2-5× multiplier attached to it!
Other things to take note of:
Lord of Light:
Shooting the drop targets on the bottom left of the playfield will, in addition to advancing you toward the Baratheon mode, also frequently lights Lord of Light at the outlanes, which works like a virtual kickback / ball save. This is effectively an extra ball that you can even work toward during multiball…so do it! Don’t forget about it!
On the Pro version, you start this by repeatedly completing the bonus X rollovers at the top of the playfield. Eventually the dragon shot will be lit for Wall Multiball. On the Premium/LE versions, you shoot the dragon shot over and over to light the right orbit of Wall MB. This multiball used to be much more valuable in older versions of the game code, but it’s now fairly weak. Still, it’s worth decent points and is a good opportunity to get through some difficult modes and build playfield multipliers at the battering ram.
Hand of the King:
Once you finish four modes, the Hand of the King mini wizard mode is lit at the center ramp. Shoot a set of lit shots, then the battering ram, then repeat this process a few more times to collect the sum of all the shots you hit as a “Hurry Up” at the battering ram and add a ball into play. This mode can be UNBELIEVABLY valuable if played well (upwards of 4-5 billion, even), so don’t blow it if you get there! Each house that you’ve completed will affect this mode differently; some in a positive way and some not so positively. The one house that I find really hurts this mode is Martell, forcing you to hit twice as many shots for each phase of the mode.
Finish all seven modes for a special surprise! To solidly light Targaryen, keep in mind that you need to finish the mode *three times*, each time harder than the last. I’m not going to spoil this mode here. If you make it this far, you don’t need my help!
Originally published in Skill Shot 42 (March 2016)