features tips & tricks

Drillin Fools

Drillin’ Fools
by 2nd Place Andy

A fun way to play 2-player competitive pinball and improve your accuracy.

Pinball practice at AddaBall

In “Drillin’ Fools,” you will study all of the main shots in a game, and practice shooting each one repeatedly. Pick a “par,” and that will be the number of times to make each shot. You won’t be paying attention to the scoreboard, just counting your shots. It is good to have basic mastery of dead flips and post passing before playing this way.

Put a bunch of money in the machine and start up a 4-player game. Then simply switch players every time a ball drains. Since the score is inconsequential, keep switching even if you are awarded an extra ball. The first player to finish wins! Each player keeps track of their own progress towards the goals (your opponent can help you remember how many shots you’ve completed). If neither player has completed all the objectives, start another 4-player game and resume your progress!

AFM playfield
AFM playfield

Let’s look at Attack From Mars as an example. The main shots (clockwise) are Left Loop, Left Ramp, Lock, Saucer, Scoop, Right Ramp, and Right Orbit. Let’s say you are playing with a par of 5. Your first objective is to shoot the Left Loop five times. No other shots count towards your goal until you’ve got all five. After that, start focusing on the Left Ramp and try to hit it five times before moving onto the Lock shot. And so on, until you finish with five Right Orbits. Can you do it all in one ball? Your progress carries over from turn to turn until you finish. Depending on the difficulty of the game in question, you may want to adjust the par or the order of shots.

Want to play cooperatively? Both players follow the same set of objectives together instead of making progress separately. Don’t have a buddy to play with? This style also makes for a great game of solitaire.

Drillin’ Fools check list example

Happy Drillin’!

Originally published in Skill Shot 46


Fool (Jokerz!)
features tips & tricks

Highway to the Danger Zone

Highway to the Danger Zone 
by 2nd Place Andy
[two_third last=”no” class=”” id=””]My strategy for the Addams Family is quite narrow. Many of the shots and features of the game can be ignored. This is helpful, however, because there are fewer situations to practice or memorize. Instead, I just focus on keeping control of the ball in each of the game’s three Danger Zones.

You will repeatedly have to deal with these Danger Zones, so master them and you will exponentially improve your score.

The first Danger Zone is the Graveyard exit shot from the mini Thing flipper. This is generally accessed from the left ramp (or Bear Kicksdanger 1 during the Seance). It is tempting to shoot across to the Swamp for 5x value. However, safely feeding the left flipper is more desirable. A slight nudge here can keep the ball away from the left outlane. Try nudging right just as the ball passes by the mini flipper to guide it into the 2 Bear Kicks lane. With practice, both the Electric Chair and Bear Kick Ramp can be shot safely as the ball rolls down the left inlane. Take note that if you activate Thing Flips from the Bear Kick ramp, the mini flipper will always engage, making it impossible to feed your left flipper.

The second Danger Zone are the kickouts- Electric Chair (left) and Swamp (right). Right before a ball kicks out, the game warns players danger 2with a thunderclap sound and a flashing lightning bolt. The lightning will flash on the same side as the kickout! Hopefully, the kickouts follow the same trajectory every time. However, be prepared to adjust your strategy to compensate for machines with less consistent kickouts.

Let’s look at all the different options for stopping the ball after it comes out. You can find descriptions (and often videos) of these maneuvers online ( if you are unfamiliar. From easiest to hardest to perform: Hold Trap (I call this “hold and pray”); Dead danger 2.2Pass; Flip Trap / Live Catch; Drop Catch;  Reflex Flip (flipping the ball right as it comes to the flipper). Unless you have incredible, repeatable accuracy with this last method, I do not recommend it. However, most novice players play exclusively this way. On an ideal machine, Hold Traps and Dead Passes work 100% of the time from both kickouts. Usually a Dead Pass works on at least one side. Once you have the ball safely trapped in the cradle, you may attempt a post-pass (if possible) before shooting the next shot.

The third Danger Zone is the right inlane (such as after shooting the Bear Kick ramp).

Controlling a rolling ball is difficult! Try out: Hold Trap; Hold and Tap (flip the flipper hard right before the ball gets there, and it may stop danger 3entirely – usually more effective with a small nudge); Inlane Pass / Bop Over / Tap Pass; Inlane Loop Pass; Rolling (Live) Post-Pass; Reflex Flip (careful!); Half Volley (For games where the ball does not have enough momentum to complete a rolling pass, hold the flipper up, then release just after the ball touches the flipper, then quickly strike the ball again. This propels the ball much slower than a reflex flip, yielding a safer ricochet on missed shots); Alley Pass (“Shatzing the inlane”). I must emphasize that dialing in your Reflex Flip seems like the simplest option here, but it is also the most likely to drain. So try out everything else and see what’s the most consistent!

Try all the options! Figure out what works for you. See if you can perform a move 10 times in a row. Experiment, assess, adjust. The idea here is to navigate each Danger Zone perfectly every time. Then follow the flowchart for massive points. Good luck!

TAF flowchartOriginally published in Skill Shot 44[/two_third]
[one_third last=”yes” class=”” id=””]

Side Bar Glossary
By Kayla Greet

Hold Trap – Just as simple as keeping your flipper up to trap the ball as it rolls through the inlane or out the kickout.

Hold and Tap (sometimes called Flip Trap) – Similar to above, keep your flipper up to trap, but if there is considerable speed on the ball, give the machine a nudge or tap the flipper to dampen the velocity.

Dead Pass / Dead Flip – One of the easiest moves because it involves doing nothing at all! Keep your flipper down, let the ball bounce off the rubber and arc over to the other flipper.

Live Catch – When the ball hits your flipper, engage it to meet the ball exactly when the flipper is fully extended. This halts the ball, makes it look as if it is stuck on the flipper, and will allow you to trap it.

Drop Catch – Much like the Live Catch, you’re essentially ‘bunting’ the ball. Pull the flipper back just as the ball makes contact. This mutes the energy of the ball and then you can re-engage the flipper to trap.

Reflex Flip – “See ball, Hit ball.” Nothing fancy.

Post Pass – Start with a trapped ball. Then take the trapper flipper and give the button a half tap, which sends just enough kinetic energy to arc the ball to the other flipper, often but not always ricocheting off the above slingshot post.

Inlane Pass – This motion often involves a feed to the flippers from a ramp shot, like the Bear Kick on TAF. Hold your flipper up like a mini ramp and allow the ball to pop over to the other flipper. Sometimes it requires a bump or nudge to the front of the machine for a little extra oomph.

Bop Over – Same as Inlane Pass but with a fluttering “flick” of the flipper to give the ball extra momentum.

Flick Pass / Tap Pass – Let the ball roll to the end of the flipper and give it a tiny tap (so tiny in fact that the flipper will not appear to move) to transfer it to the other flipper. Usually works best on electromechanical (EM) games.

Inlane Loop Pass – Starts as an Inlane Pass but drop the flipper as soon as the ball makes contact. Works well on games with high speed inlanes.

Rolling Post Pass – Same as the Post Pass but with the ball in motion instead of a trap.

Alley Pass / Shatzing the Inlane – This move, made famous by California player Neil Shatz, involves the ball in a trap on a flipper and tapping the button just enough to get the ball to travel back up the inlane rollover. Great way to take advantage of a lit inlane to qualify its award, such as an Extra Ball.[/one_third]

features tips & tricks

Doctor Who Shuttle Tutorial

by ELF

This is an attempt to count the minimum number of flips it takes to reach 1 billion points using Doctor #2 (Patrick Troughton) / Sonic Boom approach. It requires only three different shots on the playfield and the least amount of live “scary” shots, keeping your ball relatively safedoctor two compared to other, riskier approaches. Assuming you make every shot, your game should go like this:

Choose Doctor #2 which adds Hang On time and doubles that score. Plunging will feed the ball to your right flipper. Shoot the far hang onleft shot (H) past the upper flipper to receive your HANG-ON award and set up the O / PLAYFIELD MULTIPLIER ramp shot from the upper flipper. Shoot the upper ramp ten times to start the Sonic Boom and activate the ball diverter to feed the ball to the lower left flipper. Now spell “WHO”  by hitting the right ramp (W), the HANG-ON shot (H), and the upper ramp (O) for 40 million per letter and a return to the upper flipper to start it all over again. Before you do, you’ve already earned 144,875,000 points! Not only that, but you’re a mere nine easy O ramps away from the next Sonic Boom. This is where your ramp-hungry zombie stamina comes into play because you will have to do this series of shots five more times.

After the 2nd COLLISION you will have 304,875,000
After the 3rd – 478,875,000
After the 4th – 654,875,000
After the 5th – 832,875,000
After the 6th – 1,010,875,000

This approach requires 74 flips. Sound like a lot? Don’t worry! Once you get the hang of the upper ramp, it almost becomes a comfortable or Who ramp 2safe experience, and there are only 13 live “scary” shots total to worry about before reaching our goal: six “W” shots and seven “H” shots. These can only be mastered through lots of practice. (fun practice hint! – spell WHO without starting shuttle mode and the ball will return to the lower left flipper every time, setting you up to do it again. You have to spell WHO pretty much consecutively, or at least within a few seconds per letter in order to get big money and no whammies. This is also true during who rampyour 40 million per letter Sonic Boom, so don’t miss!)

This is only one of four strategies I know of, and to be honest, actually pulling this off without missing a single shot is extremely difficult to execute. There are so many cool things to do on this amazing table, so don’t be afraid to explore other options. For an incredibly in-depth look at choosing other Doctors (or why to choose #2) and different methods of gaining ridiculous points at a higher risk of draining, refer to Bowin Kerins’s online guide.

Originally published in Skill Shot 43_DSF0145


tips & tricks

House Party: How to Play Game of Thrones

House Party: How to Play Game of Thrones bglass

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 Got tyrionat 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. P1190806Each 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 P1190803another 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 P1190802your 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 P1190804the 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 P1190805center 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 P1190800important 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 Battering Ramenough 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!P1190828

Wall Multiball:

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:P1190854

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.

Iron Throne:

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!P1190835

Originally published in Skill Shot 42 (March 2016)

tips & tricks

The Mode Road

by 3rd Place AndyStern Star Trek 2013

Stern recently released new code for its Star Trek (2013), adding new features and scoring. It’s more fun to play, in my opinion, and the strategy is deeper. The Vengeance, Klingon, and Kobayashi Maru multiballs are worth huge points, but I’ve found a way to score big on the first set of missions.

In the center of the lower playfield, there are six hexagons arranged in a triangle. Each color-coded hex represents a mission/mode with unique scoring objectives. The missions are: Prime Directive (Blue), Space Jump (Yellow), Save the Enterprise (Green), Nero (Pink), Destroy the Drill (Teal), and ModesKlingon Battle (Red). Additionally, each mission has three tiers, so imagine there are actually three sets of hexagons stacked on top of another. You must complete tier 1 of a given mode before tier 2 is accessible, followed by tier 3.

At the beginning of each ball, you usually have the opportunity to select a mode. Use the flipper buttons to change missions. Use the fire button to begin the mode. After a mode is completed, you may shoot either the left scoop or the Away Team rollover to begin the next mode. In all tier 1 modes, complete any lit shot once to light the Away Team. Access the Away Team by shooting the ball Away Teamunderneath the upper flipper and into the plunger lane. Away Team adds more time, increases scoring, and changes the lit shots for the mode. Play all six modes once to activate wizard mode, Kobayashi Maru multiball. Or play (and complete) three tiers of one mission to activate double scoring for a corresponding shot. For example, you may activate playfielddouble scoring for the left ramp by completing Klingon Battle 3; the spinner is doubled by completing Nero 3.

The Mode Road is a sequence of missions that maximizes mode scores. It also sets you up for Super Ramps and Super Spinners. First, complete Nero 1, 2, and 3. Next, play Space Jump. Follow that with Destroy the Drill and Prime Directive. On both of those modes, be sure to activate the Away Team, then shoot the spinner until the timer runs out. The spinner scores a lot here! Add time by hitting the black hole target when lit. Play Save the Enterprise next, repeating the Away Team + spinner strategy. There is an opportunity here to collect more medals, or you may finish the Mode Road with Klingon Battle. If you want more medals, Save the Enterprise 2 and Space Jump 2 are good choices. Focus on the ramps during Klingon Battle. Well done! Kobayashi Maru awaits you.

Orginally published in Skill Shot 40, October 2015

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