Game Buzz: Super Skill Pinball 4-Cade

As you might know if you read my previous post, I’m highlighting some free roll-and-writes on the blog right now. Last time, I looked at Dark Force Incursion. This time, let’s look at

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Super Skill Pinball 4-Cade is a roll-and-write pinball game for 1-4 players designed by Geoff Engelstein and to be published later this year by WizKids. To be clear, the whole game is NOT going to be free, but WizKids made the decision to release one of the tables (Carniball) for free during this period of social isolation. The full game will have three other tables – Cyberhack, Dance Fever, and Dragon Slayer.

The idea behind the game is that you are playing a game of pinball by rolling dice. To play, you’ll just need a copy of the table (which can be found at BGG or the WizKids website), two d6, something to write with, and two tokens that can be used to represent the balls. I use dimes because they look a lot like an actual pinball. All you really need to set up is to mark that it’s your first ball and put one token at the top of the map.

image by BGG user WizKidsJessa – mockup of published version, not PNP

On each turn, one player rolls the dice. It doesn’t matter who, and you can keep it as the same person for the whole game if you want. Then, move your token into a lower zone. The Carniball map has four zones – the Ferris Wheel, the Bumpers, the Targets, and the Flippers. From the start, you’ll generally move to first to the Ferris Wheel, then lower on subsequent turns, but you can move down as far as you wish. You just can’t go up again without being in the Flipper Zone.

In the zone where you stop, you choose one die and fill in one empty space. Everyone can choose which of the two dice to use, and choosing a die doesn’t prevent others from using it. If you cannot fill in a space using either die, you must move down to the next zone where you can. Here’s what each zone does:

  • Ferris Wheel. There are three spaces here, each showing two numbers. If you choose to use a 1, you’ll cross of the space that has 1-2. On a future turn, the 2 could not be used as the space has been crossed off. When all three spaces are used, erase them and gain a Skill Shot – this is where you choose a number, and at any point can erase that number to use it instead of one of the two dice.
  • Bumpers. Each of the three bumpers shows four numbers. Cross off one and immediately score one point. On the next turn, you can cross off a number from the next bumper clockwise if it’s available. So if you crossed off a 4 on one turn, you could cross off a 5 or 6 next time if it gets rolled. This is the only time you’re allowed to stay in a single zone for more than one turn. If all 12 spots are filled, erase them.
  • Targets. Fill in one target on the red or yellow side that corresponds to the die you used. When all three yellow targets or all four red targets are filled, you’ll gain a bonus for the rest of the ball. This could be:
    • A Flipper Pass, which allows you to hit any feature with a Flipper.
    • An Outlane Bonus, which doubles the point earned for losing a ball in the outlanes.
    • Fill Two Hammer Spaces, which fills in two spots on the Feat of Strength.
    • Multiball, which gives you a second ball to use. This means you’ll be using both dice each turn while Multiball is active. It also doubles all points earned.
    • A Bumper Bonus, which doubles all scores from the Bumpers and lets you move either way around them.
    • Bonus Points, which are scored immediately.
  • Flippers. Cross off a box on a Flipper to continue playing. If it’s a red Flipper, you can only hit the red zones (Bumpers, Feat of Strength, or Targets), and if it’s a yellow Flipper, you can only hit the yellow zones (Ferris Wheel, Bumpers, or Targets). There are also two inner lanes that can be used with a 2 or 5. These score two points, and get your ball on a Flipper. The outlanes, marked with a 1 and 6, get you two points per Flipper box filled in, but you lose your ball. If you can’t mark any boxes in the Flipper Zone, you lose your ball.
  • Feat of Strength. This is not a zone you can drop your ball into, but you can hit your ball there with the red flipper. Basically, it’s six spots that need to be filled in in sequence. So the first time, you’ll need to use a 1. Then a 2, and on up to 6. You get points the higher up you make it, all the way up to 20 for filling in the 6.

When you have lost your first ball, mark that you’re on your second and move your ball back up to the start. You’ll erase any spots that have a dashed line around them, which on this table is just the Flipper spots and the active bonuses, and start again. After using all three of your balls, the game is over and the high score wins.

When I was growing up and would go to the arcade, I was never really into the video games. They intimidated me. But, man, I loved playing pinball. That’s what I would spend my precious quarters on. Just something about the tactile feel of hitting a button and trying to get my ball to go where I wanted it to was quite an adventure for me. This game captures some of the thematic feel there, but it’s not quite as fast. Obviously, there has to be some abstraction going on. My biggest frustration with the game is the limitation of the flippers. I wish there was some way to get some of those spaces back, but there isn’t. And so, I feel kind of limited. But still, I enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out where to send my ball, and which bonuses to use when. Obviously, multiball is the best one since it doubles all of your points, but stacking that with other doubling bonuses can rack up some serious points. And so this is a game I can recommend, and it’s one I’ll be looking forward to trying out when it is released in its full form.

That’s it for today – I’ll be back next time with yet another print-and-play to try out. Thanks for reading!

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