The primary skill of pinball involves application of the proper timing and technique to the operation of the flippers, nudging the playfield when appropriate without tilting, and choosing targets for scores or features. A skilled player can quickly “learn the angles” and gain a high level of control of ball motion, even on a machine they have never played. Skilled players can often play on a machine for long periods of time on a single coin. By earning extra balls, a single game can be stretched out for a long period, and if the player is playing well he or she can earn replays known as “specials.”
A placard is usually placed in a lower corner of the playfield. It may simply show pricing information, but should also show critical details about special scoring techniques. This information is vital to achieving higher scores; it typically describes a series of events that must take place (e.g., shoot right ramp and left drop targets to light ‘extra ball’ rollover). Learning these details makes the game more fun and challenging. With practice — and a machine in good operating condition — a player can often achieve specific targets and higher scores and trigger exciting events.
Pinball Playing Techniques
Players can influence the movement of the ball by moving or bumping the pinball machine, a technique known as “nudging” or “shaking.” After some experience in playing a certain machine, a skillful player is able to nudge the machine to make the ball bounce harder from a bumper or go in a certain direction. A very skillful player can shake the machine and cause the ball to bounce back and forth and prevent it from “draining.”
There are tilt mechanisms which guard against excessive manipulation of this sort. The mechanisms generally include:
- a grounded plumb bob centered in an electrified metal ring – when the machine is jostled or shaken too far or too hard, the bob contacts the ring, completing a circuit. The bob is usually cone-shaped allowing the operator to slide it vertically, controlling the sensitivity.
- an electrified ball on a slight ramp with a grounded post at the top of the ramp – when the front of the machine is lifted (literally, tilted) too high, the ball rolls to the top of the ramp and completes the circuit.
- an impact sensor – usually located on the coin door, the playfield and/or the cabinet itself.
When any of these sensors is activated, the game registers a “tilt” and the lights go out, solenoids for the flippers no longer work, and other playfield systems become inoperative so that the ball can do nothing other than roll down the playfield directly to the drain. A tilt will usually result in loss of bonus points earned by the player during that ball; the game ends if it’s the last ball and the player has no extra ball. Older games would immediately end the ball in play on a tilt. Modern games give tilt warnings before sacrificing the ball in play. The number of tilt warnings can be adjusted by the operator of the machine. Until recently most games also had a “slam tilt” switch which guarded against kicking or slamming the coin mechanism, or for overly aggressive behaviour with the machine, which could give a false indication that a coin had been inserted, thereby giving a free game or credit. This feature was recently taken out by default in new Stern S.A.M System games but can be added as an option. A slam tilt will typically end the current game for all players.
Skilled players can also hold a ball in place with the flipper, giving them more control over where they want to place the ball when they shoot it forward. This is known as trapping. This technique involves catching the ball in the corner between the base of the flipper and the wall to its side, just as the ball falls towards the flipper; the flipper is then released, which allows the ball to roll slowly downward against the flipper. The player then chooses the moment to hit the flipper again, timing the shot as the ball slides slowly against the flipper. Multi-ball games, in particular, reward trapping techniques. Usually this is done by trapping one or more balls out of play with one flipper, then using the other flipper to score points with the remaining ball or balls.
Once a player has successfully trapped a ball, they may then attempt to “juggle” the ball to the other flipper. This is done by tapping the flipper button quickly enough so that the trapped ball is knocked back at an angle of less than 90 degrees into the bottom of the nearest slingshot. The ball will then often bounce across the playfield to the other flipper, where the ball may then be hit (or trapped) by the opposite flipper.
Occasionally a pinball machine will have a pin or post placed directly between the two bottom flippers. When this feature is present, the advanced player may then attempt to perform a “chill maneuver” when the ball is heading directly toward the pin by opting not to hit a flipper. If successful, this will cause the ball to bounce up and back into play. A related move, the “dead flipper pass,” is performed by not flipping when a ball is heading toward a flipper. If done properly, the ball will bounce off the “dead” flipper, across to the other flipper, where it may be trapped and controlled. Source Wiki
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