Fathom (Bally, 1981)

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Quickie Version

 Lock balls in one or both saucers.  Shoot the drop targets in front of either of them to start multiball.  At that point, if the spinner is not already lit, shoot the “light spinner” standup target left of the right side green target channel.  Once the spinner is lit and multiball is running, shoot the spinner all day.  Try not to relock a ball!
 Go-To Flipper:  Mild bias towards Left for right-side ball lock [easier one].

Full Detail

Skill Shot: Any unlit lane; they light when completed. Getting A-B-C once lights one of the return lanes for 50K; a second ABC lights both of them. The spinner is the biggest points on Fathom, end of ball bonus second, and everything else is incidental. The spinner is 500 per spin unlit, 5000 per spin when lit. Bonus is multi-faceted: base bonus goes up to 55,000 for both blue and green bonuses; those 1K through 10K lights are cumulative, all of them lit adds up to 55K. The drop targets in front of the two saucers raise the multipliers for each bonus, green targets for green bonus, blue for blue. Your maximum bonus is then 55K times 5 for each of two colors, or 550,000 overall. If you reach the 55K base bonus level, that amount is held to the next ball [but not the multiplier].

Besides releasing the locked balls by completing the drop targets in front of the ball lock saucers, once you’ve got a ball locked, getting the three matching color drop targets in the six-target bank on the left side of the game will also advance one step towards that colored multiball. For instance, if you have the first two green drops, the 3X and 4X ones, down, the left target bank will start flashing a green light, indicating that if you knock down all three green targets there, that will also retract the third green drop target in front of the saucer and release the ball in it, starting multiball.

When in multiball, all scores are doubled for two-ball multiball, tripled for 3-balls. In three-ball play, that spinner is 15,000 per spin. One good spinner rip could get you 300,000 points. On many Fathoms, you can backhand the spinner from the left flipper, too. If you’re in multiball and have both balls cradled, one on each flipper, keep one there and shoot the spinner from whichever flipper gives you the stronger spinner shot. If they’re about the same, use the right flipper unless you’re in blue-only multiball. Why? If the ball drains before you can get it back under control, your ball cradled on the left flipper can be used to relock a ball on the right / green [easier] side to resume work on your next multiball.

Once you’re out of multiball, or even before you start it, you can consider shooting the spinner anyway if it’s lit. It depends on how easy it is to start multiball, how easy it is to keep multiball balls live during it, and what your match situation is.

For those of you new to Fathom, pay close attention to the reversed return lane / outlane sides; your nudging will need to be different from what you normally do. Also look closely to see exactly where the small rubbered posts are positioned below the return lane / outlane dividers; you can sometimes nudge a ball in the outlane into grazing those posts and deflecting through the gate into the return area next to the flipper.

Dead bouncing is used more than average on Fathom, especially for balls coming out of the right [green] drop target area: you can often just let the ball roll out, bounce off of the right flipper across the left flipper, hold the left flipper up to cradle the ball, then shoot the green drop target lane again. The green multiball is by far the easier of the two to start, so most players focus on it and just get blue as opportunities present themselves. Shooting the left orbit for the blue saucer and drops as the ball comes out of the right drop targets or saucer is a common technique for getting the blues.

The center drop target 3-bank advances bonus but ignore it and focus on the spinner and multiballs.

This page is one of many in the The Players Guide to Classic Pinball by written by Bob Matthews