Machine Settings and Instruction Cards
Settings matter even on EMs - - while new games have far more selectable options, older games had some, even if you had to physically move a switch rather than push buttons and use menus. It can be important to note how your game is set. Some of these are obvious, for instance how many or which items of type A need to be scored to activate a change to how item type B scores.
Each game should have an “instruction card” visible under the glass at the bottom of the game near the flipper buttons. EMs had few enough “rules” that the some of the more important ones could be shown on a simple index card. Not all machines will have one, though, since they often got lost or damaged over the years. When they are present, they’ll give you partial guidance as to what to do but are usually not as detailed as this guide nor do they indicate which of the several choices are the most valuable or the “safest.”
The instruction card may not accurately reflect how that machine is set. In many cases, the card will not be the original one, or it may reflect a different number of balls, for instance showing the rules that apply to a 5-ball game vs. a slightly different set of rules that apply to a 3-ball game. The card may be the rules for the “other” of the free-game or the add-a-ball version of the machine. The machine owner and or tournament director may have changed the settings on the game from the original settings. Therefore, do not presume that the instruction card you see, if any, is 100% accurate for the game in front of you. Take it as a starting point but be sure to note what the game actually does as you play it -- ideally, by watching while someone else is playing!
Both EMs and SS games also usually have lettering on the playfield surface that indicates scoring opportunities. It never hurts to “read the machine” when such text is present.