Preview and Basic Principles

From Bob Matthews EM Encyclopedia 2018
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  • When in doubt, "UTAD" - - Up Top All Day. Shoot the ball up towards the top of the machine, through a spinner if possible, and better yet if that spinner is lit for its maximum value.


  • Nudging: unlike modern games, EMs have NO tilt warnings. You find out you shook it too hard when your ball, or the entire game, suddenly ends. Nudge, but don’t vigorously shake or slide the game. One-time bumps on the side or front of the game should suffice. On many games, a large fraction of your final score will come from end-of-ball bonuses. On such games, avoiding tilting is more important than you’re probably used to. On games where there is no end of ball bonus, desperation shoves are worth a try if it’s your last ball, or if the penalty is only the end of the ball currently in play [some games take the ball in play plus a second ball as a tilt penalty].

Collect Bonus

  • If there’s a “collect bonus” shot and your bonus is close to maximum, shoot it. There are some exceptions, but I’ll cover these game by game.

Light Double Bonus

  • If there’s a “light double bonus” shot lit, shoot it.

Sets of Things

  • Completing sets of things [targets of a given color or suit, lanes, saucers, etc.] is generally better than a random mix of each item.

Close Flippers

  • If there’s a “close flippers” shot [older EMs from the 1960’s], shoot it.

Return to the Shooter Lane

  • If there’s a shot or a nudge that gets the ball back to the plunger lane, do so.

Graze the Bumpers

  • When shooting for bumpers, whether normal or “mushroom” bumpers, try to make the hits grazing ones where the ball will continue upwards after hitting the bumper. [See El Toro, Fireball, Cosmos, etc.] A direct hit on the bottom of a bumper may cause the ball to be kicked out the center or side drain by the bumper.

Dead Bounce

  • Use “dead bounces” to pass the ball across to the other flipper and get to a cradle. A dead bounce is when you let a ball falling towards a flipper hit it without flipping so that the ball bounces off of it and across to the other side, where it will often roll up just past the other flipper. You can then raise the other flipper and get the ball to settle down onto that flipper to take a more controlled shot. Most older games have relatively dead flipper rubber so that such bounces are unlikely to go up into the slingshots and out of control as if sometimes the case on modern games. But be careful – if the rubber is too dead, the ball may just die down the center.

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