You hear that unmistakable thwock! of the plunger shooting forward, sending your ball speeding into the game. The ball bounces once, twice, three times on the bumpers before speeding down toward your flippers. Crack! With a well-timed hit you send the ball whipping through the spinner, racking up points. But you're playing against your pals, and one of them just entered into a bonus mini game! Do you have what it takes to focus, get in the zone, and get the highest score? That's the thrill central to Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade, a new board game from Wizkids!
Designed by Geoff Engelstein, Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade is a "roll-and-write" board game for one to four players. If the term "roll-and-write" is new to you, the name kind of explains itself. In these games, you roll dice and either write down the results, cross off sections of your scorecard, or in some other way mark progress you're making toward scoring points (usually on provided sheets of paper or, as is the case with Super-Skill, with dry-erase markers on a board).
In Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade, the roll-and-write format is used to wonderful effect to mimic the feeling of saddling up to your favorite pinball machine. The game comes with four different "tables" comprised of two different personal game boards per player. You have a vertical board that mimics a traditional pinball table and a "backsplash" board where you keep score (and in some cases partake in small mini-games, as well). I'll explain in more detail each of the four boards, but to start there's a set of basic rules that each board adheres to.
You'll start by placing your ball (a shiny metal token that looks like a pinball sliced in half) on the start portion of your board. Then, one person will roll two dice. These dice are used by all players. Generally speaking, gameplay goes like this: you choose one of the two die's results and move your token to the appropriate section, starting from the top and working your way to the bottom. With each roll, you'll be crossing off little numbered boxes on the board representing when you hit a bumper, spin through a spinner, and more. When you reach the flippers, one colored red and one yellow, you'll choose based on strategy and available dice, and those flippers will only flip you to color-corresponding spots on the board. When you've got nowhere else you can cross of a box, you lose your ball.
The four tables, though all adhering to those general rules, each offer different challenges, strategies, and features. The first board, and the easiest to play, is carnival themed. There are no special rules or mini-games with this board, you simply attempt to score high and unlock bonuses (like multi-ball) by hitting targets on the board. The second board is cyberpunk themed and includes a mini game where you attempt to hack into a corporation's data banks before they find you. It's a clever and fun little game the forces you to balance risk vs. reward. The third game is fantasy-themed, and hitting certain spots on the board will "level up" your game, unlocking new spells for you to cast (which augment your dice rolls, mark off boxes without your ball having to hit them, etc.). The fourth board, and most complex, is a Disco themed board, with a mini game that's just a smaller version of a pinball board on your backsplash.
Each of these four boards feel very unique, and have their own rhythm, speed, and movement to them. Even the carnival themed board, which serves as an introduction to the game, is still fun to play with its clear goals and easy-to-understand approachability.
The Bottom Line
When you first dig into Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade, you may feel overwhelmed. For a game about rolling dice in an effort to emulate the experience on playing a pinball machine, the rulebook seems rather thick. But that's because it's covering special rules for each of the four different boards. And those special rules, special cases, and different ways aspects of the board interact with one another can be a bit much to take in at first, but once you understand how the game operates, they make perfect sense. In fact, it's those special rules and interactions that make this game such a standout. Each board really feels special and truly unique, and whether you're trying to slay a dragon or slay the disco dance floor, you'll find a board that really speaks to you (For me, that was the cyberpunk board, as I found the mini-game completely engrossing).
My only true complaint with this game is more a complaint of the roll-and-write genre, and that's player interactivity. As I started play testing the game for this review, I was playing solo. I had a wonderful time rolling my dice and checking off my boxes in solitude. But when my wife joined me for several play sessions, it became clear that all I was really doing with more players was replicating the experience I had playing this solo. The only difference being that I had someone to compare my score against at the end (I lost woefully, as I always do). This is true of all roll-and-writes I've played so far. There's not a ton you can do to get in there and interact with your opponents. That being said, the game is still a joy to play. Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade, despite the wild title, is an innovative addition to the roll-and-write genre, and has a certain flow and bounce to it that makes it hard to put down.
Get This Game If...
- You miss your glory days at the pinball bar
- You're looking for an innovative approach to the roll-and-write genre
Avoid This Game If...
- You're looking for a game with high player interactivity
- You always spill your drink on the machine
Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade retails for a suggested MSRP of $24.99. To learn more about the game and try it out for yourself with two free downloadable print-and-play boards, click here!
The copy of Super-Skill Pinball 4-Cade used in this review was provided by Wizkids.