National Pinball League

In looking around the app store, I found a tournament app by the National Pinball League.  I checked the site at  National Pinball League is a group dedicated to supporting competitive pinball.  They certify locations and hold sanctioned tournaments.  Their calendar currently does not list any upcoming tournaments.  I have registered as a member and will post about any upcoming events.

One of the certified locations is The Pinball Gallery in Downington, PA.  I visited The Pinball Gallery in 2012 when I was working in Philadelphia.  It is about a half hour drive from Philadelphia and can also be reached by train from Philadelphia.  When I was there, all of the machines were in great shape and played without any problems.  When I was there, they had 14 or 16 machines.  I spent an afternoon there and had a great time.  They had a mix of newer Sterns and 90s, 80s and 70s Bally and Williams titles.


Damnit Jim I’m a Doctor not a pinball wizard!

I haven’t had a chance to play one yet, but the new Star Trek pinball looks like a deep game with lots of different shots and a great light show. Bowen Kerins did a live tutorial on it which can be accessed through the site.  As usual, he does a very good job of explaining the rules, the shots and his thoughts regarding strategy.

As the youtube video above shows, Karl Urban, who played Bones McCoy in the two JJ Abrams Star Trek films, has agreed to do custom speech for the new Star Trek pinball.  If you have played STTNG, you know that there is lots of custom speech in the game that sounds like it was done by the original actors and is well integrated into the game.  It is a significant improvement when Stern can integrate the real actors voices into the game. The voice actors in the Avengers sound like someone in a SNL skit making fun of the Avengers.  It is distracting and detracts from the feeling that you are experiencing the Avengers while playing the game.  I have read that voice actors were used in The Hobbit because one of the movie actors wanted $100,000 to record custom lines for the machine.

The great thing about Urban is that he is a pinball collector and, according to Steve Ritchie, is a good player.  It sounds like this had lead him to be personally interested in recording custom speech for the Star Trek machine.  Ritchie has said that they have lots of lines ready for him and expect that he will ad lib a few too.  Did you notice he looks like he is wearing a loaded holster in the video?

Yesterday, I listened to the Spooky Pinball podcast for December which features interviews of Stern employees at the Stern factory.  Steve Ritchie, the designer of STTNG and Star Trek, had some interesting insights into licenses and designing pinball machines. He admitted that he has been forced to do some licenses that we was not excited about doing.  He didn’t mention it in the interview, but I have read that he did not want to do the Elvis pinball.  I think most people agree that it is not a great machine and this is probably due in part to the designer not being excited about the license.  Ritchie stated that he now has an understanding with Stern that he has to agree to work on the licenses that are presented to him.

Ritchie revealed that he is a life long trekie and said that he watched the original episodes with his friends instead of watching the westerns that were shown on Saturday night.  He also said that Star Trek was a hard license to work on because they were not given much information.  There was a fight over the colors to be used on the machine (which Stern won) and Stern was initially given very little information to work with in designing the machine.  Ritchie said that Stern has now changed its approach and will have face to face meetings early on with a representative of the license to make sure that they get the cooperation they need in order to make the best pinball machine for the license.

This is a good policy change by Stern as they have missed some license requirements in the past due.  The targets on Iron Man were designed to read Iron on one set and Man on the other.  When Stern showed the machine to the license holder (Marvel?), they pointed out that the license requires that the words Iron and Man not be displayed separately.  As a result, the factory targets have small outlines of Iron Man instead of the letters.  My machine and many others have the aftermarket Iron Man letter stickers installed to reflect the intended design for the machine.

After some bad results with failure to follow up on code and quality control issues, Stern seems to be doing well with Star Trek, Metallica and AC/DC.  We will have to wait and see whether the code will be fully implemented in the three machines (Metallica has the most shallow code of the three), but from a design and quality control stand point, it looks like Stern has made real improvement.




I bought this pin because my wife liked it at a pinball party we went to years ago. I am always looking for a table that will bring her to the dark side of pinball and this was my heroic attempt at doing just that, heroic in the sense that I added a table to the lineup that I could claim was a heroic attempt at bringing my wife to the dark side of pinball.

Monopoly was released by Stern Pinball in 2001. The game was designed by Pat Lawlor and of course utilizes one of the most iconic of board games as its theme. Theme integration is done very well as the player makes shots to advance their way around the play field.

The playfield seems very open but there is actually a lot to shoot for with four ramps, 6 pops, several saucers as well as a third rotating min-flipper. I don’t know what it is about this game but I really, really like it. I also think it makes for a great league or tourney table as the shots are very obvious and the game is very “playable” and by that I mean very responsive to nudges and passing. Strategy is pretty straight forward: advance around the board collecting all properties, once all properties are collected the wizard mode will begin which I believe is a timed, similar to the wizard modes in Twilight Zone and Safe Cracker.

I frankly have never sat down and read up on strategy for this game but there are  two MBs, one of which is the train MB which is accomplished by hitting a quick return wire ramp just above the left flipper. This ramp advances along the railroads in the game so after hitting it four times it starts a two ball MB. The main MB is achieved by use of a hard lock. Lock is lit once the player travels around the board game. Depending on the games difficulty both locks are available once the player passes go one time and then the right ramp is available to start the MB. Jackpot shots are accomplished by hitting the side ramp off of the upper right flipper.

Monopoly is certainly not a complicated game and with it’s iconic license it is probably one of the most approachable games in my lineup. There are certainly nuances to the rules that a seasoned player will enjoy exploring but the game is very “beatable” if the goal is to get to the wizard mode. Personally its is all about trying to bang out high scores more so than how “deep” you get into this table. Depth does not always equate to fun and Monopoly is certainly proof of that. Worth a couple of quarters in the wild.

rule sheet