Friday, December 4, 2015

Gift Ideas for Pinball Hobbyists and Players

I guess I'm writing this for the pinball layman: the girlfriend, boyfriend, parent, or wife of a pinhead who wants to get a gift for their pinball-obsessed person in their life but doesn't really know what they have or need. Maybe your Secret Santa said they want a pinball Christmas present? There are plenty of things in all prices ranges to get a pinball person. It's not like video games, books, or movies where you really have to know a person's taste to get the right gift. There's universally appreciated media and upgrades to machines that anyone would love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How stripped down is Game of Thrones Pro?

Update 6/27/16: Just to throw it out there, GOT Premium has turned into one of my all time favorite Sterns (less the horrible art) and GOT Pro is good too.

Game of Thrones Pro was revealed to a collective "Ouch, that's it?" from everyone except the most die-hard wallet haters (or people who only care about the premium, or should I say... complete version). All of the buzz surrounding the game initially was primarily on the bad art, the enormous gap between the Premium/LE and Pro models, and generally bungled theme integration. And it's not just that the Pro is wildly different from the LE, the Pro is one of the most basic looking machines in a while. This would be potentially understandable while Stern was carrying us through the budget dark ages in the 2000s, but it was unexpected for an epic theme during a pinball renaissance. I think many of us expected this game to somehow compete with The Hobbit on features, which was probably unrealistic despite Stern pumping up MSRPs ever closer to Jesery Jack levels.

To be clear, the simplest pinball machines can be fun. Game features do not equal fun. Game features can slow the game down and can dampen a game with a lot of flow. I was just curious of the last time we saw such a simple game considering the whopping $6000 price tag on this sucker. It's a Steve Ritchie game, of course it's going to be fun. The reveal solely make me want to look at how much solenoid you're getting for your money, not how much fun the game is.

Monday, September 21, 2015

1966 United Aztec Big Ball Bowler notes

This one took a lot of measuring and convincing myself. I have a house with enough room for a bunch of pins, however ~20 feet of straight space is something I simply don't have. My garage is about 19 feet long and this bowler is 16'3" from end to end. Taking into account ~3 feet of space you need behind it to open it and ~3 feet of space you need in front of it at a minimum to play it, it wasn't seeming likely. I did find that if I put the back of the bowler right up against my garage door, blocked off a small section of my garage with the lane, and used the small entraceway to my garage as playing space I'd have enough room to play and I could open the garage door to work on it. It's really dumb and it takes up too much room, but that is the price of owning the king of EM games.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First flipper EM - 1962 Gottlieb Flipper Clown notes

I have a 1947 United Mexico flipperless pin. It's wonderfully simple, no flippers or pops to rebuild, tiny and easy to transport, I can practically hold the playfield with one hand. It's mostly a reset bank and some dead bumpers. It didn't really need any work to get going though. Flipper Clown is my first foray into the world of restoring a more complex EM game with bells, whistles, and flippers. Well, no whistles.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bally Twilight Zone pinball mods and repairs

Twilight Zone might be the most popular game collectors have in their collection, so it's no surprise I eventually ended up with one. There is no unsung praise to give it. It's the perfect combination of depth, innovation, crazy toys, and theme tied together with fantastic art and sound. It sure was a beast to shop out though. Much more laborious than Star Trek: The Next Generation if you ask me (both games being commonly considered among the "hardest" to shop). The whole table is a jigsaw puzzle. The mini-playfield, accompanying wireform, right ramp, metal lock assembly, and even the clock are all packed in there tightly. If one piece is out of place, the whole game won't go back together perfectly. It's once fancy game though, and surely worth the effort. Here's my experience so far with Twilight Zone.

Friday, May 22, 2015

How to shop out a pinball machine

Cleaning and restoring games is my favorite part of the pinball hobby. I normally spend a few weeks on each game (Most places estimate a good shop job to be 30-40 hours but I've never kept track. I'd guess more because I'm slow). I don't think a real shop job is something that can be done on a Saturday afternoon, nor is it something you can reasonably pay someone to do right. Techs would give you a basic shop job, restoration guys will charge many thousands of dollars to make your games perfect. I personally bring my games somewhere in between those two.

A big point of contention in the pinball community is what constitutes a shop job. You'll see all ends of the spectrum from shady sellers who consider a quick wipe down and rubber/bulb replacements "shopped" to people who don't consider a game shopped unless it's been fully restored with new cabinet decals and playfields. It's been debated to death, I don't need to go over the merits of the debate, but here's what I do to my games when I'm shopping them out.

If you're looking for a more step-by-step guide on how to do most of this, check out or For a list of tools required check here.

Tool kit for pinball restoration and maintenance

I used to wonder what parts and tools I should have when I first got into pinball. You might as well as "What tools should I have to work on my house?" because it depends what you need to do. My kit has been built up based on need and as I've started going more in depth into working on games. Basically everyone needs a good soldering iron, 1/4" nut driver, and 0.156" crimp stuff. I think an ultrasonic cleaner is a very nice thing to have, but you can somehow live without it. A rivet press really isn't the most essential tool. I don't think I've ever seen a tabulated dump of someone's main kit, so in case someone new to the hobby is wondering what kind of tools are used, here's what I have on hand for working on games and how important I think each is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Soundproofing a pinball machine

When I first got into pinball I lived in an apartment. I actually moved into a house because of pinball. Apartments are far from ideal places to have a machine. You think pinball machines are loud until you move it into a small quiet room surrounded by neighbors. Then you discover pinball machines, specifically solenoids, are very loud. Naturally, being a respectful neighbor, I went on a quest to soundproof my machines at the time using Terminator 2 as a test subject.

If you want the short answer:

Nothing I did dampened the sound to a level I was comfortable with playing my machines at 3am short of building a fort of acoustic blankets around them.

At the time I worked until 9pm or so and would frequently play after midnight, so dealing with sleeping neighbors was important. If you found this blog post, I assume you've already found the other bits of Usenet information, this article, this article, and years old forum posts as I have. Here's my experience.

Solid state Dixieland bingo notes

These machines are obviously out there, it's obviously Dixieland of some sort, but I can't find any real information on them. It's not a fully electro-mechanical bingo, it has a solid state PCB that controls the game logic, so it has to be late 70s or early 80s. It doesn't say Bally, Sirmo, or even Dixieland anywhere, so is it a knock-off of some sort? I've seen parts and even PCBs for this out there, so someone knows exactly what this is and it can't be super rare. If there is an IPDB or page for it, I couldn't find it and would be interested.