When one thinks of pinball, they often think of flashing lights, metal balls, bumpers, flippers, and sounds. In order to win you had to hit the flippers at just the right time to get the ball where you wanted to go. However, what if pinball could be a more strategic game with some elements of chance? Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up provides a chance to make pinball a thinking game.
What Is Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up?
Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up is a roll and write game for 1-4 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. Players choose from four different pinball games and compete to get the highest score. The game is currently available for the suggested retail price of $24.99. You can find it at your FLGS or from Amazon.
Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up was designed by Geoff Engelstein and published by WizKids games, with graphic design by Richard Dadisman, Scott Hartman, and Daniel Solis. It is also the second stand-alone game in the Super-Skill Pinball series. The first, Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade, was released back in 2020.
Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up Components
Here is what you get in the game:
- 16 Pinball table and backglass cards
- 2 Six-sided dice
- 8 ball tokens
- 4 Dry-erase markers
Gofer Gold is the pinball table for beginners and is pretty straightforward in the way the table works. Learn the basics of the game with this table and use it to teach new players. The theme is based around prospecting for gold with a flume at the top that leads to a waterfall.
High Roller Heist has a moderate difficulty level and makes a great table once you have learned to play Gofer Gold. This time you are robbing a casino. You have to clear obstacles on the table in order to get up to the backglass where there are opportunities to get lots of stars, which are the points of the game. However, watch out for the guard. If you get caught, you will end up in jail. Unlike the other tables, High Roller Heist is played in only two rounds instead of three.
Pin Pals is another table with a moderate difficulty. The theme of this one is professional wrestling. It is played with a teammate where each player gets one of the matching colored tables. At the end you add up the score of the two teammates for a final score. Several of the bonuses you can earn are for your teammate and their bonuses can help you.
Top Speed is the advanced table and themed like a racetrack. One of the interesting features is a speedometer on the backglass. Certain effects will increase or decrease the speed. While it starts at 0, it can go up to 1, 2, or 3. These speed numbers are then added to the die you choose to use. That is why there are die spaces on the table that go up to 9. There is a lot going on for this table, so be sure to try this one only after you feel comfortable with the other tables.
The ball tokens look like metal pinballs. The two dice are rolled together and all players use the results. The dry-erase markers include an eraser on the cap to clean off marks on the cards.
How to Play Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to be the player with the highest score of stars.
Before you begin a game of Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up, each player takes a matching table and backglass. All players should be playing on the same table. If this is your first game, or if there is a new player, be sure to start off with Gofer Gold. Each player also needs two ball tokens as well as a dry-erase marker. Place the dice in the center of the play area. Next, fill in the Round 1 circle on the round track which is located above the plunger in the lower right corner of the table card. Finally, place one of your ball tokens on the start arrow on the table with the second ball token nearby to be used later during the game. You are now ready to begin playing.
While each pinball table is a bit different, with unique features, the main mechanics are the same for them all. All players play simultaneously and the game is divided into rounds with each round consisting of a number of turns. Since each player makes different choices, rounds for some players may last longer than for other players and one player may be in round 2 while others are still in round 1. At the start of each turn, one of the players rolls both dice. Some groups may want to designate one person to do all the rolling. Who rolls does not really matter. After the two dice are rolled, players can choose to use the result of either die for their turn. At the start of a round, each player’s ball token is at the top of the table card. Then can move their ball token to any feature with the same die value in the starting zone or a lower zone. Then fill in the box of that feature. If the feature has a star with a number next to it, then you score that many stars. Mark that number of points on the scoring track located along the left side of the backglass. Once all players have completed their turn, roll the dice and start the next turn.
The tables are divided into zones and for some, the backglass can also be used as a zone. Each turn, the ball token must be moved to a lower zone. It can be an adjacent zone or any lower zone. The ball cannot stay in the same zone unless a feature allows it such as bumpers. You can only move the ball token to a feature containing a box with a die value the same as one of the dice rolled that is not already filled in. Some boxes have two different die values. You only need to match one of those values, not both, to mark that box. As a round progresses, there will be fewer options available. Eventually you will reach the lowest zone with the flippers. Again you must move the ball token to one of the areas where a matching die value is open. Each flipper has a few spots and there are also inner and outer lanes that can be chosen. Both lanes provide points; however, while the inner lane takes the token to the matching flipper, the outer lane removes the ball token from the table.
When a ball token starts on a flipper, the next turn it can be moved to any feature with die values in white or the color of the flipper. The ball token can also be moved up ramps of the same color. For example if a ball was on the yellow flipper, it could be moved up the table to any feature with either a white or yellow die value or up yellow ramps. A round continues with moving the ball down the table and then hitting it back up with the flippers. If there are not open slots that match one of the die values when you get down to the flipper zone, or the ball goes down an outer lane, the token is removed. If a player has no more ball tokens on the table, then they have completed a round. Fill in the next round track space on the table card and place the ball token back at the start space. If all round track spaces are filled in when you lose a ball, then the game is over for you. Other players continue playing until they lose their final ball.
There are several different features, but most fit into three types: bumpers, drop targets, and skills shots. Each is based on getting sets and are bordered by a solid line. This means that once all the boxes in a set are complete, you can erase those boxes and start again. Bumper sets usually let you move from one bumper to the next while scoring points as you go. Arrows show the order in which the ball token can be moved from bumper to bumper. As long as you have open boxes that match one of the two dice rolled, you can keep your ball token moving around the bumpers, staying in the same zone, and scoring points. if ever you can’t move to the next bumper in series, then you must move the ball token to a lower zone.
Drop target sets have boxes that appear in sets of three or four. When you complete a set, not only do you erase the boxes but also get to choose a bonus, which can include more points, point multipliers, multiball mode, or other rewards. Most bonuses last for only the current round. To indicate that a bonus is active, mark the box and then circle the indicator. Since most bonus boxes have a double line bordering them, you do not erase them for the rest of the game. Therefore, they can only be earned once per game. Each of these sets also has a box with the infinity symbol next to it letting you select that option as many times as you want as a bonus. Often it is a number of points. Once you activate multiball mode as a bonus, you can put a second ball token on the table at the start location. Now each turn you must use both dice. You decide which die value is used for which ball token. You just can’t use the same die for both tokens. Not only can you score more points each turn, you can lose a ball and not have to end the round.
Skill shot sets are the third type of feature sets. When you complete one of these sets, you can circle one of the skill shot numbers on the table card, then erase the set boxes to start over. Skill shots are great. They let you take one of the numbers you have circled and change a die roll to that value. Then erase the circle you drew to show that it has been used. Skill shots only affect the player who uses them. They do not change the dice rolls for the other players.
There is another way to change a die roll: nudging. Each table card has a large nudge box with a few smaller boxes with double-lined borders below it. When you nudge, you can change one of the die results to any result you want. Then write in the difference between the new and rolled value into the large box. For example, if you changed a 2 into a 4, you would write 2 in the box and then fill in one of the small boxes below. On the next dice roll, if the difference between the two dice rolled is equal to or greater than the number you wrote in the large box, you are safe and can erase that number now. However, if the difference is less than the number in the box, you tilt and your round immediately ends. On the next turn, you can start the next round unless you have already filled in all the spaces on the round tracker. Nudging is a way to push your luck to get a die roll you really need. If you only change the value by one, then you are safe unless the next dice roll is doubles. Also, you have a limited number of nudges, usually three, for an entire game.
The game is over for a player at the end of their third round (or second round for some pinball tables). Play continues for the other players until they complete their final rounds. Compare the scores of the players. The player with the highest score is the winner. If there is a tie, then the player who completed their last round earliest is the winner. The last page of the game manual has a place where you can list your high scores for each pinball table. This can also be used for solo games where you try to beat the highest score.
Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up
I have to admit, when I first received Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up, I was not very excited. Roll and write games are usually not my favorite games to play. When I saw it was designed by Geoff Engelstein, my curiosity was piqued. I have enjoyed some of his other games and on occasion listen to his podcast on game design, “Ludology.” However, it was not until I actually began playing the game that I really came to appreciate it. Just playing the beginner pinball table, Gofer Gold, was a lot of fun. I learned that skill shots are very useful and to try to earn the bonuses early in a round so you can gain their advantages for a longer time. I also liked that there was not a set number of turns. Instead, just as pinball does not have a time limit, you can keep playing as long as you can keep the ball on the table. So clearing sets is important because it then opens up more boxes to use. Eventually, no matter how hard you try, all of the boxes for the flipper zone are filled and you lose your ball and continue to the next round.
The art on the pinball table and backglass cards is colorful and really has the feel of a classic pinball table. The shiny silver ball tokens in the shape of a hemisphere look just like a pinball but are flat on the bottom so they don’t roll around the play area. Plus the dry-erase markers are a great way to keep track of which boxes you use and other logistics. By dividing the pinball tables into zones, the designer has really created a mechanic to mimic the gravity of a pinball machine. Just like the ball in a machine will roll down towards the player, the ball token must be moved down a zone towards the flippers each turn unless it hits a bumper or other feature that prevents this requirement. Therefore, players will look for ways to ‘defy gravity’ while racking up points.
I really like the four different pinball tables. Each one not only looks different and has unique elements, but playing each one also feels different. While the goal is to score as many points as you can, each pinball table has different objectives and challenges, creating a game within the game. The variety also mixes up the game so players are more likely to play it again and again. You don’t feel like you are playing the same game over and over. Not only is Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up fun with 2-4 players, it also is great as a solo game where you essentially play against yourself to get a high score. The Pin Pals table switches things up by providing team play where you want to interact with your teammate so you can give bonuses to each other. No matter how many people are playing, everyone is engaged the entire time since players are not taking turns but each playing their own table. There is very little downtime since everyone plays off every roll of the dice.
The skill shots and nudge features both provide ways to change the value of one of the dice. While skill shots are earned by completing sets, the nudge offers a push your luck element to the game. It is tempting to risk a tilt when you only need to change a value by one since the odds are in your favor. However, if you are about to lose your ball anyway, nudging can be a great way to get some points before ending the round. Both of these elements can really help you, as long as you don’t wait until it is too late to use them. I found myself holding on to these sometimes too long, waiting to use them for a big score. I also found they can act as a lifesaver if your ball is about to go past the flippers and end the round for you.
As I mentioned earlier, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed playing Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up. The game looks great, is quick to set up, and easy to teach to others. The four different pinball tables on which you play offer not only a visual variety but new mechanics as well. I really like that everyone plays at the same time and use the same two dice that are rolled each turn. There is no downtime until you finish your last round. Plus, because everyone as access to the same dice values, winning really depends on how each player assigns those same dice rolls. Plus this game works great either as a starter for a game night playing a single pinball table or as the main course with several tables in a row. For these many reasons, I highly recommend Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up as a great addition to any game collection and award it our GeekDad Approved title.
For more information, visit the Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.