Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball.

Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade, designed by Geoff Engelstein and published by WizKids, takes players to a Roll-and-Write pinball arcade complete with flippers and bumpers, spinners and targets, nudges and tilts. The game is easy to play solo or multiplayer, and I found it quite “zoom-able” during the recent and ongoing COVID pandemic response.

Gameplay

Players first choose one of four different pins – boards and back glass that offer a different theme, level of difficulty, and game elements.

  • Carniball includes shooting ducks, popping balloons, and the Test of Strength!
  • Cyberhack puts players in the role of a hacker taking down an evil corporation.
  • Dragon Slayer introduces level-ups and skill bonuses for pinball wizards.
  • Dance Fever adds 70s theming and a mini-pin on the back glass.

Super-Skill Pinball is played in a series of rounds representing available balls. On each turn, a player rolls a shared pair of dice; then each player selects one result to use on their board, starting at the top with bumpers and spinners. As the ball falls toward the bottom, gamers can use flippers to send it back up, just like a real game of pinball. Bonuses include score multipliers and multi-ball, and some boards have back glass mini-games that add variety (and points!).

My favorite board: Cyberhack

Become part of the machine. Super-Skill Pinball is a joy to play. It’s easy to learn the basics, fun at all player counts, and is deep enough that I’ve played dozens of games and still want to play again. The press-your-luck elements – including nudge and tilt – are clever and nail-biting. I’ve laughed out loud and cursed my birth during the same game.

Accessibility

Super-Skill Pinball is a small box game, and sometimes packing so much fun into a small package requires compromises to accessibility. I’m happy to report that those issues did not come up for me, and I’m pleased with my ability to play Super-Skill pinball as a colorblind gamer.

Color Vision. This is a colorful game where colors matter for gameplay, so a greyscale version of this game would not be playable. Geoff used Red and Yellow as the primary distinguishing colors, and he kept these consistent for all boards. In addition the “value” (lightness-darkness) of the two colors differ enough that this attribute can help some players.

I was able to play all four boards with no color vision concerns. However, if yellow/red is a problematic combination for you, Super-Skill Pinball does not use double-coding; some level of color vision is required.

Carniball: Complete with Creepy Clown

Low Vision. As a result of the game board size, there are some tiny icons and text in this game. I needed my trusty reading glasses for some elements, but in the end, I found everything readable.

Accessible by Design. As is usually the case, visual accessibility is not maintained by accident. I asked Geoff about his considerations for colorblind and low vision users during design and development, and he shared some of his process.

When selecting the initial red/yellow I did run it through some color-blindness filters to make sure the colors were distinguishable (although given the saturation differences I was confident they would be). We also paid close attention to the size of the icons and boxes that get marked off. My mom helped test that part.1

I think some of the star icons are a tad small, but that was a compromise with space available.

Geoff also provided information about using the rulebook to support any potential confusion related to small icons.

As a backup we made sure that the rules gave the value of every bonus, and explained what could be hit from where, etc. Perhaps it made the rules more intimidating (I do hear people say – why is it a 32-page rulebook for a simple game?), but I wanted to make sure people had a backup to refer to rather than just trying to decipher iconography on the board.

I highly recommend Super-Skill Pinball. It’s a fantastic title for roll-and-write players, and approachable for new tabletop gamers who might enjoy the general pinball theme or any of the pin sub-themes. It’s playable with friends by video, and Wizkids has released free print-and-play boards on their website to make it easy to try!

My very first play: PnP via video

What’s Next?

The game’s “4-Cade” subtitle hints toward additional pinball tables upcoming, and that is the case. Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp it Up is on the way in late-2021 with four new boards to try!

  • Gofer Gold allows players to strike it rich while panning for gold (Free PnP)
  • Pin Pals brings the excitement of professional wrestling
  • High Roller Heist puts players in a classic casino caper
  • Top Speed introduces race cars and a push-your-luck element 

Image Credits: WizKids (first and last); Brian Chandler (all others)

1 New life goal: interview Geoff Engelstein’s mom.

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