Most of the time when I play pinball I could care less about my score, unless of course it’s during competition. Instead of focusing on scores I prefer the journey-based rulesets that some of today’s pinball machines offer.
Lord of the Rings is the pin that first got me hooked on objective based rulesets. There’s something special about a ruleset that takes you through a themes story in unique ways. Like nearly all modern games LOTR has modes but rather then requiring the player to just keep hitting X number of shots at the same ramp, orbit or target the programmer (Keith Johnson) requires the player to work the entire playfield in interesting ways. On top of that once a player completes a mode they unlock the option to shoot the left orbit for a reward, aka “Gift from the Elves”. Playing through all the modes leads to the player unlocking the “There and Back Again” wizard mode, playing each multiball leads to unlocking the “Destroy the Ring” wizard mode, etc. This type of ruleset pattern / design is my personal favorite as it always feels like I’m working towards unlocking something which always more interesting then just playing for points in my opinion.
LOTR came out 16 years ago as of this year (that’s crazy to say) and we’ve seen a ton of pinball machines come out since then. I’ve continued to search for more pins that offer a LOTR type ruleset and it’s not surprising that most are from JJP which has not only the programmer of LOTR but also Ted Estes on their staff. On a Head2Head pinball podcast Keith Johnson described Wizard of Oz’s ruleset as Lord of the Rings 2.0 and I tend to agree. I won’t go into extreme detail about WOZ’s ruleset, as it would take forever, but I’ll just say that feature of collecting emeralds and diamonds by completing the unique tasks in the game is very rewarding as a player. Dialed In is another favorite of mine not just because of the design of the disaster modes but due to the SIM card collect feature that Ted Estes implemented. Completing a mode in Dialed In leads to the SIM card collect shot being lit and collecting SIM cards not only increases in game scoring but collecting enough to spell “Dialed In” leads to unlocking the games super wizard mode. Playing through 6 of the games modes also unlocks a wizard mode that acts as a mid wizard for the game.
The Hobbit, JJP’s Pirates of the Caribbean, and Stern’s Star Wars are three other pins that have that have a journey type ruleset. If WOZ is like LOTR 2.0 I may have to describe The Hobbit as LOTR 3.0 due to the games 30 + objective based modes that like the modes in LOTR has the player working the playfield in interesting ways. Similar to LOTR the Hobbit has multiple wizard modes that are unlocked as certain tasks are completed, each of which are on what I would call a “spectacle level” wizard mode due the incredible chorography in each. In regard to Pirates I may go as far to describe the ruleset as LOTR 4.0 if The Hobbit is LOTR 3.00 haha. The main chapter modes in Pirates lack licensed assets compared to those in LOTR and Hobbit, but the character select feature, having to shoot a variety of shots during chapter modes, setting up Pirate lane awards and knowing that attempting 5 of them for a specific movie along with attempting that movies multiball mode leads to unlocking a wizard mode is addicting and provides a great journey level of experience. In Star Wars Dwight Sullivan has the player playing through 16 modes, each of which is separated into a group of 4 modes representing a location in the theme. Playing 3 modes from each location unlocks that locations wizard mode, playing all modes unlocks the “Defeat the Emperor” super wizard mode.
All of the rulesets for the games above have not only super wizard mode but also at least 1 mini / mid wizard mode. Some games lack a mid wizard mode which in my opinion can lead to a game overtime feeling repetitive as the 1 wizard mode in the game is so difficult to reach. I like what Keith Johnson said about mid and super wizard modes with that being a mid wizard (Destroy the Ring in LOTR) is for having a great game while a super wizard mode (Valinor in LOTR) is for a game of a lifetime. Mini wizard modes, preferably multiple, and a super wizard mode are two of my favorite features of journey based rulesets.
Well, that’s the end of my long rant on objective bases rulesets.
What are some of your favorite objective based rulesets and why?