Full disclosure: A review copy of Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade was provided by WizKids.
I’ve been checking out a lot of games from WizKids, now that I think about it. I have a bunch of titles from them that I’ve tried that have been pretty interesting (Tournament of Avalon is a wildly dense trick-taking game, which is neat, but I haven’t gotten to play it enough), but they haven’t supported online play so I haven’t been able to review them quite yet. But, buddies, once I can start hosting my game groups again, whew, games. Anyways, let’s dive into this particular title. I was pretty hyped about it because it combines two things I like: roll-and-write games, and pinball, so let’s see how it plays!
Welcome to Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade! To start, you’re not going to need any coins but you’ll need to select which pin you want to play. Will you take on some Feats of Strength at the Carniball? How about making runs against the dreaded corporations in the world of Cyberhack? Do you have enough magic at your disposal to claim the legendary hoard as a Dragonslayer? Or perhaps you want to leave it all on the disco floor in Dance Fever? The pinball world is your oyster with this roll-and-write, as you’ll roll two dice and keep one to move your ball up and down the pinball board, collecting points, hitting bumpers, and activating all sorts of exciting features. Out of options? Don’t worry, everyone loses a ball or two; that’s why there are three rounds! Will you be able to top the charts with the newest high score?
Player Count Differences
Effectively none; the game doesn’t have significant player interaction, so your choices cannot change your opponent’s actions.
The only thing worth noting is that since there is a technical form of “player elimination”, in that some players will finish before others, the more players you have, the higher your chance of a game where some players finish far before other players finish, which may not be great.
Plays like a dream, solo, though; you don’t have to wait for anyone else and can just keep the dice rolling.
- Plan ahead. A lot of what makes this game work is getting the dice required to weave a path that you set for yourself from top to bottom to top to bottom back to the top, again. Poor planning can result in a pathway that only plummets, so make sure you’re leaving spots open with a variety of numbers so that you can make your way up and down the pin. I try to avoid leaving multiple spots with the same number open, just because I’m a little superstitious and I think that rolling a number makes rolling the same number less likely in the future, which is … false. I unfortunately am burdened with an understanding of probability, as well.
- Lean into what makes your pin special. On Cyberhack, you should be getting the hacks you need to make the Ultimate Run and Overclock to get 200+ points. On Dragonslayer, you should use your spells to build up your hoard and then combine the Dragon Drop Targets with the Invisibility Spell to cash out in a huge way. These are things you’ll also pick up from repeat plays, but figuring out what makes your particular board tick and making that a big part of your strategy is going to be critical to landing the biggest points.
- It is perfectly reasonable to opt to miss out on some points to guarantee the number you want or need. Sometimes you may be able to score an extra point if you take the drop target, but having a 1 farther down the board will really help you out. In that case, take the 1 farther down. Or don’t! It’s really up to your risk tolerance.
- If what you’re doing isn’t working, take a look at what your opponents are doing. You may be able to pick up a few things. If everyone is learning the game, it may still be worth seeing what other people are trying and using that as inspiration. Just keep in mind that it’s difficult to win by just doing the exact same moves as another player, so, at some point you may have to break free of their strategy if you want to try and win.
- You don’t have to win the game in the first round; you can set things up for subsequent rounds. Often, some squares don’t erase between rounds anyways, so getting a few things out of the way early can let you take advantage of them later. For instance, in Dragonslayer, you learn spells that you can use again later on in the game, which is great! Learning a bunch of those spells early in the game means you have access to a wider variety in subsequent rounds, so I tend to focus on that in Round 1 and leave the Hoard and scoring points for later.
- There will likely be a round where you’ve just gotta leave it all on the table. I tend to make Round 3 my Big Round where I use all my abilities and try to really drive up a massive score, and sometimes it works! Sometimes it doesn’t. There may be other reasons to try that in other rounds, like Round 1, where you have the most open spaces. You’re going to need to determine when you need to go for broke, but you’re almost certainly going to have to, at some point.
- There will also likely be a time where you can’t do much and it might just be worth letting the ball drain. Sometimes it’s best to just give up the ghost and let the ball go, especially if you can get some extra points on the way out.
- Nudging is helpful, but do so at your own risk. You really don’t want to tilt, and it’s very possible, even with a Nudge value of 1. If it happens, you’ll likely be extremely mad. Basically, the question you need to ask yourself is “is this roll so critical that it’s worth losing the rest of the round?” and if so, go for it. I wouldn’t nudge ahead of a huge, planned combo, for instance.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The puns are extremely good. That’s all.
- I actually … have a lot of fun with this. I think that there’s a lot going on, sure, but once you get used to it it’s quite fun and dynamic. It’s definitely on the heftier side, but it clicks into place before the end of your first game, or at least it did, for me. I’ve always been a huge fan of pinball but deeply terrible at it, so this is a nice compromise between something I like and something I can actually score points with.
- I like pinball, so this works, but a lot of your enjoyment of this game is going to come down to whether or not you really like pinball, as this feels like you’re playing pinball. I have said a similar thing about Flamme Rouge, in that it’s very much the feeling of being in a bicycle race, but in board game form. Your enjoyment of Flamme Rouge, as a result, is conditional on whether or not you enjoy bicycle races. Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade is very similar. It feels like a very authentic mapping of a pinball experience to a roll-and-write game, which, congrats Geoff, that rules, but your enjoyment of it is going to come down to whether or not you like pinball. Thankfully, I do.
- This does support online play rather nicely, with print-and-play versions available online. All you need is a small coin or something to track the ball if you don’t have the game, and you can even do that with a meeple or something if you’ve got one handy. It seems … prescient that this game is so accommodating of online play.
- I like how explicitly expandable this game is, conceptually. I tend to like games more if I can see a clear through-line of how you could expand the concept, and this lends itself very easily to that. Geoff (the designer) also has talked a lot about his design process in BGG forums, so it seems like fan pins could come into play, at some point, as well. I think that’s really cool! This is the kind of game that can get people psyched about game design.
- I also like the variety of themes available in the first four pins. It’s a good variety. Carnival (always a little creepy), Cyberhack (specifically for Calvin), Dragonslayer (if you have multiple themes, one has to be fantasy), and Dance Fever (disco theme was … unexpected, but delightful). I can’t wait to see what they go for if they make more.
- The ball tokens weren’t strictly necessary, but they’re a nice touch. It’s a subtle thing that improves the authenticity of the game, and I’m always for that.
- This is also a surprisingly portable game, which is cool. The box is dense, but not all that huge, which is nice.
- Four different boards, each with their own ruleset, is … a lot. It’s just hard for a reviewer, to be honest, though I imagine folks will be psyched about the additional content. I struggle a lot with games that have a lot of variable playstyles and content, which is part of why I haven’t gotten around to reviewing Spirit Island, for instance.
- Your first game is likely going to run long, unless you really internalized the rules and are playing with people who make quick decisions. To the game’s credit (and why this is in Mehs rather than Cons), you speed up as you play and subsequent games are fast once you’ve gotten used to the rulebook and the new set of rules for the new board, but woof, I was picking this up to review again and I was like “how dare the box say it takes 30 minutes” during a game, only to realize that by the end of it I was like roll-bumper-roll-flipper-roll-up-roll-bumper-roll-bumper, etc. It just takes some time to really get a sense of what you’re doing.
- Whew, the rulebook is dense. To the game’s credit, again, it’s because it’s got a lot going on and partially assumes you’re coming from a “I have heard of pinball and that’s it” standpoint, but it’s a 31-page rulebook for a 30-minute game. It’s a very clear rulebook, but the game, mechanically, is definitely a bit daunting. I may not make this my first roll-and-write that I show someone. You gotta start with like Qwinto or Qwingo or something.
- The player elimination aspect (after three rounds, your game ends) means that you may just be sitting and waiting for other players to finish, even if you know you’ve lost. This is kind of a bummer, but I haven’t experienced it that much because I’ve mostly been running this one solo. I think there may be some entertainment value to watching other people, but it’s still frustrating to be out of the game and unable to do anything. I’m fairly opposed to player elimination, and while this isn’t explicitly that, it’s close enough that it still hits the same notes.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I really like Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade! I’m, as I said, a bit of a pinball aficionado, myself (I once got Ensign on the Windows Space Pinball game!), and so I was interested to see how that experience translated to the roll-and-write form. I’m pleased to say it translates extremely well, to the point that this almost feels authentic, or as authentic as a board game adaptation can feel. To me, that suggests some very strong design and development work, and the game feels great to play. There’s definitely a lot going on, for your first game, and I had a couple false starts where I tried to teach someone the game, they saw the rules density, and got skittish, but if you just … you know, take on a more tyrannical approach and force people to play the game, they do like it. The life of a reviewer. Joking aside, the rulebook isn’t bad; it actually reads quite well and the rules are easy to understand. There are just a lot of them. And there are four boards, and each have their own unique rules. For the photos, I decided it would be fun to play two boards simultaneously, and right now, as I write this paragraph, my entire brain hurts. It was fun, but my brain hurts. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as the go-to game for introducing someone to roll-and-writes, unless they’re a massive pinball fan, but if they are, I think they’ll love this one! My biggest gripe is just that I wish the game had more to do once it was over for one player but not the others, but short of cutting their games short, there’s not much that can be done, unfortunately. I do enjoy the rest of the game, though; I like the themes, I like the boards, and I think the gameplay is solid. While it’s got a lot going on, I think Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade does it well, frankly. If you’re looking for a more complex roll-and-write or you’re just a huge pinball fan, I’d recommend checking Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade out! I really had a good time with it.