Rulesheet Studying Strategies

The Munsters Rulesheet had me thinking about something today. For a long time, I’ve been more or less resistant to getting too deep into reading rule sheets. There’s so much damn information to squeeze into my head, and not just about pinball, that sometimes it overwhelms me. Sometimes I look up specific questions I have about specific games (how does this multiball happen? Why did that person’s score blow up)? But I get distracted fast.

However, this year I’m really trying to go a little deeper into tournaments with an eye on making Oregon’s state championships for the first time, and I know I’ll have to develop a deeper knowledge of a wide variety of games. I’m curious how people break down rule sheets (if at all). Do you do more like I do, and look up specifics about a game as they come up? Or do you study each new rulesheet whenever it’s compiled? When a new game comes on location that may be older but unfamiliar to you, do you look up rulesheets for it? Do you just look up games on pintips or something like that and skip rulesheets? Do you just feel your way through a game (long my preferred strategy, though not often a fruitful one)?

How do you translate your knowledge from a rulesheet into action on a pin? Assume limits on your practice time/options. While I’m blessed to be in Portland with so many games on location, I’m not as blessed with the volume of quarters I’d like to be to practice them as much as I’d like (should take more advantage of free play nights, perhaps).

I’m pretty much just curious to hear various strategies. I don’t know if I’ll adopt any, and I doubt there’s any one that’s better than another. Thanks for joining the discussion!


Personally I digest rulesets much better from watching than reading. Reading is good to pick up highlights, or to refresh knowledge on a game I haven’t seen for a while, but I really learn from watching people play. From that perspective, live streams of tournaments are a really excellent resource. On newer games, the various streamers’ livestreams are probably solid, especially when people like @sk8ball and @Smack847 are playing at the factory. Heck, I learned more about Star Wars from watching Dana play one game than I ever had playing around 50 myself.

Along that same vein, if a game is really new like Munsters, get a group and go out and session it for a while. You’ll learn and share as you notice things happening in each others’ games plus it saves on the quarters. Its also more fun!


Great ideas. I have noticed that most times when I actually watch a tournament there’s a moment on a familiar game or two when i realize “Oh, I didn’t know that.” It’s definitely helped me of late (This year’s INDISC finals was a good example).

2 Likes is a great place to start.


I think there’s a few parts that you can look into if you want to learn a game:

Pinball Videos is a cornucopia of raw rules interpretation. You’re not sitting at the game, can adjust the footage to learn something, and can see all the interactions. Watching live footage also can work, but you don’t have the video controls!

Reading with an objective. Thinking “how can i score well?” or “How can i start a Multiball?” gives you a directed question you can guide your reading towards. Once you find something out, try a new objective!

“Labbing”/“workshopping”: actually going out by yourself or with friends to figure something out. If you’re by yourself, pay more attention to the displays and little features to pick up on a game’s subtle bits. With friends, they might go “where did those points come from?” or answer your questions, which can help out a lot!

For example, Munsters exploit:

  • See a Facebook post about Munster Madness breaking
  • Lab the game with friends, where one points out an above average jackpot collect
  • Think about the relationship and come up with a hypothesis after reviewing other footage

I learn much better/faster from watching too. Playing in a lot more tournaments with more knowledgeable players is great too. Me and 5-6 other competitors in the area are constantly talking rules, strategy, etc.

Before that, I watched pinball religiously. Any game you find in a tournament is most likely on there with in-depth commentary on what’s going on and how to play.

Good luck!!


Funny. I like the idea of talking with others about strategy in theory, but in reality I find

A) I clam up when trying to express what I am going for. Not to be secretive or protective of my skills, but I just don’t find a good way to draw out and describe what I was working toward (I was even called out on this by a friend and casual league teammate a couple months ago. She thought I was just being a jerk, but I was just having communication issues)

B) I get overwhelmed when other people talk about there strategies and I can’t follow it all.

I think this is probably an argument for observing and watching and asking questions when I do feel comfortable. It’s just that I know that one of the challenges I have is information overload. P.S. both of these can serve as warnings that anyone of you I ever play with I’m not bored with you or uninterested if I clam up or seem to tune out when rules talk comes up in person, I’m just pretty overwhelmed.

It’s funny, my wife genuinely enjoys pinball when she happens to play with me, and has a good time at the occasional tournament she attends, but doesn’t actively seek pinball out on her own. She has great flipper skills and instincts for someone who doesn’t play regularly, but zero interest in rulesets and less if I try to explain why a game went particularly well or poorly for me. Watching her tune out is probably similar to what people see when they watch me (or what they’ve seen in the past). I totally get where she’s at on the one hand, but it’s clear I’m somewhere between there and all the people who seem to grasp rules and communicate them readily.

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I forgot something else:

You’ll see a lot of overarching mode or other rules borrowed or copypasted from game to game. If you know the rules to one game, see how they might relate to the game you’re playing right now! A fun one is the similarity between Battle the Kraken (JJPOTC) and Horde (TWD).


When I’m try to digest a game there are typically three things I’m trying to figure out:

  1. What is the easiest/safest way to play this game to get a consistent tournament score. This usually requires minimum/moderate comprehensive rules knowledge.

  2. How to blow the game up. If my opponent put up a huge score and I need to catch up, or, it’s herb qualifying and the blow it up strategy is different from the consistent play strategy and, blowing up games is fun. This usually requires moderate/high comprehensive rules knowledge.

  3. If I only need 500k (or some small amount) to win what gets me that small amount. Oddly enough the fewer points you are looking for the more comprehensive your rules knowledge needs to be. This is where I find written rule sheets to be the most helpful.

In general the deeper your rules knowledge the easier it will be to change up a strategy if the game is not cooperating with the strategy you initially set out with.


I like to read the entire rule sheet. Then play some games. I think I can put about 50% of what I read into action. Then I go back and read the rule sheet again. NOW it starts to all make sense. From there I can go play the game some more and put about 80-90% of what I read into action.

I mostly only use Pintips when I faced with playing a pin in competition and I don’t know it at all. Or I need a quick refresher because I haven’t played that pin in years.


If you are a little technically inclined, you can use Visual Pinball to try things out on nearly any pre-Spike game. I don’t even use the software to play, I just “take the glass off” and press switches to figure out the rules.

In VP 10.5, they added “Control ball with mouse” to the debug menu (press Escape). This makes it really easy, you can just click and drag the ball around. You can also dust off your Visual Basic(!!) skills and write a script to hit switches.

It’s a great way to figure out nuances of weirdo tables, for example, when @pinbwzrd busts out Barb Wire in a tournament :slight_smile: It also gives you a visual sense of how the shots will flow as opposed to just reading a rulesheet.


Oh! What a cool idea. I haven’t tried to run Visual Pinball in years, and that was on an old system. I am going to tinker with this in a bit, at least for this idea and for getting a sense of games I have questions about.

To go deep into a tournament I don’t think you need to go as deep into rules as you suggest.

For the majority of games you don’t need to know all of the rules, just the 2 or 3 most profitable strategies. It’s unlikely anyone has an indepth knowledge of every game out there.
Take for example WPT, a game I know inside and out. I’ve only ever seen tutorials, or actually tournament play, with players trying to take ‘change gears’ into a multiball and then try and bring in other multiballs - to me that is not the right scoring strategy to maximise your score. What it is, is safe, reliable and easy to put up an average score.

The way I find to get the best knowledge is similar to what @LOTR_breath says above. There’s little to be gained purely from reading the rulesheet without playing. I usually scan the rulesheet to get an idea of how the major features/multiballs work/start then play as many games as I can, after that go back and look in more detail at the rulesheet to see if there’s anything that can be tweaked to improve scoring - perhaps stacking modes into multiballs or shot multipliers.
Then go back and play as much as possible.

If you can’t get as much playing time as others, watching tutorials, gameplay or reading rulesheets may help but not to the same degree, as most people follow the same strategies.

For older games download Pinball Arcade on your phone or tablet, lots and lots of games to be played with the actual game ROMs used, plus there are hints and tips. I’ve spoken to a lot of new players in the UK and It’s how a lot of them first found out about pinball, before even realising it was a real thing.


One thing I do like to look at on rule sheets is if any shots grow in value the more you hit them. Initially, it may look like that shot is worth 10,000, but, if it grows every time you hit it that could be huge points if that shot is repeatable. This is, especially, true if this value holds over every ball.


Coming from the guy who made a lot of the Tilt Forums rule sheets… it may be a good idea to provide a simplified version for people who just want to jump in, play, and figure things out for themselves. There’s also, which is a really good source for simple tips and I think it could help you out a lot. I’ll admit that I do much better on machines like TSPP without going in depth on the rules.


I use pintips a ton when I walk up to a game I’m not at all familiar with. Some games’ tips are less helpful than others, but I’ve come to a point where I can usually at least check something between balls, particularly in four-player matchplay tournaments where there is enough time to do so.

I like the idea of a simplified version, but I think I also want to work on being more patient with complicated rulesheets and dig deeper into them. I really do love when something “clicks” about a rule set and I begin to feel like the bigger system, as it were, of a game comes into focus for me. The detailed rulesets I have red have made that focusing a little easier because elements of the games are familiar from the reading.

I still find watching very good players play a particular game is the most instructive. My suspicion is the best solution is a combination of all the advice that’s been given so far in this thread.

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For tournament play: as suggested by others, you need to glean the most important low risk/high reward shots, sequences, and strategies.

For more obscure, older pins, I often have to resort to watching a low-quality gameplay video on YouTube, or reading the rule card or downloading the Manual via

The best way is to watch other people play a pin, and then make some notes on it. I can’t keep track of it all in my head, so I make my notes on a Google sheet.


If this is what I’m looking for I skip to the bottom and hope the author put a “Strategies” section there. This is where a lot of useful rulesheet info is hidden.

And also thank you for all the rulesheets!


Just adding here that making rules and strategy resources public is especially useful to the community. There are players and groups who do this, and there are players and groups that collect this information for private-only use.


Anytime man! I just want to help out both veteran players and people who are new to the scene.