Stall Ball

While I was thinking about guides … it occurred to me that I haven’t seen any guide or set of rules for Stall Ball, so I thought I’d take a crack at it. Consider this a first draft open to improvement. [Someone may want to Wiki this.] If there is such a handbook already, someone might want to put it somewhere visible.


StallBall Guide


Get [at least] one ball “stalled” in a saucer, scoop, lock or other game feature that briefly holds the ball before releasing it. The next person in line then immediately assumes responsibility for the ball in play. Drain before stalling and you are eliminated from that run.


All players are assigned to a queue for a game [there may be more than one game used, depending on player count]. The first player up starts the game and tries to stall the ball. If successful, their turn is done and they move to the end of the queue. The next player in the queue then immediately assumes control of the ball in play as it is returned from the “stall” feature and likewise tries to stall the ball again in either the same or any other stall feature. Play continues down the line from player to player until the ball is drained. The player who drained before stalling the ball is eliminated from that run. Play then resumes with the next player in the queue beginning a new ball. The last player standing wins that run.


Without playoff phase: rank players by most runs won; tiebreaker can be earliest win or can be played off as a new run between just the tied players.

With playoff phase: run winners are removed from subsequent runs and then have a separate “run winners only” competition after all qualifying runs are complete.


Stallball can be done as a one-player game or a multi-player game. It is recommended to use the maximum number of players available on each machine to minimize the need to restart games. When a multi-player game is used, the player stepping up after someone drains will be playing whichever player number is next up on the machine.

Player Arrangement

The optimal maximum number of players per machine is usually 13. Observe that if you start a 4-player game, assuming 3 balls per player, that’s 12 drains or outs, leaving one player standing, without having to restart the machine as is necessary with more than 13 players.


  • For greater enjoyment, everyone player should get in at least 4 games unless they win a round and move on to a playoff phase.
  • Initial player order should be random.
  • For equity purposes, you should reverse the initial order each run.
  • When more than one machine is being used, players should cycle between machines each game
  • If a play queue returns to the same game again, their order of play should be the opposite of the previous run.
  • Playoff rounds: first half [or fewer] of qualifiers who win a run move on to next round
  • Playoff count could be 4 players per 8-13 participants. Can use byes if desired, with first run winners getting them.

Sample Player Groupings

  • 8-13 players, one machine, 4 runs.
  • 14-26 players, two machines, split players into two groups, alternate games. Should rearrange so that not in same order on same machine twice, so go 1-N on game A, N-1 on game B, then N-1 on A, 1-N on B. Or, keep on same game for game 3 as game 2, reversing order again, then switch games on game 4.
  • 27-39 players, 3 games, rotate 1-2-3-1, use 1-N, N-1, 1-N, N-1 order.
  • 40-52 players, 4 games, 1-2-3-4, use 1-N, N-1, 1-N, N-1.
  • Could use fewer than 13 players per machine, but probably should use at least 8. So, for instance, 27-31 players always use 3 games, 32-39 players could go with either 3 or 4.

Machine Selection

Machines used should have minimum of 3 stall locations.


Ball savers should be turned off to not provide an advantage to players plunging a fresh ball. If ball savers cannot be turned off, consider treating the recovery of a ball by a ball saver as a drain that knocks the player out of that run.


If multiball is started, stalling any ball counts as a stall that moves play to the next person in line. Balls drained [other than the last one] during multiball do not impact player turn one way or the other.

If a ball “should” stall but fails to, what then? For scoops, it either falls into the scoop or it doesn’t, so it should not be an issue. For saucers, a ball is not counted as stalled unless it does actually settle in the saucer and score. For locks, assume the ball is held; if it fails to lock for any reason, play on without player change. [This may require future refinement.]

Example issues: AFM, lock shot instead registers as a city hit – not stalled. City destroyed but feeds left return ramp immediately without holding ball [no animation] – not stalled.

Unseen stalls: use scoring of feature triggered as presumption of successful stall, e.g. hidden hallway on Funhouse.

Stuck balls: do NOT count as stalls under most circumstances.

Option: if a player can trap a ball UNDER an upper [non-drain-below] flipper, does that count as a stall?

Ideally, have an assistant TD standing next to each machine to declare when stall is achieved and thus the next player should take over. As an alternative, have players who won previous runs and are not in the current run but eligible for the playoff phase stand in as officials. Absent either, use the player honor system.

Tilt throughs are not a problem per se, but if one occurred in run 1, it would foul up finishing by end of a standard 4-player game if you had the maximum of 13 players in the group.

Operational notes

  • Need suitable spacing around games to both sides and behind in some direction. Suggest at least two unused games to right and one to left.
  • Video: one camera at playfield, one at player, with line behind visible if possible. Camera on score screen NOT needed.
  • Time allotment: a run should take less time than a standard 4-player game since players are not trying to maximize score; best guess is a 4-run round would be similar to a 3-game papa-style round.
  • Players exiting after a successful stall should immediately dash to a pre-specified side of the game. Players failing to stall should exit slowly to the other side.
  • The “on deck” player should be able to closely observe the play in progress. Usually, they should stand behind the shoulder of the current player on the side opposite the one to dash to if successful. If the current player succeeds in stalling, they can then exit with less risk of running into the new player. If they drain, there’s no hurry, just exit slowly to other way.

The few times I’ve played this, ball saves still counted as a drain and the next player just had to step up quick as the chase ball was now their problem. Maybe not the best official way to do it, I guess. If stall-ball is going to be official-ized.

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Post has been wiki-ed.

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This looks like a fun idea. One comment though:

These seem in conflict. How long must the ball be “briefly” held before it counts as a stall? I would think in both cases here, the ball has disappeared from the playfield, makes its way to the VUK, game registers that it is there, and kicks it. Does a stall need to come with some sort of audio or visual callout?

Other (problematic) examples:

  1. TAF, ball shot into chair when it’s not lit. IIRC, it doesn’t always give you the “it’s not turned on yet” audio bit. Does this always count as a stall? What about a short plunge on game start right into the swamp?
  2. Tron, shoot the scoop when it’s not lit. Ball is pretty quickly kicked out. Is this a stall?
  3. Games with magna-save, is the ball considered stalled while being held by it? Seems like yes, because it’s a game feature that holds the ball before releasing it.

Definitely needs a proctor or something like that to make the determination when a ball is stalled or not. But sounds fast and fun!

To not provide an advantage to players plunging a fresh ball on games like TAF swap should not count on plunge

If manga-save dains then next player is not out / player who risked manga-save is out.

One alt rule for multiball is next player must drain down to 1 ball and then stall (may not work well on games with multiball ball savers)

Games with auto magna-save??? that will ball save on fail?

fathom flip on monster bash?

TDs can tape sheets to game backglasses enumerating valid stalls for that particular machine, along with anything that would not be considered a stall. If players discover unlisted stalls, they can be added to the sheet before the next set of players starts up, but only stalls currently listed count for the game in progress.

I’ve never played any codified stall ball game, and only played on Medieval Madness, World Cup Soccer and LoTR, but it’s always been more or less a “house rules” kind of competition with more or less just a communal agreement of what a “stall” is. I don’t interpret it as needing callouts. If the ball “stops” because of a game feature that should stop its movement, that’s a stall, whether called out or not. So scoops that aren’t lit should count, IMO. This can probably be argued, but I think it should just be agreed to on site since stall ball is often a more-or-less for fun (or dollars) format (this idea of counting “runs” and “outs” is an interesting alternative, though).

I wouldn’t think magna save would count as a stall (and I wouldn’t try for it) though I guess if it was a successful save it would fulfill my above “stopped” requirement.

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We’ve been running it here locally as a pre-tournament warmup. A couple of the house rules we observe, and perhaps suggestions of ways to setup games for stall ball:

  1. Set balls per game to the maximum (usually 10).
  2. Set tilt warnings to 0. The logic is you shouldn’t have to worry about whether previous players accumulated tilt warnings to influence your reactions.
  3. Starting any multiball counts as a successful stall, but the multiball is drained out completely for the next player to start with a fresh plunge. We’ve only ever done it on Spider-Man and Medieval Madness, where the only multiball starts involve stalling a ball anyway.
  4. Turn off ball savers. We’ve yet to try it on a game where a ball saver can be earned outside of multiball, so that rule is still up in the air.
  5. No cradling for more than 3 seconds.

on 4 some games have eject / scoop kick out balls savers that may need an game by game ruling
also what about stuff like the raptor pit?

We’ve yet to officially use it on such games (for example, the GB right scoop kickout). Considering that it’s meant to be a quick warmup, my gut would incline toward ruling that a drain. But if it’s known to be problematic enough that it is causing drains, then maybe it needs to be looked at anyway.

also what about valid play field?

We play it often. Usually $1 or $5 a person. After our Flip Frenzy Tournament on Saturday we played it on Iron Maiden, Aerosmith Premium, Fish Tales and Demo man. We include ramps as a stall, makes for a much more exciting stall ball game.

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It’s probably easier in the spirit of the format to just declare that “a drain is a drain”.

I want to see stallball played on TnA where the unlit scoop is considered a stall…

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I am planning a “staged” Stall Ball event. I am thinking of running it as follows. For my example I am assuming 24 players.

3 machines

  • all players start play on machine 1
  • as players are eliminated they will line up in order behind machine 2
  • once the number of players lined up at machine 2 reaches 0.5x(12 players) they will start play on machine 2 concurrent with the rest of the field still playing on machine 1
  • further players eliminated from machine 1 will join play on machine 2 at the back of the line
  • players eliminated from machine 2 will line up in order behind machine 3
  • once the number of players lined up behind machine 3 reaches 0.33x(8 players) they will begin play on that machine concurrent with play on machine 2, and perhaps machine 1 as well
  • play continues until only one player is left standing on each of the 3 machines
    Machine 1- 1st place
    Machine 2- 2nd place
    Machine 3- 3rd place

I like the idea of having extra chances and simultaneous action on 3 machines (at least potentially)

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Sounds interesting, let us know how it goes and maybe what the ending stats are, e.g. how many people at which machine how soon, total time needed.

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I think you’re over complicating things.

@neilmcrae runs a hugely successful stallball comp every year at Pinfest on The Shadow.

1 machine, 1 queue. If you Lock/Stall a ball you move to the back of the queue, if you drain you’re out. Simple. With random prizes being given out during it. Maybe every 4th person knocked out?
The queue has been right the way around the hall on many occasions with almost everyone taking part.

I’m sure he can post a clip of it.

thanks Wayne and agree KISS applies!

Stall Ball for me is a bit of a carnival type form of pinball with the rules as simple as possible. The referee’s job is to put you off :smiley:

Here is a video (much beer had been consumed by the time this went live :D)

I think having a serious set of rules for stall ball seems a bit challenging!


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We’ve done the 1 machine stall ball in the Oklahoma area for at least 2-3 years now. I’m all for trying something new at this point. I think the idea you put out is simple enough to follow and a big enough variant that it’s familiar but not the exact same. In theory it’s basically combining King of the Hill and Stall Ball, and removing the endless line element to keep things moving along, all of which sounds like a fun time to me.

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