Useful Stern feature re: adding compensation balls

Many people seem to not know about this and whenever I get hosed by a TD not knowing it I’m quick to let them know:

On all (?) Sterns from Spiderman onwards, if a TD needs to give a player a compensation ball, they can just open the coin door, enter the service menu, adjust balls per game to 4, and close the coin door. Boom, all players now get an extra ball. You can write down the three unaffected players’ scores, and the player who got hosed gets an extra ball with game state maintained. This works on any ball, any player (except obviously player 4’s ball 3).

I’ve seen so many hosejobs that could have been avoided if the TD just knew of this feature since they already had keys to the games. I can only assume it isn’t used more because people don’t know about it.


@KCB nice share.

@ZenTron are you aware of this?

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Heighway has this sort of stuff built in 100% intentional. Brian did a great job on this end. You can open the menus mid game and make all kinds of adjustments on the fly. Add or subtract balls to individual players, etc.

Should of mentioned this in the full throttle good for competition thread too!

That’s pretty nice, but there’s still a lot of mucking around, particularly if there’s only one player who needs another ball (vs. all players). Then you need to wind it back to 3-balls after the game. Be much easier if there was just an option to add a ball somehow (even if you could enable an add-a-ball option, so then it’s optional for that one player who lost out).

Would’ve helped me a week or so ago, too!

On that note, are there any modern(ish) machines that even have an add-a-ball option? Something like “push and hold start to add ball” (instead of having an extra button) could work wonders for stuck balls/malfunctions.

Read my above post. Full throttle has all these great features.

On a side note: one thing that would be great in tournaments was if the machines could have a “save state” functionality, much like video game emulators have.
So - if some major malfuncion occurs, you just “reload” the latest save state (state of the board) for the player/players.

I have no idea if this is even possible, and I can see that it´s not a big selling point (so why would Stern/JJ put money and effort into this?), but for tournaments it could be very helpful



I hear ya, and would love to do it. But the engineering involved for the payback is really hard to justify right now.

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This is great, I didn’t realise this was safe. However, shouldn’t the advice be if it is yet ball 3, set the game to 5 balls, and boom…

Avoids issues like giving only one player a chance at double / triple bonus on SM. I expect there are other “final ball” rules on sterns I can’t think of.

Alternatively, maybe set to 4 and tilt the next 3 balls. But that might mess with hold bonus. I like set to 5, feels safer than set to 4.

All three US owners of FT will be ecstatic :wink:

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You’re right. Myself and the 2 others who split the cost of the game are! :slight_smile:

It’s been a great addition to the lineup at The Sanctum.


This is really handy to know, thanks to the OP. Being a newbie to tournaments in the last couple of years and now running tournaments myself, can someone give a few examples of the most likely scenarios in which a TD has to give a player a compensation ball? I want to integrate this into my tournament directing.

A few examples I can think of.

  1. Ball trough error where the players ball is ended and bonus counts off while the ball is still in play
  2. A player mistakenly plays another players ball.
  3. A player looses a turn due to a tilt through from the previous player.
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Cool, thanks. This topic raises another question, I was in a tournament a few weeks ago and a player claimed that he had a flipper malfunction - he hit the flipper button and nothing happened resulting in a drain. Two players that were in his group saw it and told me it was a centre drain nowhere near his flippers that he couldn’t save. The TD was doubtful about his claim, they’d never encountered this problem before on any machine anywhere, but they set him up with a fourth ball at the end of the game.

In the same round the player did it again on another (different) machine he played. Once more the other two players saw the same centre drain event, but the TD set him up with a fourth ball.

What is the correct ruling here?

I can answer my own Q, saw this on the IFPA/PAPA rules:

“The tournament official will attempt to recreate the problem by pressing the flipper button for up to 3 minutes. If the tournament official is able to recreate the problem, this will be treated as a Major Malfunction. If the problem is not able to be recreated, this will not be treated as a Major Malfunction and play will continue.”

Major malfunction means loss of ball due to the malfunction and additional ball awarded.

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Another example is if a TD tries to free a stuck ball but accidently drains it. The TD can just give the compensation ball.


I wanted to resurrect this thread and make more public a new best practice I learned during pinburgh.

We had a player danger through on POTC. The TD, changed the # of warning to 3 for player 2’s ball, the before player 3 set it back to 2. I had not seen or thought about this before, but it certainly seems like the best resolution on Sterns.


I made this ruling, similar to the “set for 4 balls” ruling for malfunctions. It was the wrong ruling, because it isn’t in the current Pinburgh rules. The rules will include this for 2018.


Bowen, egarding setting for 4 balls on malfunctions, you did this on TWD at Pinburgh when my ball got stuck on the ramp behind the backboard and drained as the tech was trying to free it.

Later on AC/DC, player 3 and 4 auto plunged before the player 3 or I walked up to the machine. Another TD just had us play an extra ball after the game ended. Player 3 and I had concerns about choosing our preferred song and losing song and multiball progress. Ultimately, it knocked me from the qualifying bump spot.

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Thanks, I will bring this up at the post mortem meeting for TDs.