You have to appreciate when one of your favorite bars keeps you up-to-date as to which machine they have on location. In the case of Monarch Tavern, they always give me a shout on Twitter letting me know when a new table hits. In most cases, it is the newest Stern and this time around it was true!
Toronto Pinball Crew happened to show up as well and we had one helluva posse! Mike and Joe had a chance to swing by and play the table earlier in the week so they were able to provide some strategy on how to play GoT which I will get to soon enough but first, let's get a good look!
Steve Ritchie, the King of Flow. At first glance, it looks like a pretty standard Stern layout, with 6 shots, two ramps, two orbits, bash toy, and kickback shot but as with every Ritchie table, he just has a knack for making it all flow together so well. I think a big part of that is how Ritchie handles speed on his tables. There is very little stop-n-go and the only time you are really waiting on the table is when you lock a ball. The ball lock mechanism even works to keep the game moving fast; if you hit the center ramp when lock isn't lit and there are balls already locked in, the mechanism will drop a ball as soon as the other approaches so the gameplay does not slow down whatsoever.
Star Trek's nasty Vengeance shot, GoT's comes in the form of the Dragon kickback. Placed a little to the left, this shot launches the ball towards the flippers... but usually just right down the middle. Direct shots at the Dragon kickback will launch it back at you at high speed so it is best to avoid it as much as you can.
As I mentioned before, this table doesn't look quite daunting at first glance but the more you play this game, the deeper it gets to the point where it can be quite overwhelming! Even upon release, Game of Thrones has pretty robust code and a ton of stuff to do. You will see that there are several different crests on the lower playfield. At the beginning of the game, you will select the house you wish to align with, each with their own advantage. Mike and Joe suggested going with House Martell as you get a one free add-a-ball during multiball.
Now, depending if you selected House Martell, there's one last piece of the strategy. If you are in the midst of multiball and you drain your second-to-last ball, you can make a desperation maneuver by slapping the action button located on the lockbar and activate add-a-ball! You will replenish your multiball back up to 3 balls as well as get a really short ball save. Use the add-a-ball wisely, however, because you only have one opportunity per round. So, if you start another multiball mode and already used the add-a-ball, you will not have it again until your next round.
The one thing that does bug me about Game of Thrones is the artwork. Apparently Greg Freres did the art package but it looks like a pretty basic Photoshop 101 job. If you look closely at the midplayfield, it is pretty clearly a quick radial gradient with the crest borders sporting some embossing and 5-point stroke to fill them out. The thick black stroke looks especially cheesy on the two swords bordering the playfield.
KISS table but that's only one negative about the visual aspect of Game of Thrones. The light shows throughout the game are quite stunning and really pop in a dark setting such as Monarch Tavern. I can see Game of Thrones garnering a lot of popularity in the days to come at Monarch so you better get over there while the table is still in top-notch condition!