Rule Sheet v1.0
Copyright 1998 By Paul Sidorsky
About This Rule Sheet
This is the unofficial rule sheet for Williams' Stellar Wars pinball machine. It is based on my knowledge as a game owner and general pinball afficionado. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and completeness, errors may be present. Please send any corrections or additions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will include them in a future update.
I've based the layout of this rule sheet on all of the others I've read, so it may "feel" familiar. The content might be excessive for such an old game, but I only want to make one pass at this rule sheet and didn't want to leave any out. This way I can limit future revisions to things I receive or discover.
This rule sheet uses pinball terminology and abbreviations commonly found along the Internet. Lots of good resources are around if you don't know what something means. To get you started, though, K is an abbreviation for 1000, and is used when describing the game's scoring. EB is short for Extra Ball.
I've gotten a bit technical in a few places, because I know how hard technical information is to find on older games. If you're not interested in the technical side of pinball, try to ignore these sections.
Lastly, I should note that when I got the game (which was thankfully free from a relative), it needed a lot of work, and while it's fully playable, my own game still doesn't work 100% correctly. I have tried to note wherever this may be a factor that affects the information in this rulesheet.
Not much to say here, really. Stellar Wars is a classic space battle pinball game for one to four players. It has no multi-ball (though it does have a captive ball),
Stellar Wars was designed by Steve Ritchie and manufactured by Williams in 1979. It is a purely solid-state (electronic) game; there were no electromechanical versions made. I do not believe there were any "home versions" made (i.e. all games have pricing controls and coin slots.)
Most games use Williams' System 4 electronics, but some newer versions of the game were produced with System 6 electronics.
The game uses five 7-segment displays with 6 digits each, in a master/slave setup. The master board shows the credits remaining (digits 2-3) and current ball number (digits 5-6). Digits 1 and 4 are unused. The four slave boards, as you might expect, show the scores for each of the four players.
The last ROM revision was L-2. I would appreciate any information regarding the differences with the L-1 ROM, as I am only familiar with L-2.
About the only really special thing in Stellar Wars is the large plastic insert between the slingshots, which features two #89 flashlamps underneath. The catalogue supplement says that these lamps were first used on Stellar Wars. I don't know too much about #89 bulbs, other than the fact they flash extraordinarily brightly when illuminated. (Looks cool if you're playing in the dark!)
Stellar Wars is a widebody design which in, typical Steve Ritchie fashion, keeps the action towards the sides and top half of the playfield. The lower half is fairly open with lots of room for the ball to travel unimpeded.
Each feature of the playfield is described below. I'll start from the plunger lane in the lower right and go around in a counter-clockwise spiral, ending in the centre of the game.
There are several features of Stellar Wars that could be considered objectives, and thus require a detailed explanation. I consider objectives to be anything that either has progressive awards or requires multiple shots to complete.
NOTE: Unless otherwise specified, all objectives reset at the beginning of each ball.
To complete the word S-T-E-L-L-A-R, the player must hit the appropriate Drop Targets. The Drop Targets to hit are indicated by lit Orange arrows. These indicators are always on, and they do not move. In fact, they are on a GI lighting circuit.
The letters S and T are located on the Left Drop Target bank, the letters E-L-L-A are on the Centre Drop Target bank, and the letter R is on the Right Drop Target bank. The other three Drop Targets in the game do not spot letters, so only the Centre Drop Targets must be completed in order to spell S-T-E-L-L-A-R.
Letters can also be spotted with the lit Captive Ball target. A hit on the lit Captive Ball spots the next letter in sequence. If S-T-E-L-L-A-R is completed, a letter in W-A-R-S will be spotted instead (see below).
Completing the word S-T-E-L-L-A-R awards a Bonus X. More importantly, S-T-E-L-L-A-R is one half of the S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S objective of the game (see below). Spotted letters will not reset until S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S is completed. However, all Drop Targets will continue to function normally.
The four inlanes (or return lanes) of the game each feature a letter in the word W-A-R-S, with W-A on the left and R-S on the right. When the ball rolls down an inlane it spots the letter.
Letters can also be spotted with the lit Captive Ball target. A hit on the lit Captive Ball spots the next letter in sequence, but only if S-T-E-L-L-A-R has already been completed (see above).
Completing the word W-A-R-S awards a Bonus X, and is the other half of the S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S goal described below. Spotted letters will not reset until S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S is completed.
Completing W-A-R-S is not as easy as you might think, because there is no lane change feature like on modern machines. Thus, you must get the ball to go down each inlane at least once, and the game is often anything but cooperative. The lit Captive Ball makes this job easier, but only if S-T-E-L-L-A-R is already completed.
The primary objective of Stellar Wars is to spot all of the letters in the game's name. This is done using the methods described above.
Completing both the words S-T-E-L-L-A-R and W-A-R-S awards 50K. All letters are then immediately cleared so the goal can be achieved again. There is no limit to the number of times S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S can be completed.
Note that completing this objective does NOT reset the Drop Targets, so the Left and Right banks must be completed at least once before their appropriate letter targets are available again.
An optional Sweep Sound (see "Operator Adjustments", #35) provides an audible indication of how close you are to completing S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S. It functions kind of like a "heartbeat". The more letters spotted, the faster the "beating" gets. This is a rather silly feature, but essentially harmless.
Centre Drop Targets / Eject Hole / Outlanes
Completing the four targets in the Centre Drop Target bank increases the value of the Eject Hole.
Eject Hole awards are as follows: 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K, Extra Ball.
Once the Extra Ball award has been lit (though not necessarily collected), the next completion lights the Outlanes for Special. Only one Outlane Special may be collected per ball; if somehow the ball is saved after going down an Outlane, the Special award on the other side will NOT be lit.
After the Outlanes have been lit, no further awards are available, and the Eject Hole remains valued at 10K once the Extra Ball has been collected. Thus, completing the Centre Drop Targets will only award the 10K completion bonus.
This is the only way to get an Extra Ball in Stellar Wars (unless Special and/or Replay is set to award an Extra Ball), which arguably makes this objective as important as completing S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S.
It is possible to light the Extra Ball and Outlanes at the same time, then drain out an Outlane and collect a Special without collecting the Extra Ball.
An operator adjustment allows the 2K award to be skipped, thus reducing the number of completions needed to collect the later awards. Another adjustments allows the Eject Hole awards to be held over or reset after each ball. (Eject Hole awards will always reset after the Extra Ball has been collected.) See "Operator Adjustments", #27 & #33.
NOTE: My machine has two 5K playfield inserts, as opposed to a 2K and a 5K. Although it could have just been a substitution for a missing 2K insert, it could also be that the game included an extra 5K insert that could be swapped in for the 2K one when the operator setting to combine the two awards was used. I'd appreciate clarification on this. (For the uneducated, inserts are the coloured hard plastic pieces that the lights under the playfield shine through.)
Right Drop Targets
Each time the bank of three Right Drop Targets are completed, a different feature or award on the playfield is activated.
The first completion lights the Captive Ball target. Subsequent Captive Ball shots will score 10K and spot the next letter in S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S.
The second completion lights the Left and Right Bumpers, located at the bottom of the playfield. When lit, each hit on either bumper scores 1K.
The third completion lights the Left and Right Spinners. Each rotation of a lit spinner scores 1K.
The fourth completion lights the Standup Target for a Special.
NOTE: An operator adjustment (#27) allows the Captive Ball and the Lower Jet Bumpers to be lit with a single completion (see "Operator Adjustments").
Subsequent completions do not light any further awards, but do award the bonus for completing the bank.
Left Drop Targets
The Left Drop Targets are probably the least rewarding. Completing the bank of three Drop Targets advances the value of the three Jet Bumpers on the upper half of the playfield.
The first completion lights the Jet Bumpers for 1K each. The second completion will make the Jet Bumpers flash, and each hit will score 2K. Subsequent completions do not advance the Jet Bumpers any further, but still award a bonus for completing the bank.
Completing the Numbered Lanes (1-2-3-4) at the top of the playfield awards a Bonus X and resets all four Numbered Lanes. This award can be completed an unlimited number of times, though once the Bonus Multiplier reached 5X, no further Bonus X awards will count.
The currently spotted numbered lanes carry over from ball to ball. The Bonus Multiplier can also be configured to carry over (see "Operator Adjustments", #33 and the "Bonus" chapter).
Targets / Shots
Like most games of its era, Stellar Wars has a Bonus award to help boost your score. The Bonus is awarded at the end of each ball.
The Bonus is tracked by a series of lights located between the flippers.
The Bonus Multiplier value progression is shown in green. Only the highest value shown is awarded, so the maximum value is 5X. In other words, if all four lights are lit it means you have 5X, not the cumulative 14X.
The Bonus value is shown in white. The maximum value is 29K. To calculate your bonus, take the highest single digit (1-9) shown and, if lit, add either 10 or 20. It's odd that you can't light both 10K and 20K at the same time, but presumably the designers felt that a 39K Bonus would be just too much.
When your ball drains, as long as you haven't tilted, you receive your bonus. The game will count off your bonus, repeating for each Bonus X. The counting is done fairly quickly, 1K at a time, with slight pauses between repeats for Bonus X.
The Bonus Multiplier may or may not reset after each ball, depending on how the game is setup (see "Operator Adjustments", #33). It will always reset if you achieve a 5X multiplier, however.
This chapter is all opinion based on experience, so don't blame me if it doesn't work for you. Do let me know if I am basing anything I say on inaccurate information, though.
There is not a lot of strategy involved in Stellar Wars. In many ways this makes it kind of endearing, because it is a purely technical game. You basically shoot for what you can see and react to the results, then repeat. This makes Stellar Wars a great game to practices basic pinball playing techniques like shot-making, catching, passing, nudging, etc.
Having said that, there are still a few objectives in the game that can be approached from a strategic point-of-view. The two strategies I have adopted are the S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S strategy (which I'll call the Letters strategy for brevity), and the Extra Ball strategy.
The Letters strategy involves trying to complete all of the letters in S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S as fast as possible, then repeating. It is fairly safe and a good way to practice shots at the drop targets.
The word S-T-E-L-L-A-R is somewhat easier to complete than W-A-R-S because you can intentionally aim at the drop targets. The inlanes required for W-A-R-S still require some luck to get the ball at the right target, even for a good nudger (which admittedly I am not). This is why I would recommend completing S-T-E-L-L-A-R, then completing the Right Drop Targets and lighting the Captive Ball. After this, you can shoot for the Captive Ball to spot the letters in W-A-R-S and collect the 50K award.
The Extra Ball strategy is a lot more perilous and probably best suited for experienced players. It involves simply pounding the Centre Drop Targets on the way to lighting the Extra Ball at the Eject Hole. The danger is that any direct shot at the Centre Drop Targets is a potential drain shot, and it's very difficult to hit them accidentally, so you have to be good at saving the ball. The rewards involved are enormous, though, as you can theoretically repeat this strategy indefinitely on each ball.
Once you have the Extra Ball, you can either try for S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S (which you should be close to completing by that time), or you can shoot for the Eject Hole at 10K per shot (great if you're good at flipper passing). I wouldn't recommend trying to light the Outlanes intentionally after lighting the Extra Ball, unless you can do Death Saves or Bang Backs, because you have to drain to get the Special. Odds are that ball action will do the job for you in time.
A third strategy is to simply fire the ball at the Left and Right Lanes whenever possible, which keeps the ball away from the bottom half of the playfield and thus relatively safe. Remember, though, that the Upper Jet Bumpers will send the ball off in any direction and that can make for some quick drains. The key problem with this strategy is that there is little chance for reward. The Bonus Multipliers you will get are not worth much without the Bonus to back them up, so you will eventually have to break down and shoot for something (Drop Targets are probably best as they offer quick points).
Regardless of which strategy you adopt, there are some points to remember. Most involve common pinball sense.
The Bonus is extremely valuable and will account for a significant part of the score in a good game. The maximum bonus you can get on a single ball is 29K*5=145K. Logically, if you achieve the maximum Bonus value (29K) at any time, try like heck to increase the multiplier. The safest way is by shooting the Left or Right lane to the Numbered Lanes, but this can take a while. A faster but riskier way is to complete S-T-E-L-L-A-R W-A-R-S. Similarly, if you manage to get a couple of "accidental" Bonus X awards (from the Numbered Lanes or wherever), shoot at whatever you can to maximise your Bonus value.
If at any time you manage to complete W-A-R-S accidentally, it is worth trying for S-T-E-L-L-A-R and the 50K award. Similarly, if you find the Eject Hole value at 10K, it's worth going for the Extra Ball.
Although Stellar Wars has no Skill Shot per se, the same approach is required as if one existed. In other words, DO _NOT_ JUST PULL THE PLUNGER ALL THE WAY BACK AND FIRE! All this will do is send the ball to the Left Flipper at high speed. Instead, pull it back about half way and fire. The ball should hit the wall beside the exit of the Left Lane and bounce around, going down one of the Numbered Lanes and into the Jet Bumpers. Adjust for the plunger tension of the game you're playing on, of course. This will put you this much closer to a Bonus X. More advanced players can try to make an ad hoc Skill Shot over time by learning the amount of plunger force required to put the ball in the Numbered Lane of their choice. This is great as it virtually assures you an extra Bonus X by the end of your game. It's free points, so why not?
Specials are not very useful no matter what they are set at, unless of course you don't own the game and had to pay to play it. Othwerise, Credits are of no value other than bragging rights. An Extra Ball isn't a bad award, but the trouble is that Stellar Wars does not stack Extra Balls (i.e. only one per ball is allowed), so the if you use the Centre Drop Targets you will have already lit the Extra Ball before the Outlane Specials. The only real benefit is from the Right Drop Targets (which light a Special at the Standup Target) and they are not reasonably well scoring and divert your attention from other objectives.
It's not too hard to keep the ball out of the Outlanes (even when the posts are set to Conservative (the hardest)) when they get near them. Nudging techniques should work most of the time, though the higher Inlane Dividers can cause problems. The real frustration occurs when the ball travels from somewhere on the top half of the playfield directly to the outlane mouth, at which time there isn't much you can do unless either a) you're really good or b) you can perform a Bang Back / Death Save.
Speaking of Bang Backs and Death Saves, I can't do them, so I can't say how Stellar Wars is for practising them. I can say that I often get quite a bit of ball action after an outlane drain, so the potential may be there. Tips regarding this are welcome.
The last thing I should mention is that I can envision Stellar Wars as a great game for kids. It's space theme will keep them interested, and its relative simplicity offers good potential for quick improvement with practice.
Bugs / Design Flaws
This chapter outlines some of the things that I feel are bugs or design flaws in Stellar Wars. Additions are welcome.
Eject Hole Stop Bracket
The metallic tab that is fastened behind the Eject Hole was apparently a new part for Stellar Wars. Its job is to deaden the ball so it stays in the Eject Hole. Unfortunately, it's tough to adjust it properly so it does this, and even when properly adjusted it's still not 100% reliable.
The trick is to adjust it so that the height between the Eject Hole and the bottom of the Stop Bracket is as close to the ball clearance height as possible. In other words, the ball should sit in the hole with the smallest possible gap between the ball and the Stop Bracket.
Adjusting it too low, though, will prevent the ball from entering the hole entirely, so watch out. Better too high than too low. However, if too high, the angle of deflection will not be sufficient to keep the ball in the hole, and the ball will just bounce back out. It's touchy.
I'm not really sure the Bracket was even designed to be adjustable, but it can be done. Make sure the screws holding it in place are tight, then secure a pair of locking pliers to the end (facing the flippers) and bend gently until the desired height is reached. Regular pliers will also work, but may prove more difficult when making fine adjustments.
Adjusting my own bracket made a big difference to the number of bounce-outs. On my machine, there is slightly less that a millimetre of space between the ball and the Bracket when the ball is sitting at rest in the Eject Hole. On hard shots directly to the Eject Hole, about 1 ball in 20 bounces out. I've never had a light shot bounce out since the adjustment, but it's hard to get a light shot up there.
If you can't adjust the Bracket (because it's not your game or for whatever reason), it is not critical so long as the Bracket is high enough to let the ball in. Shots to the Eject Hole will still score, but the ball will bounce out immediately and can catch you off guard. The danger is increased because the Eject Hole Popper will fire about a half-second later, just as the ball is returning to the flippers, and it's hard to ignore it.
Drop Targets Fail to Score
If you hit a Drop Target immediately after completing a different Drop Target bank, the Drop Target won't score, or at the very least won't spot the letter if one is associated with it. This can get frustrating at times because it forces you to complete an entire bank just to have another shot at spotting the letter. (Does this happen on System 6 games?)
This chapter describes the various operator adjustments available on Stellar Wars. I provide this chapter for two reasons: 1) To let players who don't own the game know what might be different, and 2) To help owners who might not have a manual. I have intentionally kept this chapter brief, as everything here is covered in the manual (plus I don't want to infringe on copyrights.) HINT: I've listed all settings in order.
Number | Description -------+--------------------------------------------------------------- 00-11 | Audits. 12 | Current High Score. 13 | Backup High Score (used after a reset). 14-17 | Replay Scores. 18 | Maximum Credits (up to 30, 0 is free play). 19-25 | Pricing Controls. 26 | Number of Credits awarded for a High Score. 27 | Eject Hole 2K/5K and Captive Ball/Lower Bumper Lit separation. | (Eject separate & others together, both together, both | separate, or 2K/5K together and others separate.) 28 | Match toggle. 29 | Special award (Credit, Extra Ball, 50K). 30 | Replay award (Credit, Extra Ball). 31 | Number of balls (3 or 5). 32 | Maximum number of tilts before ball loss. 33 | Playfield Restore. (Bonus X & Eject Hole, Eject Hole only, | Bonus X only, or none.) 34 | Extra Ball (On or off). 35 | Sweep Sound (rather mysterious, try 30 if you want it on.)
This rule sheet is part of the Steve Ritchie Rulesheet Collection. The latest version is always available at the following URL:
If you wish to contact me wish suggestions, corrections, or feedback, you can email me at:
I also occasionally show up on the "PinNet" IRC channel #pinball as BlindSpot. PinNet's unofficial server is irc.citenet.net, and there are PinHeads on there nearly all the time. The official chat time is on Sunday nights starting at 9pm Eastern Time.
This rule sheet is entirely the property of the author, Paul Sidorsky. All trademarks referred to are for reference only and are not intended to infringe on copyrights.
This file may freely distributed via electronic means provided it is not modified from its original means (including additions, deletions, or partial extractions). It may not be sold, for profit or otherwise, or distributed in printed form.
Exception: Legitimate pinball leagues are authorized to distribute printed copies to members, provided these copies are unmodified.
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