Target Practice: Learning to Play John Wick Pinball

Target Practice: Learning to Play John Wick Pinball
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Target Practice: Learning to Play John Wick Pinball
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Target Practice: Learning to Play John Wick Pinball
Published on
July 3, 2024
Updated on
July 3, 2024
Read time:
4
minutes
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Note: This tutorial is written for code verion 0.83.

Over the past decade, Stern pinball designers have made a name for themselves with very fast, punishing machines, prioritizing the ball paths and flow over major gimmicks. John Wick is new game designer, Elliot Eismin’s contribution to the Stern Pinball “house style.” Just like the action films the machine is based on, the priority of John Wick as a pinball machine is not the story or theme integration but rather intensity. Any errant target shot could be your last, and to best handle the machine, you might just need to develop the fighting instincts of the famed assassin.

On current release (code revision 0.83), John Wick is a “mode-based” game with a twist; starting job modes at the weapons crate spawns enemies, and these enemies all have to be defeated in order to qualify the lucrative single-ball battle modes. Players will want to focus on the car, excommunicado, and deconsecrated multiballs as utilities to plow through the modes and take down as many enemies as possible. Just remember, playing John Wick in single-ball is very different from playing multiball.

john wick pinball tutorial

Also, don’t mess with his dog.

About John Wick Pinball 

John Wick Pinball was released in 2024 by Stern Pinball, with design by Elliot Eismin and code by Tim Sexton

An assassin is hired by the New York Continental to take down a worldwide network of like-minded assassins with motives of their own.

Learn more about John Wick Pinball on the Kineticist game page

 

John Wick Playfield Overview

john wick pinball playfield layout

The lower half of John Wick’s playfield is more important than it might seem. The left side of the lower half includes the blood marker above two standup targets; hitting these standup targets eventually lights an outlane for ball save. The “Administration” shot is directly above the blood marker targets, and is similarly important as it awards add-a-ball during all multiballs, and starts battle modes when qualified; it also allows you to exit out of a job mode when flashing. Meanwhile, the right side of the lower half is dedicated to the weapons crate. Hitting the crate or VUK near it enough times lights job mode at the right VUK; on Prem / LE models, the crate will open when job mode is lit.

 

The left orbit shot can be dangerous to recover from but is still worth dialing in as it starts car multiball when lit and, like all shots, is used heavily during job modes. Right of the left orbit is the left ramp dedicated to Akira, a short & shallow ramp that feeds the left flipper. On some copies of John Wick, the left ramp can be shot as a backhand from the left flipper, but right flipper shots to the left ramp are generally more reliable. Two of the three orange standup targets are located here; when completed, they advance towards excommunicado multiball, or light add-a-ball at the left eject. The other orange target is near the right ramp.

 

The Red Circle dance club is represented by an enclosed area, including a pop bumper, slingshot, and several standup targets dotting the outer perimeter. Hitting the Red Circle is a quick way to spawn enemies if none are currently lit, but shots to the area can be quite dangerous, and you’re generally better off starting a job unless you’re close to lighting the next battle. The Red Circle shot also starts excommunicado multiball when lit (after enough orange targets have been hit). A drop target is in front of the Red Circle on Prem / LE models and can trap the ball there at the start of excommunicado multiball.

 

Charon’s center ramp is steeper than its left ramp counterpart, and is best hit from cradled balls on the right flipper, but on-the-fly shots can still pay off. The center ramp awards locks for deconsecrated multiball when lit via WINSTON captive ball hits; either virtual on Pro, or physical on Prem / LE models.

 

The car toy is the game’s main new feature. On both the Pro and Prem / LE models, the car acts as a kicker shot, akin to the Rocket shot on Guardians of the Galaxy that exerts strength against the ball when hit. The car can be hit from either flipper, but right flipper shots to the car are generally safer than left flipper shots. The car can also pull out and be hit from the sides on Prem / LE models. Mastering survival from the car shot is a top priority, as this is how car multiballs are lit and how jackpots are scored during them. Right of the car is the WINSTON captive ball; generally a less dangerous shot than the car, it can be hit from either flipper and lights the locks for deconsecrated multiball at the center ramp.

 

The right orbit is possibly the fastest orbit shot on any pinball machine to date! If you shoot the orbit cleanly from the left flipper, expect a very fast return; the best ways I’ve found to handle this feed are to either “parry” the ball using the flipper and hope for the best or hold up the flipper and let the ball bounce off the crate. Parrying the ball, coincidentally, can result in shots up the right ramp marked “Katia”, a 180 ramp similar to the Alchemax shot on Venom or right ramp on Led Zeppelin. The right ramp on John Wick is slightly easier than either of those ramps on average, especially from a fast shot made on the fly.

 

Scoring on John Wick is currently lower than average for its era and is best comparable to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scoring. Breakout scoring will tend to come from well-played battle modes and multiball / job stacks that lead into them. Expect average scores around 30M or 40M.

 

Getting Started with John Wick Pinball

john wick pinball rules
  • Shoot the weapons crate to light jobs and the major shots to change which faction’s job is lit. During jobs, take out the enemies at each shot and then reap your rewards by shooting them again. Make enough shots to light the left scoop to escape and award a percentage of the total. Defeating enemies lights extra ball and lights battle modes. Extra ball is also lit after playing four jobs.
  • After defeating enough enemies (15 to 20 depending on the location displayed at the start of the game), shoot the left eject to start a battle mode or hit the blood marker targets to change the lit battle mode. After hitting both blood marker targets during the battle mode, shoot the left eject to escape. Battle modes are mutually exclusive and cannot be stacked with anything else.
  • Bash the car to light car multiball at the left orbit. There are four different car multiballs, played in the same order every game. Shoot the red shots for awards; each red shot increases the jackpots that can be scored at the car.
  • Spell WINSTON to light the lock for deconsecrated multiball at the center ramp. Multiball starts when 3 balls have been locked there. Shoot the green shots to light the captive ball for letter jackpots. A super jackpot is available at the center ramp when all seven have been scored.
  • Complete the orange targets enough times during single-ball play to light excommunicado multiball at the Red Circle. Shoot the red shots during the initial timed period to increase your jackpot values before the multiball starts.
  • Complete the orange targets during any multiball to light add-a-ball at the left eject.
  • Gold coin target hits (below the right ramp entrance) light a random shot for gold coin award. These simply add to end-of-ball bonus.

John Wick Skill Shots

john wick pinball machine skillshots

On 0.83 code, John Wick is one of the few games where I would actively advise against going for the skill shots. While they are available – one at the back entrance to the Red Circle for 1M, and another at the crate VUK for 250k or 500k – they substantially decrease the ball save timer and this timer is important in the early game.

Your best bet at the start of each ball is simply to full plunge and then start focusing on the car / WINSTON captive ball. If the ball has been saved, short plunge it into the crate VUK for a controlled feed.

Jobs

john wick pinball job modes

Shoot the crate or the VUK near it to light job ready at the crate VUK. Jobs will spawn large quantities of enemies and shots depending on the job type. After enough shots have been made, the left eject will light to cash out a percentage of the job’s score total.

While shot scoring during jobs can be solid depending on the job, your biggest priority should be defeating enemies to light extra ball & eventually qualify battle modes. Also, make sure to light any multiball and then start it during the job.

There are seven different factions, with seven different jobs to play in total. On default settings, jobs are randomly determined with no way to pre-determine which job mode is lit; but on competition mode, the jobs are linked to specific factions / shots. For the sake of this guide, I will list the competition mode pairings for each job in a “tier list” of sorts explaining which ones I go for.

Top priority jobs:

  • Assassination (center ramp). This job spawns a ton of enemies, and you can get substantial points due to the large number of enemies you’ve been defeating. A well-played assassination can guarantee that battle will be lit once it times out.
  • Gather Intel (right orbit). This job is all about ramp shots and is the highest scoring of the seven jobs, especially if you can reliably ski pass and hit the same ramp repeatedly. Cashouts during this mode can be massive if played well.

Medium priority jobs:

  • Escort the VIP (Red Circle). Move the lit left orbit shot to the right orbit, or vice versa. This job is best played with a car multiball, as the first shot to the left orbit will also start the multiball.
  • Task a Crew (right ramp). Though the job starts with minimal shots lit, hitting them will allow you to “control” other shots if they don’t have enemies lit and allow them to score. Perfect for multiball stacking. 

Low priority jobs:

  • Night Watch (left eject). Enemies getting in the way of your shots during this mode can be troublesome as you’re encouraged to hit them twice in a row without enemies noticing. Try and avoid this job if possible.
  • Heist (left orbit). Another job dependent on enemies is where shots decrease in value as enemies reach them. I would rank this a little higher than Night Watch as the lit shots themselves are consistent, but still very tough.
  • Security Detail (left ramp). This job is heavily dependent on RNG and being able to know which shots are lit to score, but the scores are relatively low compared to high tier jobs. Avoid.


If you’re not playing in competition mode, then you’re unfortunately out of luck, as jobs will be randomly selected. Your best bet in this case is to just take advantage of the job you get with a multiball stack. Hitting a wide variety of shots is heavily encouraged as this will take out large spreads of enemies.

 

Battles

john wick pinball tutorial battle modes

Once you’ve defeated enough enemies (usually around 15 or so, shown at the very start of the game on the location display), the left eject will light to start a battle mode. Unlike jobs, battles are mutually exclusive and prevent all other game progress while running. You get 15 seconds of ball save at the start of each battle, extended if you lit a ball save (via the blood marker targets) but didn’t use it. Change the lit battle via either bumper hits or blood marker target hits.

 

To escape the battle, and light the left eject for cash out, hit the two blood oath marker targets during the battle before time runs out. Escaping (or draining during) a battle requalifies the blood oath marker for ball save, if it was already used prior.

 

Of the five battles, three of them I prioritize above all else, but I’ll try my best to play out the other two. The three battles I prioritize are:

  1. Kirill. Precision shooters rejoice, this battle is just for you. Simply alternate between sets of left and right shots and the points increase with each shot – I’ve managed 10M per shot, more than any other battle in the game, and had Kirill totals of over 300M. The Red Circle value is capped; don’t go for it, just go for the other red shots instead.
  2. Ares. Another great mode if you’ve mastered the layout of John Wick. All shots are lit for increasing scores, with one random shot lit to find Ares; the slingshots and bumper will help with finding her. However, your best bet is to focus on hitting white shots as the award increases with each shot hit. Not as high scoring as Kirill on average but a solid choice still.
  3. Zero. This battle is a safer option compared to the above two and is tougher to get massive scores out of but is way more reliable if you’re unfamiliar with the layout. Shoot combo shots followed by the car, captive ball, or crate VUK to cash them out. The best choices for combos during this mode, in my opinion, are left ramp / center ramp to crate VUK.

The other two battles can still score a decent amount, but I prioritize them less:

  1. Viggo. This battle is all about hitting the car / captive ball to light other shots and as I’ll discuss later in my guide, I only purposely aim for them with the ball save on. Not to mention, the shot value increases way slower than those of say, Kirill / Ares.
  2. Cassian. I could see people getting good value out of this battle, especially if you can ski pass the ramp shots but the shot value increases too slow for me to actively consider. Switches build the jackpot that can be collected at a purple shot, which moves as targets are hit. Low value, and not as safe as Zero.

Multiballs

There are three multiball modes in the game, and all three are best used as utility multiballs to make jobs easier to complete.

 

During any multiball, a ball can be added to the game by hitting the orange standup targets near the ramp, and then shooting the left eject shot.

john wick pinball car multiballs

Car multiballs: Lit by hitting the car enough times (five for the first multiball) and started by hitting the left orbit. Car multiballs don’t score too much on average but are very helpful to have running. Though there are four different multiballs, they share similar rules: red shots score awards and the car scores jackpots when lit. Taxicab chase, the second car multiball, has proven troublesome for myself and other players. Remember to hit the car as soon as the multiball starts to lock in the jackpot at 750k, and that if no red shots are lit, you’ll need to hit the car for jackpot then.

john wick pinball deconsecrated multiball

Deconsecrated multiball: Spell WINSTON at the captive ball to light locks at the center ramp. Three locks will begin this multiball where all shots score award and increase the jackpot at the captive ball (500k x WINSTON letters lit), with a super jackpot available at the center ramp for completing WINSTON. Relatively low value, this multiball is best used to stack with job modes.

john wick pinball excommunicado multiball

Excommunicado multiball: This multiball can be substantial but is the toughest to start. Three completions of the orange standup targets around the ramps will light the Red Circle to start this multiball. It begins with a 15-second period where every shot will increase the jackpot score, then multiball will begin properly and jackpots will be lit at shots moving from left to right and vice versa, with the super jackpot eventually lit at the Red Circle. Good for utility, but also good on its own.

Ball Save

john wick pinball ball save blood marker

The “blood marker” targets on the left of the game eventually light a ball save at either outlane, which can be changed using the flippers. By default, you only get one ball save until you escape or drain during any battle mode. Not using the lit ball save, however, will increase the ball save timer given during the battle mode once it starts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Weigh your options before rolling over the flashing ball save outlane! Even 5 more seconds of ball save during a battle can be substantial and win you a tournament game. Try to avoid using ball save during multiball, if possible, and save it exclusively for single-ball play when risk is higher. 

My Strategies

john wick pinball tutorial

On the default randomized job settings, your best bet will always be to have multiball stacked with the job. Focus on hitting the car at the very start of each ball while the ball save is running. Backhands to the car (i.e. shots from the right flipper) tend to be safer to recover from than left flipper shots, though left flipper shots might also graze into the captive ball and award WINSTON letters. Then, start the job at the crate VUK and shoot the left orbit to stack the job with car multiball.

If you’re playing competition mode, always prioritize the center ramp and right orbit for assassination / gather intel jobs, respectively. These are by far the highest-scoring and most useful jobs in the game.

The best battle modes are Kirill & Ares (if you’ve mastered the game’s layout and want to blow the score up) or Zero (if the game is a little tougher and you want reliable, quick points). If Viggo or Cassian battles are ready, hit the blood marker target to change the lit battle to one of the above three.

Many shots feed the flippers in unpredictable ways. Avoid hitting the center ramp on the fly, as rejects from the ramp can be deadly; only hit it from a cradle. Left orbit shots also send the ball flying to the right flipper – instead of trying to flip at the ball on the fly from the left orbit feed, try holding up the right flipper. The orbit puts some serious spin on the ball, but holding up the flipper will negate this. Most of all, avoid direct Red Circle hits unless you know that you need a few more enemies to light battle – balls that exit the bumper area can travel in difficult directions to recover from.