As I researched more of the history and design of bingo pinball through the For Amusement Only Podcast and the Multi-Bingo, I started to learn more about the one-ball horserace games.
These games were primarily manufactured by Bally. The basic concept is that the game will automatically select one or more 'horses'. Landing a ball in the corresponding hole will provide the player with an indicated number of replays or a direct payout. Almost every model of these games came in both a replay and a payout version. These games were identical, other than the presence or absence of a payout mechanism. Some payout versions even included the replay hardware!
As the playfield layout remained almost unchanged from 1936-1952, it made sense to create a multi game system that would allow for play of as many games as possible.
I had previously picked up a Bally "Turf King", and used that to teach my daughter how to refurbish a machine, read schematics, and solder. That game is very heavy and requires a lot of preparation to move. Most horserace games came in a similar floor-length cabinet. As I wanted to take this to sit next to Bingo Row, I wanted to see if I could find a model that was a bit more light weight. The playfield in Turf King, however, contains all of the features needed to play almost every game.
As these games are a bit harder to come by than bingo pinball machines, whatever I used as the basis would have to be destroyed! Eventually I found a local sale for a Bally "Victory Derby". Victory Derby was the first of a pair of games that Bally produced after World War II. This particular model had a poor backglass, but otherwise was mechanically complete.
The playfield for Victory Derby is missing the "dead" bumpers found on Turf King. Victory Derby is also missing one of the lower holes found on Turf King. That meant that I needed to find a Turf King (or similar late model) playfield to use in my build.
Thanks to John Leigh, a spare Turf King playfield made its way to me.
I repaired the Victory Derby, and played it for several weeks to learn how the game functioned. The backglass deteriorated even further, so the decision was easier to make.
As with the Multi-Bingo, I wanted to start by drawing a schematic.
Using the spare Turf King playfield, I cleaned and rewired the playfield. As with the Multi-Bingo, I wanted to ensure authenticity of play. Multi-Races uses the original carbon ring bumpers.
After much research, I found that "Sunshine Park" had the largest number of physical buttons. These are installed on the footrail, and allow for the player to select how their coins will be used.
Thanks to Dennis Dodel, a lucky eBay purchase, and Craig Smallish, I was able to compile the appropriate set of buttons, surrounds, and springs. The footrail for Victory Derby did not have any buttons, so the next obstacle was installing those. In other machines, the switches are routed into position. Having never used a router before, this made me nervous. I tested several times on scrap wood, then routed the holes for each button.
For this game, I wanted to keep as many of the existing units intact and use them for sound rather than reproduce through an external audio system. This required a bit of thinking. Victory Derby's cabinet is designed to be a bit easier to move than Turf King. The lower cabinet has a fairly heavy playfield, and playfield glass/lockbar combination, but otherwise is mostly empty. The backbox on the other hand is very tall - it spans over six feet from the floor, and contains the backglass and all mechanical elements spread across three shelves.
Looking carefully at the units present in the game, I realized that I needed a single step-switch (continuous), the control unit, and a replay register. The rest of the units could be considered superfluous. I mounted the continuous stepper and replay register to the interior wall, which allows for the cabinet to act as a resonator. I removed the two upper shelves to allow the monitor clearance to be added/removed. Next I used metal brackets to hold the monitor in position.
The P3-ROC boardset powers the game, and the boards were all wired in the front pedastal, behind the payout mechanism. This allowed for almost all of the wiring to be consolidated. As with the Multi-Bingo, the playfield and backboard connectors are Jones Plugs.
I had such great success a few years prior with the score and instruction card displays that I knew I wanted to use the same type of displays, mounted horizontally, to show the score and instruction card images. As the cabinet design is quite different on the horserace games, I had a lot more room to route wires, making the experience a bit more pleasant than the Multi-Bingo.
Next, I removed the backglass, and hired fantastic artist Joel de Guzman to create the backglass artwork. Joel's work acts as a frame and a window to the backglass artwork of the games inside.
The backglass artwork was sent to Coos Hakvoort, who was able to print on a high quality adhesive film. This film was applied to the glass, and I used an Xacto knife to remove the center film.
Next, I wanted to retain the same motorized payout system used in Victory Derby when playing any of the payout games. As paying out in nickels would almost certainly be illegal in any locality or pinball show in which the game appeared, I chose to make tokens that could be dispensed. For the artwork, I hired the excellent illustrator Ryan Claytor (www.elephanteater.com). Ryan provided this unique token with a breakdown of the years represented in the game:
These tokens can be loaded in the payout tubes and are dispensed to winners at pinball shows. They have no cash value and cannot be redeemed for any prize - just a fun souvenier.
Some games utilized 'field' bumpers, which were simply switches mounted to posts that, when contacted by the ball, would qualify every hole in a given section to score. To prevent drilling my playfield on the top side, I routed a small hole underneath to install a proximity sensor. When the ball makes contact with the appropriate spring, it will have the same reponse.
As I had already built a simple menu system for the Multi-Bingo, I was able to leverage the same code in this game. The score and instruction cards update themselves with a call over SSH to independent Raspberry Pis. This call runs a script on the Pi locally to find the image and display via the feh program.
Another holdover from that prior project were the classes for physical units. I had already created classes for components like relays (which can be held on or off), step switches (of the continuous and step/reset varieties), and motors (with methods to spin for a random period of time based on the game era). The final unit is the reflex, which is a special type of step switch. In the later bingo pinball machines, this unit uses a differential system to step a fraction of the normal travel. As games are won, it steps up quickly, as games are paid for or played off, it steps down, slowly. This unit handles automatic portioning for the game. Some special features of games will be awarded to the player with fewer coins if the player loses freqently, and less often to the skilled player. During this time period, Bally experimented with different types of reflex units, and I've modeled each.
The manuals and schematics for the horserace games are quite lacking compared to those of the later bingo pinballs. Without adequate documentation or a very technical install base that could provide me with accurate data on things like motor speeds, number and position of connected rivets, and detailed breakdowns of units, I had to improvise.
My research of bingo pinballs led me to understand that different groups of machines with similar characteristics would be more alike than different. I was able to leverage that knowledge, and the fact that I had an understanding of machines from two of those groups, to make educated guesses about things like rivet positions for award between games within the same group. Luckily there are only two major groupings within the Bally offerings: games without guaranteed advancing odds, and games with guaranteed advaning odds. In the former category are games like Victory Derby. In the latter, Turf King. The schematic for each game was referenced to ensure that the necessary relays and units were modeled correctly.
When a coin is placed into a horserace game, an "animation" plays across the backglass. Each of the lamps will flash in a predefined pattern as wiper fingers sweep across a large riveted disc. These positions are not noted on the horserace game schematics, so this proved another challenge. Again, improvisation was needed. I used my games as reference and studied videos online with other games to try to define a pattern.
While the accuracy of the games in Multi-Races is not wire-for-wire (especially in the randomization and animation circuits), the games are quite playable and do 'feel' correct. If or when more data appears, the routines can be modified with more correct information.
The score and instruction card displays use a 3D printed frame, tacked into place like score and instruction cards on a game of that vintage from Bally.
A flyer was created to showcase the game and explain the earning potential as if it were written in the 1940s.
The entire repository (minus the original games' backglass artwork) was released as open source, so that any person could choose to follow in the build, if they desired. It is available at https://github.com/bingopodcast/multi-races-public