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Best of John Grochowski

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New Slots from Mikohn

18 February 2003

"Slots," "skill" and "knowledge" are not usually words that go together. Slot machines traditionally are games of pure chance. You win if you're in the right place at the right time, and lose if you're not.

That's even true on the bonus rounds of most modern multiline video slots. Your choices make a difference, but there's no way of knowing whether the kung pao chicken is hiding a bigger bonus than the General's chicken on Fortune Cookie, or which package is hiding the Pooper that will stop the round on Jackpot Party. Video slots from Mikohn Gaming are different. In games that include "Battleship," "Yahtzee," "Clue" and "Ripley's Believe It or Not," Mikohn has offered players a chance to test skill and knowledge.

Skill isn't going to put you over the top on these games--the math is worked out so the house will retain an edge even against the biggest trivia experts--but they add a little interest for players who want more than spinning reels and bonus rounds played out by animated characters.

That is not the largest share of the slot market. Most players are more than willing to trust their luck. Fun concepts and characters drive the bonus rounds on video slots. But as it happens, I like Mikohn's trivia rounds and little tests of skill, so I was looking forward to its display at September's Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

I was no sooner seated at the new Yahtzee Looking for Love game, than I was greeted by Olaf Vancura, Mikohn's director of game development and a fellow gaming author whose books include Smart Casino Gambling and, with Ken Fuchs, Knockout Blackjack. Vancura gave me a guided tour through Mikohn's latest and greatest--Wink's Survey of America, Trivial Pursuit and Ripley's Treasures of the World in addition to the new Yahtzee game.

Yahtzee Looking for Love includes a small element of skill in its a Fair Maiden bonus round, which features a die dressed as a maiden in a medieval tower. Another die rolls to establish a base number on the outside. The player then must guess whether the next roll will be higher or lower. If the guess is correct, the second die jumps atop the first, and another die comes out ready to roll.

Now the player must guess whether this die will roll higher or lower than the second one, with a bigger bonus on the line. Making it all the way through the round by stacking six dice high enough to rescue the damsel from the tower not only brings the full bonus, it qualifies the player for a bonus-within-a-bonus. The tower scene is replaced by a choice of honeymoon destinations. The player touches the screen to choose a destination, which then reveals one final bonus award.

As in many Mikohn games, strategy makes a difference but the strategy is simple. To maximize chances, pick "higher" if the previous die shows 1, 2 or 3, but if 4, 5 or 6 are shown, pick "lower."

Wink's Survey of America, featuring animation of longtime game show host Wink Martindale, asks players to guess responses from a survey of 100 people. In the Wink-O-Meter round, the player might be asked how many people surveyed said they can whistle. The closer you come to the correct number, the higher the bonus.

There's also a survey bonus in which you're asked to choose the top responses from the survey. I was asked, "Name a place in which you should lower your voice," and asked to choose the top four from along the movies, library, restaurant, hospital, church and funeral home. The more you get before a miss, the bigger the bonus.

The survey bonus is reminiscent of the TV show "Family Feud," and it strikes me as an opportunity that was missed in Family Feud slot machines. In the Family Feud slots, players don't get to answer the questions. In Wink Martindale, they do, leaving a round that is more fun to play.

"People who think like average Americans will do very well on this game," Vancura said.

My favorite was Trivial Pursuit, in which you are asked trivia questions in categories from the board game Trivial Pursuit. You can choose a category to be a reel symbol as you play. Choose wisely. One of the bonus rounds asks a trivia question from your chosen category. I sometimes set my category as sports and leisure, sometimes as science. This was a bonus round right up my alley. It might not appeal to everyone, but for slot players who like a little test, Trivial Pursuit will become a favorite game.

One final tip on Mikohn games: The designers love to put in little hidden features--"Easter eggs," as computer game enthusiasts call them. Whether you're on the reel-spinning portions of the games, or on the bonus screens, don't be afraid to touch characters or symbols just to see what you can find.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski