The first time I saw the game Fascination played on the boardwalk when I was on vacation I was in my early teens. I thought to myself, “boy those people need to get a life”, it seemed odd people were fascinated by rolling balls to light five lights in a row. You watch the game and expect it to be mainly senior citizens playing the game and yelling at the balls as they roll down the table towards the 5×5 grid of holes that are missing the center hole for the grid. In reality there are a lot of people yelling at their balls as they roll, but to my surprise it wasn’t the stereotypical senior citizens I expected to see playing the game when I walked in. There were a fair share of senior citizens, but there were husbands and wives playing, parents and children, and friends as well. These combinations included every age group you could imagine of about eight years old and over.
Fascination is a game that got it’s start on the boardwalks of many beach towns along with amusement parks across the country. Unfortunately in recent years due to a lack of profitability of the game for the owners and other activities fighting for consumers attention the number of locations that have fascination games has dwindled significantly. There still are several scattered across the country, but the area that I know of that has the most is the boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ. On the boardwalk there is a Fascination game at Olympic Casino near 23rd Street and one at Flipper’s Fascination near the new convention center. As a child I always attended the one near 23rd Street, but after doing some internet research I have realized that Flipper’s Fascination is ran by Randy Senna who has a love for classic boardwalk games from the childhood days of many of us. He also has some unique features he has added to his game which you will have to discover when visiting his location. Of course it would help to know the basics before you visit.
The Fascination locations I have visited have about 40-60 games all linked together. They are long rectangular playing areas with a glass display at the far end of each which shows a five by five version of a bingo card. The playing area is a flat ramp to roll the ball down with a small little lip of a ramp that adds randomness to the game. From there the ball proceeds to a five by five grid of circles for the ball to fall into except the middle hole is covered as that is the free space. The object in most games is to get bingo by lighting five lights in a row, or sometimes with four corners if that option is made active by the host running the game. Oh, did I fail to mention that you are competing against everyone else that is playing to get bingo first?
Whoever gets bingo first will win a prize of tickets good to redeem for prizes in the game room. There are special bonuses included as well. If you get bingo using the top row of lights which are all red, you will win a larger prize. If the traveling light which randomly goes across the top of all the machines while you are playing is lit over your machine and you win with a red line win you win a special prize which is usually worth around $50 and sometimes significantly more. There is also a bonus for the yellow line which is the second line of lights from the top. There are other bonuses including a match light where if you get the type of bingo that is on the match light you win double your normal amount of tickets. Oh, and then there’s coverall.
Coverall is a great game. The standard version is played with two balls and the goal as you might be able to guess is to light up all the lights on your playing area. That’s simple enough, but I forgot to mention crazy coverall. In crazy coverall you can be using up to 6 balls depending on how many the host decides to announce are in play. You will roll all six balls as quickly as you can trying again to be the first person to light up all your lights. Oh did I mention the host?
The host is sort of like a gameshow’s emcee. He sits on a podium and announces the start of the game and when there is a winner. He also adds random background discussions as the game is going on. During coverall he will let you know how many lights are the low amount left. Many times in the morning he will give you a summary of the news from the day before along with sports information. His other goal is to draw people from outside on the boardwalk into the game.
A game of fascination only costs 20 cents to play, with coverall being slightly higher at times. There are various specials during the day including 10 cent games, free games, and hour long specials depending on where you go to play your games of coverall. According to information I’ve read on the internet Flipper’s Fascination has some even more exciting specials which I look forward to experiencing for the first time this year.
It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, if you give Fascination one good try, you are likely to be hooked. It’s a great game for families to play together, and you can go inside to beat the heat of the afternoon sun at the beach.