Slot Gameplay Mechanics
Online slots are by far and away where you’ll find the most choice in an online casino library. And with thousands of different games to choose from, it can be challenging to get to grips with the weird and wacky mechanics you might come across. Don’t worry — we’ve got a primer below to help you get up to speed!
At their core, slots bonus rounds are essentially any part of the gameplay which is separate from the main game. They’re usually accessed once a player completes a specific action.
Free spins are one of the most common bonus rounds you’ll come across. These are typically unlocked by landing at least three of a certain symbol — often the scatter — on the reels, with more symbols equating to more free spins. For example, landing three scatters might trigger a bonus round of 10 free spins, while four scatters gives 15 spins, and five scatters gives 20 spins.
One of our favourite titles with bonus rounds is Thunderstruck 2 by Microgaming. Here, the Great Hall of Spins feature includes four exciting bonus rounds. The round is triggered by landing at least three scatters, filling a progress bar which unlocks the different rounds:
- Valkyrie gives players 10 free spins with a 5x multiplier attached;
- Loki has 15 free spins and Wild Magic, which transforms symbols into extra wilds;
- Odin unlocks 20 free spins and the Wild Raven feature, which turns random symbols into 2x and 3x multipliers;
- Thor gives players 25 free spins with Rolling Reels, where consecutive wins increase a multiplier from 2x to 5x.
First introduced in NetEnt’s seminal title, Gonzo’s Quest, avalanche reels is a thrilling mechanic where lucky players can rack up long chains of wins. The premise is simple — each time a winning combination lands on the reels, these symbols are removed with new ones falling into place, giving players an extra chance to win off the same spin.
Avalanche reels are known by many other names, including tumbling reels, cascading reels, and rolling reels. A few other games to include this mechanic are Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs by Microgaming, Da Vinci Diamonds by IGT, and Bonanza by Big Time Gaming.
Fixed and Variable Paylines
Paylines are one of the foundational elements of any slot game. After all, they directly impact how much you could win on each spin. The number of paylines varies from game to game and is dependent on how many reels and rows there are. Some titles feature fixed paylines, where you can’t change how many are in play. Starburst, for example, has 10 fixed paylines — although these are win-both-ways, paying both left to right and right to left.
Book of Dead by Play’n GO, on the other hand, has 1–10 variable paylines. That means players can decide how many paylines to bet on per spin, allowing them to finetune their stake. While you should always gamble in accordance with your own budget and limits, it’s worth keeping in mind that the more active paylines, the more chances to win per spin.
Cluster pays slots throw out the traditional notion of paylines, instead letting players tot up wins whenever enough matching symbols land adjacent on the reels. These games are often played on an expanded reel set which is more like a grid, requiring at least five symbols in each cluster to trigger a payout.
Dragons Clusterbuster by Red Tiger is one of our favourite titles in this category. It’s played on a 9×9 grid where players hit when five adjacent symbols connect. The game also features avalanche reels, a mechanic that often goes hand in hand with cluster pays.
Another slot mechanic switching up the payline structure is Megaways. Here, each reel can hold between two and seven symbols, which changes randomly between each spin. In Megaways slots, symbols don’t have to connect on a payline — they must simply appear on adjacent reels from left to right.
Invented by Big Time Gaming, this feature first appeared in the developer’s 2015 title, Dragon Born. There are six reels in this game, so there can be anywhere between 12 and 42 symbols in play. With the maximum of seven symbols on each reel, there are a staggering 117,649 ways to win!
Megaways has found its way into hundreds of slots since, with many popular titles getting their own Megaways spin-offs — including Gonzo’s Quest Megaways and Big Bass Bonanza Megaways.
Nudge and Hold
Ever been one reel off landing a big winner, but that final symbol just doesn’t want to tick into place? With the nudge mechanic, players will get to shift a reel one or several positions, hopefully completing a winning payline.
A similar feature you might find is ‘hold’, where players can lock certain reels in place while respinning the others. Say you’re playing a five-reel slot and you landed a winning payline on all but the middle reel. You can hold the others in place and respin reel 3 in the hopes of connecting the payline and landing a win.
Pragmatic Play has released a number of slots with the Hold and Spin feature, including Dragon Hot, Rock Vegas, and Cash Elevator.
Pick games are a type of bonus round where players are presented with a number of hidden symbols or prizes, which are uncovered when they choose which ones to reveal. The number of options and picks varies by game.
Blood Suckers 2 from NetEnt features the thrilling Hidden Treasure pick game, activated by landing three Golden Door bonus symbols on adjacent reels. Players then get to select from various coffins and chests. What’s inside determines whether you’ll unlock the free spins round or return to the main game.
The Rainbow Riches series also has a number of pick games, where players can win instant cash prizes or payout multipliers.
Most commonly found on fruit machine-styled classic slots, the gamble feature lets players double or nothing their payout each time they win. It’s that simple!
NetEnt’s Jackpot 6000 slot includes this feature, with players getting the choice to play a game of heads or tails whenever they land a winning combination. Of course, you’re welcome to collect your winnings if you don’t fancy taking the risk.