Remember when slots were simple 3-reels machines with one payline? Well, those simple times are now gone, and modern slots have evolved into complex games with more innovative features than we can manage to keep track of. It all started with the Wilds symbol. By introducing one extra special symbol into the game, the whole concept of the game improved and made the casino experience more empowering. The number of reels also started to grow, and suddenly there was even more room for more special symbols and extra features such as bonus rounds and free spins. The number of reels kind of remained stuck on five for a while, and the 5×3 reel set became an unwritten standard.
As new features came along, the standard reel grid suffered changes as well – for the better. One of the latest trends in online slots development is to play with the reels, and not with the symbols. Instead of altering the number and functions of specific symbols, developers started to tamper with number of reels and managed to produce lucrative slots with an unfixed number of reels. How do those work? No need to panic – these slots play out just like any other, except that you get to experience a modern, dynamic gameplay and always be prepared to follow the game’s flow. If you want to benefit from it in the best way possible, that is.
Not too many slots have Expanding Reels, an innovative feature that rewrites rules of contemporary video slots games. However, don’t see it as a complication – see it as an opportunity for additional wins, because that’s exactly what it is. Expanding Reels are usually a feature incorporated in both the game’s design and bonus rounds. You’ll notice something different about slots with Expanding Reels right away; as soon as you load the game, you’ll see that there are hidden reels on the side of the regular, active reel set. It all depends on the design – sometimes they can be faded, and sometimes they can form part of the background or the reel grid framework. For example, in an Egyptian-themed slot Expanding Reels can be represented by bricks and stones that the pyramid is made of. In a fairy-themed slot, you’ll often see them on the side hidden in form of trees or magical plants.
These special reels aren’t always active and don’t affect the regular payout dynamics of the game. The slot can be played, under normal circumstances, on a classic 5×3 reel set and have two extra reels on the side that need to be activated later in the game. This means that, at some point, you will manage to unlock those reels and keep playing a 7-reel, instead of a 5-reel slot. Depending on the title, Expanding Reels are usually triggered by a specific combination of special or bonus symbols, or by landing a special symbol on a specific base game reel. Sometimes, the Expanding Reels will become active during free spins, for example. Once unlocked, they change the payout structure, add more ways to win, and sometimes they even contain special symbols that offer bigger prizes or multipliers.
A larger reel grid has an obvious benefit – more positions on the reels create more room for symbols to form winning combinations. If a slot is an all-ways-pays game then you can have winning combos almost every other spin. Furthermore, the gameplay becomes more interesting as there are more reels involved, and the dangers of sliding into monotonous spinning are decreased a lot, especially because Expanding Reels aren’t always active and you can enjoy the suspense that leads to their unlocking. On a different note, Expanding Reels can introduce more elements into the game such as extra Scatter symbols or extra Wilds. On occasions, there can be special symbols that never appear during regular gameplay, and when they align just right another feature gets triggered, or the player gets rewarded with cash prizes and balance boosts. Whether Expanding Reels will stick around or not remains to be seen, but for now, the players seem to be enjoying the feature very much, so we do expect to see it more in future online slot titles.