Friday, 22 July 2011

The portable wargame: To 'pin' or not to 'pin' ... that is the question ...

In a recent blog entry, Ross Mac made the following point about the current version of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules: 'I am still wondering if the Pin rules are worth the extra hassle or if perhaps its just that the Pin is too easy to inflict'.

Now the 'pin' rules were introduced to add an extra level of combat result between 'unaffected' and 'destroyed'. It also added a layer of additional complication to the task of commanding an army as the players had to decide whether or not to use an activation to 'unpin' a Unit or to move an 'unpinned' Unit.

For a longer game, I would like to continue to use the 'pinning' rules, but for a short, sharp, 'do-or-die' action, removing the 'pinning' rules would speed up the whole thing considerably ... and would be one less thing for the players to remember to do!

That said, Ross Mac makes a very justifiable point about the ease with which Units can be 'pinned', and I will look at this again when I draft the next version of the rules. In the meantime, I hope that Ross Mac (and others) will continue to play-test the existing version of the rules and feedback to me their comments and suggestions.


  1. I have become very leery of reacting to quickly to questions like this as they arrive. The effect of each rule is of course affected not only the dice and the situation but by the player's choices and tactics.

    Pinning or destruction of a unit in the open seems almost certain (and is certain if a commander is adjacent) but the effects of multiple pinning soon reduce this meaning that suppression of the enemy by superior numbers or an effective artillery bombardment becomes a possibility although overwhelming strength works too.

    But, the constant administration of placing and removing pins and modifying rolls did start to disrupt focus on plans.

    I did ponder the ability of a unit to withstand an infinite number of pins but taken over all it works and pinned units still get destroyed.

    It definitely needs more games before I can make up my mind on the effect of pins on tactics and battle plans.

    Another issue I haven't made up my mind about, is the inability of infantry supports to move through pinned units. (unless moving in column down a road which would be inappropriate). A second line of units moving up in support either has to go to one flank or wait for pinned units to be destroyed thus creating gaps. (Once they rally they are as good as the support unit so no need to swap). This is frustrating but I'm not sure if its right or wrong.

  2. Ross Mac,

    You can be assured that I will not be rushing to make changes just yet … but your question is similar to one that someone else raised after the recent session at COW, so I was already thinking about the ‘pinning’ rules.

    I don’t particularly like to have markers on the tabletop, and the use of ‘pin’ markers runs counter to this … and it has been something that I have been thinking about. I like the idea of using a figure or figures to indicate the state of a Unit rather than using a marker … but I have not yet made a decision about this – or any viable alternatives to markers – at present.

    One thing that moving to a larger number of squares/hexes on the battlefield makes possible is increasing the number of hexes a Unit can move each turn. By doubling the number of hexes a Unit can move – and by allowing Units to move through hexes that are occupied by friendly Units – it would be possible for ‘unpinned’ Units to pass through ‘pinned’ Units to form a new battle line in front of the ‘pinned’ Units and/or to support the ‘pinned’ Units. This would be a positive improvement to the rules … but might also require other changes to be made (e.g. increasing weapon ranges).

    I will be interested to read your feedback on any future play-tests you undertake. Your feedback and suggestions are always of the highest order, and although I may not act on everything you suggest, it does help me to formulate my own thoughts.

    I am currently doing quite a bit of thinking about the PW rules, and I hope to draft a new version of the rules – or even a completely new set of wargames rules based upon what I have learned from developing the PW rules – sometime over the next few weeks.

    All the best,


  3. Bob, I was pondering alternatives to the pin and one which came to mind was a recoil. DBA uses this as a less drastic result than destruction. I'm not sure if it would fit but it would eliminate markers.

    One of the things that the game this persuaded me, is that I need to make a special board and terrain for the scaled down game and turn it into a "game in a box".

  4. Ross Mac,

    One of the alternatives that I was seriously thinking about was something similar to a 'recoil' result ... mainly as a result of reading Mr Farrow's latest battle report just before I went to bed! (He uses a set of rules derived from DBA/HOTT)

    It is certainly a viable alternative to 'pinning', and does remove the need for markers. Furthermore the rules already use a 'withdrawal' result for drawn Close Combats, and a 'forced withdrawal' result (i.e. 'recoil') would make the results of all combat more consistent.

    The 'game in a box' has so many potential uses, including games outside on sunny days or on the coffee table during winter nights. It should not require large numbers of model figures to form an army, and - like DBA/HOTT - people could easily collect several armies for relatively low cost.

    All the best,



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