Saturday, 23 July 2011

The portable wargame: To 'pin' or not to 'pin' ... that is the question ... and here is a possible answer!

Having considered the 'pin' or not to 'pin' question yesterday, I must admit that I was unsure what to do with regard to a solution. I thought that there needed to be an intermediate combat result between 'unaffected' and 'destroyed' ... and I am still firm on that point ... but having to place and remove 'pin' markers, coupled with the ramifications of multiple 'pin' markers being placed on a single Unit, was complicating a set of rules that were essentially designed to be as simple as possible.

Yesterday was a busy day for me, as my wife and I had to visit my father-in-law in order to do his shopping for him and to sort out a couple of problems that he had. Driving backwards and forwards to Herne Bay, Kent, did give me a bit of time to think about alternatives to using 'pin' markers and the 'pinning' rules, but none of them seemed to fit in with the way the rest of the rules worked, and some of them just added an additional layer of complication.

Just before I went to bed last night, I happened to catch up on some of the blogs that I follow, and one of them – Mr Farrow 2U (+ Jack & Amys!!) DBA 1500 Onwards Page – contained a blog entry about a Franco-Prussian War battle. Mr Farrow uses a set of rules that are based on DBA/HOTT, and under those rules there is an intermediate combat result ... recoil! This set me thinking, and just before I dozed off to sleep, I decided to look at a similar result – possibly 'withdraw' – as an alternative to using 'pinning' and 'pin' markers.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I read my emails this morning to find a comment from Ross Mac about yesterday's blog entry. Ross Mac's comment included the following: '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.'

Well, if both of us have independently come up with the same solution, it must be worth a try ... especially as the PORTABLE WARGAME rules already use a 'withdraw' result for drawn Close Combats, and a 'withdraw' result for artillery and fire combat would make the results of all combat more consistent

This idea has been added to the list of possible changes that I will incorporate in the next draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules, and work on this draft should begin early next week.


  1. Conrad Kinch,

    Am I right to assume that you are in favour of the proposed change?

    All the best,


  2. It's worked rather well for me in all the C&C games.

  3. Conrad Kinch,

    Then that is yet another vote in its favour!

    All the best,


  4. Hmmm most of the impact of a recoil result in DBx games is due to the effect of breaking up the enemy's battle line, with the double effect of giving an overlap supporting bonus on any combats with adjacent units AND breaking up the solid block of troops that can be moved with a single PIP.

    Since neither of these apply to TPW, depending on how far you see units recoiling/withrawing I'm not sure how much of an impact a recoil result would be.

    Also, would it perhaps be more appropriate for some periods/theatres of war than others?

    Once again I think I'm still favouring pinning as a binary state, with a single marker/modifier. I don't think of it as being pinned in the 21st century sense of being rendered immobile by suppressive fire, but more an indicator that the unit is "busy", whether it's hunkering down behind cover or firing at an enemy to the front. It feels like a good intermediate result to me - easy to achieve, inconvenient, but not crippling and not too expensive to remove.

  5. Re the effect of a withdraw, it would make it easier for an attacking line to advance or for a defending line to hold.

    1. With 1 hex per move, fire tends to be opened at maximum range. Any unit forced back would be forced back out of range. Because of the fire phase coming before movement, any unit thus forced back would have to advance again before being able to fire.

    2. Where 1 side is attacking, these will often have to advance into range then will often have to survive a round of fire before getting a shot themselves. This will favour the defence. With pinned units being able to return fire admittedly with decreased effect, large numbers of attackers can over come defenders even if pinned, at least in the open.

    2. If attempting to close to melee, driving enemy units back by fire and breaking up their line might make it easier to get 2:1 melees
    (the ability of 2 attackers to move into contact with 2 defenders to choose to ignore defender and go 2 on 1 vs the other rather than fighting 2 1:1 combats is an uneasy point with me and with Ron)

    A further possibility that has elements of both, has come to mind, inspired by BKC. I was going to propose that a pinned unit that receives a 2nd pin result be forced back instead of collecting additional pins. Thus the first hit pins, if there is additional fire or if the player is unable to unpin the unit then the next pin result results in the unit moving back 1 hex, remaining pinned. The owning player now has to unpin the unit and then try to move it back.

    I still think a 2+ roll has effect in the open may be 1 pip too high.

  6. Dr Vesuvius,

    You are much more of an expert with regard to DBA/HOTT than I am, and your comments are of great assistance to me as I have only played a few (less than six) games with either sets of rules.

    Your comment about the 'withdraw' option being more appropriate to certain historical periods than others is also very pertinent.

    Luckily Ross Mac seems to have come up with an excellent and simple solution that meets the requirement that there is an intermediate combat result (or results) between 'unaffected' and 'destroyed' and that also removes the need to deal with multiple 'pins' on a single Unit.

    All the best,


  7. Ross Mac,

    What an elegant and simple solution!

    It still leaves me with the aesthetic problem of having 'pin' markers on the tabletop (although I am now coming to the conclusion that they could easily be made to look less intrusive), but removes the problem of multiple 'pins' being inflicted on a single Unit.

    Furthermore, it introduces an element of automatic response to events, which is something that appeals to the solo wargamer in me.

    All the best,



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