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Pinned Down

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"Gordon, I can't move! These snipers got me pinned down!"
Barney Calhoun, Half-Life 2

A situation where a character or party is pinned down by enemy fire and can't fire back, or sometimes even move, without getting their heads shot/burned/ripped off. This can prevent them from getting to an injured ally the character or group needs to help, stop a shorter-ranged character from getting within range of fighting back, or simply keeping the heroes from moving forward, buying a villain or enemy force time.

A variant is "cover fire", which means pinning down an enemy, often with sustained machine gun fire, when an ally or allied unit moves forward (usually to the next safe spot, or to a better position, before firing in turn so you can move).

If a unit is pinned down by a hail of machine gun fire and snipers, what can they do? If they have a radio operator, they can call in an artillery strike or air strike on the enemy position. If they have smoke munitions, they can let off smoke to create a visual screen and thereby allow some movement.

It's often used in video games as well. Ever wondered why enemy soldiers keep shooting at where you last emerged from cover? They're keeping you pinned, probably while they recharge their shields or move into a position where they can kill you.

If it's being used to keep allies from helping a character who is able to fight back, the allies are Locked Out of the Fight.

As chess was historically used to teach military strategy to young princes, it's not surprising that pinning an opponent's powerful pieces is an important tactic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One episode of the Area 88 TV series has the entire base pinned down by a sniper who shoots anyone he sees outdoors.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: During a poker game, Saito, the team's sniper, tells a story of how he met the Major. He was working as a sniper for the opposition while she and other future members of Section Nine were teamed up with the American Empire during the last war. He pinned them down, killing a couple of redshirts, before the Major got to his location and beat him in a sniper duel.
  • Used to great effect in Monster. In the anime, Grimmer ends up in a situation with a cop lying on the ground bleeding with him unable to help due to a sniper. As time goes on, the foreign language the squad is using gets to Grimmer and causes him to go into his second personality and beat the guys to death the minute they got in close. Probably should have kept that sniper in place.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: This happened to the heroes during the School Festival's third day when they were trying to make it to the battle grounds. Mana had One-Hit KO rounds that send anything they touch forward in time to the battle's end (which they've presumably lost), and when they tried to hide in a trolley, she shot the trolley itself, sending the entire vehicle to the future. They managed to escape when Negi used his own Magitek Time Machine to escape the in the last second. Kaede stayed behind to hold off Mana while the rest went ahead.
  • Rebuild World: When Akira is fighting from his APC against a unit united by a Psychic Link under Katsuya, he gets pinned down by covering fire that is so well-coordinated that they actually intentionally hit the unit commander they're covering with less effective bullets his Powered Armor can handle in the process, which gets a What the Hell Are You? reaction from Akira.

     Comic Books 
  • Sin City has "The Babe Wore Red" which shows Dwight getting pinned down by a sniper while rescuing the eponymous Lady in Red.
  • In an early Silver Age Captain America story, Cap is fighting Nazis at Castle Greymoore, but he is eventually pined down by suppression fire away from his shield. Fortunately, Bucky, in the clutches of the Nazie, is able to overpower his guard and take his pistol to provide cover fire to recover Cap's shield. Bucky soon runs dry, but Cap's shield is more than enough on its own.

  • In Full Metal Jacket, the squad is pinned down by one sniper. It isn't pretty. Especially since it tries them to get out of their cover by repeatedly shooting an injured but still alive squadmate.


    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The game has optional rules for suppression fire, but they're not considered very effective at anything beyond slowing the game down while driving your mech's heat up, so they're virtually never used.
  • Shadowrun had rules for suppressive fire (anyone in the target area who emerges from cover gets hit).
  • Normally in Warhammer 40,000, squads that suffer casualties from enemy fire have to pass a Leadership test or fall back, but weapons with the Pinning special rule - sniper rifles, mortars, coils of psycho-plastic resonating with negative emotions, rapidly-growing entangling alien tumors, etc. - lock units in place and prevent them from firing effectively instead.
    • In later editions, units can voluntarily take being pinned down as a tradeoff against casualties. Essentially, infantry units can "go to ground", giving them an improved cover save but hampering them for the next turn.
    • Dark Heresy and its spin-offs also has rules for this, causing all targets in the cone of fire to automatically Take Cover! and stay there, unable to effectively fire back, unless they pass a heavily penalized Willpower check. With sufficiently high gunnery, there's also a slim chance any of the dozens of shots the wielder is firing actually hits someone by pure luck.
  • GURPS requires only a moderate rate of fire to use suppression fire but without an RoF of around 20 (attainable only by a very few weapons) reliably hitting targets is virtually impossible.
  • Chess:
    • "Pinning" is when one piece is stuck between an opposition Queen, Rook or Bishop that can attack them, and another of their pieces further away. If a piece is pinned to it's King, it cannot move until the King moves first, or another piece takes their place. Endgames can hinge on one player blundering away a major piece by moving their piece into a position where the opposition can place the King in check, which if it were another piece would be a pin, but because it's the King it must move out of the way, leaving the other piece to be captured.
    • Pieces can become trapped in a spot where they are not attacked but cannot be moved without placing them under threat of capture.

    Video Games 
  • Tactical Shooters as a whole often implement this trope as an important game mechanic that must be taken advantage of (and/or watched out for).
  • In multiplayer games, however, most players won't content to sit in cover and wait for death, so without some mechanic to ruin players under heavy fire, assuming the other guy is suppressed can be a costly mistake.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Meryl is wounded by Sniper Wolf. Snake can't get to her to help and can't get close enough to Wolf without getting his head shot off. He has to abandon Meryl and double back to grab the sniper rifle.
  • Gordon Freeman rescues Barney Calhoun in Half-Life 2 when he is pinned down by snipers.
  • Brothers in Arms. Basically a First-Person Shooter, except it relies heavily on being able to successfully utilize this trope on the enemy. As shown above, if you can pull this off, you can use it to your advantage and take out the enemy. If you can't manage to keep their heads down, they'll kill you and/or your squadmates.
  • Jagged Alliance 2 has recently received the ability for suppression fire in its 1.13 unofficial patch.
  • Mentioned in dialogue, but not actually a mechanic in EndWar. Units under fire while at half health are described as being suppressed by your XO and their info tab, but it really means nothing more than being at half health (on the other hand, any unit at half health probably has little chance against what they're fighting anyway)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II has the Suppression mechanic. Regular ranged units tend not to be capable of it, but heavy weapons will (if they don't just kill all infantry in their firing arc), and there are a few other options to inflict this with other units. Being suppressed greatly reduces weapon firing times and slows movement speed, but there are ways to break it, namely the Retreat button.
  • Full Spectrum Warrior uses covering fire as a primary gameplay mechanic, and makes a distinction between ordinary fire (most weapons) and suppressing fire (vehicles and mounted machine guns). Your teams can do suppressing fire too, completely pinning down any targets, but burning through ammo quickly.
  • Introduced in Project Reality, this feature made it to Battlefield 3. Getting pinned down by auto weapons or sniper fire will blur out your vision and disables your Regenerating Health, even if you did not get hit. Killing a suppressed enemy will also give suppression assist points to the suppressor.
  • This is a major gameplay element in Company of Heroes.
    • There are two levels — "suppressed" and "pinned". A suppressed unit moves very slowly but gets a slight evasion bonus from being prone on the ground, and a pinned unit is completely immobile and unable to fire. Since cover only provides a bonus while it's between the users and the fire, any unit suppressed is waiting to be outflanked and killed (so press Retreat for that unit). Heavy machine gun weapon teams can be used to suppress infantry units, which dramatically slows their movement and reduces their firepower. That being said, all weapons' fire will suppress any infantry that survives long enough (unless they are in a building).
    • The British Infantry Section, if armed with a Bren gun, can also "button" tanks and other vehicles to slow the vehicle down and reduce its ability to see, which is described as the infantry section firing at the vehicle's sight ports. The vehicle is a sitting duck to being outflanked with anti-tank weapons and can't defend itself while alone and buttoned down, but having other allies near them will allow them to fire back since they provide sight for the vehicle.
  • Medal of Honor:
  • In Halo, the Covenant and Prometheans will keep firing at the last position they saw you since you last ducked behind cover. Trying to re-emerge there will probably get your shields shot off in short order, but if all their focus is there...
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Suppression is an ability by default available to your machine-gun toting Heavies and rifle-wielding Supports, and with the appropriate Foundry project, your S.H.I.V.s can do it as well. Certain alienslist  also have this skill and will often use it when a standard shot is too unlikely to hit and they judge that other abilities won't cut it. It uses up twice as much ammo as a regular attack, but subtracts 30% from the target's aiming accuracy and grants a reaction shot if they try to move (or do anything at all aside from hunkering down if the unit has Covering Fire). The Heavy's Mayhem makes it deal Scratch Damage, and with Danger Zone, they suppress an entire area that can include multiple enemies. "Training Roulette" makes any class potentially capable of Suppression, even Snipers and Assaults with shotguns; Covering Fire is also in the random skill pool, so it can be attained, and Opportunist boosts the Suppression's reaction shot to the same aim and crit chance of a standard shotnote . In all cases, dealing any damage at all to the suppressing unit cancels it out.
    • In XCOM 2, the aiming penalty is a heftier 50%, but it's exclusive to Grenadiers.

  • Girl Genius: During the siege of Mechanicsburg Zeetha and Violetta get stuck taking cover behind a wall in a house that's being shot to pieces around them and even the two of them can't find a way to leave without being killed. Luckily the castle intervenes by smashing every single soldier that was firing on them.
  • Paracule and Mauchi tried this during Tower of God's Hide and Seek test on Quant. Keyword is tried.
    • Funnily enough, Hatz, who before managed to hold Quant down for a few seconds, relied on them to do exactly this with their javelins, but they simply ran away.

    Real Life 
  • Formally, this situation is known as being "under suppressive fire". Achieving this against enemy targets and getting closer to shoot them with impunity is the main neutralization tactic for infantry (and a heavy contributor to A-Team Firing, since soldiers trying to achieve it really don't mind not hitting any enemies while doing so).
  • Suppressive fire doesn't always require fully automatic weapons — soldiers sometimes drill to suppress by having multiple people fire single shots. This is partly a result of logistical concerns, as full automatic fire wastes ammunition and causes increased wear-and-tear on the weapon.
  • Snipers also practice a form of suppressing fire, combined with area denial. A sniper with a good overwatch position can pick off targets with impunity, making it hard if not downright impossible to move. What makes this especially difficult to counter is that a good sniper will relocate after numerous shots or attack outside the range of traditional infantry weapons, making returning effective fire difficult if not impossible. The usual response to a sniper's presence is an artillery strike on his general location.
  • "Fire and movement" is a tactic that utilizes this trope. A portion of a unit lays down suppressive fire from cover to pin down the other side. While the enemy is pinned down, the rest of the unit moves forward to the next defensible point. Then they lay down suppressive fire to keep the enemy pinned down while the first group catches up. Repeat until they're close enough to launch an effective attack.


Video Example(s):


The Four Fs

To progress in "Brothers in Arms", you must use your squad members to suppress and flank enemy units, as shown here in this training video.

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Main / PinnedDown

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