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They Couldn't Hit An Elephant

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TITLE: They Couldn’t Hit An ElephantTCHAE

AUTHOR: Too Fat Lardies

PUBLISHER: Too Fat Lardies



    The publisher’s web site is at TooFatLardies.co.uk Player support can be obtained on the Too Fat Lardies Yahoo group here.

PRICE: $11.00 for a PDF delivered via e-mail, 18.00 for a hard copy (in 2009)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin

PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War

THE BOOK: They Couldn’t Hit An Elephant comes as either a PDF or hard copy. I ordered the PDF for this review. The rule book runs 52 pages plus a player aid sheet with all the necessary tables for play. It is nicely laid out with simple diagrams where necessary and a sprinkling of clip art for flavor. I had mine printed at Kinkos and it looks quite nice even in black and white.

SCOPE: They Couldn’t Hit An Elephant (TCHAE) is a game of tactical warfare during the American Civil War. It is a quick play game suitable for an afternoon or evening’s entertainment. There is also a page of rules for using the system to re-fight larger battles with the brigade as the base unit.

ARMY SIZE: As a set of rules for massed battles you will need a substantial number of figures. At a minimum you will need 10-12 figures per regiment, though 16-24 will give a more substantial look to the game.

BASE UNIT: The base units in TCHAE are infantry and cavalry regiments and artillery batteries.


  • Ground Scale: I inch = 25 yards
  • Time scale 1 turn = 10 minutes
  • Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry base = 100 infantry, 50 cavalry or one gun
  • Recommended Figure Size: 16mm but conversion for 25mm and other scales is covered.
  • Table Size: None given
  • Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening or afternoon


TCHAE uses a simple scheme of 1” square bases for all infantry and cavalry. Artillery should be based with a frontage of 1” per gun in the battery.


TCHAE, in common with many other rules from Too Fat Lardies, uses a card driven turn sequence. The deck is made up of one card for each side’s commanders plus a variety of special cards for blinds (dummy counters representing unspotted units) and special commanders (bols, inspirational, cautious etc.). Your run of the mill competent officer gets just one card. In addition, there is a “Coffee!” card that indicates the end of the turn.

When a commander’s card is drawn he may activate all of his units subject to the command and control rules and his available command Pips for the turn (see below). Each commander performs the following actions in turn in the following order:

  • Spotting
  • Rolling for pips and issuing commands (see below)
  • Compulsory moves (routs and retreats)
  • Firing
  • Rally
  • Movement
  • Status Tests
  • Decisive Combat
  • Reactive Status Tests
  • Grand Tactical Commands


The Armies: In TCHAE regiments are made up of stands representing 100 men each. Each unit in the game is rated Raw, Average or Veteran. In addition, they might also be Cautious, Aggressive or Resolute. Players must also track how each unit is armed (with smoothbores, carbines, superior rifles etc.).

Each unit also has a status which represents it’s temporary condition. These are:

  • Normal
  • Fightin’ - these troops are firing like mad but will not advance and suffer other minor penalties
  • Defeated - Defeated troops will neither fire nor advance and will retreat if they take casualties
  • Routed
  • Pursuit - These units are out of control in pursuing a defeated enemy.
  • Disordered - A minor inconvenience requiring one stationary turn to recover.
  • Surprised - This is a one-turn status as a result of a flank or rear attack.

Movement: Movement in TCHAE is a simple affair. Units have a given movement allowance. Rough terrain costs twice as much to move through. The mechanics do not spell out at all detail around maneuver. How to measure a wheel for instance. Nor do they contain any strictures on moving obliquely, etc. Formations are likewise bare bones: line, column or skirmish with minimal effects for each.

Command and Control: In addition to the card driven turn sequence, players will have to defeat their opponent with limited command ability. TCHAE uses command points called Pips. A commander rolls an Average Die (abbreviated DAv and is a six sided die marked 2,3,3,4,4,5 instead of 1 through 6). A commander’s quality is a modifier to this die roll.

Command Pips allow commanders to issue or modify orders to their units. Each unit must have one of four orders: Attack, Manoeuvre, Hold or Engage. Each order has limits and requirements on how and where units may move. To change an order requires on Pip for every 8” between the unit and the commander.

Command Pips are also required to perform a variety of tactical actions. The following actions, for example, require spending one pip for each: change formation, attempt to rally a unit, and interpenetrate friendly units.

As you can see, you never know when a commander might get activated. He might not get activated at all if his card is below the “Coffee!” card in the deck.

Blinds & Spotting: TCHAE has a limited fog of war element through the use of blinds and spotting. Blinds are simply markers roughly the size of an infantry unit. Use of dummy blinds is allowed. Spotting is performed by commanders and is a simple cross check or range with terrain. This gives a spotting score that must be beaten by rlling 2D6. Units may, of course, voluntarily deploy.

Fire Combat: All ranged combat - small arms and artillery - is resolved together. The firing units roll a D6 for every 2 guns or 2 infantry stands (round up). The dice are added together, modifiers are taken into account, and a final sum reached. Then, on the Fire Effects Table, the target type and firer type are cross referenced to yield a numeric value. This is the number required to cause one casualty. So, Infantry firing at infantry in line yields a 5. Thus a roll of 5 or more will yield on casualty, 10 or more two casualties, 15 or more three casualties and so on. Each unit or battery fires separately but all fire is resolved in the exact same manner. When a unit suffers 4 casualties a stand is removed from the game.

Decisive Combat: Melee and close range combat is simply called Decisive Combat. Decisive Combat is resolved with opposed die rolls. Each player determines his combat strength. This is determined first by unit type and formation. So infantry against cavalry has a value of 4. To this are added modifiers for outnumbering the enemy, unit morale, leadership, terrain, etc. The player with the higher value then rolls 2D6 and consults the Combat Resolution Table. This determines casualties and outcomes including routs, and the combat breaking into a fire fight.

Morale: Morale is not treated in a traditional manner. Instead, morale is part of a unit’s status (which also encompasses casualties, leadership etc.). Units must take status checks for  variety of reasons. For example, as a result of a decisive combat, for taking casualties, etc. A status check is a simple D6 roll with a score of 2+ needed to pass. The die is modified by leadership, cover, casualties, etc.


The basic book includes a variety of army lists as well as charts for generating leaders with random ability (very handy for pick-up games). There are also lists for units as well as commanders with historical ratings. Commanders are differentiated at various times (Hood’s ratings are different for commanding a Brigade vs. a Division, for example).

There are also three scenarios included, one each small, medium and large. The small scenario is Kernstown (March 1862) and requires smaller armies (60 bases of infantry for the Union, 31 bases for the Confederates). The medium scenario is a Gettysburg scenario centered in the fighting around the Devil’s Den while the large scenario centers on the fight at Antietam for the Miller Farm.


Rules from Too Fat Lardies, in my experience, always require the players to fill in a variety of “blanks.” The basic structure of the game is always in place, but there are lots of minor details that will need to be worked out. The basic mechanisms, however, have an excellent track record, and the company is famous for their online support via their extremely active Yahoo group (see above). Suffice it to say I am working on getting artillery painted so I can try out a game or two - and soon.


Not played (yet).

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