Following Sunday's event, it would perhaps be a good time to write couple of additional words about “They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant”. My first impressions were confirmed – it is very playable and relatively simple ruleset. Before our game, I’ve prepared a set of two Quick Reference Sheets and a page listing possible actions for each of the players. Quick walkthrough of basic principles took about half an hour. Then we started to play and after a couple of turns, things flowed rather smoothly.
Our game also confirmed the fact that as in any other ruleset from TFL, cards and luck can sometimes make or break you. The infamous sudden death card, called ‘Coffee’ in TCHAE, didn’t bother us so much for the simple reason that I’ve inserted two of those in the deck. However, cards limiting actions of generals of certain type (‘Cautious’ and ‘Political’) can, with a bit of bad luck, still ruin the day for individual players. In Sunday’s game, player handling the Union brigade in the middle that was completely neutralized by ‘Cautious’/’Political’ card being turned over and over again just before his turn. Word of advice – be very careful with use of a single general with this attribute in your OOB, unless you dislike the player that will assume this command.
As always, some mistakes were made. The most important one in our game was the fact that I’ve forgot about the rule prohibiting use of multiple pips for movement, once a unit reached certain distance from the enemy. This seemingly small mistake made it much easier for units to get into close combat. On the bright side, my mistake may not have been a bad thing, since gave us experience with the rules that handle melees. As it turns out, bayonet charges are very unpredictable in “TCHAE” and should not be attempted by those faint of heart. At the same time, certain critique can once again be raised against the layout of the ruleset. My mistake could have been easily avoided if the ruleset made clear connection between movement rates, infantry fire ranges and the above mentioned restriction.
So what did my friends think of “They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant”? It will come hardly as a surprise that P, who was forced to suffer wrath of Confederate artillery without being able to do much about it, wasn’t very happy about it. T’s opinion was a little more of a surprise – he found randomness of TCHAE somewhat annoying and missed the detail and period flavor of “Long Road North” (my previous choice of rules for this period). L-A, Ha.and He. were much more positive – they liked the confusion created by the card draw and appreciated uncomplicated game mechanics used in TCHAE.
In other words, THAE didn't receive standing ovations, but neither did I hear any petitions for ritual burning of the pages. Personally, I have to say that this ruleset grows on me. There is certain elegance in those hidden relations between different mechanics of the game, although I wish they were clearly stated in the text. Also, what I saw on the table reminded me in many respects of the accounts by Shelby and Sears - confusion, units that moved erratically, heroics of the officers that changed the tide of battle... So with some tweaking, THAE has the potential of being a lot of fun.