|Hanover Court House
25th June 1862
This was a small solo game I fought recently. The scenario is ideal for one-on-one, or solo play, and being very small, requires little scenery and
setting up, is playable in an evening, even if you have to keep referring to the rulebook, so its ideal for learning 'Elephant'. For me it was an
interesting way of filling a couple of hours when nobody was free to come and play, so I set up my toys and took some piccies.
The Battle of Hanover Court House took place during McClellan's Peninsular campaign of 1862. This is my favourite ACW campaign bar none.
For more details on the campaign go to the excellent The Peninsular Campaign Civil War Animated page.
The scenario was adapted, for Too Fat Lardies 'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant' ACW rules, from Paul D. Stevenson's excellent 'Guns at
Gettysburg Scenario book 3 - On To Richmond' (Partizan Press) available from Caliver Books. Whilst not entirely accurate (especially the maps)
they do allow an interesting game based (sometimes loosely) on a historical battle.
As is the norm now I used Brian Wethersby's excellent article on ACW commander listings from the TFL 2009 Xmas Special to work out the
individual commander ratings, using Todd Fischer's research for Johnny Reb. This is a valuable resource for TCHAE and can be found in the
files section of TFL Resources Yahoo Group.
The Union rearguard of General Fitz John Porter's Corps, John Martindale's brigade, is attacked by Confederate General L.O. O'B. Branch's
brigade and must hang on until reinforced by elements of George Morrell's Division. The Confederates must completely destroy the Federals
before they can be fully reinforced.
The action takes place on a small 4' x 3' table.
I deployed Martindale's (Inexperienced/Inspirational) blind along the Hanover Court House Road and deployed a dummy blind on its right flank.
The Confederates consisted of three blinds. Colonel Lee (Bold/Political) with two Veteran regiments each of four bases, General Branch
(Inexperienced) with two Veteran regiments of six bases, a further Veteran and an Average regiment of four bases, with two Average four-gun
light Smoothbore batteries under John Doe (Inexperienced). All Confederate regiments are armed with Smoothbore muskets and are on initial
attack orders. Lee's blind can deploy no nearer than 12" to the Hanover Court House Road and within 6" of the Ashcake Road. The other blinds
are allowed to deploy anywhere but within 8" of their base edge. I rolled randomly for their location and decided to roll for which blind was
Branch's and Doe's when they were spotted. The below shows the table set up with the blinds deployed at the game start.
Morell’s (Inexperienced) blind of reinforcements, two regiments of Raw infantry, arrives randomly between Hanover Court House Road and the
Virginia Central Railroad in any formation, from turn 4 needing a 6 to arrive on a D6 score, add one per attempt for a failure every turn. To
indicate the turn number a ‘Turn Card’ is added and the number of times it is draw is counted, not the number of turns the ‘coffee’ chip is drawn.
With Confederate Grand Tactical drawn initially the Rebs easily spotted Martindale's command lining fenced Hanover Court House Road.
Martindale had the 25th New York, of four bases, anchoring the right with the six bases of the 2nd Maine deployed in the centre. The 44th New
York's five bases were on the left behind Dr Kinney's orchard. All regiments were rated as Veteran with the 44th rated as Resolute. Attached to
the 44th were a section of two 10 pdr Parrots of Martin's battery. Although gun sections don't feature in 'Elephant', for historical refights, I
always allow gun sections to be attached to regiment's as battalion guns. These guns are mounted on a 1" square base and count towards the
regiment's base total for working out how many dice such a unit fires with. The sections are crewed by two figures which count towards
working out if a unit is outnumbered or outnumbers an enemy unit. Furthermore I then count a unit with attached guns as having Superior
Weapons. The 25th New York had seen significant action earlier in the morning and helped capture 900 Confederates of the 28th North
Carolina. They are rated as Low on Ammo. We have a house rule that a unit low on ammunition counts -2 firing, and -1 in close combat. In
addition we add ‘The side which is NOT low on ammo wins the firefight’ as point (vi) on Firefight reconciliation.
The Confederates of Colonel Lee's spearhead were spotted easily also, deployed in the centre next to Dr Kinney's house....
...and advanced accordingly as ordered, when their blinds move card was drawn, but stopping at 4" from the Union line as they were too far
away to contact initially and had to respect the Federal zone of control.
Doe's Confederate artillery unlimbered and began to fire at 44th NY.
However, one of the Reb batteries rolled a double six for its first shot. Another of our interesting house rules is that a unit which scores all sixes
has actually run low on ammunition. We find that this adds significantly to the fun and friction. "What do you mean the caissons are empty
For the next couple of turns or so the Political card came up and nailing any forward movement from Lee. Cawfee then followed and the action
bogged down into desultory musketry which was surprisingly ineffective due to my poor rolling for both sides.
The next turn Lee's card came up as the first one drawn and so with a Rebel yell the wave of butternut and grey closed upon the thin blue line.
The attack was found wanting though as the two Confederate regiments were forced back 6" Defeated.
The Union dummy blind had been spotted as such too. With Martindale's card the Union line opened up at their enemy. Scores of Confederates
fell as I rolled well, one of the Reb regiments routing in the process.
Branch's blind was spotted and deployed onto the table.
Lee's brace of regiment's were really getting in the way so I decided to deploy one Reb regiment on the extreme right in the light woods in an
attempt to flank the 25th NY and the entire Union position
The Confederate artillery, being light 6lb smoothbores, began to manhandle forward to bring the 44th NY to cannister range.
The next turn after 'Cawfee' saw Branch run short of PIP's. I manoeuvred the flanking Reb regiment from column of march to line, in preparation
for assault on the Federals the next turn.
'Cawfee' came up early again resulting in the Union line firing on the Rebels who for the most part were unable to reply having shorter ranged
When the Reb card came up next time the boys dander was up, so I sent them in with a holler.
The 2nd Maine fought off their opponents with ease using the 44th NY in flank support, but the 25th NY, low on ammo as they were, were forced
back into the light woods Defeated. Though in front the Rebels could make no headway, the flank of the Federals was now seriously
compromised and things looked decidedly grave.
To keep up the momentum, I had sent another Confederate regiment into the light woods to provide support at a later stage.
However, Union reinforcements arrived on the scene in the nick of time.
For two turns in a row 'Cawfee' was drawn early without the Branch's or Martindale's card being drawn. Fortunately the Inspirational card came
up so Martindale rallied the 25th NY back to normal morale. The Confederate attack had completely stalled and the Federal rifled muskets were
really pouring it on permanently defeating a couple of Reb regiments. Even the 25th NY, low on ammo managed to turn their opponents status
Doe's artillery, now at cannister range, begin to really blast holes in the 44th New York. Lee managed to rally his units in the Confederate rear
but they were really a spent force. The left flank of the Federal position was still in a perilous state though.
Small gun batteries only need two hits before they withdraw though and it was inevitable that the Confederate artillery would suffer from this.
First one, then the second battery, limbered and withdrew to the rear.
Morell's units were marching to the sound of the guns; "We are coming, we are coming our Union to restore. We are coming, Father Abraham,
300,000 more!", and not before time.
In a 'do or die' situation, perhaps more reminiscent of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top, the low on ammo and fightin' 25th New York made a
desperate attempt to forestall a Rebel assault by charging their enemy.
Fortune favours the brave though and the Rebels took to their heels bursting through their supports and skedaddling to the rear.
With Morell reaching Dr Kinney's house and now with his position compromised, the Confederate commander called off his troops and sounded
the retreat. Realistically the Confederates were in no shape to deal with Morell's, albeit Raw troops with half of their units in rout, withdrawing or
Often I feel that solo games are soulless as I really like the social interaction and 'leg pulling' our group thrives on. As a result, and due to the fact
that we all live fairly closely I seldom HAVE to solo game. This game was an absolute cracker though.
I really like the way that 'Elephant' gives the illusion that you are in control of your force and then sudden 'Cawfee' cards, or a run of bad luck,
can make you realise that this IS an illusion and subject to friction at all levels. Reading wonderful books such as those of the late Paddy Griffith,
Shelby Foote, and particularly Peter Cozzens, along with numerous contemporary accounts supports this. I am really not a fan of traditional
IGO/UGO systems which seem to make it too easy to do what you want, when you want to do it. The Lard way of doing things really does seem
much more historically plausible and in keeping with the character and flavour of the period.
Remarkable in this game was the fact that Lee although rated as Political was also rated as Bold. Not once did the Bold card have any affect
whatsoever and the Confederate Grand Tactical, which all too often puts the Union on the back foot, also had limited effect. The Political card
only came up twice also.
The fact that one Confederate battery ran low on ammo so quickly meant that the 44th were in much better shape than would have been
otherwise. Often the Reb artillery just missed by one each time, which would have been a hit had they not obviously arrived for action without
the necessary supply of ammunition. The 25th New York also low on ammunition were very lucky. They shot much better than could have been
expected of them, fought well in decisive combat, and then administered the coup de grace to the rebel flanking move. The latter though was
largely due to the fact that Martindale was rated as Inspirational.
Okay I'm undeniably what people might call a 'fanboy' of Too Fat Lardies (..or is that a Lardboy?). We seldom play anything else. Now, I've heard
occasionally dissent from people that often Lard rules are too random in their nature. I think this idea is completely false. The rules are all about
command and control, and cards. They reward sensible decision making, and you as a player have the same decision making process that a
real commander would have to make.
Martindale was aware that he could inspire his men to go above and beyond the call of duty. When seeing his 25th New York falter, whom he
knew were running short of ammunition, his presence ensured that he was able to deliver a few choice words which would steady them. The
decision to place his weakened unit where he thought might be a safer location, then position himself fairly nearby was a sensible decision. In
the event the 25th were actually deployed in the wrong place, but his nearby presence was rewarded when they rallied quickly and made the
decisive attack. Call it random if you like, I like to think that there is a degree of foresight there, and a certain amount of luck, perhaps. You try to
minimise your disadvantages, and play to your strengths, and I think the card driven system, although obviously abstract, model this excellently.
If you're new to 'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant' I really urge you to give this little scenario a try, even if its a solo game. Most plyaers of ACW will
have enough figures in their collections as you don't need a mass of troops. Once again the Lard system of doing things with blinds really aids
solo play. I am keen to try the scenario out again with the rest of my gaming group as I reckon this one could be fought many times with very
Order of Battle and Cards Required
All figures 15mm Peter Pig miniatures owned and painted by yours truly.
ASHCAKE ROAD VIRGINIA CENTRAL RAIL ROAD
Dr. KINNEY'S HOUSE
HANOVER COURT HOUSE ROAD
LIGHT WOODS LIGHT WOODS