Arimaa/Lone Elephant Attacks/Ideal Placement of Pieces
Though it is often necessary to send the Elephant deep into enemy territory during a lone Elephant attack, it is always vital to ensure that the Elephant will not become blockaded, that the opposing player is not about to launch a multi-piece attack, and that no strong piece, such as the Camel, is at risk of becoming a hostage. The center of the board is not normally congested during a Lone Elephant Attack, thus it should be possible to retreat the Elephant to either home trap, if necessary. If the middle of the board does become congested, then both players should consider multi-piece attacks.
The Camel should either be located back and center to keep it as safe as possible from the enemy Elephant or, for the more daring player, on the outer files as a latent attacking threat. There is no consensus on whether it is advantageous to place the Camel on the second rank behind a home trap.
Horses are very adept at defending the home traps on the 'b' and 'g' files, especially during the Lone Elephant Attack, and there are multiple reasons to setup with the Horses on these files. Enemy units that are dragged toward the home trap by the Elephant can eventually be held hostage, framed, or captured by strong pieces near the home trap, such as Horses. It is easier to commence an Elephant and Horse Attack and more difficult for the opponent to commence an Elephant and Horse Attack if the horses are positioned on the 'b' and 'g' files.
Dogs and Cats play a strictly defensive role in the Lone Elephant Attack, and are potential targets of the enemy Elephant if they can be immobilized beyond the 2nd rank. If the Dogs and Cats are kept in the middle files, they can virtually always be kept safe by the Elephant against a Lone Elephant Attack. The opening phase of the game tends to stagnate if one player attempts to drag Dogs and Cats while the defending Elephant prevents them from being pushed and pulled astray.
Rabbits are often targeted during the Lone Elephant Attack due to their weakness, their inability to retreat, the ease with which they are framed (i.e. no unit is required on the 4th rank) and the possibility of using an enemy Rabbit to blockade a stronger enemy piece. Therefore, before committing to a Dual Lone Elephant game, it is important to determine which player has the more vulnerable Rabbits. A player with poorly positioned Rabbits should either use a completely different system or determine to use the Lone Elephant Attack with the intention of targeting some stronger pieces. An Elephant that is determined to pull enemy Rabbits during the opening phase cannot be thwarted unless the opposing player can create a blockade or distractions and counter-threats.