What happens if we change the basis on which we generate the rules? Following on from last week, where we took the hoplite to be the typical soldier against whom all others are measured, what happens if we change that?
Suppose we take the really typical soldier of the era, the Persian infantryman. A bloke with a bow, spear, maybe a wicker shield, and some sort of sword or long dagger. Again, we shall use Marathon as our yardstick.
Now, in our D6 based rule set, this chap would rate a 3. Opposing him, in the centre at Marathon, are 4 deep hoplites. Our Persian is elite, so gets a +1, and has an initial shield from the front rank, so gets another +1 on the first round of combat (assuming he doesn’t move into contact). So the Persian gets 3 + 1 + 1 = 5 on the first round.
The Greeks lost, so we’ll give them a 2, and then +2 for charging onto contact, giving them a 4 on the first round, and 2 on the second while the Persians get 4. The Greek centre should, on average, lose.
On the wings, the Persians rate 3, while the Greeks are 8 ranks deep, and so get a (say) +1 for that, and +2 for charging into contact. So in total they get 2+1+2 = 5. The Greeks should win on the flanks.
So, comparing this with last week’s numbers, in the centre we get from last week:
Greeks 3 –1 (for being thin) + 2 (for charging) = 4
Persians 2 + 1 (for being the best) + 1 for shields = 4
in the first round, and then
Greeks 3-1 = 2
Persians 2+1 = 3
in the second.
This week, we have
Greeks 2 +2 = 4
Persians 3 + 1 + 1 = 5
in the first round, and
Persians 3 + 1 = 4
on the second.
What difference does this make?
Well, on the face of it, not much, but I’d be willing to lay a little money (if I were a betting person) that a statistical analysis of these numbers would suggest that the Persians have a bit of an easier time of it if they are the ‘average’ infantryman. That is, if the Persians are normative, they have a slight advantage, while if the Greeks are, they do.
On the wings the story is similar: The Greeks are 3 + 2 = 5 from last week, while the Persians are at 2. This week the Greeks are at 2 + 1 + 2 = 5, while the Persians are at 3. In other words, again, the Persians do slightly better (on average) if we take them to be normative.
In both schemes, the battle should be reproduced, more or less, on average. But the ease of victory, all other things being equal, the side which has been taken to be the norm does slightly better.
There doesn’t seem much to be done about this. As far as I can see, this is an inherent bias in the way the rules are set up. And I suspect that it isn’t just these rules, but pretty well any rule set. The designer, it seems to me, has to take some troop type as the basis type – English billman, Saxon huscarl, Union rifleman, whatever. But doing that, by matching others against this type seems to generate an implicit bias.
It is entirely possible that I’m wrong, here. Please do point it out to me if I am, but at the moment I can’t see it. Of course, there are many other factors apart from the raw numbers which come into play – the tactical situation, numbers of bases in contact, supports and so on, but it does seem to me that if the basis in inherently biased, the overall rules are going to be, however slightly and however much other factors might cover it up.