The problem with wargame rules is that they are written down. On the face of it, this is not too much of a problem, because without being written down, they would not constitute wargame rules as we usually understand them, but writing stuff down tends to do a variety of things, not all of them positive.
Firstly, we find ourselves in hoc to language and its variety of understandings. Wittgenstein showed a while ago that language is not a simple, transparent thing with a single reading, meaning and understanding. I guess that anyone who has written a set of wargame rules, even for private use, has come across the problem of multiple readings and misunderstandings.
Secondly, there is the problem of, as Polanyi said, ‘we know more than we can tell’. A set of wargame rules is a result of the author’s understanding of something, in the case of historical wargames, some aspect of military history. This understanding will form the background to the rules, but will almost certainly not be spelt out in them. I may have the opinion that Greek generalship before the Peloponnesian Wars was non-existent, and I may have my reasons, from my reading of history, for believing that to be the case, but they will not find their way into the rules where, for example, Greek armies before 450 BC are not given a general.
Thirdly, and perhaps more subtly and importantly, there are differences in the way we hold beliefs. One way of looking at this is to suggest that there are three types of belief. The first is logical:
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.
Given the premises, the conclusion follows. The problem here is that, given the premises, the conclusion follows. We do not, actually, learn anything new here. All we do is affirm something that, in the simple form given above, is obvious.
The second way of forming beliefs is that of induction. Every swan I have ever encountered is white; therefore the next swan I encounter will be white as well. Now, clearly, this is not the case, but actually it forms the basis for our scientific understanding. Every electron we have encountered so far is negatively charged, therefore the next one will be negatively charged. This works, of course, but is always open to the possibility that the next encounter will break the rule. Furthermore, we do not learn anything particularly new here. We know that, in general, infantry squares hold against cavalry, so we know that the next infantry square which finds itself to be charges by a load of blokes on horses will probably hold. This is simply firming up our already existent belief, not learning anything new.
New stuff, therefore, has to come from somewhere else. C. S. Pierce called this abduction, John Henry Newman called it the illative sense. I suppose that, in modern philosophy of science speak, it would be called the hypothetico-deductive method. The problem is that, as mentioned above, neither inference nor induction actually generates anything new. However, knowledge is expanding, new things are being found out and verified, so there must be some way of actually figuring out new stuff. This is abduction.
The idea here is that I can think something like ‘the reason squares held against cavalry is because of the morale of the infantry’. I thus have a hypothesis, which I can do two things with. Firstly, I can search of existing evidence to back my claim up or disprove it, and secondly I can implement it in a set of wargame rules and see if it gives me sensible answers. But the point is that the hypothesis is not held like a deduced law of logic, nor is it an inductive rule. Both of these may come into the affirming or rejecting of the hypothesis, but they are not part of forming the belief, the hypothesis, themselves.
An abduction, therefore, is not a rule in the same sense as a logical deduction or a inductive rule. It is held in a much less rigid sense than either of these. It is a conditional, and the things that derive from it in either of the other two senses always has (or should have) an implied ‘if…’ in front of it, as in ‘if the morale of the infantry is decisive in the survival of a square, then I need to check morale each time a square is charged’.
I am sure you can see where this is going. Many wargame rules are abductive. The example of the square is just one example from one particular period. However, that is not how the rule or rules are actually presented. I have written before, and I dare say I will do so again, that wargame rules require certainty. A set of rules which started each rule with an ‘if…’ statement, such as ‘if you, too, believe that the morale of a square….’ would be a far longer work than most people would put up with, be very boring and probably really hard to use in a wargame.
The issue is, then, that wargame rules run the risk, indeed the likelihood, of being mistaken for either deductive or inductive rules when they are, in fact, held in the conditional, abductive, sense by the author. We can thus land up in situations where there are disputes between the users of different sets of rules because the authors disagree in this abductive sense, while the disputes are disagreeing in an inductive or inferential sense. Writing an abductive rule down, as we have to in a rule set, makes it look like one of the other forms.
When this is added to the other problems of the written word, of course, it becomes remarkable that we can, in fact, agree on what most rule sets say, most of the time. The human mind is much better at working out meanings from ambiguous text that most philosophers of language are willing to give it credit for. At least, that is the way I read them.