I appreciate the reply, Tamren, but allow me to clear up what I was trying to say in that post.
In my example of horsemen and pikemen, I am making the case that different players subscribe to different realities. Naturally, you can resolve this single situation by saying pikemen win, but that fails to address the point of the example: that someone else may apply their own reasoning and knowledge to the situation and say the horsemen should win.
A better example might be longbows attacking heavy armor. Depending on who you ask, people will tell you that a longbow can easily penetrate heavy armor or that it cannot. Some people believe English archers were able to defeat French knights at Agincourt because of the longbow, others say it was mud. Because there are different realities (longbows vs. mud), it is completely possible that what you whole-heartedly believe in (let's say you believe in longbows) turns out to be different from what the devs believed in (let's say mud).
So you initiate a battle against the computer's heavily armored soldiers with your longbowmen and... as it turns out, you fail to even scratch them turn after turn until they bulldoze your archers in melee. This would have
A. caused the tactics in this game to degenerate to memorization of counter tables.
B. caused you to feel cheated, lost when you wholeheartedly believed you should have won.
C. broken immersion because the game disagreed with your version of reality.
In any case, would YOU have considered those same differences before picking up this game?
I would have, but that doesn't mean anything because I'm not the only type of person playing the game. My little sister example is to construct a situation where someone plays the game for unrelated reason X, and then gets repulsed by a nonsensical combat system.
The people who are willing to learn and understand the system behind the game are the same people who will enjoy playing under that system.
Now this is where transparency comes in. What if this system that you are proposing people learn is unlearnable for some of those who would otherwise enjoy the game (little sister example)? What if, actually, this system depended completely on subjective factors such that nobody could learn what's going on without rote memorization (longbow vs. mud example)?
The challenge, I would reiterate, is not to make the rules of the game intuitive. Intuitive is fine, but transparent and simple are what will make or break the game. Let's make another chess analogy.
How angry would this make you...
We're sitting down playing chess, you move a rook onto the same vertical line as my bishop to capture my bishop next turn.
I take my bishop, move him in a straight, not diagonal line, onto your rook and captures it.
Your first reaction is probably "Bishops can only move diagonally! That's cheating!"
I turn around to the referee and asks him whether that's cheating.
The referee mulls it over in his mind and says it's fair. The reasoning he gives for that ruling is "everybody knows bishops are smart. Vitruviansquid's bishop obviously was able to see the rook moving in a straight line and learned to imitate that. So Vitruviansquid's bishops can now move straight as well as diagonally."
To make something intuitive is, in actuality, an incredibly tricky business. Intuition only works if it is possible to predict what players will assume. As I have shown, it is impossible in this game to predict what players will assume or even if they will have assumptions. Just as you in the chess game would not assume pieces can learn to move differently, not everyone will assume things like scale armor was designed to negate slashing actions or silk armor was used to pull out arrowheads.
The core thing I'm trying to state is related to this quote:
Our challenge is to make the game as intuitive as possible so that people can understand how it works even if they don't have the patience to learn the numbers in the background.
Why not simply let people understand how the game works because it's simple to learn?