The good thing about rules that have some obvious rationale is that
they permit the players to reason intuitively about the effects of the
rule. For example, with the 4:1 rule, you can think "Oh, adding more
fighters into this one-side battle probably isn't going to help much
because they won't be able to get to the defenders" or "Adding
peasants to the front line is probably going to hurt my chances,
because the good fighters won't be able to get to the defenders
through the press of defenders."
The bad thing about these sorts of rules is that your intuitive
reasoning is bound to be wrong sometimes, because the rules are never
going to be complex enough to fully simulate reality. In the case of
the 4:1 rule, you might think "I can always improve things by adding
archers, because they don't have to be physically adjacent to the
defenders to attack them" but you'd be wrong, because the 4:1 rule
doesn't "understand" that distinction.
So maybe it is best to go with a completely arbitrary rule. Then
people can only reason from the rule itself, and you won't get any
complaints from people upset by "nonintuitive" behavior. But if
that's the case, you should go with the simplest possible rule.
Statistically, the smashing rule gives each side a number of hits
porportional to its Smash Factor (the average attack factor of the
stack divided by the average defense factor of the opponent stack).
But if that's what you want to simulate, why not do it directly?
Or if you want to say that tough beasts should not be bothered by weak
beasts, no matter what their numbers, why not have a cutoff rule? Say
that an attack automatically fails if AF*10 < DF. So you'd have to
have an AF of at least 50 to attack a dragon. And everyone with a DF
of at least 10 could ignore peasants, etc.
Part of the problem is that Rich hasn't really been clear on what it
is he wants to "fix". With a clear idea of what the perceived problem
is, it would be easier to suggest some arbitrary rule to correct the
problem. If the complaint is that numbers can overwhelm skill, then
my suggestion is to limit the numbers that can attack. If the
complaint is that weak beasts shouldn't have any chance to kill strong
beasts, then implement some kind of cutoff.
-- Scott T.