Here are a few additional thoughts on this subject. The idea below is only fragmentary, but I’m posting it in case it’s of any use and in case someone can work out in detail how it would operate.
I was reading YG’s comment that “I can say undoubtedly that some players are so delusional as to what the board is truly saying about who won”, and it started me thinking about that element of the wargaming experience. I think that many A&A players find the game enjoyable because it allows them to be armchair generals and admirals for a few hours, and by extension because it gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in those roles. In other words, it gives them a chance not just to play at being armchair generals and admirals but also to show that they are great generals and admirals, which is a very satisfying thing to do if you can pull off a victory. Let’s call it the “generalship factor,” for want of a better term. (And even though I’m a naval enthusiast, let’s assume for discussion purposes that “generalship” also covers naval warfare. It’s shorter than saying “generalship and admiralty,” and anyway “admiralty” doesn’t have the same sense as “generalship.”)
This then led me to think about Rommel, who was widely regarded on both sides as being a great general. I once saw a WWII documentary which made the interesting statement that (if I can remember the line accurately) “Rommel showed that he was as dangerous an opponent in retreat as he was on the attack.” The point to be taken here is that demonstrating great generalship doesn’t necessarily depend on being on the offensive or even on being the winner (though of course those things help). A related point is that, arguably, winning a war through overwhelming material superiority doesn’t necessarily mean that the winner showed great generalship (though of course great generalship combined with overwhelming material superiority is an excellent combination). This is why, incidentally, ancient fictional accounts of wars (the Chanson de Roland being a good example) sometimes show a huge numerical disparity between the two sides, with the “good guys” being the side with the small numbers and with the “bad guys” often being described as attacking “with total disregard for their own losses.” If the good guys win despite facing overwhelming numbers, it makes their victory seem all the more impressive; if the good guys lose, then there’s no shame in being crushed by overwhelming enemy numbers.
So I’m wondering if the A&A game, in addition to its normal winning conditions, should have some sort of “generalship tracker”, roughly along the lines of the income tracker. The generalship tracker would compute in some way (either after every power has played its turn, or after a full round of play by all the powers, or both) how well each power played from a generalship point of view, and would display the results on a tracking chart. I don’t know how the computations would work, but one idea would be that having superior numbers would not earn someone any generalship points in and of itself. Fighting successfully against superior enemy numbers, on the other hand, would count positively in the generalship calculation. And fighting badly even though you have superior numbers on your own side would count negatively in the generalship calculation. (For an example of this dynamic, look at the first couple of years of the American Civil War, which saw Lee’s reputation grow every time he defeated superior Union numbers, and which saw one Union general after another fired for incompetence because they lost even though they had superior numbers.)
The point of this “generalship tracker” is that it would serve as a potential counterbalance to the conventional A&A victory conditions, which to some extent do depend on superior income and superior numbers. A player could theoretically lose the game in terms of territory but still win the game in terms of generalship. And because the tracking process would be constant, the player displaying superior generalship would get constant feedback and encouragement throughout the game, which might serve an an incentive to keep playing. Also, this would serve as a partial solution to the problem raised by YG: a player who lost but who displayed superior generalship would be able to blame (or at least would have more justification to blame) his loss on something other than his own generalship.