As a referee I gauge my comfort level directly by the combat system, both how it plays mechanically and how it represents the fighters themselves. Thus we approach the relevant conundrum.
I think it is impossible for me to find what I want in a combat system. Here are some things I would dearly love to have, all in one system, all working together:
- Armor reduces damage
- Fighting "inside" is a viable option, making knife fighters scary things (like Ray Winstone's character in King Arthur)
- Fighting without armor is an option, harder to hit yet easier to kill
- Shields are truly useful, actively blocking incoming hits, as well as being used offensively (a la Spartacus)
- Combat should be unpredictable and deadly, but not so random that experienced characters can't have some confidence
- It should not be too fiddly, but have some tactical options so that combat doesn't become too repetitive
There are a variety of systems that meet some of the above, but I don't know of any that satisfies all of them. The old Microgame, Melee, comes close, but it is a bit fiddly in spots. For me, anything that relies on maps and minis is fiddly off the top. I understand that most of those things require a system that models the combat, and anything that does that is going to be tactical in nature, and therefore probably quite crunchy.
There's no real point to this other than some bitchy whining. If anyone knows of a system that answers those desires, please enlighten me.