How the rivers are handled in TOAW is, at the end of the day I think, a small thing. Just get used to it and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Once you get used to how it plays TOAW can bring any campaign, real or imagined, alive. At least it does for me. And the die roll is still in it. That's one of the things that seems to turn people off and one of the things I love the most.
Combat resolution doesn't work out as expected, Dammit!!
That happens fairly often and I think it models that there are many factors that can go wrong, even if the plan is good, that no planner can account for.
Every time you hit combat resolution good planning, looking after your counters, being sure they are supplied and rested and fit and ready for whats happening, all matters a great deal and usually, the player who is better organized and has the better plan, wins.
But not always.
Sometimes things go wrong anyway (which adds to realism as far as I'm concerned) and you have to adjust. You never really know how a game is going to play out at the beginning and it never goes exactly according to plan. No plan really survives first contact in TOAW. Not in PBEM and usually not against AI.
Occasionally the last ditch desperate defense that never should have bought you a day of respite, actually does. Its possible. Though remote.
Occasionally the desperate cross river attack by exhausted counters that haven't had rest in 48 hours, have no supply and are half strength, (but with proficiency of 98%) manage to somehow or another figure out a way and save themselves from the trap you should never have allowed them to fall into in the first place.
Usually they are slaughtered. But desperate, Wiley old veterans who really know what there doing find a way sometimes.
In this game they do anyway.
I have never seen anything else that comes close to all of that.
The better you plan and maneuver and create opportunity for your counters to win increases the odds dramatically that the game will go your way. But its never certain. No guarantees. It will probably work. Just have to spend your best judgement and hope they can make it happen.
And if it doesn't, try something else.
and then something else...
and then something else..
Just don't ask them to dig in water.
They will try because that's what you ordered them to do.
Then for some reason there holes keep filling back up.
And then they get there ass kicked on combat resolution pretty much without fail.
Counters sitting in river hexes are GOOD TARGETS.
That's solid TOAW advice that probably won't work every time. :)