Sorry, this is long but I think it also helps point out how I can separate the writing of the random events that I’m not so wild about from the issue to all male recruits which doesn’t bother me at all.
A feeling of realism is a messy thing. It’s pretty clear that if you collect together enough fighting people in any historical period you will end up including some women whether they are hiding their gender or openly in the ranks. It’s also clear that until WW2 women weren’t common in combat in most cultures. Even in WW2 while there were thousands of women in the various armed forces there were very few as a percentage in actual combat. So should you include women equally in direct combat roles in a game that is trying for a historical feeling?
My answer depended on the type of game. In an RPG the answer is of course! You are focusing on individual characters, have more self insertion into the narrative, and even when RPGs claim to be about normal people they are always going to be stories about people who are exceptional at least due to their status as the protagonist. In a historical wargame I’d say no unless you are representing troops known to have had a significant number of women.
What about a tactical game that represents small groups of individual fighters? If there is a lot of room for self insertion, if there are characters created directly by the player, or if there is one character who is the player’s avatar in the game I’d treat it like an RPG and say there needs to be a mix of men and women both as the avatar characters and others. JA2 for example with your one player character created to go with the hired mercs. Of course setting also matters; JA2 is set in the timeless modern now of action movies where you expect to see kick ass women. But even in a more historical setting I’d want to see a mix of genders due to the self insertion and personal connection with the character.
Battle Brothers is much more of a historical wargame. As far as we know medieval mercenaries didn’t tend to include a lot of women in their bands. The game doesn’t have me creating a personal avatar nor does it give me a singular main character. Instead I’m playing a band, a unit, a group and, to me at least, that makes it acceptable to show what is basically the gender ratios from the historical culture the game is representing. So it makes sense that when we get random representative recruits they aren’t women. It would actually be a pretty neat touch if 1 in a hundred or such was female or even better different chances for different occupations to be female. It would be cool but I’m willing to give the developers a pass on that as they don’t seem to be a big company with a history of polished games… The comparison would be Phoenix Point; it’s a similar small unit tactical wargame but the setting is near future. We already have women and men serving in the military and there is nothing in the setting that would indicate that it would have become more sexist in that regard so it makes sense that the recruits have random genders.
Of course you reject the idea that BB can feel historical in any real fashion. You don’t seem to think that “Everything is like X historical culture except that some of the myths, fairy tales, and ghost stories are true” is a viable genre. I’ll admit I can’t think of another similar tactical game that isn’t modern and movies, books, and rpgs (both tabletop and computer) tend to have either comparatively few main characters or the self insertion issue. However I can say that Heinerick, zweihander, lindworms, and Germanic place names give a different feeling to me than Henry, two handed sword, dragons, and English place names. That might well be purely a function of freshness but the use of a more consistent naming and folklore is also nice when compared to the often jumbled mixture in fantasy set in a more fictional middle ages.