I borrowed Bernard Cornwell's Enemy of God, the second book in his Arthur series, from the library* yesterday. I'm only a few pages in, but there is a description of Arthur that should be applicable to any PC in the sorts of games that I prefer to run:
"He was good at fighting, and he even enjoyed battle for the unleashed thrills it gave his usually so careful soul, but he never sought war if peace was available because he mistrusted the uncertainties of battle. The vagaries of victory and defeat were too unpredictable, and Arthur hated to see good order and careful diplomacy abandoned to the chances of battle." (p. 12, Penguin paperback)
Once the dice are clattering on the table, the lives of the PCs are at the mercy of random chance. The odds of victory might be good, but the spectre of mortal failure is always there, and some victories come at a cost you would be unwilling to pay. So long as the PCs are talking (and scheming) their fate rests in the quality of their play, their decisions. It is thinking such as this that goes some way to explain no only why I tend to struggle to run games that have rules for 'social combat', but also why I prefer games in which PC success in combat is not so intimately related to rules mastery.
*Aren't libraries brilliant? I know that 'austerity' will have great human cost as services are cut, but the cost to British cultural life will also be lamentable. Cardiff Council, for example, has to make cuts worth £50M. This might close a concert hall with one of the best acoustics in Britain, and it will almost certainly will restrict the services, opening hours, and staffing of libraries. If not close some entirely.