No offense intended, but I don't buy into Forge waffle anymore. I have done and continue to use both approaches in the same game, within the same session, with dozens and dozens of players of varying backgrounds and interests with no trouble at all. (I've been running many pickup games via Roll20 since 2012.) Perhaps there is some player out there that would sit at my table and have a terrible time, but I've yet to find that person. When the rubber hits the road - or the die hits the table, as it were - Forge waffle just doesn't matter if I can still deliver a good gaming experience and achieve the goals of play using whatever tools I have at my disposal.
No offense taken (putting aside the fact that you didn't address my post). And let's forget about "Forge waffle."
What is going on when someone says "it feels rail-roady" (of which it is not remotely railroady...at all...partially for the reasons you conveyed above and partially for other reasons) when they're exposed to closed scene-based mechanics with hard transitions and overt, dramatic stakes...when they're used to/expecting open world, serial exploration without transitions, or with very soft transitions, and without a prioritization of dramatic stakes and outcomes?
What is going on is precisely what I outlined above (which isn't "Forge waffle"). They're looking for an intensive causal logic chain (with high resolution spatial and temporal information) that they can construct and deconstruct via the OODA Loop of their character. They're looking for that because they feel it maximizes their immersion and it maximizes their agency to make informed action declarations and affect outcomes (because that is pretty much what happens in real life).
Consequently, consider the following exchange (complexity 3 SC, at 7 successes and 1 failure):
: The pursuit of the snake-men is relentless. As you behold the stars in the sky, the thundering hooves of their stallions beat the ground mercilessly. As you crest a rise, you can see you're finally nearing the safe egress of the forested borderlands, but the arid badlands are not so quick to give up their mysteries. The rain-starved earth is fraught with horse-laming fissures, deadly canyon drop-offs, and dizzying switchbacks at every turn. And the snake-men know their territory well...you've been through here but once. A spear clangs off the dusty ground. They're gaining...
What are you doing?
: We're entering the borderland territory? I led the expedition through the badlands so I know the way (uses an Advantage). The priest who asked us to capture the idol personally debriefed me on the treacherous terrain and the trail-signs. While dodging a hail of spears and precarious hazards with my deft horsemanship, I use my knowledge of these territories to locate one of the obscured trail signs and lead us out of this insufferable place and to the protective boughs of the forest! <Rolls primary Nature check with an Advantage and fails>
: Everything seems to look the same in the deep dark of night. You crest a final rise and you're certain you missed the trail sign you were looking for when you're greeted by the foreboding sight of a nigh-impassable gorge with a river running some 100 feet below. It would take a hell of an effort to leap the gorge with your horses (the arbor-laden other side is much lower than this), but it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
You can almost see the whites of the snake-mens' eyes. You're cornered and the horde is almost upon you! <7 successes and 2 failures...literally on the err precipice
of climax and denoument>
A player who is expecting a tight causal logic chain and a tight coupling of OODA Loop between their own sensory experience/decision-making and that of their character is going to be given some serious pause by all this. They're going to be thinking things like:
1) Um, there should probably be several checks that need to be made here to deal with various dangers; horsemanship to avoid topographical hazards, horsemanship to increase the speed of the horses (or checks by the horses themselves), dodging spears, discerning/perceiving trail signs? You're going to abstract all of that into one check?
2) Um, where did the gorge come from? I mean I know this is an enormous badlands and we only canvassed a small area when I led the expedition through here to the snake-men's temple. However, it seems likely that I would have certainly marked this most inconvenient gorge. Even though I failed to find the trail sign out of the badlands, would I really stumble upon this not so inconspicuous gorge on the way out?
In 1 above, the player is looking for discrete checks or micro-task resolution to better represent the experience of "being there" or inhabiting the OODA Loop of the character. The sense is that this higher resolution exploration of setting maximizes agency and immersion to them.
In 2 above, the player is looking for a more mundane, or less dramatic, complication for their failure because they feel it is more appropriate from a causal logic perspective. They aren't interested in Indiana Jones tropes, dramatic momentum and climax.
Perhaps you can engage with that (doesn't look like "Forge waffle" to me)?