Game can be made interesting and challenging without every decision being a 1 or 0 situation where one is survival and other is doom.
I’d like to take a moment to discuss this, as I think it’s important: there ARE multiple ways to play the game. It’s not just a 1 or 0 situation.
While there are some perks which presently just outclass others, I still see variation in how people build their armies and how people build their characters. For instance, I only touch the defense tree if I’m making a Nimble tank. I’ve played games where my army was archer-heavy, where my army was shield-heavy, and where my army was two-hander heavy. Frankly, all three playstyles were viable, though I had the most fun in the game where roughly half my troops wielded two-handed weapons and had Quick Hands.
Not every decision is a 1 or 0 situation. Oftentimes there are drawbacks and benefits to a lot of decisions, but there are also some plainly bad decisions available as well.
Look on a preparation level first. People build their characters and armies in very different ways, as I’ve said. Yet most people I talk to have seen the end game and wound up with cadres of level 11 soldiers despite these different playstyles. So, on a preparation level, you’re not damned for not having a perfect build. You might be damned, however, for maxing Initiative / Melee Attack / Ranged Attack on a guy because now you’ve invested nothing in his defensive stats or his fatigue (which doubles as a defensive stat thanks to armor fatigue). That’s an outright bad decision. But how you build your characters can vary quite a lot without being automatically bad.
On a tactical level, you can make small “mistakes” and not lose a guy immediately. When I first fought a goblin shaman, I didn’t know how their entangling spell operated, so I marched my dudes together in a tight squad and got them all entangled. I still survived that particular fight with only one casualty because I made other decisions in that fight that made up for the bad one. Plus, there are times when there are multiple good decisions (releasing a warhound to chase an archer or moving in to fully encircle an enemy, for instance), and both will have favorable outcomes for you. You just need to decide what’s more important for you in that fight, and what risks you’re willing to take. There are definitely matters in battle that aren’t 1 or 0.
And sometimes you will face a situation where you WILL lose a Battle Brother no matter what you do. Say, for instance, that you’ve chosen to fight a battle where you have 12 level 9-11 Battle Brothers facing an army of 30 orcs largely consisting of Orc Warriors and Orc Berserkers. Doable? Hell yes, that’s doable. I’ve won that fight before. But you’re going to lose somebody unless you load the game over and over and over for a perfect ending. Through your actions, you can determine who lives in that fight. You can make sacrifices to save your most important guys. You can mitigate the enemies’ effectiveness by fighting where they’ll be standing on swampy terrain, or by using rotating your wounded troops to the back of the line.
And once again, I’d like to state that there are lots of “right” ways to play the game. I love having armies filled with greatswords and pikes rather than sword-and-board setups. The damage potential is crazy, especially when backed with a horn-blowing commander and Perfect Focus. But that doesn’t mean that shields are the wrong way to go. Shields are, in fact, way better for certain situations. it’s just a matter of preference and circumstance.
TL;DR: The only 1’s and 0’s are in the code. The game itself has lots of decisions in each circumstance that are perfectly viable ways of handling a battle.