Being reliant on these other two stats is a strike against the importance of strength, but it is more than compensated for by the value of planting a wound on the opponent. It is time for a classic tangent.
At its root, Warhammer is all about putting wounds on the opponent. With the exception of the Watchtower scenario, every mission can be achieved best by doing massive carnage to the opponent. Even that scenario is easy to win if you kill every soldier the enemy has.
The ability to inflict casualties on the opponent is paramount to any goal you wish to achieve. It clears out troops from the watchtower, breaks their morale in Blood and Glory, and earns points by wiping out units and forcing the various tests on the enemy for lost combats, etc.
Causing a casualty also reduces their potential to inflict mayhem on you as well. In short, inflicting casualties in the maximum volume possible while minimizing the damage you receive is the fulcrum on which the balance of power in a Warhammer game swings.
To be sure, there are other ways to do damage; failed LD checks have wiped out more than one army, crumbling is an issue for the undead, some weapons and spells require no roll to wound so S is irrelevant…but the majority of the time, in order to inflict a wound, you need a decent S statistic.
The most common S totals are 3 and 4. This means most troops wound most targets on a 3, 4, or 5. There are more than enough ways to get S6 even (lances on the charge, great weapons on base S4, buffs to units) that these days it is quite common to see S5 and S6.
How important is it to have the high strength? Ignoring things like poison, killing blow, etc, it is vital. Actually hitting an opponent is something even the best line troops do just a handful of times per game. Lets take an elite Chaos Warrior as an example.
Starting with 2 attacks, it is not uncommon to see them with Frenzy through various means giving them 3 attacks per turn. It is not uncommon to be in combat by turn 2 these days. Assume they can win a combat in 2 turns (usually less, occasionally more), then another turn to get into combat. You are now on turn 5. This combat should be against a weaker unit and is unlikely to last 2 turns.
|Even S6 does nothing if you roll 4 "1"s in 4 tries...|
So in a typical game, a Chaos Warrior might get to fight 6 times (that is a lot, but not unheard of). They will therefore expend 18 attacks in a game. Normally, they are going to have a higher WS than their opponent, so expect to hit 2 out of 3 times. That means they have just 12 tries in an entire game to wound an opponent. (I am fudging the numbers upward…it is unlikely they will reliably get that many attacks in a game but I want them to seem even deadlier than they are).
Remember, this is an elite fighter with a large number of attacks. Change that to a High Elf Spearman and the number drops to just 6 attacks in the same span of time! Most troops have 1 or at most 2 attacks, hit less often and thus have correspondingly fewer opportunities to wound an opponent.
The natural assumption then is that S is quite important. Limited opportunities to wound means it is quite important to actually deal a wound when you get the opportunity. A quick look at the tables leads us to see that S5 is the target (wounding a typical T3 on the best possible, 2+, the new FAQ notwithstanding) and S6 the holy grail as you seldom encounter anything higher than T4.
I will argue S is actually so important I personally would rather take a Great Weapon on a high I guy that makes him strike last but be likely to wound when he hits than I would have average strength and strike first. I have not actually math-hammered it, so lets try.
Lets take 10 Marauders versus 10 State Troops. The Marauders are frenzied. Should be equal WS, S, T, and the State Troops have light armor and hand weapon.
First, using hand weapon/shield; 20 attacks, 10 hits, 5 wounds, <1 saved (I think State Troops have light armor?) = 4 wounds per round. State troops then attack, 5 attacks, 2.5 hits (round to 3), 1.5 wounds.
Second, using great weapon; State troops attack first, 10 attacks, 5 hits, 2.5 wounds. 15.5 attacks, 7.25 hits, 6.039 wounds, none saved.
Actually, Marauders might have higher weapons skill which would skew it more in their favor than the above.
In that case, in my opinion, the Great Weapons are a clear win (Note; I think people who use flails are making a huge error and I discount their use entirely. Poor, poor choice.)
But what about a tougher opponent? Lets look at Saurus Warriors. In this case, however, remember that Saurus cost about twice what a Marauder in that configuration would which can skew things somewhat.
The Saurus have S4, T4 whereas both are 3s for the Marauders. I believe Saurus have a 4+ scaly skin? Or maybe that is with shield. Either way, assuming that is their save.
First, hand weapon and shield; 20 attacks, 10 hits, 3.33 wounds, 1.665 saved. Lets say 18 attacks back, 9 hit, 6 wound.
Second, Great Weapon; Saurus attack first, 20 attacks, 10 hit, 6.66 wound; 6 attacks back, 3 hit, 2 wound, 1 in 6 saves.
In this case, it is a clear win for the hand weapon combination.
So what if they run into a monster? I happen to know Shaggoth stats off the top of my head so we will go with him.
|Dragon v. H-Pit Abomination: A classic battle of S|
First, hand weapon, shield; Shaggoth attacks first, 5 attacks, 3 – 4 hit, it is unusual for him not to wound, so nearly 4 casualties per turn. Only room for 4 guys to attack back, 8 attacks, 4 hit, less than 1 wound as they need 6s.
Second, Great Weapon; ; Shaggoth attacks first, 5 attacks, 3 – 4 hit, it is unusual for him not to wound, so nearly 4 casualties per turn. Only room for 4 guys to attack back again, 8 attacks, 4 hit, 2 wound, 1 in 6 saves.
Clear win for the great weapon.
One final one; lets look at Dwarf Warriors. They have identical WS and base S, but T4 like the Saurus.
HW/Shield for each; marauders attack first, 20 attacks, 10 hit, 3.33 wound, 1.65 saved outright. 8 dwarfs attack back, 4 hits, 2 wounds.
GW for Marauders, HW/Shield for dwarves. Dwarves attack first, 10 attacks, 5 hits, 2.5 wounds. 18 attacks back, 9 hits, 6 wounds, 1 save. (I went 18 attacks for easy math).
GW for both; Marauders get 20 attacks, 10 hits, 6.66 wounds, 1 saved. Dwarfs get 10 attacks, 5 hit, 3 – 4 wounds.
Lastly, HW/shield for Marauders, GW for dwarfs. We saw above this is 1.5 wounds to the dwarfs, 8 attacks back (for easy math), 4 hits, 3ish wounds.
So as you can see, it matters a great deal who you are facing how valuable it is to give up I to get S. But as a general rule, the greater potential to do a wound is quite worthwhile.
I will also argue that a higher S is more valuable than a higher WS or BS. The worst case scenario to strike an opponent is 1 in 3 as 5 is the most you will need (acknowledging the rare exceptions than can require a 6). But if you have low S, you only wound one in 6 times.
There are more combinations of dice rolls that allow mass carnage inflicted needing 5s than there are needing 6s. Thus, the potential for unusually large numbers of successful hits one rolls needing WS or BS is greater than the potential for unusually large numbers of successful hits when needing 6s.
Thus, when selecting troops, if you have a choice between one with WS1, S10 and WS10, S1 the choice should be obvious; go with the S10.
That is a ridiculous comparison of course, but it applies just as much when comparing WS3, S4 to WS4, S3. In my opinion, S is more important than WS or BS.