This might seem curious to those who know me. After all, a decent WS, high T, and can have high S guy with above average saves and excellent leadership is nothing to be scoffed at.
Slow moving guys with 1 attack each are, however, something to be scoffed at. Units I cannot outmaneuver are few and far between, I can combo charge them to my hearts content with a very high degree of success, and if all else fails and they bring me to combat...they just are not that scary from an offensive standpoint. It is entirely because they have 1 attack.
Almost every other army has ways of getting multiple attacks. Sometimes it is frenzy. Sometimes it is extra hand weapons. Sometimes it is in their stat lines. The dwarf army has exactly one line unit with multiple attacks; Giant Slayers, the overpriced, dead before they get into contact or get to fight upgrades.
Horded up Dwarf Warriors hitting Saurus 5 wide get just 24 attacks...if those Saurus have spears, 15 of them have 20 attacks at half the cost with better strength, equal T (assuming base stat lines).
|Flee from my mighty archer attack, cowardly knights!|
Additionally, the smaller a base you can fit a guy with a large number of attacks, the better off you are. We discussed frontage earlier. Massing large numbers of attacks over small frontages makes a unit insanely powerful.
Chaos Knights are nice with WS5, S5, and armor save 1+. Then again, Grail Knights have S4 if charged, S6 if charging, equal save and Ws, and a ward save to boot. But give Chaos Knights frenzy and suddenly 3 guys in the same space are dealing out 50% more attacks than the Grail Knights. Personally, I think Grail Knights are awesome...and to me, it is the extra attacks that make the Chaos Knights even better.
They simply have the ability to deal out so much damage in a narrow frontage it is ridiculous. It is what makes the Warriors of Chaos so strong in combat. Even if they run into relatively equal troops, they simply pile on more attacks and thus outperform their enemies.
Obviously the potential or lack thereof is directly related to their WS compared to the opponents, their S compared to the opponent's T, and the dice. But you do not have to be any sort of math major to know 18 is more than say...5x5 Dwarf Warriors would get back 10 attacks. Who wins that one?
The importance of the number of attacks a model has is greatly affected by their quality. Night Goblins facing 5+ WS3, T3 infantry need 12 attacks to do 2 wounds. Saurus facing those same troops do 5 wounds in that same number of attacks. Obviously the Saurus benefit more from extra attacks than the Night Goblins do.
Of course, there are other factors to consider. The Tomb Kings ability to give a unit Killing Blow turns the humblest model into a credible threat against the most powerful man-size model. More attacks obviously benefits them greatly. Drop Wyssans Wildform on the humble Gor once or twice and they become merchants of devastation. Give High Elf spearmen Okkrams Mindrazor and watch Chaos Knights melt off the gaming table in a heartbeat with enough attacks.
Aha. We just discovered a key. In the modern magic era, most armies have the ability to alter certain stats. S, T, I, WS, M all come to mind readily. But very little affects the number of attacks you start the game with.
That means if you are locked into an army with low numbers of attacks, you need to be creative with bringing more attacks to bear in any given combat. The most common way is through making combo-assaults to bring higher numbers of Attacks into the combat, but this has a natural drawback in that it also allows the opponent to add more attacks.
The natural result is you should look for opportunities to ensure you bring as many multiple attack models to the game as possible. Carefully consider your play style; how many points is a model with 2 attacks worth as opposed to another model? I use example in case you have the option of equipping your model with extra hand weapons.
Of course, it also matters what the assigned role is for that unit. If it is a tar pit designed to die but taking a long time doing so, then a shield is worth many times more what another attack is. But if a unit is designed to inflict casualties then the extra attack is exponentially better.
In the end, how important is the number of attacks? For a close combat model, it is close to being more important than even Strength. More attacks equals more potential wounds. For models that are jack of all trades, it depends on how they use them.