Our Mordheim group, and my son and I have now separately playtested the following rules adjustments in over 40 games:
1. Armor Save roll of 1 always fails
2. A shield plus weapon combination grants the wielder +1 Armor Save in HtH combat
3. Offhand weapon attacks suffer a -1 Strength
4. Dagger attacks suffer a -1 Strength (rather than granting an opponent +1 Armor Save)
5. Add a skill called Manic Warrior to the Combat Skill list and also grant it as a special rule to select models (those whose fluff mention Dual Wielding). Manic Warrior removes the -1 Strength penalty from offhand weapon attacks.
Results: DW and shields are now balanced options rather than DW being king and shields being gimp.
Extent of testing: all Mordheim official warbands and some unofficial/experimental warbands, played from starting through 7 battles.
Lessons and extrapolations from testing:
1. Shields are always useful against bows and slings, which are the most common missile weapons, even if they are useless against crossbows and blackpowder weapons. DW does not help against missile weapons at all.
2. Having a 1/3 chance to block every non-Critical incoming wound from most beginning models definitely helps survivability - even near the beginning of the game, there are many situations where models will get charged. Even with good tactics, dice can be against you, and your precious models will get charged. Shields help here - DW does not.
3. Offhand attack and dagger Strength reductions combine to grant only a 1/6 chance to wound with an offhand dagger against the vast majority of starting opponents, and completely prevents offhand dagger wounds from negating armor.
4. Models with T4 and/or Resilient do not get their armor bypassed as a result of Critical Wounds from S3-models' offhand attacks. This means that Orcs and Dwarfs tend to get shields as soon as they can.
5. Light armor is still rarely bought, but at least when it's found, it is worn rather than immediately sold.
6. Shields retain some usefulness even when attacks are at S4.
7. In general, the equipment arc we've seen is:
1st: Get a club/hammer/mace and use offhand dagger - it's cheap and gets that offhand useful in some way.
2nd: Buy shields for heroes when the warband can afford it (sometimes during initial warband recruitment).
3rd: Buy shields for henchmen when the warband has a some money lying around, likely after full warband membership and decent equipment, but before buying very rare items.
4th: Buy better offhand weapons or 2h weapons for models which cannot use shields.
8. The most telling point: we have seen far more wounds prevented by shields than we have seen wounds caused by offhand daggers. This comparison is drawn from beginning warbands who have purchased primary-hand weapons and shields versus those warbands who have only purchased primary-hand weapons.
This dynamic may change in the end game, but some henchmen (zombies, giant rats) will never get beyond S3, and bows' strength will never increase either. Shields will still retain usefulness against humans unless they get Axes or weapons which help their Strength. The reduced comparative effectiveness of DW when Attacks characteristic increases also speaks to retention of shields. However, the increased effectiveness of DW when Strength increases may well signal a return of DW - it'll be interesting to see whether there's an armor race and more 2H, or whether armor will be dropped in favor of DW.
In either case, there is now a valid, functional role for shields (and by extension, further armor). DW, while still giving an advantage, is no longer absolute king. Variety has returned to our battles, for which we are all happy.