30 Oct 2014

Lizardmen - Unit Overview - Rare

Hello there everyone, I am Learn2Eel from Imperator Guides and I welcome you to my latest Unit Overview series reviewing the ancient guardians of Lustria, the Lizardmen (and Lizardwomen?). This is an army with a lot of variety in play-styles, whether by relying on driving enemies back through masses of hardened Saurus, crushing them under the scales of titanic Stegadons or ambushing them with a thousand poisoned darts from a writhing swarm of Skinks. Even if you are a mighty Oldblood far removed from the mute inexperience of a new spawnling, I hope there is still something useful for you here in this series. Enjoy!


Ancient Stegadon - Seeing as this is virtually the exact same unit as a regular Stegadon and I have already covered that unit in detail, I'll just cover the basics of both Stegadon types here. These are pretty survivable as far as regular monsters go with five Toughness 6 wounds and a decent armour save, though their actual combat stats are rather mediocre with only a handful of medium Strength attacks at a low Initiative. They have low Leadership which is compensated by having all three of the Cold-Blooded, Immune to Psychology and Stubborn special rules, while they also pack in several Skink 'crew' that cannot be targeted separately to the Stegadon itself but otherwise provide a few extra weak melee and shooting attacks. Their real strength comes from inflicting D6+1 Impact Hits like a Chariot but without any of the drawbacks in regards to Dangerous Terrain or the various other unique traits attached to that unit type. Tack on a Thunderstomp and you are left with one of the more valuable types' of monsters around. Where the Ancient Stegadon differs from its younger counter-part (aside from being a Rare choice instead of a Special choice) is that it has a boosted Strength of six, one less attack and Initiative 1 instead of Initiative 2. While the stat change might seem like a down-grade at first, it is hugely beneficial to its' Impact Hits and Thunderstomp - after all, those are the main source of its damage output! The Ancient Stegadon also benefits from an improved 3+ armour save, making it one of the tougher monsters in the game considering its' points cost. While it features the exact same number of Skink crew as a regular Stegadon, the Giant Bow is swapped out for Giant Blowpipes; these fire 4D6 (there are two, and each fires 2D6 shots) Strength 3 Poisoned shots at a 18" range, using the crew's Ballistic Skill of three. The rough average of 4D6 shots is around 14-15 shots which can lead to numerous Poisons, a probable improvement over the hilariously inaccurate Giant Bow on the standard Stegadon. Of course, once you are actually in range to fire the Giant Blowpipes you will often also be in charge range, but being a single model means the Ancient Stegadon can reform and pivot on the spot to allow it to deal with pesky chaff trying to outmanoeuvre it.

The Sharpened Horns upgrade is even more valuable on an Ancient Stegadon with that nice Strength 6 and gives Lizardmen players arguably their best counter to monsters outside of standard Poisoned shooting, while the Engine of the Gods is a very interesting change in the Ancient Stegadons' role. Replacing the two Giant Blowpipes and any proper shooting other than the Skinks' lustrian javelins, the Engine of the Gods reduces the casting values of each spell from a single spell lore of your choice in the rulebook - perfect for a Slaan Mage Priest with the Wandering Deliberations discipline - while all friendly units, including the Ancient Stegadon itself, benefit from a 6+ ward save while within 6" of it. This is obviously suited to Saurus units that use spears instead of the hand weapon and shield combo as the 6+ ward save provides them a permanent equivalent to a parry save, while it is also nice to have just to survive the inevitable volley of shooting your monsters will face against most opponents. The Engine of the Gods also provides the owner with an Innate Bound Spell bearing a low power level of three, causing all enemy units within 4D6" to suffer D6 Strength 4 Flaming hits. Much like the Bastiladon's Solar Engine' Bound Spell, the Ancient Stegadon provides players with decently powerful anti-chaff tool with a stupidly low casting cost and no actual risks attached due to being Innate. While most prefer to keep an Ancient Stegadon relatively cheap with just the Sharpened Horns upgrade to maximise the incredible damage its' Impact Hits can cause, the expensive Engine of the Gods upgrade is quite valuable when backing up all manner of Saurus, Skinks or monsters that can do with the slight defensive boost and anti-chaff tool. Overall, it is just as good - if not better - as a Stegadon and as such it should be one of the first choices picked in your Rare slot.
Competitive? Yes.

Salamander Hunting Pack - Of the two "Hunting Pack" units, Salamanders are generally considered the most competitive, a conclusion I most definitely agree with. The basic profile of these two units is identical, however, so I will cover that exclusively here to save time for both myself and you as a viewer. Each Salamander is classed as a Monstrous Beast on its own but, due to its' trio of Skink handlers, it follows all the rules for monsters and handlers. This allows it a single Stomp at Strength 5 in addition to its pair of regular attacks resolved at an above average Initiative 4, though Weapon Skill 3 and its weak Skink crew limit its' overall combat potential. Three Toughness 4 wounds with a 5+ armour save and 5+ "monster and handlers save" from the three stock Skink attendants makes it a decently tough unit to bring down considering its points cost and role, though Cold-Blooded on Leadership 5 is decidedly mediocre and makes them dangerously vulnerable to Panic tests. Being Skirmishers means the unit benefits from free reforms and extra protection in the form of a to-hit penalty against shooting attacks, while Movement 6 makes them very mobile indeed - all the better for a ranged Skirmisher unit, of course!

Those are the basics of both Salamanders and Razordons, but what makes Salamanders unique is that they can use a fire thrower with a few modifications as a shooting attack with no once-per-game restriction. Dragons wish they could use a Strength 4, Flaming Fire Thrower as opposed to their heavily restricted breath weapons, though the risk of misfire - causing D3 Skinks to be removed as casualties and possibly causing a monster reaction test for the Salamander - and the potential to under or over shoot the template does somewhat offset being able to fire at as many times as you please. Still, despite the risks involved, there is absolutely no denying how amazing a very mobile Strength 4 Fire Thrower is in an army that is absolutely top notch at clearing enemy chaff, allowing you to tear out entire chunks of infantry regiments at a time with ease. Causing Panic tests in cavalry because of the Flaming Attacks is decent, but the depth of infantry units generally means they are the best targets for Salamanders; if you manage even fifteen hits against your standard Elf Spearmen block, you should vaporise at least eight and almost make up the Salamanders' cost in one shooting phase. It is simply fantastic for the points considering its' survivability and decent close combat potential in addition to a great shooting attack, one that perfectly complements the Poisoned Strength 3 shots of Skink Skirmishers.
Competitive? Yes.

Razordon Hunting Pack - As I discussed in my Salamander review above, Razordons' share the exact same profile with their monstrous beast competitor in the Rare slot. Where Razordons' differ is that they actually can make a Stand and Shoot with their distinct ranged attack, and must always do so as a charge reaction whenever possible. That they can re-roll the artillery dice when determining the number of shots fired for a Stand and Shoot charge reaction gives them some very under-appreciated defensive applications, especially as their "Shoot Barbs" attack is classed as Quick to Fire. This actually fires using the Ballistic Skill 3 value of the Razordon rather than the Skinks, but still operates by using an artillery dice to determine the number of shots each Razordon shoots; this means a Razordon can shoot anywhere between two and ten shots, just like a cannon's grapeshot. These shots are resolved at Strength 4 and have an 18" range, meaning that a Razordon will usually need 6s to hit after moving and firing at long range (as 9" is the short range).

Even though the unit is classed as Skirmishers, Razordons' cannot march and shoot just like their Salamander rivals, while rolling a misfire when determining the number of shits fired will similarly cause the Razordon to consume D3 Skink handlers rather than suffer any damage itself. Generally speaking Salamanders make for a better all-round addition to a Lizardmen list because they excel at clearing out or at least severely crippling infantry regiments, whereas Razordons are specialized towards chaff removal more than anything else, a role already filled quite well by Skinks of all kinds. This means the Razordon can be rendered somewhat superfluous in a standard competitive Lizardmen army list, but what keeps me from rating them lowly is how well they can stave off charges with their enhanced Stand and Shoot capabilities. Salamanders suffer by being easily countered if they are charged seeing as they cannot stand and shoot, whereas a Razordon can reliably put a dent in its' attacker before the charge is completed. Besides, actually having Strength 4 shooting is nice for reducing 2+ armour saves on heavy cavalry to a 3+, making them far more manageable. Like Salamanders, Razordons are a valuable purchase because they combine numerous roles into one points efficient unit while assisting some already fantastic units in the form of Skinks with their usual endeavours.
Competitive? Yes.

Troglodon - Of all the new units added to the Lizardmen army book, I think you would have to go far and wide to find someone who argued these were not the worst by far; this is such a shame as the model truly is beautiful to behold in person, and one can definitely understand what the rules designers were aiming for. Like the Bastiladon, a Troglodon is built around the unusual concept of a support monster rather than something intended for straight combat, though it can at least do a bit more damage in a melee than its much smaller kin. Combining a shooting attack with a cool one-use-only buff to all nearby Saurus type units helps to give it a purpose in all kinds of Lizardmen lists either by being just a fast monster that can stand back and shoot, or using it on flank charges while providing handy augments to your Saurus Warriors in particular. Movement 7 is above average mobility for a monster which suits the Troglodon just fine, especially as it is mounted by a Skink Oracle that possesses the Arcane Vassal special rule, allowing powerful Slaan Mages like Lore Kroak to cast their damage spells through the Troglodon. It is the only Lizardmen monster in the army book to actually possess the new Predatory Fighter special rule, while it has a wealth of other unique traits besides to diversify its' role from all the other monsters in the book.

Unfortunately, when you actually put all of these different elements into practice, you quickly realize just how mediocre - if not terrible - they actually are. For one, the shooting attack - not counting the Oracle's lustrian javelin - will almost never hit seeing as it is used by a Ballistic Skill 3 model and has a low 18" range, even if Quick to Fire does thankfully mean it can always Stand and Shoot and doesn't receive a penalty for moving. This generally means the Spit Venom attack will hit on 5s, averaging one hit every three turns or two in a standard six-turn game, and Strength 5 with Multiple Wounds (D3) really isn't all that great considering how unlikely you are to make full use of it. Sure, you can always raise the Ballistic Skill of the Troglodon through Hand of Glory from High Magic, but why bother with that when Chameleon Skinks, Skink Skirmishers and even regular Stegadons need that buff far more than a Troglodon does - and that is only accounting for using the spell to raise a units' Ballistic Skill! Being a single shot with Strength 5 and Multiple Wounds (D3) means it is obviously intended for hunting monstrous type models, but Strength 5 against what will usually be Toughness 5 with no other armour save modifiers applied other than the usual ones and only D3 wounds is a pretty poor investment to waste this things' close combat attacks.

Speaking of close combat, the Troglodon is almost as bad as a Bastiladon in that area, being Weapon Skill 3 with a painful Initiative value of two much like most Lizardmen monsters, only exposed here because it has a mere three Strength 5 attacks. Sure, it has Predatory Fighter and Poisoned Attacks, but that relies too much on rolling 6s to hit which means you will only ever the get the benefit of both once per two rounds of combat, though at the very least a Strength 5 Thunderstomp is still decent. This would all be fine if the Troglodon was as survivable as a Bastiladon considering the latter has some very impressive support abilities, but the Troglodon is as mind-bogglingly survivable as a Carnosaur (otherwise known as "bad) with five Toughness 5 wounds and a 4+ armour save. I guess it is average for a monster that is a quarter of the Troglodon's cost, but given its' price and lack of any significant melee or ranged prowess, this is a beast that just cannot deal out the damage or take it back with any kind of efficiency. The only really decent thing about the Troglodon isn't even that great in the context of a competitive Lizardmen list, providing all units with Predatory Fighter within 12" an extra attack on the roll of a 5 or 6 rather than just a 6 once-per-game. That's all well and good to be getting extra attacks on a third of the applicable attacks, but remembering that Predatory Fighter only applies to the front rank and almost all Lizardmen Saurus blocks are deployed six-wide, you quickly realize this isn't nearly as nice of a boost as you would hope for. Need I even mention that competitive Lizardmen armies don't feature that many combat blocks in favour of Skinks, eliminating much of the intended value of this particular special rule?

Given its' price and mix of abilities, the Troglodon aims to be an all-rounder but fails spectacularly, making a pathetic attempt at mixing a poor, inaccurate shooting attack with crazily bad combat prowess and extremely limited support capabilities. If it was at least forty or fifty points cheaper, a Troglodon wouldn't be a bad investment as it could still at least be considered a mediocre all-rounder that excels at nothing but somewhat performs multiple roles, but even then it would still be questionable it is unabashedly terrible at almost everything it does. If you want to use a "monster-mash" type of list and have spare Rare points after taking Ancient Stegadons, a Troglodon might work, or perhaps if you load up on Saurus Warriors to a ridiculous amount - almost to the exclusion of everything else. There is just little real value to be had from this choice even if it is monster with "average" stats given its high cost, especially once you compare it to the Ancient Stegadon which occupies the exact same slot. While I wouldn't say it is as unbelievably bad as the early reviews made it out to be because it does at least have the durability of a monster that should be within 50 or 60 points of its' current base cost and it does give you an extra monster, there is little real point to adding one and you are always better off with any of the other Rare choices.
Competitive? No.

Thank you all for reading this entry in my Lizardmen Unit Overview series! This set of mini-reviews is intended to act as a brief introduction to each unit and army special rule in the Lizardmen army book, providing some insights into how they function competitively without going into nearly as much length as my proper Tactica articles. Even if you aren't a fan of Lizardmen, I hope you can find something useful from this series for use in your games either employing or fighting against the warriors of Lustria! Don't forget to have a nice day and please leave any feedback you have in the comments section below - all critiques are appreciated! 


  1. Thanks for this series, Eel. I'm really interested to start a WFB army but I'm turned off by the core models for the two armies I like the most - Lizards and TK. Here's to hoping they get an update some day.

    1. It is a bit unfortunate, a lot of the Fantasy armies have very old Core models that just haven't aged well. The best ones I feel are definitely the newer sculpts - the Dark Elf range, Warriors of Chaos, Daemons of Chaos and so on - while armies like High Elves, Lizardmen and some (but not all) of the Undead units suffer quite a bit.

      For Lizardmen in particular, Skinks look fine but Saurus Warriors definitely show their age, the models are similar to the Cold One Riders in that they look a bit...."derpy"? I guess that is the right word? They just don't look very threatening at all, sadly.

      If you wanted to work on Tomb Kings however and you are willing to spend a bit of extra money to make the army look nice, Vampire Counts Skeletons actually look very nice in comparison to the decidedly dull Tomb Kings' equivalent. If you wanted to use Skeleton Archers, combine the two kits or get the Skeleton Archer arms/bows off of a bits seller. I certainly feel your pain though as it isn't exactly cheap given how many you need!