Lizardmen are a major faction released with the second Total Warhammer game in 2017 and have two DLC packs, the Prophet and the Warlock and the Hunter and the Beast. This critique will point out things that I like and dislike about the Lizardmen design mainly focussed on singleplayer mode but also in multiplayer mode. I tried to keep this focussed mainly on critique but I did let a number of suggestions and wishes slip in. Tomorrow is update day, that means that if I was going to post this it had to be today before I dive into a dozen new campaigns for Wood Elves and Skaven.
Geomantic Web and Lizardmen Commandments
Every Lizardmen major settlement can build a geomantic web building to improve the effect of commandments in the province up to a level determined by its best connection to an adjacent major settlement. Because the web's strength for any given province is only determined by one other settlement the idea of having a great big web of geomantic power feels relatively poor.
The Alignment of Monuments commandment gives a bonus to starting winds of magic and Research rate for the entire faction, this massively helps the feeling of building something larger than just a scattered number of 2-province kingdoms. All the Lizardmen commandments feel like they have a place and an order in which you want to activate them as your needs change and progress through your campaign, because of this the Lizardmen commandments are the gold standard in terms of having varied and useful commandments. The extra siege holdout granted by the Alignment of Order commandment is a total joke because if your opponent is wasting 5+ turns sieging a city then you should already have plenty of time to rescue it, that is mostly criticism of the Total Warhammer 2 siege system where an army with a single monster or in some cases monstrous infantry unit can smash down a castle the turn they arrive, while it takes somewhere around 10 turns to starve them out. In the cases where you cannot directly take over a settlement by force, you are better off diverting your forces to other matters rather than having them held up for 10 turns starving out an enemy and it seems the AI knows this in Campaign mode making this part of the commandment useless.
One small problem with Lizardmen commandments is that I do not know what story the system is trying to tell me, what are the Lizardmen doing differently when they commit to one alignment or another? I would also like to see some more Lizardmen culture be presented in the system, maybe their history so instead of Alignment of War/Order/Monuments/Crafting it could be Ponder Upon Strife/Recompense/Creation/Recovery or their gods so Veneration of Quetli/Tlazcotl/Tepok/Xokha. The tooltips for Alignment of Order and Monuments are unclear in their meaning and symbolism, but let it at least be known that somebody cares enough to notice your work tooltip designers.
I thought I was going to have a major bone to pick with the blessed spawnings system which periodically gives you quests that upon completion grants you pseudo-Regiments of Renown that do not respawn when destroyed, but it turns out the biggest problem with the system is lazy naming conventions. In the 6th edition Lizardmen army book for Warhammer Fantasy Battles Lizardmen had a system of upgrades similar to Marks of Chaos to represent units spawned with the favour of one or more of the Old Ones, the system did have some flaws in that it was limited to very few units and could only be represented by painting models differently. It was scrapped instead of receiving further development, making it hard to say what the ultimate version of the system would look like.
Each Old One conferred different blessings upon their sacred (blessed) spawnings, something I originally thought was not the case in Total War Warhammer, but if you look very carefully and compare stats and abilities you can see that each blessed spawning offers unique bonuses, but whether they were pulled out of a hat or each set of bonuses is based on a specific Old One is impossible to tell. I think an easy way to massively improve the thematic value of the system is finding Old Ones that fit each of the sacred spawnings and naming the blessed spawnings appropriately, another missing level is that the blessed units look identical to their basic counterparts, it would be wonderful if they got a new splash of paint to set them apart. If a modder was to go above and beyond what Games Workshop originally did then they would give some of the sacred spawnings different weapon loadouts to represent their unique roles in the great plan of the Old Ones.
It is suggested by the Sacred Spawnings system in the 6th edition army book that only those blessed by Itzl could ride Cold Ones, so one route that might have been awesome to have gone would be having Cold One Riders representing Itzl and perhaps Temple Guard and Red Crested Skinks representing Quetzl and Sotek respectively only be recruitable through the Blessed Spawnings mechanic. New units could be invented or old ones slotted in to fill for the remaining gods, like Chameleon Skinks for Huanchi, Blessed Kroxigors for Chotec, Tepok might have Skink Oracles a skink unit with bows, excellent accuracy and magical resistance, Tlazcotl might have Saurus Warriors with great weapons and Immune to Psychology and Tzunki dual-wielding Saurus Warriors with the Aquatic ability. The thing I like the least about the current system is that there are feral monsters that are blessed because that was nowhere in the old 6th edition army book and I do not believe I know of a reason for their inclusion in Total Warhammer other than to feature more monsters in early Lizardmen campaigns.
All Lizardmen sub-factions have 4 rites, they all share Rite of Awakening without which you cannot recruit a Slann, however, Lizardmen armies are often so expensive that it is no large problem to have every army be led by a Slann, especially because you do not have to recruit the Slann the moment you use the rite, all you are selecting is which lore of magic the Slann will eventually use when recruited, but by turn 100 you can have 4 Slann in addition to any Legendary Lords you might have at this point, this is usually more than plenty unless you are focussing on making very cheap armies, something that Lizardmen do not do as well as other factions like Vampire Counts, Skaven or Greenskins, perhaps an extended cooldown would make it harder to spam them and make it a bigger deal when you confederate a faction that has a Slann.
Rite of Primeval summons an army of Feral Carnosaurs, Feral Stegadons and Feral Bastiladons at your capital and allows for either making a really strong push in the early game or to save yourself from an unexpected invasion. It is hard to hate on something that gives you so many awesome dinosaurs. Nakai's Spirit of the Jungle faction instead get Rite of Rebirth which spawns an army of blessed units for the Defenders of the Great Plan, this one is a lot different, friendly AI-controlled armies are a bit of a pain and if any sub-faction might need something to give them an early push it would be Spirit of the Jungle that otherwise linger for a pretty long time on having Nakai's one lonely army.
Rite of Sotek buffs Skink units and causes attrition to enemies in your territories, the attrition part is just awesome, so much of the flavour of Lustria comes from it being an inhospitable continent. Spirit of the Jungle instead gets Rite of Allegiance which causes attrition to enemies within the territory of the Defenders of the Great Plan, this is just not the same thing, there are usually no armies to capitalise on enemy armies suffering attrition, maybe it slows down the dismantling of the Defenders of the Great Plan, but not by much and that makes the Rite of Allegiance very uninteresting. Gor-Rok's faction Itza instead gets Rite of Resilience which melee defence for Saurus and Temple Guard and gives them Unbreakable and Expert Charge Defence, the inspiring nature of Gor Rok's resilience is not something that inspires me to make heavy use of this rite in my campaigns, I find it to be boring. Tlaqua the faction of Tiktaq'to instead get Rite of Tzunki which allows all armies to move a second time, this is an amazing and fun rite to use, whether used to make a sudden push into enemy territory or to chase down a rampant army of Greenskins causing trouble in your settlements.
Rite of Ferocity increases unit experience, unit recruit rank, income from post-battle loot and local recruitment capacity. It is useful, but it is not exciting, I can line-up my recruitment of a new army with my going on a crusade with a couple of other armies to benefit from the income and recruitment buffs at the same time. Spirit of the Jungle instead gets Rite of Mastery which buffs Kroxigor recruits and the Weapon Strength and Armour of Kroxigors in battle.
All the Rites have boring and/or incongruent names, like Rite of Mastery for Kroxigor, the dimwitted heavy-duty labourers of the Lizardmen or Rite of Rebirth that spawns an army that does not replenish. It would have been much better for all Lizardmen rites to be tied to one or more Old Ones, that would at least guarantee that there would be flavour there where there sadly is not for some of the Lizardmen rites. Rite of Tzunki should have been Rite of Chotec, the old one generally attributed with granting energy to his otherwise cold-blooded followers or because Tiktaq'to has a focus on flying then favourable winds could be granted by Tepok while Tzunki is associated with water, aquatic affinity and initiative.
Lizardmen technology is divided into 8 paths based on different tablets, the flavour here is outstanding, but there is a truly outrageous amount of paths to go down, making the system a little overwhelming. Most of the technology tree is locked off until an auxiliary technology is unlocked and the final technology upgrade for each tablet path is locked by a second auxiliary technology, these locks on the system are pretty easy to unlock and do not have a large impact on the Lizardmen playstyle or the narrative told by the gameplay of the technology tree, so why are they here?
The quests generated by the Blessed Spawnings mechanic generally serves to generate the cold-blooded alienness of the Lizardmen, it might have been better to instead or also represent this quality in the technology tree, in the story of the Lizardmen it has sometimes been the interpretation of the tablets of the Old Ones that led them down a path where they destroyed or killed a great many members of another race, like the time where Mazdamundi caused great havoc in a number of Dwarf holds because of his interpretation of the Old Ones plan. If instead of having two auxiliary technologies locking parts of the tree the fourth technology for each tablet path conferred something negative, like negative relations with all Dwarf or High Elf faction or lessened income from post-battle loot or just a flat fee to research it for no actual gain, then the cost of figuring out and implementing the wisdom of the stone tablets of dead or lost gods could be shown through the gameplay.
Lizardmen find desert, jungle and savannah climates favourable, they find magical forest, mountain, temperate and temperate island climates unpleasant and the rest uninhabitable. These all stack up really well and make a lot of sense, although I think none of the Lizardmen factions having different preferences is a bit boring, Tiktaq'to's campaign would be a lot more interesting if he and Swup were better at chilling in mountains. One nitpick about the campaign mode map I have is that the area just above Hexoatl is frozen, when it doesn't look frozen and is right next to a jungle, it should be a wasteland instead. This would be largely unimpactful although it would make it less valuable for the High Elves other than Naggarythe.
Hexoatl has historically been one of the temple cities that has borne the brunt of Chaos attacks as it is located pretty far North, due to the spawning position of Chaos in most of this game's history this has been far from the case, being nestled in behind Ulthuan, Itza and the Cult of Sotek bearing the brunt of the impact if you have not already conquered all of Lustria by the time the Chaos invasion came, in which case it was not really a problem. Hexoatl having to deal with the only marauder settlement in Lustria does make it seem like Chaos is an issue. It will be interesting to see if the coming changes to the spawning position of Chaos and the option of a Legendary Chaos invasion makes Hexoatl's place as the Northernmost temple city more significant. Lord Mazdamundi sitting around in Lustra seems a little weird given that he is the most hot-blooded of the ancient second-generation Slann, something that is not really borne out by his close proximity to a heaping amount of allies with the High Elves of Ulthuan.
Spirit of the Jungle is a new super weird faction that uses portals and flying temple cities to have hordes rampage across the world and a vassal faction to hold the cities you take and they are led by Nakai the Wanderer. This is definitely very far from the source material, I wish it was Lord Mazdamundi leading this crusade, all the portals would make a bit more sense to me if Mazdamundi was somehow involved. The vassal faction makes no sense, although the bonus abilities you get for praising the old ones are fun to use in the campaign. Nakai leading a faction is weird to me, he seems like he should be a legendary hero, perhaps working like Felix, where you find him wandering around in the wild but having him lead a horde faction is okay. What is not okay is the mechanics for the hordes of the Spirit of the Jungle, they are amazing! The horde faction that works, it is fun and not too good, but not as crushingly punishing or difficult as the other horde factions can sometimes be, you can just chill around and crush armies without worrying about settlements, using hordes feels very right when you play this faction. A big part of that I believe is to do with movement, how changing stances can be done after giving a city to your vassal. A lot of the effects you can get with the special Spirit of the Jungle resource come and go too quickly, leaving you to update the same buff (specifically the economic bonus) over and over again.
Last Defenders are led by Kroq-Gar who has been shipped off to the Southlands, this has the unfortunate effect of making the Southlands seem to have an ordinary amount of Saurus, while they should in fact have relatively few Saurus and Slann. Kroq-Gar making the slow Saurus warriors cheaper is antithetical to his MO of mobile warfare, he should instead get cheaper Skinks. The price reduction to Cold One Cavalry is nice, but with the option of just spamming extremely cheap Saurus I find myself taking unthematic grindy armies for Kroq-Gar.
Moving Tehenhauin's and Skrolk's factions the Cult of Sotek and Clan Pestilens respectively over to the Southlands and having Kroq-Gar's Last Defenders and Queek Headtaker of Clan Mors move over to Lustria would help tell the story of a continent where the Saurus spawnings are rare and one where the Skinks reign, this move would also put a new spin on the Skaven wars, instead of just having a repeat of the invasion of Pestilens into Lustra, Pestilens are trying to corrupt a new place, but the Cult of Sotek could then swoop in with their angry snake god and sacrifice a whole bunch of Skaven to get rid of their corruption on this new continent as they did with the old. Just changing Kroq-Gar such that he makes Skinks infantry instead of Saurus infantry might get the job done.
Speaking of sacrifices, the buffs to Cult of Sotek has made them a lot more fun to play, while Saurus do hold a special place in my heart and they are very easy to use, when I recently gave the Cult of Sotek another try I was pleased to find that with the increased amount of sacrifices you get from battles it is possible to keep your Skinks buffed up to a level where they can perform pretty impressively. The campaign event that launches you into war along with all the other Lizardmen against all of Skavendom is extremely cool, it is annoying when you get ratty crusades sent after you from across the sea, but is also cool. The ultimate sacrifice is very underwhelming, it lasts for a long time and is available every battle, so over ten or fifteen battles, yes, it is a strong buff. But it never feels that way because the impact it has on an individual battle is small. Giving it multiple uses or more damage would make it more fun to use in an individual battle.
Gor-Rok and his entire faction is pretty boring, it is saved entirely by the grace of Revered Relic Priest Lord Kroak, this frog is just amazing beyond words to use in campaign mode, it would be very fitting if Lord Kroak had a longer wound recovery time to represent his great value and frail physical state. Gor-Rok also wanted you to know that he is sad that he is the only white lizard, indeed any lizard with the blessing of the old ones, specifically one such as Nakai should be white he says, it is not me saying this, I take no responsibility, it is Gor-Rok...
Tlaqua is the faction of Tiktaq'to and his trusty mount Swup that he stole from Kroak's friend or something. Running an airforce in the early game is hilarious, although Tiktaq'to lacks late-game teeth he leads a very different army and that makes him fun. Some kind of reward for running Skinks in general and not just Terradons would be great, this would make it more viable to focus mostly on Skinks for the Southlands armies, something that was a big part of Southlands lore even if they never had any rules for special characters and have to get them shipped in from Lustria.
Lords, Heroes and Skills
Slann not having access to every lore of magic is a travesty, I tried to get into modding to fix it, but after my head nearly exploded twice from trying to get into it and I gave up. You can find some cool stuff on the Steam Workshop that makes Slann very powerful, even able to use every lore of magic at the same time, which is loreful, but also stupidly powerful and I would prefer for the remaining Slann types to get implemented as the High Elves mages have been, some more colour schemes and models for Slann would be give a lot more flavour since Slann are one of the core parts of the Lizardmen. The lack of a drain magic spell makes the lore of High magic extremely weird for the Lizardmen since that is the spell they used to have even before they got to use the full lore of High magic.
In campaign healing is too powerful to pass up, the value of not being worn down by battles but potentially being healed by them is way too strong relative to other spell lores in campaign mode, it is something that needs a fix for every faction with casters that can heal and other casters that cannot. The Vampire Counts got around this criticism because you can assume every Vampire Counts army will have healing magic, so it is just sort of part of their strength as a faction, but the difference between a Life Slann healing your dinosaurs and Tehenhauin either buffing them or summoning manticores is night and day in campaign mode.
It is amazing to see that Lizardmen are one of the factions that does not simply spam one or two Legendary Lords all the time. It is a rather funny situation that so many regular Lords are overcosted relative to their Legendary Lord counterparts when in the tabletop game it was the named characters that paid outrageous premiums for useless stat buffs and random abilities with little effect on the game.
Saurus Scar-Veterans being able to ride Carnosaurs removes the need for Troglodons, the poisonous variant of the Carnosaur that was ridden in the tabletop game by a Skink Oracle. The loss of this is not a big deal, but having access to Carnosaurs both ridden by heroes and as feral Carnosaurs makes the role of Carnosaur Lords very small, this was a niche that Saurus Oldbloods and Kroq-Gar used to hold.
There must be some way to make Lord Kroak fun, fair and balanced in multiplayer, perhaps it would be worth looking at a reduction in the casting range of his spells and a reduction in his overall cost or the cost of his spells. He is also broken in campaign, but it feels good that he is making up for Gor-Rok's lack of late-game impact.
Units and Regiments of Renown
Slann, Skinks, Saurus, Kroxigor, dinosaurs they all work together and do different things. I really love this faction. The Saurus without shields and Ripperdactyls seem overcosted. The addition of feral dinosaurs to Lizardmen is nice, something that was very hard to do with the metal and even plastic miniatures seems to have been handled a lot more easily with 1s and 0s. The only thing I really dislike about the Lizardmen units are Saurus Warriors going berserk, I am aware that it was a mistake initially made in the 8th edition army book for Lizardmen, but a copied error is nonetheless an error. Lizardmen are the foremost defenders of order in the Warhammer world, they should not lose control over themselves, especially not in the presence of a Slann. The abilities of characters does help manage the problem, so it is a rather tiny problem and most people probably find it fitting that the slow and vicious Saurus rampage out of control. Skink Skirmishers and Chameleon Skinks should not be able to slowly bring down heavy cavalry while outrunning them because of poison, Skinks should be countered by fast melee units, but when even relatively fast cavalry like Empire Knights cannot catch them then I believe there is a problem, a problem that has led to Chameleon Skinks being among the most hated units in the game.
Sacred Kroxigor should not have anything to do with Sotek's temple, perhaps the requirement should be the temple of the Old Ones. Cold One Riders should not be recruitable unless you have a Saurus spawning pool. The Cold Ones Caves could be united with the Beast Lair building, it does not really make a lot of sense for triceratops to live in caves, but I left my dinosaur expertise behind when I was 8 so I cannot pretend to be an authority like I once was. Moving Horned Ones to tier 4 in the Saurus building and Cold One Riders with or without spears to tier 2 in the Saurus building, both requiring the tier 3 Beast Lair would make a lot of sense to me. Restricting Star Chamber spam to larger settlements as I believe was done in a beta at one point was unnecessary, they naturally drop off in value once you get 3-5 of them and spamming them early in your campaign is relatively expensive in terms of all the space in settlements it takes up and how much money that is the early game. It would be okay to limit the spam of Star Chambers as well.