The Warhammer Lizardmen civilization lies deep in the sweltering jungles of Lustria, far to the south and west of the realms of men, dwarves, and elves. They were among the first races created by the Old Ones, and from their temple cities they enact their creators’ Great Plan with peerless sorcery and the savage jaws of their reptilian legions.
The Lizardmen are one of the legacy Warhammer: The Old World factions, like the Old World Skaven and Chaos Dwarfs. They’re fully supported with a free Legacy army list by Games Workshop, and the entire Seraphon model range works perfectly for Lizardmen. Check out our guide to the Old World rules to put this guide into context – the Old World combat phase is particularly interesting to the Lizardmen…
Here’s everything you need to know to get started with Lizardmen in the Old World:
Lizardmen lore dates nearly to the dawn of the Old World. In the world’s earliest days, when dragons and shaggoths reigned from storm-cracked mountain peaks, the Old Ones came from the stars. These were mighty beings beyond all reckoning, with magic of such magnitude that they could reshape the world itself, and give life to entire species.
The first of these species were the Slann, corpulent, toadlike creatures capable of wielding terrific magical power. With the aid of the Slann the Old Ones changed the world itself, reshaping the continents, climate, and magical ley lines to their liking. They constructed great portals at the poles that drew in the magic of the Realm of Chaos to further empower their work.
Other lizardmen species were created to assist the Slann. The nimble and astute Skinks served as clerics, priests, and administrators of the great temple cities. The massive Kroxigors were tireless laborers, while the obdurate Saurus were soldiers and guardians that subdued the wild creatures of the world.
Though the power of the Old Ones was immense, they were not infallible. The forces of Chaos resented the Old Ones’ incursion into their domain. A mighty daemonic incursion sundered the Old Ones’ polar portals, spilling the raw stuff of Chaos forth into the world. The temple cities of the Lizardmen, and the other races that the Old Ones had given form, were besieged.
Ultimately, it was the valor and sacrifice of the Elves that drove the powers of Chaos out of the world. The Old Ones were banished, never to return, and their Great Plan for the Old World lay in ruins. But the Slann were undeterred. With batrachean stoicism they began to reassemble what they could of their masters’ designs from the shattered pieces that remained, and continue the Great Work in whatever form was now possible.
The Lizardmen are isolated to the continent of Lustria, its tropical climate well suited to their cold-blooded physiology. They defend their jungle home ferociously, despatching mercenary treasure hunters and Skaven rot cultists with equal vigor. When they do venture forth, it is in pursuit of some inscrutable objective determined by the Slann.
The Lizardmen of the modern age are a pale shadow of their glory days, but they are still one of the most indomitable forces in the Old World. Even the youngest and weakest of the Slann mage priests is a peerless sorcerer, the equal of the greatest Elven wizard. Saurus are bred for war, growing ever stronger and hardier as they age.
Perhaps most terrifying for their foes, the Lizardmen can marshal the huge dinosaurs of Lustria for war. Skink skirmishers ride to battle atop screeching Terradons, or operate ballistae from the howdah of many-horned Stegadons. Armored Bastiladons lumber to war bearing arcane war machines, while acid-mawed Salamanders spit caustic death at the enemy.
How to play Lizardmen
There are three main ways to play Lizardmen: with a martial, magical, or balanced army focus. Except for the diminutive Skink skirmishers, Lizardmen units are elite and expensive, so it’s simply not possible to play with all their toys at once.
Slann Mage Priests
The first and last word in Lizardmen magic is the Slann Mage Priest, the centerpiece of any spellcasting Lizardmen army (and most balanced lists, too). It’s an absolute beast of a spellcaster, a level four Wizard with a native 5+ Ward Save, and access to a wide range of magic lores. The GW miniature is magnificent.
It’s also very expensive, starting at 285 points naked before you pile on any oh-so-tempting upgrades. Sticking it into a unit to keep it alive is an option, despite its size, but this compromises the maneuverability of the Slann and whichever unit it has joined.
If you want it to float around as a lone character and make use of its Fly speed to better position your spells, the Large Target rule makes it vulnerable to shooting attacks from enemies able to get close enough to ignore the Lone Character special rule.
Temple Guard units are able to soak up shooting attacks that would hit a Slann provided they’re within 3”. This is a powerful and expensive melee unit, so pairing the Slann up with its bodyguards creates a fulcrum around which the rest of your force will pivot.
If you’d prefer to keep your Slann free and easy, for 60 points the ‘Higher State of Mind’ Discipline of the Old Ones upgrade grants it the Ethereal special rule, making it totally immune to non-magical attacks.
Another option for your Slann is to stay well behind your lines, casting spells through its underlings’ eyes. Thanks to the Arcane Vassal special rule, Slann can count any Skink spellcaster within 12” as the point of origin for line of sight, range, and so on for a spell, once per turn per Skink.
A level one Skink priest costs just 60 points, and can be turned into a swift skirmisher with a Razordon or Terradon mount, or a reliable part of the battleline riding in the howdah of a Stegadon.
This will absolutely burn through your character points allowance: a Slann priest can get up to almost 500 points on their own if you max out their upgrades, before you add more spellcasters. But you can sneak in an extra spellcaster via the Troglodon, a rather nasty Rare choice monstrous creature with a breath weapon that comes with a free level one Skink wizard mounted on its back.
At the absolute opposite end of Lizardmen list building is the Lizardmen melee army. This will be a battleline of Saurus infantry supported by monstrous creatures that hit like trucks, dinosaur cavalry, and characters mounted on tyrannosauruses. It’s not subtle.
The anchor unit for any Lizardmen list is a block of Saurus Warriors. With S4, T4, obsidian blades that grant AP-1 on their hand weapon attacks and a 4+ armor save, they’re tough and they hit hard. They also hit last, with native initiative one – slower than Warhammer Dwarfs – and they’re not elite warriors, with a middling WS3.
This makes the possible upgrades for the unit, Thrusting Spears or Shieldwall, dubious propositions. Spear-wielding humans strike simultaneously against a charger armed with great weapons: Saurus strike last, and while they’re tough, they’re not “survive great weapons” tough.
The Shield Wall upgrade allows you to stall out a combat into a second turn by turning a Fall Back in Good Order break test result into Give Ground, but for Saurus this often won’t change which unit strikes first.
Saurus aren’t the slowest moving infantry and can get the charge fairly reliably, but if their opponent has initiative four or higher (initiative three if you’re making a 2″ charge after repulsing an enemy assault), this still won’t allow your Saurus to strike first.
If you’re able to support your Saurus with a charge from a unit with reasonable initiative, or a monster with Impact hits, you’ll unlock much more damage. When a Saurus does attack, it hits hard. But if they’re unsupported, expect Saurus to fold harder against your opponents’ hammer units than other heavy infantry would.
Fortunately, should your Saurus units die or break, the rest of your battle-line is unlikely to care. ‘Cold-Blooded’ Lizardmen take Fear, Terror, and Panic test on 3D6, discarding the highest die roll. Note that it’s only for these specific dice rolls, not every role role involving their Leadership stat, so your Saurus and Skinks aren’t unbreakable badasses – but when one part of your battle-line crumples, the rest of your army will blink slowly and carry on.
Damage dealing Lizardmen units
When it comes to damage dealing Lizardmen units, you’re spoiled for choice. Kroxigor monstrous infantry have S5 and great weapons, capable of dismembering just about anything in the game.
Saurus Cold One Riders each have two strength four attacks, as do their mounts, and they have initiative two: rubbish in a vacuum, but good enough to strike first on the charge against all but the nimblest opponents. They are ‘Stupid’, though, so don’t rest your whole battleplan on their scaley shoulders.
Saurus characters don’t have better leadership than their troops, but they are better at killing. An Old Blood has S5, T5, and five attacks, and a triumphant initiative three. If that doesn’t seem like enough, mount it on a Carnosaur for a further four S7 AP-3 attacks at initiative two. These bad boys hit as hard as a whole unit of cavalry, and they’re much easier to tuck into your battleline.
Where Saurus are solid as rocks, Skinks are fluid. Skink Skirmishers, and their more-evasive scouting cousins the Chameleon Skinks, are mobile ranged troops that use poisoned javelins and blow pipes to harass the enemy, before retreating through their larger cousins when the enemy charges.
Though their leadership is terrible, the Cold Blooded special rule means Skinks are much more resilient to Panic than they seem. This makes them a great tool to soak up enemy shooting, and as Skirmishers they won’t trigger panic tests when they fall back through friendly units. Just don’t expect them to rally once they’re outside the general’s ‘Inspiring Presence’ aura.
Ripperdactyl and Terradon riders are Skink-piloted flying monstrous cavalry, perfect tools for hunting enemy artillery and lone characters, and picking off isolated enemy elements.
Terradons are able to harass the foe with ranged attacks and drive-by bombings, a constant nuisance that you should use to distract your foe and split their attention. Ripperdactyls are potentially lethal on the charge, but impetuous and fragile: think of them as cruise missiles.
Bringing it all together
While we’ve drawn a distinction between the spell-slinging and sword-swinging parts of the Lizadmen army, Slann magic and slow-witted Lizard bruisers go together like peanut butter and jelly. Many spells – which Slann will have no trouble casting – greatly reduce the damage that Lizardmen units will face while they wait for their turn to punch things.
Stormcall, the signature spell from the lore of Elementalism, hexes an enemy unit and reduces its Initiative; Oaken Shield from Battle Magic grants the caster’s unit a 5+ Ward save; Necromancy’s Curse of Years inflicts a massive -1 to Move, WS, and Toughness on a target enemy unit; and most Magical Vortex spells, including the Lizardmen signature spell Monsoon, degrade enemy shooting attacks.
If you can mesh the different aspects of your force together – swift and sluggish, mundane and magical – successfully, you’ll be able to multiply the effectiveness of each element; just as the Old Ones planned.
Love big beasts and devastating magical powers but fancy something a wee bit more sci-fi? Check out our guide to the Tyranids in Warhammer 40k!