(Reflections on life as a Lizard)
By Conrad Lesnewski
While the Lizards and Feds share many racial characteristics, I greatly prefer to play the Lizards. They can produce almost as much cash as the Feds, they mine at 200% (almost 3 times the Fed rate), they cloak themselves, they decloak others, they terraform, they have an awe-inspiring ground attack, they have an unassailable ground defense, they take 150% damage in battle, and their ships are dirt cheap in terms of both cash and minerals. That's the good news. The bad news is that they have the weakest fleet in the game (even with the 150% bonus) so to succeed in bringing about the reign of the dinosaurs in the Echo Cluster, you're going to need all the previously mentioned advantages and know how to use them well.
First and foremost, the hatchling Lizard ruler must realize that his is an economic race. The Lizards should be the first race to build a 2nd Starbase and the first to build a battleship. The Lizards not only can out produce any other race in the game, they must out produce them to have any chance of winning. Much as the Feds, if the game hits the 500-ship limit, the Lizards should have around 150-200 of those ships. Unlike the Feds, who will reach the queue with the bulk of their fleet being empty hulls, all of the Lizard ships will be fully operational and should already be dispersed doing what they were built to do.
The second doctrine of the Lizards is speed. Time is not kind to our scaly friends, so they must strike first and they must strike hard. The Lizards are quite capable of destroying their two closest neighbors by turn 20. They should almost always do so. A peaceful Lizard race, or one playing a defensive strategy, usually ends the game as footwear and ladies' accessories for their neighbors. Your T-Rexes should be mopping up your neighbor's homeworld before they've built their 1st or, worst case, 2nd Battleship or Heavy Carrier. Let them get 5 or 6 Rushes or Golems out and you've got some serious problems. Getting into a position to destroy your enemies before they can get to you requires you to get your economy cranking right away.
Fortunately, the Lizards are the race best suited to do this.
The Lizards' money comes from the judicious use of the Hiss mission. Each hissing ship will raise the happiness of the planet by the number of points stated in the Hconfig (default is 5). This allows you to overtax your planets without suffering from unhappy populations. So while the Robots can't tax that 5 million Ghipsodal Monarchy more than 5% ($300) without annoying them, the Lizards can place a Serpent Escort in orbit and tax them at 11% ($660) or put two of them there and tax at 17% ($1,020) without any ill effects. At a certain point (I believe it's 75% taxes) the natives will start dying from overwork if they're being hissed. I'm not sure what the cutoff is because I never tax that high. I prefer to spread my HISS's around putting 3 to 4 on each producing planet rather than concentrating them on the best planets in my realm. It should be noted that Hissing occurs before both movement and production. Your planets should NOT be at 100 happiness. If they are, you're wasting the hiss ships because hiss can't raise happiness higher than 100. If the planet is capable of growth, I'll leave the happiness at around 70 and tax enough to keep it there (e.g. you have 6 ships in orbit and you tax at 40% - The hiss will raise the happiness 30 points to 100, then the taxing will drop the happiness 30 points back to 70, you will never see the happiness change from 70). By putting a hiss ship or two in orbit, the Lizards can match the Feds income; by putting 3 or 4 in orbit, they can double it. The Feds, nor anybody else for that matter, can never match the Lizards mineral production.
Quite simply, the Lizards can produce more minerals than they know what to do with. They have the option to either double the rate at which they extract minerals (by putting 200 mines on a planet and mining twice as fast as anybody else) or they can get the minerals at half the investment (by putting 100 mines on the planet and mining at the same rate as everybody else's 200 mines). The only race that can come close to the Lizard's mining is the Cyborg, and that's only when they assimilate enough natives to support 400 mines. Lizard planets with reptilian natives mine at 400%. I use 200 mines as the cutoff because above that requires exponential amount of colonists (e.g. 200 mines = 200 clans, 250 mines = 2700 clans, 300 mines =
10,200 clans). Because of the high volume of minerals produced by Lizard mining, Medium Deep Space Freighters rapidly outlive their usefulness. The Lizards should concentrate on Large Deep Space Freighters with a few Super Transports thrown in for hauling home minerals from those treasure trove planets. A planet with over 50% density in all 3 minerals can produce 1200 KT's of cargo in 2 turns for the Lizards.
While building those mines, don't neglect the Defense posts. The bonus for defenses (20 defenses = +1 defense factor) gets multiplied by the Lizards' default Ground Defense Factor (10). This means putting just 20 defense posts on a planet makes even the Fascists fight you at a disadvantage (3:4). When you put the 62 defenses on a rock with 200 clans, an enemy who drops a 2600 clans from a Super Transport will find that he's only killed about 65 of your clans. Needless to say, your enemies will quickly grow tired of this tactic. On the other hand,
You'll never grow tired of dropping in on your enemies. Unless you have the Birds super-spying for you, always assume maximum defense posts for the planet and plan your clan drops accordingly. Rule of thumb is that a full Lizard Cruiser (290 clans) can take out an enemy planet with up to 1740 clans while a Reptile with 50 Lizard commandos will take a planet with up to 375 clans. Obviously, this assumes your enemy is not the Fascists. They're a bit tougher (Cruiser = 435 clans, Reptile = 131 clans). Clan drops should be used to disrupt your enemies' economies and capture their Starbases intact. It doesn't matter if you can hold the base; you'll make him use his ships to attack his own base. Either he destroys his ships or he destroys his base, in either case, you come out ahead at the cost of a handful of clans. It's even more fun to tow your enemies freighters off his planets with cloakers, capture them, transfer any clans that may be aboard to your ships, then ground attack him with his own people. Speaking of cloakers, make sure you have a Loki protecting your important planets from those meddling Birds, Fascists, and Privateers. For maximum return on your dollar, have the Loki Hiss while it's waiting around for a cloaker to call.
As mentioned before, the Lizard fleet is pretty pathetic. Most mid size ships can splatter a Cruiser and the T-Rex is the weakest Battleship in the game. The trick to overcoming this deficit is to have a LOT of them. The Lizard fleet should be comprised of HISS's (Serpent Escorts will do, but I usually have Eros's and or Look's performing double duty); Reptile Destroyers for transporting cash and attacking enemy freighters (If you attack capital ships with a Reptile you will invariably be donating it to your enemy as Reptiles tend to be captured rather than destroyed); Lizard Cruisers for ground attacking, mine laying, and taking out small capital ships, T-Rexes for taking out Homeworlds and enemy battleships (fly them in fleets of 3 or 4); and a handful of Madonnzilas for use against Heavy Carriers (Hit a Gorbie with 3 T-Rexes followed by a Madonnzila - you'll lose the T-Rexes and he'll lose the Gorbie). You don't need very many Madonnzilas in your fleet because, if you order your battles correctly, you should rarely lose one. The bulk of your fleet should be Cruisers and T-Rexes. The Lizards should build a ship at every base, every turn. If you can't afford anything else or it's a brand-new base without Tech Levels, you can always build a Serpent Escort with a StarDrive One engine to be towed somewhere for hissing.
Another way to overcome the deficit is to use other races' ships. Get them through trade or capture (harder to do, but possible - e.g. capturing a Starbase with an unfueled ship in orbit). The Lizards' economic production makes cloning less of a burden for them than other races and there's nothing like enforcing your will with Instrumentality's or Biocides that can take 150% damage. Good ships to trade to other races are Eros's, Loki's (since they can't decloak you), and occasionally cloakers (since you can decloak them after you've traded them). If your allies are particularly trusting, you can offer to hiss their planets for them. Hiss will work on any owned planet; you cannot hiss an unowned planet. You will also be in a position to buy ships outright with freighters full of minerals and cash.
The Lizards have no real natural enemies in the early part of the game. No one can match their rate of development or expansion. This makes the Lizards ideally suited to playing Invasion games. They stand an excellent chance of taking out one and possibly two enemies Homeworlds before anyone else can get moving. If your neighbors are fellow torpedo races, you can often destroy their Homeworlds with 3 or 4 Lizard Cruisers because they'll rarely buy the 40 fighters to fill their Starbases early. If it's a fighter race that shares your border, use T-Rexes to nail his Homeworld before they can get a heavy carrier out. If RacePlus is in the game, don't underestimate the usefulness of the chameleon device. I know of one Rebel leader that was awfully surprised to lose his Homeworld to two Large DSFs being escorted by an uncloaked Lizard Cruiser (named appropriately enough Colonial Escort). The three disguised T-Rexes toasted his Homeworld before he had built his first Rush. The Lizards can also defend their Homeworld from early enemy attacks.
Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. As the game progresses and your opponents can start producing their big ships, life becomes increasingly difficult for the Lizards. It will take a minimum of 3 T-Rexes to destroy each enemy Heavy Carrier. Once the queue is reached, this can be a difficult ratio to keep up. Another major problem for the Lizards is Ion Storms. Hissing ships get no ion experience for hissing, so one mid level storm can destroy your entire hissing fleet in one shot.
So, to recap, the keys to being a successful Lizard are the three "E"s: Economic Production - of both minerals and cash; Expansion - of both number of planets and number of ships; and Elimination - of both of your neighbors and anyone else you can reach quickly (e.g. through Sphere, wormholes, etc.). Creating a booming economy and hitting your opponents fast and hard is good advice for any race, but the Lizards are the race best suited to doing so as well as the race that has the most to lose if they fail to do so early.