Strategy: The Lizards Guide to the Echo Cluster

By: Sean Kimball
May 17th, 1999


This guide was written in the very early days of VGA Planets race guides, in the days when one had to search through every article in VGA Planets to get some help. Within a period of 6 months, a guide for every race had suddenly sprung up. So far this is the only real Lizard guide. It’s certainly not the best race guide, that’s for sure. Instead of writing an essay type of guide, I decided to plant small valuable bits of information within. I’ve done my best and hopefully my advice will improve the level of Lizard players throughout the universe.

General Hints and Advice

Build as many ships as possible each turn, even if you can barely build a Serpent or Eros. Wouldn’t you rather build a crappy ship with tech 1 everything than let another race build a tech 10 carrier, especially after the ship limit has been reached? Once you get your economy going, the Serpents and Eros’s will become very valuable hissing ships. Some players build countless numbers of SDSFs to fill the queue. Unlike them, your cheap ships actually come in handy, but make sure your soul purpose isn’t building ships so others can’t. You can also recycle and colonize the hissers for PBPs, but only do this when you have close to 20 build points.

Don’t underestimate the Madonnzila Class Carrier. Some people say that it’s “not a real carrier”. A T-rex-Madonnzila-T-rex or T-rex-Mad-Mad combo WILL destroy any carrier in the game. If the Engine Shield Bonus is at least 50%, the third T-rex won’t be needed in most cases. It depends on the carrier you’re fighting. The cost of the fighters for the Madonnzila shouldn’t be a problem either, thanks to the Lizards hissing ability. If you play your cards right, you should have plenty of planets near your homeworld with natives that produce 2000-6000 MC every turn. I was playing the Feds in a game where the Cyborg and Colonies were my allies. And yes, the Lizards were our enemy. I practically looked forward to battles where my Fed Biocide would destroy nearly four Rex’s, maybe even five. Don’t make the same mistake that player made, that is building nothing but T-rexes.

Build lots of starbases. Since your ships are relatively weak, you’re going to have to spice up your defense with strong bases. Even a large fleet won’t survive against a cluster of maxed out starbases and T-rexes. A basic Lizard tactic is to tow a big carrier with a LCC to a T-rex and fully equipped base. If you’re fighting the Rebels, Empire or Fascists, make sure you will able to defend the base in case a Rush or SSD shows up, for example. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a 200/60 base disappear because you didn’t think defending it was necessary.

Minefields. Before laying a huge minefield, lay lots of overlapping minefields. Then lay a huge one. DO NOT lay minefields too early in the game, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your position will be exposed easily that way.

Don’t play in games where the default settings have been changed to your disadvantage(100% mining rate, no hissing, rob cloaked ships is on etc.)

If you _KNOW_ your T-rexes and Madonnzilas won’t stand a chance against your enemies ships, then fill those LCC’s with colonists and use your 30:1 ground attack advantage to its full potential to put your enemy on the defensive. Always use your ground attack if nothing else. If your enemy has lots of minefields to discourage your attacks, then ask your ally for help(you do have one, don’t you?).

Start your offensives with ground attacks. A good first _surprise_ attack would be you taking about 10 enemy planets in one turn. This will really annoy your opponent and maybe cause him/her to make some stupid mistakes. Never attack one certain area, but instead attack several different places so your enemy has to split his fleet.

Ally with a carrier race. Imagine a very close Lizard-Empire alliance… The Lizards mining advantage will help the Empire churn out Gorbies the same speed you build T-rexes. Any Lizard-owned tech 10 carrier is a ship other races fear.

Keep Loki’s at important starbases to fend off the cowardly Privateers and Fascists. Now that the Birdmen are immune to the Loki(configurable), lay overlapping small minefields instead.

Strengthen starbases by supporting them with T-rexes. This way if a carrier attacks, your T-rex will eliminate its shields so your base can destroy it with ease. If many carriers are attacking, then use the Rex-Madonnzila combos. Don’t always count on two T-rexes destroying a Nova. In one of my games, a Nova took out two of them and was 97% damaged.

Attack very early in the game. Attack when you barely have a few T-rexes. It is extremely unlikely that your enemy will survive your attack before turn 10, so make it quick. You will get weaker in as the game proceeds, so it’s best to go for the early advantage. In the long run you WILL die if you don’t outnumber enemy ships(=tech 10 carriers) 3 to 1. That’s precisely why allying with a carrier race can save your skin… I mean scales.


Please note that I don’t consider any alliance pointless or not worth it. What I’ve written here is based on my own experience. Every single game is different and so are the best ally choices. Read this and then think who would be your best ally in that particular game.

The Solar Federation
The best torpedo race ally. The Feds will probably want to ally with you because the only way they can defend themselves from your ground attack is minefields, which aren’t very effective against your LCCs. With 3 more fighter bays, the Madonnzila in hands of the Feds is about as strong as an Instrumentality. They are an ideal ally for _you_ because they are the only race that is immune to the Loki’s Tachyon Device and they have more powerful ships. Together the two of you are poison to any cloaking race.

The Bird Men
The Bird Men don’t have anything particularly useful to offer. The Resolute is a nice ship for ground attack, mainly because it doesn’t consume fuel while cloaking. Also it’s ability to sustain a few mine hits is helpful. Lizard Darkwings can also be a very nasty surprise for the enemy that is expecting ground attacks. The Darkwing also is a little better at taking strong bases because of the 150% damage limit. Just like the other torpedo races, the Bird Men aren’t a very desirable ally, mainly because they suffer from the same problem you do: destroying big carriers gets increasingly difficult as the game progresses. That is why you _must_ attack early in the game, otherwise you die a slow and painful death while the carrier races stuff their tech 10 ships down your throat.

The Fascist Empire
The Fascists are fine allies. The Saber and D19 are the only ships you should want from them. Unfortunately, pillaging kills the population, but it doesn’t destroy defense posts. Just like the Bird Men, they have trouble getting rid of big carriers.

The Privateer Bands
I find that the Privateers and Lizards together are almost unstoppable. The Privateers take out the Cyborg(the Lizards worst enemy), the Lizards don’t attack the Privateers(as the Lizards are the Pirates worst enemy) and together they make short work of any other races. The Lizards can use LCC’s to take out Fed Loki’s, and the pirates can rob them dry. The Pirates can capture, and the lizard can clone. The Pirates capture enemy ships, and the Lizards capture enemy planets. Keep in mind that the Lizards have Loki’s, cloakers, and all their ships can beat the privateer equivalent in a fight. Also, a Lizard MBR can withstand a mine hit, unlike a Privateer MBR.

If you find yourself next to the Privateers when you are in the very preliminary stages of the game, I strongly suggest you kill them. Usually the Privateers will have made an enemy by the time you kill them, and that race will probably be very happy to ally with you. I have been in this position as the Privateers and even now, late in the game, I can’t stop but think why the Lizards didn’t destroy me when I was defenseless. The things gained by allying with the Privateers are outweighed by the economic advantages and friends you gain from killing public enemy #1.

The Cyborg
This alliance would be very beneficial for both of you. Your ground attack is basically useless against their populated planets, and your ships don’t stand a chance against theirs, at least after the beginning of the game. Kill the Cyborg on sight if the game is still in the first 20 turns. After that killing the Cyborg gets increasingly difficult. A Lizard Cube is something to fear. The Cyborg would also benefit from the alliance; they don’t have any decent medium sized warships. The two of you are in one way identical, you are a hellish opponent in the beginning of the game while he is awarded that title the longer the game lasts. So if you ally early on and protect your Cyborg ally, winning should be fairly simple, unless everyone else is intent on killing you. That’s where diplomacy comes in…!

The Crystal People
The Crystals are very good allies when the two of you work together very closely. The Lizard economic advantages, such as hissing and 200% mining rate, allow the Crystals to build tons of torps and Diamond/Thunder combos. They would love a LCC for laying unexpected web mines, which would help you greatly when dropping colonists in enemy territory. Give them a few LCCs with one mark 8 tube and hiss their planets to they can fill the LCCs with torps.

The Crystals have a few good advantages from your point of view: They have the Onyx, this ship is the only ship other than the Fed Bohemian that can heat planets. To make it stop heating, simply add one Eros per Onyx and it will automatically stop at 50 degrees. Secondly they can also use the T-Rex, it is much cheaper than their Diamond Flame. Thirdly they cannot clone, you can. Clone for them (they pay of course) and keep a copy yourself (you pay of course) if you come across a useful ship. Of course real allies don’t demand anything in return.

Be careful about giving away a LCC too early, which means don’t do it before turn 30-40. Alliances may shift, as my Lizard neighbor noticed, when 2 LCC’s full of torps and 3 MBR appeared behind his front line planets.

So only give away LCCs when you two have a definite plan. Rather give away a T-rex than a LCC when trading for an Onyx. Tubeless cloakers are also fairly useful. The Crystals will want such ships for information gathering. Say a tubeless Saurian with heavy disrupters or something.

The Evil Empire
As an ally the Empire has some useful advantages, dark sense being the best of them. The SSD is fairly useless, because of the ground attack Lizards have themselves. The ship would only come in handy if you’re fighting the Cyborg or are taking otherwise highly populated planets. It goes without saying that a Lizard Gorbie is the greatest thing since sliced bread(well, Fed Bios would still have the advantage). The Probe with 20 colonists is useful for taking over border planets, but not particularly. It also can supply fuel over a vast distance in case of emergency. A few free fighters come in handy, though cash is not a problem for you.

The Robotic Imperium
Not much to say, the Robots are the usual carrier race ally. A good alliance both ways. Robot owned LCCs and Lizard carriers are a lethal combination.

The Rebels Confederation
Like the Robots, the Rebels are a good carrier race ally, but because of their special abilities such as RGA, they are much better allies. They are also a hard race to beat, so be friends instead. The starbase/T-rex tactic won’t work against Rush Carriers, and that is would be the nail on your coffin.

Most prominently the Falcon sticks out as a perfect ship to quickly bring 120 colonist clans to the front for a measly 100 KT of fuel round trip. Meet with a cloaker and swap the colonists for bounty money, transfer up to 50kt of extra fuel you brought, too.

The Cygnus is a good little ship on it’s own and adds value with the 50% higher survival rate. The fact that it can’t cloak isn’t a serious drawback if it comes to lurking for enemy scouts or taking out badly defended enemy outposts along the borders or for a low price mass assault to give the enemy fleet lots of targets to hunt down in their space (good against the evil empire). Also a fair transporter for high-end replacement torpedoes (with only one tube) and mine layer at home. Prefer it over the Vendetta as guard ship as it will not betray you by getting conquered, it’s cheaper on the moly and needs an engine less.

The Iron Lady faces the same problem the Vendetta has, it is easily captured way before it would explode. Not a must-have but a cheaper mine-sweeper than a T-Rex anytime and can lay mines in turn, too. Tow a low-engine T-Rex with it.

As to combining abilities, a combination of two or three RGAs followed by Lizard ground attack is a very evil weapon. Scout out the planets cloaked, lay some mines to keep rescue attempts out and strike with Falcons which carry replacement colonists to refresh your cargo load of nasty Lizard warriors. This works particularly well against Cyborg planets that you’d otherwise would be unable to conquer alone.

Free fighters and access to the Rush carrier are goodies you shouldn’t turn down, as well as Rebels on your arctic planets or in your border area with the Evil Empire, providing you with what you need unseen by the dark sense. In turn give the Rebels Reptiles and Saurians to approach for RGAs unseen, mine their low concentration minerals, cool their desert planets and hiss at their overtaxed natives.

The Lost Colonies of Man
Like any carrier race, a very useful ally. The Colonies don’t have any decent torpedo ships and like most carrier races, their economy isn’t that strong for the first 50 turns. Give them LCCs, Loki’s and hiss and cool their planets. Ask for a Cobol or Virgo in return. The Cobol is best used as a fuel-making cargo ship traveling 81 LY back and forth. Repeating this procedure with multiple Cobol’s will end all fuel shortages. Also its ability to tow heavy ships(LDSFs and STFs) at the beginning of the game while still making fuel can spread your deadly Lizard colonists in a way that will make your opponents shudder. When ground assaulting enemy planets comes into the picture, you’ll have much less distance to travel to get those colonists on your LCCs. Especially in mineral-poor games a Colony-ally would be useful as most unowned planets don’t have fuel to keep heavy freighters going.

The ability to tow The Colonies mine sweeping ability will really help you because you only have one ship that has >5 beams. And if you’re really close to your enemy, the Colonies will be able to sweep his minefields while orbiting your planets. To prevent their minefields from being swept, the enemy will have to come to you, and that gives you an advantage. All you have to do is tow those poor suckers with LCCs to Liz Virgo’s!

Fighting the Empire

Use LCCs to tow and destroy his SSDs with lurking T-rex’s and Madonnzilas. Always be prepared for surprise attacks from SSDs. Remember, the Empire uses the evil Dark Sense to find your good planets. Other than taking his planets, you should focus on his SSDs and freighters. Let your T-rex Madonnzila combos take out their Gorbies.

Use your LCCs to intercept and destroy/capture his only mine laying ship, the Super Star Frigate. Doing this will let you ground attack without fear of hitting a mine. Finally, take over his bases at the right moment. The writer took a base and a rampaging Gorbie ended up destroying its own base, resulting in it sitting over a planet without any fighter support.

Ship Specific

Small Deep Space Freighter
I think this ship should be removed from the ship list. I’m sick of even expert players building these to fill the queue with crap. Only build them when you don’t have enough money or minerals to build a decent hiss-capable ship. Equip them with tech 1 engines and colonize them at the appropriate moment to either get PBPs(before the ship limit), or earn yourself ship slots by having more than 20 PBPs(after the ship limit has been reached). Read what Timo Kreike has to say about the ship queue. Remember that ships without beams cannot hiss.

Serpent Class Escort
Other than hissing, this ship can be used as a simple money transporter. But since it can’t cloak, the Reptile is a better choice. Your enemy can get lots of PBP’s for free(when they attack) if you hiss with Serpents.

Neutronic Fuel Carrier
Build a few to refuel your ships at the edges of your empire. The usefulness of this ship depends on how rich the game is. Personally I can’t remember the last time I actually built one!

Medium Deep Space Freighter
The MDSF is a good money and mineral transport. Of course since you have cloaked ships it would advisable to use them to conceal you position… A Medium freighter with 100 clans, 100 supplies and 1000Mc can produce a SB in about 5-6 turns if you find a good planet.

Reptile Class Destroyer
It is a fair cloakable scout as long as it isn’t used to confront well-armed enemy ships or strong planets. As a hiss ship it has the advantage that it has much better defensive abilities in case the tide of war is rolling into Lizard space, it evacuates money, 50 clans and takes 120 KT of fuel away from the enemy forces while preserving them for yourself or allies, unlike exploded Serpents. You can also really annoy your opponent by dropping one colonist every turn after he captures a planet of yours. That’s an excellent way to find out the weapons on an enemy ship. Unlike the Serpent it also has a value as a tow machine (with good engines), also to tow out enemy freighters to capture or destroy them and against lightly colonized enemy planets it can very well succeed in either combat or ground attack, freeing up a more valuable ships for better targets.

The only advantage of the Serpent is the fact that there is nearly no time where you can’t build one to fill a slot and the bonus of hissing over a small freighter, but it is a certain fatality if an attack occurs and gives away free PBPs that way, wiping out the original advantage of it’s construction.

Lizard Class Cruiser
The workhorse of your fleet. Fill them with colonists and send them to conquer enemy starbases. It uses a LOT of fuel, so keep your frontier planets stocked with neutronium. This ship should be equipped with Heavy Blasters (or Heavy Phasers) and Mark 8s. You will need high tech beams because your enemy will probably lay lots of minefields(you will get caught in them) to protect his/her planets from your marauding LCCs. Also the high tech torps are useful when trying to counter-mine.
I’ve read that some people build them with 1 laser and no torpedo tubes to lower the mass of the ship so it travel longer distances to ground attack. This is a little risky, since your newbie enemy might call your bluff and blow your LCC away with a probe. It’s a better idea to play it safe and put AT LEAST blasters and Mark 4s on your scaled down LCCs.

Eros Class Research Vessel
Climate controller. Trade them for some good ships. Build every other Eros with transwarp and the other with tech 1 engines. This ship is cheaper than a Serpent, so you might want to consider building them for Hissing. Eros’s are tech level 4, while Serpents are just 1, so if you have just made a starbase that doesn’t have much money, then build a Serpent instead. After you’ve finished cooling the planet, you should replace the Eros’s with Reptiles because of reasons explained above. Eros’s are decent tow ships due to their relatively large fuel tank and two engines.

Large Deep Space Freighter
My favorite freighter. The Medium and Small are too small, the Super Transport is too big, but the LDSF feels, actually is the ship to build.

Vendetta Class Frigate
Not enough crew, fuel capacity or cargo room to be worth attacking with, but paired with a Loki it becomes a decent guard ship against an MBR for example. Equip them with mark 4s or mark 7s.

Saurian Class Light Cruiser
The Lizards underestimated all-purpose ship. The 260kt fuel tank will guarantee that you’ll go a long way(it has a mass of 120 KT). The 150 KT cargo bay is also enough to mount minor offensives. Before you send your LCCs, use these ships to lay minefields, take out freighters and conquer weak planets. Your LCCs will take out the more heavily populated planets. There are many different opinions about this ship.

Loki Class Destroyer
Will de-cloak every ship within 10 LY. They _won’t_ work against the Feds or you. Have a T-rex tow one if you plan to attack a cloaking race. You can also have multiple Loki’s in your armada, supplying only one of them with fuel. This will make races like the Privateers go crazy.

Merlin and Neutronic Refinery Ship
Both of there ships come in handy when you are strapped for minerals or fuel. Merlin’s show their full potential when positioned above Bovinoid-inhabited planets. At best you can produce about 1900-2000 supplies per turn thanks to these cows. You may also want to build one if you have a high population planet where factories produce >400 supplies per turn. Due to the 200% mining rate, the Lizards can build the Merlin relatively early in the game. An added bonus is that the Merlin can also hiss.
The NRS comes in handy mostly in games where minerals(=fuel) are scarce. I rarely build them if the average amount of neutronium on planets is above 2000 KT.

Madonnzila Class Carrier
Build one for every two or three T-rexes you build. Depending on the HOST settings, it will destroy any carrier if the carriers beams are uncharged and its shields are down. 50-60 fighters should be enough if you’re not fighting deep behind enemy lines without a chance of getting more fighters.

T-rex Class Battleship
Once you have enough minerals, then this is THE ship you should build. Make hoards of T-rexes(but never only Rex’s) to secure success in battle. I equip them with Heavy Blasters or Heavy Phasers and Mark 7s or Mark 8s, depending on the amount of money and minerals I have. You should consider building one or two with Disrupters and Gamma Bombs in case you have a chance to capture a damaged ship. They’re also great for capturing MBRs, but make sure you use at least the fueled/fuel less Loki tactic if you plan to fly around Pirate space.

Attack in this order: T-rex, T-rex Madonnzila, T-rex, T-rex, Madonnzila etc. Another option is to attack in this order: T-rex, Madonnzila, Madonnzila. Get Bsim 2.2 and find out which combo is better for the carrier you’re fighting.



The Lizards have had a new ability added to their T-Rex and Madonnzila class warships. This ability only functions on these ships and only when they are under Lizard control. This new ability is linked to their new development of what has been termed the Chameleon Device.

This ability isn’t that valuable, although if executed properly, it will really take your opponent by surprise. If your enemy finds out the ID of the “fake” ship, then the Chameleon Device is almost useless. I’m not sure how Echoview(for example) reacts to the fact that a ship changes hulls. If you’re at war with an inexperienced player, then simply disguise a T-rex or Madonnzila as a LDSF and fly around. Also, if you’re at war with a cloaking race, disguise a T-rex or Madonnzila(they must be fairly low-mass) as a Loki and set a waypoint to a planet that’s >2 months away. Your enemy might try a cloaked intercept (the ship is not actually cloaked), resulting in you blowing up the ship(unless it’s a Darkwing).

Thwarting the Privateer NUK trap

Here’s how someone in the VGA Planets newsgroup explained the NUK trap:

1) The Privateer owns the planet initially and positions a fleet there with every ship out of fuel and fuel on the surface of the planet.
2) The enemy fleet arrives with Loki’s and only fights the planet because the Privateer ships are all out of fuel.
3) If the Privateer owns the highest ID ship at the planet, he will eventually retake the planet through the continuous ship-planet combat that results from the planet changing hands as the combat phase cycles through enemy ships, according to ID number.
4) The next turn begins with the Privateer owning a planet and the Privateer fleet sitting there ready to pick up fuel and rob the entire enemy fleet including the Loki’s.

There are many ways to stop this horrible thing from happening to your valuable fleet. Here are the ones I can think of.. Let me know if I’m forgetting something.

1. Attack with a very high ID(ID 500 works ok) ship in your fleet so you’ll surely have the planet when the battles are over.

2. Send a cloaker in and transfer fuel to the enemy ship(or ships, you’ll need more cloakers then) one turn before you attack. This is hard if not impossible though because the MBR(s) will probably be cloaked the previous turn. But if he’s a good Privateer he’ll have Lady Royal’s robbing too. If you can destroy these then you’re doing ok, I doubt many players will be brave enough to have scores of 0 fuel MBRs orbiting unless they’re desperate.

3. Use ground attack on all possible planets instead of normal combat, ESPECIALLY against the Privateers. Who knows, the Privateer planets with a good amount of defense posts may be set to NUK and all 0 fuel MBRs will be destroyed with no losses to you at all.

4. Use minefields in case his ships are far away and he’s panicking.. If he is then you’re probably doing well enough to suppose he doesn’t have enough ships to perform the NUK trick anymore.

5. Fake your attack, force him to make his MBRs zero fuel out of fear, then your LCC(s) at the planet transfers one KT of fuel to the MBR(s) and attack the next turn.

6. Get some Fireclouds and chunnel those doomed Privateer ships to deep space for an ugly death.

Common anti-Lizard tactics and how to counter them

1. Put lots of colonists and defense posts on your planets, especially bases.
There is no real way you can take these planets through ground attack. You must either ask your allies for help(SSD, RGA) or simply send a Rex-Rex combo. That is if there are no other enemy ships in orbit.

2. Lay big and overlapping minefields to discourage LCC ground attacks.
Forget the planets your enemy tries to protect with big minefields. Go for less obvious targets such as far off border planets or planets in the heart of his empire. Usually your enemy won’t have the capabilities to protect every planet with a few 70 LY minefields. While he’s struggling with your LCCs, build Rex’s with heavy phasers.

3. Escort your freighters with a ship capable of destroying a LCC.
Simple. Forget about attacking and wait at his planets, then tow the freighters away. I trust you know the tow conflict rules. 😉

4. Build a tech 10 carrier early in the game to crush the Lizards quickly.
Build a Rex-Madonnzila combo after you build the usual ships in the beginning. The attacker will lose much more than you if you manage to destroy the ship. After all, the Lizards have the strongest economy in the game.


J.P. v. Bolhuis, Biomenaced, Max Wagoner, Armin Lenz, Kero van Gelder, Daniel Dömpke, Peter Sorensen, Arturo Ramirez and everyone else who has helped me with this guide.

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