Some more old ideas, including the above suggestion on Nine Lives on by itself.
Transferable AP damage:
Have a stun do 9 AP of transferable stun damage to the target, rather than just skipping the next turn. For this to work, ending your turn has to count as the unit having full AP again. This would mean that a stun against a unit with full AP works exactly as it does now – they skip their next turn. Similarly, a unit that decided to wait but still has full AP would just skip that turn like they do now. However, if the unit has decided to wait but spent AP, then the amount of AP damage that remains after being deducted from their AP pool would transfer to the next turn. As a result, you can’t casually use the wait command as a buffer against stuns, because you’ll be hindering yourself in the turn that follows.
For example. A units spends 4 AP and waits. That unit then gets stunned. The turn they were about to receive is skipped and 4 AP is deducted from the AP pool of their next turn.
Shield Bash perk:
This suggestion presupposes the above suggestion on transferable AP damage. Have the Shield Bash perk increase the AP costs of abilities by 1 for a single turn (so movement cost is not increased). So it turns into a method that can be used to prevent the other unit from using two 4 AP abilities, while a two-hander would only be unable to attack when moving across difficult terrain (and not having taken the Pathfinder perk). It also enhances offensive use of shield bash as a way of dealing with an entrenched opponent taking potshots (shield up, stab or slash) by breaking the deadlock. You remove their positional advantage, take the spot and then force them to either use their shield or attack as they can longer do both, for that turn, while standing still. Or make it more useful for breaking a battle line, since people knocked out of it will have more trouble effectively joining the fight again. That way you make the perk increase the flexibility of shield bashing, while two-handers not being able to attack should be situational enough that it is not exploitable (and make pathfinder more attractive for two-handers).
I also thought of a change that is closer to the current fatigue damage of the perk. Rather than having the shield bash perk do a flat amount of fatigue damage, make it increase the amount of fatigue that actions take in the unit its next turn by a percentage. That’s more flexible and useful than the 10 fatigue damage it does now, with a percent based increase in cost being stronger against high fatigue attacks. This could be in addition to the AP increase tweak above, in case that isn’t strong enough on its own, or as a replacement if the two-hander is too exploitable.
Make Nine Lives tier 1 utility. Keep the ability as it is (once per turn), but change the end-result of when it goes into effect. Rather than the unit being left standing with 1 HP, it falls down as if dead and can therefore no longer be targeted. Next turn, he gets back up, pushing away anything that was standing on him, and rejoins the fight with 1 HP. Basically, you give him a one-off second wind similar to that of the wiedergängers, except the merc was never technically dead (meaning that if the fight ends before the next turn, he counts as being alive and with 1 HP in the post-battle screen) and can only do it once. The only one capable of attacking him while down would be then be the ghoul with its cannibalize ability. Naturally, other units could also take his gear while he’s on the ground. This would remove the problem of Nine Lives leaving you with 1 HP and then immediately dying to the follow up attack.
Wouldn’t that pretty much be mechanically the same as having it work once per turn?
It’s hard to give specific examples, since the point of the design is that it does not rely on familiar convetions. Ascendancy and Tone Rebellion are the best examples of what I mean, though.
Beasts seem more to trend towards individual mythological monsters, rather than an organised groups. I like the idea of putting them in the Wetland faction and turning that faction into a culturally unique Beastmen variant.