Stellatis is tough. I had 2 victories in approximately 360h of playtime. I made a lot of mistakes and read a lot of info on the web and looked at a lot of videos but nowhere do they really teach you how to play.
I wanted to make a simple guide while I still feel like a n00b because it is hard to survive in the galaxy without basic knowledge. I tried to make this guide as simple as possible for new players but Stellaris is complex so I recommend playing a first game blindly, choosing any premade starting species and getting a good trashing first, before reading this guide.
It will make it much easier to assimilate. Then you can have your revenge.
Other Stellaris Guides:
Words to Live By
Play wide not tall
Population is power, planets are spaceports, spaceports are fleet capacity. Expand and colonize like there is no tomorrow because if you don't there won't be any. Do not expect to survive long with your 3 starting colony worlds. Expansion has a penalty in science and unity but you will have a fighting chance.
"It's the economy stupid"
Remember those famous immortal words of a beloved earthling leader that he repeated to himself during his election campaign. Your construction ships should only build mining stations for energy and minerals in the early game. Until you have a booming economy and a maxxed fleet capacity do not build science stations.
Bigger is better
Max your fleet capacity ASAP It is the only thing standing between you and the rest of the galaxy
Don't poke the bears
Fallen empires are decayed remnants of formerly very powerful empires. They may look like easy targets because they are small but they are deadly. There are four types: Xenophobes hate everyone and keep their borders closed. They require a buffer zone around their empire without colonies or outposts. If you do it they will get angry. Xenophiles love every race. They love them so much they ask for some of your own population to populate a planetary preserve they have like a zoo with all alien races. It is better to sacrifice some of your population and have your empire angry with you than to refuse their request and make them angry.
Spiritualists forbid colonization of Gaia planets they consider holy worlds. Don't. Materialists forbid research of dangerous technology such as jump drives and advanced AI and advanced sentient robots. Fortunately those techs become available later in the game and you may be able to get away with it if you have a 100k+ fleet.
If you anger a stagnant fallen empire they declare war on you with a 100k fleet and trash your planets and spaceports (and fleets if you don't send them very far away). They humiliate you which causes unhappiness ( causing decreased energy and mineral production for many game years ) and kill your leader.
Fallen empires will just stay put and will not expand unless they awaken. This event is triggered if you conquer a stagnant fallen empire or by your fleet going above 40K military power and from what I have seen they start at around 200K military power and snowball to over 400K in about 50 game years! One strategy to delay awakening may be to form a large federation which reduces your max fleet capacity. Federation fleets apparently do not count as a trigger. Total combined federation fleets may have enough power to keep them contained somewhat.
Diplomacy: the art of restraining power (H.Kissinger)
There are complex diplomatic relationships in Stellaris. It is a good thing to have some non-aggression pacts, research treaties, migration treaties with compatible species. I made the mistake of going to war with a despicable neighboring empire but it was protected by a defense pact with a more powerful empire. Another time 2 empires that were manageable individually declared war on me simultaneously. Another experience was playing a xenophobe space fungus with closed borders to everyone and every other species declared war on me. It didn't end well in any of those cases. On the other hand, one of my victories was within a 3 empire federation with 2 compatible neighbors of similar power and we stood against lesser hostile empires and an awakened fallen empire and we conquered and colonized our way to victory. My other victory was with a good neighbor starting with a non-aggression pact and upgrading to a mutual defense pact. Our enemies were an awakened fallen empire and 2 very hostile spiritualists but I was able to break up their federation by vassalizing their federation-builder causing their federation to break apart and they stopped cooperating. Contrary to other games like Civ or Pandora or Warlock where other leaders are unstable psychos that are your best friend one turn and backstab you the next you build trust in Stellaris and you can have friends that will stay true. Learn to use the contacts tab to analyze the diplomatic relationships and also the diplomatic/opinion/attitude map tab colors in the lower right screen.
Don't bite off more than you can chew
We will talk about setting realistic war goals and warscore when you declare war
Unity and influence are critical to success
We will cover that.
It's not over 'till the fat lady sings
You might think that all is lost because you lost most of your fleet or many major battles or planets or have lost a war and been vassalized or things are going badly...But it's not necessarily over yet. Your overlord may suffer mayor defeats and you may be able to rebel. You may be liberated by a friendly empire. You may become the least powerful member of a federation but if your federation colonizes the required number of planets, you still win. I remember reading a story about a player who was losing badly until an endgame crisis occured and a mysterious species invaded the galaxy and suddenly he won because he had 40% of the habitable worlds because the invaders had caused so much destruction. Rage quitting robs you of great learning opportunities. When dirty tricks happen to you and you feel the pain, you learn to use similar strategy against your opponents. I am still playing games that are really not going very well.
It is a good idea to have fleets with a good mix of weapons and defenses to make it harder for your enemies to counter, and a good mix of ships. ( E.G. do not build laser only fleets)
Some tech is not very useful
Defense stations will not last long vs 50k+ fleets but will slow their progress if you have a large empire. Let your sectors build them, not your construction ships. Save your minerals for your ships. Outposts will drain your influence! some people call them a noob trap, they have a use in late game if you need a rare strategic resource like Zro or dark matter outside of your borders or early game if a system has something like 10 minerals maybe. Many posts report missiles to be very ineffective in combat. I have given up on missiles for now. Defense armies are a waste of minerals unless you have unrest on a planet, to prevent rebellion. When your planets are being sieged, you are losing and you will be invaded, it's just a question of when.
Might is always right
Did you know you can colonize a planet without a colony ship? Yes. You can. You send a fleet of assault troops to enter orbit around a planet with primitive civilizations that have not reached the space age and order an invasion. No bombardment necessary. It costs influence and some diplomatic penalty and unrest among the conquered but by building defense armies and with time they get over it and become loyal subjects.That option is probably not available to xenophiles and pacifists.
Robots are useful
You can build a colony ship containing only sentient robots (does not work with basic robots) to colonize planets that are uninhabitable . Some tomb worlds have native pre-sentient species that can be uplifted with the proper tech and become colonists after the robots make a colony. Synths might revolt if you do do not give them citizen rights. Spiritualists cannot use robots.
Not all who wander are lost (Tolkien)
Explore the universe around you with 2 science ships and discover colonizable planets and new civilizations. You really need to know what is waiting for you out there. Some anomalies can kill your low level scientists so it is best to leave them until they level up. Initial priority is finding new planets to colonize.
Taming the Interface
For those of you with 2k monitors, you will find fonts and windows and text much too small. Go to settings/ graphics/ UI scaling and I found 1.4X works for me.
The outliner is the green window on the right side of the screen with all your planets, fleets, construction and science ships. You will use it a lot. Click on a fleet to select it, in the window that opens you see on the upper right bar an icon that looks like a yellow padlock under a camera. Click on that once to bring you to that fleet in the galaxy view, click a second time to bring you to that fleet in planetary system view.
- M = open galaxy map
- E = toggle between system/galaxy view or use mouse to click button at bottom of screen
- F1 = government
- F3 = situation log (quests special projects and victory conditions)
- F2 = contacts, diplomacy, empire power
- F5 = sectors
- F10 = ship designer
(If you forget all that, just click the icons on the left top bar) There is a drop-down menu (left upper screen bar) with other useful tools like species management, expansion planner, leaders.
Hovering the mouse over everything will bring up small windows of information.
- V = this button is so useful to review the research that you have already completed
- SPACE BAR is your friend, use it to pause/unpause the game while you ponder your next move
- Click a fleet with LMB to select it, order it to move with RMB.
- Hold SHIFT and click RMB to queue move or explore orders even attack orders within planetary systems.
- CTRL + SHIFT + RMB orders science ship to prioritize a research project before resuming their orders queue.
For advanced players an interesting way to merge fleets: In outliner click main fleet, SHIFT+click(LMB) new fleets to merge, press ''G''(for group) all selected fleets will merge with the fleet you selected first.
Starting Your First Game
The game comes with pre-built species that may interest you or you can make your own.
For a first game I would avoid xenophobe because of the intense hatred of every other species. Is xenophobe playable? maybe for very experienced players. There may be an advantage to having huge borders early in the game and enslaving pre-FTL species.
Xenophiles have diplomacy bonuses.
Fanatic pacifist might be tough because you cannot declare war! You can only fight defensive wars if someone attacks you! I like preemptive wars. Plain pacifist is interesting because there is a unity boost and even if you can not take planets directly you can liberate them, then vassalize them and assimilate them. One youtuber proposes a unity build with agrarian idyll to maximize unity for the utopia DLC.
Pacifists will probably take diplomacy tradition perks later in the game to build the United Nations of space and liberate planets from dictatorial slavers or fanatic cultists.
Militarist gives increased ship fire rate and full planetary bombardment.
Spiritualist gives less ethics divergence and unrest it is basically a cult. They have a chance to get psi jump drives late in the game which I read were amazing. 400 hours into the game, have not got them yet.
Materialist gives a research bonus and reduced robot maintenance.
Egalitarian is great for building a large multispecies empire. It goes well with beacon of liberty civic for +15% unity, reduced consumer good costs and more happiness and productivity.
Authoritarian is a must if you want to be a xenophobe slaver but you should get the civic with the reduced slave unrest when creating your build. (The tzynn empire is one premade species that has this build)
These are the ones I find most useful:
- Environmentalist: -20% consumer goods costs
- Cutthroat politics: +1 monthly influence
- Mining guilds: +10% empire mineral production
- Citizen service: +15% naval capacity
- Corporate dominion: +10% empire energy generation
I am only familiar with 3 types of governments so far although many other types are available.
Democratic will have elected leaders with miner mandates giving you influence if you build the required number of mining stations before the end of their mandate or science mandates granting you influence if you build the required number of science station before their mandate. You can spend influence to increase the chance to elect a specific leader but results are not guaranteed so I feel it's a pretty random process. Also my gameplay has evolved since I began playing and I feel the best pathway to victory is to focus on mining stations in the early game. I don't like to wait for the next election to build more mining stations in order to gain influence and to be forced to build science stations for influence when it is not the best for my expansion plans.
Oligarchic: elections give you 4 leaders to choose from. You can spend 200 unity to get the one you want or let your empire vote for a random one. Most of the time one leader will bring useful bonuses like reduced ship construction costs, increased fire rate, increased energy or minerals, increased monthly unity.
Military dictatorship: When leader dies, heir takes over with whatever abilities it has. You spend no influence but have no choice.
Governments can be changed during the game by spending influence.
- Rapid breders: +15% growth speed (Awesome)
- Conservationists: -20% consumer goods costs (good)
- Sedentary: -50% migration speed +25% resettlement cost ( choosing a negative trait allows you more positive points to choose another positive species trait and I like my pops to stay put and keep my planets full instead of emigrating to other empires. If I have an immigration treaty, I like to get more immigrants to my planets than pops that leave for another empire.)
- Repugnant: another negative trait that gives you points for more good species traits if you don't mind being disgusting to other species and diplomatic penalties. Great for xenophobes because when everyone hates you and you hate everyone you really don't give a fig if they find you disgusting eh?
- Slow breeders: absolute catastrophic choice, planets remain unpopulated, borders don't grow. Facepalm if you get that one.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages
Warp is simple to understand, you only need to jump to a planet within travel range of your engines but it is very slow because there is a cooldown before and after jumping.
Hyperspace is much faster than warp because of reduced cooldowns but you can only travel along starlanes. It may take several jumps to get to a system that is adjacent to your border. You may get boxed in by hostile neighbors with closed borders or a system with a very strong presence of pirates or space monsters or a fallen empire. It is writen that hyperspace travel was nerfed a few patches ago but it still allows you to travel very fast from one end of your empire to the other.
Some players feel a hyperlane only game allows better strategy and you can force the game in the settings tab to force all empires to use only one type of FTL.
Wormhole seems the method of choice for experienced players because even though there is a cooldown to enter the wormhole, travel is instantaneous, the range is considerable and there is no cooldown on arrival. You need to build wormhole stations with your constructor ships.
The science ship in Siet must go through the wormhole in Cantho to reach Bashpat. The dotted yellow line forming a circle is the wormhole generator range. You can build other wormhole stations in the furthest planetary systems within that range to extend the travel range of your ships. As long as there is a wormhole station within travel range of your ships, you can travel anywhere within that big circle. If the wormhole station in Cantho was destroyed at this stage of the game, the whole fleet would be stranded where they are.
- Missiles seem ok for early game but many players find them disappointing against shields and once point defense and flak become available
- Lasers have good accuracy and are good against armor, less against shields
- Kinetic are good against shields but less effective against armor
Later game weapons:
- Disruptors are very strong against shields
- Plasma melts armor
- Torpedoes: one kind bypasses shields completely and is thought to be useful against fallen empires
This is the only way to get Steam achievements but you get a single save monthly in game time. Not recommended for new players because if you make a major mistake you can't go by and try a different strategy.
- Domination: own 40% of habitable planets
- Federation: own 60% of habitable worlds
- Conquest: Conquer/destroy/subjugate every other empire (I have no bloody idea how to achieve this because you would surely achieve a domination victory long before this happens.
- Unlike other strategy games there is no science, economic,culture,diplomatic victory.
Powerplants mine energy and energy grids increase planetary power output % similar to the synergy between the mineral processing plant and the mining network below. They work together like Thor and Mjolnir, Danaerys and dragons, dark matter and dark energy. You get the picture. One does not work well without the other.
Make sure you research energy and mineral tech as soon as they become available before any other tech. Each tier of mineral and energy tech will boost production. You then go to each planet surface and upgrade the individual buildings with minerals.
In the first image there is a planetary tile that has a yellow triangle in the upper right corner with an arrow ponting up. In this case it is a science lab. Any building can be upgraded if you have the tech and the minerals by clicking on that yellow triangle but you should upgrade the energy and mineral buildings first and after that the buildings that generate the unity resource. Not all buildings can be built on a new planet. You need to reach a certain number of pops and upgrade to planetary administration.
Some buildings have adjacency bonus as illustrated below.
This image shows the original colony building upgraded to planetary administration which has adjacency effect on the planetary tiles north, south, east and west. Think carefully when you colonize a planet where you choose to place that first colony building to get the best bonuses.
For more minerals and energy use construction ships to mine energy and minerals from planets. When you get enough unity resource I think it would be best to adopt prosperity early because it decreases mining station construction costs. (maybe just after the first 2 expansion traditions that boost unity production)
This is what happens when you run out of energy. It is even worse when you run out of minerals and food.
In order of increasing size here are the 4 fighting ships you can build: corvettes, destroyers, cruisers, battleships.
The first 2 are the backbone of your fleet they are the hunters who hunt for small enemy ships and the commandos that hit enemy mining stations. In huge numbers 2000-6000 they help defeat awakened fallen empires.
Cruisers add a lot of punch to your fleets and are the backbone of your fleets. Their battle behavior is rushing to the front lines in the middle of the action with or ahead of corvettes and destroyers. You can build short range weapons in their weapon slots because they get in the enemy's face. Flak (to kill missiles) works well on cruisers too. You will lose lots of cruisers so it is great to have spaceports specialized with cruiser building modules to build them more cheaply.
Battleships hang back and use long range weapons but are very vulnerable to the overpowered weapons of fallen empires which are mostly long range. FE fleets are vulnerable to close combat and will have a harder time hitting smaller ships with high evasion.
Navigate to the ship designer tab.As a new player I did not know ship sections could be customized. I found out in a youtube video. Click on the bow section heading (where the letters are) in the section below and 4 types of bow become available. weapon slots are small medium or large, red P is point defense (missile killer), yellow H is hangar for interceptors and bombers (currently not considered very good because of very short range, no replacement during battle and weird pathfinding behavior during battle beginnings; interceptors are considered like point defense and bombers like missiles against bigger targets) Purple X is advanced long range battleship weapons of late game very cool
Utility slots below are for reactors, shields, armor and green A is for afterburners and shield capacitors and as a new player i feared I was missing out on something until I found out you need to research those.
You can rename ships classes for example if I design a cruiser with flak and plasma I might rename it ''C-flk-p''
Make sure to use auto-upgrade by checking the box but remember to upgrade manually when you have a new class of tech like when afterburners are available the first time. Also if you do not have enough reactor power the next tier of weapons may not be fully upgraded because you can't fly a ship with negative power.
When possible build a fleet with a variety of designs instead of a single type of fleet to make sure you have enough rock-paper-scissors to make the enemy's life hell.
Rally points: the first one starts on your homeworld but as the game progresses you need to adapt. Feel free to set up a new rally point on a planet near the enemy border (and remove the old rally point by unchecking the little flag) It is better to set a rally point at a starport with crew quarter module and engineering bay module to reduce ship upkeep expenses because ships in flight cost more energy credits. In some cases you may want to set a rally point on a smaller fleet in home territory to build it up while the big doomstack enters enemy territory and that smaller fleet can serve as a hunter fleet for smaller enemy fleets or reinforcements to your main fleet. Be careful with wormholes if you set a rally point on a fleet because too many ships travelling through wormholes at the same time cause traffic congestion. No kidding. Also another disadvantage is single ships travelling to a distant fleet may get killed one by one by the enemy.Ships should be kept parked in a starport when not at war to save energy credits. You see a green planet logo next to your ship group in the outliner tab on the right screen when ships are properly parked.
To merge fleets drag a box with LMB to select the fleets to merge in planetary view (not galaxy view) and click the merge button at the top left of the panel.Merging and splitting fleets is a big part of game strategy.
Next comes splitting fleets (below)
After clicking the transfer ships button you can select to transfer an entire category of ships such as battleships for example to a different fleet or pick individual ships by clicking the panel that appears on the right until you have the right number and composition of ships. Remember that fleets move at the speed of their slowest category. By transferring battleships to a second fleet you can have a fast fleet attack a system and maybe serve as bait for a large enemy fleet and then battleships can pounce to join the battle and finish them. Timing jumps takes a bit of practice.
Finally let's take a look at the other rows of fleet orders from top to bottom:
- Stop current task
- Return to nearest allied spaceport
- Take point toggle (the 3 triangle icon) (attempts to convince allied fleets to follow you into battle, good luck with that)
- Rally point flag toggle discussed above
- Camera zoom to fleet
- Unselect this fleet (to allow other fleets' different orders)
Third row: the 3 picture icons
- Attack target
- Bombing intensity: light, limited, full (choose full if you are militarist)
- Attitude: evasive (construction and science ships) passive for most situations allows you to give orders once a jump is completed, agressive (will attack anything that can be attacked even if kills them but that order seems to have a limited range in my experience for example a corvette set to max aggro would not spontaneously attack all stations in a system unless they were very close to the jump point and I found it a waste of time to attack science stations because I like them to stay active to drain enemy energy)
- Split fleet in 2 equal halves
- Transfer ships discussed above (sometimes buggy with massive fleets)
- Upgrade at nearest spaceport if yellow arrow present (costs minerals and time)
- Repair at nearest spaceport (if red cross present and fleet damaged by battle)
Fleet capacity is related to number and level of spaceports and number of pops. It can be increased with society research and the grand fleet edict (researched)
It is often useful to specialize some spaceports for building battleships and cruisers with modules that reduce their building cost.
Colonization, Sectors, Border Expansion, Uplifting, Primitives
To colonize a planet survey it first with a science ship, click on planet icon and check habitability is at least 60% (hold mouse over hability for species%) If you have several species in your empire you will notice that some are much better suited to colonize specific planet types. Build a colony ship on a planet with the most suitable species in the spaceport tab.
Once built click on the colonize button (left panel image below) In this example it will cost 82 influence points to colonize Obskye III. It costs more influence to colonize distant planets than those close to or within your borders.
Next click on the little flag (mid panel) with 95% habitability in this case and drag it to the right panel to place the colony building. In this case I would choose the one with 2 food because: a) the food icon will be immediately used by the first colonist to grow the colony b) the adjacency effect (discussed in the economy section) for the 2 energy tiles will boost energy output of the colony as it develops.
Colonization costs 8 energy/month and influence so make sure you manage those wisely.
There is a limit to the number of core worlds you can manage beyond which there is a heavy economic penalty. To add more colonies or conquered worlds to your empire you need to create sectors. Press F5/ create new sector button /click on checkbox near planet you want to add and checkbox the nearby planets you want to add in the sector. If your number of core systems increases with research, you can remove planets from a sector to manage them yourself and reverse this process by spending some influence points.
Sector limit gets increased by 1 for every 4 owned planets.
Now set sector tax level by clicking the icon with target/arrow/cylinder to the right of the ''sector settings'' button as seen in the next image. Use low taxation for a new sector to speed up its growth and if your economy is strong enough give it a bit of energy and minerals to speed up its growth. A mature sector should be taxed to the max by clicking that button repeatedly until you get the desired level.
Finally click ''sector settings'' to instruct the AI governor to build space stations, robots, preserve resources etc and decide if the sector is focused on food, energy, minerals, science, or balanced.
In the image below this notice a new button ''drain sector stockpile'' (added in a recent update) That is very useful in long drawn out wars so make sure you manage the influence resource wisely as you can see it is required to use this button.
To uplift pre-sentients the species must be within your borders and the tech researched.
- Go to species panel
- Choose traits
- Click box
- Click uplift
- Go to situation log and click uplift
- You will gain influence and very friendly pops
Traditions and Influence
Influence is needed to colonize planets and hire leaders, scientists, admirals. drain sector reserves, assimilate vassals. Do not waste it on generals for ground armies, just build more troops. Do not waste it on outposts unless there is an amazing strategic advantage such as preventing a competitor from colonizing a planet that is too far for you to colonize or a strategic resource or some system with exceptional resources. You get it from leaders, research, rivalries, factions, special projects, humiliating enemies during war, uplifting pre-sentient species, civics. Make sure to disband outposts when they are no longer needed.
Traditions are obtained with the unity resource:
In this game I made the mistake of taking prosperity first before the first 2 expansion traditions. You really need those. While there is a great advantage to a huge discount on the cost of mining stations in the early game, I expanded and colonized and conquered so rapidly that I was unable to get enough unity to reduce my ship operating costs (in the prosperity section). The unity cost of traditions increases with the number of pops and planets you see. I can now build a huge fleet but the cost is almost unmanageable.Notice that the mineral reserves are full. Normally if you play correctly they should be very low because you spend so much minerals on ships, stations, planetary upgrades etc. Also notice that my core worlds are really low at this stage of the game because I was unable to finish the expansion tree which adds 2 core worlds. I am surviving by using influence to drain sector energy reserves.
After expansion and prosperity I usually like to take supremacy for increased border range and fire rate of ships and prosperity for happiness and domination for vassal management and assimilation. I rarely bother with diplomacy and discovery.
Diplomacy is conducted via the contacts tab and the row of buttons to the bottom right of the screen. Not only can you see how other empires feel about you but you can check the attitude and opinions of other empires towards another empire than yours.
It makes no sense alienating all the other empires, some have a receptive attitude and will gladly sign non-agression pacts, trade treaties, strategic resources treaties and defensive pacts that will continue to improve their attitude over time. You will still have plenty of enemies to deal with. Treaties build trust over time and other species will not backstab you like in many other well known strategy games. When their attitude changes, you can see it coming game years in advance if their attitude shifts to red and if they break a non-aggression pact or leave a federation there is a period of enforced truce for many game years when they cannot attack you.
Some things that affect attitude negatively are border friction when borders touch, threat when you start several wars of conquest (cede planets), rivalry with allies. About threat, that is the galaxy pushing back if you expand too agressively by military means.It decays over time. You have to strike the right balance otherwise with high high shared threat from you, other empires may form defensive pacts and federations and ally against you.
About migration treaties I recently found an amazing tip I have yet to try: if you are xenophile become friends with every non-xenophobe you can and give awayy free migration agreements once you have colonized a gaia world that is not claimed by a fallen empire (FE spiritualist holy world or FE xenophobe exclusion zone) Once the Gaia world fills up with all those diverse aliens you can make colony ships crewed by aliens to colonize worlds uninhabitable to your species! I have to try it sometime.
I am wary about trading starcharts, you never know if another empire will trade with one of your rivals and the less they know about your empire the better.
Non-aggression and research treaties are great.
Defensive pacts can be a real trap because you can be drawn into a war against a very powerful foe that you are not ready to face yet.
Federation association status is like a non-aggression pact where you cannot attack or be attacked by other federation members. Unlike full membership you do not have to sacrifice 20% of fleet capacity and monthly influence. But any non-federation empire can attack you with impunity and your federation will not defend you and you can attack a federation associate of another federation while its members twiddle their tentacles. At the time of writing I have had one positive federation experience (winning) and it was rather fun with 2 other empires of equivalent power and full membership and 2 very negative experiences where I was less powerful and not a full member or very powerful with a pathetic member. I think it has to be balanced to work.
Best advice for beginners is to become familiar with all the diplomacy symbols and the interrelations between species and avoid declaring war with very powerful empires with many more planets than yours and mutual defense pacts or federations.
War, Warscore, Planetary Conquest, Liberation, Vassalization, Assimilation
There will always be war as long as species seek to expand, control vital resources, protect themselves from hostile neighbors and prevent their own annihilation. Before declaring war check the diplomacy screen first for hostility levels and defense pacts or federations. You may want to keep the friendly ones around for allies and go after the hostile ones first or the ones blocking expansion. In my first games I got into trouble attacking species that seemed weak but had defense pacts with powerful empires. How many planets do you have? Calculate how many planets all the other guys have if you have to fight more than one species. Do the math. Wars sometimes are wars of attrition where the winner outproduces the loser in terms of ship production.
Also compare fleet power by hovering the mouse over your enemies' icons:
- Pathetic 0-25%
- Inferior 25-50%
- Equivalent 50-200%
- Superior 200-400%
- Overwhelming >400%
Suppose you have 10 planets and your enemy has 15 and the tooltip says you have equivalent fleet power and capacity do you still think you will have an easy win? Probably not unless you have lots of ships and minerals and you may need to exceed fleet capacity (it is not a hard cap but costs more energy to run)
Scout your target with science ships if their borders are open to you to assess fleet size, composition, armament, and propulsion type. (when clicking on enemy fleet notice little magnifying glass icon to the right of ship tab showing ship loadouts) All that info will help determine strategy.
When and if you declare war you do it through diplomatic communication and you are taken to the warscore tab. Drag and drop your wargoals from left to right. Take your time to select which planets you want to conquer by looking simultaneously at the star map and try to get planets that form a ''clump'' so you can put them in a sector after the war. Also it is good that conquered planets be near your border.
Pacifists cannot conquer planets directly. First they must liberate a clump of planets, then vassalize them and several years later assimilate them (diplomacy demand) spending influence after a number of years have elapsed. Assimilation takes several years too. If you liberate a single planet or the liberated planets are too far from your borders or your power is a bit low they may refuse to be vassalized at that time but with diplomatic treaties and time and increasing your fleet power they may accept eventually. I find liberation a bit tricky.Do not ask for 2 planets if your warscore limit allows 5.
Conquered planets have unhappy pops that may rebel. To get this under control: build defense ground troops on those planets to reduce unrest, assign an experienced governor to the sector, grant the conquered species citizenship and decent living conditions if your empire ethos allows it and wait a few years for them to get used to it.
Other war options are to make your enemy a tributary (giving you 25% of their minerals and energy) Tributaries can colonize other planets and declare war of their own and have a certain independence. According to the wiki trust builds up over time and they can be turned into vassals later. You can also choose vassalize in wich the conquered empire becomes your ally and progressively becomes more loyal and fights with you in offensive and defensive wars. I have seen vassals increase my warscore by sieging and invading planets on their own during some wars. Nice.
To build warscore you need to bombard an enemy planet with your fleet down to 0 defenses and then land ground assault troops. I find 15 troops usually wins an invasion. Make sure they have the drone attachment (you have to micromanage this for each ground troop individually when building them) Ground assault troops are built in the armies planet tab and come with their own transport ships (but you can improve the design with the ship designer)
Defeating enemy fleets also gives warscore. There is mention of Blockade on the warscore tab and I was intrigued by this because I was not getting that. Well it was removed by a previous update because players were exploiting this by blockading 10 planets with single corvettes! (but they forgot to remove it from the tab causing anguish to the hundred of thousands of new Stellaris players)
During the war you can check on warscore progress by clicking on the war icon that appears in the bottom right screen.
Feel free to refuse enemy offers of white peace if you are doing well in the war. Once the warscore goes over 50% or higher the enemy may surrender. You rarely need to get 100%
Unfortunately I found no guide that gives really good strategy tips and many youtubers are totally clueless and just like to hear themselves talk.
Your war strategy will be dependent on FTL types. Chokepoints can block hyperlanes, destroying wormhole generators will reduce or strand wormhole fleets, warp fleets can easily be attacked during the long cooldown after a jump.
The next 4 images depict a war between a nice peaceful human democratic empire and a dastardly Djunn empire.
Djunn was initially friendly until it swallowed the xenophobe Gorf between itself and my empire. But with border friction it became hostile and attacked with a 32k fleet my 22k fleet empire.
It seemed unwinnable.
I had to use guerilla tactics.
The first step was to split the fleet into multiple corvette or destroyer commando units to destroy their economy by destroying mining stations.
That would keep their main fleet busy chasing those single corvettes while a 5k fleet would destroy individual spaceports.
Destroying spaceports reduces fleet capacity and if a big fleet is over capacity it costs a lot more energy to keep it in flight away from spaceports.
Notice in the first image relative fleet strength and multiple destroyers and corvettes hitting multiple targets at the same time (red conflict icons in the outliner on right side of page)
Notice in the second image main 16K fleet threatening left side of Djunn empire while safely inside Yldar space which has closed borders with Djunn and open borders with the human empire. I wanted to keep the Djunn doomstack far from my core planets in the upper right map. During that period enemy planets that had lost their spaceports got sieged and invaded for warscore. This is death by 1000 cuts where the enemy is bled of minerals, energy, fleet capacity. The fast single ships rarely get caught and killed and are using the well known ''kiting technique'' that is used for boss fights in shooters and mmorpgs. The main fleet slowly traveled (safely) counterclockwise to its Yldar destination outside enemy borders.
This war took about 30 years game time but the last 2 screenshots show the victory and a new Gorf consensus ready to be vassalized and assimilated later. (remember pacifists cannot conquer planets directly, but can eventually increase their empire size after a certain number of years with the aforementioned processes)
When you are fighting an empire whose fleet is inferior to yours the process is simpler: send your doomstack to their worlds, destroy any vessels and spaceports you come across and then siege and occupy their planets with ground troops. In Stellaris you do not leave your ground troops on the occupied planet after a succesfull invasion. You embark your ground troops in troop transports and park them somewhere safe before sending them to invade another planet.
Other lessons learned from this game:
- Mistake1: notice that brown spot of poo named Djunn cartel (image1) in the center of pinkish Djunn state. It was a mistake to liberate this system even though it was the Djunn homeworld because distance from your borders make vassalization difficult.
- Mistake2: Not liberating the maximum possible amount of planets close to my borders during the first war (not shown) I could have expanded my borders earlier after vassalization and assimilation and weakened my enemy to a much greater extent.
- Mistake3: starting a federation with that pitiful poo cost me influence, major reduction in fleet capacity. The federation fleet stayed parked and was utterly unhelpful during the major part of the war when I was not federation president. It is beyond understanding that Djunn state did not destroy the spaceport and fleet of Djunn cartel! If you start a federation make sure it is with a big powerful ally.
- Mistake 4: When the fallen empire at the bottom of the map awakened who did they pick as the most wretched victim to conquer? You guessed it... the brown stain. Oh by the way since it is in a federation why not add to our war demands 4 or 5 planets of that peaceful human empire? To add insult to injury the FE is protected behind a wall of nations that have closed their borders to me so I cannot take the fight to their territory.
I will probably lose this game but I learned a lot from it.
Fallen Empire Strategy
Ever since I started playing Stellaris, fallen empires have been the bane of my existence. Up to the late game they just stay within their borders and only attack if you anger them.
When any fleet power goes above 40k or if someone conquers a fallen empire, it starts the awakening process and they begin to agressively conquer the galaxy. They seem to target weak empires or empires near their borders.
They may offer you a chance to be their vassal but that is a trap that will make a win almost impossible. Some players claim that they were vassals of the xenophobes and despite heavy taxation of minerals and energy were able to conquer weaker empires and conquer enough planets for a win.
I found it is possible to beat a stagnant fallen empire if you have about 80k fleetpower because they have about 65k in their dormant phase. You will get amazingly powerful technology and planets, The best targets are fallen empires very close to your borders because if they awaken they can quickly put a stop to your dreams of glory. I find xenophobes and spiritualist FE to be particularly nasty and deserving of elimination first. The other 2 may be useful as during an endgame crisis they can become guardians of the galaxy and defend the galaxy against powerful threats.
So far I have played games with 2 FE in a normal galaxy size. I feel the best strategy would be to rush to conquer the second FE right after the first one but loss of ships in the first battle may leave your empire too weak to take on FE2 before they awaken. It seems to happen rather quickly after destroying FE1.
When they awaken, they start with about 200k power and seem to snowball very quickly at a rate of about 4K a year in my experience. This is what you will face:
Well here is a collection of tips I have found with personal experience and searching the web:
- Don't fight them, colonize every planet you can ASAP and maybe you can reach the 40% victory treshold. The victory tab and the expansion planner tab will tell you if you have enough planets to reach that goal.
- Wait for endgame crisis and hope the FE will be severely damaged by it and maybe you can finish it off
- If FE have strikecraft build flak destroyers and cruisers. In fact build swarms of corvettes and destroyers and use the grand fleet edict and go over the max fleet cap. With massive fleet losses your income will bounce back. Drain sector reserves of energy and minerals with influence to build up ships quickly. For battleships 100 is a good start (with long range weapons) and if you have a massive swarm of smaller ships some of them may make it through.For some players corvettes with torpedoes (the ones that ignore shields) and plasma work well. Corvettes with high evasion will have a surprisingly high survival rate.
- Keep them busy with small fleets in or near their territory and use guerilla tactics like we discused in the last section. Use decoys to keep their doomstack busy while another fleet attacks a mining station or a spaceport.
- Attack and occupy their allies, vassals
- 8 cruiser fleets with 1 splitting of in each system if necessary
- With luck the FE may split its doomstack and you may be able to inflict massive losses
- Keeping them busy until they accept white peace repeatedly because the war has been too long
- Watch Youtube video about "naked corvettes" vs FE (it's not x-rated btw) and see if you can make that work for you
- Maybe the most elegant solution would be the "fortress flower" or "tulip" which has a snare in the center and 6 fortresses around it with long range weapons and debuffs modules and heavy armor with your fleet waiting in the center of the gravity well. You would need some ships to lure the FE to that system and when they arrive your fleet would be right on top of them negating the long range advantage of FE which do not build for close quarters combat. It would look something like the following image.
I have not tried this yet. I have not researched defense stations in most of my games because of other research priorities and low research due to number of planets research penalty.
Space Hydra Slaver Empire
I"d like to talk about my xenophobe experience. Sigh.
My first xenophobe was crushed in early game because the entire galaxy hated it and I barely knew the game basics.
This is my second try. I am trying to answer the question: is xenophobe viable? Of course huge borders and enslaving xenos who are mostly hostile seems appealing but can I make it work?
Here is the build: Authoritarian/xenophobe/militarist with mining guilds and slaver guilds. I got slave processing plant through early research ( great synergy with authoritarian and slaver guild civic, I had learned through my research)
Species traits are debatable maybe better choices exist? Industrious, repugnant, sedentary, rapid breeders.
Hydra is a fungus that originated (where else) on a jungle world. Now this is the most powerful empire in the galaxy save the remaining fallen empire on the left that has not targeted me yet. Food and mineral production are simply amazing.
The traditions are underdevelopped because I made the mistake of not taking expansion traditions early enough and I expanded too quickly. Also explains why core worlds are low.
Fleet capacity is remarkable and the grand fleet edict has not been activated yet !
But my economy ! Ouch ! -586 minerals per month ! I am draining energy sectors with influence just to survive ! Research is progressing at a snail's pace and I am missing the higher tier energy plants and the tradition for reduced fleet upkeep.
Now ethics divergence and factions are out of control and spending influence to whack those moles seems a waste of time and resources. 49% of my pops are unhappy and Hydra species are 36% of empire pops.
In a desperate attempt to increase happiness and productivity of energy I gave Residence with caste system to 2 of my species but as you can see the upper castes are almost as unhappy as the slaves.
We have a Whisky Tango Foxtrot situation on Ilus where planet is being deserted despite 80% hability for the Themlar race.
Now I am considering rushing colonies for about 10 more planets to snatch a domination victory our of the jaws of defeat or utter economic collapse.
But I feel I will be robbed of the opportunity for a glorious epic battle with the remaining Fallen Empire. So is slavery viable?
My conclusion is slavery is barely viable. Minerals and food are awesome, science, energy and unity are pathetic.
Random Tips and Info
Red color empires look cool on the map but make it difficult to spot enemy fleets who are also red.... You have been warned
Split your starting corvettes and send them to explore the nearest systems to identify potential colonizable planets so you can tell your science ships which systems to survey first.
Wait for pops to fill a planet before clearing tile blockers and prioritize energy and minerals in early game.
Some factions are really annoying because of the unhappiness they generate. I was successful in eradicating one once by spending 1 influence a month for many months. Soon afterwards 3 annoying ones appeared. My personal opinion is: influence is too valuable to waste on those whackos and since you are the leader and their agendas are often incompatible with sensible management... ignore them. One player on the forums compared faction suppression to a child's game called whack-a-mole.
Brief review of traps waiing to spring on new players:
- Holy worlds belonging to Spiritualist fallen empires and colonizing / outposting in the exclusion zone around xenophobe fallen empires
- Activating terraforming machinery found by a science ship on a perfectly habitable world. There is a much higher probability of terraforming a hellish inferno than a gaia planet. Pops get really unhappy when habitability drops below 60%
- Defense pacts can draw you into unwanted wars you are not ready for
- ''Allow us to guide you" "The treaty calls out to you" that is a nice way for a fallen empire to ask you to be their vassal
- Generals. Only good for ground assault troops. Waste of influence and leader slot. Instead build 15 assault troops and give them hunter killer drone attachments (to each one manually)