Stellaris – 3 Planet Tall Strategy Guide

Do you hate intense micro? Do you hate having to colonize anything and everything just to be on par with the AI? Do you wish you could just roll over the AI with science like in the Civilization series? Do you like min-maxing?

Well, my 3 Planet Guide is just the right thing for you!


Hello all! This build I have made is something I’d been using since 1.8 that I finally was able to bring into the current patch with the new planet mechanics. With this build, you can expect to have the following by 2350:

  • 300-500k Fleet power.
  • Massive technological advantage (even on Grand Admiral).
  • A partially built Megastructure.

The main strategy of this build is to stay under admin cap in order to maximize efficiency, and then building an extreme amount of research labs on two planets and using the third for a resource feeder. After following the Synthetic Ascension path and hitting repeatable technologies, you can then widen out (usually by 2300) and start building large amounts of alloy foundries on new planets. All of this is done without relying on Habitats or the Ecumenopolis. You can then build any kind of fleet that you desire and build any Megastructure you choose.

The main drawback of this strategy is that you are very weak in the early game, and will most likely be wiped out by anybody who attacks you if playing on higher difficulties. If you spawn next to a purifier type empire (Devouring Swarm, Fanatical Purifier or Determined Exterminator), you should probably restart your game.

The allure of this build is, of course, that you only have to manage three planets in the early game, and you don’t even have to widen out that much to win the game (I usually don’t have more than 10 planets by the end). Having less planets means less micro for you and better late game performance. It also focuses on high level leaders, since you generally have the same leaders/ruler you start the game with since you get all the life increasing techs and synthetically ascend super early (by 2270 in my latest game).

As a final note, this build is more of a Crisis-fighting/score victory kind of empire, and is not optimal if you wish to purge the filthy xeno.

Now, on to the guide!

Empire Setup

For this build, research is the name of the game, so we need to maximize the research generated by our pops and our growth speed. For our ethics we need:

Fanatic Materialist
-20% Robot upkeep
+10% Research speed

+10 Admin cap
+5 Stability

Science director jobs. Researchers generate unity.

Start with Robots. -5% robot upkeep

This combination of ethics and civics gives you -25% Robot upkeep, something very nice when your whole population becomes Robots. The extra admin cap will let you grab a few extra systems in the early game (maybe even a choke point you desperately need) without going over cap. The stability also helps when you inevitably dip into low stability (your clerks will be the only thing generating extra amenities).

Using the Mechanist civic will give you extra population to start with, and one less technology to research. It also doubles the chance for Droids and Synthetics to appear, speeding you along your path to ascension. Technocracy helps you fly through tradition trees without having to upgrade Authocthon Monuments.

As for authority, you want to pick Dictatorial or Imperial. This gives you access to Agendas, and particularly the +10% Research speed buff.

The only real downside to this ethics combination is being unable to go to war over territory in the late game. You can still build a Colossus and use it to pacify worlds during other types of war, effectively destroying the planet.

For your species, you will want the following:

Rapid Breeders
+10% Growth speed

+10% All research output

-20% Army damage
-2.5% Worker output

-15% Governing ethics attraction

Growth is still extremely important in 2.3, so we want the fastest growing pops as possible with Rapid Breeders. Intelligent is also a no-brainer, since we want to squeeze out as much research as possible.

Weak and Deviants have the least downsides of any negative traits, and they completely disappear as soon as you synthetically ascend. Not only that, but Robot pops have a massive attraction to the Materialist faction, so ethics will never be an issue.

Traditions / Perks

Traditions are very important since we want to synthetically ascend as quickly as possible, so we want to be flying through the best trees and getting the perks that we need.

Expansion – Discovery – Domination – Prosperity – Supremacy

Expansion is always the best to take first, giving us quicker colonization, growth speed and a free pop. The extra admin cap is also very useful. Discovery is mostly taken for the research speed bonus and upkeep reduction, which is very important.

Domination has some nice bonuses in it, and Prosperity comes in as we begin to widen out in the mid game. Supremacy is, of course, to help with your fleet in the late game.

As for Ascension Perks, you want the following:

Technological Ascendancy – The Flesh is Weak – Synthetic Evolution – Galactic Force Projection – Galactic Contender – Colossus Project

In all reality, after you synthetically ascend, you can take whatever ascension perks you wish. The three I’ve chose will best prepare your empire for war, however.

Tech Path

Since technology is semi random in Stellaris, the best thing you can realistically do is to increase research alternatives and grab prerequisites in order to get the technologies you want.

The only real tech path we need to follow is:

Droids – Synthetics – Synthetic Personality Matrix

These Engineering technologies are the ones we need to become perfect machines. In order to minimize time in getting these techs, you want to take any technology that increases base research (this applies to other fields as well) and when those are not available, take the technologies that take the least amount of time, in order to reshuffle the pool.

Some technologies to look out for are:

  • Growth Technology
  • Research Technology
  • Statecraft Technology
  • Sensor Technology (For Black Hole Observatory)
  • Robot Technology (Extra Mod Points)

Early Game

To start things off, I usually restart my game until I get the Scientific Leap agenda, giving us 10% Research speed. This might seem trivial to some, but this build is focused around min maxing in the early game.

Before you unpause the game, you want to go into your policies and switch your Trade Policy to Consumer Benefits, Food Policy to Nutritional Plentitude, and Economic Policy to Civilian Economy. Doing this will increase your population growth and generation of Consumer Goods, and the less Civilian Industries you have to build, the better. Alloys will not be a concern until the mid game.

Once you start unlocking your building slots, you want to fill the vast majority of them with Research Labs. the build order for your 3 planets are as follows:

First Planet: Autocthon Monument – Research Lab – Research Lab – Civilian Industries – Research Lab – Research Lab

After this point, I usually build a couple more labs, and then an Energy Nexus. Some more labs, a Research Institute, and usually a housing building or two will cap off the planet. I also never upgrade the Civilian Industries buildings on this planet, as they get replaced later.

Second Planet: Robotic Assembly Plant – Autocthon Monument – Research Lab

This planet will be almost purely labs, so I just spam City Districts and build up the labs. Energy Nexus and Research Institute included.

Third Planet: Robotic Assembly Plant – Autocthon Monument – Civilian Industries – Exotic Gas Refinery

Our resource planet, this one will be used to sustain the other two planets. I generally build various refineries and CI buildings to suit whatever I need at that time. You generally will have a lot of gas refineries because of the excessive amount of upgraded labs.

For districts on planets, you usually want to build the maximum amount of Generator Districts first since energy is a very valuable resource. City Districts will be your go to after that on your two tech worlds, and Mining Districts will be important on your feeder world.

You will want as much Agriculture Districts you need in order to keep positive food high enough in order to keep your planets under the Encourage Planetary Growth modifier at all times, which costs 1000 food. After you ascend, you can convert all of these districts into whatever you need at the time.

As a final note, don’t engage in migration treaties with the AI. You don’t want their sub-par pops in your empire, and the treaty costs precious influence. I would suggest refraining from doing anything diplomatically at all with any AI except maybe a commercial pact with a Megacorp.

Now that we have all that out of the way, we can unpause the game!

First colony down in 2205. I recommend you activate the Map the Stars edict as soon as you get your second Science ship up and running; This just makes your ships better, and I don’t think it’s worth activating before you get your second one going.

Second colony down in 2208. Since we are trying to stay under admin cap, expand slowly and meaningfully. Go for systems with high resources and planets.

Ran into my first AI in 2218. Oddly enough, my custom version of the UNE spawned right next to me. They have similar ethics to me, so things should be peaceful between us. I also rolled the Cybrex as our precursor civilization. I know you get a ringworld as a reward for that quest chain, and I also know it’s very powerful right now. So for the purpose of this guide, I won’t be using the ringworld. I also got lucky enough to have 2 Exotic Gases in space in my territory, so that will help a bit.

As a note, don’t be afraid to dip into the negatives with Consumer Goods in the early game. You should be able to float your economy with other resources in the meantime, provided you get your planets up and running in a decent timeframe.

Droids tech in 2236. Before this point, I usually have some unemployment problems since Robots can only do mining and food jobs and I don’t want to spam Agriculture Districts. Droids will let them fill in the jobs they couldnt do before, minus a few important ones.

Also discovered the Xenophobe FE on the other side of me, so it seems that as long as I stay away from them and chummy with the other humans, this might be a very peaceful early game.

Cyborgs in 2240! The early game was going relatively slow (Space resources being crappy) with my other test games getting Droids tech much earlier. But I ended up becoming cyborgs by my predicted time of 2240, so everything worked out fine in the end.

Around this time you want to be focusing on upgrading labs and upkeeping those costs with buildings on your third planet.

Reformed my government in 2248 and added a third civic, Mining Guilds. This will help us in the late game when we start mass producing alloys.

By this time, I’ve met a few more AI’s, and we’ve hit the 1k research mark. We also have a pact with the Curators for research speed, as well as the edict Research Grants. Be sure to keep both of these active; it’s one of the reasons energy is so important.

Around this time, I started using the Academic Privelege living standard to keep Scientists happier. This will use a lot more Consumer Goods, so be prepared. Because you are not expanding, you can also use all of the influence/energy edicts like Peace Festivals, Healthcare Campaign and Capacity Overload regularly.

Finished the Cybrex chain in 2256. Didn’t know you got this crazy Artifact as well as the ring world. I will also refrain from using this for the guide purpose, but just know that using this would be insanely powerful after ascending.

The AI’s have mostly been fighting amongst themselves. There is a spiritualist empire encroaching on my borders currently, but they are constantly at war and never get time to turn their attention to me.

Ascended in 2268. This is the earliest I’ve done it ever, with my last being 2270. Now, we can replace all of our Agriculture Districts with more useful ones. You will also have an excess of Consumer Goods, so you can replace the Civilian Industry buildings on your home planet with a Galactic Stock Exchange and whatever else you choose.

After you ascend, change your Refugee Policy to Refugees Welcome. This will allow you to grow your population even faster, and with the assimilation species right, you can transform any refugees into perfect machines.

Picked up Galactic Contender in 2280. This will make the FE’s easier if you choose to go to war with them in some way. Also have hit the 3k research mark.

It is now 2290 and we are starting to research repeatable technologies. We have managed to secure 5 planets in our borders (6 but one turned out to be a dragon) and now we can start to expand to them. Since we are perfect machines now, we have 100% habitiabilty everywhere, so we can just colonize it all.

Mid Game

Now that we have all the non repeatable technologies, we can widen out. Our focus will be to produce as much alloys as possible in order to get a fleet going.

The buildings on these planets aren’t that important (except of course on the Forge Worlds). You are mostly just trying to feed your alloy production at this point. Build as needed.

By 2310, we already are up to +219 alloys a month and have a 35k fleet. I’ve planned out the 5 worlds to be 2 Mining Worlds, 2 Forge Worlds and a Refinery World.

Around this time, your 3 original planets will begin to overcrowd. When you run out of jobs on those planets, move them over to your Forge Worlds to get the alloy production going. That’s how I boosted my alloy production so quickly. Also hit the 4k research mark.

2320 and we have very close to a 100k fleet. We’ve almost doubled our alloy production, but nothing too much else to report at this time; It’s a fairly boring part of the game.

2330. We have 200k of fleet power and more than enough Unity to keep multiple ambitions active at once. Also hit the 5k research mark. All of the AI’s have been trying to buddy up to me since they are all laughably pathetic now.

2340. 350k+ fleet. Even the Fallen Empires are starting considered Equivalent. We’re also at +7/+8 in many repeatable technologies. I’ve also stopped microing my planets, as I simply have everything I need to win.

We have arrived at the end date of this guide. 2350, and we have well over 500k fleet power, which will allow us to curbstomp anything in the galaxy. Continuing down this path with more planets + continued micro could easily have you going toe to toe with a 5x crisis by 2450.

Late Game

Now that we have everything we’ve set out to accomplish, there’s a couple of paths you can take now.

You can simply wait out the game and at this rate, you will overtake the FE’s in score and eventually win a score victory. You can also becoming a Galactic Defender and simply beat up the crisis for the rest of the AI’s. Building Megastructures is also an option.

What I personally like to do is insult the FE’s until they declare war on me, then I pacify their homeworld, which effectively eliminates them from the game. You could also get into a federation and hope they feel like they’re in a warlike mood.

You also don’t have to stop at 5 traditions trees. Nothing is stopping you from grabbing some more ascension perks and trees, since you will have so much extra unity.

As a final note, I’ll show you my optimal ship setup for this build:

This corvette will penetrate through almost everything and go directly for the hull. Very effective against FE’s who can’t hit small targets as well, and have massive shields.

This battleship, along with the artillery AI, is a long range death platform. Having this thing following behind your corvette swarm has caused FE fleet to vanish in seconds. Be sure to include a Titan in your fleet for the ship aura.


After reading all of this, I hope I have shown people that the tall build is alive and well, and you don’t need to resort to massive expansion and territory grabbing in order to be a powerful empire. 


Q: Why do you care so much about staying under admin cap?

A: When you have a small empire with a small amount of territory, being too far over cap can really hurt you. More importantly, it helps with repeatable technologies, which cost a lot more than regular tech.

Q: My amenities are so low, how is this build possible?

A: Stabilty is really the only thing that matters, and as long as you keep it above 49%, you’re generally good. Living standards and any kind of Happiness bonus can offset this, or if you are really hurting due to an unfortunate event, you can always Distribute Luxury Goods.

Q: I got destroyed in the early game, how do you survive?

A: While there is enough alloys being generated to keep a good bastion and small fleet active, you generally can’t hold off a full scale attack until the 2250’s. Try to keep good relations with empires until that time when the technology on your starbases makes them quite formidable to the AI.

Q: Which planet designations should I use?

A: Tech World for your tech world, and Generator World for the feeder world. The Refinery World buff isn’t very good, and we can use all the energy we can get.

Q: You said it was unmodded, why do you have mods?

A: I have an assortment of cosmetic mods that I can’t disable unless I want to remake 30+ empires. None of them affect gameplay.


  1. Nutritional Plentitude is not longer a policy you can toggle on at the beginning of the game. It’s now an Edict which is unlocked once you’ve researched Eco Simulation -> Gene Crops. It costs 200 Influence and has an additional penalty of +10% Empire Sprawl from Pops.

    Encourage Planetary Growth has been removed from the game. You can no longer use this planetary decision to spend 1000 food every 10 years for a 25% boost to planetary growth.

    Map the Stars Edict is not available when the game starts. It’s now available only after you’ve adopted the Discovery tradition tree, which this guide recommends starting after the the Expansion tree has been finished, at which point it may not be as useful of a bonus unless there’s still plenty around you to explore. I think completing the Expansion tree first still makes sense as it helps with pop growth speed.

  2. I have used this guide now for the 3rd time and i need to thank you,
    this is a very well written piece of work.

    Since i am new to Stellaris i needed a little guidance through my first few games.
    Reading all of this has helped me a lot with learning how the mechanics in this game work.

    As it was said below, this guide is still viable in 2.7 and a lot of fun.

    But i sank some 20h in without the Utopia DLC, not knowing that i need it.
    I would be happy if you could add that to your Preface. =)

  3. Guide is still VERY valid. Author did an awesome job compared to other guides. Completed my first Grand Admiral x10 crisis iron man. The changes i made to the guide above was i went for Ecumenopolis (Arcology) after ascending in 2284 (i was abit slow)

    By the time of end crisis my average fleet power was 250k and about 17 fleets. By the end of the game i had average fleet power of 330k and fed fleet of about 700-770k fleet power. I’m not sure how large x25 crisis fleet power is but i think if went hard and focused on more and more fleets and breached naval caps, i could have done it… I was obsessed with keeping fleet cap at maximum, but never breaching… some OCD :p

  4. You may add Galactic Administration and Positronic AI as prerequisites for Synthetic Tech in your tech path. For people like me who play first time this is not obvious or known.

  5. currently tall-empires sux, cause multiple planets provides multiple sources to grow pops. It isn’t affected by current population or food income etc. So the more planets – the more pops => more resources => more administrative limits => etc. Just use them as multiple hatcheries and move pops to main planetes with better infrastructure (higher habitability, better governors, higher goods etc, other boosts)

  6. Im trying to follow this, but I never have any minerals, and all my planets keep running out of amenities and housing and are at really low stability, and just everything is going wrong….

    Ive never had these problems on any other run and for the life of me I cant figure out why its so damn hard this time

  7. Im thinking that using your first planet as your infrastructure planet would make this a lot more stable. Waiting until your 3rd planet to make goods and resources is just way too risky. Ive always found my first world is one of my worst worlds anyway

  8. Tried this for the first time. Really struggled early to keep up with the population growth. Then really started struggling with Consumer Goods and never recovered from that. I think the main issue being Trade Policy now being locked behind Mercantilst. Will try taking that early next time.

  9. Excellent guide!

    Currently on my 2nd game following this strategy and it certainly works.

    Now in year 2460 and have over 1.6mm Fleet power (8 fleets ~ 200K + Juggernaut). Research over 7K and climbing! Resource prod over 1K/month (energy credits over 2k) and completely out of storage space; need more planets just for silos!

    Only limitation is Influence gain; stuck at 10 each month. Enabled appropriate Edicts/policies to max Influence growth, but 10/month seems to be the limit.

    If I was in the mood, I could probably stomp all over my AI opponents, but I’m in a Federation and every other civ minus one in the Federation, so it wouldn’t be polite to turn on them.

    Basically running out the remainder of the game waiting for a Score Victory. Then I’ll start again on the next level of difficulty and see how it goes (I’m on the 2nd-lowest difficulty, so expect a much harder time the next play-through). Wish me luck and thanks for a great strategy guide!!!

  10. Hey man, just wanted to let you know i’ve literally been using this guide for i’d say half my empires since you originally posted it, genuinely lovvve it some of the most fun i’ve had playing the game.
    Awesome guide thanks for the build and keeping it updated !

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