Stellaris is a science fiction strategy game made by Paradox Interactive, the grand strategy developer famed for Crusader Kings 2. Stellaris is a hybrid of the 4x and Grand Strategy genres and, like previous Paradox titles, it has an extremely steep learning curve.
If you have just purchased Stellaris and tried to jump in and start playing, you are probably struggling for how to start. In this article, I will endeavor to help provide you with as many tips and suggestions as I can to make your journey into the world of Stellaris a smooth one.
50. Your first playthrough should be with a premade empire
If you have just started playing Stellaris, it’s probably for the best if you avoid creating your own empire for now. The game comes with a number of prebuilt empires so just pick one that fits the way you want to play and run with them for now. Building your own empire is a long and complex process and you really should wait until you have some experience under your belt first.
49. Leave the tutorial on for your first playthrough
Unlike in many Paradox games, the tutorial in Stellaris is actually quite good. The combination of missions and your robot friend chatting in your ear does a great job of explaining exactly what Stellaris is and the basics of quite a few important mechanics. Besides, if you find the tutorial bot annoying, you can always turn him off from the options menu later.
48. Turn off the option in galaxy generation that lets you spawn next to advanced empires
Depending on your settings, you can quite easily spawn next to a more advanced empire that started with more territory, pops and so on. Depending on their personality, this can easily spell a quick death for your campaign. The best way to avoid this is to change your galaxy generation settings to stop you from spawning next to an advanced AI so you have a little bit of breathing room to start with.
47. Administrative Capacity is a soft cap, not a hard one
This is a common misconception by new players and an easy mistake to make but your administrative capacity does not denote a number you are forced to stay under. The purpose of that number is to indicate that above that level, you will start to receive penalties to research speed, leader cost, leader upkeep, cost to adopt unity traditions, and unity campaign cost. You are supposed to go over the cap; all it means is that you will get some penalties from it.
46. Diversify Your Fleet Composition
How you compose your fleet is kind of a giant game of Space rock paper scissors, in some ways. You want a mix of different ship types to make use of all possibilities. Essentially, you want some missile boat corvettes, some energy weapon/kinetic hybrids and some point defense to make sure you are covering all your bases.
45. DO NOT colonize a Holy World
During the course of your game, you will run across a planet type called a Gaia world which is a class of planet that is literally perfect and has 100% habitability for every species in the galaxy. Before you go and colonize one, it is important to check if they have the “Holy World” planetary modifier and, if they do then you must not colonize them before you have a MINIMUM of 150k to 200k fleet power. These worlds are considered to be essentially Space Jerusalem by one of the Fallen Empires who are the most powerful (albeit extremely stagnant) empires in the galaxy and they consider the colonization of these worlds to be essentially heresy so if you colonize one of them, prepare to fight one of the strongest empires in the galaxy.
44. Prioritize control of chokepoints
When you start claiming new systems, one thing that is especially important to prioritize is gaining control of choke point systems in order to control the flow of enemy forces into your territory. It is far better to control three chokepoints than eighteen random systems since having a small number of choke points will allow you to better fortify your border and hold off potential invaders much more easily.
43. Don’t sell too much of one resource on the market
The market is a valuable tool for trading one resource for another but it’s also something of a double-edged sword. The main thing to keep in mind is that the market operates on a supply and demand system, meaning that the more the demand the higher the price and vice versa. The practical result of this is that the more you buy a certain resource, the more expensive it gets and the more you sell, the less valuable it becomes.
42. Colonizing low habitability planets is seldom worth it
After a couple of the recent updates to Stellaris, colonizing low habitability planets no longer caps your happiness at habitability. Instead, it increases the amount of amenities, consumer goods and food each pop on that world will require, but those penalties are rather harsh and require you to spend a lot of resources for little benefit. While it may be worth it if you find a massive world with a ton of valuable resources, it’s not worth it if what you’ll be getting is just another planet.
41. Hive mind pops cannot live in another empire
When you start to get into the later part of the early game (the part where you start going to war and conquering systems from other empires), you may end up clashing with hive minds. The important thing to know about hive minds is that they have a unique population which cannot survive in normal empires. It’s important to keep in mind that, until you gain access to certain genetic engineering techs, any hive minded pops that end up in your empire will slowly die off over time.
40. You can’t turn a tributary into a vassal or vice versa
If you decide to expand through establishing subjects in order to avoid unrest from newly conquered subjects, one thing that’s important to know is that whatever subject type you choose is the one you are stuck with. The main difference between the two is that tributaries give resources, don’t join you in wars and can’t be integrated later while vassals send their military forces to “assist” you and can be integrated. So, it’s important to decide early if you want to be able to integrate that empire later or just have them as a resource production factory forever.
39. Some policies are locked behind the appropriate ethics
When you start a new game, you may want to change some of your empire’s policies to change how you approach certain things. However, many of these policies are gated behind certain ethics such as unrestricted bombardment being unavailable to pacificts and xenophiles not being able to purge or turn away all refugees. This is something to keep in mind when picking an empire so you don’t accidentally choose one whose ethics block you from taking your desired policies.
38. Don’t build districts or buildings if you don’t need the jobs
The thing with buildings and districts is that they all have energy upkeep and many of the upgraded versions may also consume strategic resources as well. What this means is that you don’t want to just be building districts and buildings unless you need them to employ your population. Having a large number of unutilized buildings sitting around is nothing more than a drain on your income for no benefit and you want to avoid that.
37. Build a Second Science Ship ASAP
In the super early game, that being the first 20 years or so, rapid expansion is critical to being able to bring in the resources you need to grow and you have to be able to survey a lot of systems to do this. In order to survey enough systems, you really want to get your hands on a second scientist and science ship as soon as you possibly can. If possible, you should start building a second science ship as soon as the game starts and recruit another scientist the moment you have enough energy to hire them.
36. Unlock either discovery or expansion first
Out of all the ascension trees in the game, Discovery and Expansion give the most significant early-game benefits. Discovery gives a boost to research when you are surveying and boosts survey speed while expansion allows your colonies to start with an extra pop and reduces the influence cost for establishing new starbases. While most of the tradition trees have some use, discovery and expansion are the most beneficial for what you will be doing in the early game: exploring uncharted systems and colonizing new worlds.
35. War Doctrines are gated behind the Supremacy Tree
Of all the tradition trees in Stellaris, Supremacy is one of the best partially because of the finishing benefit of unlocking war doctrines. War Doctrines allow you to customize the way you want your fleet to fight by giving it various bonuses. Because of the benefits you get from this, you should immediately rush down the Supremacy tree once either Discovery or Expansion is finished.
34. Don’t try and fight the leviathans before you have at least a 50k fleet
Leviathans are some of the most powerful enemies in the game and killing them is a significant mid-game challenge. While you can get some help taking them on from the curators, it is still all but impossible to beat them with less than 50k fleet strength and, depending on the specific leviathan in question, failing to defeat them can have disastrous consequences for you.
33. You can get more than energy credits from trade
Directly exchangingone trade for one energy is the most obvious use for trade but there are a number of ways to set up your trade depending on what you want to get out of it. Trade can also be used to get either half as much energy and some consumer goods or for unity and research. Which you go for depends on the circumstances of your empire but it’s important to consider all your options.
32. Rapid Deployment is the best War Doctrine for offensive wars
It’s generally accepted that, unless you are a pacifist, most of your wars will be to conquer territory and you will be attacking. As a result, once you unlock them, it is important to consider what war doctrine you will use. In most cases, Rapid Deployment’s bonus to your weapon range provides a much more tangible and useful benefit than what you get from No Retreat or Hit and Run.
31. Most Building Upgrades require strategic resources for upkeep
Almost every building in the game has at least one level of upgrade with some having more. However, most of these upgrades increase monthly upkeep in strategic resources to maintain them. Because of this upkeep, it is important to not just spam upgrades unless you actually have the strategic resources to maintain them.
30. You usually need claims to take territory from another empire
While some empires are exempt from this due to having a colossus or being special in some other way (Barbaric Despoilers, Fanatic Purifier, Devouring Swarms, Determined Exterminators and Driven Assimilators), all standard empires will need to claim a system in order to conquer it from their enemy in a war. In order to make a claim, you go into the claims section of the menu and select what systems to use your influence to put a claim on.
29. Colossi are a double-edged sword
A Colossus is a massive planet (or population) killing superweapon that can wipe out entire worlds, albeit after a very long charging and firing period. In addition to killing planets, Colossi also give you a special type of claim similar to what Purifiers and Devouring Swarms get where you can go to war and instantly get what you occupy just by having a Colossus. However, the flipside of this is that any empire in the galaxy is also able to declare war on you without claims now.
28. Pops promotion to specialist jobs can reduce base resource output
When there are specialist jobs available on a planet, your worker class pops tend to rush to fill them, abandoning their old jobs. The problem is that this can result in a massive decrease in base resource output since all specialist jobs consume basic resources to function. So, when you start adding specialist jobs to a planet, make sure there are either enough unemployed to take the jobs or the inevitable promotion won’t reduce your base resource output by a significant amount.
27. Add orders to your order queue by holding down shift and clicking
The shift key is a gift from the heavens in Stellaris. If you need to give multiple orders and don’t want to have to constantly come back to that ship or fleet and add new ones then the solution is an easy one: just hold down the shift key when giving orders. Unfortunately, this does not work for your building queue on planets.
26. Add orders to the start of your order queue by holding down shift and ctrl while clicking
There will be times when you want to add an item to the front of an order queue such as researching ship debris before it expires and rushing to build an outpost to block off your rival. In order to do this, you want to hold down the shift and ctrl keys while you give the orders so that your next order is added to the front of the order queue rather than the back.
25. If you have a lot of subjects and a War in Heaven happens, you can’t join either fallen empire or your vassals will become their vassals
A war in heaven is essentially a massive, galaxy-spanning war between two Awakened Empires. When it starts, both will come to you and demand your support while threatening to destroy you if you refuse. One thing worth keeping in mind is that if you have a lot of subjects, such as if you are a feudal society empire or a megacorp with a lot of subsidiaries, then declaring for one side or another won’t just make you their vassal: it will also make all of your subjects become their subjects.
24. To create a vassal, you first need to create a sector and then release that sector as a vassal
The system for creating your own vassal requires you to jump through a few hoops first since it requires that you first set up a sector by going to the planet screen and then go to the “Planets and Sectors” screen and create a vassal from that sector. The thing to keep in mind with this is that you can only release vassals and subsidiaries (if you are a megacorp) and they cannot be released as tributaries.
23. There are no notifications for unrest on a subject’s planets so you will have to check this manually
The problem with subjects is that the game does not tell you when they have unrest on their problems so it’s quite easy to not notice a vassal is about to lose a system to rebellion until decades later. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to either check unrest on your subject’s planets manually or just not have subjects.
22. Only the leader of a war can negotiate peace
One thing that might surprise players of other Paradox strategy games (especially Europa Universalis 4) is the fact that there is no separate peace in Stellaris. The effect of this is that you can only make peace with the war leader of the other side and you cannot negotiate peace if you are not the war leader.
21. When you hit 100% war exhaustion, you have 24 months before the other side can force you to make peace
War exhaustion is increased over time by a variety of factors including taking losses, both fleet and army, occupation of your territory and just being at war. In general, there are no negative effects to war exhaustion. However, when you reach 100% war exhaustion it starts a 24-month countdown timer which will allow the enemy to force you to accept a status quo peace(both sides take control of the territory they have claims on) once that timer reaches zero.
20. Base Robots can only work mining and farming jobs
This is not very obvious in the description of their duties but the only jobs that can be done by basic robots are mining and farming jobs. These bots cannot work generator jobs until the Droids technology is research, upgrading them to the next level and allowing them to do generator jobs.
19. Fallen Empire Techs can only be gained by researching their ship debris
Fallen Empire technologies are unique in that you cannot get them through traditional research. Their techs are impossible to gain outside of fighting them as the only way to unlock these research options is to destroy their ships and research the debris.
18. If you start next to the Robot Fallen Empire, Pray to the RNG Gods
There are several different kinds of fallen empires in the game which are divided by ethics. However, there is one Synthetic FE which can be either a blessing or a curse. This FE exists to fight the Contingency endgame crisis and, if the contingency show up, there will be an RNG roll in the background to determine if this fallen empire goes berserk and tries to kill all organics or fights with you against the contingency.
17. Do NOT open the L-Gates if you have less than 60k Fleet Strength
The L-Gates, a series of gateways that lead to an uncharted star cluster outside the galaxy, can generate a number of different options for what they contain. One of these options is the Grey Tempest which will result in massive fleets of nanite doom machines tearing across the galaxy and consuming all life. The smallest fleets they ever deploy is about 35k per fleet (and they will continue spawning fleet after fleet until their factory is wiped out) so going in with less than 60k fleet power is just asking to die, really.
16. Never form a pact with the End of the Cycle unless you are literally about to die
If you go down the Psionic ascension path then you will gain access to an alternate plane of reality known as the Shroud (essentially the Stellaris version of the Warp) which houses several entities you can form pacts with for various benefits and drawbacks. Out of all of these entities, the only one you need to avoid like the plague is the one called the End of the Cycle. The End of the Cycle will give you tremendous benefits for forming a pact but those benefits will last for a mere half-century after which your entire empire will be destroyed in an instant, leaving you with a single planet and handful of pops still under your control.
15. If you try to outlaw robots when you have a large robot population in your empire it can start a robot uprising
Outlawing robots is all well and good when you only have a small number of them or none of your robots are synthetics but it becomes far more complicated once your empire contains a large number of synthetics. If you decide to outlaw AI while having a large synthetic population, be aware that there is a chance that attempting to outlaw and therefore shut down a large synthetic population is likely to result in an AI uprising.
14. If your empire has a large synthetic population and you make them citizens, they will require consumer goods upkeep
Giving your synthetics citizenship may seem like a good idea to avoid a robot uprising but it can introduce some unexpected issues. The thing is that giving synths citizenship means that, like organic pops, they will require consumer goods upkeep. So, before you grant your synthetic population citizenship, make sure that you have enough of a consumer goods surplus to cover the new cost for long enough to increase production and make up for the new required consumer goods income.
13. Certain advanced technologies are gated behind a specific ascension perk
Stellaris has a gargantuan number of technologies that can be researched but not all of them can be gotten through straight-up research. There are a number of techs that you can only gain access to through specific ascension perks such as Gene Seed Purification in the genetic ascension path and Telepathy for the Psionic path. Most of these are technologies required to take one of the three ascension paths, however.
12. Some unique options with enclaves require a high opinion
The various enclave stations all have basic options like trading energy for strategic resources or spending a large amount of energy for a temporary increase in research or unity but there are also some options gated behind opinion requirements. Most of these gated options give you special things like a unique building, special enclave scientists and unique strategic resources.
11. If you come across a system with 36 minerals in it, park a fleet of 4k to 5k in it before you start mining
Somewhere in the galaxy, there is a system with 36 minerals which will inform you, when you enter it, that there is something unusual on it. Before you do anything, park a large military force of 4k to 5k in the system. Once you start mining the system, a large force of strike craft will swarm out of the asteroids and attempt to destroy your mining stations.
10. If one of your trade routes has too much piracy for too long then a pirate fleet will spawn somewhere on that route
In the current version of Stellaris, pirates are attracted to high trade value. When piracy starts to show up along a trade route, it will first still income but allowing piracy to go unchecked for too long can eventually result in a fleet of warships spawning somewhere along your trade route. Piracy can be reduced by posting a fleet along the trade route but this can get rather expensive with a larger empire as there will be many more trade routes to patrol along.
9. Vassalizing an empire that has a vassal will make both of them your vassals
This doesn’t just work against Awakened Empires, you can do it too. If you go to war with an enemy empire who themselves have a vassal and you make that empire your subject then ownership of their subjects moves to you, effectively granting you multiple subjects for the price of one.
8. Reinforcements for your fleets are only built from owned shipyards
This is a rather obscure fact that you aren’t really informed of in-game but when you tell your fleet to get itself some reinforcements, it only uses shipyards you actually own. The effect of this is that if you’re at war with a massive empire and have occupied half their territory but call for reinforcements, the reinforcements will not be built from shipyards you have under occupation but from your own shipyards. You can get reinforcements from occupied shipyards by building the ships manually but this method is so incredibly inconvenient that it’s barely worth bothering with.
7. If your fleet performs badly against an empire’s ships then get a look at their designs and retool your ships to hard counter them
It is inevitable that you will fumble some engagements with enemy fleets because their fleet design counters yours. One solution (though not exactly ideal for the middle of a major war) is to have your fleets return to the nearest shipyard and refit them to an alternate design that is more effective against your enemy’s current ship design.
6. If you have too many uppity slaves, go down the genetic ascension path and you can take away their ability to be upset
Dealing with hostile slaves causing unrest can be something of a nightmare after a while. Fortunately, there is a solution in the genetic engineering path and that solution is called Nerve Stapling. Essentially you take away their emotions and turn them into docile resource production machines no longer capable of being upset at their lot in life.
5. Chattel Slaves have a penalty to energy income
Chattel slavery is the default form of slavery in Stellaris and denotes forcing those pops to do the grueling, backbreaking labor for you. The in-game result of this is that those slaves get a nice bonus to mineral and food income but suffer a penalty when working in energy jobs since those jobs are more specialized than what the government wants to let slaves do.
4. Barbaric Despoilers can always declare war but still need claims to take territory
Barbaric Despoilers are both similar to and very different from the various “murder every other species” empires out there. While despoilers do have a free war declaration on any empire, they do not take over occupied systems by default and still need claims. As they are effectively more organized pirates with an actual government, their default claim is only to take slaves and money from their target rather than territory.
3. You do not need claims to attack Devouring Swarms, Determined Exterminators, Driven Assimilators or Fanatic Purifiers
The various “special” empires which are diplomatically hampered are quite easy to attack. Going to war with them to take their territory is as simple as deciding you want to. There is no need for claims as you immediately ownership of systems you conquer from them without needing to worry about if you have claims or not. On the flip-side, they can do the same to you.
2. You can only get one endgame crisis per game without mods
This isn’t immediately apparent but endgame crises are capped to a single one per playthrough unless your game is modded to change this. So, if you have already defeated your game’s crisis but want to keep playing to punish an empire that didn’t help you fight them off then there is no need to worry about spawning another one by researching certain dangerous technologies.
1. AI Empire’s don’t hate you for purging through displacement
There are multiple options available in Stellaris for purging but most are blatantly genocidal and therefore result in most of the galaxy despising you for your genocidal tendencies. There is one exception to this and that is displacement. Since all displacement does is expel those units of population as refugees, you aren’t the subject of massive hatred from other empires for committing mass interstellar genocide.
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