Beginner's guide

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This article has been verified for the current PC version (3.6) of the game.

From Paradox Development Studios – known for the Crusader Kings, Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and Victoria series of grand strategy games – comes Stellaris, an evolution of the grand strategy genre with science fiction and space exploration as its core premises. As with all grand strategy games from Paradox, Stellaris features a large number of mechanics and systems, which can feel overwhelming for those new to Paradox games or grand strategy in general. In conjunction with the in-game tutorial, this beginner’s guide serves to help new players learn the basic mechanics of the game and provide them with some tips as they venture out into the great unknown.

Using this guide[edit | edit source]

Stellaris contains a lot of content for players to explore and as a result of that, this page contains a lot of information and is therefore rather lengthy, despite its intention of being a beginner’s guide.

In order to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of information found on this page, it is advised for new players to read through this guide step by step as they enter the game. The below schema contains a basic order for how to do so.

  • Note: Most icons also work as links to wiki articles with more information about what the icon represents.

Basic plan for entry[edit | edit source]

When first starting out a game of Stellaris, the player has the option to either pick one of the preset empires to start with, make one of their own, or use the 'random' button to create a completely randomized empire. For beginners, it is recommended to avoid using the 'random' button as its unpredictability can make the game harder to play. That leaves two options: preset empires and a custom-made one.

  • Picking one of the preset empires provides the quickest start, as the player can immediately start a new game. Brand new players may want to avoid choosing overtly aggressive empires, as provoking an early game war can be overwhelming.
  • To learn how to create a custom empire or gain some general information into how the empire structure works, proceed to Section 2.1 (#Empire creation) of this article, and read through all of its subsections until you get to the header "User interface", then return here.

Once in-game, keep the game paused and invest some time into exploring the user interface; what the different buttons do and where they lead. Section 3 (#User interface) of this article provides a basic overview of the interface, but for an optimal experience, it is recommended that the player themselves figure out how the UI works and how to use it.

If one wants to create a safe environment for figuring out the most basic game functions before taking to the stars for real, it is possible to do so by creating a galaxy and removing all AI empires, Fallen Empires, Primitive Civilizations, Marauder Empires, and disabling Endgame Crises by setting all the appropriate sliders to zero in the game settings when starting a new game. This creates a reasonably safe play environment for a beginner player to use in figuring out the basics of how an empire works, how colonization and expansion work, and how certain technologies work before moving on to actual gameplay. This is purely optional, but beginners can certainly benefit from having a safer learning environment. Sections 4 (#Basic gameplay concepts) and 5 (#The early game) contain useful information regarding an empire’s internal functions and colonization/expansion in the early stages of the game.

Once the aspiring player has figured out how their empire functions internally and are ready to start taking on other empires, the aforementioned sliders can be slowly raised to allow AI Empires, Fallen Empires, and other entities to spawn in controlled amounts. This can allow a new player to gradually begin to learn the basics of warfare (both offensive and defensive) and expanding and interacting with other empires through peaceful and non-peaceful means. Sections 4.4 (#Extermination) and 5.5 (#Maintaining a strong military) contain helpful information regarding fleet construction, composition, etc.

Given the amount of control the "safe environment" mentioned above provides over the map setup when starting a new game, it is highly recommended for beginning players. They can use these settings to tailor their starting setup to their liking, and to experiment their way forward when learning how to play: find out what works and what doesn't work, and try to have the most amount of fun while learning how the game works, deepening their knowledge, and sharpening their skills.

Aside from the information provided by this guide article, it is highly recommended for beginners to also explore the rest of the Stellaris Wiki and all of its articles – according to their needs – as they explore Stellaris itself. The knowledge contained within the articles will be far more detailed and comprehensive than the basics provided here.

Choosing an empire[edit | edit source]

Note: Nothing about an empire is permanent and everything can eventually be changed, except the following: empire flag, city and ship appearance and the prefix used for each ship, and origin.

Before the game begins, players are instructed to select or create an empire to play as. By default, a small list of preset empires is available, each of which represents a common (real-life or science fiction) stereotype that players can also encounter in-game. The characteristics of preset empires indicate their preferred strategies such as peaceful expansion, technological superiority, and endless conquest to name a few.

Finally, the random button will create a completely random empire for the player. The player will not be able to change any of the random empire’s settings before the start of the game. This is not recommended for new players, as odd combinations of traits, civics, and ethics can often occur.

Empire creation[edit | edit source]

Creating a new empire involves selecting all of the component characteristics of an empire by hand, resulting in a fully-fledged custom civilization that can be saved and played alongside the existing preset empires. Players are recommended to create a few empires of their own to get familiar with how each major part of an empire – species traits, homeworld, origin, government, ethics, and civics – affects their gameplay. For example, xenophilic empires will generally be more inclined towards constructive diplomacy and trade relative to other ethics, while the combination of Militarist and Xenophobe generally implies some degree of inevitable confrontation with other empires.

The following section will skim through each section of the empire creation process. Species Traits, Government & Ethics, and Origins are the three sections that will impact gameplay the most and should be the sections the player puts the most time into consideration. In all sections below, players are free to mix and match categories of names, cities, and other cosmetic effects that do not match their species classification – in other words, players are free to create a humanoid race with humanoid names who utilize humanoid architecture and pilot humanoid/mammalian ships or they can just as freely mix things up and create a reptilian race with mammalian names who adopt avian architecture and pilot fungoid ships.

Species[edit | edit source]

Main article: Species

Species appearance is the visual depiction of the empire’s main species; it has little to no effect on gameplay, aside from some of the DLC. The player can enter a custom species name, plural, and adjective form for the empire species to be referred to by the in-game text, or select a randomly chosen set. The game can suggest adjectives for the species once the singular form of its name has been entered. Optionally, a space for custom biography is available for flavor.

Some origins and civics will generate a second species which can be customized in the same way as the first.

The name list determines the default ship name prefix and random names for Ships, Leaders, Fleets, and Colonies. Each ship can be freely renamed in-game, though the prefix will be used for any new ship (this, too, can be edited when renaming an individual ship).

Traits[edit | edit source]
Main article: Traits

Traits are passive effects that can provide benefits or drawbacks to a species’ Pop.png Pops, Menu icon leaders.png Leaders, and Army assault.png Armies. Each species starts with two points to spend on traits. Choosing a positive trait costs trait points, while choosing a negative trait provides additional trait points, allowing more positive traits to be picked. No more than five traits may be selected, and it is not possible to select traits that with opposing effects or different degrees of the same effect (e.g., only one of Enduring.png Enduring, Venerable.png Venerable, and Fleeting.png Fleeting can be selected).

Some traits are unlocked or automatically added (and required) for certain species archetypes, origins, or civics. These traits may or may not count against the trait point and selection limit.

It is possible to pick the traits for their mechanical benefits, but selecting traits for role-play is also valid; as most species traits do not affect gameplay significantly, "bad" choices here don't result in the game being unplayable.

A species’ traits can also be modified during gameplay, once the appropriate technology has been researched.

Recommended traits[edit | edit source]

Not all traits are equally useful mechanically, even at the same point cost. Some traits are more generally beneficial for their cost, while other traits benefit more niche playstyles. Likewise, the drawbacks of some negative traits are negligible compared to the benefit of being able to select additional positive traits.

Because of the importance of research and technology, Intelligent.png Intelligent is one of the strongest traits; likewise the Natural Engineers.png Natural Engineers, Natural Physicists.png Natural Physicists, and Natural Sociologists.png Natural Sociologists provide a strong boost to one area of research, though only only one of the three can be selected.

Adaptive.png Adaptive is another very strong trait as it makes the species operate more efficiently on other worlds – requiring fewer resources in upkeep while producing more at their jobs. However, the trait is moot if a planet is at Mod habitability.png 100% habitability already, such as the species’ homeworld or a Planet gaia.png Gaia world. It may also be redundant if the empire relies heavily on robots (which do not have habitability concerns) or alien species with differing planet preferences.

Rapid Breeders.png Rapid Breeders is also recommended, since naturally it speeds up how fast population grows.

Among negative traits, Trait unruly.png Unruly is heavily recommended, as it provides two additional points at the expense of a negligible increase in Empire sprawl.png empire size. Alternatively, Deviants.png Deviants is also a viable choice, as pop ethics are generally of little impact and there are many sources to increase Mod pop government ethic attraction.png Governing Ethics Attraction to counter its effects.

Wasteful.png Wasteful is also worth considering, unless using the Menu icon policies.png Utopian Abundance living standard as an Egalitarian.png Egalitarian empire, since Consumer goods.png consumer goods, like food, have little use beyond population upkeep and constructing colony ships, so it’s not terribly costly to pay +10% more for an additional trait point. However, if focusing on Pop cat specialist.png specialists, such as Job researcher.png researchers, this may not be the best since most specialist jobs consume Consumer Goods, meaning Wasteful will necessitate more Job artisan.png Artisan jobs to support their output.

Unrecommended traits[edit | edit source]

Strong.png Strong, and especially Very Strong.png Very Strong, is not a good choice as the performance of Offensive Armies is heavily dependent on the base stats of the army type and their number. There are also a many sources of Army Damage improvements, diluting the influence of Strong. Moreover, when it comes to Defensive Armies, Orbital Bombardment can destroy them before the enemy armies invade the planet, making Strong moot for defensive needs. This leaves the +2.5% worker resource output, which is a tiny amount, even at one trait point. The Resilient.png Resilient trait suffers from the same fate as Strong, and is also not recommended.

Fleeting.png Fleeting is unrecommended because it reduces the leader lifespan. Leaders start from 28 to 50 years old and have a base lifespan of 80 years old, which results in around 30-52 years of service. With the Fleeting.png Fleeting trait, this can be reduced to 20-42 years, which causes experienced leaders to die sooner, and thus it becomes more difficult to cultivate highly skilled leaders through time.

While Nonadaptive.png Nonadaptive provides +2 trait points and may look tempting, be warned: a −10% habitability causes the food, consumer goods, and amenities usage to be increased by the same percentage and resource output and pop growth speed to be decreased by half of the percentage on all planets (aside from the homeworld). Put simply, even planets within the species’ preferred class become quite difficult to turn happy and productive if the species is nonadaptive. This penalty can be mitigated somewhat by using robot or alien populations extensively on other planets.

Machine species[edit | edit source]

Machine species is the only option for Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires and cannot be used for other Authorities. They have a different set of traits, as well as fewer trait points and trait picks than biological species.

Lithoid species[edit | edit source]

Lithoid species consume Minerals.png minerals instead of Food.png food. They have increased leader life span and habitability, but in return decreased pop growth speed and their leaders start older than usual (around 50-80 years old).

Their exclusive traits, namely Trait lithoid gaseous byproducts.png Gaseous Byproducts, Trait lithoid scintillating.png Scintillating Skin, and Trait lithoid volatile excretions.png Volatile Excretions, are primarily useful for niche playstyles. Compared to the high upkeep cost of Menu icon strategic resource.png strategic resources for advanced buildings, the amount these traits provide is miniscule. A medium-sized empire in the mid game may produce only 2-4 of a strategic resource through these traits when dozens are required.

Plantoid species[edit | edit source]

Plantoid and fungoid species have three special traits available: Trait plantoid phototrophic.png Phototrophic, Trait plantoid radiotrophic.png Radiotrophic, and Trait plantoid budding.png Budding. The first two reduce the food upkeep for the species by adding an energy upkeep, and Radiotrophic also provides additional benefits on Planet nuked.png Tomb Worlds; these are generally not recommended. Budding, however, provides an excellent benefit – organic pop assembly, allowing the species to grow faster or alongside alien pops. However, it also blocks robot assembly, so it works best when playing a Spiritualist.png Spiritualist empire which doesn't use robots.

Homeworld[edit | edit source]

The name of the homeworld and home system is purely cosmetic. Alternatively, a random name can be drawn from the chosen namelist.

The starting solar system decides what the starting system contains, but not its position in the galaxy. There are several cosmetic choices: two versions each of unary systems with only one star, binary systems with two stars, or trinary systems with three stars. Alternatively, Sol or Deneb can be chosen as the starting system, where each planet will be specially named and (with Sol) Earth will also have a background story that can be read by inspecting the planetary features. Note that a some human-associated events require the United Nations of Earth, the Earth Custodianship, or the Commonwealth of Man preset empires to be picked, irrespective of the system choice.

The homeworld planet class can be selected from 9 normal habitable planet classes. While they are almost identical, this determines the base Mod habitability.png habitability of the main species on other planets. Habitable planets found in the galaxy have a 80% base habitability for the main species if it is the same class as the homeworld, 60% base habitability if it is the same climate (frozen, wet, or dry), and 20% base habitability if it is of a different climate. Species have an additional +30% habitability on their homeworld.

Since the 9 planet classes all have an equal distribution rate in the galaxy, this selection is mostly cosmetic and can be picked by role-play needs. There are slight differences in resource deposit amounts for each climate class.

  • frozen : more Minerals.png minerals planetary features
  • wet : more Food.png food planetary features
  • dry : more Energy.png energy credits planetary features

Some origins lock the choice of starting solar system and/or homeworld class.

City appearance is purely cosmetic.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Main article: Origin

Origins determine the circumstances behind the empire’s rise to power and can affect starting conditions or events in the home system. Most simply alter the state of the home world and distribution of pops, but some even start with a pre-existing diplomatic arrangement with other empires. The default origin is Origins default.png Prosperous Unification, which gives the empire more starting population and a small bonus to their homeworld for the first 10 years of the game.

Other origins are not designed to be balanced with each other. There are powerful origins like Origins scion 1.png Scion and challenging origins like Origins doomsday.png Doomsday and Origins life seeded.png Life-Seeded.

Recommended Origins[edit | edit source]

For the first playthrough, Origins default.png Prosperous Unification is always a good option, as its bonuses are simple and unobtrusive for the player’s empire. Alternatively, Origins lost colony.png Lost Colony, which spawns a parent empire somewhere in the galaxy, can be used for the same reasons. Origins gateway.png Galactic Doorstep, however, is not recommended as a couple of its outcomes cause hostile fleets to spawn within the empire’s home system.

Besides those three origins, all others require DLC.

Origins remnant.png Remnants provides a more advanced, but still fairly simple origin, which allows starting out roughly similar to other empires with the option of eventually upgrading the capital world to an Planet city.png ecumenopolis.

Origins one the shoulders of giant.png On the Shoulders of Giants provides a rich story-based origin, with several unique events and Archaeology map icon.png archaeology sites. Origins scion 1.png Scion is a powerful origin and an excellent starting pick for new players, as there are many bonuses and few downsides (aside from being the subject of one of the most powerful empires in the galaxy).

Empire[edit | edit source]

Government & Ethics: This page determines the empire’s starting ethics set, government type, and civics, all of which impact gameplay immensely. Ethics determine the basic attitudes of the central government, which then determines the available types of authority. Authority determines the duration for which a Ruler.png ruler (NPC leader) is permitted to lead the empire, and how the empire decides on a new ruler once they depart. Civics are the personal touches that differentiate otherwise similar empires, and the available choices are determined by the empire’s ethics and authority.

Ethics[edit | edit source]
Main article: Ethics

Ethics (also called ethos) are split into four dichotomy axes of thought and provide some bonuses or unlock or restrict gameplay options. Each moderate ethic costs 1 ethic point and it also has a fanatic variant that costs 2 ethic points with doubled bonuses and often harsher restrictions. An empire must spend all 3 of its ethic points, meaning that an empire must have either three moderate ethics, or a fanatic ethic plus a moderate ethic. Ethics affect both how the empire functions internally and also influence the diplomacy with AI empires in many cases. Empires with aligned ethics are far more likely to succeed in mutual cooperation from initial contact (for example, Humans and Vulcans in Star Trek).

While the player may choose the ethics for their mechanical power, it is also fine to choose entirely by role-play needs or the player’s personal tastes.

Egalitarian vs Authoritarian[edit | edit source]

The Egalitarian.png Egalitarian–Authoritarian.png Authoritarian dichotomy axis governs attitudes towards how power is distributed and its effect on average citizens, e.g. decentralization versus centralization.

Egalitarian.png Egalitarian empires believe that political power must be held by the majorities/masses rather than the narrow-minded minorities/elites.

  • They have increased Pop cat specialist.png specialist output, meaning that they gain more Research.png research from Job researcher.png researchers, more Unity.png unity from Bureaucrat bureaucrats, and more Alloys.png alloys from Job foundry.png metallurgists, which drastically impacts the manufacturing economy.
  • They also gain more Unity.png unity from satisfied factions.
  • They can access the Menu icon policies.png Utopian Abundance living standard, which provides an equal amount of Consumer goods.png consumer goods among all populations regardless of their social strata, drastically increasing consumer goods upkeep for an empire-wide Mod pop happiness.png happiness increase. Political power is shared equally among all strata under this living standard, which has the effect of Pop cat worker.png worker and Pop cat specialist.png specialist happiness greatly contributing to a planet’s overall Stability.png stability, as they vastly outnumber the Pop cat ruler.png ruler strata.
  • However, they cannot use Auth dictatorial.pngImperial Autocratic authorities. With Fanatic Egalitarian.png Fanatic Egalitarian, they cannot even use Auth oligarchic.png Oligarchic, therefore leaving Auth democratic.png Democratic as the only option.
  • If one wants to build upon these bonuses, then a Fanatic Egalitarian.png Fanatic Egalitarian empire with the Civic parliamentary system.png Parliamentary System and Civic meritocracy.png Meritocracy civics will be capable of generating an impressive +20% Pop cat specialist.png specialist job output and Unity.png +90% unity from factions.

Authoritarian.png Authoritarian empires, in contrast, believe that political power must be held by the minorities/elites rather the short-sighted and fickle majorities/masses.

  • They have increased Pop cat worker.png worker output, meaning that they gain more Minerals.png minerals from Job miner.png miners, more Energy.png energy from Job technician.png technicians, and more Food.png food from Job farmer.png farmers, which are all fundamental resources to sustain an empire.
  • They also gain a flat amount of extra Influence.png influence.
  • Like Xenophobe.png Xenophobe empires, they can also Pop cat slave.png enslave alien species (increasing resource output and decreasing their consumption of Consumer goods.png consumer goods and Amenities.png amenities at the expense of reduced Mod pop happiness.png happiness compared to an ordinary worker). However, Xenophile.png Xenophile Authoritarians cannot enslave aliens.
  • They can access the Menu icon policies.png Stratified Economy living standard, which greatly reduces the Consumer goods.png consumer goods consumption of Pop cat worker.png workers and Pop cat slave.png slaves (zero consumption in the case of slaves), and also decreases their Mod pop happiness.png happiness while making the Pop cat ruler.png ruler class happier. Political power is also stripped from workers and more is placed in rulers, meaning happy rulers contribute more to a planet’s Stability.png stability than workers, even if the workers are very unhappy.
  • Similar to Egalitarian, they also have restrictions to their empire authority. They cannot ever use Auth democratic.png Democratic authority. If they are Fanatic Authoritarian.png Fanatic Authoritarian, they cannot even use Auth oligarchic.png Oligarchic, leaving the Auth dictatorial.pngImperial Autocratic authorities as the only options.
  • Authoritarian.pngFanatic Authoritarian.png Authoritarian empires that liberally enslave pops can benefit from many traits that increase Pop cat worker.png worker and Pop cat slave.png slave resource output, such as Industrious.png Industrious, Ingenious.png Ingenious, Agrarian.png Agrarian, and Strong.png Strong or Very Strong.png Very Strong. Civic choices that build on Authoritarian bonuses to Workers include Civic mining guilds.png Mining Guilds and Civic slaver guilds.png Slaver Guilds.
Xenophobe vs Xenophile[edit | edit source]

The Xenophobe.png Xenophobe–Xenophile.png Xenophile dichotomy axis governs attitudes towards alien species, spanning between isolationism/supremacism and proactive coexistence, i.e. purity versus diversity.

Xenophobe.png Xenophobe empires believe that the alien species are a threat to their society and must not be completely trusted.

  • They can, like Authoritarian.png Authoritarians, Pop cat slave.png enslave alien species, reducing their Mod pop happiness.png happiness in exchange for a lowered Consumer goods.png consumer goods consumption, Amenities.png amenities, and Housing.png housing usage, which are all needed to sustain the population, while Slaves also have a bonus in various resource output.
  • They can also Purge.png purge (genocide) unwanted aliens for a wider living space for their main species, which usually displeases other empires and inflicts diplomatic penalties.
  • They also enjoy a faster Mod pop growth speed.png pop growth speed and lowered Mod country starbase influence cost mult.png starbase influence cost when building new outposts.
  • Xenophobic empires have reduced starting Diplomacy opinion.png opinion with other empires, which could lead to strained relations or outright hostility upon first contact with other empires.
  • Their restrictions are they can never give aliens Full Citizenship, nor can alien species ever be allowed in as refugees.
  • Xenophobic empires start with Menu icon policies.png Closed Borders to other empires by default, though this can be changed at the start of the game.

Xenophile.png Xenophile empires, in contrast, believe that alien species and culture are treasures in the galaxy and xeno cooperation is the key to a bright future.

  • Each empire has 2 Envoy.png envoys to be assigned to diplomatic tasks such as improving relations or performing espionage, or performing First Contact missions. The number of Envoys is limited, and Xenophile empires have 1 additional envoy, or 2 if Fanatic Xenophile.png Fanatic Xenophile, which drastically improves their diplomatic capabilities. Furthermore, a Fanatic Xenophile.png Fanatic Xenophile empire with the Civic diplomatic corps.png Diplomatic Corps civic will have access to an impressive 6 envoys on game start, allowing them to exert significant diplomatic influence, whether in the GalacticCommunity mainButton single.png galactic community, in a Diplomacy federation.png federation, or within regular diplomacy as well as allowing them to improve relations with other empires while maintaining the ability to meet new ones.
  • Xenophile empires also enjoy an improved starting Diplomacy opinion.png opinion with other empires, which can lead to improved diplomatic options with alien empires.
  • They also have increased Trade value.png trade value, which is a major source of Energy.png energy within an empire and can also be utilized to provide Consumer goods.png consumer goods, or Unity.png unity.
  • Their restrictions are they cannot displace or purge aliens, nor can they outright reject alien refugees (though they can be limited to only species with full citizenship).
Militarist vs Pacifist[edit | edit source]

The Militarist.png Militarist-Pacifist.png Pacifist dichotomy axis governs attitudes towards how the civilization views the concept of war, viewing it as either glorious military tradition or ruinous, unnecessary violence.

Militarist.png Militarist empires believe that the use of force is to eliminate all those that the empire cannot co-exist with and true peace can only be achieved through the destruction and neutralization of threats and potential threats.

  • They have increased Mod ship fire rate mult.png Ship Fire Rate, which drastically increases the power of their military fleets, improving their performance in space battles. If combined with Civic distinguished admiralty.png Distinguished Admiralty, a Fanatic Militarist.png Fanatic Militarist empire will have a total of +30% ship fire rate, giving their military fleets much more firepower.
  • Militarist empires are allowed the Menu icon policies.png No Retreat War Doctrine, which allows for even greater ship fire rate, but at the cost of ships being unable to withdraw on their own, and emergency retreats taking much longer to charge.
  • They also have decreased Mod country influence gain mult.png claim influence cost, meaning that it costs less for Militarist empires to claim systems that belong to other empires and start a conquest war to conquer them. Combined with the Civic nationalistic zeal.png Nationalistic Zeal civic, it can often cost less influence to lay claim to neighboring systems than to build an outpost in open unowned systems.
  • There is no real restriction for Militarists; however using Menu icon policies.png Defensive Only War Philosophy displeases Militarist factions.

Pacifist.png Pacifist empires believe that the use of force is to eliminate war itself, keeping invaders from attempts at aggression, and true peace can only be achieved in mutually respecting and peaceful co-existence.

  • Planetary Stability.png stability impacts the overall planetary resource production and is affected primarily by Mod pop happiness.png happiness. There are few sources to directly increase Stability itself, with the Pacifist ethic being one of them.
    • A Fanatic Pacifist.png Fanatic Pacifist with the Civic police state.png Police State civic and Job noble.png noble jobs (from the Civic aristocratic elite.png Aristocratic Elite civic) can potentially have a significant +20 bonus to planetary stability, which translates into increased Mod pop resource output.pngjob output and Trade value.png trade value.
  • They also have reduced Empire sprawl.png empire size from Pops. Empire size above 100 imposes a scaling penalty to the cost of technologies and traditions, so reducing empire size reduces these costs.
    • A Fanatic Pacifist.png Fanatic Pacifist empire with a Trait docile.png Docile species will have a significant −30% Empire sprawl.png empire size from pops, allowing them to administer much larger populations with less infrastructure.
  • However, they cannot use the Menu icon policies.png Unrestricted Wars War Philosophy, meaning that they cannot start wars as freely as other empires can. Fanatic Pacifist.png Fanatic Pacifists must use the Menu icon policies.png Defensive Wars Only policy, even further restricting their ability to attack other empires
Materialist vs Spiritualist[edit | edit source]

The Materialist.png Materialist-Spiritualist.png Spiritualist dichotomy axis governs attitudes towards knowledge and the soul.

Materialist.png Materialist empires trust science over belief and view the universe as a field of material objects with material value. They believe that reason and knowledge are cornerstones of progress, while dogmas and superstitions are shackles on civilization. The more fanatic materialists believe that only the physical world exists, and even non-physical entities such as minds and thought can be reduced to physical processes.

  • They have increased Mod country all tech research speed.png research speed, which means they obtain technologies faster than other empires which usually results in a technological advantage.
  • They also have decreased Mod pop robot upkeep mult.png robot upkeep, which means they need less Energy.png energy to sustain robots. They are also more likely to draw robot technologies.
  • Materialist empires can access the Menu icon policies.png Academic Privilege living standard, which is similar to Authoritarian.png Authoritarian's Stratified Economy. Academic Privilege increases the Consumer goods.png consumer goods upkeep of specialists and also drastically increases the resource output of Job researcher.png researchers as well as increasing Pop cat ruler.png ruler and Pop cat specialist.png specialist happiness. Specialists enjoy a very large increase to their Mod pop political power.png political power, while rulers enjoy a smaller increase. This has the effect of specialists’ happiness contributing the most to a planet’s Stability.png stability, due to their large numbers compared to the ruler stratum.
  • The restriction is they cannot use Menu icon policies.png Outlawed AI policy and Robotic Worker policy. They are also mostly blocked from accessing the Psionics.png Psionics technologies through usual means.

Spiritualist.png Spiritualist empires trust belief over science and believe that consciousness brings reality into existence; that is, reality cannot exist without minds to perceive it. They view the universe as a dream we all happen to share and that minds exist beyond the physical world. They believe that unity and faith are keys to ascension. They are suspicious and dismissive of robots and artificial intelligence, treating them as no more than blocks of hard matter that cannot be "taught" true consciousness.

  • They have increased Unity.png unity output, this translates into a faster progress of Menu icon traditions.png traditions and eventually Ascension Perks.
    • This can be further improved with the Trait traditional.png Traditional species trait.
  • They also have a lowered cost for Menu icon edicts.png edicts, which is a method of investing unity or other resources to give empire-wide bonuses.
    • A Fanatic Spiritualist.png Fanatic Spiritualist empire with the Civic cutthroat politics.png Cutthroat Politics civic will have an impressive −40% discount to edict upkeep, allowing them to easily maintain more edicts than other empires.
  • Spiritualist empires have better odds in drawing the Psionics.png Psionics technologies for research.
  • Spiritualists have access to the Temple building line, a replacement to the Administrative Offices building line. Temple buildings increase Spiritualist.png Spiritualist ethics attraction, and their Priest Priest jobs produce Amenities.png amenities in addition to Unity.png unity.
  • The restriction is, they cannot use Menu icon policies.png Full Rights AI policy and utilizing Robotic Workers can enrage their factions.
Gestalt Consciousness[edit | edit source]

Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness empires are not empires in the traditional sense; they are more like a single organism with a single intelligence composed of the entire population. It is the essence of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

  • It is a special ethic lying in the center and costs all 3 ethics points. Through its unique civics, it has elements of all 4 axes.
  • Its playstyle is completely different from standard empires and is not recommended for beginners. While they gain espionage bonuses and do not have Mod pop happiness.png happiness or Menu icon factions.png factions to manage, the absence of these limits their sources of Stability.png stability. Thus they have naturally higher Job criminal.png deviancy than normal empires. This is because their Job maintenance drone.png maintenance drone jobs are far less efficient than Job entertainer.png entertainers from normal empires at producing Job maintenance drone.png Amenities, and their Job criminal.png deviancy fighting buildings do not have upgrades. Because of these extra management hurdles, Gestalt Consciousness empires are not recommended for inexperienced players.
  • However, as a result of being a gestalt consciousness, there is no need for Consumer goods.png consumer goods, which may simplify the game. In the case of Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires, they also do not have to worry about Food.png food, simplifying resources down further into only Energy.png energy credits, Minerals.png minerals, and Alloys.png alloys.
Authority[edit | edit source]
Main article: Authority

Authority is the archetype of government that the empire exercises and defines how power is concentrated within the empire. Its primary purpose is to determine how often the leadership changes, i.e. how often a player can take advantage of a powerful ruler or must cope with a weak one.

Regular authorities[edit | edit source]

There are 4 regular Authorities available and each comes to a different way to elect the next empire ruler. They have near to no difference in power level.

  • Auth democratic.png Democratic governments hold elections every 10 years with a large candidate pool to decide on a new leader. While it is not possible to decide how the people vote, the player can invest some Unity.png unity to support a candidate and increase their winning odds. Each ruler has a Mandate, a quest to be completed; if it is fulfilled before or at the next election, the empire receives a small amount of Unity.png unity, which boosts their adoption of Menu icon traditions.png traditions. Rulers elected out from their seat return to their previous position. They have a boost to automatic resettlement, which is useful for players that do not wish to manually move their populations between planets.
  • Auth oligarchic.png Oligarchic governments hold elections every 20 years with a restricted candidate pool but have the option to hold emergency elections at any time for Unity.png 250 unity. It is also possible to spend Unity.png 2000 unity to choose the winning candidate. Each ruler has an Agenda, a static empire-wide bonus. Each election results in a new (mostly) random agenda. Rulers elected out from their seat return to their previous position. They additionally gain more Unity.png unity from factions.
  • Auth dictatorial.png Dictatorial governments hold elections with a restricted candidate pool only upon the ruler’s death. It is also possible to spend Unity.png 2000 unity to choose the winning candidate. Each ruler has an Agenda but it cannot be freely switched, because they cannot start an emergency election. They have a reduced penalty from Empire sprawl.png empire size.
  • Imperial Imperial governments do not hold elections, instead they have hereditary rulers and the next ruler is a designated heir. Each ruler has an Agenda, but it cannot be switched, and because of the nature of hereditary rule, the next ruler cannot be elected based on their Agenda. They additionally can gain more Influence.png influence from fleet power projection.

Note that if the empire ruler is also the leader of a Faction, it drastically increases the empire-wide ethic attraction of the faction’s ethic, which may be undesirable if it is an opposite ethic of a governing ethic.

Hive Mind[edit | edit source]

Auth hive mind.png Hive Mind is a special authority that requires Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness ethic. They have an immortal ruler which represents their central consciousness and never hold elections. They cannot access Robots or Psionics, but have drastically faster Mod pop growth speed.png pop growth speed and reduced penalty from Empire sprawl.png empire size. While not mentioned in the game, their Menu icon leaders.png Leaders are also younger than usual, which amounts to more years in service compared to other empires. They have a unique set of Civics that are not shared with other Authorities.

Machine Intelligence[edit | edit source]

Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence is a special authority that requires Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness ethic and must be played with a #Machine species, which have unique traits. Like Hive Minds, they also have an immortal ruler which represents their central consciousness. Their Menu icon leaders.png leaders are also immortal (technically near-immortal – they have a 0.5% chance each month to die of various causes), but instead of Food.png Food upkeep, they have Energy.png energy upkeep for their pops. They have reduced Empire sprawl.png empire size from pops, but increased size from colonies. In addition, machine pop growth costs Alloys.png alloys. They have a unique set of Civics that are not shared with other Authorities.

Corporate[edit | edit source]

Auth corporate.png Corporate is an authority that is almost identical to Auth oligarchic.png Oligarchic. They are focused on Trade value.png trade value and can access Branch Offices, which are established on other empire’s planets for mutually beneficial effects. They gain extra Unity.png unity but also higher costs from Empire sprawl.png empire size. They also have a unique set of Civics.

Civics[edit | edit source]
Main article: Civics

Civics are the principles and ideas the empire’s government was founded on, and provide bonuses that permit players to tailor their empires toward a preferred strategy. Possibilities range from general bonuses such as Civic idealistic foundation.png Idealistic Foundation for additional happiness, to specific bonuses such as Civic slaver guilds.png Slaver Guilds, which increases the productivity of enslaved pops, to playstyle-altering ones like Civic inwards perfection.png Inward Perfection and Civic agrarian idyll.png Agrarian Idyll which drastically change how the empire functions as a whole.

Like Ethics, Civics can be picked by their sheer power or purely by the role-play needs or personal tastes, while Civics with "Cannot do something" or "Cannot be added or removed after game start" entries usually result in a restrictive or advanced playstyles. It is recommended to pick Civics with easy-to-understand bonuses when learning how the various systems of the game work.

Recommended civics[edit | edit source]

Civic mining guilds.png Mining Guilds is simple and doesn't have any requirements. It gives a decent bonus to the Minerals.png Minerals production, which is required for District.png Districts, Building Buildings, and manufactured resources, mainly Alloys.png alloys and Consumer goods.png consumer goods.

Civic meritocracy.png Meritocracy makes Pop cat specialist.png specialist jobs more productive, such as Job researcher.png researchers, Bureaucrat bureaucrats, and Job foundry.png metallurgists. It doesn't require ethics, but is limited to non-autocratic governments.

Civic police state.png Police State gives a flat Mod planet stability add.png +5 Stability on all planets, which is helpful in managing unhappy populations, which might frequently happen to a new player.

Civic distinguished admiralty.png Distinguished Admiralty is a good option for Militarist.pngFanatic Militarist.png Militarist empires as it allows their ships and fleets to perform at a higher level right out of the shipyard.

Civic diplomatic corps.png Diplomatic Corps is extremely useful when playing against AI empires, as it adds Available envoys +2 envoys, which can usually offset most negative Diplomacy opinion.png opinion modifiers given enough time and provides more flexibility with First Contact missions and espionage.

Civic parliamentary system.png Parliamentary System greatly increase the Unity.png unity gained from factions but require a Auth democratic.png Democratic empire.

Cosmetics[edit | edit source]

The empire’s name and adjective used by the in-game text. If the player’s species name and government type have been decided on, the game will suggest names with those factors in mind.

Empire flags consist of a primary color, a secondary color, background design, and sigil. While all are purely cosmetic, the primary color also determines the color of the empire’s borders in the Galaxy view, as well as model decorations such as engine trails, whereas the secondary color determines the 'infill' color that covers the empire's territory on the galactic map.

Ships[edit | edit source]
Main article: Ships

Ship Appearance: The appearance of ships are again cosmetic and serves to finish the look of the empire. Some of the lighting effects on the ships are determined by the empire’s primary color in the Flag section.

Ship design is handled in game, and as a general rule, specializing in only one type of ship weaponry is not particularly recommended. Diversifying the fleet’s weaponry and defenses will allow it to effectively combat different builds of ships. Additional weapon types and upgrades are available for research and should be fully unlocked by the mid-game at the latest.

Ruler[edit | edit source]

The name, appearance, and ruler title of the first empire ruler can be customized. Different ruler and heir titles based on leader gender can be set. The ruler title can be changed in-game anytime by clicking the empire’s name on the government window. A fallback ruler title can be suggested if based on the combination of Authorities and Civics. This configuration is purely cosmetic.

Return to #Using this guide

User interface[edit | edit source]

Main article: Main interface

Stellaris’ interface, also called graphical user interface (GUI or simply UI), serves to inform the player of all of the game’s happenings and events. This section will briefly describe the interface and the more critical components of it.

The UI of Stellaris is similar to previous PDS games: an interactive map with many menus and sub-menus containing any relevant information and actions pertaining to the objects the player selects. Navigating such an interface can appear daunting at first, but all the information is organized logically and players will become intimately familiar with the UI after a few minutes of play. It is strongly recommended that the player uses the in-game tutorials to fully familiarize themselves with the UI, although this section will serve as a brief overview for those seeking to jump straight in. Like other PDS games, nearly everything in Stellaris has a tooltip with it – if something is unclear, hovering over the button (or icon, statistic, etc.) will usually explain in detail what it is, what it does, and why it is like that.

In the top left corner of the screen is the empire’s emblem; clicking on it will take the player to the Government screen, from which they can view how the empire is doing economically and culturally, as well as reform its government entirely. Below the empire’s emblem are the management screens, including contacts, situation log, the market, sectors, the expansion planner, and more. By default, the side bar will expand when hovered over. Alternatively, using the lock symbol at the bottom of the side bar can lock it to the small size.

Also on the top of the screen are the player’s currently available resources, as well as how much of a resource the player gains or loses each month. These resources are, from left to right, Energy.png Energy Credits, Minerals.png Minerals, Food.png Food, Consumer goods.png Consumer Goods, Alloys.png Alloys, Influence.png Influence, and Unity.png Unity. To the right of those are Research research and Menu icon strategic resource.png strategic resources. These two display the sum of all types for each and can be hovered over or clicked to open a dropdown displaying each resource individually. If the strategic resource value turns red, then at least one of the resources has a deficit, even if the total is positive. Further along are the Empire sprawl.png empire size, Envoy.png envoys, and Pop.png pops. Then finally, Spaceport 1.png starbase capacity, and Mod navy size add.png naval capacity. Hovering over most icons shows a tooltip with more details and clicking the icon opens a relevant menu.

In the top right corner is the game clock, displayed as a date starting with January 1, 2200. The game begins with time paused, and the player may press the Spacebar ␣ Space (by default) or click the pause button to start or stop advancing time. The game has five unpaused speeds – Slowest, Slow, Normal (default), Fast, and Fastest – which can be switched between using the plus and minus buttons off to the side or by pressing the plus + and minus - keys. The clock’s pause button should not be confused with the pause button for the music player, which lies just below.

Along the bottom of the upper bar, notifications will appear alerting the player to different events occurring across the galaxy. Most will disappear over time, but the player can also right-click on these notifications to dismiss them manually.

To the right of the screen is the Outliner, through which the player can quickly interact with almost all of the empire's major assets. By default, all asset lists appear when the empire has at least one asset in the list, except for planets which are shown by sector. Left-clicking on any of these items will either select it or bring up a menu to interact with it.

Along the bottom left lies the system name and a button to zoom out to the galaxy map in a system, and a number of buttons used outside of the regular gameplay, such as system settings, help, and chat for multiplayer games.

Return to #Using this guide

Basic gameplay concepts[edit | edit source]

Being a hybrid of the 4X and grand strategy genres, Stellaris’ gameplay revolves around the classic 4X concepts (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) while also providing deeper diplomacy and governance options. This section will serve as a primer for players new to these concepts and acquaint seasoned strategy game players with Stellaris’ mechanics.

Exploration[edit | edit source]

Main article: Exploration

Space is vast and mysterious, and it is only natural to want to explore it and discover its secrets. In Stellaris, players use science ships to accomplish this, and all players begin with one staffed by a Scientist.png scientist. Although players can see the number of planets in any system they've uncovered including potentially habitable ones, it is the job of the science ship to survey celestial bodies, identify exploitable resources, and enable colonization, as well as to analyze any anomalies found during surveys.

The player’s home system starts off completely surveyed, and as such, one should task their science vessels with surveying nearby star systems. Players should also consider making a second science ship as soon as they have the resources for it, and seek to maintain as many science ships as necessary to complete the player’s goals. Additionally, science ships can be used to perform Assist Research on a planet in the empire. This boosts the research output of the planet, depending on the scientist’s rank. Though it is recommended to not use Assist Research until most systems have been explored.

During their surveys, science ships have a chance of encountering an anomaly. Anomalies often trigger events and provide various rewards when analyzed. The time it takes to analyze an anomaly depends on the relative level of the scientist and the anomaly, from 120 days when equal, to just 20 days if the scientist is 9 levels above or up to 16 years if 9 levels below. Since anomalies do not disappear until they have been analyzed, leaving a high-level anomaly alone until the scientist has gained enough levels is a fine strategy, as leveling up a scientist and then analyzing a high-level anomaly generally takes less time than analyzing it just after discovering it. When an anomaly is discovered, it will open a popup menu and the player can assign the scientist who discovered it to analyze it immediately, after which the scientist will resume previous orders. Alternatively, the player can choose a different scientist to analyze the anomaly or leave it for later analysis. Some anomalies also spawn special projects, which may require a scientist’s presence to complete. These special projects do not open a popup, but they are listed in the Situation Log for later review.

Archaeological sites may also be revealed by surveying, but unlike anomalies cannot be excavated until within the empire’s borders. Additionally, most archaeological sites are visible to all empires, so if another empire takes the system, they may gain the rewards within.

For players who enjoy exploring the galaxy and conducting research, To Boldly Go To Boldly Go in the Discovery tradition tree Discovery tradition tree is an excellent early game choice for discovering and successfully analyzing anomalies.

Expansion[edit | edit source]

While it is possible to play Stellaris with just the starting home system, this will leave the player’s empire significantly less powerful than other empires. After exploring nearby systems, the player should expand their empire’s control to include those systems. In the early part of the game, most expansion is done peacefully, by claiming unowned systems through the construction of outposts and colonizing new worlds. In the middle and late parts of the game, expansion is mostly done through vassalizing other empires or claiming and conquering their systems.

All expansion increases the Empire sprawl.png Empire Size; empire size above 100 adds increasing costs to technology and traditions, which represents the difficulty of spreading new ideas across a larger empire.

The Expansion tradition tree Expansion tradition tree provides several bonuses for expanding, including reduced cost for constructing outposts and faster colony establishment speed.

Starbases[edit | edit source]

Main article: Starbase

As the player explores the galaxy, they will almost certainly uncover systems that are either rich in resources or contain a habitable planet that the empire can colonize. Empires can neither extract resources from systems they do not control nor can they colonize planets in them, and therefore must expand their territory and lay claim to said star systems in order to be able to extract resources or colonize planets in them. This is done by constructing a Starbase in the system.

Spaceport 1.png Starbases are built by construction ships in orbit of the star of an unowned system. Starbases are initially built as Outposts and can later be upgraded to "full" starbases. Outposts determine system ownership and control and provide a minimal defensive capability. Upgraded starbases have increased military strength and can additionally be outfitted with many different Buildings and Modules that serve various purposes, notably Shipyards to build new ships.

Outposts have a base cost of Alloys.png 100 Alloys (150 for Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires) and Influence.png 75 influence to build (the base influence cost increases the further the star system is from the closest owned system, while certain Civics, Ethics, and Traditions decrease the cost; however, the cost cannot be more than Influence.png 1000 influence). Once built, the outpost requires Energy.png 1 energy per month to maintain. Because of the additional influence cost for non-neighboring systems, it is generally best to construct outposts "sequentially"; however sometimes skipping ahead to a strategically placed system is worthwhile to block off neighboring empires from expanding in certain directions.

In the early game, upgraded starbases are typically as or more powerful than most fleets and can serve as a strong deterrent to aggressive neighboring empires. However, upgraded starbases (but not outposts) are subject to a soft limit: Mod country starbase capacity mult.png starbase capacity. Exceeding this number will significantly increase the upkeep cost for all owned starbases, so it is recommended to stay within the starbase capacity, at least until the player’s economy can support the additional cost.

Colonization[edit | edit source]

Main article: Colonization

Colonizing a planet takes many resources, both for initial investment and even more for the subsequent development. However, colonization is also the primary method of expanding an empire’s economy in the early part of the game. Each planet in the galaxy has a specific climate determining the Mod habitability.png habitability for different species, and a Planet Size.png size value between 10 and 25 which, along with planetary features, dictates the maximum number of districts it can support. Planets may also have modifiers which affect the colonists and their productivity.

To colonize a planet, empires must first construct a Colony Ship at a starbase with a shipyard. Depending on the empire’s government type, colony ships have a various build costs, and they take one year to build. Once built, the colony ship then needs to fly to a habitable planet in an owned star system, land, and then take another year establishing a foothold on the planet.

While it is possible to colonize every planet within an empire’s owned systems, colonizing planets with low habitability is generally not recommended, as it significantly increases the required Amenities.png amenities and Upkeep upkeep for pops on the planet as well as decreasing their Mod pop resource output.png resource output and Mod pop growth speed.png growth speed, thereby providing fewer benefits to the empire compared to the costs. In the middle and late game, there are several strategies to avoid low habitability, such as pop modification or colonizing with robots or other species, so these planets can be more easily colonized later.

Exploitation[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Buildings, Districts

Much of Stellaris’ gameplay is focused on increasing the power of the player empire’s economy, gathering ever more resources in order to build fleets, research technologies, and otherwise exert the player’s will on the galaxy. Resources are stockpiled globally and can be used in any part of the empire without the need of transport. Most resources are produced by Pop job.png Jobs or by exploiting space deposits with construction ships. Material (non-abstract) resources can also be traded on the Market or with other empires.

A summary of all resources can be seen at the top bar of the interface. If the stockpile for a resource is full, it is displayed in yellow and any monthly gain of that resource is wasted. If there is a monthly deficit of a resource, it is displayed in red. A deficit by itself is only a minor concern; however, having a deficit and an empty stockpile can cause major problems for an empire and should be avoided if at all possible.

The Prosperity tradition tree Prosperity tradition tree provides several bonuses for building up an empire’s economy, including quicker and cheaper construction for buildings and districts and additional output from all jobs.

Resource types[edit | edit source]

Main article: Economy

Resources in Stellaris can be categorized into several types, primarily:

Basic resources provide the basis of all empires’ economies. Most empires use all three of these in some capacity, with the notable exception of Trait lithoid.png Lithoid and Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires, who don't typically require food.

  • Energy.png Energy credits are the currency of choice in the galaxy and are used for most upkeep costs, including buildings, ships, and robots, as well as paying for various actions such as clearing blockers and more. Energy production can be increased by constructing Generator Districts on planets and mining stations in space.
  • Minerals.png Minerals are used primarily to build things – Armies, Buildings, Districts, mining and research stations, and many other things that the empire needs to grow and prosper are paid for in minerals. Minerals are also required for most jobs that create advanced resources. Minerals can be obtained by building Mining Districts and Mining stations. Trait lithoid.png Lithoid pops eat minerals instead of food as well.
  • Food.png Food is used to feed biological pops and maintain population growth across the empire. Food surpluses can be used to accelerate population growth, while an exhausted food stockpile causes shortage and starvation, resulting in extremely harmful effects to the empire’s populace overall. Food can be produced in Agriculture Districts, grown in hydroponic farms, or – to a limited degree – made on Starbases by installing a Hydroponics Bay building on the starbase.

Advanced resources are generally manufactured from Minerals.png minerals and are required for advanced jobs’ upkeep, advanced construction, and keeping pops happy.

  • Consumer goods.png Consumer goods represent the various gadgets, luxuries, and goods necessary to give your pops a good quality of life and to perform intellectual jobs such as research. Consumer goods are used to maintain the Species right living standards.png Living Standards of a population, and for jobs which generate Amenities.png amenities, Unity.png unity, and Research.png research. Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt consciousness (except Civic machine servitor.png Rogue Servitor) empires do not use consumer goods. Consumer goods are made primarily by Job artisan.png artisan jobs from Industrial Districts, which can have their Consumer Goods output boosted by building Consumer Goods Buildings; Ecumenopolis planets have more specialized Industrial Arcologies which provide a large number of Job artisan.png artisan jobs.
  • Alloys.png Alloys are used for advanced construction, particularly with military applications. Alloys are used for constructing Starbases, Ships, Robot pops, and Megastructures, and are also used to upkeep military ships. Since alloys are essential for an empire to survive and expand in space, keeping a large stockpile and steady production is strongly advised. Alloys are manufactured primarily by Job foundry.png metallurgist jobs from Industrial Districts, which can have their Alloys output boosted by building Alloy Buildings; and Ecumenopolis planets have more specialised Foundry Arcologies which provide a large number of Job foundry.png metallurgist jobs. Alloys can also occasionally be found in deep space in limited quantities and extracted by a Mining Station.

Strategic resources are rare materials that can provide significant benefits to an empire, primarily by allowing upgraded buildings to be constructed as well as advanced components to be fitted on warships. There are seven Menu icon strategic resource.png strategic resources, three "common" and four "rare". The common strategic resources can be produced by jobs, as well as from space deposits. The rare strategic resources, with few exceptions, only come from space deposits. Except for Nanites, all of the strategic resources can only be exploited by researching a technology which unlocks them. The "common" strategic resources have several uses each and are crucial to the advanced development of an empire.

  • Exotic gases.png Exotic Gases are used for advanced research, energy, and some unity buildings, and advanced shields and some energy weapons.
  • Rare crystals.png Rare Crystals are used for advanced government, trade, housing, and factory buildings, and crystal armor and some advanced energy weapons.
  • Volatile motes.png Volatile Motes are used for advanced food, mineral and alloy buildings, and advanced kinetic and missile weapons.

The "rare" strategic resources provide more specialized bonuses and are typically not crucial for an empire.

  • Dark Matter.png Dark Matter is used for the most advanced shields, reactors, and thrusters. It is also used by empires that Become the Crisis Become the Crisis.
  • Living Metal.png Living Metal is used primarily to increase the construction speed of megastructures.
  • Zro.png Zro is used for Psionic Shields and certain other special uses.
  • Nanites.png Nanites are generally only available if Distant Stars.png Distant Stars is enabled, and are used for the Nanite Repair System component, the Nanite Transmuter building, and the Nanite Actuators edict.

Abstract resources represent non-material abilities of the empire.

  • Influence.png Influence is a currency representing the political power of the central government. Building outposts, claiming other empire’s systems, maintaining diplomatic ties, and espionage are all done with influence. Influence gain per month can be increased by declaring rivalries, unlocking certain traditions, and maintaining a large fleet, among others, while block amounts of influence can be acquired by finishing events, investigating certain anomalies, achieving particular war goals, and making first contact with other empires.
  • Unity.png Unity represents the cultural progress of the empire as a whole, and is spent on acquiring empire Menu icon traditions.png Traditions, hiring Menu icon leaders.png Leaders, reforming the empire’s government, influencing elections, planetary ascension, and more. Unity is produced by happy Menu icon factions.png factions, various jobs as well as monuments, and production is also scaled by certain ethics, civics, and unique buildings. When unity reaches the current threshold, the empire may select a tradition to adopt, with the unity requirement going up for each subsequent tradition. This eventually leads to the empire acquiring Ascension Perks, which may ultimately define its endgame goals and potential ultimate fate.
  • The three branches of researchPhysics Research Physics, Society research Society, and Engineering research Engineering – are each separate resources that are used to research technology for the empire. Raw science output can be increased by constructing research labs and research stations, and sometimes blocks of research can be earned as rewards for analyzing anomalies, scanning debris, or completing projects.

Resource production[edit | edit source]

Space resource deposits in owned systems can be exploited through mining or research stations, built by a construction ship. Each station has a base cost of Minerals.png 100 minerals and an upkeep of Energy.png 1 energy, unless exploiting an energy deposit. Construction ships can be tasked to automatically build mining and research stations on deposits in owned systems, or the player can manually task a station’s construction to prioritize certain deposits. After building a mining or research station, the color of the resource value will turn from white to green, indicating that the resource is being extracted.

While space deposits can possibly produce a large amount of Energy.png energy, Minerals.png minerals, and Research.png research, most resources will be produced from colonies by pops working a Pop job.png job. Jobs are typically created by districts and buildings, though some planetary features can also create jobs. Basic and advanced resources are mostly produced by jobs from districts, while strategic and abstract resources are produced by jobs from buildings.

Most often it is recommended to specialize colonies to primarily produce one resource, as certain buildings, Colony type picker.png designations, and planetary modifiers provide additional output bonuses or upkeep reductions. However, in the early part of the game, it is likely the player will simply have to build districts and buildings as needed to prevent deficits, and only be able to specialize their colonies in the middle part of the game.

Obtaining Diplomacy isvassal.png vassals, through diplomacy or war, is another way to boost the empire’s economy, as the vassal can be compelled to provide a percentage of their resources to the overlord.

Most of the player’s early game decisions are limited by the number of resources they have and can produce. As Pop.png Pops working jobs produce most resources in the game, it is recommended to players should prioritize growing Pops and expanding in the early game to maximize Pops thus maximizing resources gathered and gained. Additionally, in the early game, due to the limited amount of influence, players should take care to expand their borders with outposts in such a way that will add a net positive to their empire, as some systems contain only a single meager deposit, while others contain a plethora. However, strategically important chokepoints are still highly important, regardless of resources contained.

Once the basic needs of the empire are met, the player should increase their overall production across all basic resources. Basic resources are mainly produced by jobs from resource districts. These districts are limited by planetary features, so colonizing several worlds may be required before a suitable specialized colony can be developed. Generally, Food.png food is the least important resource to produce, so a single specialized Agri-World, or Hydroponics Bays on several starbases can provide a sufficient income for much of the game. Energy.png Energy and Minerals.png Minerals often be supplied primarily by space deposits, but it is recommended to develop at least one or two specialized worlds for these resources.

Advanced resources are produced primarily by jobs from Industrial Districts, which are not limited by planetary features, so any planet can be specialized for their production. Through designations, it is possible to specialize industrial districts for just Consumer goods.png Consumer Goods or Alloys.png Alloys, and if the player has enough colonies, this is generally recommended.

Other resources are generally produced by jobs from buildings, so unlocking Mod planet max buildings add.png building slots – mainly by building City Districts – is important for producing additional Research.png research, Unity.png unity, and Menu icon strategic resource.png strategic resources. Finally, Influence.png influence is not generated by planets at all, but monthly income can be increased by adopting certain traditions, rivaling other empires, and keeping a large fleet.

Extermination[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Space warfare, Ship designer

Regardless of what the player’s ultimate plan is for a game, it is vital that they maintain a capable fleet of combat ships to be able to both attack and defend against foreign aggression. Even in the early stages of the game, the player’s empire may find itself under attack from space pirates or hostile aliens; thus having a respectable military presence is of vital importance throughout the campaign. Additionally, having a large fleet increases Influence.png influence income.

There are five types (or classes) of ships in the base game, from smallest to largest: Corvette Corvettes, Frigate Frigates, Destroyer Destroyers, Cruiser Cruisers, Battleship Battleships. The Apocalypse.png Apocalypse DLC adds two more: Titan Titans, Colossus Colossi; and Federations Federations adds the eighth class: the Juggernaut Juggernaut. Each empire starts the game with the technology for Corvettes as well as a fleet of three Corvettes. Researching the appropriate Engineering research Engineering technologies will unlock the ability to build ever-larger ships. Colossi, on the other hand, are unlocked via an Ascension Perk and the associated Special Project. The Ship Designer menu (F9 by default) allows players to customize designs for each class of ships using component technologies unlocked over the course of the game. Alternatively, the player can allow the game to automatically design each class to use the "best" components available.

Every empire has a Naval Capacity. This number is a soft cap and represents the total empire-wide naval size that a player can have without incurring increased upkeep costs on its ships. Naval Capacity can be expanded through research, traditions, or building the appropriate Naval Capacity increasing buildings on a player’s starbases and planets. Military Fleets have a Fleet Command Limit which represents the size and complexity an admiral is capable of commanding. This is a hard cap on the number of ships able to be organized in one fleet and can be increased through traditions, technologies, and the Civic distinguished admiralty.png Distinguished Admiralty civic. Large fleet sizes benefit from easier deployments and lower overhead, as fewer admirals are needed to command the navy, but can also lead to reduced flexibility when deploying single, massive armadas to meet multiple threats across distant reaches of the galaxy. Sometimes, several smaller fleets operating well under the maximum command limit may be advantageous. Consider the strategic and tactical needs carefully when organizing the navy. Each class of ship (up to titans) takes up 1, 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 Mod navy size add.png naval capacity respectively, as well as the same amount of Mod navy size add.png fleet command limit.

In addition to military spaceships, the empire can also militarize its starbases by installing the appropriate Buildings and Modules on them as well as building Defense Platforms to defend the starbase from attacks. A fully fortified starbase with a full complement of Defense Platforms can command enough military power to rival even entire fleets; backing it up with a fleet can create an almost unbreakable defense.

For each ship design, the player must first decide on which section(s) to use for the ship’s hull. Each section provides a number of weapon slots, used for attacking enemy ships, and utility slots, used for defensive systems and power. These slots typically come in one of four sizes – Small small, Medium medium, Large large, and Extra large extra large – as well as some special types of slots used for Point defense point-defense modules, Hangar hangars for strike craft, Auxiliary auxiliary systems, Guided guided weapons like missiles and torpedoes, Titan titan weapons to put on Titan-sized ships, and World destroyer world destroyer weapons for Colossi. Each ship also contains space for five subsystems – one each for an FTL module, combat computer, thrusters, reactor, and sensors. Defense Platforms do not have FTL drives or Thrusters.

Each ship runs on Power, supplied to it by the ship’s reactor and reactor boosters in the auxiliary slots. Almost every module that is not armor or a reactor drains the ship’s total available Power, which must be at least 0 in order for the design to be usable. In general, components in larger slots deal more damage, have longer ranges, or absorb more damage, but also consume more Power, cost more Alloys.png alloys to build, and are less accurate. Players often build ships with small weapons to fight smaller ships (since small weapons are harder to avoid) and large weapons to fight larger ships.

The are three main weapon types in Stellaris and they are specialized in their own ways, with each one having its own set of strengths and weaknesses:

  • Energy weapons (lasers, lances, plasma throwers) have the best armor penetration modifiers out of all the weapon types and are very accurate, but have a somewhat short range and, with the exception of disruptors, deal reduced damage to shielded targets.
  • Kinetic weapons (mass drivers, artillery, autocannons) are excellent at destroying shields and have a good range, but are somewhat inaccurate and deal reduced damage against armor.
  • Explosive weapons (missiles, torpedoes, rockets) are 100% accurate and track enemy ships, meaning their damage is unavoidable and they can roll for higher damage than other weapon types, but they must travel to hit their target and can be shot down by strike craft and point-defense, negating their damage completely if that happens.

There are also four defensive statistics associated with each ship:

  • Evasion shows the probability that the ship avoids all damage from a single shot of an enemy weapon. Evasion opposed by tracking.
  • Shields act as the first line of defense on the ship. Shields automatically recharge when not taking damage, typically outside of battle.
  • Armor acts as the second line of defense on the ship and protects the ship’s hull from any incoming damage that made it past the shields. It is usually sturdier than shields but cannot normally be repaired without docking the ship at a level 2 or higher starbase.
  • Hull points are the last layer of defense a ship has and signifies the amount of damage dealt to the ship itself. If the hull points reach 0, the ship will be destroyed no matter what. Hull points also cannot be normally repaired without docking the ship at a level 2 or higher starbase.

If the designs of the enemy ships are known, it is fairly simple to construct and adapt ship designs to "hard" counter them. For example, if the enemy is using ship designs of battleships with a lot of armor and explosive weapons, then an equivalently powerful fleet of destroyers with point-defense modules and energy weapons will probably make short work of them.

When viewing a fleet in-game, players can see the fleet’s estimated power, as well as its composition below it (with one diamond representing corvettes, two for destroyers, and so on). It is important to remember that the fleet’s power is an estimation of their strength only; a less "powerful" fleet equipped appropriately is entirely capable of contending with more powerful fleets in battle.

Selecting a fleet – whether it be directly or through the Outliner – will bring up a detailed view of all ships within it, and allow the player to issue commands, as they might do with civilian ships. While learning the basics of fleet logistics is not too difficult, some of the more important tasks for the player to be familiar with include splitting and merging, repairing, upgrading, and reinforcing.

Research[edit | edit source]

Main article: Technology

Technologies in Stellaris are divided into three different branches of study: Physics Research Physics, Society research Society and Engineering research Engineering. Each branch is headed by a Scientist.png scientist and each one can work on technology research in tandem with the other two branches. Each technology has a field associated with it as well, indicated by the colored icon beneath the technology’s numerical progress. If a scientist has an expertise trait whose icon matches the technology’s, then that tech research is boosted by 15%, as it is in the scientist’s field of expertise. The technology screen also provides useful information regarding what is unlocked by each technology, research speed modifiers for each branch, and a timer projecting how much more time is needed until research is complete.

Rather than a conventional tech tree, Stellaris uses a deck-of-cards system for determining what technologies are available for research. When selecting a new technology to research, the game randomly selects three technologies the player has met the prerequisites for, and the player may pick any one of them as their new project. The number of techs presented at each "draw" can be increased by certain technologies, traditions, and civics (e.g. Tech self aware logic.png Self-Aware Logic or Science Division Science Division). The player can also review previously researched technologies through the Researched button at the top of the Technology window, which lists completed technologies by branch.

There are five major categories of technology in Stellaris, beyond the typical separations by branch.

  • Starting technologies are technologies that the empire begins the game with, and includes base-level buildings, ship components, starbases, and ships.
  • Acquired technologies are technologies the empire has some understanding of from events or debris analysis but needs to continue research on to fully comprehend it. Acquired techs are surrounded by an orange border and are listed below the standard deal of technologies given to the player when they select a new project.
  • Rare technologies are given a purple banner and are very uncommon compared to other technologies available to the player at the time.
  • Dangerous technologies are given a red banner and are projects that could bring about an endgame crisis (more about that later) or other potential disaster.
  • Repeatable technologies are given a golden border around the tech’s picture and are technologies that can be researched multiple times by an empire for a bonus to something each time it is completed at the cost of them becoming more expensive every time.

When researching technology, it is important for the player to balance efficiency with usefulness. While some players may be excited to research a high-end tech earlier than usual, the extreme amount of time it could take means it may be wiser to pass on the opportunity and research some easier, cheaper, more short-term useful techs for the empire instead.

Some special projects in the galaxy may also require one of the empire’s research scientists to break from their normal duties and research something else. During this time, research points for that branch go towards the special project instead of the standard technology research.

Finally, players should not worry themselves with ensuring research scientists are always researching something. If a branch is not actively researching anything, then any points accumulated for that branch are placed in a pool instead of going to waste. When that branch has a new project, those pooled points are gradually credited towards that project, accelerating its progress. This system allows players to manage their research without needing to pause the game every time a project is completed.

Traditions[edit | edit source]

Main article: Traditions

As the player empire gains Unity.png unity throughout the game, they are regularly prompted to select a tradition to adopt for their empire. The traditions are divided into fourteen regular tradition trees and four ascension tradition trees, each of which contains five traditions as well as an adoption and finishing effect. An empire may only select up to seven tradition trees, and some tradition trees are available only with certain DLC or for certain authorities. Adopting all five traditions in a tree will unlock an Ascension Perk slot.

Traditions are typically adopted to define or reinforce an empire’s playstyle – e.g. a Fanatic Pacifist.png Fanatic Pacifist empire will typically not adopt the Tradition icon supremacy.png Supremacy tree. In the early stages of the game, however, there are a myriad of good options available to the player, regardless of where they plan to take their empire later on. Some traditions may have altered effects under certain conditions, e.g. Origin void dwellers.png Void Dwellers have some minor changes to accommodate for their habitats.

  • Expansion Expansion traditions aim to reduce starbase costs and establish new colonies in less time than usual, meaning that the first few traditions will appeal to most empires in the early game, including those looking to build tall as opposed to wide. This is generally one of the best traditions to start with.
  • Discovery Discovery traditions all help to bolster the empire’s science division, and To Boldly Go To Boldly Go is an excellent choice for those who enjoy exploring and taking advantage of anomalies in the systems they survey. Afterwards, Databank Uplinks Databank Uplinks provides a boost to research.
  • Domination Domination traditions are focused on various aspects of planetary management (Governor and Ruler level cap). It doubles down on Authoritarian effects of Influence (finisher), worker/slave output (Workplace Motivators Workplace Motivators), and reduced crime (Judgment Corps Judgment Corps) to help with unrest.
  • Prosperity Prosperity traditions seek to strengthen the empire’s economy. Adopting this branch decreases the construction and upkeep cost of districts & buildings, improves specialist jobs, and increases the effects of all city districts.
  • Harmony Harmony traditions seek to improve the empire’s population as a whole and can be used to offset any negative traits or penalties the empire’s founder species suffer from. For example, Mind and Body Mind and Body is an excellent counterbalance to the Fleeting.png Fleeting trait.
  • Tradition icon adaptability.png Adaptability traditions seek to enhance the empire’s utilization of planets, including Pop housing usage pop housing usage, Mod habitability.png habitability, and Mod planet max buildings add.png building slots.
  • Mercantile Mercantile traditions are focused on improving an empire’s Trade value.png trade value, and unlock access to trade policies.
  • Diplomacy Diplomacy traditions aim to make cooperation with other empires easier, enabling the formation of federations and increasing available Envoy.png envoys.
  • Tradition icon supremacy.png Supremacy traditions primarily focus on the empire’s military strength and is very useful for aggressive and militaristic empires intent on conquering large swathes of territory from other empires and establishing galactic hegemony through military might. However, even defensive-minded empires with no aspirations for conquest can still benefit from the these traditions, including the Menu icon policies.png War Doctrines policies it unlocks.
  • Unyielding Unyielding traditions conversely bolster the empire’s defenses, increasing the capacity and effectiveness of Spaceport 1.png starbases, while Bulwark of Harmony Bulwark of Harmony can be helpful for fighting in defensive wars.
  • Tradition icon subterfuge.png Subterfuge traditions improve an empire’s espionage and counter-espionage capabilities.
  • Politics Politics traditions adds additional interaction effects with the GalacticCommunity mainButton single.png Galactic Community, including increased Diplomatic weight.png diplomatic weight.
  • Tradition icon synchronicity.png Synchronicity traditions are exclusively available to Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness empires to better optimize their drones and leaders, reducing their upkeep, as well as increasing Menu icon edicts.png edict capacity and Stability.png stability.
  • Versatility Versatility traditions are exclusively available to Auth machine intelligence.png Machine Intelligence empires to enhance the efficiency of their network, including some diplomatic bonuses.

Ascension traditions are detailed below at #Ascension paths.

Leaders[edit | edit source]

Main article: Leaders
The Leader Screen

Leading an empire to interstellar glory is not a one-person job. Empires must assemble their top minds, commanders, and politicians to work together to stand a chance in becoming the ultimate force in the galaxy.

All leaders have a skill level, ranging from 1 to 5 by default, which signifies how experienced the leader is in their role. Certain species traits, civics, technologies, traditions, and ascension perks can increase this skill level cap, up to 10. As they perform their duties, leaders will gradually accrue experience points, ultimately resulting in them gaining a skill level. Leaders also have individual traits (both positive and negative) that determine their aptitudes and abilities. New traits can be gained from events and through leveling up.

The Leader screen lists all the non-ruler leaders in the player’s empire. To recruit a leader, empires must spend Unity.png unity to add them to the roster. When recruiting a leader, the player may select from one of three candidates (the size of this pool can be increased through civics and technology). After recruiting a leader, they are added to the empire’s leader roster and marked as "Available." The player must then assign them to a relevant position in the empire for them to start doing their job. An empire can have as many leaders as they want, so long as they can support the upkeep.

There are five types of leaders in Stellaris:

  • The empire’s Ruler.png Ruler oversees all of the empire’s operations, and are regularly changed out depending on the empire’s authority structure. Rulers passively gain 5 experience each month, and civics like Civic philosopher king.png Philosopher King can increase their level cap. Each level provides +5 edict fund. Ruler traits provide various empire-wide bonuses.
  • Governor.png Governors are in charge of sectors, managing their citizens, enacting planetwide edicts, and providing various bonuses to the sector overall. Governors provide bonuses to all colonies in their assigned sector. Experienced governors quell Job criminal.png crime on the planet, as well as increase Mod pop resource output.png resources from jobs and reduce Empire sprawl.png empire size from the sector’s pops. Civics like Civic aristocratic elite.png Aristocratic Elite can grant them more skill levels.
  • Scientist.png Scientists conduct research for the empire, command science ships, and execute special projects. Higher-level scientists conduct research faster and can investigate anomalies more quickly. Species traits like Natural Physicists.png Natural Physicists, Natural Sociologists.png Natural Sociologists, Natural Engineers.png Natural Engineers, and Intelligent.png Intelligent synergize well with high level scientists, acting as a multiplying force for the enhanced researchers working under them.
  • Admiral.png Admirals command the empire’s fleets, granting the ships they manage increased Mod ship fire rate mult.png fire rate based on their level and various bonuses based on their traits.
  • General.png Generals lead the empire’s armies, increasing Mod army damage mult.png army damage based on their level and providing various bonuses from their traits.
Return to #Using this guide

The early game[edit | edit source]

After becoming familiar with the different systems in Stellaris and how they interact with one another, it’s time to begin thinking strategically and planning the empire’s future. Creating and honing a strong early game routine will make games all the more enjoyable, knowing that the empire will be off to a good start economically, socially, and militarily. In this section, there are some general guidelines new players should adhere to as they begin their journey into the stars.

Before beginning, let us quickly review the empire’s starting assets at the start of a new game. The player can expect to have:

  • A decently sized, procedurally generated homeworld with 100% habitability and 28 Pops working several districts and 4 buildings. These buildings include a Planetary Administration and buildings for Research.png research, Unity.png unity, and Trade value.png trade value.
  • A level 2 starbase orbiting the homeworld’s star, outfitted with a shipyard and trade hub module and a crew quarters building.
  • Three corvettes
  • A construction ship and a science ship, the latter coming with a free scientist at the helm
  • Three more scientists – one for each branch of the empire’s research efforts
  • The initial ruler, designed during empire creation
  • A governor supervising the core sector’s operations and citizens
    • All starting leaders have randomized traits, though the scientists traits often match their initial role
  • A stockpile of Energy.png 100 energy credits, Minerals.png 100 minerals, Food.png 200 food, Consumer goods.png 100 consumer goods, Alloys.png 100 alloys, Influence.png 100 influence, and Unity.png 0 unity.

Several of these factors, primarily the homeworld, are influenced by the empire’s origin, ethics, and civics. The following assumes a regular empire: Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness, Trait lithoid.png Lithoid, and some origins may change the guidance in various ways.

First steps[edit | edit source]

Before unpausing the game, the player should review their empire’s Menu icon policies.png policies, most policies do not need to be changed immediately, but it is a good habit to check the policies to make sure they follow the player’s preferred playstyle for the current empire. Similarly, the player should review the available research options and select technologies that advance the initial goals.

Most of the early game consists of exploration and developing the empire’s economy, including research and unity, by expanding into new systems and colonizing planets. If another empire or primitives are encountered, an early conquest can provide a strong boost to the empire’s development, though it is not without risk.

Initial exploration[edit | edit source]

Main article: Exploration

As only the empire’s home system starts surveyed, before any expansion can be done, the player must survey nearby star systems. Depending on galaxy settings and the player’s position in the galaxy, it is often advisable to construct a second, third, or even more science ships in order to accelerate the pace of exploration; however, as each science ship requires a scientist to operate and hiring new leaders costs Unity.png unity, this strategy will delay unlocking Menu icon traditions.png traditions, which provide powerful bonuses.

When sending out science ships to survey, two basic strategies can be used, either surveying system by system from the homeworld, or searching out chokepoints to block off potential expansion by other empires. Surveying system by system allows for the construction ship to follow and construct outposts in valuable systems, but risks other empires taking strategic chokepoints. Searching for chokepoints avoids that risk, but building an outpost away from the empire’s current borders costs additional Influence.png influence and nearby valuable systems may be missed until later.

Science ships can be set to Automatic Surveying, however this is not recommended until the player has a second or third science ship, or has already explored most nearby systems. Likewise, during initial exploration, any anomalies or archaeological sites encountered should be left alone as the time required to analyze a high level anomaly or excavate a site can delay critical surveying.

Initial expansion[edit | edit source]

Unless searching for chokepoints, it’s recommended to build outposts in adjacent systems as they are surveyed, as this is the most efficient for Influence.png influence costs. Still, it is best to prioritize systems with colonizable planets, especially those with good Mod habitability.png habitability for the empire’s main species, and systems with several valuable resource deposits. Secondarily, systems which link to more valuable systems or are strategic chokepoints should be prioritized. Systems without valuable deposits or colonizable planets, and that are surrounded by the player’s empire, can be left until later.

It is important to note that if the player gives open borders to an AI neighbor, the AI can and will build outposts behind the player’s owned systems, but not more than two jumps from the AI's owned systems. That is to say, in order to block an AI empire’s expansion, the player should either close borders or make sure that they build outposts in all systems two jumps from the AI's bordering systems.

Space deposits provide an efficient boost to the player’s economy, especially as the player researches the technology lines of Tech space mining 1.png Zero-G Refineries (for mining stations) and Tech space science 1.png Zero-G Laboratories (for research stations). In deciding which systems and deposits to prioritize, Engineering researchPhysics ResearchSociety research research deposits are generally the most valuable, followed by Menu icon strategic resource.png strategic resources, though those require technologies to be researched before they can be collected, then Alloys.png alloys, and finally Energy.png energy and Minerals.png minerals. The player should also be sure to check the system directly, not just the galaxy screen, as a system with Minerals.png 6 minerals might have a single deposit or three deposits, the former being three times as Energy.png energy efficient.

Once the player’s has built around three to five outposts, it is generally a good idea to build a second construction ship, so that one construction ship can focus on building outposts, while the second builds mining and research stations. It is also possible to set a construction ship to automatically build mining and research stations.

Colonization[edit | edit source]

Main article: Colonization

While space deposits can provide a large part of the player’s early economy, most of the Alloys.pngConsumer goods.png advanced resources as well as Research.png research and especially Unity.png unity come from jobs on colonies.

Colonization is done by sending colony ships to habitable planets in owned star systems. Colony ships take one year to build and require a significant investment of resources, 200 each of Alloys.png alloys, Food.png food, and Consumer goods.png consumer goods for regular empires, for other empires see Ship#Colony ship. Once the colony ship reaches the planet, it begins establishing the colony. This process takes approximately three years, increasing based on the total empire pop number. While the colony is being established, it is possible to begin clearing any blockers present, but districts and buildings cannot be constructed.

When deciding which planets to colonize, it is recommended to establish colonies first on high Mod habitability.png habitability worlds, as lower habitability increases Upkeep pop upkeep. By default, the game puts 2 habitable planets (same type as homeworld – base 80% habitability) near the starting system; this can be changed during game setup, and is also affected by origins. Beyond habitability, Planet Size.png planet size and planetary features are also important considerations. Larger planets can build more districts and thus employ more pops, while planetary features determine how many resource districts can be built and may also allow strategic resources to be harvested or provide other benefits to the colony. Often, planetary features are "blocked" and the blockers require certain technologies to be research before they can be cleared. However, other than particularly valuable planetary features, it is usually not a high priority to clear such blockers.

Colony development[edit | edit source]

If a new colony belongs to a sector, it automatically benefits from the Governor.png governor of that sector. Otherwise, it is possible to create a new sector with the planet as the sector capital. Initially, the colony has no districts and only the Reassembled Ship Shelter capital building. New colonies start with one pop by default, which can be increased by the Colonization Fever Colonization Fever tradition. Pop growth is slower when there are few pops on the colony, so it can take quite a long time for the colony to grow on its own. Reaching 10 pops is required to upgrade the Reassembled Ship Shelter into a Planetary Administration capital building, which unlocks the ability to build and upgrade more advanced buildings.

There are few ways to quickly increase the population of a new colony to 10, including:

  1. Menu icon edicts.png Enacting the Nutritional Plenitude edict
  2. Forced resettlement, if the empire’s policies allow it
  3. Automatic resettlement, if Job default.png unemployed pops live on another of the empire’s colonies, jobs on the new colony can draw pops
  4. Building robots – they count towards required 10 pops, and grow independently from organic pops, effectively doubling growth

At 25 pops and 50 pop, the capital building can be upgraded further, unlocking even more advanced buildings. Each tier of capital building also unlocks an additional Mod planet max buildings add.png building slot, allowing the player to further develop the colony.

Economic development[edit | edit source]

In the early game, the most important resource for development is Minerals.png minerals as they are used to construct districts, buildings, and mining and research stations. Energy.png Energy is also very useful as it can be used to buy other resources on the market and is the primary Upkeep upkeep for buildings, ships, and stations. After minerals and energy, Alloys.png alloys, Research.png research, and Unity.png unity are all important for the further development of the empire. Food.png Food and Consumer goods.png consumer goods shouldn't be ignored, but are primarily used for upkeep, so they are less important to develop.

Local to each colony, pops also require Amenities.png amenities and Housing.png housing in order to be happy and productive. Unhappy pops generate more Job criminal.png crime and reduce the planet’s Stability.png stability. Most districts provide Mod planet housing add.png +2 housing, equal to the number of jobs, but to provide housing for pops working in jobs from buildings, it is generally necessary to build city districts, which provide Mod planet housing add.png +5 housing, as well as Mod planet max buildings add.png +1 building slot. City districts also provide a Job clerk.png clerk job, which adds a small amount of amenities and Trade value.png trade value.

Early on, and especially on the empire’s homeworld, specialization isn't as important as covering the immediate needs of the colony and the empire’s overall economy. As the player colonizes more planets and develops their empire’s economy, planetary specialization becomes more useful, as concentrating jobs of one type on a world allows the player to leverage several bonuses to job output at once.

Maintaining a strong military[edit | edit source]

Main articles: Space warfare, Ship designer

Even in the early part of the game, a strong military force is important as the player will quickly encounter other empires as well as space creatures and even the most fanatic pacifists may find themselves in conflict before long.

Defensively, Spaceport 1.png starbases are much stronger than fleets in the early game, at least until Destroyers Destroyers are available. However, the player will also want at least a modest fleet in order to combat any space creatures they may encounter. Increasing Alloys.png alloys production is critical on both accounts, as that is the primary resource for building ships and starbases. Researching improved weapon, armor, and shield components is also helpful for increasing military power.

While players may use the auto-designed ships, it is recommended to create custom designs in the Ship class ship designer. It is possible to create several different designs for each class of ship and create fleets of mixed composition in this way. Especially as the player has access only to corvette-class ships at the start of the game, this can be a useful technique to gain an edge over an enemy.

Building a starbase in a chokepoint system can effectively block an enemy empire’s fleets from advancing, more so once the Tech aura snare.png FTL Inhibition technology has been researched, which blocks enemy fleets from bypassing starbases without engaging in combat. Gun and Missile Battery modules as well as Hanger Bay modules all significantly increase the military power of a starbase.

In addition to maintaining a powerful navy, one must also not forget about planetary forces. Conquering enemy colonies typically requires occupying them, which requires recruiting Army assault.png assault armies. Similarly building up defensive buildings can bolster defensive capabilities noticeably as Army defense.png defense armies are stronger in the early game, though not mobile. However, with enough time, an enemy fleet can bombard any number defense armies into nothing; still, in the early game, that time can be quite long and therefore quite valuable in protecting your colonies from being occupied and thus lost to the enemy.

Interactions with other empires[edit | edit source]

Alien encounters[edit | edit source]

Main article: First contact

As science ships go out into the void exploring the stars, they will inevitably encounter alien life forms. The alien life forms that players can encounter are divided into 6 types:

Except for fallen empires, primitives, and pre-sapient, encountering any of these starts a Firstcontact map icon.png First Contact. Progressing a first contact requires assigning an Envoy.png envoy, and completing the first contact will provide a small amount of Influence.png influence and establishes communications with the aliens. In the case of space creatures, instead of communications a special project to research or pacify can be chosen, or a damage bonus against and resources gain from defeating them.

Diplomacy[edit | edit source]

Main article: Diplomacy

After establishing communications with a regular or fallen empire, players may access the Diplomacy screen with them. From there, the player can:

  • See the Intel.png intel level on the empire and perform espionage. Intel is required in order to see details about the empire, including their owned systems, relative strength, and the reasons why they may or may not like you with higher intel levels providing more specific information.
  • Perform diplomatic actions, such as Diplomacy guarantee.png guaranteeing the empire’s independence or signing Diplomacy research agreement.png research agreements, Diplomacy commercial pact.png commercial pacts, or Diplomacy defensive pact.png defensive pacts. These diplomatic actions also increase the minimum intel level between each empire, and increase the empire’s trust towards the player’s empire, thereby increasing their opinion. Note that many diplomatic actions have an associated monthly influence cost. See the Diplomacy page for a list of various diplomatic action costs.
  • Envoy action improving relations.png Improve or Envoy action harming relations.png Harm relations by assigning an Envoy.png envoy
  • Declare Diplomacy war.png wars and request Diplomacy isvassal.png subjugation
  • Create trade deals.

Empires have an opinion of each other dependent on diplomatic actions, governing ethics or civics, and events or other occasional causes. Keeping an eye on the relationship with neighboring empires is always a good idea.

Federations[edit | edit source]

Main article: Federation

Federations are formalized multi-lateral alliances, allowing several empires to band together in mutual support. In order to create a federation, the proposing empire must have taken the Diplomacy Diplomacy tradition The Federation The Federation. There are six types of federations, each with unique benefits. Except for Federation default.png Galactic Unions, they all require the Federations Federations DLC as well as other in-game requirements.

  • Federation default.png Galactic Unions are the "generic" federation, with the main benefit of having Federation cohesion.png −50% cohesion loss from differing member Ethics.
  • Federation trade.png Trade Leagues allow members to use the Menu icon policies.png Trade League trade policy.
  • Federation military.png Martial Alliances give benefits to ship and army experience and build speed of ships.
  • Federation research.png Research Cooperatives give an automatic and free Diplomacy research agreement.png research agreement between all members.
  • Federation spiritualist.png Holy Covenants increase unity output for members.
  • Federation hegemony.png Hegemonies are more a federation in name only, as members are semi-subject to the president and not allowed to leave freely.

Federation members automatically join all defensive wars together and have access through each other’s space. Most other matters require a unanimous vote from all members, such as declaring an offensive war or admitting a new member to the federation; however, certain federation laws can affect the members’ voting weight or whether a simple majority, or even the president alone, can decide such matters. Federations can level up and gain additional perks over time. The federation’s experience gain is determined by its Federation cohesion.png cohesion, a measure of how well the members work together, and it is generally increased by assigning Envoy.png envoys to the federation. Increasing the federation’s level is also required to increase the federation’s centralization and thereby unlock more law options, including the federation fleet.

Galactic community[edit | edit source]

Main article: Galactic community

Once an empire that is not Gestalt consciousness.png Gestalt Consciousness or Civic fanatic purifiers.png Fanatic Purifiers has established communications with at least 70% of the other empires in the galaxy (and at least 3 non-Genocidal empires must exist), all non-genocidal empires are offered a choice to form the GalacticCommunity mainButton single.png Galactic Community. If at least 3 empires agree, the Galactic Community is created and all empires that voted to form it join automatically. The primary function of the Galactic Community is to pass Resolutions, laws which typically affect all member empires by providing various bonuses and penalties. Voting in the Galactic Community is weighted by Diplomatic weight.png Diplomatic Weight, and many resolutions can be extremely beneficial or extremely detrimental to an empire depending on the player’s goals, so increasing diplomatic weight is a good way to ensure the votes go as desired. Envoy.png Envoys can be assigned to the Galactic Community to increase an empire’s diplomatic weight by +10% for each envoy.

After the Galactic Community has existed for at least 20 years, the Galactic council member.png Galactic Council can be formed; initially, the three empires with the highest diplomatic weight are elected to the council and gain additional powers over the Galactic Community, such as declaring emergency sessions or vetoing resolutions. Because members of the Galactic Council gain additional diplomatic weight, it can be difficult to unseat the current members; however, it is possible to increase and decrease the number of seats on the council as well as abolish it all together.

Additionally, an empire that is a member of the council can be nominated to serve as Mod country custodian.png Galactic Custodian, the protector and leader of the Galactic Community. Being custodian gives a permanent seat on the council and additional powers and benefits, including freezing resolutions, thereby stopping them from being voted on for four years; ending voting sessions that are at least half over; and reducing the cooldown on declaring emergency measures.

A custodian starts with a 30-year term, which can be extended or removed, and if the term is removed, the custodian can propose a resolution to reform the Galactic Community into the GalacticEmpire mainButton.png Galactic Imperium, with the custodian becoming the Galactic Emperor, cementing their power and influence over the galaxy even further.

Subject empires[edit | edit source]

Main article: Subject empire

Through war or diplomacy, it is possible for the player to subject another empire to their own, or become a subject of another. The subject empire and its overlord each have certain responsibilities to the other, which can be negotiated through the Subject Agreement, including resource taxes or subsidies, war obligations, and the subject’s relative independence to expand and conduct diplomacy, among others. The overlord empire can additionally construct Holdings on their subjects worlds.

It is also possible to specialize a subject empire to focus on military as a Bulwark Bulwark, resource collection as a Prospectorium Prospectorium, or research as a Scholarium Scholarium. Specialized subjects gain various benefits towards their specialization as well as providing a related benefit to their overlord; however, this comes at a cost of being weak in another area and thus dependent on the overlord; Bulwarks have reduced resource collection, Prospectoria have reduced research, and Scholaria have reduced military.

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Late game[edit | edit source]

Once players reach the late stages of the game, they should have built an empire with a considerably strong fleet and a strong production of resources. By this stage, players should be pursuing one of the many victory goals present in the game by default. However, the late stage of the game usually involves events that affect the entire galaxy. Note that Late Game has both a general meaning as well as a specific mechanical meaning as the game setup has an End-Game Start Year setting which acts as a trigger for certain events or other mechanics.

While Stellaris is primarily a sandbox game without a specific win-condition, when the game reaches the Victory Year, the empire with the highest score is declared the "winner"; however, the game can be continued after this point with no changes in gameplay.

Megastructures[edit | edit source]

Main article: Megastructures

Megastructures are colossal constructions that require massive amounts of resources and long periods of time to build. The benefits of these structures should not be dismissed, however, as they are equally massive. A few megastructures can be constructed earlier in the game, such as Planet habitat.png Habitats, however most megastructures cannot even be researched until the Tech mega engineering.png Mega-Engineering technology has been researched, and require tens of thousands of Alloys.png alloys to bring to completion. Other than Gateways, all megastructures are unlocked by DLC; which DLC is required can be found on the Megastructures page.

Endgame crisis[edit | edit source]

Main article: Crisis

The endgame crisis is, in some ways, the climax of the game, a seemingly unstoppable force that threatens to destroy the entire galaxy. The endgame crisis cannot appear before the End-Game Start Year, and normally appears around 50 years after that year. There are three possible endgame crises:

  • The Contingency
  • Extradimensional Invaders
  • Prethoryn Scourge

Which crisis appears can be determined during game setup – it is random by default – and its strength can also be increased or decreased. Defeating the endgame crisis typically requires a very powerful empire or coalition of empires. For more details and strategies, refer to the Crisis page.

Additionally, an empire can choose to Become the Crisis Become the Crisis by selecting the ascension perk of that name, allowing them to massively increase their power and eventually destroy the entire galaxy, winning the game but preventing continuing to play after that point.

Awakened empire[edit | edit source]

Main article: Fallen empire#Awakened Empires

In certain situations, a fallen empire may Awaken and begin expanding their influence over the galaxy once again, in particular seeking to force other empires to be their subjects. Defeating an awakened empire can yield certain otherwise unobtainable technologies and some of their homeworlds contain special buildings, which cannot normally be constructed, making them valuable targets for conquest.

War in Heaven[edit | edit source]

Main article: War in Heaven

In rare cases, two Fallen Empires may awaken and launch a great war against one another, with the rest of the galaxy prompted to join a side or stay neutral. The empires which remain neutral may also form a special federation, the League of Non-Aligned Powers.

Ascension perks[edit | edit source]

Main article: Ascension perk

After completing a tradition tree, the player can unlock ascension perks; these range from simple, but powerful, bonuses to unlocking new mechanics such as:

  • Ap one vision.png One Vision gives Mod pop amenities usage mult.png −10% pop amenities usage, Monthly unity +10% monthly unity, Mod pop government ethic attraction.png +50% governing ethics attraction
  • Colossus Project Colossus Project unlocks the construction of Colossi – world destroyer ships, and owning a Colossus adds a total war casus belli against all empires.
  • Galactic Wonders Galactic Wonders unlocks certain megastructures – depending on DLC: Ring Worlds and Dyson Spheres with Utopia.png Utopia, Matter Decompressors with MegaCorp.png MegaCorp
  • World Shaper World Shaper, Arcology Project Arcology Project, Hive Worlds Hive Worlds, and Machine Worlds Machine Worlds enable terraforming planets to Planet gaia.png gaia worlds, Planet city.png ecumenopolises, Planet infested.png hive worlds, and Planet ai.png machine worlds, respectively.

Ascension paths[edit | edit source]

Main article: Ascension path

The player can pursue four mutually-exclusive ascension paths:

  • Ap engineered evolution.png Genetics
  • Ap mind over matter.png Psionics
  • Ap the flesh is weak.png Cybernetics
  • Ap synthetic evolution.pngAp synthetic age.png Synthetics

Each of these represents, in one way or another, the ultimate evolution of the empire’s species. Taking the ascension path perk unlocks an ascension path tradition, and so requires having less than seven tradition trees already adopted.

  • Genetics Genetic ascension unlocks new species traits and modification options.
  • Psionics Psionic ascension enables contacting the shroud, including the possibility to form a powerful covenant.
  • Cybernetics Cybernetic ascension enables adding cybernetic traits to organic species.
  • Synthetics Synthetic ascension improves robots and unlocks a project to turn all organic pops into robots.
The End of the Cycle[edit | edit source]
Main article: The Reckoning

Once an empire has completed the Psionic Ascension Path, interacting with the Shroud can give the opportunity to sign a covenant with the End of the Cycle in the Shroud. This is very rare, with only a 2% chance of occurring, but it gives huge boosts to resource production, research speed, and naval capacity for 50 years. At the end of this period, the reckoning occurs. The player loses all their planets and they become uninhabitable forever. All ships are destroyed and all pops and leaders are killed. The player gains control of a single new planet called Exile with a group of surviving pops and an entity called the "Reckoning" spawns, with a fleet power measuring in the millions. It attempts to kill everything in the galaxy saving the players for last. All empires have a permanent −1000 opinion of the player for "Bringing the End" and "Doomed us all".

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General Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Early exploration is key to establishing your empire. Investing in one or two extra science ships in the early game will help to accelerate that exploration. However, note that this will delay unlocking traditions, as you must spend Unity.png unity to hire new scientists.
  • The galaxy is a dangerous place. It is important to maintain a strong fleet to discourage your neighbors from declaring an opportunistic war. A strong fleet will also allow you to clear out any space creatures in systems you want to explore or expand to, as well as deal with pirates that might appear.
    • Keep in mind the positioning of your military too. If your fleets are all on one side of your empire, it might take years for them to cross it to meet a threat at the other side, and by that time the threat could have occupied up a huge portion of your empire. Starbases alone cannot defend against enemy fleets. This increases the reason to consider having multiple fleets to defend all sides of your empire.
    • Making defensive pacts or a federation with your neighbors will also help to protect against an unexpected attack, both by dissuading the attacker from even declaring and by adding additional fleets to fight against your enemy.
  • Don't worry about maximizing every planet and action. Specialized planets and ship designs do provide an edge, but are not necessary to build a strong and fun empire.
  • Remain curious and have fun. As your science ships discover anomalies, take the time to read the flavor, not just the effects. Stellaris contains many stories, and you will never encounter them all in a single game.
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References[edit | edit source]