Let's Play: Mad Fighty Galaxy Gangster Pirate Gods - No Spouses, No Children, No Book Learning (3.11)

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mrt1212

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Jun 4, 2013
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  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
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So this is my current ambition:

Win the game on technical grounds by score shunning Feds (cant join or create), Vassals (cant have or be), and domestic Laboratory type buildings (and there are a few and some that spawn as part of a planet) are forbidden and highly demolishable if not replacable. The ones you can't demolish...well I guess Criminals are gonna Crime and sneak in and do research I guess.

Galaxy Settings:

Huge, Starburst, 30 Empires, 3 Advanced, 5 FE, 3 Mauaraders. (Note, I like a lot of empires and a lot of blocs)
1x Tech, Trad, Habitable Worlds, Pre FTLs
5x Crisis, Crisis Random

Mid/End/Victory - 2300/2400/2500

Difficulty - GA, Scaling Difficulty Off, Diffulcty Adjusted Modifiers On (This might not be so hard if you're purposefully building a meta tuned empire to confront it, I am not)

.5x Hyperlane Density (Chokepoints and convoluted paths in a Starburst turns out very cool actually)
.25x Gateways (Hate em)
1.5x Wormholes (To actually open the game up due to the Hyperlane setting at the right time to open it up)
Guaranteed Habitable Worlds - 1

Caravanners, L-Gates, XC - On
Logistic Growth Ceiling - 1.5x
Growth Celining - .25x

Ironman - On

My Spec:

Origin: Void Dwellers, naturally
Ethics: Auth, Militarism, Xenophile

Civics: Pirate Haven - MegaCorp CrimSyn with Letters of Marque
Species: Lithoid - Radiotropic, Existential Iteroparity, Nomadic, Deviants, Unruly

The Effort So Far:

Abysmal! Best game so far I abandoned in the early 2400s stuck in 13th and little hope to do better than 5th if Crisis didnt do most the work. Wife made me play past Crisis after my 2 days of whining about it, and I still only could get to 6th with not enough time or interest to take it down to the wire feelin stuck stuck. That was absolutely good fortune early with reliable Megacorp branches but I choked on Research entirely and Traditions mostly, after a certain point which I will get to in a bit. Great production, tons of Pops, top 3 in Diplomatic Weight but...still not enough.

So another dozen taken to 2300 at most and it not feeling right or going my way I had to reconsider a lot on approach and I am an in a very interesting playthrough at the moment going way better than the prior dozen stillbirths at 2300 or prior. Well I was - I had to end that one as I got a little too drinky and missed a Spiritualist conversion and couldn't get back my Auth which was now at 8% of factions, and was unable to select Nihilistic Acquisition...that's a fluff requirement IMHO. Are ye really a pirate if you aren't pressing suckers into pirates? Methinks not! But that one finally felt right and didn't suffer from this laundry list of issues I've experienced in attempt this:

1. Sprawl kills Tradition progress

2. Sprawl kills Research which is already terribly impacted the entire time

3. Diplomacy being way more complicated and contorted because the first act has almost always been survival and setup for the 2nd and 3rd acts, but basically you make a lot of deals to keep yourself clean, plop Branch Offices on those necessary allies for research via Illicit Labs because you have to, and now bar anything truly wild with Support Independence or Secret Fealties, they're locked in as more friend than enemy for the rest of the game. The general exception to this is setting up a BO before an NAP that spikes the relationship and then they become an enemy shortly after.

4. Constantly short CGs, which is only really a problem before Galactic Market but is actually a very irksome problem

5. Research hitting a complete wall for T4s but showing up for crucial techs like unlocking the 3rd Civic before that. Just a ton of time to complete. Basically even getting to this point, still getting smoked from that point forward.

6. Alloy output good enough, ships not great, Naval cap not allowing more mediocre fleets to make up the difference. Merc Enclaves can pull a lot of weight for the Naval Cap and are in some ways total bacon savers (where losing a fleet entirely is a relatively minor setback where if you've fed them at all with Fleet Expansions, you can often just set up a new contract for a new fleet the moment your current one blinks entirely out of existence. They have them just loafing there almost for the occasion) Still, it's an issue.

7. Espionage expensive and still not helping enough

I think you are starting to get the gist that this feels like a Noob's gripes about the game, but this has mostly been my refusal to adjust to what I'm being given and can do, and thinking I'll get the chances (and preparing for those chances) that never materialize to fight for claims that start to zero-sum the score in my favor. That has been the LAST thing to happen in any of these playthroughs and usually only in the back half after 2350 for playthroughs that made it that far, which isn't too late for it to matter, but is definitely so much harder to attain being middle of the pack with no direct help in allies for the purpose - it's always a byproduct of someone else's war or playing mutual defense together. The earlier these have happened by stroke of luck and opportunity, the worse things have actually gone because I'm taking over a highly specialized world, mostly with RESEARCH LABS of all things which spike CGs if I don't demolish them right away, Unemployment if I do, Sprawl no matter what.

I also think that taking the idea to the limit here really exposes how good the changes in 3.11 are where anyone who is playing somewhat capably with any synergy and leverage baked into their empire spec will not get stuck on their back like a turtle repeatedly, basically consigned to turtling, like, with even minor lip service to Research domestically a lot of my struggles here might not even be struggles at all - 3.10.4 was a lot MORE forgiving than this precisely because Research was more self reinforcing at that point, and still very much is, but it was utterly so and even the self starving had some benefit from it. Not the case in 3.11 where it only self reinforces to a point and then actually feeding yourself properly matters, and watching your Sprawl if you can't watch what you eat in Research being the other vector of approach.

So why did that last playthrough have some legs and what is the Theory that informs Praxis for the next dozen runs that will invariably hit the rocks ashore at some point? Allow me to spill my guts.

1. Absolutely prioritize Branch Offices ahead of anything else at all if given and making choices. This sounds like basic basic stuff and it kind of is, but CrimSyns are a little more complicated because of the diplomacy factors, where your Branch Offices function as one way NAPs, and the legit NAPs you have to sign the dotted line of are just good practice for not making an immediate enemy with even a single Branch Office. It's just really hard to know 50 years in the future whether your new contact is going to be friend or foe based on everything else around them but the moment you put a BO on them, you're kind of just locked in to them being a pool to put BOs into. Only they can choose to fight you, the initiative to fight is not yours ever, and the sunk cost is especially grave if other MegaCorps are on the board. You can't afford to close your BO portfolio to fight (because it's providing income first, it took 40+ Influence and 800+ ECs, and it's boxing out other MegaCorps to boot).

I was wrongly not prioritizing this and trying to sneak in more Habs to have the productive capacity to build my navies and keep them growing and growing and growing. Building 2 Habs and setting up some starbases is necessary for manipulating Growth, for covering Minerals/CGs/Alloys/Trade, for base income until BOs come online, but it's entirely too easy to overdo it and get stuck.

But this is not a trivial task until later - first 50 years, you need to find the other empires, you need to gain intel to see their territory's planets to unveil the holding menu (and this can be done via diplomacy and driving towards a defensive pact hard as possible, good in its own way, or you can do it via Espionage and plunking an envoy down. Envoys are hella important and more on that later.

2. Absolutely prioritize Illicit Research Labs as first Holding Slot - incredibly, you can have a respectable monthly research nut pretty early that will carry you well enough - nothing to write home about with pride, but it absolutely did the trick in keeping pace already behind the rest of the pack - 400-500 total around 2275 is fine. Turns out replacing your Research District starting 3/1/2200 sets you back a ton but fluff is fluff, and I'm lashing myself with it. This is the primary source of Research and will provide basically everything else you need to survive along the way. ECs to do more BOs and cover shortfalls on CGs and a small purchase of Alloys/Minerals to accelerate a fleet order or Building Slot/District. This had to be said out loud but there's nothing else on the menu bar research station. 800 Minerals is a lot for the Illicit Research Lab, but I haven't found a way around that, and early on, you simply don't have that many Mineral cost centers for building things that cost 400+. Its not great but it's fine.

3. Sprawl is the single most important thing to actively manage because the relative cost of tech is absolutely hosed by Sprawl when you're barely producing Research and it is mostly flat in production. Unlike Labs where you take the Sprawl hit from District (directly with a research district or indirectly for housing via habitation district) and then the Pops working the job, and attendant CGs and 'Food' for the Pop, eventually those Lab Specialists will start to cover their sprawl hit with peerless total output. They're absolutely worth their charge as going the opposite direction shows. Illicit Research Labs will give you the same dinky 6 research per type and doesn't really cover its sprawl hit, but there's not a lot of more direct and reliable option, nor one with huge upsides. 6 Research for 2 Sprawl is the starting point and almost as good as it gets. More efficient research production and output just doesn't NEED to manage Sprawl even if it benefits from doing so like anyone else.

4. Sprawl is also the single most important thing to actively manage because of Unity and Traditions and APs where a huge portion of giving yourself the tools to play are located. This is perhaps The Steak of this entire dish and recipe where anything worth doing that makes up for a lack of Research, and gives a bump to the empire in function or output, is going to be found mostly here. And here's what I've come up with in these pilot playthroughs to navigate it. This has been my crude recipe that helped get over some of the hump -

First 40ish years (no accounting for Unity from events or cashing in artifacts to speed it up):

Mercantile -Unlock and fill to 4 leaving the Market Fee untouched until you need to settle more starbases than two. 2 Starbases for 2 Habs hits you with an extra 23 Influence from optimal efficiency paired with Expansion, but it turns out that you can wait too long and lose the plot of what you're trying to do being a miser about Influence. Marketplace of Ideas 1st after unlock, then clerk boost, merchant boost, then Trade Boost in that order. The Trade output, Amenities and more Merchants does more early than the 10% Trade Boost. This is entirely to pursue more Traditions more quickly than otherwise.

Expansion - Unlock fill to 1 to get the +1 Pop for new colonies (to resettle back on the HQ for the first 2-3 colonies), backfill after or concurrent with Statecraft to get the +10% pop boost and the Sprawl Reduction when you crest 100 Sprawl. One of the Traditions that includes Sprawl reduction so I wanted this for everything else AND that on top of it. Excellent Tradition, S-Tier for sure.

Statecraft - Unlock and fill completely ASAP but allow a single point detour into Diplomacy for the reduced pacts once you approach 2 influence alone for pacts. Backfill Expansion after or concurrent. Statecraft gives immense boost to Agendas which is actually where some pretty ludicrously good boosts that don't create Sprawl in their wake live. This also unlocks Sprawl reduction at completion, so of course I wanted it.

Diplomacy - 1 Point to open when spending more than 2 Influence on pacts and then neglect until you need an Envoy for Espionage. It's a sleeper Tradition in this spec because the Influence savings at the front of it are very good in a variety of ways for the function, but the rest of it can be backloaded until later. The Envoy is very needed at a certain point but taking a detour to develop Diplomacy is too much for little gain early on.

After that, this is where I've been trying to find the right dance moves and the latest playthrough that really sung went

Enmity - Unlock filled to completion ASAP after the Opening 3. It is the perfect pairing to Statecraft's own agenda of Rightful Claims, Influence is the most important resource at all times in this spec especially because of Espionage within, but also just extremely cheap claims against Rivals, who should be pretty effing mad at you after you unlock and turn Diplomatic Stance to Antagonistic. Folks have pointed out how this little feature is hard to pull off given the flux of Rivals and generally being too powerful to have any, but this has not been my experience in these playthroughs with this spec. Indeed, I rivalled 2 superior Fed Mates AND one of their vassals at the same time occupying half my 6 Rivalries. The 2 others were MegaCorps who are #1 priority enemies, Gestalts and Hives #2, the last one was a random I actually could Rival and some allies consistently hated so it was good for no effort good relations.

Subterfuge - Unlock 3 points filled whenever depending on relative Codebreaking/Encryption Levels, Envoy Need. Not a high priority but with sluggish as hell research I didn't hit the Codebreaking techs much if at all

Aptitude - Unlock and leave alone until later. One additional Trait Choice is very nice for finding and cultivating Spycraft Leaders which I absolutely need for Espionage. Also, Leaders don't generate Sprawl for their modifiers, and the Naval Cap boosts are freaking amazing and worth stacking if possible across the council.

Unfortunately later never came for Subterfuge and Aptitude and backfilling Diplomacy because of my Spiritualism Snafu above, but I think this has some legs to it for sure. But I was rocking 10 Influence per month at the peak of it and even finagled my way to the top of Diplomatic Weight for 3 years from the +5% bonuses across 6 empires off of Enmity. I dropped the game when I had to take Defenders of the Galaxy over Nihilistic Acquisition after my Spiritualism Snafu, and I sat with it for a couple of years and hated it, realizing I could never get my Auth back. I like Defenders a lot for the +200 relations boost that opens up Support Independence Wars and Secret Fealties but the game was hosed on fluff at that point and I hated it. Anywho...


This has routinely unlocked 3 APs by 2240 which allowed me selections of

Interstellar Dominion (for Starbases and Claims down the line)

Lord of War (for the 2nd Merc Enclave which gets you some fighting fleets toot suite and 2 dividend streams which are Sprawless production if you barely squint, plus better benefits more often) and the Crown Jewel and Holy Glory of APs for me at least -

Galactic Force Projection that simultaneously allows Merc Enclaves to be founded (and gives them hella breathing room to grow into for some pretty efficient albeit weaker fleets) and gives a +2 Influence Boost to Power Projection. This is when the fun starts to uncork in this spec. When you get that +2 Influence nut and can go hard with more BOs and start running Espionage missions with any luck in hiring Kai-Sha and developing Spycraft Leaders. I speculated that one could skip Supremacy entirely if they took GFP for the Merc Enclaves, and I feel on the money with that, because under this spec, you're just not likely to research +20 Fleet Cap and Destroyers before 2240. Not likely, yet possible, but this is the best fallback one could imagine on missing there.

Generally, when running this Spec, the AP path is Interstellar Dominion, Lord of War, Galactic Force Projection, Nihilistic Acquisition, Defenders of the Galaxy, Xeno-Compatibility (yeah yeah, but ya know how much these pirates love loving? A LOT, and nothing is better than loving while fighting turns out and everyone should get some of that stank on them), and then 2 to taste and imagination - mostly both MegaStructure APs when I wasn't a laggard in Research, but I think those are firmly off the table anyway for most and especially for me. ArchaeoEngineers has been fun along with Colossus, and both Genetic and Psionic Ascensions are super dope and bordering on OP IMHO, but within my spec, Psionics could easily replace Subterfuge after taking the Ascension AP for it. Easily and hella better, no love lost there, just a Psionic version of my species coming home after an Immigration Treaty to a Psionic empire unlocked it, and the research option when it comes. And that means pairing with ArchaeoEngineers and popping Zarqlan's tomb and relic if he wills it!

5. Agendas, Agendas, Agendas!

Since their introduction, I basically neglected them as perfunctory things to do that didn't matter much and I was entirely wrong about that, entirely. Agendas are one of the best routine ways to put a big bonus on yourself as a mechanic of applying a big bonus to yourself, on purpose, regularly. One of the reasons I thought about them wrongly was not selecting Traditions that had really good ones baked in, but Evolving Society and Display of Power are my two ethics based defaults. Both provide amazingly well as openers, with me selecting Evolving Society to rush Mercantile, then Display of Power to recoup the savings from Interstellar Dominion and the starbase savings in Expansion, plus Branch Offices which should now be possible with neighbors you've met. The timing works out well for an opener and walks into unlocking the 5th council slot for the civic of your choice as the 3rd agenda.

But there are so much more and the trick to Agendas in my mind is having 'good ones' available at every point and not just your default ethics ones and perhaps one sizzler from another tradition. One of the issues I ran into with a basic set of Agendas and not respecting them is that a lot of the 'good ones' were on cooldown and I basically had to use an also-ran to cover until the cooldown cleared. Not the wisest or best use in my book.

Superior Colonies from Expansion has been pretty good for early to mid settling if that happens. Since colonizing time is a function of colonies in existence (right?), its not for the early game when you're whipping those out in less than 18 months.
Rightful Claims is amazing when paired with Enmity and pushing Enmity to its fullest. The Influence, the Claims, omg its neato.
Oppose The Fallen is a situational boost that if you also have Defenders of the Galaxy should allow some punching above one's weight to handle all those baddies who emerge.
Second Strike is a very situational but potentially very powerful way to take an advantage after a war to its logical conclusion of total victory
Departmental Efficiency helps your Leaders grow (and more on Leaders later) and helps leverage everything within Statecraft as it relates to Agendas
Leadership Conditioning does similar but differently

And then there's some more also-rans for cooldowns, which there will be given Statecraft pushes and holds onto Agendas faster and longer respectively. So you do need a good arsenal of applicable Agendas. And it helps answer a question about 'where are you going to get boosts to the empire if not through economic inflection in itself?' Which leads to the next section that I also neglected in folly and error.

6. Leaders

So I am still getting the hang of them but I was able to farm three level 2 spycraft leaders and work Kai-Sha in to drop Espionage Operations Influence cost to sub 50 Influence for Steal Tech for decades upon decades. I was metagaming this out in the main forum but Spycraft is one trait that reduces Operation Cost and if you're rolling in the Influence then you can feel good about going for someone else's tech. But it's rare and takes farming and so if you're going to farm, you need a farmer's tools. Luckily Enmity helps here with expanding leader caps based on Rivals, Aptitude allows an additional selection option to unlock and then helps out with cost and one extra starting trait to potentially skip farming at all.

And then there's a whole host of traits that are really good for specific purposes. Naval Instructor paired with Fleet Organizer and stacking either of those up across council is amazing relief that otherwise would generate Sprawl by pop or Branch Office working a job for it, or using Anchorages and plunking tons of alloys into them that should be used on ships (shudder).

I need to explore this more and this will likely be mid-late play to carry me over the line better but just for the two very particular uses with Espionage and Naval Cap, there's no getting around Leaders as one of the more efficient ways to produce benefit out of thin air...okay, out of Unity but close enough. The one thing that rubs me wrong with Leaders is more to do with their Council positions and how I basically must have a Head of Research for my own good, but also because it's an Agenda Detour to change the position until the 3rd Civic forces a clean slate. Luckily, a Scientist type occupies the Refurbishment Division council position so a few of the oddball traits they have that are very good get some play but...

Yeah...I don't have nearly enough Official council roles and IDK what to do about it since they're the ones that reliably can farm Spycraft from my experience. Commanders and Scientists mostly whiff, like I haven't seen a Scientist with it yet, despite putting them on the council as a level 1 to try. But with only 2 potential slots to Officials in Minister of State and Oligarch...yeah...I'm not rigging elections for Unity either, yet...very sadly yet.

7. Influence

The thing that I got wrong about this spec was that I could functionally go wide and eat my wide cake and it'll work out on the back end but that simply has not been the case and a big part of it comes from early Influence usage. Starbases (52 a pop which I tried to account for by stacking Interstellar Dominion and Expansion), Habitats (that take 150 at a time, so you can see how if you do 3 or more, you might not have enough left for anything else, and turns out being 4 deep into habs ~2215 isn't that much benefit as the Sprawl hit hurts and plateaus chasing Traditions for decade long spell, but also because starting Habs, even funneling the extra back to HQ just aren't that good to start and don't ever really get good, just not terrible for what you can do with them), and Branch Offices obviously.

But then there's the Espionage Operations thrown in and claims for fighting and making the fight count for something on your ledger. Without any relief coming from Vassals and the Ministry of Truth, it's all found in Power Projection and Leader Traits, and savings found in cost reductions which bar the Starbase Outposts and Espionage Operations and Diplomatic Pacts are fixed or scale with distance. You can see why in the Tradition section I stacked as many of these as possible onto the empire and it really does work, but it has to be way more purposeful than just 'I have my discounts and my primed output, I should be doing well or better than this crap'. No no silly me, I actually have to apply it all towards a win using something those much smarter than me call Strategy.

Speaking of, the point of it all...Strategy to Win

8. So how the hell is this going to notch the technical win?

The general theory that worked once to the imagination in 3.10.4 without all this extra stuff and being kinda plain was

1. Intercede in other's wars and make a mess of them
2. Conquer claim other MegaCorps/Hives/Gestalts as they have literally nothing to offer you
3. Support Independence and Secret Fealties to bust up Vassal Swarms and potentially Federations
4. Generally come out the other side of Crisis most intact with every score point available in Pops/Economy/Relics since there will be barely any in Tech and no Fed/Vassal points.
5. Wrap the whole thing up as you can in the last 40-50 years and cross your tents that it was enough

And in really, for all the strife in setting up the dominoes that I've experienced thus far, it's the tail end where actually taking the 1/3rd to 1/2 of the galaxy along the way or to wrap up the bag in the last 50 years has not been carried through because getting to that position has been a major headache with a lot of laughs along the way. I simply did not mess things up enough for others to deprive them of their points across the game to take them all for myself in the 3rd act, and I have to get better about that, 100%. If we can't be the tallest tree standing at the end by growth, maybe it takes arson and clearcutting.

Will start posting playthrough screenies and more when I figure out the best way to upload from a Steamdeck.

Subjects to Cover later:

1. Planetary Ascensions as potentially vital facet of making this work (did them in the most playthrough and it stoops easy to do them clocking 300+ Unity with 4 Habs, with Trade Worlds and some minor sprawl reduction, I was able to whip those out and pursue Traditions simultaneously, it just didn't make things pop like others make them pop with stacking leverage on them and waiting for the next round to ascend annoyed me even if this is exactly how it must work.)

2. Unity Output and why as good as Admin Office are if they're all you got in converting CGs to Unity, they are a major headache in keeping CG production up as primary source. Even as a meme joked, basically everything with Trade Policy just refigures everything in the pursuit of Unity to the basic question of whether your CG->Unity jobs are the best and primed with Civics and Traits to be even bestest. I ate a lot of dirt trying to get away from Trade as primary source of Unity because it overcomplicated Minerals->Alloys/CG in building out. Basic Merchant priming is good enough and can be cheaply for feeders early with 1 Habitation District set to Trade World giving a Merchant and 2 Clerks for 500 Minerals and .5 Sprawl OR a simple Commercial Complex in the first available building slot for 400 and no .5 Sprawl. Building slot is more efficient early but building slots also house monuments, health clinic, Mega Forge and a handful of others the districts don't cover. Minerals at efficient scale, especially with an early pop of Mineral Processing for modifier bonus, will have you building Mining districts and the Mineral Processing, but that's when you stop feeding HQ pops, so after the first 20 years.

3. Feeding HQ Pops early and tapering it off later. The general thought about that is that for a spell at least, it makes some sense to resettle new pops (especially free pops) back into HQ where a job will be waiting for them, sparing to 400-500 minerals to build a job for one unemployed pop upon settling, thanks to Expansion). When do you stop, and how do you keep that going without drowning in Sprawl (and this is part of what I went wide for early, to get the HQ hella full and do most of the lifting, which requires feeders. Not much feeding if you stop at 4 early to mind the Sprawl)?

4. Cutover from Marketplace of Ideas to Consumer Benefits. I am not mathy enough even though I do some amount of math in game with my trusty TI-83. But there is a point where it makes sense to cut over given Traditions left, Ascensions available, and CGs being deep in a hole because it was fairly easy to neglect them until they aren't. This gets back to point 2, but every game I've ever played with Marketplace of Ideas has a cutover point. How do you deduce that best?

5. Merc Enclaves and collecting Merc Enclaves like pokemon if you can help it.

6. Releasing micro states on planets just off yours for Branch Offices. Like Micro Vassals in a Vassal Swarm but these are independents but this is the next step if you need production but can't eat Sprawl. Yeah Micro Vassals are way better, I did a whole challenge that wasn't a challenge that much because of them. But there's going to be a lot of planets early on potentially that for 200 Minerals/CGs/Alloys and 92+ish Influence and 800+ish ECs, are just better with a small friendly that likely will never hurt you for a BO.

7. Stored Research as only saving grace, but still yoked by Research output to apply the matching amount. These little dumps from Merc Enclave Dividends especially add up the better the Merc Enclave and more you have, but it waxes and wanes and isn't reliable enough although appreciated.

8. 3rd Civics and making the most of Naval Contractors and Refurbishment Division as fluff congruent but exploring others as well. You cant dislike 5 founded Merc Enclaves of your own and it takes Galactic Council to get above 4, but super attainable and fluffy goal.
 
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It's nice to see how other people play Stellaris.

I can sympathize with finding a run difficult. I've had both of my colonies revolt before, which I didn't even know was possible before that happened (I won the resulting war).
 
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Pilot 0 Game:

2288 Report with no Screenshots yet (I'll need to save them to Steam Cloud from the Steamdeck then do my edits from my desktop, wah wah wah wahhhhh)

The Sum Up So Far:

Wellllllllll I probably am not going to fight a single war before 2300, which is kind of contra to being Mad Fighty but I have a plan for that for the next 200 years.

UNLEASH THE DRAGON. Basic premise is that I'm going to go Antagonistic Diplomatic Stance in a year after hitting the -25% Border Friction Subtrad in Diplomacy in 10 months. This will give me the latitude to get 6 Rivals and get to fighting by way of, the neighbors I don't like to hate me more, the neighbors I do like to fight alongside me (more on that later), and I start taking chunks out of my neighbors and just never stop, even through Crisis. I think this is the way to make up for general sloth and being too weak and too limited in viable targets to pursue.

Neighbors and Diplomacy:

Started Next to a 3 Partner Fed, Megacorp, Evangelizing Zealot and Euradite Explorers [Edit: got confused and posted from work. That was last game]. Made friends with the Zealots and Explorers, and held friendly on the Fed Partners. The other Megacorp...get this...LOVES ME, but hates everyone else around me so I had a free run of every neighbor for Branch Offices. There are two other far flung MegaCorps, okay, 1 more since one got wiped off the board by a 1 hop neighbor from my direct ones. Just yonder and about 2250, just poof and gone. The one who took them out was wide open for BOs. Basically, I got very lucky for Branch Office play and whether I tried or not, folks liked me well enough. The other MegaCorp is actually a vassal of another Empire which borders the MegaCorp I shared borders with so their reach has also been muted. 2/3 of my MegaCorp foes are right in my vicinity so you know what that means for later, heh heh heh.

The Zealot is a beast, but their topography makes it so they only have 3 outlets hugging the edge of the galaxy - 1 through me, 1 through one of the Fed Partners, and one through a hive that they vassalized. They popped a rivalry on that one Fed Partner so I did too, and now we're primed to take a shot if the Federation shoots with an airtight Defensive Pact. Beyond the local neighborhood, there's a good mix of every kind, a lot of Phobes so they're not playing ball with one another and creating Blocs. I think this one really could wind up in my pocket given my BO portfolio that hasn't even really hit those out of the local neighborhood, the competition is close to me, and one way around the Galaxy seems the 'Conquering Side' (Direction of the remaining MegaCorps) while the other direction is the 'Economy Side' (Direction of the Non MegaCorps).

Galactic Community was founded in the early 2280s and we finally got the Galactic Market vote through but the bidding process is going on right now. I'm not doing it, I'll take it when I do and if a MegaCorp has a bead on getting the Market, sooner rather than later. Playing 80 years seldom relying on the internal Market but for huge dumps for Minerals to build Illicit Research Labs, I am pretty sensitive to how my Whole Economy is going.

4 Rivalries - 2 on Fed Partners for the Mutual Rivalry boost with the Zealot Neighbor, and then 2 others cause they're available. Will put my sights on the neighboring MegaCorp once I go Antagonistic Stance and start making those claims.

Economy and Research:

45 Branch Offices, Almost all have Illicit Research Labs which contributes 80% of Research clocking in at 845 when I set the game down last night. The Domestic Economy is primarily Trade oriented and forcing Merchants above all else, 2 Mineral Habs, 1 Alloy/Industry Hab, 1 Relic World that will be converted to Ecu as soon as I have AntiGravity researched (happening right now). Unity is clocking in at 630 while running Evolving Society, 400-odd when not, Alloys at a 150, minerals at 75. It's humming but nothing to boast about. ECs are up and down as I'm supplmenting food/cgs/minerals with a monthly purchase and bulk purchases have spiked Minerals to take EC profits down at times but it is what it is. I have Ascended each hab and planet once, and can do another but I'm shooting to band out Diplomacy and take my 5th AP before that, which should be done before 2300. It's been kinda boring but the foundation is there.

Habs/Relic are rolling Monument+Gene Clinics+Commercial Complex+MegaForge+Motes+Admin Office (if slots are open) and Districts are built absolute need with housing and minerals.

It has been pretty boring to poke 5 production centers with not much to do and waiting for clerks to be >2 or providing 1> Amenities to pool before building another thing on them, growth is sluggish but getting better with a lot of immigration pacts amongst other Lithoid Empires. They love the Habs and I love them for it! There's not much to comment on because it's been slow and limited and there's not a lot of interesting things to do with Domestic Economy like this.

OOOH OOOH, Unlocking my 3rd Civic in 4 years and going to have 2 more Merc Enclaves for it. Gonna definitely be cooking with gas after that point. Things are actually a little bit better on the tech front this playthrough than previous, I'm somewhat surprised and totally pleased.

Unity:

It's going stoops good even though I missed unlocking 3 Traditions by 2240 and hit it in 2250. Didn't pop a lot of Unity events, nor did I absolutely cream Unity output against sprawl in the early times settling 4 spots toot suite - really hard to pass up the Relic world for the sake of Sprawl, especially since one of the aforementioned Fed Partners could have snagged it.

Went Mercantile, Expansion, Statecraft, Diplomacy, Enmity with a kind of loopy path through it. 4 Mercantile (All but Market Fee), 2 Expansion (Unlock and +1 Pop on Settling), 1 Mercantile (Unlock Interstellar Dominion), 1 Expansion (Outpost Reduction), 3 State Craft (Unlock, Agenda Time, +150XP on Agenda Completion), 1 Diplomacy (Unlock for pact influence Reduction, 2 Expansion (Sprawl Reduction and Pop Growth), 3 Statecraft (Unlock Lord of War), 1 Expansion (Unlock Galactic Force Projection). That was at 2250. Mind, Galactic Force Projection came down at the same time I finally got 50 Fleet Cap through Researching 1 +20 Fleet Cap tech and Destroyers which kinda stung but I laughed since I had already converted 1 fleet to Merc Enclave but the Influence started to pop.

After 2250, 1 Enmity (Unlock), 1 Diplomacy (+1 Envoy), 5 Enmity (Unlock Nihilistic Acquisition), 1 Diplomacy (Unlock +3 Unity from Embassies) and that was synchronous with the formation of the Galactic Community. And here we are, 10 months away from Border Friction reduction to pop Antagonistic Stance and hedge for my one powerful neighbor.

I like it, I like how its going on this front, I feel pretty comfy that I'm going to bang out the remaining 2.5 Traditions before or at 2350 if I keep it tight on Sprawl and do 1 or 2 expansions to shore up minerals/alloys. Even with the detour for Ascensions while unlocking parts of Enmity, I'm on pace to wrap this part of the game up on time and with all my tools. Finally getting to pop events and trade in the Minor Relics for Unity every 10 years, plus rolling with some leader boosts...

OH yeah, also putting Front Offices in the 2nd holding slot when it opens in Branch Offices. My monthly nut is pretty evenly split between Marketplace of Ideas Trade and Branch Offices with the rest rounded out by Monuments and Admin Offices is doing well enough for the purpose. This is basically making me short 200 Naval cap because I reckon in other playthroughs those would have been Pirate Havens without question, but alas Illicit Research and blasting Unity was my goal in this especially if I could keep a lid on warfare long enough to get my tools in order for it.

Statecraft has been making Evolving Society a ridiculous boost that probably explains my tepid pace before it and getting 2 later ones knocked out in slightly more time but a reasonable amount of them. 3 for the first 50 years, 2 for the 2nd 50 years, 2 for the last 50 years sounds pretty much on track.

As for the remaining Traditions and APs, I settled a Shroud Enclave and I have a ton of Zro deposits around me so I'm thinking Aptitude and Psionics to round it out, although it'd be Subterfuge if I was being a total fluff hardass about it, but I tried that last time and I think if I wanna win it all, I gotta go Psionics which has some Code Breaking boost within it anyway. Pumping out leaders and hopefully landing Spycraft is the goal for my Espionage Ops to snag more Tech as I have finally started to snag some with a Kai-Sha hire and one Spycraft Official that has been Oligarch once by chance. Remaining APs (sitting at 4 now), Defenders of the Galaxy (to confuse the hell out of people but also seed Secret Fealties for Allegiance Wars on tough nut Vassal/Fed swarms), Xeno Compatibility (for the fun of it with Iteroparity getting spread around, but also backfilling everything and helping out new Habs I will start building mostly for the Alloys while being careful not to soak my Research since 80% is coming from Illicit Research Labs and research under the conditions is especially Sprawl sensitive, which I mentioned in the OP - flat output that never scales will be eaten alive by Sprawl as tech costs increase eventually.) Psionics to Unlock Psionics, obviously and then...hmmmmmmmm...what to take what to take with the last one by Ascension Theory, hmmmmmmmm? Well, I'll figure that out.

There's nothing to report on Warfare, hasn't happened to me yet. The gameplan is to basically carve paths through other empires to get to other empires to go through other empires, and then balkanizing what remains into independent microstates in a 2nd war after that. Second Strike provides the means, I gotta seize them. I think is gonna be the way to get to the top of the leaderboard while cutting other daisies down and getting mine along the way.

So I'm not quite unpleased with the progress so far and think I am in a good spot to run the board once I can unleash the dragon fully. It has been nice to see what a tall peaceful build is about and being woefully inequipped for it by design hasn't made it as unsatisfying as I imagine others would think it. When that's just kind of the way it is and you got other things going on via Warfare, it's not a huge honking deal, but if thats all you got and it isn't blistering hot, I suppose others would get super frustrated. I'm biding my time and sitting pretty incubating the egg with my own tookus.

Espionage Tidbit:

I was running into Solid Encryption and then hit 2 Codebreaking Techs back to back and dropped all of them to Trivial or about there, and if I had any kind of reasonable tech tempo, I honestly don't think I would have any need for Subterfuge given any kind of focus and luck on the codebreaking techs and anything else it comes from. Sure there's an agenda within Subterfuge, but that just provides more codebreaking...it's nucking futs how much the Devs just do not get the subsystem they built out to the extent that just prioritizing the research alone does similar heavy lifting. CMON DEVS, make the agenda drop the Operational Cost!

Oh, and I also have the Reality Perforator so when I do fight, that's going to give me an early edge that I hope I can roll into a never ending war to win it.
 
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That's a good start. How many fleets do you have, and how many ships are in them? Are you expecting your allies to do any of the fighting?
 
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That's a good start. How many fleets do you have, and how many ships are in them? Are you expecting your allies to do any of the fighting?
OH yeah, Headline Numbers.

12th in score, 14th in Diplomatic weight, but not in Antagonistic Stance yet. Last playthrough I hit antahonistic and became #1 in Diplomatic Weight overnight, was wheezing.

313/330

Out of 150 Cap
98 (Merc) 6.9k
50 (vette) 3.9k
90 (Merc) 6.6k
50 (vette) 4.9k
40 (cruiser) 3.9k
10 (vette) 1k

unlocked cruisers finally and those are primary fighting fleets and the only ones Ill build out now. Will prioritize merc enclave upgrades ahead of fleets. Vettes will be turned merc in 4 years at 3rd Civic taking Naval Contractors, the 10 vette fleet is getting dividend ships for when security contractors pops in the galactic community. its a dink rubbish armada but skies the limit shortly once the Galactic Market opens.

Strategically -

1. I expect my allies to not do much fighting on the field for me ever and generally hope whoever can make it to my Take Point Fleet does, but Im going when the light is green. Makes me too risk adverse heads up 1 v potentially 2 but...strstegically Speaking.

The two defensive pacts are with the Evangelizing Zealot Big Dog who none dare attack, and Explorers [Check my edit in my above post. I was posting from busted memory at work when I whipped that up on a break] dont have a neighbor that can get them after losing a war But are weak. Weaker than me some god awful reason.

Theyre not gonna get attacked so its all cover my ass for me. So for attacking, theres 3 ways to play it which through experience have pros and cons:

Raids with claims as 3rd party in another war - get the claim, get the booty while they dostracted, hope the power differential if weaker wont matter and bite you and take em 1 on 1 up to 1 one on and a vassal if at parity or weaker. pro is direct objective, con is truly being on my own which, the risk I take...

Must have no BOs on them which means you never did or you did then closed them and now are paying influence again for a claim. Uh huh...real cool dynamic there Game System, real effing neato.

Diplomatic Wars - Secret Fealties>Allegience War, Support Independence primarily. These are to fight those you DO have BOs on.

Allegience takes time, you have to work the diplomacy and get stronk to net Secret Fealties, and to top all you kinda go all or nothing for effect. All vassals in or none in. But the effect is a huge score flipper where top dog with vassals loses significant score for it.

Support Independence is high risk low reward but it gets a fight on your hands. Happens out of nowhere with no warning. Must have access to the fight so limits availibility, sucks if other vassals or fed make it 2 on 4 or 8.5. But its a fight you didnt have to declare.

Wars of interference or dogpiling.

Raids and mostly to stop subjugations or ensure that someone that sucks gets gone. Usually beyond local neighborhood and need truces or pacts in effect to do it. Low risk low reward, and often times locks you into a war with no resolve far away and with terrible access. Huge problem with vassals in play (you can't do some vassl things during war, it's hilarious) and less so here.

Thats mostly the long and short of it bar Kahn, War in Heaven, and Crisis which all are kinda different but allow all of the above 3 in some way to pop off.

Also On the Horizon at 2290. Antagonsitic Engaged 6 Rivals and Rightful Claims cooldown expires. Will have Defenders of Galaxy by then with 2 to go in Diplomacy. 32 Months for 1, probably 50-60 with no events or minor relics. Evolving Society Agenda expires in 10 years so unity is pumping.
 
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Folks, I might prove one of my concepts entirely. Popped off a war on that MegaCorp next door and the first part is done with a shambolic Raid CB. 2nd Strike is loaded rightful claims on deck. Timing was off to do reverese woulda waited 12 years from Declare, but 2nd Leg is coming achtya.

Will post screenies before I play again
 
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What are your goals, if any, on how quickly you get each enclave up and running?

ASAP but a lot of that is only partially in my hands. Under non impediment conditions that would be a cinch for the first 2 Enclaves, via Tech (+20 Fleet Cap paired with Destroyers) and/or Trad (Supremacy given unlock and 3 points on the left side), then waiting for 3rd Civic Tech for Naval Contractors or Galactic Community to pop the next 3. So even under normal circumstances the tempo is like

1..2....34..5 or 1..2....3..45. This is also figuring the alloys too. Usually even under normal circumstamces, the sheer amount of alloys for 50 vettes and the 2k to found and 500 to get them started in expanding fleet, you cant do the 2nd too early and close to the first. The material limit matters most for the 2nd as 3,4,5 can more easily be saved for and integrated in since it falls after the Security Contractors measure, which means Galactic Market has been founded in most cases, making for some slight more ease.

WIth impediment, and through some other experiences, Galactic Force Projection is the latest to get them started for sure. You miss maybe 4 Dividends max if you didnt get 50 Fleet Cap and start 2 before GFP but otherwise thats the thing to shoot for.

As is in this playthrough and the contortions and having Habs and strategically not spamming them to have the Merc Enclave Alloys...2250 for 1st and in the midst of this war 2303ish for thr 5th. I didn't get any dividend ships, but the early you found Merc Enclaves, the more likely it is you'll get some dividend ships to found the next Enclave. All bets on slower timing are off if you find the Salvager Enclave and buy 10 Corvies at a time to get to the required 50. Maybe a good way to put it is:

"The earlier you unlock the ability, the more it's about alloys to do it, the later you unlock the ability, the less its about the alloys to do it but you still need a ton of them"

The above post where I listed off my fleets before war is hilarious given the 10 year journey through war and all of them are sitting at 17k now, and there's a very neat trick to it with Merc Enclaves where you can take some reasonable losses with their fleets even if it hurts warscore, because you absolutely want to turn over the fleet in composition to reflect the latest and greatest tech you provided to them. So you're kind of supposed to ram them into dodgy situations and let them get reinforced automatically by the enclave. Your own ships with your own people? Madness to just fling em at a problem and take losses since you're paying the reinforcements. With Merc Enclaves, I don't want to say you're impervious to losses, but you should be taking them to turn over the fleet. And that means picking on a bigger guy with their hands tied up on the other side of their territory to set up the 1, 2 Second Strike Punch.

As for doing the upgrades to Enclaves - I always try to throw 500 at them at the founding, just so I don't forget and their first dividend is better. After that it's a matter of tempo with alloys and generally if walking around in peace and taking in 150 Alloys a month, it's trivial to get them up a few levels, and if the alloys on the GM are sub 3 ECs, you can start taking on the 2750+ upgrades no sweat and just dive into it.

This playthrough has been so interesting seeing just how much I plow into Habitats normally and how much that could otherwise be used for Merc Enclaves if only had the ability to unlock them earlier within the conditions of impediment around research!
 
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Ethics: Auth, Militarism, Xenophile

Species: Lithoid - Radiotropic, Existential Iteroparity, Nomadic, Deviants, Unruly
If you go Militarist, Fanatic Xenophile and Repugnant, Solitary, and Venerable you get the personality Fanatic Befrienders which gives +100 opinion towards everyone. Would that get you anything with this build?
 
If you go Militarist, Fanatic Xenophile and Repugnant, Solitary, and Venerable you get the personality Fanatic Befrienders which gives +100 opinion towards everyone. Would that get you anything with this build?

What!?! That is the most hilarious combo ive heard of and I love it! I feel seen!

I couldnt because Auth Phile is required for NA, but if being a smooth talking pirate is cooler than a kidnapping one, I could see a variant that does this for earlier good relations since your opinion towards others does count.

I dont think that much because here but goddamn what a concept. Stellaris is so cute and cheeky sometimes.
 
2289:

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Let's go through the neighborhood -

Fevaria to the west: Erudite Explorers, Defensive Pact
H'Ranian Star to the east: Defnsive Pact

Trash Fed to the south, Trader MegaCorp to NW, Ferbatian MegaCorp to the North through 2 other empires, Marauders. Only vector of offensive war is through the MegaCorp thank goodness.

2292:

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The Galaxy: To reference above post - Northewest is the Conquer Side, South West is the Economy Side. And I'm right there the middle with the Spade, how nice.

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Waiting on Galactic Admin for Naval Contractors and getting the Hab Expansion done. That is one spensive tech!

So the whole impetus to my "Now Or Never" Moment to Unleash the Dragon was this war they declared on their empire to the left, that is Overlord of the other Megacorp. Waited till it got to 50% War Exhaustion, made my moe. Ships kinda far away from my path through to Trader HQ.

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Waiting on Diplomacy to take Defenders of The Galaxy to really confuse. I got my Pirate APs in a row in the first 4, now its time to get wacky with it. With normal parameters of course, a normal kinda wacky.

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Pre Galactic Market Prices in 2292...my goodness. Also gives idea on reliance of Internal Market up to this point

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Influence breakdown - notice the Rivalries, and Power Projection, then cheap ass pacts. Lots of immigration, everyone's happy, big smiles...Forgot about that non aggression, still intact 13 years later I bet, sheesh.

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Unity Breakdown. I love this one, this is my favorite one of the bunch. Look at all those sources making up a whole! Rivalries was a new one for me but I popped Enmity, and also took a leader trait that granted a little more. love to see it!

Also, you can see the path for war better here. I didnt take these screenies with that in mind, I was tired, it was after midnight, I was on fumes and still am.

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2 Micro Independent States I created and I hope smooch.

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I can take these chumps!

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Tried this first - didn't work, ah well, even though we're besties and have them as mutual rival, tis my fight, (I did try humiliate, no dice)

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So be it! Humilation Wars with Enmity are better than Raids but I didnt think I'd actually win it outright and actually didn't.
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But aha, I have this you see:

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I didnt get any screenies of teh war because it was after midnight and I was a gremlin hooting and hollering over the twist and turns and my own folly twice and still prevailing. I'll tell you all about it another day...
 
2 Additional Wars and 30 years later from that, I am in the catbird seat. Amazing story of persistance through buffoonery.

Approaching 1k alloys per month, naval cap at 1546/1600, 7 Merc Enclaves in control with all their fleets, and running out the clock on kidnapping pops in a 2 vassal allegience war to eliminate the Trader MegaCorp entitely, despite being in a Fed.

Got screenies for later although the 3rd war out of 3 is such a laze about that not much to post. Nihilistic Acquistion is 100% for mutual wars to get yours on ally claims, lmao - you get the territory and I get the pops, sound good lmao!

Feels amazing that from hatch to getting into it, I am rocking and rolling and going to keep it rolling. Battleships are coming online, think this is turning the avalanche corner.

Edit: 3 wars at once? You betchya - after releasing both vassal gains, immedietely released then rivaled the megacorp, 2nd strike shortly after, bam. Support independence against allie that helped against dead megacorp federation bam. Raid against hive with defensive pact made on east, bam.

Overwhelming game now - wild resource swings, its the best.
 
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It looks like you're doing well...

Are other empires beginning to fear you yet?
 
It looks like you're doing well...

Are other empires beginning to fear you yet?
Yes? Im hitting that point where there's less empires to rival as I keep growing - I think I've hit a spot where I can hold for a little bit on building my fleet out, until I sort out my economy a little better. Onboarding new planets and trying to keep the largest fleet in the Galaxy after losing sense of the Domestic Picture along the way...I kinda expected that but it's put a crimp on things which the Merc Enclave Dividends are helping out with all the time.

I havent reached the 'peerless' phase yet, but I'm sitting at #9 (No Vassals, No Fed, No Tech is doing it all here, 2 Fed Mates are 7/8, there's a mystery 6th Empires at 6 we haven't met. My bet is The Chosen) on the scoreboard and top of Diplomatic Weight by a ton. Worried about Research but think I'll be able to score some more Branch Offices and start plucking a Science Nexus or 3. 2363, and finally rooting out the last major MegaCorp with a war, while tacking on a raid against their weaker neighbor they're also fighting.
 
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1. Planetary Ascensions as potentially vital facet of making this work (did them in the most playthrough and it stoops easy to do them clocking 300+ Unity with 4 Habs, with Trade Worlds and some minor sprawl reduction, I was able to whip those out and pursue Traditions simultaneously, it just didn't make things pop like others make them pop with stacking leverage on them and waiting for the next round to ascend annoyed me even if this is exactly how it must work.)

2. Unity Output and why as good as Admin Office are if they're all you got in converting CGs to Unity, they are a major headache in keeping CG production up as primary source. Even as a meme joked, basically everything with Trade Policy just refigures everything in the pursuit of Unity to the basic question of whether your CG->Unity jobs are the best and primed with Civics and Traits to be even bestest. I ate a lot of dirt trying to get away from Trade as primary source of Unity because it overcomplicated Minerals->Alloys/CG in building out. Basic Merchant priming is good enough and can be cheaply for feeders early with 1 Habitation District set to Trade World giving a Merchant and 2 Clerks for 500 Minerals and .5 Sprawl OR a simple Commercial Complex in the first available building slot for 400 and no .5 Sprawl. Building slot is more efficient early but building slots also house monuments, health clinic, Mega Forge and a handful of others the districts don't cover. Minerals at efficient scale, especially with an early pop of Mineral Processing for modifier bonus, will have you building Mining districts and the Mineral Processing, but that's when you stop feeding HQ pops, so after the first 20 years.

3. Feeding HQ Pops early and tapering it off later. The general thought about that is that for a spell at least, it makes some sense to resettle new pops (especially free pops) back into HQ where a job will be waiting for them, sparing to 400-500 minerals to build a job for one unemployed pop upon settling, thanks to Expansion). When do you stop, and how do you keep that going without drowning in Sprawl (and this is part of what I went wide for early, to get the HQ hella full and do most of the lifting, which requires feeders. Not much feeding if you stop at 4 early to mind the Sprawl)?

4. Cutover from Marketplace of Ideas to Consumer Benefits. I am not mathy enough even though I do some amount of math in game with my trusty TI-83. But there is a point where it makes sense to cut over given Traditions left, Ascensions available, and CGs being deep in a hole because it was fairly easy to neglect them until they aren't. This gets back to point 2, but every game I've ever played with Marketplace of Ideas has a cutover point. How do you deduce that best?

5. Merc Enclaves and collecting Merc Enclaves like pokemon if you can help it.

6. Releasing micro states on planets just off yours for Branch Offices. Like Micro Vassals in a Vassal Swarm but these are independents but this is the next step if you need production but can't eat Sprawl. Yeah Micro Vassals are way better, I did a whole challenge that wasn't a challenge that much because of them. But there's going to be a lot of planets early on potentially that for 200 Minerals/CGs/Alloys and 92+ish Influence and 800+ish ECs, are just better with a small friendly that likely will never hurt you for a BO.

7. Stored Research as only saving grace, but still yoked by Research output to apply the matching amount. These little dumps from Merc Enclave Dividends especially add up the better the Merc Enclave and more you have, but it waxes and wanes and isn't reliable enough although appreciated.

8. 3rd Civics and making the most of Naval Contractors and Refurbishment Division as fluff congruent but exploring others as well. You cant dislike 5 founded Merc Enclaves of your own and it takes Galactic Council to get above 4, but super attainable and fluffy goal.

1. Turns out very vital with an Ecu, but in general was very helpful before Sprawl exploded.

2. Was less of an issue this game until onboarding a conquered planet.

3. Works, but super marginal once it's in the rearview?

4. Onboarding first big conquest turned out

5. This is amazing and really is a big help towards economy where it falters.

6. Doesn't work out CrimSyns still release CrimSyns. First 2 worked out, next 2 were CrimSyns. 2 Sidetrack 1 planet wars, no problem but forget about releasing I guess.

7. Stil true which is where the Merc Enclaves kick in a ton.

8. Didn't get to try anything else out but Naval Contractors and Refurbishment Division but Refurbishment has been great.

All in All, this playthrough is making extensive use of Raid CBs, MegaCorp BOs for Research, Merc Enclave Dividends to stay afloat...this feels like the essence of the gameplay if you go Pirate Haven even though the wild resource swings are stressing me out. And it could be a winner but it's gonna take a hatchet and surviving The Crisis methinks. One of the hardest things to balance with this is the need for points without completely hosing the research via Sprawl, but there's not a lot of freely available points in Feds/Vassals or Tech outside of Sprawl. Pops and Economy....Economy and Pops...

Tips and Tricks for Warfare:

1. Never go to war without at least 1 claim - make it worth your while and a launch off point for more claims and BOs.

2. Nihilistic Acquisition is very good for wars with allies where you're helping press their claims but taking a little bit off the top of them via pops. If you have allies, this is how you get something from it even if some wars aren't 'yours'. This makes inviting other parties to make easier work of it a little bit better.

3. Invite allies into any war you can, any way you can. Usually you need an ally to rival the enemy and/or have a shared border. They won't usually play ball otherwise due to distance considerations. Secret Fealties are especially magnificent but are subject to the vassals actually selecting you for it. Allies make a war way more in your favor just being a distraction with some goals, and the more timid the goals, the easier it'll be.

4. Set the home base close to the actual theater of war. This is important if you ever need to retreat to cut down on time missing.

5. Chase retreating ships to their homebase to beat them home, but mind the Bastion. I almost botched my first war in this playthrough twice getting greedy and retreating 2 fleets two separate times trying this. I was so greedy, and only lucky that I had bopped them so hard, they couldn't rebuild the defense modules by the 3rd time, when I had gathered my fleet. Otherwise these limping fleets are ezpz warscore. But that 20k Bastion almost did me in because of greed.

6. Land Gigantic Armies on planets to hold the system. This is situational but this can save your ass and your army itself if you have to run an errand elsewhere for a moment. This saved my first war in this playthrough but giving just enough time to remuster for the 3rd and final offensive.
 
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Please define 'Gigantic?'
2500+ish? I don't have many below that amount because of Merc Enclave hiring, but it needs to be sufficiently large to take bombardment for however long it needs to before reinforcements arrive. It's also safer than keeping them in space ready to invade if you aren't going to be invading due to detours or vagaries of war. I mean, 1000 could probably do it and hold up for a good amount of time, but 2000 is a huge amount of time and basically requires an army to break the garrison. The AI has a hiccup where it might not press a temporary advantage because it wants that claimed planet back before a status quo settling, and is in a bind - chase you back to hell and reforce you to take it all again OR focus on liberating the planet back before status quo comes down.

I theorize that it probably should and could ignore the occupied planet and focus on it once the conditions are a little bit better and there's room to breath on taking it back, but the AI will get fixated and if it's fixated, best to put a pool of tar down.
 
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Where things are at in 2375 with predicaments: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/threads/interesting-diplomilitary-predicament.1646042/

2 Different Empires Fed is going to get one more Vassal because I didn't guarantee the weaklings independence...what a bonehead on my part but I was so distracted. Eliminated the last MegaCorp of significance so the board is mine for Branch Offices but, I'm losing Victory Points to the Fed and I don't have a clear angle of attack at this point.

I think I dropped the ball here severely, mea culpa.

As for other predicaments specifically to the playthrough.

1. Onboarding claims is a nighmare. Finally pulled my economy out of the crapper only to be hit with -3k ECs and -1k Minerals after the latest war ended. I think I can get out from under this having chopped the Minerals down to -800 and ECs to -1.8k in 6 months but I'm on a timer to figure this out. I am not touching the Galactic Market to fix this as my entire point was to fix my economy without any reliance on the Galactic Market and paring back any reliance if I could. Merc Enclaves are helping immensely with dividends buuuuut, I'm on a timer (started with about 80k in ECs and 100k in Minerals thanks to silos and stockpiling in anticipation but damn this is a lot). MegaCorp planets are mineral and CG oriented anchors, they just buy all their minerals from the market.

2. Victory points is a nightmare. I'm clearly the #2 Independent Empire behind whoever our mystery #6 is but the 2 Different Empires Fed has more Victory Points and the top dog is closing in on double my score. This would be parochial if I did the Vanilla MegaCorp thing of my own Fed and my own Vassals, not even a question of who would be top Dog with an additional 20k from Fed and Vassals. So my angle is I need pops and economy and relics, pretty straightforward? No actually, given my flat rate of research through Illict Research Labs getting completely creamed by Sprawl, every single point for Victory sets me back in research. I was 12 months away from Focued Arc Emitters only to gain my claims in victory and ANOTHER 5 years was tacked on thanks to Sprawl. I seriously don't know what to do about this dynamic but it's probably going have me come up short in #1 on the leaderboard by 2500 unless Focused Arc Emitters are really that good. Maybe they are with my Reality Perforator and the drop on another Empire's stack but...

I'm still plagued by Influence Dilemma - need claims to get pops and economy for score, need Espionage to get research at this point, need Branch Offices to shore up my economy and can't do all 3 at once. I've been leaning claims but think I'm just going to do a single route through the remaining Empires in my Conquer Zone so I can get access to more attacks for more claims in the last 50 years. Maybe I can even get to the Galactic Market and take it over but it's going to take like 4 wars for claims against 4 different empires to carve my path to it.

One sneaky thing in the last 50 years is you absolutely only need claims on the planets/habs and not the stellar systems. If you need a route you need a route but otherwise, collapsing whole empires into conquered planets and unclaimed space is the efficiency move. There's a slightly more beneficial efficiency move in not making claims above 52 Influence since that's your max Influence price for a new outpost but...end of game, take the planets screw the rest.
 
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That seems like... a problematic situation. Can you just attack the Fed that got a new vassal, or are they too militarily powerful to beat?
 
That seems like... a problematic situation. Can you just attack the Fed that got a new vassal, or are they too militarily powerful to beat?

I cant because of branch offices on vassals that are fed members. Linked post has details. Upside - they cant get any more vassals or fed members really. I got last free empire on guarantee independence. In 2386 and still coughing up 1k ecs and 1k minerals a month, but enclave dividends at max provide a lot of minerals actually. I have 11, 8 fully upgraded merc enclaves now, lol. Ive popped Zarqlans head thrice. Im at 4265/4343 naval cap. Pretty much going for broke on then Conquest side taking enemy hqs in another Fed that formed and conquering other side of wormhole. Will make things speedier. Gotta hustle now and hope crisis hits the fed or war in heaven pops - linked post has details.

Gotta say, game is a rush and I am out of my element with this level of things to do! I dont have much good advice or insights and am flying my impulse, lol.

Even if I dont win, helluva game and Id do some things a bit different - I got 2 Ecus off relic worlds and am ascending them and rejiggering domestic economy as fast as I can but damn those are good. Am touching the shroud soon, hehehe, lets give it a whirl!
 
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