Let’s Play Stellaris: Filling in the Blanks

We’re wrapping up the early game now, as I’m basically just racing my neighbors to claim systems.

And so we grow…

And grow…

And grow until we’ve secured our borders and only need to backfill the random systems I’ve left behind my borders.

The era of space piracy draws to a close… and it’s time to start considering mid-game plans.

An option would be to sit tight and focus inward. I have tons of building to upgrade, systems to expand into, and worlds to colonize. It is absolutely a valid option… but it’s the boring, run out the clock tactic. Besides, I want to see more stuff!

The alternative is war.

I have two enemies (rivals with a militarist bent, really, they’ve claimed a couple of my systems but that’s the extent of the conflict so far) at my borders: the Bebaki toward the center of the galaxy and the Hiffnar clockwise and away from me. Right now, I enjoy a significant military advantage: my tech is better by a wide enough margin that it shows. In addition, I think I have a stronger economy than either of them, and Hiffnar is currently at war with one of their neighbors.

Bebaki, however, could be an interesting target as well: I figure I could get the Commonwealth of Trako to join me in fighting them, as we already have great relations and a defensive pact.

But ultimately I decide to go for Hiffnar’s land. I’d like to expand in the unexplored galactic north, which would also cut Hiffnar from going any further inland. There’s also a great chokepoint system to contain them to their quadrant if I can seize that much ground from them.

That does means I need to start cutting down on “natural” expansion. taking systems costs Influence, plus my fleet need a thorough round of reinforcing and updating before we go to war.



Let’s Play Stellaris: First Worries

Well, our counterclockwise neighbors seem nice. I sign a bunch of deals with them (notably trading them some surplus food and energy for minerals to fuel my expansion)

I do engage in a bit of a race with them to claim the remaining territory between us.

But really, they seem like good people.

Then we meet more weird aliens. On the plus side, they’re far away from home.

On the minus side, they’re assholes.

They’re basically our polar opposites: they love warfare, and they love their myths and legends.

Realistically, we’re not going to go to war yet: there’s so much empty space between the two of us that it’s a far-future worry. But it absolutely means we need to start looking at our military options.

Let’s Play Stellaris: First Contact

Last time on Stellaris…

We were working on reactivating an alien shipyard. That worked out okay, as it spat out a fleet of three ships, significantly more powerful than any I could build. And then we salvaged a derelict ship from a gas giant, an enormous cruiser, whose power dwarfed my entire fleet’s.

So when the game decided to spawn a few pirates, well…

Let’s just say it didn’t work out so well for them.

So we kept expanding, kept exploring…. and then the big day happened.

Weird, mysterious ALIENS! Who could have imagined!?!

I prioritize the project to understand them, and finally make a formal First Contact.

And… they’re not hostile. In fact, they’re friendly enough that they send me a small gift of energy and minerals.

So they’re friendly, interested in being nice… probably in part because my fleet is much more powerful than theirs due to my two ship-generating anomalies. But also because they’re nice people overall. Which means we shouldn’t go to war with them, right?

Let’s Play Stellaris: And So It Begins

The glorious Birdian Galactic Empire is born today.

Here is our home system, a glorious trinary chock-full of resources and glorious birds.

We’re not exploiting it fully at the moment, and so I order my construction ship to build the missing science stations and such. Meanwhile, we send our science ship out to survey a neighboring star system, and get started on advancing our glorious science.

The way research works in Stellaris is that you get to pick a research goal from the list of technologies you have all the prerequisites for. So I might have, for instance, Blue Lasers available now and then not have them available the next time around. So while I think researching combat capabilities now is a waste, I can’t just ignore all combat research until I find other potential enemies because I can never be sure when they’ll next be in the list. Still, at this stage I think focusing on growth technologies is a valid decision.

And so the early game goes: I eventually build a second science ship to conduct surveys more quickly, I send my construction ship around to develop infrastructure and expand our frontiers… and I encounter fun little stories and events as I progress through those initial, lonely stages.

Those events aren’t hugely game-changing so far (although as this session comes to a close I get the opportunity to reactivate an ancient alien shipyard, which I hope will give me something cooler than engineering research.)

But then… after a large investment in resource, the Birdian successfully land a colony ship on another world!

This is an auspicious time for our birds. Here’s our Empire as it stands now.

Admittedly, we still have a long way to go to colonize the enitre galaxy, but I think we have a solid base to get started. Our economy can easily sustain a growing colony, I’ve turned the corner on mineral production so now the bottleneck on expansion is Construction Ship time, not production… things are looking up

Let’s Play Stellaris: Blind Playthrough

It’ll be a while before I find the motivation to fire up Europa Universalis again. Great game, but I’m more than tired of it at the moment after the endgame slog of the World Conquest.

So let’s try something different:

Stellaris is a 4X game, which means this time we’re going to conquer the galaxy! Or not. We’ll see. Unlike with EU4, here I just want to have fun without the pressure. This is my first playthrough (I played maybe an hour of it before just to get a feel for the control and UI, but that’s it.)

The setup is simple: this is the base game, plus the Utopia and Leviathans expansion. I’ll be playing at Ensign level (the default difficulty) in a medium-sized galaxy. It’s Ironman too, just for kick.

So… let’s get started!

First, we need to pick a species.

Now, we could pick a pre-determined species, but where’s the fun in that? I’m here to explore options!

So I fiddle along in the species creator, and end up with this glorious, glorious society.

Lots of traits, ethics, etc. Let’s not get bogged down into specifics, but these litlle birdies are fast-breeding, fast-learning, and built to expand quickly, but somewhat peacefully.

How I hope this build works:

The Fleeting trait means my leaders will live shorter lives. I hope that Fast Learner will counteract that, letting me have better leaders faster and for a larger proportion of time overall. No idea if that’s how it’ll work out, or if more experienced leaders are worth that cost, but we’ll see.

The Weak trait means my ground troops are not as good (and I have a penalty to collecting minerals). Since I’m not shooting for an overwhelming-the-galaxy game, I think this is an okay drawback to pay for other traits.

Rapid Breeders means I will have more Pops to work the tiles of worlds I colonize, so I hope this’ll be enough to counteract the Minerals penalty of Weak (and give me more besides.) And Adaptive means we’ll be able to settle more worlds, as we’re okay with imperfect countries. So the idea is that I’ll be able to make good use of all the worlds I colonize.

As to our government Civics, we build efficiently (to make use of that increased population) and we’re good at bureaucracy (letting us have more Core Worlds.)

Finally, our Ethics give us minor bonuses that work well with the planned playstyle.

Next, we’ll start out on our journey.

LPEU4: To the End

Well, at some point, EUIV becomes an automatism. Find a target, smash the target, grab land, find another target.

By the time the Age of Absolutism rolls around, the only serious opposition left to a World Conqueror (regardless of who it is) are the few designed-to-be-powerful nations or group of nations: Ming, the HRE, either Russia or the Commonwealth, and the such.

And of those, usually only the HRE, Ming and a superstrong Russia can really remain a real threat after the first victorious war against them. Everybody else gets significantly easier to fight once you’ve beaten them once.

So the only real enemy left if you can defeat those large countries are the clock and rebels. Because if you play too conservatively, sticking to below 100% Overextension all the time, you won’t be able to conquer everything in time. But at over 100% Overextension, rebels are inevitable.

In my run, I fail to realize that until very late. So the last fifty years or so I need to accept stupid amounts of rebellions (even having to micromanage my armies just to kill separatists rebels before they break my empire in parts.) because I’m stuck going over 200% overextension (and of course, in the last few years I’m doomed to living at Stability -3, because respecting truces would prevent me from finishing in time.)

So yeah… the last few decades are an uneventful slog of moving armies around, stomping inferior opponents over and over and over again. Really more of a chore than anything else. And then I get the achievement and it’s over.

Really, nothing exciting at all.

Biggest lesson learned? It’s not interesting LP material. But it’s over, so whatever.

LPEU4: Taking Portugal

Well, Portugal’s mine now. At this point, anything that’s vassalizable by war is too small to be a threat. And in this case, Portugal’s allies dropped the ball too.

With Portugal now in the fold, I want to brutalize Castille again. The idea is to feed Portugal provinces so that it’s big enough to colonize efficiently, and to reduce Castille to a vassalizable size. Then it’ll be more than time to let the Christians forget about me.

This start a longer-than-expected sequence of wars. I weaken Castille enough that Aragon declares independence. Then I end up fighting Aragon, just to put them at truce since their AE is so high from my smashing of Portugal and Castille. In there, I also fight the Mamluks again, and Qara Qoyunlu. And some minor countries here and there. And then I do it again. And again, and again.

Eventually, I vassalize Castille (which will keep on hating me for a long, long time, what with their -450 or so AE against me.) I also start cutting Aragon just to keep them at truce.

Somewhere in there, France loses a war and ends up having to break our alliance – which means they now start to get pissed at me for conquering their neighbors. It’s not dramatic (they’ll calm down enough before our truce runs out) but it means we’re done pissing Europe off for a long, good while. Which means the puzzle becomes “how can I begin expanding in Asia without making more angry enemies.”

LPEU4: Settling Down

So I thought I wanted to go to war with the Mamluks, but I have a few years left to kill… and I really should grab a few specific provinces to complete a mission, which will grant me a lot of claims on Mamluks land. So I run a few quick wars, against Hisn Haifa (who call Qara Qoyunlu in, letting me take their remaining provinces) and then Trebizond. Then I prepare for war against the Mamluks again (meaning I squash some revolts, put my armies to drilling, allow my tech to advance, and so on and so forth.)

Winning against the Mamluks is easy this time around: after the last big war, they’re no longer in my weight class. I don’t go for the 100% warscore, however, settling for a 70-80% win just because of the timing.

After that, I grab the bull by the horn and declare war on Portugal. The following war goes smoothly, thank to my ally France. I end up cutting Portugal down to “make it a vassal next war” size, and taking another quick bite out of Castille.

And then it becomes complicated. My AE is high enough in the Christian world that I want to keep away from them for a few years at least. But conquering in the Muslim world will create more countries with high AE. So planning my next move is a bit more difficult than I’d like.

I decide to take more land from Qara Q, which works out to putting me near the limit of AE with a bunch of nations, then get ready for a war with Castille. That works out great… except it starts a coalition against me. Uh oh.

As usual, the first coalition that forms can easily be broken up by diplomatic means. Until it does, however, I worry. A lot. But it eventually dissolves, and I turn my attention back to less hostile pastures. Like the Mamluks.

I go for another quick war there, just to throw them back at truce. My next big step is the vassalization of Portugal, which is likely to be a high-AE affair. I can’t really afford to have too many countries pissed at me now. Besides, I can use a couple of years of peace.

LPEU4: Seizing Opportunities

When we last left off, I was planning on ignoring Europe for a while and focusing on the Muslim world.

And then numerous opportunities knocked. I took out some small Islamic countries, but then Naxos and Corfu were just there. And the reborn Knights were allied with Corfu, too! And Crete broke free from Venice! And then there’s Serbia, right there!

…You get the idea. I did get into an initial tussle somewhere in there with the Mamluks and Dulkadir, but I peaced out after a quick landgrab as I wasn’t in a good position for a long fight.

But that is my next target. I really do have to let Europe relax a bit more now. While that truce runs out, I keep seizing those small opportunities, and then allow myself a few years of peace to let my manpower recover, and to deploy sufficient amounts of cannons to make the next war easier.

And it is easier – I end up taking a 100% warscore peace deal, breaking off large chunks of the Mamluk’s empire and especially their hard-to-punch-through forts in Aleppo and Damascus.

And then I hit an important decision point: Castille is at war. France is willing to join me in a war against Castille. It’s, technically, an opportunity. So I decide to be manly, and move onto Castille.

And I win. Admittedly, not a huge, game-changing victory, but that’s two provinces less to conquer later on. And it’s a confidence booster. And it’s more AE that can bleed off in time.

After that, it’s more opportunities. Qara Qoyunlu. Genoa. All get downsized significantly as I see good chances to weaken them. And then… time to get ready for another big war against the Mamluks.

LPEU4: Again

So I need another fix. Try to go for an Ottoman World Conquest again!

I’ll be a bit more efficient on posts going forward, however. A blow-by-blow is kind of boring, so we’ll just hit the highlights.

Let’s get started!

The World Has Changed. In particular, the Ottomans no longer have bunches of cores to reconquer in Anatolia, meaning they generate a lot more AE than before.

On the other hand, I don’t necessarily want to rush as fast as I usually do: in retrospect, it’s much better to have a solid economy in place and to hit the important tech levels as early as possible than to have grabbed every last 1/1/1 province I can grab in Siberia.

So… let’s talk about the starting years.

One of my goals is to vassalize the colonizing European countries as early as I can. If I vassalize them, they will create colonial nations for me, effectively conquering the New World in my name.

To do so, I declare unprovoked wars on Granada and one of the minor Irish kingdoms. The idea is to create bridgeheads on parts of Europe. It does create a rather stupid amount of overextension, but that’s fine – an early coalition of Irish minors form, but it’s manageable with diplomacy. When I finally vassalize it, turns out it’s already at war with its neighbors and so I get to grab another province for my newly-minted vassal.

Then it’s time to seize Constantinople, a bit ahead of history (but later than I usually do). But that’s fine, it lets me work away some potential coalition-forming countries in Ireland.

After that, I seize an opportunity to take out the Knights (and their annoying raiding ability) along with Cyprus. I do that in a way which lets me skirts coalitions, but after that it’s time to take a year off (and then to focus a bit on the Muslim world, as the Christians are pissed at me right now.