Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable holidays. My second Pulsar post is still in the works, but I haven’t written anything in a while, so I’m going to put up what I’ve been doing lately: working on my Stellaris opening. I’ve got a few hours under my belt, and this strategy is highly adaptable and resilient.
The goal by the end of 2210 is to have both of your guaranteed habitable planets founded. You’ll need a second science ship to ensure you find both in time, and the second science ship will need a leader. On console (where I’m playing) you still pay energy for leaders, so selling 100 food will give you a leg up in saving for the scientist. Selling off your excess monthly food will take care of the rest and ensure you have two science ships immediately. If you are playing a derivative of the Earth democracy, as I am, you will find your habitable planets in Sirius and Alpha Centauri. Sirius is a binary system and Alpha Centauri is a trinary system. Usually you can pick them out pretty easily. During this time, you will want to take the Discovery tradition, and also the To Boldly Go tradition. Once you have taken those two in Discovery, proceed to take Expansion, Colonization Fever, and A New Life. If you have enough unity (and you should make it a priority unless you start with a ton of it), you can have Colonization Fever taken before your first planet is complete, giving you an extra pop.
The goal by the end of 2220 is to have 20 corvettes and 100 monthly science. It’s tempting to reduce or delay expansion until you have these corvettes, because if you don’t build them, the AI will eat you for breakfast. However, generous use of the market should allow you to buy enough alloys to continue expanding at the pace of your influence, and still buy the 17 ships you need prior to 2220. To get to 100 monthly science, you will need one more research lab. This itself requires more goods, which in turn require more minerals. You’ll need planetside minerals from your first two planets, and one more farm. I build only as many cities as I need in the new colony (housing is the key thing here) until the planetary administration is in place.
Now that the two production centres have been added, it’s extremely important to improve both goods and alloys production. At the first opportunity, build another industrial district, preferably on one of the new planets. Industrial districts really suck up the minerals, so ensure you have enough of a surplus before building it. Once your goods production is high enough, you’ll want the additional research lab. The second building slot is unfortunately going to have to go to an administrative building. If you are not playing a megacorp, you’ll need to build the administrative building before the research lab.
Use the market to manage your surpluses and deficits. While you can’t overcome huge deficits, selling off some surplus goods and food can give you a little extra energy. Every little bit helps here. The 2220 deadline for your 20 corvettes is pretty hard if anyone else is nearby. Even the least aggressive empires will attack you for being so weak. I once had a pacifist empire offer to protect me, and then in 2220, offer me forced vassalization. So, get those ships up, and don’t stop expanding to do so.
So, awesome. You got your ships in time, you have 2 new planets well underway, and you’re sciencing away, looking for cool new systems to expand to, looking for your precursor empire and other goodies. Guess what? You have to do it again. Our goal by the end of 2240 is 200 science and 40 corvettes. If you neglect to build the second fleet of corvettes, you will also suffer, because odds are, someone else will. Thankfully it’s a little easier to get the additional naval capacity by taking the Superiority tradition, but you can still get there the old-fashioned way by building a Stronghold and 2 anchorages. In fact, I do both. I avoid taking Superiority early on, though, because there’s bigger fish to fry.
After taking Colonization Fever and A New Life from the Expansion tree, I move to the Prosperity tree, because Earth is quickly going to run out of jobs without Interstellar Franchising. As a megacorp, I don’t have the early unity to afford taking the additional tradition – Interstellar Franchising must be taken with haste. That said, early unity is critical. The timing on some of these traditions in this opening cut very close – Colonization Fever is often taken just barely before the colony is finished. Earth is on the verge of running out of districts by the time I take Interstellar Franchising. Losing unity to unemployment and unhappiness is simply not going to be tolerated.
To get to 200 science, you’ll need a research lab on both new planets. Again, make sure you’re building planetside minerals and industrial districts to build up your goods production. Make sure you keep buying alloys and push hard for the second fleet of corvettes. You can’t really breathe until you have them.
Stellaris is a game of patience. Planets take a long time to grow, and it’s very easy to overbuild. I try not to build new districts and buildings until there’s only 1 job available. This way I know that all of the districts I’ve built to-date have been filled, and I won’t get weird shifting of workers between all the possible resources they could be working. Additionally, this will keep the sprawl to a minimum, always a good thing, because every administrative building you build takes up a valuable building slot and consumes valuable goods.
The market is your best friend. You’ll never get a perfect distribution of resources, so you’ll need to trade for the optimal solution. I try to keep my food surplus between 0-10 and my goods surplus between 0-5. Anything more can be sold to buy alloys. I also try not to have much more than 500 goods or food on hand unless I’m saving for colonies. It really doesn’t serve any purpose than to back up your income. If you have 15k food and goods at the end of the game, you’re doing it wrong. Again, you can sell off food in quantities of 500 to keep your reserves low. I’d add that you can really make bank off the market if you get the Galactic Market (market fee -10%) and take the market fee reduction in the Diplomacy tradition (market fee -10%). At only 10% market fee, you trade with great efficiency, and with a global market, being a net exporter is awesome. You can also have some fun by messing with prices. If you have the cash and no need to buy (say) alloys, you can push the price of alloys through the roof and make it painful for empires that must buy it.
Kick the AI’s ass with science. If you can hold them off early on by being an unattractive target (and make nice with diplomacy), you will get a ton of early game bonuses by researching anomalies and excavating archaeology sites. However, you still need to survey all of your nearby systems, so you’ll need to balance the need to keep moving with the need to research some of the higher-level anomalies. I usually use 300 days as a cut-off. If it’s more than 300 days, I leave it for later (or when I have very little to do). By the end of 40 years, you should start pulling ahead of the AI, and be well-positioned to transition into the middle game with a lot of options available to you. At very least, you will win your fight for survival. There’s a good chance you will be able to target 300 science and a fleet of destroyers for 2260.
Starbase placement is key. You don’t have many starbases, so you need to make the best use of them. You won’t get starholds for a while, so you’ll need a combination of starbases and trade hubs that capture all of your planets. Be extremely mindful of the gap. If there’s gaps in your trade protection, you will invite pirates, and that will suck for you because you can’t afford the ships or the loss of income. So make sure there’s no gaps. You can put starbases beside each other, use trade hubs to expand your trade range and guns/missiles/hangar bays to extend trade protection range. There’s usually a configuration for your starting planet that will provide 100% trade protection without the need for patrols. I make it a policy not to expand to a planet until the trade network is in place.
That’s about all the concrete tips I can offer about the early game. It’s not hard, but it’s important that you have 20 ships in 20 years and 40 ships in 40 years to stave off AI aggression. It’s also important to ensure you can afford each and every research lab you build. You actually don’t need that many to win the game, so be patient and make sure all of your districts are fully staffed before adding the research labs. I hope these help! My latest game has me with 9 planets and 25 destroyers before 2260 (in addition to the 40 corvettes), with 330 science to boot. I’d kick my neighbour’s ass except that we like each other and I’m making good money off of him. Good strategy leads to good RNG, and truly enjoyable games.