Beginner's guide

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This article may contain outdated information that is inaccurate for the current version of the game. It was last updated for 1.1.

From Paradox Development Studios that brought us the well-known grand strategy games such as the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series comes the game Stellaris, an evolution of the grand strategy genre with space exploration as it's core. As with all grand strategy games from Paradox Development Studio, Stellaris contains a steep and harsh learning curve that players must learn in order play the game. This can be very troubling for some players especially for those beginners. In conjunction with the in-game tutorial, this beginner’s guide serves to help these players on the basic mechanics of the game and provide these players with some tips.

Basic Mechanics[edit]

There are several essential basic mechanics that are present in the game that the players are required to know if they were to play the game with an enjoyable experience. Some of these essential basic mechanics are listed below :

  • Exploration
  • Research
  • Leaders
  • Resources
  • Planets


Main article: Exploration

As with most space 4X games, exploration is one of the vital steps for players to expand their space-faring empire and fulfill their great ambitions. In Stellaris, exploration is done by sending science ships out into the unknown void and ordering them to survey the celestial bodies. As the name “survey” implies, the science ships that are ordered to execute survey missions will gather information on the celestial bodies. It is possible that the celestial bodies surveyed contain some deposits of resources which can be harvested by constructing a mining station or research station on the celestial body using a construction ship. As the science ships do their survey mission, there is a chance for the science ship to encounter anomalies that can lead to interesting events.


Main article: Technology

As with most space 4X games, research is one of the vital steps for players to expand their space-faring empire and fulfill their great ambitions. In Stellaris, research is done by accumulating research points which can be divided into three parts: Physics Research.png Physics Research, Society Research.png Society Research and Engineering Research.png Engineering Research. Players can view the progress of their empire’s research by press on the research button on the top left of the screen or by pressing the hotkey.

The Research Screen

As seen in the picture above, the research screen shows three separate scientific branches of a empire with the top one being the physics research branch, the middle the society research branch and the bottom the engineering research branch. Each scientific branch is assigned a scientist which increases the efficiency of the research. The progress and estimated time remaining of each research project is shown below the respective projects.

The Card System

The game utilizes a card deck system which basically means that whenever a choice has to be made on choosing which technology to research, the game randomly picks three out of the many technologies in the game and lets players choose from the three picks. However, there is an exception to this. During the start of the game where players choose what to research for the first time, the technology required for the construction of colony ships will always be available at the society research branch. This exception is only valid for the first choosing only, it will not be valid for the subsequent picks.


Main article: Leaders

All nations in the real life world nowadays have leaders to lead their respective countries. In Stellaris, the concept of leaders are also present but albeit somewhat different. There are 5 type of leaders in Stellaris:

The Leader Screen
The Government UI showing the ruler of the empire

Leaders are considered an important asset for any empire in Stellaris due to the benefits they bring about. Each leader has a skill level which determines their performance and they also have traits ( Positive / Negative ). Leaders are capable of gaining experience when they completed certain tasks which differs for each type of leaders. The exception here is leaders with the negative trait, Arrested Development which causes the leader’s experience gain to be -100%. Once a leader has accumulated enough experience, they gain a skill level which improves their overall efficiency. It is also possible for a leader to gain a positive or negative trait as they gain a skill level. A leader can only reach a maximum skill level of 5 in his/her lifetime.

The ruler type is the most special one among the 4 other type. This variant of leader can only be accessed through the government UI ( User Interface ) which is accessed by clicking the empire’s icon on the top left of the screen. Furthermore, this type of leader does not gain any experience and therefore does not have any skill level.

Leaders are recruited by expending some Influence.png influence. The cost of the recruitment can be reduced by researching the required technologies, the enactment of certain edicts or by chance the leader has certain traits which reduce the recruitment cost. The exception here is the ruler of the empire which does not cost any Influence.png influence to recruit.


Main article: Economy

As with most space 4X games, resources play a vital part in the expansion of the player’s space-faring empire and to fulfil their great ambitions. In Stellaris, there are 2 types of resources:

There are 5 basic resources that players can obtain and these basic resources are necessary for the player’s space-faring empire as they provide the means necessary for the player’s space-faring empire to expand geographically and technologically.

The 5 basic resources are listed below:

  • Minerals.png minerals
  • Energy Credits.png energy credits
  • Food.png food
  • Influence.png influence
  • Research Points

There are at least 18 strategic resources present in the game. Each one of them provides the empire that controls it different bonuses which can help out a lot. These resources are scarce and scattered across the galaxy but there are some exceptions as in some of them can be found on the surface of planets. However, just one copy of such resource is needed for the entire empire to have the bonus. Therefore, players can trade away their extra copies with other empires.


In Stellaris, planets play a huge role in the expansion of the player’s space-faring empire. This is due to inhabited planets themselves projecting a border around the planet's surrounding and thus claiming systems and expanding the empire. A fully developed planet produces a fairly large amount of resources which are essential in the construction of ships, stations and many more. Two areas make up a planet in Stellaris:

  • Surface
  • Orbit
A Planet's Surface

The surface of a planet is where the population of an empire will work and thus produces resources. At the early stages of the game, some of the tiles on a planet’s surface are blocked by tile blockers. These tile blockers can only be removed when the required technology is researched. On the planet’s surface, not all of the tiles contain deposits of resources. Therefore, players are advised to construct buildings to make use of these empty areas.

The orbit of a planet is where the spaceport will be constructed. The spaceport is the area where players construct all of their ships. Other than that, the orbit of a planet is the area where transport ships must be in order for them to land armies to invade planets. Furthermore, the orbit of a planet is the area where military ships must be in order for them to commence orbital bombardment of the planet.


Before a game could be started, players are required to select an empire which will be representing them. Players can choose from a list of preset empires which are included in the game or the player can create their own empire. Alternatively, players may use the randomization feature to generate a randomized empire to play with.

The Empire Selection Screen

Should players wish to create their own unique empire, they are required to select one of the 7 ( 8 if the player has the Plantoids Species Pack DLC installed ) species and choose the founder species’s traits as well. After that, players are required to select the ethos of the empire and based on their choices made, the government type available for choosing will be affected. Players are then required to define the identity of their empire, the world type preference of the founder species, the FTL travel type of the empire and the initial weaponry type of the empire.

Early Game to Mid Game[edit]

Main article: Governance

Players start the game with an inhabited planet which acts as the empire’s capital, a level 1 spaceport with a weapon module installed, a combat fleet comprising of 3 corvettes, a construction ship and a science ship. The three scientific branches, the empire’s capital and the initial science ship have all been assigned a leader.

Gathering resources on celestial bodies[edit]

Main article: Construction

During the start of the game, players are advised to send their science ships to survey their home system. Once this is completed, the science ships are to be sent to survey the nearby systems. As mentioned earlier in the guide, some celestial bodies contain deposits of resources such as Minerals.png minerals or Energy Credits.png energy credits and these deposits can only be harvested if it has been uncovered by science ships doing surveying missions and such deposits are within the empire’s border. Harvesting these resources would provide players a better start and allows players to be able to construct ships and stations without much waiting.

Researching Anomalies[edit]

Main article: Surveying

When the science ships are doing their survey on celestial bodies, there is a chance for an anomaly to be encounter. The anomaly may be investigated by science ships and the outcome of the investigation can be a success or a failure. The chance of failure diminishes for scientist with a high skill level. A special project may appear once the investigation of the anomaly is a success. Upon completion of such project, players may be granted a relatively large amount of research points, minerals or energy credits which provide a boost to players.


Main article: Colonization

Eventually, players would need to colonize other habitable planets to acquire resources for the means to expand their empire geographically and technologically. Colonization is done by sending colony ships to habitable planets that are surveyed. The colonization process requires a colony ship and the expense of some Influence.png influence. The amount of Influence.png influence needed is based on the distance from the target planet and friendly territory. As of update 1.3, players are not required to research certain technologies to colonize planets with a different world type. Players may now colonize planets that have a habitability of at least 40%.

Planets project borders around them which allows for empires to occupy more systems. The size of these planet’s borders are less than the size of the border projected by the empire’s capital world. Be advised that the size of a planet's border may increase as the number of population on said planet increases. Therefore, players should keep an eye out on the systems that are on the edge of the border as these systems maybe acquired through such border expansion.

Planetary Development[edit]

A newly colonized planet will have a weak production as the planet’s surface is still covered in tile blockers ( If the planet has not been terraformed ) and the lack of population on the planet. As stated previously, a planet’s population will work on the resource tiles present on the planet’s surface. Therefore, it is recommended to focus on the production on food to allow the planet’s population to grow before redeveloping the planet for other purposes.

Buildings may be constructed on the planet’s resource tiles which can increase the production capabilities of the planet. Due to the stacking effect on resources of the buildings on the resource tiles, it is recommended to plan the construction of buildings as to increases the production capabilities of the planet.

Alien Encounters[edit]

An example of Fallen Empire

As science ships are out into the void exploring the stars, they will inevitably encounter alien life forms. The alien life forms that players can encounter are divided into 4 types:

During their first encounter with these life forms, a special project will appear which players can research it. Doing so will order the required scientific branch of the empire to put their current research projects on hold and focus on the special project. Once the project is completed, another special project may appear if the alien life forms in question are space monsters or the diplomacy screen for first contact will pop up if the alien life forms in question are space-faring empires.

There are some exceptions to this. Fallen empires will contact players automatically if their ships venture into their territory. Pre-sentient species and Pre-FTL species are encountered by science ships which are surveying celestial bodies.


Main article: Diplomacy
The Diplomacy Screen

After successfully establishing communications with other space-faring empires, the player may access the diplomacy screen. Players are then able to conduct diplomacy actions with these empires. Some of these diplomacy actions are listed below:

  • Declaring war
  • Offering trade deals
  • Declaring rivalries
  • Forming Federations
The Trading Screen

Majority of these diplomacy actions have a 10 year cooldown once chosen with the exception of trade deals which players can determine how long a deal lasts. The chance for a trade deal to be accepted is influenced by the trade partner's attitude towards the trader's empire and the favourability of the deal proposed.

Keeping military strong[edit]

Main article: Ship designer

As with most space 4X games, keeping a strong military presence is vital as it will deter any potential attacks. In Stellaris, this statement is true as players may encounter other space-faring empires that have hostile intent or space monsters which are hostile. Therefore, keeping a strong military presence allows for players to defend against attacks should they get themselves into war.

There are 4 types of military ships in Stellaris:

  • Corvette
  • Destroyer
  • Cruiser
  • Battleship

Players may use the in-game ship designer to customize these ships to create unique ships and construct them at the spaceports.

Furthermore, the game consists of military stations which players can construct by using construction ships. These military stations can carry offensive or defensive aura which can be important in a battle. There are currently 3 types of military stations that players can construct:

  • Defence Platform
  • Defence Station
  • Fortress

Players are advised to construct these military stations at vital systems to defend against enemy attacks.

Forming of Federations[edit]

Main article: Alliances and federations

Besides the construction and employment of a strong military, empires can also improve their military power through the forming of federations. When an empire declares war upon a member of a federation, other members in the federation enters the war as well. However, if a member of a federation were to declare war, other members will be required to vote for whether the member can make the declaration of war ( See : declarations of war for more details ).

Furthermore, there is a victory goal in which members of a federation occupies 60% of all the habitable planets in galaxy to win the game.

Late Game[edit]

Once players reach the late stages of the game, they should have built an empire with a considerably strong fleet and a strong production on resources. By this stage players should be pursuing one of the many victory goals present in the game by default. However, the late stage of the game usually involves events that will affect the entire galaxy.

Endgame Crisis[edit]

As the name implies, these events bring about catastrophic results which can affect the entire galaxy. There are several criteria that needed to be fulfilled to trigger such events. Besides that, there can only be one endgame crisis in a single game. Some examples of such endgame crisis are listed below:

  • AI Rebellion
  • Extra-dimensional Invaders
  • Prethoryn Swarm

War in Heaven[edit]

This event is considered special as it is not considered an endgame crisis. This event involves 2 Fallen Empires which have awaken due to reasons unknown and these 2 superpowers launch a great war against one another, dragging the normal empires into the war as well. However, this event is not guaranteed to occur and the host of the game must have the Leviathan DLC.


  • Keeping up with research. Remember that each additional planet increases technology cost by 10% and each population above 10 by 1%, so investments on research buildings on colonized planets is needed. Players should not expand aimlessly to small or poorly habitable planets as they will increase the technology cost. The colonizing of these small or poorly planets should be a last resort if players need extra naval capacity for their empire.
  • Players should keep their military strength at it’s peak at all times. These should allow them to be able to tackle external threats and control over internal threats which are arising from factions or unhappiness.
  • Remain curious and having fun. Players should keep their science ships busy at all times. As these ships continue to explore the unknown void, the story of the game should unfold for players to enjoy.


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