Stellaris offers many different ways to play, you can be everything from a genocidal empire slaughtering everything around you to ensure you are the only empire left in the galaxy, to a galactic-wide corporation promoting capitalism and profiting from galaxy-wide franchises and trading, or even a beacon of hope and a shining example for the people of the galaxy, creating a democratic utopia for all.
This is part of what makes Stellaris so fun.
Today, however, I will be telling you all about how to play as a pacifist empire, get the objectively best start, expand well, and become the most powerful empire in the galaxy.
Types of Pacifism in Stellaris
There are many different ways to play as a pacifist empire in Stellaris, whether you’re an inward perfectionist, caring only about your empire and its population, a Megacorp spreading the word of trade and commerce across the galaxy, a peacekeeping force that ensures no one is unfairly treated in the galaxy, or an aggressive pacifist that wages wars of liberation and bring freedom to those who are oppressed within the galaxy.
Today I will be covering the latter of those options and telling you how to claim the galaxy as a pacifist empire through careful diplomacy and great wars.
Creating your empire
Making your empire is quite possibly one of the most crucial parts of this playthrough, as a good strong starting empire gives you a great foundation and benefits to work with.
For your ethics and origin, you are going to want void dweller, pacifist, xenophile, and spiritualist. Void dwellers is a good starting origin as it allows you immediate access to a wealth of resources and powerful districts on your habitats, making your early game a lot easier, alongside this, you can also use the influx of alloys that you will gain from trading and production to create more habitats.
Now, whilst pacifist is pretty self-explanatory, xenophile and spiritualist may not be as clear, so here is why you’re going to want them. If you are a xenophile empire you have an extra envoy that you can use to cultivate relations with neighboring empires alongside this you gain a boost to other empires’ opinions of you.
Next, you want to take spiritualist, this gives you easier access to edicts through a -10% edict upkeep and edict cost modifier, with this you also gain a +10% monthly unity modifier, allowing you to access leaders, traditions, and edicts even faster.
The civics you use for this empire are completely up to you, however, I suggest you use the feudal society and diplomatic corps civics. These both provide easier access to expansion throughout the entire game. This is because the diplomatic corps gives you an extra 2 available envoys and +10% diplomatic weight. The additional envoys this civic gives you allow you to improve relations with neighboring empires or gather additional power within a federation or the galactic community.
Until the most recent update/DLC (overlord) feudal society wasn’t very useful as the subject system was extremely underwhelming. However, with the new DLC and subject agreements, this is one of the best civics to use for a subject-heavy playthrough like this one, as it provides extra loyalty and means you can annex your subjects faster than you would otherwise.
When you first load into your galaxy, you’re going to want queue construction of any possible mining/research stations in your home system, then construct an extra science ship and begin exploring the galaxy around you. If you can expand your empire to chokepoints nearby early on, you definitely should.
This is because it gives you a way to section off unclaimed territory for later use which means that you do not have to expend more influence or lose systems to neighboring empires once you have your initial borders set up. Sometimes overlooking the construction of mining/research stations in aid of expanding your borders faster is a good idea, as you can always build these later, whilst you have to fight for a system another empire beats you to.
Once you have the alloys for it, construct 1 or 2 more science ships (depending on your galaxy size) and begin exploring the area around you faster, ignoring anomalies and archaeology sites until later. Once you have your science ships up and running you should create 2 more construction ships to help you expand faster.
You should also set up some monthly automatic trades, so you are consistently selling off your excesses of consumer goods, food, and minerals. The extra income from these sales should allow you to purchase a small amount of alloy on a monthly basis, which is extremely helpful when it comes to expanding your empire or fleet.
You should take “discovery” as your first traditional route, this is because it gives you a bonus to exploring the galaxy and will allow you to expand faster overall. It also provides you with the ‘map the stars’ edict, which provides a crucial +25% survey speed bonus.
Upon completion of discovery, you should go down the diplomatic tradition path, allowing you to put the diplomatic grants edict into action, and begin to form a powerful federation with those around you who you do not decide to carve into smaller subjects. The ascension perks you take do not matter too much, however, I recommend technological ascendancy, voidborne and shared destiny.
By this point you should be strengthening your fleet with your extra influx of alloys, allowing you to combat any threats that may appear within your empire. This also makes other empires around you less likely to attack in wars of aggression, as they see you as equally powerful if not stronger than them.
You should also be improving relations with any empires that neighbor you as long as they aren’t xenophobic or genocidal. This allows you to start a small federation that can act as a deterrent to enemy empires and gives you access to a federation fleet. This federation fleet is going to be your main fleet in the early game, as you do not have to spend any alloys or resources to gain it, and your federation members will contribute ships to the fleet using their own alloys, making it a powerful and cheap early game fleet.
How to expand
The main way of expanding a pacifist empire is by waging wars of ideology, which allow you to convert empires to your ethics or create entirely new empires for you to ally, vassalize, or conquer.
The most effective way to use this casus belli is to wage a war of ideology and then occupy half of the enemy, this way when you sign for a status quo you get both a new weak ally and weaken your enemy significantly enough to beat them easily next time.
Once weakening your enemy, you should focus on vassalizing or conquering the weaker ally that you have carved out of them, this is easy because they share your ethics and will have a positive opinion of you after you released them from the other empire. As they share your ethics it is also easier to make them into your subject or a member of your federation.
The more viable option of these two is to get the new empire as a subject, this way you can make them pay a resource/research toll and force them into your federation. As you have the feudal society civic and the shared destiny ascension perk, you also have fewer limitations when it comes to taxing your subjects and creating a subject agreement, as all agreement terms that would otherwise provide negative monthly loyalty are negated by your passive +3 monthly loyalty modifier.
Now you have a strong economy, fleet, and a swarm of subjects giving a constant supply of resources and tech, you can simply do whatever you want to.
Whether it be turtling up until the crisis arrives, vassalising the rest of the galaxy so you can declare intergalactic peace, or integrating the galaxy by carving up your main rivals. The path your empire will take is completely up to you from this point onward…