Stellaris Cruiser Sections
The PCPH Stellaris Guide to Ships
The PCPH Stellaris Guide to Ships

When you first play Stellaris, you will feel completely overwhelmed, I mean, I absolutely remember my utter confusion when I tried to make sense of all the pieces and parts that make up a Stellaris game. There are all these options, menus, and alerts.

To bring order into chaos, and hope to the overwhelmed beginner, let us here look into all things “ships” in Stellaris. Let’s start with the civilian fleet.

Since this is a beginner’s guide, we will deal with the military ships up to the Cruiser.

Stellaris Ship sets

But before we start I need to mention that I play mostly – us. Humans from the United Nations of Earth. So the images you will see below are from the “ship set” of the Earth “origin (as the different species are also called).

There are many different ship sets (ship designs), and each origin has its design (the Aquatic DLC brings some beautiful new ship sets to the game). While the basic ship hierarchy (“Corvette – Destroyer – Cruiser – Battleship – Titan – Colossus) is the same for every species, the ship set’s designs will be different.

So no matter if you choose to play a psychopathic zealot origin, the tips below still apply to your species.

Stellaris Civilian Ship types

You can distinguish between civilian and military ships. While you have no or nearly no influence on the “performance” and design of the civilian ships, Stellaris gives you a lot of influence on the military ship’s design and performance.

Tip: When holding SHIFT while giving orders to your civilian ships, you can enter a list of orders, this helps a lot at the beginning of the game. Later. when your Technology department advances (left side under “Technology”) you can develop a technology that allows you to set your science ships on auto-exploration. Again that’s a huge relief.

The civilian ships are:

1. Science Ships

Before you need anything else, you will employ your science ship(s). When beginning, immediately send out your existing Science ship to explore your surroundings. Each star system first needs to be surveyed by your Science ship, before you can send in your Construction ship to build a Starbase and a mining or research station.

Tip: When you have enough resources available, immediately build more Science vessels, so you can explore faster.

Earth Science Ship UNS Copernicus

Also, your Science ships will stumble upon many artifacts left by other species and empires. The more you order your Science ships’ captains to research these “anomalies”, the faster your empire gains knowledge and sometimes even technology.

But researching these anomalies, as Stellaris calls them, takes its toll on time. You will find that many of your Science ships are bound for Stellaris years fulfilling the tasked research job, but that part of the galaxy is not explored any further in the meantime.

So relying on more Science ships lets you explore faster. I believe that you need to move your borders out fast because all your opponents are also exploring their surroundings and expanding their empires.

list with your civilian ships on the right side

The faster you survey the stars the faster your Construction ships can build Starbases for you, expanding your empire’s borders.

To boldly go where no one has gone before does not come without risks. When you send your fearless researchers into unexplored space, they will often encounter hostile new species.

Luckily the Science ships have a very high Evasion score, so they mostly can escape to an adjacent star system – IF you keep the “Fleet Stance” setting to “evasive.

changing the “Fleet Stance” set to “passive” makes your scientists sacrifice themselves for your… what? honor?

I am not sure why you would order an unarmed vessel to attack any hostile close enough, but hey, who am I to judge.

It’s your empire.

Remember that Science ships can be destroyed or rendered useless.

I have never made my scientists die in the field of honor for me, at least not by ordering them to take point.

Set to “evasive” my Science ships luckily mostly got away… as they are designed to.

Hint: After some time your technology department will develop “Automatic Surveying”, allowing you to simply order your Science ships to survey every unsurveyed system automatically, freeing you up to tend to other more pressing matters.

2. Construction Ships

Stellaris Construction ship
Stellaris Construction ship

After you sent in the Science ships, you need to follow up with your Construction ships.

Construction ships built the Starbases, expanding your empire and also the resource mining stations, as well as research stations.

Whenever you build a new Starbase your borders expand and include this newly added star system.

Construction ships are pretty low maintenance, you do not need to recruit a new captain now and then.

Tip: When starting the game, you find one Science and one Construction ship in your fleet, ready to take orders. You should immediately send out these ships to explore the space around your system and build Starbases and mining and Research stations.

3. Colony ships

Colony ships are nothing you have to deal with. They are built and sent automatically whenever you decide to start a colony on one of the new habitable planets in your expanding empire.

Transport ships are build by your AI when you choose to establish a colony – and have enough resources

All you need to have when deciding to build and send a Colonization ship is enough resources (amounts depending on the species you are letting colonize the planet).

4. Starbase

my Starbase in Barnard’s Star – no military upgrades so far – still it also projects military power

Without added weapons, defenses, and shipyards we could count the Starbase on this list of civilian ships. Though, this is not totally correct, as you see on the image above that even an unarmed space station yields military power, here 191 points.

A starbase – as military ships – has armor, hull, and shields and can be upgraded with weapons to become a stronghold. They cost monthly upkeep in energy units.

Starbases mark a star system as yours and allow you to build mining and research stations. I am still on the fence if I build a starbase in every system of my empire or only in the important ones (with resources or expanding my borders).

So talking about Starbases we already touch on the area of the military.

Stellaris Military Ship types

For this article, we look at the ship sets from the plain vanilla game, not any DLC. We will touch on that elsewhere.

Stellaris Ship Designer

Beginner’s Guide to the Stellaris Ship Designer

After you earned your first stripes, you will start to look deeper under the hood of Stellaris. Don’t overlook the Ship Designer, since it allows you to improve your ships or create ship variations that are a better fit for the tactics of your enemy.

1. Ship type: Transport

You do not have to deal with building Transport ships, these come with building Armies and ordering them to another planet. That is also the only use you have for this type of ship. You will need these armies to conquer planets.

After recruiting an army, you find them on the right side close to the bottom of the Outliner (the right side menu) and can order them to go anywhere as you would with any other ship.

Stellaris Army Transport Ships

2. Ship type: Corvette

The Corvette is your first and – in a way – your last ship. Sounds confusing? Well, it is literally your first military ship in Stellaris.

But why should it also be your last, aren’t there any upgrades?

Yes, there are, but over time you can upgrade the Corvette ship type so much, that its speed and evasive power will stay the backbone of your fleets, despite all the fancy cruisers and battleships you develop.

Stellaris Ship experience Level

Stellaris Ship Experience

As you can see on the left, my Corvette, the UNS Kazakov, is built upon the Ladybird class (see video above), exerts a military power of 53, has seen a lot of battle (“experienced”), granting it 10% more damage inflicted on the enemy, has taken some beating (“Hull Points 354/400”), with Armor down to 1/65. The Shields have already regenerated (“100/100”).

The UNS Kazakov costs me 2.76 units of energy and 0.62 units of alloys per month.

She has FTL (Faster than Light) capabilities (can jump from system to system).

The way the Ladybird class Corvette is auto-generated by my empire’s AI (I did not touch the design), the ship modifiers (the way the design is done) grant the ship:

  • Ship Fire Rate of +13%
  • +100 Hull Points
  • +15% Weapon Damage to the enemy
  • +10% Sublight Speed (within a system)

As discussed in the video above, the Corvette “blueprint” comes in three variations, each with a different strategic goal in mind.

different specifications of the Corvette blueprint

The orange [S] in the weapons and utility slots stands for “small” – a Corvette can only carry small versions of these components.

In the Stellaris Ship designer, you can use the given Corvette template to build a

  • Missile Boat – 1 Weapon Slot, 1 Guided Weapon Slot, 3 Utility Slots and 1 Auxiliary Slot
  • Interceptor – 3 Weapon Slots, 3 Utility Slots and 1 Auxiliary Slot
  • Picket Ship – 1 Point-Defence Slot, 2 Weapon Slots, 3 Utility and 1 Auxiliary Slot

Each version of a Corvette has its uses and experimenting with fleet compositions can prove to be very beneficial.

Ladybird Corvette stats

The Corvette type is very versatile and its ability to evade and hand out damage to a slower enemy will prove to be very useful to you in the future, not only at the beginning of the game.

The Ladybird class Corvette as designed by my Empire’s AI needs 60 days to be built, monthly 1.27 energy and 0.28 alloy units, and costs 143 alloys to build.

The way it is set up it has +8 excessive power (and by that handing out more damage and faster evasive maneuvers, the ship leaves the dock with 300 hull points (see above, the UNS Kazakov shows 400 – this may be due to experience, the Admiral’s experience or traits or the fleet it is part of) – 65 Armor and 170 shields. The Evasion percentage is 63.3%, speed 160, and Damage (delivered) per day 7.39.

Its “Special Values” are a Sensor Range of 2 (how far it can “see” what happens in other Star systems – in this case, 2 Star systems away) and a Piracy suppression of 10.

Stellaris Ship Components Corvette

The AI has equipped this Corvette class with the following components:

  • 2 Red Lasers
  • 1 Coilgun Gen II
  • Auxiliary Fire Control
  • 2 Small Shields Gen III
  • 1 Ceramo-Metal armor Gen II
  • Cold Fusion reactor Gen III
  • Hyper Driver Gen II
  • Chemical Thrusters Gen I
  • Gravitic Sensors Gen II – sense the presence of a Starship sectors away
  • Combat Computer (Swarm)

These ship components are kept under constant development, if you instruct your Research/Technology team to do so,

3. Ship type: Destroyer

After some time, you will be granted a new class of military ships, the Destroyer.

I am not so sure about the Destroyer class. So far I cannot really say if I have better effects with a Destroyer than with a Corvette. But there is still time, perhaps the Destroyer convinces me of its usefulness in the future.

Compared to the Corvette a Destroyer at least is much better equipped. While the Corvette can be developed into three different specifications (Picket Ship, Missile Boat, or Interceptor), each with its amount of weapons and utilities the ship would carry, the Destroyer offers 2 sections (bow and stern), which can be specialized, and many more gun and utility ports.

The Destroyer in the Ship Designer

The Destroyer’s bow can be developed into a:

  • Gunship Bow – 2 small and one Medium weapon Slot and 6 small Utility slots
  • Picket Ship Bow – 1 Point-Defense slot, 2 Small weapon slots and 6 Utility slots
  • Artillery Bow – 1 large weapon slot and 6 small Utility slots
Stellaris Ship type: Destroyer – Bow Section

And the stern section offers:

  • Picket Ship Stern – 2 Point-Defense slot, 1 Auxiliary slot
  • Interceptor Ship Stern – 2 small Weapon slots and one Auxiliary Utility slot
    and a
  • Gunship Stern – 1 medium Weapon slot and 1 Auxiliary Utility slot
Stellaris Ship type: Destroyer – Stern Section

While it takes 60 days to build a Corvette, the Destroyer takes 120 days and has higher upkeep and building costs. On the bright side, it comes with a Hull strength of 800.

One of the most important disadvantages of the Destroyer is its lower Evasion percentage, so more of the enemy’s shots will find their target – our Destroyer, compared to the Corvette.

4. The Cruiser

my Cruiser class ship UNS Regulus – it has already seen battle (“experienced”)

With the Cruiser, you have a really big stick in your arsenal. From the dock, it ships with 2300 Hull Points and 180 speed.

In the Ship Designer you can customize its three-compartment:

the three sections of the Cruiser ship type

a. Broadside Bow

For the bow you can choose:

  • Artillery Bow – 1 Large Weapon slot, 4 Medium Utility slots
  • Missile Bow – 2 Small Weapon slots, 1 Guided Weapon slot
  • Broadside Bow – 2 Medium Weapon slots, 4 Medium Utility slots
Cruiser ship type bow options

b. Broadside Core

For the Core section you have the following four options:

  • Hangar Core – 2 Point-Defense slots, 1 Hangar slot
  • Artillery Core – 1 Medium Weapon, 1 Large Weapon, 4 Medium Utility slots
  • Broadside Core – 3 Medium Weapons, 4 Medium Utilities
Cruiser type ship core options

Missile Core – 2 Small Weapons, 2 Guided Weapons slots, 4 Medium Utility slots

The Hangar Core

A new component to the Cruiser is the Hangar Core. This Section turns your Cruiser basically into an Aircraft Carrier. You should really try adding a few of these to your fleet. Something my Empire’s AI never did for me…

Cruisers offer Improved Strike Craft addons

c. Broadside Stern

The stern offers 2 specifications:

  • Broadside Stern – 1 Medium Weapon slot, 2 Auxiliary Utility slots
  • Gunship Stern – 2 Small Weapon slots, 2 Auxiliary Utility slots
Cruiser Class Broadside Stern

The Cruiser is a powerful Ship class with many advantages and specifications, you should use it as soon as it becomes available for you. Especially developing it into an Aircraft Carrier with a fleet as a battlegroup is something you should experiment with.

What is Stellaris Ship Experience

When you lead your ships into battle, their Captains, Admiral, and the crew – if they survive – gain experience. With this experience also the Ship Rank rises, giving the ship several advantages.

Coming out of the Spacedock ships in Stellaris have zero (0) experience. The more and longer they partake in battles, the more they gain experience:
– +1 Experience per day in battle
– +0.1 Experience per day spent in suppression of Piracy

What is Ship Rank

The more Experience units a ship collects over time, the higher its rank:

RankExperience PointsDamageHull PointsEvasion
Regular0-99000
Experienced100-999+10%00
Veteran1.000-9.999+20%+5%+5%
Elite10.000+40%+10%+10%
How Ship Rank gives your ships an advantage

So the more you lead your fleets into battle, the more experience they gain, and the better they perform in battle.


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