Stellaris: A utopian race of multicultural turtles, part 1

“It will all take care of itself” – infamous Tortal saying

Welcome to the Open Gates of Tortal. All are welcome here. Are you a slithering conformist lizard looking for employment? Come and work in our power plants. Maybe you’re a consumerist mollusc seeking some retail therapy? Then visit our pleasure districts. Are you a titanic ocean beast of uncertain origin? Join our defensive military academy, you’ll fit right in. The Open Gates are for everyone. Wait, who are you? Oh, an aggressive inter-dimensional collective of carnivorous energy? GET OUT. SPACE IS FULL.

I’m playing galactic strategy game Stellaris (again) and I have a bit of an invasion problem. It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome the Unbidden, a race of ultra-destructive galaxy-hoppers that have appeared to the north, into my established multicultural kingdom of 10+ species. It’s just that they don’t want to come over without eating all my citizens like salted popcorn. If you’ve played Crusader Kings II they are a threat akin to the Mongol hordes. They come, seemingly out of nowhere, and lay waste to everything.

That’s a problem for me because – this time – I am not playing a militaristic people. Taking inspiration from the recently released Utopia DLC and its update sidekick, my goal is to create a peaceful sector of space where all are welcome. A democratic haven for migrants, undesirables and refugees, where former fungoid slaves can mix with short-tempered reptiles and horny insects, yet where all pull toward the same goal. In a reality where the age of free movement seems to be dissolving like a loaf in a pond, it feels good to remind ourselves that hugely different peoples can live within a single, prosperous society without succumbing to in-fighting or scapegoating.

But now we’re the refugees. Ten colony ships, each packed with a distinct species, have just left the disparate systems of the Open Gates, fleeing across the galaxy, running for our lives because of these blue marauders. We’re retreating to a corner of space, far from the threat and still unsettled, where we’ll set up a new capital. We call it The Shell.

But maybe it would help to know how we got here.

The Pointless War

“The Vhemm Empire has declared war on the Confederacy of Zithras,” said the message. Which ones are those again? I consulted the space map, cross-referenced the alliance list, inspected the species chart. Oh no, I thought. Oh no. It has been barely 25 years since the Tortal people embraced the stars, and already we have been dragged into a war. This is not what we signed up for.

The Tortals are unlike my previous spacefolks (robotic father-figures The Unboxed or slaver insect scourge The Scrub). Tortals are long-living, slow-breeding xenophiles. They think everybody is wonderful. Their government runs on a democracy with elections every 10 years. That sounds like a long term in office, but it’s a very short time when you live to be 180 years old. They live on their home planet of Free Cabbage, orbiting a star known as The Boiler.

Within the first two decades of space exploration, there is an explosion in known alien races. There are Tebbrans, Xeltek, Ymacera, Zithrans, Tal’Akkur – all the usual weird spacenames Stellaris likes to give its races. First contact is always peaceful and we are soon swapping our people like bodily fluids. Everyone is a total babe. It’s like Fresher’s Week up there.

But then the Vhemm Empire showed up. A less-understanding culture would describe the reptilian Vhemm as “a shower of bastards” but we Tortals always reserve judgement, even though their bullying swagger could be felt throughout local space. Just look at how they greet their neighbours.

We tried to make a migration treaty with them, as we had with three other species so far, filling our new colonies according to our delicious mixed nuts policy. No nut left behind, a bag of nuts divided against itself cannot stand, etc. We could not get the Vhemm to agree to a shared migration pact, which is a shame. Even raisins are welcome in our bag.

So they declared war on some guys. This would not be a problem, except that the hastily-made web of non-aggression pacts and defensive alliances we have made with the space neighbours quickly unravels faster than you can say “Franz Ferdinand” and we find ourselves on the side of the Zithrans, fighting against our next door neighbour and one-time bezzie, the Xeltek.

The war lasts 30 years and will sow the seeds for the downfall of Zithra as a space nation. The Zith themselves (militaristic reptilian democrats who love punching fascists) will live on. Thanks to our sexy migration treaty they make up a good portion of our populace already. In 25 years the Open Gates will have its first Zith president, Strongbow Cider. He will die a few years later, becoming the first ruler to die in office, simply because everyone else who has held an elected position has been a centenarian tortoise. The nation of his parents will soon disappear because of the local bully, the Vhemm.

As the Pointless War raged, three hivemind races would appear in the south and east of the galaxy, far enough away to be of no immediate concern. One of them is my own creation, The Scrub, of whom I am consistently suspicious, thanks to my Picard-like connection to them. They make friends with one of the other hiveminds. On paper this is a concerning development but eventually it will come to nothing. On a philosophical and existential level, this is also true of everything in the galaxy. It will all come to nothing.

The Vhemm conflict has ended. Out of the ashes of our war comes a Federation – the Galactic Slop Pot. There are three members, pacifists and decent folk all. Our migration deals mean that the Open Gates’ home system, The Boiler, and its neighbouring systems of Uncooked Chicken and Passable Air Quality, are becoming home to all types of people. We soon begin the age of terraforming, seeking to make planets with climates and landscapes suitable for all-comers. To resurrect an analogy that should have died three paragraphs ago, some nuts can only live in salt.

Tortal diplomacy

Thus the Open Gates entered a new age of mostly-peace. The next century would be defined by growth, chit-chat and the kind of interstellar negotiations you’d expect from some kind of mischievous newt. As new people settled in our Kingdom, filling the systems of Non-Refundable Ticket and Bants Bants Bants, we grappled with the various races of the galaxy, trying always to make the most obscenely liberal decisions. Here’s how we dealt with each group.

Red Legion. This was (and still is) a militarist faction within our own democracy. They are like an angry teenager with a morbid fascination with Mussolini. They were growing in numbers on a farming planet called Sour Puss. I can’t suppress them or resettle them on other planets, that isn’t the Tortal way. So I settle for idly shuffling them around on the planet’s tiles so that they don’t sit next to each other in class. I have no idea if this has any effect on their activities.

Thek’Qlak Progenitors. This enigmatic observer race of “fallen” dudes asked if they could take a cross-section of our populace to put them in an “endangered species preserve”. I refuse because this proposition is ridiculous. The Open Gates are flourishing. What could possibly threaten us?

The Xeltek Imperium. Our next door neighbours, and an absolute hoot. With the exception of the Pointless War early in the game they’ve been amiable and decent. As honourable warriors, they tend to look on us as their little brother in a vicious universe. The problem for us: we still don’t have a migration treaty with them. There are no Xeltek in the Slop Pot, which deeply offends my alien-loving sensibilities. I must have them. So I decide to give them a planet as a present.

But not just any planet. There’s a hivemind to the space-east that is looming towards us. It’s not a problem now but it might become one in a hundred years. A plan begins to form. I send a colony ship to snap up the last unclaimed system between the Galactic Slop Pot and this hivemind. Then, along with a smorgasbord of other goodies, I hand the star and all its planets straight to our big brothers, the Xeltek. They are super happy with their new gift and seem to take no notice that it has been renamed “Buffer System”.

But it still isn’t enough for them. Then, I see what the problem is. Our borders have a lot of friction. I remove a frontier outpost at the system of This Is Ours, and this cools the Xelties down long enough to finally set up a migration treaty. The sweat from the handshake is barely dry before I order the constructor ship TSB Coffee Break to go back and build a new frontier post in the exact same place as the one we just dismantled. The system is renamed to This Is Still Ours. The Great Xeltek Ruse is complete.

United Nations of Earth. They are a nice bunch, so I do the same for them, handing them the system of Greek Yoghurt. The downside is that this system is right next to a Gaia world which is considered a religious site for a nearby fallen empire. I haven’t touched it, because I know what those fallen geezers are like. But I don’t trust the humans not to give into their usual curiousity. To this end, we rename the system DO NOT DISTURB and dub the Gaia planet itself: Attention Humans: Never Go Here.

This kind of rampant diplomacy continues for almost fifty years, swelling our numbers and increasing our influence in the galaxy. Even the hiveminds of the galaxy think we are lovely, probably because we have taken in refugees from two of them.

You don’t normally get to set up migration treaties with hiveminds (they don’t understand the appeal), so its a real rarity to have some hiveminded “pops” living on our planets, and a testament to just how varied the Open Gates has become. Our planets are full of different lifeforms.

Our scientific council is made up of various species.

We are slowly realising our utopian dream. That’s when the galaxy-wide power surge comes. To the north, a dimensional rift opens. Out spill the Unbidden.

“It Will All Take Care Of Itself”

I have heard whispers of the Unbidden but never encountered them in a previous game of Stellaris. Like I’ve said, they are essentially space Mongols. Fortunately for us, they have sandwiched themselves between our old bullies, the Vhemm Empire, and a cranky isolationist fallen empire, the Menjeti Shard, who hate it when you walk on their lawn.

I send a lone construction ship, the TSB That’s Your Problem There, to peek at the newcomers. He sees a huge 62k-strong armada of space nasties and is summarily evaporated. Good work, Gatesman, your sacrifice will be remembered.

At the sight of this power I decide to let the Vhemm and the cranky Menjeti deal with the Unbidden. Part of me feels that together they are strong enough to deal with that number of ships. The other part of me, the freedom-loving Tortal, thinks a new arrival isn’t so bad anyway. All beings should be welcome to the galaxy. Even voracious beings of pure malice. I sit back and continue chasing migration treaties and handing out star charts, the Stellaris equivalent of friendship bracelets, thinking no more about the Unbidden. It will all take care of itself.

Within just a couple of years I realise this was probably a bad idea. The Menjeti have been squeezed to a pip and the Vhemm aren’t so much “on the back foot” as they are “completely lacking in foots”. It isn’t long before the super-powerful dreadships of the Unbidden arrive at one of our own settlements in the Return Of The Zith system (a one-time Zithorian slave colony that rebelled against their Vhemm lords and joined the Open Gates, don’t you know your history?).

In short, the Unbidden are spreading…

The Vhemm are dying…

And we might be next.

At this point I click on the Vhemm to see how they are faring. Their hostile tone has completely changed to one of pathetic niceties. Their bullying fleets are gone, their capital lost, the apparatus of the state has come apart like a broken teabag. Looking at their one remaining planet, it is populated by a mix of Tortals and Ziths. By all counts, there is only one actual “Vhemm” left of their entire species, the overlord Cotaxir I. He is described as “Receptive”.

I try to think of a way to help him, despite our history of differences, but he stubbornly refuses to a migration treaty. He is doomed. Within a few years I will look again at this space and see only a hole where our most troublesome neighbours the Vhemm once stood.

I won’t feel good about this, only a creeping feeling of having not seen the heat death of the universe for the trees.

There are still space kingdoms between us and the Unbidden’s onslaught, but this encroaching extermination has opened my eyes. I have two options now.

1. Try to put down the Unbidden by destroying their portals guarded by hundreds of ships all more powerful and numerous than anything the Galactic Slop Pot can muster (hahaha oh god).

2. Enact an immense evacuation of Open Gate space, somehow resettling each and every species to the other side of the galaxy.

You already know my decision. Where once Tortal Space was a refuge and haven for all, it is now scrambling into ships. I make one colony ship of every species. Little green flags make their way, one by one, to safety.

This is our Ark-mada. We need to get out of here before the Unbidden pierce through the other kingdoms and reach us. With the Vhemm gone, the murderships are already leaking through. Just this year they arrived in the Painful Annoyance system and turned our once-glittering scientific hub of Splinter in the Eye into a ball of hot glass.

The Ark-mada soars across the stars. Thanks to our reputation and general loveliness all borders are open to us. The colony ships arrive at their destination, a remote and unclaimed corner of the galaxy, as far from the Unbidden as you can get without falling off the edge of the galaxy. The Shell is now under construction, a small nugget of Tortal space nestled between a hivemind and a vast xenophobic empire. Because of the lack of planets most of our people live in orbital habitats, without the protection of spaceports.

It is a precarious existence. We are an upended turtle balancing on a tightrope between a pool of hammerhead sharks and a pool of moray eels. But it is still a safer spot than before.

In a final gesture of galactic grace, we give all the planets we left behind to the mysterious race of Progenitors who once called us an “endangered species”. It turns out they were right. But they have now come out of hiding once again, this time to confront the Unbidden. I give them everything. It is the single greatest transfer of wealth and property in the history of our known universe.

Hopefully, the Progenitors will make good use of it to fight and defeat the blue horde. As for us, we are retreating into our shell. The Open Gates of Tortal are slowly closing. I’m sure the galaxy will take care of itself.

Next time: how will the various species adapt to their new homes? Can the cultures and peoples of the Open Gates co-exist in their bolthole? Find out in the next part of our Stellaris Utopia diary


  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This was a fun read. It makes me feel like I’m playing Stellaris wrong by leaving everything named the default and focusing mostly on killing all the aliens that always hate me.

    That said you certainly missed the opportunity to call it Tortal War: Stellaris or somesuch.

    Maybe once you bring the fight to the Unbidden.

    • LexW1 says:

      Indeed, this article has fundamentally changed my previously hands-off naming policy in Stellaris. From now on, things will be called what they need to be called.

  2. BoggartBear says:

    Brilliant read, loved it! Like Drib said, I think I am playing this game wrong. I put lots of imagination into the creation of my species but then transitioned into game mode instead of story mode.

    Gonna have to give Stellaris another go.

  3. Eightball says:

    >In a reality where the age of free movement seems to be dissolving like a loaf in a pond, it feels good to remind ourselves that hugely different peoples can live within a single, prosperous society without succumbing to in-fighting or scapegoating.

    If the age of free movement only lasted for ~30 years in reality and you have to turn to escapist videogames to relive it, doesn’t that call into question your premise that free movement actually *is* possible (and more importantly, sustainable)?

    • ParanoidInc says:

      free movement amongst populations lasted a hell of a lot longer than 30 years and the said freedom of movement has constantly fluctuated throughout history depending on the time and place, for example, the roman empire being entirely possible due to the romans acceptance of different cultures and ethnicities so long as they were willing to contribute soldiers and pay homage to rome.

      • Eightball says:

        Of course, free movement of populations was a non-zero contributor to the *end* of the Roman Empire (in the west first, but eventually in the East as well). I think you’re also simplifying the situation of the Roman Empire at its height.

        The phrase is kind of nebulous though. When did “the age of free movement” begin, and what are it’s characteristics?

        • MauvePeopleEater says:

          That’s, uh, certainly a claim. I’ve not read an historian who claimed that free movement was a significant factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, other than far-right nutters like David Engels. (Unless you’re arguing that the Goth refugee crisis, for lack of a better term, represented “free movement”, but that’d be a stretch.)

          • Landiss says:

            Well, the Rome was ultimately destroyed by the newcomers, wasn’t it. For centuries, Romans would welcome barbaric tribes settling within Rome, but only on Rome’s conditions. Typically they would not allow them to settle at one spot, instead they would force them to split into different places, so that integration was better and the new people were not a military threat. That ended in the 4th century, with the Huns forcing great migrations of Gots who were then accepted in Rome, but Rome didn’t have enough control over them. I can’t remember all the details now, but it is nicely explained in The Fall of The Roman Empire by Peter Heather.

            Anyway, I can’t really agree with the claim that an empire based on classes and funded by slave’s work can be said to be a center of freedom movement, in the contemporary meaning of those words anyway.

          • Eightball says:

            @MauvePeopleEater – obviously I’m referring to the Germanic migrations in the West, and the Turkic migrations in the East. In both cases the Romans tried to co-opt these migrations to their own ends (specifically using both to fill their military and fight their fellow Germans/Turks) and in both cases it led to their downfall (quicker and more spectacularly in the West).

            Part of the problem here is what is meant by “freedom of movement” that Brendan originally wrote. Is having some immigration restrictions and enforcing them the end of freedom of movement?

          • Sleepy Will says:

            @Eightball – you’re talking about freedom of movement within a politically united block – I would cite the nearest example as the USA, I assume there are some subtle rules around crossing state lines, but practically, people can move around the country unrestricted. Immigration is a completely different issue.

          • Eightball says:

            @Sleepy Will – then what is Brendan referring to? Freedom of movement within the US isn’t threatened. Ditto every other country in the world.

          • syndrome says:

            So what you’ve just told us is that by having ISIS invading Syria, migrating populations could topple EU, due to lack of inner control?

            Does that mean that UK doesn’t want to share this burden, or that it has a better alternative in the future? Or it was just panicking?

          • Landiss says:

            @ syndrome

            I never said anything about Syria nor ISIS. I have no idea what you are talking about.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            @Eightball – I assume he is refering to immigration, but then you talk about “free movement” only lasting 30 years which is puzzling, because as far as I’m aware, no united political block is currently or has just recently, in the last 30 years allowed free immigration to that block? I.e as someone born in England, I am free to move to, live in and work in Wales, but I am not allowed to waltz into America or Australia and do the same without going through a process.

            It feels like you took Brendans point about immigration and started offering your opinion based on the freedom of movement in the EU – now I’m not completely up to speed on the EU situation, but I thought the problems were with immigrants from outside the EU – is there a massive problem of say, Germans in Italy or Spanish in Czech Republic that I’m not aware of?

    • Snowskeeper says:

      The current age of free movement is collapsing because of the actions of a number of near-fanatical nationalists, not because of anything inherent within the human condition.

      • Eightball says:

        It’s sort of irrelevant if it’s part of the human condition or not, although I suspect the modern freedom of movement/freedom of capital is an aberration (compare it to the past ~5000 years of human civilization).

        It’s collapsing because the material conditions that enable it are unsustainable.

        Don’t you think it’s odd that gigantic corporations see freedom of movement as an important progressive value to uphold? Since when did gigantic corporations have the best interests of the common people in mind? Why would Goldman Sachs fund the Remain? Didn’t those guys help crash the economy in 2008?

        TBH I thought RPS was a pretty progressive space. Weird that your views line up with those of fortune 500 companies, right?

        • Snowskeeper says:

          Corporations also, as a rule, oppose torture, murder, and theft. That’s pretty weird too, isn’t? I thought RPS was a progressive space; weird that their interests line up with those of fortune 500 companies.

          You’re going to have to do a little better than guilt by association to show that freedom of movement is evil.

          For most of history, it has not been possible to move around with the ease we are currently capable of. But the people who did have the means to travel frequently did so, even before we had cars and planes and such. Pilgrimages, for example, were popular.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Its going to blow his mind when someone tells him the ancestors of everyone living outside Africa moved there sometime, probably fairly recently.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            … Somehow I completely forgot that was a thing, despite being in an anthropology course; thanks for bringing it up.

          • Unclepauly says:

            It’s going to blow your mind when you find out everyone outside sub-saharan africa has neanderthal dna while sub-saharans don’t.

          • MauvePeopleEater says:

            Unclepauly, I think your life would be easier if you came out and said that you think sub-Saharan Africans are an inferior race, which is what you seem you be coyly alluding to but don’t have quite the guts to say out loud.

          • shde2e says:

            Isn’t Uncle saying the exact opposite though?
            Unless you consider having neanderthal dna to be an inherently superior.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I think he’s alluding to the fact that the presence of Neanderthal DNA in everyone other than Sub-Saharan Africans is accepted proof that all humans are descended from Africans. The disparity is said to show that the ancestors of most humans encountered Neanderthals outside of Africa whilst those who stayed didn’t. A seemingly ironic case in which a minor genetic difference proves a common origin. I think this is what he means.

          • Eightball says:

            @ Snowskeeper – do you think our man Brendan was complaining that *vacations* are over when he wrote that the age of freedom of movement is coming to an end? I think that’s a little disingenuous – after all, that’s not happening in reality, for starters.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            No, but I do think the burden of proof is on you to prove that free movement is bad, and thus far you have been doing a stunningly unimpressive job of proving that.

          • Eightball says:

            Before I make that case we need to agree on what we mean by “freedom of movement.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to a country on vacation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with applying to live in another country either. I just also don’t think it’s wrong for that country to deny someone entry, for pretty much any reason at all. Is that in contradiction of “freedom of movement”?

          • Coming Second says:

            What if those people are fleeing a tyrannical regime that will murder them if they return? Is it right to bar them then? What if your government decides to stop certain people emigrating on the basis they are from an inferior race, or worship the wrong religion, since you’re allowing “pretty much any reason”? What if your economy relies heavily upon freedom of movement, but the hard right is putting pressure upon you to arbitrarily inhibit it by stapling every problem your country faces upon it? What if you put a hard limit upon migration, and then every other nation turns around and places the self-same restrictions upon your own citizens?

            What if the question of freedom of movement is a lot more complicated than a three line manifesto that Theresa May herself might balk at?

          • Eightball says:

            @Coming Second – ok, so what is “freedom of movement” and how is it currently coming to an end?

      • pixel_fcker says:

        Doesn’t the rise of radical nationalists say a lot about the human condition though? I don’t see how you can separate the two given that those radicals are themselves human.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          Given that their political opposites are also human, I think it’s safe to say that “radical nationalists exist” does not translate to “humans are radical nationalists,” or to “humans are incapable of allowing freedom of movement.”

    • Landiss says:

      During most of the human history there were no borders anywhere.

      • Eightball says:

        Perhaps with an overally literal definition of borders.

        Was all of humanity one diverse, harmonious, single-civilization utopia until a certain point?

        When did borders emerge?

        • evilgenius says:

          Borders as we know them were invented in de 18th and 19th century. Before that there was no real border, a noble man from spain could own lands in The netherlands, germany austria an spain at the same time.

          Although alot of people were bound to the land the were born. Being serfs and all. There was freedom of movement for a lot of other people. Mainly because no one cared/knew if you went from one place to the other. Just don’t expect a warm welcome, strangers/migrants most of the time weren’t welcomed with open arms. And it took many generations before any form of assimilation happened.

          • Eightball says:

            Borders existed at least 3000 years ago, man.

            link to

            What you are referring to is the Westphalian idea of nation-states, which are recent, but has existed since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

            >Before that there was no real border, a noble man from spain could own lands in The netherlands, germany austria an spain at the same time.

            Amazingly people can still own property in multiple countries today!

        • syndrome says:

          Borders are a stretch from the idea of being entitled to stuff, whether by birth or by merit, it doesn’t matter. It’s an illusionary concept, born in the minds of those unworthy to investigate other means of feeling as important, or equal to others.

          • Eightball says:

            Dude, how high are you right now?

            Borders seem to be a pretty real, non-illusory concept. Or is the DMZ between North and South Korea a figment of your three-bong-hits imagination?

            To make it clearer: disliking a concept doesn’t mean it’s illusory.

        • Landiss says:

          I never said anything about utopia. It’s just a fact, borders are quite modern concept in the history of homo sapiens.

          More specifically, I wanted to point out that they are not something that is natural to our species, something that was always there. Quite the opposite.

          And even when the borders showed up in history, often they were mostly on paper, people freely moved through them.

          • Eightball says:

            >It’s just a fact, borders are quite modern concept in the history of homo sapiens.

            But pretty well attested to in the past 3000 years or so.

            >More specifically, I wanted to point out that they are not something that is natural to our species, something that was always there. Quite the opposite.

            What does “natural to our species” even mean?

          • Landiss says:

            And the past 3000 years is just a small part of our history.

          • Eightball says:

            But most of our recorded history.

          • andycheese says:

            Hate to disagree bud, but you’re fundamentally wrong about this. Territorial behaviour (I.E. the establishment of spatial borders) is something we humans inherited from our simian ancestors… They practice the same behaviours today.

            link to

          • Landiss says:

            That’s great and it would be relevant if I wrote “recorded” in the original comment.

  4. gi_ty says:

    Just awesome as usual Brendy! My race of cyborg humanoids that hate everyone else is fun to role play as as well. In order to avoid being seen as genocidal we settled distant worlds from our core sectors, and forcibly resettled all the filthy xenos from captured worlds there. There they will toil unto death until the Imperium is strong enough to enact the purges, and deal with large neighbors of sissy tortal like races.

  5. Nauallis says:

    That’s a pretty horrifying doomstack. Then again, I’ve never even built anything larger than a cruiser. Even at 4x speed, it seems like take about three hours to even get to that point in most games.

    Fun read though!

    • brucethemoose says:

      You don’t need big ships for a doomstack. In fact, I’ve read stories about MP Stellaris where someone would send a HUGE corvette fleet to an enemy system with an aggressive stance, and crash any poor soul who tries to view the resulting battle.

      • Blad the impaler says:

        Oh Peter, that’s nasty.

      • Nauallis says:

        It’s true though! The “thousand flashlights are dangerous” strategy does work, even against the computer. Burn through corvettes like crazy, but apparently the marginal advantage is there.

      • Rainshine says:

        My current SP game I ran into… well, a kindof unfriendly neighbor decided to declare war on me. I looked at their wargoals (authoritarian vs. egalitarian), saw they wanted one of my border systems, so I flew my 5k fleet in, and filled it with military stations. Call it 1.5k for the spaceport, three stations at 2.4k each, and my fleet (Mostly battleships and destroyers, a good chunk of cruisers). According to the mouseover, we were equivalent strength size and strength, my tech was superior. Their 6k fleet came in. Wiped me out. Not only murdered the stations and my fleet, but did so with negligible losses (~500 strength). Their fleet was some 68 corvettes (with cutting lasers), 25 destroyers, and a few cruisers. I’m baffled how I lost a battle in an emplaced and fortified system with more strength and didn’t even dent their fleet.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Cruisers are the best ships anyway. The ship design is about as balanced as Master of Orion 2, which is to say there’s a golden ship that murders anything the AI builds ever and even does reasonably well against things directly built to counter it.

      My last game of Stellaris I used the new trait that gives you a second species of slightly dim peons from the start, then when I could decamped all my real pops to space habitats. Ended up with five planets and 22 habitats in my five starting systems.

      I was Xenophobic/Pacifist though so was naturally isolationist and had a fleet strong enough that nobody dared declare war on me, so I’m going back to militarist egalitarians who will make everybody behave or else. (There will be a lot of else).

  6. ScottTFrazer says:

    “Can the cultures and peoples of the Open Gates co-exist in their bolthole?”

    I had to read that sentence 3 times to get that last word right.

  7. Sardonic says:

    Thank goodness there’s an ascendancy perk that gives you a massive bonus to damage vs the unbidden is all I’ll say. Have to take it every time they show up so I can take them out before they spread.

  8. Andy_Panthro says:

    Loved reading this! Can’t wait to find out what happens.

  9. TheAngriestHobo says:

    That was great. I have to say that ever since Banks + Utopia, Stellaris has been producing some mighty interesting (and varied) stories.

    In my current game, I’m playing as a race of spiritual, militaristic, and authoritarian bug-people inspired by Imperial Japan (we have god-emperors and everything). Despite those traits, I’ve been judicious in my application of force – as far as I’m concerned, our spiritual side is more important than our militaristic or authoritarian tendencies. Still, we’ve won a couple of wars, and established a long, snaking kingdom wedged between three different Fallen Empires.

    However, the Unbidden appeared right next door, prompting the materialist Fallen Empire to awaken and try to rally the “lesser races” to confront the invaders (there were no takers). Around the same time, the xenophile Fallen Empire also awoke and began advocating for a galactic peace treaty. Since proximity to so many superpowers has constrained the growth of my empire, I decided it was in my best interest to become a signatory. To date, we’re the only race that’s signed up, but we’ve been rewarded with multiple systems that my patrons have wrested from our less diplomatic neighbours. Our new best buddies also casually decimated the Unbidden (I threw my 50k-strong fleet into that action out of solidarity, but the battle was mostly over before they arrived).

    I’m not sure if you can win the game as a signatory/vassal state, but we’re producing Unity like mad and are well on our way to ascension (my entire race is now psychic, and we’re playing with something called the Shroud). So, from this point onwards, I basically plan to be the Jem’Hadar to my patron’s Founders, and serve them loyally until the day that we all poof into the aether (and hopefully, victory).

    • brucethemoose says:

      “poof into the aether”

      Well if you continue poking the shroud, you’re on the right track. Because that’s gonna happen one way or the other :)

    • Dewal says:

      Reading the article made me launch the game again.

      I am playing as a militarist & materialist molluscoid race and everything was pretty fine, been developping “peacefully”. But then I started receiving message about the WORM and the Loop. Then I met dead people from my race, coming from either the future or the past (or both), which contaminated us with a virus that spread and changed all of my population and made them pacifist…
      I tried to supress the pacifist faction that encompassed 80% of my populations, causing unrest on ALL of my planets. To put everything back in order, I created robotics armies on all of them and became a Police State.
      Now everything is back in order but almost everyone is unhappy, so I’m thinking to replace most of my population by robots where I can.

  10. sagredo1632 says:

    Seems like you might need to beef up Special Circumstances.

  11. brucethemoose says:

    This makes me wonder… Who are you?

    A supreme leader? The collective will of your council of many races? Perhaps a sentient consciousness in the computerized government bureaucracy that no one knows about, silently influencing all decisions? Are you a God, who has taken a particular interest in these humanoid space turtles?

    Maybe I’m just overthinking things, but the absolute control you have over forces in Stellaris breaks my immersion just a little bit. It’d be nice if some mechanics carried on without your intervention, kinda like Distant Worlds.

    • Harlander says:

      You can set up swaths of your planets as sectors, which is the closest Stellaris comes to DW’s absurd level of automation.

      The sector AI is also now much less terrible!

      • Palindrome says:

        Less terrible yes, but still horrible.

        I have resorted to using mods that massively increase the core system cap so I don’t have to bother with sectors and their crazy ways.

        • brucethemoose says:

          And Auto Build. Never forget Auto Build.

          Dear God, there’s no telling how many hours that mod has saved me.

          There’s also a mod that transfers sector storage overflow (configurable to a certain threshold) back to your empire’s pool, which I highly recommend. Seeing my sectors stock up precious minerals and energy with no use for it always made me a little sick.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Large vassal empires or federations also kinda count. After the initial doomstack battle, I’m rather content with letting allies and the federation fleet do the invasions and mop up everything else. The AI thoroughly enjoys all that micro anyway.

  12. Viral Frog says:

    A fantastic read! Thank you for this, Brendan. I always thoroughly enjoy reading about your various gaming experiences. I never feel like I’m just reading a blog post, I feel like I’m right there with you in the experience.

    I haven’t played Stellaris since pre-Utopia. But every time I read something like this, it makes me want to load it up and go. My problem is that once I get past race creation, I zone into the game part of it, and forget that the most brilliant aspect of the game is that it generates emergent stories.

    I even own Utopia and haven’t played it. Such a shame. I’m going to change this tonight. I’m already coming up with a few fun ideas to play out. The most intriguing one I’m thinking of involves a species of not-so-friendly plantfolk.

  13. ginger_ale says:

    A great read, very excited for pt. 2.
    Go turtles!

  14. Lanfranc says:


    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I feel that the name of that system is self defeating. Calling it “Attention Humans: Never Go Here” pretty much guarantees that those meddling meatsacks will head straight there.
      Maybe consider calling it “Federal Accountancy Museum*”, or “Waste treatment plant 7b”.

      * Double Entry Book Keeping Through The Aeons Exhibition Now Open!

      • icarussc says:

        Laughed out loud. In addition to that, perhaps the Museum of Queuing? Or the 600-acre One-Dimensional Art Exhibition?

    • Solidstate89 says:

      You. I like you.

  15. wombat191 says:

    i just purchased the game and all the DLC.. its your fault

  16. Rindan says:

    I just finally got Stellaris after the DLC came out and have been really enjoying it. I am playing a Culture / Federation hippy humans. I really like that it is possible to play a big old multicultural hippy love fest and still have a lot of fun. With all the shit in the world, it’s nice to be able to play the higher ideal you want the world to be. Don’t get me wrong, my next play through is definitely going to be either as a terrifying Borg like group mind, or a terrifying xeno horror. For now though, it is kind of therapeutic and relaxing to play as the good guys.

  17. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Oh fine, you get paid for copy but when I accost strangers in the street and tell them about my latest game it’s all “no please don’t hurt me!” & “just take my wallet! take it and go, leave my family alone”.


    (p.s. Great read btw, ty! ^^)

  18. Beefenstein says:

    “On a philosophical and existential level, this is also true of everything in the galaxy. It will all come to nothing.”

    ‘Everything created is impermanent.’

  19. Morcane says:

    Thanks for this and reminding me I need to go back to this game and take a look at what the free stuff and Utopia expansion added.

    Playing with a story in your mind is indeed the way to go, as with nearly every other Paradox game.

  20. Gothnak says:

    I played Stellaris a while ago and ended up with an empire of about 15 planets, a moderate fleet and peace with all my neighbours. There wasn’t anything to do, so i stopped playing. :(

  21. Joshua IX says:

    Best experience I’ve had so far was creating an ultra materialistic authoritarian race of plantoids with a subservient slave race, building up my empire through science and conquest, and ultimately genetically modifying all of my slaves to be nerve stapled and forever content with their miserable lives!

  22. teije says:

    Great article. Last game I was playing as xenophobic slaving militarists and then through an event chain, ended up as fanatic spiritualists. Not my intent, but instead of reloading, decided to roll with it – free the alien slaves, reach into the Shroud and try converting the galaxy to the right path! Love the different ways to roleplay this game.

  23. Solidstate89 says:

    Awesome read. Very entertaining. It’s also good to see that the Unbidden are actually a threat now, with all the patches between now and the last time I played. First game I ever played had the Unbidden show up in a system right next to a Fallen Empire, and said Fallen Empire nearly immediately beat the ever loving shit out of them. It was an absolutely one-sided slaughter.

  24. Rince says:

    Amazing read!! Can’t wait to see what comes next and to see the fate of the most beloved cultural Utopia in the universe. (Except for the bullies from other dimension, that’s it).

    I’m starting to thinking about buying Stellaris. But I’m afraid that like in other Paradox games I will end doing nothing of interest and losing every single game and not even in spectacular ways.

  25. vahnn says:

    Maybe I should stop killing or enslaving everyone and try something like this for once?


  26. Jonfon says:

    Great read. Looking forward to part two. My techno love crabs are having a blast, moving into habitats and trying to make friends with everyone. We’re pasifist, xenophiles with a fleet 4 times bigger than anyone else somehow.

    Making friends with everyone has had mixed results. The race beside me, the smiley lanky greys, were the first race we encountered and have gone from our bffs to falling out with our other bffs, hanging around with a bad crowd (the moldly koalas) getting dragged into a war (against our allies and hence our huge fleet), getting stomped (by us), having their dodgy friends drop em, then declare war on them and finally vassalising and starting to subsume them.

    Happily I’ve just finished a second war against the koalas, one of the winning conditions being to release the poor gormless smiling greys.

    I’m sure they’ll just go and do something stupid with their new found freedom though (again).

  27. poliovaccine says:

    Sometimes I enjoy reading a good journal like this more than I even enjoy the game itself. I love Stellaris way too much for that to be true in this journal’s case, but it comes admirably close. More posts like this are always welcome!

  28. Replikant says:

    Stellaris starts much slower than Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis. Mechanics emerge as your empire grows, you don’t have to know everything right from the start.

  29. elroyscout says:

    That is basically what happened to me, except instead of moving my empire to the other side of the galaxy I sent two giant navy stacks of ships on suicide runs against their portals before I gave everything away, put all my population on chemical bliss living standards and then gave up because we were all doomed.

  30. Chicago Ted says:

    See, what I did when the Unbidden appeared was sent my doomstack navy directly to the breach point, two or so wormhole jumps away.
    It was the largest, grandest naval combat in the history of the galaxy. Never before, and never after, was there an engagement like it.

    I only wished that I could re-trigger their arrival with console commands, so that my steel could again be used on such worthy opponents.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      How did you defeat them with steel? I was using tier V kit and I still got wiped.

  31. b_dawson says:

    Stellaris goes for GOTY imo, still have a lotta fun playing this thing