Stellaris – Best Starting Setups

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One of the most important, if not the most important, decisions you will ever make in a game is your starting setup. Sometimes called a build or even a loadout, your build will determine a lot about how you play the game.

A build will determine your empire’s power level, how you interact with other empires, what technology is available to them, and a lot more besides that. A question a lot of new players have is: what are the best starting set-ups in Stellaris?

Recommended Read: Best Federation Types in Stellaris

This guide will cover a few different builds you can try out for yourself in your future games of Stellaris. They each focus on a theme, and while none of them would be considered meta, that does not make them any less interesting to play.

The best starting builds in Stellaris are ones that are easy to play and enable players to play the theme of empire they desire. This guide will cover a pacifist build, a genocidal build, a military powerhouse build, a machine empire build, and a build for becoming the emperor.

Table of Contents

The Best Starting Setups in Stellaris

Before we get into the setups, it is important to distinguish what a build comprises. There are a lot of decisions to make during empire creation, but only a handful of them have any direct impact on gameplay.

When you create a new empire to play as you select a species, you name it, choose a home world type, determine your empire’s ethics, select an authority, choose an origin, design a flag, nominate your ship’s appearance, select an advisor voice, and pick a ruler.

Some of these are nothing choices. When creating a build, we only care about species type, species traits, government authority, ethics, civics, and origin.

Sometimes, the type of ruler is important, but we are dabbling in min-max or role-play territory there.

If you know nothing about builds or how the system works, do not worry. There is a full guide here on Gamer Empire that walks you through the process of creating an empire from scratch.

It teaches you a great beginner build and has tonnes of handy tips for getting the most out of it. Start there and come back here after.

Genocidal Build

Playing as a genocidal empire is not for everyone, but everyone should try it once. For those who don’t know, a genocidal empire cares about only one thing: destroying all life in the galaxy.

This disables any diplomacy you can have with other empires, bar declaring war on them.

There are three flavors of genocidal empires: robotic exterminators, biological life eaters, and religious fanatics. Fanatical purifiers are the route we will take, as this one impacts the game the least.

Beginning at origin, I advise the clone army origin. This has a cool story to follow and makes your people designed for war. You’ll be doing a lot of war, so it will help.

Species traits will be jinxed, intelligent, and enduring. Jinxed is a new trait that is about as free as negative traits get.

Intelligent is the best trait in the game. You want to tech-rush this empire, and this is a great way to set it off on the right foot. As you will only have one species, you will always get this bonus.

Enduring exists only to counteract the clone soldier’s short life span. You get that trait from your origin.

Authority will be democratic to enable us to take the meritocracy civic. The second civic is the backbone of this build and is the fanatic purifiers civic; without this, your empire will not be a genocidal one.

To enable fanatic purifiers civic, you need to be a fanatic xenophobe and have either militarist or spiritualist civic as your other choice. Either is fine, but I recommend the militarist ethic.

The build has strong military might and research potential. Your enemies will rue the day they crossed paths with you.

Pacifist Build

On the complete other side of the spectrum is the pacifist empire. War isn’t the only path in Stellaris, and this build seeks to enable that play style.

Beginning at ethics this time, you want to be a fanatic pacifist and a spiritualist. Think of this empire as a group of space-faring monks.

For civics, you want agrarian idylls and mining guilds. Both of these will help your economy grow at a healthy rate. Expansion is slow with a pacifist empire, and this will offset that.

The origin will be syncretic evolution. This will give you a second species in your empire; they won’t be as smart as your primary species but will be useful in menial jobs.

Your primary species should adopt the traits of traditional and natural sociologists. Your syncretic species should be jinxed and slow learners; they can’t become leaders, so these are free trait points.

For positive traits, they should be rapid breeders and strong. These will synergize with the servile trait they must possess.

As for authority, it is a free choice. I would recommend Imperial, as this will further increase the resources from job bonuses you get from your previous trait picks. If you don’t want to take Imperial, feel free to pick something else.

This build relies on a slow and steady expansion policy. Make the most of what you have at your disposal, make allies with your neighbors, and overcome galactic threats together.

Forming a federation and developing a strong economy will empower this a lot. If you seek a nice change of pace from constant space battles, this is a great build to try.

Machine Empire Build

This build will need the Synthetic Dawn DLC to play. This DLC allows you to play as robots and is one of the best ones that you can buy for Stellaris.

You need to select a species portrait from the machine section during empire creation. If you don’t, you can’t select the machine intelligence authority and thus cannot play as a robotic empire.

Moving on from that, selecting an origin is easy. The best origin for machines is resource consolidation. This turns your home system into a machine world.

Machine worlds stack tonnes of bonuses for robotic pops, making it an easy choice.

The traits for your robots involve two negative picks and two positive picks. Starting at the negative, you should use repurposed hardware and high bandwidth. As you unlock more build points, you can remove these traits if you wish.

For positive traits, you should use superconductive and logic engines. Machine empires live and die by their energy output and research production. Having these traits will make the game easier for you.

The last part of the build is the civics. Rapid replicators are a great choice here to grow your population quickly. Next is introspective, which pairs very well with the logic engines trait we picked earlier in the build.

Playing machines is different from a standard empire. Other space nations will be wary of you, more so for spiritualist empires. Making allies is difficult, but who said you had to be friends with everyone?

Spread out fast with this empire; use your 100% habitability on all planets to expand faster than your neighbors. If they try to mess with you, put them in their place.

Become the Galactic Emperor Build

If you’ve played a few games of Stellaris now and maybe even won a game, it may be time to set a challenge for yourself.

One common challenge is embracing your inner Palpatine and forming a galactic empire. This is a long-term goal and not an easy one to achieve, which is why designing a build around completing that goal is vital.

By far the most important aspect of this build is picking the correct origin. If you have designs on becoming the galactic emperor, there is no better origin than the hegemon one. This will make you head of a hegemony federation at the beginning of the game.

Being president of a hegemony will eventually allow you to force other nations into your federation, whether they like it or not. Of course, you will have to fight them first.

If you can get a good chunk of the galaxy into your hegemony, your diplomatic weight will become so vast that the rest of the galaxy won’t be able to stop you from declaring yourself emperor.

I dare you to try and take over the galaxy this way without saying to yourself, “I am the senate.” It is not possible.

Civics will focus on increasing your military and economic power. For that, we take distinguished admiralty and masterful crafters.

Ethics will be authoritarian, xenophile, and militarist. You can replace authoritarian with fanatic xenophile if you think you need the extra envoys to level up your federation faster.

For traits, we are keeping it simple and only taking the thrifty trait. This will synergize with our xenophile ethic and create a lot of energy credits for your empire.

Take any authority you want; it doesn’t matter in this build. Imperial is a good role-play choice.

Military Powerhouse Build

Just because your empire loves war doesn’t mean they want to destroy all life in the galaxy. A true military powerhouse build will never be as strong as a genocidal build, but that shouldn’t stop you.

Ethics is a bit of an obvious choice; you want fanatic militarist. The second choice will be materialist. The research bonuses will help us unlock stronger weapons faster and enable us to take a very strong civic.

Government authority is a tough one, but I think the best choice for this build is dictatorial.

Stronger leaders are starting to become better in Stellaris, and strong military leaders can make or break close battles. More so at higher difficulties, which this build aims to be viable in.

For species traits, take unruly as your negative trait. For positive traits, you want to be adaptive and industrious. This enables faster growth, and you want a lot of minerals so you can create a strong military fast.

Civics are distinguished admiralty for the combat boons and technocracy for the research boons. More firepower from one and the other unlocks better firepower faster.

Keep it simple with origin and go with the vanilla choice of prosperous unification. You can experiment with others if you like. Clone army could be a good choice as well, or the here be dragons one as well.

Don’t let anyone push you around when you run this build. If your neighbor has something you want, go and take it from them.

Focus on military powers when it comes to selecting research projects, and enjoy being the schoolyard bully.

Creating Your Favorite Sci-fi Faction in Stellaris

Stellaris’s empire creation is so diverse and open that you can create almost any kind of faction you want. One of the most fun things you can do is recreate some of your favorite factions from popular media.

The Federation, the Jedi, the Imperium of Man, the Geth, and anything else you can think of can become playable races for you to use.

When creating one of these factions, you should start with ethics and build around whatever you decide. The most important point is that you are never going to be able to create a perfect copy of the faction without modding the game.

Once you have your ethics selected, move on to civics and government authority. Where it gets a bit harder is selecting your species traits.

Species traits can be a bit vague in a lot of cases. I mean, which species from science fiction would produce extra unity or have less ethics attraction?

When it comes to species traits, I would recommend choosing traits that complement any previous choices you made. The exception, of course, is when some traits make the most sense.

If you were making the Ogryn from Warhammer 40,000, you are, of course, taking the very strong and slow learners traits.

For some players, this build craft is their favorite part of the game. Go try it out and see what you think.

This is everything you need to know about the best starting setups for Stellaris.

If you have any questions or suggestions for this guide, please let us know in the comments section below. As always, have fun playing with the best builds in Stellaris.

Simon Neve

Simon lives in Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. When not caring for his family, Simon enjoys video games, board games, and tabletop roleplaying games. When playing isn't an option he writes about them instead.

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