How to Colony Rush for the Win in Stellaris

August 13, 2022 by Solar Cross

The colony, or planet, rush is an early game strategy for Stellaris. It has two variants, the fast colony rush and the slow colony rush. Slow colony rush sounds like a contradiction but it is not as we shall see.

We could consider the colony rush as a kind of REX strategy. See my article on how to REX in Stellaris.

The Nature of a Colony Rush

Fast or slow, the colony rush is a kind of REX strategy that heavily prioritises grabbing planets over just systems in general.

Systems with planets have the highest potential value because planets can be colonised and grow pops. A well populated and productive colony will produce vastly more resources than any unpopulated system without a megastructure.

On the other hand colonies also take a longish time to start producing a return on investment. The value of planets is also subject to habitability issues.

The Fast Colony Rush

The fast colony rush is where the empire prioritises claiming planetary systems and rushes to settle them early. The sooner a colony is founded, the sooner pop growth begins.

The Slow Colony Rush

It sounds like a contradiction in terms to have a slow rush. A colony rush has two parts: claiming systems with planets and founding colonies on planets. The slow rush is where we rush to claim planets but hold off on actually colonising them until later.

The reason for going fast on the first part and slow on the latter might be because the overall strategy requires many colonies but there are habitability issues to solve before actually founding them. The rush then is to secure sites for future colonisation, not a rush to found colonies.

An advantage of the slow rush over the fast rush is that the substantial resources needed to build colonyships can be used to build more outposts instead.

Who Should Colony Rush?

Some faction builds are better suited to a planet grabbing focus than others. Militarists should probably use the early conquest strategy instead. Peaceful builds, rich in influence but limited by habitability, should do a standard REX.

Peaceful builds, poor in influence but less limited by habitability should optimally choose to colony rush for their opening game.

Planets ultimately need pops to be worth anything so empires and playstyles that are pop focused should also prioritise the colony rush.

Gestalt empires do not have to deal with trade routes and the piracy they attract. Consequently system skipping without backfilling is more viable for Gestalts. Gestalts can potentially do the most extreme kind of colony rush where only planetary systems are claimed.

Although certain regular organic builds can do an extreme colony rush also if they plan on spinning off disconnected sectors as subsidiaries, tributaries or vassals.

Machine Intelligences have no issues with habitability at all but relatively slow pop growth. The fast colony rush suits the machine intelligence.

Hive Minds have fast pop growth but are limited by habitability. Hive minds should prefer the slow colony rush. There are options for solving habitability that open up over time, so any planet can be grabbed early for settling later.

How to Colony Rush

Before a planet can be claimed or colonised it must be found. Planets are visible to science ships without needing a survey. Surveys are slow, so to find the most planets early we should have our science ships explore first.

When a planetary system is found, survey it to allow it to be claimed by a construction ship.

Fast Colony Rush

In a fast colony rush we want to get pop growth going early. So we shepherd our resources for building colonyships ready to colonise planets as soon as claimed.

Slow Colony Rush

The slow colony rush is about maximising the number of planets available to use later in the game. In a slow rush we reserve our resources for building outposts in planetary systems, delaying colonyships until later.

Trade Routes

If trade is relevant to your empire then you will want to also survey and claim paths between claimed planetary systems and your capital.

Trade routes can pass though unclaimed territory and territory owned by rivals (if their borders are open to you) but piracy is easier to deter in owned systems.

If trade is not relevant, then you are free to skip over all systems without planets.

Borders, Open or Closed

An important consideration when skipping systems will be your policy on borders. If your borders are open then rivals will eventually settle those unclaimed systems that you skipped over. This is not necessarily a huge strategic weakness, but it can mean parts of your empire are difficult to support with your fleets, depending on your relations with the rival and technology like gateways and jump drives.

Fortunately the Orbital Rings introduced with the Overlord dlc can greatly improve the potential defensive value of isolated planetary systems.

If your borders are closed then rivals will tend to get blocked from accessing skipped systems. However rivals will tend to mirror your own border policy. If your neighbours have closed their borders to you then that can limit your expansion opportunities.

Isolated Systems

System skipping can allow you to maximise your peaceful claims on planetary systems but can also result in those systems becoming isolated by the border policy of other empires.

This can make defending the system more challenging. For a slow colony rush it can also mean being unable to send a colonyship to it.

The solution is to upgrade your outpost in the system to a starbase and build a shipyard module in it. Then simply build your colonyship in the system itself.

The shipyard could also be used to build a system specific defensive fleet to further enhance the fleetpower of the system beyond that of defensive platforms.

It is possible to build military ships without FTL drives for a saving in alloys and upkeep too. In an isolated system they will not have access to the hyperlane network anyway.

There it is, a brief guide to the colony rush for Stellaris.

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