How to Build Effective Starbases in Stellaris – Complete Guide

May 6, 2022 by Solar Cross

In this article we will cover for you all the must-to-know strategies for starbases in Stellaris. I have split it in two parts, Basic and Advanced. If you know the difference between an outpost and a starport, starbase buildings and starbase modules, then you can probably skip to the Advanced section.

Starbases the Basics

You just picked up the game and are still learning the ropes and the tropes. The first thing to learn about starbases is the terminology. A starbase is the star system infrastructure that determines and helps defend system ownership. It may also perform other jobs depending on its upgrade level and the extra components installed.

They come in five increasing levels of size and capability: outpost, starport, starhold, starfortress and citadel.


The most basic starbase is the outpost. Construction ship build them to claim a system. It is, more or less, just a flag, but a flag with a bit of a weapon.

The only thing it can do, besides signal who owns the system, is to weakly take pot shots at enemy entities near it. It is armed with just one instance of the most advanced missile weapon that the owner’s technology allows.

You can add up to three defence platforms to give the outpost a bit more firepower. However if you want a starbase that is more than an armed flag then you can spend some alloy to upgrade an outpost to a Starport.

Starports and Beyond

A starport is a qualitative improvement over an outpost. It still signals system ownership but it is not just a tougher outpost. Starports open up some slots for adding additional special functionality. It can also repair ships docked to it.

Starbase Capacity

Starports are also the first level of starbase to count against a limit called Starbase Capacity. Starbase Capacity grows with Empire Size. Certain, edicts, civics and technologies also can increase it.

Starbase Capacity is a soft limit just like naval capacity. You can be exceed it but doing so progressively increases the upkeep cost.

Outposts are not counted for Starbase Capacity and do not appear in the Outlier on the right hand side of the UI.

Upgrade Technology

All starbases up from starports are just starports with more expansion slots, more hull points, more included weapons, more capacity for defence platforms and more upkeep. The upgrade path goes: Starport > Starhold > Starfortress > Citadel.

Successive upgrades and special expansions are gated behind specific technologies.

The Citadel technology is a requirement for the important Mega Engineering technology. See here for a guide on how to rush research through to Citadels for getting to Mega Engineering.

Expanded Special Functions

As already mentioned, starbases of starport level and beyond can be customised to provide additional functions. These expansions are of two types: modules and buildings.

The simplest way to understand the difference between starbase modules and buildings is that modules are repeatables and buildings are not.

Modules increase the capability of the expansion type with each one. Eg: 2 shipyards will build ships twice as fast as 1 shipyard.

Starbase buildings are restricted to only one of each type per starbase. Usually this makes sense for most buildings. A crew quarters building reduces upkeep for docked ships. There is not a good case for stacking that modifier with multiple crew quarters.

However there are some expansions that are buildings that would make more sense as modules. I am thinking of the storage silos and hydroponics bays here. There does not seem to be a good reason why a starbase could not have more than one silo or hydroponic for extra capability, just the same as solar collectors and anchorages.

Starbases in War

If an enemy defeats a starbase then either one of two things will happen, depending on the nature of the enemy.

Occupied by Regular Empires

If the enemy that defeated it is a rival regular empire during a war then it temporarily change ownership to the enemy. The starbase will now temporarily fight for that enemy once it has repaired itself but remain owned by whoever had it before. The occupying enemy can also use it to repair their ships, if it is a starport or better.

That is until the conclusion of the war where it may change sides depending on claims, occupation and the conditions of the how the war ended.

Owned or Occupied by Genocidal Empire

A starbase will completely change sides if it is captured by an enemy empire with one of the genocidal civics, like Determined Exterminator or Devouring Swarm, or if it is owned by a genocidal.

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Starbases for the Advanced

At game start your first and only starbase is a starport in your home system. It is configured as a hybrid of shipyard and trade station, or a shipyard and solar collector for empires that do not use trade.

Starbase Strategy

The main purpose of upgraded starbases is to function as castles. They help secure territory from enemies through static defence weapons and provide the means to build, repair and upgrade military and civilian ships.

They can also host certain specialist economic and research functions.

An effective Starbase strategy revolves around proper placement and proper configuration.

Effective Starbase Configurations

Colony Castle

Probably most of your starbases will be of this type. The main job of a starbase is to function as a space castle, defending territory from enemies. It makes sense to place them to guard the most valuable systems in your empire. Almost invariably the most valuable systems in your empire will be the ones with inhabited systems. We can call this type of starbase a Colony Castle.

Successful planetary invasions are one the best ways to advance warscore. Consequently building up starbases in inhabited systems helps to deny easy victories to enemies. A system’s starbase must be subdued before a planetary invasion can proceed.

There are also a couple of starbase buildings that offer useful functions to colonies in the system. The Deep Space Black Site increases stability in system colonies and the Transit Hub allows unemployed pops to spontaneously relocate to other systems with Transit Hubs.

Also any upgraded starbase will collect trade resources produced in the system it occupies. A few trade resources hang about in open space but the vast majority is produced by inhabited colonies. An upgraded starbase in an inhabited system silently helps move trade too.

There are a lot of different ways to configure a Colony Castle but an ideal one might look like this when fully upgraded:

Modules: 0 to 6 hangar bays (defence + trade protection), 0-1 shipyards (for upgrades), 0-6 trade bays (for collecting loose trade resources from open space).

Buildings: Deep Space Black Site, Transit Hub

Remaining buildings would be defence buildings or resource buildings like the silo, depending on need.

Primary Shipyard

There is a good case for distributing shipyard modules across an empire. Any upgraded starbase can repair ships but only a starbase with at least one shipyard module can build and upgrade ships.

Multiple shipyards in multiple systems gives security through redundancy but also reduces the journey times when upgrading and reinforcing. A single shipyard module in any type of starbase, such as a colony castle or a border fort, can do this.

However it will make sense to create a dedicated shipyard starbase once the Fleet Academy building is unlocked.

Fully upgraded, this starbase would have all six modules fitted with shipyards.

It would have Crew Quarters, Fleet Academy, Titan Assembly and Collossus Assembly in its building slots.

Since this type of starbase needs all four of its building slots, it is best sited in an uninhabited system.

This starbase is not well suited to defending a system either since it will have no defence orientated modules or buildings.

Because it will build the majority of military ships it is best placed close, or in, a system with enhanced connectivity such as a Gateway system or Wormhole. The caveat here is that shorter journeys to the front also means shorter journeys for enemy fleets to your primary shipyard.

An interesting site for a dedicated shipyard is in a nebula. A nebula will hide the fleet being built or stationed there.

A bad site for a dedicated shipyard would be a Neutron Star system, because that will impact ship movements.

If a shipyard is near the front and is likely to be attacked while a friendly fleet is docked then a command center might make a good building to throw in. If there is space. A command center increases the fire rate of friendly ships in the system. This does not just affect defence platforms but also military fleets.

Prmary Shipyard Sited in the Amor Alveo System

If you have run the pacify projects for amoeba or crystal entities then you could site a primary shipyard in a system like Amor Alveo where they live.

Dedicated Anchorage

Anchorage modules increase naval capacity. They can be shoved in on any starbase that has a spare module. However once the Naval Logistics Office is available, it can make sense to create a dedicated anchorage starbase to maximise the benefit of the Naval Logistics Office.

It has to be said there is more than one way to increase naval capacity besides anchorages. If you are long on planets but short on starbase capacity it would make more sense to increase naval capacity through planetary fortress buildings.

The dedicated anchorage starbase can be helpful for empires with few planets but large fleet needs. Since a dedicated anchorage is short of modules but long on spare starbase buildings it is good type of starbase to combine with special functions like servicing enclaves or blackhole observatories, see below.

Trade Hub

A dedicated Trade Hub is one that maxes out Trade Hub modules and has an Offworld Trading Company in a building slot. Situationally, it might also have a Hyperlane Registrar building to push out its collection range a bit.

Ideally all inhabited systems would have an upgraded starbase to defend it, see Colony Castels above. Also every upgraded starbase will collect trade resources from its own system, and inhabited systems produce the most trade.

Consequently the best case for a dedicated, fully upgraded Trade Hub is for collecting trade resources from open space far from inhabited sectors. This is not a very common situation.

Fully upgraded it can collect trade from up to eight jumps away with the Mercantile tradition taken and the Hyperlane Registrar.

Border Fort

Once you have all your inhabited systems covered with starbases and you still have spare starbase capacity you might think about putting a starbase in a system bordering a likely enemy.

Generally, a border fort would be kitted out for war. Preferably it would be sited on a choke point, to reduce the chances of the enemy simply bypassing it. Although when jump drives become available border forts can be easily bypassed.

If you play offensively it could host a shipyard for timely upgrades and reinforcements. If you play defensively it could host a listening post for early warning of enemy ship movements. A high intel on the enemy empire will do more than any listening post though.

Base modules would of course be stacked Batteries and / or Hangar Bays supplemented with defence platforms and suitable defence buildings.

If you have to choose between a border fort and a colony castle always go colony castle. Border forts can be bypassed without engagement but a colony castle is always in the way of a wartime objective.

Trade Route Defender / Piracy Suppressor

Trade Routes attract piracy. Any starbase kitted out with Gun Batteries, Missile Batteries and Hangar Bays will suppress piracy. Since most Colony Castles will stock some of those then that might suffice for piracy suppression.

Occasionally though there will be a stretch of trade route that is too long to be policed by Colony Castles. You can periodically patrol a fleet along such routes to suppress piracy. However if you would rather have a more passive solution and have the spare starbase capacity then dedicated a Piracy Suppression Starbase may suit.

A Piracy Suppressor starbase maxes out Hangar Bays, or if Hangar Bays are not available yet Gun and Missile Batteries. It would be sited midway between the ends of a vulnerable route, wherever it would maximise trade protection.

Rather like an anchorage this starbase is short of modules but long on buildings. Spare building slots can be used to house silos or hydroponics.

Special Function

Occasionally special systems will fall within your domain for which special starbase buildings can be built. These include enclaves, nebulas (for nebula mining), blackholes and systems with ice worlds for Hydrocentric empires.

Usually these special functions can be serviced with just one starbase building. By itself that is a bit of waste of Starbase Capacity so it pays to think of how that special site can be combined with another function, such as an dedicated anchorage or trade hub.

Use the Environment

A few systems in Stellaris have special environment conditions in them. They are nebulae, black holes, pulsars and neutron stars.

If you site a starbase in them it makes sense to take into account these effects when plotting configuration especially their defence systems.

Null Defender

I like to have a design of defence platform which is armoured instead of shielded and kitted out with anti-armour weapons. These I place on starbases in pulsar systems where shields are nullified.

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Final Thoughts

That is it for this guide to effective starbases in Stellaris. Was it helpful? What kind of configurations do you employ?

Share this article to my twitter @SolarCrossGames or my reddit community r/SolarCrossGames and let’s chat about it.

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