The Grand Fleet – Updated for Overlord

May 16, 2022 by Solar Cross

You are probably here from my original article about The Grand Fleet empire build for Stellaris. If not then you might want to take a look at it for better context before reading on.

The Grand Fleet is my first published empire build and still one of my most favourite. It was originally published before the Nemesis DLC came out though.

Nemesis made it a little harder in the early game because those important tributary war declarations were locked away behind layers of Intel. Harder, but not impossible.

This article is about The Grand Fleet revised and replayed for the Overlord DLC.

The Grand Fleet massing to revenge against a Fallen Empire

Overlord Vassals

Overlord has made the early game much more interesting and easier for the Grand Fleet because of the reduced barriers to declaring tributary wars. The new vassal mechanics do not change things too much for them though. We mostly want tributaries and tributaries work much the same as they did before.

In my playthrough I did play around with the new specialist vassals, just because they are new features. I am not really sure they are worth the bother though. Basic tributaries work just fine. They give energy, minerals and now also food but what we mostly want is alloys. We can use automatic trades in the market to do that conversion though and we can do our own research. Not every one of our pops has to be a soldier.

Revised Initial Build Recipe

I made a few changes to the primary species traits but otherwise it is the same as before.

Key elements are the civics Distinguished Admiralty and Citizen Service taken together. Distinguished Admiralty is even better in Overlord as now admirals and generals start at level 3. Citizen Service is as before I think, extra naval capacity and unity from soldier jobs.

The 3rd civic I took, when I could unlock it, was Nationalistic Zeal, mostly for the benefit against war exhaustion. Obviously since I was making tributaries I did not really use the discount on claims.

If I played again I think I would trade Xenophile for Egalitarian or Materialist. Of course Fanatical Militarist is the key ethic.

The Origin is still Void Dwellers. Partly that is thematic, I enjoy the idea of a naval civilisation living in what are essentially big space ships without engines.

Void Dwellers is also pretty useful too. It allows us to have a relatively large number of building slots for a small population. This is important for spamming fortresses to get naval cap way up. We can put them anywhere too.

The species traits I kept are Traditional for unity from our numerous soldiers and politicians. Quick Learners to keep our admirals and generals improving still more.

Slow Breeders is our penalty which together with the pop growth penalty for Voidborn makes our Pylot pops almost the slowest growing possible. Pops is power, as some say, but for an overlord of multiple tributaries really it is other empire’s pops is our power… Actually for us fleet power is power.

All that our few pops have to do is give us a 1000+ naval capacity so we can run a total fleet power larger than a fallen empire by the mid game. The tributaries pay for everything else.

Changes to Species Traits

I swapped Conservationist and Communal out for Resilient and Strong. This is just to make our ground armies better. Some might think that is of debatable value given wars are mostly won by fleets. This is true to a point. However if our space castles are almost impossible to take then we can weather war exhaustion still better. Even if our fleets do not always win.

Landing armies on planets is still a great way of speeding up enemy war exhaustion and increasing war score. It is also less destructive to our future clients than nuking their planets from orbit. We are fanatical militarists not fanatical purifiers.

Conservationist and Communal are generally good traits that do something for every pop with them, but they are best for empires with lots of pops and especially pops with high upkeep from living standards and so on. That does not apply to The Grand Fleet really.

Example Play

What follows is a brief account of my first game of Stellaris since the Overlord came out, using The Grand Fleet.

Opening Moves

We will employ the early conquest gambit of course. I flip diplomatic policy from the default expansionist to belligerent. Later we will go Supremacist when we unlock it.

We will not be building any outposts in order to save early alloys for ships. We knock out another science ship and both go off to explore (not survey!) to find our neighbours fast.

First tradition is supremacy. Early research priorities are any ship and weapon techs. We change out the trade bay in our starbase for another shipyard. We also gradually try to increase naval capacity by turning our initial colonies into fortress worlds.

Five years in and we have found a fallen empire to the south and another contact to the west.

The first contact is revealed as a Fallen Empire just to the South. No hope targeting them! Nevermind they do not block us in so we keep looking.

The contact to the west is revealed to be Orks, another of my wacky builds you can read about here. They are modeled after the Orks of Warhammer 40k and every bit as fighty as the Grand Fleet. Not an ideal first tributary but an easier target than the fallen empire to the south.

I build a fleet and send it off now to be in place for when I declare a tributary war on the Orks. On the way there I hit an amoeba roadblock. It dies and I get some energy credits. I send the battered fleet back for repair and reinforcements before making back at the Orks.

First attack run on the Orks hits an amoeba roadblock.

While we were building up a fleet the Orks were investing their alloys into colony ships and outposts. Their investment will now be our investment. While we are showing the Orks who is boss, the next target is revealed to the north.

The empire to the north of the Orks are the Exodites. They are another of my Warhammer 40k faction builds, space elves with a Life Seeded origin.

Orks nearly defeated and the next tributary revealed to the north.

The Orks surrender and we get our first paycheck. No time to rest though, because the space elves are waiting to be our next one.

Orks become a tributary and course is set for the Exodites

Building Up a Portfolio of Tributaries

That is how it goes, rinse and repeat. With each new tributary I get more and more raw resources as tax. I dump it into the market to buy alloys. Turn more of my pops into soldiers to increase naval capacity. Then build a bigger and bigger fleet to go on and take the next tributary.

I make a tributary out of an empire with two vassals. Those vassals become my vassals.

I am aiming for tributaries only, not other kinds of vassals. However I accidentally acquire two vassals when I take a tributary that had two small vassals of their own. These get transferred to me. Later I use these two vassals to experiment with the new specialist vassals introduced in Overlord.

This is how I grow until my domain covers a third of the map but my Empire Size remained in double digits. Some of the new tributaries include the tricksy Skaven and the Paperclip Maximiser.


It could not be that easy though and it was not. I encountered Chaos Undivided to the far north west. They are a criminal syndicate and scions for the fallen empire just to the south of my capital, quite a nasty combo it turns out.

They were filling me and my vassals with crime, so I thought I would give them the smack down with an expropriation war. That was going fine until I received intel that my latest tributary the sneaky Skaven were planning an attack.

It turns out that vassals in Overlord track the relative strength of all of an overlord’s subjects versus their overlord. There is also an opinion penalty for having multiple vassals and I had loads.

When the Skaven did attack they took most of my tributaries with them on their side. It was a long fight. I had to refight half a dozen different tributaries at the same time. Luckily I had a huge fleet and stockpiles. Besides fortresses, my colonies always include a silo for extra loot storage.

The needed war score to win was huge because I had so many vassals with so much area to cover. In the end I had to settle for white peace at 100% war exhaustion. The Skaven did become independent but at a terrible cost to them because I occupied all their systems. They were only left with a few surrounded colonies.

Skaven independent but impoverished and surrounded.

Before I had only one system and 4 habitats under direct ownership. Now I had this whole mess of systems. Eventually I would spin them off under vassals while just keeping a few for forward shipyards. One system that I kept had the new Salvager Enclave which was a handy addition to a shipyard.

This area of the map was heavily reworked by numerous wars and rebellions and sector gerrymandering to create vassals. In the end I reacquired all the treacherous Skaven pictured above and spun them off as two weaker vassals.

I tried in vain to try to get them to become prospectoriums but to no avail. The stable solution was to just make them tributaries again.

Union view mid game. Vassals and tributaries are yellow, directly owned is green.


After that rebellion I became more cautious and growth stalled a bit. I did discover that the Shared Destiny ascension perk now takes away the negative penalties for having multiple vassals. That makes it a priceless take for the Grand Fleet playstyle. I wish I had taken it earlier.

The next major series of contests was with Chaos Undivided or rather with their Fallen Empire overlords. They kept declaring on me or my vassals and dragging massive 220k fleet power fallen empire fleets into it.

It was a real pain. Over and over again they declared and I had to surrender, forcing me out of the supremacist stance and auto killing my ruler. I vowed bitter revenge.

I kept building and building up my fleet until it matched the power of the fallen. Then when they declared I piled into the Fallen Empire and took their worlds. Well it was not quite that easy. It took one or two tries to nibble them down. At the time of writing they have one world left.

The Fallen Empire down to their last world.


The endgame is approaching now but I am in a good situation. I am leading on score although lagging a bit on tech. Although I do have fancy Fallen techs from researching their debris. I will turn the Fallen Worlds into tech worlds since their pops are good at tech. Or maybe try to make them into a Scholarium.

My naval capacity is 1200k ish but I have the population and resources now to double that probably. Bring on the Crisis.

I have all, or most, of this game recorded so perhaps when I get time I will make a video about it and stick it on youtube. If I do you will see it here.

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

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