Rapid Early Conquest – Stellaris Tactics

June 7, 2022 by Solar Cross

Rapid Early Conquest, or the Fleet Rush

Rapid Early Conquest, or the Fleet Rush, is the violent militarist’s equivalent to the pacifist’s Rapid Early Expansion. It is the choice opening gambit for militarist ethics, distinguished admirals and the xenocidal regimes like fanatic purifiers, determined exterminators and devouring swarms.

My overview of the Grand Fleet empire build that I updated for the Overlord DLC contains an brief example of Early Conquest. Although the Grand Fleet’s early rush was to acquire an early tributaries rather than early conquests.

The Rapid Early Conquest can be for taking tributaries or conquests, but there are some differences in the required inputs, as we shall see.

As a way of grabbing tributaries early, it is great way to start a Fleet Economy.

On Not Chasing Two Many Rabbits

He who chases two rabbits, catches neither.

– Confucius

The standard opening play for Stellaris is to survey local systems, then build outposts on them and fling colony ships at any habitable planets. Every alloy spent on outposts and colony ships however is not being spent on military fleets.

Rapid Early Conquest works by not doing the standard opening play and instead putting all alloys into a fleet first. While your neighbours are investing alloys into outposts and colonies, you will invest in the means to take them from them.

Ingredients of a Rapid Early Conquest

A prerequisite for executing any strategy, ploy or gambit is to know what inputs, or resources, are needed and ensure you have them.

A fleet rush obviously needs alloys to build a fleet. In order to build up a bigger fleet than your prey in the early game you do not really need too much extra alloy production. Just save alloys up by avoiding spending them on outposts and colonies.

A fully loaded corvette costs about a 100 alloys in the early game. An outpost costs about the same and a colony ship is roughly equivalent to 400 alloys. Every outpost you do not build is another corvette. Every colony ship is another four.

Naval Capacity is the next thing, but you do not need to too much and you can run over naval capacity too although it will cost more upkeep.

30 to 40 corvettes armed as a mix of interceptors and missile boats should be plenty for rapidly taking down any neighbour of equivalent overall power in the first 20 years. You might even get way with just 20 early enough.

Interceptors are for taking down enemy fleets while missile boats take down enemy starbases and outposts.

To take planets, especially without damaging them, you will want an assault army.

The final ingredient is influence, for making claims on your prey’s systems. Although this is not needed for tributary wars. Neither do Xenocidal regimes need influence for conquest.

If you are claiming systems for a conquest, prioritise systems with colonies if you do not have enough influence for every system. Planetary systems are the most valuable. If you get all planets, even if not all systems, then the prey empire will be eliminated.

Perils of a Early Rush

An early rush is a high risk but high reward gambit. If it succeeds you gain the power of your prey while not losing your own. However a big fleet on a small economy bleeds upkeep, if it fails to earn its keep through conquest then it reduces you in the long run.

Pick on Someone Your Own Size

At game start you can easily beat a neighbouring empire of equivalent overall power by prioritising building fleets over outposts. However depending on your game settings, not all empires in your local area may be of the same stature.

Fallen Empires and Marauders will be well beyond your power in these early years. Even regular empires can be too strong if they have an advanced start or start with a Federation origin like Common Purpose and Hegemon.

Isolated Start

A predator without prey will starve. At game start you have no idea where your prey is, or if they are even accessible. It can be that you roll a start that is far from potential prey or boxed in by stronger hostiles or empires.

This might be an ideal start for a peaceful economy build but if you are tricked out for war this is like being a fish in the desert.

Not Enough Ships

There is no such thing as overkill but it can be expensive. If you go in with too lean a fleet, you can lose. Losing is bad. What could have been the beginning of a victory snowball, would likely be a death spiral instead.

By investing in a fleet instead of an economy, you need a victory to make an return on investment. Defeat means a wasted investment.

How to Execute an Early Conquest

You can flip to a Belligerent diplomatic policy from the get go. Put your construction ship to sleep after building any stations in your home system.

As you get spare minerals you can trick out your home planet for more alloy output, but do not build any outposts. Save up the alloys. You will not need the trade bay in your starting starbase, swap it out for another shipyard for extra production speed.

Scout Out Your Prey

Your science ship goes out to explore the hyperlanes. Its mission is to find out where your neighbouring empires are as soon as possible. Do not waste time with slow surveys. Move fast down the main routes until you make contacts.

A second science ship can speed this up but the trade off is that the alloys will cost you a corvette.

Get your envoys deciphering contacts. Keep scouting with science ships until you are sure you have found a viable target. Explore the hyperlanes surrounding the contacts to ensure you have enough visibility to make all the claims you want once a contact is deciphered.

Military fleets will not go down unexplored hyperlanes. So once you have a target, make sure your science ship explores (not surveys) the quickest route to it.

Research Priorities

You have all the technology you need at game start for an early conquest. It makes sense to grab any weapon techs that come up though. Otherwise it does not really matter.


The Supremacy tradition has everything you want and everything in this tree is useful. Aim to get the discount on ship builds first before building your ships. Take the upkeep discount next.

Ideally you will want the bonus to fire rate and damage to starbases before the shooting starts.

Slip on a war doctrine when you finish the tree. Flip up the belligerent policy to supremacist when you can.

Mobilise for War

With two shipyards, fleets will build much faster than you can produce alloys. You can hold off building a fleet until almost the last minute. This will save you some upkeep and give time for traditions to unlock. You might even get some techs for weapons or shields, which will save an upgrade.

Once contact is made and you are sure it is a valid target, not a Fallen Empire for example, drop all you saved alloys on one or two fleets depending on fleet capacity. Send them on their way.

You can start building a ground army too now, 6 transports should be enough in the early years.

Make Claims

After resolving a contact, but before declaring war, make all the claims you need. Obviously this is not required for a subjugation war or for the Xenocidals.

If you have not spent influence on outposts then you should have plenty with which to make claims, depending on the distance.

Declare War and Pile In

With your fleet made and on route, you can now declare war on your prey. If you catch them early enough, they will likely have only one starbase and little in the way of fleets. They may have more than one colony but only the home system will be worth anything.

Take that starbase and the put an army down on the main planet and the war will be won.

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

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