The Grand Fleet – A Stellaris Empire Build

October 11, 2020 by Solar Cross

“Where some states have an army, the Prussian Army has a state.”

– Voltaire
The Grand Fleet


Most empires will spend to have a fleet to protect their wealth, for this empire the fleet is its wealth. The Grand Fleet is an entire empire specialised to run as close to being a pure professional standing army as can be done in Stellaris. All its economic support is (involuntarily) outsourced to tributaries. The tributary war is the mechanic that makes this empire possible. It is also what enables this empire to be both highly aggressive militarily and highly sprawl efficient (“a tall empire”) at the same time. Tribute is a sprawl free resource, but conquered systems and colonies are not.

See my article Tall vs Wide Strategies in Stellaris – A Deep Dive for a deeper look at sprawl efficiency – tall vs wide playing styles.

Tribute instead of conquest as reward for war is also what enables this empire to remain a pure military all the way through the game. Conquest in contrast gradually turns the warrior into a civilian because each acquisition of property demands economic management, which is a civilian’s trade.

Recommended reading: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein.

Build Characteristics

Civics: Citizen Service, Distinguished Admiralty.

Ethics: Fanatical Militarist, Xenophile / Egalitarian

Species Traits: Void Dweller, Traditional, Quick Learner, Communal, Conservationist, Slow Breeders

Government: Oligarchy

Origin: Void Dwellers


The engine of this build are the two civics Citizen Service and Distinguished Admiralty. Citizen Service makes soldier jobs give Unity points on top of naval capacity and give a 15% increase in naval capacity across the whole empire. Distinguished Admiralty bumps up the level cap for admirals, increases ship fire rate and increases the fleet cap. Together these civics allow the maximisation of fleet size and power.

Soldier Jobs vs Anchorages for Naval Capacity

Soldier jobs are not the only source of increasing naval capacity but we want to use all of them and soldier jobs give us the most control. The techs that increase naval capacity come up randomly and the number of starbases decked out with anchorages we can build is fairly limited. Also anchorages compete with shipyards and we quite want to make the majority of our starbases into forward shipyards. As our tributary hegemony spreads across the galaxy the distance from our home shipyard will lengthen. Having forward shipyards will enable us to build, refit and upgrade closer to the front line for a quicker turn around.

If we will employ a lot of soldiers then it makes sense to make them even more productive by getting Unity from them too. The species trait Traditional works well with this too. An additional benefit of soldier jobs is that they make our colonies massively harder to take by spawning extra defensive armies.

Ethics Considerations

Naturally Fanatical Militarist will be the ethic with the best synergy with these civics.

For the remaining ethic point I believe it is best spent on Xenophile as incongruous as it may seem for a military build. Egalitarian is not a bad alternative though. We do not need the extra Influence but a bonus to specialists is useful for knocking out more research and alloy production. Xenophile is handy for sweetening up our tributaries after the war is won and for multiplying our diplomatic weight in the Galactic Community once that is founded.

If one wanted to run this build still harder towards a pure military then we could replace all our metallurgists with soldiers and researchers and simply buy our alloys from the market or our tributaries. In this variant strategy the Egalitarian ethic offers us still less and Xenophile becomes even more relatively attractive.

One disadvantage to Xenophile is that it disables “no refugees” as a policy option. Our colonies being orbital habitats do not really want to be open to migration from anything other than fellow void dwellers. However we can still “accept only citizen species” as refugees and if we never open a migration treaty with anyone then that will keep that to our own kind.

Alternatively we could accept migrants but then re-settle them on a planet as a kind of galactic refugee centre.

Government Type

For government type we have to go with Oligarchical although Dictatorial or Imperial would be a bit more useful because of the extra edict. This is because the civic Citizen Service disallows Dictatorial and Imperial government types. Democracy is available but does not work well for us. The terms are too short and the campaigns for winning unity are simply useless clutter to our lean and mean strategy. Oligarchical works fine though.

General Strategy in Play

Opening Moves

From game start we want to get our Science ship off in a search pattern looking to make early contact with the nearest civilisations. To be clear, the ship will be Exploring (fast) not Surveying (slow). We do not need to survey at all really and certainly not in the beginning. It is crucial however to find our first target tributary as early as possible.

The construction ship can build any mining stations it needs to in our starting system then go to sleep! We will not waste any alloys on claiming systems that we could spend on warships.

Our colonies will replace buildings, as the minerals become available, to retool for making alloys. We will start with replacing the useless Bureaucracy building. The artisan building will be switched next.

To assist this ramping up of alloy production we will switch to a militarised production policy for the alloy bonus and switch to consumer goods for our trade policy to make up for the deficit of consumer goods.

Initial research will go on whatever ship, armour or weapon systems are available.

We will try to build at least one fortress to get our naval capacity up a notch.

Once a potential tributary is located we begin burning all our saved alloys building a fleet or two up to our naval capacity. As soon as we have a fleet of sufficient power to enable us to demand tribute we move the fleet to their border and demand tribute. We may also look for just one of their systems to lay claim to for the purpose of building a shipyard later. It should only be a system of considerable economic or strategic value, we are playing tall so will not bother increasing our sprawl for a trash system.

The potential tributary will almost certainly refuse to pay tribute but that is okay because by refusing they will unlock for us the subjugation casus belli. It will not be open for long though so as soon as we have laid claim to any of their systems we want to have in addition to their tribute we declare war.

With all our military advantages from civics, ethics and traditions (see below) and our superior fleet we should have an easy win unless the target had an advanced start. From that win we get our first paycheck 25% of the energy and mineral production of the tributary nation. It will not be much at game start but our tributary is free to grow and develop and as they do that 25% will grow too.

Our first tribute should be invested in making and maintaining a still larger fleet so that we may repeat the process on another tributary and another until we have them all.


Unsurprisingly Supremacy is the first Tradition tree to adopt. We try to take Shipwrights for the production discount before building up our first fleet. We can take Fleet Logistics next for the upkeep discount and we should still be able to pop Overwhelming Force before we hit up your first prospective tributary.

We follow that up with Diplomacy and then Discovery. Diplomacy is handy for the extra envoys and the market fee reduction is also good. The tribute our fleet will earn for us will be in Minerals and Energy only, so the market will be a handy resource for converting those resources into something else we may want.

The Discovery Tree only has useful traditions on the right tree as it buffs leaders, gives more research choices and reduces researcher upkeep. The left traditions only help science ships and research stations of which we will have very few. Thus only take the left tree to finish the tree for the Ascension perk and the finisher benefit.

We could go with Expansion after that if we want to start building new orbital habitats in order to expand alloy production and employ more soldiers or researchers. Harmony has some nice but unnecessary benefits. It is best to leave Domination and Prosperity till last as the benefits they give are the least useful for us. We only take them when there is nothing else to take but we want to get the Ascension perks for filling them out.


The primary edict we want to be running is Fleet Supremacy, but Fortify the Border and Diplomatic Grants have their utility too. Citizen Service restricts us from the government types that allow an extra edict but the sprawl penalty for running extra edicts does not hurt so badly given how sprawl efficient we can be otherwise. There is an ascension perk for extra sprawl free edicts.


Naturally we want to be rocking Supremacist for our diplomatic policy as soon as it is unlocked by completing the Supremacy Tradition tree.

Less obviously we want to flip out of aggressive first contact and also to flip from indiscriminate bombardment to selective. We will also default to open borders. The reason all of these is that we might be massive militarists but we are not here on the galactic scene to cause mayhem for its own sake. We are not here to purge or destroy. We are here to persuade the galaxy with overwhelming force but minimum harm that we are the proper faction to handle everyone’s security needs. We are the white hats looking to be the galaxy’s standing army, its protectors.

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