The Invisible Espionage Build – Stellaris Nemesis

April 27, 2021 by Solar Cross

Following on from the pure espionage build I did earlier, I thought I would see what a more defensive espionage build could look like. It would be a build that was more about denying intel to rivals than taking it. The emphasis for this build would be strong Encryption rather than strong Codebreaking and bonuses to maximum Infiltration level. What I cooked up shocked me in how strong it is! I call this build the Enigmatix.

Initial Build Characteristics

Naturally a Gestalt Intelligence is the place to start because they get a substantial +2 to Encryption even before looking at civics. Between Hive Mind and Machine Intelligence, the latter have far superior civics for Espionage both offensively and defensively. Two civics stand out: Introspection and Static Research Analysis.

Civic: Introspection

Introspection stacks another point on to Encryption for a total of 3 at game start. This is incredibly strong as we will see later when we do the Relative Encryption math.

Introspection also grants a hefty bonus to engineering research which is very useful for modding our drones.

Civic: Static Research Analysis

The first benefit of Static Research Analysis is a +1 to Codebreaking. Not exactly necessary for a defensive build but handy all the same for a general espionage focus.

The second benefit is an extra choice in research alternatives. This is certainly useful for general technology development but also for finding those important espionage techs earlier.

Y Tho

Why hide though? How deep is this defence really? What is the real benefit of starting the game with an Encryption of 3 which we can boost to 5 with our second Ascension Perk? Let us run the math to see just how hard this shuts down enemy intelligence gathering.

Relative Encryption Domination

Let us take a typical enemy starting the game with an ordinary Codebreaking of 0. The default Maximum Infiltration level for them against another typical enemy with an Encryption of 0 is a Maximum Infiltration level of 50. This max can be raised higher mainly only by successfully running Acquire Asset Operations which requires a minimum of 30 current Infiltration points. Each Asset only raises the cap by 5 but each Asset stacks with other Assets so potentially multiple Assets can raise the cap all the way past 100 needed for complete visibility.

See my guide to Intel and Infiltration in Stellaris Nemesis.

That is the average situation but what happens when average Codebreaker goes up against an Encryption of 3? Each point of Relative Encryption in the defender’s favour slows the accumulation of Infiltration points but also critically lowers the Maximum Infiltration level by 10 too. This means even at game start the average Codebreaker is stuck with a maximum Infiltration of just 20 against an Encryption of 3. This is 10 below the minimum threshold needed to run Acquire Asset operations! So not only is gaining Infiltration incredibly slow and Operations massively prone to fail but he is also locked out of the one means to ever raise his Infiltration beyond a very low level.

Okay but what if the Codebreaking Empire is one of the rare few builds that is maxed out for strong Infiltration? Say for example my Skaven Supremacy Build. Well as it happens Encryption seems to be easier to come by than Codebreaking. Even the combination of Shadow Council and Cutthroat Politics in the Skaven Supremacy Build only yields a +1 to Codebreaking and +10 to Maximum Infiltration.

So if the Skaven Supremacy was trying to infiltrate the Enigmatix they would be faced with a starting Maximum Infiltration of 40. Just enough to hope to start getting some Assets in order to inch that maximum higher. However if the Enigmatix takes Enigmatic Engineering as its second Ascension Perk for another +2 to Encryption then even the Skaven Supremacy is locked out of ever raising the Maximum Infiltration through Acquiring Assets.

An Encryption of 5 reduces the Maximum Infiltration level of the average Codebreaker to 0!

The Strategic Benefit

For the Enigmatix all this means is that as long as they do not give away Intel through Diplomatic Pacts then they are functionally immune to rivals ever gaining enough Intel to see their Relative Fleet Power. An Intel of 40 is needed to see that. The Skaven Supremacy has a whisker of a chance until Enigmatic Engineering but no one else. You could have no fleet power at all and no one could know how open you are to being slammed to take advantage.

Tech Rush

To me this screams TECH RUSH! A tech rush is simply the heavy investment in research over production for a mid to late game technological advantage.

For Machine Intelligences the economics are simple. You either put your pops to work making energy and feeding it to researchers for technology or set your pops to dig minerals to feed to fabricators to make alloys. Generally you want a balance of the two. If you go too heavy on research you will lack the alloys to defend yourself. You might have the best blue prints for weapons but no actual weapons to fight with when needed.

Prior to Nemesis a weak fleet power is immediately visible on contact as well as almost everything else. Now however the potential exists for true “security in obscurity” for those with extreme Encryption. It is almost invisibility.

Of course a rival might chance an attack even in complete ignorance of what he is up against. Certainly I think human opponents would probably try it. Perhaps the AI players would not, even aggressive ones. At least this invisibility blocks the possibility of vassalisation and tribute wars which now need the aggressor to not just to be stronger but also to know they are stronger.

Assuming no one calls their bluff the Enigmatix are free to substitute all their defence expenditures for extra research or land grabbing or whatever else. In the end fleet power and starbases are positive income generating assets only for aggressive empires and then only while they are winning territory or tribute by them. For peaceful empires these armaments are less an asset and more an expenditure to forstall the greater loss of becoming the prey of an aggressor.

That is not to say that the Enigmatix must always be peaceful. A huge tech advantage can be readily converted into both economic and military power for a mid to late game rampage.

Notes on Species Traits

This brings us to the Enigmatix initial species traits. For robots on a tech rush Logic Engines are the obvious choice for the bonus to researchers. I would take that with the Custom Made penalty. It reduces pop production speed. This is mainly because I would play this build very tall using a Prospecting / Claim Camping economy alongside the researcher driven tech rush for maximum tech growth. It hardly matters which penalty one takes to balance out Logic Engines though. Introspection and a tech rush will soon unlock the Robomodding technology to remove it.

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