Warhammer 40k Factions in Stellaris with No Mods

February 28, 2022 by Solar Cross

If you are like me as much a Warhammer 40k fan as an avid player of Stellaris then you too may like to recreate 40k factions in Stellaris. What follows are my ideas for how to do that for most Warhammer 40k races and factions using the faction building features of unmodded Stellaris.

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Stellaris vs Warhammer 40k

In some ways Stellaris is a poor fit for recreating the Warhammer 40k galaxy. In Stellaris most factions begin the game at the dawn of their space age. While in the 41st millennium of Warhammer most factions are old, old empires that have already spread across the galaxy.

Stellaris has quite a sophisticated diplomacy system but in the grimdark of the 41st millennium there is only war. In Stellaris, factions can be peaceful traders and friendly xenophiles but in the 41st millennium everyone is pretty much a fanatical purifier.

Stellaris expects AI and machine intelligences to be part of the picture but Warhammer 40000 follows Dune in abhoring machine intelligences of any kind. In both Dune and Warhammer 40k machine intelligences are strictly banned following an historical and deadly machine revolt. Only one of the 41st millennium factions makes use of AI, the Tau. Incidentally, the Tau as the only passably xenophile faction really belongs in Stellaris.

For a more Stellaris fitting game, it might help to create your warhammer 40k game set in the 18th millennium, right at the dawn of the Age of Technology. At this time humankind had just discovered the warp technology that would enable them to spread from their home system.

Of course many other factions like the Eldar and Necrons are already old at this time. Young races like the Tau would not be around then though. The Men of Iron had yet to come to pass so AI would be available.

The Default Warhammer 40k Faction

In short the above means that the standard ethics for a Warhammer 40k faction are Spiritualist because they abhor AI, Xenophobe because everybody hates everyone else (usually with good reason) and Militarist because in the grim darkness of the 41st millenium (and every other millenium) there is only war.

There are a few exceptions to this though.

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Faction Recipes for the 41st Millennium

What follows are the recipes for building each and every Warhammer 40k faction in Stellaris with no mods. Use the following links to jump around to the factions you are most interested in.

Eldar / Aeldari

The Eldar are one of the oldest races of the Warhammer 40k universe. They were one of the races that were fairly directly ported from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. You can think of them as space elves but their lore has evolved quite a bit from that derivative beginning.

Classic for elves they have long life spans but low birth rates. They are also skillful and good at magic which in Warhammer 40k terms means being psykers.

However in the Warhammer 40k universe being a psyker is especially dangerous for Eldar. This is due to how magic works in that universe and an apocalyptic historical event in which the Eldar inadvertently created a god called Slaanesh who now hunts them for their souls. For this reason not all Eldar actually use their talent for magic.

In Warhammer 40k Elves come in no less than six different varieties: Craftworld (High Elves), Exodite (Wood Elves), Drukhari (Dark Elves), Haemonculus Covens (Mad Scientist Elves), Corsairs (Pirate Elves) and Harlequins (Clown Elves). We will do a Stellaris faction for each.

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Craftworld Eldar

The Craftworld Eldar live aboard vast space ships called Craftworlds, hence their name. For this reason I feel the Void Dweller origin is most suitable for them in Stellaris. Although of course the orbital habitats of Stellaris are not movable the way Craftworlds are.

For race characteristics I suggest Venerable to represent the long lifespans of Eldar and Slow Breeders to represent their lower birth rates. Besides that, Eldar on the Craftworlds enjoy quite a luxurious existence and so I suggest the Solitary trait and Egalitarian Ethic. The Egalitarian ethic enables Utopian Living Standards.

The Craftworld Eldar are the one Eldar faction that has done the most to solve the perils of being a psyker in the 40k universe. For this reason I suggest Fanatic Spiritualist as an Ethic and the pursuit of psionics.

If you went with standard Spiritualist then you could put an ethic point in Xenophobe because even the space elves are bigots in Warhammer 40k.

The surprising civic is Reanimators. Craftworld Eldar collect the souls of their dead in order to protect their souls from the predations of the god Slaanesh. Having this ability and a desperate need for soldiers in the grimdark of the far future, the Craftworld Eldar use these harvested souls to pilot constructs called Wraithguard, Wraithlords and Wraithknights.

A Wraithlord construct piloted by a dead Eldar soul.

To me the closest mechanic in Stellaris to represent this is the Reanimators civic. Think of the necromancer job as a spiritseer.

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The Exodites are Eldar with a different solution to the problem of Slaanesh. Exodites terraform planets to become Maiden Worlds which are pretty much Gaia worlds in Stellaris. The Exodites imbune the Maiden Worlds with a vast Eldar like soul. This world-spirit can catch and store the souls of fallen Exodites to save them from Slaanesh. This is similar to the Craftworld’s solution.

As the only faction in Warhammer 40k to do any serious terraforming I sort of feel like Idyllic Bloom would be a good civic for them. Unfortunately Stellaris unmodded only allows this civic for Fungoid or Plantoid portraits.

Also the Tree of Life origin would be nice to represent their connection to the World Spirit of their Maiden Worlds. Alas that is only available to Hive Minds.

The next best thing would be the Life Seeded origin which starts them on a Gaia World.

Instead of Idylic Bloom, we could give them Agrarian Idyll and Inward Perfection as civics. Ethics would be Pacifist, Xenophobe and Egalitarian. You could also do Spiritualist instead of one of these.

Exodites defending their Maiden World

Species traits will be broadly in line with Craftworld Eldar. Venerable for their long lifespans and Slow Breeders for their low birth rates. I think they would have Natural Sociologists and Conservationist.

Unruly fits as a balancing negative and is fairly cheap for them due to their low birth rates.

Critical to success with this build is the taking of the World Shaper perk which allows terraforming planets into Gaia worlds. This perk is only tier 1 but it is hard to take it early because it depends on the Climate Restoration tech.

See how to rush Climate Restoration with my article here.

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Drukhari / Dark Eldar

The Drukhari are the cruel denizens of the vast labyrinthian world city of Commorragh. By numbers they are largest faction of Eldar in the 41st millenium.

They share the same curse to be hunted by Slaanesh as most Eldar, but their solution to the problem is uniquely cruel and terrible. The Drukhari inflict unspeakable torture upon enslaved lesser races to feed to Slaanesh in place of their own souls.

To keep their city stocked with living offerings to Slaanesh the Drukhari engage in relentless raiding for slaves upon the other races of the galaxy.

The Ring World origin is ideal for representing the dread city of Commorragh. The Barbaric Despoilers civic is great for representing the Drukhari’s slave raiding. The new Pleasure Seekers civic may be a loose representation of how the Drukhari use their slaves.

For ethics, a point in Authoritarian and Xenophobe is pretty obvious. We must have a point in Militarist to unlock Barbaric Despoilers.

For species traits they have Venerable and Slow Breeders which is standard for Eldar. Decadent and Wasteful fit their specific degenerate behavior. The Drukhari’s amorality puts no taboo on any research and so they can have the Intelligent trait instead of just Natural Physicists.


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Haemonculus Covens

Truly the flesh sculptors of the Haemonculus Covens are a sub-faction of Drukhari and reside in Commarragh with the rest. They are distinct and independent enough to be their own faction though.

Their close commercial relationship with the mainstream of Commorragh can be represented by making them a Mega Corporation. We will give them the Void Dwellers origin to represent their enclaves within the Commorragh.

I think they would have Corporate Hedonism and Permanent Employment for civics. Corporate Hedonism is the mega-corp equivalent to Pleasure Seekers and words the same way.

Permanent Employment allows the assembly of organic pops with the zombie trait. This represents flesh sculpting experiments of the Haemonculi.

Ethics are as Drukhari except Militarist is swapped for Materialist.

Species traits are also standard for Drukhari except they also gain the Voidborne trait from their origin. Alternatively you could swap out Decadent and Wasteful for Repugnant. That is probably more appropriate.

Voidborne together with Slow Breeders will give them one of the slowest population growths in the game. However this is mitigated by the pop assembly of zombies from Permanent Employment. The Haemonculi will be a tiny elite ruling over broken and reworked slaves. Zombies also help reduce the cost of the Decadent Living standard from Corporate hedonism.

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Corsairs are those Aeldari who make a living as pirates and smugglers. Many are outcasts from the Craftworlds unable or unwilling to keep with the strict traditions there. Others have roots in the dread city of Commarragh.

Corsairs are probably best represented by a Criminal Syndicate corporation in Stellaris. Given their fleet based living they would have the Void Dwellers origin and Naval Contractors civic.

Their species traits are fairly standard for space elves. However Venerable would be downgraded to Enduring due to their precarious living. Nomadic and Conservationist to represent their mobile and spartan lifestyle.

Their ethics would be Militarist and Xenophobic given their predatory ways.

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The final space elf faction I will present here are the Harlequins. I struggled with how to best represent the colourful followers of Cegorach in Stellaris. In the end I settled for making them a Mega Corp with the Brand Loyalty and Gospel of the Masses civics.

You might have thought of the Harlequins as only entertainers rather than religious types but hear me out. They are the only Eldar whose god survived the fall of the Eldar which birthed Slaanesh. It is the protection of their god Cegorach that keeps their souls safe from Slaanesh too.

Moreover all their dancing about and making music is inherently an act of worship and a way of preaching and preserving wisdom.

Their motives are somewhat enigmatic. However we might guess from what we see in the lore that they are on a mission to save all of the Eldar from Slaanesh.

This mission is why I think the Brand Loyalty and especially the Gospel of the Masses civics are the closest approximation of how they operate and why.

I chose the Shattered Ring origin because rather like the Drukhari they reside in a single artificial city hidden in the webway. Theirs is known as The Black Library.

Ethics are Xenophile, Spiritualist and Egalitarian. Species traits are standard for space elves. Except I would have Charismatic and Unruly.

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Orks are another Warhammer 40k race that was ported over from Warhammer’s fantasy setting. They are in essence, space orcs. Or rather space orcs and goblins. Orks have a co-dependent relationship with another weaker version of themselves called grots or gretchin. These grots are space goblins.

In the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40k there is only war but of all the Warhammer 40k races the Orks may be the most war-like. For orks war is not just a grim necessity in a bellicose galaxy but a recreational activity and their means of reproduction.

Goff Ork Nob.

Grots are more cowardly, their function in the symbiosis is to work for their larger more aggressive betters.

The Syncretic Evolution origin is a good fit for the symbiotic relationship between Orks and Grots. Orks will have the Resilient and Strong traits to represent their physical prowess. They will the Adaptive trait because ork’s rugged physiology allows them to live anywhere. To balance out these advantages Orks will have the Unruly trait.

Grots will have these traits: Serviles, Rapid Breeders, Adaptive, Weak and Repugnant.

Grot Traits

Fanatical Militarist and Xenophobe is a given for Ethics. For civics I suggest Warrior Culture and Nationalistic Zeal. Warrior Culture replaces Entertainer jobs with Duelists. Duelists increase Army Damage and Naval Capacity in addition to Amenities and Unity.

Nationalistic Zeal represents the WAAAAGH! energy for the orks. It reduces War Exhaustion Gain and reduces the cost of making claims.

[EDIT: There is an alternative take for Orks using the new features of the Toxoid Species Pack, see here.]

Stay safe, get a 6+ save

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Freebooterz are bands of orks that roam around the Galaxy as pirates and mercenaries. We can create these in Stellaris by copying the Ork Clans and then changing the government type to a Mega Corporation. Then taking Naval Contractors and Private Military Companies for civics.


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Rebel Grots

Ork society is genetically stratified. Orks are the warrior aristocracy and Grots are the poor proletariat. Rarely, it so happens that the numerous but weak grots sometimes rebel against the abuse of their brawnier overlords. Still more rarely these rebel polities attain independence.

I have written (and made a video) refuting the claim some fans make that the Tau are the commies of the Warhammer 40k universe. Besides that, one only needs to look up the lore of the Rebel Grots to see who the real commies of Warhammer 40k are.

This is how I would implement Rebel Grots in Stellaris. Civics are Shared Burdens and Idealistic Foundation because those are the commie civics, especially the first. Ethics are Fanatic Egalitarian and Pacifist. The former is needed for Shared Burdens and the latter is because Grots are cowards.

Species traits are the same for the Grots in the above Ork factions. However as the Grots are now the primary species they get an extra trait point. I would spend this on Communal because it is synergistic with Rapid Breeders.

Overall I think this would be a fairly effective build actually despite being designed just for fun. The Repugnant trait is hardly a liability because of the compounding bonuses to happiness and stability from the civics and ethics.

The species traits make them a pretty good troll species for poisoned migration to other factions.

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To look at the Necrons of Warhammer 40000 you might be forgiven for thinking they are robots. They are not really though. Necrons were originally an organic species who in ages past had their souls imprisoned in living metal bodies. They are also definitely not a gestalt consciousness like the Machine Intelligences of Stellaris.

So I think the lithoid type is the closest fit to represent the Necrons. Stacking lithoid with Venerable and Survivor (Post-Apocalyptic Origin) gives the Necrons the longest lived leaders in the game (+140 years) which is appropriate if still well short of what they should be.

Putting Lithoid with Survivor also gives them some solid habitability.

In the lore the Necrons are not made or born so much as awakened. Untold billions of them are asleep buried in the earth waiting for their masters to wake them. Likewise the lithoids start with a bunch of buried pops waiting to be activated.

To balance out the expensive Venerable trait I went with Slow Learners and Sedentary. Both are kind of appropriate. Slow Learners reduces leader experience gain but that is offset by the leaders having very long lifespans.

The mission of the Necrons is the extermination of all other life forms so I think Fanatical Purifiers is a given. The Re-animators civic loosely represents the Necrons waking of their troops from a buried slumber.

Fanatical Purifiers works well with a Post-Apocalyptic origin because we can use the Armageddon bombardment stance to create Tomb Worlds.

My radioactive killer vegetable build is an even more powerful use of this ultra violent form of terraforming.

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Imperium of Mankind

The Imperium of Mankind is an old empire in the 41st millenium. An old and somewhat fallen one, with a greater but lost past. Its capital was once our own Earth but over millennia transformed into a vast hive city spanning the planet. Then, over more millennia, fallen into decay. The Remnants origin seems fitting to represent this for the Imperium of Mankind.

The Imperium of Mankind is a meme of extreme xenophobia amongst the fandom but the truth is that they are no worse than the vast majority of Warhammer 40k factions. It has to be said that in a galaxy populated by Orks, Dark Eldar, Necrons, Tyranids and Chaos that a certain amount of xenophobia is absolutely healthy and justified.

After Xenophobia for an ethic we note that the Imperium has a highly stratified society with not a whiff of democratic institutions, so Authoritarian is fitting.

The Spiritualist ethic helps represent the culture of religiosity and superstition, but also the strong prohibitions against thinking engines or AI. Also mankind in the 41st century are one the species most blessed or cursed with psyker powers.

The Imperium of Mankind has no ordinary monarchy, its ruler known just as The Emperor, is virtually a god and worshiped as such. Consequently the Imperium of Mankind in Stellaris will not just have the Imperial Government type but also the Imperial Cult civic.

Finally the Aristocratic Elite civic helps us to represent the stratified and entrenched bureaucratic institutions that govern for the Emperor in the Imperium.

I rather struggled with what traits humans should have in Stellaris. The default for humans in Stellaris is: Adaptive, Nomadic and Wasteful. None of which seems fitting to me for humanity in general or the humanity in 41st millenium.

In the end I settled for Conformist to keep humanity settled in the governing ethics above.

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Adeptus Mechanicus

The Adeptus Mechanicus are formally subjects of the Imperium of Mankind. However they have a lot of independence and are largely self governing. They are the keepers of technology and industrialists of the Imperium.

I think the Adeptus Mechanicus would be well represented as a Megacorporation with the Mastercraft Inc and Permanent Employment civics. Mastercraft is self-evident given their role as industrial producers. Permanent Employment seems like a fair way to represent the way cybernetics are used to create zombie-like workers called servitors.

Due to millennia of intense industrial output, with no regard for the environment, the home world Mars of the Adeptus Mechanicus is a toxic hellscape. Every Adeptus Mechanicus world, called Forge Worlds, end up the same way. For this reason I would suggest the Post-Apocalyptic origin.

Adeptus Mechanicus ethics resemble those of the Imperium of Mankind but instead of Spiritualist they would have Materialist. This represents their facility with technology.

Species traits are also like those of the Imperium of Mankind but in addition to Conformist they would be Industrious and have Slow Breeders due to their toxic environment and obsession with cybernetics.

[EDIT: There is an improved version of the Adeptus Mechanicus using the new features of the Toxoid Species Pack, see here.]

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Although long neglected by Games Workshop the Squat empire seems tipped for a revival following recent teasers on Warhammer Community.

The Squats are classic Tolkien dwarfs but in space. They are short of stature but tough, clever with technology and hard working.

Building Squats in Stellaris is pretty straight forward. For species traits we have Natural Engineers, Industrious, Enduring and Slow Breeders. Ethics are Egalitarian, Xenophobe and Materialist. Their civics would be Masterful Crafters and Mining Guilds.

I would go with the Prosperous Unification origin but Mechanist is also suitable.

All together this makes for a powerful production empire with very decent technology development.

[EDIT: A revised version of the Squats that uses the new Subterranean Origin can be found by clicking this link.]

Strategy: REX, turtle, dominate late game.

Dwarf merch

This squat build would be fairly decent pick for a megastructure speed run. See my guide on how to speedrun megastructures.

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Tau Empire

The Tau are known for their aptitude for technology, their caste system and their relatively friendly attitude towards xenos.

They are the only Warhammer 40000 faction to use AI robots and they make extensive use of them on the battlefield. As a young race they have no notion of the perils of AI revolts. To represent this I think the Mechanist origin suits the Tau. Their more general facility with technology can be represented by the Natural Engineers species trait and the Materialist ethic.

Their leader caste are the mystical and monkish ethereals. So one might think the Spiritualist Ethic would suit but Spiritualist disallows AI and suggests taking the Psyonic Ascension path. Tau are the least capable of psyker type abilities. Despite the ethereal’s religious vibe, the Materialist ethic suits the Tau much better.

To represent the ethereal caste and the caste system in general I would suggest the Aristocratic Elite civic.

To represent the Tau’s diplomatic prowess in securing peaceful relations with those xenos not incorrigibly hostile, we have the Xenophile ethic, the Charismatic trait and the Diplomatic Corps civic.

Some Warhammer fans repeat the incorrect meme that the Tau are space communists, read here why this heresy is completely and obviously false.

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Farsight Enclaves

The Farsight Enclaves are a break away faction of Tau lead by Commander Farsight. Commander Farsight is a Fire Caste leader and effectively the sole ruler of the Enclaves, so the Enclaves have a Dictatorial government type. For no longer having the leadership of the Ethereal caste they lose the Aristocratic Elite civic.

The Enclaves are formed from Tau on the bleeding edge of Tau exploration of the galaxy. Consequently they are the Tau that have most learned the brutality and bellicosity of the wider galaxy. The Enclaves are less idealistic and less friendly to strangers. For this reason they also lose the Diplomatic Corp civic and the Xenophile ethic.

Lead by the warrior caste and engaged in a constant fight for existence the Farsight Enclaves are far more martial in disposition. So they gain in place of what they lost: Nationalistic Zeal, Distinguished Admiralty and Fanatic Militarist.

In other respects they are still Tau and so have the same species traits and origin.

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The Kroots most powerful technology is the harvesting of genetic information through the consumption of other species. Through this consumption they are able to acquire the characteristics of that species.

There is not a direct analogue to this in Stellaris but we can get a fair approximation using the Syncretic Evolution origin. Then optimising for going down the Biological Ascencion path and perhaps also taking the Xeno-Compatibility perk.

We can take the Death Cult civic to represent the Shaper leader caste and their cannibalistic learning methods. The other civic wold be Environmentalist to represent their spartan and simple lifestyle.

The Kroot are very interested in other species and in that sense would be Xenophile. However a lot of that interest is from a desire to acquire more genetic information. We need Spiritualist Ethics to run Death Cult and Militarist represents their work as mercenaries.

The primary species in Syncretic Evolution would be the Kroot Shapers. This caste is the ones primarily involved in shaping the Kroot evolution into different forms. Consequently we would kit out their traits to be good at being death priests with Traditional for the Unity bonus and Natural Sociologists for the Society Research bonus.

The lesser castes in the Syncretic Evolution would just be given the Conservationist trait after the mandatory Serviles trait. Keeping the base traits simple and negative free will allow for more flexiblity in shaping them as we go down the Biological Ascension path.

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There are two problems with representing Tyranids in Stellaris. One is that Tyranids are nomadic and so far Stellaris has no mechanics for playable nomadic settlements. The other problem is that the reason that Tyranids are nomadic is that they consume planetary biospheres. They fall upon planets like a swarm of locusts on a field of wheat. Again Stellaris does not really have any mechanics for stripping planets.

After that though Stellaris does have many mechanics that fit the Tyranids very well. The tyranids are a biological hive mind and Stellaris has rules for that. Even more fitting is the special Devouring Swarm civic for a biological Gestalt Consciousness.

Devouring Swarm does a lot. It disables diplomacy and disallows access to the galactic market. To compensate for these autistic social impediments the Devouring Swarm get a whole range of benefits to fleets from naval capacity to ship cost, as well as bonuses to Biological research.

In addition the Devouring Swarm must eat captured xenos and gains society research for doing so.

To round out the Tyranid build I suggest the Strength of Legions civic which buffs ground armies.

I would just take Docile for the species trait. I did think about Adaptable but I think with the bonuses to Society research from Devouring Swarm attaining the techs needed to mod the species for different environments should be within easy reach.

There are no Origins that leap out as very appropriate. Prosperous Unification would do but I went with Doomsday. The Doomsday origin causes your homeworld to be on a timer for destruction, forcing a relocation. Very loosely this simulates the Tyranid drive to move from one world to another leaving stripped husks of worlds behind them.

[Edit: I have made a revised version of the Tyranids that uses the Progenitor Hive origin introduced by the Overlord DLC, see it here.]

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There are a few ways to do the Chaos factions. The primary species could be the worshippers of the chaos gods or even they could be the gods themselves, see below for how we can do that.

Also there are four primary gods in the chaos pantheon: Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and Slaanesh. Each has their own flavour and could have their own faction. Then there are those that worship all the gods equally, chaos undivided.

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Chaos Undivided

Chaos Undivided Faction Recipe

This faction represents basic general chaos cultists. They regular organic mortals who worship Chaos. Chaos cultists are all about infiltration and spreading corruption. So I would give them the Criminal Heritage civic to represent that.

Corporate Death Cult represents their worship of the gods and their use of sacrifice to gain boons from them.

Finally we can give them the Scion origin which will give them a Fallen Empire to aid them. This Fallen Empire would represent the gods themselves.

Species traits can be whatever you like.

I went with Conformists because in Warhammer 40k they are almost always humans albeit a bit mutanty. Conformists is my standard for representing humans in Stellaris as you can see from the Imperium of Mankind.

I added Natural Sociologists and Traditional to make their Death Priests better and balanced that with Unruly.

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Khorne Daemonkin

This build is to represent the god Khorne and his daemon underlings. The write up is part of the fun builds I created for the Overlord DLC. Read about it here.

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Final Thoughts

There we go, all the Warhammer 40k factions translated to Stellaris, found only here at Solar Cross Games. Do you think I did a good job? Would you play a Stellaris game using only Warhammer 40k factions?

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

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