Let me first say that I haven't tried all the federations yet, because I prefer to go through things as completely as possible and one at a time. But after a few runs with a Hegemon, I have to say I'm really enjoying the experience.
A Hegemony is everything I wanted Space Feudalism to be, mostly due to how they interact with tributaries and vassals.
Are you lamenting the nerf to Feudal Society? No need to worry: if you're in a hegemony, just release your vassal. This "promotes" them to full-time membership in the federation. Which actually means nothing changes, except now they can expand even if you don't have the Feudal Society civic. They give part of their naval cap to the federation fleet both as a vassal and as a full member, too.
Are you disappointed that hegemonies can't tax their members? Actually, they can! Turning someone into a tributary makes them your subject, and hegemonies auto-include subjects as members. Now your tributary gives you energy and minerals, add part of their naval cap to the federation fleet, and they're pulled into any wars you're involved in. This pairs quite nicely with the federation member bonuses to job output, too.
Are you constantly plagued by ethics drift in your carefully ordered feudal empire? Then just make your own federation members by releasing a sector as a vassal, and making the vassal an "independent" member of your federation. They'll match your ethics exactly, have your same civics, and you get to decide which species is in charge as long as at least one planet of theirs has one of that pop. Later on in the game, when you get around to conquering enemies, you can take territory and vassalize it as a new, ethically cohesive member of your glorious federation.
(Also, important info for the above: If you kick a member from your federation, this doesn't give them a truce against you. Meaning, you can immediately demand tribute and take it by force when they obviously turn you down.)
Are you worried about other members potentially usurping your throne? Well, personally, I think that's part of the fun, but it's easy enough to avoid: by level 2, the federation president gets the Levy Exemption perk, meaning their contribution to the federation fleet doesn't actually deduct anything from their own naval cap. Between this, the Supremacy diplomatic stance, increasing federal centralization, higher fleet levies, and more tributaries, you should have no trouble cementing your position at the top. Heck, I kinda suck at this game, and if I can do it then anyone can do it.
So… yeah, I've been having quite a bit of fun so far. What's everyone else's favorite federation types so far?
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