So, I ususally play a pretty tall and slow, creating a tech advantage while using habitats to get the most out of my spaceborne resources and having ecumenopolis production powerhouses. I've mainly rolled into Stellaris as an alternative to Vicky III, so you probably see where that comes from. It's fun being one of the smallest, yet most powerful empires that imposes its ideology on the universe through liberation wars and GC politicking, but it does make for a pretty boring early game and often feels like playing the "easy version" of the game (like picking Babylon in Civ).
I have tried starting out more aggressively a couple of times, but I always hit a roadblock in the first war. It's hard finding good fleet engagements: guides I've used recommend luring the enemy onto your bastions to cripple their fleet, but the AI is either too smart or too stupid to ever take my bait. Grinding out the enemy is hard: by the time my economy can comfortably outlast theirs, they will have found an ally. Even "winning" combats seems difficult: I often narrowly lose engagements where I have a smallish fleet power edge, my outiftting counters theirs and I have militarist and distinguished admiralty bonuses (or I win them, yet gain more war exhaustion than they do). I have written down a couple of things that might be leading to this, is there anything among this that is a very obvious misplay?
- I play CoM – inspired builds, often with a more materialist spin. I often either sport technocracy or meritocracy in addition to DA. This isn't really based on anything other than a "militarist = good for aggression" gut feeling.
- I go for a robot assembly plant ASAP on each of my planets. This takes up alloys, but I feel that this extra pop growth is very important even when fighting early. Plus, it'll be hard to exploit my conquests without robots if the habitability doesn't match.
- I go for a research lab first building instead of an alloy plant. My reasoning is that more research = more resources. For example: getting the first farming tech means I can have ~15% fewer farmers, who can then work alloys. However, I often end up having to shore up my consumer good deficit if I want to pivot into military production after that.
- I go for expansion -> supremacy and declare my first war as soon as possible after finishing supremacy – at the very latest. Any later and my target tends to have made alliances that are very hard to beat. Oftentimes, I take the combat bonus from supremacy and start prepping for war already then, and I declare once I have a full stack of T2/T3 corvettes ready, plus some reserve alloys.
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