Managing your Empire size effectively

stellaris 5 - Managing your Empire size effectively

Regardless of whether you play wide or tall, your Empire Size/Admin Cap is something that is a lot more vital to manage than it was before. Each point you are over your Admin Cap penalizes you with:

  • +.3% Tech cost
  • +.5% Tradition adoption cost
  • +1% Campaign (Certain sorts of Edicts) cost
  • +1% Leader Upkeep cost
  • +1% Leader Cost

Ranging from a tiny galaxy with 400 empire size in stars along to a huge one with 2000, there will always be more territory than you can eat without having ludicrous penalties. As such, here's my basic thoughts about the effect the current balance has on building strategies.

Minerals & Energy

First, the cost:

A planet is 2 size regardless of districts built on it. When your reassembled ship shelter disgorges its first pop, it costs 2, plus 1 for every district you build. There's some variation from Traditions and Ascension Perks in additional districts, but in general you can build 1 district per planet size, so each planet fully built out will cost you 2+planetsize in empire size. A glorious size 25 world? 27 empire size.

Comparatively, a star system costs 2. No variation.

Then, the benefits. I'll be talking about the base values, as there are lots of techs that will vary these numbers:

A district slot (on a normal world) can be used for one of four things.

  • City District – costs 500 minerals and 2 energy/mo, gives 5 housing, +1 clerk job (2 amenities, 2 trade value )
  • Generator District – costs 300 minerals and 1 energy/mo, gives 2 housing, 2 technician jobs (8 energy total)
  • Mining District – costs 300 minerals and 1 energy/mo, gives 2 housing, 2 miner jobs (8 minerals total)
  • Farming District – costs 300 minerals and 1 energy/mo, gives 2 housing, 2 farmer jobs (12 food total)

I'm not going to speak further on the farming districts, as they don't have as much of a star system analogue.

A star system costs 100 alloys (300 minerals, ignoring worker maintenance costs) and 75 influence (the alternate uses of which are beyond this post) and 1 energy/mo. It can have all sorts of things, depending both on random chance and further random chance in the anomaly(s) you encounter. Based on this post (which may be out of date), the system average resources prior to anomalies are:

  • 1.20 energy
  • 2.69 minerals
  • 1.52 science

That's… not that good. Comparing it to a generator or mining district, it takes twice the space, the same minerals and gives half the resources. The only benefit to it is that you don't need pops to run it. To pay for itself spacewise, you'd want to be seeing combined energy/mineral values around 16. There's a few star systems out there that give that, but not many.


A city district can support 2 unupgraded Research Labs, so I'll use that as the comparison to a star system.


As stated above, The City District costs 500 minerals and 2 energy/mo and gives 5 housing and 1 clerk job (which basically pays for the maintenance cost on the district.) A Research Lab costs 400 minerals and 4 energy/mo and provides 2 researcher jobs, which give 12 science (split evenly) and 1 unity.

That means that for 2 empire size of science you can:

  • Pay 300 minerals, 75 influence & 1 energy/mo to have an average of 1.52 science, or
  • Pay 1000 minerals for 2 city districts, 1600 minerals for 4 research labs and give 8 minerals (in consumer goods) and 16 energy a month to pay for 8 scientists giving 96 science.

There is no possible star system that offers more than 96 science, though admittedly there are a lot more minerals involved in setting up the labs. Let's shrink it down.

A single scientist turns 2 minerals (in consumer goods) into 12 science, and uses half a Research Lab (200 minerals & 2 energy/mo) and 1/4 of the open capacity of a city district (125 minerals, .25 empire size) to do it. So what that means is that for 25 more minerals and 2 minerals a month, you save 1.75 empire size to get more than 6 times the science.


If you have the population to run the buildings, there is no star system that compares. Not even close. And as the percentage bonuses stack up, the disparity only grows. Unless a system has strategic resources it's not worth holding for its resource value. You want to hold choke points for military value, systems with planets, and perhaps trade routes (your trade-protecting starbases won't influence unclaimed systems). You will also want to maintain your Empire Cohesion (found on your Government tab) as being too stringy will increase your Empire Size (somehow). Aside from that, I advise holding your space as loosely as possible. Even if you're playing wide, there's no reason to hold every star system just to jack up your penalties.

Just to take one example, a leader: a single star system over your cap increases the Leader Cost and Leader Upkeep Cost by 2%. Base leader cost is 200 energy, so you're paying an extra 4 energy each time you hire someone. Base Upkeep is 2 energy/mo, so you're now paying 2.04. These are fine, if you're just a touch over the limit. A cluster of star systems between choke points can be somewhere between 5 and 10 stars, more if you're unlucky. That's 10-20 empire size. If all of that is over your cap, you're suddenly paying 40-80 more energy per leader, and 2.4-2.8 energy each month to maintain them. It adds up.

This is nowhere close to a full analysis of the situation, and I have definitely left out some of the more complex calculations like overall maintenance cost per pop and the comparative value of strategic resources, but I hope this is enough to get the conversation going around the new economy and sensible expansion.

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