Seems like people are still pretty confused about a lot of the new systems and interactions, and it seems that a lot of people are underwhelmed by Shared Burdens. I figured I’d share some of what I’ve learned while bringing the immortal science to all the most benighted corners of the galaxy.
What’s good about Shared Burdens?
It locks you into a very narrow range of ethics and civics, and other than giving you some stability (which is nice—there aren’t a lot of across-the-board sources like this—although I've easily had 60+ on every planet, not to mention 0 crime, all game long), all it does is unlock (and force you into) the poor man’s version of Utopian Abundance. Whatever powerful things you can do with the civic must depend on taking advantage of that living standard.
How do you do that?
Shared Burdens gives you the cheapest possible upkeep for full-citizen rulers and specialists; it also gives you fairly expensive worker upkeep. Therefore, you want to do what any fanatic egalitarian wants to do anyway—maximize your number of specialists (in case you missed it, each level of egalitarian now gives you +5% specialist output)—and you also want to circumvent the whole fair-and-equitable-worker-compensation thing.
The solution, obviously, is robots: You want a society in which the entire organic population has cushy jobs as researchers and administrators, and all the manual labor is done by droids. You’re going to want some rural worlds mostly worked by robot farmers and miners, and some highly urbanized worlds stuffed with researchers and other specialists. Arcology Project is an obvious choice.
In a mature empire, your pops' consumer goods upkeep will end up being 20–30 percent lower than that of a counterpart with Stratified Society/Social Welfare/Decent Conditions. The more specialist pops (and administrators) you stuff into your ecumenopolises, the bigger the payoff will be. It’s not game-breaking, but compare it to Environmentalist—definitely a big advantage over a basic civic, if you’re willing to work for it. (And you get that nice little stability bonus, too. And it’s fun and flavorful!)
What other choices best support it?
The obvious route is taking materialist with your last ethic point and Mechanist as your second civic. You start with robots doing your farming and mining, you’re closer to the crucial techs, and you can take negative traits like Weak without hurting your early game much. Intelligent and Natural Engineers are obvious choices for positive traits—they’ll speed you toward Droids and Anti-Gravity Engineering, and supercharge the output of your zillions of researchers. Byzantine Bureaucracy will be a solid third civic later to cram pops into your ecumenopolises (and maybe add some cheap administrators to your outlying worlds).
(There’s one caveat to this build: As a materialist, Mechanist empire with Natural Engineer pops, you’re going to have a big, strong Technologist faction, and as fanatic egalitarians, you’re going to want that faction to be happy. And they’re going to insist on legalizing dangerous AI technology. And you can’t have citizen synths, because that ruins the whole not-paying-your-workers scheme. The simplest solution to this, of course, is just to take The Flesh Is Weak and enslave your synths, but that seems, you know…kind of inegalitarian?)
Alternatively, you can forgo Mechanist and aim for a build with a slower start, a little more of a late-game payoff, and hopefully much less having to choose between AI rebellion and political unrest. (Bonus: You get to take the Xeno-Compatibility perk.) Going xenophile instead of materialist will bring in extra trade revenue and allow to you take the Free Haven civic, which, unless you’re in a very hostile galactic neighborhood, will be a boon to population growth, especially later on, when you’re trying to fill up ecumenopolises. Intelligent and Natural Engineers are still good for your base species; Conformist might be worth considering, too, in an effort to keep that Technologist faction from forming.
Beyond those builds, of course, there are loads of other interesting possibilities. Pacifist and militarist are both solid secondary ethics; spiritualist is probably the weakest option of the five (the Traditionalist faction will be a pain in the ass), but viable. Lots of civics are decent secondary (and tertiary) options: Beacon of Liberty if you want to focus on unity (you can specialize your pops with Traditional instead of the science buffs); Citizen Service or Distinguished Admiralty for an aggressive militarist approach; or generally good options like Cutthroat Politics, Efficient Bureaucracy, Functional Architecture, and Mining Guilds. (You can also take Post-Apocalyptic, with xenophile as your secondary ethos, and RP as a Posadist. Highly recommended—the default humans are a decent choice, too, traits-wise.)
What’s the TL;DR version?
Be a fanatic egalitarian. Take Shared Burdens. Any secondary ethos works. Go materialist for a faster, riskier build or xenophile for a slower, safer one, or just come up with your own. Consider these as secondary (or tertiary) civics:
- Mechanist (replace most workers with robots immediately)
- Free Haven (bring in xenos to fill up your worlds)
- Byzantine Bureaucracy (cram zillions of specialists into your ecumenopolises)
- Parliamentary System (take advantage of the extra influence from fanatic egalitarian)
- Cutthroat Politics, Efficient Bureaucracy, Functional Architecture, Mining Guilds (all just generally strong)
- Post-Apocalyptic (¡Viva Posadas!)
Apart from the obvious (e.g., Shadow Council), avoid these:
- Agrarian Idyll (you want Arcology Project)
- Environmentalist (I could be wrong, but I believe it’s applied after the living standard, so it stacks very weakly with your already-cheap ruler/specialist upkeep)
- Syncretic Evolution (Serviles are stuck in the worker stratum)
Consider these traits:
- Intelligent, Natural Engineers, and Quarrelsome (all three) OR Traditional (i.e., you want your pops to specialize in science and not do unity—you’ll bring in xenos for the unity jobs—or you want your guys to specialize in unity and not do science, although science is certainly the better option, because you can get way more research jobs than unity ones, and you’ll always have a fairly large population of your starting species even if your empire ends up being extremely diverse)
- Conformists (to avoid, or at least delay, having to deal with factions that hate your robot-related policy choices)
- Nomadic (to distribute pop growth faster)
- Repugnant (you can just get xenos or droids to do amenity-producing jobs)
- Weak (you eventually won’t have organic workers—Decadent can work too, although it seems, uh, thematically inappropriate)
Apart from the obvious (e.g., Resilient), avoid these:
- Agrarian, Industrious, Ingenious, Strong, Very Strong, and Thrifty (your pops won’t be doing these jobs)
- Sedentary (bad for the same reasons Nomadic is good)
Maximize your number of organic-pop specialists, enjoying the sweet +10% output and low upkeep. Minimize your number of organic-pop workers (fill those jobs with robots/droids). Stuff your specialists into ecumenopolises. Invite lots of xenos to your perfect, classless society. (Optional: Do sex things with them.) Form a popular front against fascism and imperialism with friendly xeno nations. (If none are friendly, liberate their oppressed citizens and make them friendly.) History is on your side! Communism will win!
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