Stellaris

Planning my first major war in my very first game – how ambitious should I be with my War Goals?

stellaris 1 - Planning my first major war in my very first game - how ambitious should I be with my War Goals?
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Hey everybody, a week or so ago I bought Stellaris on Xbox (no DLC yet but will be upgrading soon) and am absolutely loving it so far. I'm still working through my first game, but I seem to be approaching a turning point and thought I'd ask for some advice.

I'm playing as a xenophile militarist ("Assembly of Clans"), medium size elliptical galaxy with only 7 or 8 other AIs, one being advanced start and another as FE. I seem to have been gifted a favorable start – my closet neighbor was friendly and almost immediately boxed in by my expansion, leaving me a ton of room. This is my first Paradox game, but I played a ton of Civ IV and used the same wide tactic I did there – expand as soon as the economy allows, and wait for the cities (or planets/systems in this case) to fill in in order to surge ahead in tech and resources. I just passed the year 2300 and seem to be in a really good place – I have the strongest fleet in the galaxy, two allies that recently formed a federation with me, and am constantly bumping up against my resource storage limits.

However, looming in the distance is my arch-enemy, the advanced start AI who (of course) hates my guts. They ate up two of their neighbors and made friends with another, much weaker neighbor. They've never been strong enough to challenge me in a fight, but they've been busy carving up a massive slice of the galaxy. The Domination victory condition is 56 planets, and they're currently sitting at over 40 and adding more all the time as they pretty much have half the galaxy to themselves without another major other than myself. The entire galaxy is basically split along these lines – me and my two friends against the advanced-start AI and their buddy. The only other empires are the FE and a poor AI that spawned right up against the FE and was caged in by drones/pirates, so they are both non-factors at this point.

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Which brings me to the matter at hand. I have an Equivalent fleet strength to theirs, and higher tech level. As I mentioned before, I have reached my resource storage limit, so I have plenty of resources to build and replace ships, as well as run resource deficits for years if need be. The only question is just how ambitious I should be with my war goals. I'm not necessarily looking to land a knockout punch, but I would like to knock them down a peg or two, and would certainly like to slow their expansion a bit so I don't just lose the game without having been conquered myself. I have two techs that lower war costs, I'm just not sure what exactly to aim for – should I just be looking to take a few planets off of them? Liberate a chunk of their empire to be a friendly vassal of mine? Or try to take out as many planets as the war score will allow for declaring war? I'm not too familiar with the war demands/war score mechanic that Paradox uses, and this will also be my very first war so I'm not sure what to expect with that regard either. Any help would be appreciated – thanks!

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