This is my personal ranking of the all the new federations types added to the game based on how strongly they increase the power of an empire(s).
First a general note, currently it takes 150 to 200+ years to create a level 5 federation but only 70 to 100+ years to make a level 4. Because of this, depending on the level 5 ability of a federation is not currently a good strategy unless you play on a modified slower speed game. It's very hard to justify planning for a level 5 federation. The vast majority of effects and laws comes by level 4 and level 5 takes an eternity to get to so my rankings don't put a lot of value on level 5 perks.
5. GALATIC UNION
I don't think anyone is surprised that the free federation is the worst one. It has basically two main effects, one which is bad and the other which is too niche.
First is that it makes it very easy to maintain a federation with allys with whom you should not maintain a federation. This is fairly useless, as you either want allies you can trust (due to your similar ethics) or you are better off alone rather than with a bunch of "allies" who can (and will) still leave your federation at the drop of a hat.
The second effect is actually really strong but so niche it isn't generally qorth the investment, and that is unity from federation envoys. Each envoy assigned to the federation gives 1 (up to 2 at lvl 5) unity to all members, increased by any unity modifers. It might not seem like much to start but this is fairly abusable using 1 system vassals. Each vassal will be auto added to your federation and each will have their own enoys and normally add 1. If you have 20 such vassals, that's 20 + multiplers of upkeep free unity that you can get by year 30 or so. A fairly potent and early unity for traditions. Not great, but something.
4. MARTIAL ALLIANCE.
Marital Alliance is the saddest of the DLC federations. It's honestly not that bad at first glance. A bunch of damage modifiers for the crisises, some general fleet and fleet building buffs. It's biggested issue comes in the form of the stacking repeatable it gets for fleet contribution. Federation fleets are limited in size to 500. This is fairly easy to achieve even with minimal fleet contributions, especially for the more military aligned parties that would join this federation. Thus getting 75% more fleet contribution means basically nothing. You are gonna crush that 500 cap with ease.
Maybe if it was harder to get federation fleets with other federation types this would be a better type since it had easier laws for forming ferderation fleets. But as it currently standards, it's bottom of the DLC federation type barrel.
If this were to get buffed, I think changing the stqcking bonus from 75% more fleet contributions to an actual federation fleet buff (say a good stacking fire rate increase for the federation fleet only) would be much better.
The odd middle child of federation types. It gives solid buff all around to boyh the president AND the member (to the point where I even setup a hegemony empire with the goal of never being the overlord). The obly real issuse with this federation type is that its best perks come at levels 4 and 5 and the current issues with actually getting there.
It's amazing how good 15% more resources from jobs is on top of free research agreements. The President, of course, also gets a host of good buffs but the real meat of it comes from being a member nation.
What you want to do is setup a Hegemony with 1 or 2 puppet vassals where A. Laws are decided by voring and diplomatic weight detwrmines vote strength and B. Succession is decided every 10 years by the golden rule.
Thus you still hold sway over your weak overlord (as your diplo we8ght should dwarf their own) meaning you can control war war decs, fed laws, or anything that needs a vote without being Pres. The G9lden Rule is a successi9n type where you can opt out of running at no cost AND you might get energy credits/trade value for free out of it (hence why we have it at 10 years and not 40). You might lose some federation exp from shooting down bad proposals but nothing major. The biggest hit is not having direct control of the federation fleet, but it's very easy to gain direct control again if and when you need it by just voting for a federation succession law change to status difference.
Or just be President as intended and snowball like crazy.
A very solid federation style.
2. RESEARCH COOPERATIVE.
I know a lot of people probably don't think they seem that strong (especially when it takes 150 to 200 years to reach rank 5 federations) since the player is normally leading in tech so research agreements seem meh.
But something many of ya'll Stellaris newbies who didn't play in the 1.X days don't know is that research agreements late game monsters.
See, you will recieve the research agreement bonuses on any and all level of repeatable technologies as long as you have an ally that has researched the first level of the repeatable tech.
Vassals you release (in the sector menu) receive ALL of your techs, traditions, ethics, and civics (but not your ascension perks, they pick their own). Thus if you research the first level of all repeatable techs and release a vassal and form a research agrement with it. You now gain a 25% bonus to science for basically the rest of the (late) game.
This means a lvl 4 research cooperative gives you a 45% research speed bonus on repetable techs (25% base, 5% lvl 2 perk, +15% stacking research agreement perk).
A full level 5 research cooperative during a crisis gives 90% additional research speed for repeatables. 65% faster than any other federation can get and on very important techs. On top of that, the Pres gets and extra mega build slot at level 5 which is easily the best level 5 perk. Cooperatives have some federation law issues with setting up a federation fleet, but nothing too major. If level 5 federations weren't so bad to get to this would probably be a fight for my number one ranked federation.
Just a powerhouse of a federation, BUT there is one better…
1. TRADE LEAGUE.
The number one spot earned by probably the most well rounded federarion type. Nothing flasy outside level 1, just solid number buffs. It has the best level 1 buff of all federation types (giving you more unity generation than you will ever get with a Galactic Union), a amazing leveling curve (early extra envoy, the best stacking buff, great law unlocks). It's weakest point is that it has a 25% fleet contribution as a perk. That's it.
Trade Empire in general are very strong and this makes them just that much better which stacking trade increases that have a compounding effect since you have commerical pacts with all members. (If you get a 10% trade increase, then you get another ~1% increase from your comerical pacts giving you 10% of your allys trade).
Yeah a Research Cooperative might get 20% more science in the end game, but a trade league gets 20%+ more consumer goods without needing any pops, jobs, buildings, or districts. This means you get close to 20% more room for researchers and if you are research8ng at 120% speed to their 140%, you'll be way ahead from just that.
But on top if that you'll be making mad energy credits without trying and producing all of your unity needs for ambitions, again with no effort.
Trade League basically removes the need to ever build consumer good, unity, energy, or amenities buildings and districts and lets you just use trade builsings/districts for all those needs.
Your economic needs are basically cut in half (you need only trade, research, admin cap, alloys, rare resources, food, and the minerals to pay the upkeep on that) letting you get even more efficient building slot and district usage.
Money talks and Trade League shows why without even being flashy about it. Just raw, flexible, economic power.
So there you have it. A ranking of the federation types from worst to best. Feel free to tell me why I'm wrong in the comments below.
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