New player here, but I'm not looking for advice. I just wanted to share my experience with the game so far, and then leave the comments below as a place for discussing/ sharing Stellaris experiences in general.
Now, as I'm new, all this is only on Ensign difficulty, though I'll likely need to ramp it up for the next playthrough.
Anyways, I got this game (but no DLCs) on the recent Steam sale after getting a taste for it from a friend. Decided to indulge in the militarist xenophobe memes for a few hours before I got bored and started my real playthrough.
For said real playthrough, I went with a Fanatically Pacifist Authoritarian Oligarchical band of Environmentalists with an Efficient Bureaucracy. I wanted an empire that is better equipped to handle empire sprawl so I can expand faster with smaller penalties.
I find myself boxed in almost immediately.I met a military junta to my "south" (for lack of a better term) and a fallen empire to my "north". Even now, at year 23–, I'm still one of the smallest empires in this galaxy. And I'm having the time of my life.
I made friends with the junta pretty quickly, and by now they've actually laid down their violent natures to become fanatic xenophiles. I've formed a federation with another empire flanking one of the Fallen ones. I'm hosting the Galactic Market, have the most diplomatic weight, am on the bleeding edge scientifically, and am extremely powerful economically. Just about all the AIs are inferior to me on that last count, except for the Fallen Empires which are only "superior" instead of "overwhelming".
At the moment, my main project is to peacefully vassalize the United Nations of Earth, as I'm a human-centric "lost colony" empire and seeing as I now far outstrip my parent nation in power, it's only right that I extend my domain to include them. The tricky part to this is that, while our borders visibly touch, we don't have any hyperlanes directly into one another's territory, so there's a huge distance penalty to any protectorates or vassalizations I try to offer. It might actually be easier just to bait them into attacking and then conquer them.
Still, despite having a navy on par with any other non-fallen empire, and despite being significantly stronger than the UNE militarily despite my pacifism, I have no intention of baiting them into declaring war on me.
I'm surrounded by allies, and all my rivals are far, far away from me, keeping my Influence gauge full. The empires bordering love me so much they're effectively massive meatshields between me and everything else, letting me advance and develop in peace. Meanwhile, I've just found the location of the Irassian Concordat's remains, and through sheer luck it's right within my current borders. I'm only going to get stronger.
I love the sheer flexibility of this game, and how alive it feels as one sees the way different empires change and evolve through trade and diplomacy. Policies and edicts are extremely fun to balance, especially when it comes to playing your internal factions against one another. And the anomalies! Whether it's a portal into an alternate universe, or planet-wide shrooms, these oddities never fail to make me smile when colonizing new worlds or surveying new systems.
My end-goal for this playthrough is to bait the Fallen Empires into war once I'm strong enough militarily, and have enough defensive pacts with the empires surrounding them. I'm running out of places to sink my Unity, so Supremacy is going to get filled in pretty darn soon for a fifth Ascension Perk. Will probably be Galactic Contender.
Current victory condition is to have the highest score by 2500, and those FEs are the only two civs still above me. Let's hope I can get them before the Crisis happens.
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