TL;DR: If you're not prepared to read, better leave. This is a synergy-guide, not a min-max guide, for playing Necrophage origin.
After playing a couple variations of necrophage, I started organizing my thoughts to try and learn what worked best for me and why. This followed. Call this rambling a way to share with others what to expect if/when they play it, if they're curious about if they'd enjoy it.
This is long- very long- so this thread will be a series of posts, not just the starter.
Index – Search the Numbers for your Section
0.0 – The Elevator Pitch
0.1 Mechanics: The Origin
0.2: Mechanics: Necro Pops
0.3: Mechanics: Conversion
0.4: Mechanics: Necro-Purging
0.5: Mechanics: Suspicious Disappearance Diplomacy (aka, Tall Play Incentives)
0.6: Mechanics: Wide Play Incentives
0.7: Mechanics: The Diplomacy Midgame Challenge
1.1: Synergy: Leaders
1.2: Synergy: Ruler Jobs
1.3: Synergy: Specialists
1.4: Synergies: Prepatent Trait
1.5: Synergy: Ascension Paths
1.6: Synergy: Ascension Perks
1.7: Synergy: Megastructures
2.0: Government and Policies
2.1: Governments Authority
2.6: Civics of Note
2.7: Game Rules
2.8 Archtype Playstyles
2.9: Is It Fun? (Spoiler: Yes)
0.0 – The Elevator Pitch
Why Play Necrophage?
Necrophage is the widest slaver start, as it gives you the ability to tailor 2 species (your ruler and secondary species) and guarantees you 2 random primitive civs to start with before other starts find their first slaves.
Necrophage has the best ruler pop potential in the game, with a unique bonus to ruler pops and powerful synergies as a ruling and leader class species.
Necrophage has exceptional specialist potential, with a 5% specialist efficiency meaning potentially dozens or hundreds of 'free' pops not limited by building or job slots. This efficiency is likely to be even more powerful in upcoming economy/population patches.
Necrophage has the best purge option, hands down, making xenophobe exceptionally viable and completely changing your economic and strategy game for this ethic. Also breaks the mold on fanatic purifier games.
Necrophage has a unique limiting factor encouraging against pure-wide play, with special diplomatic cost-benefit delimmas that will drive your diplomacy and war game in ways other origins don't challenge you to.
Necrophage is an origin that entices you down the dark paths, without railroading you to them. Depending on how you play, you can be the galactic anti-hero, a rogue state, or become the real end-game crisis for the rest of the galaxy.
0.1 Mechanics: The Origin
Necrophage is an origin, not a civic, as part of the necroid expansion pack. That makes it mutually exclusive with familiar origins like Ringworld, and so on. It is a two-species origin, like syncretic, but with the key difference that your second species can take specialist jobs and does not compete for pop growth- instead, necrophage converts pops of any species into necro pops. It is not limited to necroid races, and it does not require the death-themed civics also in the necroid pack, which don't actually overlap/synergize that much with necrophage mechanically.
Necrophage has a few mostly unexceptional limits. You can't be gestalt (who does?), can't be a fanatic egaltarian (who wants to?), and you can't start as any form of xenophile (the loss of envoys stings). You can be a regular egaltarian, though, and convert to xenophile in the game.
The 'best' limit is that under necrophage ONLY your starting/dominant species can be leaders and rulers, even if you do have free xenos as full citizens, which means not having those xenos clutter up your election/leader pools with their inferior traits.
Necrophages also replaces your two guaranteed worlds with primitive civilizations. With the necroid DLC primitive worlds have also been nerfed in that the 'Stellar Culture Shock' modifier provides much steeper stability/happiness penalties for a decade, AND prevents primitive pops from being moved off-world until it's over (AND prevents you from building the necrophage-unique building, which would normally mitigate stability/happiness concerns). This means that either your earliest colonies will be exceptionally expensive when you can least afford them, but also jump in pop value once they stabilize, OR the necrophage can benefit from significant social science boosts in the early game with just an observation post.
0.2: Mechanics: Necro Pops
Necrophage itself is a trait applied to your dominant species. Its benefits include +80 years lifespan (double the default average, and compared to +50 for lithoids), +5% specialist output (equivalent to being egaltarian, without the habitat restriction of Voidorne's +15%), and +5% ruler output (unique to them alone).
Unless you play with mods that add racial perks, the best necrophages are always going to be lithoid-species, as lithoid and necrophage perks stack. The lithoid population penalty is irrelevant, and combined you can get +130 year lifespan leaders, meaning you'll be sitting at max level for a LONG time, and +50% habitabilit, which makes any planet pretty much perfect for you, and even tomb worlds viable from the start (and 90% habitable with all habitat techs). If you intend to min-max your necrophage, lithoid-necrophage is for you.
Necrophage empires have exceptional synergy for leader level cap increases, as they'll not only reach high levels but stay there longer than anyone else. Leader bonuses are usually overlooked/not relied upon, given the difficulty getting to high levels and limited time there, but the benefits for rulers (covered later) synergizes with necroid unique strengths as ruler-pops. Necrophages also save thousands of energy credits in the early/mid game in not replacing leaders constantly- you are quite possibly looking at 2 or 3 leader generations in a game, rather than 2 or 3 a century.
The 5% ruler pop boost is unique to necrophages, and given that no one else can fill the rolls it's important to have good ruler-pop synergies. As ruler pops primarily produce unity and amenities, well-synergized necro-perks will keep your colonies happier and more stable early on, increasing your worker outputs (through stability) and saving on the need for amenity-boosting building slots.
The 5% specialist bonus is where necrophages really earn their pay, though. Voidborne gets +15% bonus to these jobs, but are limited to habitats. Necro-pops aren't, and anything they do they'll do well. If they aren't also also boosting unity and amenities like rulers, the best place a necro-pop can be is a factory or foundry- every 20 necro-pop alloy specialists is basically 21 workers of equivalent perks/standing, without having to worry about finding a building or job slot for that 21st worker. This adds up over time.
Necro pops have a -10% resource worker output, which is bad… but if you're using necrophages as common labor, you're using them wrong. In most cases, you shouldn't have enough necrophages to use as laborers in the first place, or even as all your specialists unless you're xenophobe, in which case you'll have slaves to fill this role better.
Necrophage's primary drawback is miserable population growth, at -75% (and lower if lithoid). They also have almost no priority to be the next grown species- if there's any migration available, another species will take the growth slot. You are (almost) always going to be having a shortage of necro pops, and early game you may barely have enough to fill your leadership slots if you conquer more primitive worlds than you colonize new ones. Terrible pop growth is sidestepped by the necrophage unique building and signature playstyle, population conversion.
0.3: Mechanics: Conversion
Necrophage origins get a special building, Chamber of Elevation, which provides three (upgradeable to six) necrophyte jobs to non-necrophage species. Every decade, an (automatic) ceremony occurs, converting those necrophytes into necrophage pops of your primarsy species. Think of it as having your secondary species grow naturally, and them skimming some of those pops and turning them into necro-pops who have a 5% specialist efficiency
Necrophyte jobs provide unity and amenities, and take priority over just about everything else. Despite being technically specialist tier, all slave pops (but not nerve-stapled) can and will fill those slots unless specifically prioritized not to, and you'll normally get a warning if you are not converting maximum possible necrophytes per planet.
At tier one, most species normal growth will exceed the conversion rate unless you have growth debufs like new colonies, meaning your population will still grow naturally. Upgraded, however, six pops a decade can results in net negative growth for species without enough pop growth buffs.
This means pop conversion can actually be used for a 'gentle genocide' of undesirable species without needing the purge ability. I can't confirm, but in my experience species with population controls also seemed to have higher-priority for conversion than those without, making it even better for de-cluttering your empire. Irregardless, de-cluttering your empire of useless species- such as those with leader-boosting traits they'll never be able to use- can be nice, and doesn't come with the typical purge penalties or require you to be xenophobe.
Conversion does not come with the usual purge penalities (or requirements), but does have a significant diplomatic implication addressed later.
While the conversion process is slow and can be economically taxing early on when every building slot and worker pop is most useful, it's actually a powerful building in the context of a developed world- necrophyte provide 2 unity and 5 amenities each (+6 and +15 at tier one), negating the need for holo-theaters or other amenity buildings for planet stability and happiness purposes for some time. In fact, the tier 1 conversion building provides a flat +5 stability, and every point of stability is worker output efficiency. Necrophytes aren't as pop-efficient at unity as culture workers, or amenities as holo-theaters, but just maintaining conversion buildings will give you extra-stable (and efficient) planets and very healthy unity growth for getting your early game traditions, and delay any amenity buildings until the later mid-game.
Converting necrophages on every planet isn't necessarily ideal, though, if you aren't lithoid. At start, necrophage conversions will convert to your base species climate preferences, no matter the planet type they're on- meaning you could be converting cold-weather worker species to climate-incompatable necro pops. This may still be worthwhile, and you can always pay the energy to move pops back to the homeworld, but efficiency wise, it may be better to just let the climate adapted species be the specialist in severe worlds.
This gets mitigated when you get the genetic modification tech that lets you modify habitability, as then your necrophages will inherit the climate preference of the converted species. This means it's definitely worth NOT converting all the climate-specialized species (especially tomb-worlders) until then, and then upgrading your conversion buildings after.
0.4: Mechanics: Necro-Purging
Xenophobe necrophages may change the xenophile vs xenophobe meta thanks to the power of their unique purge option.
Necrophage gets a unique purge option that simply converts your undesirables into your necrophage species directly, no decades of waiting required. With this, you no longer need your conversion buildings to grow your necro pops- you can immediately take any random-rolled species of sub-par workers and directly convert them into exceptional specialists at a rate of about 3 months a pop (per planet). If you are playing xenophobe, this is THE ideal way to use your conquered species if they don't have good perk rolls.
Any xenophobe can necro-purge an enslaved species, and functionally this is similar to displacement purging- only empires of the same species, egaltarian, or xenophile (who already dislike you) really care. Unlike most purging, though, diplomatically this falls under the 'Suspicious Disappearance' modifier associated with conversion, described next section.
Necro-purging is exceptionally tempting with primitive civs, like your guaranteed ones, as it's both a great way to make use of species with poor trait rolls AND it provides a way to side-step stellar culture shock. Primitive pops can't be moved, but necro-purged pops can, meaning that you can conquer a primitive civ, purge the pops, and then move the necro pops to your capital to avoid the culture shock debuff for a decade.
Necro-purging is a great way to kick-start your early game specialist economy. If you conquer and necro-purge your neighboring primitive civs, you can you easily gain 20-odd necro-pops. That's easily 4 extra building slots of alloy foundries that can be used to jump-start your fleet production in the early game, allowing you get an early start in rushing your neighbors.
Necro-purging also mitigate the primary weakness of the fanatic purifier playstyle- a population base that doesn't grow from conquest- except you don't even have to be a fanatic purifier, just xenophobe. As of launch, there's even a possible purifier oversight/exploit- if your secondary species and necrophage are the 'same', in portrait/name, fanatic-purifiers won't purge the non-necrophage, allowing you normal population growth even without the war incentive.
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