Since I started with the Kubernetes Migration in my Homelab last December, It had gotten a tad bit monomaniacal, spending my free time only on the migration, and almost nothing else. So by beginning of March, I hadn’t even launched Steam in three months, let alone played anything.

To remedy that, I went ahead and didn’t just chose any game. Oh no, I chose one of my all-time favorites: Stellaris. It is a game in one of my favorite genres, Grand Strategy or 4x, whichever you prefer. And it is from one of my favorite Grand Strategy studios: Paradox Development, of Hearts of Iron and Victoria fame. I discovered them and Grand Strategy way back with Hearts of Iron II and bought pretty much everything they’ve released up to now. To me, there’s no better 4x studio than PDS. Even Firaxis and their Civilization series only comes close. Yes, I’m a fanboy. And if your think that this is already bad, you might want to stop reading now, because the next paragraph is going to be a love letter to Paradox’ DLC policy. 😉

It seems whenever you write something positive about Paradox or any of their games, you have to also write about their DLC policy. The more extremist position looks like this:

This DLC should have been part of the original game!

Which is of course a position you can have. And if you do, you might jump right to the next section heading, the rest of this paragraph might burst a blood vessel. I like it. In fact, I love it. I’ve loved it for Stellaris. And for Hearts of Iron. And for Europa Universalis. And so on and so forth. Here’s why: I’m sitting down with a game I’ve bought eight years ago. A game which only added multiplayer in Beta in the last patch, and which has exactly zero in-game ads, let alone micro transactions (queue the “DLCs are microtransactions!!!” crowd). And I get new content. And not just for the new DLCs I just dropped 68 bucks on. No, also for the original game I bought in 2016 and the last set of DLCs I bought back in 2021. I love this, because I can return to a game which is intimately familiar, and I can return to a game I’m comfortable with, but with new twists to the content.

The jumps this time, from end of 2021 when I played it last to today have not been quite as big as the changes from 2017 to 2021 have been, but they’ve been there. Even where it’s just been a couple of new anomaly events. And this is the great thing about Paradox’ games: With their “let’s make DLCs! Soooo many DLCs!” policy they’re keeping games alive for ages. I mean, Stellaris is now 8 years old, and they just announced another DLC a couple of days ago.


This deserves its own section: Works perfectly fine under Linux. I’m running it on a Gentoo Linux with kernel 6.7.9, but I ran it in 2021 on the then-current kernel without any issues as well. For what it’s worth, I’m running on an AMD RX580 8GB GPU.

I installed it normally, via the Flatpak version of Steam. That’s mostly because Steam needs 32 Bit libraries, and running a multilib system on Gentoo isn’t really great. But the Flatpak works very nicely.

The Game

A screenshot of the main game screen. At the top is an info bar with the current amount of a number of resources, ranging from energy over alloys to research, empire size and available fleet capacity. On the left is a menubar granting access to additional screens like government, traditions or diplomacy. On the right side of the screen is a docket with the list of planets and shipyards. The main viewport shows a star system with a yellow star and five planets, some of which have symbols for resources they provide under them. The star is orbited by a starbase.

The main screen right after starting a new game.

The game follows the same rough schema of other 4X games, like the old Masters of Orion or the Galactic Civilizations series. You control a star empire which you can create at the start of the game - I will go into detail about this later. There are a number of different aspects under your control, from planet and resource management to exploration and warfare. The screenshot above shows the main view of the game, with resources and other important info about the empire at the top, and the main playing area in the center. Here, it shows the randomly generated starting system, with the planet Aeria as the starting world. The system’s main star is orbited by a starbase. Those serve dual purposes of defense and ship production. The symbols under some of the planets represent resources which can be gathered from them after building orbiting space stations around them.

A screenshot of the Plant summary and building management tab of the planet management interface. At the top, it shows the planet name and type, here Skanaa is the name and the type is 'Empire Capital'. Below that is shown the current governor of the planet. Next comes the 'Districts' overview. It shows the five types: Housing, Industrial, Research, Generator and Mining. Each of these also shows the differing number of the type the planet can support. Below the districts overview is the buildings overview, with 12 slots overall, of which 5 are used in this example, one is unused and 6 are locked. To the right of that is the Build Queue, which is current empty. Above that is some planet information, like the crime rate, housing, amenities, free jobs and unemployed pops.

The planet overview and buildings screen.

One important part to manage are planets, with two important pieces: First, the buildings and districts, and second the local population. Each planet can have a restricted number of districts, depending on the planet size. Those districts do not directly provide resources, but instead provide jobs for pops. So just having the necessary districts is not enough, you also need pops which can work the buildings. Staying with buildings and districts for the moment: The different districts provide all of the basic resources and are slightly different depending on the empire:

  • Housing, provides housing for pops as well as slots for additional buildings
  • Industrial, provides consumer goods and alloys
  • Research, provides research jobs
  • Generator, provides jobs for credit generation
  • Mining, provides jobs for mineral miners

The number of districts available for each type can vary by planet.

Hm, okay - let’s stop right here because I’m seeing myself being carried away way too far. I did not actually start this post intending to write a full overview of the game. 😅

I hope you will all forgive me this utter break in pace and allow me to go forward a bit quicker.

But before I go to the next section, I want to briefly talk about an aspect I always enjoy in Stellaris: The initial discovery. Most of the map is still covered in the fog of war, and your empire still all alone. In this phase, you send out science vessels and basically play Star Trek: TNG. Discovering new worlds and interesting stellar phenomena. Here is one example:

A screenshot of a text box. It contains the following text: Floating on the outskirts of the debris field around C-2079 is the pitiful form of a crumbled-up science vessel of unidentifiable origin. The presence of bite-marks and digestive fluids on the hull suggest it was chewed up, then regurgitated by some large predator. Ironically, the ship's crew were on a culinary odyssey of their own, in search of new exotic delicacies, when they themselves ended up on the menu. They had rated a staggering number of lifeforms on everything from nutritional content to chewiness. Among their top picks were the Hazari, for their juicy ascus and spicy temperament. We have earned a mediocre placement at the bottom of the list thanks to the stringiness of our flesh and the lackluster quarry we make. Some like to play with their food...

The planet overview and buildings screen.

These discoveries can provide simple boni, e.g. adding +4 minerals to a local planet. But sometimes they’re entire chains of events which might stretch over several decades of ingame time. I enjoy these small, mostly short stories ranging from finding a lone, long dead alien in a helmet and flight suit who ejected from their fighter in a long forgotten battle or the more amusing ones, like the moon with the timeless “I was here” inscription - done in large letters on the moon’s surface with a mining laser. 😁

I always find them amusing and interesting. Then again, perhaps take my opinion with a grain of salt - I’m also the kind of gamer who listened to all conversation options in Diablo 3 even on my fifth playthrough. 😅

I’m also a bit afraid that this kind of short story writing is just going to be LLM garbage in future games. 😔


Before I leave you and switch to actually playing the game, instead of writing about it, I would like to share the empires I came up with. The variety Paradox included in the game through the differences in the empires you can create is one of the things which makes me return to it again and again.

And Stellaris’ empire creator doesn’t really need to hide from any RPG character creator when it comes to the amount of time you can sink into it. After an initial short game, just kicking the tires a bit to orient myself, I spend quite a number of hours in the Stellaris Wiki working out what empires I would like to play.

The Valyrian Republics

This was a pretty vanilla Republic, with Fanatic Egalitarian and Xenophile Ethics I used to get a feel for how the game played nowadays. I used the Parliamentary System civic for a nice boost in Unity from factions and the Diplomatic Corps civic, to improve my number of envoys as I wanted to play it diplomatically.

For a small twist, I threw in the Void Dwellers Origin, which has my main species lacking any habitability for normal planets, but 100% habitability for orbital habitats. That turned out to be pretty enjoyable, after I had finally figured out how the system with the major and minor orbitals worked. 😅

I ended this game when I found myself being completely surrounded by Fanatic Authoritarian expansionists. Not exactly what I envisioned for a more diplomatic play.

The Matrix

You can already see, I’m really very creative with my empire names. 😉 This was my second game with a Machine Intelligence empire, but I abandoned that one almost as soon as I had started it, because I read the announcement of the Machine Age DLC. And that looks like it might come out with some interesting additions when playing a machine empire.

The Republic of Torch

This was the first result of my more methodical approach to building empires I’m interested in playing. It is again Fanatic Egalitarian/Xenophile, but this time with an interesting origin: The “Broken Shackles”. In this origin, you start at a disadvantage. Your first planet is not your main species’ homeworld, and you don’t get all the resource mining stations in your home system already built. You also start without any additional ships, so no initial corvettes, science ship or construction ship. In addition, all of the buildings on the planet are inferior to their normal variants.

This comes from the fact that this is one of the new (at least since my last playthrough) narrative origins. The story of this origin is that your empire comes from the crashed slaver ship of an evil corporation. The slaves on the ship revolted and crash landed the ship on your starting world.

The big benefit of this start is that you don’t just have your main species on the planet, but an entire assortment of other, randomly generated ones. This is especially great because you are very likely to end up with a multitude of planet type preferences, allowing you to colonize more planets without additional research.

I finally abandoned this session last night when I made the rather large strategic error of happily agreeing to support a neighboring nation’s slave revolt - without first checking what the power differential looked like. 🤦

Ah well, I will be smarter the next time I play this empire.

The Endless Hive

I will start this one once I’m done publishing this post. It is a hive mind with the Necrophage origin. This origin allows me to create a second species which will be present on the homeworld. These will be fed into the Chamber of Elevation, where they will be turned into pops of my primary species. This is necessary as the natural pop growth of a Necrophage species is very low - it is supposed to grow through “Elevation” of other species.

When playing the Necrophage origin as a hive mind, there is an additional twist to it: non-hive species cannot be kept as normal citizens. The only thing they can be is livestock. So at least I won’t run out of food anytime soon…😏

What I’m not too sure about is what impact this origin will have on other empires and diplomatic relations. I mean, not that I plan to have to care too much about what other empires think of me…

And others

I’ve also planned to create some variation of the following empires:

  • Robot hive
    • I learned that hive minded empires can now follow the cybernetic ascension path - so playing a cyborg hive mind sounds delicious
  • Under One Rule origin
    • This is another one of the more narrative origins, where you play an empire which has been reunited under a great and wise ruler and now has to navigate dictatorial rule
  • Order of Tirisfal
    • This will be my Spiritualist playthrough, looking at the new shroud related content with the psionic ascension path
  • Verashian Republic
    • This will be a playthrough of a materialist republic with the Mechanist origin and the goal of turning my entire population into synths and relying heavily on robots up to that point. I will likely wait for the Machine Age DLC to release.
  • Vassal based imperium
    • Here I will try out the Imperial Fiefdom origin, where you start as the subject of another empire and gain your freedom only after a couple of decades, when the overlord empire falls apart. I intend to play it with the goal of getting as many subjects as possible and aiming for becoming galactic emperor.


So if you like games where you measure playthrough times in months and you find the 4X genre appealing, I don’t think you can do wrong with Stellaris. For the DLCs, I would advice getting all the ones which are not titled “species pack”, unless you find that specific species interesting. All others are totally worth it.

Now back to gaming. 😁