Paved With Good Intentions

Below the cut is an account of a Stellaris game I played.

It Started Innocently Enough

The Panuri Republic was founded with a simple desire: to peacefully expand their influence as far as possible. Once further expansion was prohibited by other empires they would then focus on their economy by peacefully creating Orbital Habitats, Ring Worlds, and Dyson Spheres. The universe they entered was well suited for this. During their entire existence there would be no late-game crisis, and there were no stagnant empires that might issue demands. Furthermore, they did not wish for a massive bureaucracy and preferred to restrict their holdings to only those systems which they could govern directly.

They were Fanatically Pacifist. This is important, as it meant the idea entering an offensive war for any reason was politically unpalatable. Only defensive conflicts were permissible. Thus the Panuri Republic would never annex an enemy settlement just because it would be convenient. They would, in effect, be forced accept borders where they stood. This focus away from conflict did come with some benefits though: their government was able to focus entirely on administering its holdings allowing it to govern more systems directly.

Their inward focus also made them somewhat Xenophobic. As they did not wish to be drawn into conflicts they claimed a larger buffer than usual. This same inward focus allowed them to strive for Inward Perfection, which coupled with their tradition of Agrarian Idyll, ensured they generated a large amount of unity, leading to the quick development of traditions (and ultimately Ascension Perks).


Initial Peaceful Expansion

One thing I forgot to mention is that the Panuri species had the non-adaptive trait. They were quite intelligent, and reproduced rapidly, however they weren’t able to live on planets that weren’t dominated by savanna like their homeworld. This slowed their early expansion somewhat as they needed to develop the ability to terraform and then wait until many of the nearest planets were suited for colonization.

As a result, their first colonies were fairly dispersed. This resulted in stretched borders which would have been an issue except their corner of the galaxy turned out to be fairly lonely, leaving them free to colonize only the choicest planets while they built frontier outposts to claim other desirable systems for terraforming and later colonization (after they expanded the number of core systems they could govern effectively).

Eventually they did meet a couple of empires, however. The first was the Unity Star Regime, who they quickly signed a Non-Agression Pact with. Their borders became a little tangled which resulted in modest diplomatic tension, but nothing too serious. The Unity Star Regime had a single forward colony that was annoying, but the Panuri Republic managed to contain it and was willing to coexist. The biggest problem with these aliens, from the perspective of the Panuri, was that they were militant and as such there was a possibility they would eventually decide to attack. They were xenophilic as well, however, so relations improved and the Panuri Republic ultimately secured a defensive agreement after encountering a second rival.

These guys were much more dangerous. The Star Realm of Ztrakpor. A nation of hegemonic imperialists. Both authoritarian and fanatically militaristic. The moment they were encountered the Panuri Republic knew conflict was inevitable as hegemonic imperialists believe that their empire ought to rule over everything. This new contact caused both the Star Realm of Ztrakpor and the Panuri Republic to establish many frontier outposts to claim desirable resources before borders stabilized along a line that ran roughly from the galactic center to the outer rim. It was at this point that the Panuri Republic realized the Star Realm of Ztrakpor was expanding its military forces.

This was obviously the prelude to an invasion, so research shifted toward military tech as the Panuri began to build up a fleet of their own to discourage the imperialists. The plan was to remain powerful enough that the Star Realm of Ztrakpor would prefer conquering smaller empires first, leaving them alone long enough to begin boosting their economy to absurd levels thanks to their newly developed ability to build Orbital Habitats.

They began to move all (or most) energy production and research into orbit by filling out all already inhabited systems with orbital habitats. This in turn allowed them to convert planets into massive mining operations, where they would receive the biggest bonuses from structures which provide a percentage based boost to mining facilities. Thus they could maintain the resources necessary to support their new fleet with enough left over to pursue their original ambitions to construct megastructures.

That was the plan anyway.


A Speed Bump And A Solution

The Panuri Republic’s economy was actually fairly powerful at this point, so they could rapidly expand energy production and research, which in turn allowed them to expand their mining operations on planets. Eventually they ran into a problem, however. You see, to keep up their momentum they needed to greatly expand their population to maintain an economy that could support the military with enough leftover to continue development plans. Because they could build orbital facilities in existing systems this was fairly easy, at least until they encountered a bottleneck that hadn’t been considered: food production.

Long story short, at their rate of expansion production would soon be outstripped by demand. They briefly considered making orbital farms, however orbital facilities are clearly more suited for research and energy generation. When it comes to mining and food production they are noticeably less efficient. The ideal situation would be to concentrate farming to small planets, where mining operations wouldn’t gain much benefit due to their limited scale. There were two problems with this:

ONE— They didn’t currently have any systems settled that contained small planets. Early efforts had focused on grabbing the largest (and most desirable) planets first with the expectation that the smaller planets could be colonized at a later date. By this point the Panuri Republic could support a couple of new core systems, however just a couple wouldn’t be nearly enough to suit their needs.

TWO— Building all that infrastructure would take time and resources. Time they weren’t sure they had, and resources that could be better spent maintaining the newly modernized fleet (along with the second that was in the process of being constructed).

So a survey was conducted of the empire in search of a solution. It needed to be something that could accomplished quickly with minimum investment of resources, and also something that would only take up one or two planets until the empire could further expand how many core systems it could administer. That was when the Panuri noticed them: two planets in their empire that were populated by pre-sentient species.


Galactic Politics Shift, and THE Solution is Implemented

They immediately set out to colonize both planets and began the process of uplifting the species in question as the Panuri had recently improved their ability to genetically engineer species (for unrelated reasons). This was going to take a little time, however it was still by far the fastest option at their disposal.

During the wait several other things happened. Contact was made with the Opalglec Autocracy, a nation of authoritarian xenophobic militarists. Fortunately there wasn’t a common border. They did share a border with the Unity Star Regime however, which by now was a respectable military power that nonetheless lacked the resources to challenge it’s larger neighbor (the Panuri Republic would later conclude the Unity Star Regime was initially motivated to accept the early defensive treaty in order keep the Opalglec Autocracy at bay).

In order to permanently counter the threat posed by the Opalglec Autocracy, the Unity Star Regime founded a federation with other powers that were local to it’s immediate area (though far from Panuri borders). This federation was dubbed the Propitious League, with the Republican Adeex Systems (egalitarian, xenophile, materialists). Within a few years the Chinorr Stellar Union, made up of egalitarian militarist materialists, had also joined. Early on this joint effort met with good success against the Opalglec Autocracy, checking it’s power.

At the time the Panuri believed this indicated that their flank was secure, as it was a shared border with the Unity Star Regime. The Propitious League had made modest expansions in that direction, which although annoying was something the Panuri were willing to tolerate. However the Panuri began to focus their own expansion efforts on that area as well in order to reinforce their sphere of influence in the region.

Meanwhile the uplift was a success and the plan could begin in earnest. Within months both uplifted species had been engineered to be fast breeding and nerve stapled. This would make them fill out their respective planets rapidly, while also ensuring they would not suffer from unhappiness and thus be subject to revolt. There was also one other trait these client species were given, the key to the Panuri plan: Delicious. They were then enslaved and used as livestock, solving the food problem in a single stroke.

With that the bottleneck was eliminated and the Panuri Republic was able to turn their attention to completing the first ringworld, while their two fleets remained positioned to counter the inevitable confrontation with the expansionist Star Realm of Ztrakpor… Wait… What’s this? The Propitious League has declared war?


The Slide Begins

Let’s back up a moment and recall the Propitious League’s formation. Members of a federation cannot have independent relations outside that federation (except trade deals and migration treaties). The federation as a whole can grant Association Status to nations, effectively giving that empire a Non-Aggression Treaty with all federation members, however that is the extent of it. This means that when the Unity Star Regime created their federation they necessarily ended their Defensive Pact with the Panuri Republic, and their recent expansions (along with the Panuri moves to shore up their sphere of influence) had created a fair amount of border friction.

You may also notice something else about the members of the Propitious League: they are all xenophiles or egalitarians. They like other species, and as such were frankly horrified by the plan to uplift other species with the specific intent of enslaving and eating them. As such they went to war, demanding that the Panuri Republic stop committing “atrocities”, and while they were at it they would attempt to seize a few border systems as well.

The first exchanges went poorly for the Panuri, mostly because their entire military was deployed on the wrong border. Several space stations and mining stations were lost, but then the combined might of the two Panuri fleets arrived to back up the republic’s counter demands. As total pacifists they were unable to push for the annexation of any systems, however there was another tool at their disposal thanks to their xenophobic trait. They could demand that the Propitious League cleanse colonies they created. So it was that the Panuri Republic demanded that the Unity Star Regime abandon every colony it had along their shared border, which would resolve the border tension.

Their initial gains were quickly reversed and the Panuri Republic began to make progress into Propitious League territory within a couple of years. Pinning down the enemy fleets was much more difficult, and the first clashes actually dealt more damage to Panuri forces than anticipated (although they still gave better than they got). Eventually the Panuri were able to ambush their foes just as they came out of warp with both of their fleets, and nearly wiped out the enemy’s military in a decisive battle before it could retreat.


The Second Front

With the Propitious League’s military subdued, the Panuri rapidly secured their objectives. Rather than immediately offer terms they instead chose to press on, reducing the league’s military capability in the long-term by destroying orbital facilities so their recovery time would be extended. Some pockets of resistance remained, but before things could be finished a second war was started. This time declared by the Star Realm of Ztrakpor, and they managed to gain the support of the Uri Confederated Tribes (a nation the Panuri didn’t share a border with, but who were also appalled by the eating of sentient creatures).

The Panuri quickly offered the Propitious League a chance to surrender, which was eagerly accepted, and shifted their forces back to the other boarder. The previous war had ensured the Panuri military was quite experienced, and as a result of the losses that had been taken they had also expanded their forces further by establishing a 3rd fleet. This new, incomplete fleet maintained a defensive posture in friendly territory, while the other two fleets ran rampant through the enemy’s holdings.

During the first battle it was discovered that while the Star Realm of Ztrakpor maintained a sizable military force, it was centered around battleships which lagged behind technologically and were poorly supported to counter the Panuri Republic’s fleets which made use of numerous corvettes carrying torpedos backed by a smaller number of individually more powerful battleships. The Uri Confederated Tribes maintained a technological parity, but they couldn’t field a fleet large enough to compete with the more powerful Panuri Republic. Once again the enemies were crushed and forced to abandon a number of planets, shoring up that border.

In response to this defeat the Uri Confederated Tribes would never again challenge the Panuri Republic, and so much damage was dealt to the Star Realm of Ztrakpor that it was forced to swallow its pride and seek permanent allies while it recovered from its losses.


Political Fallout and Internal Shifts

As a result of these wars the Panuri Republic became pariahs within the galaxy, with only one empire willing to continue relations with them (on the far end of the galaxy, and mostly because they were both now rivals of the Star Realm of Ztrakpor). The Propitious League’s power had been severely diminished. Following their defeat, the Opalglec Autocracy moved to avenge past defeats, recovering most lost territory and making new inroads into the league’s holdings. They soon had another boon fall into their lap.

The Star Realm of Ztrakpor found itself without a fleet, many enemies, and extensive holdings that required protection. In order to secure their position they formed a new federation (the Auspicious Concord) with the only power that they had yet to come into conflict with: the Opalglec Autocracy. This gave them enough support to rebuild their military might without the risk of smaller powers picking away at their poorly defended systems. As for the Opalglec Autocracy, this federation gave them allies on the other side of the Propitious League, ensuring that any future conflicts would force their foes to fight on two fronts.

Because of shifting attitudes outside the empire, and as a result of having two separate groups invade, the Panuri Republic underwent an internal political shift. Many more citizens became xenophobic, and the government decided to embrace this change which turned the empire as a whole toward fanatical xenophobia. This came with two consequences. Most immediately it extended the republic’s claimed borders an additional 16%, providing more of a buffer in the event of future conflicts.

It also caused the pacifists in power to lose influence. While still nominally pacifistic, this was no longer a fanatical belief. The empire still lacked the will to annex planets which belonged to others, however it could liberate enemy planets to set up smaller puppet governments which would act as a buffer between itself and more powerful foes.

In preparation for this the Panuri Republic completed work on their first ringworld, which was promptly geared toward research. Immediately after they also constructed a Dyson Sphere and a Sensor Array, giving their scientists time to research significant improvements for the fleets. This dedicated focus on research soon made the Panuri Republic the most advanced nation in the galaxy, with much of that edge residing in its increasingly formidable military. Their grip on the immediate region tightened considerably as they began a program of constructing fortresses in strategic locations to hamper any attempt to invade, and once complete they started on a second ringworld just before launching a number of punitive strikes.


The Time of Reckoning

Remembering that the Propitious League was the first to have violated their territory, the Panuri Republic launched a fresh campaign to strip it of holdings that lay near the outer rim, both to deny them to the federation and to install a sympathetic government that would act as a buffer between the republic and the increasingly powerful Opalglec Autocracy. This initial strike went off flawlessly, with the Propitious League being unable to respond to the attack thanks to the distances involved and threats posed by other powers. The result was the foundation of the Adeex Stellar Principality, which was adopted as a client state.

Seeing the success of this first campaign, the Panuri decided to establish another client state at the cost of the Propitious League. This time the blow would land squarely on the founding member, creating a second buffer between the Panuari Republic and the Unity Star Regime it still shared a border with. The fighting was much more intense this time, although the Propitious League avoided any direct confrontations in favor of quick strikes aimed at simply slowing the invasion’s progress. Even so, one of their fleets was eventually pinned down and crushed, causing their position to collapse and resulting in the end of the war shortly after. This led to the founding of the Adeex Galactic Mandate, which was also taken as a client state.

With these two victories the Panurai League’s ethics again shifted and they finally abandoned their policy of pacifism to embrace a militarist outlook, reasoning that if fighting was to happen it was best if it occurred outside of their borders. They thus embarked on a final campaign against the now weakened Propitious League, this time aiming to make a vassal of the Unity Star Regime itself. This would accomplish two goals. First, it would deny the conquest to the increasingly belligerent Opalglec Autocracy. Second, it would completely remove the threat posed by the Propitious League by denying it one of the two principle military powers that supported it.

The fight was incredibly one-sided, however the members of the Propitious League resisted until the last with the knowledge that a defeat here would forever cripple their ability to protect their interests. Coordinated efforts between the three fleets of the Panuri Republic methodically ground down all resistance, promptly striking at any enemy fleets that were detected while planet after planet fell before the military juggernaut. Soon every world of the Unity Star Regime was occupied, but the Propitious League continued to fight. It wasn’t until the capital of the Chinorr Stellar Union was also occupied and the capital of the Republican Adeex Systems was under siege that they finally capitulated.

Following these wars, the Auspicious Concord began to strike at the now weakened Propitious League, using the new conquests to further strengthen the Opalglec Autocracy while also fueling the Star Realm of Ztrakpor’s recovery. The Panuri watched this development closely, knowing it would only be a matter of time before it needed to bring it’s fleets to bear again, but for now chose to consolidate their gains and focus on the development of the newly completed second ringworld.


Groundwork For The Final Descent

The second ringworld’s completion allowed the Panuri Republic to expand its industry on a massive scale. Once the construction of infrastructure was completed there was enough surplus that any wartime losses could be easily absorbed and work promptly began on a third ringworld to further expand this advantage. In addition, production facilities for the swift, efficient construction of new warships were installed in the Spaceports that served the ringworld.

Additional fortifications were constructed in anticipation of a conflict with the Auspicious Concord, geared toward keeping the Opalglec Autocracy from easily assisting the Star Realm of Ztrakpor. During this time the enemy fleet composition was examined with the help of the Sensor Array, and all ships were refitted with technology specifically selected to counter enemy weapon and defensive systems.

Genetic engineering was also conducted on the Panuri race for the first time, something which had thus far been avoided in order to focus research efforts on improving military technology. The race’s intelligence was augmented substantially, in addition to their strength and resilience in combat. Furthermore, a new force of genetically engineered gene warriors was raised and augmented by clone commandos.

During this time a plan was devised to cause as much damage to the Auspicious Concord as swiftly as possible by focusing on reducing the weaker of the two members before pivoting to deal with the stronger partner. The goal was to launch a massive attack upon the Star Realm of Ztrakpor in two separate offensive waves, destroying their most vital infrastructure. During this fighting fleets from the Opalglec Autocracy that came to assist their allies would be specifically targeted and wiped out, thereby checking their efforts to expand at the cost of the Propitious League’s remnants.


Ultimate Conclusion

Once the groundwork was complete the Panuri Republic immediately launched a sweeping campaign that first aimed at stripping the Star Realm of Ztrakpor of all border worlds as well as it’s capital, opening it up to further attacks in a second war. The initial attacks quickly captured their targets, but as the Auspicious Concord mobilized it began a counterattack that focused on recapturing lost planets while avoiding challenging the Panuri Republic’s superior naval forces. Several times the enemy was brought to battle, but in every instance they would escape with an emergency jump the moment their drives were charged.

As a result this first war took longer than anticipated. Although eventually the Star Realm of Ztrakpor was forced to cleanse the targeted worlds, and while losses were light, the Opalglec Autocracy’s fleet had survived mostly intact which would make the second phase more difficult. To address this concern the Panuri immediately devised a new type of fortification that would focus more on survivability than dealing damage to enemy ships, and equipped it with a snare to capture fleets as they came out of a jump. Weapons would specifically be geared toward targeting smaller vessels, so that any transports would be prioritized.

When the second wave of attacks was launched, this time the Star Realm of Ztrakpor would be forced to cleanse it’s most developed worlds, and the strikes would be launched as deep as possible to make sure as much economic damage was inflicted as possible. Construction ships were brought along for this campaign, and when a planet was secured one of the new fortresses was constructed in a location where a relief force could jump in right on top of the attackers.

This time the damage dealt to the enemy forces was devastating. In total the Opalglec Autocracy possessed four fleets, with a combined power roughly 2/3rds that of the Panuri Republic. Each of these fleets was trapped when they attempted to aid the Star Realm of Ztrakpor, completely breaking the military might of the Auspicious Concord. Further, the Star Realm of Ztrakpor’s infrastructure losses when they cleansed their planets caused them to be set upon by many smaller empires while previously conquered species rebelled, ultimately fracturing the empire.

While their situation dissolved, and during the cease-fire that had been agreed to, the Panuri Republic made the move to invade the High Kingdom of Sakyt Ux to make it a vassal, preemptively securing its holdings from the Auspicious Concord who might try to jump-start a recovery by annexing them. This empire was then heavily fortified to serve as a jumping-off point for a fresh attack on the now weakened Opalglec Autocracy that commenced the moment the cease-fire expired.

Rather than focus on conquest for the opening phases, this time the Panuri Republic’s chosen strategy assigned a different task to each of their 3 fleets. The first was tasked to continually pursue the one military force the Opalglec Autocracy had managed to rebuild. If the enemy continued to run then they would be prevented from retaking captured worlds. The second fleet would simply jump from world to world, wiping out military bases and starports, crippling their ability to replace losses. The third fleet would drive for the Opalglec Autocracy’s homeworld to conquer it, then begin working its way out from there.

Unlike previous wars with the Auspicious Concord, cleansing was not the goal of this attack. For the first time the Panuri Republic would actually be demanding another nation cede its planets for reasons that should be quite clear once one detail is shared: the sudden expansion in population allowed by the ringworlds (as well as other colonies that had since been established) meant that food was once again a bottleneck. Yes the existing livestock species could be spread to new worlds for expanded production, but even with their quick breeding that would take time and there was a war on. The planets held by the Opalglec Autocracy were already filled with population however…

Sadly, although the Auspicious Concord still existed on paper, the Star Realm of Ztrakpor had effectively dissolved which forced the Opalglec Autocracy to stand on their own. As such they collapsed almost immediately, at which point the game determined the Panuri Republic possessed enough of the galaxy to declare victory. That said, given the current trajectory the Panuri Republic had been placed on I imagine it is not a stretch to assume they went on to conquer (and eat) everyone else as well.

And to think, at the beginning they only wanted to be left alone.