Beginner’s Guide to stellaris Ethics, Traits and Governments

The waiting is almost over and we Could soon get our hands on Stellaris. This guide is supposed to offer all the newest players a hand and help them with their decision making when making a customized race.


Below You’ll Find a brief summary of Most Ethics, Traits and Governments, with a brief explanation for their effects, for example some hidden types who are not obvious at first glance. I will utilize a method of 3 power levels:


(I) Strong: The Ethic/Trait/Government is Helpful Or very inexpensive for its provided outcome and great irrespective of these conditions. Rarely a lousy choice.


(II) Situational: The Ethic/Trait/Government could be quite Powerful in several instances, but quite unworthy in different scenarios. Decide on these under specific conditions or using tactical mixes at heart.


(III) Weak: The Ethic/Trait/Government is generally rather Lack-luster or overprized and certainly will yield subpar results under positive circumstances. Think again before you select them.

For ethics, I’ll also make a brief statement on the power level of each individual effect:

(++) Great / (+) Good / (0) Okay / (-) Bad / (–) Terrible


One thing to keep in mind here is that ethics apply on pop scope. So if you pick “Individualist”, the Energy bonus will only apply to tiles worked by individualist pops. It does not apply to offworld yields, tiles worked by robots or any xenos within your empire. Since ethics can change over time due to Ethic Divergence, you will often end up with pops that have different ethics than your starting configuration during the mid and late game. You do not have to spend all 3 points given to you, but there is no reason not to use them.



* +50/+100% Slavery Tolerance (++)

* -5/-10% Food Consumption (–)

* Unique Building: [Ministry of Benevolence] (-15% Ethic Shift) (0)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: [Social Engineering] (-15% Ethic Shift, replaces [Reeducation Campaign] (-10% Ethic Shift) (-)

* Gains access to several [Colonization] and [Social Engineering] related unique technologies (0)

* Gains access to the [Purge] mechanic (++)

* Is locked out of democratic (collectivist) or democratic and oligarchic (fanatic collectivist) governments and does not unlock an ethic-related government type (–)

* Cannot use [Propaganda] Edict (+10% Happiness) and [Share the Burden] Edict (+20% slave/robot yields) (-)

Purpose: Slavery, Purge, Anti-Divergence

Comment: Slavery Tolerance is strong and makes this an obvious choice for slavery races. Be aware that this does only affect your own pops, so other non-collectivist species (e.g. conquered races) will still be angry about both slavery and being enslaved. Ethic Divergence modifiers are nice, but sort of overkill here. Purge is a powerful mechanic. Being locked out of governments hurts a lot and limits combo potential. If you are familiar with Vicky 2, think of Collectivist as the “Planned Economy” of Stellaris, where you have lots of direct control but limited efficiency.



* +10/+20% Tile Energy Yield (++)

* -50/-100% Slavery Tolerance (0)

* +5/+10% Ethic Divergence (-)

* Unique Buildings: [Galactic Stock Exchange] (+15% Tile Energy yield on empire), [Hyper Entertainment Forum] (+15% Happiness, high upkeep) (++)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: Privatization Campaign (+20% Tile Energy yield on planet), replaces [Capactiy Overload] (+15% Tile Energy yield on planet) (-)

* Gains access to several [Colonization] and [Leader] related unique technologies, locked out of several [Social Engineering] technologies (0)

* Cannot use [Slavery], [Resettle] or forbid [Migration] without happiness penalty. (-)

* Is locked out of autocratic (individualist) or autocratic and oligarchic (fanatic individualist) governments and does not unlock an ethic-related government type (–)

Purpose: Efficiency, Energy, Happiness

Comment: The Energy tile yield bonus is the strongest of the 3 production types (Food/Minerals/Energy) and very powerful during the early game. Later on you need less Power Plants, which means you can use your planet tiles for other buildings (like Labs). The increased Ethic Divergence isn’t that bad. Slavery Tolerance prevents you from using slavery, but also makes it harder for others to enslave your guys. The unique buildings are very powerful. Being locked out of governments hurts, but isn’t as bad as Collectivist, since the democractic ones tend to be stronger than the autocratic choices. If you are familiar with Vicky 2, think of Individualist as the “Laissez-Faire” of Stellaris, where you have little control but high efficiency.



* +50/+100% Alliance Influence Cost (0)

* +25/+50% Rivalry Influence Gain (+)

* +10/+20% Army Damage (0)

* +5/+10% War Happiness (+)

* Unique Building: [Virtual Combat Arena] (+5% Happiness, -5% Ethic Divergence, +10% Army Damage) (0)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: Arms Race (+25% Space Port Module Cost, -33% Army and Navy Build Time) (+)

* Significantly increased chances to get [Military] tech choices (0)

* Is locked into [Aggressive First Contact] protocol (0)

* Can use [Full Orbital Bombardment] (+)

* Unlocks Military type governments (0)

Purpose: War, Navy, Army

Comment: The military benefits are actually not that powerful. Early and mid game wars are usually decided in Space, so the Army Damage doesn’t play that big of a role. Extra Influence from Rivalry is quite nice. The unique building is “meh”, since it doesn’t provide any big benefits for taking up a tile. Getting more military techs can actually be a drawback during the early game (unless you rush). Full orbital bombardment is powerful, but if you can siege, you are probably winning the war already. Military governments are pretty underwhelming. Remember that you only have to be at war to get the happiness bonus, you don’t actually have to fight.



* +1/+2 Maximum Embassies (++)

* -25/-50% Rivalry Influence Gain (-)

* -10/-20% Army Damage (0)

* +10/+20% Food (-)

* -10/-20% War Happiness (-)

* Unique Building: [Paradise Dome] (+10% Happiness, +5% Habitability) (+)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: [Peace Festivals] (+10% Happiness) (0)

* Significantly reduced chances to get military tech choices and increased chances for empire tech choices (++)

* Is locked into [Peaceful First Contact] protocol (0)

* Can only use [Light Orbital Bombardment] (0)

* Unlocks Pacifist type governments (++)

Purpose: Diplomacy, Happiness, Tech

Comment: Extra embassies can be quite good if you actually want good relations. Army Damage penalty doesn’t matter too much. The Food bonus is pretty useless since it is easily overpowered by techs and other effects, but not as bad as the Collectivist effect. The unique building is fantastic for happiness playstiles and the habitability is situationally useful during the mid game. Fewer military techs and more empire techs is excellent to give you better options (even if you plant to go to war some day). Pacifist government types are powerful. Be careful in MP games, though, as your enemies can declare phoney wars to hurt your happiness (even if they do not plan to fight you).



* +5/+10% Happiness (+)

* No Unique Building (–)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: [Religious Unity] (+10% Tile Food Yield, -20% Food Requirement for Pop Growth), replaces [Farming Subsides] (+25% Tile Food Yield) (0)

* Significantly increased chances to get [Psionic] tech choices (+)

* Cannot use [Robot] Policies without happiness penalty (-)

* Unlocks Spiritualist type governments (+)

Purpose: Happiness, Psionics, Roleplaying

Comment: The main problem with Spiritualist is that it has massive opportunity costs. Not being able to pick Materialist is bad and on top of that you also cannot use robots without losing a part of your happiness bonus. So it might be better to pick a different ethic like pacifist and use their special buildings. Speaking of that: No unique building for you and the edict is mediocre at best. Psionics are nice, but they are not a unique tech for spiritualists. At least the governments options are pretty decent. This was originally in the “Weak” category, but got bumped to “Situational” after the recent changes to robot techs and taking an early extra +5% Happiness option into account.



* +5/+10% Science Tile Yield (++)

* Unique Building: [Institute] (+10% Tech Speed, +5 Science Yields, high upkeep) (++)

* Unique Fanatic Edict: [Spirit of Science] (+20% Tile Science Yields) (++)

* Unique Edict: [Map the Stars] (+25% Survey Speed, +10% Anomaly Generation Chance) (++)

* Cannot get access to [Psionic] techs (-)

* Can use [Synthetics] and approves of [Robot] Citizenship policies (+)

* Unlocks Materialist type governments (++)

Purpose: Science, Robots, Efficiency

Comment: By far the best ethic choice you can make. Even only a single point gives you access to the best unique building in the game and a pretty good edict on top of that. Robots are a powerful way to increase the efficiency and pop growth of your empire (since they can grow parallel to your pops). The fact that you can go all the way to Synthetics (+20% base yield bonus, can be affected by happiness and burden edict) makes this an even better choice. Scientific governments are very strong.



* +50/+100% Alien Slavery Tolerance (+)

* +10/20% Xenophobia (0)

* Unique Building: [Purity Monument] (+10% Happiness) (+)

* Unique Edict: [Illegal Aliens] (-100% Planetary Migration Attraction for Xenos) (–)

* Cannot get [Xeno Zoo] tech and reduced chance for [Diplomacy] and [Xeno] related techs (-)

* Can use [Xeno Purge] mechanic (+)

* Cannot use Xeno-friendly policies without happiness penalty (0)

* Reduced diplomatic opinions (-)

* Does not unlock an ethic-related government type (-)

Purpose: Slavery, Xeno Purge, Happiness

Comment: Xenophobe managed to *barely* get into the situational category. Compared to other ethics it is quite weak, but it has some niche uses that can make it viable. Sometimes you want to purge, but you don’t want to miss out on the democratic governments (so you can’t go collectivist). Other times you want happiness, but neither Individualist nor Pacifist is feesible. The unique building is pretty okay if you need more happiness. Xeno Purge can be very strong for a warmonger (and you can turn your own pops into Xenos via gene manipulation, also robots count as Xenos). The diplomacy effect isn’t too much of a penalty.



* -10/-20% Xenophobia (0)

* No Unique Building (–)

* Unique Edict: [Legal Aliens] (+100% Planetary Migration Attraction for Xenos) (0)

* Increased chance for [Diplomacy] and [Xeno] related techs (0)

* Cannot use Xeno-unfriendly policies without happiness penalty (-)

* Increased diplomatic opinions (+)

* Does not unlock an ethic-related government type (-)

Purpose: Diplomacy, Multi-Species Empire, Roleplaying

Comment: By far the worst ethic choice you can make. The diplomacy bonus is decent, but cannot overcome many natural penalties like Border Friction and the like. You get nothing good for your empire and considering the AI is quite reluctant to sign Migration Access treaties, you might not even be able to make use of the edict. It also doesn’t help all that much with Federations, considering that Realpolitik (e.g. Rivalry) and AI personality is much more important in terms of AI behaviour. This ethic is mostly roleplaying fluff.

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