Being a grand strategy game in the truest sense there’s always a lot to keep on top of when playing Stellaris.
At its heart, Stellaris is a game all about expansion. Your goal is to expand your Empire until you’re the biggest, baddest Empire around.
But of course, being a strategy game nothing is ever simple. The game has various systems in place to punish you if you start to expand too quickly without planning.
Stellaris is designed to get more difficult as your Empire grows, not easier. Lucky for you we’ve created a quick, noob-friendly guide to Stellaris Empire Sprawl and how to manage a growing Empire.
What is Stellaris Empire Sprawl?
Stellaris Empire Sprawl is simply a measure of how much your Empire has grown. It measures the growth of your Empire in regards to controlled systems, Colonies, and Districts.
In a game like Stellaris, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a good thing. Surely you want to control lots of systems, colonies, and districts, right? The problem is the bigger your empire becomes, the more unwieldy it gets.
Grow too big and your Empire Sprawl will begin to put a strain on your Admin Capacity. This comes with penalties.
What Increases Stellaris Empire Sprawl?
If you want to keep on top of your Empire Sprawl in Stellaris it’s important to know what causes it to increase. At the start of the game, you’ll begin with 50 Empire Sprawl. Each of the following will increase it.
- +5 for each controlled colony
- +1 for each system
- +1 for each district
- 0.5 for every pop
- +2 for every Branch Office
Simply put, the more you expand, the higher your Sprawl.
There are also lots of Empire Sprawl Modifiers that can be gained through civics, Stellaris origins, perks, ethics, etc.
Most of them are positive and will help you keep Sprawl in check, however, there are a handful of negatives.
|Stellar Culture Shock||-50% Sprawl from pops|
|Fanatic Pacifist Ethic||-30% Sprawl from pops|
|Subsumed Will Civic||-20% from pops|
|OTA Updates Civic||-20% from pops|
|Pacifist Ethic||-15% Sprawl from pops|
|Docile Species trait||-10% from pops, applied per pop|
|Streamlined Protocols trait||-10% from pops, per pop|
|Finish the Harmony / Synchronicity trad tree||-10% from pops|
|Psionic Theory Tech||-10% from pops|
|The Greater Good resolution 4||-10% from pops|
|Per Gov SKill level||-2% from pops, per pop|
|Private Prospectors civic||-33% sprawl from systems|
|Franchising Civic||-25% from Branch Offices|
|Modular Depots tradition||-25% from districts|
|Construction Templates Tech||-10% from districts|
|Courier Network or equivalent species tech||-25% from systems and colonies|
|Unruly Species trait||+10% from pops, per pop|
|High Bandwidth Species trait||+10% from pops, per pop|
|Nutritional Plenitude edict||+10% from pops|
|Fortify the border edict||+10% from systems|
|Per continuous edict after exceeding edict capacity||+25% total|
What are the Stellaris Empire Sprawl Penalties?
We get it, high Empire Sprawl bad, low Sprawl good. But what happens if Sprawl gets too high?
Well, your administrative capacity acts as a limit to your Empire Sprawl. If Empire Sprawl exceeds your admin cap you’ll receive the following penalties
- +0.4% Tech cost
- +0.6% Tradition adoption cost
- +1% Campaign Costs
- +1% Rare resource edicts cost.
This might not seem too bad but these penalties are accumulative. This means the more your Empire Sprawl gets out of hand, the worse the penalties get.
Imagine for Admin Cap is 50, but your Empire Sprawl is 82. You’re 32 Sprawl over your Admin Cap. This means your overall Tech cost penalty would be +12.8% (32X0.4)
Furthermore, authorities can either alleviate or worsen the penalties significantly.
- Machine İntelligence +100%
- Corporate +50%
- Dictatorial -10%
- Hive Mind -25%
How to Deal with Empire Sprawl
So what should you do to minimize Empire Sprawl in Stellaris? After all, you need to keep expanding.
There are two strategies you can employ:
Firstly, ignoring Empire Sprawl, at least initially, is a valid choice. It takes a while for the penalties from Empire Sprawl to add up. As long as you keep expanding your Empire, keep recruiting new researchers. Eventually, the expansion will begin to stall.
At this point dedicate 1 or 2 of your more developed planets to bureaucratic worlds. The admin cap bonuses from this will help with your Empire Sprawl.
The second strategy is the opposite. You still need to focus on expanding your Empire but at the same time focus on making sure your admin capacity keeps pace.
You can start this early on when creating your empire by carefully choosing the correct Stellaris origins, ethics, etc.
This might slow your Empire expansion slightly initially, but you’ll save yourself headaches later on. It’s ok if your Sprawl outnumbers your admin capacity by a little, but try to keep it in check.
System Sectors in Stellaris
Empire Sprawl isn’t the only thing that increases as your Empire expands. So does micromanagement.
When you start after choosing your Stellaris origins, you’ll only have a handful of planets to manage, which is pretty simple.
However, as you expand and take over more and more planets it becomes impossibly time-consuming to micromanage them all directly.
Furthermore, the game will punish you with productivity penalties if you try. This is where Stellaris’ sectors come into play.
What are Sectors?
Each Empire starts with a core sector named after the Empire’s homeworld. Planets within this sector are your Stellaris Core sector planets.
You will normally manage these planets directly in the early game as you focus on min/max them.
If a colonized planet is more than four hyperlanes away from your homeworld it is out of the core sector.
You can make this planet a sector capital and create a new sector. The Stellaris sector limit is four hyperlanes.
So any planet within four hyperlanes can be added to this sector. This is a Stellaris frontier sector.
So for example, if you chose the Stellaris Deneb system to start in, before you know it you’ll be dividing it up into smaller sectors.
Why use Frontier Sectors?
Sectors are all about minimizing your workload. You assign them a governor and a sector focus and the sector will automatically develop itself towards that focus, as long as it has the resources.
Sectors are semi-autonomous parts of your Empire that will largely look after themselves whilst still providing the Empire as a whole with taxes, Science, and Influence.
Whilst it is normally more profitable to manage a planet directly you are limited to how many planets you can directly control.
If you exceed this number your Empire is hit with Influence and Empire-wide income penalties.
This means the sooner you start setting up sectors the better. They make your life easier and keep the Empire running nice and smoothly with fewer penalties.
Like we said earlier there are a ton of things to keep track of with Stellaris. It can be easy to get impatient and focus solely on expanding your Empire.
In the early game that isn’t such a bad idea but later on it’s important you take Empire sprawl seriously. Likewise, it can be tempting to try and micromanage everything in your Empire. You’ll drive yourself crazy doing this.
Running an Empire is a lot like being a manager, and a good manager delegates. Use sectors to delegate to your governors so you can focus on the bigger picture.
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