Endless Space Strategy Guide

Endless Space is a brilliant little 4x game by indie studio Amplitude. It’s not as indepth as some other titles in the genre and it has some way to go to really approach the level we’d expect and want from a proper 4x title (it’s still a little light on the combat side – especially in terms of ship hull and weapon varieties. Worse, it has absolutely no carriers, fighters or space stations which is a big negative). Nevertheless this game is a lot of fun and there are plenty of choices to be made when playing it, leaving many players with a huge number of questions. In order to help you get more out of the game, and hold your own against the harder AI or even in multiplayer, we’ll go through some strategies and general tips.

I’ve played this game quite a bit both before release and after – mostly in multiplayer with James Wells, another author at Mana Pool and during this time there are quite a few things we’ve learned.

This guide is correct at the time of writing, based on Endless Space v1.0.30.

 

Custom Faction / Race Design

In absolutely all cases, a custom faction is better than the pre-made ones. You can tailor the race to your play style and the type of game you are playing and it’s generally the best way to go. A lot of choices are perfectly viable, but I would recommend you think of what you want to achieve with your race and try to design some synergies between your chosen traits. In order to get the best selection of points for positive traits, there are a few negative traits you can pick which really make no difference at all to your chances. I recommend you always choose them:

  • Dust Impaired (Hero) – Makes the abilities your heroes can use during battles more expensive. Honestly, this makes no difference at all. You’ll rarely use them and if you play correctly you’ll have plenty of dust once this becomes an issue.
  • Sloppy Sawbones (Hero) – Increases the time it takes for your heroes to heal after they are injured. Several comments. First, the fleet with your hero on it will rarely get completely defeated. Secondly, if this happens you have bigger things to worry about than waiting a few turns longer to get the hero back. Administrative heroes will never suffer from this, it’s a no brainer.
  • Feeble Warriors (Defense) – Reduces the defense on your systems. You should focus on not having your systems invaded in the first place – if this does happen, having additional points to spend in both industrial capacity or fleet/combat strength is far more valuable to deal with this. The only effect is that your systems take less time to surrender during an invasion, generally by a few turns at most.
  • Optional if you are short a few points for your ideal traits: Deep Roots – Makes it harder to gain ownership on systems. It’s not the end of the world, but it can be a bit of a pain later in the game if you’re engaged in massive wars. Still, it’s the best negative pick after the ‘must haves’.
Endless Space Race Selection Screen

Always pick a custom race. Seriously.

There are so many options/viable strategies for positive traits that I don’t really want to give you a template for this as you should try and work around your own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll highlight a few exceptionally good choices though:

  • Optimal Structure – +30% Ship Size. This is in my opinion the single best trait for fleets/ships/combat as it’s completely flexible for all strategies. Why only have an offensive or defensive battle trait if this would work for either? Perfect synergy with anything else which boosts ship combat or fleets in general. Combining this with for example additional hit-points provides some very dangerous ships indeed.
  • Optimistic – Morale is very important in the early to mid game, when you’re expanding rapidly and occasionally wish to grab a planet with a negative anomaly. (Alternative: Naive – which gives a boost based on number of people you’re at peace with and can stack up rapidly if you’re the peaceful type. Naive can provide more morale per trait point than Optimistic under the right circumstances)
  • Scientists - Research is the key to everything. Boosting your research is therefore an excellent idea. I wouldn’t max this unless your entire race design is based on science all the way, as the cost is a bit steep.
  • Dust or Huygens ring - Having some dust to purchase your early heroes provides quite a boost.
  • Legendary Heroes - Never underestimate this. With this you can have Administrator heroes at level 3 immediately, you can pick the first labor perk, followed by the perk which gives +15 flat production. This is an enormous boost at the very beginning of the game as your home world will have twice the production compared to anyone else.

As for affinities, most choices work as long as you ensure your traits and affinity have a good synergy:

  • Avoid United Empire, Cravers and Pilgrims. They’re just not that good compared to the others.
  • Automatons can be nice if your race is designed around production.
  • Sowers are nice as you have far less food issues on lower tier worlds and get a few nice unique production technologies.
  • Sophons are a good pick for an increase in Scientific Output.
  • Hissho are a powerful pick if you are extremely aggressive. Design your race accordingly.
  • Horatio are very situational but can be a powerful choice. Legendary Heroes is a must-have.
  • Amoeba is highly underrated and extremely powerful for early rapid expansion as you don’t waste time searching for nice systems.
Endless Space Nox Aeterna Custom Race

Nox Aeterna, one of Evil Tactician’s Custom Races

 

Early Gameplay

  • Set your Home world exploitation to Endless Space FIDS Food Food – unless you have the sower Affinity in which case you set it to Endless Space FIDS Industry Production.
  • Scout your constellation immediately and don’t stop until you’ve discovered all of it. At that point, have scouts sitting at wormhole ends to meet new races and pop out as soon as you have the right technology.
  • Colonise the next system as soon as possible, generally the first one you come across with a habitable planet.
  • Research N-Power Plants first, the tech which gives you a flat +10 Endless Space FIDS Industry production among other production bonuses. This helps your colonies build up more quickly.
  • The next research is almost always one of the bottom tree, depending on the planets in your surrounding systems. You want to colonise most of your constellation before other players do so. Your target should be to go straight for 5-6 of the best available systems at the earliest opportunity. In a small constellation with no other players, colonise all of it. You only have to colonise 1 planet per system for now, the rest can be done by the colony itself.
  • The other research is a matter of going through the available tech trees in turns, simply keep going at the ‘cheap’ technologies. The only early exception is the wormhole technology in the bottom tree. Depending on the size of your constellation you might want this sooner rather than later, so you can push into the galactic core and grab good systems before other players do. If you started with the Amoeba affinity, wormhole tech is a priority as you can fly straight to the nice systems.
  • Establish which system will be your ‘ship production’ system early on and focus this system on Endless Space FIDS Industry industrial output. Systems with more planets and bonuses which increase production are ideal.
  • Early on, dedicate your home system solely to population growth – remember that colony ships can also be used to transport population.
  • Grab an Endless Space Administrator Hero Administrator hero (production/food) and start it in your home system. Once the hero has a few levels, don’t be afraid to rotate him through your systems to help them build up early on. This hero will eventually be placed on your ship production system to boost it’s massive production even further, but right now you want your colonies kick-started.
  • Once you can afford it, grab a Endless Space Corporate Hero Corporate hero. This hero will be stationed in your home system – unless you found an amazing system which would function better as trade and science hub. Focus this hero on dust/science output as much as possible.
  • Your third hero will be used for your fleet and actively patrol your empire and blow annoying things to little pieces. Pick one with Endless Space Commander Herofleet/Endless Space Pilot Heropilot skills.
  • Your hero selection might not be ideal – so adapt accordingly. If you have no Endless Space Administrator Hero administrator, simply grab a Endless Space Corporate Hero corporate and start with the perks which increase labor, then swap him to with perks later on. There are enough levels to effectively swap roles later in the game once you gain access to more heroes and I’ve had great games with only heroes of 1 type.
  • Once you have the first combat technologies, design a ship and start building at least a couple. Keep an eye out for pirate activity and make sure you can counter at the very least their fleets. To this end, your initial ships are fine with only deflectors as defense as ballistics is all the pirates will use. Avoid wars, focus on creating the foundation of your empire. (Unless you are Hissho, in which case an offensive strategy and conquering systems beats building up slowly)

 

Mid to late Gameplay

  • Mid game arrives much quicker than you think, so prepare accordingly.
  • Your home system will at this point change from population growth to trade Endless Space FIDS Dust and science Endless Space FIDS Science hub. Change it’s focus accordingly.
  • You need an active fleet with a hero – ideally utilising the maximum number of command points available to you.
  • Colonise additional planets within your systems once you run out of space. Don’t colonise too soon or you will suffer from negative morale.
  • You might want to grab the bottom tech trait which enables moon surveys and removal of the mediocre anomalies. This will help you make some vast improvements to your systems as the improvements based on having explored moons are now outright fantastic.
  • Ensure you get the technologies which increase your scientific Endless Space FIDS Science output. In particular the one which gives a flat +40 Endless Space FIDS Science science to your systems as it’s a lovely push to your science! Really, don’t slack on science!
  • Try to acquire a cooperation treaty or two. Even if you’re planning to be aggressive, don’t fight too many wars at once, as there’s no benefit to doing so.
  • Colonise and reinforce choke points. Until late game, most travel will occur through the warp lanes and you can defend accordingly.
  • Don’t build system improvements that don’t provide benefits. Seriously, don’t. If you have no moons, the moon based improvements are a waste. If you have no planets of the type required by an improvement, don’t bother with it. Sounds obvious but many people waste so much dust.
  • Don’t build defensive improvements everywhere. You don’t need them. Focus on defending frontier worlds. The dust you save from not having defensive improvements on systems away from borders with opponents, can be used to maintain more ships. Which you can used to actually defend said systems properly.
  • Keep an eye on your tax levels. Adjust this frequently. Lower taxes makes for more productive citizens – don’t keep the tax higher than you need to keep your dust balance positive.

 

Ship Designs

How you design your ships makes a fair bit of difference to your performance in combat. Luckily, designing ships is incredibly straight forward in Endless Space, and tends to come down to a pretty standard set of tactics. There are two types of ship design:

  1. The hard counter. Generally required when you are behind in technology or are otherwise struggling to defeat ships from a specific opponent/design. These ships are generally designed for 1 task only and their survival comes second to completing their mission.
  2. The general multipurpose design. The ships you will build when you either don’t know the opponent, or are ahead in technology. These are meant to fight anything rather than be specialists against a specific type of opponent. These ships are generally designed for survival.
Endless Space Ship Design Screen

The ship design screen in Endless Space. Not much to it, really.

The hard counter

This one is easiest. These ships are meant to fight a specific opponent, so you must know what you’re trying to counter. These ships require your best weapon type, preferably two different weapons to avoid getting countered easily. Defensively – you stack only the defense against the weapon you are trying to counter. Reflectors for Ballistics, Shields for Lasers and Flak against Missiles.

The best hull type for this type of ship is the Destroyer. As each race has different names for their Hull, look for the ‘Small’ (1cp) hull type with -20% bonus on weapon modules. This enables you to stack more weapons on these ships. Cheap and cheerful is the motto here. Stack 5-10 defense modules (depending on opponent / relative tech levels) and fill the rest with weapons. Either Ballistics OR Lasers + some Missiles to throw your opponent.

If your tech level is very far behind and you don’t feel you can easily hard counter – your last resort is cheap Missile boats. Stack nothing but Missiles on these ships and pretty much keep throwing them at their fleets in batches. Don’t send single ships as that wont really accomplish much.

The general multipurpose design

As I said, designing ships is pretty easy. First pick a hull, generally the largest you have available as having sufficient defense and hitpoints is key. Note the bonuses on the hull types, you generally want ones which give bonuses to the type of module you have equipped the most. You can swap hulls during design (within the same size) so compare your space when you have filled it completely. You might be able to squeeze a little more out of a different hull.

Then;

  • 1x Intelligent Tools. Additional ship repair every round – this increases your effective hitpoints in combat enormously.
  • 1x Engine Module. Take the best of second best. The exception is smaller ships with a lack of space. On bigger ones, the engine is pretty handy unless you’re trying to squeeze out more hitpoints or weaponry.
  • 1x Smart Cargo. These are brilliant for obvious reasons: they give you more space on your ships. They make your ships more expensive but quality > quantity.
  • 1x Accelerated Magnetics. Brilliant increase to your defensive capabilities.
  • 10x Armor
  • 10x Kinetic Plating
  • 10x Shield
  • 10x Flak
  • 15+ Beam Weapons
  • Fill any remaining space with additional weaponry, or armor if you feel your ships need a little more health.

Anyone who is behind in weapon technologies will struggle immensely against Dreadnoughts build like above. This doesn’t work well on small ships. For Medium sized ships, adapt accordingly by halving the number of modules. You can’t go wrong with Dreadnoughts though and unlocking these should be a priority in the mid game.

I recommend you build at least 2 different type of ships for your fleet and mix their primary weapon types. This will make it a lot harder for your opponents to hard counter your ships. Obviously an ideal fleet carries all weapon types, so has 3 different designs, but this isn’t always feasible.

 

Terraforming and Exploitation

Some of the most raised questions are in regards to Exploitation and Terraforming. Most people don’t really know what planets are suitable for what purpose, so a few bits of information will go a long way.

Tables originally created by messej at the Endless Space Forums.

 Planetary Endless Space FIDS Output per Planet type, and Best Exploitation:

No Exploit App Endless Space FIDS Food Endless Space FIDS Industry Endless Space FIDS Dust Endless Space FIDS Science Total Endless Space FIDS Food Endless Space FIDS Industry Endless Space FIDS Dust Endless Space FIDS Science Best
Asteroid -15 5 10 11 8 34 >3< >3< >3< >3< 37
Helium -15 5 6 8 14 33 3 3 3 >4< 37
Hydrogen -15 5 6 17 9 37 3 3 >4< 3 41
Methane -15 5 15 8 9 37 3 >4< 3 3 41
Barren -10 6 6 11 6 29 3 3 3 >6< 35
Lava -10 6 11 8 6 31 3 >6< 3 3 37
Arctic -5 6 6 8 9 29 3 3 3 >5< 34
Desert -5 6 11 7 5 29 3 3 >5< 3 34
Arid -5 7 8 13 6 34 4 3 >6< 3 40
Tundra -5 7 7 10 10 34 4 >5< 3 3 39
Jungle 0 9 9 10 6 34 >5< >5< 3 3 39
Ocean 0 9 7 10 8 34 >5< 3 3 >5< 39
Terran 0 9 7 12 6 34 >6< 3 4 3 40

Simple put, use the exploitation marked with arrows for each planet type. Some planets are suited for multiple exploitations, and your strategy in the star system will dictate your choice. E.g. prioritise  Endless Space FIDS Food food when your system still has free population slots, otherwise focus on Endless Space FIDS Industry Production, Endless Space FIDS Dust Dust or Endless Space FIDS Science Science. Don’t slack on Endless Space FIDS Industry production in underdeveloped systems, you can always swap their exploitation to Endless Space FIDS Science Science later.

Maximum Endless Space Population population size by planet type, both at the start and after all technologies/improvements:

Population Tiny Small Med Large Huge With Tech Tiny Small Med Large Huge
Asteroid 1 2 3 3 4 Asteroid 7 7 7 7 8
Helium 1 2 3 3 4 Helium 7 7 7 7 8
Hydrogen 1 2 3 3 4 Hydrogen 7 7 7 7 8
Methane 1 2 3 3 4 Methane 7 7 7 7 8
Barren 1 2 3 4 4 Barren 6 6 6 7 7
Lava 1 2 3 4 4 Lava 6 6 6 7 7
Arctic 2 3 4 5 6 Arctic 7 7 7 8 9
Desert 2 3 4 5 6 Desert 7 7 7 8 9
Arid 3 4 5 7 8 Arid 8 8 8 10 11
Tundra 3 4 5 7 8 Tundra 8 8 8 10 11
Jungle 4 5 6 8 10 Jungle 9 9 9 11 13
Ocean 4 5 6 8 10 Ocean 9 9 9 11 13
Terran 4 5 6 8 10 Terran 9 9 9 11 13

Last but not least, your late-game choice of planet type/terraforming depends on what exploitation you want to focus on in each specific star system. On your ship production system(s), focus fully on Endless Space FIDS Industry production. On the rest, Endless Space FIDS Science Science is usually the way to go unless you’re struggling for Endless Space FIDS Dust Dust, but your terraformed planets should bring in enough to meet all your needs. If you do struggle, develop 1 system with only Arid planets set to Endless Space FIDS Dust Dust exploitation as that will bring in a lot of Endless Space FIDS Dust Dust. The below starts with the worst planet types and ends with your ‘ideal’ planet.

You cannot directly terraform from a tier 4 to a tier 2, you need to go through each tier to get to your final desired outcome. You obviously need to posses the required technology.

Terraforming

  • Endless Space FIDS Food Food: Any -> Terran.
  • Endless Space FIDS Industry Production: Lava -> Desert -> Tundra -> Jungle -> Terran*
  • Endless Space FIDS Science Science: Barren -> Arctic -> Tundra** -> Ocean.
  • Endless Space FIDS Dust Dust: Desert -> Arid -> Terran

* At end-game a Terran with Farm Exploitation is better than a Jungle with Production, due to the food to industry conversion, until then, the Jungle/Production will trump it.
* Use only to progress to the next tier, never leave a planet at this for this output type. Don’t bother terraforming this if you cannot reach the next tier immediately.

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • Gerard

    Very useful – thanks!

  • 8bawl

    Great guide, even better tables! A very good start for those that are new.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Thank you for your feedback. If you have anything to add to the guide – please don’t hesitate to let us know as any comment could help new people get going with the game.

  • Voqar

    Excellent guide. Vastly superior to the weak one stickied at the official forums.

  • Andrew

    Great guide. Thanks!

  • Andrew Rusling

    Thank you for the guide, it was helped to kick start my time with Endless Space which I am really enjoying.

    I am a confused by your notes around terraforming.

    For example to target Science you recommend ending up with an Ocean planet for the best Science output. However the first table has these values for Science output by planet type: Barren 6, Arctic 9, Tundra 10, Ocean 8. Which seems to indicate the Tundra would be the best planet type. If I look at the exploits, then Arctic (9 + 5 = 14) would be the best over Ocean (8 + 5 = 13).

    Can you please explain the reasoning behind the recommendations by output type?

  • aretino2002

    Nice guide. One thing I’d add is that the system you choose to make your ship building one – make sure it has lots of raw materials related to ship building.

    1) Those resources increase production per citizen.
    2) Otherwise, it’s too easy for a couple enemy fleets to blockade your resources on other planets from reaching the production planet; then you can’t make ships.

    One last tip to call out for beginners is to remove victory conditions that you aren’t pursuing while you’re learning the ropes. If you know you aren’t going to go Wonder victory, remove it so that the AI doesn’t sneak a win in before you can develop your endgame strategies and close out a game.

  • Didz

    Thank you for all the effort you put in to this guide. I have found it immensely useful in the early and mid-periods of my games so far.

    The two area’s which remain a confusion for me at present and which I feel would be a yseful addition to the text are:

    1. Something about Trade, and the best strategy for exploiting it. At the moment I really don’t understand it and so tend to ignore it, giving any trade developments very low priority. But I’m not sure if that’s the best strategy.

    2. The other aspect relates to the military/naval strategy for the end game phase. I’ve read various idea’s on how best to deploy fleets but nothing which i would call a considered strategy. The ‘Blockade strategy’ (e.g. leaving fleets at the exits to warp lanes) only seems to work well during the early game when enemy fleets can’t warp across voids in space. It would interestng to hear your view on this tricky subject.

  • yog-sothot

    Andrew, I did not do the math, but you can’t just look at this table and forget other elements. For instance, many upgrades give a bonus proportional to the population size. And Type I planets such as terran or ocean can have the largest population.

    Moreover, in the late game, you can turn all your food surplus into production, and food output can be huge on Type I planets.

    I don’t know exactly what’s the best possible planet for each type of output considering all the possible upgrades, but a big type I planet with a large population and upgrades can do wonder

  • Andrew Rusling

    Thank you yog-sothot, that helps. I posted my question on the Endless Space forums and received plenty of guidance on the matter: http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?15203-Terraforming-is-it-worth-it.

  • aretino2002

    Didz:

    Trade is measured in trade routes only; it’s all exposed on the top right of the system screen. Overall, routes can be a huge benefit if you keep some things in mind. Few things I’ve figured out about it:

    1) It’s one to one with foreign systems. If you have 10 systems, and there are only 4 other occupied systems, you will only have 4 trade routes, depending on the other empire’s tech/buildings.
    2) They automatically get up and shift around, I assume for the best profit.
    3) If you are at war, you cannot have trade routes with that empire. This can be shocking sometimes when you declare war on an empire and your economy takes a hit; you need to prep and usually want to avoid war with multiple factions at once.
    4) The buildings for trade routes can be a huge money sink if you aren’t filling the routes up. If your systems say the routes are 1 active out of 4 possible, sell some buildings.
    5) As you advance, if you only have a few routes you can take advantage of, sell off other buildings in other systems and focus on getting the best buildings for trade in only the systems that have (preferably with a hero for even more bonuses).
    6) You need to discover the other systems to have trade with them. That shouldn’t be a problem since you should always explore the entire map as standard procedure, anyway.
    7) Alliances and Co-Op pacts help trade, but they are just nice additions, not vital for trade to work at all.

    Overall, the concept of trade itself is easy once you start seeing the pattern, but it does add to the micromanagement you have to do end game. If you declare war on a faction and lose trade routes, you are much better off selling buildings and saving the cash rather than having them sit there doing nothing. And then, of course, if you declare peace you’ll want to rebuild to make sure you are maxxing trade routes out.

  • Stellarhamsandwich

    Can you trust the A.I. or is it really better to manage your systems manually?

  • o9revo

    Thank you for this great guide. I have a question. I have the v1.0.3 but theres no ”Automatons” to be selected. Is this something you have to creat or what am I missing out on?

    I got 9 different factions but theres no Automatons. Im a bit confused. Thanks again for this great guide it really made my day :)

  • Masacroso

    Useless guide. You need to fcous EVERY game, dont care what race are you playing, in militar technology tree cause ever pirates or anothes races go fight you at the end o fgame.

    Its completely useless have all systems happy, good dust per round, good technology points or so if you cant defend or attack.

    Its sad but military is a priorityt every game no matter what.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @09revo – in that version they don’t exist, the Automatons are a free addon which was released later. Just let Steam update your copy and all done.

    @Masacroso – Due to the exponential increase in research cost, focusing all your attention in military technology is actually detrimental to your power and you will fall behind massively over time. By focussing on quick, cheap technologies you increase your power base gradually at all levels. There are some techs you need to beeline for early on, and that is described in the guide above. A good example is the flat increase in science for each colony, beelining there and building those on all your colonies can often triple your scientific output, which in turn also speeds up military technology. If you focus entirely on military you WILL fall behind and eventually lose.

  • GodDog

    First, great guide. Thanks. Has shed much light on dark corners of the game for me. A few questions. Any idea if the computer cheats based on skill level? My friends and I get together and play some matches against the computer. The higher the skill level we set, it seems the computer excels far faster on the tech tree and outputs way more ships. Do you know if the skill level determines how much faster the computer can build stuff?

    Second, Is there any way to get the game to register a win while you are allied or will you always have to disband your alliance and fight each other to the death?

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    @GodDog – Yeah, the computer ‘cheats’ based on difficulty level. It definitely builds more quickly on harder levels.

    Unfortunately we had the same problem. I almost exclusively played multiplayer and we kind of finished the games when we defeated all AI as we were usually allied by then. Some of us, anyway. It’s an oversight I hope they fix. Diplomacy could use work anyway.

  • Xerys

    Excellent guide, man! Though, I think everybody’d like to see the most optimal way to queue science research at the beginning. Because as for me, I always hesitate what to research next and i think it affects my system development in a great way. So, it will be great to see the optimal science queue.

  • Alex

    Hi Pete, Many thanks for this guide. I’ve played several games now, won some, lost some.
    Among the several advices I found your website as been the one I found the post useful, it helps beginners.

    I’ll still try to play Cravers.

    I found very interesting playing Sowers, although it became micromanaging at some point.
    Thanks again,
    Tha’s a very good job!

  • Nmid

    I’m confused.. but in Harmony, there is no way you can have 10x Armor on a ddn class ship.. that would be 660 weight, while the total ship only has about 440 (at the relevant tech lvl)…

    Are your ideas based on the classic model or am I missing something?

    • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

      It’s based on an older version of the game.