Knowledge is power in Stellaris, and knowing how to use espionage effectively can make the difference between dominance and destruction.

There are many paths to galactic domination Stellaris, the hit sci-fi grand strategy game from Paradox Interactive. While planet-shattering superweapons and unstoppable hordes of cyborgs are an option, you can also dominate the galaxy in Stellaris without firing a single shot through the careful use of diplomacy.

There are two worlds diplomacy in Stellaris, a surface world of trade deals, rivalries and alliances, and an underground world of espionage, sabotage and backstabbing. While no one can ignore conventional diplomacy, espionage is a powerful tool that can be used to undermine enemies or keep a close eye on “friends”.


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How to use espionage in Stellaris

Stellaris spy screen

Just like normal diplomacy, espionage relies on a type of Leader Envoy from which players gain access to a limited number of based on their civic education, Technologies and Traditions. Using the diplomacy or espionage window for another Empire, players can appoint an envoy from their limited pool to begin building a spy network. This will start to increase the penetration rate of the network, which shows how deep they have infiltrated the target Empire and how much information they have uncovered. Infiltration also passively increases Intel, a stat that determines how much information players gain by exploring the territory of that Empire.

The maximum penetration that a spy network can achieve depends largely on the respective encryption and codebreaking performance of the two empires. A low-crack empire that creates a network within a high-encryption one will reach its maximum number of intrusions almost instantly, limiting their Intel and the operations they can launch. On the other hand, an empire with very good codebreaking can enhance their penetration and intelligence to the point where they can see their target secret diplomatic agreementsor even track fleet movements in real time.

How to use transactions in Stellaris

Stellaris Espionage Arm privateer operation

As the spy network increases its penetration, it opens up increasingly powerful operations for the player to perform. These operations cost both Stellaris‘ Resource of influence and saving energy credits for any length of time. Operations range from simply raising the penetration and Intel limit for a few years to extorting favors for use in conventional diplomacy to establishing a pirate fleet in the target Empire’s territory.

Operations function the same as Stellaris‘ archeology mechanic, as a die is rolled each month to determine whether the Operation advances to the next stage or stays put. This die is modified by the Empire’s ability to crack codes, as well as the difficulty of the operation. An operation also has a chance to generate random events and decisions that can change the operation’s chances of success or reward.

Each operation has a base difficulty, which is then scaled according to the respective codebreaking and encryption scores of the Empires. To increase their chances of a successful operation in the future, players can use the Acquire Assets operation to acquire an agent in a specific department of the target empire. These assets can then be used to reduce the complexity of operations in their subcategory and gain bonus Intel when used to gather information in their profession. For example, a junior officer is a trick asset built into a target’s weapon, providing a boost to both decoy operations and Fleet and Ship Intel by Gather Information.

Stellaris currently available on PC, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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