Interesting to see Stellaris is planning a rework that broadly will make unity a currency for internal Empire management, and influence much more aligned with external force projection and expansion.

The bigger issue with playing tall/internal-Empire-focus is Stellaris is ultimately about big military crises - great Khans, awakened Empires, the Crisis.

You have a big fleet or you lose.

Until that changes, whatever playstyle gets you the biggest fleet is the only viable one.
To be clear, this isn't inherently bad, it just feels a bit wonky.

Stellaris' biggest moments - including the entire end game - can exclusively be handled via a military solution.

In a game where you can choose to be militarist (correct) or pacifist (objectively wrong).
To me, the solution seems pretty clear - there needs to be a correspondingly difficult non-violent way to resolve the major military crises.

Pay off the Great Khan, negotiate with Awakened Ascendancies, find a research solution to the Crisis (say, a virus for the Contingency).
The ground work for this exists already - the subterfuge system seems very well set up to have, say, major assassination missions during big crises - assassinating the Great Khan to immediately fragment his Empire, say.
The rare resources offer opportunities too - what if you needed an absolutely ludicrous amount of Dark Matter to nuke the Unbidden's rift and destroy them all? So suddenly you have the need to aggressively seize mining sites AND throw everything at the Galactic market.
Also, between the various DLCs, we're just swimming in planet destroyers and star eaters that don't actually DO that much.

Why not have an alternative solution to the crisis be absolute quarantine? Burn every planet, star and hyperlane to trap a crisis. Problem 'solved'.
I just ultimately want Stellaris conflicts to be solved by something other than 'Who has the most fleet power?' which is why Nemesis ultimately disappointed me a little bit.

Sure, it's nice flavour, but even most difficult subterfuge missions barely inconvenience your enemies.
Say you go to war with somebody, they have the bigger fleet, but you have superior espionage.

What's the biggest, most difficult military subterfuge you can commit?

It's destroying a single random building or module on one of their starbases.

Laughably pointless.
I think subterfuge may be one of the biggest misses of Stellaris so far - it is utterly feeble how little you can do with it.

Surely it should be obvious it should help weaker military Empires win wars via unconventional means?
Let's list some obvious ones;

- Blackmail an enemy's ally so they break off a defensive pact.

- Trigger an uprising on an enemy planet (effectively a free invasion army)

- Screw up enemy targeting systems (reduction in fleet power for a few months)
I just find it a bit frustrating that subterfuge is a good system for flavour and general information gathering, but the actual complex operations are aggressively useless and do not provide any real alternative ways to play the game.
The point is Stellaris is frustratingly hamstrung by its own crisis system.

All attempts to make alternative playstyles are undermined by the simple fact you have to view all of them through the lens of 'Does this get me more fleet power' because eventually nothing else matters.
Until there are win conditions or mechanisms beyond 'Can you beat the Crisis in a straight-up shoot-out' that will remain the case.

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