Stellaris Influence Guide
Stellaris is less fiddly than some of Paradox's other games (here's looking at you, Crusader Kings 2), but there are still a lot of moving parts. One of the trickier resources to manage is influence -- unlike minerals and energy credits, you can't just build more mines or power plants to boost your generation. There's a limited number of sources that you can gain influence from, and you need it to build frontier outposts, integrate vassals, run advanced policies, and enact edicts. It's easy to run short if you don't manage it carefully, but if you know what you're doing, you can easily stay ahead of the curve. Here's some tips to managing your purple mana:
There are three technologies that offer a flat +1 monthly influence, and if you're not throwing down a ton of Frontier Outposts or constantly integrating vassals, that might be enough for you. Either way, these are technologies that you want, and they come fairly early in the tech tree -- none of them are rare, so you probably won't miss them, but you should prioritize picking them up to get the most of their effect. The technologies are Colonial Centralization, Planetary Unification, and Galactic Administration. Galactic Administration also allows you to build the Empire-Capital Complex, which is the only building that gives bonus influence, so that's definitely a tech you want. With just these techs and the Empire-Capital Complex, your influence generation shoots from 3/month to 7/month. Big difference!
The other key way to gain influence is to declare rivals -- you can get up to 2 influence a month for a single rival this way. Don't go around declaring rivals willy-nilly though -- that's a good way to end up on the wrong end of a galactic federation, and the influence gain isn't always better than a potential trading partner or ally. The key to getting the most out of your rival is based on two main things -- proximity and size. If you rival someone close who is as powerful as you are then you are likely to generate a lot of influence. If your empire is militaristic you will get even more, but if you're pacifistic, you'll get less.
What you should NOT do is rival someone bigger than you or someone you don't think you can beat in a war -- they will absolutely declare on you because of the relations penalty. Pick someone equal in size and enjoy the benefits.
The prime directive
Stellaris rewards you for playing a benevolent overlord race in a couple of different ways. For each protectorate you have, you gain an additional 1 influence a month -- this can add up pretty quickly! The only problem is that it can sometimes be hard to find smaller nations to turn into protectorates. If you're looking to min-max your influence, a great way to find nations to bring under your wing is to win them in a war -- if your enemy has a protectorate it's usually only 30 warscore to make them yours, so declaring war for a protectorate can be pretty profitable.
There is also a one-time influence boost every time you Uplift a species, so it can be a good idea to spend down your influence before you bring a new species into the fold.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you stay ahead of the influence game in your quest to control the galaxy. Did we forget anything? Have any thoughts or additions? Let us know in the comment section!