There are four total factions in the galaxy of Sins of a Solar Empire. Three of these factions are controllable by the player: the industrious Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC), the psychic Advent and the technologically advanced Vasari. The fourth faction, the Pirates, are an NPC faction that exists only to collect bounties by destroying ships of the other three.
In the Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion stand-alone expansion, the three factions have fractured into Loyalist and Rebel camps, that have different philosophies and take very different stances on their enemies.
The Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC) was originally a group of trade worlds that descends from earlier human exploration, in the "Golden Age" their economy flourished and society grew. At one point they cast out the Advent, a religious desert sect that the Traders despised (see Advent) which lead many to mark the end to the Golden Age. In recent times the Vasari entered the scene as they fled from their Xeno enemy. To defend against the Vasari, the Traders formed the TEC, mobilized their economy towards military production and managed to hold the Vasari off by converting their merchant vessels and mining ships into warships, and later produced the Kol capital ship which was their first battleship design in 750 years. The Advent then returned, having become much more powerful, and started a two-front war. This compelled the TEC to force retired veterans to return to the navy to fight back the Advent. The TEC tends to have heavily armored units and mostly focus on ballistic weapons (missiles and cannons) and less on lasers. TEC ships are heavily armored, shielded, and have greater hull strength than the ships of any other faction in the game, though this staying power often comes at the price of less firepower and damage-dealing potential. The TEC have a mixed close-to-long range arsenal but mostly focus on the latter. Their preferred planets are terran planets.
TEC have some of the least expensive frigates and cruisers of any faction, enabling them to more easily build large fleets and overpower enemies with sheer numbers. The Javelis LRM Frigate has the longest range of any combat unit in the game and delivers very high firepower for its cost, making it one of the most dangerous assault units in the game. On the other hand, the Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser is a defensive support unit that acts as a mobile repair bay and keeps your fleet intact during intense firefights. Both of these units are very inexpensive to build, are very cost-effective, and available early in the game. This gives TEC a potent early-game fighting force. Their capital ships also shine in the early game, with the Sova Carrier, Marza Dreadnought, and Akkan Battlecruiser performing well in their respective roles. A swarm of Javelis LRM Frigates backed up by Hoshiko Robotics Cruisers and two Sova Carriers can be a difficult force to defend against, and a good TEC player can field it within the first 20 minutes of the game. This makes TEC arguably the best rushing faction. The Argonev Star Base's ability to self-destruct can antagonize even the best of players; they have no way of knowing whether they're walking into an explosive trap, and usually are forced to keep their distance just to be safe. The TEC have the strongest capital ships in the game in terms of health and armor and, in general, a TEC player will enjoy exceptional survivability on all their ships.
On the economic front, the TEC have a powerful advantage if they lead with the Akkan Battlecruiser. This gives them an edge in the early colonization phase of the game, both bolstering the resource producing of newly colonized planets as well as reducing your dependence on slow and expensive colony frigates. Their Civilian Tree also has several useful and inexpensive technologies. Although TEC does get Trade Ports earlier than other factions, this advantage is not as big as it first appears; in practice, it is easy to maintain a competitive economy without trade in the first 20 minutes of the game, giving the other factions plenty of time to build the additional labs necessary. Late game, the TEC receive an upgrade called Pervasive Economy that gives them unrivaled economic power.
Although TEC opens with powerful military units, its late game prospects are not nearly as good (despite this they are still more than capable of holding their own late in battle). While they retain a very cost-effective Kodiak Heavy Cruiser and the starbase-smashing Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser, the military situation grows increasingly grim. TEC has very little answer to powerful late-game abilities like Repulsion and Distortion Field that can completely shut down portions of the enemy fleet, and virtually nothing that can protect their capital ships against the massive amount of firepower the enemy will be capable of throwing at them. TEC capital ships begin to suffer for another reason as well; they offer fewer fleet support abilities than their Vasari and Advent counterparts, and need to lean on powerful level 6 abilities to compete. Taken together, TEC is a faction that must find an advantage in the early game and carry it forward. They begin to fall behind the other factions on every front except economy, and will need to maintain better capital ships and a significantly larger fleet to compete.
TEC Loyalists are a defensive variation on the traditional TEC formula. With Twin Fortresses, the TEC Loyalists can build two Argonev Star Bases at a planet instead of one, and five Argonevs at a star instead of four. The TEC Loyalists can also access Novalith Cannon with six Military Labs instead of eight. One advantage of the loyalists is their economic prowess allows them to become diplomatically allied with other races; something the xenophobic rebels find much harder to do.
The Advent were originally a society of desert-dwelling humans with strange psionic technologies. Isolated on an arid homeworld orbiting a giant red star, the ancestors of the Advent had little contact with their interstellar neighbors and took no interest in commerce, instead developed a thriving and deeply spiritual culture centred around enlightenment and self-actualisation. As part of this, the ancestors of the Advent developed many brain-altering technologies, including artificial neurochemicals, sophisticated cybernetic modifications, and biological re-engineering, the liberal use of which was encouraged for all, at all ages. When the various other human planetary societies banded together into the interstellar commercial-governmental system known as the Trade Order, their initial efforts to entice the ancestors of the Advent to join were rebuffed. Unwilling to accept this, the Trade Order dispatched teams of market researchers to devise an improved diplomatic strategy based on the economic demands of the populace. Instead, they found a foreign and incomprehensible society that every day engaged in social and technological practices generally viewed as perverse and decadent on all other human worlds. Unable to comprehend the nascent collective consciousness that would one day call itself the Unity, short of committing genocide against the multitude inhabitants of the desert world, the Trade Order voted to suspend its policy of local cultural noninterference and to banish the inhabitants of the planet into unexplored regions of the galaxy, where they would remain as exiles from the humanity of the Trade Order. As a result of the collective experience of their exile, the Unity came to harbour a profound psychic trauma as they evolved, leading to a cold resentment of the Traders and their prejudicial imposition of their justice system.
For more than a thousand years of their nomadic wanderings, the unrestricted efforts of the Unity's Coalescent minds have devised mysterious and advanced technologies unknown within Trader space, where research monies were apportioned according to the best perceived return on investment. In particular, technology within the Unity is cybernetically integrated in a manner inconceivable to the other factions, and nearly all Advent personnel are able to manipulate their technology at an innate psychic level, forming a technological system called PsiTech. For instance, rather than conventionally mapping the surface of a planetary body, Advent Scryers mentally integrate vast networks of sensory data, "seeing" the geography of the world as though with their own bodily senses. Through mental labor, Advent crews can strengthen the shields of their ships, fine-tune energy weapons to focus beams and strengthen plasma containment fields, all without physically lifting a finger. Over the centuries, Psitech became so pervasive that every aspect of Advent civilization now relies on it. Having exhausted the rare resources they require to live their unique lifestyle, the highest authority of the Advent imposed its will upon the Unity to return to known human space, to exact vengeance upon the Traders and free their species to achieve its true potential with the ultimate Advent of the Unity.
Advent ships are mostly cheap, lightly armored units, which are all equipped with energy weapons (lasers, beams, and plasma), varying forms of PsiTech support systems, and powerful energy shields. Their units and buildings have very aesthetic designs, with equal attention given to form and function. Advent fleets rely on the co-operation of large numbers of support ships while in combat, and most Advent ships have some capacity to assist one another. They also specialize in the deployment of vast numbers of drone Anima, PsiTech piloted remote strike craft, capable of co-ordinated swarming in huge numbers as a result of the psychic integration provided by Anima pilots, who need never risk themselves in combat. The Advent can more effectively develop Desert planets due to their historical connection to their homeworld.
When it comes to the issue of fleet support (special abilities), there is no faction that can match the Advent. Their units, across the board, have massive shield reserves to absorb punishment. Backing up their powerful frigates and cruisers are exceptional capital ships that focus on fleet support. Their abilities can increase their fleet's damage, longevity and defense, further improving their already high combat potential. The Advent also has one of the most dangerous support cruisers in the game, the Iconus Guardian, which can give your fleet an effective second layer of shielding in addition to its ability to repulse enemy units to break their formations, disrupt their movements, and push them out of attack range. When fully upgraded with abilities like Meteor Storm, and guarded by the right complement of units and capital ships, the Transcencia Star Base can be nearly impregnable as a defense. When it comes to pure muscle, a late-game Advent military is without peer.
Although it comes earlier in the technology tree, Advent culture is no more dangerous than any other kind of culture, and even their superweapon, the Deliverance Engine, isn't very threatening compared to the planet-busting Novalith Cannon or the structure-disrupting Kostura Cannon, which are far more effective siege weapons. Aside from the late game technology Allure of the Unity, their economy is lackluster. Usually Advent players need to carefully preserve their fleet and save money by replacing their units less often, since they have less disposable income than Vasari or TEC in general. But the greatest Advent disadvantage is their combat options in the early game. Their Illuminator Vessel and Repair Platform appear later in the tech tree than either of the TEC or Vasari equivalents, which can slow down early-game Advent responses and leave them quite vulnerable. Often Advent have no real alternative but to make swarms of Disciple Vessels, which makes them very easy to counter. If Advent can get through the early game, they become a terrifying force to contend with, but surviving long enough to field a mature fleet will be your greatest challenge. Their ships have powerful shields but very weak armor and hulls. The Vasari in particular can destroy Advent ships easier than the TEC through the use of Phase Missiles. Since the missiles can bypass shields, Advent ships are very vulnerable against them.
It's been noted that the AI is terrible at playing Advent, so much so that it's comparable to reducing the difficulty level by one notch. This is because Advent is very dependent on combining its strengths carefully in well-organized fleets, but the AI seldom employs these advantages well, if at all. In Entrenchment, it also tends to delegate far too many carriers to minelayer duty, meaning the Advent AI is chronically short on fighters and bombers, in spite of the fact that a good Advent fleet will always have more strike craft than comparable Vasari or TEC fleets.
Advent Loyalists are a variation on the traditional Advent formula. They focus on continuing the spread of Unity throughout the galaxy, with their unique tech and titan focusing on mind control.
Advent Rebels are a variation on the traditional Advent formula, with a focus around sacrifice and rebirth of ships, along with a titan whose special abilities grow in power as it takes damage.
The Vasari are the only alien race in the game. The Vasari Empire was once the strongest in the galaxy. Their empire was formed by peacefully assimilating primitive races and brutally crushing more advanced races, turning the populations of both into second class citizens. However, at some point they started losing contact with their worlds. At first, it was believed to be acts of rebellion, or the work of traitors, but as more worlds were lost, it became clear the situation was very serious. Vast fleets were sent to deal with the problem, but none of them ever returned, and the Vasari still had no clue as to the identity of the attacker. Finally, the Vasari recalled all of the available ships of their conquering fleet, the Dark Armada, and sent them all to the last planet they lost contact with. Only one battleship returned, literally falling apart, with its crew driven completely insane with fear. It was then that the Vasari Empire as a whole began to flee. They began their exodus, leaving their home systems behind, stopping only to harvest resources, rebuild their population, and to drop warning beacons in order to determine how close behind the unknown enemy was. As they fled, the beacons fell silent one by one, prompting the Vasari to continue their journey. Arriving in TEC space, the Vasari began their routine of conquering in order to collect resources. The campaign went smoothly at first, with the TEC having forgotten all the ways of war, but the TEC recovered and after 10 years, the Vasari are in a complete deadlock, with still more and more of their warning beacons going dark.
A Vasari fleet will have fewer, but more expensive units that have extremely hardened hull armor. Their ships tend to use Phase Missile technology, which has the possibility of completely bypassing the shields of enemy ships. The Vasari also have an advanced understanding of phase space, which their technology can manipulate to a greater extent than the other factions. Additionally, the Vasari also use nanotechnology for economic and military purposes, from improving the value of trade goods, to improving ship armor, to creating specialized weapons from clouds of microscopic machines. They are able to colonize Volcanic planets to the greatest extent.
In the early game, the Vasari have one outstanding advantage: the ability of their scouts to capture neutral extractors in uncolonizable gravity wells. Other factions need to deploy slow and expensive colony frigates, whereas Vasari can quickly get their scouts deep into enemy territory and contest virtually any uncolonizable gravity well in the first ten minutes of the game. This is a very map-dependent advantage, and many experienced players actually consider playing Vasari on a random map a complete gamble, since you never know how many uncolonizable gravity wells there will be. The Vasari also benefit greatly from their unique starbase, the Orkulus Star Base, which can be built by a colony frigate, the Jarun Migrator, rather than an expensive construction cruiser, and it can move around the gravity well in which it is built. This has both phenomenal offensive and defensive potential. To top this off, they get a powerful early-game combat unit in the form of the Kanrak Assailant. Later on, Vasari improve further, and get the most reliable minelayer, the Sivuskras Ruiner, as well as the most deadly weapons upgrade in the form of Phase Missiles. However, their greatest assets are their late game Phase Stabilizer, Stilakus Subverter, and Kostura Cannon. The Phase Stabilizer can allow their fleets to be anywhere in within a moment's notice to respond to enemy attacks and threaten virtually every front-line simultaneously. The Stilakus Subverter and Kostura Cannon can shut down the enemy fleet and leave them helpless sitting ducks. The Vasari capital ships are also quite deadly from the first minute of the game until the last. Vasari is one of the trickiest factions to play, but also in many ways one of the most interesting and rewarding due to all its strengths.
Vasari units are expensive, and their cost isn't justified by their raw combat abilities. Their frigates require more fleet support than the frigates of the other factions, but have only minimally better stats. It takes a lot more money to field a Vasari fleet than it does to field a TEC or Advent fleet, and this can make it difficult to win a straight fight. Vasari fleets usually have to fight dirty to win, doing things like building starbases on enemy worlds, ambushing enemies, or shutting down enemy units and killing them while they're helpless. If you play their strengths well and avoid taking casualties, Vasari can be brutal, but played poorly they just don't stack up in terms of numbers against the Advent or TEC, especially in the early game. Aside from their advantage with neutral extractors, Vasari have a fairly slow early game economy, with a poor colonization bonus from their capital ship the Jarrasul Evacuator. Late game, their starbase begins to suffer, as it does not have advanced abilities that enable it to threaten entire fleets at once, meaning that once fleets get large enough any Orkulus Star Base can be effectively overwhelmed by sheer numbers. They will need to lean on their fleet more than any other faction.
Vasari Loyalists are a nomadic variation on the traditional Vasari formula. The Vasari Loyalists can generate income with their capital ships and build research facilities on them, and set their Titan as a mobile capital world. They can also completely drain planets of resources, leaving dead husks behind. Their Titan is capable of seeding each gravity well with a phase gate, allowing Vasari fleets access to valuable shortcuts, as well as reducing the cost of building a phase gate network.
Vasari Rebels are a variation on the traditional Vasari formula that want to work with the other factions. They can have their Starbases phase jump to other planets using their phase gate network, making them very powerful since they don't need to build one starbase per gravity well. Combining this ability with the Kostura Cannon also means the Starbase can be used offensively in the late game. They also have powerful bonuses they can share with their allies, beyond the usual diplomatic pacts. Their Titan is a very effective fleet support ship that can damage enemy ships while repairing friendly ones.
Piracy is a constant problem in the galaxy with raids taking place on a regular basis by the unscrupulous pirates. Those who take part in piracy don‘t care who they attack as they have no political views on the subject. They go where the money is, which is determined in part by Bounty, however the TEC Rebels can become immune to pirate raids through Truce Amongst Rogues allying them to the Pirates. The ships that the pirates use are mock-ups of the TEC vessels, have a stronger hull, but no shields at all.
Piracy and Bounties
Pirate attacks can be stopped in a specific system by destroying their base. This will stop the attacks in the system where the base was located, however, pirates will still be present in other systems. If all pirate bases are destroyed, players will be unable to use the bounty system unless there are three or more players in the game because other players might try to collect bounty.