So I got a chance to do a little more playing and started a few quick games as Drengin and Terran.
Personally, I think a mountain is being made out of a molehill.
If a player was Drengin and was in an adjacent system to another player or AI, within 4 turns he or she could reach that player with a Bomber M1 by rush-buying the ship on the first turn.
As Terrans, a player can build a variety of stronger military ships after researching the first military tech and then rush-buying a ship, which can be done in 5 turns.
So if a Drengin player was able to direct a military vessel in the right direction on the first turn and go straight toward an enemy, that player could destroy the enemy's starport before it was able to be defended.
The difference in the time it takes to develop a military is one turn.
That being said, I'm still not sold on the idea that starports should have innate defenses.
Add a set value to stardock defense devs please! Just a bit from the three will solve EVERYTHING.
I don't believe it will solve the problem.
First, my question is how much defense would be enough?
Would a 1/1/1 defense be sufficient? Or a 2/2/2? If one player starts immediately next to a Drengin player, even if a starport had defenses built in, that Drengin player could pump out a ship every 4 turns or so. At the same time, that player would be hard pressed to improve military tech and develop stronger ships. If the non-Drengin player doesn't solely focus on military research and production, the game could be lost because they have no starport. That is true. But if that player does focus on military production and research, it could go either way. Or if that player focused on creating colony ships, they could easily have starports out of Drengin range by the time the Drengin military has reached their home system.
Again, how much defense is enough when a player is determined to rush another player? The aggressor sets the tone for the game (i.e. it's going to be war from the start), and if the targeted civ doesn't follow suit and outwit the aggressor, game over.
Also, much of this has little to do with the starport having innate defenses or not, because a non-Drengin player can be in the same position (constantly barraging other players) within 6 or 7 turns of the beginning of the game--just a few turns behind the Drengin. So regardless of which race you choose, within a handful of turns, you can seek out and destroy the enemy starports and provide defense for your own. This is mostly an issue of player style and strategy.
Besides, I think players should be able to find other players and declare war on them immediately, then attack them relentlessly. That is one style of play among many.
I don't think adding a small amount of defense will prevent players from pursuing an aggressive strategy.
And why shouldn't players have to build strategies to counter aggressive players? Isn't that part of a strategy game? I think there are probably many strategies to counter aggressive players. For example, as a countermeasure, non-Drengin players can colonize outside of the Drengin range, build a starport (out of range), and continue colonizing while their home system is besieged. Set the home system to research only and let the other systems pump out ships. Such players may not have their home system producing ships, but while the Drengin are busy building military vessels, the other player can be building an infrastructure that will quickly overpower the Drengin.
I do think other factors will have to be tweaked in order to make an aggressive strategy take a little longer to pursue. A couple suggestions for balance (I'm not suggesting all of these together, just that some combination of them might provide better balance):
1. Because Drengin start with military, give them one less move point by default relative to the other races so it takes them longer to get to the other civs.
2. Increase the size of starting weapons and/or starting life support so the military vessels that the Drengin start with (and those other civs can build early on) have even smaller range, but not so the Drengin colony ships are affected.
3. Modify the algorithm that places starting planets to always keep players a minimum of two systems from each other so that the Drengin will always have to colonize first before attacking (unless a player encroaches on their territory). This would force the Drengin to pursue other techs (colonization) or, if they wanted to focus on building a massive military first, they could not colonize but be well-defended, then instead of colonizing, they could simply expand through conquest.
4. Make military components more expensive at the beginning so a civ that chooses to build military ships instead of colony ships will not as easily keep up with those that are spreading and developing more production/research. In other words, if the most basic military ship takes longer (say, 5-7 turns at max starting production) and colony ships take a little less time (say, 5 turns instead of 6 at max starting production), a civ that is colonizing can have a couple colony ships out before the Drengin player can destroy the starport. Now the other civ has twice as many planets as the Drengin, and only a couple are within the Drengin's reach.
These are just a few ideas I came up with quickly--I'm sure there are many other solutions. I like the idea of starports being vulnerable because it enhances their strategic importance and forces players to develop innovative strategies. And I'm fairly confident that adding innate defenses to starports will not solve the problem. But limiting the initial military power of the Drengin (and other civs that initially pursue military), I think, would create better balance.