After 570+ hours game play at this point I thought it would be a good time to go over some problems. These are not major issues but have dramatic long term effects to every game I play.
Here is my "general" game play strategy which should help define how I do in the higher difficulty levels.
At the opening game I maximize production 100% until I have 2 customized cheap colony ships out, I then move to 50/50 production/research, and adjust to more economy as needed, I do not try to save money I am almost always running a deficit or near 0 income.
Once the early game rush to get as many planets as I can early on, I then run *Fast* (Maxed out engines) Constructors to the planet hubs to build shipyards, each of these will then start mass producing constructors (customized which hold 2 construction modules instead of 1.) These constructors focus on production then economy then research. Military star bases are rather useless don't build them. I also look for relics for additional production, economy and research. I don't care about all the other resources at all, in fact the only reason I take them within my empire borders is so I can trade them away for more money so I can run heavy deficits while at war.
For all wars I have 2 priorities and only 2, the 1st and most important is to destroy shipyards, if your opponent can not make ships to fight they already lost., the next is sending in troop ships (with 2-3 defender type ships once the planet is taken.)
Once the 1st war is won I again start constructor rushing I am usually at 3x constructors at this point (3 constructor modules on 1 constructor) and it is extremely easy and fast to boost your empires production, economy and research.
Also at this point I am normally running real low on funds, it takes a few turns to balance out and convert the planets I had just taken to economy planets so my base high production planets can crank out ships without the need to worry about my economy at all. However once that is done no AI can keep up in any way.
War exploit: If you park some cheap and or fast constructors at your shipyard you can send them to the nearby planet that is getting attacked, the AI will only attack a planet once per fleet per turn, so unless they attack with 2 fleets with troop carriers they will never take your planet. As a test I spent 1 game never building a ship with any weapons using a hated race that was at war early the entire game, unless 2 races or more attacked my planet with a constructor guarding it with troop ships they would not take it. However with my influence so high I was able to retake it in a few turns with influence and actually beat 2 races completely before the all the AI's were waring me. After that they were together able to defeat my pacifist army If an attacking fleet has movement they should use it!
1. The AI will not attempt to expand earlier no matter the skill level. In almost every game I will have significantly more plants than my closest opponent.
Quick Fix: Have the AI make a more aggressive expansion in the early game *Cheap colony ships* and/or war focus so they can take planets quickly and conquer other AI's and or the player easier and earlier in the game.
2. The AI will not actively attempt to take planets when at war, it happens once and a while however their is no actual concerted effort to expand their empire in a war, against the player or against another AI. When I go to war either declaring or getting declared on, I focus heavily on gaining planets. Simply put planets = production, economy, and research. Whomever has the most will win.
3. If the player wins a war IE gaining significantly more planets the AI should be able to expand to keep pace even if the game system allows an AI to dominate another AI to artificially inflate an AI or 2 to keep up with the player which otherwise will simply dominate the game at this point.
4. Currently once I have won my 1st war no AI can keep up with me in any way shape or form.