I am trying to have a nice complete game (up to the crisis) playing as a Hivemind. Since the vanilla AI is braindead, I'm using StarnetAI. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find settings allowing me to stay competitive instead of being either dead or dominating at 2275.
Current settings are:
Medium Galaxy (Elliptical)
15 AIs, 3 advanced
2 FE, 1 Marauder
all start dates 25 years earlier
The Galaxy is largely filled with custom Empires I'v played before, incl. Several Technocracies, some Slavers, some Militarists w/ distinguished Admiralty, both vanilla human Empires, one shared burdens pacifist for laughs and one DE, FP and DA each. All of those builds are optimized to the best of my knowledge, or at least not gimped by poor traits/ civics. I have chosen these builds on the grounds of how well they performed as AI when I played against them before (with vanilla AI). It should be noted that Humanity usually end up having a really strong game, especially the UNE, though I expect this is due to them being the only free haven for refugees to flee to.
Throughout my attempts not to be doomed/op this Hive has gone through several iterations, the most recent of which is the following: Devouring Swarm, Ascetic. Extremely Adaptive, Rapid Breeders, Unruly, Solitary, Slow Learners. DS I use mostly for the defensive value of buffing my fleet since the StarnetAI hates everyone so much the -1000 hardy matter. The most recent games have been played with the scavengers origin (modded) because of roleplay (being something like a sentient Javorian Pox). This origin gives the Homeworld +50% engineering, +25% society and +35% habitability but turns it into a tomb world. Not that this would be much of a problem with ex. adaptive (90% habitable). This might sound op, and maybe it is, but I've had the same issue on shattered ring (I know, very surprising), prosperous unification and remnants.
The central problem is the following: If I raise the difficulty, the AI fields even more insurmountably strong navies, preventing me from actually interacting with the Galaxy and inevitably killing me at some point. (Even though my Hive is a DS). If I don't, the game can go two ways: Either I am not being attacked and become technologically superior the AI in at most a century so I attack with carrier cruisers or battleships on my own accord and win. Or the Ai does attack me but looses, giving me an average of 3-5 new planets filled with food and society research. Due to the increase of growth slots my population explodes. At this point my power inevitably snowballs, my economy goes through the roof because of my pop growth and the game is de-facto won.
So my question is: How would you tweak the game setting/ AI empires to allow challenging wars without forcing me into eternal defense? I am especially interested in any suggestions helping the AI not to fall behind in research or not forcing me to focus on it to keep up with their insane military. I am okay with gimping myself with traits/ civics as long as I am allowed to gene mod/ reform them away eventually. I feel I am forced to focus on research to get carrier cruisers (defense against corvettes) and battleships before my neighbors or else I die. Shouldn't a DS be able to brute force itself through the Galaxy with bad tech and lots of guns?
Edit: The games went like this: 2200- I am a puny little Hive and struggle to survive the onslaught of corvettes the AI throws at me. I manage to status quo to safety. Next war we both have destroyers, but I have more since the AI still has its original fleet. War is balanced but another AI piles onto me a few systems lost. 2250- I am the only one with cruisers and strike craft. The AI thinks itself superior but their corvettes get slaughtered. From now on I no longer fear war and consume the galaxy.
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