Maybe the game is trying to tell me I should take cheap diplo wins when I have the chance.
This has turned into one very frustrating game. Every time I think the situation has stabilized and I can start to make some actual PROGRESS, some new fire comes up that I have to fight.
First, the Klackons poach one of my newly settled worlds that I'm not ready to defend yet. OK, I can deal with that. Next, despite the fact that they are at war with everyone else, the Sakkra decide they have to come pester me too. I have to spend a ton of resources building small ships to fight them off, which stunts my growth curve. I find that there's no cleanup tech in my tree until Reduced waste 60%, no robotic controls III, and no soil enrichment, so I'm kinda hurting for early economic boosters. This combined with a higher than average military spend means that I'm falling significantly behind in tech. The fact that the Sakkra occasionally manage to put together a big enough stack to wipe out all the factories on a planet so I have to rebuild it from scratch doesn't help.
Finally I manage to get ahold of some planetary shields and a decent missile tech (scatter pack V) so I start being able to build some useful defensive bases. Of course, the other guys are rocketing up the weapons tech tree so I'm still not entirely secure, but I start to be able to put a significant investment in tech. Robotic controls IV is in my tree, so I beeline for that to try to get my sad economy going a little better. Once those are built, I figure I can build some Stinger missile boats to go after the small fry. Then, out of the blue, the Psilons, who I'd been friendly with the whole game, decide I've got too many ships on the border and declare war. Umm, I hate to break it to you guys, but this is a small map -- the entire map IS the border. So now I've got the tech gods to worry about as well. That wouldn't be so bad, except a space crystal shows up, and guess who it decides to go after! If half the galaxy didn't decide to try and attack my worlds while the crystal was in orbit, I'd be fine... but of course that's exactly what they do, and one colony gets auto-destroyed. I'm about to lose another colony, and I only had 5 to start with. My fleet is missile-based, so I can't put a dent in the crystal, and I don't have any decent guns either. Sux to be me...
I'm hanging in there, but I just can't seem to get a break! Aargh!