Nothing so ambitious as what Sirian puts together. I still haven't bothered to figure out how to take screenies either. I probably just need to download a screen capture program since I am running under XP.
Anyway, after getting worked over in the Bulrathi game by the space crystal, I played another couple games. I wanted to try something a bit easier (still not in Klackon-land though) and tried Sakkra, again small/impossible/5 opponents. The first game I drew was pretty simple, none of my neighbors wanted to expand out of their home planets despite having the range to do so. I wound up with about 5 planets straight off the bat, with easy backyard expansion for 2 more once range tech came in, and another one once Inferno environment came in. Everyone else had at most 3 planets, usually less. Easy game as a result, massive tech lead early on and never looking back. Even the Psilons couldn't keep up.
So, too easy a start; I tried again. This time I started in the corner, and again had access to a few planets off the bat, but not quite as nice ones this time -- an 85, a couple 40s, and a 115 poor. I quickly snatched those up, then ran into a wall -- I was surrounded by toxic planets, which would take awhile to research up to. Still, I thought this might look pretty straightforward again for a while. Then I realized that everyone in the galaxy was stuck with only one or two planets, except me... and the Psilon. He started out a bit slower than I expected, was 2nd last in pop for a bit, but then he exploded. I think he might have been stuck behind a hostile planet or needed a range tech to get out of his corner, but once he got that, he quickly nabbed pretty much the entire west side of the galaxy. I traded him enhanced eco environment for toxic bases, which I hated to do but had no choice as it wasn't in my tree, and filled in almost all of my side of the galaxy except for one small radiated which I wasn't going to bother with (again, would have needed to get the tech from the Psilons.) Still, it seemed like I might have a runaway Psilon on my hands if I wasn't careful. He had a substantial lead on me in the tech graph, as many planets as I did, and more production to boot.
That set the stage for a very long period of tense relations with the Psilons. Fortunately they were honorable, and I had big trade agreements and a non-aggression pact with them, so it took a long time before we finally went to war. This gave me time to snag the two Klackon worlds (I did have to rebuild one from scratch though,) the Darlok homeworld, and the Human homeworld, which I had to betray an alliance to grab, but it was that or see it fall to the Psilon megafleets.
These acquisitions finally gave me enough research power that I could keep up with the Psilons -- they were still a tech or so ahead of me in every category but Planetology, but at least I wasn't falling further behind. Eventually I decided to go for Orion before I took on the Psilons. It took two tries to get a design capable of doing the job; I had forgotten exactly what the Guardian's stats were on Impossible and my first design didn't have a good enough computer. Meanwhile the Psilons were throwing huge ships with big guns (tm) at my missile bases. Fortunately I had recently managed to get Pulson missiles, which let me do enough damage through the big shields on these guys to whittle the stacks down most of the time. I did lose one small toxic planet to them, and there were a couple times where they wiped out my initial stack of bases but the next turn I was able to build enough more to chase them off and secure my colony again. Most of my planets wound up with over 100 missile bases, which is almost unheard-of for me. Eventually I got class XX planetary shield, which mostly eliminated the threat.
Once I had Orion secure I started to build a Really Big Stack of small bombers -- Omega-V bombs, good computers, Ion engines & intertial stabilizers, Zyro shields for anti-missile defense. I field tested a stack of these on the radiated world I never bothered getting (of course the Psilons did...) and it worked great, though of course there was some attrition. End game bombers are really a great cure for what ails you. I started amassing these in quantity, choosing targets where the Psilons had moved their ships away. Speed 6 let me get there in one or two turns, before the Psilons could get anything significant in place to defend. I started wiping Psilon colonies off the map -- burning them down, rather than capturing them for the most part. I didn't want to slow down to defend them. Eventually the maintenance costs on their massive fleets became too much, and the big Psilon fleets largely vanished. I did capture a couple Psilon worlds, including their homeworld, near the end, once their fleet was scattered and ineffectual.
This is one of the rare games where I actually made it all the way through the tech tree. On small maps, that doesn't often happen. I managed to tame the runaway Psilon, though, by grabbing enough real estate off the "minors" that I could keep up in tech until the late game. The late game is where the odds start to tilt in the player's favour -- the AI just can't cope with enemy fleets that have superior strategic movement speed, and it doesn't always take advantage of its own ability to create rapid-response fleets. A large part of the reason I was so successful against the Psilon attackers was that they would constantly include speed 1 designs in their fleets, which just gave me plenty of warning to build lots of bases before those fleets arrived.