Firefox users may have trouble seeing the entire AAR. Apparently Firefox has some trouble viewing these very long, pic heavy posts. Switch over to IE or some other browser if you're having trouble.
Inspired by positive feedback, I'll take another crack at putting together an AAR. I've tweaked my conditions a little bit as I've found what kind of game I like. My last game worked out well, so I'll use the same conditions, except that I'm jacking the difficulty up to Masochistic.
I upped planets and habitable planets from uncommon to occasional. Otherwise you're looking at 80% or more extremes with a frequent extreme setting.
I also decided to go for a custom race. I like to string together a narrative while I'm gaming, so I gave them a little backstory:
I edited the races a bit based on what I've read on the forums. As usual, I played with a range restriction. This time it's -100. My custom race got 20 points to spend instead of 15. I also removed the Arceans -10 speed penalty.
The Gaians shipped off to colonize a new planet long before humanity developed hyperdrive. They spent a long time in space, stretching their resources thin. When they finally arrived, they found the Gaia system to be devoid of inhabitable planets and were forced to reroute to a nearby star system. There they settled a barren planet, renamed Gaia, and over time nursed it into a thriving world (race PQ bonus and Super Isolationist barren world colonization abilities.) Creativity and research were critical to their survival, and they learned to be happy with what they had and to economize on scarce resources. These are the abilities that I like, so I'm doing some reverse justification, but it makes a nice story. It also happened that the star Gaia ended up being my immediate neighbor, so it worked out nicely.
I picked the races for ethical balance:
3 good, 3 neutral, and 3 evil. And Masochistic
The Gaians will use the Terran tech tree, for obvious reasons, and I plan to play them out as neutral. I had my evil run with the Yor for a couple games and I'm just not up to going good quite yet. That makes 4 neutrals, but it's better to weight the middle I suppose.
Well, with everything set it's time to go.
The map turned out nicely on the first run. I ended up sandwiched between the Terrans and Altarians, which fits the story nicely. I actually view the Altarians as another offshoot of humanity that got all uppity and goody. I notice the Yor directly to the south of me, but it doesn't occur to me until later that including the Yor may have been to my disadvantage. As Super Isolationists, the Gaians take advantage of both abilities. Slowing enemy ships down to 3pc/turn allows me plenty of time to react when I see them invade my space. Helps me defend and also helps when they come after the uncolonized planets in my space. I can usually cut them off in time. It's very difficult to sneak up and surprise me - only if I'm not paying attention. Also, and critical to the discussion, being able to colonize barren planets is a nice advantage considering the conditions I play - not very many habitable and lots of extremes. I've considered Super Adapter to get Toxic and Aquatic colonization, but slowing enemy ships is too nice to give up. Soooo, now I have the Yor right next to me and they can colonize barren worlds, too. Here's hoping I can beat them to the punch, then.
Unfortunately, I have to stop here for now. I'm 1.5 years into the game, so there will be a quick update coming. Things are starting to move, and I'm eager for some action. I can't play until I write it up, so I have plently of motivation!