Thalans have always been strong in my games as well. In the current game I'm playing, they're number 1, practically neck and neck with Krynn, but Krynn have far and away the most influence, owning half the votes in the UP all on their own. The Thalans don't like me very much, but they're on the opposite side of my Immense galaxy, so war with them is unlikely to do anything. Krynn and I share borders, some of our planets are right next to each other and we're fighting over influence, but even so, we're Close, so even though war with them is unlikely, it has the potential to change the faces of both our empires. However, war with me means not only fighting my army, but the armies of the Drengin, Yor, Arceans, and Korx as well, since they're my allies, an alliance which I have christened The Axis of Evil.
For the longest time, though, it looked as if my chance for victory was nil. I was behind in every conceivable way, the only thing I had was Approval Rating. Then, out of nowhere, a random event called Jagged Knives took planets from every civilization, including me. I lost three planets, including my Manufacturing Capital. I knocked on their Canadian-flagged door and demanded my planets back, and they refused me. They had no military whatsoever, but they had every technology that our races had researched. That was the moment I realized this was the greatest thing that could have happened to me. Most of the planets lost weren't mine, but a lot of them were in my sectors. I could take those planets without going to war with every single race, and I could do so in perfect safety, since this new race had yet to build an army. I could take their planets and steal their techs and finally catch up, and that's exactly what I did.
My conquests yielded incredible results. Many of the techs I took were very, very big, and the planets I acquired were all high-quality. I took back my manufacturing capital. Soon, everyone else saw what I was up to and rushed to do exactly what I did: demand their planets back, then take back their planets by force when the Knives refused, but by then it was too late. I had doubled the size of my Empire, taken over a dozen former Terran, Krynn, and Torian worlds, and had enough planets, trade, and income to start pumping tech. My research skyrocketed. I went from 5th place in research to first, double that of second place, in just 5 turns, and I was making so much money from trade that my taxes were 5%, Approval and Manufacturing was 100%, I maxed out Espionage spending, and I was still making 900 bc a turn. I upgraded every last one of my ships, pumping more than my planets could even hold, and overnight, I became the most powerful military in the entire galaxy. My Empire had become a utopian dictatorship.
But all was not as well as they seemed. We still had rivals. With the Krynn pushing hard with their influence, I would need to do something about them, or be crushed from the sidelines, my military might irrelevant. Worse yet, the Krynn and I were Close, practically allies. If I declared war on them, I would suffer diplomatically, right when everyone was starting to trust me--even the Altarians had started to warm up to me--but I dared not bring them into my alliance, for a War with them would succeed, and they were my one chance to expand my empire and stand up to the mighty Thalans, who still remained the top power in the universe.
By stroke of luck once again, the Krynn made the poor decision of attacking one of my allies, the Korx. I was honor bound to protect them, and in honoring my alliance, I would appear the benevolent protector. They had played right into my hands. My evil knew no bounds. The United Planets would assemble in one more turn. Oh well, those are usually interesting...
The vote that came up was restricting Evil trade. The Krynn controlled over half the votes. My allies all voted no limit, for we were all trading, and they had far too much to lose. Only the Krynn and Terrans voted in favor, for they were the only ones not trading with me, and it was enough. My once solid-gold coffers were now bleeding out. What had been an Empire swimming in money, free of taxation, was now losing 6 trillion credits a week. Almost none of my planets had anything dedicated to tax collection. It would have been wasted credits, since my people weren't paying taxes anyway. I shot taxes up to 50% and slashed production down to 15%. My utopia was collapsing...but my army remained, as does my war with the Krynn, and our anger now directs itself straight at our sworn enemies. We may not be capable of building new war machines, but we won't need any. The Krynn will be wiped off the face of the galaxy, their people forced into death camps, and I'll do it all with only my standing army. They shall rue the day they voted "aye". They messed with the wrong tyrant.
Sorry, got carried away there. The game I'm playing right now is pretty climactic, though, and even though I mentioned the Thalans like once, they still are the most powerful empire in the galaxy, they just haven't done anything to slight me yet. I dare not war with them now, but soon I'll have enough planets to fire up my factories once again. Ooh, I love this game. Just got it two weeks ago.