Has anyone tried the strategy where you don't buy engines for your ships and just use all of the various Ship Speed bonuses available in the game (bonuses from Drive Speed technology, Ship Speed boosts from Military Starbase modules, Gravity Accelerators).
Basically, just making ships by taking advantage of the various boosts just having the technology or trade goods, special projects and Galactic Achievements? You can get lots of dirt cheap ships that way, but you have to make a speed boost path with military bases going to the places you want to travel to; that also partly compensates for the lesser range from not buying life support modules for ships, just the technologies. With just a little miniaturization, you can make cheap colony and constructor ships using Tiny hulls, which I like.
There is one downside I've found: apparently, speed boosts from multiple starbases with overlapping areas of effect don't stack. Oh, and you have to remember not to trade any of your high speed technology to your rivals, because they'll "cheat" and actually put engines in their ships. heh.
"various Ship Speed bonuses available in the game (bonuses from Drive Speed technology, Ship Speed boosts from Military Starbase modules, Gravity Accelerators)."
Any form of speed increase is expensive.
1. The Speed racial bonus costs a whopping 5 pt for a 1pc/wk boost and 8 pt for 2pc/wk. This is ridiculously expensive since you can get a 30% Economic bonus or a 20% Research bonus for just 4 pt.
2. Only Impulse Drive, Warp Drive, and HyperWarp give you speed boosts of 1pc/wk each. And researching Warp and HyperWarp drives too early will leave you weak elsewhere, and if you don't use engines, you'll be stuck with slower ships until you research these techs.
3. Military Starbases need Stellar Wake and Inverse Tractor Beam modules to boost your speed, and for which you need to have Warp Drive and Warp Drive 4. Also, the cost of starbases gets exponentially higher the more you build, so building many such SBs will be economically difficult, and will give your enemies lots of juicy targets.
4. There are no Super Projects or Galactic Achievements that boost your overall speed. Only Gravity Accelerators, a Trade Good, boosts speed empire-wide by 1pc/wk, but requires you to research the entertainment branch up to it's penultimate tech, Zero-G Sports Arenas and then spend the time to build it(or wait for an AI to do the same). The Hyperion Shipyard Super Project also boosts speed, but only for ships built on the same planet as itself.
HOWEVER, this strategy will be almost unavoidable and necessary for Arcean players in Twilight of the Arnor. The Arceans simply have no choice: they have no idea what the hell engines are, and thus can't research shipboard propulsion systems. The other races also realize this, so they are programmed not to trade engine tech with the Arceans. The Arceans instead get specialized planetary improvements that give their ships speed boosts.
" With just a little miniaturization, you can make cheap colony and constructor ships using Tiny hulls, which I like."
I do this. I bolt a Constructor Module on to a Tiny Hull and call it 'Dummy Constructor', which costs only 95 mp. But what has this got to do with your main topic anyway?