Mumble, thanks for your long and detailed reply. I shall raise some comments.
therefore can't get through the tech tree nearly as fast as you do.
I use small hulls because other than cargo hulls that's the only hull I have and they're cheaper. Basically I'm getting all of my colonizers free out of the queued up shipbuilding from a large percentage of the close to 300 planets that I "swindled".
What about Tiny Hulls? You only need "Enhanced Min" in order for them to be useable. A PreCursorLib will give you this tech on your 2nd turn.
Actually swindle is KP's term
well that's where I went to the GalCiv-school, and this term simply sticked
But I digress. Overflow is the right word to use and I have not particularly taken advantage of it primarily because I cannot at all points afford to do so. I tend to figure out what is the maximum techs I can research in a given turn and then turn down my research to the point that I accomplish that amount of research but with no "overflow". I do this merely to make my limited money last.
I also don't allow the AI to have any military ships prior to the "swindle". I trade for all their military ships prior to declaring war. However remember I'm not trading peace for only one or two planets, I'm trading peace for close to 40 planets per AI and it's required to add in up to perhaps ten 2/1 "fodder" trade ships to get all those planets. It's those ships used as trade fodder that later become pirates, unless of course you found some other way to swindle 40 planets from an AI or have some other method of preventing them from turning pirate. I've simply discovered one method of keeping them from turning pirate.
It's reasonable to assume that using DL opponents that this doesn't happen, however I would have thought you would have seen this in previous games against breeders unless you've only played all abundant galaxies against multiple DL opponents and your previous experience against breeders was in rare setups.
I like where this is going to.
Yes, I've played Gig all-abundant games, some for ZYW, some for BigGames (some not hosted yet) - without DL ARC. Also in DL, where there is no ARC at all.
Without SuperDiplomat or DL ARC I can see your point, but only in February. Later on, Tech-brokering can keep you afloat, however, as your own strengths built upon the the economy of the AI, this is the crux and there can be things done wrong. So, in a *common* ARC the general intention is to save the AI from his own stupitidy to burn all his money with rushbuying stuff etc...
There are quite a few settings that will actually influence this. Besides racial points, political choice or SA (which I think we'll have the same) I'll always "downtune" the AI in all his abilities or CPU use, as sometimes this gives them some sort of stasis, and given the economic bonus they have they'll still have a good chunk of money on 1st March. Which will then be mine, and this way I can usually raise easily 30k bc's which will fund all my research anyway in the initial parts of the game. To do not so is like a missed chance for early score. Late research isn't really worth it.... In fact, I had games where I could scoop even more than 50k from them, as well as I remember test-games where mine and their economy recovered during the colonial rush without getting into debt ever. It's hard to balance, or maybe requires some portion of luck, but doable it is.
In fact, at some points I realized that with the right attempt to All-lab and techbrokering you'll get anything from the AI anyway, without swindle (except his last 3 planets), and that it is sufficient enough to fund maximum research (which is pretty cheap then...), so I even skipped relying on Survey Vessels. An immense research will give you a tech-advantage, and this is my premier goal I have in all games I play. Of course this fits very well into my NB-strat, although even if I wouldn't use it I would want those techs anyway, the sooner the better. Now I'm not saying this or that is better, simply that we use different methods which are ways that will finally lead to the same goal.
Yes, I've noticed you won't get all planets from the AI - although the mechanix on this are a complete topic on themselves and there are a few things that can be done wrong which will pose a limit then, and not all limits can be mitigated. However, doing a second swindle on the very same turn usually did solve all problems, although that problem persisted only for one time, and then I changed my strat to simply buy all planets, which is more convenient, and advantageous. Point being, the number of swindles is very limited, and thus, a certain amount of time needs to be allowed for the AI to gather another round of planets. Then you do it again, but compared there was a two-fold loss actually, as these planets could have been acquired on the very next turn after colonization, and by that, would have contributed more early into score. And that's the issue: Time is lost.
However, this approach does of course not allow to have a huge early MilSore, or to upgrade to end-tier techs almost exclusively, so nowadays I do things entirely differently, and in fact, there was no BigGame after which I didn't alter my strategies for quite some decrees.
The thing I worry about using DL as opponents is that seems like it would be a micromanagement nightmare
Welcome in the club. Now you know why I love ZYW's.
Also I can only guess about the details of your negative balance approach but I think I can make a few reasonable guesses. And while I do see definite advantages for your method such as being willing to upgrade to very expensive but fast colonizers to be able to finish up the last wave of colonization, I also see disadvantages in having to (I assume) build ships for your array while bankrupt by using focus from research and therefore having to forgo a good number of stock exchanges that instead need to be research buildings.
That's one downside but in DA neglectable. You trade a mid-game maxed Mil and an early loss in Econ against even more early advantages in all other fields. Of course not research, but who would want to waste bc's in research if not really necessary?
Anyway, good luck with your setup