After answering a post about the command line switch to disable Crusade, I was intrigued by the state of “Enhanced Vanilla” (no Crusade but all other DLC including Intrigue working) and decided to try. it It's very different from Crusade and I think harder but not terribly well balanced.
In this version, “You are ripe for conquest” seems to be active at least from move 10 onwards (possibly even from the start?) and when I tried the Torians as Benevolent on a Huge map at Genius I was slaughtered in my bed several times by the Drengin.
This was partly because production is painfully low in the opening and eventually, I switched to the Drengin themselves since the second tier Malevolent ideology which gives +10 production to the capital completely transforms it. This worked much better and I'm currently wrapping a game up.
One big difference is that with no way to complete a tech – no citizens so no Epiphany and now no “Unfortunate Genius” (the lucky singularity event that completed the tech you were on) tech was much harder to get, even when using the planetary wheels once you've got the right government tech.
In this version, you also need resources to terraform and this was v hard until I stumbled onto the High Output Mining option which I presume through a slip gives +1 rather than +0.1. It totally transformed the game and with 8(!) Thulium required to perform one Habitat Improvement was completely necessary. Either the resource gathering of star bases needs to be “de-nerfed” or the requirements balanced.
I'd also forgotten that in vanilla troop ships disappear when you take a planet which slows things down. And I've only just now noticed that Port of Call is hidden under Slaughtorium which is going to get me from +1.2K gold per turn to something huge I imagine.
Anyway, it is interesting but different and after what I imagine was some benign neglect (while the developers were working mainly on Crusade) would, I think, need rebalancing to be as fair a game as Crusade.
I was wondering what thoughts other people have?