since I installed the Intrigue upgrade ive noticed that the game starts me right on top of several AI players. in my recent game, I used a huge, tight galaxy with 6 AI and no minor races. my start position was a tight group of stars in the northwest quadrant, i'd say maybe 20% of the entire stars were in this one cluster. by turn 6 I discovered the home worlds of two of the 6 AI. so 42% of the races in the galaxy started in the same cluster of maybe 20% of all stars in the galaxy. by the time I completed my first colony ship, the 4 other habitable planets in this little cluster were already claimed by the AI.
seems the start positions balancing is way off. its almost like the game placing the recommended 15 AI players for a huge map and then deleting AI from furthest to the player first, until it reaches the prescribed number of AI chosen in the setup screen.