I enjoy trying out different playstyles. Among the standard factions my favorite is the Altarians, with Torians and Iconians coming up as a close second.
- Healing hulls are amazing, easily turns the tide fleet battles
- Empire wide research on every colony from ascension crystals make every new planet contribute to your research without any builds
- Gets a +2% tourism building that you can put on every planet
- Healing pools get +1 moral per level, one of the best morale inmprovements
- Precursor protection field stacks so you can create fleets with such high defenses that they are basically untouchable
- 3 Free terraforming tiles
- Healing waters gives adjacency bonuses to every type of improvement, and +1 morale per level
- Learning center gets a flat +1 research bonus per level
- Prolific colonization bonus more valuable now that starting population growth nerfed, can easily colony rush
- Basically xenophobic is OP and the ship building weaknesses can be easily mitigated with traits, government bonuses,engineers and strategic command. Great for tall and wide empires because new colonies are instantly productive
When it comes to custom races, the most stupidly OP combo I've found is Ancient,Xenophobic,Aquatic. Basically combining the perks of all three factions mentioned above. If you take the popular trait that gives a your free tourism on every planet, then late game every new colony is instantly productive, contributes +200-600 research, and credits from tourism before constructing a single improvement.
- Custom Torians where you swap out unwavering for colonizers or beurocrats to make the colony rush easier
- Ancient + Knowledgeable for quick research and more space for the highest quality ships
- Xenophobic + Engineers to balance out the ship construction penalty
- Newest one I've tried is Ancient + Exterminators.
My least favorite are ones like Terrans where they arent particularly good at anything.
I've tried to like playing Drengin, Slave masters are nice but not having access to space elevators, colonization centers, startport, engineering center, or resupply center is too much of a drawback. IMO in practice they are worse than Iconians when it comes to ship building. The conquerers credit bonus is nice but early game many pragmatic civ's take a the ideology talent that makes them immune to declaration of war so its not that useful in the early game when you need it the most. Their factory line of buildings are nice for boosting population capacity but if thats something you are interested in you are going to build a city anyways.