"Geo-politically", we are in an interesting situation. Us, the *good* Humans, between the Drengin and all the other majors, that smells like trouble
Perhaps not. Unless they have even better terrain luck than we do, we can take them on. They have no potential allies. I see several ways it could play out.
First, if we get few/minor events from settling planets, our alignment could still be under 55. In that case, we may have nearly as much worry with the Altarians as the Drengin. The game does not measure intent, therefore we are not "good" in its eyes until the alignment number climbs. Even so, if we do end up in war with the Drengin, the good civs would likely back us with some support -- a few ships, maybe even join our side.
Second, if we get our alignment up over 65 early on, we're much more likely to see relations with the Drengin sour quickly, and since they have no closer targets, early war could happen. In that case, though, the other good civs would definitely aid us. If there is alignment pressure, our relations will start to drop even if we cave to extortion demands.
Third, if contact is delayed and we send three freighters down there, we might connect all of our early trade to them and avoid a war. That might feel cozy, but we're not going to be able to reach Close relations if we're more than 70 alignment points away from them -- in my experience, at least. Thus, eventually, in order for us to win, either the Drengin must change their alignment toward the good, or they must be wiped out -- by war or by culture. If we have a large chunk of our mature trade with them, we could suffer if we have to go to the aid of our allies and the trade is killed off. The good news for us is, even if we get into a situation where our relations with the Drengin are strong and they will not declare war on us, we still have two ways to win. One would be to build up our influence and flip them, the other would be to get to Close relations with one or more good civs and join in on their side when they go at it with the Drengin.
Any of these can be made to work, so I don't see that we need a fully synchronized strategy. We can play it by ear, with each leader making the choices he deems best. For any moves and plans that sit incomplete at the end of a player's round, just explain your intent and reasoning and leave it up to the next leader to decide whether to continue that momentum or change course. Learning to adapt to situations you wouldn't have gotten yourself into is part of the fun of SG's. You get a wider exposure and a chance to learn things you wouldn't by yourself.
I would propose to produce most/all of the freighters from Petroni.
That is certainly our best system. I usually prefer to build my economic capital away from Earth, if there is a higher PQ planet available, or the same PQ as Earth. Why? There's a cap on economics, and this cap is reached sooner by population growth. Earth has the biggest population, thus always reaches its cap sooner, and much sooner if the economic capital is there. Thus a trade-off between putting it in the strongest place early or the place where you get the most total benefit. Either can work.
Physicist is right, though. Economics factors, so if we're going to build a lot of trade out of Petroni, that's even more reason to put the Economic capital there. Putting all our eggs in that one basket could be trouble during wartime, though. Plus the stronger Petroni planet is tied up on a constructor unless next player changes those orders.
Faster beats stronger in my experience, with trade. On a gigantic map, I've set up routes as long as 800+, but I've never seen a route over 350 length recycle. The game just does not last that long. Thus I've learned, on giant and huge maps, to build a pack of freighters from anywhere decent sized and send a lot of them. Send extra, like the AI does, because wars may break out, or you may get extra trade routes from a UP event, etc etc. Always good to have freighters parked AT their destinations, waiting to connect a route if one opens. They only cost 50 bc to build, and nothing to maintain. And because of seniority, an older weak route will always beat a younger strong route on benefit, thus it does not help to replace routes with "better ones" later on.
On a smaller map, though, the routes will recycle. So designing effective routes becomes more important. The economics of the planets involved becomes more important. Longer is good, but so is stronger. Since we don't have any systems with three or more planets, we won't have a megatrade center on our end. We get as much benefit connecting from a single planet on our end to a double on theirs, as we do to connect our double to their single. See? So I'd say that we have five viable candidate systems for building freighters -- Sol, our two double systems, and the lone PQ18 and PQ19 stars.
I would rather see us build a wave of freighters quickly, out of any and all of these systems -- build as many as eight, right out of the gate -- than to see us going long on military trying to build them all out of one system, or worse, building only a couple before another priority takes over. Looking only at the trade potential, I agree with everything Physicist said, but looking from a macromanagement perspective, building one apiece out of each of our strong planets and two out of the strongest, would give us seven to nine freighters in a short production run. We could use them to explore as they go, have extras to park near good civs in case our routes with the Drengin are lost to a war, and these do qualify as ships and boost our military rating slightly, as a bonus.
We have to get to Trade tech first, though, which is why I'm not already building some.
And we should not stop to research until we are confident we've built enough colony ships.
Maybe an additional freighter might be send from Sol towards Toria
I would rather see definitely several extra freighters sent toward both good civs. If we take an extra turn (or two) to research Deflectors (and Defense Theory if we can't trade for it) we can be building defenders at weak systems, working on our military rating, while building freighters at the strong systems. Thus no military expenditures going to waste.
The key early techs are: Comm, Translators, Diplo, Trade -- on the Yellow branch. Medical, Basic Enviro -- on the Green branch. Defense, Deflectors on the Purple branch. All cheap techs, and if we meet a minor, we can trade for some of them. Why are these urgent? Translators lets you trade with other civs. Diplo gives you new government. (AI's will often trade you Diplomacy for Medical Theory, though, so I often pull that move and "research Diplomacy" on the cheap). Trade is key if you want to build freighters very early, and I've been leaning more toward that as I gain more experience. Deflectors is key to get early because you may have a chance to trade it for a whole pack of techs, and to have something to build if you go for extra freighters or an early constructor. Medical is a great trading tech, and Basic Enviro gives access to the second PQ boosting improvement, Habitat.
Impulse Drives is also urgent (to double your freighter speed), but I almost always trade for it, along with the other Blue techs and some of the Red techs. The AI does not research Orange techs early, in most cases. The Overpriced techs you want to research for yourself are Deflectors, Corvettes, and Interstellar Tactics, but only Deflectors factor early. For me on Maso, I almost never get to Deflectors before even the minors do, but if you can manage it, you can trade that for three to five techs you don't have.
I tend to build almost all of my colony ships first, plus scouts if desired, then do research through most or all of the key eight techs I listed above, and perhaps a little trading (if I met anybody) for several rounds. Then I build freighters and either more colony ships or some defenders, then start a social push, at which time I wake any colony ships parked over PQ12-13 I intend to grab and settle them right as the social spending rush begins.
Larger maps and higher habitability means a longer period of colony ship building, and lower habitability means more scouts needed so I don't overbuild colony ships. Everything has to adapt to the map, the neighbors, the remaining balance on my starting cash, and more. Yet the formula of colonize, research, social push always works in some form, with freighter construction tossed in wherever it seems to fit best. (A good trading partner, especially a nearby minor civ, can speed freighter construction by shortening the amount of early research needed).
I never build military before the first social push, and here's why. The AI's measure both your economic strength and your military strength. The PQ-boosting improvements are the biggest bang for the buck early on. They raise morale, allowing higher taxes. They raise PQ, which increases the tax base in addition to the morale factor, for a multiplicative effect on economy. They raise pop growth rate, which puts a THIRD multiplier on the economic growth. Now in the same time you could build a star fighter, you could also build a PQ booster. If you build the PQ booster first, though, you will have the economic benefits PLUS the deterrent factor of strong economy, while building the star fighter first gives you only the deterrent effect.
So there is such a thing as building military "too early". I see the land grab as the item that can least afford to wait. You wait, you lose the race and lose systems you could have had. Next most urgent is wee bit of tech because you can't do much without a few early techs. So that can't wait, except to wait on colony ships. Then the first brainer choice: freighters, or PQ boosters? Waiting on either costs you something. If you still need a couple more colony ships, then the choice is easier. Whichever you choose first, though, both are higher priority than anything else, at least from the perspective of your growth curve. After these four top "can't wait" priorities have been accounted for, the game opens up and effective strategies can be had in many directions. About the only thing that could become more urgent than these is trying to Rob the Cradle by taking out a minor or direct neighbor with a rush attack in the earliest game, if you are cramped on a small or tiny map.
That's my take on the early game. I'm all for "paper tiger" military, but not too soon. In RB land, we call them "cardboard cutouts". Same concept. Throw something up there to look like you are defending, even if you aren't. In GalCiv, both colony ships and freighters count toward the military rating, so I usually let those suffice while I prioritize the PQ boosters. Then with stronger economy and 50% taxes in hand, building a round or two of battleaxes and defenders is much easier.
Don't worry, though, Ben. GalCiv is versatile, with many ways to reach success. Talking general strategy or even specific tactics is one thing, but no plan survives contact with the enemy anyway. All I ask is that players share some of their reasoning, so we can understand what plans are already in motion. Plans can be followed through or changed, at each leader's discretion. When you are Up, you are in charge. Whether you continue a plan or change it, though, it is better to know what was intended. Thus I encourage attention to detail and plenty of communication.
I hope AmulekBird checks in soon. The other teams appear to be off and running, and I'd like to see us build good momentum too.