@sdgorrel: I like your empty-hull misinformation trick. You are right, they only pick on you if they THINK you are weak. Also on the subject of diplomacy: if you start stealing technology from others, this generally pisses-off the Psilons and they will declare war on you sooner or later, even if they are not the target!
I've also found that having 5 defending spies is the minimum to be reasonably "safe" from enemy espionage in the early game.
Imo once you have a feeling for the tech tree and the basics of diplomacy down, the hardest thing about the game is the randomness of the Antareans rather than the difficulty level. On hardest difficulty, you can expect them to attack about every 10-15 turns or so. If you are lucky they leave you alone long enough to get a decent empire going. But usually they come and attack your key planets, completely f--king up your economy. Don't know how many games I've lost due to Antarean raiders gutting my core worlds...
Yeah, yeah I know, use Missiles against Antareans. Well, it doesn't work. Not in Impossible mode where they come at you with like 165% accuracy and 120% dodge right from the start. I've rushed missile techs and taken them on with planetary missile base + space station + missile cruiser fleets with fast MIRVed, yatta-yatta-yatta, and they still scorch my fleet and capture my planet.
EDIT: After much more play experience, I have found in order to reliably destroy Antarean raiding fleets mid-game, you NEED 4 of 5 key techs: Reinforced Hull, Augmented Engines AND Zortrium Armor (a Battleship can survive only 1 round of concentrated fre with this, so add in Heavy Armor if you want them to take more punishment), then either your choice of Electromagnetic Guidance System OR Tractor Beam. Antareans will self-destruct if their ships become immobile. SO the goal is to outfit 4 or more Battleships with either enough Tractor Beams to completely immobilize the Antarean fleet while you move out of their firing arcs, or to fire MIRV-ECCM-EGM merculite missiles point-blank at their ships to blow their engines. If you want to board the immobilized Antareans to capture their tech, you ALSO NEED Troop Pods, Plasma Rifle, Personal Shield and Anti-Grav Harness with at least 4-5 Battleships or Titans.
Using the above stated tactics, I can now reliably win with Antareans active, but often I just disable them cause I don't feel like dealing with the hair-pulling frustration. Here's a fun custom race have I used to beat on Impossible difficulty (beware slow research start):
Feudal, Aquatic, Subterranean, Telepathic, Ship Attack +20, Ground Attack -10, Espionage -10
Absolute first tech to get is Research Labs, and rush-produce them asap, because buildings don't apply the 50% research hit for Feudal (basically do all your research using ResLabs/SupComp/Autolabs on lots of planets). But once you have that and Cloning Centers, your population advantage from subterranean/aquatic should start kicking in nicely (you would be amazed at how many swamp/tunda worlds there are that can support large pops).
My most successful fleet strategy generally revolves around ganking the enemy with Tractor Beams/Neutron Blasters and capturing his de-crewed ships, then scrapping them for the alien techs I need. It allows me to pit 5 battleships and 15 of my own cruisers against 20 enemy battleships and titans with a good chance of winning. Later on I will add in stasis fields as well to isolate the enemy bass-a$$es while I capture them one-by-one.
Post edited September 01, 2014 by Dreamteam67