I still can't believe Graham refused the keys to Kieron's empire, though. It's just idiotic. But then I would say that.
Kieron: Jim, Graham and myself tear Sponge apart. I see him start to retreat to the east, fighting a guerrilla war for a while... but it's really over for him. I move to reinforce my north and southern border, while still keeping my west weak - both in terms of fleets and production. It's the one bordering Quinns.
My vague maths are to make it appear that I'm still on his side - as a sort of proxy nation to sap up damage and attention while he deals with other people. By keeping the west week, it makes it clear that I'm not planning on stabbing him and if/when he stabs me, there's a border of shitty stars for him to consume to give me a little time to scramble. Really, my only hope is that he doesn't stab. I've contributed to bringing down Sponge, which was my aim. I'm actually happy playing lieutenant to Quinns - who, despite everything, I sort of consider an ally. At the moment, I'm considering anyone who's not attacking me an ally.
So, I finish the offensive and start building up my industry. It's low level and distributed to minimise the expense. It takes effort to gather the fleets, but I'm not planning on actually attacking. My job right now is looking like an awkward target.
The other thing helping here? I still have the highest weapon skill in the game. I drip feed the weapons to Quinns a half-day or so after I've achieved the next level, just to keep a little research lead on everyone.
Jim: Eventually Kieron agrees to the attack on Sponge too. He's largely crushed. I realise after the fact that I've really not done very well in terms of solar systems captured. This is probably going to be my undoing. At this point the game is starting to take hold of my brain like some kind of psychic grab. All levels of it are boring into thought: the low level resource management, the chatter and manipulation of the other players, the arms race, the careful positioning of fleets. I know I'm too far behind to really make major headway in the game, so it's all down to negotiation and precarious struggle. Quinns, who stopped helping me half way through the Sponge war, has to be the next target. Except, of course, that I'm not ready in the slightest when his 150-ship fleet appears on the edge of my space. Wuh-oh.
Graham: Sponge is gone, except for a single star positioned off the east coast of Jim. I've taken his Northern worlds, Kieron his center. The board has simplified itself quite nicely. Quinns is fighting with Hentzau and Tom's AI (and I'm arming both of them to make Quinns life hard), and Jim, Kieron and I have a friendly relationship. This is a good thing, because if any of us are going to stop Quinns, we'll have to work together to do it. We're too weak on our own, but together, united by a common purpose, we are mighty.
So I attack Kieron.
Let me explain.
If Jim, Kieron and I attack Quinns together, then we'll destroy him, and set the stage for a final showdown between the three of us. But if Jim, Kieron and I attack Quinns, and then one of us backs out, then we're all screwed. I didn't have a lot of faith in our alliance holding. Plus, any attack against Quinns would stretch my defences and expose my underbelly to Kieron. I'd be primed for a gutting. So I took the initiative and attacked Kieron first, before either of us even made a move on Quinns. I knew it'd be a tough fight, but I felt I had the resources to win.