I normally at least adopt Expansion first, although if I've got a few good planets I'll go three deep, to get a second pop on a planet on colonization. Alternatively, if I've not got many good options nearby, I'll swing towards the reduced cost of outposts. The whole tree is pretty useful, although the completion isn't something I'm normally after. Discovery is another one I try to grab early - the benefit to anomoly find/completion, and the extra research on surveying both benefit from long term adoption. Science Division for the +1 research is pretty useful, although my current race has one from creation - and 5 choices (plus wreckage) is pretty good for unlocking whatever you're after. TBG/PSC (as mentioned) are useful, and the 33% increase in XP is fantastic. FiS isn't something I worry about too much early game, apart from completing the tree for the +10% research speed. If nothing is needed, I'll also adopt Supremacy, because extra border range can be pretty helpful, although it normally only seems to get one or two systems across the empire. Speaking of border ranges - does anyone have any good mods that show expected border range for outposts/full planets? It gets annoying trying to figure it out, because often you want to drop it in a different system than the one you want, to get that slight stretch. I like Prosperity for the STC, but I often end up grabbing something else, unless I'm running low on everything, and don't have any decent systems to colonise. I avoid Federations now, after being dragged into wars a few times, so I don't worry about Diplomacy. Ascension wise, I had great luck with the Biological route with a Devouring Swarm. Planets with modifiers got perfected pops to stripmine the planet of any value, whilst armies made from bio-engineered supersoldiers stomped everything flat. That was my first victory, including wiping out a Fallen Empire, and I managed it before any end-game event. I've tried the psionic route, and that worked really nicely, although I didn't quite manage to get the immortal leader before my original one died. But it's still pretty good. Not yet tried cybernetics, although going down that route with my current empire. I also tend to go for the Voidborne (habitats) or Tech (research speed) as T1 ascension perks, depending how deep I am in the tech tree by that point (tech tree, including weighting, available here, out of interest). I've grabbed the border range once or twice, but it feels underwhelming. Favourite ethics/civics/authority/traits? I quite like the Dictator auth, because it gives me some freedom in choosing my next successor, but I'm not locked into it. I've tried democracy/oligarchy a time or two, and you NEED backup influence, because otherwise you lose that perfect psionic/spark of genius L6 researcher. Imperial is quite similar, although you get a free replacement (with random traits). Ethics wise, I've been playing around. I like Spiritualist for the psionic stuff later, although the research speed from materialist is also pretty nice. Caste systems/mining guilds from authoritarian can be obscenely powerful, as long as you don't get a "Free the Slaves!" party as your first (although if you do, just stick all the members in the mines). I've not played around much with xenophobe/phile, or militant. The extra systems from pacifist is quite nice, as it gives more wiggle room early game, and you can still start wars of Liberation, so it isn't a complete loss. Traitwise, I love Enduring, because it means leaders are often still around on the endgame. I've tried Fleeting, and found I just couldn't get all the situations resolved in any decent time frame. But with Enduring, they're the right side of the immortality curve - you get life extensions before anyone dies, repeatedly, until you hit endgame or get an otherwise immortal leader through other means. Repugnant I've used before, but it doesn't work too well, because everyone initially hates you, so you have to make bad trades to get them above 0, to get the actual trades going. Sectorwise, I used to build planets how I wanted them running, then turning off rebuilding and sectorising them, at a 75% tax rate (they already had everything they needed). I haven't been doing it recently, because it has a high up-front cost, so I just let the sectors do whatever, and check in every now and then to fix everything they've screwed up.