As Sole Soul suggested, increasing the difficulty level is likely the simplest solution. You might also disable the random AI selection and choose the AIs so as to avoid the pushovers who are bugged.
I did not buy ToA because of the many reports of AI failures to expand or build, and I did not want to tinker with things like editing AI personalities as a partial work-around. If they fix ToA in a patch so that I can play it w/o having to do work-arounds, I might still buy it.
If you want to fight for your "life" and not win before the late game, try DA on Suicidal in the largest DA galaxy size with all abundant settings. However, if you do, I recommend disabling the research victory, but for your protection, not to help the AIs.
Each player prefers slightly different game set-ups. My most recent favorite was DA, Suicidal, largest galaxy, all abundant, ascension victory off, 5 or 6 majors and max minors.