Good, it's working. I actually like this game and I'm trying to get as many people to figure out the exploits that I've figured out so Stardock will start fixing it. To answer someone who is asking how to do it:
Map settings: Immense or larger, 10 or so AI. Abundant, abundant, abundant. Godlike (whatever, doesn't matter). Don't choose tight clusters. This worked better btw before they totally nerfed the number of planets and star systems. But it still works even now with a decent start.
Custom race: Colonizer and Patriotic (duh).
Put all of your points into useful things like Dense ships or Fast ships or More Military Production or Ship Range, or Fertility. Take points from the useless things like "Resist Planetary Invasion," or "Influence" or "Economy" (who needs that?) or "Tourism" or "trade Roues," or "Faster Ship Repair."
Starting from turn 1, put ALL of your points into military production of colony ships. Rush buy maybe a factory or two on your homeworld.
Get Pragmatic, 3 free constructors and convert into colony ships.
Next 3 ideology points go into Benevolence Free Colony Ship and all the way up to level 3 of that tree. Follow that by getting the Benevolence research tree to level 5.
Every time you colonize a world, Colonizer will give you a free shipyard. Use that shipyard to immediately start producing more colony ships. PRODUCE NOTHING EXCEPT COLONY SHIPS. IF YOU GET LUCKY AND FIND THE HIVES TECH WITH YOUR SURVEY SHIP, RUSH BUY HIVES ON ALL OF YOUR WORLDS UNTIL YOU'RE CLOSE TO RUNNING OUT OF MONEY. Also:
USE SHIP DESIGNER TO MODIFY YOUR COLONY SHIPS. USE CHEAPER, LESS ENGINE COLONY SHIPS FOR THE WORLDS NEARBY AND LONG RANGE MORE ENGINED COLONY SHIPS FOR THE ONES FAR AWAY. YOU WILL BE EXPLORING WITH YOUR COLONY SHIPS (hence it's a good idea to get sensor bonus as your civilization bonus). Your colony ships AFTER the first 7 or 8 colony ships should all start with about 0.5 population on each.
For tech, hope your survey ship finds some for you. Emphasize two types of techs:
1. Hives (the best early game building ever)
2. Better engines.
If you manage to find techs with your survey ship, trade with the AI for the SMALL hulls tech. With the small hulls tech you can build MUCH cheaper colony ships. Even if you don't find it, you can trade techs with the AI using the resources from the planets you colonized. Get SMALL hulls tech AND engine techs AND military production techs. Those are your priority. Even money is useful for rush buying.
But the key is that every time you colonize a world, you set that world to produce more colony ships. As a result your growth becomes exponential. 7 colonies by turn 10. 14 by turn 18. 28 by turn 26. 56 by turn 34. 100 by turn 40.
Of course to do that you have to get a little lucky like finding free tech with your survey ship. If you don't get lucky you'll probably end up with 60-70 or so colonies by turn 40.
Also, the AI is dumb, so sell the resources you find on the colonies for useful AI tech like Small-sized Hulls and increased ship range, and production techs. If you have Hives tech, you can also trade with the AI for money so you can rush buy Hives on your new colonized planets.
But the crux of the strategy is very simple: You do whatever you think will help you build more colony ships faster. Everything else is unimportant.