Much of what I'm going to cover in this thread is how to push the economy in your game to the point where you leave the AI in the dust even on a fraction of the total planets. It is not a specific step by step process but more of an under lining discussion on what factors come into play and how you can use them to their full potential and elevate your strategies to a whole new level. Much of the stuff covered also tends to come into play late game when curtain subsystems become available so you will need to adapt as you see fit. So let's begin. Building Ratios:
The topic of cities and work rate comes up a lot in the forums and is bounces around on how to calculate the best ratio given that tech increases reduce the number of cities required to maintain the workers. Well after some number crunching I realized a fairly simple pattern in that you want a 1:1 ratio of cities to production building (Metal/Elec/Adv). This is regardless of tech level, planetary conditions, or any other factors. I know this sounds counter intuitive but there is a reason for this.
In order to figure out the production output for a planet you need to do the following equation:
PC = Planetary City Modifier
PF = Planetary Factory Modifier
C = Number of Cities
F = Number of Factories
CP = Per City Population (Worker rate Bonus per city)
FP = Per Factory Production
(PC * C * CP) * (PF * F * FP) = Total Output
We can use some simple algebraic manipulation to reorganize it into (PC * CP * PF * FP) * (C * F). Since everything on the left is out of your control when building on an individual planet it can be treated as a constant and simplified to (Constant) * (C * F). This essentially leaves us with trying to maximize C * F. And as we know the way to get the highest product from any combination of two numbers who have the same sum (aka total slots available) is to take half the sum. Thus if you have 10 slots you will want 5 C and 5 F.
In the case of odd number of slots available it does actual favor building an additional factory. This is because the Capital provides a small amount of population which essentially acts like a fraction of a city in the equation. Since the capital never techs up though this difference becomes less significant as the game progresses.
At lower tech levels this building ratio may not appear to clearly have an advantage, but the higher your tech becomes in social the more obvious it's advantages become. It also has the benefit of never needing to reorganize your city/factory ratios as tech increases. Though on the tech front if you look at the equation above and draw out the FP and CP which are affected by tech level the same rules apply in that it's better to keep metallurgy and social on equal tech level to maximize your production. Demands of the People:
The obvious down side of this is because you are not building the minimum number of cities like most people tend to suggest is that your are going to require a lot more food, goods, and lux then other strategies. This is easy enough to deal with since Goods and Lux supplies do not use up your precious star port traffic and food uses only a minor amount from the starport.
On this front it is often better to have specialized worlds devoted to producing these goods instead of putting them on your resource production worlds. The reason for this is because of the exponential factor when cities/factories combine. If you take 20 slots and fill it up with cities and factories that is basically 10 * 10 * Constant = 100C (C is Production/Worker rate equation from above). Now if you use up 4 of those slots for food/goods/lux then it drops to 8 * 8 * C = 64C which is a loss of 36C production. So you are effectively producing 1/3 less for cost of 1/5 of the buildings.
This compounding effect is the reason I tend to try and focus on make planets around 30 slots or higher as my main production centers. While planets under 15 slots are marked as farm/goods/lux/science worlds right away. Because a 15 slot world won't simply produce 1/2 the resources of a slot 30 it will produce maybe 1/4-1/5 as much. The 15-30 slot range depends on what my empire needs and planetary conditions. Stations & Dry Docks:
Now it's time to take things to an even higher level as we get into the area that relies on late game tech. That of courses is where Elec Fabs and Adv Fabs come into play.
As many of you may know it takes 1 Metal to make 1 Electronic, while it takes 1 Metal & 1 Elec to make 1 Adv Part. For those looking to maximize their production however the fact that Elec and Adv factories produce at a much lower rate means that they are not getting the full potential out of their planets. This is because if you have 1 of each factory on the planet and let's say their production rates are as follows: 1K Metal, 500 Elec, and 250 Adv. Then after production runs you will have 250 Metal, 250 Elec, and 250 Adv or a grand total of 750 resources produced in 1 tick which is pitiful.
Now if we instead have 3 Metal factories then the planet's production is effectively 3K resources per tick. To produce the Elec and Adv Parts our empire needs we build Stations with Elec and Adv Fabs in orbit and have them fetch Metal when low and deposit Elec/Adv as they fill up. Now let's say we put station with a 1K Elec and 500 Adv in orbit. So the planet's production becomes 3K Metal, 1K Elec, 500 Adv which after Elec/Adv cost is net production of 1.5K Metal, 500 Elec, and 500 Adv for a total of 2.5K resources per tick from that same planet which only had 750 when everything was planet side.
These stations can be separate specialized stations or they can also be your dry docks. Personally I prefer to keep them separate as it makes it easier the manage the Elec/Adv Ratios. But it is still important to have a dry dock because of the reasons mentioned previously in that you don't want to waste slots on secondary buildings such as Ship Yards. Space Ports & Cargo Bays:
As many already know Space Ports do not scale up as fast as production buildings due to the effect of worker rate on their production. Because of this it is not long into the game that space ports become nearly worthless. You will need to maintain at least 1 on your production planets to import food. But as far as exporting all those resources it is much better to build Export Docks in orbit and save space on the planet.
Cargo Bays actually become an important part of this strategy the later your get into the game. The reason for this is you will reach a point when your produce more per tick then your planet can hold. This can be combated in a number of ways, first is to increase the cargo hold size which 1 cargo bay tends to help a lot early on but even that won't be enough as exponential growth of your production takes over. The second method is to lower the game speed, this is because of the way the game handles time compression only a part of the production will be done each tick at the slower speeds. This gives your stations in orbit a chance to pick up the resources before the next cycle.
More stations don't really solve this problem as production and station pickup happen at different times. However if your stations are not using/export enough you might want to increase them so that your not wasting production potential. General Tips & Conclusion:
I'd say the trickiest part of this is keeping in mind you need food/goods/lux for all those cities. It can be very tempting early game as your expanding to build a lot of planets up like this as most people go for the big planets first. However if your people are starving and your moral is negative then your production will come to crawl and you'll find yourself worst off then you would of been with a more generic setup like the AI govs use.
The space ports are still useful early game and you may want to suffer the production hit by putting up a few so that you can grow your empire faster. But as the game progresses and you get export docks it's best to scrap all but one on your production worlds.
I have used this strategy to great effect against 3 hardest AI w/CheatsON in size 150 galaxy. I controlled less then 1/10 of the total systems and yet I was still able to out produce the AI and drive them back even at a tech disadvantage. By the time I actually got close to controlling 1/10 the by conquering another 4 systems I had become #1 in econ and military.
The benefits of this strategy is also the reduced need for micro-management. I tend to setup my worlds and leave them be since you don't need to change any of the ratios around. For stations in orbit I refit them as need be and usually have more then 1 so that Elec/Adv will still be produced while one station is being refitted. The Dry Docks are often set to Repeat build so i can be sure the resources are being spent and not going to waste. I spend most of my timing playing with ship designs and setting up building queue on new planets while leaving the govs to Renovate only.
Using this setup on Ring World is amusing as I can easily get over +1G resources from it at the same tech level it requires to build it. This is likely to be more then your whole empire combined. Heck I dare say it's probably more then the whole galaxy production rate and will let you build Size 1M ships like nothing. I usually use it to build a huge construction ship with enough resources to build another ring world then go around plopping down ring worlds and empire set to R&D world as default govs so they all become science worlds and watch as I research tech items in the mid 20s in 2-3 mins.
And just for kicks as a closing thought the reason for the title is because you literally push the economy to it's breaking point as your production goes so high you can't even store as much as you produce in a single tick.