I liked the variant in TI in which everyone could colonize new systems before the beginning of the game, as it made for a more interactive game from the start. I found that WK suffered from a lack of interactions during the early stage, and the game being won too early after the expansion phase, just when the player confrontations start.
Has anyone tried such a variant ? In which players could start getiing neutral towns before beginning? I am a bit rusty (I have played the games a long time ago). What settings would you recommend for this? I was thinking about letting everyone get a 100 city for "free" in the same order players place armies on the map, or maybe 300 points worth of cities.