So I agree completely, Action cards can do severe damage to the Clan of Saar. On the other hand, adding the contents of both expansions has, I think, helped to bloat the Action deck and thus make those truly devastating cards you mentioned considerably rarer. Then, too, the Saar are fortunate enough to have an Agent who can block the first really bad Action card directed against you (Your group does play with Leaders, I hope?).
We do play with leaders, yes - and basically, the Saar's agent will always be kept for the scenarios mentioned. It's pretty much a pseudochoice whether or not to use him, as he'll always be saved for either the crucial Signal Jam or the devastating Friendly Fire. While it rubs me the wrong way from a design-philosophy, I've come to live with it and don't really mind. 'Part of the race' I suppose.
As I said, I've only played the Saar once, but I saw great advantage in placing one Space Dock with each fleet, as it gave me both a strike force and a force dedicated to fighting back against the simultaneous Arobec and Ghost incursion into my worlds. Putting them all together makes for a gigantic fighter swarm, yes, but as you pointed out, this also places all of your eggs in one basket and limits you to a single really big fleet.
Exactly. However, due to racial techs and starting techs, this is pretty much the only two real choices a Saar player faces; the obnoxiously large fighter swarm, or several small. In all cases, any player opposing Saar will just dish out a few ADT-boosted Destroyers as guerilla fleets and whittle the Saar down before he gets up close (at least that's how Fighter Swarms are always handled both in our group and in competitive; ADT Destroyers are 1½ guaranteed hit on average pre-combat per unit.). Again, vulnerable like hell (or just part of the larger problem/question on whether or not Destroyers are simply too good).
Oh, and of course I agree that the Saar Floating Factories racial tech is absolutely essential (I later got Enviro Compensators too).
An early Sarween Tools will end up translating into alot of 'free TG's' as well, definitely core techs in my opinion.
Juiciest target on the board? I hope you're saying this applies to when the Saar are in the lead or there is a viable tactical reason to use Action cards on them. In my case both factors were true, but I would hate to play with a group which directed Action cards primarily on the basis of who it would hurt the most. Also, I wouldn't say that their biggest strength having a downside necessarily means that the Saar are disadvantaged.
Of course. And it's not like people - at least not in my group - throw action cards 'just because it damages most', disregarding tactical considerations. But if the galaxy is stale, it does mean more damage usually and might give neighbours a reason to prod the Saar player when he's weakened, since he does almost always lose alot more than 'just' the dock.
As for the Ghosts of Creuss, the Ghost Flagship is useful, but far from crucial; remember, the Ghosts are only going to have a single Space Dock producing in their Home System anyway. I had my Hil Colish blown up before I could even use it, never rebuilt it, and still came in a very close second.
Depends entirely on objectives. If the 3 Docks on board objective is flipped, you'll have to build 3 docks. Or if you got a SO pertaining to Mecatol Rex requiring a Space Dock. Or if you manage to grab Lisis/Velnor / Abyz/Fria or Bereg/Lirta IV, in which case you'd of course love to have double docks there since your building capacity would be extremely inferior overall otherwise.
Even without natural wormholes, however, the Ghosts still have access to one of the best racial techs in the game, their invaluable Slave Wormhole Generator. Possessing this increases the mobility of the Ghosts tremendously, especially when used in conjunction with the Hil Colish, the Gravity Drive tech (a great tech for the Ghosts!), or both.
RAW, Gravity Drive is a horribly overpowered tech that completely defeats the purpose of map geography. It might alleviate some of the boredom of playing pie-slice galaxy, but heaven forbid who'd want to play that when you can play some of the SA maps that almost always ensures far greater dynamic, balance and intensity, unless the stars align for the pie-slice map in question? Anyway, we play with Gravity Drive where it provides movement bonus if you begin movement inside either a Rift or a Wormhole. It's still amazing for the Creuss but it isn't a must-have no-brainer technology that anyone competitive must own like it is if the bonus is applied whenever a ship is adjacent to a wormhole or rift.
Oh, one more thing: assuming you're playing with the Wormhole Nexus and Artifacts (and why wouldn't you be?) Mallice is a great location for an artifact, since it is virtually impossible for anyone to take it from the Ghosts if they station a Destroyer and two Ground Forces there. Furthermore, the Nexus itself is a terrific staging area for a Ghost fleet. Use the Slave Wormhole Generator and the Hil Colish and you could launch multi-pronged strikes on almost any area of the galaxy.
Exactly, a very viable tactic - or well, pretty much the tactic for a Creuss player. Again a pseudo-choice Doesn't sit well with me as it's very predictable due to the sheer power of the tactic, but can't change that really. As you say, it is extremely powerful. Regarding Artifact, we always play premade maps, either SA ones or tweaked ones that are crucially balanced to ensure beautifully dynamic games, but most of the time there is an artifact on Malice.
On another note, I presume you play pie-slice? For me, the game became completely revived when we did premade maps and used Star by Star guidelines for bidding. Such an improvement over the original game that it defies description.
What Strategy Cards do you think are essential for the Ghosts of Creuss' first two turns, and why?
Depends entirely on map geography, neighbouring races and whether or not you play with Distant Suns. Until recently my group had used Distant Suns tokens for 8 years of playing. Then we decided to try without, and the game just got a whole lot better, balanced and more intensive, especially with premade maps. But yeah, depends entirely on those factors. In general I'd love an early Trade on Creuss though; they got the opportunity to threaten all races and should thus be able to demand good trades, and their secluded home system allows them to ignore alot of the flak thrown their way if they deny alot of other people trade. When playing with DS tokens, the TG's acquired can also compensate for a bad start. Same with Diplomacy; the annexation can be amazing when playing with DS tokens.