I'm embarrassed. My plan was to do the thing I always do when I start up a 4X game - play it on the easiest difficulty to get a feel for the shape of the tech tree and basic gameplay mechanics. But I decided to do it with a twist and play a faction I'd never played before, in the hopes of snagging an easy achievement. My plan was to get a supremacy (military) victory with the Cravers - a ravenous insect/machine hybrid race that devours resources for a quick short-term boost to production at the expense of a long-term prosperity.
Which, you know, is the exact opposite of how I usually play. Needless to say, it did not go well. I haven't lost the game or anything, but I underestimated my enemy's fleet strength, had a major offensive wiped out, and am now in the position of having to replace it with a bunch of depleted planets suffering from major production penalties. I could probably still pull out a victory, but it stings to be in such a bad spot on such a low difficulty after such a long time playing the game.
I shouldn't be so hard on myself, though. I may have a hundred hours of experience with the game, but it's a hundred hours of learning to optimize the late game victories. There's no logical reason why that skill would necessarily translate over to an early game knife fight victory. It's quite a different thing to manage a highly infrastructure-dependent economy than it is to command a fast attack fleet of planet-consuming raiders. You have to take a whole different philosophical stance to handle it.
I'm not really sure the achievement is worth it. It's good to learn new things and expand your skills, but I tried that with Civilization V, my other big 4X game, so I feel like I've earned the right to take it easy here (he said, knowing it sounds like an excuse).