At hour nine I finally won my first match. It was also, not coincidentally, the first match I played all the way through. The key, it turns out, was relentlessly bribing the pirates. It kind of sticks in my craw a little, because who the hell do these guys think they are, seriously, but in the end the expedience of it was motivation enough. All it took was a little bit of my economic surplus and they acted as a second front against my worst enemy. In a wartime situation, that's a bargain.
In peacetime, though, it feels a little icky. I'm not technically attacking them, I'm simply giving money to mercenaries to attack them by proxy. Knowing how much pirate attacks ruined my day, I willingly inflicted that on another player. But then again, it was either them or me, and the bribes themselves are anonymous . . .
So I'm torn about this pirate mechanic. It's an interesting moral question, but also kind of annoying. You have to pay attention to this constantly-ongoing auction and up your bid every so often, because the pirates claim the bribe money piecemeal and if your bribe drops below your enemy's, then you'll draw the pirate aggression. Honestly, I'm much rather cooperate with my opponents to end the pirate threat once and for all, but then, surely I'd be doing much of the work and committing resources that would leave me vulnerable to betrayal . . .
Which is, I guess, a way of saying that Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity does have a knack for making your enemies feel like your enemies. Often, in a 4X game, I view the AI empires as terrain obstacles at best, things to build around, and potential sources of danger, but mostly things that can safely be ignored. Not in this game. I feel like I'm in constant peril, and the only way to safety is to grab as much territory as possible as quickly as possible.
Though, that may just be me not being very good.