I'm 20 hours into a level 5 game. I've already killed 1 AI homeworld and I'm 2 hops from the other. This game has been a lot of fun (I've finally experienced wandering AI ships warping around my planets, cross planet attacks, more frequent reinforcements, and starships in warp waves. My first 2 games were at levels 1 and 2). No sarcasm here, I've really had a blast.
The last homeworld is at the end of a planet chain so I have to go through the buffering level 4 planet. The only difficulty is that the dyson evidently has been harassing the AI here for 20 hours. I found this out when I finally was able to scout that world (the AI has a lot of anti-cloak stuff that kept exposing my scouts so I couldn't scout more than about 2 hops away for the whole game). I laughed at what the scout reported. There are 3700 units on this world, 2399 of them core frigates! Needless to say, the dyson hasn't done a good job of keeping the AI in check. As a matter of fact, the AI has kept the dyson in check, deploying 250 ships around the sphere to kill the gatlings as they launch!
I sent my entire fleet (around 2500 ships or so) through and watched the action. My ships exploded on some of the 1000 mines the AI set up here (obviously one of the AI's is mine enthusiast). No big deal, I thought. I've suffered through this the entire game. About 30 seconds into the battle though, I noticed that my ship count was dwindling fast (I forgot to mention the ion cannon, didn't I). So I commanded a retreat. Too bad a portion of the 160 mark 3 AI tractor beams didn't cooperate. All my ships were stuck and handily slaughtered by a portion of the 660 core turrets, 160 each of mark 3 lightning and missle turrets, and the frigates (and 1 sniper turret!).
I'm gonna call this game a tie. I tried a few lightning missiles and bomber-exclusive raids, but I've hardly made a dent. I have 1 AI destroyed so I feel good about that. I think I'll keep this game saved and try to crack it sometime in the future. I'll see.
I've had enough practice games, so I'm gonna play with the big boys and try a level 7 game. That should be loads of fun!