But what happened to the huge pile of SF ships I would normally see? They'd help a lot in slowing me down but I see nothing. Like literally nothing.SF is still in there. Quantities have been adjusted somewhat but still there. It's possible you've been on planets they wanted to defend long enough to clean them out and/or that your memories are based on higher difficulties.
possible, but unlikely. I remember what 7/7 used to look like at 300+ AIP. Lots of SF ships bugging you at most annoying times. Your fleet VS full SF force meant you had no choice but to retreat or fall back to martyrs/lightning warheads. Ok so SF has been tuned down a bit you say, and I'm playing on ultra low caps now instead of low caps. But still, they should at least put up a fight right? It's true that I occasionally see a few SF ships popping up here and there. But they come in numbers of 4-5 ships and then nothing. I took the botnet, freed the dyson sphere, captured 3 ARS, several golems and a star ship fabricator and the AI practically gave it away to me. The only things bugging me are the few tackle drone launchers here and there (annoying little buggers in the hands of the AI I must say).
Also, I've scouted all 50 planets in my galaxy right now and none of the AI numbers are high enough to suspect a SF blob. Strategic reserves put up a bigger fight so far.
I might be too soon to judge since it's been a while since I played. I will finish this 7/7 game and then try a 9/9 game to see the difference before I get back on the subject. But if SF is still supposed to have a lot of ships that fly around as a big giant blob and protect important stuff, then I have the feeling that something is off.