I suck at GC2. I suck at Civ4 too.
I'm just bad at these games. I like them alright, they're not my favorite but I enjoy the strategic gameplay on it's own, but I'm not any good at them. I never have been.
I can win though, pretty easily. I do it by exploiting the combat system.
Some of you seem to think that tactical combat results in an AI that can be exploited and thus makes the game too easy, but an automated system does too or none of you could ever beat the GC2 AI when it was cheating. I shouldn't even be able to beat it at normal, I'm just too lazy about optimizing my output to keep up.
Where I beat it was in determining how best to minimize my casualties. I built fleets of ships, designing them specifically with durability in mind for the primary target, and damage for the rest. One ship that would survive, the rest of the logistics taken up in sheer damage. It worked great. I rarely lost ships, they gained loads of experience, and I was able to routinely fight back superior forces even though I was always way behind in research.
A bad AI does make it easy to exploit a tactical combat system, it's quite true. It's not any different from how the predecessor is though. The system was simple enough that it was in effect, bad AI. It did the same thing every time, and thus in being predictable, could be countered. The same was true of the previous stack based combat from GC1. It always worked the same way, and was thus easy to exploit for a tactical advantage over the AI, which didn't really understand the value of it's ships and how they would be selected. It would routinely sacrifice damaged ships of great value for no reason.
Good tactical AI is work, but so is good strategic AI. I would not expect a bad tactical AI from Stardock, not with their recent experience. I wont expect it to out-think me either, but without tactical combat it will just change what the AI has to out-think me on.