Hi Brad, I played probably 500 hrs Galactic Civ II and now have over 300 hours in Galactic Civ III. I also play endless space and Stellaris. Thus I think I have a pretty credible about of hours to comment on GC3.
I like what you have done with Crusade although I am not particularly fond of how you priced and marketed the game. Gouging your loyal customers isn't a great idea IMO.
Back to GC3. It is clear that you recognized what I disliked about the game, it was tedious, it was about the colony spam and it was about starbase spam. I'll give you props for understanding why the game wasn't particularly fun. Now there is better strategy over the first 50-100 turns. So, well done. I am somewhat of a vet on changing the game files (starting in GC2) so some of my issues with your balance choices don't really mean much to me. I'll tell you what I personally do - just as a FYI.
1) I figure out planet density of the "universe" by trying to fix the average habitable planet number to 15 for the player and AI. I find it tedious to have more than this number prior to the fighting.
2) I like concentrations of planets and better planets. Thus I pump up the #'s for yellow and purple stars, I make the size of the "nice" non-precursor planets like bountiful, etc.much larger (only in the 20-26 range). And I do the same for precursor planets. In addition, I changed the global raw production of the precursor planets from 1 to 2. When you adjusted the population/raw production to 1/1 you should have adjusted the precursor planets so make them more special.
3) I think you should pump up the colony capital tile from +1 to +2 adjacency and add in population and morale. Now I just look where it is at to see if it screws up my nice block of tiles.
4) I think you should make one more research speed choice, I use very slow and it is not slow enough.
5) And, the big one - if #4 is not possible is to allow multiple research per turn (if you have enough points). I understand the ship restrictions, but I disagree with the research.
Anyway, the game is much better than it was. I gave it a decent grade at 2.0 and a better review currently. If I didn't have the ability to dive into the game files to create a nicer universe I wouldn't play the game. So, it works for me - but if you want feedback, it is that bad reviews likely come from people that don't know how to adjust things to their liking. Oh, and the only "nexus mod" I use is the one that adds missions to get more resources - without that one things would get frustrating. Obviously it would be nice to have a more expansive mod section on Steam that address gameplay rather than just maps and ships - but I suspect that is a financial decision.