My first game on hard, I went very strong on the Economic Council - I know, not very original, but I do mean VERY strong - as I needed/had :
- A power plant to power the upgrades to High Command HQ and Bureaucrat Offices, which were going to bring me a LOT of early BPs & PPs in a Time of Bureaucracy and with Democracy's Political Bonus and Government's Bureaucratic Bonus.
- Heavy/High Tech Industry research, increased tech level and a power plant to power the public Industries boosted by Government's and Church of the Syndic Public Industrial Bonuses.
- Economic Council's boosted by Mind's research bonus.
- Research and a power plant to power for the QOL buildings boosted by Democracy's QOL bonus, which would keep workers happy for a while, requiring me to pay them less, freeing this money to buy metal for buildup, increasing the civilization level, giving me fate points and cards, increasing the maximum level of Bureaucrat Offices, and potentially giving me future leaders good at diplomacy/leadership for when I'm actually ready to acquire some territory.
- A Cap IV (!) Supreme Command Director to bring in those PPs, specialized in Covert Ops, which allowed to see the external threats coming from far away and to only have to commit the minimum of forces needed to keep them at bay while I build up.
- A Cap V (!!!) governor helping to get the raw resources required for such an intense buildup (and to placate the low pay workers and the dangers resulting from the outside world laying siege to my little fortress, though that wasn't enough, forcing me to set my only zone as unincorporated, discovering a bug in the process. Though maaaybe I also abused them too much with Fate-Point giving cards ).
- Plenty of water and open farming minimizing the costs and the defensive needs.
- A planet with 126% heavy elements, making relying on Metal Soil Filtration as my high level Recycling Facilities quickly ran dry a viable option (I later even got it randomly from an an Ancient Archive, see above about civilization level and fate points/cards !)