A) I believe that ordering around a massive, uncustomizable beast with it's own unique abilities will be different enough from regular ships to give the player a sufficiently different feeling without drastically modifying how it is ordered around.
the owner of space monsters should not be identifiable unless accompanying ships are present.
C) IMO, the role of powerful forces interfering in the galaxy is filled nicely by the precursors
(who need a lot of work, IMO, but have potential). Furthermore, this adds an unnecessary element of randomness that could punish/reward certain strategies (i.e. slavery-hating/loving monster shows up and the slave masters are screwed/have an advantage). There's no need for space monsters to be anything more than mindless beasts who can be captured to your own advantage.
I'm not sure that's much of a distinction.
A) Amounts to a few cosmetic differences, with some different abilities and the drawback of being non-customisable. What if we have a race that produces bio-ships instead of normal mechanical ones? That's one difference gone.
Granted, the special abilities might be unique and unlike anything else your ships could do, but other than this and the inability to customise/refit the monster, it's just another ship. It forms fleets, takes orders and moves just like any other ship.
B) Making the monsters 'unmarked' would be a fair way to add interest, but then again if you can do that with monsters, why not make it possible for 'normal' ships too? I think it could be an interesting gameplay addition, that if limited to monsters needlessly prevents many empires from another interesting and enjoyable possible strategy.plus see below for more discussion of this
C) I appreciate what you're saying about not having too many 'giants in the playground', but I don't think space monsters are forced to be as powerful as the precursors. In fact they might be a valuable source of intermediate opposition, which could be interesting for the early game, when the empires are more concerned with expanding and have yet to encounter or provide a threat to each other.
I don't think this point is a means of distinguishing space monsters from regular ships, rather an argument against having powerful individual space monsters with agendas. That said I agree it would be bad to have a game strategy (such as slavery) backfire horribly on you, simple because this game you were unfortunate enough to draw the 'all-powerful anti-slavery activist space dragon of Zendrox IV'...
I'd also like to see some very rare and very powerful unique spacemonsters, individual creatures with there own backstory that you can indirectly influence, for example might have a real issue with slavery, and randomly decide to an enslaved colony, if you've been proactive in freeing slaves it might randomly decide to join you in battle. (might be unfair on any Abbadonian players though)
I like the idea of space monsters being unique characters with personality!
As an alternative, more subtle way for the monsters to interact, how about having space monsters as a hidden reserve? Perhaps they might offer to intervene in a battle on the player's side for a price (or perhaps for nothing) and be invisible to the unsuspecting attacker. Again, I would hope that the space monster not be so powerful as to decide the battle all by itself. Instead it should merely be just an influence.Thoughts on unmarked ships
I think being able to field unmarked ships would be interesting in it's own right. They could be used in raids, with a lower chance of starting a war. Of course, since your government disowns all responsibility to these, then you wouldn't be able to complain if they were attacked and destroyed themselves. Espionage could be used to reveal (and prove) the owner of the unmarked ships, and it might be nice if they could be bribed.
If an empire were suffering too many attacks from unmarked ships, but had suspicions of who was behind them, it should be able to declare war on the suspected empire anyway. (presumably at a diplomatic penalty, due to the weak casus belli