Apologies if this has been done to death before, but I wonder whether it might be worth making certain features of the game optional. For example, the tech tree is complex, and not entirely necessary. If I want to run a fairly quick game against a friend or the AI, I might disable tech, so that turns can be completed more quickly, and the more stable explore and expand aspects of the game can come to the fore.
Another example would be the monsters - if I want a more even game between players, with less random influence from Krakens and the like, I might turn the monsters off
It might also help with play testing - if we could disable certain complex or troublesome aspects of the game, and more quickly/easily play through other aspects of the game
Disabling tech in a space strategy game would be like disabling the accelerator in your car.
Monsters on the other hand, already can be turned off (or set to low, medium or high frequency), during setup.
Edit: An "dev option" (read "cheat") to unlock all techs might be a reasonable idea, though.