actually I couldn't resist starting a quick game.
I'm actually playing a level below the difficulty level I normally play at (normally thinker), and I'm getting whooped by the Spartans. the mind worms can be nasty as well.
This mod definately offers more challenge. I started a large planet medium water, weak erosive forces and average life forms. I got kind of crowded in by the university and spartans. Both demanded money from me when I first met them. And they expanded faster than I did (though my starting position wasn't that great (no nutrients).
I rejected a spartan demand (the tech that gives hypnotic trance ability) and they declared war on me. They quickly took my capitol, but I got it back. And I conquered one of their cities. But I still only have 3 cities against their 4. And they still have impact weapons and I only have lasers.