First, the off-topic one: I versus NC versus V in last PW season.
V (the old V) - got off to a seemingly good start, but then broke down for reasons may have been discussed in another thread.
V (the new V) - needed some time to reform and regroup and struck an alliance with NC who was not strong at the time (I think NC was third or fourth in the rank then), they did finish quite well for such a late start.
I - got off to a good start as well, most likely by recruiting players holding planets from other, less active clans. I's players (including the recruits) were quite active, 1-3 players at any given time. Using this basis Imperium cornered a sizeable portion of the galaxy but then decided to porc up (+9 ship defense for the win). Near the end the number of active I players dropped considerably.
NC - did not start very well, for a long time stuck at 2 planets, even though there were quite a few active players at any given time (1-4). Mostly we fought battles as they came (attacks by insurgents) and with bought tech we increased our influence scattered over the galaxy, Being allied with new V, who also had an active player base, helped tremendously. Only in the week and a half before the conclusion did we actually build more economy and used more ship based attacks on solitary I worlds or on worlds on which we already had considerable influence and that were quite undefended. The final coup was acquiring the last remaining techs by conquering planets that had them and the final blow was initiated by the Imperator himself, who decided to attack the new V planet holding the last missing artefact from NC's possesion. NC defended successively, gained much IP on the planet as a result, then attacked again and thus secured the win.