With other galaxy shapes, with central area, the players in that region can have many threatening neighbours (I had 5 neighbours in my last cluster game). The empires starting in corners tend to have better chances to win. Al least all this is true for games without diplomacy or with limited number of players on the winning alliance.
With ring shape all players have similar number of neighbours and threats, so it's more fair. And it is not necessarily turtle friendly. First time we played ring shape, I got Hyperant in one side and o01eg on the other. Hyperant signed peace with his other neighbour (swaq) and he and me keep fighting each other constantly, crashing fleet after fleet, taking and losing planets, for the whole game until o01eg knocked at my rear door and my game was over.
Indeed! I feel sympathy for Danny. My empire is willing to cooperate with his in the quest of bringing some peace to the galaxy. Pirates are a pest...Poor Danny somehow missed out in the initial alliance phase.