TYB - Welcome to the forums!
I'm not very familiar with the international engines. But I was able to get some good info from NFCC about AV UK.
"I only "know".co.uk, algo is completely different. No clustering, title is *all* if the keywords are not in the title forget it. Much more straight forward than AV.com in some way's, although the lack of clustering can be a problem if someone nails the algo. In addition "AltaVista.co.uk accepts only URLs from the domains: uk, gb, ie, im, gg, je, .com, .net and .org"
Previously banned domains at .com once ranked well at .co.uk, they seem to have gone now.
>Are they theme-friendly like the big one or should I just focus on creating good pages
The on page criteria takes precedence, *at the moment*."