Ok, i've had a quick look through the forums, anyone got a decent beginners strategy guide? I've found it impossible to keep up on Normal and a struggle so far on easy! I'm either overlooking something or this game really does have a huge learning curve...
There are lots of strategies in the strategy forum, but here's one for easy:
1. Disable the pirates in the game options screen. Chose large fleet capacity there, so you can easily build two capital ships.
2. Chose a small map.
3. Choose the TEC for your race.
4. Choose one AI opponent on normal, economist.
5. Buy 100 crystal.
6. Upgrade your home planets civilian infrastructure.
7. Build a capital ship factory and queue a Kol battleship.
8. Buy 2 scout ships.
9. Build 2 metal mines.
10. Set the scouts on automatic explore. (Right click on the explore button in the lower right.)
11. Build a colony ship.
12. As soon as your Kol is built, chose the Gauss Rail Gun upgrade for it and send it to the nearest asteroid.
13. Kill the two ships (a light frigate and a siege ship) there. Then send the colony frigate there to colonize it. Send your Kol to the next planet.
14. Upgrade the asteroids infrastructure and build mines there.
15. If you have volcanic or ice planets nearby, build two civilian research stations at your home planet. Research the necessary colonication techs.
16. If the next planet is free from enemies, send your colonizer there and your Kol to the next planet with enemies.
17. If your Kol levels up, take Adaptive Forcefield or Gauss Rail Gun upgrades. When possible build a fighter squadrin with it. When attacking independents (grey ships that guard planets) first kill light frigates/LRM. Use your fighter squadron to attack siege ships.
18. If you have enough ressources, build a second capital ship (research Basic Officer Training under Fleet logistics). Don't research fleet capacity increases until you meet the enemy AI, cause it reduces your income by a percentage (9% for the first tech). Your next capital ship should be a Marza Dreadnought. If you play on normal fleet capacity settings, you may need to research one of the fleet capacity techs or you could just build some light frigates instead.
19. Use your capital ships to clear independent planets from their defenses and colonize them then. Don't forget to upgrade their civilian infrastructure or they'll lose credits.
20. Do this until you meet the AI (ie. one of your colonized planets is right next to the AI's planet. You should have built a military research station and researched the Repair Platform until then.
21. Build 2 repair platforms on the edge to the enemy and 4-6 gauss defense platforms. You'll need to upgrade the planets tactical capacity to be able to place them all. Place a capital ship there and if the enemy invades, make sure to fight inside the range of the repair platforms (click on them and press the alt-key to see their range).
22. If the enemy surprises you, no worry. Immediatly build some gauss defense turrets and then a repair platform there. If your constructors are allready building other things (like mines) order them to build gauss defenses. Send a capital ships there to help with the defense.
23. Building a broadcast center on every other planet can help you with your economy. Also some Trade Ports increase your credit income significantly.
24. Just hold your frontlines buy building gauss defense platforms and repair stations. Research and build up your economy and/or your military. If the enemy has a carrier capital ship, research and build either some flakk frigates or hangars.
25. When you have a steady income, research two or three fleet capacity increase techs and build up your fleet. LRM and frigates with the sabotage reactor ability are good against light frigates resp. support cruisers. Flakk frigates are useful against enemy fighters/bombers, though if you build only fighter squadrons for your capital ships, you don't need them in the early to mid game. Hoshiko repair cruisers are quite good. 5 are enough for your small fleet probably. Hull and Armor research is very good for TEC, espically together with the Hoshikos, will it make your fleet to last quite long. A third and a fourth capital ship may be also nice. (A second Kol/Marza or a Carrier if the enemy uses much carriers itself).
26. When you have your fleet take it to the enemy. All ships together at once, ie. make them group jump. (Right click on the green move button.) Then first attack enemy turret defense/ships near you. Make sure to concentrate your weapons fire. Don't attack enemy capital ships first, their frigates do more damage and they'll flee when you've killed enough of them.
27. After enemy ships, turrets and hangars are destroyed, attack the planet with your capital ships and mop up the rest of the buildings with your frigates. Colonize the planet, build some gauss defense turrets on strategic positions, replace your ship losses and attack the next enemy planet.
28. If you encounter a superior enemy fleet, just retreat, build up some defenses on your frontlines and wait until the AI attacks. Then defend your planet until the AI retreats and follow it back to its plant. Try to destroy it's high level capital ships this way. And just build ships/research military stuff until your fleet is large enough. The AI shouldn't be able to break through your defenses if you have enough gauss defense turrets and repair stations. If gauss turrets are destroyed, just build them anew. The AI usually can't destroy them as fast as you can build them.
29. If the enemy sends large amounts of siege frigates, you may lose the planet. Dont worry, just kill the siege frigates and colonize the planet again. You'll lose it's upgrades, but the buildings are still there.
If you follow this steps, you shouldn't be able to lose against a medium or even a hard AI. With some variations even the unfair AI falls easily. But you'll lose against a human player with this strategy, so don't try it against them.