One thing I forgot to add is that if you're still uncomfortable with the game, try a different race. Each one really does play differently, and it'll help a lot to get familiar with the game while not trying to fight a certain playstyle. I love turtling and building up my economy before venturing out and steamrolling everyone, so usually I play Hivers or Morrigi. I am the most uncomfortable with playing the Zuul, because their whole race is about enslaving other races and chewing up resources for short-term gain.
Here's a short description for anyone loading up the game and trying to figure out which race they'd be most comfortable with:
Tarka (Imperial, Reptilian, can fit into many different strategies):
- They should be the "default" setting, as their race plays the closest to "normal"
- Warp Drive technology allows ships to go from point A to point B, no restrictions other than fuel. Somewhat slow at first, later drive technologies make the Tarka very versatile on the strategic map.
- Balanced technology disposition, slightly favors ballistics tree
- They get a bonus to cruiser construction costs, respectably sturdy & powerful ships and battle riders (in the late game)
- Ships oriented towards frontal attack, developers liken the Tarka ships to a 'Spear Thrust'
Human (Ideal for rushing/expansionist strategy):
- Node Drive technology allows ships to go from point A to point B as long as there is a node line connecting the planets. Drive is like a railway system between planets. Fast, but able to be "choked" as you can go only where the node lines are.
- Balanced technology disposition, slightly favors energy tree
- Fastest initial expansion race, gets slight research bonus, medium-fast population growth. Ships have slightly below average toughness and weapon slots, but make up for them with speed & cost.
- Ships oriented towards broadside attacks, developers liken the Human ships to a 'Sword'.
Zuul (Bio-plague psionic monster horde, Ideal for rushing/scorched earth strategy):
- The ultimate aggressor race, I would say a 'take no prisoners' race if they didn't love slaves so much.
- Node Bore Drive technology is similar to the humans, except the Zuul have bore ships that create node lines from planet to planet. Limiting at first, but can you quickly make an efficient node system that allows ships to quickly reinforce your invading fleets.
- Technology is the "worst" in the game, most techs the Zuul have a lower chance of being able to research.
- They have an increased chance to salvage/steal technologies from other races defeated in battle. They also are the kings of ship capture/boarding actions. Late game they also get ships that can "eat" the scrap of blown up enemy ships to create their own mobile ship factory.
- Ships oriented towards swarm theory, super-cheap, really fast (but not agile), tons of weapon slots but all the strength of a tin can in space.
Hiver (Insectoid collective, Ideal for turtling/defensive strategy):
- The ultimate defensive race. Hivers are built for slow, methodical expansion whose worlds are very, very tough to take.
- Gate ship technology allows near-instant movement to any planet with a gate open, allowing a network of easily reinforced worlds. They move at sub-light speed to destinations without a gate however, so they are very vulnerable to early attacks and getting boxed in.
- Technology heavily favors the ballistic and armor trees. Not so much shields & energy.
- Hivers get production bonuses but reproduce slower than other races.
- Their ships are the toughest in the game. Moderately priced and respectable weapon loadouts (favors torpedoes). They are also the slowest. Tanks, essentially.
Liir (Psionic space dolphins, Ideal for teching strategy):
- Great teching race, the Liir are superior researchers and also get terraforming/colonizing bonuses.
- Stutter warp technology allows inertialess movement, really fast away from planets but slow near planets. Ideal for deep space interception.
- Technology is heavily favors the energy weapon, cloaking and shield trees. Not so much ballistics and armor.
- Liir get research bonuses as well as improved chances for colonizing and bio-weapon techs.
- Their ships are the weakest in the game by stength standards, they make up for paper-thin hulls and lower than average weapon slots through their agility and technology. Their ships also are suited to deflecting small weapons fire. Late game Liir have many nasty surprises up their sleeve.
Morrigi (Ancient Bird/Dragon species, great for mercantile/late game strategy):
- Trading masters, the Morrigi are also very very fond of ranged weapons such as drones and COL's. Ideal for the late game, if the Morrigi get a good economy going, expect fast, silent and deadly fleets in the endgame.
- Flock Drive technology allows fleets to move faster the more ships they have.
- Their technology tree favors drones, point defense and energy weapons and technologies.
- Morrigi get trade bonuses, as well as many bonuses vs. random encounters.
- Their ships are the most expensive in the game, but have large numbers of weapon slots (especially heavy energy beams) and are decently fast and tough.
Okay, that was a lot longer than I thought. Anyways, the race you pick will have a big impact on the game you play. Certainly you can try different strategies with each race, I've seen a Hiver rush and a Zuul turtle. The randomized tech tree also may really switch things up. I really had to come up with some different strategies and tactics when as Hiver I only got the first armor tech and the Liir I was fighting ended up with Adamantium (highest) armor tech.