It depends greatly on the size of the map, but generally:
Mainline (manuf/research, eventually strong military). A conquest-type path (or defense against the other guy's conquest of you).
Phase 1. Build up planet tiles. Plan ahead for hex and adjacency bonuses, but generally go for some +manuf (to speed up the build-out), then the planet's specialization (whichever you choose). Your homeworld probably must split between manuf and research, because for a while it will be your only planet. Anyways, very soon your planet will hit a point where it can finish 1 tile per turn and still have excess to dump into research or shipyard.
- Research things that help you build: entertainment for approval, manuf/research for positive feedback, farms/terraforming for growth. Don't bother on weapons or ship stuff; you will not engage in any weenie fights.
- I prefer to utterly ignore wealth during Phase 1, and just survive off the "yolk" of 3,000 bc, plus whatever credits your survey ship randomly recovers. I do this because I believe I can build up to Tourism tech + several colonies long before my yolk runs out, after which wealth ceases to become a constraint.
- Corollary: Do not Rush-buy anything. Gambit (i.e. gurus can experiment with this): rush-buy a few critical things early. The only time I rush-buy is when the queue lied to me last turn and stuck me with a "0 bc" nigh-done project, in which case I rush it for free and swing all of my manuf to other things.
- Explore with your ships. Try spiraling outward with the scout + surveyor. Your survey ship should pounce on every survey-able item ASAP. If you're lucky, Space Junks will give you extra ships.
- Trick: His Head Explodes. Before surveying each Artifact, always switch your current Tech research item to a brand-new item of the most expensive level you can afford, for the 1-in-N jackpot of the instant tech level for free. If you don't get it (or get only the booby prize of +25% to your current tech project), just switch it back to whatever you were researching.This has zero opportunity cost except a few mouse clicks. (Warning: those 25% tech grants will gradually decay as you finish other techs and its cost goes up, so maybe finish it next.) Repeat for every Artifact you encounter.
- Colonize as needed, i.e. as you find fallow worlds, build colony ships and send them.Trick: If you find a jackpot system of 2-4+ worlds in single starbase effect, build one ctor with just enough range to get there, send it first, build a starbase. Follow it (even while it's still en route) with default-range colony ships. This exploits the ship range game mechanism that range means controllability, i.e. the region in which you can click to assign a movement target. Since your starbase effect area is, by definition, within your empire's range, you can always send your ships any distance from your shipyard to your starbase's area, regardless of any void over which they cross. This basically saves you 1-3 life support components per (custom) colony ship, which makes them cheaper, which makes them quicker to build.
- Building starbases is a gambit/tradeoff. Each one requires at least 1 single ctor (to build) + 1-2 slow double-ctors (to build up) to reach a decent bonus. Hence they are best used when you have 2+ colonies within starbase effect, to leverage their bonuses. Economic Ring starbase with all +manuf, +research, +approval modules is always a decent boost. Do not worry about building 2+ starbases for overlapping effect until you've played a few games through.
- Later colonies can specialize for either manuf (eventually with a shipyard), research, or wealth.
Phase 2. Build up combat ships. Research Warfare weapons, Engineering ship improvements, etc. Commit to one type of ship weapon, but try all 3 defenses. You must learn Ship Designer now. You don't have to make it pretty; just slap components on to fill the mass limit. You could ignore this phase for 100+ turns, then spend 30-50 turns here before you have any serious combat strength.
- The Beta 3 AI is still a placeholder, so it doesn't fight like a human playing chess. Still, maybe garrison each shipyard/starbase/planet with a docked weenie ship or fleet.
Diplomacy and United Planets is a cross-cutting aspect that could happen whenever. It depends on how quickly you encounter other races, which depends on the size of the map, your relative aggressiveness, and random placement. I have no recommendation there.
Other strategies exist that are totally different (but in every strategy, you will probably need some fleet strength to not get weenie-invaded).
- Cultural Influence amends the above by building Consulate or similar +Influence Growth items 1st.
- Technological or Ascension Victory might depend on randomly having certain galactic resources in your ZOC, which could entice you to shift to those endgame goals.
- Do I start spending my cash to get things build instantly or should I keep it ...
- Why can't I add any weapons to ships I build?
- Other races talk in languages I cannot understand ( I know this is tech based but it needs pointing out!).
- What should I be building on planets?
- Is there a starbase to colony ratio I need to pay attention too?
- Are there limits to my fleets? Colonies??
- What planets should I develop?
- Do I need more than one Starship constructor?
- Do constructors have other purposes?
- How do I build Xeno modules?
- Do I need to defend my colonies? Star Bases?
- What do the various resources do and how important are they early game/mid game/late game - what is early/mid/late in terms of game turns/time?
1. Don't rush-buy anything until you've played a few games up to the point of Phase 2, where you have specialized bankworlds and your net income is positive. Consider how low your yolk ran before you stopped bleeding cash. In later games, you could spend that much on tactical buys. (Note: Rush-buys are at the rate of 15 bc to 1 mp, whereas simply building it is at the rate of 1 mp to 1 mp. Even on a bankworld with ridiculous +900% wealth bonus, you'd be better off setting 1 bp to make 1 mp and build 1 mp with it than to make 1+9 = 10 bc and pay that 15-to-1 exchange rate.)
2. You start the game with no weapon techs (and no defense techs). You must research them in the Warfare subtree.
3. You start the game without Universal Translator. You research it in the Diplomacy subtree.
4. See above.
5. All starbases are optional; you can run at a ratio of 0 forever if you like. Fully upgraded Economic Ring starbases do give nice bonuses to all planets in starbase effect. Mining starbases are nonesuch; there is no other way to mine resources, and eventually you might want/need them to augment your weapons/defenses, or as trade goods. Starbases also provide range extension, which lets you puddle-jump your way across large voids in space.
- Tactic: Weenie Storm. When you first encounter a warlike race (say, Drengin), probably you'll both have weenies that face off in space, but neither side has the range to reach each others' backfields. That's a subtle race. You can win it by sneaking in a (defended) constructor and building a starbase near your range limit, for the sole purpose of range extension. Then suddenly your weenies can reach his shipyards, and he still can't reach you. Defend that starbase, and sweep all your weenies forward to overrun his space. For yuks, look for a minable resource nearby, and make your range-extension starbase also oh-by-the-way a mining starbase, haha.
6. Ships and colonies are unrestricted in number. Other effects may reduce the joy you get from them, e.g. maintenance costs and time demands on your attention span.
7. Planets range from 4-25 usable hexes right away (and up to 40 hexes with max terraforming techs). All planets are generally self-supporting, so there's essentially no harm in colonizing new ones and setting them to pay their own costs. Generally, prioritize them by descending class (number of hexes), but also consider proximity (since multiple planets sharing 1 loaded starbase trumps a single big planet with no starbase), location (a planet that lets you project ZOC closer to unexplored regions, or to an AI, is more useful than a dead-end corner planet), and planet bonuses. Specialize your planets based on their bonus, colonization event choice, and what you need. Don't forget some bankworlds before your yolk runs out!
8. By "starship constructor", I'm guessing you mean "shipyard". You don't need to ever build more shipyards, but you'll eventually find that it's much faster to have a frontier planet build its own shipyard and then build ships thereat, than to build ships at your homeworld and make them walk the gap between them. Generally, you specialize a forward planet (closer to the frontier/action) to be a manuf planet because you intend it to eventually build a shipyard and pump ships out. Hence, late in Phase 1 you will have several shipyards, at least one per forgeworld.
9. Constructors have only three purposes: (a1) build a starbase, (a2) upgrade an existing starbase, or ( build a shipyard. ( is more expensive than having a planet build its own shipyard directly from its social queue, but with the tactical benefit that you can fly your ship way far to the frontier and then pop the shipyard thereat, for instant builds (and you just pay the ghastly long-range sponsor distance penalties because it wins the game, or something).
11. Defense depends on the AI's fitful stage of development. Eventually, you will need some defense. It is rumored that the AI dumbly ascribes high avoidance to any weenie defender, so having 1 defender in a starbase, no matter how weak, can deter the AI from ever attacking it. This will surely change. Play several games, and if the AI beats down your defense, then that amount of defense wasn't enough
12. I dunno. Early game = Age of Expansion techs ~= turn 80-90. Age of War used to last to turn ~160, by which time you might be fighting several fleet combats every few turns along a frontier of equilibrium.