Well, the trick really is to balance a lot of things. Here are some very basic tips that might help you...
Assuming you are starting a game on a medium map, there are, I think, four things that is helpful to focus on in the first year:Early game economy:
Early in the game (the first year, as you mentioned) is the most important time to build an economy, or figure out some way to make money. Here are a few simple strategies:
- Take the Super Trader Ability. Not only does this let you start building freighters right away, it also lets you build an econ capital from day one. Building your economy capital on a world with 15-18 billion people will help.
- Take the Super Breeder Ability. If you are colonizing a lot of worlds, this can really help. It only kicks in when you have 100% approval, so watch those sliders. This is a good way to get lots of people in the first 3-4 months, which will help set up your empire for the rest of the game.
- Spend your bonus points on the three economy helping stats. With 10 points you can pick the +30% economy, +10% morale, and +40% population growth abilities. If you have a custom race, that still leaves you with 5 points to customize your race (I personally pick up +1 speed, or go to +20% morale and pick up +10% planet quality). If you don't have a custom race, those basic ten points will add on to whatever bonuses your race already gets, so you should be fine.
- Set anomolies to "abundant" in the map setting. Early on research sensors (and to a lesser degree impulse drive). For medium maps build 2-3 more survery ships in the first month and set all of your survey ships to "auto-survey". Anamolies can give a variety of boosts, but the instant cash ones (+100,+250,+500 and +1000 in DA) are the ones that will help your early cash reserves.
- Don't spend all of your initial 5000 credits on rush buying things. Instead, drop your taxes so that your people are at 100% approval so that they breed faster. Keep some money around so that you can handle 100% production while you "buy" approval. When your colonies get within about 2-3 billion of their max, or when you run out of money, then raise your taxes up to a higher rate (as needed).Research early game:
Unless there is a world you absolutely must have, the colonization techs are generally a waste of time. Some people disagree, and it does depend on how many of any type of environment spawns on your map. There are a lot of directions to send your research, but it can help to try and catagorize techs into three catagories:
1) Techs that increase your money
2) Techs that spend your money
3) Techs that help your military
Catagory 1 includes techs like econ buildings, morale buildings, better governments, trade, diplomacy and influence. Until your empire is generating a profit, it is good to focus on these techs early.
Catagory 2 includes techs like research centers, manufacturing buildings, anti-matter power plants and the like. These "infrastructure" techs are going to be very important for you to have as you enter the middle game, and prepare for war. But realize that each one you research will increase your costs - in the cost to upgrade, needing to spend bc on the increased production provided, as well as basic maintenance costs. One strategy is to alternate going up the Catagory 1 and Catagory 2 branches. Build econ enhancing techs, then when you are generating a surplus, go up the next infrastructure tech that you can afford, then build some more econ techs, repeat. You will have to adjust this based on your specific game conditions.
Catagory 3 techs are things like weapons, defenses, soldiering techs, starbase enhancements, hull advancement and logistics. These techs are vital when you actually want to fight war. However, you don't need them early. I wait to start on these until I have a firm range of catagory one and two techs already researched. At some point your galaxy will start to militarize. Keep pace with the other civs and only pick up these techs as needed in the first year. Keep a check on the Military graph to see which empires have built attack ships, and how strong they are. Even if you really like war, generally you want to wait until quite late to start researching these.Colonization Early Game:
Well, on a medium map a few extra worlds can really swing the balance, so you don't want to be out-colonized either. Still, at a little over 1000bc to rush buy each colony ship - that is probably not a good way to spend that precious starting 5000. If you start off by building survey ships you should get a good picture of your immediate surroundings in the first few weeks. It is probably better to rush buy 1-3 factories on your starting world, and just focus a lot of your production on "military" to quickly build colony ships. Try not to build too many, you want to get back to researching as soon as possible.
In star systems with damaged and undamaged worlds, go for the undamaged worlds. You can probably get away with completely ignoring the extreme colonization tech until you start invading those worlds. Go for the PQ 10+ worlds first, they give you a morale boost. Go for the PQ 1-4 worlds next, they will be some of the best worlds in the long run. Pick up the PQ 5-9 worlds last.
If you colonize a lot of worlds, spending money on all of them might be more than your early economy can handle. That is OK. Just let some of your colonies sit there and breed until you can afford to spend credits on production. For instance, on some worlds you might only build a morale building, or a morale and farm building using the basic colony production pts, don't even worry about building factories - just focus production on social for those worlds. You can always build over these tiles later when you want to develop the world. You just want a little morale boost to help you keep the people at 100% approval so that they breed and start to pay taxes. Trying to build up 8 industrial worlds simultaneously can be a good way to crash a young economy, even with (or because of) the Super Hive Ability.
The key in the colonization phase is to grab good long term planets so that the other races don't get them. They don't need to be developed right away. The extreme colonization worlds usually don't need to be a part of this strategy. Remember, if you and several other empires share worlds in the same star system, a higher population and approval will help you in culture flipping their worlds to you as well.
Finally, you probably want to design your own colony ships. I like to put a pair of ion drives on mine in place of the hyperdrive, but it depends on how far they need to go how fast. You have to buy those bigger engines with precious early game resources, so only build more expensive colony ships when the speed boost is actually needed.Your homeworld early game:
There are a lot of ways a homeworld can go, and you probably want to use any bonus tiles that appear (except the +300% food tile). However, assuming the most common startup, you will have one PQ10 world with a 12 billion population cap. The best way I have found to use this world is to make it your early manufacturing and economy capital. Specifically, I like to develop it with 1 morale building, one food building, the econ capital, the manufacturing capital, and 5 factories. Here is why I like to do this:
- The manufacturing capital now only gives a +33% production boost, and this effect can be duplicated later on more appropriate worlds using Quantum Power Plants. But manufacturing capitals now also give a +10% econ boost, so you want them on a planet with a high population to maximize the new values. Your home planet will have a population in the 15-19 billion range for most of the game.
- The high starting population and high population cap for the homeworld makes it a good place to put the economy capital. You want to build that early because it is fairly cheap to build, and typically it is early on when you are having the most trouble with money. With the new morale rules, you probably are not going to have some super 40billion population world ever, so it is a safe bet that your homeworld will have as healthy a population as any other world in your empire.
- Early on you want that 100% approval so your people breed. You also want a lot more people. Building the morale building helps you keep a higher tax rate while still keeping approval at 100% on your homeworld, which because of the large starting population is often the hardest place to handle morale early.
- You want to build one, and only one, farm building here right away. This will change your pop cap from 12 to 15. Later farming upgrades will take you to 17 and 20. The key is that they changed how morale works so that populations over 18 billion take a huge morale hit. If you know you will eventually research intensive farming, you only want one building here. Alternatively, if your home world starts with a +100% food tile, build basic farming on it, but remember to never research a higher level of food. This will start out your homeworlds population cap at the optimal 18 billion.
- You want factories early. You want them to build early survey ships, colony ships and constuctors to grab resources from your enemies. If you are already making this world your manufacturing capital, you will want as many factories here anyway.
- remember, except for the capitals you can always change what this world does later by upgrading existing buildings with new ones. Sometimes I will later switch my homeworld over into a pure research world (and while I may lose the 33% production of the manufacturing capital, I still retain the +10% economy on my high population). Don't be afraid to be flexible.
This strategy will leave you lagging in research behind the AI for the first two months or so. I usually make the first decent PQ world I colonize into my research center, because I know I will need to catch up eventually. Of course, adjust your strategy based on bonus tiles, galaxy composition, quality and distance of new worlds found, and your specific needs at any point.
There are, of course other strategies for other situations. Hopefully that gives you a good feel of a way to approach the first 50 turns or so (1 year) on a medium sized map with about a half dozen enemies. Hope that helps. Or at the very least it shouldn't hurt