I'm brand new to Sins. I like this style of game, but seriously suck at them. I set my first game to easy and was outpaced by a large margin in everything (based on the efficiency conveyed in the end game graphs). I think AI in easy mode could use some random arbitrary delays to somewhat mimic a new player *thinking* about what to do next. Maybe that could help a little.
On my second game, I picked a 3 player map and then created a locked alliance for my self and left the single AI to fend for himself. Luckily the AI has been battling itself and it's given me a chance to learn a thing or two.
As you're a new player, you could always use the pause button while playing against AI. It's the actual 'pause/break' button on your keyboard. Pause the game when you need to and have a think about what you want to do before un-pausing. You can do a few things while paused, look around, select things to be build e.t.c., nothing will happen until you un-pause though.
I would recommend looking through your different tech tree's and having a think about what your general strategy wants to be. Do you want to play defensively? Offensively? Economy centric? caster/ability focused or mass attack strength offensive? e.t.c. e.t.c. e.t.c. Think about this stuff, and have a look at tech skills and what they do, see which tech prerequisites are required for certain buildings central to certain play styles (culture/trade/ship type/ship ability e.t.c.). Take note of the civ/mil research buildings required for said tech and cross reference that with the logistical capabilities of planets within your sight so far. You can get this information from the info cards when you hover over planets (or anything else).
You can judge fairly well how efficient a given build order will be considering the margin of deviation regarding metal/crystal/civ/mil capabilities that you've got in a given match up. After a while you can feel out what the best idea would be given what you've got available.
Given all that, it's usually best to begin a certain way no matter what you're going to be doing later on. equivalent to the very early build order stuff in games like starcraft 2.
I play vasari, so I wouldn't know about other races as such, but this is what I do: Build a Cap Ship Factory then set an Egg (vas cap ship capable of colonizing planets) to build, 2/3 Scout ships (depending on how many branches from my first planet) when they're built CTRL-Q them to set them to auto explore, 2 mil research buildings, Colony ship (That'll give me 2 branches of possible colony). Research corvette. Hotkey frigate factory to 4, set it's destination to Colony ship once it's built. Hot Key Cap Ship to 1 and Shift-F it to add a fleet marker to it, and hotkey colony frig to 5 shift-F it aswell.
At this point you should have gotten sight of the first few planets, send your cap ship to the one with the most pirates, send the colony frig to a planet with 2 or 3 pirates and head straight to the planet/asteroid to colonize it. With your cap ship take out the ships that can attack the planet, then colonize it, then take out the rest of the pirates. With colony ship colonize the asteroid/planet and immediately build a defense structure while keeping the colony ship close enough to the ship that would agro the planet instead agro-ing the colony ship while the defensive structure builds, once it's built send the colony ship back to your capital.
By this time you should have begun to build 4 or 5 corvettes by simply hitting '4'-'d' then 's' a couple of times, they'll automatically fly to the colony ship and join it's fleet, send the cap ship further down the route to the next planet and repeat the process, colonizing and taking out the pirates. while doing this, stop building ships once you have 4 or 5 and upgrade the planet populations and build the resource extractors asap. Place 2 civ research buildings where appropriate and research the arctic/volcanic colonization abilities, whichever is needed and then the terran population upgrade.
The Idea is to colonize and upgrade your income capabilities asap while teching to maximize income. The more you colonize the faster your income will be, the faster your income, the bigger you can become quicker, it's an exponential process where-in the idea is to gain a momentum and increase that momentum throughout the match.
after a while you will begin to get a feel for the balance between adding to your army and teching, regarding infastructure/economy and warfare tech, and after that you can begin to worry about unit counters, choke points and general strategy.
There will come a point where you come up to another empire's 'front line' at which point heavily fortify the planets next to that front line and keep your army near those points. Space Stations are a great way of fortifying entry points to your empire, the idea is to asses where those 'entry points' are and heavily defend them, keeping ships poking in to judge unit composition and army size. Scouts are great for this.
A large brunt of the game now will be a lot of too and fro-ing between the planets on the front line trying to overpower the enemies army and defending your own front line, here is the arena for a lot of the clever strategies, pincers, dummy attacks, decoys and so on, this is advanced stuff so I'll not go into that.
The general idea is to pump all your army to the front line and overpower the enemies, at which point your momentum will over power theirs and you can move in to take over more of their planets. At this tipping point there's nothing they can do to stop you bar some seriously colorful and innovative playing. (things get complicated here regarding diplomatic ties in games involving more than 2 players, which is where the fun really lies.)
Hope this helped. Peace.