This was the game state on turn 3 or so. Clockwise from top is Oliver in black, Paddy in white, myself in yellow, Matt in red and Jonners in green. The early game was all about exploration and finding ancient cruisers - Matt in particular had his way to the middle blocked by them and so turned round and explored all the way to the edge of the table, building a very strong economy through doing very little. I found a collection of hexes with bonus rewards (the ones with the box around the centre circle) but very little ongoing resource generation, to the point where I actually left one hex after discovering it and claiming the reward (one-time +8 to economy) as the single victory point really wasn't worth the ongoing cost of having one less influence disc available. It is rather well-connected to my territory, so to discourage Paddy from launching any attacks through it I built a pair of starbases before abandoning it. We spent most of the game maintaining a sort of armed truce - any battle between us was likely to result in something of a pyrrhic victory.
In the early and mid game I was struggling for economy and was continually running up against the limit of what I could do, but towards the end what I was critically short of was research points. I had a grand total of two research population cubes deployed, and that combined with the Orion Hegemony's terrible trade rate (4-to-1) and needing to trade for ships or economy meant I could never build up a decent amount of research points to get anything interesting. My ships were noticeably underpowered as a result - I managed to add plasma cannons and enough shielding to counteract targeting computers, but couldn't mount anything better. My dreadnoughts in particular never received any upgrades and I didn't build any. Not that the stopped the Orion Hegemony from doing scarily well in several battles.
This looks like being turn 6 or 7 - I made a play for the centre hex, only to have I think Oliver (or it might have been Jonners - I should have taken more photos!) join in. They dealt with my cruisers but not before I destroyed one of their ships, weakening them enough for the centre space station to finish them off. Meanwhile Paddy sent a ridiculously overpowered dreadnought in to take out the ancient ship in the 6th player position - he'd spent several turns upgrading them with improved power generation, improved targeting computers, lots of hull points and a pair of antimatter cannons. Matt on the other hand had been quietly stockpiling resources, with the result that while he had a small inoffensive fleet he was able to upgrade and expand it very suddenly in the endgame.
The next round or two saw a few minor skirmishes between myself, Jonners and Matt, while the centre hex eventually fell to Paddy's dreadnoughts and in the final round just about every single border erupted into conflict. I sent a cruiser in to Matt's territory (mainly to pin him and prevent him from attacking), while Jonners took advantage of superior numbers to stage an attack through and threaten not one but two of my hexes. Paddy added a dreadnought to Jonners' invasion fleet, so I retaliated by sneaking a cruiser through my empty hex with the pair of starbases. Finally Oliver took advantage of Jonners' fleet movements to blat one undefended hex and invade another.
In the various battles my interceptors proved to be stubborn little beasties. Their shields negated most targeting computers and the plasma cannons proved deadly enough... until Paddy rolled a 5 with his dreadnought's antimatter cannons (combined with +3 targeting computers) and annihilated them. The cruisers were a bit better with -3 shields and +1 computers - since I was the only player with any shields, that meant they hit on a 5 or 6 while opponents needed a 6. But the real surprise in my space navy were my starbases. Since everyone except me was armed with antimatter cannons (4 damage on a hit) I realised that there was no point adding hull points unless I could add 4, and without researching improved hulls that wasn't going to happen. So I gave them more power, added a second plasma cannon, and built one in each hex of mine that Jonners attacked. The result: my starbases destroyed Jonners' fleet and I didn't lose any hexes. The same can't be said for my attacks - Paddy countered my cruiser with an interceptor and dreadnought, and Matt threw his entire fleet at the cruiser that visited to flatten it.
In the end the Orion Hegemony won once again through the sheer number of battles fought resulting in high-value victory point tokens (last year we'd misunderstood the rules for victory point tokens and so I'd accumulated too many. This year we followed the correct rules: once your player board is full, when drawing new victory point tokens you may exchange them with those on the board, allowing me to replace low-value ones with higher-value tokens drawn in later turns). The final scores were:
I may try a different race next time. The stronger starting ship blueprints are nice, but the abysmal trade rate and lack of research I found very limiting and resulted in an overall much weaker fleet (by rights they should have lost several battles outright, as it would take me 2 or 3 hits to destroy each opposing ship while mine couldn't even survive a single hit. They were not so much glass cannons as extremely lucky glass pea-shooters).