For the first few games i would advise playing as the psilons. Also keep galaxy age and tech level on average.
The psilons are creative, which means you always gain everything from resarch. This elimenates the possibility of making mistakes in resarch choices, and allows you to experience every building/system the game has to offer. And it makes the game a little easier (i think of being creative as stepping one difficult level down)
On the first few plays i think it's more important to learn what you can do in this game and how to do it. Not so much how to do it well.
As a strategy game it may take some time to grasp the basics and all the fine details this game has to offer.