Ok so I have never played a 4X game. I made my purchase based on all of the reviews, but the manuals and tutorials are severely lacking in how to teach you to play this game. Does anyone know of a better set of instructions out there?
The emphasis is on the 4X
eXplore: meaning scout your surrounding
eXpand: as mentioned by Hodd
eXploit: NOOOO not exploiting cheats ;), but use all resources around your bases to the best. Place new cities in the best spots (minerals/energy/nutrition). really pay attention where you build new cities.
eXterminate: I think this is the most obvious ;)
And SMAX is a good game. BUT as SMAX is random based you might get into situations where you are just doomed. Live with it ;) Those worms can be quite frustrating ;)
With the manual, it was kind of typical for its time, everyone kind of new all about 4x, so why write it all over again. Every developer followed the same/similar rules, as outlined above. It is no just up to you to find the right balance (and luck).
Some people prefer a more militaristic way, some others more research or even diplomatic approaches can work in SMAX.
So it is up to you to decide, you have ALL options ;)
If you are looking for something more specific you would need to ask a bit more specific ;)