From: Warsaw, Poland
Before DW I was playing a lot in Civ (from first part up to V with expansion I have played, with V), and I have played quite much Master of Orion 2 and 3 (ehhh...). Add to that Europa Universalis (I and II) and Heart of Iron (II with expansions). That means that I had some upper hand in learning how to play DW (at least this is what I think).
My first game in DW ended pretty bad for me - my economy turned red quite fast (few ears of gameplay). Also surprisingly wars were quite a problem for me. It was then difficult for me to fight an enemy which may strike me anywhere he wants - no front line, no defencive possisions, and no strong economy to build any kind of deffences. Both - I and enemy could just run away from combat whenever we wanted to... I still remember it. It was a real nightmare for me :D Hundreds enemy attacks on undefended bases and space ports, constant problems with fuel. But in this nightmare, there was one, single and most important message for me - despite all beating that I was geting I STILL LIKED TO TRY, TRY, AND TRY! :) I just loved private sector and fact that attacking civilian ships is actually good strategy for war. Eventually when I decided that DW is defienietly a game worth even hardest learning curve I started sandbox game, just like You did Bryanhbell - no threats, no automatization... With exeption of ships desighs. Actually designing a good ships was the last thing that I learned - mainly because this graph showing ship's speed and power usage during diffrent stages of flight looked so scary... ;)