I have been playing for a while now, and while i dont consider myself a beginner, i am seemingly having a very tough time (err, frustrating time,) with pirates.
I cannot combat them because:
1. I cannot easily search for their bases or their fleet. Exploration ships stop exploring if they have already explored the system, and i refuse to click through 700 star systems to find them.
2. Their raiding tactics are way overpowered. I can have a fleet of 30 ships parked on a planet in defensive stance waiting for them to come in, but regardless, they fly in, drop their troops, raid the planet. My guess is that this is partially due to the response time of ships and attacking. Even if i sit and wait, pause, and click the drop ship as soon as it drops out of hyperspace, they still manage to make it to the planet and loot it.
3. They cancel protection agreements for seemingly no reason, and i cannot tell if buying their warez or information improves the relationship with them or not. I end up with -800 relationship on most of them..
Here are some other frustrating issues i have been having, not sure if they are features or bugs:
1. A fleet set to patrol a planet will not respond in time to effectively protect that planet, even if they are parked on it. Also, it seems like sometimes only a few of the ships in the fleet actually attempt to defend.
2. Upgrading a mining station after tech has been researched (say, putting shields and weapons on it) is frustrating because i cannot tell the system not to automatically retrofit. This results in dozens of stations getting retrofit at the same time and consuming all my resources. I need to be able to control the retrofit like other items.
3. Intelligence agents are seemingly useless. It takes so long to build one up and the only missions that they can do are useless. The chance for failure is so high, its almost not worth even trying to use this feature. How many times can i steal a territory map before my agent is ready for deep cover. At the rate pirates expand and close down on your empire, this "deep cover" feature is the only one i can think of that would give me the ability to destroy them. By the time my agent is trained up (and if, i have actually never gotten that high,) they have built back up...
Anyway, long rant, sorry. Played several hours tonight and what started as a nice time began to get very frustrating. I am enjoying the expansion though :)