Woah... I am suprised that so many here had never heard of SotS, particularly since I beat the "GO OUT AND LOVE SOTS" drum everywhere I go (I guess not here). The community over at the website is equally as friendly and brotherly as this one here, so go check out the forum and the SotS wiki for more info on all that this game offers.
I think of SotS as a much more graphically updated version of Stars! or even comparable to Starships Unlimited. The game focuses solely on taking planets to provide resources to build massive amounts of ships and to research technologies that, 8 times out of 10, provide some component, weapon, or improvement to your ships. The game is very ship and ship combat heavy, think Stars! 4X scenes with Homeworld style battles when you have a combat.
I think it would be right up your alley, Erik. There is an updated demo floating around, but be sure that you read up on how to properly use and control fleets. CnC, as mentioned above, allows you to chose which ships engage (i.e. your refueling ships will not appear on the battlefield instead of your warships), set up a formation, and field more ships. The choices of weaponry is staggering. You can have LR Missiles, Middle range and damage plasma balls, surgical lasers, giant cutting beams (like the Shadows in Babylon 5), among others. The BoB expansion added diplomacy and a trade system (although the diplomacy is best used in multiplayer games, where many feel tha game truly shines), as well as dumbfire missiles, AoE DOT missiles, and some really cool other weapons. The races in the game are extremely unique and do not play even close to the same. They have different propulsion systems (humans move on MoO style nodes, Hivers go very slow then open up stargates that allow instant transport between gates, Liir move fast in deep space and can turn on a dime, and Tarka are your Star Trek warp drives).
The very best thing about the game is the atmosphere. The races have awesome voices and backstories (which can be gained by reading the manual or looking at the website). The universe is not some empty grouping of planets, either. You can bump into all sorts of random events and random encounters - slavers, Von Neumman probes, nasty space insects, among other things that are... ummm... more serious but I refuse to spoil (think crap your pants scary). Born of Blood adds even more, and adds the Zuul, a twisted and fun race of mind controling, voracious, carnivorous bio-weapons that bore through space, take slaves, and have huge ships that basically amount to tons of weapons duct taped to an engine.
So, I love this game, can anyone tell? In many ways, it reminds me of a 4X version of Star Control II (as RH said), mixed with the wonderful gameplay of Stars!, the ship personality of Starships Unlimited, and the simplicity of planet management of the original Master of Orion. For the cheap price of the gold edition, anyone should take the plunge. You can yell at me if you don't like it.
BTW, even though Sins of a Solar Empire is a good game, very well reviewed, I have yet to see any serious Space 4x player say that they prefer Sins to SotS, despite the fact that reviewers gave SotS such mediocre scores. Reviewers are idiots, and they completely missed all of the awesome aspects of the game.
Also, for RH's sake, I do want to mention that Kerberos is currently working on Northstar, which they describe as being a trade based space exploration game, Turn-Based, along the lines of Star Control II, Starflight, and Space Rangers. So far, it is looking very very promising. Now if only Kerberos could get out from under their terrible traditional publisher, Lighthouse, and find a publisher that cared about gameplay quality... I wonder who could help them...
"Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet!"
(Kill them all. God will know his own.)
-- Arnaud-Armaury, the Albigensian Crusade