I don't want to arm my common bases. I can build a few core refueling stops, though. But I basically watched a frigate blow half the base's shields away at the opening salvo...
And protection fees? Really? I guess I could build some minimum cost bases to cover every possible pirate location too, apart form many of them being in space controlled by other powers and that the pirates would probably kill them while I build them. Keeping bases alive but killing all ships could also be an option. I am not sure if they grow new, or not...
It is a bit awkward starting out. I have the starting escort, frigate and 6 destroyers. The destroyers making 2 three ship fleets. And I found a decent alien cruiser. With 3 fighting forces, sending one on a random chase for pirates is spreading things thin... And if I want to build some space stations, I need to babysit those for a long time as well, or the pirates will kill them.
I can research shield upgrades, but I want my colonization tech and construction yards, so there is really no resources to research them. I can also add a couple more shields until my shields get better.
I can handle this one way or another, what I really ponder is: Is it really this hard? I do of course not make things easier by having a starting vs young start, unstable galaxy, and trying home world... And I guess starting at the very bottom corner of the galaxy is not helpful for early expansion either, but it keeps my back free. But it did not use to be this cruel in ROTS, as far as I can remember.