Galactic Civilizations II -- Tough but fair?

I don't know, maybe it's just me but I never thought I'd live to see the day that a turn-based game could be so punishing on normal as with this game. Perhaps its just me because I play more real-time than anything, but surely there must be a good way for me to train up a bit--or a strategy I could use to help me get a good hand in with the game. I tried sub-normal and still getting hammered (I could never handle the industrial output of many planets), culturally and militaristically. I haven't given up on the game, it is still hell of a lot of fun to play, but losing planet after planet makes the game a little punishing as I'm usually stuck with just one planet (home planet), and fifteen minutes in I lose it because of invading parties ripping my fleet apart. Well, I should start writing something--that concludes my frustrations with the game. 
 
--- Stargazer AKA Grim_Fandango.

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