Well, I won
I've no idea how or why - after a battle with the swarm, the game suddenly popped up a page that said "you win". The 2 opponents were still around and looked reasonably strong. Crazy.
So I've played a game to completion and I'm not too impressed. there are tons of issues with it still, from the terrible fleet order system that brings you fleets back from a mission before I want them to, to ♥♥♥♥les like the F key refuses to centre the camera on that ship.
There's a lot to like in the design - added planets per system, starbases (though I never understood why you could only have a few to them), to the slightly better trade system (though i could never figure out why I had 10 white dots but only 2 freighters would operate), to the difficulty in telling the range of one of my fleets (seems adding supply doesn't do anything, or not in any obvious way). Plenty more ♥♥♥♥les where that came from.
I think I will give it 1 more go, now I have some experience with it to see if I can get past the bugs and ♥♥♥♥les and if its still unsatisfactory as a game (which is meant to be fun afterall!) then I will go back to SoTS 1, which is an awesome game.