Before you Play the Wing Commander: Privateer game, you will definitely want to know these simple but useful tips and tricks. If you have any tips feel free to share with us!
Things to Know Before Playing
The Orion sucks as a ship until you upgrade everything all the way, which is actually more expensive than just buying a starting-level Centurion outright. Even then I vastly prefer the Centurion. The Orion may have potentially the best shields, but a) you have to pay a lot for it and b) it's much better to not be hit, and the Orion will always be hit a lot: it's too slow. I never bother with the Orion when I play.
In fact, unless you want to play space merchant (and there are better games for that) don't bother with any ship that isn't your starting ship (which you have to) or the Centurion.
You know that you can reload at bases to get new missions, but keep in mind that you can also reload to get new cargo, too. This can become important with rarer cargo. Especially Ultimate, which can be found for sale in small amounts at pirate bases. And is the most profitable cargo to run in the game.
Pirates can be friendly. In fact, everyone but retros (and plot-mission-specific spoiler stuff) can be friendly. To get someone friendly, you can kill people they hate, or, if they don't hate you that much, you can talk them down. Sometimes. You know how your communications computer usually has 2 or 3 taunts and 1 "please spare me" on it? Well, if they don't hate you that much, and you keep spamming the please spare me one as fast as you can type, it'll work. Usually. Keep doing it every time you see someone in that faction and eventually it'll build up enough that they'll eventually start out neutral when you see them instead of hostile. If you keep buttering them up, they'll go friendly by default. And all without pissing off their enemies. This works best with a new game, because no one hates you that much at the start of a new game.
Get a tractor beam. Preferably in a turret, so you won't miss out on launchers or whatever. Tractor beams let you haul in cargo, which is ok. But they also let you jettison your illegal cargo before you get searched by the cops, and pick it up after the search. Needless to say, this is useful.
Combat in asteroid fields: Don't, unless you're prepared to get wiped out by bad luck. If you know there's a field in your way and you don't want to use either of the techniques I'll list below to deal with it, you're often better off flying manually around it. Yes, you can fly manually around them. Just take off at a right angle, and once it looks like you have a straight line to your destination that doesn't cross the field, you can hit auto as usual. If you've done your positioning right, you won't drop out of auto near the field.
Running away or through an asteroid field: Ok, so the asteroids are not static objects floating in space for you to hit. Computers of that era couldn't possibly track that many objects. Instead, the game looks at the general direction you're flying and hurls a bunch of asteroids on a collision or near collision course to you. But it doesn't do this every millisecond, only once every second or two. So what you do is get a centurion (if there's hostiles only a centurion is fast enough to outrun them) or any other ship with an afterburner (if there's no hostiles) and go full burn. As long as you keep seriously changing your course (like a lot, we're talking sine wave here) somewhere between every half-second to a second or so, you'll never run into the asteroids the game sent specifically to hit you. And you get through the field much faster. It takes practice to get the rhythm down, but it works.
Running away in general: First, get a centurion. Nothing else is fast enough to run away from the majority of enemies with any degree of reliability. So point your ship in the direction you want to go and hit the afterburners. Unlike in every other wing commander game, afterburners recharge, but they come from the same pool of energy as your guns and shields. Also, shields draw energy by being up, not by recharging. So full shields draw way more power than half shields do from your engine(generator, really, but the game refers to them as engines despite them not making your ship go faster). Thing is, if you've upgraded your engine at all, it probably provides enough power to afterburn forever if your shields aren't at full. So, take 'em down to half (shift-s, IIRC). Then you can burn forever, or at least until they charge up again and you shift-s 'em again.
Running away from things that are faster than you: You can do this by using the previous shift-s thing, but many ships will still be faster than you at full afterburner. Especially if you're not in a centurion, but one or two are faster even if you are. So, get a rear turret, if you can, or any turret that can fire backwards and put some cheap ass guns (lasers or whatever) on it. See,unless they're already firing at you at that moment, enemy ships will almost always swerve to avoid any gunfire, and when they swerve away they are (obviously) not directly chasing you down. As long as you are moving at some kind of speed and can keep up a steady stream of fire (if you have the energy for it) you can keep them away indefinitely.
Dealing with mobs of talons, or other crappier ships, or anyone in an asteroid field that you actually want to fight: This advice makes the early game way too easy, so feel free to ignore it if you want a challenge. Short answer: missiles. See, talons are fast but don't have the best shields or armor, so if you hit them, they're hurting. If you hit them a bunch of times in the same place, they die. But while you're doing that, and sometimes missing, their shields are recharging. So here's what you do: Get 2 missile launchers, fill each with FF missiles. See a talon you want to die, lock on, and press enter twice fast, as close together as you can. If you had just one launcher, it'd take a bit to reload, and by the time it dd, the talon's shields may have recharged enough to survive the second missile Plus there's no guarantee the second missile will hit the same place the first one did. However, if you have 2 launchers you can fire 2 missiles a split second after each other. If they both impact your target in the same place (which is likely as they'll take the same path), it's an insta-kill. Let me re-iterate that, for the cost of like 200 credits or something, you can make any talon die instantly 90% of the time with 0 effort on your part, while you deal with his friend, or dodge asteroids or whatever you want.