We dealt out a random board, which makes the initial setup faster, and the board was more interesting than usual, some people had good starts, others had worse, it wasn’t the standard bland similarity I’ve often seen on player laid out boards. I’d advise giving it a go.
There were seven players, the expansion allows up to eight, with the inclusion of an extra ring of tiles to expand the galaxy. I was initially given the Embers of Muaat, a new race, who start the game with a War Sun, but not the ability to immediately produce more. Our play group has decided that they are a bit powerful compared to other races, so a quick re-selection lead to the Yssaril Tribes, who are quite fun to play with (Skipping actions allows you to always move after everyone else has already showed their hand, I was often playing long after all other players had passed).
The new game with Shattered Empire is bigger, and slower. The new role cards don’t give a player 2VP each turn, and don’t give the guarantee of new public objectives. Combined with the extra ring on the galaxy, it takes longer to move to new places, and longer to gain VP. Adding an extra player also lengthened the time each turn took.
Saying this, the new role cards are more interesting than the old. We saw more political action than I am used to, I liked the cheaper tech advances and the warfare card is good, but doesn’t mean you can charage across the galaxy in a single turn.
I enjoyed the new rules, and I think the game is better with the expansion. It should be playable within a day if everyone knows what they are doing, has played with the Expansion before, and doesn’t play too slowly. If they don’t it’ll take two days, or more.