I start this by saying that if you are not a fan of marathon games (those taking 4 or more hours to play), you will probably not like this game. However, if you like games that combine exploration, combat, trade, technology trees, and diplomacy in a game that has virtually unlimited replayability, the hours spent playing will go by so fast your head will spin!
There are ways to set up the board for 3, 4, 5, and 6 players, and the "board" is composed of sturdy cardboard hexagons beautifully printed with planets, starscapes, asteroids, novae, etc. The ships are all identical from player to player except for color, but the detail is amazing! And with ten species to choose from, each with their own individual strengths and weaknesses (the game recommends they be handed out randomly), along with the random tile setup of each board, there is a statistically improbable chance to ever see the same game twice! Add to that the factor of which tech people will research in a game (do I want better combat ships, or more productive colonies?), which action cards will come up for voting, and just plain human chaotic nature, and it makes it even more fun!
There is a learning curve, but no more so than with most, and if even one person (usually the owner) knows the rules, you can be underway in about 15 minutes (board setup included). Now, the first time the box is opened, you will have a task of popping the ships off their plastic trees (be careful with the carriers; they can twist the wrong way and break, I've heard!), popping the galaxy tiles out of their cards, and then popping out hundreds of chits from their trees. This can take a little while.
As the species in the game have their own planet(s), chits, and other race-based items, you may find it useful to put each species card (and sundry items) in large Zip-Loc bags for fast setup. Of course, this means a slower cleanup when the game is over, but believe me, the next time you want to play (and you *will* want to play again!), you'll appreciate what you did at the end of the last game! (That, or you'll be cursing yourself for not doing it!) ;-)