I did not purchase this on Amazon, preferring to support my local game shop, but I do want to review it. This expansion has several components that are entirely optional and can be mixed and matched. There are some my group absolutely love and others that we have no interest in adding. We always include the components from #1-7 below. Here's a rundown:
1. There are 3 more player boards, making the total number you can play with increase to 9. All aliens on both sides, but on one side, they are all the same. The other aliens are really interesting and come with perks and cons you'll really have to consider before choosing. We've taken to randomly drawing who we play. After everyone is assigned, if there is something left someone wants, they can change.
2. Rare technologies. Get placed alongside the board if drawn. Can go on any track. Things like Antimatter Canon Splitter, Neutron Bomb Absorber, and Cloaking Device, etc... There was some kind of printing error in the first edition so they threw in a bonus Tractor Beam technology as well.
3. Developments. Like Research except you pay money and material for them. They give bonuses that are similar to discovery tiles. So things like +12 resources, victory points, etc...
4. Ancient homeworlds. The gaps between starting hexes (when there are <6 players) can be filled in with new ancient starting hexes with powerful ancient cruisers. Also you can replace the galactic center with an ancient dreadnaught. It's pretty BAMF. Probably the most exciting aspect of the expansion. These new ancient ships aren't to be toyed with.
5. Ancient hives. Can mix these in with the hexes. They get 3 ancients and at the end of each round a die is rolled. The ancient ships move to bordering hexes (if there is one) per the number rolled. We include these in the shuffle of tiles every time now. This can get interesting really quick, especially if they move into a tile that already has ancients that you are trying to conquer.
6. Warp portals. Placed by either a hex that has it or a development tile, your ships can jump across the board between these points with a move action. This helps with the situation of only getting the chance to do diplomatic relations with the person you sit beside, but can also make you vulnerable.
7. Alliances. Goes beyond diplomatic relations. Now you can join forces with your friend's ships and moving into their hex does not constitute an attack. If someone attacks you, they attack your allied friend too. 2v1. At the end of the game, you *average* their points and they share the win if it's the most. If you don't want to share victory though, you can break the alliance through Round 8 but at the cost of VPs. My experience so far as been a bit lopsided. A team of two can really wipe out everyone else half way into the game, in the right situation.
8. Miscellaneous. We don't play any of these. A) You can draw the technologies for each round at the beginning so you can always see what will be coming up. B) The 2nd person to pass may choose to reverse direction of play in the next round, indicated by a card. C) Simultaneous play: one player and the other across from him can take their turn at the same time, which is kept up by huge markers.
There's a smaller master game mat for limited space, but I don't get the point because you still have to lay out the upgrade tiles somewhere. There's a few typos in the rulebook and a couple of circumstances that happened we had to interpret the rules in the "spirit of the game", so to speak. But this is easily something we'll include every game from now on. After playing with the new, tough Ancients, there's no going back. It's that thrilling.