This past Monday, I had the opportunity to play the game with both available expansions, being the only the second chance I've had to play with more than the base box 3(the other being last year at the GenCon release, where they had early versions of the Cardassians). Not having played the game for a good while, we missed a few rules(the rulebook is well organized, but dense), but had a lot of fun regardless.
We did play with randomized turn order throughout, rather than bidding once we met up, to save time(5 players, most effectively new= long version of a long game).
The new races have rules and technology decks that suit them perfectly. The Cardassians have to have a ship in orbit for a planet to produce for them, and the Ferengi can't build culture nodes, but can buy the resource. The ships and control nodes are unique sculpts for each race, and the player boards also are designed after the races ship consoles.
The game definitely feels richer with more players overall, though they all need to meet up to make that happen(one didn't make that happen until the end). There's a bit of desperation once the other players realize one is closing on victory, and a newfound willingness to cooperate, in the hopes of getting another turn or two to win yourself.
When the base box was released, Gale Force 9 had advertised September and December release dates for these faction expansions, and only released them finally at GenCon this year(9 and 6 months late). I can understand not meeting those, and the game community is pretty forgiving about that, but this hurt the game visibly in its first year. I don't know of many game groups that are three players, most sit at four to six, and that's private groups.
How did it hurt the game? If expanded, it would have reached more ratings on BoardGameGeek. Yes, a lot of people base game buying decisions just on game ratings and rankings. Its play time already keeps people away(advertised hour/player), and it doesn't need more. From the turn order cards, it looks like the plan is to eventually hit 10 factions, but I have no further evidence as the next expansion isn't a player one, but a universal foe: the Borg.
This was a lot of fun, and I hope to get back to it sooner next time. GF9 really needs to get off their butts and meet deadlines. The longer they wait and delay, the smaller the audience for each expansion will be, and they need to strike while gamers have their wallets open.
When you play Social Justice, the world loses.