When you are familiar with the basic rules, you can play with a more variable game setup.
Choosing Your Faction
Instead of choosing a faction from the list, the first player chooses any one of the seven faction boards, then chooses either of the factions on it and places the board on the table with that side faceup.
Continuing in clockwise order, each other player does the same with the remaining faction boards.
Placing Your First Structures
Instead of placing your starting mines according to the diagram, follow these rules: Starting with the first player and continuing in clockwise order, place one mine on any one home planet (matching your color) of your choice. Then, starting with the last player and continuing in counterclockwise order, place your second mine on a different home planet.
Players do not charge power for mines their opponents place during setup. Remember to always take the leftmost mine on your faction board when placing a mine.
The Xenos place their third mine after all players have placed their second mine. The Ivits place their planetary institute last, after all mines have been placed (including the Xenos' third mine).
By placing your first mines you reveal spaces on your faction board. This is important for your income.
Variable Turn Order
Instead of using clockwise turn order for the game, you can use the turn order card for variable turn order: During setup, place the turn order card next to the game board. Starting with the first player and continuing in clockwise order, each player places a satellite on the topmost available space on the left side of the turn order card.
During the game, when you pass, move your satellite to the topmost available space on the other side of the turn order card (each round will alternate between the left side and the right side). The numbers on the card indicate the turn order during the rounds.
Variable Game Board
The 10 space sector tiles allow for many board configurations.
Do not assemble the board as normal. Instead, after players have chosen their factions, the last player in turn order assembles the game board. Alternatively, players can agree to assemble the game board together.
You can use the following methods to assemble the board. Note that two planets of the same type can never by directly adjacent:
3 or 4 Players
Use all 10 space sector tiles and place sectors 05, 06, and 07 solid-side up.
Method 1: Place space sector tiles 01 through 04 as described in the basic setup, then randomly place tiles 05 through 10 to create the same board shape as the basic setup. Rotate each tile as you choose.
Method 2: Randomly place space sector tiles 01 through 04 in the same orientation as in the basic setup, then randomly place tiles 05 through 10 to create the same board shape as the basic setup. Rotate each tile as you choose.
Method 3: Randomly place all of the space sector tiles to create the same board shape as the basic setup. Rotate each tile as you choose.
1 or 2 Players
Use sector tiles 01 through 07 and place sectors 05, 06, and 07 outlined-side up.
Randomly place all of the space sector tiles to create the same board shape as the basic setup. Rotate each tile as you choose.
Even More Possibilities
Once you are very familiar with the game, try creating new shapes for the board. In a 3-player game, you can play without sectors 09 and 10 to reduce the size of the game board.