I like it -- considerable improvement!
Detailed comments follow.
On the tile, I like that a hex either contains a system or doesn't. I think this is the right thing to do in the basic game. Terrain (e.g., asteroids) and planetary properties should be optional rules.
I don't really like the font, but I'll admit it's better than the one used in Twilight Imperium:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/3933 ... rd-edition
(TI also has a nasty habit of making the board text way too small to read -- please don't make the same mistake!)
The background texture is consistent with the Starmada book covers. Will it look right when several of these hexes are placed next to each other?
Obviously, dark hexes fit in well with the theme. That said, if I'm going to have to print this myself, I'm going to quail at using so much toner. Could we have a "low ink" version, especially for prototypes?
Some more radical thoughts on the tiles:
Is systems-among-blank-hexes the right way to go? It seems like it's going to lead to a lot of wasted table space. This may be inevitable in the tactical game (there might be nearly 1000 hexes on the board, but only a dozen or so occupied), but that's because we're simulating Newtonian space. If the strategic game takes place in hyperspace, might a circles-and-lines approach be better? Put another way, why would anyone ever go to the vacant hexes? The only reasons I can think of are "to get to the other side" or "to provide a blockade"; if a hex is truly vast, blockading it might not be realistic.
Do the sectors have to be hexagonal? Rectangular ones would be easier to manufacture (both for print-and-play and the inevitable deluxe edition).
Obviously given my previous statements, I think this is a big win: fewer types, no need for damage. This allows me to use, say, the wooden cubes, disks, and people I've accumulated as pieces. These'll be much more satisfying than thin cardstock chits.
I like that armies explicitly contain some space forces. This makes it reasonable that a force consisting of only armies can attack a fleet.
Why five players?
WHAT IS STARMADA
Standard text, but this seems like an odd place for it. Maybe just before integration with Starmada?
Is an exploration component desirable?
One possibility for choosing homeworlds: determine player order. The first player designates all of the homeworlds. In REVERSE order, the players choose one of the designated worlds as their own homeworld. This motivates the designator to choose a fair distribution, because he's going to get the last choice.
The bonus point for controlling an entire sector (effectively the Risk continent bonus) is a nice touch.
The first-turn bonus might not be necessary if the setup were arranged to be fair.
This seems like a reasonable way of minimizing downtime without resorting to plotted movement.
Cleaner -- I like it.
Why is the attacker allowed to retreat with armies he can't carry?
Why does a retreat have to include all units? (When integrating with Starmada, I can see some units escaping into hyperspace while others cover their back.)
Interesting. (I realize this has existed in previous versions.) What does this mechanism provide?
The difference between neutrality and recognition is unclear.
One problem in games like this -- even moreso in a campaign that might go on for months -- is that some players might get hopelessly behind. It might be nice to allow players to merge their empires under certain conditions (e.g., when their combined VP would be less than than of any other player).
Nice and clean.
INTEGRATION WITH STARMADA
There could be constraints on what ships could be contained in units (e.g., an army cannot contain any units with hyperdrives; every unit in a fleet must have engines and hyperdrives), but maybe that should be left for optional rules.