I just wanted to provide an update. My gaming group has had terrible scheduling issues but we finally managed to get together to play our first game of Ascendancy last week. We all really enjoyed it. Each race is governed by the same general mechanics, but has a combination of unique abilities, technologies, and restrictions that provide rough balance while at the same time faithfully reflecting each race as depicted in Star Trek. For example, the Federation can't invade or colonize planets with pre-warp civilizations but gets a bonus to use its culture to convince planets to join the Federation. The Klingons are prohibited from retreating, but can assemble larger fleets than their opponents and have various advantages in battle. Star Trek fans will enjoy seeing familiar planet names in newly-discovered systems and recognizing characters and incidents referenced in the various Exploration cards, while gamers will enjoy the strategic challenges of competing with their opponents, exploring the galaxy, developing and allocating resources, and responding to unforeseen events. In fact, it's safe to say that our Klingon player, who knows next to nothing about Star Trek, enjoyed the game the most because of the way the rules and civilization-specific attributes allowed him to fight, fight, fight.
The game is a bit long (we spent all day playing a single game, but expect them to get shorter as we master the various rules) and the rulebook is at times confusing and poorly written, but all of us had a lot of fun. We're looking forward to playing again and are already talking about purchasing some of the expansions.