And you thought a game of Settlers took awhile...
Be forewarned, though the Starship Catan box _says_ 1 hour, expect your first game to last about twice as long, and possibly longer if you don't use the "Professor Easy" starter game.
Those familiar with Starfarers will find a lot of similar themes and situations. Those not familiar with Starfarers (Like myself) will find very little resemblance to Settlers, but a good game nonetheless.
Each player is in control of a Starship which has been sucked through a wormhole, and suffered damage on the way. Your task is to rebuild portions of your ship (Each such "module" gives you a power, such as forcing your opponant to sell you a resource), build colonies, buy and sell resources, and set up trading posts. The key in this game is not producing your own resources, but buying them cheaply, and selling them at the more expensive ports.
Each turn, you roll the production die (which also determines your speed), collect your resources (If you have several colonies which produce on a particular number, only one produces) and choose which sector of space you wish to explore. The sectors are four stacks of ten cards each, and they contain the trading posts, colonies, pirates, and adventure planets you will need to visit in order to suceed. Your speed determines how many cards you get to see from that stack, but you are only allowed two actions until you start upgrading your ship. The first half of the game consists of feeling out where the cheap trading posts are, and where their corresponding expensive trading posts are.
Occasionally, you will encounter Pirates who demand money. If you don't pay, you must fight them. Combat is determined by a die roll plus a base cannon rating, which you can upgrade. As more pirates are defeated, stronger ones take their place via a clever half-stacked replenishing deck.
After you explore and perform your actions, you may trade at your trade ports, or with your opponant. Lastly, you may use resources to build.
The gameplay is solid, the system is brilliant, and the game is incredibly deep for a two player card game. My only complaint is the componants: Starship retails for $30, and when you open the box, it's obvious why. There are cardboard componants everywhere. Your ship is a huge, two piece playmat, each of your ship modules is a two-inch tile, and then you have resource indicators, money, cannons, and boosters. I wouldn't mind so much if it had been just a little streamlined: The modules could have just as easily been cards, as could the boosters, cannons, and resource indicators. This is the kind of thing that made Starfarers so expensive.
On the other hand, I certainly can't complain about the -quality- of these componants. They're beautiful, and fit together snugly (sometimes a little too much so).