I can try:
When the game begins, you see the map (randomly generated every time) which is mostly darkened out (fog of war). You can click anywhere on it to reveal an exhagonal section of it. On the map some coloured dots will show the presence (and the amount) of specific materials that can be "mined" when a factory/facility is placed on them. This happens in real time with all players doing the same. The goal is to pick a spot to place your colony. Placing the colony is VERY important because it determines your starting resources (to a degree) but most importantly how close you are to what resources. This is, again, important because the closer you are to a resource, the faster your shuttles will deliver that resource to you when it has been mined/produced, and in this game time is money, which is all.
So, by revealing sections of the map for resources, an action all players do at the same time (so what *I* reveal will be revealed for you too), everyone will have the ability to place their chosen type (with different perks) of colony on any revealed piece of land, regardless of who revealed it, in real time. Eventually, amazing locations might have two or more players furiously clicking on it in order to get it. There are more nuances to this, but that's how you place your colony.
Also worth noting that somewhere in the map, resides the randomly placed main colony/global marketplace. This is where the stuff you sell goes to, and the stuff you buy comes from.
Once your colony is placed, you start developing. To place a factory/facility of any kind you need a plot of land. Your colony starts at level 1 and can go up to level 5 (you level it up paying the appropriate resources). While leveling up the colony allows you to claim more plots of land and expand your production, at level 1 you only have 3 free plots of land available so choose wisely what to produce/generate. There are 13 (?) different goods/resources and some of them can be mined or obtained by placing the right building on a fitting plot of land, while some others come from the combination of two other resources in the appropriate production plant (which still needs a plot of land of its own).
The important part that I neglected to mention so far but that it is actually arguably the most important is that all the resources, all of them, can be bought from the Global Market. You might be wondering what's the point of producing then if you can buy everything, but I ask you to stop for a second and reconsider maybe using our planet as an example. Isn't everything purchaseable? The point is not availability, it is the PRICE. Let me elaborate...
The left part of the screen is entirely taken at all times by the aforementioned 13 resources. Right next to each of them there's the current price for that resource and a + and - sign along with a number representing your own stack. The price gets updated literally every few seconds based on players actions, purchases and sales, and the Global Marketplace (the one not controlled by any players) needs. Through this interface players can easily and instantly do the following things:
- Sell and buy resources.
- Check the market price of any resource.
- Check the rhythm of consumption or production of some of the resources.
The last part is important because the goal of the game is basically to make money. In fact, to make so much money that you can buy out the other player's companies and fire them taking control. When you have control of all the companies, you win the game. And this is achieved through money alone. So, in order to make money you clearly have to "buy low and sell high", but the complexity comes from the fact that:
- not all the resources are just a market commodity. In fact, most of them have a secondary use making them necessary to produce some of the other resources. For example, all your plants and mines need energy, and your population needs food and water. If you don't have these things you will auto-buy them from the market at the current price because without them the colony would just die. The auto-buy doesn't work for the other resources, but if you don't have fuel your shuttles won't transport your goods, and if you don't have iron your steel factory won't produce any steel. And so on.
- As it should be obvious, the resources are so interconnected that it is virtually impossible to be able to produce all that you need to ensure your colony stay healthy and functional without going to the Global Market. And the prices on the Global Market change so constantly and so quickly (due to players actions which you don't necessarily get to see or predict) that to buy low and sell high gets easier said than done.
Eventually, the game keeps going along these lines. It's in real time so it never stops other than for a few random auctions where players can compete for extra plots of lands, the service of mercenary pirates, or to acquire valuable patents which provide specific and unique bonuses made even more important by the fact that as you would expect only one player can have one specific patent at any given time. With the passing of time players accumulate, buy and sell resources trying to make a profit and will level up their colonies. Since everyone is trying to do the same, the competition comes in the form of a race to generate more wealth quicker than anyone else and be able to start "attacking" them by buying stocks of their companies. There are, of course, ways to try and protect your stocks by raising their price, and most importantly there is a feature called "Black Market" that offers 7 one-time consumable actions to directly affect the other players. The actions range from a controlled demolition of their most valuable mine, to staging a revolt in one of their factories in order to have their workers ship the goods to you for a limited amount of time, or even drop a bomb that takes the power out of their generators for a short while. There's even a defensive option, meant to protect some of your plots from similar attacks. In a similar fashion, the pirates you can purchase in one of the random auctions will steal directly from everyone's shuttle once placed on a busy route, so there's never a lack of "lateral activity" between players even though everyone is mostly minding their own development and keeping an eye on the prices' fluctuations.
Finally, it's worth mentioning the Offworld Market, which is different from the Global Market. The Offworld Market isn't accessible until you build an Offworld Market Starport which allows you to ship your good offworld. In order to do that you need a level 5 Colony and a lot of resources, so that is an aspect that comes into play only in the late game, but its importance cannot be overstated. Players cannot buy from the Offworld Market, they can only sell to it, and the Offworld Market pays a huge lot of money for some of the resources. These values are fixed and don't change with players' actions, but they are randomized every time at the beginning of a game. Strategize around the late game Offworld Market is extremely important as it often provides that huge bump in cash that allows to win the game. And for that reason, making it as hard as possible for other players to build their Offworld Market Starport, by sabotaging them through the Black Market and even manipulating the prices of the required resources, is of supreme importance.
To sum it up, the flow of the game is:
- Place your colony strategically and based on the always randomized resource setup.
- Acquire plots of land and pick what resources to produce (with all the intricacies that this entails).
- Trade them as conveniently as possible for you, while ensuring that your colony is healthy.
- Spend money on the Black Market to afflict your opponents or even steal from them.
- Become richer than your opponents and buy them out to eliminate them and win the game.
Lenghty, but this is what a rich game deserves. Hope it helped!