I've played Race for the Galaxy (RftG) about seven times in the last week or so. This game is just much more fun than first impressions would imply.
On one sense I love the theme of the game. You develop your own galactic civilization and try to improve it over time. One player might seek to make the biggest civilization. Another might make the most luxurious, or the most militarily powerful. It's fun to imagine the lives of the people in your worlds in each case. It's fun to say "hey, my civilization has contacts with ancient alien races and now I've discovered yet another." Or, alternately, "my empire is so powerful that now I can add pirate bases and rebel worlds without blinking an eye."
The course of the game remains pretty simple. You get a hand of cards at the start. As game play progresses you get new cards. Through the entire thing you basically try and make the best combination you can. In this sense RftG has all the best aspects of poker. And like poker, once you get the idea the rest of the game follows easily. You have three aces? Maybe it's time to aim for three or four of a kind. In RftG it's "you have three mining worlds, maybe it's time to create a mining empire." There's more subtleties to the game but the essence is straightforward.
I introduced an adult to the game who was not a routine gamer. We managed to finish games in thirty minutes and by the second or third round he had the rules down pat. Judging from our experience I don't think I'd throw this at anyone younger than 12 but for teens and up this is a simple fun game with huge replay value and extraordinary room to develop strategies and tricks. Highly recommended.