Our decision to use meeples, custom meeples, and wooden bits was based primarily on a few major factors.
First, real estate and consistency vs. detail. Situations arise in the game that require 3+ characters and enemies on the same 2" square tile, possibly at the same time as other tokens. For this to work, all of the entities would need to be small enough that you would lose most of the detail, or the resource and item bits would need to be a different material.
Second, one of our primary goals was accessibility. Miniatures can be very intimidating to non-gamers, but the word I usually hear when someone first meets a meeple is "cute."
The tiles will change to 2mm chipboard, and the tile backs will be printed with a non-distracting but thematically fitting graphic. Card content is complete, but the layout and icons may change to improve looks and clarity. Custom meeples are currently hand-cut, so the outlines will likely stay the same, but consistency will improve when they are mass produced. Instructions and Quick Reference Mat layout and design is still a work in progress, the content is there but the presentation is very basic.
All that happens is that you cannot explore more tiles, which usually means that you will have no more resources to find. Since the base eats a food every turn, running out of tiles means that the game is almost over, but it does not immediately end it. If your mission requires a certain tile layout, this may cause an unwinnable game but those have been tuned so that running out of tiles usually means there was a planning mistake earlier in the game.
In addition to the basic health and movement speed differences, enemies also differ in target selection and special abilities. They may target base, or players, and in the expansion may also target resource tiles or tokens. Some special abilities include ranged attacks, healing, and immunity to certain types of attack.
Yes and no. There will be at least 2 bonus missions, plus any unlocked stretch goals that will only appear in this printing of the base game. That means backers get them first and at no additional cost. To make sure that everyone eventually gets a chance to play them though, all of those, plus any stretch goals that are not unlocked will be released for purchase later as promo items or a mini-expansion.