The news is public, so I guess I can officially announce that Sands will be published by Speilworxx, as announced here. This is great news for the game; Spielworxx has set a high standard with a string of excellent gamer's games, and it will be great to be a part of an excellent brand.
It's been almost two years since the last "nutshell" post, and while it's likely spielworxx might change some aspects of the game before release, I can at least update the previous "nutshell" post with a few of the changes that have taken place since that post.
The overall scope of the game is the same; it's a civ building game set loosely in classical antiquity, with the action taking place on a Roman era map, and the goal (which I believe to be unique to Sands, and its most distinctive feature) is to record "Chronicle cards" boasting about your exploits, so that your posterity will remember your greatness long after your civ has succumbed to the ravages of time.
A few things have been streamlined. First, the game now DOES have tech trees; the game has three civilization categories (cultural, political, and civil), and there are two tech trees in each, but it's really more of a " tech line" than a tech tree, as they don't "branch". The trees are card- based, and the first player to reach a given tech level on a given tree gets to choose what card at the next level on that tree will be. So, there's some variability from game to game, but everyone has the same trees available and it's easy to see what everyone's capabilities are.
The "achievement tokens" have been replaced with "heritage tracks", which reflect your reputation in the three civ categories. Your heritage in a category increases when you score in a category (so, heritage, literally), when you build trade routes that contact other players' cities (reflecting the idea that your reputation is spreading), or when you complete an Emphasis card.
Emphasis cards are one of my favorite new additions; on each turn you select two Action cards, but once per "generation" you can instead play an Emphasis card, and this does two things; as mentioned, if you take at least three actions during that generation that match the civ category of the emphasis card, you get a boost to your heritage -- you've established a reputation in that area has increased by your having specialized in that action. The second is that it unlocks some capability on other action cards. So emphasis in building lets you build a city or demand tribute, emphasis in culture lets you put a marker on an additional tech tree or reduce your unrest for free, and so on.
I'll post updates as additional changes emerge during development, but I hope this post, and the previous "nutshell" post give a good sense for what the game is mostly about and maybe what might be interesting about it.