1--Does it play any functional role in the game? No.
2--Does it improve in any way the interaction with the game? No, in fact, it's much harder and cumbersome to play with the 3D instead of the 2D map.
3--Does it add any lasting value or immersion to the game? Well, it could, and if it did, I'd be happy with it. Thing is, this feature makes it harder to play the game. It's clumsy, and the board is just too big to be played in the zoomed-in 3D mode. Besides, the game world itself is very static and lifeless and lacks in the way of good animations, or any animations at all...
Well, aren't you tiny bit one_sided with such a solid NO to anything that could matter if only you'd give a try?
1-- Nearly an underestimation of the potential built-into most features and how their specific functions are interpreted from multiple perspectives. It's almost yes when you figure that some activities become a *LOT* more obvious if they deploy straight from a reality POV. Total abstraction of such elements can certainly please a category of players, i won't deny this... but (for example) the physical manifestation of an attacking enemy fleet progressing towards a 3d rendered area of my territorial empire adds a function to my thoughts & decision as much as being able to determine what is 'happening' or will happen. Icons DO the very same, i agree. Ever so slightly boring in a sense, though.
2-- To the contrary in this case, to me, it's an absolute YES. I undoubtedly can interact (although, it might be from anybody's complex definition of the term itself) much more with the interface. The feelings are still enhanced above flat plain "devices", the moving items (blue worm holes anomaly alone is some of the coolest Art_work animation around!) simulate plenty enough, fog represents a mystery, etc.
3-- Same reasoning as _2_ above!
Modern hardware exploits these (un-)limited facts beyond Atari_Amiga low-res graphics of the 70's. Spectacular results are there to enjoy or, not. By choices - which i fully respect, btw.
Game=Fun. Or is this line of thought no longer valid?
In fact, shouldn't we all prefer B/W TeeVees over HDTV plasma driven 16:9 higher imaging quality for the eyes or mind?