I’ve played Chimera Station only once with four players. It’s fairly modular as far as exactly what worker placement spots come out. For example, there are high point scoring locations that actually aren’t worker placement spots but in the game I played those never came out. That said, I got a good feel for the mechanisms in the game and how they work together, at least enough for a first impressions review.
Rules & Game Mechanisms
The basic gameplay of Chimera Station is going to be very familiar to anyone who’s played worker placement games. You start out with a smaller number of workers and the number increases and you use them to gain resources and victory points. You have to feed your workers at the end of every round. Additional worker placement spots are added to the board each round
The unique part of the game comes from the workers which are plastic pieces that snap together, giving the workers special abilities depending on the color of the pieces on them. The gameplay impact isn’t huge, being similar but less varied than the unique workers in the Tuscany expansion to Viticulture.
Art, Theme, & Components
Art wise, Chimera Station lines up perfectly with its cartoonish sci-fi style that’s in the vein of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic. This works great with the theme and mechanisms. Combining different abilities onto one worker is perfect for a wonky gene splicing sci-fi setting. Why is one of the resources hamburgers? Because it’s a wonky sci-fi setting. It’s very much unique in this way.
Components wise, most everything feels fairly standard. The chipboard is good but nothing too amazing. The cards are very standard material. The hamburger components are very much in meeple form. The version I played was the deluxe kickstarter version so it had metal coins which were nice. The plastic snap-together pieces are definitely the one unique component to this game and like other components they worked well but didn’t feel super high quality or anything like that.
Strategy & Replayability
Strategy in this game is similar to many worker placement games where you’re trying to efficiently balance gaining resources and workers with getting victory points. There is a lot of room for replayability, though, with lots of modular worker placement spots and player power cards.
Chimera Station is a cute and fun straightforward worker placement game with a neat gimmick. It doesn’t do anything too innovative but it’s very good at what it does which is being a light to medium weight worker placement game with lots of theme. I’m not dying to sit down and play it again but I definitely won’t be complaining if it comes back to the table.
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The modular workers are definitely the feature that draws attention to this game. The sculpted tentacles, claws, etc., molded in bright colors, exhibit a lot of character. Additionally, they're sturdy enough that they would hold up as a kids' toy. You're not likely to break these by accident. They may not be "super high quality" (to use your words), but it is obvious that significant effort went into making them functional, pleasing in appearance, and fun to snap apart and together. It would have been easy to screw them up - and that would have sunk the game. Fortunately, this game is not sunk - or at the very least not because of the design of the workers and their modular components.
There are two other things that I find (so far) to stand out about Chimera Station; one negative and one positive:
The negative is that the rulebook could have used another round or two of tightening up; I found myself taking notes on rules questions and consulting the (very active) rules forum later on. The silver lining here is that an authority named Seth (credited with "Development" in the rules booklet) has been very responsive in answering everyone's questions.
The positive thing is that surprising opportunities for scoring big show up with some frequency, particularly in the later rounds. It is fun and satisfying to identify and capitalize on these opportunities. It does make the game a little more tactical than strategic, but I think that fits better with the cartoony presentation of the theme anyway.