Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Chimera

Chimera

  • Publisher: Z-Man Games/Filosofia EditionsChimera Cover
  • Designers: Ralph Anderson
  • Artists: Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams
  • Players: 3
  • Ages: 14+
  • Playing Time: 45min
  • Languages: English/French
  • MSRP $19.99
  • Release: Q3 2014
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Prototype Copy
  • Number of Plays: 3

Introduction

Part of a series of Deluxe Classic Card Games, Chimera will transport you into the world of Tichu, but for three players. Place your bet and manage your hand wisely in order to trump your opponents. Sequentially play pairs, trips and straights, but beware of the Chimera that could ruin your grand plans… (From the back of the box.)

Rules Summary

Chimera is a three player climbing game where the goal is to get the most points. It shares many of the same traits as Tichu but also has some unique features. Unlike Tichu, Chimera is not a partnership game – although each round two of the players will form a temporary partnership.

The Deck

The game is played with a fifty-four card deck containing four suits of ranks 1 through 12,

Chimera Card

Chimera Card

four Hunter cards, one Pi Ya card, and one Chimera card. The suits have no impact on the game at all, other than to give some design and color to the cards. The Hunter cards rank higher than the numbered cards but have no rank, thus they cannot be played in sequences. The Pi Ya card outranks all other single cards except the Chimera but may optionally be used as a wild for ranked cards (i.e. 1-12) in a sequence only. The Chimera is the highest single card.

The Deal

The dealer shuffles the cards then offers the deck to an opponent to cut (this should be done near the middle of the deck). Before finishing the cut, the dealer takes the top card of the bottom half of the deck and places it face up on the top half of the deck before placing the bottom half on top. Three cards are dealt to the middle of the table then the rest of the cards are dealt to the players; each player will receive 17 cards.

The Bid

Pi Ya Card

Pi Ya Card

The player who received the face up card starts the bid. Bidding goes in clockwise order. Bidders may bid 20, 30, or 40 – each successive bid must be higher. Players may pass and re-enter bidding. A player may jump bid – or even start at 40 to lock the other players out. Bidding continues until one player bids 40 or until there are two consecutive passes. If all players pass without a bid, the hand is thrown in and restarted.

The winner of the bid is called the Chimera. This player gets to pick up the three cards dealt to the middle of the table and add it to her hand. If the bid was 20, the non-bidders, called Chimera Hunters, do not exchange cards. If the bid was 30 they get to exchange one card. If the bid was 40 they get to exchange two cards.

Card Combinations:

  • Single card
  • Pair of cards
  • Sequence of at least three pairs
  • Triples
  • Sequence of at least two sets of triples
  • Triples with an attached card
  • Triples with an attached pair (i.e. full house)
  • Sequence of triples with attached card each
  • Sequence of triples with attached pair each (i.e. full houses)
  • Straight of five or more cards in a sequence
  • Four of a kind with two single attached cards
  • Four of a kind with two attached pairs
  • Trap (four of a kind)*
  • Chimera Flight (Pi Ya and Chimera played together)*

The Chimera (bid winner) begins the round then play continues in clockwise order. Players may play or pass until the trick has been won (i.e. two consecutive passes). Once something has been led, players must follow with the same combination for the rest of that round (or trick). Each subsequent play must be higher than the previous play. *Traps or a Chimera Flight may always be played on a players turn, i.e. these do not have to follow the combination led, although a trap played over a trap still must be higher than the previous trap; a Chimera Flight is the highest combination (i.e. nothing can be played over it).

The hand ends immediately when one player runs out of cards. He takes the last cards played. Cards in players’ hands do not count towards scoring.

Scoring

Players are scored separately. If the Chimera went out first, she doubles her bid. The

11 Card (Cat)

11 Card (Cat)

Chimera gets a 25 point bonus for each of these: 1) each trap played, 2) if a Chimera Flight was played, and 3) if at least one of the Chimera Hunters did not play cards. If the Chimera did not go out first, she loses her bid points and no bonuses are scored; each Chimera Hunter scores 20 points. All players score their tricks won: 10 points for each 2 card and 5 points for each 11 card.

The game ends when one player reaches 400 or more points; the player with the highest score is the winner. Note: the full rules for Chimera are not yet available.

Thoughts

It is easy to compare this game with Tichu – there are quite a few similarities… but there are also some striking differences. Like Tichu, Chimera is a climbing game. Many of the card combinations are found in Tichu, except for the sequence of triples and for certain combinations with an attached card or two. This last is especially notable – now players have more opportunities

Hunter Card

Hunter Card

to slough off singles or doubles. This makes it easier to get rid of some junk cards that may have clogged up an otherwise good hand (many a Tichu call has been missed due to one small single… or the Dog, grumble Ted grumble). Traps and the Chimera Flight are similar to bombs in Tichu, except they may not be played out of turn, and since suits have no impact on the game, there are no flush bombs/traps. The Pi Ya may be played as a wild in sequences, similar to the Phoenix in Tichu, but it may not be played in other combinations like the Phoenix can. It is also fixed in rank above the Hunters, rather than half a point higher than the single played before it (Phoenix). Of course scoring is quite different.

I like the semi-partnership aspect of the game. Each player is still trying to win, but the Chimera Hunters will want to team up against the Chimera to be sure he can’t double his bid and score bonuses. They also get some points for stopping the Chimera. Still there are points to be had, creating more tension in the game. This may make it more interesting to non-Tichu fans (if any such exist).

Chimera is estimated to take about 45 minutes to play. I think this is a pretty good average if players keep the game moving along (and it may even end more quickly). Once in a while I’ve been in a game of Tichu that just dragged – for like two hours or more – mainly because of negative scoring (you also play to 1000 points rather than 400). The smaller bid loss (40 max) is not nearly as devastating as, say, a failed Grand Tichu (-200).

Switching over from Tichu can be a bit tricky. I recommend keeping a copy of the Legal Card Combinations nearby for your first few games.

The only thing that concerns me is the price. At $19.99 it seems a bit steep, considering that a double Tichu box (two decks of 56 cards) has an MSRP of $14.95.

I originally played an earlier version of the game with a different theme. I’m actually very happy with both the change in theme and tweaks made to the game. I’ve enjoyed my first few games so far, and I’m looking forward to many more plays!

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:

Larry (1 play):  If you ever finished up a game of Tichu and said, “That was okay, but what I really want is a game that’s even more complex”, Chimera may be the design for you.  The legal card combinations alone were enough to make my head spin, and then there’s the special cards, the different rules for the various bids, and on and on.  Me, I want a game with the depth of Tichu that’s less involved and more elegant, so I wasn’t too impressed.  Still, figuring out how to play a hand was reasonably interesting.  It’s not a game I’d ever seek out, but if my buddies really wanted to play, I wouldn’t mind indulging them (which, to be honest, is kind of the way I feel about Tichu as well).

Ted (3 plays): Trichu (the rules for 3 player Tichu in the Tichu box) is an abomination…it would be hard to not improve on that, but Chimera does so in many ways. Chimera’s strength of being for 3 players is also by far its biggest weakness: the shifting alliances of 2 vs. 1 removes the comradare that Tichu has underlying it; for an hour or so, you and your Tichu partner are best buds (unless your partner is Mary), working together to defeat the evil partnership you’re playing against. With Chimera the temporary alliances don’t have that same emotional grasp that Tichu has; self-fist bumping when you win isn’t all that satisfying.

Technically, the game is fantastic; there’s enough of a climbing game to satisfy a Tichu player, with fun twists on the “standard” Tichu combos. The new power cards (and the “flight” combo of the Chimera/Pi Ya for a super-trap is something that Tichu players have always wanted for the Dragon/Phoenix) are inventive and fun.

Nomenclature in Chimera is a little rough, especially when comparing to Tichu. Why is it a Trap instead of a Bomb (Traps in Chimera can’t be played out of turn, but still… “bombing” an opponent seems better than “trapping”)? Pronouncing Chimera (Ki-meera is correct, yet chim-erra will be heard quite often) is difficult (though Tichu has a bit of an issue here…some otherwise intelligent people still pronounce it incorrectly as “teeku”). And the Pi Ya is something no one has ever heard of.

If we don’t have four players and we have the Tichu/climbing game urge, Chimera will definitely be played. But if we have, say, 12 players interested, I’m more likely to suggest 3 games of Tichu instead of 4 games of Chimera.

Ben (2 plays) – I’m a fan of Tichu, but I am not a hard-core Tichu player.  One of the reasons for that is the partnership nature of the game.  It is the rare occasion when I have four players who want to play a trick-taking game, and rarer still when those four players have comparable levels of skill and experience so that the assigned partnerships are roughly “fair.”  At this year’s Gathering, my wife and I were partners in our first-ever Tichu tournament (we are normally not partners when we play with friends), and perhaps the least-enjoyable aspect of the experience was the pressure of not wanting to disappoint my partner.  I felt like I needed to rein in my selfish, risk-taking tendencies so as not to slip up and fail spectacularly.

All of this is a long way of saying that I am intrigued by Chimera for precisely the same reason Ted prefers Tichu: a series of 2 vs. 1 shifting alliances frees you from the constraints associated with team play, including worries like even skill distribution and personal sacrifices for the betterment of the team (in case you can’t tell, I’m also terrible at cooperative games).  For that reason alone, I am likely to keep a copy of the game on my shelf.

I do agree with Larry that Chimera is a bit more complex and bit clunkier than Tichu.  You have larger hands, which take a while to sort and scan.  Terrible single cards can be grouped with pairs or sets, dramatically increasing the number of potential ways to play each hand.  And both of my first two games took longer than I would have expected.  Still, I am hopeful that I will someday play this enough to have the rules and options well internalized, at which point, I think it will provide a very viable option when looking for a 45-minute three-player game.

Craig (2 plays): Not much to add to the preceding thoughts.  I like Tichu, but don’t often clamour for it – if it’s suggested and the right four people are available I’m always happy to play.  I think Chimera will be played more often because it works for three and the right combination of players will be easier to come by.  My only grumble about the game (and it is minor) is that I wish the bidding had more scope for play.  That seems like a missed opportunity for evaluating your hand.  The new card combinations and language will become second nature after a half dozen plays making this an easy game to get to the table.  I also agree with Mary that $20 MSRP seems a bit steep for a single deck when Tichu comes with two.  If it gets played as often as I think it could, it won’t be long before a second deck is needed.  The card quality is not as high given the wear I see looking at my copy of Black Spy after a dozen plays.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it!  Mary Prasad
  • I like it:  W. Eric Martin, Ted Alspach, Ben McJunkin, Craig Massey
  • Neutral:  Larry
  • Not for me…
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About Mary Prasad

More about me at: http://artbymdp.blogspot.com
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3 Responses to Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Chimera

  1. dragoncatgreen says:

    Thanks very much for the great discussion about Chimera! It is very interesting to me as the designer to hear the various opinions. Personally I am a huge fan of 3-player cut throat card games and I like the changing partnerships AND the ability to still work for yourself, even when trying to take down the leader of the hand. If that sounds good to you, please give Chimera a try.
    There is only one thing I wish to correct in the review above. The copy of the game that was being used is a PROTOTYPE and not a production copy of the game. The actual cards will be the same as Black Spy and Parade. The cards in the PROTOTYPE are of a much inferior grade.
    Counter to some of the comments, in my own humble opinion, I believe Chimera is a simpler game to teach and to play than Tichu. Your mileage may vary, of course. In any case I am a huge Tichu fan, which is what led me to create Chimera. I hope you enjoy it when it comes out later this year!

  2. Craig Massey says:

    Hi Ralph. I wanted to clarify my comments on the card quality. I am referring to the card stock for Black Spy. The cards started to show significant wear after a half dozen plays. Given the amount of play I expect Chimera to see (and price point), I was hoping for something a bit sturdier like the card stock used for your average Tichu deck.

    I did really enjoy Chimera and am looking forward to its general release. Great job!

  3. dragoncatgreen says:

    Thanks for the clarification and your kind words, Craig. It was not clear to me which cards you were referring to, but it makes sense now. I have a copy of Black Spy but have not had the opportunity to play it enough to judge card wear. (Its a great game, but I just don’t get the chance to play it much!)
    I am very eager to get my hands on a production copy of Chimera. I am confident it will see a lot of play! I know I have bought and worn out countless numbers of Tichu decks in the last 12 years!

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