Posted Friday, 7-Aug-2015
As the winner of the 2014 Spiel Des Jahres award, Camel Up made its mark as one of the best family games in recent years.
From designer Steffen Bogen (Schnappt Hubi!, Razzo Raketo), and publisher Eggerstspiele (Village, Rococo), Camel Up is a game of betting and dice-rolling as players compete in betting on camel races. While the premise may seem simple, Camel Up offers some unique twists that make the game truly wacky.
Camel Up is a game where 2-8 players bet on different colored camels as they race along the board. Dale Yu from Opinionated Gamer explains the basic premise of Camel Up:
“In the game, players take on the role of rich desert inhabitants – using their money to bet on a camel race. There are 5 camels racing around a square board, and there are plenty of chances to bet on the results or influence how the race goes.”
While the foundation of the game is simple, Camel Up brings more to the table than just a simple luck based dice roller. ISlaytheDragon’s Farmer Lenny explains one reason why Camel Up is more strategic than one would think, “Bets in Camel Up are arranged in descending payouts, so the earlier you bet correctly, the more money you’ll get. Players have to weigh the potential benefits of betting early against the possibility of betting incorrectly.”
This unique betting system gives the game a risk-reward strategic component that players can adjust to as the game progresses, but wait too long and you’ll miss out.
Another unique aspect of Camel Up is the game’s pyramid which doubles both as a thematic component and the game’s dice roller.
Dale Yu of Opinionated Gamer explains, “The dice are all kept in this pyramid and there is a rubber-band mechanism that allows only one die to escape when the pyramid is held upside down. So, you choose to activate the pyramid by drawing one of the pyramid cards, and then you upend it and press in the release latch to release a die.”
As the game progresses, you might notice that different camels will be occupying the same spot. However, unlike in most games two camels occupying the same space aren’t tied. Jett from In Third Person explains:
“When camels end up in the same space, they don’t sit side-by-side and are considered tied. Instead, camels stack on top of each other, with the top camel considered to be ahead of all the camels below it. Furthermore, if a camel that is lower in the stack has to move, it carries all of the camels currently above it as well.”
This gives Camel Up some truly wacky and hilarious situations as you might have three or four camels stacked on top of the other racing around the board.
The game’s ruleset is relatively simple and once players get used to the concepts of descending payouts the game is a breeze to play with most games lasting under 30 minutes.
Camel Up thrives as a light, family-friendly game, especially in mid-sized groups.
Keith Law of Paste Magazine comments, “Four players was when the game really started clicking, because grabbing the betting cards for the current leg became a chase, with fewer cards than players. Eight might be too crazy, but then again, if it’s a couple of adults and a bunch of kids, it might be hilarious.”
So while the game is geared towards light-play if you’re looking for a game with just you and a close friend you’re better off going in another direction.
However, in terms of accessibility there are few games that stand up to Camel Up according to Opinionated Gamer’s Dale Yu who says “the rules are simple to teach, and I have not had a problem teaching the game to non-gamers. It has been enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike. Of course, this is why the game likely won the Spiel des Jahres – it is the sort of game that can be enjoyed by just about anyone.”
Meanwhile, Derek Thompson of Meeple Town confirms Yu’s viewpoint; “I do think this game is a tiny bit convoluted for little kids, although the box says ages 8 and up, and that’s probably fine. Younger kids could probably participate without really understanding exactly what they are doing, but they’d still understand the idea of the camel race and using the awesome pyramid.”
If you’re looking for a grueling, lengthy strategy game with lots of tough decisions and a myriad of optimal ways to win, Camel Up is probably not for you. However, if you’re looking for a quick, silly game to play with the whole family then Camel Up might be a great option.
Camel Up turned heads by winning the 2014 Spiel des Jahres, even managing to beat out the popular Splendor. Meanwhile critics have some mixed reviews about the camel racing betting game.
Some like Dale Yu of Opinionated Gamer appreciated the game’s thematic qualities:
“The visual gimmick as well as the main randomizing factor is the pyramid shaped dice cup – it is a beautifully thematic addition to the Egyptian themed game – and it’s a lot of fun to play with. “
Others such as Jett from In Third Person noted the game’s accessibility:
“By adding a unique spin to tried-and-true gambling and roll-and-move mechanics, Camel Up ends up being better than the sum of its parts. It’s certainly a silly game, but one that draws players in with many reasons to be engaged with the race.”
But there was some disagreement on whether or not the game deserved the coveted Spiel Des Jahres award.
Paste Magazine’s Keith Law thought the award could have gone to another game:
“I think the Spiel des Jahres judges got the award wrong; Splendor is the better game, more elegant with a better balance of skill and luck. If there were a category specifically for family games, however, Camel Up would be a worthy winner.”
On the other hand, Derek Thompson from Meeple Town thought the Spiel Des Jahres was rightfully rewarded. Thompson, who gave the game 4 out 5 ‘Meeples’, says “Camel Up is right there in line with where the Spiel des Jahres jury has been the last few years – and in fact, even if you won’t be delving deep into any strategic thinking, this is the most laugh-out-loud fun you’ll have with any of the winners since Dixit.”
So if you’re looking for a betting game that thrives on theme, light-play and a somewhat wacky premise with unique twists, Camel Up might just be the game for you.
Published by BoardGamePrices.com