Camel Up Review
First of all, congratulations are in order to those who deserve it for Camel Up winning the Spiel de Jahres 2014 award. Camel Up is a game about Camels (obviously) which race their way up to the finish line in Egypt (cause there’s a pyramid in it). So are we camels? Nope, we’re just people, who coincidentally likes camel race. We’re rich people, tourists, businessmen, oil mogul and royal members who like to spend our riches in race track. So in this game, players will bet on a camel race. Player who comes out as the richest after one race will win the game. Camel Up was designed by Steffen Bogen, published by Pegasus Spiele in 2014, with Dennis Lohausen as it’s artist. The game is intended for family and children (which I doubt the theme of the game is really educational for children). The game can be played with 2 up to 8 players. Based from the box description, one game could last 20-30 minutes, perfectly suitable for casual / non gamer and family time.
Horses, rats, dogs are common, we love uncommon ones, like Camels. No you will not play as Camels or it’s riders, in fact you only the audience or viewer in the race, enjoying a good chill beverages and chips while betting your money on which Camel’s winning and which is losing. Your money, your (mis)fortune. What else you’ll be doing in the dessert if not spending your money like a sheikh? It’s a fucking dessert!
Dennis Lohausen did a good job, it feels very comical. You can see various funny camel’s expression on this one. The fact is, camels have big teeth, according to Dennis. Players have different unique character illustrations, which is good. You can find some details on the illustrations, check the Pyramid wall for instance.
The Game Components
Definitely eye candy. Yes, the pyramid dice holder really catch attentions. You need to assemble the pyramid for the first time. It’s pretty much essential, since the pyramid dice is used to shake the dice, very important that one die comes out each time it’s used and the die is instantly showing the result without being rolled to give element of surprise. The lever was hold by a rubber band, they provide more than one just in case (my copy came with 3 rubber bands). I already used the last one, so if this one breaks, I need to find another rubber band for replacement. I suppose they can find a better solution for it. The punch boards and cards have good quality, so no worry there. The dice are wooden, and after many plays the color could worn off or maybe dirty. The wooden camels are in fine quality, thick and I guess not easy to break.
The Game Play
The game last for one lap which consist of several legs. As soon as the first camel pass the finish line, the game ends and final scoring take place then players will count their money. Player with the most money win the game.
So before you start the game, there is a small setup for the dice placeholder (in the form of a card board pyramid) if it’s your first time play. The construction is quite simple and clearly described in the rulebook. Each player will choose a character and receive an oasis / mirage tile, set of cards and 3 coins. Sort the leg tiles based on each color and in ascending value. The first player (randomly chosen) roll all the dice and place the camels in a specific order based on the dice roll results. Put all the dice back into the pyramid and shake it up. There are 5 dice, each has a color represents the camel. The game can now start. Starting from the first player and clockwise, each player will take turns to do an action. The available actions that they can take are taking a leg tile, placing a mirage / oasis tile, roll a camel die and bet on the winner or loser camel. A leg ends when the last die on the pyramid is rolled (thus each camel has already moved exactly once). After a leg ends, leg scoring will take place and if the lap is not finished, new leg begins.
The Actions – Taking A Leg Tile
Each camel has 3 corresponding tiles with 3 different values placed on ascending stack in each camel’s camp. A player can take a single tile (from any color, if it’s still available) from the top of a stack and place it in front of them. This action shows that you place a wage to that camel. The first tile shows 5 coins for being first, 1 coin for being 2nd and -1 coin for being the rest. The next tile worth 3pts and the last worth 2pts for first place. Players can have more than one tile from one camel.
The Actions – Placing A Mirage / Oasis Tile
This action let players put their tile with mirage side or oasis side on the race track. With restrictions that the space must be empty (of camels) and isn’t directly adjacent with another oasis/mirage tile. This tile will affect camel(s) movement when they stop at it and the owner will get 1 coin bonus. Oasis tile let the camel that stands over it move one step forward. Mirage on the other hand force the camel moves backward one space. Pertaining camel movements, if a camel stop in a space that already has one or more camel in it, the camel is placed on top of the existing camel stack. Each space can only contains single stack of camels. But if a camel moves backward (because of the mirage tile) it’s placed below the camel stack in that space (if any). The camel on top of a stack is considered the most advanced camel (thus a tie breaker).
The Actions – Roll A Die
To roll a die, you take the pyramid and one of its tiles. Shake the pyramid, put it upside down to the board and open the hatch so exactly one die is fall into the hole. close the hatch and lift the pyramid, voila… a die is laying with a number facing up. The result shows which camel is going to move and how many spaces. Take the wooden of that camel (and other camels on top.of it.if any) and move it as many spaces as shown on the die, between 1-3 spaces.
The Actions – Place A Wager
Each player has a set of 5 cards that shows each camel. With this action he can place one camel card to put a wager of that camel whether it will finish first or last on the race (when the game is over). Usually this action is taken by players when the game is about to end or the outcome is rather clear or obvious. The first player who put the right wager get bigger points. If the wager is not right, he must pay 1 coins instead. It is possible for a player to have more than one camel card in the winning or losing slot by the end of the race.
After the last die is out, a leg is over and the leg scoring begins. Players check the camels’ position and their leg tiles, then cash in their payout money along with their pyramid tiles. If they didn’t win any money, they do not take any from the bank. And if they have to pay their losses, they pay coins to the bank.
After all players cash in, all the tiles are return to their respective positions and all the dice are put back to the pyramid. New leg begins if no camel reaches finish yet. The player who sit on the left player who roll the last die on the previous leg starts the new leg.
If one camel reach the finish line, then the leg round is immediately over, check the current positions and score the leg. Proceed to final scoring by resolve the first place wager and then last place wager. First player who waged correctly get 8 points, followed by 5 and 3 points respectively. Each incorrect wager, cost players one coin. Player with the most money wins the game.
My Thoughts On The Game
This is a simple game, no thinking required (and you can still have a blast). It is a fun game for all ages, children and for families. Anyone can play and it has simple rules (though the camel’s position need extra attention).
The components are attention grabber especially the pyramid though its practically a marketing gimmick. It can easily be replaced and not affecting game play. I like the game, light game with push your luck and wagering as its core element. But there are more than meets the eye. As simple as it is, players can still have fun meddling with the deduction aspect of the camels’ probabilities. Though after several plays (or one play) the actions feel scripted, first player usually goes with placing a mirage or oasis tile in strategic spaces while available. And rolling a die is a lousy action to take, since it gives next players advantage with more information. Unless there’s nothing better to do, it’s one coin anyway.
You can also customize the length of the race by adding laps in the race, it change the pace of the game a bit.
For me this is a keeper, a good addition to my collection, represents a light party games in my collection. This is a game where you can have fun and chill out with friends, or entertain children and family.
Aside from that, the replay value of this game is not really high, okay in many plays you will feel different and has different dynamic pace of the camels, but mostly it’s because of the players’ actions instead the game variations.