Review: Camel Up – humpbacked sprinters run through dust to the finish line
There is a large crowd waiting for us. We are heroes of our country. We run fast like wind and we can hold the speed for long. We are trained to survive desert, carry cargo and even men. We love what we do, because before running, people only saw us as ugly creatures with two humps. Now, we are finally loved by everyone. We are camels.
Once upon a time, there was a box, that arrived to our doorstep on the back of a camel. We found it strange, but only until we uncovered its contents. It was a Camel Up game from Pegasus Spiele, who released it in German together with eggertspiele in 2014 and sent it through camels to the whole world. We cannot guarantee, your copy will be delivered also in such magnificent manner. Author of the game is Steffen Bogen and illustration of funny and angry camels were created by Dennis Lohausen.
The game impresses you not only with a lid full of camels in the home stretch. It basks in glory as winner of Spiel des Jahres 2014, highly respectable price in Germany. But enough of talking about medals, because we have not won any for ourselves. We should rather return to the camels. Inside the box, you will find a game board folded in half. Only part of it contains the actual track for racers, which is divided into sixteen running sections. In the middle, there is still free square space, but that will change soon. Right next to racing circuit, there are tents of racers, but also bookmakers stands. Who does not bet, should not even go to see camel cups.
In the box, you will find also sheets of cardboard hiding round and longitudinal tokens of money in four different values, one token for starting player and a few square tiles with oases and mirages. But by far the most important element is the pyramid and cardboard materials to build it. You probably therefore would not recognize at first glance, that it is a pyramid. It must first be composed out of four parts. An elongated tile is closing hole in the upper side with the aid of rubber band.
Also betting tiles are made of carton, coming in threes for each camel color. And certainly, you will not be much surprised by camels themselves. There are five different colors and each one comes also with a six-sided dice in his color. But before we complete list, we must return to cards, which again allow you to bet on camels and have figures drawn on them – these will be players incarnations.
Now these five cards with a portrait of their choice get players at the beginning of the game. Then everybody works together to spread out game board on a table and build a pyramid at the center of the racetrack and all the camels are stalled to tent of their color. From there, race will jut, because in these races, you will wait in vain for the starting gun. Betting tiles are placed right behind camels and again divided by color, but also sorted by values from highest to lowest.
Each player gets three Egyptian pounds, while rest of the coins and banknotes creates a common bank next to the board. The starting player now has the privilege to take the dice and determine starting order of camels with their help. According to rolled values, he sets them up on numbered boxes on racetrack right behind start. Camels with the same numbers will be stacked on each other backs. Dice are then thrown into a pyramid, which will reveal back its secrets in each round.
Once in a player gets to his turn, he can take the pyramid and put it neck down. Now he gently presses moving tile (on the rubber band) to the side. A dice falls from inside and an elastic band ensures, that once he releases the pressure, pyramid closes back again and all the other dice remain inside for now. What is important is not only color of the dice, but also its value. Now camel of this color runs forward even with any other camels sitting on his back.
But this is only one of the possible actions. Instead of moving camel, player can take one obstacle tile, he was given at the start of the game. Using it, he can cover some part of the track by an oasis (or mirage) and thus affect all competitors, who stop there (and will be pushed forward or back, always one step).
The last action is the betting. Players can bet either on camel, who will first cross the finish line (and thus win the whole race) – or to a competitor, who will be in the lead after all five dice are removed from the pyramid and played. Such a leg is only part of the whole game. Players may take tile belonging to one of the camels and by doing this, make a bet. If this is indeed the leader, once pyramid is empty, the player earns money indicated on the tile (but when camel is behind, he must vice versa pay).
Players collect money and are trying to outguess others and decide, who will be victorious in this tightened race in the end. As the last action, playerscan take one card from his hand and bet on winner and loser. Even this effort can bring players money, when they are correct. The game ends, when the first competitor arrives at the finish line. Its followed by granting rewards and winner is the player, who has accumulated the largest cash.
Camel Up is a refined racing game, in which its all about being the first to guess correctly the winner. The players themselves have little chance to influence the course of the race, because it is entirely in the hands of dice.
Well, not quite, because turns can often be anticipated using tiles as oasis and therefore affect movement. Yet this time, it is primarily a game, where players must be able to take risks. Good timing and a calculated move is the aim to gain a sufficient number of finance. And even to total victory.
Game shines only, when there sits a higher number of players. In four or five, you will enjoy a great and exciting game. With two, camel racing does not work so well, because players are always fighting over a card only here and there, and there not such tension as with more participants. This game is actually a hidden party entertainment (that is indicated by the maximum number of eight players !!), where you will enjoy immensely even watching others play. And there is a lots of laughter waiting for you. And that is, what makes this game so accessible to all and special.
Camel Up is not extremely original. Stacking of racers and secret betting on the winner was already there. Fortunately, a new jacket and a handy addition of dual evaluation makes this game into a potential hit. Well not potential, its a hit, although we think, its not so incredibly perfect.
Great advantage of this game is fast game time. Camels run through entire route within thirty minutes and even less witm smaller player number. And that is just sweet spot for such a light and undemanding entertainment. Players are actually only some agents, watching the race with its own development and trying to respond the best to it. You do not have to strategize much. And still, even this does not change the fact, that the game is true fun. And its definitely supported by beautiful workmanship. The pyramid is the added bonus, that makes the game memorable, although you could be drawing dice from the bag and rolling them. But it would not look so good, right?
We do not claim, that the game does not deserves its award. Camel Up is really hilarious and funny game, we just do not believe, it is so rare. We understand, however, that about value of the game is also decided by accessibility to a wide audience (that is what Spied des Jahres is about).And in that, Camel Up really shines, because even complete beginners or children learn it quickly. In doing so, but the game still has everything, why we love board games. So in the end really.. why not? Camel Up IS a great game.
Review: Camel Up – humpbacked sprinters run through dust to the finish line
Camel Up is a great game for families and beginners. This is its main target audience. It offers no challenging decisions and do not want for players to invent some complex tactics. Instead, a story of a race unfolds before their eyes. They can not have much influence, but they can bet on it. The result is ultimately a matter of luck and it depends on what values and in what order are shown by dice. Players can only take risks and try to guess as best, how the race will develop. Who dares to guess first, he may or may not succeed. The game is beautifully dressed up and opens up a world of board games even to those completely inexperienced. If you are looking for a game, that everyone can play and still laugh together, then Camel Up could be the right choice.