In this Camel Up Review learn about the popular racing/betting game. How to play, is it any good, who it’s for, and which edition is best?
Introduction to Camel Up Review
Every now and then a board game comes with the sole purpose of creating a fun time. From the ridiculous theme (camels racing around a pyramid, seriously?) to accessible game mechanics – everything is designed to create an exciting experience.
Camel Up is such a game. The theme (with artwork) is absurdly comical, while the betting mechanics produce a mixture of chance, cheering, and twists.
The premise of the game is simple. There is a five-camel race going on and you are spectators, betting on the outcome of the race.
The camels move forward by rolling dice, either 1, 2, or 3 spaces. The dice are held in a pyramid, which is designed to let out only one dice at a time. That means you never know which camel is going to advance, yet you can make some educated guesses, based on which dice are already out.
The camel-race is 1 lap or 16 spaces long, which translates to about 30 minutes of gameplay.
Designer: Steffen Bogen
Published in: 2014 & 2018
Artists: Dennis Lohausen, Chris Quilliams
Playing time: around 30 minutes
How to play Camel Up?
After the board is set-up, every player receives 3 EP (Egyptian Pounds), a set of 5 cards (each depicting a camel of a different color), and a Desert tile. The five camel dice are now rolled one by one, producing starting positions. The game can now begin.
On your turn, you will have 4 options:
- Take 1 Leg betting tile, betting on which camel will finish the leg first. (The leg ends every time 5 dice come out of the pyramid.) There are 3 tiles per camel color – the earlier you take a tile, the more profitable it is.
- Place your Desert tile.
These come double-sided, giving +1 (-1 on the other side) movement to a camel stack that lands on it. Moreover, it gives one EP to the owner.
- Bet on the overall winner/loser using your deck of cards.
- Take a pyramid tile (worth 1 EP) and roll one die from the pyramid.
When one leg ends, partial winnings are calculated, then the dice are returned to the pyramid, betting tiles to the stacks, and desert tiles to their owners.
After the first camel reaches the finish line, the game ends immediately. Once again, leg scores are calculated, followed by the overall winner/loser predictions. The player with the most money wins.
Camel Up Review – My Thoughts
Camel Up is one of the go-to games when playing with new gamers and non-gamers. Even heavier board gamers will appreciate its simplicity and exciting, even hilariously crazy gameplay.
I’ve played with my mom, my partner, my kids, and my board-gaming friends – they all loved it. When the game ends and your non-gamer mom wants to play another one right away, you know the designer nailed it.
One of the main mechanics for this is the stacking of camels. As the title suggests, camels can climb onto others, creating a stack. If one of the camels on the bottom moves, it then carries all of the above camels with it. For the camels on one space, the one on top is considered to be in front.
This creates a lot of unpredictability since the positions can change with a single roll. Let’s say you’ve taken a blue leg tile since blue is currently in the best position. After a new die roll, three camels land on top of it, relegating it to P4. Even when the blue die is rolled afterward, it can’t get to the front on this leg.
Things can be further stirred up with Desert tiles, helping (or hindering) camels.
The random factor is high with this one
There’s a lot of randomness in the game, but I don’t think it’s excessive. Knowing the odds of certain events is still profitable and it pays off. But don’t expect to win every game, even with perfect play. Camel Up is designed to give everyone a fighting chance.
The fourth option, actually taking a die and progressing the race is not without drawbacks, either. Although it pays one EP, it reveals a lot of information to other players. Suddenly, the red may get in front, encouraging all other players to take red leg tiles. When the turn comes back to you, there may be no red betting tiles left for you …
It usually comes down to when all good betting options for a situation are depleted that a player will decide to roll a die. It’s funny how these situations entice cheering and booing from other players, especially toward the finish line. “Go Red!” or “No Blue!” or even “Ahh!”, when the situation turns upside down is not uncommon.
Creating such a level of immersion is just another evidence of the brilliantly designed game.
Taking it to the next level
When it comes to betting, Camel Up is not a zero-sum game. That means players don’t bet against each other, but they play against the game itself. Even so, it’s very hard to lose money. You either win small or win big.
That means that you, unfortunately, can’t play the game for real money directly, you can only make a prize pool and divide the winnings after the game.
I’m not saying you should play Camel Up for money, but if you’re looking to increase the level of immersion even more, chipping in a few bucks per player may work wonders. Camel Up seems like a perfect game to try that out.
Supercup Expansion includes four modules:
- Longer Race track and the new Supporting dice.
- Photographer gives rewards for correctly predicting the movement of Camel stacks.
- bets on positions, which makes betting more flexible.
- Betting Partnerships, which allow players to cooperate more openly in games with 6 or more players.
Second Edition is a completely revamped game. The artwork and components are a further improvement (of already good), there are now rogue camels that run the opposite way, several modules from Supercup are included, and so on.
The sixth dice, controlling rogue camels introduces a new layer of tactics. The leg still only lasts 5 dice, meaning not all camels are guaranteed to move. The things further complicate as the rogue camels can also join the stacks and can move them backward.
The Second Edition is the definitive Camel Up game. It’s the original + Supercup and so much more. Not to mention the pop-up tree – it looks absolutely stunning on the table.
Which one to buy?
Camel Up is an excellent family board game. Anyone can learn it in a matter of minutes and it’s a hilariously fun experience for everyone involved.
If you’re looking to buy, there’s no doubt – get the outstanding second edition.