Camel Up for the Camel Cup: A Board Game Review

With the prestigious gaming award Spiel des Jahres (2014) up their belt, Z-Man’s board game of the year Camel Up definitely lives up to the praise. A game for 2 to 8 players and for ages 8 and over, Camel Up is a thrilling family game based on betting and racing mechanics.

How To Play:

Before the game starts, each player is given five race betting cards with a character on the back and it’s corresponding colour, three ‘Egyptian Pounds’ (EP) and a mirage tile.

Although each character and their colour matches the colours of the five different camels, the aim of the game isn’t to get the same coloured camel as your character to the finish line. In order to win the game you must have the most EP, this means the game is heavily dependent on betting and gambling mechanics. Curiously acceptable for young children to play, it is still a family friendly game to play with is simplistic and easy gaming style.

With the race betting cards given to each player, a player can choose to use them to bet which camel is going to win and which is going to lose throughout the game. On the game board there are indicated spaces available to put your betting cards for the first and last camel of the match. The trick here is that no one will know what you have bet, but if someone has the same colour as you, the person who bet that colour first gets the winning bet (more EP) so you have to be quick! But don’t be too hasty either, the cards are only revealed at the end of the game and if you guess incorrectly you will lose EP.

The mirage tile adds an interesting feature to the game as it has the power to either advance a camel one space or retract it one space. It can be put anywhere on the race track except near the finish line, and it can only be used once per round. A round finishes once all camels have moved.

When not betting, placing mirages or moving camels; players can also pick up a Leg Betting Card or a Pyramid Card. It is important to mention at this time that a player can only perform one action per turn. The Leg Betting Cards are in (five) stacks on the available spaces on the game board. Each stack represents a camel with the colours shown on the card. Leg Betting Cards aid you in gaining EP each round by backing a particular coloured camel. The first card on the deck gives you the most EP while towards the bottom you will receive less. While it’s good to be first to get the most EP, being too fast can be detrimental to the success of your overall win. If you bet on a losing camel, you will lose EP as well.

Finally the most inventive feature of the game; the Pyramid dice tower. This tool creates an unpredictable roll of dice as you shake and place the tip of the Pyramid on the board. There a five (D6) colour coded dice that represent each of the camels, however the dice only range up to three spaces at a time. By pressing in the cardboard slip, a hole opens within the Pyramid to allow a die to fall through and therefore giving the next move to a specific camel. The fun starts here when a camel lands on another camels space. Whenever a camel reaches another camel’s taken space, the currently moving camel stacks upon the other camel taking its lead.

Why the praise:

The unpredictability of Camel Up is what truly makes the game. It makes it fun, suspenseful and thrilling not knowing which camel will win. The betting and gambling mechanics add to the increasingly exhilarating nature of the game as you bet and start taking risks for a potentially winning camel.

It’s a family friendly game and suitable for any level of gamer whether they are new to gaming or veteran players. The board is nicely presented with the perk of the Pyramid dice tower adding a nice feature to the game. It’s simplistic yet challenging gameplay also adds to the intrigue of playing as each game has a different outcome with the twist of having the mirage tiles and stacking rules.

It’s truly a hard game to fault and a definite must play game. It just goes to show that sometimes keeping things simple isn’t a bad thing.

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