Put your sandals on because things are going to get weird. We’re headed for the great camel derby of 2021.
Designer: Steffen Bogen
Place your bets!
And they’re off.
Five coloured camels are competing to be the fastest land animals in the desert. They run at a speed of 0-3 spaces around a track. Determined by dice falling from a fantastically whimsical plastic pyramid under your control.
Meanwhile, there’s the black and white crazy camels who’ve clearly had too much cactus juice and are headed the wrong way!
When any camel lands on another, they are stacked, and when the bottom camel moves; the stack moves. Don’t ask me how this is physically possible, it just is. Allowing camels movement to get bizarre. As with a bit of luck, camels can catch a ride and move a lot further than 3 spaces a round.
This works with the black and white camels too. Any camel unlucky enough to land on these guys has a chance to be camel-napped backwards towards the starting blocks.
This camel-backing mechanic is at the centre of Camel Up, as while the odds of it occurring seem low. It happens all the time. Creating pandemonium. Making a thrilling race, where the rare becomes run of the mill, and the extraordinary, ordinary. You never really know how it’s going to end up until a camel crosses the finish line.
This makes betting on the race, or even one leg of the race such a compelling activity.
Off to the races
For your part in this camel madness, you’ll be making bets and playing supporter/saboteur to the camels on the track.
You can bet big by playing one of the camel cards from your hand to either the winner’s or loser’s column. Or bet small by picking up a coloured ticket for the current leg of the race. Either way you’ll be wanting to do this sooner than later, as Camel Up rewards you for making these bets as early as possible. A leg bet, for instance, awards the first person to pick the right Camel: 5 coins, the next 3, then 2 and so on.
The worst feeling in the world is when you roll the die, making the outcome of a leg a foregone conclusion. Then watching, as everyone around the table picks up tickets for the winning camel, leaving no tickets left when it comes back around to your turn.
In trying to avoid this, Camel Up puts you in the precarious position of taking chances when you’re not sure of the outcome. Only what the odds are. It replicates the feeling of betting on a live event perfectly. So much so, you’ll find yourself hooting and hollering for a camel like it’s your favourite sports team.
Alternatively, if you’re not up for betting, you can always place down your supporter tile which can either give any camel a speed boost or speed bump. Moving any camel who lands on it either one space forward or back, and you a coin. This gives you an alternative way to get rich, while sowing more chaos onto the track.
Counting your chips
Along with the new artwork, plastic pyramid, weighted plastic camels, the second edition of Camel Up introduces a new partnership mechanic, but by the time I’ve written this review, I never got to play with it given you need 6 players. However, it’s also added the fantastic crazy camels. Who while not always effective, provide an ever present threat, and add a lot of uncertainty to the race.
And for a game that revels in the improbable they are a perfect addition to the game.
Camel Up is one of the best gateway games to come out in recent history. A cracker to play with the family, or at the bookends of a board game night. It takes around 20-30minutes to play, and because of it’s somewhat deterministic nature it allows you to engage with the decisions you make throughout. It’s perfect for players of all experiences.
If you haven’t played it already, it’s one to keep an eye out for.
Thanks for reading, I’m currently ranking all my board games in a best to worst list. You can see this games’ initial ranking below.
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