Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Camel (C)Up - Watch out for Humps

Over the weekend, I managed to get in a play of Camel Cup! Or Camel Up! Seriously, the cover is so deceiving that it could be either. Who knows! I'm calling it Camel Up for this session report.
Anyway, I only bought Camel Up because it was nominated for the 2014 Spiel Des Jahres award. As of late I have found that the awards are spot on with what my lighter gamer group prefers. Hanabi, Dixit, Ticket to Ride have all gone well with them, so have Augustus, Splendor, Witch's Brew. So if Camel Up promises the same enjoyment for all of them, then I think it would have been a solid blind buy.

I decided to take this out with my medium weight group ( just the 3 of us ) since they are the first to come over since the game arrived at my doorstep.
I was slightly hesitant with my decision as they do prefer medium weight thematic games - with some thinky euros every one in awhile - and I also wasn't sure what to expect with 3 players Camel Up.
But well, it is new and it looks exciting and I will probably need to talk about it on the podcast! So it was a quick teaching session and off to the races we went!

Initial camel starting positions

Camel Up is a one race game made up of multiple legs. During each leg, the 5 camels will move once, after which money is won if you had bet on the right camel being ahead or in 2nd place, any other position will cost you money.
On the players' turn, they may do 1 of 4 actions.
1) Place/Move your tile (affects camel movement 1 space forward or backward )
2) Move a camel (based on a die roll)
3) Take a leg betting token
4) Place a bet for the final race result
That's it. Easy Peasy.

The game is probably called Camel Up because when a camel lands on the same spot as another camel, it gets stacked on top. This will signify that that camel breaks the tie, and also, if any camel below that camel moves, it gets carried along with it. Free ride! This simple stacking mechanic leads to very unpredictable results. A losing camel merely needs to move enough to stack on top of the leader(s) and from there that camel could ride its way to first place. Or a cleverly placed player tile can help to push the leading pack back below the camel that was lagging behind. This would also allow much piggybacking to an unexpected finish.

Green pulls ahead after 1st round

Our 3 player game was filled with much laughs right from the start. At first, things seemed to go as planned. Camels moved in order, no free riding was done, and we seemed to know how things would go. But by leg 2, everything started to get messed up. Lead changes came quickly and deep study & probability counts were going through my friends' heads. Often times we found ourselves one turn short of grabbing a tile we wanted. Some blind bets were made in frustration, and there were lots of conversations trying to convince each other how we think the race will pan out.

Being the risk taker I am, I was seriously lagging after the first 3 legs - betting on colors that you generally prefer is never a good idea. Haha. The leader had double the amount of money I had. The 3 of us are generally nasty fellas, so all our player tiles involved moving the camels back one space. This created somewhat of a stack and a jam during the first third of the race. Once a camel broke free with a die roll of 3, we were on the way to the finish.

The final stretch !

As it turns out, my shrewd gamble on the orange camel when it was leading halfway through the race gave me enough end game money for the win (by one point). It took some trickery and luck but I swear it spoke to me "A winner is me", so I couldn't back away from such strong attraction by a camel could I?
As for the last placed camel, it was a fight between green and white. It seemed like it would definitely be white, but due to the stacking mechanism, it almost became the green camel. It led to the last die roll of the green camel to decide who was going to end up being last; and I think that that made things exciting.

Anyway, it was a good game overall. I won't tell you what I think of it in regards to the Spiel Des Jahres award, for that you will have to wait for our podcast episode. :P
As for my friends, one of them really liked Camel Up. He kept saying how ( surprisingly ) fun it was, and he liked it as much as Splendor. The other thought it was ok, but Splendor is still the superior game. In his own words, "Camel Up is not game of the year material". But, when it comes to racing games, Horse Fever is still the best. That was pretty much unanimous. Haha. All of us hold a soft spot for Horse Fever in our hearts.

Are we heading for a photo finish ?

Some notes about the game itself

The pyramid dice roller is a great great game component. It looks good, feels good, and it works. Yes it is gimmicky, you can just pull the dice from a bag and roll it, but because of how it functions, everyone wants to be the one to roll the dice.

The game went by quickly. I can't remember how long we took but it didn't feel long at all.
I do wonder how it would play with more than 6 players though. Because a leg ends when all 5 dice are rolled, so in theory, in maybe a 7 or 8 player game, there could be a possibility that some players only get 1 turn that leg. That would suck, but I cannot confirm that such a scenario would exist, I am just using math and probability.

There seems to be very few choices in the game, and there were times when I felt that there was nothing interesting left to do so I just had to roll the dice.
That's usually not a sign of good game design but for what it's worth, I didn't really mind it at all.

It was hard for me to envision the constant lead changes when I read the rules, but after my initial play ( and if you look at the photos ), I will say that due to the short movement range of the camels, ANYTHING is possible. Don't count any camel out till the one true victor has crossed the finish line

What kind of session report would this be without at least a small nugget of my opinion right?
I said I would save most of my opinion for the podcast, but I will at least say right now that the game I played was fun. :)

My haul of money thanks to the winning orange camel



  1. where did you buy camel up?

  2. Hi Shiqin !

    I bought it online through a French website - Philibert
    Shipping was quick, but not cheap.

    They had a fire sale on Metropolys so i bundled up a bunch of games together and shipped them over