Camel Up Review - Box Feature

Camel Up 2nd Edition Review: Desert Chaos

Play Time: 30-45 Mins / Players: 3-8 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ we think 6+ / Publisher: Eggertspiele / Designer: Steffan Bogen

Camel Up Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (8 &11).
Teen rating from our son (15).

Camel Up is a fun light-hearted game with a great theme that is well implemented. There are plenty of surprises in each game to keep things interesting. But there is a fair dose of luck here and we find it’s best in small doses.

2.8

Pros

  • Very simple to learn
  • Accommodates up to 8 players well
  • Keeps everyone engaged even on other players’ turns
  • The components are fantastic
  • The Camel Racing theme makes it fun for a wide age range.

Cons

  • High degree of luck
  • One game is usually enough as there isn’t a lot of strategy here.

What You Will Find in Our Camel Up Review


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With so many board games out there, it must be challenging to come up with an idea that will stand out and get people curious. Racing games for example, are not unusual, but a game with stackable camels racing through the desert got my attention. I immediately had a mental image of lanky racing camels climbing all over each other in a frantic and precarious effort to reach the finish line. Designer Steffan Bogen and publisher Eggertspiele were at least successful in hooking me in enough to give the game a try at our local café with the family. In our first Camel Up playthrough, we had so much fun betting on these peculiar camels I decided to buy a copy when we got home. It seems we are in good company as Camel Up won the 2014 Spiel des Jahres award. So, after having Camel Up for about 4 months now does it still have the same appeal? In short yes, but in small doses.

How to Play Camel Up

Objective

Welcome to the craziest camel race you have ever seen. Just about anything can happen here, camels can carry other camels across the track and crazy camels can carry favourites backwards dashing their chances. Amongst all the chaos your goal is to strike it rich by backing the right camels and winning the most Egyptian Pounds at the track.

Set Up 

Set up for Camel Up is pretty quick once you know what you’re doing but can seem a little fiddly at first. The board has some great spaces outlined to make it easier to figure out where everything goes. Essentially there are betting tickets to place, a cool toy pyramid that spits out coloured dice when you press a button, some pyramid tickets and coins. Each player also receives a set of finish cards, a spectator tile and three coins.

It seems you have arrived at the track a little late and the camels have already dashed out of the starting gates. The final thing you need to do is roll each coloured dice and place the camels in the appropriate starting spot. That includes the two crazy camels that will be placed near the end of the tracks according to their respective dice rolls.

Camel Up Review - Game Set Up
Camel Up set up and ready to play. It doesn’t take long to get going with this game.

Gameplay

Gameplay is simple here, a lot of it involves what you would expect, making bets on your favoured camel’s but there are a few other options to keep things interesting. On your turn you can:

  • Bet on the winner of the leg by grabbing the top ticket of any of the coloured stacks
  • Place a spectator tile onto the racetrack, depending on the side you pick they will either propel a camel forward (cheers) if they land on it or send them back a space (jeers). Essentially, they mess with the racing camels to influence the result
  • Take 1 pyramid ticket and use the pyramid to roll a random die. There is a coloured die for each camel and the matching camel will then be moved a few spaces forward according to the die result
  • Bet on the overall winner or loser of the race by placing one of your coloured finish cards on the relevant spots on the board. These are secret bets and are placed face down so no one knows what bet has been placed already.

If you happen to be playing with 6 or more people, then you have a 5th option to choose during your turn. You can enter a betting partnership with another player which will essentially allow you to gain the rewards from one of their betting tickets. There is no penalty to the other player, they will still get their full pay-out.

The decisions here mainly boil down to timing. The longer you wait to place your bets on the outcome of the leg or race the more information you have to work with. This can mean you can bet more confidently, but it also means others may have snatched the more lucrative rewards before you. It adds a nice tension to the game as it progresses because you are trying to pick the optimal time to place your bets without missing out on the big rewards. Conversely if you bet too early you have less certainty on the outcome and the fickle roll of the dice could sink your bets.

Camel Up Review - Betting Tickets
The betting tickets at the top of the stack are more valuable. This means if you bet early the rewards are greater.

One thing I should mention is that these camels apparently have great balance and if they land on one of their competitors, they will stack on top of the camel beneath them. If any of the camels beneath them move forward around the track they will happily come along for the ride and get carried forward. The catch is that the camel on the top of the stack is in the lead. It hardly seems fair, but it is possible for a lazy camel to be carried a fair way to victory simply by being lucky enough to be at the top of a precariously balanced stack of coloured camels.

The other thing which spices things up a bit is the crazy camels. These poor animals are a bit confused and are actually running the race backwards. They have been disqualified but they don’t seem to care, they would like to have an impact on the race anyway. These camels are activated when the grey die pops out of the toy pyramid. Where they can really throw a spanner in the works is when one or more of the other racing camels lands on their backs as they then carry them backwards on the track ruining their progress. That blue camel that looked like a sure thing a few turns back could end up being carried back towards the start line with an unlucky roll and ruin your bets. Not everyone in our household is a fan of the crazy camels, my son and I think they are a lot of fun, my wife doesn’t like them at all because they add too much chaos for her. The great thing is, if you don’t like them, they are easily excluded from the game.

Camel Up Review - Pyramid and Racing Camels
The cool pyramid is used when you choose to roll dice. The button on the side releases a die when pushed.

Once five dice have been rolled, that leg of the race is finished. There is a brief pause in the betting action to tally up money won or lost during the leg. If you happen to have any betting tickets for the leg you will get Egyptian Pounds coming your way if you bet correctly, conversely if your bet didn’t come through you will lose one pound. At this stage you will also collect coins for any pyramid tickets you gathered during the leg. This is also a good time to brag about your winnings if you feel like you’re ahead or curse the dice for your empty pockets if you haven’t had any luck. To start the next leg each player returns their betting tickets to the appropriate spots on the board and the dice go back into the pyramid.

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End Game

The game ends when the first camel crosses the finish line to the thunderous applause of the winning backers and jeers of everyone else around the table. The players will then collect any winnings for the final leg as explained above and receive or pay Egyptian Pounds according to their bets on the overall winners and losers of the race. As I explained earlier picking the winner or loser is only part of the challenge, the other part that comes into play is whether anyone else picked the winner before you. The players who picked the winner or loser first will get the maximum pay-out, all subsequent bets get a progressively lower pay-out. Once all the money has been tallied the player who accumulated the most money wins.

Camel Up Gameplay Experience  

If you have read through our description of how to play Camel Up, you are probably thinking it sounds a bit chaotic and it is. The racing camels are at the mercy of the dice and just about anything can happen even when you think you are betting on a sure thing. So don’t expect to do a lot of planning ahead or strategizing, this game is all about light-hearted fun with a healthy dose of luck. But it still has a lot going for it.

It’s the sort of game you can roll out when you have friends coming over and be able to set up and teach in minutes. People I have taught this game to generally tend to grasp it within the first couple of turns.

Camel Up Review - Character Cards
Each player gets a set of finish cards to bet on the overall winner or loser of the race. Timing this right is important as you get a bigger payout if you bet before other players.

It’s also the sort of game that keeps people engaged throughout the game regardless of whose turn it is because the outcome of the dice rolls, and other people’s bets directly affect everyone else. It’s not uncommon to have players off their seats yelling at the dice. 

The decisions are also simple enough for a wide age range to be able to be competitive. The main decisions as I mentioned boil down to timing your bets on the leg and the race. This makes it an easy game to bring out when we have other families come around with younger kids. They often get a kick out of the cooky racing camel theme too.

There is also a fair amount of opportunity for an upset with the crazy camels that add some spice to the game. They can easily change the shape of the game and a favourite can be brought out of contention as they carry camels backwards.

We had one game where the green camel was behind the whole race, my son placed an early bet on this camel losing the race, eventually most of us followed suit. Blue was in the lead until near the end and a favourite to win until a crazy camel carried them back along with a teetering stack of other camels. Our somewhat meandering green camel was then able to comfortably cruise across the finish line for an unexpected win.

Camel Up Review - Racing Camels
The camels in this game stack and they will carry any camels on top of them along for the ride when they move.

As you can see there is a lot of light-hearted fun to be had here provided you don’t expect anything too deep or strategic. While most people who we’ve played this game with have had a good time, there are a few that simply didn’t enjoy it. If you don’t like a high degree of luck in your games this game is probably not going to appeal.

The other thing we have found is that while this is a fun game to bring out once in a while, we find one or two games is normally enough for us. It isn’t the sort of game we would play over and over again. There just isn’t enough strategy here to keep us engaged for multiple plays in a night.

Components

Camel Up Review - Components
The components are good quality, look great and really fit the theme nicely.

The components in Camel Up are a real strong point. When you first unfold the board, you are greeted by a large pop-up 3D palm tree which is very impressive. All the artwork and colour scheme look great once you have everything set up on the table.

The toy pyramid is also a really cool idea that adds a lot of fun when the dice rolling happens. The remaining cards, tokens and coins are all good quality. It all just looks so good on the table and is likely to appeal to kids.

Theme

The camel racing theme is a little crazy and is likely to appeal to a broad age range. For quite a simple game it does a great job of giving you the feel of a chaotic race in the desert and the components fit the theme so well.

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Final Thoughts on Camel Up

Camel Up is a great game to bring out when you have a group of varied ages and abilities. It is very easy to learn, and everyone is in with a shot to do well regardless of how new they are to the game. The theme is very well implemented, and the gameplay tends to keep people engaged throughout.

We all enjoy Camel Up in our household, but we find it’s best played once or twice in a sitting, there isn’t enough depth here to keep playing more than that.

If you don’t like luck in your games, I don’t think Camel Up will change your mind, there is a fair dose of luck due to the dice rolls driving the progress of the racing camels on the track.

Is Camel Up easy to learn? Yes, very easy to learn.

What will Camel Up teach my kids? This is a game about betting on camels and essentially the luck of the dice. There is some limited opportunity to learn about probabilities, but parents should be aware this is simulating betting on a race. This may be an issue for some.   

What age is appropriate for Camel Up?  The box says 8+ but I think kids 6 and up would have no trouble with Camel Up.

Does Camel Up have good replay value? I think Camel Up is best in small doses, we don’t normally play many games in a row. The luck of the dice and the crazy camels will keep things interesting from game to game though as the outcome is never really predictable.

We hope you enjoyed our Camel Up review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are six dice but only five tents do all the dice get rolled each leg?

No, only five dice will be rolled before the leg is over. This means one random dice will not be rolled in each leg.

Which crazy camel do you move if both crazy camels have racing camels on their backs?

You would move the camel that corresponds to the colour on the dice. The exception would be if only one crazy camel had other camels on its back, then it would be the one to move regardless of the coloured number that came up on the grey dice.

What happens if a crazy camel is on top of a stack of camels and wins the leg or the race?

The rules state that the crazy camels are entirely ignored for ranking purposes, so the next coloured camel below them would be deemed the winner.

Can a crazy camel be carried forward on the track by one of the other camels if they land on them?

Yes, if a crazy camel is stacked on top of another camel, it will move with the camel below it when it’s moved.

Do the spectator tiles get cleared from the board at the end of each leg?

Yes, this is part of the cleanup phase in the rule book. They are returned to their owners at the end of each leg.

Can you play Camel Up without the crazy camels?

Yes, just remove the camels and the grey dice from the game.

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