Gameday First Play – Camel Up

Posted on by Jesta

The 2014 Spiel Des Jahres winner.

Camel racing with the worse dice shaker ever.

In Camel Up, up to eight players bet on five racing camels, trying to suss out which will place first and second in a quick race around a pyramid. The earlier you place your bet, the more you can win — should you guess correctly, of course. Camels don’t run neatly, however, sometimes landing on top of another one and being carried toward the finish line. Who’s going to run when? That all depends on how the dice come out of the pyramid dice shaker, which releases one die at a time when players pause from their bets long enough to see who’s actually moving!

In this game you’re trying to gain money by betting on racing camels in Egypt. The Camels move with dice dropped out a pyramid and when each camel has moved once that ends a ‘leg’, things reset and this repeats.

When one camel crosses the finish line (3-5 legs I think) the game ends, with players trying to gain the most money over the course of the game.

You can do one of 4 things on your turn

1 – Take a leg betting tile – When you do this you’re backing that colour camel to be first (or maybe second) at the end of the current leg. These can win you various amounts with the tiles taken earlier in the round worth more but obviously the earlier you take one, the harder it is to predict the winner.

I never took one of these in the game we played and I did OK in the end. You can take as many as you like so it’s possible you could take all 3 of one colour camel and end up doing quite well.

2 – Place your desert tile – Each player has their own desert tile. You can place it on an empty space, not adjacent to another desert tile on the board. These are removed at the end of each leg (a rule which we played wrong in our game) but while they’re on the board whenever a camel lands on a tile, the owner immediately gains £1.

£1, as it happens, is a big deal.

If you want you can take an action to move your tile if it’s already on the board using the same placement rules.

The tiles are dual sided and either side can be played. The desert side will move camels forward one space and the Mirage side back one. These make the game pretty cool and add something to betting element. You have to take into account so much already and have these +1 and -1 movement spaces randomly on the board is quite interesting.

Camel Up Board

3 – Take a Pyramid tile – Shake the Pyramid, release a die, move the camel matching the colour of the dice that many spaces. The cool part is when a camel moves you also move any camels on top of it. The camel on the top of a stack (or unit as they’re called) is considered ‘in front’.

If moving forwards, if the unit lands on camels on that space, they are placed on top increasing the size of the stack. If moving backwards from a Mirage, it goes underneath the camels on the previous space.

The movement is great. As each camel only moves once per leg you’d think it would be easy to pick a winner. But if a camel jumps on top of your camel before the one you have bet on moves… it can never win the leg… soul crushing!

Although its not as bad as having your camel move back a space and sliding under a unit into 3rd place.

4 – Bet on overall winner/loser – Place a betting card face down on either spot.

As with betting on a leg, the earlier you do this the more you stand to win. But there is a penalty for getting it wrong so you need to be careful!

But… if you’re brave, or very clever, you can get quite a bit of income from this at the end of the game.

End of a leg

Once everyone has moved, the leg ends.

You pay out for leg betting tiles for leading camels and £1 for second place
Other players lose £1 for incorrect tiles that they picked
Each player who took a Pyramid (movement) tile gains £1 for each of them
Then return all leg, pyramid and desert tiles, return the dice to the Pyramid and start a new leg

End of Game

As soon as the first camel crosses the finishing line the game ends and you carry out leg scoring as usual.

Then you turn the winner deck face up and resolve in order from card played first to last with the first player picking the correct winner gaining £8, then £5, £3, £2 and £1 to the rest of the fortunate ones.

The owner of any card of the wrong colour pays £1 to the bank. This £1 doesn’t seem like much but it all adds up if you make too many rash decisions.

Repeat this process for the overall loser card which works in the same way as the winner.

Whoever has the most money wins and there are no tie breakers. which is odd as the ‘highest place winner card’ should get it I would think… oh well.

Not a bad game… not Game of the Year either. Having played both Splendor and Concept I would put this one 3rd on the list.

Still, a cheap copy was available so I should own this by the weekend, so it can’t be that bad 🙂

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