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Subject: A Camel Up Review by Grimsby Family Gamers rss

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Paul Silvester
United Kingdom
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Hey folks. I am looking to start up a new blog centreing on the games played by me and my family. Here is a first look at a review of our current favourite game.

Camel Up Review
Camel Up (and definitely not Camel Cup) may not perhaps be the first game you might expect to be reviewed on a family gaming blog. For most people when you think of family board games you might suggest Monopoly, Cluedo or maybe even Risk. And for a very long time we thought that too but times they say are changing and more non-traditional table top games are finding their way into the mainstream. Camel Up is the 2014 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year winner. The award is given by a jury of German-speaking board game critics who review games released in Germany in the preceding twelve months and is highly coveted in the board game industry but is it any good? Let’s find out.

What’s it about then?
In Camel Up 2 – 8 players take on the roles of the Egyptian high society who are in attendance of the most famous and craziest camel race of all time where camels stack up on top of each other and pyramids are turned upside down! The aim of the game is to be the player who has gained the most money during the course of the race, with opportunities to win big bucks for the overall winner, as well as betting on who will win each leg.

Wait a minute! A family friendly game involving gambling, are we sure?
Although bets are placed, we don’t think any youngsters would think of this as gambling and in fact 9 year old Miss Gamer is probably Camel Up’s biggest fan.

Setting up the game will take around 5 minutes and a typical 4 player game takes about 30 to 40 minutes. When it is your turn each player can perform one of four different actions; take a leg betting tile, placing your desert tile, taking a pyramid tile or betting on the overall winner or loser. Let’s look at these options in more detail.

Take a leg betting tile – During the set-up each camel will have 3 betting tiles each with a different amount (5, 3 and 2). If you are the first player to take a camel betting tile and that camel wins you will gain the most (5 Egyptian Pounds (EPs)) as you took the risk the earliest, the second player will get 3 EPs and the third 2 EPs. If that camel came second rather than first, then everyone who took a tile would gain 1 EP. The risk we mentioned earlier is that if the camel you pick comes third, fourth or fifth then you have to pay 1 EP back to the bank.

Placing your desert tile – Each player is given a dual sided desert tile at the start of the game, which can be used to help or hinder the camels in the race. One side of the tile depicts a desert oasis, which if a camel lands on gives them a quick boost by moving them one place further along the track. The opposite side shows a desert mirage, which if a camel lands on has the opposite effect moving them one place further back on the track. A backward step will also place the camel to the bottom of any camel stack whereas a forward step will place them on top. Whenever a camel stack lands on your tile you earn 1 EP.

Taking a pyramid tile – So how do the camels move we can hear you ask. The movement of the camels are controlled by 5 coloured dice (one for each camel, with numbers 1, 2 or 3) which are placed inside a pyramid dice shaker. Taking a pyramid tile means that you will take the dice shaker, give it a good rattle, turn it upside down and release a dice. This really is a neat little mechanism and the kids enjoy giving the pyramid a good shake. If done correctly one die will emerge randomly allocated a side and the corresponding camel will move that many spaces. A leg will end when all 5 dice have been rolled. If the camel whose die has been rolled has other camels stacked on top of it, then all the camels move the indicated number of spaces.

Betting on the overall winner or loser – The big bucks come from correctly predicting who will win the race, and who will be left eating the Egyptian sand. Each player is given 5 small cards (one for each camel) and they can choose to place a single card face down in either the winner’s enclosure or the losers circle. The cards are face down so that each players bet are kept secret until the end. Players can place more than one card in either the winners or losers pile but much like the leg betting there are big rewards for being the first player to get it right and a small penalty to pay for getting it wrong. At the end of the race the cards are flipped over and the first player to correctly guess the winner gets 8 EP, second 5 EP, third 3 EP, fourth 2 EP and anyone else 1 EP. For every player who incorrectly placed a bet, they all pay 1 EP back to the bank. The same process is repeated for the pile of cards in the loser’s section.
Once the race is over and the final round of bets is paid everyone counts up their Pounds and the player with the most is the winner.

What’s good?
As a family friendly game we feel the best thing about Camel Up is how different it is compared to the likes of Monopoly. Although every player is trying to gain the most money it is all done in a friendly manner, there is no stealing from other players and everyone can take an action on their turn to try and earn coins. This is one of the few games we can play as a family where everyone is happy about the outcome. As mentioned before the pyramid dice shaker is a great little touch that is actually useful and serving of a purpose as well as adding to the theme of the game. The stacking of the camels and the way they move also mean that it is possible for a camel at the back of the pack to come storming through to win at the end meaning more often than not each race is unpredictable.

What’s bad?
Some races can feel like they are dragging on if you roll lots of 1’s and vice versa some races can be over pretty quick if the right dice come out when the camels are stacked. With more than 4 players you can sometimes feel like you have no play other than to roll the dice, which give information to other players who can then take all the betting tiles, leaving you with no other play than to roll the dice. Both of these are addressed by different modules in the expansion pack.

House Rules
To make the game a little simpler for Master Gamer (who is only 4) and even more family friendly we have a couple of house rules we play to. The first is that on each leg your first action is not allowed to be a dice rolling action – but only because we find the kids just love shaking and spinning the pyramid and so each leg would be over after only 2 turns and each race would end with players having less than 10 EPs. Secondly we say that once a desert tile is placed on the board it is not returned at the end of each leg, but can be moved to a different place on the board on your turn. This just helps with the end of leg clean up and means it is one less thing for the younger players to have to worry about. And finally to try and help spread the winnings we play that each player can only take a single leg betting tile from each camel’s stack.

Final Verdict
We feel that Camel Up is deserving of its Game of the Year win and as a family of gamers we highly recommend this to anyone out there who is looking to play an easy to understand game which will appeal to players of all ages and both sexes.
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Kevin Jonas

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Trenton1984 wrote:

What’s bad?
Some races can feel like they are dragging on if you roll lots of 1’s and vice versa some races can be over pretty quick if the right dice come out when the camels are stacked. With more than 4 players you can sometimes feel like you have no play other than to roll the dice, which give information to other players who can then take all the betting tiles, leaving you with no other play than to roll the dice. Both of these are addressed by different modules in the expansion pack.

This. I believe the expansion is required for more than 5 players. While the base game says it can play 8, I have found anything over 5 is tedious and repetitive. A betting pattern occurs and as you said sometimes your best option is to roll dice, but unfortunately every time it is your turn when the betting pattern occurs. The expansion bumps this up to 6 before this happens if you play with at least one module.

I really like this game. I think it plays well with 2 to 5 players. With expansion up to 6 players. Any more players it becomes a long game for what it is.

Most games are exciting because the camels stay fairly bunched up. On the odd chance that the camels spread out and stay spread out the betting becomes obvious and thus the game becomes boring. So in those situations, even if it isn't in my best interest, I setup my desert tile to try to bunch them back together again because having fun is more important.
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Edwin Tait
United States
Indiana
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My kids love this and want to play it pretty much every time we visit the local game store/restaurant (Cafe Meeples, in Richmond, KY--stop by if you're ever heading down I-75). My wife and I get a bit tired of it, but it is a lot of fun as a simple family game. Even my three-year-old can play it, because the choices are very simple (she puts down random bets that often turn out better than my more calculated choices, and she loves to shake the pyramid).
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Paul Silvester
United Kingdom
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sirpoonga wrote:

Most games are exciting because the camels stay fairly bunched up. On the odd chance that the camels spread out and stay spread out the betting becomes obvious and thus the game becomes boring. So in those situations, even if it isn't in my best interest, I setup my desert tile to try to bunch them back together again because having fun is more important.



Absolutely, nothing gets a bigger cheer then a well timed roll for the camel at the back, landing on another camel yet to move, who ends the round in the lead making up 3 or so spaces.
 
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