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Subject: Review: Deluxe Camping rss

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Scott Tepper
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Continuing my series of games that you might not have played yet because they haven’t been translated into English, I present you with Deluxe Camping. This 2006 release by Vincent Everaert and Asmodee made nary a ripple in the US, which is a little curious considering that it’s well produced, and lesser games have made bigger splashes.

Deluxe Camping is a land grab game that falls functionally somewhere between the pencil and paper game, Boxes, and one of my favorite boardgames, Domaine. Surprisingly, Deluxe Camping is possibly slightly more thematic and less luck dependent than the latter, although the general mechanics are similar.

In Deluxe Camping the players are families trying to stake out the biggest and most attractive real estate in a camping ground. Although it would have been nice had Asmodee splurged and given DC the Days of Wonder treatment, the game components are decent. Each player receives a differently colored cabana(that must be punched out and put together before the first playing) and 6, 4 or 2 colored wooden trailers(depending on if you are playing with 2, 3, or 4 players). The colorful gameboard depicts a campground, which is really just a rectangle segmented into 7x10 squares. At the beginning of the game, 4 tokens representing a swimming pool, a Pain-In-The-Neck, and a couple of ice cream stands are placed on the board. A supply of rectangular wooden sticks which represent fences are placed next to the board.

Before the game begins, the players place the 4 above-mentioned tokens on the board, which results in a different setup every time you play. Then players take turns placing their cabanas and trailers on the board. No more than one item can ever occupy a single square during the game. After all trailers and cabanas have been placed, fences are placed on the lines between squares where 2 opponents have trailers or cabanas directly adjacent to each other.

The object of the game is to claim areas by surrounding them with fences with only a single player’s trailers or cabana in the enclosure. On a player’s turn, they have a maximum of 2 movement points(one square horizontally or vertically per point) which they may allocate between their own trailers and/or the Pain-In-The-Neck guy. After movement is finished, if a player’s trailer is adjacent to an opponent’s trailer or cabana, you automatically place a fence on the line(s) between them. Additionally, you get to place one fence anywhere on the board as long as it does not enclose an area that has no player piece in it, nor can it be placed within an already completed enclosure. An area is considered enclosed if it is entirely surrounded, either by fences, or by the gameboard border, and it contains a trailer(or trailers) and/or cabana belonging only to a single player.

Once all of a player’s areas have been enclosed, they can no longer take turns. The game ends when no one can take a turn(everything has been enclosed). Then the players tally up their scores. For each square a player has in one of their enclosures, they receive one point. If you have the pool in your area, you multiply the squares of its enclosure by 2. If you’ve enclosed one of the ice cream stands, you receive a 5 point bonus. The Pain-In-The-Neck in your area will subtract 10 points from your score. After adding up all the areas, the player with the most points wins.

So how does Deluxe Camping play? It depends on the number of players. With only two players, DC feels more abstract-strateg-ey, each player trying to cagily best their opponent. With 3, and even more so with 4 players, the game becomes a little more chaotic and kind of mean. When you have 3 players taking turns before you get your next go around, all sorts of viciousness can pop up. For example, a player’s trailer could be enclosed in a single square enclosure if her opponents work together and are so inclined. Another diabolical tactic is to use your movement points to position the Pain-In-The-Neck next to another player’s camper, and then wall them in together.

Thus, when playing with multiple players, it’s important to be conscious of the meta-game. If you jump ahead in claimed territory during the game, the other players may be inclined to work together to prevent you from making further larger scoring areas. This is not the game to play with people who will hold a grudge.

Aside from the weak title(I think there are many adjectives that would have made a better title with Camping than “Deluxe”), the potential mean-spiritedness of play that frequently arises in this game may be the main reason why American publishers never picked up Deluxe Camping. A game where players can be ganged up to the point that a player can effectively be eliminated from play doesn’t fit the typical Eurogame model. It is not unusual to see a wide swing of scores in a 4-player game, with one player only getting a handful of points while another player receives 3 or 4 times that many points. When playing with 2 or 3 players, the scores are usually closer.

While the bits in the game are generally nice looking, I’m not terribly fond of the cabanas. They’re made of a thick paper that’s not quite sturdy enough to hold the roofs to the walls by their punch-tab-slots alone. Each time I take out the game we have to re-connect the cabana components because they pop apart during storage. This should be easily corrected with a little glue, but even after many plays of the game, I still haven’t gotten around to it yet.

The 4 previous paragraphs may lead you to believe that I don’t enjoy Deluxe Camping, but the opposite is true. I think this is a great game. It’s quick and easy to teach and seems to appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. More important, though, is that the game is fun. The tug of war feel sensation as you struggle to acquire more territory, as your opponents are attempting to deprive you of it, creates a lively tension, and produces even livelier comments from players…provided you’re playing with good sports!

Deluxe Camping Overview

Components: good, language independent
Rulebook: in French, translation available on BGG
Rules explanation: 5 minutes
Game length: 45 minutes
Luck: very small.
Plays differently with 2, 3, 4 players
Replayability: good
Spirit of the game: potential for meanness

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EGG Head
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So far I think 3 players is the sweet spot for this game IMHO. Your opponents can't quite lock one of your trailers in completely but the board is crowded enough for some tension. It took me a few plays to get the hang of the game as the translated rules seem vague and it doesn't seem like you should be able to lock a player out but you can! muhaha! Available for online play at www.boiteajeux.net.
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