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Now let me start by saying that by the title I mean I have only ever played this game with adults – not that this review is going to be 18+ rated! There are plenty of reviews on how this game is “fun for all the family” and while I’m sure that’s true, that is not the focus of this review.
So! Camel Up is the 2014 Spiel des Jahres winner, which plays 2-8 and can be completed in half an hour. Your aim is to end the game with the most money, by betting on Camels moving around a race track. Is it fun with an all-adult group however? The short answer – yes!
This game is simple, and you only have 4 things you can do on your turn, but it can be hard to calculate the best move to make right now. Should you:
Roll the dice and move a camel? You gain 1 coin but you give other players information.
Bet on a camel winning the leg? Betting early means bigger wins, but bigger risks with less information.
Bet on a camel winning/losing the race? Again, betting early means higher rewards, but is riskier.
Place a tile to influence the race? You can gain money and increase your odds of winning your bets or sabotaging other people’s bets, but at the expense of an early bet and also giving everyone else more information...
Without kids in the game, you can play mean without having to feel bad! Make a long term bet and use tiles to manipulate the odds. Sabotage the other players by putting a negative tile in front of a camel stack. Play mind games by pointing out the excellent position of good old green when they are deciding whether to put a bet on yellow or orange.
There is much more strategy to this game than just picking the camel closer to the front. At most points in the game, any camel could theoretically win the game and/or leg. This leads to a lot of risk/reward calculations, and decisions on whether to play tactically or strategically. This also changes with player count – in a lower player count game, you can be guaranteed of having a next turn. In a larger player count game – you may not even get a turn in a leg. One strategy will not fit all!
The pros of this game for an adult audience is that it’s easy to explain and grasp – you can see adult players forming strategies in their heads as you explain. It’s quick so you can fit in multiple games in a session, with people dropping in and out between games with no fuss.
The cons of this game for an adult audience: it can be hard to sell because of the “family friendly” art work. It can also be slow – I can imagine while children may go with their gut, my experience is adult players can take rather a long time to calculate the best move for them on their go, especially if something drastic happened just before their turn.
On the face of it, the game can look quite childish and overly simple, however I can state from experience that this is not the case. We have had many laughs playing this game – it really is a lot of fun! The joy when your risky plan comes together, the devastated groans when the favourite slides backwards and ends up at the bottom of the stack. I have even had requests from my family to “bring that camel game” to Christmas, so they must have enjoyed it!
Shout out to my Secret Santa 2016 for challenging me to write a review
I agree with everything you've said about this game. I'm glad there are play through videos online or I'd have never considered buying it. There is definitely more to this game than there appears on the surface. It's lots of fun to play and quick so new players can learn quickly by getting multiple games in in one sitting.