I finally had a chance to play Camel Up, the 2014 Spiel des Jahres winner designed by Steffen Bogen and published by Pegasus Spiele. This one hasn’t been released in the US quite yet, but it should hit the shelves of your FLGS sometime before Christmas. I had already played the other two SdJ nominees, Splendor and Concept, but thanks to Doug and Shelly Garrett, hosts of the Garrett’s Games and Geekiness podcast, I was able to try this year’s award winner. I actually played two camel games on that day. The other one was Das Letzte Kamel, which was a very fun racing game that reminded me a bit of Heimlich and Co.
In spite of a relatively small footprint, you can play Camel Up with up to eight players, but I would wager it’s best with four or five. You should be able to get through a game in about 30 minutes. The theme of the game is betting money on an animal race, so it’s appropriate for all ages. Remember parents, little Timmy will eventually need to know his way around an actual track so he can try and scare up some simoleons in order to get his drums back from the pawn shop.
Camel Up is beautifully produced and features some very whimsical art by Dennis Lohausen. I think the production value is what made the SdJ judges choose this game over Splendor. Not necessarily the choice I would have made, but once again, I was overlooked in the panel nominations. Go figure. You get a game board, five stackable wooden camels that stack on top of each other precisely like real camels, game tiles, cards, coins, and a pyramid that poops out colorful wooden dice. Yes, the most eye-grabbing feature of Camel Up is a cube pooping pyramid. Oddly enough, in the ancient scrolls of Thoth-Carl, the squinty-eyed god of cosmetics, keeper of the kinda sacred cheese of Faiyum, it was prophesied that one day the pyramids would be turned upside down and made to poop out cubes.
At first glance, you might think Camel Up is a racing game, but it’s actually a betting game. Your goal is to make as much money as you can by making wagers as the camels make their way around the great pooping pyramid. On your turn, you have the option of betting on the winner or loser of the overall race or betting who will be out in front at the end of the current leg of the race. You can choose not to wager and instead use the dice pooping pyramid to move a camel along the track, or you can place a tile along the track that will make a camel move forward or back an additional space.
The color of the die that is pooped out by the pyramid determines the color of the camel and how far it will move. Once all of the camels have moved then that leg of the race is evaluated and bets are paid. If a camel moves forward to a space currently occupied by another camel then it stacks on top it and is considered ahead of the camel on which it stands. … One camel, indivisible, with spiced tea and falafel for all. Once a camel reaches the finish line, then the overall bets are paid and the game ends.
I had fun with Camel Up and I think it’s a good game. I’m not sure that I will buy a copy, but I’d be happy to play it again if it hits the table. I did enjoy how quickly the game moved along, and I really liked the chunky wooden camels and the fun art. I might end up buying this just because I think it may appeal to non-gamers. This would be an easy one to bring to a family gathering and it’s so visually appealing that it might just suck in some of my in-laws. I recommend that you try it before you buy it.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2014 winner, Camel Up, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.