Camel Up! is a 2014 board game about betting on camels racing, but also about camels stacking on camels. While it’s the 2014 Spiel des Jahres winner (and German awards for board games being a huge deal), I wasn’t introduced to it until Randy and Kristy Pitchford challenged us to a game today. No wonder they would introduce it to me – it’s a deviously clever game of probability and gambling for 2-8 players, although it feels like it wouldn’t become fun until 4 players were present.
Each ‘leg’ of the game is played by using the dice pyramid, a clever contraption that randomly rolls one colored dice from its innards. The colors relate to the five colored camels, and the dice control how far the camel of that color moves. Camels that share a space stack on top of each other, and if a camel carrying other camels moves, it takes the others with it. The camel on top is considered in the lead, and that mechanic combined with the randomness of order and movement makes the entire game of probability very simple to visualise, but rather interesting as a game of chance.
Most of the game is built around the idea that acting fast on limited information gives you higher odds of scoring big money or losing a little of it, while safer bets earn you little but can’t lose you any money. Combine that with the earlier game of probability, and you’ve got a fascinating little game of calculations and gambles – and although there is usually one right move to make, playing the game with some mischievous troublemakers really helps the game along. In many ways, Camel Up! is an amazing starting or ending game for a board game night – simple yet full of interesting situations -although it’s just as easy to spend a few hours playing races, hoping for that perfect sequence of events to leave your camel ahead and on top.