There are a ton of themed board games out there – many, many with settings like a fantasy world of wizards and orcs, or mechanized killer machines from beyond the stars!  But let’s be honest here: how many games have you seen where the whole point is to watch camels lope around a race track?  And you don’t even play as the camel, but a spectator just watching camels?  And if the camels occupy the same space…they hop on top of each other?

Sounds a bit ridiculous, right?  And it is a little ridiculous – but it’s ridiculous fun.  It’s ‘Camel Up,’ a board game for 2-8 players, and as basic as the game sounds, the strategy involved once the game gets moving is surprisingly deep.  But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me explain the basics of the game for you first.

Each player is a spectator at a camel race, and the object of the game is to bet on the camels’ performance throughout the race to maximize the amount of money you can make – the player with the most coin at the conclusion of the race is the winner.  There are five camels, each a different color, and each have a corresponding die; the dice are six-sided, but only have the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on them.  This is important for the moving mechanics of how the camels get around the racetrack: the dice are put into a pyramid that blindly dispenses one die at a time, so you never know which camel is about to move or how far it will go.  If a camel ends up on a track space that is already occupied by another camel, it “camels up” – it hops on the back of the already-present camel.  So, if the blue camel lands on the space already occupied by the green camel, blue then hops on top of green, and blue is now ahead of green in terms of the race positioning.  Making sense so far?

Players can score by betting on which camels will finish in first and second place during each leg of the race (one leg is equivalent to each camel moving once, then the dice are reset inside the pyramid) in addition to secretly betting on which camel they think will win the overall race (the first one to cross the finish line) and which camel they believe will be in last place when the race ends.  On each player’s turn, he/she may do one of several actions:

• roll the dice in the pyramid (and get one coin for the action)
• take a tile to bet on a certain color camel winning that leg of the race (and get anywhere from 5 coins to actually losing a coin if that camel under-performs on that leg)
• place a secret bet for the overall race winner and loser (and get anywhere from 1 to 8 coins as a reward, depending on how many other players have already guessed at the time you make your guess)
• place a Desert Tile on the board to either hinder or help camels move (the tile is two-sided, with an Oasis to help a camel move forward a space and a Mirage to make a camel move back one space – each time a camel lands on your tile, you gain one coin)

As the camels move around the track and start to inevitably pile up on each other, strategy and math definitely come into play a lot heavier than you might expect.  Even though the camels individually can only move a maximum of three spots, many times camels are “carried” greater lengths.  For example, if the green camel is on top of the blue camel, and blue rolls a three, then blue will take green (and any other camels on top of it) along for the ride; if green then rolls a three of its own, it will “hop off” of blue and move another three spaces, meaning it has now traveled six spaces in one leg.  With this intriguing mechanic, camels that have fallen behind in the race can catch up very quickly, and it’s not uncommon to see a camel go from last place into second or first place due to some beneficial rolling (and perhaps an Oasis tile or two for good measure).

Once one camel makes it all the way around the track and crosses the finish line, that camel wins the race (or if multiple camels in a stack cross, the camel on top wins) and the game is almost over.  Players have been scoring points leg by leg as the game progresses, and once the race is done, then the secret bets for first and last place are revealed and awarded, and final tallying of points occurs – whoever has the most points/money, wins!

‘Camel Up’ is a great game with a ton of replayability – no two games are ever the same.  While the game is designed for 2-8 players, the “sweet spot” for maximum enjoyment seems to be 3-5 players; with only two players, some mechanics become a bit predictable, and six or more players means a lot of waiting around in between your turns, with sometimes only getting one turn per leg.  But the goofy nature of the game and all-ages accessibility – I’ve played separate games with my 30-something friends and my 6-year-old daughter, and both types of game were equally entertaining – makes this a game definitely worth owning.  The verdict on this game is a solid CONTINUE!

CONTINUE: a game you enjoy so much, you’d opt to keep playing more right away if you could!  The highest rating for a game.

Check out our live-stream playing this game, done in conjunction with the fine folks at GameTyrant.com.  We’ll be live-streaming with them every Thursday night around 6:30pm EDT, so be sure and visit their Facebook page to check out the video, and of course, keep visiting our site for written reviews of the games we play and many more!

If Tony Schaab has learned anything about patriotism from sci-fi films, it’s that speeches made to a handful of people in a jet-fighter hangar or other rag-tag military-type settings are damned inspiring!  A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.