Friday, December 19, 2014

The Race is On: A Review of Camel Up

The race is on in Camel Up, an easy, fast paced game for all.  The goal is to win the most money by making wagers on which camel you think will win or lose. It is not as straight forward as you think--you never know what will happen next in this exciting game. If you are trying to decide whether to buy this game, here are the pros and cons.  For the record, there really aren't any cons but I do list a few that some might notice.


Pros:

  • The game is unpredictable and it makes it more exciting to play.
  • Up to 8 people can play this game so it is great for parties and family gatherings.
  • This game fits a broad age group.  The box says it is for 8 and up but my 5 year old plays it (and can even win)!  Once, we played this game with a 5 year old, 8 year old, 10 year old, two 30-somethings and a grandma.  Everyone had fun.  
  • A single game only takes 30 minutes...it's a great way to end the day or fill up extra time.
  • It is visually appealing.
  • The pyramid dice rolling mechanism is really neat and unusual.
  • This game is very easy to learn to play. For those who are not avid board gamers, it is not intimidating.
  • The game pieces and board are sturdy.
Cons:

  • This game costs between $40 and $50.  Board game enthusiasts know this is not unusual.  If you are new to world of hobby board games, this may seem like too much.  Just so you know, this game is not a gamble--it is worth every penny.
  • Luck is a major factor in this game.  For those who love strategy and controlling the game, this may be frustrating.  While I enjoy strategy games, I really love the minimal strategy use in this game.  
  • This is not a game I would let my children play alone.  I'd be nervous they would break the pyramid or damage the pieces.  Actually, I really don't let my kids play any of our games alone. This isn't a bad thing--it means I can skip the dishes to play games when the kids ask.  I just can't fault any game that gives me a reason to play more games.

To sum up, BUY THIS GAME! Hopefully by now you are convinced and you want to learn to play.
Here's how to get started!

 First, let's set up the game and learn about the game board and pieces.

The game board looks like this before all the different elements are added.



Place the pyramid tiles.


Organize the Leg Betting tiles by color.

Stack them on the coordinating camel color. The 2 should go first, followed by 3, and then 5.  The 5 should be on top.



Place the camels onto to their color coordinating tents by the Leg Betting Tiles.



Sort the Egyptian pounds and cards by value and place them as a supply next to the game board as the bank. Give each player 3 Egyptian pounds.



Each player chooses a betting character. Each character has a 5 race betting cards, one for each color of camel.


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Each player receives  a desert tile that go with the character of their choice.


The youngest player rolls all 5 dice at the same time. They each have six sides: 2 sides each for the numbers 1,2, or 3.


If this player rolls the green die and gets a one, the green camel is placed on space 1.  If this player rolls a orange die and gets a two, the orange camel is placed on the two.  If more than one die rolls the same number, then the camels stack on top of each other on that space.  So if I rolled a three for both blue and white, they would be stacked together on the third space. At this point, the order of stacking doesn't matter so stack them however you'd like.



Place the 5 dice into the assembled Pyramid and put that on its space on the game board.



Now let's play. The younger player goes first and holds the Leg Starting Marker.


The game is broken up into legs.  You can win coins by wagering on who will win each leg of the race.  On your turn, you can perform one of the following actions:

1. Take a Pyramid Tile
Choose one pyramid tile.  Then shake the pyramid, turn it upside down, push the slide mechanism, and reveal the die.  Using the pyramid is so fun! It's definitely the kids' favorite part.  One die should come out.  If it is green, move the green camel as many spaces as are on the die.

Here's some info on camel movement. The camels move clockwise unless a desert tile sends them backwards. When a colored die is rolled, the coordinating camel must move as many spaces are rolled.

 If a camel lands on a space with other camels, it stacks on top of it.

If a colored die is rolled for a camel that has other camels stacked on top of it, the colored camel and the ones on top of it move as well.  Camels below the rolled color remain on their space.  Because of this, some camels will move even when their colored die isn't rolled.

Once a colored die is rolled, place it to on the side of the board until the end of the leg. When all the pyramid tiles are taken and all camels have moved, the end of the leg is triggered.  We'll learn more about the end of legs a little later.

If you take a Pyramid Tile, you get one coin for it when you turn it in at the end of a leg.

2. Take a Leg Betting Tile
Take the top leg betting tile from one stack.  If you think the blue camel is going to win, you can take a blue Leg Betting Tile for that color.  The sooner you take a winner's Leg Betting Tile, the more you win.  The first backer of the winning color wins 5, the second wins three and the third wins two.  Beware--if you back a camel that doesn't win, you lose a coin! You may take as many Leg Betting tiles as you like but just know you will lose Egyptian pounds if you don't win.  Let's say you thought blue was winning and you took a Blue Leg Betting tile but then it began to look like orange would win.  You can take an orange Leg Betting tile too.  You will gain coins for the one that wins and lose a coin for the one that loses.

3. Use your Desert Tile
You may place your desert tile as an action. The rules for placing your desert tile are:
 It must be placed on an empty space (no camels or desert tiles).
 It cannot be placed next to another desert tile.
You can place a desert tile with the oasis side up.  If a camel lands on this, it will move forward one space. When it moves forward and lands on a space with a camel or camel stack, it goes on top.


If you place it with the mirage side up, a camel that lands on it moves backwards one space.  When it moves backwards and lands on a space with a camel or camel stack, it goes on bottom.


These desert tiles can be game changers.  You can use them to attempt to manipulate the race but of course, sometimes things don't go like you planned.  This is one of the coolest aspects of the game! You never know what will happen next.

4.  You can bet on the overall loser or winner.  
Secretly choose one of your Race Betting cards in the color of the camel you think will win or lose and place it on the space on the board.



Once your card is placed, it can't be moved or taken back.  You can lay down as many as you like but you will lose one coin at the end of the game for any wagers that were incorrect. This is tricky.  If you are first to choose the winner or loser, you get a larger reward.  By playing first, you usually take the greatest risk. The earlier you choose a winner or loser, the longer there is for the game to change.  Because of the camel stacking, things can change in an instant.

So those are the all the actions you can do on your turn.

 Let's talk about what to do at the end of a leg.  When the last pyramid tile is played and the last die is rolled, the end of a leg is triggered. Now is time for the leg scoring round.  First, the person who triggered the end of the leg gives the Leg Starting Marker to the person on the left of him or her. Then, figure out who the leading camel is.  It will be the camel on the space closest to the finish line.  If there is a stack of camels in the lead,  the one on top is the winner of the leg. Now, each person loses or wins Egyptian pounds according to which betting tiles they have taken.  Each tile will explain the amount you win or lose. Any player with Betting Tiles for camels not in the lead lose one Egyptian pound.  Players who chose the leading camel are awarded with 5, 3 or 2 Egyptian pounds, depending on the Betting Tile they collected.   Also, each player gains 1 Egyptian Pound for  each of the pyramid tiles they collected.  Then, each player also removes their Desert Tile from the board to be placed in the next leg if he or she wishes. They also return their pyramid tiles to the board. Finally, return all the dice to the pyramid  and begin another leg. The Person with the Leg Starting Marker starts the next leg.

The number of legs per game varies.  The game ends when one camel or camel stack crosses the finish line.


If it is a stack, the camel on top is the overall winner.  In the above picture, the overall winner is yellow and the overall loser is blue. Now you must determine who won the bet.  I like to start with the overall loser.  The overall loser is the camel that is furthest from the finish line and the lowest in the stack.  Take the face down stack and flip the whole stack over so the card that was played first is on top.   If the first card, correctly predicted the winner that card's owner is paid 8 Egyptian pounds. The next correctly card get's paid 5, the third gets 3 and the fourth gets 2.  Any other correct predictions receive 1.   Any incorrect bets lose a coin. Repeat this process for the overall winner.
The person with the most Egyptian pounds wins!

If you aren't sure this game is for you, visit your local game store and give it a try.  Many game stores have store copies for you to try out.  There aren't many games that work for such a wide audience as Camel Up. It is well designed and thought out.  In fact, I think I might go bet on some camel races right now!!!

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