Camels riding camels. Pyramids spitting out dice. Completely unnecessary palm trees… this game has it all.
Put on your betting hat as you enter the world of camel racing in Camel Up’s second edition board game. Strap in for this review, though, because not all those camels look quite right…
Brief Overview of Camel Up
Camel Up is a crazy competition where participants place bets on camels that race around a desert track. The aim of the game, which is split into several Legs, is to end up with the most money at the end of the race. It’s a fast-paced, rather silly game, dictated by dice that get spurted out of a plastic Pyramid… obviously.
The second edition introduced two Crazy Camels to the mix. These guys run backward and are sure to add a whole new level of camel-ity to proceedings.
There’s very little skill needed to win. Instead, it’s a matter of how far you can push your luck.
Unboxing Camel Up
Fans of elaborate and almost pointless devices will not be disappointed with Camel Up. In the box you’ll find:
- 1 game board
- 20 Betting Tickets
- 5 Pyramid Tickets
- 80 Egyptian Pounds
- 40 Finish Cards
- 8 Spectator Tiles
- 8 Partnership Cards
- 5 Racing Camels
- 5 Racing Dice
- 2 Crazy Camels
- 1 Grey Die
- 1 Starting Player Marker
- 1 Dice Pyramid
The first thing I noticed was the artwork. I’m a big fan of the colors used here. They’re not too bright or cartoon-like. Instead, they’ve used a dull but intimate color scale, evoking a dusky evening sailing down the River Nile. This was quite a surprise, considering the rather goofy nature of the game, but it adds well to the theme.
Once opened, you’ll find the rulebook sitting on top. This also nicely designed and light on words – always a big bonus for me.
Impressively, the majority of the cards and betting tickets are made out of thick cardboard, rather than flimsy card or paper. Considering the emotional roller-coaster that this game can become, it’s probably safe should anyone attempt to rip up their betting ticket in despair. In a similar vein, I was pleased to see the coins were made out of plastic, rather than cardboard.
The camels are of good quality. They’re designed to be stacked on top of one another (you know, as nature intended), so it’s important they’re well made to avoid being a pain to move around.
On folding out the board, you’ll instantly be struck (perhaps literally) by the pop-up, 3D palm tree protruding out of it. This has no impact on the game itself but it’s hilarious and a great example of the cheesy, tongue-in-cheek nature of this game. The rest of the board is also nicely designed with lots of bright colours and, again, not getting too cartoony.
Finally, and most importantly, we come to the Pyramid. This chunky plastic device is totally unnecessary, but one of the most memorable parts of Camel Up. Instead of shaking the dice in a random pot or (god forbid) your hands, Camel Up lets you do so using an entire tomb to one of the Egyptian pharaohs!
Again, it’s a nice addition to the theme and it makes a big difference to how the game looks and feels. Especially good if you’re playing with kids, as it’s super fun to use.
How to Play Camel Up
When setting up, you roll the five-colored racing dice to determine where each camel starts on the race track. For example, if the red racing die shows a three, then the red camel starts on space 3 of the race track.
If any camels’ racing die rolls the same number, then you stack them!
The second edition also introduces two Crazy Camels, colored black and white. These race backward – as in, run in the wrong direction! – and are placed on the track in the same manner (just facing the opposite way).
All the dice are then put into the pyramid in the middle of the game board.
The race is broken down into Legs. At the end of each Leg, all bets that have been taken out in that period are settled. The end of a Leg happens when five of the six dice have been taken out of the Pyramid.
The youngest player begins the race. Each turn, players have four possible actions they can take:
1) Take a Betting Ticket
Take a betting ticket for the camel you think will be in the lead at the end of the leg. Note that these are stacked so the players who choose betting tickets for each camel first get potentially higher rewards.
2) Place a Spectator Tile
You can place your spectator tile on (almost) any space on the race track. It affects how a camel acts if it lands on that space. You can either have it ‘cheering’ or ‘booing’.
If the former, that camel moves forward one space. If the latter, it moves back one space. Each time a camel lands on it, you also get one Egyptian Pound (the currency of the game).
3) Take a Pyramid Ticket
This is where you can move the camels. Shake the pyramid and reveal one die. Move the corresponding camel the number of spaces shown.
At the end of the Leg, you will receive one Egyptian Pound for each Pyramid Ticket you took.
4) Bet on the Overall Winner/Loser
You can also choose, at any point, to bet on the overall winner or loser of the race. You can do this as many times as you like using your Finish Cards. However, bear in mind, while you can bet on as many camels to win as you like, you can’t withdraw a card once you’ve made the bet.
Note that, at the end of the game, the player that bets on the winning camel first will get the most in return!
The Crazy Camels
The Crazy Camels were added into the game in the second edition of Camel Up. They throw a whole extra element of craziness into the proceedings. These act just like the other camels, they just go around the race track counter-clockwise, causing all sorts of mayhem:
- The regular camels can land on top of the Crazy Camels and, as a result, find themselves going back spaces if the racing die for the Crazy Camel they’re on comes up.
- The Crazy Camels can win the race, thus making all players’ bets null and void (they cannot be bet upon to win).
End of a Leg
When five dice have been taken from the Pyramid, the Leg ends and bets are settled.
Players who have betted tickets for the leading camel are awarded the amount of Egyptian Pounds shown on the ticket. If you chose the camel in second place, you always receive one Egyptian Pound.
For any other betting slips, you must pay one Egyptian Pound into the bank.
All dice are then returned to the Pyramid and a new leg begins.
End of the Race
As soon as a camel crosses the finish line (regular or crazy!), the race ends. Now the end-of-game scoring takes place, settling the bets people made on the overall winner and loser.
Remember, the cards are stacked in order of who made the bet first. Work your way through the deck of cards, awarding 8 Egyptian Pounds to the player who bet on the winning camel first, followed by 5, 3, 2 and 1 for all others in respective order.
Then do the same for the overall loser.
Once all bets have been settled, the players count their Egyptian Pounds. Whoever has the most money wins!
Your First Game of Camel Up
If you want to make things super easy for yourself, perhaps try Camel Up without the Crazy Camels. The original – very popular – edition started this way and it might make it easier to run through with newbies.
Bear in mind that if you are moving a camel that’s part of a stack, only the camel whose die has been rolled and those above it are moved. Anything below it in the stack is left on that space. Similarly, if there is a tie, the camel sat on the top of the stack is considered to be ahead of those below it.
Finally, when ranking camels at the end of a leg, remember to ignore the Crazy Camels. They’re disqualified from the race!
Pros & Cons
- Lots of action and emotion
- The betting system works really well
- Super simple to pick up, perfect for families
- Up to eight players
- All about luck – no real strategy
Camel Up is a game bound to get the heart racing. It works so well because there are so many twists and turns. A camel that was miles behind one moment could be charging into the lead the next. I honestly found myself leaping up from the table at times as the dice tumbled out of the Pyramid and sent my camel into the lead on the back of another camel.
Similarly, I’ve rarely felt as deflated as when Humphrey (that’s what I called him, anyway) found himself gradually being dragged back space-by-space by a Crazy Camel – and my 5 Egyptian Pound bet with it.
But it’s not just the emotion of betting that makes Camel Up so good. The system has been designed to work really well. In particular, the extra returns you make for betting early means the stakes are high right from the word go – there are no rewards for the cautious here. Also, by being broken down into Legs, the excitement comes thick and fast, but always with the overarching race (and your bet on the winner/loser) running throughout.
Camel Up is impressive because it can be easily picked up by all audiences, including families and casual gamers. Play one Leg and everyone should feel pretty confident with what’s going on.
What’s more, it’s handy that this game can be played with up to eight players. There are few options out there that can keep the excitement up when it gets to that many people. And, speaking as one member of a family of six, I know how important that can be.
The only gripe that can be had with this game is that it really is all about luck. So, if you’re looking for a more tactical, thought-out gaming experience, this probably won’t be the game for you. But, either way, Camel Up is worth the investment when you want something a little less demanding on the mind because it’s still a tonne of fun.
Camel Up is a crazy competition in which participants place bets on Camels that race around a desert track. It’s a fast-paced, rather silly game, dictated by dice that get spurted out of a plastic Pyramid… obviously.
It’s a pretty straightforward betting game, but the added elements, such as the camels carrying each other and the addition of the Crazy Camels, means some real miracles can happen. Without realising it, you’ll soon find yourself becoming very emotionally involved with these noble, one-humped creatures.
I really enjoy Camel Up. It’s simplicity and energy make it ideal for injecting a bit of excitement into an evening or keeping the kids more than entertained.
The charm of the game’s sense of humor also leaves a lasting impression. The bizarre Pyramid, the flamboyant palm tree, the fact that camels ride other camels… you just can’t help but smile while playing it.
We hope you enjoyed our Camel Up review and we’d love to hear from you.
Have you tried Camel Up? What did you think? Place your bets with a comment below!