Combining his best investigative journalist hat with his wrestling singlet, Stuart returns to pass judgement on the latest addition to the line-up of Spiel des Jahres winners. While the favourite was undoubtedly Splendor, the crown was eventually taken by Camel Up – and here’s what The Judge has to say on the matter…
Today’s review features a game that, since becoming an unlikely winner of the Spiel des Jahres prize in Germany, raised more questions than answers. I am here to resolve these questions.
1) Should this game have won against worthy rivals Concept and Splendor?
Yes. Concept is more of an activity (albeit an enjoyable one) than a competitive game – especially in so much as like one of my favourite party games Telestrations, dishing out points adds absolutely nothing to the fun of the to the proceedings. Splendor is fun, functional and quick, but it’s also dry. Like, “water biscuit that has spent six weeks in the trench left by a sand snake’s underbelly” dry. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t love it either. The winner of the prize is ultimately better than the other nominees.
2) Should this game sit alongside other former winners Carcassonne, Alhambra, Ticket to Ride, Dominion and Dixit as games that will stand the test of time and be fondly remembered in five or ten years’ time? Or will it fade like Quirkle, Keltis and Thurn & Taxis as footnotes “What? That won the SDJ?”
Time will tell, but my instinct is that very few people will be playing this year’s winner when the 2020 awards are announced. The same will not be true of Carc. Or TTR.
3) What the hell is the name of the game?
Or Camel Cup!
Ok, I don’t know the answer to this one – but it definitely features Camels.
Camel (C)up is a game where 3-8 players adopt the identity of tourists or natives who bet on the multi-coloured camel racing that passes before them. On a turn, players will do one of four things:
- Draw a die from an awesome cardboard pyramid – then roll it to move a camel of that colour 1,2 or 3 spaces forward around the track.
- Take a token to bet on who will be the leading camel at the end of the current leg (a leg ending when each camel has moved)
- Add an oasis / desert tile which moves camels forward / back one space if they land on it
- Place a card to bet on who the overall winner of the race / overall loser of the race will be. More points will be awarded for the earlier you commit to a decision.
The twist, and much of the deduction, comes from the face that the camels stack up (Camel UP then, obviously) when they land on each other – and the camel on top is winning – and will therefore receive the championship cup if it crosses the line first (so it’s Camel Cup…obviously.)
So, blue is in last place – and no one is betting on him to win. If he moves first, though, and lands on the white camel and white then moves next and lands on the yellow camel (the current leader) then blue is in the lead. Deducing the odds, and having the foresight to bet early and bet big is the key to victory in Camel…. this camel racing game.
So take this as a measured recommendation. The game pieces are of excellent quality – all the tiles are brightly coloured and clear. The odd cardboard pyramid of dice distribution is a more thematic version of a dice bag, and only adds to the toy factor – alongside the attractive and tactile stacking camel meeples (Cameeples!)
In summary – the game is great fun, if a little lightweight and somewhat disposable, but plays quickly (around 30 mins) and just as well with 8 as it does with 3 and also hits the criteria of a Spiel des Jahres winner of being easy to learn and more than suitable for families. If history is any indication, Christmas Day tea in many German homes will undoubtedly see some frantic Camel on Camel action this festive period.
(Michael – just check that last paragraph, worried there may be some innuendo I have missed? – Stuart) [No, you're fine, I didn't spot anything - Michael]
Camel Up (and it IS Camel Up, the designer said so!) was released by eggertspiel and designed by Stefen Bogen. Between two and eight can play with games taking about half an hour. Personally, I think this is a great addition to the SdJ award winner list and think that the dice-shaking pyramid is one of the best accessories around. If you fancy picking up a copy yourself, why not head to Gameslore where you can grab it for around £20! Bargain!