The author of the surprising Spiel des Jahres winner of 2014, Steffen Bogen, was not known in the tabletop world. In fact, before Camel Up he had only designed children’s games. In 2012 his “On the hunt for Hubi”, published by Ravensburger, won the Kinderspiel des Jahres prize and after that he set his sights on adult games. With immediate success.
Camel Up is a race between camels in which players can bet on the likely winners and losers. You can’t influence which camel is going to run, that’s determined by a fun ‘gadget’ of the game, a pyramid. If you turn the pyramid over and slide until the opening is visible, one of the colored dice will fall out. The color and number determine who will be walking and how many steps. Camels that end on the same square as another camel may then remain on the back of that camel, even if the camel starts walking. Hence camel up. The question is why the game isn’t called Camel Cup, which is actually an even more obvious title.
The system is very reminiscent of Lemming mafia. Each player may choose one action per turn: betting on a camel for the win in this round, betting for the win/loss of the entire race, running a camel or using tokens to exert a small influence on the course (the camel that comes on it must move one step backwards or forwards). When all camels have run, that round is over and the players receive points (money) for their actions.
If the first camel crosses the finish line, the game ends immediately and the final count follows in addition to the round count. And as with lemming mafia, the sooner you have placed your bet to become the winner/loser, the more points you have earned.
Camel Up Worthy of Spiel des Jahres 2015?
It is clear that Steffen Bogen is used to children’s games. This Spiel des Jahres is a real family game with a high luck factor. But also fairly easy to explain and quick to play. Camel Up appeals to a large audience, and is a game that will often be on the table for sure. But I have come to expect more originality from a Spiel des Jahres winner than this.