STEFFEN BOGEN: CAMEL UP CARDS: 2-6 players aged 8+ 30-60 minutes
CAMEL UP CARDS is the card game variant of 2014’s super hit boardgame CAMEL UP. The differences between this edition and the original boardgame are more than enough to warrant publishing them as a separate game rather than as an expansion. So to the question “Do I need this version when I already have CAMEL UP and CAMEL UP SUPERCUP?” My answer is “I suppose you don’t really need any game, but CAMEL UP is such a good game that having a more portable version can only be a good thing.”
Although there is no board per se there are Race Track cards that are laid on your table, or playing area, end to end, to create the course. The race is held over Legs, a number of cards being used in each Leg, and usually lasts about 3 Legs. The length of the course is originally determined by the number of players. With 2 players the length is set to 15 spaces (or 7½ cards) expanding by one half of a card for each other player. There is a possibility that prior to the last Leg of the race the course has less that 3 spaces between the leading Camel(s) and the finishing post. If this is the case then the track has to be extended by adding the remaining track cards previously left in the box.
A Leg ends when all the Race cards have been flipped and the camels moved accordingly. Then there is a scoring and the betting cards, except the Last/First cards are returned to their respective stacks. Then the process of shuffling, dealing and whittling down to a set number of cards for the Race deck begins again. It is a good, easy mechanic that plays perfectly well with up to six players, and at a reasonable pace which keeps the adrenaline buzz of the betting and racing high.
Movement in CAMEL UP is by the ingenious Dice Pyramid where there is one die of the same colour for each Camel and the number shown on that die is the number of spaces the Camel moves. In CAMEL UP CARDS, movement is by the flipping over of Race cards from the prepared and shuffled deck, and moving the Camel appropriate to the colour on the card the one or two spaces depicted. The race deck is created by a short series of dealing and selecting cards from your hand for the Race deck, and then from the two remaining cards choosing one to hold onto and one shown to all players before being added to the Race deck. This way everyone knows some but not all of the cards in the Race deck.
CAMELS still move the same way as in the boardgame, either solo or in stacks. The colour of the camel being moved takes with it all the camels that are on top of it leaving behind any that are below it. If one or more camels move onto a space containing one or more other camels they are placed on top of the camels occupying the space. When a stack of camels crosses the finishing line the camel on the top of the stack crosses first.
Totally new for the card game are the Fox (Fennec) and the Palm Tree which take the place of the players plus (+) and minus (-) tiles. These new pieces can be placed on the board to send a camel, or stack of camels, forwards or backwards one space, and then once landed on they are removed from the track and made ready to be placed again.
There is obviously money in the game as the way to win is by betting on the result of each Leg of the race. Instead of coins the money is on cards, one having a 9 on one side and 10 on the other; the other money cards being quartered on each side and showing 1-4 and 5-8. Using a combination of the sides of these cards all necessary cash can be generated. Players begin with three money each.
Betting is the crux of the game and there are two types of betting cards, one set for the Legs and one for end of the race. Players have to turn over a race card on their turn, but they may also take a betting slip; they can take this slip before or after flipping the race card, with the exception that if they flip the last card in the race deck then the Leg (or race) ends immediately and is scored.
There are 5 sets of betting cards for the Legs, one set comprising of values 5, 3 and 3 cards value 2, for each colour on cards that are of portrait aspect. For the end of game betting the cards are landscape aspect and there are 5 sets of 2 cards in each colour both valued at 7 with one for that colour coming first and one for that colour coming last. Deciding which cards to take, you can only have one of losing and one of winning but multiples of Leg cards, is where the game is won or lost. Grabbing a card too early or more cards of the same colour commits you to supporting that position or colour which gives the other players a chance to play against you by ensuring there are either a lot or not many cards of the colour you are supporting in the race deck.
My playing and assessing groups are all CAMEL UP fans and so were more than interested in seeing how the card game played and whether it was exactly the same game. They all agreed that although it was very similar to the boardgame it was, as I said earlier, different enough for them to consider purchasing it. Many thought that the board in the original was unnecessary and that tiles could have done the job just as well and now with the half-size of the boardgame box and cards instead of the board it has become better to carry around. It was pointed out though that you will still need to find a reasonable sized playing area as the track and the accompanying cards do take up as much space as a regular boardgame.